Author's Note: Sorry about the lack of updates recently. I've been rather busy of late.
Disclaimer: Girls und Panzer is the property of Actas.
The Fox's Fight
The clatter of German tank treads echoed from the walls of the Japanese town as the metal behemoth of the VK4501 (P) backed around the corner of a house, it's panzer grey armor glinting in the noon light.
Within the monster's hull the five crew members of Team Leopon worked at a feverish pace. The whirr of the turret swinging to bear, the grinding of metal, clatter of treads, and the rumble of the engine created an almost deafening amount of noise over which the crew members shouted reports and commands.
Behind the gunner's optics, Hoshino grit her teeth as she kept the gun aimed toward the T-54 model 1947 that was rolling toward them. Suddenly the T-54 fired, sending a shell slamming into the upper glasis of their tank. It bounced skyward and the bang of the impact echoed in the fighting compartment.
"T-34s, down the road!" Tsubasa shouted from the radio operator's position.
Satoko swore. "Fire a burst of machine gun fire into them! Maybe you'll get em to back off."
Hoshino growled under her breath as the clatter of an 88mm shell being loaded filled her ears. A second later a hand hitting her shoulder signaled that the gun was loaded just as the clatter of the bow machine gun opening fire filled the air.
"Gun up!" Suzuki called out.
"Hoshino—" Satoko started but before she finished the command, Hoshino had squeezed the trigger and the KwK 36 88mm gun spoke.
As the shell shot out of the breech, Hoshino swore as the green tracer from the 88mm round glanced off the rounded turret of the T-54 and soared straight up into air out of her line of sight.
"Bounced!" She growled.
"Keep backing up!" Satoko ordered as the tank lurched back into motion. "Hoshino, target those T-34s!"
"Hai!" Hoshino acknowledged before starting the traverse, turning the turret to face the T-34s that Tsubasa had reported. As the turret turned, she glanced at the periscopes to get a look at the new threat.
Two T-34/85s were turning to face them, just then the bang of a shell bouncing uselessly off the turret filled the compartment. A half a second later the turret was rocked by another shell and Hoshino grimaced as she was almost smashed into the optics by the concussion.
"Erwin, we're heavily engaged. Can you support?" Satoko shouted into her radio.
"Negative, so are we."
Erwin grit her teeth as she heard bits of masonry fall atop her tank. Shells screamed through the air as the Hippo jerked into action, accelerating backwards out of the remains of another storefront. Through the binocular periscope Erwin glared at the advancing line of T-34-85s that had started to roll down the street. The T-34s fired on the move, sending 85mm shells wide and smashing into the buildings that lined the road. Through the radio, Erwin heard the other remaining tanks moving through the town, calling out locations and opposition as they moved.
"Oryo, we'll need to turn around at the next intersection... The Anglerfish should be able to reinforce our position in a few minutes." Erwin called out as she glanced at the map. Then she tapped the throat microphone she wore. "Yukari, we'll be at position D10 in sixty seconds!"
"We'll be there in ninety seconds," Yukari answered through the radio as another shot flew overhead.
"Understood." Erwin said as the StuG III rolled down the street, its metal treads gouging divots in the asphalt. A second later, the assault gun swerved around a street corner before spinning around to face a Su-100 that was rolling toward them.
"Saemonza!" Erwin shouted just as the clatter of a round being loaded echoed in the compartment. A second later the StuG III rocked as it fired, sending a 75mm shell careening into the front plate of the Su-100, just over the driver's compartment. Instantly a white flag popped up from the top of the enemy tank and smoke burst from the engine compartment.
A second later the massive hulk of the IS-2 rolled through the wall of one of the building, its turret rotating to bring the massive 122mm gun to bear on them. Erwin swore under her breath as the massive enemy pushed through the crumbling structure and shouted. "Oryo, reverse!"
The StuG III jerked as the driver hammered the vehicle into reverse. Just as they were about to leave the intersection, the 122mm cannon fired, sending a huge shell smashing into the corner. A second later, the Anglerfish clattered into the intersection and slammed on the brakes, tearing up the pavement as it slid a few meters across the asphalt, nearly bumping into the side of their tank.
A second later the Anglerfish fired, sending a 75mm shell into the driver's hatch of the IS-2. The massive tank disappeared in a flash of smoke and Erwin let out a sigh of relief.
Then that feeling of relief fled as she saw the IS-2 start to roll toward her through the smoke, apparently still combat capable. Swearing under her breath, she tapped the radio. "Yukari, we need to fall back to the MLR. I'm not sure we have enough firepower to take on the—"
"Aim for the hatch, again!" Yukari yelled before responding to her. "No, we can take it out! Shoot the driver's hatch. It's the weakest point in the front of the tank."
Erwin scowled for a moment before nodding. "Saemonza, aim for the driver's hatch."
Caesar loaded another AP shell as Saemonza adjusted her sights. At the same time Erwin stared at the gaping maw of the 122mm gun pointing in their direction, imagining the crew inside hurriedly loading the enormous shell. Then the StuG III rocked as Saemonza sent another 75mm shell screaming into the front of the IS-2. Pyrotechnics exploded from the turret ring and a white flag shot from the top of the armored turret, declaring the tank knocked out.
Erwin let out a long breath of relief before smiling. "Take that Stalin!"
Inside the cramped turret of her T-54 model 1947 tank, the Dalian team's captain sat staring through the periscopes of her tank. Through the radio she suddenly heard something she hadn't anticipated, "Zainichi, we've been knocked out!"
Akane Zainichi glanced down at the rest of her tanks crew as the words washed over her. "Wancai? What happened?"
"It was the StuG III and Panzer... They shot into the driver's hatch. We've been knocked out." Wancai Li, her deputy answered with frustration filling her voice. "I've only got two Su-100s on this side now.
Zainichi frowned. "Tell them to just skirmish with them for now. The Tiger is the greatest threat."
Isobe Noriko sat in the commander's cupola of her Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha, tapping her foot in irritation as the tank clattered around her. Through the radio she could hear desperate radio calls and the recent triumph of Anglerfish and Hippo Team against the enemy's IS-2. Glancing around the cramped turret she grit her teeth.
"We need to get in the game... Shinobu, can you push the engine anymore?" She asked before glancing toward the driver's compartment.
"I can try captain, but it's running hot already!" Shinobu shouted from her position. "This tank sucks!"
"Tell me about it," Akebi, the gunner, said from her position. "At least we have a chance of penetrating with this gun."
Noriko nodded as she glanced back through the periscopes. "Come on... we're almost to the Leopon. Turn left"
The Chi-Ha screeched as it turned sharply on its metal treads and started heading down a tight street. Up ahead she saw a T-junction ending in a storefront. Then a T-34-85 rolled past, followed a second later by another. Instantly Noriko's aggressive instincts went into full gear. "Akebi, rotate right, we're going to roll out right behind those bastards."
"Hai!" Akebi snapped as she started manually cranking the turret. Beside her, their team's loader grabbed one of the 47mm shells pushed it into the gun's breach.
Trying to get the best possible view, Noriko pushed open the top hatch just as the Type 97 rolled out of the side-street and onto the asphalt behind the two T-34-85s.
They were close, and just a bit further down the road Noriko could see the Leopon, shots from the T-34-85s flying past its armored bulk as it backed along the road.
"Target, T-34-85, close!" Noriko called out. "SPIKE HER!"
With a sharp bang the Type 1 47mm gun fired, sending a shell speeding into the rear of the nearest T-34-85's engine deck and exploding against the armor. A second later flames began to crackle up from the exhaust compartments as the tank's turret started to slowly rotate around to face them.
"Another!" Noriko shouted as she heard the expended casing clatter to the floor of her tank. A second later the gun banged again.
This time the tank's engine deck exploded into pyrotechnic flames and a white flag shot from the top of its turret. Noriko practically squealed with delight and pumped her fist into the air.
"Point!" She shouted. "Spike the other—"
Before she could finish an 88mm shell slammed into the front of the T-34-85 and instantly knocked it out. As the smoke from the impact began to clear she heard Satoko shouting through the radio. "Duck Team! Behind YOU!"
Noriko jerked in her seat as a feeling of dread filled her and glanced over her shoulder just as the long barrel of a massive 100mm gun preceded the bulk of another tank into the street. Instantly she dropped back into the turret and slammed the hatch shut.
The Type 97 jerked into motion, its treads clattering and tearing at the asphalt as Akebi slammed onto the gas. The underpowered machine began to roll back into the cover of the side street as Noriko stared through the periscope and watched the T-54 mod. 1947 turn onto the street and point its gun roughly toward the Leopon. A half second later the tank fired, sending a 100mm shell soaring down the street where it hit the front glacis of the Leopon and bounced skyward with a clang.
The Leopon answered in turn, sending a shell glancing off the T-54's front glasis plate. Noriko swore under her breath as he tank continued to bank up, slipping out of the way of the two far more powerful combatants.
Miho clutched her skirt as she stared at the Leopold screen as Leopon Team continued to back-up from the oncoming T-54. Beside her, Maho studied the screen, her arms folded over her chest. Further down the bench, Shiho and Hideyoshi seemed to be glaring at the screen. Glancing at them she could feel her mother's simmering anger at the tactics that Ōarai had fallen back to. The streets of the small village where the fight was now waging was an area that would prevent Dalian from being able to deploy the full force of its tanks against what was left of her school.
As she watched the deployment, she knew instinctively who had taken command, or at least was giving the team overall direction. Erwin's style was obvious to anyone who had studied maneuver warfare. Like her hero, Erwin was falling upon German doctrine. She was moving her tanks to the center of town to form an MLR or main line of resistance. Miho watched as Ōarai's tanks continued to converge in the town center, intent on pulling together to support each other.
Miho admitted that she gave her commanders a lot more latitude then most other teams that latitude seemed to be paying dividends in the fight however. While Erwin had given the orders to fall back to the MLR, how the individual teams went about doing that was left up to the commanders themselves. Instantly Yukari had raced to support Erwin, a move that didn't surprise Miho. The two were friends and understood each other well. That move had taken one of the deadliest tanks from Dalian's arsenal.
Now the two tanks were falling back, opposed only by sporadic attacks from two of the remaining Su-100s. Within moments they had managed to shake that pursuit and turn toward the village center.
Miho's attention had turned back to the fight between Leopon Team and the T-54 that seemed to be Dalian's command tank. It wasn't alone either, as the view screen showed that most of the six remaining T-34-85s on their team were rolling toward the fight to back up their commander.
Team Duck had disengaged and was rolling along a street parallel to Leopon now, moving toward the central square. Glancing at the map, Miho knew that Erwin and Yukari would arrive there within just a few minutes. Just glancing at the area told Miho that it wouldn't take more than a few moments for Erwin to organize a defense there.
Pride began to well up in her as she watched her teammates. A slight smile began to play across her lips as she stared at the display and visualized what Erwin would no doubt do.
The street that Leopon was backing up along ended in a Y junction at the town's center. Directly in front of the road Leopon was leading Dalian down was a manga and book storefront, and already Miho had seen Erwin drive intentionally through storefronts to use them for cover. The Leopon would simply back around the corner of the tall apartment complex across the street, angling its armor as it did so.
In her mind's eye she could see the Anglerfish roll up just behind the Tiger (P), using it and the building as cover while the Chi-Ha popped out from around the opposite corner ever few seconds to send a shot into the mass of soviet steel.
Miho's smile grew at that and she glanced over at Maho, whose stoic expression was betrayed only by a glimmer of understanding in her eyes. The two siblings nodded to each other, silently acknowledging that they saw what was about to happen.
Hoshino growled in frustration as another shell casing ejected from the rear of the 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56 cannon. Through the optics she saw her shot reflect off the slopped armor of the T-54.
"Damn it! The damn thing's armor is too thick!" She shouted.
Over her head Satoko was yelling into the radio as the clang of a shell glancing off the armor echoed in the turret. Beside Hoshino, Suzuki heaved another shell into the gun's breech.
It was suffocating hot inside the tank as they kept fighting. In all the fighting they'd done before, only Leopon's stand against Kuromorimine during the championship match was as intense as the fight they now found themselves in. The acrid smell of cordite filled the fighting compartment with each shot.
"Back us around the corner Tsuchyia!" Satoko yelled and Hoshino grimaced as the tank jerked sideways to roll behind the corner, of a junction and in the process threw her aim completely off. A half a second later a shell glanced off the now angled front armor of the Tiger from the T-54.
Hoshino started turning the turret back toward the T-54 as another shot glanced futilely off the armor. Through her scope she could now see the T-54 along with a whole line of T-34-85s rolling down the street behind the T-54.
Erwin smirked as she stared through the scissors periscope for her StuG. She and Yukari had easily managed to shake the Su-100s in the buildings, and now as she stared through the periscope down the street at the line of T-34s and the T-54 rolling forward, she felt herself smile even wider.
She'd driven the StuG III through the back of the store and it now sat in the middle of the storefront, between knocked over aisles and shelves loaded with books, manga, and light novels. Bits of masonry and a fine layer of concrete dust covered the panzer grey of the tank as Saemonza's gun turned to point toward one of the T-34-85s advancing in the enemy column. It's muzzle just poking through the shattered glass pane of the store's front door.
The Anglerfish rolled up onto a corner on the opposite side of the street as the Tiger (P). A moment later Duck Team clattered to a stop just behind the cover of Leopon. Shots ricocheted from the Tiger's armor as the T-34-85s kept firing into it. Errant shells smashed into building fronts and ricocheted off the walls.
Erwin pushed her throat mike. "Leopon will keep the T-54 busy. Duck Team, aim for tracking anything you have a clear shot on. Anglerfish and Hippo will focus on the T-34s. Fire on my command."
"Hai!" Came the chorus of response from the other tank drivers as Erwin focused on the enemy column.
"Range, one-fifty. Target T-34..." Erwin called out.
Saemonza adjusted her aim. "Ready."
"ALL UNITS, FIRE!" Erwin shouted.
Akane gaped as the storefront just beyond the Tiger (P) disappeared in a flash of smoke and a shell roared out from the building to slam into one of the T-34s just behind her. Instantly another tank, a Panzer IV, rolled just out of the cover of a building and lined up a shot. Sending another 75mm shell ripping through the air.
Her radio came alive with damage reports as yet another tank, a squat Type 97, rolled out from just behind the Tiger (P) and fired. The bang of the impact reverberated in the fighting compartment of her tank before a second later another report from the Radio had her freeze.
"Captain, you've been tracked!"
Akane swore under her breath before glancing back over her shoulder at the rest of her T-34-85s. Two of them were disabled, smoke pouring and pyrotechnics pouring from their engine decks. The other four were fired a ragged salvo that missed the enemy forces before them.
"That StuG III is in that damn storefront!" Akane suddenly shouted as she studied the periscopes. Then she grabbed the radio, "Everyone, spread out, try and get around them on the side roads. If you stay on this road you're dead. B-9, what's your status?"
"This is B-9, we just finished digging out, enroute to the rest of the tank destroyers." Came the reply from the one Su-100 that had managed to dig its gun barrel into the ground early in the match.
"Good, tank destroyers, I need to you to proceed to point D10, if you hurry you'll be able to catch them from behind." Akane ordered.
Hoshino grinned as she stared through the optics of her sight and focused in on the now tracked T-54 model 1947. With it immobilized she took careful aim at the tank trying to think of how best to penetrate the behemoth from the front. The night before she'd studied the armor layout of the T-54 tank and been stunned by just how thick it was. The top of the front glasis was one hundred millimeters thick and sloped at a 60 degree angle giving it an effective thickness of around 200 millimeters. The turret was even thicker.
At best her gun could penetrate 200 millimeters if fired flat on, but with the 60 degree sloping, her shots just seemed to bounce off doing little more than scratching the paint of its armor. She needed a point where the armor was thinner or the angle a bit less severe.
"Lower glasis." She muttered to herself. "That's not quite as well angled."
Slowly she lowered her aim and squeezed the trigger. The Tiger (P) rocked as another shell shot toward the tank which had become it's nemesis in the match. It was a good idea, but she hadn't thought about the additional angle that came from pointing the gun down from the height of her tank, an addition that made all the difference.
Hoshino let out a scream of frustration as the shell bounced off the lower glasis and into the asphalt. "I STILL CAN'T PENETRATE HER!"
"Hoshino, calm the fuck down!" Tsubasa shouted from the radio operator's seat. "We'll just flank them once these guys are finished."
Satoko laughed at that and glanced down at the rest of the crew. "He's right, Tsuchyia... Reverse us back around the corner. Once we're out of sight, let's find a way around that T-54."
"Hai!" Tsuchyia shouted from her position.
Erwin was smirking like a fox as she stared through the scissors scope of her StuG. "Just like Operation Battleaxe."
Behind the T-54 a number of T-34-85s were turning wildly searching for a way off the street. At the same time shells from her StuG and Yukari's Panzer IV soared through the air, slamming into the exposed sides of the T-34-85s that were trying to get off the street. Even Duck Team motored around the corner again and snapped off a shot.
Two more T-34s were disabled in that volley with a third struck in the track and immobilized just shy of the cover of a building. Just one more volley would be enough to smash the last of the undamaged T-34s at this rate.
Erwin leaned back from the optics. "Saemonza?"
"I have them." The StuG's gunner answered before the 75mm gun spoke again, sending a shell screaming through the air to impact against the last undamaged T-34. A second later, the Anglerfish delivered a shell that finished off the immobilized T-34-85s, cutting the enemies before them down to just the T-54.
Then a shell from the T-54 exploded against the side of the storefront, dropping masonry, debris, and a small mountain of paperbacks atop the StuG III. Erwin frowned a bit at that before snapping out a second set of orders. "Reverse and rotate, let's get out of the line of fire."
Akane gaped as she saw the knocked out mass of tanks behind her as the enemy began to reverse out of her line of sight. After a moment or two she was alone with one of her treads knocked off. Grabbing her radio she barked out another order.
"Tank destroyers, on my position as fast as you can!"
Yukari was pumped, despite an absolutely terrible start to the match. They'd completely turned it around. They'd managed to completely turn around the situation within a matter of minutes. Erwin had managed to pull the team together and organize a counterstroke that had caught almost all of Dalian's forces in a single street and turned it into a firing range for their team.
If that wasn't enough, the Anglerfish and Hippo had managed to beat an IS-2 by themselves, thanks in part to her knowledge of the tank.
Now all that remained was to finish off the T-54 and hunt down the remaining Su-100 tank destroyers. Yukari still kept to her loader position, working furiously to load another 75mm shell into the breach. As she finished loading another round, Yukari sat back on the loader's seat before pushing open the hatch beside her seat and leaning out to get a grasp of the situation outside.
Peeking her head out of the loader's hatch, Yukari glanced around the street. Then suddenly she heard the distinct groan of a tree being knocked down by a heavy tank. Her head swiveled toward the sound and gaped as a pair of Su-100s rolled through the yard of a house just fifty meters down the lane and smashed through the walls that lined the lot.
Instantly she dropped back into the tank and yanked shut the hatch before grabbing the headset and yelling a warning to her fellow tankers. "Su-100s at nine o'clock. Range fifty!"
Instantly Hana set the turret to rotate as Reizei started to turn the Panzer IV's hull to face the new threat. Yukari didn't need to tell them how to respond, Miho had drilled them so much that their reactions were almost automatic. That made it so that their injured leader could concentrate on leading the team rather then commanding the tank.
Yukari readied herself as Hana stopped rotating the turret and she felt the tank roll on it's suspension a bit like a boat for a moment before Hana pulled the trigger on the 75mm. As the breach chucked out the spent round Yukari grabbed another round and lifted it to the breech. At the same time Hana spoke in a soft voice. "Hit..."
"Next target," Yukari said as she finished loading the shell she heard the distinctive tearing sound of a shell tearing away part of their tank's schürzen spaced armor. A moment later Hana started the turret into motion again swinging it to bear on another foe.
Erwin watched as the Anglerfish engaged the Su-100s that had just appeared along the road behind the tanks. Already the lead Su-100 was engulfed in smoke from a hit and a white flag fluttered over it's main hull. In return only one of the schürzen plates around the turret had been blown away. As she watched a second shell slammed into the next Su-100, smashing into the front of the Su-100 and knocking it out.
"Leopon, circle around the T-54 and finish it off. We'll hold them off." Erwin ordered before she glanced down toward her driver. "Rotate! Target: enemy Su-100 Saemonza!"
A third Su-100 had just rolled out from around the side of the house and jerked to a halt, rocking on it's suspension for a moment before firing. Erwin grimaced as a the shell smashed into the angled front glasis of the Anglerfish with a bang. The tank rocked from the impact and a gout of black smoke billowed from the engine.
"Guderien!" Erwin shouted.
A cough answered her across the radio as the Hippo lined up for a shot. The tank rocked for a moment before Saemonza let loose, sending a shell screaming through the air to slam into the front of the last Su-100s hull. A second later the Su-100 disappeared in a blast of pyrotechnics and its white flag shot from its hatch to billow in the air.
"We're okay, just a bit... smoked... Erwin." Yukari answered a moment later.
Hoshino smirked as the Leopon turned off a side street and rolled to a stop in the middle of the street surrounded by knocked out T-34-85s. No sooner had her tank slowed to a complete stop then she aimed the 88mm gun straight into the rear of the last of Dalian's tanks. The T-54 model 1947's turret slowly started to rotate her way, but it hung up on the wall of a grocer that sat just beside the road.
"Game over..." Hoshino murmured as she peered through the optics, lined up on the engine block, and pulled the trigger.
Miho smiled faintly as the screen declared loudly Ōarai's victory. Beside her Maho nodded to herself before glancing faintly over at her mother. Shiho sat, her face stoic as Hideyoshi stared at the screen, her expression pale. A moment later Hideyoshi stood and left without another word.
Erika glanced at the two Nishizumi sisters before chewing her lip, not sure what to say.
Maho's expression would have seemed blank to anyone that didn't know her that well, but Miho saw the twinkle of amusement in her eyes. Then Maho glanced back at her. "I take it you've found a better deputy for your team?"