Federation of Dreisland
City of Mirak, North Dreisland
Joint Armed Forces Installation
Chris opened her eyes to find herself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. It took her a moment to remember that she had been transferred to this base the day before, and that she now had to share a room with Maija. Chris cared little about Maija's presence, though the energetic girl's snores did bother Chris ever so slightly.
Actually, never mind. She found Maija's snores quite annoying.
Chris, after confirming the current time of day, then grabbed her pillow and threw it in Maija's general direction. The pillow struck the girl directly in the face, causing her to shut up while also waking her in the process. Chris then moved over to the nearby window and opened the blinds, letting the sunlight filter into the room.
"Couldn't you have woken me up a little more gently?" Maija complained, yawning as she too got out of bed. "... I was snoring, wasn't I?"
"Yes," Chris replied. "You were."
Maija sighed at this statement, cradling her head in her hands as she did so.
"Crap…" she muttered. "That's embarrassing."
Chris simply chuckled at this statement before grabbing her field uniform and heading towards the shower.
One good thing about the residential area of this facility was that all of the soldiers' rooms came with an integrated bathroom as well. Almost like a hotel, Chris observed.
Outside the bathroom, Maija took a brief look at a nearby clock as the sound of running water echoed from the bathroom. She sighed upon noticing the clock indicating the time to be 0500 hours.
"There's a vending machine in the hallway," she called to Chris. "Right?"
"I think so," Chris replied. "You getting something?"
"I need a Redbull," Maija stated, already heading towards the door as she did so.
"Mind getting me some tea as well?" Chris requested. "Also put some damn clothes on. This is a coed floor, after all."
Gunshots echoed throughout the shooting range as Fritz fired shot after shot from his side arm at his range targets. Upon expending the ammunition in his current magazine, the tanker set aside his Hi-Power before pushing a nearby button, allowing him to retrieve his target. He sighed at his results.
"Not bad, I guess," Fritz muttered. "I'm never going to get used to handguns though."
He sighed once more, before holstering his pistol, setting his ear protection aside, and throwing his target into a nearby trash can.
Fritz soon exited the shooting range before noticing a pair chatting next to a nearby vending machine. He recognized one as being Kemal, his roommate, while identifying the other as Maija, one of the girls Fritz met the previous day.
No sign of her roommate, however.
Slightly disappointed, Fritz walked over to the vending machine himself, causing the two already there to switch their attention to him.
"Heya Fritz!" Kemal greeted. "Up and early I see. Range practice?"
"Yeah," Fritz replied. "A little bit."
Maija, upon seeing Fritz, suddenly jumped in surprise with a scared look on her face.
"Crap!" she exclaimed. "I forgot! Chris asked for a can of iced tea!"
Fritz, who had just noticed a figure walking towards them, cracked a teasing smile before responding.
"I think it might be a little late for that…" he stated, to which the figure spoke up.
"Indeed," a slightly annoyed Chris said, causing Maija to hide behind Kemal in mock distress. "I've been waiting for ten goddamn minutes, Maija."
Maija simply replied with a nervous chuckle.
Chris sighed, before pulling out her wallet to buy a drink.
"You want anything?" she asked Fritz, who simply shook his head in return.
"No thanks," said he. "The tea downstairs tastes better."
This statement stopped Chris right then and there, just a few millimeters away from inserting her change into the vending machine.
"What do they have?" she asked, curious as to her available alternatives to canned iced tea.
"Lemon tea, various kinds of herb teas," Fritz listed. "Not that I really care, though. I'm getting a cup of Royal Milk Tea."
At this, Chris perked up her ears.
"Make that two," she said, handing Fritz a number of coins as she did so.
Getting the hint, Fritz chuckled at this action before heading down to the mess hall.
Within the confines of a sealed room, a number of high-ranking military officers gathered around a conference table. Dr. Anaheim sat near the edge, gathering his papers in preparation for his presentation. Meanwhile, an officer dressed in a white navy uniform sat beside the doctor and began preparing his own portion of the presentation.
"Right," one of the other officers said. "I believe everyone is here?"
"I believe so," another replied. "Then let us begin. Admiral Streit, Dr. Anaheim, please go ahead."
The room soon found its lights dimmed as a projector whirred to life.
"Very well then," said Streit, rising from his seat as he did so. "We will now begin our progress report on Unternehmen Fadjar."
Multiple schematics then appeared on screen, displaying what looked to be a humanoid robotic weapon.
"We have finished the refurbishment of the six Panzersoldaten recovered from the KW-01X wreck and are currently working on the refurbishment of the wreck itself. Candidates for piloting these machines have arrived at this installation yesterday, and have already been sworn to secrecy."
Streit cleared his throat before finishing.
"If all goes according to plan, the primary core of our new Panzersoldaten force will be ready within the month, while the force itself should be ready by the end of the next."
Murmurs of doubt and surprise rippled through the ranks of officers.
"I'm sure many of you are wondering," Streit said. "How training of the core components can be accomplished in such a short amount of time. To answer this question, I have brought Dr. Voss Anaheim, who is currently supervising this project."
The slide displayed on the wall changed as Dr. Anaheim stepped up to the podium.
"Thank you, Admiral," the doctor said before clearing his throat.
"Interrogation of enemy POWs and defectors revealed the existence of some sort of drug, which is administered to certain enemy pilots in order to accelerate training. The drug itself contains numerous different types of nanomachines, and they effectively program information directly into the muscle memory of these pilots. We have managed to capture a supply of these drugs, though only enough for five people.
Of course, such a drug obviously has its drawbacks. Most people tend to have some sort of allergic reaction to the drug, occasionally resulting in death, if the subject is not compatible with it. The drug itself shows no effect at all on people 23 years old or older, however. In response to this, we have developed a trial version of the drug."
The doctor held up a vial, containing a small amount of some sort of clear liquid.
"This trial serum mimics the traits of the drug without the deadly side effects, nor does it input information into the subject. It simply tests the reaction of the subject's body in the event of consumption of the actual drug. Subjects consuming this trial serum will cause it to emit a toxin which, though harmless, will cause the subject to experience a fairly horrible case of diarrhea instead. Subjects who would normally be fine upon consuming the actual drug would not experience the horrible case of diarrhea."
He then brought up a humorous cartoon of two Federation soldiers, one rushing to the bathroom and the other staring at the first soldier in confusion. This managed to bring a few smiles upon the officers watching the presentation.
"Despite our best efforts," the doctor continued. "The exact prerequisites required to make this training drug work remains unknown, though we have managed to produce an antidote to prevent uncompatible subjects from dying, albeit in small numbers. However, we are currently working on reverse engineering the drug, hopefully allowing for mass production in the future."
Dr. Anaheim then returned the floor to Admiral Streit.
"While this wonderdrug provides innumerable benefits in terms of training future Panzersoldaten pilots," Streit explained. "It would all mean nothing if the pilots have nothing to pilot. The foreign affairs office has provided us with data on the prototype Panzersoldaten of our rivals. However, these seem to resemble bipedal artillery pieces, as opposed to the armored infantry concept used by our enemies. Efforts to capture enemy machines will continue in order to further advance the capabilities of our potential units."
He sighed, before finishing his presentation.
"Gentlemen," said he. "Upon completion of this operation, our forces will possess superior capabilities over our rivals and enemies. With this, we will no longer be afraid. With this, our forces can finally go on the offensive. With this, victory, and the security of our nation, shall become ours!"
A week passed, and Chris once again found herself staring at a runway, once again observing the aircraft coming and going to and from the military installation.
She sighed, shifting her glance towards a wing of Su-34 attacker aircraft landing on the tarmac as she did so. Then Chris noticed a wing of Su-37 fighter aircraft taking off, followed by a single 747 jetliner.
Probably some important people on board that plane.
Chris's attention then returned to the plane's fighter escort, something she possessed a little bit more interest in. The sleek lines of the Sukhoi aircraft contrasted greatly from her old MiG, and she slightly envied the pilots who flew one of the more modern aircraft in the Federation's arsenal. She took a sip of the Royal Milk Tea which Fritz bought for her earlier.
Then she noticed two massive silhouettes in the distance.
Two battleships of the Federal Navy, both old enough to count as floating museums, sailed into a nearby harbor close to the base. She recognized both vessels from various history textbooks, and occasionally saw them from the air. Another pair of ships, which Chris identified as Krechyet-class aviation cruisers (Kiev-class aircraft carriers), followed the two battleships into port.
"Why the massive military buildup…?" she muttered to herself, before noticing footsteps approaching her. Chris turned around to find Maija with a guilty expression on her face.
"Crap," she said, giggling nervously as she did so. "You noticed."
"Kind of difficult to try and surprise me like that," Chris replied. "Your footsteps are way too loud."
Maija, upon taking mental notes on Chris's advice, joined her fellow pilot in observing the military buildup.
"Find anything interesting?" the girl asked, to which Chris simply shrugged.
"Depends on what you call interesting," she replied. "Both of our navy's Interdiction Assault Ships are here."
Maija blinked in surprise at this response before shifting her gaze towards the harbor.
"Both of them?" she asked, her expression slowly softening when Chris nodded.
"Yup," Chris replied. "Both of them. The Hyperion II and…"
"...The Admiral Esser," Maija finished. Her expression softened into a nostalgic smile by this time, something which Chris noticed.
Chris took another sip of tea before Maija spoke up once more.
"I wonder how Baba would think," she muttered. "Seeing how much the world has changed…"
"I don't think she would really have cared," Chris said. "All she cared about was getting that dream life of living off of pension money, at least that was my impression of her."
"You're not wrong," Maija replied. "The best part was that she actually got her pension. Earning money without working; who wouldn't want that?"
The two shared a brief laugh before Chris offered a paper cup to Maija. Only water occupied the cup, but Maija accepted the drink nonetheless.
"To the dead," said she.
"To the living," Chris replied.
"Hmm…" Fritz muttered as he examined his range target. "That's a little better…"
He sighed, before holstering his Hi-Power and tossing his target in the trash can soon after. A quick glance to his side revealed Kemal, also taking potshots at the targets down range. Kemal soon set aside his rifle upon expending all the rounds in the magazine, before switching his attention to Fritz.
"Any better?" Kemal asked, referring to Fritz's range target.
"Could have been worse," Fritz replied. "All shots on target, with no misses. That's all I really ask for from a handgun."
"Fair enough," Kemal said, before throwing his own target into the trash can. "Infantry work isn't for me, though. I prefer flying."
"Am I seriously the only tanker here or something?" Fritz wondered. "Almost everyone I met is either a pilot or infantry."
"Wonder what exactly we're doing here, though," Kemal also wondered. "It's been a goddamn week already, and we've just been locked up in this place."
"Yeah…" Fritz muttered. "They did at least tell us that it's for some sort of experimental project though. Think they're going to turn us into zombies or something?"
"Cut it out," Kemal said, though slightly amused by Fritz's comment. "Don't give the bigwigs any ideas."
Fritz simply shrugged at this.
"Still," said he. "It's a good thing that soldiers are idle."
By this time the pair exited the range and found themselves walking down the hallway outside. Fritz then heard a distinct ringing noise coming from his pocket, which he identified as originating from his cell phone. He pulled the device out of his pocket and quickly glanced at the screen.
"Seriously Chris…?" Kemal heard Fritz mutter, causing Kemal to perk up his ears in curiosity.
"What she say?" Kemal asked, to which Fritz blinked in surprise before responding.
"Oh, um…" he stuttered. "Chris invited us for tea… at Maija's suggestion."
20 Kilometers off the Northern Dreislandic Coast
Federal Navy Krechyet-class Aviation Cruiser Sultan Selim II
Sirens blared as sailors scrambled across the deck of a Federal Navy Krechyet-class, while the sailors of the surrounding Kongo-class destroyers did the same. Within the bridge of the vessel, the crew saluted the presence of their commanding officer as he entered.
"What's going on?" the Admiral asked, to whom one of the operators replied.
"We've detected a large acoustic signature nearby," said he. "No IFF response."
"The closest thing that matches this signature would be a Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine," the ship's captain explained. "Worse, there's more than one of them."
"Sir!" one of the operators interrupted. "Multiple surface contacts! It's an enemy fleet!"
The Admiral clicked his tongue in annoyance before responding.
"Shit…" he muttered. "All ships, prepare to engage the enemy!"
"XO," the captain said. "General Quarters. Let's get our planes into the air."
"Aye sir!" the executive officer exclaimed. "General Quarters! All hands to battle stations!"
On the flight deck, Fleet Air Arm Yak-141 fighters prepared for takeoff while deck crews scrambled to their positions.
Back in the bridge, the situation escalated further.
"Sonar contact!" one of the operators exclaimed. "Enemy amphibious Panzersoldaten! They're headed straight for us!"
"You may fire when ready, captain," the Admiral said. "Order the other ships to do the same."
"Aye, sir," the captain replied. "Commence anti-submarine action! All weapons free!"
"Fire ASROCs!" the XO ordered.
"Enemy surface contacts, opening fire!"
"Gunnery officer, is the AEGIS system active?"
"AEGIS system is online and active, sir."
"Multiple missiles approaching!"
"Activate CIWS. Fire Sea-Sparrows."
"Aye sir, activating CIWS!"
"Control, this is Nasr-01, ready for takeoff."
"Nasr-01, this is Control. You are cleared for launch. Good luck out there."
"Affirmative, Control. Nasr-01, launching."
"Enemy surface contacts have entered effective range of our armament."
"Missile tubes one through six, ready to fire!"
"Aye sir! Exocets firing!"
City of Mirak, North Dreisland
Joint Armed Forces Installation
Maija jumped in surprise as the air raid alarm sounded, nearly spilling her cup of tea as she did so. The hot contents nearly splattered all over Kemal, if not for Maija overcoming her surprise when she did. Chris simply looked around in confusion while Fritz dashed towards the railing nearby.
"See anything?" Chris asked, to which Fritz squinted his eyes as he looked into the distance.
"They're bringing out all of the anti-air and anti-ship vehicles," he observed. "I'm going to assume there will be an amphibious attack within the next thirty minutes or so…"
"Yeah, like the goddamn air raid alarm didn't tell us that already," Kemal stated. "C'mon guys, let's get out of here."
Kemal soon left for the air raid bunkers, with Maija following suit, while leaving Fritz and Chris behind.
"Hey," Fritz said, shaking Chris out of a brief trance as he did so. "We need to go."
"And hide without doing anything?" Chris countered, temporarily silencing Fritz as a result.
"Fine," said he. "But if we're ordered to go back to the bunkers, we go back. Got it?"
Chris paused, trying to formulate some sort of counter argument to retort with in the meantime. The thought of mentioning how both herself and Fritz bore the same rank, and thus she did not approve of him ordering her about, crossed her mind, but never came out of her mouth.
Chris sighed, before checking the condition of her sidearm. If there suddenly emerged a need for Chris's use of her sidearm, she reasoned, she might as well be dead anyway.
"Let's go," she simply said, before dashing off to the nearest elevator to the airstrip.
Fritz followed soon after, still unsure of what he could actually accomplish.
Within the command post of the base, Admiral Streit, together with his Army counterpart Field Marshal Werder, entered the central command room as the air raid siren echoed outside.
"What's going on?" Streit asked, to which an officer responded after a quick salute.
"Sir!" said he. "Picket Fleet 4 intercepted a possible enemy invasion force. They are currently engaged in combat at this time. However, there is a chance that this might be a diversion."
"A diversion, you say?" Werder asked, to which the officer nodded.
"Yes sir," said he. "The Coast Guard reported that one of their cutters might have sighted a fleet heading in this direction. They lost contact with the cutter soon after, so they assume that the ship had been sunk."
"Any idea on the strength of this fleet?" Streit asked.
"Actually, we have no idea sir," the officer said. "The Coast Guard said that they will deploy a fleet of their own to investigate, but recommended us to prepare in the event of an attack."
Hearing this, Streit pondered over his options for a moment before giving his orders.
"Tell the Coast Guard to not engage the enemy," said he. "Ask them to shadow the fleet instead. The Mirak Garrison Fleet will sortie to intercept this fleet while the remaining picket fleets will reinforce PF-4."
Hearing this, Werder gave his own set of orders.
"Order the tanks to pull out from the shoreline," said he. "Put all Exocet and Tomahawk surface batteries on high alert. Is the onshore AEGIS active?"
"Yes sir," the officer replied, to which Werder nodded.
"Good," said he. "Activate all CIWS units and have them set to semi-autonomous mode. Pull the Scuds away from any potential bombardment area as well. Everyone else is to retreat to the anti-air shelters and prepare for the imminent assault."
He then turned to Streit, who began to walk back towards the door.
"You're heading out?" Werder asked, to which Streit nodded.
"Indeed," said he. "If all goes well, you will not have a job to do."
Werder simply scoffed at this.
"I hope you're right…"
Things degraded from bad to worse aboard the Sultan Selim II, as an explosion outside rocked the bridge crew. One of the Kongo-class destroyers spat a ball of flame into the air as an enemy Harpoon Missile struck the port side of the ship.
"The Zhemchug has been hit!" one of the officers cried. "She's going down!"
"Sir, our aircraft are going down like flies!"
"What do we do, sir!?"
The Admiral remained silent, pondering his options, until another report arrived.
"Sir!" one of the operators exclaimed. "Reinforcements are heading this way!"
"What's their ETA?" the Admiral asked.
"1700 hours sir!" came the reply.
"So we have just under an hour…" the ship's captain muttered.
"Tell our reinforcements to change course," the Admiral suddenly said.
The Admiral quickly scribbled a set of coordinates onto a scrap of paper before handing it to the operator.
"Tell them to head there," said he, to which the operator gave a slightly confused nod before executing the order.
"All ships turn hard to port," the Admiral then ordered. "We're falling back. Make sure no ship falls behind!"
They then began to calmly turn to the left, followed closely behind by the destroyers, all of them sending tracers into the air to intercept enemy missiles.
"We're running low on anti-air missiles, sir."
"Get some of the men on the Stinger launchers. Now!"
"Incoming enemy Panzersoldaten! They're below us!"
"Fire ASROCs and start dropping some depth charges."
"Yes sir! ASROCs firing!"
"Sir! Enemy ships approaching gun range!"
"I have visual confirmation, sir! Distance 6400!"
"Maintain this distance! Don't let them get any closer!"
City of Mirak, North Dreisland
Joint Armed Forces Installation
Kitty Hawk-class Aircraft Carrier Mohammad Oslan
"Admiral Streit," a Naval officer said as he saluted. "Welcome aboard, sir. First Battle Squadron is ready to sortie."
"Good," the admiral replied. "Very good. Any further reports from the Coast Guard?"
"The Coast Guard's 2nd Defense Squadron has made contact with the enemy," the aforementioned officer reported. "It's a fairly substantially sized fleet, but it seems to mostly consist of transport ships."
Streit raised an eyebrow at this.
"Transports?" he wondered. "Has the Coast Guard opened fire?"
"No sir, they are shadowing the enemy as per your request."
"Good. All ships launch. We're going to put an end to this."
Slowly, the aircraft carrier began to move out of the harbor followed closely by a number of cruisers and destroyers, as the crews of other nearby vessels either waved or saluted in the direction of the Federation fleet. Suddenly, a second alarm screamed through the air, sending the soldiers and sailors on the ground scrambling for cover.
"What's going on!?" Streit exclaimed, desperately trying to grasp the situation as he did so. Then he noticed a number of contrails streaking towards the carrier's general direction.
"Incoming missiles!" an operator exclaimed. "They're fast!"
"All ahead flank! Fire Sea Sparrows!"
"They won't make it in time!"
"Use the CIWS then!"
"Sonar contact! Torpedoes in the water!"
One of the nearby cruisers to the port side of the Mohammad Oslan suddenly exploded amidst the hail of anti-aircraft fire and exploding missiles. A torpedo, launched from one of the enemy Panzersoldaten beneath the waves, struck the poor vessel below the waterline before the crew could react.
"The Kleine Iskandar has been hit! She's going down!"
"Look! The harbor's on fire!"
Upon hearing Fritz's exclamation, Chris instinctively shifted her gaze over to said harbor. Smoke rose from a number of nearby buildings, as well as from a number of sinking Federation warships. A number of distinctive silhouettes stood out against the flames, which Chris recognized as enemy Panzersoldaten. Unlike the ones she normally faced, these looked more egg-shaped and lacked anything which resembled a head. She figured it must be because of the machines' amphibious nature, but there was no time to think about that now.
Just then, a stray missile launched from one of the enemy machines struck a nearby building, sending rubble and shrapnel in all directions.
Chris instinctively tackled Fritz to avoid the hail of debris raining down upon them.
"Th-thanks…" Fritz managed. "You okay?"
Chris felt something dripping down her ankle.
"It's just a scratch," said she as the two got back up. "I'll be fine."
She took a brief look at her right ankle and, as she guessed, it was just a scratch.
Out of the corner of her eye, however, she noticed at least one of the enemy machines moving in their direction. Chris pulled out her sidearm, which drew a skeptical gaze from Fritz.
"Seriously?" said he, despite pulling out his own sidearm as well. "A 9mm handgun won't do anything against one of those things."
"Shut up," Chris replied. "I just feel better with a gun in my hand."
Fritz could not help but agree with that line of logic.
Just then the door to the building behind them opened, revealing a Federation officer wearing a white lab coat over his uniform. He took a brief look around before his eyes finally landed on Chris and Fritz, his eyes widening in horror as he did so.
"You two!" said he, causing the two to turn around in surprise. "What are you doing out here!? It's unsafe!"
The two ran up to the officer before saluting him.
"Sir," said Chris. "We wish to join in on the defense. I do not want to simply sit in a shelter without doing anything, sir."
Fritz simply nodded.
The officer simply sighed before pulling the two into the building.
"You two want to get something done?" he asked rhetorically. "Right this way."
The two followed the officer through the hallways and reached an elevator, via which the trio descended to what Chris believed to be some sort of basement.
Then the elevator arrived at its destination.
Chris and Fritz found themselves greeted by a surprising sight. The elevator doors opened up to reveal what looked to be a control room, overlooking a large hanger-like area, with engineers and mechanics scrambling across the floor below. The officer ran up to another person, this one simply wearing his lab coat over a regular suit and tie. What made Chris's eyes widen lay not in the control room, but in the hanger.
Six Panzersoldaten, of a type Chris never saw before, stood in the hanger. But, more importantly, the machines boasted Federation markings.
She knew not at the time, but one of those machines was for her.