March 6th, 1935.
The sun had been shining brightly on a field of flowers. Nestled in the gardens on the outskirts of Milt, a lone tank lies in wait.
Lt. Claude Wallace, commander of Squad E, was writing in his notebook. "It will be done!" promised the handwritten memo on its worn-out cover.
Raz was dozing atop the Hafen, while the troops hid among the flowers.
A shift in the breeze warned Claude as clearly as if the air itself could talk: "The Imperials are coming," whispered the wind. "They are already here."
Lt. Wallace's halt was immediately met with the enemy's aerial attack. On Claude's orders, Squad E popped up from the flowerbeds like daisies.
They were ready to fight before the Imperial army could even advance.
Squad E's tactical preparedness allowed them to score another victory. Yet rather than celebrate, Claude could not help but lament the cost...
The flowers had been ruined; EWII's latest casualty was nature itself.
Claude went to HQ to report his success in the engagement at Milt. But the brass had a new mission for him: Operation Northern Cross.
Across the Eastern Theater, the Federation was finally fighting back.
Despite a picture perfect morning, a tactical obstacle soon appeared. The old fortress on the border, Fort Krest, housed a 21-cm howitzer.
Reinforcements would take seven days—a week they did not have.
Christel Ward, Minerva's right-hand woman, brought dire news: The Empire had invaded Raz's, Kai's, and Claude's home country. With Gallia under attack, Squad E's fight had become personal.
Lt. Wallace and Lt. Victor agreed that the only way was forward. And so, without any artillery, their siege on the castle began... but Fort Krest proved well-armed. Squad E was fighting to live.
Prospects looked grim, until Claude's wish upon a star came true. Backup had arrived, and the joint ops leader brought a new toy. She called it the mortar: a prototype, portable grenade launcher.
Thanks to the mortar's fire support, Squad E overtook Fort Krest. Much to Raz's and Kai's surprise, the grenadier was Riley Miller.
She too was from Hafen, and was happy to see childhood friends.
But the moment Riley laid eyes on Lt. Wallace, her face went dark. Calling him "Scaredy-Claude," she lashed out with a painful reunion. Not even his "wind talk" could have predicted this gathering storm.
To Be Continued