City Series:Volume6c Prologue
Panzerpolis Berlin 3 1942
For some reason, I am once more seeing the nightmares that plagued me back when I was arrested in ’37.
This is different from the “anxiety” nightmares the doctors talk about in the newspapers.
I dream of saying goodbye to someone I care deeply about.
In ’37, I thought that person might be my father.
But…but it seems I was wrong.
This is someone else that I care so much about.
Almost like they’re another me. No, it’s like there are several other people out there and the nightmares are telling me about them.
“No matter how much he tried to reject the joys of this life, he knew the joy of creation.”
-Paul Bekker, on the Beethoven revival
Prologue: The Requiem Prepares
04/28/1942 01:13 – 05:24
A great power has been set in motion.
With a reason to fight.
To achieve something.
Air Force Structure
By 1942 during World War Two, most country’s air forces were divided into two broad categories: aircraft and aerial ships.
Aircraft were maneuverable, cheap, and could be dispatched over a wider area, so they were primarily used on battlefields requiring rapid arrival or group deployment or on individual recon missions or light transportation missions. They lacked any decisive firepower and they suffered on the durability front due to their small size and detailed design. Their engines were easily burnt out and destroyed when using overdrive.
On other hand, aerial ships had thick armor, excellent stability, and powerful attacks, so they were primarily used for patrolling a set airspace, long-term defense, defending aircraft squadrons, and invasions of enemy airspace. An air corps’ central company would be mostly composed of destroyer-class aerial warships tasked with surviving to the end on the battle. Because aerial ships could remain airborne for so much longer than aircraft, many operations only sent in aerial ships when attacking an enemy force, leading to a troubling increase in lost aerial ships.
That problem was resolved through the mid-war development of aerial aircraft carriers and aircraft radiators, so toward the end of the war, aerial ships were used as airborne fortresses with aircraft in formation around them.
The pale clouds spread out like a flat ocean below and the moon was visible dead ahead.
The sky was a dark blue and nothing obstructed it above the clouds bathed in the moonlight.
Several giant shapes were moving south above that sea of clouds.
Each of them was a ship approximately 100 yards long and a river of bombers and spy planes followed along a few miles away.
This was one of the Allies’ Experimental Aerial Divisions, commonly known as the Moonlight Resistant Aerial Division.
The UK had begun experimenting with these ships in 1941 and they now used them nightly to bomb German-controlled regions or the German mainland.
They could only do light damage with only around 100 ships and aircraft, but the repeated bombings worked to lower enemy morale.
The flagship flying in the lead of the Moonlight Resistant Aerial Division was a light aerial cruiser with the markings of the Royal Air Force on the side. The lights on the bridge sent signals to the four other ships and the many bombers following it.
“Any sign of hostiles?”
That question sounded in an unusually quiet bridge.
The 8-yard room was lit only by the moonlight and the instruments. It was enclosed by blast-resistant windows on three sides and the liaison officer, helmsman, communications officer, and the other dozen or so members of the bridge crew had turned from their instruments to view the captain’s chair in the back.
The skinny, gray-haired commander in that chair wore a flight suit instead of an RAF uniform. The same was true of the entire bridge crew looking his way.
The commander lightly rapped the side table next to his seat.
“It’s downright creepy. We entered their homeland and sent down our escort craft, but they still haven’t responded. An aerial division of 5 ships and a bombing unit has passed above their Dutch air defense line and is approaching Cologne in the German mainland.”
The elderly first officer seated next to him nodded and replied.
“For about a year, not one of the moonlight resistant ships or spy planes we sent to Cologne on recon or bombing missions has returned. That is why our entire division was sent in to forcibly reconnoiter while prepared to tear apart the very terrain with our bombs if need be.”
The first officer hesitated a moment before looking around.
When his gaze reached them, everyone on the bridge quickly looked back to their instruments.
“Do not let your guard down, everyone,” said the commander. “We have no idea what we will encounter out here.”
They all nodded and the usual bustle of activity returned to the bridge.
The first officer paused to listen to the high altitude wind and then spoke quietly.
“Have you heard the stories of the Lorelei, a type of Siren that causes shipwrecks, Captain?”
“I thought that was a bunch of bunk. Didn’t some poets just rewrite the legend of the witch Lore Lay?”
“The aerial division that went missing a month ago apparently sent back a final communique that only said ‘the dragon’s song’. The dragon and the lion are symbols of the Geheimnis Agency, that top secret organization that we have yet to find solid evidence of.” The first officer faced forward. “But according to information from the IAF who everyone’s been talking about lately, the Geheimnis Agency has constructed a giant aerial warship equipped with a Babel Cannon in the Cologne region. It’s meant to be a solid defense positioned at the entrance to their homeland.”
“I saw the photo they sent. And I snorted in laughter, assuming the generals were pulling my leg. I mean, an aerial ship more than half a mile long is absurd. Same with a ship carrying a giant cannon on its back. Do you really think something like that can fly? Just turning – no, just ascending would tear the ship apart with its own inertial weight.”
“Besides, a ship that big could never shoot down aircraft as fast as our spy planes. All they have are grounded tanks, outdated fighters they’ve rushed upgrades for, and those Heavy Barrels that are entirely useless in modern warfare.”
“Yes, I know. You want to know why no one has returned from the Cologne region, right?”
“I do. Cologne is the western entrance to Germany, so I know they will have fortified their defensive line there, but still.”
“We are here to solve that very mystery. Because we boast the best speeds of all the experimental divisions.”
The commander leaned back in his seat and looked out head.
The bridge was beginning to heat up as the previous silence faded away. Everyone was working hard to command the engine room and to coordinate with the other ships and the bombing unit. People were moving and speaking across the dark bridge.
But past them and out the window, the sea of clouds was entirely still.
Just as the commander stared at the clouds flowing by below, an operator spoke up.
“Report! Reading detected down below at a point 20 miles from Cologne!”
The commander turned toward the operator, eyebrows raised.
“How many ships!?”
“No, um…these appear to be smaller crafts…moving fast. There are three…no, four! Moving very fast!”
“They must be hostile!” barked the commander. “We wouldn’t encounter friendlies here!”
The operator operated the radar and the projector on the floor projected the radar display on the gray ceiling. The circular display covered a 3 yard radius on the ceiling and a single dot of light was approaching from the front of the display. They were both flying toward each other, so it was rapidly closing on the center of the display.
“They must be small indeed,” said the first officer. “Their readings are almost entirely overlapped. Are they a new kind of patrol craft?”
“Too fast for that. Formations of four is standard practice for them, but what do they hope to accomplish with just four fighter craft?”
A few seconds passed and the commander made a decision.
“We should assume a threat. All ships, form a single column. Use the radar to track their distance. At a range of 5 miles, ships 1, 2, and 3 will fire secondary cannons and pseudo dragon cannons once they have a lock. At a range of 2 miles, ships 1, 2, and 3 will launch exterior homing rounds. If they break through that, all ships may fire at will until the hostiles have withdrawn or been shot down. Hurry.”
He sent the transmission.
The dot on the radar display approached.
After the span of a heartbeat, a quiet alarm began to sound from the controls in front of the operator. The weapons officer took over the radio and ordered the gunners to fire.
The secondary cannons and pseudo dragon cannons installed on the bottom of the ship opened fire.
The cannons roared.
The lines of fire tore shallowly through the clouds as they traveled diagonally down.
After precisely 3 seconds, they used the radar to monitor the enemy’s movements and fired a second volley.
The third volley was fired after a manual adjustment to the enemy’s predicted location after the first and second volleys.
Once, twice, and thrice, beams of light stretched out, blew away the clouds, and then swung a bit to expand the attack range.
Similar whiplike bands of light flew from the port and starboard of the next two ships behind theirs.
Light shined on the radar display on the bridge ceiling. Their radar could also detect ether readings, so the paths of the pseudo dragon cannons were displayed as pale flashes. The long bands of destructive light vanished after only a few seconds.
“The hostile reading…has been eliminated.”
The operator’s report was supported by the lack of light on the ceiling display.
Sighs of relief were breathed across the bridge.
But that relief was short lived.
The commander first sensed a noise.
The bridge protected by thick, high-altitude glass groaned like it had been hit by a great mass of metal.
An impact caused the entire bridge – no, the entire 30-thousand-ton-displacement flagship – to shake vertically.
The entire bridge crew managed to maintain their posts throughout the shaking, but their expressions had changed.
They were worried. And the change in the view outside the window did not help matters.
To the right and the left, the clouds had been split all the way to the horizon, almost like that crashing noise had caused it. This formed two valleys kicking up white waves.
Something had passed right by the flagship at dizzying speed.
The mist formed by the torn clouds blocked the view ahead of the still-shaking bridge.
“What was that?” The commander clenched his teeth when he found the answer. “That was supersonic acceleration! We have hostiles nearby. They were waiting for us to fire so they could fly in, hiding behind our pseudo dragon cannons! The hostiles are not after our bomber unit!”
“Tell all ships to stay close together and keep up an exterior barrage!” shouted the first officer. “Hurry!”
But it was too late. Low metallic sounds reached them through the bridge’s rear wall.
Something was firing repeatedly, their shots tearing apart the high-altitude wind loudly enough to be heard inside the bridge.
“Is that the hostiles?”
The commander looked back to see something in the night sky visible outside of the bridge’s port side window.
He saw a blue Heavy Barrel. The six wings on its back meant its Over Emblem was fully activated, allowing it to match the high-speed ship’s velocity. It used both arms to hold and fire an autocannon longer than it was tall.
The moonlight glinted off the empty cartridges scattering through the sky. It was likely firing 88mm steel bullets. Those high-speed bullets packed a punch and could even destroy armor panels on impact.
The recoil caused the Barrel to shake violently, but it used its wings to fly a helix pattern that allowed the force to safely escape.
Once done firing, the blue Heavy Barrel gave the weapon a swing.
The barrel detached and fell toward the clouds.
It pulled a new barrel from the hips of its combat dress while dull sounds rumbled from behind the bridge. It was the heavy noise of something pushing at the air. The tremor sounded like a crashing waterfall and it would not stop.
The commander knew what this was. The ship behind them was sinking after taking all that gunfire. As it tilted, its air resistance increased and the pushing of the air grew louder. The deep rumble was gradually growing more distant behind them.
The flagship and the rest began to return fire. They fired homing rounds and pseudo dragon cannons at the blue Heavy Barrel.
But something stopped them.
While the blue Heavy Barrel leisurely attached the new autocannon barrel, a red Heavy Barrel with a massive shield cut in between using Over Emblem wings.
The homing rounds and pseudo dragon cannon blasts crashed into the red one’s shield.
“Did we shoot it down?”
They had not.
The shield glowed bright red with heat, but it remained intact. White smoke erupted from the bottom of the shield and it regained its original metallic coloration.
Should they fire a second volley or not?
While the commander hesitated, a light appeared outside the starboard window. It was a dark red light flickering with heat.
He turned toward it.
The second ship that had been positioned diagonally back and to starboard had overtaken them while spewing flames for some reason.
The top of the high-altitude destroyer was now perfectly flat, like it had been shaved down with a woodworking plane. Black smoke and flames erupted from the torn and smashed areas as it overtook the flagship.
The commander saw a large white figure standing atop its deck.
It was a giant male Heavy Barrel with six wings.
It carried no projectile weapons and instead carried a single sword. Unlike the red and blue ones flying to port, this one had not even activated its Over Emblem.
The wordless scream inside the bridge was questioning the events playing out before their eyes.
It wanted to know if this was actually real.
The answer was right there. The flagship and the other ships fired from their starboard sides, as if attempting to further destroy the sinking second ship. The repeated roaring of artillery fire was directed at the white Heavy Barrel standing atop the second ship.
It could never avoid the incoming barrage. No Heavy Barrel could fly without an Over Emblem, nor could it defend an attack like this without a shield. And yet…
<The Emperor follows the path of the conqueror.>
The white Heavy Barrel suddenly slid across the deck. It broke through the explosive flames and twirled its body to slip between the incoming bullets. Its legs remained motionless as it soared through the air.
It moved slowly but spun quickly to avoid the entire barrage. And…
It produced a single note.
The commander saw its sword emit bright light.
That was followed by the deep sound of splitting air. The white slash had sliced the second ship in two. As the ship sank into the clouds, the white Heavy Barrel flapped its wings to fly up into the sky.
“What?” the commander muttered as he watched. “Is this what they meant by the lions gathering below the dragon?” he asked his first officer.
He was answered in a different way. He heard some Words. Just like the ones uttered by the white Heavy Barrel, these Words rang in his head whether he wanted them to or not.
And these used a girl’s voice.
<The Requiem rings out on the bells.>
It was a calm voice of suppressed emotion.
The commander shouted on reflex, fastening his seatbelt as he did.
“Evasive action! Ships 4 and 5, bomber unit, ascend! Ascend until you reach maximum moonlight resistance altitude!”
The ship shook as it tried to take an ascending course.
But light suddenly filled the bridge. This was not a flare or a dragon cannon. It was a blinding ocean of light that erased all shadows, like light had exploded right in front of them. It was a powerful attack.
Before the commander could question it, something slammed into the bottom of the ship.
Those on the bridge who had not fastened their seatbelts were launched from their seats, crashing into the walls, floor, or ceiling. The screams of shattering glass and of people shook the air, but the powerful inertial shaking did not stop.
The ultra-massive ship’s rear lifted up and it very nearly flipped forward. The light vanished and the forward-tilted bridge shook as its structural components cried out in protest. All the lights had gone out and the instruments ceased functioning.
“Do they really have a Babel Cannon!?”
The ship slid forward as it attempted to reorient itself.
The captain saw something there as his vision straightened out.
The flat expanse of cloud was entirely gone.
The sky had cleared up, but the ship was shaking and the wind was pounding hard on the bridge’s windows.
The light from a few moments ago had blasted away the clouds.
The commander turned to the side to ask his first officer what the light had been.
But the man was missing. The first officer had been thrown from his seat and onto the floor in the middle of the bridge. His neck was bent at an unnatural angle.
Only the few who had fastened their seatbelts remained at their posts. The dozen or so others were sprawled out on the floor, by the windows, or on the control panels. Some were groaning in pain and a faint iron scent filled the bridge.
One young man, the navigator, turned back, so the commander looked him in the eye.
“What about the others? What happened to the other ships?”
The commander stood up before receiving a response. The higher viewpoint let him assess how well his bridge was operating. The controls and all other electronics weren’t running. Only the analog gauges still had their needles moving.
“6mph? We’re only being swept along by the wind.”
He walked across the bridge and undid the seatbelts of the other survivors.
Once he had released the 5th and final one, the navigator gave his response.
“The others are…gone. There is no sign of Ships 4 and 5 or the bombers.”
“I see.” The commander nodded and stood up after undoing the communication officer’s seatbelt. “Are you still alive? You were sent to us by the AIF, weren’t you?”
“Then I have one final job for you. Return to HQ and tell them the following: My division arrived in the enemy mainland and confirmed the presence of an enemy force in our assigned recon region. Ships 2 and 3 were lost in an attack by three Heavy Barrels. And…” he sighed. “Ships 4 and 5 and our entire bomber unit were lost to a Babel Cannon. …This confirms the existence of an enemy Babel Cannon equipped ship and we can never enter the German mainland from the west without first eliminating it.”
The survivors gulped, but he continued nonetheless.
“Hurry. If the rear deck is still intact, you can launch an escape boat.”
A single set of footsteps started awkward and hesitant, but it gradually picked up speed and left the bridge.
The commander remained motionless, eyes shut, until the footsteps had faded away entirely.
“Okay,” he said, facing forward once more.
Four things floated about a mile away in the now-cloudless sky.
They were Heavy Barrels. Three were the white, red, and blue ones from before. The fourth was a new one. It was colored silver and had six wings spread on its back.
“I’ve heard of that one. The Geheimnis Agency’s supreme commander is supposed to Write Bring into a gaudy silver Heavy Barrel despite having no emotions.”
“Report: the escape boat has left the rear deck.”
“I see,” said the commander in relief. But then the Heavy Barrels ascended to fly above the ship and pursue the escape boat behind them. The commander snorted with laughter.
“You’re that terrified of being found out? Chief Engineer, manually restart the engines! Move us forward. If that escape boat can’t get away, this was all for nothing. Draw the enemy’s attention!”
His voice passed through the communicator to reach the engine room.
Before long, the ship restarted just as the four Heavy Barrels were passing by overhead, leaving behind white trails.
The ship shook and moved forward.
The commander held the wheel himself and faced forward.
“All hands, don your life jackets and keep your eyes peeled. We will soon see the true identity of our enemy.”
No one responded, but none of them were about to disobey.
The ship picked up speed. The inertia erasure emblems were not functioning, so the weight of acceleration bore down on them all. They could really feel the ship’s speed.
“Report: the four Barrels…are not stopping!”
The Heavy Barrels ignored the warship as it accelerated toward their mainland.
“Are they that terrified of a report getting out? Or…”
Did they have something else ready to intercept this ship? Were the Barrels not needed for that?
They heard the same girl’s voice as before.
But it was different this time. Instead of just speaking the Words, the voice had a rhythm to it.
<The Requiem march traverses the sky.>
<The Requiem song traverses the woods.>
<The Requiem tune traverses time.>
There were specks of light on the horizon. City lights.
Light raced by above the city. Flashes of lightning. They illuminated a massive shape.
The shape began to approach.
“Is that a ship!?”
No. From moment to moment, the enormous shape accelerated further and altered its form. The thing approaching so rapidly was not a ship made of metal.
It was a great beast with a long body glowing a bluish white.
It was a dragon.
The girl’s voice continued.
<We travel together.>
<We sing together.>
The great dragon charged toward them as if sliding through the air.
It was big. Not even the aerial cruiser’s size was comparable. The bluish-white glowing dragon’s face already filled the bridge’s front window, so they could see its eyes and its fangs.
<I walk the path of shared silence.>
<You walk the path of separated silence.>
“A ship that size can use an Armed Emblem!?” shouted the captain as he listened to the song.
That was the last thing he ever said.
The faint purple tint to the eastern sky told of the approaching dawn.
A dragon-like shape floated above the vast expanse of clouds.
The great shape was painted pitch black and it was formed from eight smaller shapes. Each one of those smaller shapes was a massive aerial ship measuring 300 yards long and 50 yards wide.
From front to back, there were three ships, two ships, and three ships lined up. They were all linked together by layer after layer of thick metal frames.
A long tube was almost sloppily attached atop the ships, running back to front.
That was a Babel Kanone.
Its barrel had a diameter of at least 10 yards and a length of more than half a mile.
The eight ships supporting it in the sky were a lot like a crouching dragon.
The eight ships combined to form the Gard-class Babel Kanone equipped Requiem.
The #1 front central ship had been destroyed by the AIF in ’39 and another year had been necessary to reconstruct it, but it had not received a scratch ever since it parted ways with the earth.
A girl stood on the deck of the #2 front aircraft carrier.
She was a pale girl with long, soft hair blowing in the wind. She wore a decorated dress, but there was something odd about her.
She was faintly transparent.
That unstably transparent girl stared up into the western sky.
There was nothing visible there, but she had a somewhat sulky look on her face. After a while, her face lit up with pure joy.
“Bigger brother! And Alfred too!”
Four points of light were visible far to the west. At that distance, it would take 20 minutes to arrive even by aircraft.
But she smiled and released an Erklärung.
<The Requiem march welcomes you home.>
At the same time, the Requiem began to move.
The girl spread her arms on the deck and turned left toward the west.
The Requiem followed her action with a turn that was much too fast for such a massive structure.
The ship groaned from the inertia and the Babel Kanone strained. The sturdiness of the metal materials was nearly irrelevant when it came to the relationship between great weight and powerful inertia.
Too much inertia would cause it to break apart.
The straining and groaning of metal reverberated through the sky. But…
<The Requiem song will not be disturbed.>
The girl murmured those words and twisted her body ticklishly.
The #7 and #8 ships’ frames began to transform as they strained at the back of the port and starboard sides. The metal transformation emblems activated as ether flowed into them. The frames that supported the ships tightened to distribute the inertial force.
Wind blew from the rear and side engines, accelerating the turn.
To negate the remaining inertia, frames across the Requiem were bound together or spread apart and the exterior armor for the Babel Kanone bent enough to lift up somewhat. The inertial negation emblems across the ship glowed as they entered overdrive.
The girl slowly, slowly swung her arms around. The entire process took only 12 minutes.
The girl smiled and looked to her hands.
“I’m getting the hang of it now.”
“You really are,” said a woman’s voice behind her.
The girl smiled and did not bother looking back.
“You think so too, Lillie? I’m just so talented, aren’t I?”
“Yes, I cannot imagine a more suitable home for Graham and the others.”
The voice walked up alongside the girl. It belonged to a woman of later middle age with her frayed black hair tied back. She wore the blue coat of the Geheimnis Agency Navy Division over a blue dress, but she still had to hold her shoulders against the chilly wind.
The woman, Lillie, let out a white puff of laughter as she looked up into the western sky.
The four Grösse Panzers had approached enough to make out the shape of their limbs.
“Germany should be safe with you and Graham protecting us from here.”
“Yes. And since you feel so safe, how about you attend that wedding in the Borderson village I mentioned before? They sent you and Alfred invitations, didn’t they? They haven’t held a wedding in three years and it is only an hour by car from Cologne, so why not leave things here to us?”
“I haven’t been to Borderson since my sister died.”
“Ever since the village lost their leader, they have been hoping for a visit from a Neue Kavalier with a connection to Borderson. With Borderson gone, so many of the northwest’s Neue Kavalier have left our Geheimnis Agency.”
“Which is why Graham and you are protecting Cologne to show the local Neue Kavaliers the importance of the Agency, yes?”
“Correct you are. Maybe we could have gotten a prophecy if Frobel was still alive.”
Rose’s words cast a shadow over Lillie’s face.
“Do those prophecies come true, though? What about the one given to you and Graham?”
“You mean Lowenzahn’s prophecy, don’t you? The ones not from the Unreif Germane that she gave to individuals.”
Rose seemed to be contemplating her own words as she looked straight up.
Lillie moved behind her and wrapped her arms around the short girl’s shoulders.
Lillie’s arms passed right through Rose’s body and she felt nothing.
But Lillie still spoke.
“Why must our commander – Lady Frobel…no, all of the Naylors – force that sort of destiny onto all of you?”
“They have not forced it onto us. I made a promise with Frobel more than 20 years ago and Lowenzahn asked a few years back, so I responded. This is what my bigger brother and I wanted. It’s the same for you, isn’t it? This is the destiny we must fulfill, without letting Der Held, Kaiser, or the others know.”
Rose placed her hands on Lillie’s right hand as the woman pretended to hold her shoulders. Her hands sank into Lillie’s hand, but she shut her eyes.
“My body is gone and I have become the circuitry at the core of this ship. This ship is me now, so I can appear anywhere on it. The real me is no more.”
“But that also means I can stay with the rest of you. I can spend more time with my bigger brother, my big brother, and Alfred.”
“But isn’t that the Requiem our commander prophesied?”
“I will not lament. My bigger brother and I are working on the issue. We don’t know what exactly will happen to us, so we think maybe we can find a solution.” Rose opened her eyes. “We think anyone can turn the Nibelung in a positive direction.”
She saw the four Grösse Panzers arrive overhead.
They whipped up a wind that swept across the deck.
Rose removed her hands from Lillie’s hand and raised them to greet the men.
“Hey, Lillie, what do you think of my bigger brother?”
“When the head of the Telmetz family died, wasn’t he the one who rescued you, left your sister in Borderson, and paid for your schooling? Are you the same person you were back then?”
Lillie looked up and Rose continued.
“I hope you are. Unlike for the rest of you, the events of 20 years ago feel so recent to me. It’s all so vivid and I barely have to work to remember it. But…”
“I think that’s just how these things work. How I feel about Alfred, how you feel, and my brothers’ quarrels must be such trivial matters to the world as a whole, but…but I’m sure someone will remember it all just like I do.”
Rose looked away from Lillie to watch the Grösse Panzers begin to descend.
Lillie hummed a song.
The party begins and the village dances / The dragon roars and the knights gather
The bride weeps uncrowned / Her words go unsaid and he never arrives
Thus she is alone / She weeps and sleeps in this land
“The Unreif Germane’s 6th Section of the Ending God. That is the current prophecy,” said Rose. “Lowenzahn said it refers to the capture of the Messiah. She also said the time had finally come for the prophet to remain in this land.”
Rose stretched her hand high overhead.
The Kaiser had landed nearly within arm’s reach and it nodded toward her.
She responded with a smile.
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