AN:The following chapter may or may not be more understandable with the map I used to draw out this battle. It's only a pencil sketch, so it's quite crude. Still, it will hopefully be better than nothing.
the url is: i46. tinypic. com (/) 25kr02v. jpg Just remove the spaces and the brackets
Once all the vehicles were on the move, Miho looked at the map she had opened on her lap once more. A ridge cut through the middle of the map, with three peaks dividing the ridgeline into four chokepoints, two in the centre and one at the north end where the final peak flattened out enough to cross. The two northern peaks each had a small lake at their bases. The southernmost peak was shaped like a V, and it had a flatter section, but since was still quite steep, she decided not to worry about that small pass-a mountain trail really- too much.
On each side of the ridgeline were a village and a small wooded region. On the left side of the ridge, where her teams started out, the village was near the middle-north pass, with the woods nearer to the southern pass. On the other side where the Vimy Ridge started from, it was the opposite, with the woods next to the middle-northern pass, and the village nearer to the southern one. The approach to the middle-northern pass was also guarded with a splattering of rocks usable as cover on each side of the crossing. There was also had a small dip in the terrain at the northeastern corner.
Having finished analyzing the map, Miho gave a sigh. There was no two ways about it. To win, she had to order her teams to go over the top across the ridge at some point of the match, into Vimy Ridge's awaiting guns as her own tanks were helpless, being unable to fire back at them. She decided there was nothing to be done about that, she shared her plans by radio to everyone. "Vimy Ridge has more, faster tanks than us. So, we will take those advantages away from them. I would like the turtle, hippo, and rabbit teams to take cover in the small forest at the southern area of the field, and set up an ambush to destroy any tanks that might cross the southern ridgeline." Miho paused for a moment, listening to the mentioned teams' enthusiastic replies. She thought she heard the Momo shout 'they shall not pass!'. Miho continued, "The rest of us will make a concave around the northern crossing. Duck team, I would like for you to take the northernmost part of our concave, and periodically check the extreme northern pass for anyone trying to make a crossing by that route."
Azusa, the commander of the M3 asked over the radio, "So, how are we going to deal with their artillery? Even the idea of being struck by a rocket in our tanks is too scary to think about."
Miho gave her reply. "For now, we will have to do our best to stay in cover. Either try your best not to be seen, or stay behind a rock, a building, or the peaks. Since their fire is going to come from the east, any of these should cover us from any barrages.
Erwin somberly added, "At least we won't get torn apart like infantry when they fire…horrible things, multiple rocket launcher batteries. Especially Russian Katyushas."
The tension in the air was thick enough to drive over. Miho, to raise morale, continued, "Well, once their barrage lifts, they will take a long time to reload. We can make a breakthrough, and destroy the battery before they can fire off the next one. Or the first one, if we get around to it fast enough."
"I think I see the pass and the rocks towards the horizon…about, 2km away," Hana, looking through her gunner's scope, noted to Miho.
Miho, looking out of her cupola, could see her destination as well, and pressed her mic to her throat. "We will separate here. Hippo team, Turtle team, and Rabbit team, please head to the woods, and set up a good camouflage before Vimy Ridge arrives. Good luck."
The mentioned teams peeled off the formation, and sped to their ambush points.
Inside the StuG III, Erwin, who was looking through her sights in case any of Vimy Ridge's pesky fast Cromwells passed through the chokepoint before they arrived at the area, contemplated on her assigned duty. "We are effectively three tank destroyers guarding a narrow pass against an enemy that will charge into our sights. Ideal terrain for us. As long as they are the ones climbing and we are the ones ambushing, their allied armour will be no match for us."
Oryou raised an eyebrow. "the M3 is American, you know."
Caesar jumped in, sensing her friend's embarrassment from her lack of a reply. "At any rate, we're supposed to be a hidden group that is to protect the rest of the team from a flanking force. A much more mobile force. This plan definitely reminds of the battle of Pharsalus." A smile decorated her face as she finished her sentence.
"This is Anglerfish team, we are approaching the northern crossing. Hippo, Turtle, and Rabbit team, how is the situation over there?" Miho's transmission cut off whatever Erwin was about to say.
Erwin gave the response. "Everything is quiet here for now. But we are dealing with fast tanks, so we expect contact shortly." Strange, she thought; Vimy Ridge's faster Cromwells should have arrived here much quicker than them. If they didn't charge across the ridge so soon, where are they?
A glint of metal caught her eye. It was difficult to see, but she could make out the upper tip of a Cromwell's front turret. Then another one crept over the hill. Then another one. "I see them! Hold your fire until they're completely exposed at the top of the hill.
The Student Council President's voice was heard over the radio, agreeing to Erwin's order.
Unfortunately, Ayumi, the M3's hull gunner, was not as enthusiastic about not shooting at the approaching enemy until they got closer to her, and let loose her weapon. A flash erupted from the hull mounted 75mm gun's muzzle. The round sped towards the hill, and passed over the turret of a Cromwell, grazing its turret roof. The enemy, alerted by the shot, immediately backed off the ridgeline, one tank stopping briefly to take a snap shot in the general area of the muzzle flash before retreating into cover.
Saemonza sighed in exasperation at such a wasted opportunity. Erwin found herself unable to do anything save for the facepalm maneuver.
"Nishizumi-chan, it seems like we were unable to completely ambush them. They all managed to get away. Sorry," Anzu reported to Miho.
"That's okay. As long as they aren't crossing the ridge, nothing should go wrong too badly," Miho responded, "We are going to form a defensive line at the northern crossing using the rocks as cover. Seems like they are as willing to charge into our guns as much as we are."
As she spoke, a Comet popped its turret out of cover squeezing a shot towards the B1. The shell went too high, and struck a rock. A Cromwell followed suit, attempting to mimic the former.
Unfortunately, the driver of this particular tank stopped a second too slowly. In addition to the turret, its upper hull was in clear site. Hana and Hoshino, the gunner of the Tiger P, both took the chance to shoot, and when the flash dissipated, their target was adorned with a white flag fluttering in the wind, the gun mantle and the hull having been hit.
"Nice hit, Hana-san! And lion team, same to you," Miho congratulated them.
Yukari was confused. From what she could glean from Nishizumi-dono's communication with the other teams, Vimy Ridge was content in trading shots at the ridge. Sure, they had the number to carry out a battle of attrition, but for the life of her she could not understand why they were bothering with this constant peeking from the hill and not taking advantage of their superior speed and maneuverability by closing in to their own position. It's not like they were hitting anything right now. In fact, because they were the ones cresting the hill, they took the first loss.
"This is Hippo team, we have destroyed one!"
Make that two losses. If this kept up, her school had a fair chance at winning, Which was why she was worried in the first place. Lucius-san seemed to be a capable person, from the way he talked, and seemed like he understood his people well. For such a boy, he was clearly not using his units well. Especially not his rocket artillery. Maybe they lacked a clear shot; maybe the peaks blocked them from taking good aim.
Just then, she heard a sequence of low droning noises. She could have sworn someone was moaning terribly as if a tragedy befell her. Wait, moaning, moaning…! Yukari gasped. Moaning Minnies!
She yelled to her commander as loud as possible, straining to be heard above the gunfire, "Nishizumi-dono, that was the rocket barrage! We need to take cover NOW!"
Miho, and all the crew of the Pz. IV's, save for Mako's, eyes widened. "All teams, hide behind something! Quickly!" Miho ordered over the radio. Even before she finished voicing her command, Mako effortlessly placed her tank behind a rock. Many other tanks did the same.
3…2…1…a long series of deafening blasts, louder than anything anyone from Ooarai heard before up to and including their own tanks' guns, rocked the tanks back and forth and sideways. Yukari especially had to try her hardest to stay on her feet, her job as a loader having deprived her of a proper seat to strap in on.
Once Miho was sure the last rocket hit the ground, she dared a look out her cupola. The aftermath of a 30-rocket salvo was indeed awe-inspiring. The ground immediately around them was riddled with shell craters, and the sheer volume of snow lifted from the ground caused a snow fog to form, making it impossible to see anything beyond 30m. Her own head was still ringing from the effects, and she was sure everyone else shared the headache.
"This is Lion team, we have been knocked out!"
"This is Goose team, we have been destroyed!"
Shock tore through Miho. As she feared, the two slowest tanks in her team were simply incapable of taking cover in time before the barrage landed. With great alarm in her voice, she asked, "Are you alright?"
"We're fine. Just a bit shook up," came the response from Nakajima, commander of the Tiger P.
"We're okay…those rockets should definitely be against the rules…even more than that IS-2," came the response from Sodoko, commander of the B1.
"OP…Arty is definitely overpowered in any tank match, game or senshado," Nekonya, the commander of the Chi-Nu also responded. Murmurs of agreement from her gaming friends could be heard.
The dust almost settled, and silhouettes could be seen some distance away, accompanied with noises of tank tracks and engines speeding along at maximum power. A second later, when Miho's head completely cleared, she came to a sudden realization, as the shadows became more solid. "They're charging! Everyone, fire! We need to destroy as many of them as possible before they get in amongst our formation!"
The silhouettes took shape, revealing three boxy British tanks charging straight at them. Hana locked onto one of them and let loose without hesitation. Her effort was rewarded with another kill. The Chi-Nu did the same, resulting in another. One tank left. A Comet refrained from joining its allies in the charge, preferring to stay on the hill sniping away at any stationary opponents out of cover. It stopped traversing its turret, and after a split second, fired.
A streak of sparks cut across the Chi-Nu's turret. For a moment, Miho feared she lost another tank. Luckily, it seemed to be a ricochet, the shell having struck the turret's "cheek" at an almost parallel angle. She gave a sigh of relief.
"This is Duck team! Three tanks are charging at us from the north!" came a panicked report from Noriko. A boom echoed through the radio from her end. "We managed to take out one with the longer gun, but we can't hold on that long against two tanks alone!"
What to do? What to do? Cromwell's speed was legendary, and Miho was certain any efforts to run and reposition would only end badly. There was no point in trying to outrun or outmaneuver Cromwells. "Duck team, Anteater team, try to back yourselves into corners! That way, only one of them can shoot at our rear armour at a time."
"That's a hit confirmed! Good shot, Turtle team!" Erwin exclaimed. In her flank, the Hetzer and her own StuG III were able to bag one kill each, one Cromwell and one Comet, taking easy shots as two tanks foolishly tried to crest the hill into their waiting guns. However, before they were destroyed, they managed to land a lucky hit on the M3's turret, knocking it out. She resumed scanning the ridgeline for more targets. No more seemed to come.
The captain's side seemed to need some help though, if all the desperate radio communication was to be taken into account. After a short thought, Erwin said to Anzu, "President, go help our captain in the northern area. This place seems secure now, and I'm sure we are able to keep any other tanks attempting to cross over at bay.
Anzu responded, "That sounds good. Well, good luck! Yuzu, drive us to Nishizumi-chan's location as soon as possible." With that, the Hetzer moved out of its bush, and sped towards the trouble spot to the north.
Caesar was not as confident about the decision. "Was that wise, peeling off a tank destroyer to reinforce a buckling centre? From what I'm hearing, it sounds like our centre no longer exists as a line, and is in a general melee, something anything without a turret isn't great at." The StuG III's lack of a turret was a sore point for Caesar ever since the Pravda match.
"Well, any reinforcement has got to be better than no reinforcement," Erwin replied, taking her eyes off the cupola momentarily to face her friend for a short discussion, "and besides, we're just sitting here doing nothing as long as no other tanks try to come across. Keeping two vehicles doing nothing is even worse."
With that, Erwin once again brought her head up to the cupola, concentrating on the ridgeline. Something moved in the corner of her right eye. Something quite loud, judging from how its roaring noise could be heard over the sound of their own engine at idle. She swiveled her head, and was shocked by what she saw.
Two more of those boxy Cromwells revealed themselves, but from a totally unanticipated position: the mountain itself. Erwin tried to think just how those tanks could have climbed the hill, but discarded that train of thought. It wasn't the time; she needed to direct her crew to this impending threat. With a slight panic, she ordered, "Turn us to the right, quick! We got two tanks coming straight for us from the flank!"
The StuG III tried to bring its gun to bear on the enemy tanks as soon as possible, but it was no use. The two Cromwells split to its left and right, and one took a brief stop while the other continued its flanking maneuver. "Target the stationary tank first!" Erwin commanded.
"Almost there, seven more degrees to the right…" Saemonza declared. Then, with a terrible boom and the sound of tearing metal, their tank destroyer stopped turning. Her finger twitched in surprise and loosed her own shell, missing her target by about a meter.
"One of our tracks seems to have been blown off," Oryou reported, in a careless tone that belied the desperate situation. Another boom. "Make that both of our tracks." Erwin could only look on as the flanking Cromwell, aided by its ally which rendered their vehicle immobile, completed its circling, traversed its turret, and with a with a bright flash and bang, put a shell into the StuG III's vulnerable rear.
Their white flag popped out. Erwin squeezed her mic to her throat and, in a hopeless voice, reported, "This is Hippo team…we have been knocked out." The two attackers already moved on, visible in the distance, heading to the northern crossing where they would no doubt turn a bad situation into an impossible one for the other teams.
"Hippo team? Knocked out?" Anzu absentmindedly asked, to no one in particular.
"What should we do, president? Continue north, or try to hold whoever destroyed the Hippo team here?" Momo inquired.
Anzu closed her eyes and dipped her head in thought. After what seemed like an eternity, she gave her answer. "Hold them off here. We can't have these people join the battle up north."
"Okay, that little dip in the ground seems like a good place to ambush them from. I'll place us there."
No sooner had Yuzu said that, a gun barked from somewhere behind them, and their Hetzer violently lurched back and forth from the shockwave of a 75mm shell planting itself firmly into the engine compartment. Anzu just barely managed to keep herself from being thrown out of her seat, and heard the hiss of their white flag being released.
Everyone, including Saori, would see their situation was nothing short of grim. Within the space of less than two minutes, five tanks, almost three quarters of their entire force, had been reduced to wrecks. How Vimy Ridge managed to exact such a toll in such a short time was a mystery. Nevertheless, Miho continued to assign orders to her crew. "Hana-san, shoot at any tanks that you can; you don't need to wait for my orders to fire. Reizei san, please keep making unpredictable turns, and try to angle our front armour at anyone who seems to be about to shoot at us. That will maximise our armour…hopefully it will buy us some time. Saori-san, please relay everything I said to all the surviving teams."
A series of "I understand," "Got it,", and "Okay" answered her. A short distance away, Duck team managed to destroy another tank. Quite a feat, considering this was the first time they were working with the loaned Ram II. However, Vimy Ridge's last Comet took advantage of their brief halt, and put its own 77mm shell into the Ram.
"This is Duck team, we have been destroyed! We apologise for not being able to do more!"
"Is everyone alright?" Miho asked, her concerns on the team's wellbeing bubbling to the surface.
"Everyone's safe, captain!" came the response. At the same time, Hana picked out and destroyed the Comet that had destroyed the Ram. The Anteater team also lined up for a shot at a stationary tank; from what Miho could see, they attempted to shoot at its lower plate, but lacking the training for such precise shots, missed.
Their target, responding in kind, did not.
Now alone, Anglerfish team found itself under fire from all sides. Vimy Ridge only had four tanks remaining, but that was still three more than what Miho had to work with. It was a testament to Mako's skill that the pz. IV either avoided or bounced all the incoming shells.
Then, Vimy Ridge's tanks stopped their relentless fire in unison, filling everyone's ears with a deafening silence. Miho wondered why they stopped firing. She found her question answered in the form of two Cromwells charging at her own tank from two sides, clearly intent on ramming it. They had stopped shooting only to not inflict any friendly fire. Whoever was commanding them must have become very frustrated by Mako's driving. Miho's mind froze for a second, overcome with terror. She had seen pictures of car crashes, and she was sure tank crashes were as bad as, if not worse than those. In this moment of indecision, she was unable to warn her friends of Ooarai's last surviving tank was helplessly rammed, then fired upon at point-blank range.
The radio crackled to life once more, transmitting Lucius' voice. He addressed the girls, in Japanese once again. "Well, that is the end of the match. Thank you for the good battle." He was echoed by more voices, other tankers of Vimy Ridge presumably, shouting, "Good game!"
AN: So, how was it? Good? Bad? Needs work? I kind of want to get reviews so I know how I stand in terms of my quality of writing.