Disclaimer: Advance Wars and its characters are property of Nintendo and Intelligent Systems. I do not own Advance Wars or any of its characters.

My goal is writing this is to bring the world of Advance Wars to life, and specifically, to portray the story of the first Advance Wars in a new way. This story will mostly be told from the commanders' perspective, from the HQ; however, there will also be situations where a CO is fighting on the front lines, and even confrontations between the COs, their abilities used directly in combat with each other.

Tell me how I can improve my way of writing. I am new at this, so I need honest feedback better than anyone, eh? Better that I don't develop any bad habits early on.

This story was inspired by Advance Wars and by the anime Darker than Black.


Prologue: Transitional Times

Cosmo Land

Xavier's Valley, Edge of Orange Star territory

November 23rd, 11:30 PM

Cosmo Land had long been a continent stained by war. Ever since the soldiers of Orange Star, Blue Moon, Green Earth, and Yellow Comet first set foot on Cosmo Land's beautiful plains and lush green forests, all four nations lay claim to the continent and swore to take it for themselves. These days, though, tensions between the Four Great Powers of Wars World were beginning to calm down, even on Cosmo Land. It finally looked as though peace was becoming a reality...

On this particular day, though, it wouldn't be a good idea to tell that to the Orange Star soldiers in Cosmo Land, especially not those on the border with Blue Moon. The prospect of a lasting peace, after all, seemed far away when a neighboring country's soldiers were attacking without even a declaration of war.

Sixteen hours... that's all it took. In that time, the border between Orange Star and Blue Moon had become a land of fire and ruin, filled with bodies and ruined war machines, most sporting the Orange Star colors.

In this valley on the edge of Orange Star territory, only one location remained under their control: a single headquarters just beyond the border river. The Blue Moon forces had launched several attacks against the base, but the Orange Star forces had reorganized, and the invasion of the southern front was in danger of running out of steam.

At the front lines of the Blue Moon advance, an APC rocketed towards the Blue Moon headquarters across the river. This APC looked a lot different than the standard Blue Moon transport; it sported a powerful mounted cannon and an engine powerful enough to drive a heavy tank. As the transport arrived at the headquarters, a young Blue Moon captain and two guards came out to meet it.

Out of the transport stepped a tall, thin man with short silver hair, wearing an open black coat and a blue uniform beneath. At first, the captain looked hopeful; then, as he realized the man wasn't who he expected, he withdrew a little in fear, prompting the tall man to smile, ivory teeth that would have reflected the light of the moon if it had been visible through all the smoke. Realizing he was being intimidated, the captain straightened up angrily, then stared the man right in his black eyes.

"Captain Korchakov r-reporting. Whom do I have the pleasure of entertaining this evening? I was told to prepare for the arrival of CO-Colonel Grit."

"That cowboy slacker was ordered to a less important front. As for myself, there is no need for a failure such as you to know my name."

"Sir!" The captain's eyes flashed with displeasure at the man's smug drawl. "Allow me to explain! The enemy must have intercepted intelligence indicating a possible Blue Moon incursion, as the fort across the river has an enemy OF in command! Without sufficient firepower-"

"Excuses." The dark man scowled at Captain Korchakov. "Be thankful that CO-General Olaf does not approve of the practice of executing unfit officers... although of course, you will still have to answer to him."

"I'll answer to him when he arrives! You have no right to-"

"If I were you, I'd be careful what I wished for." The dark man beckoned towards the still-open APC. "He is here right now, Captain. Do you truly believe he would not like to see the fruit of his efforts personally?"

"I... I..." the captain mumbled, eyes widening with fear.

"Step aside, Captain. You are relieved of command in this theater. I will demonstrate to your men what should have been done hours ago."

With that, the tall man marched into the headquarters. Behind him, a new force of Blue Moon soldiers arrived; these ones had a very different demeanor about their group, a bearing of hardened killers. As the Captain gaped at these reinforcements, a second, decidedly plumper man stepped out of the Command APC, bringing a gasp from the Captain's mouth. "General... CO-General Olaf, sir."

The dark expression on the CO's face changed abruptly, from a gruff look into a knowing smile. "OF-Captain Vladi really put you through the grinder, did he?"

"CO-General Olaf..." The man, robbed of all his confidence, fell to his knees. "I am prepared to accept whatever consequences you may assign as a result of my failure in this sector."

"Get up." Olaf scowled down at Korchakov while he looked up in surprise. "It's a fact of war, boy. You win some battles, you lose some. Even I've had my fair share of blunders, many of them when I was just a boy like you."

"So... you mean..."

"Of course, nothing will absolve you of the consequences of this day. Some of your men died, didn't they?"

"CO-General..."

"It is of course important not to forget the weight of your duty. But for a junior officer going up against an experienced Orange Star OF, you did well enough, even with the advantage of surprise."

Korchakov got back to his feet and tried to wipe the dirt off his uniform, pulling back his hand in disgust when he saw it was muddy blood. Olaf smiled again. "Captain... return to your quarters and debrief your men. Then take a nice, long rest. Something tells me you could use it right now."

He... he sees right through me. The skirmishes in Green Earth were nothing like this. If I hadn't hesitated so much here, then maybe...

Olaf turned towards the frontline, staring up at the horizon. "It used to be even worse than this, Captain. 35 years ago... I was only a child back then, but even at my age I could tell that this world would never see a worse war. I'm sure you've seen the footage of it at the academy. Before the Houston Conventions were enacted to regulate warfare... before the invention of the miracle healing substance, Emeraldine... the military was practically guaranteed to be a fatal profession. It is truth when they say that the Great World War changed the course of history."

The captain knew the rest of the story. "And it's thanks to that war that Orange Star now holds this territory."

"Oho ho ho! Exactly, my boy." Olaf's demeanor changed abruptly to a fiery cheerfulness, an emotion that would be bizarre for anyone but a CO in such a bloody scene. "And that is why we must take back what rightfully belongs to us. We accomplished half of that goal 5 years ago, when we brought the Blue Moon nation back into being... and now, we will finish it with the destruction of Orange Star in Cosmo Land. The scorched earth here will be a testament to Orange Star's total defeat. They will never subjugate the people of Blue Moon ever again."


Every Orange Star HQ had the same standard layout, though different commanders would often modify them as needed. The plans called for a ten-story tower with five bunker levels housing the HQ's power systems, hardware to shield against satellite camera surveillance, and communications, command, and control equipment. First five floors, living quarters and medical staff. Sixth and seventh floors, logistics officers' command rooms. Eighth and ninth floor, support officers would conduct lower-level unit coordination. Finally, the top floor housed the main command room, where support officers would analyze and synchronize satellite feeds and third-floor reports to create a tactical overview for the unit's top commander to use in planning the next move.

Such an installation would normally be vulnerable – however, the tower's design had been perfected over the last 40 years, and it was sturdy enough to withstand a direct airstrike. This sturdiness made it staggeringly expensive to construct, so standard military procedure became to capture and convert rather than destroy.

The HQ across the river was under the command of an OF-Major known by his military codename Coral. Unknown to Blue Moon, it was simply coincidence that Coral had been on the border that day. It was thanks to him that this outpost had managed to survive for so long... but they were running out of supplies and the closest reinforcements were days away. The Blue Moon forces had broken through in the north, so the Orange Star army was highly disorganized. There was no escape for the soldiers here if they chose to remain.

"OF-Major Coral..." The lieutenant in charge of the base turned from his terminal to the youth staring out the window. Among the people in the room, Coral stood out completely – he was wearing street clothes, just a green sweater and jeans with only a gold star indicating his status. Even more striking was his age – any observer could tell that he wasn't a day over 16. Despite that, his demeanor gave off a strikingly unnatural feeling to anyone who looked at him.

"Heh... we really are in trouble, aren't we." Coral whirled around energetically, his blue eyes bright with excitement. "Tell me, Francis. How bad is it?"

"It's... we're detecting enemy Break-Commander... er, Breakcom signals on the Blue Moon frontlines."

"Darn. Well, our luck was bound to run out sooner or later. OF or CO?"

"There's at least one OF and one CO! And judging from recon photos... there's no mistaking it, sir. It's CO-General Olaf himself." The rest of the soldiers in the room shuddered, staring at the grinning Coral like he was some kind of inhuman specter.

"Pfeh... letting his OF do the dirty work, I see. Do we have a reading yet?"

"No, sir, and the enemy OF isn't contacting us. He's probably waiting for the Dark Spot to drift away from the area before he strikes. After all, we have the advantage if their satellites can't see anything; he won't be able to spot our units in the forests."

"That gives us less than a day, then." Coral turned his attention back to the window. "Tell me the greenhorns are gone by now, Francis."

"Sir... yes. Only our company remains to man the outpost. They took all the supplies you requested, sir. Blue Moon will not get their hands on any of the fort's equipment. ...OF-Major... sir, I really think you should-"

"And leave all of you here? No thanks. Besides, I can find my own way out when the HQ falls."

The lieutenant stood up abruptly. "With all due respect, OF-Major, it's suicide for you to remain here! Blue Moon will let us live if we surrender, as per the Houston Conventions, but you're an OF! If... if you can't escape from them..."

"Then we'll make sure that doesn't happen, eh?" Coral stared hard at something in the distance, then ran past the lieutenant, towards the HQ's stairs. "Anyways, I was wrong. They aren't waiting for the Dark Spot to leave... I can feel it. Man the control room for me, will you? I need to type out a letter real quick. When the battle begins, I'll activate my Command Network."

The lieutenant and the other officers in the room watched the OF-Major's retreating back as he descended the stairs. "Wait, sir... what about the Break Amplifier?" He gestured wildly at the chair surrounded by screens in the center of the room. "Your OF Power could..."

Coral turned his head, finally displaying a hint of sadness in his eyes. "We both know the battle won't be long enough for that."


River crossing

November 24th, 12:45 AM

Vladi's infantry ran through the woods, then set up positions nearby the river. In the last hours, his scouts had ascended a nearby hill to look beyond the river. Vladi, sitting atop the hill nearby the scouts' position, looked at the report on his portable terminal: 4 enemy infantry squads visible, 2 tank groups covering. Optimal crossing point... just east of the outpost, an area shallow enough for treaded vehicles to traverse. No doubt there were also artillery guarding the crossing, but he'd find that out in a few minutes.

The Dark Spots, as the military called them, were a form of electromagnetic interference caused by... well, Vladi didn't really care. The important thing was that no spy satellite yet developed could see through it. Without a Breakcom, it would be almost impossible to coordinate a large force, and rookie Breakcoms would often overrely on their Command Network under these conditions.

"OF-Captain. Infantry Platoon Alpha has reached the shallows. Enemy artillery have begun to shell, as expected."

The OF smiled knowingly, baring his sharpened teeth. "This is OF-Captain Vladi. Fall back from the crossing. Make it look as though the enemy has caught us off guard. And move the armor closer to the crossing."

That should prime the enemy's reaction. And now...

"Captain Sidorov. You will take strategic control starting now. I am activating the Command Network."

OF-Captain Vladi closed his eyes and spread out his senses, merging his awareness with his soldiers' consciousness'... spreading between his men an esoteric mindlink that only gifted individuals like himself could create.


Orange Star HQ

12:50 AM

"Lieutenant Halworth..." One of the room's other officers pointed to the monitors. "The enemy's moving towards the crossing! And the way they're maneuvering..."

"They're taking advantage of the Dark Spot by sticking to the forests... we can't see them any better than they can see us, and without our satellites..." The Lieutenant frowned. Something was nagging at the back of his mind... "Say, Coral's activated his Command Network, right?"

"Yes. He's entered the network trance... from his office."

"I see..." Lieutenant Halworth wished that Captain Lucas was still alive. After the Captain had died in the first assault, Halworth had been the only one remaining who was qualified to serve as an advisor. While COs had mastered the Command Network and no longer needed to focus all their attention into it, OF-level Breakcoms were not yet able to do that, and thus could not command and Network at the same time. Thus, they needed another officer – an advisor – to keep an eye on the battle from outside the network to catch anything they missed.

Usually, the advisor would be linked into the network at all times, but as a Lieutenant that wasn't normally under an OF's command, Halworth hadn't been trained to selectively filter the network's channels, and as such he had to stay out of it unless sending a message. Still, it was amazing what a Breakcom could do with the Network; senior COs could control even a whole division at a time. Halworth suspected that the Network utilized the brainpower of everyone connected; how else could anyone process all that information so fast?

"There's something funny about what these guys are doing... what about their artillery? Any indirects visible?"

The other officer turned back to him. "They're hiding in the forests. Our men are stuck guarding the crossing, so we're assuming they have rockets to push us out. The Dark Spot isn't going to clear for another six hours at least." Operationally, that meant 'never'.

Halworth sighed. "Where's that air support we were promised?"

"Uh..." The officer tabbed through some screens, then turned to stare out the window. "Command says that's a no-go."

"How's the cannon boys on ammo?"

"Got enough for four or five hours of shelling at the current pace, sir."

The Lieutenant looked back at the screens. "It is our duty to hold the enemy here. However, it's our commander's duty to survive. As one of Orange Star's few Breakcoms, doesn't he know that he's irreplaceable?"

"He does." The other man looked down. "He just doesn't care."


River Crossing

1:00 AM

Despite the light, sturdy feeling of the Command Network he was linked into, Lieutenant Richter felt nothing but the cold winter air as he waited at the crossing, just the same as the last few hours. He didn't think about the dwindling ammo situation, the possibility of an attack from the other side, or the near-certainty of all of them getting blown to hell by bombers once Blue Moon's patience ran out. He only knew it was his duty to hold the crossing until ordered to retreat.

The tanks were in position, stationed as makeshift artillery in the woods behind them. Proper mobile artillery were further back, behind the HQ area. Finally, Richter and the infantry were protected in a set of bunkers that would shrug off most indirect bombardment. As things were, the enemy couldn't get tanks across without leaving them vulnerable, and infantry in the river would be easy pickings for their machine guns.

All of that information – or at least, the info directly relevant to his squad – was available on his datapad. However, the Comnet was a far more efficient method; through it, he could access accurate information that was only limited by what his soldiers could perceive, and pass information to and receive commands near-instantly from the Breakcom generating the network. Also, that way there was no risk of the enemy accessing the data, unlike the datapad; while the PDA was outfitted with various security measures, such as only accepting input from the correct fingerprints, there were always ways around its protection.

As if whispered directly into his mind, information flowed from the Comnet: 'More hostiles passing waypoint B, as reported by advance spotters 1 and 3. Infantry, camo gear, perhaps three squads, unclear weapon ID, possible advance.' That professional tone had to be the advisor, not Coral. Richter picked up his IR binoculars; waypoint B was near the start of the crossing. Sure enough, he could see movement beyond the trees. He took a few seconds to take in what he saw; several other soldiers nearby did the same.

Richter focused on the Comnet, and sent back a message: 'Identified hostiles, now retreating from shore. Analysis: heavy weapons teams, deployable rocket launchers. Losing visual contact.'

A few seconds later, he heard sound of artillery in the distance. Command must have decided to shell the banks. Under the low drone of the pounding on the opposite bank, Richter again felt that empty silence that permeated Orange Star's side of the bank. All that his mind registered were the darkness in front of him. Nothing on the Comnet relevant to him for a while.

1:10 AM. Spotters in the woods away from the crossing reported sightings of vehicles on the other side. Richter didn't think too hard about it; it wasn't a part of his task.

A few more minutes passed. A flash on the other bank suddenly directed his attention; subsequent moments were accompanied by further light, as if a fire had been ignited in the forest.

'[Spotter 2] Enemy rocket fire across the bank! They've got a couple MRLS units over there!'

'[Coral] Sit tight. I'll find out the target.'

But Richter didn't have time to focus on that. He could see a shadow moving along the bank.

'[Advisor] Spotters 1 and 4 report further hostiles passing waypoint B. Armor moving into the river, one group of tanks, two more on the way, likely moving to firing position. Tank units, engage.'

Behind Richter, cannons thundered and shells flew. The water near the far bank rippled with the impact of near misses, and he saw one enemy tank take a hit to the front armor, shell glancing off the vehicle's sloped front.


On the far bank, OF-Captain Vladi stirred a little in his Comnet trance, ivory grin flashing in the darkness. His enemy had taken the bait.


As small, human-like shapes detached from the top of a flaming tank on Blue Moon's end of the crossing, Richter saw another set of flashes from the far bank. He could almost trace the enemy's rockets as they streaked across the sky-

Don't get distracted, Lieutenant. Nearby heavy weapons teams were firing at will, yelling orders as their weapons filled the air with smoke and noise. It vaguely occurred to Richter that he wouldn't have been able to understand their words even if there was no racket; only thoughts from the Comnet were intelligible in his current state of sleep deprivation.

And then the bunker shook, the *bang* of explosions sounding from beyond the trees. None of the soldiers in the bunker stopped what they were doing, but through the Comnet, Richter could tell something was very wrong.

'[Coral] Don't tell the squads just yet, but we may have lost our tank support.'


Orange Star HQ

1:18 AM

Back in the command room, Lieutenant Halworth had realized what that nagging feeling in his chest had been, a few seconds too late. On his display, the lights representing their tank units blinked. Damage reports appeared, showing that all but one had been destroyed, and the final one's cannon was inoperable. All that in two volleys of rockets; without a doubt, their foe had utilized his OF abilities. The man dropped to his knees. "Damn it! I... I..."

"Lieutenant!" The other officers turned, alarmed.

"That's his Comnet ability! The enemy OF or CO or whatever! His ability cuts through the fog in some way! That's why he attacked during the Dark Spot!"

With that, the room fell completely silent except for the storm of chatter emitting from the transceivers. There was no need for the officers to respond, as their OF was giving all the orders telepathically; however, the sense of hopelessness that filled the room left no doubt as to their real reason for their silence.

The lieutenant finished his descent to the floor. "I'm sorry, Coral... I've failed you..." He turned back to the console, and issued an order into the Comnet. 'All units, return to HQ. We... we have to defend the Major!'


"If we move back from the crossing, they move armor up, and it's checkmate for us." Richter scowled. You have official authority here, Lieutenant Halworth, but you do not outrank me.

'[Halworth] You have your orders. Coral approves.'

A wave of weakness shot through Richter's body. 'Coral, do you approve or is this bullshit?'

'[Coral] I trust my Advisor's judgment, Rick. You should too.'

He's not your advisor, just a stand-in stooge. Richter didn't transmit that thought; instead, he followed orders and sent the retreat signal to the rest of his men, who stared at him in shock as he stormed out of the bunker.

Minutes passed in numb silence as the soldiers pulled back; from the ridge, there was no opportunity for their enemies in the river to fire on them. More rockets came at them; at first, they all went for the bunkers, but then they spread out and began to shell the area. Surprisingly, few Orange Star soldiers had fallen victim to this new bombardment by the time they reached the sandbags around the HQ. Richter vaguely wondered why their enemies could no longer fire on them accurately.

The final fifteen minutes of Lieutenant Richter's life passed in a blur. He gave orders to the defenders through the Comnet, directing them to set up behind cover and where their enemies would be coming from. As soon as the first tank emerged from the woods, though, all thought fled the Lieutenant's mind. He didn't even have time to remove his finger from his rifle's trigger before a high-explosive shell ended his sleepless torment.


1:50 AM

He could feel the pain. The pain of some lives being cut short, others losing consciousness, still others giving up hope and laying down their arms... it was as if he was losing limbs. But the pain didn't bother him. It never did until after the battle. It was just part of being one of them... being a Breakcom. He felt the panic of the soldiers like it was a dream... he'd heard of COs who could cancel the fear of their soldiers, or even drive them into a frenzy... but that wasn't him. And feeling all of his awareness cluster at one location, he knew it was the end.

And so OF-Major Coral awoke. He groped around the room a little, disoriented, then grabbed his communicator. "This... ugh... this is OF-Major Coral. I have deactivated the Command Network. Retreat into the fort and take the tunnels out of here. This is a direct order from your superior. Repeat, I am ordering you to redeploy to Fort Hartdale."

Coral pressed "Send" on the e-mail he had typed on his console, switched it off, then entered the command code for the HQ database's self-destruct mechanism. Blue Moon wouldn't be getting their hands on any of the information stored there.

"Retreat? That's crazy!" Halworth, fiesty as usual.

"That it is, Francis. But we have to admit, we've lost." Coral's voice was as irritatingly cheerful as it had been earlier that night.

"We knew that we'd lost when we started this battle, and yet we fought on anyways!"

"And what if the enemy OF comes here? I can tell by the way his soldiers fight... he'll kill as many of you as he needs to in order to get to me. I don't want to see that happen to you. Consider it my last request, okay?"

"You idiot!" Halworth jumped up. That had been the last thing he had wanted to hear... and a moment later, he heard something almost as bad.

Click.

The lieutenant blinked, then fell face down on the floor, a stun pistol held where his back had been. The other officers picked him up, then ran towards the garage on the other end of the HQ. One of the other lieutenants began directing the remaining infantry's movements as they fell back from the HQ.


1:56 AM

Vladi's infantry near the front lines felt their Command Network disengage. With that, the heightened sense of hearing they had been granted, like a form of sonar, disappeared. Several seconds later, Vladi's voice rang out from their communicators.

"This is OF-Captain Vladi. I am taking back direct and advisory command. Fortify positions around the HQ and pursue anyone daring to retreat or resist, but be aware that there is an enemy OF inside that HQ. He is my kill. Do not steal it from me unless he tries something stupid."

Vladi's infantry understood what that order meant, but also the common sense behind it. It was never a good idea for common soldiers to try and fight an OF directly. Of course, as Blue Moon soldiers, they would have no trouble winning the fight... but only at the expense of a quarter of their comrades, at least.


2:02 AM

The OF arrived at the HQ a few minutes later, dropped off by a Blue Moon transport copter. He climbed down the ladder, jumping off shortly before reaching the bottom. He brushed back his long black hair, then stood in front of the HQ. As if he had been waiting for Vladi, the man he wanted to see the most stepped out of the front door. The two of them stared at each other for a moment, tensing their bodies as they drew in an invisible energy that only a select group of people in the world could touch.

"Hah... I see. Covering your soldiers' retreat?" Vladi scoffed. "Valorous, but futile. Tell me your name, rat."

"They call me Coral. And you are?" The man grinned.

"I am Blue Moon OF-Captain Vladi. I am afraid your luck has run out today."

"As if." Coral leaned back a bit; Vladi straightened up in response. "Oh, relax. Still, I'm a bit impressed. We detected a full CO back there. I'm assuming it's Olaf, huh? I'm surprised you're risking yourself and not hiding behind him."

Vladi hissed. "CO-General Olaf has no need to trouble himself over a worm like you. Besides... you underestimate my abilities."

"Hah. Then come at me. If I get rid of you, maybe I'll have accomplished a third thing today."

Vladi stared at Coral, listening to the sound of his uniform ruffling in the wind. OF Sidearm, modified to augment the bullets with the user's Break energy... and nowhere else on that lame outfit of his to hide a weapon. Well, nothing personal... Coral... but I'd like to add another notch to Impaler today.

And then, in a flash, Coral wasn't there. Vladi head movement on his left, and rolled out of the way as Coral fired three shots towards him. Hmph. Fast for a man called Coral.

As Vladi stood up, he reached into his coat with his left hand and pulled out a long-barreled gun, then fired a large stake towards Coral, who responded with a small hand signal, still grinning the whole time. The stake flew towards its target... and embedded itself in a hard shell that appeared in front of Coral.

"Coral Shield," stated the grinning CO, as if it explained everything.

Vladi gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes, his body glowing faintly as he sucked in more energy from the air around him.

"It can't be seen, and your ears aren't equipped to hear it," Vladi explained. "But with a pulse at the right frequency..."

Anything will fall apart.

With that, he released from his hand a vibration... the music that he had heard from his enemy's shield. The distortion that would dissolve the shield's structure. The shell shuddered and crumbled into dust... but Coral was no longer there.

Vladi jumped and spun to the right, hearing Coral's motion from that side. Several bonelike knives flew past his arm, one grazing just above the elbow. Vladi grimaced... then grinned, smelling victory. His prey had just made the final mistake.

As Vladi turned, he held out his right arm and sent off a vibration slightly downwards, toward's his enemy's legs. A sharp pain went through Coral's knees, sending him falling backwards. Vladi continued to spin, moving both hands back to his Impaler and firing a stake towards Coral's body. Coral's eyes widened in surprise, and reflexively, he hardened his last line of defense, the field of Break Energy that surrounds every OF or CO-

-but it was useless. The stake crashed into the teenager's right side, and then through his ribcage, lung, and body. A soft but satisfying *crack* rang out, along with that gasp of pain that Vladi had come to love so much.

"You fools are all the same... you rely far too much on your sight, and then assume I do the same." Vladi bared his teeth again. "My Impaler III is a special model. The stakes within are composed of a highly expensive alloy designed to penetrate anything, especially a Breakcom's B-Field... and thanks to the poison within, not even Emeraldine can heal you now. Oh yes. There's something I should probably have told you earlier, while you were still in a state to appreciate it..."

As Coral struggled to breathe, Vladi held up a medal. "This was a Green Earth CO's badge. Yes, a CO. I have learned how to bridge the gap in power between them and I... and among the Blue Moon military I have become known as the CO Killer. Your badge will make an excellent addition to my collection."

"Hah..." Coral grinned, blood leaking from the corners of his mouth. "It looks like... you win."

That hadn't been the reaction the bloodthirsty man was looking for. Vladi reached down and grabbed one of the Coral Blades that his foe had thrown, then launched it at high speed into the OF's stomach, triggering a spurt of blood that still did not erase his adversary's stupid expression. "Why are you still smiling?" he hissed.

"Hah... it's who I am... asshole." Coral's eyes slowly closed.

"Damn you!" Vladi screeched, reaching down and yanking the downed OF's arm. "You aren't going to die until I've shown you what it means to suffer!"

"Fine... by me. 'Cause I'm not quite dead yet."

What?

All of a sudden, there was a flash of white light, and a spike of pain shot up Vladi's arm. The gaunt man screamed... then realized the pain was from a feeling of intense cold. In fact, a large cube of space in front of him had been frozen solid, including the unfortunate Coral. Unable to move, he looked around desperately-

"A little careless of you, wasn't it, Vladi?"

"Ge... General Olaf..." Vladi had many things he wanted to say, but he held his tongue. The icy anger in the CO-General's voice was enough of a warning.

"Now, what have I told you about playing with your food? Just look what you almost did."

"What are you-" Vladi turned his head back forwards, then gave a sudden start. Right in front of his face hung about twenty coral knives, all frozen within the block of ice that Olaf had created.

"Ah..." Vladi felt light-headed. "I apologize for being... hasty."

"Hah." Olaf snapped his fingers, and the ice melted, freeing Vladi's arm. "You might want to go to the medical bay and get that arm looked at, just in case. It may have been rapid, but extreme changes in temperature can still do some nasty things to the body."

As Vladi walked away cursing under his breath, Olaf looked down at the dead Coral, eyes ever-so-slightly downcast. "Hmph. Always so rash with that poison, Vladi... I wonder how much information we could have squeezed from that officer?"


Orange Star Cosmo Capital, Jefferson City

3:34 AM

In the heart of the Jefferson City was a hexagonal building with a twenty-story tower in the middle: the Jefferson Tower, headquarters of the Orange Star military in Cosmo Land. On the 3rd floor of the tower was the office of Orange Star's second-in-command and head of all Cosmo Land Operations: CO-General Catherine Sinclair, codename "Nell". Nell had been awake all night coordinating the response to Blue Moon's attack on both the military and civilian fronts, giving interviews and orders left and right. When she was finally able to return to her office, a giant pile of e-mails had been waiting, and she had spent the last couple of hours sorting through all of them.

Finally, she was almost at the end. She opened the next message; it was from the OF who had been guarding the border. Seeing that it was an encrypted e-mail rather than a message along the emergency command channels, she knew even before she opened it that it would be bad news.

Then she read the contents of the message... and wiped away a single tear before returning to work.

In cases like these, it was her responsibility to notify the family of the circumstances. Directly.


Just for fun, I've typed up some AW1-style dossiers for any OFs that may appear throughout the story. They are, of course, weaker than COs. These will appear at the end of the chapters about their battles.

OF Coral

Rank: Major

Affiliation: Orange Star

Skill: Attack power not as strong as a CO's. All units defend at least as well as on plains.

Power: CORAL SHIELD *****

All units defend as though they are atop mountains.

A cheerful OF in his teens. Cares deeply about his soldiers.

Hit: Blankets

Miss: Mornings

"Don't worry so much; it's bad for your health."

OF Vladi

Rank: Captain

Affiliation: Blue Moon

Skill: Hidden enemy units are treated as visible if they attacked last turn. Catastrophically weak defense.

Power: TOTAL DISTORTION ******

Enemy units within vision range take damage and cannot act next turn.

Bloodthirsty and cruel, none can hide from OF Vladi's enhanced hearing. Made a name for himself by killing a Green Earth CO in a duel.

Hit: Smoke

Miss: Mirrors

"Hah. Another one for my score."