Chapter 3 - Stuka Squadron
Upon the frozen lake, some unusual aircraft came gliding in with a *ZaZaZaZa* Sound. The number of aircraft was twelve; one squadron. They were painted in a white winter camouflage, but the strikers had been stained black with oil here and there, demonstrating their long military service.
The female vanguard unfastened her goggles and aviator's helmet, revealing her long golden hair typical of those from Northern Europe.
Her sharp eyes shone with a deep azure. Above her nose, ran a horizontal scar, giving her a strict sort of beauty.
The entire squadron were wearing strikers of a boorish design. They were an old fashioned form, clad in sturdy medieval-esque armour.
“what are they? I've never seen aircraft like those‒” Katherine muttered.
“Ju87... The Stuka.” Answered Pilot Officer Beurling, looking at the aircraft design.
“That's a Stuka?” Tomoko had also heard of that name. At one point, Fuso's army had also imported these aircraft for a trial. However because Tomoko was a fighter pilot, she wasn't involved in those trials.
It was the dive-bombing striker that Karlsland was so proud of. Diving down to drop bombs on ground units, that method of attack is what they're made for; ground attack aircraft.
Tomoko had heard that during the struggle to evacuate Karlsland, their precise bombing ability had dealt the Neuroi more than a little damage.
The Stuka equipped girls prepared some temporary tents on the bank of the lake... and after everyone had arrived at the command post, they gave a Karlsland style salute in unison. Sqn Ldr Häkkinen returned the salute.
“Flight Lieutenant Hanna U. Rudel and the rest of Karlsland Air-force's 2nd dive bombing wing, 10th squadron, reporting for duty.”
Sqn Ldr Häkkinen assessed F/L Rudel's face, and smiled. “Welcome. To think that a dive-bombing ace such as yourself would...”
“Daytime air superiority is already being stolen in Karlsland. Dive-bombing squadrons cannot fly through the sky complacently.” Rudel responded with a seemingly regretful expression.
While carrying bombs, dive-bombing squadrons were slow. If they were attacked by the enemy's melee weapons, they would be defenseless. With the continuing fierce battles in Karlsländ, and increasing losses, daytime sorties were probably becoming impossible. Therefore, with a relatively slack aerial disadvantage, it seems they were dispatched to Suomus.
With a nod, Sqn Ldr Häkkinen said; “May I introduce the members of the Suomus 3rd air battalion. They will be your shield of Aegis”
Tomoko's group formed a row so that Häkkinen could introduce them to F/L Rudel. At that moment, Beurling's shoulder shifted slightly, something that her neighbor Tomoko, did not overlook.
As if measuring their ability, Rudel looked over each member of Tomoko's group, before coming to a stop on Beurling. “Long time no see, Pilot Officer”
“It's been a while, Flying Officer” Beurling replied with a slightly stiff tone.
“It's Flight Lieutenant now, isn't it.”
“A promotion, congratulations.”
“Demonstrating that 'John Bull' mannerism here as always are you?” Rudel said in a scornful manner.
“Are you two acquainted?” inquired Sqn Ldr Häkkinen; to which Rudel nodded.
“We flew side by side in Ostmark with the air-wing for international Neuroi observation. The Neuroi invasion began at that time, we both went through hell. Isn't that right, Pilot Officer?”
Ostmark, that was the second time that the Neuroi had invaded, and the entire country had disappeared during the initial assault. Beurling had previously been fighting there.
“And the squadron you're attached to now is?”
Sqn Ldr Häkkinen, came to her rescue; “The Independent Volunteer Air Squadron.”
“The misfits? It's well suited for you, Pilot Officer”
Tomoko responded to that remark; “With all due respect, Flight Lieutenant; We are by no means misfits. We have leveraged the distinctive skills of each and every member, to become an unparalleled team.”
“Unparalleled? With each and every scrapped Striker unit implemented; a foreign legion? And then, in what sense are those 'skills' you mentioned distinctive? In the case of Beurling there, running off for the sake of her own personal shoot down count, completely forgetting about her allies' defense, so is that what you'd call a distinctive skill?”
Tomoko recalled that Beurling had once been competing with her rival's personal shoot down count. Consequently, Beurling had lost that rival, which had brought about her now pessimistic outlook...
“What the hell do you think you're saying!” Tomoko demanded as she approached Rudel. Tomoko might well have had the impetus to seize Rudel by her lapels, but Beurling intervened.
“She's a Superior officer! Compose yourself.”
“It's not easy to keep silent when she's looking down upon a comrade.”
Rudel waited to see what would happen, then gave a smile. “Is this oriental fit to be in the mechanized air infantry?”
Being looked down upon herself this time, the prideful Tomoko became infuriated. But when she went to draw her sword, the entire squadron pounced upon Tomoko to stop her.
“For you to be angered to this extent, maintaining the composure required for escort duty is probably impossible.” F/L Rudel turned to face Sqn Ldr Häkkinen.
“Sqn Ldr Häkkinen ma'am, please remove her group from escort duty”
“However, with only the 1st squadron it would likely compromise the escort.”
“Allies with a disorganized pace, are a threat other than that of the enemy. We learnt that much from the defeat of Ostmark.” With this, F/L Rudel ended the negotiation by walking off.
As she left she muttered at Beurling; “No hard feelings, Pilot Officer. I just don't want to add any more scars to my face you see.”
“She hasn't even seen our way of fighting, so what's with that attitude!” The squadron had returned to their living quarters with an enraged Tomoko. Seeing her like that, Haruka let out a sigh.
~Aah, my dear Pilot Officer Tomoko, getting angry to that extent for the sake of Pilot Officer Beurling. ~aaahh, I knew it, there's no mistaking it, Pilot Officer Tomoko is...
Haruka recalled her morning consultation with Flying Officer Elma Leivonen.
Somehow or other it seems that Pilot Officer Tomoko and Pilot Officer Beurling are becoming intimate, it's so frustrating. How can I also become Pilot Officer Tomoko's emotional support, like Pilot Officer Beurling has?
Thus, she had consulted Elma.
The ever earnest F/O Elma had seriously thought about it, and suggested to Haruka; “If that's the case, becoming like Pilot Officer Beurling would be fine wouldn't it?”
Air-headedly, Haruka had been thinking along the exact same lines, and pounded a knee with her fist.
Now is my chance to try it out...
Tomoko had been flaming for quite a while.
That damn fool Flight Lieutenant Rudel, just you come and see how powerful we are, we'll show you, after all if you don't have air supremacy your just a potato who can't do anything at all; and in spite of that she still speaks in that horrible manner.
Pilot Officer Tomoko will be returned to her senses with a few pessimistic, sarcastic, but clear words. My unexpected coolness, surely Pilot Officer Tomoko will love it from the bottom of her heart... Haruka chuckled.
Walking determinedly to Tomoko, Haruka then listlessly brushed aside her hair. “Phew.”
However, Tomoko completely didn't notice her. So she continued by nestling up to Tomoko; “Come now, compose yourself” She murmured.
With a casual glance, she carefully regarded Tomoko; nihilistic abandon would do no good here. Haruka firmly endured, she took out the bourbon prepared for a time like this. “A drink! To calm your mind. Heh.”
Tomoko confiscated the bourbon immediately, and forced it to Haruka's mouth.
“Ya know, you're really irritating.”
“Puhaa~!” With that, Haruka dropped to the floor. Not being used to alcohol, her mind was spinning.
“Pilot officer Tomoko... that's cruel... even though I adore you...”
Tomoko's eyes widened at that remark. “Hey, Haruka?”
“ye... yes... *hic. ~uugh.”
“Now, we both know what a mortifying sentiment that is right? You understand don't you? Nevertheless, you're a member of the independent volunteer air squadron right? My wingman, right? Good grief, why is this kind of floundering girl my wingman...”
At Tomoko's remark, Haruka felt like she had been struck by a hammer. With a trembling voice, Haruka continued. “I, I just, want to comfort Pilot Officer Tomoko somehow, I just thought that...”
“I don't need things like comfort. What I need is an excellent wingman!”
“When you're feeling depressed, I'll comfort your heart as well as doing an amazing job as your wingman!” Haruka waited with tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Say that kind of thing, when you can at least hit the enemy fair and square.”
Haruka's heart broke with a *Pikin!* sound. Eyes full to the brim with tears; uwa~n! and ran crying from the communal room.
“That was a little too harsh don't you think?” Katherine chided, but Tomoko shook her head.
“That kid, she's always worried and caring, but lacks a sense of seriousness. Sometimes it's for her own good.”
After that, Tomoko prompted Beurling to come out to the corridor with her.
“Hey, about what she said back there... is it true?”
Beurling shifted her gaze like she was looking at a distant place, and nodded. “In the middle of an escort mission... I chased an enemy aircraft too far; another enemy formation took that opportunity to attack the bombing squadron, and the operation failed. At that time, the bombing squadron's commanding officer was Flight Lieutenant Rudel.”
“You're not like that now though are you? After all, you don't compete with anyone's personal shoot down count anymore.”
“Tomorrow, my flying restriction will be corrected. Escort duty will be sorted out, and by carrying it out perfectly, we won't allow that flight lieutenant to outwit us.”
“But, like I keep telling you; our strikers aren't up to guarding against the Laros-kai.”
“I have a plan.”
“Right, in my country, we have a saying for this kind of situation. 『肉を切らせて骨を断つ』 or in Britannian; 'Allow your flesh to be cut, so that you can sever their bone'.”
Next day, the bombing raid against the town of Slussen was promptly planned out.
F/L Rudel would lead the 10th Stuka squadron, to strike the ground force occupying Slussen using 125kg bombs.
Flight Lieutenant Ahonen would lead the 1st squadron serving as their escort... that was all well and good, but what to do with the independent volunteer air squadron had been a problem.
“huh~ are we also going on a bombing mission?” asked F/O Elma; seeing the lined up bombs.
“But since we have the Stuka squadron, why would we need to go so far as bombing~” Katherine continued.
“Even dropping a small amount of iron-bombs is invaluable.” Sqn Ldr Häkkinen said in a thoroughly composed tone.
“But, our ability to carry bombs is really limited, right~ Flying like that with even a small bomb makes us unsteady, when we're like that it seems we just become a good target for the enemy~"
Katherine kept on, yet Sqn Ldr Häkkinen wouldn't change her opinion on the matter. Having been silent up until then, Ursula sighed and muttered; “We are that target. Point is we're a decoy.”
F/O Elma, who would normally submit to orders meekly, now snarled at Sqn Ldr Häkkinen. “Tha! That's awful!”
“With Your equipment, you can't oppose the enemy's new model. I don't see a benefit in putting you on escort duty, if that were the case I would have put you on the escort.
“So even with escort duty, you don't expect us to do well~”
“Our objective is not the shooting down of enemy aircraft. It's the destruction of the enemy ground forces, and is absolutely essential. If there's even a small possibility, we must take it.” Sqn Ldr Häkkinen stated plainly.
The members of the independent volunteer squadron still opposing Häkkinen were interrupted by Tomoko. “Understood. We'll deliver the bombs.”
“But, grant us one condition.”
“In a situation where carrying the bombs further is judged as too dangerous, we have permission to discard them.”
For a short while, Sqn Ldr Häkkinen and Tomoko glared at each other... eventually Sqn Ldr Häkkinen gave in. “Understood. In that situation permission to discard the bombs is approved.”
“It's very much appreciated.”
Meeting Tomoko's stare, Sqn Ldr Häkkinen let out a sigh.
“At any rate, I'm not going to change my methods, is that understood? Because I too, don't want to enforce a flying restriction on what precious little mobile air infantry we have.”
Like that the dispute ended, but as the time to prepare for the sortie arrived, Haruka was no where in sight.
“Honestly; that kid, where has she gotten to?”
Struggling with an awkward bomb held under her arm, Sqn Ldr Häkkinen looked out over the airfield, behind her was the quiet, light grey, type-12 experimental carrier fighter.
“Haruka'''! '''Sortie!” Tomoko yelled as if, Haruka would dash over with her head hung in shame.
“What is she doing! ''Get over here right now!”
Thereupon, a Messersharf equipped F/L Ahonen briskly came walking as Haruka's representative.
“Miss Haruka, has now joined my squadron.”
“Wh! Wha! What was that!”
Tomoko stared in disbelief as F/L Ahonen declared; “You, apparently said to miss Haruka thus; 'my wingman is inadequate' did you not?”
“I did say that, or rather I should say that it was simply for the sake of motivation.”
“Silence. That sort of cold-hearted leader can't be entrusted with a lovely nymph like Haruka. Therefore I will be taking care of her. Got it?” F/L Ahonen brushed her hair aside, she put her arm around Haruka's shoulder and left to return to her troops. Haruka hesitated for a moment, looking awkward; her eyes met Tomoko's.
Tomoko's shaking shoulders betrayed her feelings of bitterness... she suddenly pointed at Haruka's back and yelled. “Suit yourself!”
At that the members of the independent volunteer squadron came running to Tomoko side.
“What do you mean 'suit yourself', she has to be your wingman, you're worried about this right~!”
“Tha, That's right! Isn't Haruka our comrade?”
Katherine and F/O Elma shook Tomoko by the shoulders, Tomoko declared with a twitching temple; “Those lot are more reliable aren't they! That's fine. I don't need a kid like that!”
Even so... Katherine and the others exchanged looks, until Tomoko scolded them. “Oy hurry up! Pick up the bombs! Sortie!”
On that day, January 15th, at 10am; twelve members of the 10th Stuka squadron, nine members of the 1st squadron, and the independent volunteer air squadron's five members, soared into the heavens. In total, there were 26 aircraft.
Here in Suomus, a large formation flew for the first time.
“Wow, with so many gathered it's quite the spectacle isn't it~”
F/L Rudel cut into Katherine's musings. “These numbers are nothing to be surprised at. This is actually a very carefree battlefield.”
“Is Karlsland's situation really that bad?” Tomoko enquired.
“Yes, eastern Karlsland is already in the enemy's hands. If only the newspaper could write nothing but good things everyday.”
Tomoko's close friend Pilot Officer Katou Takeko weighed on her mind. Until a fortnight ago when Tomoko had received the letter, they had not been in contact... But she's doing fine though isn't she?
However, now was not the time to be worrying about her friend. First the battlefield before her eyes would need to be dealt with. The idea came to Tomoko last night, while turning it over in her head.
Would it work? No, I'll make it work.
Biting her bottom lip, Tomoko steadied her breathing. However, her pounding heart wouldn't settle down. If it went badly? As that kind of thought began to seize her mind, Tomoko embraced the bomb with her right arm, with her free left hand tightly grasping the hilt of her military issue sword.
Out in front, the figures of the 1st squadron escort could be seen. Below and to the rear, F/L Rudel led the 10th Stuka squadron who were assembled in a very solid, close-flying formation that was worthy of praise.
The vanguard of the Independent volunteer air squadron's formation was F/O Elma, who was paired with Ursula in a two-aircraft arrangement called a Rotte. Below and to the rear of them was Tomoko, who flew mid-way between, Beurling on her left, and Katherine on the right. Because Haruka was not there, they had formed a three-aircraft formation called a Kette.
“Anxious?” Beurling called out from beside her.
Tomoko smiled and gave her a thumb up. Timidness cannot be displayed to a comrade here.
The formation advanced at an altitude of 5000 meters, maintaining Vigilance against surprise attacks while flying beneath the clouds.
After about thirty more minutes in flight... The vanguard of the 1st squadron flying out in front, began to bank left and right. It was F/L Ahonen. At the same time, her voice came through on the wireless radio.
“Enemy aircraft spotted! From here on out, take offensive positions.”
Tensions suddenly shot up within the formation. The small dots now visible in the distance, numbered as many as twenty; as numerous as they were the other day. As the distance steadily decreased, the black dots took on the appearance of the Laros-kai.
1st squadron began climbing as usual to avoid a direct confrontation.
Now. Tomoko switched radio frequencies. “Fuso-one, taking the lead!”
“It', it's dangerous! Pilot Officer Tomoko!”
With that, and without responding, Tomoko's magic engine erupted as she shot off towards the airspace 1st squadron had been occupying until now. Reluctantly, Katherine and Beurling also followed on to flank her.
The Laros-kai formation, without paying the slightest attention to 1st squadron, came straight towards the bomb-carrying group led by Tomoko.
“Flying Officer Elma! Even though it's presumptuous of me, I'm taking command! All aircraft follow my lead!”
“R, Roger!” Completely clueless, F/O Elma nodded at Tomoko's assertion. I have no idea what to do when it comes to this kind of thing. I have no choice but to entrust Tomoko with tactical command.
“Flying officer, dive down gradually!”
The independent volunteer squadron and the Laros-kai formation of 20 aircraft passed by one another... in an instant, Tomoko had dived. The rest of the squadron followed on, unstably beginning to dive while holding their bombs.
A perfect target.
The Laros-kai formation climbed and circled around. Then like wolfs targeting abandoned fawns, they came rushing in.
“Tsh! They're coming at us all at once! Kyaa! Kyaaaaaa!” Katherine and F/O Elma's shrieked, but this situation was precisely what Tomoko had been aiming for.
“It's fine! Hold on until we escape to low-altitude! Without breaking formation!”
Tomoko's group dropped their altitude in one go, until they were practically skimming across the surface. Right behind, the Laros-kai formation pressed them onwards. Unsteadily roaming about at low altitude embracing bombs; Tomoko's group, were an ideal target. The range was immediately reduced, and they received a volley of enemy fire.
“Tomoko!''" Isn't this our, total destruction~!”
The Laros-kai had fallen for the feint and approached to 300 meters, Tomoko's group planned to lure them in with their distress. Tracer bullets grazed past, and the group caved in to panic, while still clutching their explosive charges.
Any time now.
Tomoko judged their altitude by eye. Approximately 50 meters. The fuse's safety position was not in operation, just barely enough altitude. Glancing behind, Tomoko gauged her timing with the enemy formation.
To get a better line of sight on Tomoko's group, the Laros-kai formation lowered their altitude even
more for a moment... Tomoko shouted.“Squadron! Drop the bombs!”
With that order, everyone released the bombs they held. Five blasts scourged the earth as the fuses detonated.
Snow, soil, rocks, and dismembered tree limbs were thrown up in the blast.
Having approached from behind, several of the leading enemy aircraft were engulfed in that blast, and became nothing more than shrapnel themselves. Shrouded in the remnants of the explosion, some of the enemy craft crashed the ground, and some into one another.
Within the white snow-cloud, the number of Laros-kai had decreased by half.
In an instant, Tomoko was giving her commands to the squadron. “Elma and Ursula bank right! Katherine! Beurling! Bank left! Follow my lead!”
Tomoko's body had become comparatively light after abandoning the bomb, and she now banked left as hard as she could.
Because of the bomb-blasted snow cloud, the Laros-kai momentarily lost sight of Tomoko's lot who were scattering left and right. In that moment, the fates of the two groups were dealt. Amongst the Snow-cloud debris, Tomoko and her comrades circled round and took the Laros-kai's tail.
With that roar, Tomoko unsheathed her sword; the Hizen Osafune. Using all the resentment and anger she had built up until now, she would strike the remaining Laros-kai down, and prevent them from proceeding.
At low altitudes, escaping into a nose-dive would be impossible. The Laros-kai would probably try to raise their speed to escape, however at low altitude, the light and agile mechanized air infantry had an advantage in acceleration.
In no time at all Tomoko was dogging an enemy aircraft, and cut off it's wing. She then nimbly adjusted for her next cut, and severed the Laros-kai's fat body in two. Beurling also unsheathed her gurkha knife, piercing an enemy's engine, and left it spewing out smoke.
Katherine drew her revolver from her waist, and hit into a Laros-kai with .45 caliber shots.
F/O Elma and Ursula also made one Laros-kai resemble Swiss cheese, using 9mm pistols from point blank range.
Close range combat at very low altitude... what Tomoko had been aiming for, was precisely this. Firstly, make use of the bombs and confuse the enemy, thereafter destroy them via side-arms. If it were very close range, even without primary weapons like a machine gun they would somehow succeed, Tomoko had conceptualized as such, and had now moved on to implementation.
From above 1st squadron came rushing in to provide support, at roughly the same time as the last Laros-kai met it's destruction.
“Tomoko! Your strategy was a total success!” Katherine screamed as she clung to Tomoko.
“It worked out really well huuh.” Beurling's voice was also slightly more lively than usual.
Tomoko sheathed the Hizen Osafune with flushed cheeks. A Hot sigh met icy air, and stained it white.
How was that?
Did they see it?
Even using an old model striker, one can oppose the Neuroi with ingenuity.
Staring at the Stuka formation still visible at high altitude, Tomoko muttered. “The rest is in your hands. Flight Lieutenant Rudel.”
Having observed the dogfight that just unfolded under her eyes, the corners of F/L Rudel's lips expressed the hint of a smile.
“Adelheid. That oriental, she's not half bad.” Rudel said to her adjutant, who had a beauty similar to that of a frozen rose.
“It's not so surprising. On the Karlsland war front, the Fuso Empire's heroic soldiers are not earning inferior military achievements compared with us Karlsland Luftwaffe pilots. Lieutenant Takeko Katou, Lieutenant Mio Sakamoto... ”
“I know that. I'm not in the habit of judging ability based on skin color.”
“Well then, why?” Adelheid turned towards her superior officer with a doubtful expression.
Why then earlier, was she provoking that Anabuki pilot officer with the 'oriental' designation? And so she enquired as such.
“I wanted to know her boiling point. The most important thing for the mobile air infantry, above all else, is the ability to make calm judgments. My conduct was simply to ascertain whether or not she is possessed-of that. I was worried because her boiling point seems somewhat low, but she pulled off something interesting here.”
“Did she pass?”
“For the time being, and yet; next time I wonder. A clever scheme won't work twice, because tactics are the accumulation of regular practice. Using an old model striker will result in failure sooner or later. Now then, I wonder if she's capable of realizing that.”
The clouds opened up, and the Town of Slussen came into view ahead of them. From an altitude of 3000 meters, it became apparent that the town was in the process of being transformed.
The buildings were coming to pieces as if they were dissolving, from here and there dusky fumes were rising up. A grotesque enemy; the Neuroi were emitting their miasma. They would dissolve the town, and harvesting the metals, humans were not able to live near an area that was being changed.
Those uninhabited towns were draped in a deathly silence.
Seeing the town of Slussen like that, F/L Rudel let out a a sigh. In her homeland, she had constantly seen such spectacles. Unless swiftly recaptured, Slussen too would eventually become completely uninhabitable by humans, just like a countless number of towns in the Neuroi occupied Karlsland where the assimilation had been completed.
“In any case, that oriental did her job magnificently, as was expected. Now then, shall we go do ours?”
“All right Stuka squadron, follow on.”
F/L Rudel maintained squadrons 'V' shape formation, and entered Slussen's airspace at high altitude.
Anti-aircraft fire shot up from the Neuroi battlements stationed in the town, but the Stuka squadron's formation was not thrown into disarray. They had considerable training.
With the detection of their target, the Stuka witches commenced their bombing run starting at the back of their 'V' shaped formation.
Targeting the enemy ground unit, the bomb embracing witches rolled over in flight and began a sharp nose-dive. Their movements resembled that of a Kingfisher diving down towards it's underwater quarry.
Plummeting to an altitude of 100 meters, their bombs were released. The bombs trajectory did not waver, explosions resounded, and the armour shaped humanoid Neuroi were blown away.
Stuka squadron inflicted a brutally composed raid, with each bomb Neuroi ground units were torn apart. F/L Rudel was the last to conduct her bombing run, scoring a direct hit on the huge multi-legged Neuroi tank. The tank was blown apart, smoke and fragments rained down all over the place.
Stuka squadron escaped out of the range of the anti-aircraft guns, and once again assembled into a solid formation.
“Humanoid Neuroi, numbering fifteen, and five multi-legged tanks destroyed. Suitable results.” The outcome of the assault was quickly consolidated and reported by Rudel's adjutant Pilot Officer Adelheid; however F/L Rudel's expression was cloudy.
“Look. Adelheid.” F/L Rudel pointed at the as still writhing enemy ground units in Slussen.
“Based on the data we received from Sqn Ldr Häkkinen, the Slussen enemy units were supposed to be roughly one squadron of humanoid Neuroi, and several multi legged tanks.”
“If that had been the case, our combat achievements this time would be suitable. However...”
It didn't seem like the enemy units in Slussen had decreased at all.
“Ultimately, those lot are multiplying. It's just like Karlsland.”
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