I decided to take a break from Ala Alba, so here is my first story from a new series I've been watching; 'Strike Witches.'
Strike Witches exists as Light Novels, manga, anime, and as several non-adult, semi-official doujinshi in Japan. It is owned by Kadokawa Shoten, Gonzo, other entities and its various creators in Japan, and by Funimation (as an anime only,) in the United States, NOT by me.
Forward paraphrased from the short-story 'Der Stern von Africa,' presented in the C74 doujinshi 'Witch in Africa,' as translated and posted on the 'Baka Tsuki' TLWiki visual novel translation wiki. 'Witch in Africa,' and all its contents are owned by Shimada Humikane, Suzuki Taakaki, and Nogamai Takeshi, NOT me.
Beyond how I establish the origins of several characters and a slight name-change, this story is not meant to be an AU.
As it relates to everything else, "Woher, die Zauberer?" takes place during 'The Battle of Britannia' in 1940, concurrent with the 'Suomus Misfits Squadron' series of Light-Novels, and three to four years before the time of the 501st 'Strike Witches' Joint Fighter Wing.
As appropriate, translations of Karlsländ and Gallian speech are given immediately afterwards in (parentheses.)
"Woher, die Zauberer?" ("Where from, the Warlock?")
Though their first appearance was near the end of the second decade of the twentieth-Century, the mysterious Neuroi did not begin their war against Humanity in earnest until September 1st, 1939.
At that time, from hives hovering in the air near the Black Sea, an unstoppable, poisonous miasma and uncountable Neuroi troops poured forth.
Ostmark, directly in the line with the initial wave of the invasion, was the first European Nation to fall. In winter of the same year, the Neuroi attack against Orussia in the East, and Suomus in Northern Europe began. Shortly thereafter Karlsländ came under attack, and by the start of 1940, its entire army was fighting grueling defensive battles all along their southern and eastern borders.
Against the overwhelming power of the Neuroi invasion, the Karlsländer forces faced defeat after defeat, and in June, Berlin fell. Thanks though to the dogged determination to hold back the Neuroi displayed by their own witches, as well as many from Liberion, Fuso, and Britannia, most of Karlsländ's population was evacuated, with the Imperial Family itself departing on the last ship out of Wilhelmshaven. Final defeat in Karlsländ, despite the great efforts to stave it off, came as a severe blow to the morale of many throughout the rest of the world.
Having finally eliminated what had once been the strongest military force in Europe, the Neuroi turned their attentions to the neighboring country of Gallia, which would fall to them like a candle before the wind...
-From 'Der Stern von Africa,' a short-story published with the 'Witch in Africa' visual novel series detailing the Neuroi War in North Africa.
(Late June, 1940. Operational Training Unit 56. RAF Sutton Bridge. Lincolnshire County, Britannia.)
To those who knew her, Captain Donna Bader was a veteran Witch, the calm, collected Squadron Leader of OTU 56 in the Britannian Royal Air Force.
Now though, locked within a nightmare brought on by an old memory, she thrashed and moaned beneath the confines of her tangled bedclothes...
"Donna! More speed!"
Already sweating over the amount of magical energy being expended to propel her Hawks Hurricane Mk Ib Striker, Leftenant Donna Bader risked a quick glance back at the enemy, then nodded in response to the shouted words of her companion.
Following in pursuit was a gaggle of flying Neuroi so numerous that not even a pair of Striker-equipped witches could hope to stand against them and win.
Along with the other RAF witch, a Pilot Officer named Elizabeth Beurling, Donna had been sent to the Britannian Embassy in Ostmark as a part of a military mission tasked with observing incursions into that country by the mysterious creatures called the Neuroi. Everything had proceeded uneventfully, with minor incidents occurring once a week, until like some horde of old emerging out of the steppes of Asia, the Neuroi exploded out of the regions they'd occupied around the Black Sea and began swarming across Ostmark.
While nothing seemed able to stand against the Neuroi as they advanced, most disturbing of all was that from any land they had taken, nothing further was heard...
With Vienna, capital of Ostmark, expected to fall quickly, word came from Britannia that intelligence from behind the Neuroi lines MUST be obtained. As the Britannian Embassy prepared to evacuate, the military mission's commander ordered Donna and Elizabeth to conduct a quick reconnaissance over Neuroi territory using their Hurricane Strikers, then to escape north and over the border and into the neighboring country of Karlsländ.
What they saw defied description. Everything behind the Neuroi lines was a wasteland. Nothing living could be seen. Plant-life had all withered, and on farms and in the towns and cities occupied by the Neuroi, nothing lived. Animals, the young, the old, everyone and everything was dead.
Concentrating on her flying magic, Donna managed to increase her speed by sacrificing energy she'd been using for defense.
As if knowing what had been done, the pursuing Neuroi began to fire with increasing intensity. Red beams flashed through the sky, criss-crossing all around their targets, which frustratingly refused to cooperate and be hit.
Pushing her Striker to its limits, Donna dodged around the red colored energy filling the sky until she realized she was about to collide with Elizabeth. Snap-rolling away from the near impact, she flew right into a Neuroi beam. Unable to believe what had happened, paralyzed by the shock of being hit, she immediately began spiraling out of the sky. Trailing parts from the severed fuselage of her disintegrating striker, the last thing she remembered seeing was Elizabeth Beurling, her spirit familiar's dachshund ears erect in surprise, watching her fall...
Fully awake as soon as her eyes opened, Donna Bader lay still for a moment, then struggled out of the tangled bedclothes and sat up. Panting heavily, short red hair matted with sweat, she put hand to forehead and remained in that position until her breathing finally slowed.
Beurling had managed to save her, but the inhumanity of the Neuroi the two of them witnessed had done something... The silver-haired witch had become withdrawn, insubordinate, and borderline suicidal. After many run-ins with various commanders of RAF bases, she had accepted a transfer, and was now a part of the Suomus Independent Volunteer Aerial Squadron. Despite being called the 'Suomus Misfits' by some, the unit was doing reasonably well against the Neuroi. Elizabeth's few letters seemed to indicate a Fuso Witch named Tomoko Anabuki was responsible for helping her get over the apparent depression she'd been suffering from since the fall of Ostmark.
Reaching down, Donna began to rub the stump of her left leg. Off above the knee thanks to the Neuroi, it was the source of occasional phantom-pain and a constant reminder of events now nearly a year past. Its companion was off below the knee. Taken together, the severed legs had nearly prevented her from remaining an RAF witch. Thanks to tremendous efforts at rehabilitation and retraining, she had managed to remain in the service. Unfortunately, persons higher up than Air Officer Commanding Keith Park, her ultimate superior in 11 Fighter Group, had blocked the petition she'd made to remain in a front-line unit.
After explaining how he'd gone to the mat for her, Park had shaken his head in sorrow, then presented an offer of the only active-duty assignment his superiors would agree to; a posting to 20 Group and Training Command. "I'm sorry, Captain Bader. They can't get beyond seeing you as anything more than a wounded-witch, so the only thing left for me to say if you want to stay in the service is; 'Give it a stiff, Britannian upper lip, and accept the role you've been given.' There's a good-girl..."
Shifting her hand and trying to scratch away the phantom-pain in her right stump, Donna sighed when the effort began to have a relieving effect. Finally looking up, she glanced at her calendar and wall clock. Today was the day a group of Gallian witch-candidates was supposed to arrive at Sutton Bridge for training in the use of Air Strikers.
While Liberion's 'Arsenal of Freedom' was gearing up for the fight against the Neuroi, it and several other countries ringing the Atlantic Oceans had offered their territory and assistance in training the only forces which had proven truly effective against the Neuroi.
Having extremely limited resources, the government in exile of Gallia, along with that of Karlsländ, both desperate to rebuild their nearly destroyed military forces, eagerly accepted the offer.
Witch candidates more suitable for the newly developed Ground Strikers, as well as those who were extremely young, or who's potential would take longer to develop were sent away to train in safety. Those slightly older or with potential for faster development in the use of Air Strikers were sent to Britannia to train. With much of its military committed to the joint Britannia, Karlsländ, Romagna and Liberion Africa Corps and its job of resisting the Neuroi advance across North Africa, the level of military forces stationed in Britannia itself was barely above what was considered the minimum required for its defense. By training near the front-line, non-Britannian witch candidates could gain experience faster, and would be available as potential reinforcements should the Neuroi challenge Britannia in its weakened state.
With a grunt, Donna swung her truncated legs around. After resting on the edge of the bed for a moment, she reached for her magic-powered prosthetics. Unnaturally thin-looking and stiff, the false legs were her only means of getting around when she wasn't wearing her new, specially modified Hawks Hurricane Mk IIC Striker. Moving to stand before a mirror, clad only in a pair of pilot's shorts and a thin tee-shirt, she did some quick personal grooming, then donned a uniform blouse and cap. Stepping outside her billet, she looked up at the clear, beautiful blue sky for a moment, took a deep breath of the clean, clear air, then stepped off towards where a group of fresh-faced Gallian witch-candidates stood waiting with their kit-bags in front of a nearby barracks.
Nervous, anxious and irritable, Perrine Clostermann wanted to somehow leave at that instant to go and free her homeland from occupation by the alien Neuroi. Instead, she remained in line with seven other young girls outside the empty barracks all of them had been assigned to live in at RAF Sutton Bridge.
Originally part of a group of refugees evacuated from the port of Dunkirk during Britannia's Operation Dynamo, she and many others back in Britannia had been recognized as Gallian witch-candidates by a Fuso Navy Lieutenant named Mio Sakamoto. Thoughts about the dark-haired Fuso witch made her extremely flustered for some reason, prompting emotions which were quite difficult to understand. Only by turning and concentrating on the other girls wearing the dark-blue uniforms of the Free Gallian Air Force could she push such confusing thoughts aside.
On her right was a tall, thin, auburn-haired girl named Antoinette de Saint-Exupéry. Born to a rich family much like her own, she knew the girl was also an author, but not much else. On her left was a timid farm-girl, a blonde much like herself. Long separated from home and family, Amelie Planchard had been latched onto her since Dunkirk. Despite the young girl's humble beginnings, the two of them had grown to be close friends in the short time they'd been together. Further along were five more Gallian girls, but the only one who's name she knew was François de Labouchère, a twelve-year-old brunette down at the far end of the line.
Prompted by a sudden intake of breath from Amelie, Perrine looked up to see a Britannian witch slowly making her way towards their little group. The girl's gait seemed a slightly odd, and after coming closer, a pair of obviously artificial legs made it plain she had been wounded at some point in the past. ("Her... her legs are gone!") Seemingly hearing the thought, the Britannian fixed Perrine in a cold gaze that said thinking the wounds made her any less of a person would be one of the biggest mistake she could ever make. Seeing acknowledgement of the threat in a brief nod, the girl continued to approach until she stood front and center before the little group of Gallian witch-candidates.
"My name is Captain Donna Bader, and I am the officer in charge of the training squadron you girls have been assigned to."
Since everyone else appeared confused by Captain Bader's words, Perrine quickly realized she seemed to be the only one none who understood Britannian.
"Font tout de vous s'entretenir Britannian?"
Though Bader's atrocious accent made her hair stand on end, Perrine raised a hand and took a half-step forward. "Yes Ma'am. I understand Britannian."
Looking over the twelve, thirteen and fourteen-year-old witch-candidates standing before her, Donna nodded in thanks while still cringing inside. ("I wonder how many of these 'virgin-witches' will even be alive in a few months, much less a year from now...") Turning stiffly on her artificial heel and without looking back, she began walking slowly towards the hangars housing RAF Sutton Bridge's training strikers. "All of you come with me. Before we do anything else, I want see for myself how compatible with Air Striker units all of you actually are."
"Tout de vous venez à myself. Précédemment nous faisons n'importe quoi autrement, Je veux voyons pour moi-même que compatible à Aérer Gréviste unité tout de vous réellement êtes."
Responding to her translated instructions, the rest of the girls followed in Perrine's wake as she stepped off after Captain Bader. Believing in what Lieutenant Sakamoto had said about her abilities, filled with a passionate desire to free Gallia from the Neuroi, thoughts of 'being incompatible' with an Air Striker never even crossed her mind.
(Early July, 1940. Ditchley House, Oxfordshire. North of London.)
After one last handshake, Winston Churchill saw his guest off, then turned back into his temporary weekend home away from the Prime Minister of Britannia's usual residence at 10 Downing Street.
Returning to his office, he went to the humidor and took out a fresh Havana cigar, clipped off the end and lit it, then moved on to the desk centered to one side of the room. ("What a bothersome individual. It's too bad Premier Reynaud was lost when Paris fell. At least he was easier to get along with...")
Preceded by a soft knock on the door, Churchill's secretary for the current trip came into the room. "Mister Prime Minister. Mister Thompson says Air Chief Marshal Dowding's car has arrived."
Nodding, Churchill flicked the ash from his cigar into an ashtray before moving to stand near the room's fireplace. "Thank you, Miss Shearburn. Show him in at once."
Moments later, the mildly dour Scotsman Hugh Dowding entered the room. Walking over, he stopped on the far side of the fireplace from Churchill before giving a slight bow in salute. "Mister Prime Minister."
"Dowding." Churchill knew he and the Chief of Britannia's Fighter Command had clashed over the use of the RAF during the Battle of Gallia, but the man's organizational abilities, as well as his handling of the battles over the evacuation ports displayed a competence that was hard to deny. "General de Gaulle is making noise again about the Gallian witch-candidates. He claims we plan to use them as shock-troops so we can preserve our own witches for some vague, future scheme involving the Karlsländers." Pausing to inhale a bit of cigar smoke, he turned to face the glowing coals in the fireplace. "As if we would so casually waste any of the precious ladies who are in all likelihood our only hope against these nefarious Neuroi."
First allowing himself just the slightest sigh of exasperation, Dowding drew himself up. "I believe the General himself once said he would not be Gallian if he did not act as he does." Seeing a wry smile cross the Prime-Minister's face, Dowding shifted into a parade-rest posture. "In any case; I can assure you, Mister Prime Minister, Fighter Command has no intention what-so-ever of needlessly risking even a single witch."
Catching Dowding's eye, Churchill held it for a moment, then nodded in satisfaction. "Good." Moving back slightly, he indicated for the Air Chief Marshal to sit in one of the two leather chairs placed before the fire. "I've read your reports, but I'd also like to hear your direct opinion. When will the Gallian and Karlsländ witches we're helping to train be ready to fight?"
Setting his cap on a side table, Dowding sat, but showed no other sign of relaxing beyond the interlacing of his fingers. "Mister Prime Minister. Many of the Karlsländ witches are ready. The Gallian witches somewhat less so. I believe it has more to do with their national character than anything else though, so that is not unexpected. Progress over-all is quite acceptable, however..."
Sensing Dowding's mild distress, Churchill leaned forward. "What is it?"
Deciding to be blunt, Dowding matched Churchill's posture. "Even though they've been stationed at separate airfields for training, there has still been trouble between the Gallian and Karlsländ witches."
Growling, Churchill sat back in his seat once more. "Dratted Alsace-Lorraine. We may be facing the rout of civilization, perhaps even the massacre of mankind itself, and like two unruly children over a schoolyard scuffle, Karlsländ and Gallia can't get over a silly little war they fought way back in 1870!"
Reaching into a pocket on his uniform blouse, Dowding took out a folded piece of paper. "Mister Prime Minister. Brigadier Doolittle, Liberion's witch training liaison, presented to me a possible solution to the problem during his recent visit. I have unofficially discussed it with Generalleutnant Wolfram von Richthofen, the Luftstreitkräfte liaison in London, and he is of the opinion that the idea has merit. If you agree, I will initiate official discussions with them, as well as with all others with the potential to be involved."
After tapping off the ash of his cigar again, Churchill reached over to take the single page from Dowding. After an extended period of silence spent examining the very precisely taken notes, he turned to face the Air Chief Marshal again. "A Joint Fighter Wing of witches? Isn't there one in Suomus? And what about the Battles of Karlsländ and Gallia?"
His expression somewhat sad, Dowding shook his head. "Mister Prime Minister, for all that they have accomplished, the 'Suomus Misfits' are not exactly the most... 'tactful,' example of an integrated witch squadron to put forth. As far as those other examples go; witches from different countries may have participated together, but it was always as a part of completely segregated units. Should the integrated Joint Fighter Wing in Doolittle's proposal actually be formed, he hopes their example will put an end to any unnecessary internecine squabbling before its harmful effects can threaten mankind's very survival."
Nodding, Churchill handed the paper back to Dowding, then stood. "I intend to give an important speech before Parliament by week's end. Would it help if I announced such an initiative? Or would you prefer that I wait?"
Standing as well, Dowding folded and returned the paper to its pocket, then retrieved his hat before proceeding Churchill towards the door. "Perhaps it would be best, Mister Prime Minister, to wait for now. Let me begin the discussions first. That way I can let you know when things are certain, or if they will get that way with just a little push."
Already distracted by his own thoughts, Churchill nodded woodenly in agreement as Dowding first gave him a knowing, worried look, then saluted and departed. Turning back into his office, he took another pull on the shrinking cigar before silently moving to stand once more before the fire... ("Joint Fighter Wing... a bit cumbersome that... What's really needed is a name that's shorter, flashier...") Turning, a slight tap along the edge of the side-table's ashtray shortened the cigar once again. ("What was it that odd Fuso scientist Ichiro Miyafuji called his inventions again? Strikers. That's it.") Another breath, and the cloud of cigar smoke in the room grew. ("Strike Witches. That's what I'll call them.")
Immensely satisfied with himself, Churchill turned to ring the bell which would summon his secretary.
Responding quickly, May Shearburn silently entered the room and took her place at a stenographer's desk set to one side of the fireplace.
As his secretary finished setting up, Churchill contemplated the half-finished cigar for a moment, then ground it out in the side-table ashtray before beginning to pace. "Miss Shearburn. We'll start from where we left off."
Holding her pen at the ready, May Shearburn didn't even look up at her boss. "Very well, Mister Prime Minister."
"I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of other-worldly tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty's Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The Britannian Empire and the other Nations of the world, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Neuroi, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in Europe, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the Britannian Fleet and the new units of Strike Witches, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."
Going over to the room's bar as his secretary finished up, Churchill made himself a long pour of Johnny Walker Scotch, then resumed pacing. "Alright then. I'm going to announce the formation of the joint units proposed by the Liberion Doolittle, so we'll need to go back to the beginning and make the following changes..."
Operational Training Unit 56: An actual RAF training unit, based at the airfield and town named Sutton Bridge, near Britannia's (England's)East coast.
Donna Bader: (Douglas Bader.) Douglas Bader was an RAF fighter pilot during our World War II. He actually lost his legs in a flying accident during the 1930's, and after rehabilitation, received permission to remain in the RAF.
The English Strike Witches Wiki lists Douglas Bader, (Character entry #67,) as 'Dolores Bader.' I have found no information backing that choice up beyond an extremely brief entry on the Japanese Strike Witches Wiki. Only recently was any additional information added to the English Wiki, and that was immediately marked as 'fan-made only.' Since I choose 'Donna Bader' before I even knew of the existence of the SW Wiki, and also because I like it more, I intend to stay with 'Donna.'
The Port of Dunkirk, Operation Dynamo: Name of the operation in which what was left of the Britannian and Gallian armies in Gallia, along with uncounted numbers of Gallian civilians, evacuated Gallia in the face of the Neuroi onslaught. In normal history; after being out-fought in Belgium and France by the advancing German armies, 338,226 British and French soldiers were evacuated, saving them from being forced to surrender.
Perrine H. Clostermann: Based on a Free French fighter pilot from World War II. (Pierre Clostermann.)
Amelie Planchard: Perrine's friend. Based on World War II French pilot Henri Planchard.
Antoinette de Saint-Exupéry: Based on World War II French pilot and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
François de Labouchère. Based on a World War II French pilot of the same name.
Paul Reynaud, Gallian (French) Premiere: Called Winston Churchill and uttered the famous line; "We are beaten," when the Neuroi smashed the Gallian armies defending the border with Karlsländ. Stayed in Paris overseeing the evacuation of civilians, then died when the city was finally overrun. In normal history, he was arrested after France surrendered to Germany, but survived the war and eventually returned to French politics.
Brigadier General Charles de Gaulle: At the head of Gallia's only still-intact armored division and its few remaining organized units of Striker-using witches, he lead the temporarily successful counter-attack against the Neuroi which allowed the inhabitants of Northern Gallia to evacuate towards the Britannian Channel ports. After Dunkirk, he became the head of the Gallian Government in Exile. In normal history, de Gaulle did lead a temporarily successful counter-attack against the Germans. He later became, by the sheer force of his will, the leader of most of the Free French military forces fighting against the Germans.
Luftstreitkräfte: German Army Air Service. With no collapse of the Karlsländ(German) Monarchy, it is unlikely the name of the Karlsländ Army Air Service would have been changed to the 'Luftwaffe,' which was essentially a creation of Hermann Göring, at the behest of Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler. As a side note: The name is still used today by the Austrian Air Force, which is called the 'Österreichische Luftstreitkräfte.'
Alsace-Lorraine: A province on the border between the Republic of Gallia and Karlsländ (France and Germany/Prussia) which was lost to Gallia during the Gallia-Karlsländ War of 1870. (The 1870 Franco-Prussian war from real-world history.)
Generalleutnant Wolfram von Richthofen: Cousin of the more famous Manfred von Richthofen, who was known in World War I as 'The Red Baron.'
Though it occurs in late June in this Strike Witches timeline, Winston Churchill originally gave his 'we shall fight on the beaches' speech on June 04, 1940.