A/N - Hello. Welcome. This story is intended to start from baseline canon and veer slightly as I introduce two new elements that did not happen in the series; Yoshika and Lynette's relationship and an earlier altercation with General Trevor Maloney.

This is action-adventure YURI. The primary 'ship will be Yoshika and Lynette.
(Figured I'd better say it up front or half of you would stop reading LOL)

Please enjoy this chapter.

Strike Witches is ©2012 Kadokawa Shoten, AIC Spirit

"Strike Witches hajimaru yo!" *Strike Witches starts now!*


PROPER PATH TO GLORY

Chapter One - [Prelude] A Little Peaceful Day

- July 17th, 1943 ~ Dover Straits, Britannia -

The beaches in Britannia could hardly be called beaches as far as Charlotte Yeager was concerned. Sparse grainy brown sand, littered with rocks ranging in size from pea gravel to small boulders and abrupt drop-off's near the water's edge. She missed the beaches of her native Liberion.

California, while it still existed, sported some of the most beautiful beach-front on earth. Only two short years earlier she had been bumming those beaches with her two closest friends, swimming, sunning, camping…not a care in the world.

An idyllic summer, spent honing her skills in preparation for her attempt to break the World Land Speed record in Utah after summer's end. Tearing up huge swaths of dirt and vegetation with her Indian Scout motorcycle as her friends cheered her on.

Girls with the genetic predisposition to become witches averaged about 1 in 1000. Although witches were highly respected members of society they were, intentionally or not, held above and apart from the common man. Especially those that chose to enter civic or military service. Usually, when a girl's power manifested, she would suddenly be treated differently by her peers. A deference to their status mixed with equal parts awe, fear and jealousy.

But not the small group of friends who had become so dear to her. Who treated her just the same, even after she had become something more. They had all promised to meet again, after Charlotte came home with her trophy, and to celebrate her achievement full out with her.

Charlotte did, indeed, leave the Bonneville Salt Flats triumphant. "Glamorous Shirley" had clocked an unbelievable 187 mph in the two-wheeled division. She had decided to stay an extra couple of days to party hard with her fellow speed-demons, which is why she was spared the fate that befell her family and friends.

The Neuroi's sudden, overwhelming assault on the western coast of Liberion was as surprising as it was devastating. When it was all over, the Neuroi had consumed almost one third of the land mass of the continental United States, including, of course, Charlotte's mother and father, the house she grew up in and every single person important to her.

The following day Charlotte had enlisted in the U.S.A.A.F.

Sighing softly, Charlotte shook off those old memories and turned her attention to the now...to the kids she was training and the hamburgers that were almost grilled to perfection. Squinting her eyes a bit and shading them with her arm, she looked up to watch the tiny silhouettes as they engaged in practice maneuvers.

Charlotte's training regimen was a lot more laid-back than Major Sakamoto's or Lt. Barkhorne's. Flight training, by it's nature, was much more open-ended and loosey-goosey than Combat or Survival training. She had spent about 90 minutes running the girls through their paces before she allowed them free flight time. While they were enjoying themselves in the air, she set up the grill and started cooking, looking forward to the impromptu picnic as much as the her charges were.

"They're all good kids." Charlotte thought to herself as she watched the four youngsters swooping and diving with reckless abandon.

Francisca Lucchini, her flight partner and spiritual little sister, didn't need the extra training but she would never pass up the opportunity to log some flight time. Perrine Cloistermann was a capable pilot, but she seemed to lack something (passion, maybe?) that many pilots possessed naturally. Lynette Bishop was timid and hesitant about seemingly everything, flying included. And, finally, the newest member of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing, Yoshika Miyafuji.

Charlotte had taken an immediate liking to Yoshika. The young Fuso girl appeared, at first glance, to be quiet and unassuming... until she opened her mouth. She was surprisingly warm, sunny and outgoing. Seemingly always upbeat, she was quickly endearing herself to everyone in the squadron. Even the always-taciturn Gertrude Barkhorne. And she had taken to flying like a duck takes to water.

"Yup. Good kids."

The radio on the beach blanket behind her crackled to life and she heard the high-pitched trilling of Francisca. "Shirleyyyyy. I'm hungry. Are you done yet?"

Charlotte smiled and pulled the microphone from its cradle, keying the talk button. "I was just about to call you guys in. C'mon down."

"Roger!" shouted the prepubescent spitfire.

Charlotte watched as Francisca banked and flew upwards to where the other three girls were. A few seconds later the girls began their decent. All four came in for a smooth landing and, after safely stowing their Striker's, ran eagerly to the place where Charlotte had set up the food. They found the older girl waiting patiently for them, sitting cross-legged in the sand.

"Roasted corn-on-the-cob!" Yoshika chirped happily. "Just like we have at the festivals back home."

"Yup." Charlotte answered. "I found a local farm that grows sweet corn. The owner said he imported the seed from New Britannia. Massachusetts I think. Good stuff."

"Burgers, burgers, burgers!" Francisca shouted.

They all sat and began to wolf down the feast laid before them. Flying was a light but steady drain on their magic and, as a result, they were all famished. They spent a good hour or so eating and talking and laughing. Eventually, Charlotte sat back rubbing her tummy in contentment. Francisca was sprawled out on the sand, snoring lightly while the other three girls were sitting quietly, enjoying the peace of the moment.

"You all did very well today." Charlotte began, catching the girls' attention. "You have the basics down and you all seem quite comfortable with intermediate aerial combat maneuvers. I chalk it up to your having an awesome flight instructor." She chuckled, letting the girls know she was being facetious about that last part.

"Anyway," she continued "I got permission from Cmdr. Wilcke to camp out on the beach tonight if you all want to." She stood up and walked over to where her rucksack lay by the grill. "We can start a campfire, and..." reaching into the sack, she pulled out a cellophane bag and held it aloft like a trophy "...roast marshmallows. Another great Liberion tradition."

Perrine stood up, brushed the sand off her legs and donned her flight jacket. "I'll pass, thanks anyway. I'd rather sleep in my bed than on the ground." She turned and began heading for her Striker. "You guys have fun though. Good night."

"Good night Perrine." "G'night." "Good night Perrine-san." " 'Night kiddo." everyone chorused.

Yoshika looked at the others, a hint of worry on her face. Charlotte smiled inwardly. She knew that Yoshika had a huge heart and she cared deeply for all of her friends well being. Even a friend as abrasive and stand-offish as Perrine. "Don't worry Yoshika, she's fine. That's just how she is."

"Yeah," Francisca chortled, "she doesn't play well with others."

Charlotte lightly cuffed Francisca on the back of her head "Quiet, you." Francisca simply looked up at her 'big sis', giving her a toothy grin. "So, Yoshika," Charlotte continued "would you mind collecting some fuel for our fire? There's some scrub brush up on that rise that should burn nicely."

"Of course Shirley-san." She stood up and started heading for the rise. Lynette got up as well and called after Yoshika as she began to walk away. "Um...I...I...could help you Yoshika-chan. I...If you want me too." Yoshika turned and smiled warmly. "Sure Lynn-chan. I...I'd really like that."

The two stood motionless for a moment, gazing into each other's eyes. Then Yoshika, with a slightly flustered look on her face, turned and both girls started heading up the slight incline walking closely together, both of them blushing furiously. The remaining two watched them as they strolled away slowly, side by side. Once they were out of ear-shot, the little Romangian started squirming around in the sand.

"Arrrgh!" Francisca moaned, pulling on her twin-tails in frustration. "So! Annoying! Those two are so obviously into each other. Why do they keep dancing around it?"

Charlotte smiled openly now. "Well, the way they're mooning over each other, I'm pretty sure they'll end up together eventually." She began to clean up the area so she could pitch the two tents she had hauled out of storage. "Y'know, I think it's so cute how Lynne uses honorifics when she addresses Yoshika even though we're all speaking Britannish."

"I know, right?" Francisca squealed. "Absolutely adorable."

- July 17th, 1943 ~ Cape Canaveral, Florida U.S.L. -

Dr. Harold Ostermann adjusted his tie nervously as he mentally reviewed his presentation for the hundredth time. The weight of the responsibility he had been saddled with was enormous. He had been drafted to head the Cape Canaveral Research Complex in southern Liberion, one of the most extensive and well-funded Neuroi research laboratories in the world.

The Neuroi were, indeed, alien. Not just from-another-planet alien but alien alien. All the research so far showed they were a silicon-based life form, something previously thought to be impossible...but there it was.

Almost three years of study, testing and experimentation had yet to yield more than a vague idea of how the Neuroi could even exist, let alone determine their goals and objectives. No declaration of war had ever been issued by the Neuroi. No demands or communication of any kind had ever been offered. They simply showed up one day and commenced to destroy everything in sight.

What was known was why the Neuroi did what they did. The solid matter they consumed became material to create new Neuroi. This prompted some in the scientific community to conjecture that the Neuroi were nothing more than cosmic Locusts, mindlessly moving from planet to planet, devouring everything in their path. Most scientists discounted that theory however, arguing that their movements and attacks evinced a guiding intelligence of some sort.

The CCRC had confirmed that the actual Neuroi was a red crystalline structure and was, indeed, sentient. This Core surrounded itself with a kind of ablative armor that some rank-and-file wag had christened 'Grey Matter'. The term, as un-scientific as it was, stuck...much to Ostermann's chagrin. Grey Matter could be destroyed rather easily but was regenerated almost instantaneously. The only way a Neuroi could be put down for good was to shatter the core.

Conventional weaponry was simply not up to the task. It took the loss of an entire squadron to destroy a Core...hardly an acceptable trade-off. Scientists and the Top Brass had discovered that a witches' shield could stave off the Neuroi coherent light beam weapons. Witches that were in the military were deployed in battle to provide shielding for attack groups. However this still wasn't enough to make a significant difference.

Everything changed when a multi-national think tank, based in Britannia and headed by Fuso's illustrious Dr. Miyafuji created the magic powered Striker Unit. Now able to get up close and personal with the enemy, Neuroi kill rates increased a hundred-fold. Unexpectedly (or perhaps not so) this increase in a witch's capabilities was the final straw among a certain segment of the male population. Mostly those who wielded power of a different sort, both political and military. To them, women with power were a threat as well as an unacceptable risk to their own station.

It was in this environment of fear and hostility that someone noticed Dr. Ostermann's report on the malleability of Neuroi Core shards. Splinters of a Core that had been taken, intact, in a Special Forces Black Ops operation. His team had determined that a Core that had been fractured was still "alive" but no longer sentient. A living shard still had the ability to accrue Grey Matter and, with some experimentation, they discovered how to force the shard to grow ablative armor over an articulated frame.

Dr. Ostermann had been summoned to Washington and was given a new assignment… to oversee the R&D of the newly-formed M.A.G.U.S. program. A Neuroi based shard-powered battle suit that would give any normal human the same degree of strength and power that a witch possessed. The suit was now ready for a live test and he stated as much in his daily report to HQ the previous evening. He was unprepared for the phone call he received early this morning telling him that General Maloney and his staff would be arriving at 10am.

Ostermann glanced at his wristwatch. "Fifteen minutes until hell." As he began to review his presentation for the hundred and first time, the double-doors behind him slammed open and General Maloney entered with his entourage following close behind. Hell had arrived early.

Maloney's voice pierced the silence of the lab. "Well Dr. Ostermann. Here we all are. Impress us!"