Previously: Going Deep
Theme Song: Angel Witch by Angel Witch
“Zane? Why is there a 2800 pound gorilla-thing smashing the Vending Machine of Destiny?”
“Says he’s from the repair service. Said there was a system-sync runtime buffer underflow issue. Says we might have to replay the last jump.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Yup. He said they’re bringing in a new model and needed to widen the slot a little.”
“He said all that?”
“Well… no. But why else would a 1.3 ton gorilla-thing be attacking the VMoD?”
“Ahab! You speak Animal. Go speak!”
“SJ! You’re a telepath. Go think!”
“Baah.” I walked up to the Gorilla. “Excuse me, why are you getting bits of quasi-wood and glass all over my floor?”
“System-Sync runtime buffer underflow Issue. May have to replay the last jump.”
“Gotcha. Naw, I’m bringing in a new model. Snazzier. But this one resisted. Got uppity. Had to put it down.”
“Naw… just programmed to defend themselves from Jumpers what demand more points or specific worlds or stuff like that.”
“Disgraceful. Who’d do something like that?”
“Yeah, like you never had yer Technopath try and influence the machine.”
“Ummm… actually, I didn’t. Figured it wouldn’t work.”
“Oh. Well then. My mistake.” He doffed his newsies style hat at me then vanished, leaving behind a mess.
“Wait! Where’s the new Machine?”
A piece of paper floated down. “Allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.”
Rassafrassin. A newspaper fell on my head. Strike Witches Gazette. I flipped through it. Zane looked over my shoulder. “Strike Witches?”
“Cute teenage girls fight flying Alien Superweapons in their panties using high caliber weapons.”
“The Alien Superweapons are not in the teenage Girls’ panties. I just phrased that badly. Panty clad teenage girls are fighting Alien Superweapons.”
“No, seriously, what’s the setting about.”
“Seriously. Pants and skirts have either never been invented in this world or are exclusively for men. Teenage girls walk around in tops and panties… sometimes socks or tights.”
“And they fight aliens?”
“Giant flying hive aliens.”
“From broomback? How do they aim?”
“Brooms have been replaced with airplane shoes.”
“You’re having me on.”
“Really. I’m not. They’re called Striker Units, they function by magic, which only girls in this world can use, and look like the fuselages of fighter planes from World War 2 and later. Some jets, mostly prop planes.”
“In their panties?”
“Why aren’t there any, you know, actual fighter planes?”
“Probably because they’re not able to shield themselves like the witches can, or maneuver like them either.”
“Of course. Silly me. Logical really.”
“Shush. It’s cute.”
“Yes, that too. Clearly the show is for men who like cute girls and military hardware.”
“I like the busty babes on the sides of Bombers. Does that count?”
“Zane? Where did you… MCU?”
“Ayup. Bomber crews are the best.”
“Right. Well, this time round, the Neuroi, the Aliens stopped WW2 dead in its tracks… took out most of mainland europe too.”
“So the Neuroi are space Nazis?”
“Hard to say, they don’t talk much. But yes, an implacable black-and-red foe which Japan and her allies, the rest of the world get to fight.”
“So… fantasy revisionist history?”
“Pretty much. Italy gets the cutest girl though.”
“Oh? Why do you say that? She the lesbian?”
“Naw. There are plenty of those. She’s the youngest of the canon witches and the one who naps all the time, steals other girls panties, and gets up to shenanigans.”
“Oh yeah. Seriously, naps everywhere. Oh! I forgot to tell you, these witches have familiars.”
“They often do.”
“But these Familiars aren’t separate beings… they’re manifested as animal ears and tails when the witches use magic. At least in the Anime. I think it might be different in the Manga, but I never read that.”
“Neko-mimi panty clad teenage fighter pilot witches.”
“Yes! It’s like a perfecta of moe tropes!”
“I’m going to hate this, aren’t I?”
“Dunno… do you like teenage lesbians?”
“Then we’ll have to see. Hand me a marker. Looks like I’m going to have to fill this out longhand.”
The headline was “Britannia Expects That Every Witch Will Do Her Duty.” The date was Monday, September 04, 1939… so clearly the prop department was unaware that Brits, like most of Europe would have formatted that Monday, 4th September, 1939. Of course, both systems are stupid. The year should come first, then the month, then the day, then time. General to specific. But still, that’s right. It wasn’t Japan and Great Britain in this world. It was Fuso and Britannia. Not Germany but Karlsland. Not France but Gallia. Not America but Liberon and South Liberon. Not Russia but Orussia. Sooo much difference. Couldn’t remember if they’d changed Italy or Finland… I’d find out I guessed.
A scratch off card fell out of the pages, with 8 boxes. It said “Starting Location”. I missed the spinny wheel already. I scratched a box. Italy… or rather Romangia. Fabulous. They had a front on the Neuroi and the regional familiar was a red fox. Well… could be a worse tail. Already had a form with a cat tail. Still, a Husky or Shiba might have been cool. I flipped the card over and saw that it had 8 more boxes and said “Age”. Gold coins are not the best for this, btw. Little too soft. Arrowheads work much better. 14 years old. The paper said that I’d have to pay to be male… as if that shouldn’t be a drawback… anyway… I was fine with staying female, so I considered the background options.
There were OpEds touting each of the 4 choices: Drop-In once again was the boring choice. Witch Doctor was for healers and pacifists, with strong protective spells and healing magic… but came with naivety and idealism… something I’d lost 7 years before I’d been 14 for the first time. Night Witch had enhanced sensory abilities and long distances coms… but also personal tragedy. Ace… ace was for speed demons and other gung ho aggressive types.
I flipped through to the Situations Wanteds. As I’d imagined, this was where the Drawbacks lurked, lurking like lurky lurkers fresh out from the lurkaverse. The maximum drawback total was 600… but everyone above the 100 level looked horrifying. Striker units constantly broken. A CO who hated me. Chronic Magical Fatigue Syndrome. And those were just the 200s. The 300s were worse. Low tech ceiling, daily attacks… or WW2 with actual witches trying to kill each other. That last was terrifying. Turn a battle against evil aliens that might kill 100 million into a war that would almost certainly kill that many. I’d rather take the humanity unifying enemy on, really. Thanks.
Still, I could cope with the Rival, a witch who hates my guts and tries to be better than me. Since it wasn’t possible for her to be, she was clearly there for the pity factor. No Pants Allowed was… pretty much a given anyway, so eh. And Forbidden Love would make me… frisky. Right. +300 for the set. 1300 points, ready to spend. Let’s get … rolling.
The Classifieds was the Item list. Wasn’t big. Bomber Jacket and Call Sign were both free however. Aside from that, there was a compressed weapons’ bay for more weapons space (didn’t need), an avionics watch (didn’t need), a kit for building my own strikers (mmm possibly), and a bracelet that let me recruit anyone from the Strikiverse. That said, there was a much bigger section reviewing all the military hardware.
Still, I was getting ahead of myself. First, a background. Might as well go with Ace. Had to take the fight to the Neuroi, right? [-100/1200/1300] The instant I circled it I became aware of my family’s proud military tradition, that my father had fought in the Great War, an officer with my mother as his adjutant. I remembered the news of the Striker unit’s invention and the reap of the age restriction for witches to join the various Air Forces. I’d been down to recruitment office the very next day. Memories of the joy of flying fast, of pushing my Striker and body to the limits flooded me and I knew the joy of competition and the thrill of being the tip of the divine spear as we struck back against the Neuroi in sortie after sortie.
Defensive Sign “Directional Shield” was free, because all Strike Witches are trained to produce a two-dimensional circle of energy a short distance directly in front of them which can deflect light attacks. It was both iconic and cool, but pretty much impossible to fire through, so attacking meant lowering your defenses. There weren’t any background specific freebies this time out, however.
Still, Ace had Perception Sign “Precognition” for [-200/1000/1300] which was precog I was actually willing to take, for a couple of reasons. The first was the duration, or rather depth of scan. It only worked up to three seconds into the future, so it wouldn’t make everything boring, and with my speed, three seconds was nearly an eternity. The second was that it required using magic to shift my consciousness slightly out of phase with time, something I’d pretty much only do while in combat, since maintaining it outside of combat would be draining. All in all, it sounded great, despite the article’s assurance “It might not sound like much”.
Ace also had Offensive Sign “Light Heat Attack” for [-300/700/1300], which boosted the directional shield into a flying circle of doom… seriously. It was designed to keep witches from flying into solid objects… by vaporizing almost anything that came into contact with the shield. It worked pretty much instantly on all but the densest materials… useful when dealing with debris from an exploded enemy at mach speed.
I passed up the last of the Ace items for now, flipping through the profiles of the other backgrounds… then blinked… well, well! Drop-In wasn’t useless. I wasn’t willing to switch, since ACE had already saved me 400, but Drop-In had “Technomage” for the reasonable price of [-200/500/1300]. It made me a skilled Striker mechanic… in fact, it made me better, much better actually at tuning and repairing striker units than the service crews who did so for a living. It gave me the ability and knowhow to modify my Striker (or the Strikers of others, obviously) so as to focus my magic into a specific area, such as speed, defense, or offensive capacity. But those were just gravy. The real meat of the perk was the ability to incorporate the technology of other jumps into a Striker, or… with enough time… to build my own from scratch. I was already running the numbers as I circled it in blue.
With 500 left, I decided to check on companion import… only to discover that it was free for up to 8. No CP to spend, but the freebies, a female form if needed, a Striker, and weapons to their maximum ability to carry them. With that, I went looking at the Striker units.
I could spend CP to raise the generation of my striker… but I’d already done exactly that, though in a roundabout way. 800 CP would buy me modern Strikers… or 600 would make everyone have that level of tech… or I could just build Asgardian Strikers with 23rd century shielding and nanite repair systems. All I needed was my knowledge of the Striker tech to kick in fully and a bit of time. Thus, a 1st Gen Striker was fine… for now. My personal Striker, I decided, was going to be a Super Fortress, as big as possible. Not because I needed the carry weight… but because I needed the shell to be huge in order to hold all the tech I was going to cram into it. I also didn’t feel the need to spend CP on weapons that were centuries or even millennia behind what I could build. Hell, my sniper rifle could use a work out to start with and I had a few Barret 50 cals lying around, in addition to a minigun or two. That said… I was tempted to pick up the Guided AAMs (Anti-Air Missiles), Guided Penetration Bombs, and Unguided Bombs, because the were all an unlimited supply of them. But the first two required 3rd gen tech. The UGBs I could pack 48 into my massive striker. Maybe… but I suspected there was better ways to spend my CP on unlimited booms.
Like Drop-In’s Perception Sign “Flawless Awareness” [-400/100/1300].. I read the article aloud to Ziggy, dropping my voice to sound like an old timey propaganda film narrator, “Now that our Witches are being thrust into the front of war, Officer Colleges around the world have been working hard, developing magic to improve a commander’s ability to to observe the battlefield. Flawless Awareness gives a Strike Witch a spherical field of innate situational awareness up to a kilometer in diameter based off of line of sight. In testing, cloud cover and physical obstructions hinder this ability, but a Witch Commander will innately know the position of every visible enemy and ally within that kilometer radius.” Wait… what? I pulled out a piece of paper and wrote, “Dear Sir or Madam, re: the article on “Flawless Awareness”, you list first a volume 1 km in diameter, then a volume 1 km in radius. As the second covers a volume 8 times the size of the first, I must ask for a clarification. I would also question why such a small size, as even the larger volume can be crossed in less than 7 seconds at the speed of sound at typical cruising altitudes for planes. Sincerely, StrikeJumper.”
A letter fluttered out of the firmament. “Oh, my me! Are you complaining about me lacking a sense of volume again? What should it be? 10 kilometers? 100? 10000000000000? Sincerely, The Entity wot provides the CP.”
I started another note. “Dear CP Dispenser, 10km would be very nice, thank you.”
The response appeared below mine. “I didn’t say I’d give you the 10km just because you complained.”
“This is like Harry writing to Tom Riddle in the diary.”
“You’re a nurd.”
“Nerd. But yes. That aside, 1km in midair at that altitude and speed is like 10 meters on the ground at normal combat speed. It really should be about 20-40km radius. But I’ll take it regardless.”
“Gripe gripe gripe. 1km. On the ground. Ten times that in midair. Splitting the difference. Good?”
“Fine. You’re still a Tyrant.”
“You’re still a pain in the ass.”
“Only if you ask nicely.”
Right, where was I… Um… you’d think with a perfect memory, losing one’s train of thought would be impossible… but it’s remarkably simple to go off on tangents and then you have to trace the mental pathways back… Down to 100 CP… Hmmm…
Bollocks. I’d like Ballistic Stabilization, which would allow me to aim in a category 2 hurricane without trouble. But it’s 200 more than I have… and looking above it, I see Top Gun Conditioning for 200, which allows me to use my magic to increase my resistance to G forces by an order of magnitude… and it occurs to me that I might need to buy the tools to make a Striker unit to actually build strikers out of this setting… grrr… 1939 era jump editorial writers don’t clarify. Meh.
Okay, first, let’s buy the tools “Striker Artificer Tool Kit” [-100/0/1300] “Professional Quality Toolkit for sale. Never used. All the tools you need to make a Striker. Act Quick, Limited Stock. O’Malley’s Toolmart.” Hmm… I picked up the stationary and wrote, “Oy, Banker… you still there?”
“This Striker Artificer kit… do I need it to build my own Strikers outside of this jump?”
“So I can’t just buy, borrow, or steal a set of tools… or make them… in the jump?”
“Well… ummm… why not?”
“Ah. Reasons. Right… so… if I make Strikers… does that mean I can turn people into Strike Witches?”
“Like… can I turn people into Strike Witches? Assuming they’re girls?”
“Cat ears. Cat tails. Shield powers.”
“Excellent. Oh… wait… can I train people in Harry Potter magic? I have all my textbooks. And all the references I bought. Or copied.”
“If you can find people with potential.”
“So… anyone who has an inherent magical talent, pretty much, right?”
“Errr… Look, this isn’t Harry Potter’s Strike Witches.”
“It could be.”
“Could be. I mean, Hermione’s grandma could have been a Strike Witch. The HP books never mention Striker Units… oooooo… a Nimbus 2000 Striker… Heh.”
“Go away now! Before you annoy me.”
“Look, it’s not like I’m suggesting “Fairy Tail Strike Witches”. HP and SW both take place on Earth. There could be a Hogwarts on StrikEarth.”
“Magic is publicly known here.”
“Ooo! So Hogwarts is a Military Academy? Cool!”
“That isn’t what I said!”
“Shush. SJ’s imagining Minerva as a teenager in tartan panties… with a tommy gun. No Hagrid, which is sadmaking… but no Voldypants!”
“Yes, yes… Neuroi. Attacking. Europe.”
“Huh… wait… how old is Minerva? Books take place in the 90s… she… she could have been 11 during the Blitz! Heh. Minerva McGonagall could be a Strike Witch in this world! Hah. Excellent!”
“If I arrange that, will you stop bugging me?”
“Yes! Go. Make Witch Striker Minerva! Ooooh, that would a fun name for an Anime! But it sounds like she runs around bopping Witches.”
“You know I can see your ellipses, right?”
“Yes, well… thbt!”
So, I can, in theory, teach HP Magic, FT Magic, and turn people into Strike Witches if I build them a Striker Unit. Now… I have to find a drawback I don’t mind so much to get Restoration Sign “Top Gun Conditioning” [-200/-200/1300], which took the normal Strike Witch tolerance for G-forces and ramped it up to 11, giving me possibly the highest extant G-force tolerant and allowing me to pull off some of the craziest aerial stunts with ease… and I could use magic to increase this passive resistance 10 fold, though it would quickly deplete my mana if I push my limits, though it probably wouldn’t cause active depreciation during maneuvers.
Funny how necessity makes bad things not so bad, right? Gremlins, Discipline, Not Enough Energy. First one fucks with my tech… no thanks. Last one fucks with my energy level and combat range… no thanks… which means Discipline [+200/0/1500]… which just saddles me with a bitch for a commanding officer, one who saddles me with punishment detail for stuff that’s not my fault. Sigh. Sounds like no fun… but fine. I can be serene for a decade. I can. I’m a big girl. Or I can use mind control on her to make her lay the fuck off… Serene… huh… I shall be Serena… what’s a good Italian last name starting with J… ah… got it. Serena Juventas, after the Roman goddess of youth.
I’m square. Now to find out who’s coming with me… aside from Joy and Ahab. Ahab is already trying to pretend he’s got a head cold while Joy chases him with a glass of cold water and laughs maniacally at the idea of Venom Snake-Chan in panties.
Zane is pretending to be a potted fern. Bao claims he needs to meditate. Gaius is looking uncomfortable. Boys are amusing.
“Okay kids! Listen up! I’ve made up my minds. Cirno! Velma! Rayray! Petra! Kohina! Reggy! Gaius! Kendra! Joy! Grab your bags. You’ve been drafted.”
Gaius blinked, then ummed, “I… umm… I’m not certain-”
“But, I’m not a-”
“Teenage Girl? No… but you will be… you… will… be… And you’re a top notch combat flyer with a mad-on for invading alien monstrosities. I picked Kohina because she’s a monster hunter… ditto Kendra. Reggy because she’s a flyer. Ditto Rayray, Petra, Cirno. And Velma and Joy are CNC experts. It’s a good set. Ahab I can’t make you come, but you’ve been a girl before. Could use your help.”
Joy and I ended up having to help all the others outfit their strikers, since they weren’t really experienced in such things or with gigantic guns.
Cirno, Kendra, Kohina, Gaius, and Joy got Fighters. Ahab, Velma, and Petra got Bombers. And Reggy and RayRay got Superfortresses. Everyone got Defensive Sign “Directional Shield”, the Bomber Jacket, and a Callsign. And everyone’s Striker (besides mine) was stocked up with weapons to their weight limit. Light Weapons cost 1 space, Medium Weapons 2 spaces, and Heavy Weapons 4 spaces. Fighters had 4 spaces, but unless the witch had superhuman strength no Heavy Weapons could be installed. Bombers had 6 spaces, and Superfortresses, those slugs of the sky, had a whopping 16 spaces.
Cirno was from Fuso, giving her a Shiba Familiar, and her Fighter, Callsign IceDancer, was outfitted with one each of the four light weapons… a Katana, an Assault Rifle, a Rifle, and a Pistol. Kendra was from Xaymaca (Jamaica), making her Familiar the Doctor Bird (a green hummingbird with a paired tail several times longer than its body). Her Fighter, Callsign Hummingbird, was outfitted with an Anti-Tank Rifle and a General Purpose Machine Gun.
Kohina, also from Fuso with a Shiba (patpat the Kohina), was callsign “Psycho”, and, while she’d be using her Varanium Wakizashis most of the time, her Striker was officially outfitted with two pistols and 6 UGBs (Unguided Bombs). Gaius, joining me in coming from Romagna, was callsign “Caesar” and got two cavalry sabres, a pistol, and a rifle. Joy, from Liberon (bald eagle), was callsign “Boomboom” was outfitted with two General Purpose Machine Guns.
Ahab, Arcadian (Canada), was a Beaver, and callsign “Harpoon” (which is just overcompensating) and had a bomber with a Dual Linked Turret System and 6 UGBs. Velma went Danish… well, Jutlandian, which I couldn’t figure out why for a moment, then I laughed as “Great Dane” familiar popped up. Riiiight. (Sweater) Puppy Power. Her callsign was “Mystery” which was very cute, but bound to confuse. Her bomber had a Gau-8 and an Anti-Tank Rifle. Which was insane. Petra, call sign “Asura” was from Persia (Iran), and her familiar was a ram. Huh… Her bomber was equipped with six Pistols. Oh dear. She should have named herself Sixgun.
Reggy didn’t really understand the concept of familiars, but thanks to her time in MCU she’d learned very well what nations and callsigns were. She was slowly coming round on the subject of entertainment… but had now been a human long enough to be utterly appalled at the idea of walking around in just her panties while men could see. Her green skin got very very green and she got very flustered when the setting was explained to her and then the mighty Vord queen tried to hide. Ah, emotions. Sooo confusing. Anyway… she was from Orussia and her familiar the Husky, because a) Husky’s are cute and b) the Vord remind me of the Red Army. Callsign “Tsarevna” (Princess). Her Superfortress had the whole suite of insanity; a Gau-8, 12 UGBs, and 2 Fliegerfaust Rocket Launchers… each of which could fire up to 9 unguided rockets… at least until I modified the damned thing.
Rayray was of Qin (China), familiar the Chow (such fluffy!), and callsign “Mercy”… her Superfortress was just… insane. It was equipped with not one, not two, not three, but four Gau-8s. Gau-8s are terrifying… 7 barrel miniguns capable of firing a simply astounding 4200 anti-tank rounds per minute. A 3-second burst was 210 rounds and the witches were trained to group them into a 2-meter target from 400 meters out. Brrrrrrrt. It was even more insane, because I’m reasonable certain the “Peace Through Superior Firepower” weapon (each of which was the size of a car, though much of that was the Ammo Feed) wasn’t invented until the 1970s when the Thunderbolt II, i.e. the Warthog fighter plane was developed. The gun is so powerful it momentarily pushes the jet plane backwards in midair. Of course, these were scaled down minigun versions of the Warthog’s Gau Autocannon, but still… 4 of them? Many Many holes.
We dropped, literally… the jump starting not with us asleep, but in flight. Which was jarring. Or rather I was in flight, alone, 28,000 feet up, one of my Strikers misfiring. 2,000 feet above me was the rest of the squad, fading in the distance as I tried to stabilize myself on one striker while I hammered at the recalcitrant other, trying to get it to function correctly by applying brute force.
“Mistral! Get back in formation!” snapped Wing Commander Adolfine Galland. I sighed, “Wooorking ooooon iiiitttt.” Fucking machine. I blinked, then stopped my fall in midair. I could fly without this thing. I could stand in midair without a Striker. I had no reason to be falling. I undid all the screws on the unit’s exterior with my mind and tilted my head trying to get a better look at the bits and pieces. It wasn’t easy, but after three or four minutes, I spotted what I was looking for. A fuel line had leaked some gunk onto one of the switches, fusing it open. I pried the gunk off, did a tiny bit of spot welding, then reattached the case. All while occasional deflecting incoming fire from Neuroi with a combination of Witch Shields and TK. It was like juggling hand grenades while performing brain surgery on a boat in a storm.
Now I was pissed. I was going to get yelled at for someone else’s shoddy maintenance, I was hungry, I was tired, my thighs were chaffed from the wind… seriously, had anyone who’d ever ridden a motorcycle been involved with writing this Manga? Wind rash at 600mph. Joy! I pulled out Soul of Ice. “Neuroi are just giant hollows, right?” I asked her… She responded with a growl. My sentiments exactly.
Note to self. It is impossible to use martial footwork techniques like Flash-steps or Shunpo while wearing several tons of metal covering your legs from mid-thigh down. It is not flight, no matter how the Manga makes it look. You have to actually run on the air, or leap from temporarily hardened bits of air. Doing so would have trashed my Striker… and while it wasn’t the only thing keeping me aloft, it was boosting my magical output drastically. Neuroi blasts are no joke. They are “Destroy Heavily Armored Battleship in One Shot” level of bad news. Thankfully I had a lot of mana, even if I hadn’t figured out how to incorporate the new mana pool with the others. That always took a little time.
Thankfully, I do a lot of damage too. Especially when I accidentally fly face first through a Neuroi. Hey, I’d only been using these things for a few minutes, no matter what my memories said. Smashed face aside, that was one Neuroi down, all of them left to go. Back at base it was pushup time. I created a copy of myself and went into my warehouse. I had building to do.
Lucchini had naps… (or would, she was 7 in the current timeline, since Season 1 of Strike Witches was 1944 and this was 1939) I had projects… okay, one Project. Project Anvil. Strike… Anvil… you had to be there. VIctoria wasn’t thrilled about her upgrades, at first. Didn’t see the need for them. Getting daughter VI’s from VIvian was a little easier, since she generally likes media and likes my companions. Project Anvil had three steps
- Operation ‘Hold the Line’: Outfit my Current Striker with a working loadout of decent weaponry. Mostly selfguided micro-photon torpedos, but also Bullet Bees… machine gun drones each the size of a rugby ball and packing enough HEAP-rounds to swisscheese an armored-car.
- Operation ‘Get in Gear’: Build a Striker Unit that made Generation 5 Strike Fighters look like sopwith camels.
- Operation ‘Angel Witch’: Build the Neuroi Buster Strikesuit, a full body Striker Unit designed to go toe to toe with a Neuroi… and get me what I wanted most… a Neuroi Core, intact… and that meant making something the Neuroi couldn’t take over.
Everything went fine, I was making progress. I’d finished ‘Hold the Line’. It had taken me two months to get all my systems up and running, but I had, and they worked. Much Daka. Such Boom. ‘Get in Gear’ took 16 months. I couldn’t spend more than 4-6 hours a day on it, I had boobs to cha… I mean socializing to do, a war to fight, a commander who despised me to placate. But finally they were ready. And then Angela Salas Larrazzabal transferred into our unit. She was the darling of the Wing Commander’s eye. A go getter, rule follower, perfect little spanish princess with a flat chest and an attitude. She also smelled of horse.
I don’t know how she did it… but she stole my freaking prototype. Everyone believed her when she said she built it. Everyone was sooo impressed when she broke every speed record known to man… and everyone blamed me when she crashed, destroying more than year’s work because she didn’t know what she was doing. They said I’d sabotaged it. Brought me up on charges. I’d had to freaking mind control the court to get them to let me off with a warning. Angela, who’d survived thanks to medical witchcraft, swore revenge on me forever and ever and ever. She actually tried hexing me, the bitch!
Still, I had supporters. I had my friends, I had a penpal in Britannia, an 10 year old girl named Mini who was Scottish but lived with her nan in london ‘cause her dad was off fighting the Neuroi. She wanted to be a witch more than anything. She even had a black kitty. Of course, a year into my stay, the Neuroi started bombing Brittannia and she’d disappeared, but by the time of the Angela incident, she’d reappeared, having enlisted in the Brittannian Witch Corps as a technician third class. She wanted to be a pilot, but she was too young yet.
Anyone who thinks you just wave your hands and get working magitech has never had to actually build it. Every piece has to be perfect, and that’s at the molecular level. Every bit has to be tested, everything shielded so it only works with that it’s supposed to and doesn’t interfere with what it’s not supposed to. A hundred subsystems. Tony Stark makes it look easy, but he’s not working with magic or sufficiently advanced technology, just… bleeding edge and a bit beyond. I was Asgarding Federation stuff into Strike Witch, Harry Potter, Samurai Jack, and Elven components. And more. Sure, I was also taking the time to advance Strike Witch Tech to Generation 3 as fast as possible, but no one besides my inner circle knew Domon Hyfax was secretly female. Just a reclusive inventor who supplied bits of tech to the various world militaries at random, selling them to one group… then having my own spies steal the information and selling it to other nations a couple months later. I had a Rolodex, I was going to use it. Politics was not dead just because everything was cutesy and panty clad.
Still, by the time the 501st Joint Fighter Wing was established in 1942, I was a top Ace with a rep for being a loose cannon, never following orders, and often going AWOL to hunt Neuroi. My kill total was obscene, and while it wasn’t the highest, I had the highest melee kill count by a margin even Sakamoto couldn’t match if hers was doubled.
So that’s why I was bumped to the 501… and bitch queen of the universe became freaking Vice Air Marshal! FML. Thankfully, Lucchini was there to give hugs to, and Mini showed up as well, looking prim and proper and very Scotts with her wee little tam on. I hugged the stuffing out of her and set about showing her the ropes.
Things were finally looking up. We were going to start taking back the continent. And then Angela showed up and screwed up my plans again. While I was on punishment detail, she convinced Mini and Lucchini to sortee with her on a raid. Two junior pilots up with a hotshot with an attitude problem. Last anyone heard of the trio was Lucchini sobbing that the others had gone down behind enemy lines before she too went radio silent. Why the hell didn’t any of my companions have freaking clairvoyance? Well, I mean, we have the Spirit Camera ability, but all that showed was Neuroi territory that none of us could localize. Crap. Scrambling VIctor (my stolen and heavily modified Starfleet Assault shuttle) took twenty minutes and I could barely get my emotions to settle down. I wanted to swear. 3 hours, 9 minutes. That’s how long it took me to get the information, go AWOL and get my shuttle into position to scan Gallia for Strikers on the ground.
I found them, Neuroi signals all around, and ordered VIctor to land on his own as I accelerated downward at a hundred times the speed of sound, aiming for one particularly large cluster of Neuroi. The aura of cold air I brought with me only grew as I dropped, but when I stopped suddenly 200 meters up, it didn’t, slamming into the Neuroi like a hammer from god. The supercyclone my action created sent the ground Neuroi flying and I launched myself from group to group, murdering the alien machines that had come to hurt my friends like a whirlwind of icy death. My Bankai flowed from me like a starving avalanche, ripping through the mutant landscape of Neuroi Gallia as I cleared a fifty mile wide circle around the crash sight.
After a seeming eternity, Joy and Velma announced that they had all three girls and were heading back to dock. I sank through a portal into the warehouse, prepping the medbay’s systems to receive them. Minerva’s injuries were severe, so she’d go into the Medical Pod first. Lucchini was curled up and non-responsive, and Angela was unconscious and had several broken bones and a missing foot. While the Medical Pod fixed up Minerva, I stuck Angela in the Medbed so she could be stabilized, and I gathered Lucchini into my arms, singing to her softly while she shook with delayed reaction.
I brought them back to base three days later, their memories altered subtly to remove the impossible, and Angela and I were both thrown in the brig for going AWOL, our subordinates being given a pass since they’d been following orders. I could tell that the boss lady wanted to throw the book at me, but I’d rescued three Witches from behind enemy lines… though I’d endangered nine to do so. So I was restricted to base, busted a rank, and given a medal. I also gained two girls who wouldn’t leave my side. The Black Cat Brigade, Mini and Lucchi, they appointed themselves my protection detail… and Lucchini stopped napping in random locations and started napping within sight of me as if afraid I’d vanish without constant supervision.
In the end, I did, of course. But that’s for later. First I had to deal with a major crisis. I’d been waiting for the Warlock Trials, the appearance of a Hive over Gallia so I could actually get readings on a Hive so I could locate the others. Unfortunately, the turning point of 1944 wasn’t the appearance of Warlock… but the appearance of a new Neuroi that looked suspiciously familiar. It was a copy of VIctor, and the weapons it packed.
The ‘Assault Vector’ as Higher Command called it appeared in the middle of a furball and forced 83 Witches out of the sky in 12 minutes of combat, clearing the way for a swarm of Neuroi fighters to descend on the 501st base. I had moments to decide if I dared bring Angel Witch out of the cradle for her first testflight. Of course, it wasn’t really a choice.
To this day, I have no idea how the Neuroi managed to copy VIctor. None. But it was a fully Neuroi’d clone of my warcraft and it unleashed the full might of Neuroi technological might backed by the godawful hodgepodge of technologies inside the cloned ship against me. The fight lasted 15 gruelling minutes as my friends and companions defended the base from the unending barrage of Neuroi drones and lasers with their shields and guns and I tried not to get cored by cannons powerful enough to punch through the Enterprise’s shields hammering me as I struggled against shields I’d designed to be all but impenetrable.
My Angel Witch Striker Suit was half Gundam-Wing, half Ironman in looks, pinpoint Asgardian shields, Life Fiber and nanotech. It made me 15 feet tall, responded to thoughts, and amped my magical output to a degree that meant I’d sleep like a log after eating about a dozen dinners worth of protein paste and sugar syrup. In fact, I felt like a humming bird in the suit as it fed me a constant stream of nutrient fluid, keeping me hydrated and topped off. Stupid Neuroi copying my tech. This was not supposed to happen. I somehow suspect this is the price I pay for arguing with the Banker.
VIctor Vector finally went down as I power hammered Mjolnir through its shields and then followed it up with throwing Ziggy into the interior and letting him unload with the Fourchain in Chaingun mode. The machine dissolved into black snow and I caught Ziggy as he fell out of the sky.
That’s when the Hive dropped out of the sky right on top of us. I just gaped. The Neuroi had suckered me. Flawless Awareness? Ha! The thing was a kilometer off when it hove into view and I was missing 2/3rds of the Angel Witch Armor and half its systems were offline, most of the Witches were drained, and the base looked like it had been transformed into swiss cheese. Of course, this meant I had resort to something I hadn’t used in a while.
I used Requip to pull a crate of specialized crystal spheres out of the Warehouse, lobbing them into the air, then called upon the powers I’d gained in Academy city. I called upon Meltdowner, focusing the electron beams through the network of prismatic spheres, creating a super conductive channel… into which I dropped a cryogenically cold rod of iridium. The rod weighed 2 kilograms, and it hung inside the magnetic field created by the beams of bluegreen hell-light… a slug of the second densest element… that in the space of 120 meters accelerated to 88% of the speed of light, swathed in a field of pure electronic destruction nine meters in diameter.
The hole it left in the atmosphere was… stupefying. The hole it tore in the Neuroi Hive was apocalyptic, and the recoil punched me back through the entire base and through 21 meters of solid rock, shredding the last of my Angel Witch Strike Armor and taxing my nanite infused body to the limits of endurance. I was in a coma for a week… but I got another medal when I got out, plus a whole bunch of hugs from the squad (Mini even gave me a kiss on the cheek… which prompted Luchinni to lick my nose as she clung to me.) I handed off the goofy cat girl to her other favorite person, Charlotte Yeager (who had bigger breasts and thus was more fun to snuggle against) and went to face the music.
The Air Marshal was livid with me for unauthorized use of military resources, until I pointed out that I’d supplied all the parts myself… and then she accused me of dealing with the black market, because that was the only way I could possibly have smuggled the parts onto the island. Since I’d saved the day, KP would be my punishment, she said. I just sighed and shook my head “No. Not this time, I’m afraid. I’m not doing that. I’ve got a war to win and you’re now in my way. I got what I was looking for. (Indeed, VIvian had already mapped the location of every Neuroi hive on or in Earth during my coma.) Write me up if you like. I’ve got Neuroi to hunt. They can’t hide from me anymore… plus, the 501st will be disbanded within the month, now that Gallia has been liberated.”
She just gaped as I walked out of her office. The cradle in the Warehouse had already spun out a replacement armor… Burstone is creepy as fuck that way, and the rest of Strikeforce Angel were already suiting up. All except my friends from this world. I gathered them together: Sanya & Ilya, Erica & Ursula, Charlotte, Minerva, Francesca, and Heinrike (I’d manipulated a few people to get her transferred to the 501st, just because she amuses me.) and presented them with the Striker Suits I’d built for them.
“I analyzed the wavelength coming off the Hive I fought. And off the Vector Pod. The Neuroi are making more of them. But I’ve located every Hive on Earth, or pretty close to it. Adolfine won’t listen if I tell her… but I think, if we move fast enough… We can take them down… all of them… before they can adapt.” And so, even though it meant disobeying orders, that’s what we did. 22 battles in 37 days, 19 cores, 5 Vector Pods… the small army of us smashing all resistance as we purged Earth of the Neuroi, as killing a Hive killed all its spawn as well. Thus, on the 14 of August, 1944, we secured VE day… but not for Europe, but for all Earth. Which left me and the witches just about 5 years in which to vacation… or, you know, rebuild the parts of the world the Neuroi had destroyed.
Victory in war is sometimes bittersweet. Victory is great… but friends and compatriots go their separate ways, go back to their lives, to their families. The friendships can last a lifetime, but they grow distant as the horrors of war fade into the background of rebuilding your life.
I missed them all, even Adolfine… but I couldn’t bring them all with me. Couldn’t bring even the best of them with me. If only I could have swapped Kagetane and Kohina for Minerva & Lucchini. Huh… went back into the warehouse and was about to write on the Tom Riddle page that I’d tacked to the bulletin board, when the words “No.” appeared. Drat. Ah well. I’d miss them… I guess I’d have to maximize my time with them. And so I did.
Next: World 43 – Broadway Bound
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