Strike Witches:Afrika Chapter1
It's so hot that I won't stop sweating, even if I just stood around quietly. And if I move around, I'll only start sweating more.
Not only that, the sand around my feet is like a burning hell under the blazing sun. I feel like an egg in a frying pan, sunny-side-up.
This is Tobruk, a strategically important city in Africa. Ever since the time of the Roman Empire, it has been an influential colony in Cyrenaica, and a central meeting point for caravans. Even now, there is a fortress, the largest port in Cyrenaica, and even an airbase, so it is where the Afrikakorps of the Allied Human Forces has been stationed.
Although the city is situated 3000 km from the opening of the Mediterranean Sea at Gibraltar, the city is still easily supplied by the Principality of Venezia from the Isle of Crete not far from the coast. Because the Neuroi try to stay as far away from the shore as possible, it's relatively safe to resupply the forces stationed in Africa so long as a proper route is chosen.
However, the foremost defensive line against the Neuroi at Halfaya Pass is a mere 140 km away. A distance that a land battle type Neuroi, or even worse, an aerial type Neuroi, could cover in but a moment's time.
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The Neuroi appeared out of nowhere in 1939, when they began a serious invasion against humanity. Their first troops came flying from near the Black Sea, emerging from the Neuroi hives floating in the air.
The European countries held out for as long as they could, but Ostmark, directly in the line of the invasion, was the first to fall. In winter of the same year, the invasion of Suomus in Northern Europe began, and by 1940, the entirety of the Karlsländer forces were fighting grueling defensive battles along the former border of Ostmark.
Against the overwhelming power of the Neuroi invasion, the Karlsländer forces faced defeat after defeat, and in June, Berlin fell to the Neuroi. The dogged determination of the Witches in holding back the Neuroi advance allowed the evacuation of the populace and the imperial family to the industrial capital of Neu Karlsland in South Liberion to be carried out with some success. However, with the defeat of the strongest military force in Europe, the neighboring country of Gallia was like a candle before the wind.
Meanwhile, the Neuroi which headed south from the Black Sea arrived in Egypt in September 1940. The Britannian forces, fearing the loss of their communications network to India, shored up their defenses, but with their main focus on the defense of Gallia, the Britannian forces were severely undermanned.
Unsurprisingly, Egypt soon fell to the invaders.
Some of the Karlsländer forces aiding in the retreat from Europe headed to the support of Britannia at their request and fell back to the south, crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Cyrenaica. At the same time, the Principality of Romagna dispatched military support as well, and the Allied Army known as the Afrikakorps was established.
On the seas, the main forces were provided by the Royal Navy of the Principality of Romagna and the Britannian Navy, with logistical support from far-off Liberion and Neu Karlsland on the New World. Even with additional manpower and supplies, humanity was barely able to force a deadlock on the situation. This was due in large part to the shortage of Witches. Most Britannian Witches, in particular Air Infantry, were reserved for the defense of the main Britannian Isles; only some Armored Ground Infantry were dispatched to Northern Africa.
Romagna and Venezia had their main forces in the Alps, where their combined forces were tasked to block off the Neuroi's advance to the south no matter what. The Fuso Empire also had most of its forces sent to aid Orussia in the Ural Mountains, but with the sudden appearance of a new wave of Neuroi in Siberia, they were fully engaged and could hardly maneuver. Only the European Expeditionary Fleet sent during the early stages of the Great War, and the Imperial Army Air Service European Expeditionary Force, were free to act in Europe. Karlsland was the only country which could send Air Infantry to the European mainland. However, they paid dearly for that ability, as the price was their own homeland.
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Before I came here, I had heard news of a witch who was building up a brilliant service record in Africa. As a war correspondent, I had decided to publish her story for the rest of the world to know, so I had taken the long journey from the Fuso Empire here to Africa.
Departing from the port at Yokosuka, it was a month and a half long voyage to Britannia. Along the way, our ship ran headlong into a raging storm just past the Cape of Good Hope, during which I would not have been surprised at all if the ship had sunk any second. It would have been so much easier if the Suez Canal could still be used. Going that way, I could have shortened the trip by half a month.
When I arrived in Britannia, I tried to wait for another ship to Africa, but was told that I would have to wait another half a month.
With little other choice, I decided not to waste any time in Britannia, and found bits and pieces of all sorts of rumors. I even heard tales of the plans to assemble elite witches from countries around the world under a joint command. Well, I doubt it would be so easy. Every nation has their own opinions and plans, and it will most likely take some time for the various leaders and commanders to come to terms.
Of course, I had heard that a volunteer force assembled from several countries was currently active in Suomus.
Perhaps those rumors were pointing to an organization similar to that, hmm?
While I was collecting information, I was able to meet Witches from my own country, from both the Imperial Army and Imperial Navy.
On the Imperial Army side, I ran into Chuu-i Suwa Masuzu of Independent Air Squadron 47. I found that she had been deployed to Europe, and was also testing a prototype Striker unit, the Ki-60. The magic engine in the Ki-60 is the DB601A, an engine widely used in Karlsland. This may certainly be the most suitable engine to use in Europe.
She had a demeanor so gentle she couldn't be identified as a soldier, a tender personality, and a delicate way of speaking. She talked to me happily about her two sisters, both of whom were witches as well. After using my trusty Leica II camera to take a photograph of her, she asked if I could send a copy to her sisters, but I would not be going back to Fuso for some time yet. I did make sure to let her know that I had no idea when they would receive the photographs though.
Next, the Navy Witch I met was stationed with the near legendary Reval Air Group, Chuu-i Sakamoto Mio. She was participating in the development of the Navy's mainstay Striker, the Type Zero Carrier Fighter, when war broke out; the ace who scrambled in a prototype model to intercept the Neuroi.
She told me about how she was still fighting at Reval, while also helping with the development of new Strikers, which is why she would regularly bring her testing data to the research labs in Britannia. Since she was busy, we did not have much of a conversation, but her cheerful laugh left a powerful impression on me. She was a pleasant witch with a refreshingly frank personality, and a very caring attitude. I would have welcomed the chance to speak with her at length.
Not long after I gathered all of this information, a ship that I could board to Africa had finished preparations to depart. However, it was a ship so old, I couldn't help wondering if it would really be able to bring us all the way to Africa.
As if in answer to my thoughts, the ship made port at Gibraltar for repairs. I took the opportunity to make my own inquiries into my destination, and bought the equipment I would need in the deserts of Africa. It would be too late to get everything I needed when I arrived.
Facing the heat and the blazing sun, and violent sand storms that could change the surroundings in an instant, I had to do everything I could to ensure that my skin was not exposed.
I purchased a scarf used by the nomads there, and some military issue goggles, which covered me up nicely. Wrapped up like that, a person wouldn't be able to tell if I were a man or a woman from my appearance, though I suppose that might be best for me.
Even so, sand and dust could still manage to slip in from all over the place, and I expected to be swimming in sand soon enough. Honestly, it was one of the worst places to be.
My ship arrived at last, and covered in my gear, I was finally standing at the port in Tobruk. As for the ship, by the time it arrived, it was almost ready for the scrap heap. Unbelievable.
I had come all the way to Africa from the Fuso Empire for one purpose: to meet the legendary witch, the 'Star of Africa'.
She was an accomplished Witch serving here in Africa, who shone as bright as a star, or no, even the Sun. Oberleutnant Hanna-Justina Marseille. Commonly known by her callsign, 'Gelben 14', she was the staffelkapitän for 3 Staffel, Jagdgeschweder 27, of the Karlsländer Luftwaffe.
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