Chapter 1: Three Countries
The continent of Europa had been plagued by war throughout the 1930s. The Principality of Gallia, a tiny nation often caught between the giants dominating the continent - The East Europan Imperial Alliance and the Atlantic Federation - had twice been saved from destruction by its vigilant militia, but the wars' toll on the country was undeniably severe. Most of the ragnite sources had been exhausted from being used to power Gallian tanks and airplanes, and many of Gallia's brave soldiers had been killed during the wars. In 1938, peace finally seemed to be returning to Gallia; alas, it did not last long. In 1939, the Atlantic Federation, taking advantage of Gallia's weakened state and its budget concentration on defending the side of its border facing the Empire. Gallian innocents were slaughtered like animals. A few days after the invasion, fighting had spread everywhere in Gallia, from Randgriz to Bruhl. Among Gallia's biggest losses was the destruction of its newly reconstructed Lanseal Royal Military Academy, the best, and only, military academy in Gallia. The Federation blitzed through Gallia and even started attacking the Empire. Imperials poured into Gallia to fight both Federals and Gallians. Once again, Gallia was caught between giants, and the Third Europan War began, barely three years after the Second Europan War. Baldren Gassenarl's dying words to the heroes of the Gallian Civil War, "a tiny nation stripped of the fangs to defend herself," were completely justified, as Gallia took the heaviest losses between the three countries, its defenses torn and tattered beyond belief.
What no civilian knew, was that the war had started due to two people: Dr. Cynthia Forster, a scientist who researched Valkyria, and Jean Townshend, a Federal Ambassador. Both had fled Gallia towards the end of the Gallian Civil War, and had gone to the Atlantic Federation. Dr. Forster had recovered plans of the late Audrey Gassenarl's tank, Geriolul, and the once exclusive tank had been reconstructed and mass-produced by the Federal army for a year. Jean Townshend convinced the Federation's government that an invasion of Gallia would be profitable for them, and they were more than happy to oblige what with Gallia's current state of defenses.
March 18, 1939
"Hey, Anisette, we're ready to go! Get over here!" shouted Edy from their house's gate.
"All right, I'm coming," Anisette called back. She turned back to the scenery she was taking in with her eyes and sighed. A few days ago, she and Edy had decided (or rather, Edy had decided for them both) that they would go join the Gallian militia and defend their country... again. The fact that both were memorable war heroines would certainly have done their popularity no harm at all. They had formed a band and become celebrities. Of course, since the war started, they had not given any concerts. Anisette wasn't in a good mood because lifting a gun again had brought back memories for her. Not horrible ones, just sad. She hadn't seen her best friend, Zack, who had fought alongside her, for more than a year now. Because he was a Darcsen, she was not surprised that he couldn't keep in touch while rebel stragglers hunted him, but she was hoping that, once the dust of war had settled, he would contact her. Now war had started again, and what little hope she had of ever seeing him again had been dashed to the bottom of a cliff. He was probably even dead now. She shuddered at the thought; he'd taken bullets without even flinching, how could he die so easily? No, she was sure he was alive. Even if he was always on the move.
Edy came out of the house and locked their door in case they survived the war and got to come back home. They didn't talk to each other. Anisette had constantly been in a bad mood that they were leaving home to fight again. They had argued, had a shouting match, and had resorted to not talking to each other unless they had to. However, Anisette had agreed to go join the militia, simply because Edy was her sister. Edy got into the car they shared together and turned on the engine.
"Hey, do you want to drive?" she asked. Anisette smiled at her. She knew that Edy was trying to make her feel happier, and she loved driving their car.
"Thanks," she said as she got into the driver's seat.
"No problem," said Edy as she got in beside her. "Just don't get us both killed."
Half an hour into their silent drive, Anisette tried to make small talk.
"So... do you think any of your old squad are coming?" she said.
"Well, I hope Dallas comes. I sure hope Rosie doesn't. What about you?" said Edy.
Anisette opened her mouth to speak, then fell silent. She had been about to say that she hoped Zack came, but then she remembered that she had never even mentioned Zack to Edy. And she would have rather kept it that way.
"No, no one," said Anisette.
"What about Coleen?"
"Yeah, maybe her."
"And Cosette? You still hate her, right?"
"No, we made up when Lanseal closed," said Anisette, wishing she had kept her mouth shut.
"What? You forgave her?" said Edy, sitting up incredulously. "Our big family rule number one: We never forgive someone who steals our spotlight!"
"Well, she saved us, didn't she? So I broke the big family rule number one," said Anisette, mocking Edy.
"You'll never be a real star for long if you keep on doing that," said Edy.
Silence fell between them again. Anisette sped up the car, trying to end the awkward journey quicker. An hour later, they (Finally, thought Anisette) reached the army base. They parked their car outside and walked into the briefing room.
"Anisette / Edy Nelson, reporting for duty, sir," they said in unision, saluting the man in the briefing room. He looked up when they mentioned their names.
"Could it be...?" he said to himself, looking at them both. "The Nelson sisters? The war heroines? The celebrity singers?"
"Uh... yes," said Anisette, unsure of what to say.
"Go out to the back to get your weapons and armour," said the man, after seeming to gather himself.
Anisette and Edy went out to the back, where there were stacks upon stacks of .303 Storm Caliber Rifles. Back in the glory days of Gallia's army, such weapons would have been cremated as junk before they even left the factory, but desperate times in Gallia had changed that. The pair took two of these guns and went out to the rooms the man in the briefing room told them they were assigned to. Edy went to her room and shut the door; Anisette sat on her bed and started testing out her gun. She felt it was a poor excuse for a weapon compared to the Mags machine guns she had used back in 1937. Then again, Gallia hadn't been this desperate back then.
It was nighttime and since they would start their duties tomorrow, Anisette went to sleep soon. It wasn't easy; the beds were hard and the sheets itchy, unlike the comfortable beds she had slept on at Lanseal and at home. The next morning, as soon as she woke up, she went to the mess hall and after eating breakfast with Edy, went to the board that showed what times they would patrol the army base, looking for spies.
Pvt. Edy Nelson 6:00 - 8:00
Pvt. Anisette Nelson 8:00 - 10: 00
Major John Blaze 10:00- 12: 00
Pvt. 1st Class Zack 12:00 - 2:00
Anisette paused. The board said Zack. A Darcsen name. Could it be...? She shook her head at herself. Come to think of it, there were probably a lot of Darcsens named Zack. She must not get her hopes up. But she couldn't help it. She decided to ask the man in the briefing room.
"Hey, can I see Private 1st Class Zack, who's on patrolling duty?" she asked, feeling excited inside.
The man told her where Zack's room was, and not sparing Edy a glance, who had come behind her to see what she was up to, she ran back to the dormitories and burst into the room like a tornado.
"Zack!" she said as her eyes fell upon the familiar face of her friend. He saw her only a splintered second before she rushed into his arms. As he recognized her he returned her hug.
"I thought I'd never see you again," she told him.
"I came here because I thought you'd come too," he said.
"Uh... Anisette, who is he?" asked Edy, poking her head into the room.
Anisette turned around and bit her tongue as realization washed over her. "Oh. Uh, well, Zack is an old friend of mine," she said, feeling like a rabbit caught in headlights.
"Hey, Zack, can I have a word with Anisette? Thanks," said Edy as she pulled Anisette out of the room.
"Who is he, really?" she asked Anisette, her hands on her hips.
"I told you, he was a friend of mine at Lanseal," said Anisette.
"And you just somehow neglected to mention this to me?" said Edy.
"Well, I would look like an idiot telling you after more than a year."
"Your letters didn't mention him. Tell me the truth, will you?"
"OK," said Anisette with a sigh, shuffling her feet. "Maybe we were more than friends. But just a bit more."
Edy just stared at her.
"Why are you staring at me like that? Blink or something," said Anisette.
Edy didn't move.
"I'm telling you, we weren't really that involved. The rebels, they were always swooping in and out of Lanseal, I..." Anisette trailed off.
Edy shrugged. "It's time for me to patrol, I'd better get going," she said coldly.
"What the heck is wrong with you?" Anisette called after her. She turned around and went back into Zack's room, but he was gone. Feeling more annoyed than ever, Anisette went to the firing range and worked off her venomous anger there, shooting better than anyone else.
She didn't see Zack until nighttime, when they all returned to their rooms, except Zack, who had the last patrol. She walked out with him.
"Hey," he said, looking up. Anisette forcibly reminded herself of the same way way he had done that when they met two years before.
"Where were you today?" she asked.
"I was in Bruhl to look after civilians there," he said.
"They didn't send me anywhere," said Anisette.
"Of course not, it's your first few days. After that, life becomes hell," he said, his voice bitter.
"Are you OK?" she asked.
"What-? Yeah, I am. Why do you ask?"
"You're not like yourself anymore. Back in Lanseal, you were always laughing."
"It's hard to be so happy here, watching people die everyday. It's been pretty lonely too. But I'm glad you're here, it'll be better now."
Anisette smiled at him.
"Was that your sister from before?" asked Zack as they walked to and fro in front of the base's gates.
"Yeah," said Anisette, not wanting to elaborate on the subject. Thankfully, Zack didn't.
"Odd thing, this war. The Federation hasn't had much to do with Gallia, they have their own ragnite supplies unlike the Empire," said Zack.
"Yeah, I don't know what they want. Gallia's too small for them to want to conquer it."
"How long do you think we'll last here?"
"Can you stop it?" she asked, coming to an abrupt halt.
"What?" he asked, surprised.
"All you're talking about is the war and how we're going to die. Can't you talk about anything else?"
"All right, let's see. Oh yeah, my parents were killed by rebel stragglers and they've been trying to hunt me down this whole year. I haven't been able to stay in one place for more than a few days. They aren't happy that I took out Squad 3 on my own. I've enlisted in the Nameless, I've been taking suicide missions from the army, surviving them and always coming back, just so that I can do something. I came here hoping things would be better, and now you're all moody! What have I got to talk about?" said Zack. At the end of his rant, his eyes seemed to fill with tears, but the next second he brushed his hand over them so she couldn't see.
"I'm sorry," said Anisette, who had quietened with every word of his rant.
"Yeah, right," he said.
They didn't talk any more after that. At the end of the last patrol, they went to their own rooms. Anisette regretted that they couldn't go to each other's rooms to talk to him and tell hi she was sorry, but she thought she was lucky that she was able to see Zack with Edy around, who seemed to hold a grudge against both him and her.
In the morning, Anisette was given her first location to guard: Randgriz. Zack and Edy were sent with her. They sat together in an APC, Anisette beside Zack and facing Edy, and the silence was one of the most awkward they had ever experienced. When the APC stopped, Zack and Edy both climbed out without a word to her. Hurt, she took her gun, a few grenades, and clambered out after them to start guarding the city.