A/N: Hello all. Been a bit, but I'm still around and working on stories, this one included. I just seem to have too many projects on the go! Couple that with sailing for work and all the tasking's I'm getting, and I'm pretty swamped.
Anyways, enough of my excuses. Here's the long awaited chapter 4.
Remember to leave a review if you feel like it!
Meeting and Greeting
Two weeks had passed since that first battle, and everyone was finally falling into rhythm at the new school.
Finally, the boys were being more accepted into the school routines.
And hey, the team had been hard at work 3 days out of each week and every Saturday practicing gunnery, mechanics, and having mock battles.
Finishing practice for the day, the team began the routine maintenance on their tanks, when a broadcast from the loudspeaker drew their attention.
"Attention! Andrew Dixon and Cera Collingwood please report to the Student Council Office! Andrew Dixon and Cera Collingwood to the Student Council Office!"
Shrugging at his friends, he caught up with C.C. as they headed out of the garages.
"So, what do you suppose this is about?" Andrew finally asked when they entered the school.
"I dunno. We'll find out pretty soon though." she replied as they wound their way through the halls towards the office.
Knocking on the door, they heard "Come in." float through the wood, and, shrugging to each other, they walked in the office where the student council sat.
Well, the council and Pauline, the latter of which caused them to look in confusion at the council.
"Thank you both for arriving so quickly." the Vice-President, an American lad named Thomas Parkland said to the pair "The President has a proposition for you both."
The President of the council was a Japanese girl named Shinju Yamasaki.
No nonsense, tough but fair, she was the perfect choice to lead the school.
"You've both been chosen based on the assessment of the Senshado instructor to be given the position of Commander and Deputy Commander.
"Andrew, based on your family history, and your tactical knowledge displayed in the battles on the field, as well as your...somewhat startling intellect when dealing with tanks, you will be the commander of the Griffon Academy Senshado Team.
"Your second, is Cera, who will take over should anything happen to you in battle. The two of you work well together, and you have a strong team underneath you. Griffin is lucky to have such skilled tank commanders."
She handed the two of them black peak caps, embroidered with the school logo, a Griffin clutching a spear, in the center. Andrew's had gold filigree in the brim while C.C. had a lesser amount of filigree, but enough to show that she was a critical member of the command team.
"Are…you certain you want me as the commander of this team?" Andrew asked with hesitance, running his fingers over the Griffin on the cap badge, watching the light reflect off it.
'There's nobody we want more to lead this team Andrew." Pauline said, standing up "You've got skill out there on the field, that's for sure. With you leading, we might actually place quite well in the standings."
"I see." he mused, putting the cap on his head "I accept your assignment as commander of the team. I'll do my best in the coming battles."
"Looks like I have no choice to accept as well then, eh?" Cera questioned, smiling slightly as she brushed her green hair back "We've got a lot of planning and preparation to do for the future."
"Just to let you both know," Shinju stated before they left "The ceremony to pull numbers for the competition will be held in a week. The first match will be two weeks later. Be ready."
"We will." Andrew replied after a moment of pause "We'll be ready."
As he and C.C. walked slowly back, the full weight at what had occurred fell upon them.
Pausing in the hall, his mind raced at the implications of what he had accepted.
"So…we've got this team in our hands. Let's do our best to win." Andrew muttered as he started walking, catching up with C.C. and continuing towards the garages where the team was waiting for them.
"Oi you two were gone for awhile! Fancy hats!" Ciaran called out when he noticed that Andrew and Cera had returned.
"All, I'd like to make an announcement! Gather round please" Andrew shouted, catching everyone's attention.
The level of activity in the garages dropped as everyone crowded around Andrew and C.C. who were standing on top of a wooden crate containing spare track links for the E-25.
"In regards to the student council meeting that C.C. and I just attended, we've got some news. First off, and the biggest bombshell, I've been chosen as the team commander, while C.C. is the deputy commander.
"Secondly, our first competition match is in roughly three weeks, and we have no idea who we're facing just yet. We're pulling numbers to pick fights in a week's time, so we haven't got very long."
Excited murmurs ran through the assembled crews as they thought about the prospects of finally getting in a real match.
"Now, I know you're all itching for a fight," Andrew continued, crossing his arms and looking at the team "And you're all making excellent progress in the field, but we're going to need to train harder in preparation for the first battles.
"Which is why we're going to extend practices by one full hour during the weekdays, and from 10am to 7pm on Saturdays. We have yet to perform a battle or practice at night, so we'll be working on that as well when we have time."
The collection of groans that ran through the people in front of him did little to sway his opinion on the matter.
"While I don't know how far we'll rank this year, I personally want to see this team do as good as it can, showing all those other schools that Griffin is no pushover. That, while we may be new, we are not to be underestimated." he chuckled, taking his cap off and running his fingers through his hair.
"You all did well today. Finish any immediate maintenance, and then get out of here and enjoy your evenings." Andrew told them all, which resulted in a cheer as the various members of each tank rushed off to tidy up and then depart.
"Well commander, how goes it?" Klaus asked when he made his way over to the Comet.
The crew had chosen to repaint it from the sandy brown to more of a flat green, as most of the battles fought would probably be in a woodland setting.
"Same as usual bud. Finished with all the work on this girl?" Andrew questioned, patting the tank on the flank.
"Yeah. I told the ladies to take off once you finished your little speech there. Me and the guys were going to get some wings and play some pool if you're interested in joining us?" Klaus offered, leaning against the Comet.
Andrew looked off to where Ciaran, Yuri and Takayo were waiting and shrugged.
"You know I'm in." he said, wrapping an arm around his best friend's shoulder and heading over to the other guys.
"Well lads, let's change and get some wings!" Ciaran cheered with a smile, leading the way to the lockers where their regular uniforms were.
The quintet made their way into one of the local bars, and as drinking ages were reflective of what country they were from, everyone was legal to buy alcohol…except Ciaran.
Though alcohol laws were rather lax in Japan, nobody paid it any mind when the Briton ordered a pint as they sat around the table, placing orders for several pounds of wings.
"So, I propose a toast," Klaus stated, everyone raising their drinks "To our new commander!"
"To the commander!" they chorused, taking various size pulls from their glasses and mugs.
"Aw geez guys, making me all misty eyed over here!" Andrew joked, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Yeah yeah, you big softy." Klaus chuckled, punching him lightly on the shoulder as the waitress dropped off another round of drinks.
"So, how's everyone finding the semester?" Ciaran asked after they had all settled down.
"Better than my old school in Volgograd. Much better. The people are much nicer, though the drinks are weaker." Yuri mused to the group, eliciting a laugh from them all.
"We've not gotten together as a group yet, so this has been overdue." Andrew told them all "I'm neighbours with Ciaran, and Klaus is one of my friends from home, but I'm pleased that we're all hanging out together."
It was at that moment that their food arrived, forcing most conversation to cease as the ravenous lads dug in with vigour.
"Everyone feeling good for the first battle in three weeks?" Andrew asked between mouthfuls of saucy chicken.
"I think we will do quite well." Takayo spoke up, wiping his fingers on a napkin "We appear to have a fortuitous lineup of decent tanks."
"Agreed." Ciaran chimed in "The worst we have is probably the Grizzly, but it's still not a terrible tank. There's a lot worse that it could've been…like a Type 89!"
"Or a bloody Matilda!" Klaus guffawed.
"Or a pile of crap made by Renault!" Yuri laughed, slamming a fist against the table and causing them all to break down into various states of chuckles.
"Oi! I was promised a few games of pool, let's get on with it." Andrew stated, getting up and gesturing to the unused pool tables in the back of the bar "Be forewarned though, I've yet to lose a game."
"Pound sand you always win!" Klaus shouted, grabbing his beer and chalking a cue "You rack, and I'm gonna break, and we'll see who's going to win."
"I play the winner!" Ciaran called, taking a seat on one of the stools while Yuri and Takayo set up their own game.
The sound of boisterous laughter, clinking glasses, and the sharp *crack* of pool balls striking one another continued for a couple of hours until the boys finally got tired and broke off for the evening one at a time.
Ciaran, Klaus, and Andrew all went together, as they lived in the same block, laughing about how enjoyable the night was.
Thankfully, it was a normal school day tomorrow, with no practice scheduled for after classes, so they'd be free to head home and relax.
"Well, we're here. Are you two nervous?" Pauline asked as they stepped out of the rented car in front of the huge hall.
The carrier had pulled in earlier that day to Kure, alongside several others, and the classes had let out early to allow people to explore the city.
Practices had even been cancelled in preparation for the Senshado command team to prepare their uniforms and prepare mentally for the evening ahead.
He had spent two hours polishing his boots to a mirror shine and ensuring that there were no loose threads or pieces of lint on his tunic.
Placing the black peak cap onto his head and helping C.C. out of the car, he grinned confidently.
"A little, but I'm more excited than anything. The team has really been gelling." Andrew chuckled as the trio headed for the entrance to the building.
"I must agree with your sentiment." C.C. stated, walking a step or two ahead of them and entering the hall "Our tactics are really coming along. We should ask the Student Council to set up a practice match before our first game so we can see how we do against another team."
"Heh…right…about that…" Pauline trailed off, rubbing the back of her neck as they walked through the halls "A match has been set up for next week against Saunders High School."
"Ah Saunders." Andrew mused, rubbing his chin "American armor primarily. Sherman's of all types. The commander, Kay, is an old friend of mine. Level headed girl though a little boisterous."
"You know Kay?" Pauline questioned, surprise obvious in her tone.
"Know her? Hell, Kay and I grew up together. She moved away when we were thirteen to Japan. Kept in contact with her. I think she'll be quite shocked that I'm here now as well." Andrew chuckled, shaking his head.
"So, why not send her an email asking what their lineup is?" C.C. asked, looking back slightly at him.
"Why bother?" Andrew replied, shrugging "It'll be variants of the M4 Sherman. M4A1, M4A2, maybe a Jumbo or an Easy 8. Possibly even a Firefly. If it's American, Saunders will probably have it in stock somewhere. I wouldn't be surprised if they had a T28 Superheavy kicking around."
"You don't think they'd use it in this match, do you?" C.C. wondered, looking slightly nervous at the prospect.
"Pft. No. I know Kay. She prefers maneuverability and flexibility over…a box on tracks." Andrew said "Come on though, we should get to the number ceremony."
"We'll meet you there." Pauline countered "There's someone I want C.C. to meet."
"Very well then." Andrew shrugged, watching the two turn down a corridor as he continued on ahead.
Walking alone, he brushed past several others, nodding in greeting, to those who were undoubtedly from competing schools if the uniforms were anything to go by.
But one girl in particular caught his attention.
Short brown hair tucked up underneath what appeared to be a standard German Panzer wedge, a black tunic, red skirt, and black combat boots.
Her face bore no emotion, though her blond compatriot was looking around with unhidden and unbridled disappointment.
He was so focused that he actually bumped into her.
This in turn, caused the girl to drop the paperwork she was carrying.
"Oh my apologies! Such a bloody klutz I am." Andrew groaned, kneeling down and picking up the papers that had scattered about.
Both of them looked stunned as he stood, offering the files back to the girl with brown hair who had dropped it because of him.
With a tip of his cap and an apologetic smile, he went along his way towards the stage entrance, as he was to pull the ticket that would put his school on the path to war.
"Well that was rather rude, wouldn't you agree commander?" Erika intoned, looking at the back of the retreating man who had interrupted them.
"Yeah…rude…" Maho Nishizumi agreed, also watching the back of the man who had just bumped into her "Think he's military?"
"Must be." Erika replied "The uniform he was wearing looks somewhat familiar. Almost like what the old SS Panzer divisions wore."
"He must be an armoured officer from somewhere in Europe then." Maho figured, watching as he disappeared around the corner.
"He was a little cute though. I would've liked to meet him formally." she thought with a slight frown "Pity he's stationed overseas."
She had no idea just how wrong she was, and what an awakening she would receive.
Stepping onto the stage, but still behind the curtain, he stood in a line behind several girls, all giving him quite the confused looks due to him being…well…there.
Individual schools were called, respective commanders from the team heading up to pull their numbers.
St. Gloriana Girls Academy, Pravda, Maginot, and more, until it was finally his turn.
"Griffin Academy, please step forward and take your number."
Stepping out into the public eye, he wasn't at all surprised to hear the murmurings in the crowd as his boots echoed on the hardwood of the stage.
A table was set up, cards spread all over the top. All he needed to do was choose one.
Looking out at the crowd as he walked, he couldn't help but smirk at the thumbs up that Pauline flashed him as he got to the table, looking at the cards and choosing one at random.
"Number 4." was all he said to the official, who nodded, scribbling it down on his sheet and looking at the large board suspended, pushing the Griffin name into an open slat on number 4.
The other spot had already been occupied however.
"Griffin Academy will be competing against Maginot Girls School in the opening match!"
"French then. Simple enough. The French didn't have many tanks, and the ones they did have weren't that good anyways." he thought with a smirk, running his fingers along the brim of his cap.
Coming to stand beside a girl wearing a red tunic, black skirt, and black boots, her blond hair done up in two buns, she was of poise and elegance, which meant that she had to be British.
Standing at a mostly relaxed version of parade at ease, he watched carefully as the rest of the schools came through, grinning and flashing Kay a smile when she caught his eye.
In all honesty, he was surprised that she didn't just throw all tradition out the window and crush him in a hug.
He knew that he would definitely see her at the reception after the ceremony.
"Since when are males allowed to participate in Senshado?" Maho thought furiously once she saw who the commander was for Griffin Academy "This sport is female only!"
Watching him walk out, she was forced to hold her tongue lest she make a snide comment that would be seen as unfit.
Keeping her eyes forward, but watching as he strutted out, pulled a card, and stood next to the commander from St. Gloriana.
"They're up against Maginot. There's no possible way that a school with male students in this program will be able to succeed even minimally." she mused, still quite displeased.
But as displeased as she was, her mother was a hundredfold more.
Catching the eye of her mother, Shiho Nishizumi, the woman was wearing a deep frown, anger plainly visible in her eyes, and her fists were clenched on her lap.
It took all her training and discipline to not wither under her gaze.
She loved her mother, but ever since Miho had been removed from their house, it was a much more strained relationship between mother and daughter.
Letting her eyes flick back to the man standing five down from her, she resolved to interact with him at the banquet after this ceremony.
"I think you managed to ruffle a few feathers with that one Andrew." Pauline chuckled, meeting him at the stage door with C.C. not far behind.
"I am aware that this sport is female dominated, however, that it should be such a big deal that we have a few men participating. It's bloody laughable." he replied, shrugging as they began making their way to the banquet hall.
"You might think that, and so might most of the people here, but there's a niche of traditionalists that want to see this sport stay female only." Pauline informed him, thanking the person in front of them for holding the door.
"That's silly." C.C. offered, rolling her golden eyes "Men are just as good as women in most things."
"Most things?" Andrew groused, shaking his head as the other two laughed.
The trio continued along through the halls, sticking with the crowd until they reached the hall that the meet and greet/dinner would be held at.
The dinner was scheduled first, followed by two hours of pleasantries with other team captains, co-captains and trainers/headmistresses.
They had been told that they would be split into positions so they would be able to mingle with the other schools, which meant Andrew was going to be stuck at the table with all his fellow commanders.
And he was the only male.
Some people seemed like they didn't really care.
Others looked rather intrigued that there were finally males in the sport.
And others still, well, they just gave him the stink eye, like he didn't have any place in the lineups with the other commanders.
"Well, tonight is certainly going to be interesting." he thought, finding his place marked with an embossed card.
Reserved for the Commander of Griffin Academy: Andrew Dixon
Taking a seat at the empty table, he reasoned that he was the first person from the commanders to show up.
Hopefully Kay would be along soon enough so he would at least have someone to talk to.
Looking on either side of him, the place cards read Katyusha (on the left) and someone named Darjeeling (on the right).
So, he was sitting between…a rocket launching truck…and a bag of tea?
Before long though, people started to arrive at his table, nodding simply in greeting to which he happily returned it with his own nods.
Though they were all girls, it didn't hurt that they were all pretty easy on the eyes.
Soon enough, conversation was flowing, all of it directed at him.
"So, you're what's all the fuss about? Hmpf. Welcome to the fight. We won't go easy. I'm Anchovy, by the way." A girl with her very pale green hair tied in twintails.
"Andrew. It's a pleasure." the male replied, inclining his head "I assume from your dress state looking like Mussolini, and the name of your school, Anzio, that you mostly use Italian tanks?"
She looked slightly taken aback, chuckles surrounding the table before she grinned like a shark.
"Right. You know your stuff new guy. I look forward to beating you."
"Oh come now Anchovy, no need to be rude." the girl on her left said, taking a sip of water "My name is Éclair, and I am the commander of Maginot Girls Academy."
She could easily be defined as beautiful, with her medium length blue hair and light blue eyes. The smile on her face appeared innocent, but looked like it could turn into a smirk at a moments notice.
"Ah yes! You're our opponents in the first round. It should be a rather exciting event I would think." Andrew stated, leaning forward on the table slightly "As well, you'll mostly be using French tanks, so I expect Somua's and Renault's to appear, and I should hope I'm not disappointed. Not that I'm fishing for information or anything."
He laughed, watching the reaction of his rival for the first round, and smiled wider when her mouth dropped slightly.
"And BINGO! We've got a leg up on what their fielding now. France only had so many pre-war and World War 2 tanks. The Firefly and Comet should be able to take them out with ease." he thought, as the chair to his right was pulled out.
He immediately recognized the girl who sat down as the one he stood beside during the pulling of the numbers, and it cemented that she was British just from the way she sat.
"You're the commander of Griffin Academy, correct?" she spoke softly, her annunciation perfect and her voice flawless and silky.
"Right." he affirmed, offering his hand "Andrew Dixon, at your service."
"A pleasure. I'm Darjeeling. Commander of St. Gloriana Girls Collage." she replied with a smile, shaking his hand.
"Ah so British then. I guessed as much from the uniform resembling the Queen's Guard." he grinned, drinking from his water.
"Watch it Darjeeling, he's got a lot of history up there, so he can guess what you bring to the field." Anchovy muttered, appearing somewhat grumpy at having her lineup figured out so quickly by the 'new guy.'
"Oh, can he? I'm intrigued. Please, have at it." Darjeeling chuckled, as eyes turned to him again.
"Well, Brits are pretty easy, though they have a lot. Matilda's, Crusaders, Churchills of a lot of variants are all possible. Maybe a Comet or Cromwell too. Sherman's are absolutely a chance as well due to the Firefly being a British modification.
"And don't even get me started on the Archer's, A30 Challenger or God forbid those AT-series of slow bunkers on tracks. Plenty of options, which is a nice thing, because it helps me plan for contingencies."
"You most certainly know your tanks Mr. Dixon." Darjeeling replied, while the rest of the table sat somewhat stunned of my knowledge of armored vehicles "I assume you know the statistics of them all as well?"
"What kind of person would I be if I didn't?" Andrew stated, laughing.
That was when the chair to his left was occupied.
And then all hell broke loose.