Chapter 2 - Mikkeli Temporary Air Base
In the temporary air base set up in the town of Mikkeli, 80 kilometres west of Slussen – Tomoko let out a deep sigh.
The town of Mikkeli was next to a lake – Saima Lake.
The lake froze over completely during winter, so they were able to use it as an airfield.
In terms of scale, the temporary base was much smaller than Kauhava Air Base.
They had taken over an old brick primary school that was due to be demolished; and put up a command centre and barracks. The inside was a disorganised mess – reminiscent of a warehouse.
Tomoko and the other members of the Suomus Independent Volunteer Squadron had been provided with a single classroom, which was to be used as sleeping quarters with the simplest of beds.
They had first sought refuge in Mikkeli Temporary Air Base in the early evening, three days ago.
After that, threatened by an above ground Neuroi invasion, they had been tasked with protecting escaping evacuees living in towns near the border – one town after another.
Fortunately, the Neuroi had only gone as far as taking over Slussen – then stopped.
Although we helped the evacuees get as far as Mikkeli…
“That’s a very glum look, P/O Tomoko.”Haruka said in a concerned voice, herself seated next to Tomoko.
All around the base you would find similar faces, everyone wondered around aimlessly with all the free time they had.
Morale had risen after they had taken down the Diomedia, and it had seemed like nothing could stop the endless joking and smiling however... the squadron was yet again gripped by the heavy atmosphere of days long past.
The sound of footsteps pattering on the tile reverberated – and the door swung open.
It was F/O Elma, her arms swamped with official papers and documents.
“There we go!”
F/O Elma placed the wad of documents on top of the desk – then made a sweeping look at everyone.As Haruka asked: “What is that?”, F/O Elma replied with a sullen look.
“It’s aerial reconnaissance photographs of the Neuroi stationed at Slussen, along with official reports containing analysis.”
“Reconnaissance? Who went to get that?”
“The 1st Squadron. Without the armaments, the fuselage of the Messerschaff is light so they went on a sortie.”
Tomoko and the others gulped as they looked at the reconnaissance photos. They were clear photographs of the Neuroi occupation in Slussen.
“What… what is this…?” Haruka asked, a dumfounded look upon her face.
Dead in the centre of the road was a huge over ground artillery battery... It was the first time any of them had seen anything like it - It was the shape of a Neuroi ground unit.
“It’s kinda like a huge creepy-crawly!” Katharine offered her opinion in a sleepy tone.
It was of a quadrilateral shape, with a turret sitting on top; at first glance it looked just like a tank. But thanks to the mechanical legs extended from each of the four corners, it understandably looked like an insect.
However... there was one thing that certainly made it different from an insect.
“It’s huge.” Tomoko said.
The bicycles that were parked around it looked to be nothing more than toys. It looked to be three times the size of a normal military tank... no, four times the size.
“That turret looks like it’s of 200mm calibre.” Beurling said in a composed voice.
“That’s cruiser class. Not the sorta weapon you’d have on a tank.”Katharine remarked.
That wasn't all, on its sides it had equipped the hedgehog-like machineguns. When you drew close to it, they showered you in bullets.
“It seems like there are several of these in the town.”
Silence reigned among them. The military couldn't do a thing against the Neuroi, who were protected by the miasma.
They had no choice but to do something...
“Anyway, we have no choice but to try and bomb them but… we can only carry bombs of 60kg at most…”F/O Elma said, her words mixed with a sigh.
For the witches of Kauhava Air Base, the Striker Unit was everything. They were machines that had been developed to give air superiority over the Neuroi. There was no excuse for them to do their bomber duty poorly – but it wasn't their primary occupation.
Frankly, the supposed ‘advantage’ of sending them was a little suspicious.
“Regardless of that, we’ve got absolutely no choice but to go, I suppose?”Tomoko said in a stiff voice. Elma nodded in response.
“Exactly. Tomorrow at dawn, we; the Independent Volunteer Squadron will go to where the Neuroi is stationed in Slussen and launch an assault.”
“But I haven’t taken any bomber training.”
“I haven’t either, but orders are orders.” F/O Elma spoke with a bitter facial expression – as if she'd drunk some foul tasting tea in one gulp.
Tomoko was restless, staring blankly at the ceiling. Because they’d set up makeshift barracks in a classroom, there was no longer the luxury of individual rooms like in Kauhava Air Base.
Noticing Tomoko's incessant tossing and turning, Haruka, who was in the adjacent bed, spoke up.
“P/O Tomoko, are you having trouble sleeping?”
“A little.”She responded in a chagrined tone.
Ahh, my beloved P/O Tomoko is suffering. It’s surely because she can’t bear losing a battle. As her wingman, it’s up to me to provide her with all the comfort she needs!
Haruka stealthily slipped into Tomoko's bed.
Tomoko's confused voice was sending Haruka over the edge.
She’s confused! Ahh, somehow this is adorable.
“I, as your wingman, will hereby comfort you.”
“Sure. I’ll pass on that.”
“Don't worry - you won't have to do a thing."
Haruka snuggled up tight to Tomoko.
“Everything will be fine. P/O Tomoko is strong. Didn't you take down that huge bomber formation, after all? Haven't you only lost once?"
"I'll like that one time to be the last time."
"It's f-i-n-e. P/O Tomoko will stop at nothing during tomorrow's bombing duties. All we have to do is take that huge ground unit with the bombs. Compared to shooting down enemies in midair, there shouldn't be a single problem."
Tomoko let out a deep sigh.
“You still fall short in experience.”
“Exactly! That’s why I was thinking of getting some experience with P/O Tomoko…”
With her face-flushed red, Haruka gingerly slid a hand into the gap in Tomoko's hanten.
Because Tomoko wore nothing but a hanten to bed, she was able to run the tips of her fingers along her smooth skin just by slipping her hand through that gap.
As it gradually got warmer, Haruka was so deeply moved by her beloved P/O Tomoko's bare skin that she wanted to cry.
“Honestly you… what are you doing?”
Haruka covered Tomoko's breasts with her right hand.
Ah, they're not too big and not too small. Tears of joy are streaming down my cheeks. Sergeant Sakomizu Haruka of the Fuso Imperial Navy has attained the target of the number one mission. From here on, I’ll shoot down…
As her morse code flickered through her mind, Haruka whispered in an entranced voice:
“These breasts are perfect… Why do they paint such a subtle curve?”
As she asked that, Tomoko firmly seized her head and shoved it away. Haruka gave a disapproving frown.
“P/O Tomoko is a liar.”
“What’re you on about now…”
“After all, you did say you'd sleep with me...”
“Look, I’m not interested in that sort of thing. I humbly apologise! Now just go to sleep already.”
However, Haruka continued to frown – seemingly having no intention of sleeping. She playfully messed around with an already annoyed Tomoko.
“Hey, What kind of girl do you like P/O Tomoko?”
“What do you mean by ‘girl’. I'm straight I tell you!”
“Please tell me what kind of girl you like! I’ll, try my best!”
As Haruka drew closer, Katharine who was sleeping in the same direction as Tomoko - interrupted their conversation.
“You guys are loud… go do your pillow talk in the hallway.”
“Shut up. I can’t sleep.”
“We’ve got a sortie tomorrow!”
“… I can’t read this book.”
Tomoko kept a silent grip on Haruka, throwing her back onto the adjacent bed she had come from.
Lying flat on her face, Haruka pounded her legs against the bed like a protesting child.
In contrast, Tomoko couldn't sleep; chewing on her nails. As she closed her eyes, her unsightly form from the other day burned onto her eyelids.
I couldn’t do anything against that new model of Neuroi…
My Ki-27 is most likely the world’s greatest fighting unit.
Then there’s the dogfighting.
Is the enemy going to use its speed to get us with hit and run tactics?
Tomoko noticed that her anguish was somewhat of a luxury.
Tomorrow we have bomber duties.
It’ll be nothing like aerial combat. Never mind hand-to-hand combat and hit and run tactics, we can’t provide opposition in case we end up getting knocked down.
With her heart swirling with feelings of anxiety and restlessness... Tomoko didn't manage to get even a little bit of sleep.
The next morning: 10:00am.
Being close to the Arctic Circle, Suomus’ winter nights were long. It was around now that the sun began to rise in the East.
There were only around 7 hours in the day.
So that they could successfully set up an assault in that small time frame... the members of the Independent Volunteer Squadron were lined up on the frozen lake – the makeshift airfield of Mikkeli Temporary Air Base.
Next to them stood the members of the 1st Squadron, led by Flight Lieutenant Mika Ahonen.
All of them held bitter expressions out in the harsh chill of the Suomus wind.
Stood in front of them was the commander of Kauhava Air Base: Häkkinen.
Noticing new Squadron Leader rank strips sparkling on her shoulder, Tomoko gave an admirable salute.
“Congratulations on your promotion, Squadron Leader, ma’am.”
Häkkinen responded with a small salute.
“I am Squadron Leader Häkkinen, the commander of Mikkeli Temporary Air Base.”
Even though she already knew them, Häkkinen introduced herself as if she had never seen them before.
“What happened to base command?”F/O Elma asked.
Sqn Ldr Häkkinen responded with a pitiful look.
“In the air raid a few days ago, many important members of the base command centre were injured and therefore had to withdraw from the front line. It’s on those grounds that I have been appointed as the senior officer.”
The mechanised air infantrymen chewed on their lips. It had been their responsibility to protect the base.
As if reading their minds, Häkkinen continued to speak:
“You’re not to blame. The responsibility for our loss lies with the command centre that issued you orders. We simply misread the signs.”
Everyone looked up at Häkkinen with sincerity. With the slightest touch of emotion in her voice, the Squadron Leader handed down her orders to the witches.
“However, I am not at all amused by this. Please relinquish control from the Neuroi.”
The 1st Squadron and the Independent Volunteer Squadron saluted all at once.
The maintenance crew wheeled in the aerial bombs on a trolley.
“The success of the military taking back Slussen depends entirely on whether or not you can take down that blasted Neuroi. I expect great success.”
She explained the plan.
The Independent Volunteer Squadron would take down the Neuroi's four legs using 60 kg bombs. The 1st squadron would provide covering fire.
Tomoko and the rest of the squad yelped as they took a hold of the 60 kg aerial bombs.
“We’re gonna have a dodgy take-off if we something this heavy!”As Katharine spoke, Beurling furrowed her eyebrows.
“Flying is about all we can do with these.”
Haruka couldn't carry the bomb in addition to the 20mm motor cannon she already held, so she had to equip a mere 8mm handgun. There were no doubts that a firearm like that would be useless in aerial combat.
Elma was in a similar situation.
The only person who had a magic engine with a strong enough power outlet to give some leeway was Ursula, but, even if she could somehow carry the bomb – there was no hope of her pulling the aerial maneuvers of previous battles.
With a hoist, Tomoko could just about carry the 60 kg bomb herself.
Thanks to their magic power the witches were several times more powerful than the average girl but...
“Couldn’t we at least have 30 kg bombs?”
As she humbly put forth her proposition, Tomoko was put down by Sqn Ldr Häkkinen.
“Truthfully, we'd like you to have 250kg grade bombs… I mean, if it were possible, we'd have you carry 250 kg bombs.”
Words failed Tomoko. Those were the kind of bombs used by specialist bomber squadrons.
“We’re a fighter squadron. We’re not capable of the raw power needed for bombing duties. As soon as we encounter enemy units, we’ll end up dropping them – I’d like to ask for permission to engage in aerial combat instead.”
Sqn Ldr Häkkinen stared intently at Tomoko... then shook her head.
“Permission denied. You, as the Independent Volunteer Squadron, have a mission to take down the enemy ground unit by bombing it. The 1st Squadron will protect you. Please give the mission your utmost commitment.”
Sqn Ldr Häkkinen merely shook her head at Tomoko's interruption.
“Recapturing Slussen is of utmost importance. There is absolutely no reason for a town of my motherland to be occupied by such a huge anomaly.”
Tomoko remembered the huge line of evacuees that had headed from Slussen to Mikkeli.
There were more than a thousand evacuees… They had been chased from the home that they were born in and loved – and pushed into cramped barracks under the cold Suomus sky.
F/O Elma looked towards Tomoko, a look of concern upon her face. Tomoko closed her eyes and let out a sigh for just one second – before shouting out loudly.
“Understood. I, Pilot Officer Anabuki Tomoko, will do whatever I can to fulfill my duty.”
As the Suomus sky ripped open with the first light of the day; the witches were on the runway, heading in the direction of Slussen. In both hands the members of the Volunteer Squadron held bombs – flying behind the 1st Squadron, as it was dangerous to have them flying unsteadiy out front.
Tomoko was the vanguard of the formation. The reason being that the Ki-27 Striker Unit that she equipped had the weakest engine power. Her striker roared out from her legs under the weight of the heavy bomb.
“If they enemy comes at us now, they’ll get us in one hit.”
Haruka said to Tomoko who was adjacent to her; in a shaky voice.
“Jeez, it’s just like Haruka says huh.” Katharine added.
“Well, we’ll have to deal with that when the time comes.” Beurling said in her usual manner.
Tomoko snapped her eyes to the front as if she'd thought of something – yet didn't respond.
The morale of the Volunteer Squadron had dropped with the irony of their mission – bomb the town they had been protecting up until now.
Even the talkative Katharine looked suitably depressed.
After around an hour of flying, they were only a short way away from Slussen.
Only a little bit further and they would have been above Slussen... that was when everyone in the squadron heard the one thing they didn't want to hear over their earpieces.
“I’ve spotted the enemy!”
It was the voice of F/L Ahonen, the leader of the 1st Squadron.
[1stsquadron began climbing in a disciplined manner. Gaining altitude, they were surely planning to strike the neuroi as they came to intercept.]
At around the same altitude of the 1st Squadron, small black spots began to drop diagonally to their right.
“It looks like the Laros.”
As Tomoko mumbled, F/L Ahonen's voice came flying over the wireless.
“My, well if that isn’t the rumoured new model.”
“They’re different from the Laros we’ve been fighting up until last year. Their existence was first confirmed on the frontlines of Karlsland; a new model called Laros ‘Kai’. It would behoove you to take a good look at it. The wings are shorter, and the body larger.”
As the black spots drew closer, it wasn't long until they morphed into the fly-like shape of the Laros.
It was a formation of around 10 units.
With the bodies painted a deep shade of grey – they looked every bit the same as the usual Laros. However, the more you looked at them the more you noticed the things that you hadn't noticed before.
“They really are the new models!”
“Thanks to those wings and the powerful engine, they’re much faster than the Laros, their ability to roll is improved. That’s not all, the scary thing is… do you remember?”
Tomoko asked. She remembered the new hit and run tactics and aerial movement skills of the new Laros formation.
More daunting than the capabilities of the new model was… the number of units.
Instead of heading towards the 1st Squadron convoy, the Laros Kai are coming this way.
“T-T-They’re c-c-coming this way!”F/O Elma's frightened voice blared over their wireless earpieces.
Haruka, Tomoko's wingman, flew into a panic.
“P-Pilot Officer T-Tomoko! The enemy is coming for us!”
“Calm down. It’ll be no good if you get into a panic.”
As she spoke, Tomoko's heart rate began to rise. She was bitter at how helpless she was whilst carrying the bomb.
[Having gained altitude with their Messerschmitt strikers, 1st squadron began to fire upon the steadily approaching Neuroi formation from above. If it had been the Neuroi from last year, here they would have scattered, tried to escape, and thus be pursued... However based on reports, the Laros-kai weren't like that at all.]
[In spite of several enemy craft bellowing smoke and being shot down, their formation was not thrown into disarray.] Tutting, Tomoko decided that she would drop her bomb. If I carry on like this, I’m just a target. F/O Elma called out over the wireless straight away. “That’s n-n-n-n-not allowed! You’re not allowed to throw away the bomb!” “This is no place to be saying things like that!” F/O Elma was unusually serious – it seemed she planned to stick to her bombing duties at all costs. The single Laros Kai in front of them began showering F/O Elma in bullets - as she was at the front. “Kya!" With a small squeal, F/O Elma accidentally dropped the bomb she had been holding. Even though it exploded, it didn't seem to prove fatal. F/O Elma was spinning round and round, but somehow she managed to stay airborne. “Everyone! Dive under the enemy!” Tomoko shouted out, as soon as the enemy got within point-blank range. At the sound of Tomoko's cry, everybody dipped their heads down, maneuvering out of the enemy's line of sight. Considering they were still holding the bombs, the movement took a lot of effort. The Laros Kai formation and the Independent Volunteer Air Squadron passed by each other in an instant. Tomoko's impromptu movement had managed to prevent them from getting taken down in one shot, but they might not be so lucky next time. They were all so wobbly midflight with the bombs in tow; there was no doubt that the enemy could take them from behind. If that happened... they’d be annihilated. I can’t take it anymore! Tomoko let go off the bomb she was holding in both hands, reaching out to her back and grabbing a hold of her cherished sword – the Bizen Osafune. “Tomoko! You weren’t supposed to drop your bomb!”Katharine said in a surprised tone. “What else was I supposed to do? If we carry on like this we’ll be obliterated!” The Neuroi reversed, looking in the direction of Tomoko – who was dancing about in the air. There was no point in holding onto them anymore, so the remaining members of the squadron also dropped their bombs. They fell aimlessly into the snow-laden forests beneath them. The Neuroi formation they had just evaded from began their ascent. Afterwards, the 1st Squadron began chasing after them. “Watch out!”Tomoko felt danger approaching – shouting out into her microphone out of reflex. Tomoko's premonition was spot on. The ascending Neuroi turned right round, launching themselves at the 1st Squadron who were directly beneath them. It was a spectacular maneuver. The 1st Squadron had abruptly come face to face with the Neuroi following their turn. “F/L Ahonen! Don’t fight them head on!” However... it was too late. As the Laros Kai squadron passed by the 1st Squadron, they began a fierce exchange of machinegun fire. The white trail of the tracer bullets flashed in Tomoko's eyes. She shuddered in fear at the sight of the Neuroi's meticulous and unparallelled attack. The sight of the 1st Squadron who had been hit – appeared before her eyes one after another. The magical barriers that the mechanised air infantrymen used to protect themselves had absorbed as much as possible... but they had a limit. With their Striker Units broken, their bodies twisted in the air – and they began to fall down. One of them lost consciousness in the blast – their head slumped down, and they descended dizzily. Tomoko's face twisted in pain as she took a hold of the Bizen Osafune, twisting towards the Laros Kai. However, it looked like the Laros Kai had no intention of continuing the battle any further. They nosedived, retreating as fast as they could. Tomoko and the others had relinquished their bombing attack, and it had ended up being an interception task. They were completely lost for words at the sight of such an impressive performance. Waiting for Tomoko back at the base was a flight prohibition reprimand lasting three days. The operation to bomb the enemy ground unit in Slussen had been a failure. The damage to the 1st Squadron was four casualties. The mechanised air infantrymen were somehow managing to get past their suffering, but it had been a great loss to squad at Mikkeli Temporary Air Base. After having every last drop of information squeezed out of her by Squadron Leader Hakkinen... Tomoko entered the barracks and slipped into bed – burying herself underneath her futon. Haruka attempted to start some sort of conversation with her – but she didn't respond. The atmosphere in the squad barracks was even heavier than it had been last night. Katharine had stopped speaking completely. Haruka yet again couldn't sleep, and was thinking of a way she could comfort Tomoko tonight when suddenly... Tomoko's bed moved. I wonder what’s happening? Haruka watched on as silver hair glistened in the light peeking in through the window. Well if it isn’t P/O Beurling. With a rustling sound, P/O Beurling climbed into Tomoko's bed. Haruka was shell-shocked. N-No way P/O Tomoko! And… P/O Beurling!
[Wh, while someone like me... when, even though we're not really involved,]Haruka worried endlessly, biting firmly on her bedsheets. Tomoko looked at Beurling with a curious look. “W-What are you doing all of a sudden?” “I’d like to have a word with you.” “Do it tomorrow. Why did you have to go so far as to get into my bed?” “The sooner the better. Not to mention this seems to be the only way to get you to listen to what people say.” P/O Beurling brought her face much closer. Her grey pupils were shimmering. Without knowing why, Tomoko's face flushed – and she suddenly turned away. “W-what is it you want to talk about?” “Do you understand the reason that we lost?” “The enemy’s gotten stronger.”Is this all she wanted to ask at this hour? Tomoko thought as she answered. “Wrong.”Beurling shook her head. “It’s the first time that the ability of our machinery hasn’t matched up to that of the enemy.” “Don’t be ridiculous.” “Co-ordination, speed, firepower… that Laros Kai is a machine from a completely different era from the old Laros. That’s not to say it’s invincible. It’s just that we happened to take all the damage instead of the enemy. Even the 1st Squadron with their Messerschafs ended up with the same result. Well, the result is unimportant...” Tomoko rebutted P/O Beurling's statement: “No way, we can’t possibly equip Strikers without proper thought! It goes without saying that it’s certainly better to use a Striker that you’re used to. Don’t you agree? If you didn’t then you’d equip the new Spitfire instead of clinging onto your beloved Hurricane. Are you denying your own cherished machine?” “Well, the Hurricane is certainly a good machine. I feel at home with it.”P/O Beurling murmured in a lonely tone. “Comfortability aside… it’s reached its limit. I can’t win with the Hurricane anymore. Times have changed. We’re not the ones who get to decide that.” “I’ve requested for new supplements. One of these days you’ll surely get your share from the Fuso Empire. “ “Don’t act on your own accord.” Beurling brought her face even closer to Tomoko. “Listen, Tomoko. We’re in the middle of a war. Upping our military achievements means nothing. If you just fight in the way you like, with the machine you like, you'll never raise your accomplishments anyway.” “I understand that more than anyone else. I’ve devoted myself to my current style of battle. I’m not going to change it just because a couple of battles went wrong.” Beurling shook her head, her silver hair swaying from side to side. “Hand-to-hand fighting ability probably won’t apply anymore. The enemy will continue playing the same hand. How do you expect to chase after them with your Ki-27?” “If I can’t chase after them, then I’ll think of a way to take them down without chasing them. I’m sure there’s some way. And let’s not forget that the Ki-27 is unrivalled in all other aspects.” “You really are a stubborn girl!” “I’m not going to part with the Ki-27. It’s a part of me. There’s no way I’ll change it after such a long time.” Beurling closed her eyes, and crossed her arms. She frowned, and got out of the bed. Tomoko chewed on her lips. It might be just as Beurling says. I’ve used that machine from the start. We’ve always fought together. Tomoko had done such a good job owing to the Ki-27. To abandon the Ki-27 would be to abandon myself – Anabuki Tomoko. I’ll definitely increase my military achievements with the Ki-27. Of course, I won’t work alone, I’ll co-operate with my comrades… When I was running along the individual path, I didn’t know a thing about how to conduct myself in an aerial battle. As she lay in bed, Tomoko tried several times to talk some sense into herself. In contrast, Haruka who was lying in the bed next to her had worn herself out worrying about something completely different. What is this? How can P/O Beurling possibly climb into P/O Tomoko’s bed so easily, I don’t believe it! I wonder when they got so intimate. Is P/O Tomoko… that sort of girl, how should I put it, is she like an older sister? Impossible, it looked like they were into each other! I suppose the reason is that she can’t have a small girl like me as her partner. I won’t lose. I won’t lose to that eccentric silver haired islander! Haruka had found a rival – her heart fired up despite her obvious misunderstanding.
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