The clear, blue waters of the Pacific Ocean shined brightly with the sun's reflection. On any other day, Miho Nishizumi would revel in its beauty, but lately, she hadn't felt like revelling in anything. Today, she stared out at its vast expanse as if it would give her some clue as to what her future held.
The school board's representative had lied. Lied to her, lied to the student council, and lied to the entire ship that she and her school made their home. It had not mattered if the Sensha-do team from Ōarai Girls High School won the championship. They had planned to close the school no matter the outcome. They had already found a buyer for the massive vessel and had accepted the offer. The only redeeming feature in the entire situation was that an American school had agreed to accept the refugees of the doomed school onto their own super carrier school-ship, and had even purchased the panzers so they could continue to practice.
No one had taken the news worse than the student council members had. Anzu Kadotani and Yuzu Koyama had spent a week consoling their crewmate Momo Kawashima when the news hit. They had then gone before the board to dispute the decision, but were quietly turned away, being told that the board "had more important things to do besides listen to a little girl cry for her school." They had returned to the ship broken hearted and, thru a ship-wide broadcast, and were forced to announce the closing of the school and the decommissioning of the ship. Its next visit to Ōarai would be its last.
When the news of the American school called Pacific Blue broke a week later, it was small relief. Thru an unspoken agreement, all the girls in the Sensha-do class signed the request for transfer sheets, as did a few others from the school. It was rumored that the St. Gloriana Girls Academy would also be accepting student transfers, but could not support the extra panzers. As much as she would have liked going to school with Darjeeling, Miho wanted to stay with her team. She felt that the American school was being very generous in letting them continue to compete in the Japanese circuit of the sport, and had even been pleased to hear that they were adding Ōarai to their list of ports to visit regularly. Life would go on for the girls of Ōarai High School.
Now, a month later, the super Carrier that Miho and her friends had called home was slowly pulling into its final port-of-call. Arrangements had been made for the citizens of the ship to be housed until their permanent residences were ready, and everyone aboard was at a deck or railing to watch the small bay accept them home again for the last time.
Miho was there as well, her friends and classmates beside her with tears in their eyes. The only one among them who seemed to resolutely accept the chain of events was Mako Reizei, the driver for Miho's Panzer IV. She stared down at the port stoically, showing little emotion.
"I can't believe we're leaving," Saori Takebe said quietly. "It's almost like a dream."
"If it is a dream," Hana Isuzu said, "then someone please pinch me. I wish to wake up from this- OW!" She quickly jerked her arm away from the team's loader, Yukari Akiyama.
"Well, you asked someone to pinch you," the younger student said in her own defense.
"I didn't mean it," Hana replied, rubbing her arm where the faint welt of red showed. "And not so roughly."
"You shouldn't ask for things you don't want to happen," Mako commented. Typically, the panzer driver was a girl of few words, but what she did say was sometimes profound.
Miho's words cut off any reply Hana might have had. The girls looked to their commander, waiting for her to continue. "I wonder what our new school will be like."
"They're nice people." The reply came from behind the group, and everyone turned to see the members of the class's Turtle team standing a short distance away. The three girls joined Miho and her friends at the railing as Anzu went on. "We've met with them, and took a tour of their school."
"They're typical Americans," Momo continued. "Loud, boisterous, sometimes obnoxious, and of course, rich."
"At least it seems like they are," Yuzu corrected. "It's more like the school's owners are rich. There's a rumor that one of the benefactors for the school is Bill Gates."
"The owner of Microsoft is supporting a floating school," Yukari asked.
"He's got enough money to," Anzu replied, taking a bite out of a dried piece of sweet potato. "It explains how we were able to keep our panzer with us during the… the transfer." She seemed to lose some of her usual enthusiasm as she inadvertently brought up the subject. Everyone was silent for a bit, watching as a few tug boats motored out to assist the ship with docking.
"Well," Miho said at last. "I suppose we should go get our things."
"Miho-chan, where will you be staying," Yukari asked.
"Mako's grandmother has offered to let me stay with them until the new school arrives next week to pick us up," she replied.
"Grandma lives on Gouzentaru Hill," Mako added. "It isn't far from town."
"We'll come visit tomorrow," Saori said, semi-happily. "If that's alright."
Mako simply nodded, and they all turned away from the railing, leaving the former student council standing alone with the view.
"Shouldn't we have told them," Yuzu asked quietly.
"They'll find out eventually," Anzu replied as she nibbled on more sweet potato.
"At least this time, we don't have to lie to them," Momo commented, making the three of them smile.
One Week Later
Thirty-two girls and eight tanks sat on the dock as the massive super-carrier that carried the Pacific Blue Educational Institute glided into the harbor. It had a sleek design, seeming to knife through the water as it approached. It was three times taller than the oldŌarai ship, and half again as long.
"It's massive," Yukari said, her jaw dropping.
"Americans always have to go bigger," Hana said with a chuckle.
The ship effortlessly glided into port, needing no help from the tugs. She smoothly slipped into the berth, coming to a dead stop in perfect position. A ramp lowered, and three Humvees drove off, coming to a stop before the tanks. Two men and a woman exited the first hummer, one that sported a large checkered flag, whilst several men exited the other two.
"Ōarai Tank Class?" The woman asked in perfect Japanese. Anzu smiled and stepped forward.
The woman smiled warmly. "I'm Julie Winters, coordinator for new students. This," she replied, gesturing to the men behind her, "is Mark Frost, head of our sports division, and Donald Weld, our Panzer coach." Both men nodded respectfully. "Unfortunately, neither speaks Japanese. Do any of you speak English?"
"I do." Another woman stepped out from behind the PzIV, dressed in her usual JGSDF uniform. "Ami Chōno, instructor for the Ōarai Sensha-Do class." Both women shook hands, then turned back to the other men. Introductions in English were made. More dialogue followed, then Ami turned to the girls. "Mount up. The men will see to your belongings. You will drive your panzer aboard."
The eight teams quickly mounted their tanks as Ami joined the Americans in the flagged Humvee. With a wave from the driver, the Ōarai tanks ascended the ramp and made their way into their new home.