Blood of Hegemon.

Part 1. Worries of the Hegemon.

Her eyebrows twitch slightly and, with a soft exhale, Lieutenant Einhart Stratos woke up from her slumber. Quickly adjusting to the dim light that surrounded her, green-haired mage glanced around.

The sight before her eyes remained mostly the same – infantry bay of the massive aircraft were filled with the males and females in the Battle Suits who either slept, chattered quietly among each other, or using the processing power or their equipment to play the game or even watch the TV; in short - spending their time before their arrival at the base N-23. Thorough, of course, the gambling was still under the strict ban and every offender caught red handed would receive a very harsh punishment.

Privately, Einhart mused about how lenient it was of their commanding officer to let the soldiers such breach of the protocol. But veteran officer stated that soldiers deserve the small relief before the next bloody battle. Said commander - Major Signum Takamachi-Scrya, who sat in her seat at the opposite side of the bay – currently used her Battle Suit's abilities for much more practical affair. She studied the outline and surrounding area of the installation, where her 265th company was sent.

Even though Assault Panzer Infantry Company number 256 was created less than year ago, pink haired swordswoman already proved herself as a very capable commander in more than dozen combat operations. Though, considering how many novices were among the members of the company it was weird that said unit was so often sent into the battle (along with 257th, 304th and 310th companies), even if said new soldiers have an amazing abilities but Einhart knew full well how dire the situation was on the few planets. End General of Blazing Fire managed to lead her company toward the victories in each battle with minimal casualties.

Of course, when their enemies would grasp the full abilities of TSAB Battle Suits and starts to use their new "weaponry" better the body count would starts to grow quickly.

Einhart winced at such cowardly and defeatist thoughts, berating herself for this moment of weakness. The problem was that the last reports from the various battlefields and her own recent experience backed her own forlorn thoughts.

The last ambush could cost their company and that under control of her another mentor (and, again, her older sister figure) could suffered a much more grievous casualties if not for pure luck that lead a newly assembled armored battalion to their timely rescue.

Maiden with mismatched eyes forced herself to push those dangerous ideas away, concentrating on her surroundings. To be honest there wasn't too many interesting things – a gray-colored well-lit by a row of a light fixtures rectangular chamber, large enough to make sure that company of Panzer Infantry didn't have the feeling that they are fishes in a can. A standard military infantry premise, with only one difference – the size. The infantry bay of the Stromstrider class VTOL aircraft was specially designed to transport the Battle Suit's users from battlefield to battlefield, thus each seat could accommodate two adults who didn't wear sophisticated armed-to-teeth power armor.

Of course, for the people who meet them the first time face-to-face the freshly created mainstay of the Bureau Battle Suit forces would be a sight to behold (Einhart herself spent few weeks gasping and admiring those machines when she was allowed to use them), but descendant of the Shutra Hegemony saw the Zenis-class Battle Suits too often to see them different from, for example, the cars that zipped across the numerous cities of TSAB-controlled space.

To be honest, as alumna of academy admitted to herself, partly her current attitude toward Zenis Battle Suit lied in its design. Once her awe fade away, she just couldn't help but think that creation of Bureau Engineering Corps looks like walking refrigerator. In her mind, user of hegemon-style knew that cubic shape was adopted to make manufacturing, maintaining re-tooling jobs easier, but it didn't not made 3-meters tall humanoid frame more pleasant to eye. And if it wasn't enough, for the sake of making said frame sturdier, designers leave Zenis without neck – angular head with huge mono eye in the center of face plate was attached to a connecting ring and could spun due to installed hinges.

To add insult into injury – at least, from POV of the proud aerial mages – Zenises, for high-speed maneuvers and movements used not their legs (continuous stress on the frame on such magnitude would wear the part of equipment too quickly), but rather landgrinders - four sets of jagged metallic wheels installed in Battle Suit's backpack and in each leg. To put it simpler: when Zenis wanted to quickly moved from point A to point B he had to fall on his back and then zipped forward on the speed of 80 kmh, even in the rugged terrain. While such measures were understandable and good on paper (especially, considering that in this mode Battle Suit was rather hard target) in reality, the sights of massive metallic humanoids rolling around on the backs looked rather silly.

The downright disgusted expressions her precious honorable sisters tend to made from time to time when they used Bureau's new Battle Suits' ground mode were pretty comical. Though Einhart would never laugh at Nanoha, Vita or Signum… partly because she didn't want to get week-long assignment at the patrol duty on the borders of the large pig-breeding complex on planet Firantha.

Thanks Ancient Belkan Gods – due to her very high synchronization rate, Einhart get the right to use the Tanator – ancient Battle Suit that could be found only in the millennia old storage facilities of the Al'Hazardian Empire.

Unlike Zenis, Tanator had much more humanlike appearance, including having two eyes shaped cameras in the head and having distinct neck. Massive array of thrusters in addition to gravity-nullification engines let Einhart enjoy the speed and mobility that no Zenis can even hope to achieve (no to say, she didn't have to use silly ground mode to swiftly move across the battlefield). But most important was the fact that Tanator's Energy Core had ninefold superiority in energy output over the Zenis.

Major-General Yagami privately confessed to Einhart that both lovely ladies of the Takamachi-Scrya household pouted few days straight after they both learned in a hard way just HOW much outclassed their Battle Suits by the sheer raw might of the Tanators during the war games. Einhart, on her part, was on the same time proud and very embarrassed, proud by her success over her victory and embarrassment over the fact that said victory mostly was achieved due to superiority of her Battle Suit.

To be fair, Colonel Yuuno Scrya-Takamachi tried to warn his friends and wives that sending 3 Tanator-class Battle Suits against Zenises would be tantamount of sending 3 Aces against platoon of green novices. Ace of Aces protested, stating that said "novices" had much grated experience and major-general (together with majors Vita and Signum) agreed with her and this Einhart Stratos, Fuuka Reverton and Sieglinde Jeremiah (girls 1st, 2nd and 3nd synchronization rate among their division) in their Hazardian Battle Suits were sent against full company led by Nanoha Takamachi-Scrya and Signum Takamachi-Scrya.

Let's just say that in the aftermath of a disa… battle Yuuno Scrya-Takamachi's opinion proved to be correct. As a bonus, Bureau engineers and strategists learned that in addition to all of Tanator's overwhelming capabilities, ancient Battle Suit was also almost impervious to a direct attack magic. As Mariel calculated: only Arc-an-Ciel class attack could destroy ancient power armor (though magical attack of the Eclipse infected or Eraser-class attacks also could have an effect).

Before the Eclipse Incident such revelation could shake entire foundation of Bureau. But now this knowledge was meet with great joy, since this mean that Panzer Infantry would be even a greater asset against rogue infected mages. And most dangerous enemies of TSAB soldiers didn't rely on magic as a main way of attack anyway.

Taking her lose to the heart (and bleeding pride) General of Blazing Fire and her team of engineers worked like possessed on the upgrades and improvement of the Zenis after such disastrous display of difference in power, while her spouse were prevented from sending herself and her pupils (not that those pupils wasn't guilty themselves) into hospital due to overwork only by direst order from Major-General Hayate Yagami. Said Major-General, with the help of Mariel Ztenza and Shari Finieno managed to get additional funds for the Bureau's Battle Suits program (to be fair, top brass of Bureau were more than cooperative, they even give few very good suggestions).

Privately, everyone agreed that higher-up were most pleased with the work of the archaeologist team under the command of Yuuno Scrya –Takamachi, who discovered another few storage facilities of the Al'hazard era and bring with them a lot of new Battle Suits.

Unfortunately, many of those suits still were under research and the few machines that reached the frontlines went to the people with highest synchronization rate (among the people scion of Hegemon's bloodline it was her, Fuuka, Sieglinde, Victoria and, much to everyone's surprise, Yumina Encleive). And Einhart knew that older sisters were salty about that… oh SO very much. The barely noticeable envious gazes Major Takamchi-Scrya send from her seat, right over her screen toward Einhart, Fuuka and Sieglinde was a good evidence of that.

Fuuka Reverton currently slept, using the side of her massive Repulsor Shield as a impromptu pillow, drooling right on the steel-gray surface of the another piece of Al'Hazardian technological marvel. This large defensive equipment followed Einhart's pupil since the first day when she get the right to use Tanator. The ancient technology, feeing on the it's user's mana reserves could generate the powerful force field that could protect both her and her comrades nearby even against the rail guns of the Gadget Drones.

Ability to protect both your own Battle Suit and your comrades from the attack strong enough to punch through the hull of the spaceship with ease, and which whom no magical barrier could stop, was the gift of heaven. Mariel and her team, cooperated with powerful CHOAM corporation to reverse engineer and start producing TSAB's own defensive system – though Bureau shields were called Deflector Shields. Needles to say, while being good enough, Deflectors couldn't hold a candle to Repulsor.

Shielders were the vanguard of the every Panzer Infantry Company – their foremost defense from the deadly barrage that could tear apart even most powerful mages in the heartbeat. But while every other units were forced to give such important role to Zenis Battle Suits their Shielders were led by steadfast and powerful Tanator.

In addition to all his defensive proves, Repulsor was equipped with offensive weaponry – plasma houses. Again, using Fuuka's magical energy, ancient machinery could produce powerful streams of high-temperature plasma. The problem was that: a) Those attacks siphon a lot of energy from suit's user and b) when owner used shield systems for the attack, he/she was also forced to deactivate protecting field.

No matter how many times they went into the battle together, Einhart always gasped in fear and anxiety when aquamarine-colored wall of light, created by the shield, flares brightly, when first wave of attack struck Fuuka's defense. Would ancient equipment work properly, or will it betray them in the direst moment of need?! Despite the toughness and sturdiness of Tanator's frame, girl with mismatched eyes didn't dare to think what could happen to brown-haired fighter body if her Battle Suit would get hit with a metal rod that move at speed two times greater than speed of sound.

Einhart and Vivio one month ago even talk bitterly how much it's horrible it felt them to doubt their friends and comrades abilities to fight and push their ways through their victory, but nor they, not their other friends from the DSAA times couldn't do anything about this. They all learn the danger of overconfidence in a VERY hard way – the advent of the Eclipse nightmare taught the young then athletes about the fragility of their peace. Team Nakajima, just as former members of Riot Force 6 learn that many of them also very mortal.

Now Enhart Stratos wholeheartedly considered the agonizing memories of Claus Ingvalt not as a curse, but rather a grave warning to his descendants. Green-haired Tanator-user mused bitterly about how she pretty much gives in to her obsessive desire to grow stronger and stronger in the wake of the tragedy, albeit in more productive and less self-destructive form (as she hoped). Only the sight of crying, crushed by despair Vivio and Nanoha Takamachis, crying into each other shoulders that she engraved in her memories, reminded her that she have a frie… NO, a family!... here, and she can't cross a lines.

However, she wasn't the only one who dared to go near the borders of dangerous over work. Right now, Sieglinde Jeremiah, who sat right on the opposite side of bay from her, studied carefully the data on three screens that hovered near her face. She did that on the ship during their trip on this planet, she worked on them when they was on the main Bureau base on Thigrana, and she studied them even now – almost two hours, once Stormstrider gain the altitude.

Sieglinde, who currently sat without her helmet, exposing her head, used protected mode and thus no one but her could see what exactly she work on without her mental permission, but her friend knew very well what ensnared her mind. The scion of famous clan worked on the tuning and reverse engineering of the Energy Converters of their Tanator Battle suits.

As Major Signum told her, this technology allowed to cheat with law of energy conversation. When their armor were hit with potentially dangerous force, the magical system would immediately transform kinetic energy of the impact into the thermal energy and release it in a gout of fire from the special exhaust emitter on the back side of their shoulders.

The problem was that this system could absorb only limited amount of hits before overheating and forcing its user before the threat of shutdown. However, her superiors and friends agreed that it is better than nothing. Once battle became too fierce and/or chaotic, the Shielders just couldn't be everywhere to protect their comrades from all devastating blows of the rail guns.

Giving her friend a small reassuring nod, as Sieglinde sensed Einhart's gaze and raised her eyes to meet her, descendant of the Hegemon summoned a screen of her own and begin to study the tactic of the Battle Suit fight (even though she helped a lot to develop it from the scratch) again.

The remaining road passed unnoticed, as teenage soldier was too busy by her panning to notice. She was dragged into the affairs of the real word by the voice of the air vehicle's commander.

"Attention to all personnel! ETA on the place of arrival in 10 minutes! I repeat: ETA on the place of arrival in 10 minutes! All personnel, prepare for disembark."

Nodding to the unseen announcer in confirmation, Einhart leaved her data and stretched her body, feeling how the muscles respond to her movement. The chatter around her escalated as her fellow company members adjusted themselves in their seat and vocally enjoying the end of the boring ride. Sieglinde also deactivated her screens and exchanged broad smiles with Kaiser Arts user, mentally saying that she happy to feel the ground under her feet soon. Both descendants of famous Belkan clans giggled afterward, looking at drowsy Fuuka who tried to quickly regain her wits and currently looked like very big adorable puppy.

«Attention!» Signum Takamachi-Scrya's voice reverberate through the air, momentarily blocking all other sounds, even the hum of engines. What was impressive that she didn't shout or anything like that, her voice was powerful enough to demand the attention of all present soldiers.

"As we all already knew: or mission is to provide the assistance to the garrison of the test ground facility that belong the CHOAM Corporation!" Pink haired major made a small pause and let her subordinates to reply with synchronized "Yes, ma'am."

"As many of your can suspect from our emergency redeploy from Mid-Childa to Thigrana this mission treat to be pretty dangerous." Blue eyed swordswoman flashed a small bitter smile before adding. "Not that this pattern didn't grew to be sickeningly common, right?"

Only few veterans managed to reply with mirthless laughter – everyone suffered a rather nasty resurface of the painful memories. Sieglinde, hissed in pain, Fuuka whimpered and blinked out a few tears and Einhart gritted her teeth. Even this miserable attempt to make a joke shows the sheer weight of pain and guilt that tortured and changed the general of Blazing Fire. As mahe with heterochromia know from miss Nanoha. In the past this stern warrior would give them instruction with firm and no-nonsense attitude.

"Anyway." Pinkette made a mental command and a huge screen with a panoramic view on their point of destination appeared before the crowd. The base itself was built in a small valley inside the mountain plateau on the border of spacious plain. Einhart inwardly give her regards toward the planners of CHOAM – a natural barrier from the outside attacks surrounded this place and the plain itself provide a lot of space for the test runs of the various machines.

Massive attacks were possible only from the plain and no one would believe, that base wasn't filled with numerous gun emplacements and powerful ordnance that would care of the attacker. Same she could say about the three roads among the mountains that lead to the N-23 – invaders would be forced to move through the kilometers of narrow roads, while fire (magical and no) would rain on him. This place indeed was a formidable fortress that protects a expensive secrets of one of the most powerful corporations that still was loyal (at least her older friends believed so) to TSAB.

The fact that they still were summoned to reinforced the garrison told her a lot how dangerous the situation here. The CHOAM went so far that they installed a powerful jammer field that would prevent any teleportation attempt within 100 kilometer radius from base impossible. This was one of reasons why their company was forced to fly all the way here on the VTOL.

But as CHOAM's bigwig promised – if the situation would became too dire, the base commander was ordered to deactivate Jammers and thus let the 257th company, led by major Nanoha Takamachi-Scrya to immediately jump here and provide the support.

Still, everyone was antsy – Rogue Corporations' forces were infuriatingly good in finding the openings in the TSAB's defense and unleashing devastating attacks.

"The full roster of the local forces, unfortunately, would be available to e only after the briefing with base commander." Veteran mage was clearly displeased with CHOAM's paranoid security measures (even if she herself could see a merit in this), as they didn't let her prepare the full plan beforehand, but there was nothing she could do. "But as I was told – currently one of CHOAM's board of directors' members reside on the base, thus we can expect a presence of a large and well-equipped and trained forces gathered to protect a… VIP".

Well, that was both good and bad news: good – as swordswoman said, corporation would bring their most powerful units to protect their bigwigs, which mean, their company would fight alongside with very serious firepower. Bad – a person who would use it as a powerful advantage, in the attempts to syphon more funds from Bureau, would quickly notice every mistake they could commit.

"This is it for now! Once the plane lands, proceed to move out in the standard formation and wait until our hosts would show us our place to stay. Dismissed!" Another loud chorus erupted and every man and woman in the bay prepares for the landing. Pinkette nodded and, after a moment of musing, added with more gentler voice and a warm smile. "Let's make sure to come back from this mission alive and well, my dear subordinates." This time the united respond of the members of 256th company was so loud and held so much passion that entire bay rumbled.

Entire frame of the Stormstrider shook, when the landing gears rams into the rocky surface, halting its movements. Roar of the engines starts to quickly fade away and soon the ramp at the end of a bay moved, opening the patch for them. Releasing the restrains on their Battle Suits, platoon by platoon, their company begin the disembark.

The first one to leave the Stormstrider were Shielders – two platoons of 3 units in each. Then 3 combat platoons, followed by fire support platoon and then their commander- Major Signum Takamachi-Scrya – followed by Einhart and Sieglinde leaved the bay of a massive flying vehicle. Their numbers were equal to the platoon of infantry, but in terms of battle strength, company of the Panzer Infantry would put entire division from the times of pre-Eclipse to shame.

To meet them CHOAM sent a no less impressive force: before the 256th stood, 4 massive battle automatons (or how corporations, both rogue and loyal ones, preferred to call them - combatjacks). Tall humanoid figures, standing on the very edge of impromptu landing pad, ten meters away from their formation towered even over already tall Battle Suits and each of them have enough firepower to rival entire fire support platoon of Panzer Infantry.

Those machines know no fear or mercy, and you would need an impressive amount of firepower to bring down even one of them, due to their thick armor and absence of the vulnerable human component. But each of them also cost a LOT and required a skilled mage, who honed his skills in mana manipulation to control those beasts.

If memories didn't betray heiress of the extinct Shutra Hegemony, those machines were called Galgors. Privately, Einhart admitted: those machines looked intimidating. Right hand of those combatjacks under the elbow were replaced with a cannons that looked like they were dismantled from battle tanks. The sharpness of the clawed left arm leaved no place for imagination about its ripping abilities and array of cannons in its chest looked like their creator needed a compensation for its own shortcomings.

Two steps before the metallic humanoids, staring at them with professional curiosity, stood a tall bearded man, who also wore the Battle Suit. But unlike TSAB personnel, as Einhart noticed with a small shock (and everyone else in their company, sans Fuuka and Sieglinde, with a growing (un)professional envy), he was enjoying the might of the main frontal Battle Suit of Al'Hazardian empire (as they learned from lections of Colonel Yuuno Scrya-Takamachi) – Lansarth.

Power Core of Lansarth have only one third of the Tanator's energy output… which meant they still were 3 times more powerful than TSAB's mainstay machines. Still unmatched technology from the ancient times, give Lansarth all available advantages over Zenis, even though both of them were grunt Battle Sits. To put it simple: everything you could say when compared Tanator to Zenis, you could say about Lansarth, just decrease the gap between the Suits and add that Tanator are superior to both of them.

Of course, since he was created by Al'Hazardians, Lansarth also could simply hover over the obstacles in their way and hade more humanlike appearance than scion of refrigerator, Zenis.

Ash-gray color of his hairs showed this man age and his stern burgundy-colored eyes told Einhart that this person poses a great wisdom and experience. His nose clearly was broken few times in the past and his massive lips were willed with cracks. This man clearly spent a lot of time outside the cabinet, summarized young lieutenant, feeling some sort of appreciation already.

Another non-artificial being that came to meet them just couldn't be more different from its companion. First, it was a young woman (in early twenties), with a soft and smooth skin, whose lovely face could easily rope her the work of in idol, especially with her bright ultramarine eyes and lovely mane of a brown hairs (though, EInhart could state that Fuuka have no less beautiful hairs).

Second, she wore the very expensive dark-green dress, which covered her entire legs and almost hide red suede half boots and a platinum pendant with winged eye – CHOAM logo – engraved in its center, embraced her long neck. As young woman continues to observe the company of Bureau's Panzer Infantryman, she tapped the surface of the extravagant bracelet of purple color.

And the last, she sat in a comfortable, highly sophisticated wheelchair, betraying her fragile state to an entire world. Still, she had a very broad smile on her lips, touched by a lipstick and looked like a spectator on a parade.

Seems that they already meet said VIP who presence imposes an additional obligation on their company. And she was the one who spoke first in this meeting.

"Greetings, our dear comrades from Bureau." Greeted them director from the CHOAM, clasping her hands together over her (rather impressive chest) with a polite smile of salesman, Einhart unwontedly caught herself musing about how long their host trained it. "On the behalf of Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles I, Helen Reiz greet you on our installation."

Einhart barely suppressed a gasp, but the sheer shock that suddenly filled the air could create an electric discharge. Members of 256th Panzer Infantry Company never meet and never could meet a Helen Reiz, but just couldn't avoid hearing about her, since said person was no one but CHOAM's Managing Director.

She take control over CHOAM few years ago and under her guide this already colossal corporation, who already was number one cargo and civilian Freight Company, now took a firm control over the huge part of both civilian and military shipbuilding market. Bureau, obviously, was worried about such power being concentrated in the hand of one corporation, but with treats already looming over the proverbial horizon. TSAB just couldn't afford making the enemy of one of the few power players who didn't bare its fang against them.

Now the company under SIgnum Takamachi-Scrya need to be super careful in order to avoid offending Helen Reiz in any ways. Their superiors would gladly send their heads to the CHOAM's managing director even if she ask about it half-jokingly. And this was IN addition to an unknown deadly enemy, whose presence drag them here in first place.

"This is Major-General Harold Crider, leader of installation N-23 garrison, whom I deeply respect and trust with our safety." Chirped multi-trillionaire, utterly unaware about the inner turmoil of her guests. Or maybe she was, considering just persons like her NEED to be very good at reading other people, but simply didn't care. "I hope we all will work with all entire strength all until your appointment here would end, Major Scrya-Takamachi. I heard a lot good things about you and your people and hope you would find out forces deserving the price of such famous officer."

"We're deeply touched by your kind words, lady Reiz." Responded pinkette with a quick polite bow toward her interlocutor. Then she extended her arm toward bearded superior officer. "For my part I swear that I and my subordinates would aid you and your forces with all our entire might, Major-General Crider."

"Glad to hear that, Major Takamachi-Scrya." Taking her hands, older man allowed himself to reveal a small smile on his own. "You and your company are well-known for teaching those terrorist bastards a hard lessons. I intend to make sure that any creep who would dare to attack us would pay for this."

This exchange between officers diffused the tense greatly, the clunky and silly locking salute, performed by combatjacks just helped to completely kill the anxiety. Then the entire procession moved toward the base: humanoid machines first, followed by the local VIPs and behind them marched 21 Battle Suit. Moving into the massive armored walls, Einmhart notices pair of machines that speed up past them toward the Bureau's Aircraft.

She also noticed that Helen Reiz continued to throw curious glances at her, Sieglinde and Fuuka.

As they moved deeper and deeper into the base' territory, Einhart take the time to carefully study her surrounding and create a plan for the emergency situation on her own. Near the gate, inside of the pair of hangars, constructed of reinforced concrete blocks stood a groups combatjacks. She frowned, when she counted twelve machines in total (8 in left hangar and 4 in other): 16 combatjacks was a very serious threat just on their own, capable of taking on an entire regiment of a Panzer Infantry. And this is without an addition of all other fighting forces on the base.

Hegemon Style user just couldn't help but to worry about the sheer magnitude of looming danger.

Especially, considering that she already counted at least two companies of the Lansarth Battle Suits, patrolling the territory and in the larger hangar that stood right beside the nest of combatjacks she could see shadowy silhouettes of massive combat vehicles (and she still didn't' count gun emplacement). If they wanted the reinforcement from the TSAB that would really matter in sheer scale of things, they would need to call entire division.

Though, there was just no place on a base itself to accumulate such massive amount of people. The living quarters for soldiers were located even deeper in the base - clinging to a surface of a mountain stood six long dark-gray four-story buildings, and between them TSAB soldiers could see a numerous small isolated groups of people, dressed in the aquamarine uniforms of CHOAM's security department (read, Corporation's personal army).

Before their made a turn, Einhart glanced on her right. There was a four tall white building, also built of reinforced concrete, but more than twice in height than soldier's living place. The toned spell-enchanted glass protected the secrets that lived in numerous chambers from curious but unwanted eyes, and the massive armored doors on the side of building could stop a charging Zenis.

But when you talk about massive armored doors, there was no way you could avoid talking about truly colossal gates, built right into the rocky wall of the isolated valley. Nearby stood the large cranes that could lift even a Stormstrider. Young lieutenant was curios: what could occupy such large facility, but right now she had no means to get this info.

In the middle of the base were constructed utterly massive buildings where was located the HQ of the base garrison, administrative centers, hospital and living quarters for all non-combat personnel.

Turning left, following the lead of the base commander and his superior, Einhart was forced to stop her observation – whatever else occupied the base' territory, she would need to way until the evening. Before gluing her gaze to the gray monoliths of soldiers living quarter, she just noted pair of massive antennas on both side of administrative complex and entire arrays of the antennas on the roof of the research facilities.

"I hope you will enjoy your stay here, Major Takamachi-Scrya." Continued her lection wheel-chair bounded managing director, waving her hand each time a soldier(s) of CHOAM give her a bow (which became a non-stop trend once they reached the edge of the barracks' territory). "Our soldiers may don't have the biggest rooms, but they are individual rooms for each person."

"That's… very generous, miss Reiz" carefully responded Signum, who, just like her subordinate with heterochromia, used the time they spent walking here to gather some Intel. Though, inwardly, she was pleased to know, that CHOAM's barracks offer some privacy. She had no problem sharing a room with her soldiers, but why not use a generosity of situation of you can?

"Nothing to worry about, miss Signum…. If you don't mind me call you like that?" When General of Blazing Fire give her a quick shake, woman in green dress finished her line. "Awesome! Again, this is a small offer, considering the help you would provide!"

"I'm greatly flattered by your words, lady Helen." Wolkenritter didn't let any doubts she had to crawl into her voice, even if she, like Einhart, just couldn't see how her small forces could support a much more powerful garrison. If every Battle Suit in her company belonged to Tanator-class it was one thing… but only three of them just couldn't shift the situation on their favor. "As I said already, we will work with our best capabilities to meet your expectation."

"That's really nice, lady Signum. And form our side, I swear to provide you with all available support. For example: do you have a free time this evening, I can provide you with not only full roster of our forces, but with all other important information… of course, as long, as it's doesn't breach CHOAM's security protocols."

"This would be nice, lady Helen. I would be very grateful to you for this." Nodded blue eyed woman, studying her interlocutor carefully. Managing Director was nice and helpful, even though that such behavior could be dictated by the necessity, but Signum noticed that even Helen Reiz quickly deduced what exactly a military officer would want from her – uncommon insight for the corporate leader (it's not that they wasn't smart enough to understand this, mostly, bigwigs just didn't care).

At least their host really wanted to make sure that 256th company would perform their duties better – as long as their protect company's property. Well, SIgnum Takamachi-Scrya wouldn't pass this opportunity – after all, this make her work of keeping her subordinates safer easier.

"I free after 9 PM, is such terms acceptable, lady Helen?" Inquired older woman under the watchful eyes of Helen Reiz and Harold Crider (the major-general was surprisingly calm during the entire conservation, remaining calm even when his superior stated her desire to give Signum information she usually would get on a briefing from him).

"Yes, of course, lady SIgnum!" Declared paraplegic woman happily, as their combined forces start to move around the corner of the far left barrack. Here Einhart, noticed a row of a small hangars where could have been seen a CHOAM's Battle Suits.

"Your company would use hangar number 4 and 5 as Battle Suit storage and maintain facility." Stated bearded gentleman, pointing at the nearby buildings. "All necessary tools, personnel and equipment was prepared before your arrival, major. Your company would occupy the third floor of the 3nd barrack. Commandant already prepared the keys for the room. Your room, major in number 311 – officer's room."

"Thanks for your work, major-general." Saluted him pinkette, giving her subordinates mental order to stop and wait until she finished the preparation for the settling.

"No need, major." Responded red-eyed officer, making a few steps backward and ordering all combatjacks to line behind him, as the managing director continued to stare at Tanator-wielders with great interest. "Our daily routine the same as the TSAB, so I promise you and your subordinates wouldn't have problems with adjustement."

Officers exchanged another handshake and then both CHOAM representatives walked away, guarded by tall machines, leaving a famous mage and her subordinates to their duties.

Einhart admitted that she had no reason to complain about her room: her bad was rather comfy, her locker was spacious and sole window in her room revealed a pretty nice scenery – mountain creek, covered in trees (seems that corporation still didn't lay their hands on this specific area). CHOAM was even pleasant enough to equip each rooms with climate control Devices, so even without Asteon, former DSAA athlete wouldn't need to endure the whims of nature.

Removing her boots green-haired lieutenant sat on the bed, put her device (and pet) on her knees, and finally relaxed after being dragged, together with her older sister figure and other platoon commanders, around the entire base. She was glad that her training session when she was Martial Artists included long runs.

Einhart still thought, while petting Teo and enjoying his purring, that she lost too many strengths today and maybe it was a good idea to go sleep early. But her plan was interrupted by a knock on the door. The unique pattern of strikes told her that behind the door stood Fuuka and maiden with mismatched eyes told her "Come in".

"Sorry for intrusion, Haru-san." Behind the door stood not only her sheepishly-looking pupil, who gently clutched small kitty in her arms (her own Device – Huracan), but also a broadly smiling Sieglinde Jeremiah with a bag in her hand, who spent her time after they finished settling down was to check their Battle Suits under the request from Signum. Just like her ancestors, Sieglinde was not only a powerful warrior but also an apt scholar and displayed incredible abilities in working with ancient technology. She, just as always, after spending a lot of time with her dear mechanisms forget to clean her face properly and Einhart could see small stain on Sieg's left cheek.

"Please come in." Invited her dear friends Einhart with a smile, feeling how her spirit starts to rise – while having additional hours of sleep wasn't bad it was much better to have a nice long chat with a people dear to you. Especially, when you all walks on the line between life and death.

Crawling in the furthest edge oh her bed, master of Asteon let the duo to come in and seat: Fuuka in the middle and Sieglinde closer to the door. Once they get comfy, raven-haired girl pull out from her bag a 3 cans of drinks and spread them among their group: Einhart got cherry juice, Fuuka get a lemonade and she herself enjoyed a cold tea. Huracan and Asteon take the chance to hid under the bed and begin their fames.

"What are you think about this place, Haru-san? Sieg-san?" Inquired Fuuka once she sip out at least quarter of can's content. "I couldn't walk around like Haru-san, or study local equipment like Sieg-san, but what from what I saw I can say that locals are very tense. I could see people sweating even in a well-conditioned rooms, those scared side-glances, strain in their voices… Something really bad going on here."

"I concur, Fuu-nyan." Nodded Sieglinde with a frown, licking her lips after another sip. "The hangars where we left out Battle Suits protected by a sophisticated web of a sensors and observing spells… and some of those pieces of equipment and spells are completely unknown for me, even after all those lessons with Mariel-san. Also: when I tested the systems of our Battle Suits I noticed that base' mainframe are permanently stay in a state of a low combat alert… if there was even a small lag in the work of IFF system on our Stromstrider we were under massive fire few seconds after"

"I have the same source of worries as you two, Fuka, Sieglinde." Agreed Einhart, putting her can of juice on the small folding table. "When I and Signum-nee-san studies closer we found the numbers of patrols are too high. In addition, I noticed that they relocate the war machines from the hangars, where we saw them on our arrival, near the main gates, to another – on other side of base HQ, to be specific."

"So there is no doubts: base N-23 REALLY lives in a constant fear before some type of looming treat And it's not just a meticulous preparations – they are scared." Summarized Sieglinde, finishing her drink. "I think we can safely assume that their call for reinforcement are absolute sincere. But there is a question: just HOW our unit, whose combat power are far inferior to the local Panzer Infantry company of the same numbers, can help?"

"I hope Signum-nee would tell us more tomorrow, after her talk with miss rich gal. But considering how she drilled me, Haru-san and Sieg-san with her gaze, I think she have her eyes on out Tanators!" Declared Fuuka, frowning at the memories of being studied like a bug under the magnifier.

"That make some sense – Tanators considered to be hands-down the most powerful Battle Suits in the arsenal of Bureau." Rubbed her thumbs together Einhart, add her own point. "But I doubt that just 3 Tanators in the company of Zenises would do much to the base, where standard grunt Battle Suit have 3 times more power than our clanks."

"I hope they doesn't plan to steal Tanators, using attacks as a mean to cover the tracks? The risk of the massive quarrel with TSAB over such felony is too high!" Pricked up her ears Sieglinde, gazing at her friends worryingly. "There is a lot of ways to obtain and study Tanator-class Battle Suits without a possibility to became a center of a colossal scandal."

"I think we really need to hear what Signum-nee-san would say tomorrow. At now we have to little information to make a guess" Stated Einhart firmly, inwardly hoping that Helen Reiz would tell their commander something really important. "You both know how dangerous it to let your fears to erode your fortitude."

Her words were meet with a solemn nods and then a long silence occurred, before blue-eyed scion of Jeremiah-clan didn't speak. "It's really ironic, Haru-nyan, Fuu-nyan… just few years ago we chatted about how we can improve our techniques, who would reach the top of tournament, who would challenge one of our honorable elder sisters… though we didn't call them like this at that time… to a mock battle." She paused for a moment, chuckling bitterly. "And now… we talk about how to find what our allies hide from us and how we need to rely on a shady individuals' honesty for our survival."

"There is nothing we can do, Sieglinde." Responded Einhart, wearing the same unhappy expression as her former goal in DSAA. "Times had changed on the advent of the Eclipse Virus. We were forced to learn how fragile our happy world was and how to fight to protect what was leave." Green-haired lieutenant give herself a little break remembering the happy times in U-19 tournaments with her friends… times that will never returns.

"But we just couldn't let our precious instructors to carry this burden on their own. The first one to leave was Vivio-san… I see it clearly now: on the day we received the horrible news about Fate-san, she abandoned her patch as martial artist to join Bureau – to stay right beside her mother and protect her with all her skills. But there was no other way for Vivio-san – after all, her deepest wish was to be powerful enough to protect Nanoha-san."

"We just couldn't abandon her – our Vivi-san…" Agreed Fuuka, with a soft smile, enjoying the view of a two adorable kittens chasing each other on the floor. "Even coach Nove, decided to join the ranks of the Bureau with us."

"Yes... coach never stopped looking for us… ever… for the very last moment…" Fuuka's voice broke, leaving the trio of friends in a near complete silence, disrupted only by a sounds, produced by a playing kittens.

"This war… claimed a lot of good people…" Trailed former student of academy. "Now I fully know the depth of pain and despair my poor ancestor – Hegemon Claus Ingvalt – was forced to live after the death of Sankt Kaiser Olivie. I… I don't want to talk about being strong enough - this could lead to an very unpleasant results… What I truly know now is how he felt about staying alive in the world where people whom you loved so much are no longer exist. Now I have few ideas WHY he didn't live for too long after Olivie's passing."

Einhart didn't want to continue – damage to their morality was already severe enough. But Sieglinde also had a secret she just couldn't held inside anymore.

"Recently, I finally could read the history of my clan carefully. Sorry, for saying this when we already so dispirited, Hary-nyan, Fuu-nyan, but… but Wilfrieed Jeremiah perished four years after the last flight of Olivie Segbert. Just like Claus Ingvalt – she lost her will to face the war torn land of Belka when her dear friends leaved this world."

"Oh God." Fuuka hoped that she stated not whined this line out, but the ache in her chest was just too strong now. In their minds, Einhart Stratos, Sieglinde Jeremiah and Fuuka Reventon knew that allowing themselves to sunk into depression on the battle field it's a very short way to a huge disaster.

But just like rust eat through metal, the sufferings eat through the fortitude of the teenage girls. Their group tried their best to uphold their ideals when they joined the Burau, but then - their world true fall apart went eh nightmarish attack on Cranagan called Howling Nightfall have occurred. The former DSAA athletes truly finally understand the sheer magnitude of terror their seniors from Bureau should have been face all the time. How downright useless their Strike Arts and magic can truly be when you face a well equipped group of Eclipse Drivers.

And then, just like Nanoha-san and Vita-san told them, they were forced to start from very beginning. It was hard on its; own but girls were prepared to face hardships of starting fro the scratch, but what was absolutely impossible to swallow it's the knowledge that your mistake could mean the death – your, or someone else. And that sometimes (to be honest – pretty often) your determination would win you nothing.

The battles to death became an unpleasantly integral part of their lives in the past 12 months. As if evil will of universe pull them from one bloody showdown, just to toss into another.

A sudden knock on the door was akin to a cannon shot in the depressed silence of the room – Einhart, Fuuka and Sieglinde barely suppressed a yelp.

"Come in." Einhart knew that she should have asked who that was, even it was a superior officer whom she had no choice but to let in, but now she and her friends need to diffuse this agonizing depression and thus she made her bet.

"Thank you very much, Einhyart-cha~an!" Green-haired, brown-haired and black-haired mages gasped in shock when they recognized Helen Reiz by her voice a moment before door moved open, revealing a managing director of mega-corporation, who stared at them with a big grin that they still can occasionally see on a face of their friend and superior Lutecia Alpine.

The start contrast between her daily appearance and her current one wasn't too shocked to be honest – corporate executives were good in hiding their true selves behind their masks. Thus they excepted ultramarine-eyed woman to be pretty shifty individual.

What they didn't except that she casually levitated from her wheelchair to the sole remaining place on the Einhart's bed with ease. Sieglinde, who now sat right next to their guest tensed – CHOAM Managing Director actually was a mage, and not ordinary one. While they had nothing against Helen Reiz being a skilled in field of magic, their really didn't like that there was nothing about that in TSAB's information base. Einhart, Sieglinde and Fuuka learned to be wary of surprises. Especially when you deal with corporations!

"Uh, can we help, you lady Reiz…" Greeted their rich interlocutor Fuuka with nervous smile, trying to find appropriate words.

"Ahaha, you're so adorable, when you try to starts the conversation and yet looks like you try to swallow a tumbleweed… Let's make it easier for all of us and drop the formalities – after all, I was the one who dragged you here! Please, call me Helen, Fuuka." Green–eyed girl's sibilical speech was interrupted by cheerful outburst of the older person. Completely shredding her regal lady's image, corporate mogul cheerfully chattered with trio of friends, bristling with energy despite her disability.

"I hope we all can be more cuddly with each other in future – after all, ladies, we all in the same boat right now after all." Sensing her interlocutors' shock, Helen Reiz quickly decrease he speed of her speech, scanning her guests' bodies and faces for all available hints about their inner thoughts. "Since I was the one who asked for your help, I think it would be fair if you all would address me simply by name in private chats. I hope I doesn't sound too pushy… Einhart?"

"Y-yes, of course… Helen… There is no problems" Slowly responded young lieutenant, after exchanging the glances with her former rival and pupil, while their guest, used this pause to play with Teo and Hura. "What can we do for you…?"

"Hmmmm…" Putting both cat-shaped devices on her laps (to their masters' utter shock both kittens were comfortable with being patted by a complete stranger), woman in a green dress spend few moments, pampering the kittens, before answering wearing pretty cat-like smile herself. "A lot of things and some of them pretty raunchy! Buuut, I think I'll concentrate on the most important task."

Managing Director of a mega-corporation snickered at flabbergasted expressions on the face of the young soldiers of Bureau, savoring their struggles with her own behavior.

"As you can see already - 3 months ago the base N-23 became a target for a numerous attempts to came and have a tea party without our approval. While our garrison are strong enough to handle the outside raids with relative ease, our unsatisfied "friends" find a way to increase my headache. Namely, they use a sub-terrain transports – called Breachers – to sprung out like an rash on the butt and cause a havoc. And I want your company to guard our underground facility before we – my CHOAM and your TSAB - can pin-point the location of their main base of operations in this region and get rid of it!"

"But why do you need our company's support, l… Helen?" Inquired scion of Jeremiah clan (privately, Einhart and Fuuka were curious, will their friend be bold enough to call a wealthy and dangerous woman Hele-nyan). "I and my dear friends have a great pride in our 256th company and our commander – Major Signum Takamachi-Scrya! But soldiers under you control have much better equipment and thus I just can't see why wouldn't you would need us to reinforce the garrison?"

"Good question, Sieglinde." Nodded a paraplegic mage, tickling Huracan's and Asteon's bellies, continuing to stare at trio of younger girls, while her expression grew more calm and serious. "To be frank: what I need – were solely you 3 and your incredible Tanator Battle Suits. But entire company of veteran soldiers, as a support, and good officer are didn't grew on a trees and I hate to miss an opportunity. Actually, as I discussed with our lovely pink-=haired major, if tomorrow I and TSAB HQ would reach an agreement your company can scrap your – let's be honest here – horrible Battle Suits and take a spare Lansarts instead."

Such generosity meant that corporation excepted a suitable payment – either in moneys and/or in service. And this fact just couldn't fail to set off alarm bells in Einhart's, Fuuka's And Sieglinde's minds. Woman clad in a expensive grab nodded in approval, sensing that they understood what is going on, still playing with happy devices.

"It's not a secret that all available players in multiverse now currently work on digging out and studying secrets and technologies of Al'Hazard and Ancient Belka to boost their own technological base. And I, after reading a lot of reports from our scientist department can assure you – even a single Tanator, used properly, can inflict a terror of ancient Gods in anyone. Three of them, in right hands, can crush a few regiments of TSAB Battle Suits and mages with ease. You can't even imagine what a feat, achieved Professor Scrya, when he found at least 10 Tanators – even in time of ancient empire they weren't widespread!"

"Can you elaborate?" Carefully asked Einhart, exchanging a worried glances with her friends – now it was obvious that they have much more problems they bargained for. Seems their company find itself in the middle of tangled web of Bureau-Corporations shady deals!

"Please wait until tomorrow, Einhart. " Raised her hands in defensive gesture mistress of the base, all attempts of former DSAA participants to read something from her expression or body language failed. "I better ask special major Hilbert Asix to give you the explanation. It was a long day for all of us and I think it would be better to go to our respective rooms. I already spent a lot of your important time. And you three need a have a good rest before tomorrow's important talks."

Needless to say, Einhart, Sieglinde and Fuuka have a mountain of answers to ask… but they had a distinct feeling that their answers would be dodged. Carefully handing two playful kittens to their owners, Helen Reiz open the door and levitated into her wheelchair.

But before door closed beside her she dropped one last bomb.

"Before I forgot: the attacks on our installation are carried out with usage of Gadget Drones and some type of bio-cybernetic automatons. Said automatons, as CHOAM's intelligence division found out, connected to a certain people you three know…"

Fuuka's, Sieglinde's and Einhart's eyebrows rose ina silent question in unison, and their smiling host obliged.

"To be specific: to unfairly perished Nove Nakajima and Rinne Berlinetta."

Author's Note: That was a long pause and I'm sorry – but I couldn't link the ideas in my head and create a story. But 2 seasons of Gundam IBO, all available parts of Shadowrun Returns and Vivid Strike give me a new push.

This chapter starts 14 months after the last one and now our vivid girls are officially part of Bureau's frontline forces. Needless to say, they are already learn the bitter taste of the war and were forced to radically change their perception of the world. And one of the first lessons they learn was "Don't be too trustful.". Which they are shows in their inner thoughts and careful behavior about Helen. To be honest: perpetually cheerful corporate director not exactly the most trustful person to the begging with, right?

Actually, this entire arc's purpose is to show how previously happy school girls were changed due to their new life as teenage soldiers.

I really wish I could draw the designs of the Battle Suits myself, but unfortunately, I'm not skilled enough (T_T), thus I need to borrow the design from our dear mecha series to show what our girls and boys use to befriends the bad guys. To clarify, how Battle Suit looks like:

Zenis.

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Tanator

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Lansarth

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