Author's Note: First things first: A Strike Witches movie has been greenlighted (Thanks to LW for sharing the story with us English-speaking fans!). Check my profile for a link to a news story about it, along with a link to a very sweet and sexy Mio/Minna doujin that my friend Shezaei Neko uploaded for me.
This story follows up on my previous SW fic, Something to Live For, although reading that isn't really necessary for this one. It is recommended though, particularly chapter 2. In any case, I made sure to write this so it won't be too hard to catch up with what's already happened.
Edits: Added location tags for all scenes, misc. wording.
Chapter Rating: T
Chapter 1: Scattered in the Wind
501st JFW Southern Romagnan Base
"Sakamoto-san?" Yoshika said, looking up at her superior officer in mild surprise. "Aren't you coming as well?" She'd already packed her belongings and loaded them onto the flying boat, and they'd been waiting for Sakamoto to arrive before they would be clear to take off.
However, Sakamoto had walked out onto the airstrip without any of her belongings. She was a spartan packer, certainly, but she should have at least had something. Sakamoto gave Yoshika a smile, but Yoshika didn't even try to identify the meaning behind it. Coming from Sakamoto, the same smile could mean either "Time for a nice, relaxing bath," or "Time for a long, grueling training session." Yoshika had long since given up trying to figure it all out.
"I'm not leaving for Fuso quite yet," Sakamoto said. "Minna received a telegram along with the reassignment orders yesterday. It turns out there might be something more I can do here in Europe... or possibly Liberion. I'm still trying to find out all the details." A smile that Yoshika could swear was full of pride slowly grew on Sakamoto's face, and she stepped forward and placed a hand on Yoshika's shoulder. "Thank you, Miyafuji. I'm lucky to have people around who will ignore my orders when I'm being an idiot."
"Sakamoto-san..." Yoshika said. After a moment, a smile crossed her face. "You're welcome. Let me know when you're back in Fuso, and you can come over for dinner."
Sakamoto let out a laugh. "I will." She stepped back from Yoshika and smiled at her again. "One last thing, Miyafuji... If you once again manage to defy everyone's expectations and regain your magic, let me know. I promise I won't make any decisions for you again, but I want you to know all your options."
Yoshika shook her head. "It's alright," she said. "I don't regret my decision, and I'll be happy even if my magic never comes back."
Sakamoto nodded. "Good." After a moment, she held her hand up in a salute. "Sergeant Miyafuji Yoshika, dismissed!"
Yoshika hastily stood at attention and returned the salute. She'd already been officially discharged, but she no problem humoring Sakamoto. "Yes ma'am!"
RMS Raimondo Montecuccoli
En route to Toulon, Gallia
Private Cabin 2-C
"Um, Lynne...?" Perrine said. She turned her head to the side to try to hide the blush that was rising to her cheeks. She really had to figure out how to get that under control one of these days. "Do you think there's any chance you'd be able to spend a day or two of your leave in Gallia?"
"Huh?" Lynne turned around from the porthole, looking at Perrine in confusion.
"I mean, you don't have to help with the reconstruction or anything," Perrine said, trying not to make Lynne feel pressured. "I just thought that... well... things are coming along pretty well in some parts of the country, and you might like to see it. They finished the repairs to L'Arc de Triomphe not too long ago, and it'd be nice to show you at least one of our monuments as it was meant to be seen."
"Perrine..." Lynne said. Perrine nervously turned back to look at her, and she was relieved to notice a smile tugging at her friend's lips. "Where did you think I was going to spend my leave?"
Perrine blinked. "Didn't you say you were going back to Brittania?"
"That was at the end of my leave," Lynne said, letting the smile break out onto her face, and causing Perrine's cheeks to heat up once more. "The RAF doesn't care whether I take my leave in the middle of travelling back to base or afterwards. I can just report to the Brittanian base in Normandy a week after we dock in Gallia, and they can ship me back to Brittania." Lynne paused for a second. "Come to think of it, I might be able to squeeze in an extra day if we do our own traveling. The drive across Gallia would have taken that long anyways..."
Perrine tried to contain her excitement at hearing this, though she was pretty sure that she failed miserably at that task. "That's great! Are you sure your family won't mind?"
Lynne shrugged. "I can always find some time to visit them after I get to Brittania. It's a big family, so they won't miss me too much." Her brow furrowed after a moment, and she looked over at their cabin's door. "Maybe I should go ask Sanya and Eila if they want to join us. I think they have to go through Normandy as well, so they might be able to get the same deal..."
"Um! Er..." Perrine stared at the door, a wave of panic hitting her. Making that suggestion to Eila sounded like a good way to shorten her lifespan. "Um well... I think they might want to spend some more time searching for Sanya's family," she said, deciding not to voice her actual fears. She wasn't sure if that would completely dissuade Lynne from asking, though. She turned back to her friend and said, "But if you do want to ask... just make sure you ask Sanya."
RMS Raimondo Montecuccoli
En route to Toulon, Gallia
Private Cabin 2-E
Sanya let out a gentle sneeze in her sleep. Eila grinned at the cute sight and stroked her fingers through Sanya's hair. It hadn't taken Sanya long before the boredom of the boat ride had caused her to fall asleep. Eila would have preferred to sleep at the same time as Sanya, but she was still on too much of a diurnal schedule to get any sleep right now. Sanya had gotten quite good at switching schedules as needed, so Eila wasn't too worried that Sanya would get stuck in a nocturnal schedule on their ride to Gallia.
Of course, Eila was content to let Sanya sleep for now. There was no way she could have possibly refused Sanya when she placed her pillow on Eila's lap and laid her head on it. Eila might have been stuck on a ship without much to do, traveling away from some of her friends and about to split with the rest when they landed in Gallia, but as long as she had Sanya with her, life was perfect.
"I love you, Sanya," Eila whispered, hoping the message would filter in to Sanya's mind as she dreamed.
Sanya shuffled in her sleep. "Eila..." Eila tensed up at the sound of her name. Her tension was somewhat relieved when Sanya rolled over to face her, keeping her eyes closed all the while. And then Sanya spoke, and Eila's panic came right back. "Why do you always try to embarrass me like that?"
Eila turned her head upwards, hoping that Sanya wouldn't be able to get a good look at the panicked blush that crossed her cheeks. "Er... I... well... I mean... there isn't anyone else here... so I couldn't be trying to embarrass you, right?" It took Eila's mind a few more seconds to catch up with what she'd said, and the blush on her cheeks just got worse with the realization.
"Oh..." Sanya said. Eila was still trying not to look at Sanya, so she couldn't tell if Sanya had opened her eyes to look up at her. She desperately hoped that Sanya was still half-asleep, but she couldn't risk looking down to make sure. "Love you too, Eila..." Sanya said at last, her voice barely above a whisper.
Eila blinked. Had Sanya really just said that? She must have misheard. Or maybe Sanya had thought Eila just meant a friendly kind of love. She really should have just pretended she was just being silly. Sanya had assumed that before, hadn't she? Wait... she could still do that! She didn't have to be trying to embarrass Sanya; she was just joking around. Wait, no. What was she thinking? She was already past that point. Sanya wasn't joking around, but what had she meant?
"Er, by 'love'... you mean...?" Eila said, trying to wrap her head around the situation.
"Silly Eila..." Sanya said. She shifted a bit so she could wrap her arms around Eila's body, and she let out a contended sigh.
Eila sighed as well, giving up for the moment. Why did she always have to make things so complicated? She turned her head back down, and she resumed stroking her fingers through Sanya's hair. Maybe Sanya was right, and she was just being silly...
RMS Raimondo Montecuccoli
En route to Toulon, Gallia
Hallway, deck 2
Trude decided that a tactical retreat was the best option. Her attempts to get Erica to slow down the expansion of junk in their cabin had failed, even when she tried to establish a border for her side of the room. The cabin was much smaller than their room back in their base, so it only took Erica a couple of hours to fill up the entire floorspace with her spare clothes and books. Trude would have to find some alternative arrangement, or else prepare to fight a battle back towards her bed once evening came.
Trude looked up and down the corridor, spotting a crewman at the end of the hall. "Oi!" she said, running over to him. "Are there any other free beds left on the ship? My cabin's turned into a disaster zone."
"Sorry ma'am," the crewman said, turning to Trude. "All of the cabins are occupied. I can inform maintenance about the problem in your cabin, though. They might be able to get it fixed up by tonight if it's nothing serious."
"Oh, no, it's not that," Trude said. She let out a sigh. "Just my roommate making the cabin uninhabitable. But I don't need a cabin; I'll bunk with the enlisted soldiers if I have to."
"Ah... I see," the crewman replied, though his expression told Trude that he didn't really comprehend just what she was dealing with. He scratched the back of his neck as he said, "Thing is, we're dealing with an all-male crew here... if you're that desperate for a bed, sickbay might be your best bet."
"Haa... alright, thanks," Trude said, giving the man a nod. She turned back toward her cabin, trying to figure out an alternate plan of action. Perhaps she could convince one of her squadmates to lend her a bed, or even just let her sleep on the floor of their cabin. Asking Eila and Sanya was off the table, though. While Eila might appreciate an excuse to sleep in the same bed as Sanya, she certainly wouldn't like having their privacy invaded.
Perrine and Lynne it was, then. Trude gave one last defeated look at the door to her former cabin, shaking her head. Even after making maintenance work overnight to get all of Erica's belongings packed up, she still hadn't learned a thing. Trude turned towards Perrine and Lynne's door, and she was just about to knock when the sound of a crash came from behind her.
"Trudie...!" Came a pleading voice from behind Trude. She turned around to see that Erica had tripped on her way out the door from their room. "It's boring in there without you," Erica said as she pushed herself back to her feet.
"Ugh, how can it be boring? You've got so many books that there's no room left for me in the cabin!" Trude said, trying to contain the throbbing in her forehead.
"I was just joking... I didn't think you'd run out over it." Erica said, looking up at Trude with big, wet eyes. The effect was ruined, though, when she let out a sneeze. "Boy, it's breezy in this hall..."
Trude blinked. Fearing the worst, she looked down. Her fears confirmed, she immediately squeezed her eyes closed. "Damn it, Hartmann! Put some pants on!"
"Huh? Oh, right..." Erica said, turning around to go back into their room. "I'm sure I saw them somewhere in- Ahh!" Erica let out a yelp as she tripped over the same pile of books that had tripped her on her way out of the room. Trying her best not to look, Trude managed to squeeze her way into the room and pull Erica past the door. She had to defend Karlsland's dignity, if nothing else.
"I swear, Hartmann, you're hope... less..." Trude said, trailing off as she saw that a path of floor had been cleared, allowing access to her bed, and that the books Erica had thrown onto it were removed now. This had been accomplished by piling the mess higher in the rest of the room, but even so... "Haa... okay, maybe not entirely hopeless..."
Near the palace of Duchess Maria of Romagna
"Oh no, you don't!" Shirley said, grabbing the back of Lucchini's collar just as the girl attempted to slip away. "Not after all the time we spent driving here."
"Wha-? Oh come on!" Lucchini protested as she reluctantly turned around to face Shirley. "It can't be the same Maria. If it was her, she'd have contacted me on her own by now! And if she hasn't, then she just doesn't want to see me."
Shirley rolled her eyes. "Right. That's why she personally thanked you over the radio, airdropped in a load of supplies for us, and arranged for you to get a full month of leave. No way it's the same person." Not letting go of Lucchini's collar, Shirley turned around and began to drag the girl toward the palace. "Now come on! We might not be able to get in today, but we can get you an appointment to see her, at least."
"'Appointment'..." Lucchini said, letting out a growl. "You can't let me make this fun at all, can you? Wouldn't it be much better for me to sneak past the gate, then knock on the window to her bedroom?"
"Oh, so now it is her, is it?" Shirley said with a smirk. "But nope. I came this far, I at least get to see how you managed to impress her." That, and listening to Lucchini's rapidly-changing excuses was becoming more amusing the longer it went on. But if Shirley mentioned that reason, she'd spoil all the fun.
"Well if it is her, then the guards probably don't even want to see me again... I kicked their asses good when Maria was trying to escape from them. And I can walk on my own, thank you!" Lucchini grabbed Shirley's hand off of her collar, and she walked on her own right up until the moment where she passed the gatehouse to the palace. With an amused sigh, Shirley grabbed Lucchini's collar once more and pulled her into the guardhouse.
"Hi there," Shirley said, smiling at the guard inside. She pulled Lucchini in front of her and placed a hand on each of the girl's shoulders, making sure she couldn't slip away. "My friend here is an acquaintance of Duchess Maria, and we were wondering if it would be possible for her to get an appointment to catch up with the Duchess."
The guard looked back at Shirley, raising an eyebrow in mild amusement. "Heard it before. If the kids of this city are to be believed, the Duchess has roughly 500 personal friends."
Lucchini strained a bit to get away, but Shirley tightened her grasp. "Well, have you heard the one where this is Francesca Lucchini, the witch who saved Romagna from the Neuroi?"
The guard's other eyebrow rose, joining the first one. "Yes. Apparently there are no fewer than 7 Francesca Lucchinis in this city alone. One of them was even able to call out a familiar as 'proof.' It was just her bad luck that she'd bonded with a dog instead of a cat, or I might have believed her."
"What!" Lucchini said. "My familiar's a panther, not a cat! What the hell do you know? And how the hell do you not know what the amazing Francesca Lucchini looks like?" Shirley bit her tongue to keep from laughing. This was why she'd come, so she decided to just enjoy the show.
The guard's eyebrows finally came back down. "Hmm. You do fit the descriptions I've heard... though that still isn't saying much. Alright, let's see the panther."
Lucchini chuckled triumphantly as she stepped away from Shirley. She'd apparently forgotten that just a minute ago she'd been trying to find any excuse possible to not go and see Maria today. Most likely she just didn't like Shirley forcing her to do it. But now that someone was standing in her way of doing it, she'd reversed course and was doing everything in her power to get inside. Of course, this meant that Shirley didn't mind letting go of Lucchini while she showed off her familiar to the guard.
"Alright, now if this doesn't convince you," Lucchini said, "next on the plate is to show you Francesca Lucchini's trademark magical attack, to be named as soon as I can think of something cool enough!" Shirley cautiously stepped to the side as Lucchini generated a couple of sparks in the air to show she meant business. It probably wasn't the best idea to threaten one of the Duchess' guards. Shirley might need to make a quick escape if things went sour, so she'd be able to bail Lucchini out later.
His eyes widened once more, the guard grabbed a pencil and marked something down on the paper in front of him. "Wednesday at 11 am., lunch with the Duchess. I'll uh... make sure the guard on duty knows who you are."
501st JFW Southern Romagnan Base
Wing Commander Minna-Dietlinde Wilke's office
"I don't believe I've ever heard you hum over paperwork before," Mio said, giving Minna an amused smile as she dropped down to a seat in Minna's office. She allowed herself a few deep breaths and a chance to wipe the sweat off of her forehead before she continued, "Did the paperwork suddenly get that much more enjoyable?"
Minna froze for a long minute, as a blush steadily filled her cheeks. "I was sure I'd stopped the moment I heard your footsteps inside the base..." she said.
"Not quite soon enough, apparently," Mio said. She thumbed through Minna's outbox and picked up a few papers, using them to help fan herself off. She was surprising herself with how much energy she had today, though all that any energy didn't stop her body from heating up just as quickly, and she was paying the price for that now.
Minna finally let out a sigh, allowing her lips to form a smile as she looked over at Mio. "I know I probably should be frustrated that I still have work to do... as well as being disappointed at seeing almost everyone else leave today." Minna's smile did shrink a bit as she said this, though it quickly came back in full as she locked her gaze with Mio's. "It's your fault, you know. I've been giddy almost constantly since I woke up this morning with you still wrapped around me."
Mio smirked at this. "Perhaps I am to blame... But perhaps I can make it up to you." She placed the papers she'd been using as a fan back into Minna's outbox, and she started thumbing through her commander's inbox. She was relieved to see that it was almost empty, with just a couple of papers left. "Is there anything here I'd be able to fill out for you?"
Minna seemed to hesitate for a moment, though Mio made sure that her expression gave the message that she wasn't going to take "No" for an answer. Shaking her head and muttering something about "Fuso witches," Minna took one of the forms out of the tray and passed it to Mio. "Here. It's the salvage report for our last mission. I would have had to ask you what happened to your Violet Lightning anyway, along with whether it would be safe for anyone else to handle Reppumaru if they find it."
"Ah, perfect," Mio said. She grabbed a pen from Minna's desk and went to work at filling out the form. "I don't think Reppumaru is too much of a threat to any non-witch," she said as she filled out a section for it. There wasn't any obvious place for her to put warnings about it, though. "But they should probably be careful, just in case..."
"You can just mention that in the 'damage report' section," Minna said, looking up from the form she'd been working on for a moment. "I often put notes there when equipment might be dangerous to handle. They'll know what to do."
"Got it," Mio said. The rest of the form was straightforward, and she was able to do everything short of sign it for Minna. Minna still had another form to finish up after Mio was done, so she took the opportunity to browse through a newspaper she found on Minna's desk while she waited.
Interestingly, it wasn't the Romagnan Times that Mio had picked up, though a quick glance confirmed that that was also on Minna's desk. She didn't recognize the title, though it sounded either Liberion or Brittannian. However, a brief glance at the front page was all it took for Mio to figure out why this paper was of interest to Minna.
Cochran Determined to Break Mach 1
Inspired by Charlotte Yeager's record-setting supersonic flight last year, Wing Commander Jessie Cochran has laid plans to repeat the feat with a production Striker. If she succeeds, this will mainstream supersonic flight and give witches a new edge against the Neuroi. Cochran claims that the proposed specs for the Liberion F-86 Sabre will be just powerful enough to break Mach 1 in a dive, which she hopes can then be maintained in level flight.
The F-86 is to be the first production Liberion Jet Striker, whose production was enabled through Vice-Air Marshall Adolfine Galland's agreement last June to share research and testing data on Jet Strikers with other Allied nations. Galland had long been an opponent of sharing Karlsland's research, and her recent reversal has caused numerous speculations about her motives. The first production Karlsland Jet Striker, the Me 262, is expected to be operational within the next few months, while the F-86 will not be finished until near the end of the year.
Cochran's plans have been critiqued by engineers such as Brittania's Wilfred Boyd, who claims that the F-86's proposed specs are likely an overestimate of its capabilities. Boyd is working on an upgraded engine for the CL-13 Sabre, the Brittannian equivalent of the F-86, which he says might...
"That's my 'Get Shirley far away from trouble' plan," Minna said, nearly causing Mio to jump in her chair.
Mio quickly tried to cover her shock from the fact that she'd just been jolted out of her reading, though she suspected that she wasn't entirely successful. Ever since working with Dr. Miyafuji on developing the Striker Unit, Mio had tried to keep up with the development of newer models. Her duties on the front lines and the rapidly-expanding development of Strikers had soon made her lose touch with most of the news on that front, although apparently her interest was still strong enough that she could lose herself in the news, even with Minna sitting just across from her. That wasn't like her at all. She was letting her guard down.
Minna let out a gentle chuckle, which let Mio knew that she hadn't entirely succeeded at hiding her shock. "Until her orders come in, I'm going to have to keep a close eye on Shirley to make sure she doesn't get into any trouble," Minna said, thankfully not pressing the issue of Mio's moment of weakness. "If any problems do come up, my plan is to wave that newspaper under her nose. Knowing Shirley, she'll be off to Liberion to help with the flight testing before she's halfway through the article."
Mio let out a hearty laugh. "You really know your wing too well. It's too bad they wouldn't let us - or at least the rest of you - stay together after the Super Hive was destroyed. I really don't understand bureaucrats sometimes." Mio let out a sigh, though she caught something in Minna's expression that put her off. "What is it, Minna?"
"Just something in the paperwork that was bugging me a little," Minna said. "I'm sure there's a good reason for it all, so I was trying not to let it bother it me too much, but now that you bring it up..." Minna sifted through the papers in her outbox, pulling out one of the forms and showing it to Mio. "It turns out that there were actually requests from both the governments of both Romagna and Karlsland to keep us active in the area if we succeeded in destroying the hive. It was actually Air Vice-Marshal Galland who decided that we were to be disbanded even in the case of victory."
This got Mio's attention. She read the orders herself to confirm it. "That is odd. She wants to take Karlsland back as much as anyone I've met... Why would she want to remove one of her best wings from the front?"
"I don't know," Minna said, shaking her head slowly as she took the orders back from Mio. "But I do trust that she has her reasons."
Mio watched Minna's expression carefully. She was making an effort to pay more attention to that kind of thing now, so she couldn't ignore the fact that this seemed to be bothering Minna. Perhaps Minna had wished she could keep the wing together more than she was letting on. "You can't just leave it at that, can you?"
Minna looked up, her eyes betraying her surprise that Mio had been able to read her thoughts. "No. But maybe I should." Minna's eyes fell back to the orders on her desk. After a long moment, she said, "On the other hand, Galland will be visiting Venezia next week to help organize forces along Karlsland's southern border..." Minna looked up, a smile crossing her lips. "What do you think, Mio? Doesn't Venezia sound like the perfect place for us to take a vacation?"
Author's Note: Thank you for reading, and I hope you can take the time to leave a review to let me know what did or didn't like here. Most chapters after this will be a bit more focused on a smaller number of characters, but I wanted to give everyone a moment of their own in this chapter.
As with my previous fic, I'll be keeping track of what elements have a basis in canon at the end of each chapter. The SW universe is quite large, so it can be hard to know at times what I've come up with on my own and what is canon. Note though, that my storyline diverges from anything after the end of season 2. At the moment I write this, I believe that's just the Starlight Stream radio skits 39+.
There are quite a few historical references as well, but I'll leave the identification of those to you. Perhaps I'll compile a list later, but for now I think it's more fun to leave it all up to you readers to figure them out on your own.
Military regulations: No canon basis for any of what Lynne discusses. The worries about having a witch bunk with enlisted men, however, are representative of worries throughout the military that soldiers might act inappropriately toward witches. This is one of the reasons that witches are relatively high-ranked.
Lucchini's familiar: It's a black panther, to be specific, according to the drama CDs.
Strikers in development: Aside from the Me 262, there's no canon basis for the Striker models mentioned here.
Adolfine Galland: Canon character, who was mentioned very briefly in the anime and appeared in the chapter 2 of the second season's light novel. More of her past was expanded upon in the first Himeroku drama CD, though none of the actions mentioned here are canon.