This is the first fanfic I have written, and am still writing. This introductory chapter has been edited twice now for improvement, and I do hope you enjoy it and will continue reading. (edit made: 10/8/2015)
Girls und Panzer: Open Warfare
They won the nationals, but what happens when another set of academies gets involved? With cadets joining the ranks of the tankers, will their military training be a boon or a curse for the sport as a whole?
Chapter 1: Called Back To The Colours
12 January – Zuikaku aircraft carrier (Oarai School) – 0900hrs
It had been over a month since the dramatic final battle with Kuromorimine academy. The remainder of the term and the winter break had come and gone for the jubilant Oarai High School, still celebrating their continued survival as an establishment. Miho Nishizumi, the girl some would call the heroine of Oarai, had spent most of it with her friends, occasionally returning to the school for friendly out-of-term matches against other academies, particularly St Gloriana, and overall, had enjoyed the time spent relaxing, even seeing her sister infrequently.
However, the holiday couldn't last, and come January, the girls of Oarai High returned for another term of teaching, some despondent that the holidays had ended. However, for Oarai's tankery team, that was not the case, as they entered the grounds of their school refreshed, and prepared for another term of battle in their roaring armoured machines. They were ready for the nationals again, and another season of competing at tankery. Under a blue sky that was still warming for a pleasant day ahead, the high schoolers assembled on the drill grounds in front of the sheds that contained their armoured steeds.
Greeting them, was Ami Chouno, their sometime tankery instructor from the previous term, who had thrown them in the deep end of training on their first day. She still wore the same confident grin as she addressed the girls in a loud voice, shaking awake some of those still bleary-eyed from having to get up for school again.
"Good morning girls! I hope you have enjoyed your time off. If you're wondering why I'm back as your instructor, my superiors have assigned me as your permanent instructor and liaison since you're now an established team after last term. I'll be bringing you news from the league and so forth, and offering help if you need it. It'll be nice working with you."
"Likewise," Anzu said, while the rest of the Oarai girls nodded in acknowledgement. The diminutive Student Council President then gestured to Momo.
"We did well in the nationals last term, but this time the League is upping the ante!" Momo began in a loud voice. "Tankery is becoming more popular again, so the League officials have agreed to take some new competitors into the league from overseas." The monocled PR rep looked at Ami to elaborate.
"Europe's high school tankery league has been on hiatus for a little while now, but with the increased coverage and enthusiasm for tankery since your school's win last term, they are looking to see if it should be brought back. As a result, they have asked several of their schools, plus an American school, to visit Japan for this term's national tournament, as a bit of a trial run, so to speak," Ami said, her words eliciting a swell of pride from the Oarai team, followed by a little bit of curiosity.
"Instructor, if you don't mind my asking, who are these challengers visiting this term?" Hana asked, in her usual polite tones.
"These new challengers are four prestigious military schools, Wellesley, Bradley, Scharnhorst and Kutusov academies. They are British, American, German and Russian respectively, and their presence will round the number of academies out at 20 for the nationals."
"But how will that work?" Karina chirped up, a look of confusion on her face, "The numbers don't add up for an even tournament, so some teams would have to fight more matches than others."
Ami developed a thoughtful look on her face, as if trying to remember some briefing details that she'd otherwise forgotten.
"A good point. I imagine that the league will send information via myself as soon as they come to a decision on that. Any other questions?"
Caesar's hand went up, her red magistrate's sagum flowing behind her as she made the gesture.
"What are these schola like that we will be facing? You said they were military schools, but do you have any other details?"
"Good question. While all of them still offer a civilian high school education, the academies blend this with aspects of military training, as a kind of prelude to an actual training course. I had the pleasure of meeting some of Bradley's cadets when they visited the unit I was serving with for a joint exercise, and I will say this – they're pretty sharp. All of these schools are top class, and some cadets are the children of serving officers, so expect skilled strategies, grounded in intelligent military thought. Whilst their teams will be new, and thus inexperienced, don't underestimate them because they'll be well trained." Ami said. The Oarai girls all looked at each other when Ami told them about underestimating their opponents. They themselves were physical proof of the damage such a misstep could cause. They would tread carefully around the cadets.
"Anything else you would like to add, teach?" Anzu said to Ami, who put her hand to her chin in a thinking pose.
"Nothing much springs to mind, other than the fact that since their countries of origin have different educational systems, the academies are of mixed gender rather than single sex."
Upon hearing this small nugget of information, Saori's ears twitched, and she resisted the urge to leap into the air. "There's going to be good-looking men for me to woo!" she proclaimed. Saori was keen to meet new people, like the outspoken social butterfly that she was, and even better in there were some guys to romance.
Miho was less giddy, as more challengers, especially of a more powerful nature, would only make the competition harder to win. "I've heard of some of these academies. As Ami said, they're all military establishments, so they'll be well-equipped and efficient, albeit a little inexperienced, if they're only joining the league now. They might have some experience from lower years like I did, and they will be training hard. We have a clear experience lead, and our crews are evidently capable now, but our tanks are still underpowered, at least in comparison with Kuromorimine and Pravda. So we may have to retrofit and improvise," she whispered to herself.
The rest of the girls were excitedly conversing amongst themselves in hushed tones, barring Riko 'Erwin' Matsumoto, who remained oddly quiet, removing her hat from her head and staring at it in contemplation. Few noticed the gesture, and those that did just wrote it off as her checking her headgear over.
"I'll be back in 2 weeks when they publish the matchups and friendlies timetable! I expect you girls to practice hard and prepare well! They're not going to be pushovers!" Ami shouted, as she turned and strode away from the group. All eyes turned on Miho.
"Well commander, what do we do?" asked Anzu. The impish student president was, as usual, snacking on something, and she gave a little wave to Miho, who looked deep in thought.
"We'll have to see if we can bring in some new vehicles somehow, with heavier guns, and retrofit the tanks we currently possess to be more competitive. What we mainly need to work on is initiative, and just train, train, train. Practice makes perfect after all, our teams, while good at working together, sometimes seem to be overly reliant on my instructions, which could be a crippling weakness if our Panzer is knocked out early in an elimination game. So, thinking independently is to be emphasised, and we should also establish a chain of command in case the command tank is knocked out. So if the student council can secure new weapons, I'll being working on training our crews up more." Miho replied. The team, well aware of Miho's insight into tankery, went quiet to hear her speak.
"Super! We'll get right on that," Anzu responded, a big grin on her face. "Yuzu, Momo, go and call up the headmaster, and tell him to allocate more funding to the team that saved the school, eh?" Yuzu and Momo nodded, sighing internally at Anzu's consistent delegation of work, and ran off to follow the president's orders. Anzu, rather than do anything productive, pulled out a bag of sweets, and looked at Miho expectantly.
"Every other team, to your tanks! Let's get some training done!" shouted Miho.
With that, every girl on the training field scrambled into the tank shed and started up their tanks with a loud roar. Miho, sitting in the turret of her Panzer IV, began mentally writing off which tanks would be useless in the upcoming battle. While she had no clue as to the tank composition of their new challengers, she was sure that some of the light tanks in Oarai's arsenal would be too weak to compete. Certainly, the volleyball club (Duck team) and their 89B would need to go, as perhaps would Anteater team's (the gamer girls) Chi-nu type 3. The B1 of Mallard team (the ethics committee) was dubious too. Their sheer lack of firepower was a hindrance against every well-armed team in the league, although the armour of the B1 made it highly difficult to disable against some tanks. The M3 Lee crewed by the 1st year girls (Rabbit Team) could be useful, mainly due to its dual guns, but its high profile and low manoeuvrability made it exposed, and so it was a tossup between it and the type 3. The staples of the team would be the Panzer IV of her Anglerfish team, the STUG III of Hippo Team, the Porsche Tiger of the Mechanics Club (Leopon team) and the Hetzer of Turtle Team (the student council).
'The matches will be organised along standard tournament lines, I am assuming,' thought Miho, 'which means we have 10 tanks in the first two rounds, 15 in the third, and 20 in the final. We have eight tanks total. While we have 4 powerful tanks, the Porsche Tiger is a little prone to mechanical failure, and so we need reliable backups available. A little improvement to our roster wouldn't go amiss if we have to face Kuromorimine again.' Miho thought.
"Yukari, are there any variants or upgrades possible for some of our weaker vehicles? I highly doubt we can get enough funding to buy in totally new tanks," Miho asked her loader.
"Well sure! The type 89 is clearly our weakest link, made in the 1920s, but if we want it more efficient, we could adjust the armour and engine to make an Otsu variant. That's about it for that one though. The chi-nu was a prototype that never saw service, so there isn't much we can do there. The M3 Lee has a number of variants, although most are non-combat. I mean, if we had time, we could pretty much make the Ram tank out of it…." The loader responded, turning to look at Miho.
"That's a Canadian tank right?" Miho asked quizzically. She'd heard of the name before, but never come across one in tankery.
"Yeah! It never saw service, but it apparently performed in trials way better than the M3, and it lacks some of its worse flaws, but it would also require a total refit, as the upper hull, turret and gun are completely different. I mean, we managed that on the Hetzer, right? So we should be able to do the same thing again. The B1 is kinda stuck though, because the league won't look kindly on the other variant, considering it has a flame-thower…." Yukari trailed off.
"Agreed," Miho replied. "We have some spare guns though, and we could get in more parts from other vehicles if we needed. Non-standard refits aren't banned by the league, even if they don't look on them favourably…"
"We'll have to see how much money we can weasel out of the headmaster then before we plan any new vehicle overhauls." Yukari confirmed Miho's thoughts.
Miho turned her mind to how exactly the Oarai roster could be improved, and how much it could cost. The roar of the Panzer starting underneath her interrupted her deliberations, as Mako set the behemoth grinding forward, setting them on course towards the training grounds.
"Right girls! First exercise is team battle, total elimination! Rabbit, Mallard, and Leopon teams vs Hippo, Duck and Anteater teams! Rabbit and Duck, you're the captains of each team! Battle starts in 10 minutes so plan your moves and roll out!" Miho broadcasted over the radio.
A chorus of affirmatives came back over the crackling set, as each team split off and headed into different parts of the woods, engines roaring. The practice ground was rocky terrain, with narrow paths, ridges and some dead ground, excellent for ambushes. Mako positioned the Panzer on a ridge to the extreme North of the field, with a commanding view of almost the entire field, so Miho and the rest of Anglerfish team could observe the practice session.
The eastern side of the battlefield had team 1, under Rabbit team, while in the west were Duck team's team 2. In the northernmost part of the field, barely visible in a hull-down position in the dead ground, was the STUG of Hippo team, whose lower profile and camouflage scheme made them extremely difficult to spot for Miho's eyes, and even then she could see them only due to her raised position. South of them, on a ridge with their hull partially obscured by rock, but clearly visible, was the type 89B of Duck team, whose commander Isobe had chosen a commanding position to survey the field. On team 2's right flank was Anteater team and their type 3 chi-nu, using the colouration of their vehicle to camouflage themselves amidst a small copse of trees. A well-rounded ambush strategy in all, Miho thought, using the ability of manoeuvrable and weaker tanks to ambush superior foes. However, it would fall to Duck team to keep the cohesion required for a well-placed ambush, as without proper coordination, each tank could be picked off one by one.
Taking completely the opposite approach was team 1, who were drawn up in tight formation in the centre of the field, with Rabbit team's M3 in the middle, Leopon's Tiger(P) on the right, and Mallard's B1 on the left. Rabbit team appeared to be concerned for their own tank, with its weak side and rear armour, and were using their more well-armoured comrades to cover this. To some, it could seem that their self-preservation was getting the better of them, forsaking sound strategy in favour of brute force, due to their better armed and armoured tanks. However, Miho knew that Rabbit team had mostly gotten over their initial morale issues, and that this could be a ruse on their part, hoping to lure the somewhat gung-ho volleyball girls into springing their trap too early. The partially angled orientation of the B1 Bis and the Tiger P suggested that this tight grouping could split rapidly if needed.
To signal the start, the Panzer IV would fire off a blank round. Yukari dutifully slammed home a round into the KwK 40, and Hana fired the shot off a second later. The crew then opened all the hatches, and sat back to watch the show, except Mako, who was asleep in her driver's seat already.
The match began with the roaring of engines, and the clatter of treads.
Location Shift -
Carrier Dauntless, Wellesley Royal Military Academy, 1100 Hours, somewhere at sea
"I heard you wanted to see me, sir?"
"Indeed I did, captain. It would appear that the Japanese tankery league has approved the request to take on our academy for this term's tankery tournament, as part of the test to bring the European High School League back."
"That's good news sir, but how does it affect me?"
"I would like you to form our team, and coach it. You are after all one of the best young officers we have, and I need someone with their head screwed on for this."
The two voices conversing had a clear difference in age, one old and gruff, and the other young, with a clipped and crisp accent, which would have sounded nice if it wasn't ever so slightly wavering. Both were wearing grey, well-pressed military shirts, with thin blue trim, combined with grey trousers and well-polished boots. The older man had several prestigious looking medals arrayed on his shirt, while the younger man possessed only one. Each also bore a holster on their right hip, although the worn grip on the older man's pistol demonstrated long service, whilst the pristine condition of the other man's stood testament to his lack of actual field experience.
"But sir! Are you sure about this? I mean…" the younger man stammered, "I'm not exactly the most veteran of our officers here."
"Well, this is your chance captain. It'll be good experience for you. Plus, if you get stuck you can always ask Major Thomas for a hand. Anyway, that was an order, not a request, so assemble a team from the cadets who expressed interest and get them trained up as you see fit."
The younger man shuddered. Major Thomas was a hardnosed bastard, and he'd rather not have to go to him for advice. Aside from that, his mind was already racing a mile a minute thinking about everything he'd need to get done for this new team.
"How long do I have before the first match?"
"3 weeks, John. I know it's a bit short notice, but I'm confident you'll do just fine."
"Which tanks are we allowed to utilise sir? I know we have an extensive pool, but the seniors might not be so keen to share with the lower years."
"I am giving you full access to any mass production vehicles that we possess, it'll make the maintenance easier. We want a strong showing for our first go out there, so take a decent selection and keep it balanced. As for the seniors, Major Thomas has already been informed about it, so he won't give you any trouble over what you take. Just be reasonable about it."
"What about no.131 sir?" the man identified as John asked tentatively.
"You want the old beast? Well, I suppose you may as well, it'll look good if our team has something impressive for its first showing. We haven't had it running in a while, so it should cause a bit of excitement."
"Yes sir. I believe I shall hold briefings in 2 hours, sir, directly after lunch. It will give me time to get the message out to the students. Can you get me the lists of those who expressed interests, sir?"
"Yes, I'll have them forwarded to you immediately. If that's all, splendid. Good day, Captain Hart."
"Good day sir."
The younger man saluted, turned on his heel crisply and walked out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him. Once he had left the room, he slumped against the door frame and wiped his brow. At 28, John Hart was one of the youngest instructors at Wellesley academy, and had been selected to teach tankery due to his theoretical work, not his field experience. Of average height and lean build, John did not look the part of a soldier. The headmaster, on the other hand, was a grizzled veteran who had seen service in 7 theatres and a variety of commands before retiring to Wellesley academy to teach. The other apparent role the headmaster fulfilled was scaring the living hell out of John, and most of the other staff too, being both more aggressive, and a good deal more physically imposing than many people. After composing himself following the ordeal of confronting such a man, Hart went to begin assembling his new tankery cadets, his boots ringing on the deck plating.
Wellesley Drill Ground - 1300 Hours
On the deck of the carrier, immediately after lunch, roughly 45 students, five of whom were in mechanic overalls, assembled on a drill ground, surrounded on three sides by a large number of tank sheds. The school itself maintained a large number of tanks, British or allied, as would be expected of a British military academy, although many were reserved for the senior students. In any case, it wasn't too much of a problem for Hart to find tanks for his students, and he had assembled nine vehicles for the new team. The captain had selected as modern and reliable a roster as he could possibly manage, skipping over some of the early war tanks that the academy still preserved. All of the vehicle shed doors were marked with the academy's crest, an Imperial Eagle gripping the British Flag in its talons.
As they arrived from lunch the students formed into perfect ranks on the drill ground, five ranks of nine, and patiently waited for their instructor. John composed himself and then stepped in front of the formation, whose eyes fixed upon him like a targeting array.
"As I am sure you are aware, our school normally competes in tankery from the ages of 18 to 21 years old, but we found that there was a great deal of interest from you lower years, so we petitioned and were accepted by the Japanese league to compete at high school level, since the European High School circuit has been on hiatus for some time." Hart said. "You are the students that expressed an interest in the sport, so you will be forming our team. I am here to offer advice, and prepare your training, but the rest will be up to you. Before we begin forming a team, I will show you the vehicles you will be crewing." Hart walked over to the vehicle sheds, opening a door and stepping inside. A moment later, he reappeared, as most of the vehicle sheds' doors rose up. Hart raised an arm in indication of the different vehicles, and walked along in front of the sheds, pointing out each tank.
"Here are the tanks we have available for our roster. We weren't able to secure the potential twenty that one could field in the finals, but we have nine varied vehicles here, and being able to field a flexible team is important," John announced, beginning a slow walk down the sheds. "With that in mind, we have: the A34 Comet I, the M10 Achilles, two mark VII Churchill tanks, although one is in need of some repair, 3 A27M Cromwell tanks, and one M24 Chaffee. Each of these has different strengths, so combination will be beneficial to a solid strategy." John strode over to the final shed, which displayed a large Iron Cross instead of the academy's logo. Pulling out a key, Hart unlocked the last shed.
"Our final vehicle for the team is one that is rarely deployed, mostly due to its rarity." As the door rolled upwards, the students saw the ominous bulk of a large, boxy war machine lurking in the darkness of the shed. "Cadets, this is the Panzer VI, also known as the Tiger tank. This one in particular, no.131, is the only Tiger possessed by a non-German academy. Also, unlike most of the ones in use in the current tankery leagues, this one is the real thing. Captured in Tunisia, this tank was studied and restored, before finally being given to this academy. The headmaster has given this team clearance to use it."
The students having had the chance to view their vehicles for the upcoming tournament, Hart decided it was time to get them into a team and start training.
"Before we begin, we need our team captain, who will then be choosing the tank commanders for the team," Hart announced. A couple of speculative murmurs went through the ranks at who would be commanding them in the tourney, but they were hushed quickly. "To simplify proceedings greatly, I have simply selected the captain based on overall grades and records, including any infractions committed." A couple of the cadets in the crowd winced when he mentioned their disciplinary records. "Thus, your captain for this team will be Samuel Pearce."
A few more hushed whispers went through the assembled cadets, who had a variety of reactions. In particular, Hart spotted one girl, tall and with short black hair, who looked like she'd just bitten a lemon. The girl behind her was whispering 'Angela, you totally deserved it more than him,' in a hushed tone. Eventually, all of the Wellesley cadets looked at one of their own, a short boy in the third rank with short brown hair and thin, rectangular glasses. He was wearing a long leather military trenchcoat over his cadet uniform. The most striking feature about the cadet however, was simply his expressionless and apathetic demeanour. Hart had tutored a few classes with Pearce in before, and not once had he seen the boy smile, frown, grin, laugh, anything. Regardless, Hart smiled at the boy as he addressed him.
"Mr Pearce, would you like to take the Tiger as your flag tank?" he asked.
The boy looked at his teacher with a blank, emotionless visage that nearly sent shudders down the man's spine. "Of course sir. I will do my utmost to secure victory for our academy."
There you have it, the end to my first chapter. We've introduced my protagonists, Wellesley Academy, a group of battle-hungry British cadets, as well as gotten a bit more Oarai action. It is an introduction, so its mostly exposition, and the story will begin to move after this chapter.
This is just a call to all readers to please review my work. I enjoy reading constructive criticism, or even just an 'I liked it/disliked it' and would love to have more feedback from you. I'm also open to private messaging if you fancy discussing anything with me.
It may be a while before I can put another chapter out, I'm going into exams at the moment so revision kinda takes precedence, much as I wish it didn't. (Edit: Exams went well. Second Edit: Went well enough that I'm looking at top marks for my degree)
Next time on Girls und Panzer: Team talk! Practice Battle and Organisation.