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The Leaky Cauldron in London, lunchtime (Berlin time: An hour after lunch)…

"And you're SURE no one came into my room since I went to Germany yesterday?!"

Hannah Abbott rapidly nodded her head. "More than sure, Professor Bean!" she assured the older woman now standing at the threshold leading into her private room; Tom Dodderidge had gladly made sure that Mollie Bean would be able to use the guest room right next to Abraham Lincoln's. "I don't recall seeing ANYONE come here. Especially carrying a bag like that!" She indicated the camouflage bag on the bed in the middle of the guest room. "Danni, did you or any of the other elves see anything?"

The cute house elf standing next to her beloved Mistress Hannah shook her head. "No, Mistress! Danni didn't see anyone come into Mistress Captain Mollie's room! None of the house elves saw anyone come into Mistress Captain Mollie's room!" She then peered into the room to gaze on the bag there. "There is no magic on that bag…"

"What's going on here?"

Everyone turned as the commanding officer of the Second Battalion of the Schwarze Mädchen came up to join them. The woman born Diana Daniela Freifrau von Meißen zum Oberspreewald — as noted late last night, the noble honorific to her name would now have to be changed to Fürstin due to her being confirmed as the newest Countess of Droitwitch; whether or not she would add on to her extended name the phrase "und Martin zu Droitwitch" had yet to be decided — was in the proper camouflage uniform of an officer in the German Army, the silver wreathed twin pip stars of an Oberstleutnant on her shoulders. A pixie-cute woman with curly dark brown hair and deep brown eyes, she was an alumnus of Greifinswald from the Mistresses Class that graduated a year after Livia Dietrich; she was a native of Senftenberg in Brandenburg forty kilometres north-northeast of Dresden. Diana — nicknamed "DeeDee" by the British Black Maidens from the initials of her given and middle names — was a cunning, wicked dueller who earned the epithet "Black Baroness of Brandenburg" both because of her combat skills AND her ability to behave with even MORE arrogant snobbishness than the magical blue-bloods she had been fighting; being raised as the elder daughter of a long-line Prussian Junker family helped there. Those who had fought this woman often found themselves asking what hurt worse: Her personalized cell-rupturing hexes or the storm of biting insults she cast on the arrogant pricks she faced because she had been born a "mudblood."

"Someone delivered me a present and no one noticed who brought it in, DeeDee," Mollie stated as she nodded towards the bag on her bed, which made Diana's eyebrow arch. She had always respected Diana von Meißen; the Brandenburger struck her as a German version of a properly-raised Southern lady from Virginia like any of Robert E. Lee's daughters. Given that Diana would take her oath of service as a member of the British Wizengamot later today, she could teach the local blue-bloods true civilized behaviour even if the majority of the troublemakers that had been disrupting things in this country for years were now either dead, in Gonebren, in Azkaban or had been marginalized for good.

That made Diana's eyes widen slightly as she watched the older woman step into the room, drawing out her wand as she did a quick field diagnostic charm over the bag. After noting that there was nothing there, Mollie breathed out. "Must have been some metahuman. Probably a teleporter supported by a telepath," she mused.

"We didn't sense anything, Frau Generalmajorin," Diana stated.

"Doubt you would, DeeDee. Those metas who go to Dean Raeburn's school in Canada are trained to be as stealthy as Lady Negako, even those non-Canadians who go up there to learn their stuff," Mollie stated before she reached over to the envelope placed atop the bag, flipping it around to see what was written there. And it was shocking:

BG M.M. BEAN, DCG 7 CD(M)

On sensing the surprise emanate from Mollie's heart, Diana came over to gaze over the other girl's shoulder. A moment later, she translated, "'Brigadier General Margaret Miranda Bean, Deputy Commanding General 7th Cavalry Division (Magical).'" She nodded. "Well, it's about time someone decided to properly acknowledge your rank."

"Wasn't she only a captain, Diana?" Hannah asked.

"That was her peacetime rank, Hannah," Diana advised. "In the war, she was given the 'theatre rank' — a brevet rank, in other words — of brigadier general by the time the fight at Nurmengard happened. I never understood why is it people who earned general's stars on the battlefield were never allowed to keep them when the fighting stopped. At least the Soviets did that for people like Generalfeldmarschall Múromeca."

Mollie sighed before opening the envelope. Inside were three pieces of paper stapled together, the top one coming from the Secretary of the Army in Washington:

SPECIAL ORDERS (MAGICAL) 1-7
21 July 2010
The following officer is promoted within the Reserve Officers List in the Magical Corps, United States Army as indicated:
Authority: Executive Order (Magical) 13548 dated 21 July 2010
Name/Branch: BEAN, MARGARET MIRADA, MCUSA
Grade Promoted To: BRIGADIER GENERAL (O-7)
Effective Date (Retroactive): 1 January 1946
Seniority Date (Retroactive): 2 February 1945
BY DIRECTION OF THE PRESIDENT
(signed)
John M. McHugh
Secretary of the Army

On reading that, Diana smiled as she snapped to attention and offered a salute. "May I offer my congratulations, meine Generalmajorin," she stated with proper solemnity.

Mollie blinked before she nodded. "Um…thanks! I think!" she breathed out before she flipped the top page to scan the notarized copy of Magical Executive Order 13548…on official White House letterhead with the special stamp at the bottom of the page that served as the American equivalent of the phrase La Reine Le Veult that would alert all British magicals that a Magical Royal Proclamation had been made. As she scanned through the words there, she breathed out, "Damn! The legal purists in Geneva are going to scream over this one! If how they reacted to Svetlána and her army and division commanders keeping their ranks after it was all over…"

With that, she flipped the page to gaze on a personal note from the President:

General Bean,

I must confess that when President Lincoln wrote to me today and told me the story about how you and the other commanders in the Magical Corps during World War Two were stripped of theatre ranks, I was shocked. A woman — twice winner of the Medal of Honour and the Distinguished Service Medal, Heroine of the Soviet Union, winner of the Order of Lénin, the American Magical Cross, the Order of Koščéj in the First Degree, the Order of Merlin Second Class, the Bronze Star, four-time winner of the Purple Heart AND the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction — who gave exemplary service throughout three wars, having risen to acting command of the Seventh Cavalry Division in Europe before the Battle of Nurmengard…and forced to give up that rank not because of dishonourable actions, but because of baseless fears forced on her by people who clearly could not comprehend the true nature of national service.

This was something the Soviet Union refused to contemplate after the horrid losses they suffered while the Moscow Magical Front sacrificed so much to free Europe from Minister Grindelwald…and after a review of the records concerning you and your brother and sister officers from the Magical Corps, I decided this will no longer stand.

America will NOT dishonour its magical heroes all because they wore a military uniform and fought for the cause of freedom as part of the Greatest Generation.

At the personal suggestion of the President of the Russian Federation, I have released Magical Executive Order 13548, a copy of which is contained with this note and the promotion order Secretary McHugh prepared in your case as the senior surviving officer of the Seventh Cavalry Division. This order, as you no doubt will have already read, officially rescinds Magical Executive Order 9686 which saw you and your brother and sister officers stripped of your theatre ranks for no just cause.

You earned that star, General Bean. Wear it with pride.

Yours sincerely,
Barack H. Obama

P.S. Abraham also told me that this current affair that has taken you away from your beloved students should be resolved by tomorrow your time in England, Mollie. I will pray to God that you return to these shores safe and sound.

Blinking as her blue eyes teared at such a warm note from the former Illinois senator, Mollie then blinked on feeling Diana's hand squeeze her shoulder in support. Taking a deep breath, she gazed on the younger woman. "Colonel von Meißen, is Brigadier Gibbon looking for some extra help to put down those uppity carpetbagger daywalkers?"

"I believe the Generalmajorin will be happy to have you join us," Diana asserted.

With that, Mollie then reached in to open the bag to get at her new uniform…


On the West of England Main Line near Chard Junction in Somerset (forty-five kilometres north of west from Bournemouth), that moment…

"And how is the trip so far, Comrade Marshal?"

Svetlána Múromeca blinked on hearing that question from the stewardess currently watching over things in the first class car of the Class 159 three-car train now making its serene way towards the second largest city in Devon. As this was an off-peak hour run, there were next to no people in the car. Atop that, the cars had been recently modified by Avalonian-Briton engineers working for the Stagecoach Group's South West Trains division to allow privacy screens — both physical and energy barrier shield — to be put into place to ensure the people who rode these cars could enjoy their journey without dealing with background noise; the former commander of the Moscow Magical Front didn't even have to put up a privacy charm around her seat to ensure she was left alone. "Your sisters have done wonders these last few months, továrišč," the native of a village outside the city of Múrom on the banks of the River Oká almost on the direct line between Rjazán' and Nížnij Nóvgorod replied as she stretched. "Even your sisters in Russia. When I rode the rail from Moskvá Belorússkij to Varsáva Západnaja on my way over here, it was as if I was flying in the calmest day imaginable!"

The stewardess chuckled as she moved to sit across from the magical veteran of the Great Patriotic War. "We do try our best, sister," she — her name tag said WENDY — stated. "What do you intend to do once you get over to Lundy?" At the Russian's surprised look, Wendy Pearson winked. "Heather Nott told me what was going on."

"Once I'm there, I'll call upon a new comrade I made shortly after my body-swap to let me inside Xízer Artúrovna's proper ancestral home, then have a little discussion with Fëdor Méjsonovič Nott concerning how to behave around his elders," Svetlána stated, which made the younger woman tense. "They mind-raped information from me so they can press their senseless campaign against your people…and all those such as myself who have effectively allied ourselves with them." As Wendy gaped in horror at those words — mind-raping was the ugliest act of all in Avalonian eyes — the traveller from Russia added, "All to continue to force people to treat them — when they have done simply nothing to deserve it — as the cultural and social leaders of all of humanity."

Hearing that, Wendy shook her head. "I haven't dealt with magicals ever since I came to live in Britain and began working for Stagecoach, but I've heard stories about them. Didn't what your former opponents in World War Two teach them about how hollow their worldview actually is make them finally open their eyes?"

"We and they tried, but they dug their heels in and refused to change until recently…and even that was reluctantly. The only true way in my eyes to do that is to be rid of the Statute of Secrecy once and for all. That would force them to come out into the open to see how the real world works," the older woman said. "I myself have long believed that, much more so than Gellért Mixáylovič did." She shrugged, a smirk crossing her face. "Then again, he was looking to create a tyranny where normals would be enslaved to those endowed with magic. Thank the Fates Elizabéta Èduardovna and her sisters never bought into that." She gazed out the window as the rolling hills of the border region between Somerset and Devon passed them by. "That, I think, is what is behind this movement against your people from the magical side of things. Your people's arrival on Earth — much that I am grateful for your coming since I wouldn't be alive hadn't those wonderful children been there to help me — is forcing those cowards to confront the fact that there is a wider world beyond the borders of their enclaves…and that if they hope to continue to exist, they'll have to finally swallow their pride and accept that they are NOT as powerful as they like to believe."

"I've heard of sisters who've run afoul of drunk wizards or witches who feel that they can get away with anything with just a quick memory-wipe," Wendy noted. "Every time that's happened, someone comes along and gives the would-be rapists a nice headache via a Lawgiver at high stun and point blank range, then they get dumped off inside that magical preserve in Wales to face the dragons." As Svetlána laughed — Wendy told her that her master had been killed by the ch'uokyek of Noukiios during the Liberation — the stewardess added, "It's necessary. People really don't realize it, but in the eyes of those who would conquer Earth, there's no difference between magical and normal."

"Pity those Óni didn't target someone in the enclaves to make them be Earth's tag champion in lieu of Negáko Xirósukovna's brother," Svetlána mused. "Then again, magicals like myself must remind them of those insane lunatics that live on Jazíba."

Immediately recognizing the Russian pronunciation of the name of the most feared planet in the local cluster, Wendy wailed as she clasped her cheeks in a perfect imitation of the subject of the famous painting The Scream. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH! DON'T SAY THAT NAME!"

Both of them laughed before the stewardess stood up to continue her rounds. As the train continued to proceed southwest past Axminster, Svetlána closed her eyes as she mentally reached out to the west-northwest and the small island off the coast of northwest Somerset. «Karl Ivánovič!» she called out. «It is time!»


The Isle of Lundy, that moment…

Karl Vogt blinked as he felt something wash through his body from somewhere to the east-southeast. Before he could question what it was, a female voice which seemed to whisper at him — yet spoke with a waterfall of pure power — echoed inside his mind.

«Karl Ivánovič! It is time!»

He tried not to jerk too much as a mixture of raw passion and equally raw fear ripped through him from head to toe. Mistress! he mentally gasped as he turned away from the others in his group, all of whom were busy doing maintenance of the gestation moulds now empty of the first generation of magical golems to have been created in Europe for six decades. Mistress, where are you?! I've been waiting for you…!

«Hush!» that commanding voice echoed in his mind as his body began to react to his mistress' magic, a power which had been boosted to unimaginable degrees thanks to Svetlána Múromeca undergoing a body-swap two months ago because of her "liquidation" courtesy of Russian allies of Theodore Nott who worked in the Spemát. As he adjusted his trousers to allow his erection to have more room, he tried not to grin. «How are your sisters?» she then asked. «Have they met the Podrúga Drakónov yet?»

Yes! Karl thought to himself as he tried not to openly react; his sister and their companions didn't know about his current relationship with the Bloody She-Bear of Siberia. As I told you, they met up with Frau Inada and her friends the weekend you allowed your virgin blood to claim me. Right now, Gretchen and Elle are busy with Frau Minami and Frau Etō. I sent them off to have them pass on information concerning Herr Sewell's plans to attack Azkaban early tomorrow morning to Frau Inada so she will be ready to stop them. Once that's done, Cathrin and the others can go ahead and become organic.

He sensed the pleased nod from Svetlána many kilometres away…though it was also touched with surprise that he and his fellow golems now knew the identity of the Friend of Dragons. Mistress, it was easy to determine, especially given the fact that die Freundin von Drachen is a practising Zoroastrian from Japan of all places! he gently teased. That's never happened in real life, so it was logical to assume that she was based on some fictional character. A quick check over the Internet later revealed her identity: Inada Mizuho of Battle Royale! And with that, he projected all the information he had gathered over the last while concerning that story from the depths of his artificial mind towards Svetlána so she could see where such a person came from.

Silence fell inside his mind as he sensed her rummage through those memories…before a horrid chill warped through him from that mental link with Svetlána. «Bóže moj…!» a voice filled with white-faced horror and volcanic outrage then hissed in his mind. Which was understandable; despite the liquidations in the 1920s and 1930s which ensured that Soviet magicals could never rise up against Iósif Stálin, Russians culturally were very doting when it came to children. «To believe that sort of barbarism actually happened somewhere in the universe…!»

Yes, Mistress! We're all very lucky, especially given her current choice of weapon, Karl responded. Did the hybrids who saved you ever tell you of the haijo-ju?

A horrified gasp responded. «ONE OF THOSE THINGS ARE HERE?!»

Yes…but look at all the good Frau Inada has done with it over the last few months, Mistress! he insisted. How many lives has she saved, human and otherwise?!

That made the former leader of Soviet magical forces in World War Two pause for a moment as she considered that before the aura of anger and horror that had flooded Karl once he allowed Svetlána to see his memories of Battle Royale faded. «Da, that is true,» she breathed out before a smirk entered her voice. «Did you miss me, Karl?»

Mistress, I live totally for you now! the golem mewed…


On the northeast slopes of the Zugspitze (sixty kilometres south of southwest from Munich), Sunday 20 June 2010, before dawn…

"That's the last of these things, Comrade Marshal."

Svetlána Múromeca icily smiled as she lowered her wand; much that she had learned long ago how to manipulate magic without a medium, it was good to make use of the wand that had been taken from her in 1954 as a way of making sure she would remain within the Spemát after Nikíta Sergéevič Xruščëv ordered her imprisonment two years after Iósif Stálin died. "Well done, továrišči!" she breathed out as she looked at the company of volunteers — all Terran-turned-Avalonians as secretly arranged by her own charges after the Bloody She-bear of the Steppes was reborn in the wake of her "liquidation" — said as she gazed without pity at the shredded and staked vampires currently littering the main street of this quaint village hidden in the shadows of Germany's highest mountain. "To believe our German friends never took notice of a place like this!" she then spat out in disgust, grateful once more that the telepathic defences her new body automatically gave her were strong+ enough to resist the magic of this place.

"It's almost as bad as what we found in Poland!" the former commanding general of the Seventh Guards Shock Army (Magical), Generál-Polkóvnik Vojsk Mágičeskie Tat'jána Pávlovna Timošénko, exclaimed as she secured her wand. "Svetá, how on Earth…?!"

"Never mind, Tanjá!" the older woman stated as she gazed around the small village she and the people who had come to fight for their former commander just raided. They struck just before the sun would rise in the east; at this time of night, vampires — even the daywalkers — got pretty lethargic as the natural urge to avoid the cursed rays that would burn them alive overwhelmed them and forced them to seek rest. Atop that, the vampires of Spitzeberg had not expected such a sudden and brutal attack by the veterans of the Moscow Magical Front so many years after Grindelwald's War ended. "Ólja, do you think you can whip up an exorcism ritual that can clean this place up?!"

"My Marshal, if we do that, we'll cause a landslide!" Podpolkóvnik Ól'ga Leonídovna Andréeva — who had been the commander of the Moscow Front's specially-trained battalion of curse-breakers — warned as she waved towards the high mountain to the west.

"That's my point, Ólja!" Svetlána stated as her blue eyes glowed with passionate fury, making the other veterans of the Great Patriotic War with her now tense in delighted anticipation at a chance to really make a mess of things. Whenever it came to wrecking something, their leader had always been willing to let her subordinates go crazy; doing that did more damage to the magical enclaves of Eastern Europe than anything Gellert Grindelwald and his Magische Reichsarmee had ever done. "If, by the odd chance, this village is known to the counterparts of our NKMD comrades…" — she always preferred the title of the Soviet magical ministry during Stálin's time — "…in Berlín, they might send investigators. What better way to hide our tracks…?"

That made Ól'ga savagely grin. "Than to make it look like a natural catastrophe!"

"Da!"

The young curse-breaker from Stalingrád — again, Svetlána preferred the older names for cities — smirked. "I'll get on it right away, My Marshal!" she vowed before winking at the older woman. "But I want a bottle of good Prjagrád after this is done!"

"Ólja, do it right and I'll buy you a whole case!"

Ól'ga laughed. "I'll drink to your health, My Marshal! Give me thirty minutes!"

"You have them!"

With that, the curse-breaker headed off to the site of the old Nazi camp at the east end of this small village. As the others continued to do a full sweep of the site to make sure there were no survivors who could spread the alarm, Svetlána conjured a camp chair to sit on before closing her eyes as she allowed her magic to calm down after flinging herself over the last half-hour against a naturally upset coven of vampires who wanted to "live"…but stood in the way of her getting all the necessary information she needed to learn why she had been targeted for death a month ago. Tat'jána moved to stand beside her. "God, I missed this so much," the younger veteran of the Great Patriotic War — she had been just twenty-eight when Svetlána put her in charge of the Seventh Shock Army in 1941; it wouldn't be given the coveted "Guards" title until three years later — breathed out as she looked around. "Not the killing, of course — even if they are vampires — but the chance to be in the field again…"

"Not so long ago, I was worried that the magicals of the Ródina were getting weak," the retired marshal noted before a snort escaped her. "Can't say that now."

That made the native of Kyïv — Tat'jána was, as her family name showed, Ukrainian even if she had fought for the USSR during the Great Patriotic War; currently, she served as a special adviser to the Ministerstvó Máriï — chuckle as she crossed her arms. "I was worried as well, my friend," she mused. "Especially with the few pureblood morons who escaped the purges you and yours unleashed before the war. Many of them fled the country and settled in Canada and America after the October Revolution. While a lot were seduced by the equality our friends in North America espouse, some…"

"Deserved a long vacation in the Spemát," her former commander finished. "And at the way it was when I was in charge of internal affairs at the NKMD."

"Da! Far more than you ever did," Tat'jána said as she conjured up her own chair to sit down. "Why did they do that to you, Svetá?! Yes, Kóba was a paranoid fellow — way more paranoid than what was healthy for anyone — but you had to do it to survive and make sure other people could survive without being forced to bow to some powerless 'lord' who claimed he was a blood descendant of old Koščéj himself! I can't understand why Xruščëv saw you as a threat to his attempts at trying to reform the Union! You just wanted everyone to be safe! He was there when our comrades fought the Germans from Kyïv to Stalingrád and on the long ride to Gréifinsvald!" To the veterans of the Great Patriotic War on the magical side, that blood-soaked advance into the heart of the Greater Germany Reich was described as "the long ride to Greifinswald" thanks to the warriors of the Moscow Magical Front most often being mounted on nightmares; normal veterans of that war always called it "the long walk to Berlin." "How many people did he want to see die if the capitalist pigs decided to finish what Gítler started?!"

A tired sigh answered her. "I stopped asking that long ago, Tanjá. People are lazy no matter where they live or what government they have over their heads. Magicals — especially in Europe — were particularly guilty of that sort of stupidity." She then smirked. "Still, there is hope. With the way our new Avalonian comrades now see it, both Russia and Ukraine will be sharing a whole planet once those Seifukúsu are made to see reason and retreat far from our solar system's borders. Those who will go settle that world — magical and normal alike — will discover the strength they would need to make a good go of it; the nature of colonization demands it. At least we won't have to worry about potential interference from natives as the Europeans discovered…"

"Comrade Marshal!"

Both women tensed as a wide-eyed brunette with dark grey eyes raced towards them. Stáršij Práporščik — she had only been a Mládšij Seržánt during the Great Patriotic War; her current rank title indicated her present place as a senior field officer of the Mágičeskix Polká Milícii — Ksénija Ígor'ovna Lébed'a had been one of the most lethal snipers ever employed by the Red Army. Her kill record of 417 nearly equalled that of her normal contemporary, Stáršij Seržánt Pável Petróvič Gógol'…which had made magical purists across Europe howl at the idea of using "muggle" weapons to fight a magical war, especially in such a "dishonourable" fashion. Svetlána Múromeca hadn't cared at all about such "decadent" attitudes; she was after results and Ksénija — who had been only sixteen when she had joined the Red Army in 1941 after Barbarossa began! — provided those results in spades, especially after she had learned how to enhance her Tókarev SVT-40 rifle to fire special bullets that could be hyper-charged with magic, thus guaranteeing they would reach out and kill someone from over a kilometre away.

"What is it, Ksjúša?!" Svetlána asked.

Ksénija stopped. "Begging to report, Comrade Marshal," she began before waving off down the street. "We found something there! I'd swear it was a golem…!"

That made the Bloody She-Bear's eyes widen in surprise. "Show me."

Both raced down the street, with Tat'jána following. Soon, they stepped into a rather large house that seemed no different than the others in this village from the outside…but instantly made Svetlána tense as she felt meson-powered defensive wards touch her as soon as she passed through the front door. Much to the marshal's surprise, said wards didn't toss her out on her butt…but welcomed her with a warmth that made her blink in confusion. "Did you feel that when you came in here, Ksjúša?!"

"Da! It felt like I was in my mother's arms again, Comrade Marshal," the sniper replied. "Up the stairs here," she then bade as she ascended to the second floor.

Svetlána and Tat'jána followed her up to find themselves in a corridor that connected to a series of spacious bedrooms and a small bathroom. Checking into the latter, the former commander of the Seventh Guards Shock Army nodded…before she stopped and looked again. "Svetá, look at this!" she bade. "Doesn't this look odd?"

The marshal came over to look…before her eyebrow arched. "No toilet."

"That made me instantly suspect that golems live here, Comrade Marshal," Ksénija stated, her voice filled with the giddy happiness of a child who had done something to please a favourite grandmother. Which she had felt since she learned three weeks ago that the woman who had led the Moscow Magical Front to an overwhelming victory in the magical side of the Great Patriotic War was alive, well and now free of imprisonment; as a member of the Magical Militia, Ksénija Lébed'a had been told right away about the older woman's "tragic heart failure"…which she didn't believe was such right from the start. "After all, if these were normal vampires, they'd need a way to relieve themselves of normal waste matter whenever they pretended to be normal people while hunting."

"Good point. Now show me what you found."

The sniper waved the senior officers over to the room opposite from the bathroom. There, all three found themselves gazing on what people might have thought was a mannequin made to pose in a walking stance…if said "mannequin" didn't look like a real person right up close and was fully functional in every aspect imaginable; he had been frozen stiff in the midst of dressing. Thinking of that, Svetlána nodded. The veterans of the Moscow Magical Front's in-house rocket artillery division that had come with her this morning had bombarded the village with surplus BM-13 Katjúša truck-launched rockets — modified with wide-area stunning spell explosives; the Studebaker trucks that they had been mounted on had been shrunk down and carried into position — before the veterans of Grindelwald's War had charged in to finish it off.

"Oh, my…!" Tat'jána purred with amused delight on seeing the size of this particular fellow's "talent." "Who on Earth built this one?!"

"Iván Fomásovič Fogt, I think."

Eyes locked on Svetlána, who had a knowing smirk on her face. "Wait! Wasn't Akadémik Fogt the man who helped run that war golem project out of Trischen with Majór Génrix that we found out about after we destroyed Gréifinsvald?!" Tat'jána demanded.

"Da, Tanjá! During his interrogation, Comrade Professor Fogt revealed that he created adult-form replicas of his lost son and daughter; both were killed as children prior to his fighting for the Prussians in that stupid war with France back in 1870," the marshal said as she gazed up and down the stilled golem's quite well-shaped body. "So you're Karl, eh?" she mused as she cut open one of her fingers with her dagger. She then stabbed that bleeding extremity right into the golem's forehead.

A powerful flash of magic later, the golem blinked as he straightened himself to attention. "Guten Morgen, meine Dame. Mein Name ist Karl. Was für ein Service oder Befehl willst du mich führen?" he asked in letter-perfect German.

"Do you know who I am, Karl?"

He blinked. "You are Svetlána Il'ínična Múromeca." A touch of hate filled his voice as he added, "You had my father killed after the war ended."

That made her blue eyes flash as an understanding look crossed her face. "Were you involved in what happened to me a month ago back at the Spemát?" she hissed out.

He curtly nodded. "I directed Theodore Nott and Adam Sewell to you to gain information concerning where the war golems Father helped create were located."

"Why help a pureblood minor lord from Britain?" she spat out. "They hate your kind, Karl! And who in Fate's name is this S'júèll fellow? Some idiot who wanted to use the name of that lunatic who tried to create a nation of vampires in the 1860s?"

"That is Adam Sewell, Mistress. He needed a body he could use after his original one was destroyed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 prior to the Battle of Gettysburg; since that confrontation, he's been forced to possess either other vampires or normal people so he could remain 'alive' and active in this world," he calmly answered, making both of Svetlána's companions hiss out in horror on realizing that one of the most dangerous enemies of all humanity was still active. "Many of his fellow daywalkers who fought to break apart the United States in that conflict also required new bodies to use."

"Bóže mij!" Tat'jána hissed out. "What the hell is this all about, anyway?!"

"They seek to destroy the Avalonians."

Silence.

More silence.

Still more silence.

And then…

"Because of Ángelus and Spajk, you mean," Svetlána stated.

"Yes."

Taking a deep breath, the older woman closed her eyes as she felt her magic billow from her heart in response to the feeling of total outrage now flooding her at the very IDEA of trying to hurt the beautiful bioroids…which would include the hybrid children who had saved Svetlána's life a month ago. Before she could lash out to crush this thing with a force bolt of energy, she then paused as something came to her. Gazing down at the considerable erection Karl now had, she then smirked. "Tanjá."

Tat'jána tensed. "Da?"

"Go to Ólja and tell her to hold off on the exorcism. I'll need about thirty minutes with our new comrade here to get the full story of what's going on."

Hearing that, the former commander of Seventh Army smirked. Even if Svetlána was old enough to be Karl Vogt's grandmother — were he born human — she now had a body that made her appear to be eighteen years old, just fresh out of Gamájun. Said body clearly had needs as Tat'jána herself discovered after she undergone her own body-swap a week ago. "I best give you an hour," she then teased as she winked at her old commander.

That made Svetlána laugh. "You are kul'túrnyj, Tat'jána Pávlovna!"

"Someone has to be, Svetlána Il'ínična! Come, Ksénija Ígor'ovna. Our marshal needs a little time alone with our new comrade to make him see the reality of the situation."

"D-d-da, M-my G-g-general!" a now-madly blushing Ksénija — who was wondering if all that time in the Spemát had fully unhinged her old front commander — sputtered.

Both quickly stepped out of the room. With a wave of her hand, Svetlána closed the door and put a locking charm on it before she gently pushed the nude golem onto the bed. Gently adjusting him so that he would be comfortable, she then moved to undress. Karl — who had been watching her — began to shudder as his eyes widened on seeing what lay underneath her field uniform. Once her panties and bra were off, she gently posed for him, which made him moan as his manhood quivered in anticipation of being able to sink into such a perfect body. Noting that, she smiled as she moved to lay beside him, twisting around to let her chest press into his as she gently fondled him, eliciting another moan from him. "I didn't kill your father, Karl Ivánovič," she gently soothed.

He blinked for a moment before his body seemed to relax. "He died…"

"Because he was tired and wanted to be with his wife finally after being separated from her for so long," she gently stated. "He helped us progress research into war golems after it was all over. Despite the Fates forcing us to fight against each other, Iván Fomásovič believed in the dropping of the Statute of Secrecy and the full reunion of all humanity as equals. No different than what Linn Gerárdovna and the others involved in that little project who helped your father create you and Ekaterína Ivánovna fought and died to create." As his eyes widened, she smiled. "He died with yours and Kátja's name on his lips, Karl. I promised him that if I ever found you two, I would take care of you. You're no different than a Steel Angel." She hummed. "So why are you supporting an effort by vampires and pureblood wizards to kill the Space Angels?"

"I am not supporting it."

Her eyebrow arched. "Oh? What do you plan to do?"

"To expose it to die Freundin von Drachen and see it stopped, Mistress. My sister and the others of our group just met her and her friends at Therme Bad Wörishofen yesterday. Given how much die Freundin von Drachen has helped magical sentients of many species, she would be sympathetic to helping all of us become fully organic so we may reproduce."

That made Svetlána blink before she smirked, nodding in understanding. She had heard stories of the Friend of Dragons from her hybrid grandchildren as well as guards at the Spemát. Atop some minor incidents across the Federation, that strange Japanese woman with the mysterious energy staff had been involved in saving a flock of mystic firebirds who had been nesting near Gamájun from thieves who wanted to steal their feathers two months ago; Ksénija Lébed'a had told her that as she had been one of the law officers who had been assigned to retrieve the thieves for trial and imprisonment. "What about the fact that the bioroid factory cannot create men?" she wondered.

"Cathrin reported there are twenty-one girls in the group die Freundin von Drachen is a part of, Mistress," Karl replied. "All of them dress in normal Japanese sailor suit-type school uniforms when they visit the magical enclaves. They all spoke of male friends they want desperately to help. It is easy to conclude that they were part of a mixed-gender class before they were transformed into Avalonians. If that is so, where are the men? And if there are men in that class, how would they become Avalonians themselves? They clearly do not wish to force their friends to undergo gender reassignment."

She considered that before nodding. An amused smile then crossed her face. "Tell me, Karl…have you ever made love to a virgin before?" she gently teased.

His eyes went wide. "You're a virgin?" he eeped.

"Da. When the little ones who saved me created my new body, I didn't bother with the necessary charms to break my hymen. A little voice in my head advised me to hold off on it this time until I found the right man to make me a woman in this life."

She then leaned close to him. "Show me you're the right man," she purred…


"Karl…are you alright?"

He perked on hearing that concerned question before turning to gaze upon a beautiful woman that appeared to be his physical age, dressed now in more traditional wizarding clothes instead of the modern clothes the golems who worked here wore. Like Theodore Nott, she had raven hair that — were it not tied up in a high bun at the top of her head — would have extended to mid-back. A pair of dark blue eyes peeked out of a very beautiful face that looked as if it had been painted by Leonardo da Vinci himself, said eyes framed by a pair of oval reading glasses even if she personally didn't need them to see. Had she been allowed to dress more modernly, Karl mused with a sense of personal pride at creating something so aesthetically perfect, she would have been swooped up right away by a modelling agency and made to display herself to the masses.

Of course, unlike the regiment's worth of would-be war golems that he and his friends had laboured to create these last three months, this particular golem was designed to help fill a still-yawning void deep inside the heart of a man who, for all his many faults, had seen tragedy in his life. Ingrid Crawford — she had personally suggested not taking up her template's married name "Nott" when she was first awoken so as to not give people cause to wonder what was happening at Lundy Keep — was a replica of Theodore's late mother, who died shortly after his birth in early 1980 due to contracting a fatal strain of wizarding flu. Fortunately for the golem that had been created to take her place, Theodore's father had been wise to obtain copies of all her memories before her death, which had been lovingly stored in pensieve bottles at the mansion; such had been used for a painting of Ingrid that Mason had kept in his bedroom for years. Those memories would later be used by Karl to have them copied into a meson crystal which he placed into a golem body that he had personally constructed to create a replica of Ingrid Crawford when she had graduated from Hogwarts and was betrothed to the much older yet dashing Mason Nott.

To Theodore's utter delight, he got a version of his own mother that could move around the house with him…and even accompany him on trips around Europe; he rarely if ever travelled with her inside Britain, though he didn't restrict her to the Keep.

Like Draco Malfoy had done concerning his mother Narcissa, Theodore Nott viewed his own mother — even this golem replica of hers — as someone who was totally sacrosanct.

Looking around, he then guided Ingrid into his personal work office area, which also contained his bedroom and bathroom. Closing and locking the door, he then sighed. "My mistress called out to me just now, Ingrid," he stated. "She's coming here."

That made her blink. "Marshal Múromeca?" she calmly asked.

He gaped at her. "How did you guess?"

Ingrid giggled. Her other-self had been a Ravenclaw and had graduated from Hogwarts near the head of her class in 1974. "I've visited you when you were sleeping since you came back from Spitzeberg a month ago with the news that an avalanche destroyed the village and killed all your friends," she admitted. "I felt the magic of the blood bond you have now fill this room when you've dreamt of her taking you." She then smirked. "You also spoke in Russian when you dreamt of your mistress. The rest was simple deduction." As he chuckled, she then blinked. "Will she kill Theo?"

«Tell her no, Karl,» Svetlána immediately stated; she had been monitoring this conversation through the mental link she now had with her lover. «But I cannot guarantee same when I do come. War is like that. And Fëdor Méjsonovič may be facing Gónbren once Xárol'd Jákovič and Elizabéta Èduardovna get their hands on him. Warn her.»

Karl nodded before relaying what his mistress just said. Hearing that, Ingrid blinked before she slowly nodded in understanding. "I wish he would not hate Avalonians so much," she stated. "I've overheard Cathrin and the others talk about the day they would be become organic and be able to seek out lovers to have their own children with. I have those same desires…as you do as well. If I could be that way…"

"You could be Theodore's future wife," he noted. "Even if technically, that would be incest as your replacement body's DNA would be based on your template's."

She shrugged before a saucy smile crossed her face. "I can't deny what I am. You made me this way, remember?" She blinked. "Could the marshal be my mistress as well? As an Avalonian, she's bisexual. She'll feel the marei'cha urge sooner or later."

«Much that I'm touched by her offer, Karl, please tell her that I can't,» Svetlána then stated. «Unless she's willing to move all the way to Russia to help me care for the little ones who saved my life, I won't take her from the place she now sees as home.»

Karl nodded again before relaying that information to her. Ingrid blinked before she nodded, a touch of sadness crossing her face. "I must bond soon…!"

«May I interrupt this?»

Karl and Ingrid both gasped…as did Svetlána on the train. "Frau Inada?!" he exclaimed as he looked around for the source of that accented voice.

A delighted laugh answered him. «So you guessed it out, Master Karl! Well done, my friend! Well done!» Inada Mizuho stated. «My apologies, Wise Mistress Svetlána, for eavesdropping on your conversation with your handsome lover and his truly lovely sister, but my companion alerted me to your current approach to Lundy Keep to deal with the monster who tried to have you killed out of his twisted and warped beliefs in pureblood magical superiority over all other forms of life. Seeing as how I am now in the position to aid Mistress Ingrid in her quest to become organic, I could help you all resolve this quite easily enough.»

«How so, Midzúxo…um, your father's name?» Svetlána asked.

«In your style, I am Midzúxo Sindzíovna, Svetlána Il'ínična,» the current mistress of the Staff of Gihan then stated with a touch of stutter in her voice. «And I apologize if I didn't get the right pronunciation and stress point of my father's name and your name in your quite civilized tongue correct. For all the experience I've gained over the last few months, mastering foreign languages has been something I've not been able to do.»

Roaring laughter echoed over the mental link connecting Karl and Ingrid with the former's master on a train in Devon and a Japanese teenager on a great factory ship in orbit over the Moon. «You are cultured, Midzúxo Sindzíovna! But then again, many of you from Japan are the same way as your spiritual kinswoman Cukíko Makotóvna proved!» The leader of the Moscow Magical Front then sighed as Karl felt a wash of determination flood him through his link with Svetlána. «Karl, are there vampires there?»

"None, Mistress. They all left to brief their friends on tomorrow's operation."

«Wonderful! Midzúxo Sindzíovna, can you tell if any of Elizabéta Èduardovna's people are close to Donžón Lándi? They deserve to have a hand in this as well.»

A hum trilled through the two golems' minds. «We are in luck, my friend. A company of the Second Battalion under Mistress Robyn Willhelms is currently encamped near Marisco Castle at the southern end of the island.» Karl and Ingrid then sensed a smile creep into the young woman's voice as she added, «My good friend has indicated that there is a blood relationship between Mistress Robyn and Master Theodore.»

"That's easily explained," Ingrid stated. "Robyn Willhelms is descent from a squib ancestor of Theo's who served in the King's German Legion against Napoleon. Theo's grandfather Herbert tried to trace down those relatives after his father Cantankerus was killed by someone in 1944; he believed it was the Schwarze Mädchen who did it."

«In that, the fool was wrong,» Svetlána stated. «Kántankeros was killed by his elder son, Gírbert's brother Artúr, because he learned that Artúr had survived long enough to become a member of Britain's Special Air Service. If you don't know who they are, Íngrid, think of them as a non-magical version of the War Hawks.» As Ingrid gasped, the Russian then added, «He shouldn't have blundered his way into a training area when live ammunition was being fired in preparation of the invasion of northern France in the summer of 1944. Not that Artúr Kántankerovič really cared either which…»

«Hello?! Who's this?!»

People blinked on hearing that voice. "Hello, Robyn," Karl called out.

Silence.

«KARL?!» Robyn Willhelms exclaimed. «How…?! But…! Where are you?!»

"Just on the other side of the island from where you are now…or so die Freundin von Drachen just told me," he stated with a smirk. "How's Linn?"

More silence.

«Um…sh-she's fine,» Robyn — a native of Stade on the shores of the Elbe River near Hamburg who had graduated from Trischen a year after Linn Heinrich — stuttered out, her words echoing the surprise and shock on encountering someone she hadn't known had survived the war. «What are you doing visiting Herr Nott?! Surely you…!»

"He doesn't plan to do that, Major Willhelms," Ingrid cut in out of defence for her own creator. "He, his sister and the others want to become organic. By allying with the Avalonians — and seeking out the aid of the Friend of Dragons — they could make sure that Mister Sewell's plan to attack your adopted people would ultimately fail." Even if she now knew the given name of that young woman, she wouldn't say it in public.

«Tell me, Róbin Pávlovna…would you want to inherit Fëdor Méjsonovič's seat in the Vizengámot?» Svetlána then teasingly cut in.

Still more silence.

«Generalfeldmarschall Múromeca?! What are YOU doing here?!» Robyn demanded.

«That, továrišč, I will tell you as soon as I can. Young lady, do we attack now?»

«I am ready,» Mizuho stated.

Much to Karl's personal relief, Robyn was still a very professional soldier and could recover quickly from being surprised. «Well, since the meeting in the Wizengamot to allow Elisa and the others to claim their seats is in two hours, might as well.»

«Splendid!» the current mistress of the Staff of Gihan breathed out…


Upstairs in the master bedroom, a minute later…

"HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY DO THAT?!"

An amused titter came back over the floo. "Theo, if you think I'm going to be so stupid as to side with the losers of this little fight, you're an idiot," Hester Selwyn replied from her townhouse in London. "I didn't appreciate having Mister Sewell send off a pack of his friends — and friends forced to possess golem bodies at that! — to attack me in my own home when I had no intention of betraying them to Harry. Much that I agree that uncontrolled exposure to the Avalonians is not a good thing, if that is the way your 'ally' intends to press through with his petty war, I want no part of it."

That made Theodore Nott gnash his teeth in outrage. After wasting hours trying to get through to his sole surviving ally who had yet to be corrupted by the bioroids, he was now getting THIS from Dolores Umbridge's cousin…?

"I can't believe the relative of a woman who had worked for so long to preserve our way of life would cast it aside and ally with mudbloods and aliens!" he snarled.

"Well, isn't it funny that those 'aliens' you despise so much have done so much good even when they were still all enslaved to their masters," Hester countered in turn, her voice as cold as ice. She wasn't by far the most pretty woman he had ever met. Though not as physically repulsive as her relative had been — even if she had been a sister Slytherin, Dolores Umbridge's toad-like looks had been enough to turn anyone's stomach even when she had been a student at Hogwarts in the late 1950s — Hester did possess the same shade of dark, curly brown hair and deep brown eyes. Unlike many of the other current members of the Wizengamot, Hester hadn't been educated at Hogwarts. A special dispensation was given to her by allies of Hester's predecessor as leader of the Noble House of Selwyn of Hampstead (her grandfather Jason) to get around the clauses of the Ministry Governance Act of 1705 and its prohibition against non-Hogwarts graduates having anything to do with the Ministry of Magic or the Wizengamot. Out of an understandable fear of Albus Dumbledore's meddling in her life — even those people within the traditional "dark" families who would never have sided with Voldemort in the First Purification War had long noted the level of interference the Defeater of Grindelwald had shown over the years in people's lives — her parents Harold and Ophelia had her sent to Beauxbâtons; had she gone to Hogwarts, Hester would have been a third-year student in Theodore's freshman year, most likely as a member of Slytherin.

But now…

"Or did we forget what Madame Holmes did to Rose Potter and her friends?" Hester then teased as she sipped her tea, looking as calm as could be. "Even if they were alien in body, they were human in spirit. It's a pity none of them could be invited to Hogwarts thanks to that fool Riddle and his friends; they would have unleashed a revolution the likes of which hasn't been seen in this country since the time of the Founders."

"Oh?!" Theodore snarled back. "How could you possibly think that's good?!"

Her eyebrow arched. "What of Ingrid?"

That made his voice catch in his throat. "I don't know what you're talking about!"

"Oh, please, Theo! Don't insult my intelligence!" Hester sharply snapped. "You had Herr Vogt and his sister create a golem replica of your late mother! I could tell right from the start!" As he sputtered out, she calmly sipped her tea. "Not that I don't blame you for doing that, of course. I can tell how much your mother's absence from your life has hurt you. I wished a hundred times and more to have my parents back after they died in the First War." Her voice dripped with scorn on saying that; it had long been suspected that the Selwyn family had been nearly wiped out to the last at Voldemort's command because of their unwillingness to join such an obviously deranged leader. "Not that Dolores wasn't a bad guardian by far…but her drive to climb up the ladder at the Ministry did distract her from other things." She sipped her tea once more. "And considering that those golems that were created at Trischen had been intended from the start as intimate lovers, I have to wonder what you've been doing with that replica of your mother since she was first created."

He bolted to his feet. "HOW DARE…?!"

A sharp explosion echoed through his bedroom as the house rocked violently from some sort of heavy impact, making him spin around…

"MUČÉNIE!"

Theodore screamed in agony as his whole body was nearly ripped apart by the application of the Russian version of the Cruciatus Curse showering him. As he collapsed to his side on the floor, footfalls heralded the arrival of a tall woman with flaming red hair and dark blue eyes, dressed in normal clothes. He tried to reach for his wand, but the sheer waves of pain ripping through his body was just too much for him. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the attacker made a gentle wave of the hand. "Konéc!"

A groan escaped him as the torture curse was lifted while his attacker moved to sit on his bed. "Dóbryj den', Fëdor Méjsonovič," she said in a voice that made a chill worse than the Arctic in mid-winter fall over his heart. "We must…"

Pop! "Evil crystal-blood mudblood! You will not hurt Mast-…!"

"ÆLF RETIER!"

A bolt of white light struck the Nott family elf, Cansy, which made her scream out in surprised shock and overwhelming pain as the servant bond that kept her loyal to her family for years was ripped away in an instant. As Theodore watched in horror, his long-time close companion collapsed to the floor as footfalls heralded the arrival of someone in the camouflage uniform of a major in the German Army. On seeing her, the current Viscount of Torridge paled in horror as her looks — wavy chestnut brown hair that went to mid-back that framed a perfect face pierced by dark brown eyes — quickly made him realize that this attack on his person had been coordinated between the commander of Number 23 Jäger Company, who was a distant relative of the family…and the former commander of the Moscow Magical Front, who should be dead right now! "Y-y-you…!" he sputtered.

Standing close to Svetlána Múromeca, Robyn Willhelms smirked as she clasped her hands behind her back while footfalls echoed in the background as the members of her company of hit-witches swarmed through the mansion. "I never thought I would ever meet any of my English cousins…save for when I killed them on the battlefield or dragged them to meet my old schoolmate to be interrogated," the Lower Saxon hit-witch then stated, a cold smile crossing her face. "By the way, your granduncle Arthur sends his greetings, Theodore. If you wish to know, it was he who shot Cantankerus down when he stupidly blundered into the middle of a training exercise while Arthur was preparing for the invasion of Normandy back in 1944." She shook her head as a mirthless smile crossed her face. "Not that a stupid leicheblut schweinhund like him — or you — would ever be truly missed."

Theodore shuddered. "Filthy…mud-…!"

"Oh, do shut up, Theo. You've been beaten. Accept it with grace."

Both women turned…

…before blinking in surprise to see Hester Selwyn standing near the doorway to the bathroom, having been teleported there by Inada Mizuho. As Theodore turned to stare wide-eyed at the "blood traitor" now sipping her tea in his own bedroom, Hester then smiled as her free hand came up to make a circular motion. "Finite!"

Both Svetlána and Robyn gasped as a multiple-layer disguise charm fell away from the current Baroness of Hampstead, revealing a stunningly beautiful woman with vibrant dark brown hair and brown eyes that sparkled with power and life. Along the way, a certain mental screen came down, which allowed the older Terran-turned-Avalonians in the room to realize that Hester Selwyn was of the same blood as they and Mizuho. As Theodore gaped in stunned disbelief, she smirked. "Alicia Holmes wasn't the only assistant observer on Earth who granted her mercy to a helpless witch who would have been struck down by an evil wizard," she calmly stated. "The current Elder Mother of my adopted people in Vaucluse did the same thing when I was in my sixth year at Beauxbâtons. No doubt, the hit-wizard who tried to kill me was acting on Voldemort's orders to give Dolores a chance to formally claim the family seat in the Wizengamot. Pity he never could imagine that an alien — even if he was loyal to the 'church of the day' — would care more for someone like me than even my own cousin and her allies here in Britain."

"And you stayed silent about this…why?" Robyn asked.

"DNA loyalty lock," Hester sadly replied. "Unlike Alicia's father, my 'master' wasn't going to risk being executed as a 'heretic' for defying his superiors. And since I didn't really interact with them, I had no idea about the truth behind Rose and her friends until the Liberation. By then, I had got used to disguising myself to ensure no one would suspect the truth." To Svetlána. "What did he do to you, Marshal?"

"While I was still in the Spemát, he had me mind-raped to learn of what happened to the war golems Linn Gerárdovna Génrix and Iván Fomásovič Fogt created to press on the war even after the Nazis were done away with," the veteran of the Great Patriotic War declared, which made both Robyn and Hester gasp in horror. As both women then stared wrathfully at Theodore, Svetlána added, "This stupid brat was tricked by Adám S'júèll to learn about those bodies so they could be obtained…but it turns out that Comrade S'júèll himself — not to mention his sister and many of his friends — are forced to use replacement bodies thanks to their real ones having been destroyed years ago thanks very much to the gallant efforts of people such as Avraám Fomásovič Línkol'n." She smirked as Theodore gargled in shocked disbelief at that revelation. "Did you really think that the stupid creature wanted magic only just to try to destroy my adopted race, Fëdor Méjsonovič? He made horcruxes, just like Fomá Fomásovič Reddl made to stay 'alive' after Xárol'd Jákovič Pótter's wonderful mother dealt with him back in 1981!" As a look of disbelief crossed his face, she smirked as she shook her head. "But then again, you never learned the real lessons being sorted into Slízerin were supposed to teach you. It strikes me so funny, Fëdor, that Gárri understood that much better…and he had been sorted by that stupid old hat into Griffindór of all…!"

"Meine Majorin!"

"Ja?!" Robyn called out as her company sergeant-major, a pretty girl with short-cut curly black hair and dark blue eyes and the framed diamond-over-single chevron insignia of a Hauptfeldwebel on her shoulders, came into the room. "What is it, Edith?"

Edith Krause clicked her heels together in salute. "The house is fully secure and we're getting the anti-vampire wards erected right now, Robyn," the native of Halle an der Saale in Saxony-Anhalt near Leipzig reported. "We're getting the curse-breakers over here right now, too. We noticed that the vast majority of this house's internal defences have been horribly compromised. I'd think Herr Sewell was responsible."

"Do not fret about him, Mistress Edith," Mizuho then stated. "My companion is now blocking the links between the detection charms Master Adam put in this place and he personally. You need not fret about your security being violated."

Edith nodded. "Pity that staff of yours can't find where they're hiding."

That made the would-be warrior-priestess from another dimension hum. "Perhaps our current host may enlighten us about that," she mused as she gazed down on Theodore.

"Mistress!"

Everyone turned before Robyn grinned. "Karl!"

Karl Vogt smiled as he allowed the pretty native of Stade to embrace him. "Hello, Robyn," he gently stated, his cheeks reddening as she gave him a passionate look.

"I've already claimed him, Róbin," Svetlána warned.

That made Theodore pale. "N-no…!"

"Oh, do be quiet, Master Theodore!" Mizuho snapped. "The stench of your hypocrisy when it comes to your relations with your fellow man is truly overwhelming!" As he gazed on her, she then icily smirked. "Did you know — much less care — that some of the vampires you've been dealing with were turned when they were MY age?!" As gasps filled the room, she twirled the Staff of Gihan. "Or are those words you magicals always espouse about the precious nature of children just a lot of useless hot air?"

"What children, továrišč?" Svetlána coldly demanded.

"A group of young ladies from the good state of South Carolina who formed a volunteer 'company' of 'sidesaddle cavalry' to help boost morale and relay gifts from loved ones to the warriors of the front line. They called themselves the Anderson County Amazons as a whole," Mizuho replied. "They were all turned near the end of 1862 after being tricked into believing the gift of vampire immortality would better aide the cause of the Confederacy. Little did they know that by the time the forces of the Wise Master General William Sherman came in the spring of 1864 to make Georgia and the Carolinas howl for their treason against the just rule of the federal government in Washington City, they would be accompanied by experienced hit-wizards trained to permanently deal with the undead. Sadly, like so many others of that time period as we've all discovered recently, they had their souls sheared apart by the horcrux process to keep them 'alive,' so to speak." As looks of horror crossed the others' faces, Mizuho shook her head. "Those fragments were preserved in specially-enchanted crystals and they would remain effectively asleep…until they were given new bodies some months ago. Thanks ultimately to what Master Karl prompted you to reveal, Mistress Svetlána."

"We didn't know any real specifics about those vampires who needed new bodies," Karl then confessed as Robyn gave him an accusing look. "Robyn, I swear this is the truth! When we got help from some Russian magical vampires to break into the bunker at Trischen, Herr Sewell had the bodies taken off somewhere private so they could be programmed and woken. None of us were involved in doing anything with those golems! Believe me, if I knew girls THAT young were being dragged into this…!"

"Fret not about that, my friend. They're in the hands of my friends and will finally embrace true life after so many years in the dark," Mizuho calmly assured him.

"Thank God for that!" Hester breathed out. "So what do we do about Theo?"

"Allow me, sister."

A bolt of energy lashed out from the Staff of Gihan to rip into Theodore's head, making him scream out as every element of his mind was sheared open and sifted through with overwhelming force to learn everything he knew. After what seemed another eternity — it was only five seconds by Robyn's count — the energy faded as a small crystal of meson was made to appear, then floated over to Svetlána's hand. A pained moan escaped Theodore before he passed out. "I'm sure you can use that once you return to your vast motherland to cleanse the MMD of the traitors who would gladly set back magical society in Russia many decades because of their greed and selfishness, Wise Mistress Svetlána. In the meantime, I'll be off to rejoin my friends. Until we meet again."

In a flash, she teleported away. "You best summon Lizá here so she can use that key on this idiot, Róbin," Svetlána stated as she gazed on Robyn. "Dumping the fool into Gónbren would make your claim for this land and this house all the more legitimate."

"I'll have her come down now, Frau Generalfeldmarschall," Edith stated.

"Wonderful! Now, Karl, we must discuss things."

Karl jerked. "Of c-course, Mistress…!"

He then shakily offered his arm to her, which Svetlána took with a predatory grin. With that, both walked out of the bedroom. Robyn watched them go before she exchanged a knowing look with Hester. "It must get lonely at her age," the former mused.

"Most likely," the latter affirmed before sipping her tea.

"Mas-…ter…!"

Both gazed at Cansy, who was trying to stagger to the fallen Theodore's side. Robyn winced as she felt the rolling waves of agony from the house elf. The use of the Elf Retirement hex had been even more devastating to the poor creature than if the soon-to-be deposed Viscount of Torridge gave her clothes. When it had been used in the field during Grindelwald's War, the hex made things a LOT easier for the Schwarze Mädchen, especially when they broke into the manors of pureblood lords across Europe to get at their targets; while the simple use of Killing Curses on house elves would have been proficient, the Black Maidens as a whole didn't care to kill such innocent creatures. Taking a deep breath, Robyn knelt down to sweep Cansy into her arms, which made the elf gargle in shock as she turned to stare wide-eyed at this cruel woman who had hurt her so. "I'm sorry, meine Dame," she cooed, which made Cansy blink in surprise as her wounded soul picked up on the fact that she had just been called "my lady" in German. "Here…

"ÆLF IMPLICARE!"

Cansy screamed out again as magic flooded her from head to toe. The pillow case she had been wearing — despite her having never been abused by Theodore Nott, she was still pretty much treated as a useful piece of furniture in lieu of a sentient being — was instantly transformed into a version of Robyn's current combat uniform without rank insignia, complete with boots. After the elf blinked in surprise, Robyn smiled as she kissed Cansy on the forehead, which made the elf squeal in shock. "Now, Frau Cansy, if you wouldn't mind, we need to get some trash sent off to Gonebren Prison."

Cansy blinked before she popped down to the floor, then gave an exaggerated salute with her left hand. "Yes, Mistress Major Robyn, ma'am! Cansy will take out the trash!"

And with a salute and a pop!, she and Theodore vanished. Robyn blinked before she sensed Edith gazing in amusement at her. "I don't need to hear it," the major warned.

"I wouldn't think of it," the company sergeant-major teased before she headed off.

"Well, if I can borrow your floo, I'll head back to my house," Hester then stated. "I assume I'll be seeing you at the Wizengamot this afternoon, Robyn."

Robyn nodded. "Ja…"

With that, the Baroness of Hampstead headed over to teleport herself back to London. As soon as she was finally alone in the bedroom, the commander of 23 Jäger Company sat down on the bed, shaking her head. "This better be worth it," she muttered.

A knock echoed from the door. "Excuse me, Major Willhelms?"

Robyn turned. "Ja?"

She then gaped on seeing the smiling woman there, who was giving her a suggestive look as she leaned against the doorway. "Since you've already claimed one piece of Theo's property, may I suggest you do so with another piece of his property?"

"What?"

Ingrid Crawford grinned. "Me."

That made Robyn's jaw drop in shock…


The Avalon bioroid factory, in one of the middle levels of Gestation Tower #98, ten minutes before…

There were days that Noda Satomi felt like she just wanted to scream.

Ever since she had woken in one of the upper levels of this particular part of the bioroid factory months ago — after enduring the emotional roller-coaster of The Program which ended for her inside the small living quarters at the lighthouse of Oki-shima thanks to a bullet fired into the back of her head by Tanizawa Haruka — she had encountered more than her fair share of incidents when she simply wanted to yank at her wavy black hair and bellow out her outrage and frustration at the uncaring Fates.

Especially when it came to things she did.

While it was good that Satomi was alive and well after she had been condemned to die in The Program by an uncaring government that valued her ONLY as simple cannon-fodder to feed into a heartless machine to entertain the blood-thirsty masses of the Greater East Asia Republic, all the OTHER things she had faced since coming here were enough to make her go prematurely grey…and she was in an Avalonian body at that!

It was bad enough that staying in this magical place would only be restricted to one solar year before the Shiroiwa girls would be sent back to their home dimension.

It was even worse that, thanks to what the Shiroiwa girls had come from, once they did go home, they would probably have target marks put on their heads by the government of the Republic for their "crime" of defying the needs of The Program.

And it hurt like nothing else in Existence that Satomi had personally fallen totally in love — in both spirit and body — with an unbelievable man who was a NATIVE of this dimension, which meant they were would be forced apart come the following February.

Hence her suggestions to her friends — usually shouted at the top of her lungs — to keep their heads down and their identities secret from the outside world at large.

It simply would hurt TOO much to make friends with the natives of this dimension — especially one Moroboshi Ataru — and then be yanked away from those friends because the Universe didn't care at all about what mere mortal girls would desire.

No matter how much her heart ached at the idea of never seeing Ataru again…

…Satomi had to make sure the others always understood that.

But it was hard in the face of what Inada Mizuho represented.

It wasn't that Satomi hated Mizuho, of course.

After what the Shiroiwa girls had endured on Oki-shima, the petty class rivalries that had split them apart for so long literally didn't mean anything anymore.

How can one hate someone just because she allowed her fantasies to spark up her life after the emotional and physical hell they had faced on that island?

Especially when Mizuho had gone totally overboard in honouring her friends' desire to stay safe and stay clear of any detection by outsiders.

Yet on the other hand…

"Oh, Mizuho…!"

Yep, this was definitely an occasion for hair-pulling.

Satomi knew there had NOT been a class of Americans made to participate in The Program.

What the heck were TWENTY-FOUR young women who were clearly Westerners doing asleep in reclining chairs in one of the gestation tower's ten recreation lounges?!

Much that she did understand Mizuho wanting to save the lives of people since she had been given the power to do that by the Staff of Gihan to do so, the would-be warrior-priestess had been told time and time again to not bring in strays!

After all, the Staff could easily force people through body-swaps WITHOUT the need to bring the people up here to have that physically done!

"What — the — fuck…?!"

Satomi moaned. "I was about to ask the same thing, Hirono."

Standing at the entrance to the lounge, Shimizu Hirono could only blink as she gazed on the sleeping girls there. A quick check with her empathy indicated these girls were all Avalonians…and all emotionally the age of the Shiroiwa girls. All of them were currently dressed in plain panties and sports bras, showing off beautifully slender bodies that were growing out in all the right places for girls their age. Hair colours spanned the wide spectrum of shades common to Americans; their eyes were closed as their chests fell up and down in the metered rhythm of sleep. They were of varying height, with the tallest appearing to be at Hirono's eye level. And all…

What WERE they doing here?

"Hey, guys!"

Satomi and Hirono turned as Minami Kaori and Etō Megumi came into the room, trays full of homemade sundaes in hand. As they set the trays down at a table, Satomi took a deep breath. "Girls, what the hell is THIS all about?!" she hissed out.

Mizuho's best friends seemed nonplussed. "We're bringing breakfast to new friends we just made," Megumi calmly answered before she knelt down beside one girl. "Rachel-san? Rachel-san?! Wake up! We got ice cream," she urged as she prodded the girl awake.

A groan escaped the girl with the rusty red hair cut at mid-neck as a pair of dark brown eyes opened. "Wh-where am…I…?" Rachel Thornbridge moaned out before she looked around this strange and cold place. "What…?" She then blinked as Megumi leaned into her field of view. "Miss Megumi…" she then breathed out, a smile crossing her face, before her eyes closed and she puckered her lips. "Kiss…"

Megumi smiled as she leaned down to give her just that. As Rachel moaned in delight on feeling those soft lips caress hers once more, Kaori moved to place the sundaes where the others could get their hands on them. She then leaned over to gently thread her fingers through the silky locks of a woman with dark hair that went to mid-shoulders. "Eleanor-san, I've got some food for you," she whispered as that girl breathed out, her dark green eyes opening. "Do you want some ice cream? We got it fresh."

That made Eleanor Reese blink. "Miss Kaori…kiss…"

Kaori smiled as she obliged the other girl. By then, Megumi was helping Rachel sit up so she could eat her sundae. "Oh, my…!" the captain in charge of the Anderson County Amazons gasped on seeing a big mountain of sweet vanilla goodness interlaced with dark chocolate, strawberry, whipped cream and a cherry on top in a clear cut glass being handed to her. Daintily taking the spoon that was provided with the sundae in hand, she scooped up some of the ice cream and gently put it to her mouth. Her body then seemed to swoon as a moan of pure pleasure escaped her. "So good…!"

"A lot better than drinking blood, I hope," Megumi mused.

Rachel blinked as her mind tried to comprehend that before she sighed. "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why did Miss Mizuho save us?" the leader of the Amazons wondered. "After all, we were nothing more than vam-…" She then made a face. "Them…!"

Megumi hummed. "Well," she breathed out as she took the spoon from the other girl and moved to scoop some ice cream from the sundae. "In Mizuho's eyes, you're not a monster, Rachel-san. You're a victim. You formed your little club as a way of supporting your relatives out in the field as they fought to win independence for the South, right?" As the American nodded, Megumi held out the scooped ice cream for her to slurp up. "And you were made a vampire before you turned fifteen, right?" Rachel nodded again as a pair of gasps escaped the Japanese teenager's classmates standing by the entrance of the lounge. "And you were tricked into doing it since you didn't like the idea of not helping with the fighting even if you were girls and too young to disguise yourselves as boys to go out and volunteer to fight, right?" As Rachel nodded again, Megumi shrugged. "We went through the same sort of thing before we were brought here and made Avalonians. My classmates and I were forced into something like the gladiatorial games they used to play in ancient Rome. Ever hear about that?"

"Somewhat," Rachel admitted.

"Well, in The Program — that's what it was called — we had a choice: Kill all our friends or be killed. There could be only one survivor in the end." As Rachel and Eleanor — who was allowing Kaori to feed her — both gasped in horror on hearing that, Megumi shrugged. "We never had the choice. It was fight or die. But because our story somehow got out in the Earth in this dimension, our souls were saved by the staff Mizuho has now from going to Heaven and were brought here so we could live again."

"Why…?" Eleanor moaned out.

"Don't know," Hirono then said, which made the two Americans gape at this tall and quite mannish-looking woman with the short-cropped blonde hair and brown eyes standing nearby. "One of our male friends would be able to answer that. We haven't found a way to help them get back on their feet since this place can only make girls, but we're working on it. All we know is that we were condemned to die…and then we were brought here." She smirked as she walked over to kneel beside the tallest of the Amazons, a woman with shaggy black hair. A pair of oval-frame reading glasses were set aside. "Who's this one?" she asked as she thumbed the sleeping girl.

"That's Jane Gilmer," Eleanor provided. "She's our second lieutenant."

"Well, I ain't salutin' her," Hirono stated, which made the Amazons' first sergeant huff in outrage…before she saw the sparkle of mischievousness in the Japanese girl's eyes. With that, Hirono scooped up some ice cream and allowed it to gently press against Jane's lips. "Hey, Jane, up and at 'em. Got some food for you."

A moan escaped the raven-haired teenager. "Kiss…"

That made Hirono blink in confusion before she gazed on Kaori. "They never kissed any boy before they got turned," the latter whispered. "Don't go crazy on her, okay?"

"Gotcha," Hirono said as she pulled the spoon away before leaning down to kiss Jane.

That made the South Carolinian volunteer cavalry company officer moan in delight as she felt those soft lips press against hers, her dark grey eyes opening to allow her to gaze on a strange face. "Who…?" she groaned before recognition dawned. "Oh, Miss Hirono…" She then blinked. "How did I know that?" she asked.

"We'll explain that later," Hirono said as she brought the scooped ice cream into view, which made Jane's eyes go wide. "Oi, 'Tomi! Go get the others, huh?!"

Satomi groaned before she stormed off, muttering a storm as she went. That left behind three Japanese girls shaking their heads in annoyance at their classmate's antics and three very confused American girls. "What bee got into her bonnet, Miss Hirono?" Eleanor asked before smiling as Kaori offered her some more ice cream.

"'Tomi grows on you after a bit, Ellie," Hirono said before scooping up some more ice cream to give to Jane. "Let her cool down and relax."

"If that's possible," Megumi mused.

The others nodded…


By the time Mizuho herself had teleported back up to the factory from Lundy Keep, all twenty-four of the Anderson County Amazons were up and enjoying the ice cream that Kaori and Megumi made for them, they being fed for the most part by the other Shiroiwa girls. Even Satomi had pitched in to help out; despite all her fears, she didn't see herself as evil by any stretch of the imagination and wouldn't dream of being cruel to a group of girls who were emotionally her age that had undergone something that almost equalled the Shiroiwa girls' experiences on Oki-shima in terms of pure evil.

"Greetings, all!" the would-be warrior-priestess called out after she appeared into the lounge. Setting the Staff aside, she moved to sit down at one of the spare chairs.

"So what the heck did you do this time, Mizuho?" Nakagawa Yūka wondered.

"Do you remember Cathrin Vogt, friend Yūka?"

"Sure!"

"She and her brother helped a regiment's worth of daywalker vampires who had lost their original bodies during the war between the noble states of the Union over a century ago regain physical forms," Mizuho stated as Sakaki Yūko came over with a bottle of juice for her to drink. "My thanks, Yūko," she said as she uncorked the bottle and moved to sip from it, waving to the Amazons. "Our new sisters here were part of that group. To gain those bodies, Master Karl referred Master Sewell's allies to a woman named Svetlána Múromeca, a passionate and experienced warrior from vast Russia who fought to protect her homeland from the ravages of Master Gellert Grindelwald and his hordes during the European magical side of the Greater East Asia War." At people's nods, Mizuho smirked. "In doing so, the Wise Mistress Svetlána was condemned to die…but was saved by the kind intervention of a village of hybrid children who lived close to where she was incarcerated."

"What happened?" Utsumi Yukie asked.

"Naturally, Mistress Svetlána didn't care to be abused in that manner, so she stormed to England determined to make Master Theodore Nott — who is Master Sewell's chief ally among the purebloods of that land — answer for his willingness to violate the sanctity of her soul to gain that information." Ignoring the chorus of gasps from the Amazons on hearing the word "violate" — which implied rape in their worldview…thus would be pretty close to the standard Avalonian attitudes towards mind-raping — Mizuho smirked. "I noted this was happening after Lady Rachel and her friends had endured their body-swaps, so I went to assist Mistress Svetlána in her most noble crusade. As of now, Master Theodore is having his mind shredded by the noble Hollows of Gonebren and Mistress Robyn Willhelms — one of the many good warriors fighting under the banner of the Black Maidens — will claim his family seat in the House of Lords Wizengamot. At the same time, Master Karl — who was blood bonded to Mistress Svetlána — will be able to go live his life, as will Mistress Cathrin and our other friends."

"What about Sewell?" Hirono wondered.

"He is now effectively isolated and alone with only his surviving allies to aid him," Mizuho stated with an icy grin. "Since they can't stay for much longer inside those golem bodies they now possess, they must attack Azkaban as soon as possible to gain the necessary magic to create bodies of their own. Lady Rachel, how did it feel when you woke up in that golem body obtained for your use recently?"

Rachel frowned, even if her cheeks had reddened instantly on hearing Mizuho address her so formally. "Like I was trapped in a swamp, Miss Mizuho," she answered. "And those horrid mosquitoes were biting me all over my body, even through my clothes."

"So you hoped you'd get a body made of flesh-and-blood back as soon as Master Adam could arrange for such?" the would-be warrior-priestess asked.

A firm nod from the leader of the Amazons. "Yes!"

Mizuho then shrugged. "Thus, they have no choice but to commit."

"What if they wised up?"

Eyes locked on Ogawa Sakura. "What do you mean, Sakura?" Nakagawa Noriko asked.

"This Sewell man's been 'alive' for five thousand years, remember?" the beautiful woman with the bob-cut umber brown-shaded hair and the expressive dark brown eyes said. As the others nodded in understanding — all the Amazons were flatly convinced that Sakura was one of the prettiest ladies they had ever met — she then asked, "What's to stop him from wondering if he might be walking into a trap tomorrow morning?"

"He's an arrogant asshole, Sakura," Sōma Mitsuko stated.

"Miss Mitsuko! Don't cuss!" Eleanor chided. As the ex-prostitute gave her an annoyed look, the bespectacled first sergeant of the Amazons added, "Even if he deserves it!"

Laughter filled the lounge. "Well, as Mitsu was saying, he's an arrogant ass," Hirono then spoke up. "And as Mizu just hinted right now, he's going crazy being in a body that just doesn't mesh with his soul. So he's got to do something. All those idiots in Azkaban are just sitting there waiting to be taken. He'll do it."

"Is there some way to make sure of it?" Noriko wondered.

The others hummed…before Annabelle Maxwell perked. "Miss Mizuho, what did you do to our old bodies?" she then asked as she gazed on the would-be warrior-priestess.

Mizuho blinked. "I was going to destroy them, but got distracted by the events on the Isle of Lundy, Lady Annabelle," she answered. "Why do you ask?"

"Use them."

Eyes locked on her, then everyone blinked as they considered what the first lieutenant of the Amazons was suggesting. "Can we do that, Mizuho?" Megumi then asked.

It is well within my capabilities to manipulate the bodies recently vacated by the members of the Anderson County Amazons, Etō Megumi, the Staff then spoke up. However, using those bodies under 'remote control' will not make them seem as lifelike as they once were when the souls of Annabelle Helen Maxwell and her friends inhabited them.

"Not for long," Hirono stated. "I think I know what Belle's aiming at here."

"What?" Satomi asked.

"Use them as bait to make the vamps come out of where they're hiding," the taller girl answered. "And once they do, have the Black Maidens drop the whole world on them."

Silence fell as people sat back for a moment to consider that. "That could work, my friend," Mizuho then mused before sipping her juice.

The others nodded…

To be continued…


WRITER'S NOTES

1) Translations: Junker — Literally "young noble," this was the name applied to the landed nobility in old Prussia; Podrúga Drakónov — (Lady) Friend of Dragons; Generál-Polkóvnik Vojsk Mágičeskie — Literally "Colonel-General of Magical Troops," this would be the equal of a lieutenant general in most NATO armies (NATO rank code OF-8); Podpolkóvnik — Lieutenant Colonel (NATO rank code OR-4); Prjagrád — Short for "Prjányj Vinográdnaja Vódka" (literally "spiced grape wine vódka"), the name brand of the one of the Russian versions of fire whisky; Kyïv — The proper spelling (using Scholarly Romanization of Ukrainian) of Kiev; Ministerstvó Máriï — Ministry of Magic; Stáršij Práporščik — Literally "senior flag bearer," this is the equal of a Canadian Forces chief warrant officer (NATO rank code OR-9) and was a rank re-introduced into the Soviet Army in 1972 (the práporščik ranks had been abolished in 1917 and are in the midst of being abolished again by 2010); Mládšij Seržánt — Junior Sergeant; Mágičeskix Polká Milícii — Regiment of Magical Militia (the Russian version of the Corps of Law Aurors); Akadémik — Academician (the name of a member of an academy of science); Bóže mij — Ukrainian way of saying the Russian Bóže moj ("God help me!"); Kul'túrnyj — Cultured/Civilized; Donžón Lándi — Russian way of saying "Lundy Keep" (the Russian word donžón is derived from the French donjon, which is always used to imply the fortified tower of a castle); Mučénie — Torture; Konéc — Finish/The End; Dóbryj den' — Good Day/Good Afternoon; Ælf Retier — Mixing the classical spelling of "elf" and the French verb retirer ("to draw back"), this is a spell that will break the master-servant bond between a house elf and his/her owner (first introduced in The Icemaidens and the Philosopher's Stone); Hauptfeldwebel — Literally "Head Sergeant," the equivalent of a Canadian Forces warrant officer (NATO rank code OR-7); Ælf Implicare — Mixing the classical spelling of "elf" with the Latin term implicāre (the present active infinitive of the verb implicō ["I embrace"]), this is the spell used to bind a house elf to a new master or mistress.

2) Mollie Bean's proper given and middle name as shown here is my invention. As an aside, the note from the United States Secretary of the Army (short-form SA or SECARMY) seeing her promoted to the rank of brigadier general is based on Orders 31-3 (released 13 March 1978) which saw Lieutenant General George Washington (1732-99), the first President of the United States, posthumously promoted to the special rank grade of General of the Armies of the United States (GAS) with an effective date of 4 July 1976 (the American Bicentennial). It should be noted that Washington's promotion was to "such grade to have rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present," giving him seniority over all other officers of flag rank in that service.

3) A note on American medals and decorations noted on here:

The Magical Cross of the United States of America is that country's version of the first class Order of Merlin. The awards that would equal the second and third class versions of the Order of Merlin are the Magical Star of the United States of America and the Magical Medal of the United States of America respectively. In terms of order of precedence for someone who served in the military, the Magical Cross falls automatically below the Medal of Honour, with the Magical Star falling below the Distinguished Service Cross/Navy Cross/Air Force Cross/Coast Guard Cross and the Magical Medal falling before the Silver Star. Unlike other American medals, the Magical Cross/Star/Medal are awarded in succession in case there are further instances when a recipient is seen as deserving another award; for example, a winner of the Magical Medal would be awarded the Magical Star if s/he did something that would have merited the award of the Magical Medal to one who had never got an award in the first place. Unlike other American awards, the magical awards can be worn as separate decorations. In Mollie Bean's case, she was awarded the Magical Medal in 1938 for her work as a Magical Marshal, the Magical Star in 1948 as a mark of her work in World War Two and the Magical Cross in 1960 for her work as America's magical ambassador to the ICMC and her teaching work at Salem.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is the highest civilian award in the United States. It recognizes those individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavours." The Medal of Freedom was first instituted in 1963. It has a special grade — known as the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction — that is the only sash medal awarded in the United States. While primarily a civilian award, the Medal of Freedom can also be awarded to military personnel; in that case, the Medal of Freedom falls in after military personal decorations and unit awards in the order of precedence. In Mollie's case, the Medal of Freedom falls in behind her Magical Medal.

4) Moskvá Belorússkij is the name of one of Moscow's nine main railway stations; this particular station is dedicated to serving all lines connecting to places west of Russia's capital city. Belorússkij Station is located two kilometres northwest of Red Square. Varsáva Západnaja is the Russian way of saying the Polish Warszawa Zachodnia ("Warsaw West"); this is the name of a combined bus and railway station that serves both local, national and international travellers. It is located four kilometres west-southwest of the centre of Poland's capital city.

5) As I noted in Phoenix From the Ashes, the standard structure of Russian names is formed in the following format: "Given Name + Patronymic + Family Name." The standard patronymic is usually a combination of the father's name with either the endings -ovič (literally "son of…") or -ovna ("daughter of…"), though there are the odd variations, i.e. Il'íč ("son of Il'já") or Il'ínična ("daughter of Il'já"). Also, as shown above and in previous parts, it is common for Russians to always address people informally by given name and patronymic in combination, even with foreigners they befriend, i.e. Xárold Jákovič ("Harold, son of James") for Harry Potter. When encountering foreigners which earn a Russian's respect, the equivalent Russian version of a person's name — when such exist — is used in such a mode of address, such as Avraám for "Abraham." Atop that, in the local version of the Japanese practice of adding the suffix honorific -chan as a term of endearment, very close friends can make use of nicknames such as Tanjá for "Tat'jána" or Ksjúša for "Ksénija." Finally, female family names normally have an "-a" added at the end, i.e. Múromeca from "Múromec."

6) The Tókarev SVT-40 — the "SVT" is short for Samozápjadnaja Vintóvka Tókareva ("Tókarev's Self-Loading Rifle") — was one of the first semi-automatic battle rifles devised by any nation; it is a peer of the famous M1 Garand weapon that equipped American forces during World War Two. Designed by Fëdor V. Tókarev (1871-1968), the SVT-40 — and its earlier version, the SVT-38 — worked on a short-stroke gas piston over the barrel that would move the bolt to eject the spent cartridge when the weapon is fired and load a new cartridge in the firing chamber. Unlike the M1, the SVT-40 had a detachable box magazine that carried ten rounds. Sadly, the SVT-40 only began to be produced in mass numbers when Operation: Barbarossa began in 1941…though it was available in sufficient numbers to outfit snipers in the Red Army. By the time the war ended, newer assault rifle designs such as the Kalášnikov AK-47 had rendered the SVT-40 obsolete.

7) The BM-13 Katjúša — nicknamed the Stalinorgel ("Stálin's Organ") by the Germans — was a multiple-unit rocket artillery system that was first devised by the Soviet Union in 1939. Designed for fast production and rapid fire use, the various models of Katjúša were used as massed mobile artillery to saturate a target with explosive rockets, then deploy to new locations to avoid enemy counter-battery fire. The BM-13 could fire sixteen RS-132 rockets carrying a 4.9 kilogram explosive charge — with a blast radius of ten metres — to a range of 8.7 kilometres. Thanks to its excellent off-road capabilities, the American-built Studebaker US6 — in American service, this was known as the M16A — 2 1/2 ton truck supplied to Russian via Lend-Lease was considered the best launch platform for the Katjúša system. By war's end, over 10,000 Katjúša systems had been constructed and its influence on Soviet and Russian artillery doctrine remains to this very day.

8) The name I give to Theodore Nott's mother is my invention.

9) Battle Royale character notes:

Tanizawa Haruka, Nakagawa Yūka and Utsumi Yukie were three of the "lighthouse girls" along with Noda Satomi. Haruka was a player in the girl's volleyball team at Shiroiwa who once had a very bad experience with boys. Yūka was an overweight girl who acted as the class clown; she did all she could to make others happy even if her sense of humour could be a little ribald at times. She is also NOT related to Nakagawa Noriko. And Yukie was the girl's iinchō (classroom representative) for their particular class. An intelligent and charismatic girl who was seen as a born leader, she also — as did many other girls in her class — had a crush on the male star of BR, Nanahara Shūya. All three girls would die in the events depicted in the manga stories "Doubt," "Crevice" and "Collapse" (manga episodes #69-71).

Sakaki Yūko was the woman who accidentally provoked the "Lighthouse Massacre" in the first place. A timid and shy girl who witnessed Shūya accidentally kill another of their classmates, she lost any sense of reason, finding herself convinced that he was a "devil boy" and needed to be killed. Thus, she tried to poison him…but accidentally poisoned Yūka instead, which set off Satomi. When she did realize what she did, Yūko killed herself at the end of the manga story "Reparation" (manga episode #74).

Ogawa Sakura was the female half of the star couple of Class 3-B; her boyfriend was Yamamoto Kazuhiko. A very pretty girl who had dated Kazuhiko for some time, she also once bet on the outcome of a Program episode. In lieu of fighting their friends, Sakura and Kazuhiko elected to commit suicide when they were accidentally spooked by Yukie; they would die at the end of the manga story "Treasure" (manga episode #11).