The Let's Play Archive

Advance Wars: Dual Strike

by cosmicPostman

Part 72: Chapter 72 (Intermission) - The Night Before

Update 72 (Intermission) - The Night Before

Hey guys, you know how it goes. Still working on the final map, so for now, here's the night before writeup that has become tradition at this point. Stick around to the end for another fun thing, too. I hope you enjoy!


“Alright, everyone, quiet down!”

The call of Commander-in-Chief Rachel of the Allied Nations echoes around the room, and the assorted soldiers of all four nations fall silent as she steps forward. I’m stood next to her, feeling a little bit like I’m unnecessary.

“We’re ready to move out to the black obelisk at 0500 hours tomorrow morning.” she announces. Some of the soldiers roll their eyes at the early get-up. “I advise you all get some rest immediately. My dude, isn’t that right?”

Everyone’s eyes turn to look at me, and I wince a little. “Uh, well - provided it’s alright by you, of course - I generally let the soldiers do whatever they want before a big battle like this. A bit of relaxation goes a long way.”

Rachel glares at me for a minute, and I think she’s about to argue, but then she nods. “Makes sense. Well, you know most of these soldiers better than me; say what you need to.”

“As Rachel said, big battle tomorrow, and we need an early start.” I begin. “I can’t say for sure what’s going to happen tomorrow, but me and Rose are working hard to come up with a foolproof strategy. So, the rest of you… just chill out. Take the evening for yourselves, so long as you don’t get to bed too late…”

Rachel shrugs at me as the soldiers disperse, all chattering about their plans; I can sense the nervousness hanging over the relaxed conversation, though. “You’re not really a public speaker, are you, my dude?”

“Hey, I’m the strategist. And I’ve made them feel more at ease, at least.” I reply. Rachel nods.

“...Yeah. You’ve not done too badly, my dude. Make sure to stick the landing tomorrow, OK?”

I look back at Rachel, and see the trust in her eyes. I nod.

“Of course. Now then, I’d best get to my office - Rose is waiting for me.”


Anna and Klara are sitting in the main barracks room as Anna tightens and twists the strings on her guitar, tuning it. She’s quite focussed, and Klara can tell she’s not listening very hard.

“Hee hee, looks like it takes a lot of work to make it sound just right!”

“Mhm.” Anna replies, twanging the guitar. “Hm. Almost.”

“What are you going to play tonight? Some exciting songs to lift the spirit?”

“Probably. I’ve got some ideas.”

Klara leans back in her seat and looks around the room - there’s some soldiers playing poker at the big table at the back of the room, a few sitting on the other tables around having some conversations, and a group of soldiers playing card games as they share some drinks. She smiles gently.

“This army is so wonderful, don’t you think? It’s been a delight working with them!”

“I guess so.” Anna says. Finally satisfied with her guitar, she stands up. “If there’s anyone it’s been a delight to meet, it was you, Klara. I’m gonna go play some tunes now, but I want to catch a drink with you later on, k?”

“I’ll be right here listening to you, hee hee!” Klara says, beaming as Anna heads to the middle of the room, where a microphone and small stool have been placed.

“Hey, all. Hope you don’t mind if I provide a bit of backing to your relaxation tonight. This first one is a favourite of mine. I’ve always thought of it as a song of good luck, so… I hope it gives us good luck tomorrow.” Anna says into the micrphone. As she begins to sing, her words carry throughout the barracks, accompanied by the gentle playing of her guitar. “Kind friends and companions, come join me in rhyme…


In Vanessa’s room, a few of the Yellow Comet girls have gathered for a spot of cake and some milk - it’s a little too late for tea. Sonja, Vanessa, Arqa, Shaia and Khepri are enjoying the moody lighting of the room.

“Oh, this one’s wonderful.” Sonja says, licking her lips as she finishes off a slice of the lemon madeira cake. “Reminds me of the cake I used to have with Father when I was younger. We’d always go to this little tea parlour on the weekends whilst I was at military academy.”

“Kanbei, at a tea parlour? I can’t imagine that!” Khepri says, grinning.

Sonja nods seriously. “Father takes his tea very seriously. I… don’t know for sure, but I think that particular tea parlour might have been important to Mother, too. He doesn’t talk about it, though.”

“Ah, I see.” Vanessa replies. “Makes sense.”

“Thanks for the invite, anyway.” Arqa says, digging into the chocolate cake with a smile on her face. “And I hope you don’t mind that I dragged Shaia along with me.”

Shaia rolls her eyes, but gives a bit of a smile, and Sonja shakes her head.

“Not at all. I’m only sorry Rose, Andromeda and Peregrine aren’t here. Rose is obviously very busy, but I have no idea what Andromeda and Peregrine are up to…”

“Ah, it’s OK. I’ve tried talking to that Andromeda girl about fashion, but she really doesn’t seem to get it.” Shaia replies, sighing. “I just came along to… ugh, I came along to say thanks. Arqa’s been telling me about how she started making more of an effort. I thought it was kinda lame at first, but… I get it more now.”

“Oh, I’m very glad to hear it.” Sonja replies. “We want all of our soldiers to give it their all in battle.”

“Well, for what it’s worth… feel free to work me as hard as Arqa.” Shaia announces, before pulling a face. “Oh, I can’t believe I just said that…”

Vanessa gives a wide grin, her eyes gleaming with mischief. “Oh, really? As hard as Arqa? Don’t mind if I do.”

“Ha!” Khepri says, giving a loud laugh. “You don’t know what you’ve signed yourself up for, Shaia!”


Mulligan and Howard are taking a romantic moonlit walk, and Mulligan looks up at the moon now and again, though it is waning and barely visible.

“How are you feeling, Howard?” he asks eventually.

Howard shrugs. “That’s an odd question.”

“Is it?”

“Yeah.” Howard replies, putting his hand into Mulligan’s and grasping it tightly. “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the last couple of years. You met a nervous wreck, you know. Worked in a stressful life-or-death job, had troubles with my family, trying and failing to cut back on my smoking, scratching my wrists and hands when I needed to feel something…”

“...I know.” Mulligan replies. “You were a very different man, but I still saw the glimmer of the Howard that you are today.”

“Yeah, thought you’d say that.” Howard smirks. “I always wanted to be like this. To be better, and free of my depression. Never expected it to actually happen. I just… I don’t know how many more times I can say it, Mull, but I’m grateful for you fixing me. For believing that there was a me underneath all my traumas.”

Mulligan’s other hand, the one not holding Howard’s, creeps into his pocket, and closes around a small black box. He nods.

“Howard, it’s always been you, from the moment we met. You can thank me all you like, but I never ‘saved’ you, and I never ‘fixed’ you. You did that all yourself.”

Howard can’t help but blush now, and he grumbles to himself as they walk together. “Oh, fuckin- c’mon, Mull, you can’t say those nice things like that. God.”

He’s smiling, however, and Mulligan smiles too. He lets go of the box, and decides to mention it after the battle. He has no need to bring it up now.

Not long to go now, Howard. Our lives are just getting started.


In the barracks room, the familiar faces of the 11th Division are playing poker, as they often do during an evening. Carter, Fred and Julian are sitting around chatting, having run out of chips early on.

Still in the game, but having folded for this round, Dave, Rin and Lloyd are watching as Michael and Alfonse stare at one another, trying to figure out if the other one is bluffing or not. Eventually, Michael seems to give a confident, relaxed grin, and Alfonse nods.

“I raise ten.” he says, pushing a few chips forward. Dave widens his eyes.

“What’s that about?” Rin says, as Michael matches the raise.

“Aye, it’s a weird move.” Lloyd replies, leaning over to Rin and Dave to whisper. “He must’ve decided that Michael’s bluffin’.”

“Michael’s the best player in the army - Alfonse must know that he likes to mess with the other players.” Dave sighs, shaking his head.

“Showdown.” Michael says, and he and Alfonse put down their cards. Alfonse has a pair of sevens, but he sighs in frustration as Michael puts down a pair of tens.

“God, I was so certain that you had junk.” Alfonse says. “At least it wasn’t something really embarrassing, like a full house.”

“Ah, it’s fine. I don’t need the money - we’re just playing for fun tonight.” Michael replies, tossing the chips back to Alfonse. Dave, Rin and Lloyd focus back on the table as Michael begins dealing out the cards again.

“Nice that we can relax before a battle. I just keep thinkin’ about what we’ll do when it’s all over. This really feels like the last one.” Dave says.

“I can’t see Black Hole recovering from a defeat like this… provided we can actually beat that clone tomorrow.” Alfonse replies. “I’m going to do my best - we’ve come so far since we first shipped out. Three years ago now, was it?”

“Somethin’ like that, aye.” Lloyd replies. “Landlubbers like yourselves have been good allies, I will say.”

“Definitely! I still miss being deployed on the ocean with you, Lloyd, but I’m glad we can still fight together!” Rin says, beaming.

“Thanks. I’m just glad so many of us made it this far.” Dave replies. “The people we’ve lost along the way… that’s motivation enough to fight. But the people I’m alongside now? The people I get to play cards with every evening? That’s motivation like nothin’ else.”

“Heh.” Michael says, giving Dave a grin. “It’s been an honour serving with you all, for sure. But let’s be real - your main motivation is keeping Rin safe from harm, isn’t it?”

“Hey, I can look after mythelf- uh, myself!”

Dave rolls his eyes as the soldiers laugh. “Stop your laughing, Carter, you ain’t even in this conversation.”

Rin glances at her cards, then looks up at the group. “Oh, um, I’ll make this my last game for tonight, I think. I want to pop round and see some other friends before I head to bed!”

“Alright, let’s get it done quickly then.” Michael replies, turning to his left. “Dave, are you going to raise?”


Cassandra and Adelaide, who are enjoying a drink in the barracks kitchen, look up in surprise as a rather frustrated Ludmilla comes walking in.

“Ludmilla?” Cassandra says. “Everything alright?”

“Oh, fine,” Ludmilla replies, rolling her eyes as she pours a mug of instant coffee from the pot. “Just that Fadel from Yellow Comet can’t satisfy a woman to save his life. I was in there for about ten minutes and he was done.”

She takes a seat, sipping the coffee appreciatively as Cassandra looks at her. “Hm. I suppose that would be an annoyance when you have the whole evening free.”

“Yeah, it really is. I miss Sebastian. He was so lovely… I should text him.” Ludmilla replies blearily, and Adelaide coughs loudly, spilling her drink. Ludmilla glances at her.

“Y… you’ve done it with Sebastian?”

“Oh, heavens… you’re the girl he broke it off with, aren’t you?” Ludmilla says, her eyes widening. “Look, you guys may have been separated for a year or so, but please don’t think I don’t understand your position.”

Cassandra pats Adelaide’s arm. “Adelaide’s been doing great during this campaign, making new friends and not worrying about Sebastian. Hasn’t she?”

“She has.” sighs Adelaide. “I was surprised, not mad, Ludmilla. He’s allowed to do what he wants now, and if you could make him happy for a night, then, good for him.”

“I did.” Ludmilla replies, with a soft, gentle smile. “And it seems like it’s my turn to make you happy for a night, now. Men are fine and all, but I’d be no gal at all if I didn’t uplift the gals around me. How about we all share a drink and chat for tonight?”

Adelaide thinks for a moment, but slowly nods. Something about Ludmilla has lowered her guard. “...Yeah. That’d be nice.”

“So, the eve of the final battle. I can’t lie, I’m excited.” Ludmilla says. “How about you, Cassandra? Your exploits have spread far and wide around the barracks… I have to know what goes through the mind of a soldier like you.”


Amongst the gleaming machines in the barracks’ main hangar, Andromeda and Peregrine are sitting with Lucy and Ingo as Peregrine works on her plane and Ingo fixes up his tank. Lucy is sitting on the edge of the tank’s cannon, whilst Andromeda sits on the wing of Peregrine’s new bomber, her legs dangling over the side.

“Whew, I’m pumped for tomorrow, I tell ya!” Peregrine says. “I’m so fucking excited to see what you can do with Clyde, Lucy. You’ve been performing amazingly with him so far!”

“Oh, don’t flatter me so much, Perry!” Lucy replies with a sweet little giggle. “He’s doing all the work - I’ve never had such a responsive bomber in all my service!”

“You are very skill, work, talented! I love watching you fight!” Andromeda says to Lucy, smiling at her.

“Oh, gosh, thanks!” Lucy says, blushing. “You know, Andromeda, I’ve never told you this, but you’re really beautiful! I see you around, with your flowing hair and eyes, and I’ve always wanted to mention it!”

Andromeda blushes bright red, and is so overwhelmed with emotion that she cannot speak for a moment. “I- that’s- what- oh, shit-”

“Ain’t she a goddamn dream?” Peregrine replies, popping up from the cockpit of her bomber with a cleaning rag in her hands. “You’d think she’d have men flocking around her, but I keep ‘em away! Nobody’s getting their hands on my fucking Andy without earning the right!”

“Heh. I can understand that possessiveness. It seems like it’s not something Andromeda’s interested in right now, hm?” Ingo guesses.

Andromeda, a little recovered from the compliments, nods quickly. “I am still educate, learning, how to make friends. Anything different, big, more than that, is too s-scary!”

“Hey, it’s OK, Andromeda!” Lucy replies. “You’ve got all the time in the world to figure that stuff out.”

“I’m convinced she’s aroace or something, myself.” Peregrine says, shrugging. “Anyway, Luce, that’s not a concern of yours, is it? You and Ingo have been together since I’ve fuckin’ known ya.”

“It’s been a couple of years now, huh.” Ingo remarks. “Yeah, we’ve been together for the long haul. Thank god Lucy asked me out.”

“She asked you out, huh?” Peregrine asks.

Lucy looks over at Ingo quizzically. “Something like that. Wasn’t it on the night before the final battle of our first campaign, Ingo?”

“It was! I remember hearing the rainfall… just sitting there, holding hands with you.” Ingo says, recalling the day clearly in his mind. “And we’d promised each other that we were both going to come back tomorrow.”

“That’s still a promise I plan to keep, no matter how many battles we face!” Lucy replies.

Peregrine nods, and hops out of her plane, landing on the floor with a thud. “Good! You two’re cute, it’ll break my fucking heart if either of you get killed out there. But hey - I’ve got your back, alright?”

“Me too!” Lucy replies. Andromeda and Ingo nod in agreement.

“All of us, help, love, support each other!”


Petra and Darwin have decided to come by Henry and Conrad’s room once more to relax and enjoy themselves as they await the coming battle. Petra is relaxing on Conrad’s bed, her head resting on his shoulder, as Henry and Darwin sit on Henry’s bed, where Henry is bouncing up and down with excitement.

“Henry, you’re going to send Darwin to the floor if you bounce any harder.” Conrad says, shaking his head with a chuckle.

Henry winks. “I dunno, Darwin’s been pretty quiet about it!”

Darwin, rolling his eyes, writes something on his whiteboard. ‘It’s all good! :)

“Good, good…” Petra says sleepily.

“Tired already, Petra? The night’s barely begun!” Henry says. “Though with how early we’re getting up, perhaps we ought to follow your example. We’ve got to Bolt to the battlefield tomorrow, after all!”

“More puns, oh god.” Conrad murmurs so that only Petra can hear him. She giggles faintly, her eyes closed.

“I’m pretty beat, I’m not going to lie…” Petra says. “But honestly, I’m also just really relaxed. Hanging around with you guys has just taken away all of my stress. I think listening to Conrad getting annoyed is healing me, like, emotionally.”

“Oh, come on!” Conrad sighs, but Petra giggles.

‘I’m just glad things worked out between you two.’ writes Darwin. ‘I’ll admit I was worried.’

“We’d have never let this whole thing come between us.” Conrad replies, shaking his head. “I mean, feelings or no feelings, I couldn’t have stopped being friends with Petra.”

Petra nods, still sleepily laying on Conrad’s shoulder.

“Absolutely. We’re the next generation of Green Earth’s soldiers… we’ve got to be able to work together!”

Henry grins. “Definitely! We’ll prove how good we are tomorrow!”


There’s a knock on the door to Fliss and Fleur’s room, and the girls, who were getting ready for bed, look up in surprise. In the bathroom, Fleur pops her head out, mid-brushing her teeth.

“Would you get that, Fliss?”

Fliss hops up to the door and opens it to reveal Von Panzer, looking at her with the usual grumpy expression on his face - Fliss gives him a soft smile.

“H-hello… Von Panzer! Do you, um, need something?”

Nein! I merely wished to come by and wish you both goodnight.” Von Panzer replies gruffly. “I… find myself not wanting to play poker, tonight. I simply wish to go to bed.”

Fleur, finished in the bathroom, comes out and bows towards Von Panzer respectfully. “My thanks, Von Panzer. Goodnight to you… I hope you sleep well.”

“I hope this battle is das Letzte. I do not want more conflict.” Von Panzer replies. “But… for what it is worth, I have been given glorious purpose by this army, and part of that purpose has been having you for a friend. Thank you!”

It’s a rather frank and aggressive statement of friendship, but as Von Panzer salutes, Fleur realises that this is the only way Von Panzer knows how to communicate, and salutes back. “Merci, Mathis.”

“Pass on my regards to Bernard, after the conflict.” Von Panzer replies, and as he steps away, ready for bed, he hears the beginnings of a hushed series of whispers between the girls.

“Oh, la petit ami Bernard, i-isn’t it?”

“He is not my honey, he is just… a friend! You think too much, Felicity…”

“I d-don’t believe you!”


Dimitri’s mercenaries are relaxing in the main barracks room around a huge table, listening to Anna’s songs and catching the snippets of conversation from the group playing poker nearby. They’re busy with their own game, however - a bit of Chinese Whispers as they kill some time before the drinks they’ve ordered arrive.

The whisper passes in a circle around the table, from Zlata, to Dimitri, sat next to her. As Diana leans over to whisper to Dimitri, he says the line out loud.

“Arqa completes me?”

The group burst out laughing, and Zlata shakes her head.

“What?! It was supposed to be ‘I love Dimitri’!”

“I got ‘Arqa defeated me’, I think.” Ivan replies on the other side of the table, shrugging. “Fenya whispers really quietly.”

“I do not! I said ‘I cuddle Dimitri'… which is what I thought Boris had said…” Fenya says, trailing off as she tries to figure out where she went wrong. Zlata chuckles.

“Well, I should’ve expected that we’d get it wrong. I just didn’t think we’d go that far off-track!”

Dimitri puts his arm around Zlata, and Diana glances over at the pair of them with a satisfied nod. “Ah, it was fun, though. We should do another, but someone else can start it this time.”

“I’m hoping our drinks arrive soon.” Boris grunts. “It’s great serving alongside you all and stuff, but… I’m really just here for the beer.”

“Don’t pay him any mind, boss.” Ivan replies; next to him, Felix pipes up.

“I… I agree with Boris on one point, though. It has been nice serving alongside you!”

“Dimitri’s Mercenaries have come pretty far, don’t you think?” Zlata replies, looking at Dimitri. For a moment, he’s quiet, looking around the table at the loyal soldiers that he’s fought countless battles alongside. He nods.

“We have. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of soldiers than you lot… and Anton and Anatoly, wherever they got up to.” he announces. “We’ll give it our all tomorrow, I’m damn sure of it. But I must say, I agree with Boris on another point, too… where the hell are our drinks? We ordered twenty minutes ago!”

Dimitri’s loyal mercenaries laugh together, Diana alongside them. As she chuckles, she closes her eyes. Yes. This is the kind of group Wanda would have wanted. We move on… but we maintain her memory.


Rose and I are sitting at my desk, studying battle plans and discussing possible ways to outsmart the clone in command of the battlefield. Lena’s notes have given us a lot of info to go on, and we’re slowly closing in on a watertight plan of action.

The hours are moving on quickly, though, and it’s getting later. I’m disturbed by a knock at the door, and Rose turns to see Vanessa enter, with two plates of cake - one chocolate, one lemon.

“I thought you two would be in need of a quick break.” she says, grinning. “Keep working hard, but enjoy this in the meantime, alright?”

“My thanks, Vanessa. I can always rely on you to remind me to look after myself.” Rose says gratefully, taking the lemon cake. “My favourite, too!”

I take the chocolate cake with a charismatic grin. “Thanks, Vanny. You should get yourself to bed in the meantime - we’re going to need all our ACOs on top form if we’re to win tomorrow.”

“Of course! What do you take me for?” Vanessa says. She hops towards the door and gives a quick salute. “I’m off to bed right now. You two… good luck!”

As she heads off, me and Rose dig into the cake, the plans forgotten for the time being. Rose looks delighted to be snacking on some cake; for a moment, she looks around for a fork, and then she sees me pick up the cake with my hands, giggles, and does the same thing.

“Perhaps we did need a rest. I’m starting to get sleepy.” Rose murmurs.

“I know what you mean.” I reply. This is the hardest I’ve worked on a battle strategy since Sturm. “But we’re getting there - if we can just dance around that Ex Machina thing that he can do, we should be OK…”

“I wonder if we can do something similar to the battle with Sturm a few years ago.” Rose murmurs. “Lure the CO Power to where we need it with a group of expensive units…”

I put my cake down, raising my eyebrow at Rose. “You know, you might be onto something there, Kuroda.”


Elsewhere in the barracks, in the depths of a hangar, beside an enormous megatank, a pair of cousins and a young man are working on some designs. Gavril stares at the papers in his hands, before looking up at Kurtz and Karin.

“These are… really remarkable, you two. I think you’re right - this might be able to double our ammo capacity for the megatank, with almost no increase in production cost.”

“Turns out, once we stopped snapping at each other, we were able to come up with some good ideas together.” Kurtz replies. “Imagine how far we’d be into development if we’d made up sooner.”

“No use worrying about what-ifs.” Karin says, shaking her head. “The important thing is that our efficiency has almost doubled now that we’re working together. Think you can produce some schematics, Gavril?”

“Definitely. I’ll get started on it right after the battle tomorrow.” Gavril replies, nodding. “And, hey… good to see you two getting along.”

Kurtz sighs. “Don’t get all soft on us now. We need hard-nosed Gavril to design some weapons of death, not cutesy Gavril to make us daisy chains.”

Gavril chuckles, and Karin sips her takeaway coffee, trying to hide her grin. “Right, yes, of course. I’ll get on it straight away - you two should get some sleep, in the meantime.”

“Agreed. We’ll be no use to anyone tomorrow if we’re too tired.” Karin says, nodding. “Kurtz, Gavril… I see a great future for the WDD, with us spearheading the division.”

“Definitely!” Gavril replies.


Outside, on the rooftop of the barracks building, the rooftop door opens, and a young woman steps out, spotting a familiar face standing at the edge of the building, relaxing in the soft glow of moonlight.

“Selena.” Lena says, stepping out of the doorframe and walking over slowly. “It’s late.”

“I know.” Selena replies. “I’ll be honest, Lena… I actually feel sleepy tonight. I thought my insomnia would make that difficult, but…”

Lena comes to a stop next to Selena, and looks up at the moon with her, a strange look on her face. She can’t decide if she should smile or scowl.

“Maybe, for once, you’ve not got anything to worry about.” Lena replies. “Look, I’m not saying that it’s going to be quick, but… I’m glad you’re here. And I really am sorry for the way I treated you before you left.”

Selena smiles softly, and turns away from the moon to look at her sister, the unkempt blonde hair swaying in the breeze. “Lena… you’ve nothing to be sorry for. We’re moving on, together - no more parents to hold us back.”

“You’re right. And…” Lena says, but shakes her head. “What do you usually do on a night like this? A big battle up ahead…”

“I usually can’t sleep.” Selena replies. “I’d listen to music, or talk to my friends, or something. Or perhaps visit my dude… but I can’t bother him tonight. He’s got a lot to do.”

“I kinda see what you mean about that guy. He’s not nearly my type, but… I sorta get it.” Lena says eventually. “He does have a cool coat. And by the sounds of it, he was the one to help get you over to me during the battle at the Tower of Rebirth.”

“Yes… he’s done a lot for me over the years. I’m very grateful that he cares so much, even if we’re never going to be… well, it doesn’t matter.” Selena sighs. “I’m proud to be his soldier, and prouder still to be your sister.”

You’re proud?” Lena replies incredulously.

Selena turns to her. “Should… should I not be?”

“No, it’s just…” Lena says. “I was going to say before. I’ve spoken with a lot of soldiers about you, and reread your letters, and… before I used to despise my name. Just a part of you, a lesser piece… but seeing what a life you’ve made for yourself here, and how important you are to the army…”

Lena looks away from Selena, unable to look her in the eyes as the emotion pours out of her.

“I feel… proud to bear part of your name now. I feel like… maybe I can do the same thing one day. To build a life of my own… and make a world where I can be happy.”

Selena pulls her sister into a tight embrace, and Lena shakes as she tries to hold back her tears, refusing to let them fall.

“So… thank you. Thank you for coming back for me… my sister.”


The Snowbound Free Company have decided to sit with some new friends - Ignat, Yakov, Inessa and Jackie, who are all teaching them how to play the card game that Ignat introduced them all too. Valeria and Alina are content to sit and watch, however, as Nika and Eva get involved.

“OK, so… I play a location card to start my turn?” asks Nika, staring at her hand, and Yakov shakes his head.

“Not quite, that’s just for the first turn. Now you play any of your unit cards, or upgrade cards, and attack the cards I’ve put down.”

“Oh, OK!” Nika replies, grinning. “So I can put down, say, this Dog Walker, and then give him the… uh, Tommy Gun for +1 attack to all pet-owner-type cards?”

“Exactly that.” Ignat says, widening his eyes. “Nice play - you can attack Yakov’s cards now!”

“I’m struggling enough without you helping her, Ignat.” Yakov sighs.

Nika nods. “Right! My Dog Walker will attack your Ballerina! That’s… four damage, isn’t it?”

“It is. My Ballerina is destroyed. Hm.” Yakov says, grumbling to himself about how to win from here. Inessa looks over fondly, then turns back to Valeria, Alina and Jackie.

“Looks like everyone’s having fun!” she says brightly. “Are you sure you don’t want to play?”

“Oh, I’m fine. It looks a bit complicated for my taste.” Valeria replies. “Still, it is nice that we can do something relaxing this evening. Are you well, Inessa?”

“Don’t worry about me! I’m gonna be on top form tomorrow!” Inessa replies.

Jackie nods. “I don’t doubt it… you seem to give it 110%, whatever you’re doing. It tires me out just watching you sometimes.”

“I know the feeling.” Valeria replies, looking sidelong at Alina. Alina stares at her reproachfully.

“Hey! I’m not that intense! Usually…”

Jackie chuckles. “I’ve been thinking long and hard about my time in the army, you know. Everyone’s been so welcoming since I first joined you, and I’m very grateful for that. These youngsters are a real delight.”

“I’m glad you think so!” Alina says, with Inessa nodding in agreement.

“I may not be able to keep up with my collections whilst I’m here, but they’re waiting for me at home. Here, though, I have a most precious collection indeed - a group of soldiers I’d die for.”

Valeria tries not to smile. “Heh… I see. Well, just make sure not to actually do that tomorrow - we prefer you alive, Jacquelyn.”

“Definitely,” Eva says, leaning back into the conversation. “Jackie, you’re a wonder! Speaking of… you don’t happen to get what this card does, do you? I don’t know what it means by ‘pendulum summon’…”


Rin finally finds Quincy and Harlow relaxing in Quincy’s room, and jumps in with a smile.

“Hi! I was wondering where you’d got up to! Not joining us for poker, Harlow?”

“Oh, it’s fun and all,” the masked figure replies. “But I thought I’d take it easy tonight. Quincy’s only here because it’s her room and I can’t make her leave.”

“Hey, you came to me and asked for some company!” Quincy says, grinning cheekily at Harlow. “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it, Rin; Harlow just likes things a bit more chill and quiet before a battle like this.”

“That’s about right.” Harlow says. “But… it’s good to see you, Rin. I can’t lie, I’m pretty surprised you’re still seeking me out.”

“You’re not as prickly as you think you are, Harlow.” Rin says with a soft smile. “It’s been wonderful getting to know you, and I look forward to fighting alongside you, both tomorrow and in the future!”

“...Man. I see why you have Dave wrapped around your little finger. You’re sweet.” Harlow replies. “Thanks, Rin. I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

“Yeah, do your best out there, kid! I’ll keep an eye on Harlow for ya!” Quincy says, waving as Rin heads out of the room. “God, she’s so cute. Are you sure we can’t keep her?”

“Positive. I don’t wanna piss off Dave, so no getting any ideas.”


Later that night, I find myself walking down the corridor with a sleeping ACO in my arms. Rose finally gave up the ghost around half eleven, so I’m taking her back to her room so she can rest. We’re up early tomorrow, after all - thankfully, the soldier’s life gets you very used to working off a few hours’ sleep, so I’m still confident about how things will go tomorrow. We’ve got a plan, and it’s a little more risky than either of us would like, but we’re the goddamn Flower of Desolation and the Embodiment of Victory. We’re going to be fine.

Rose seems to be sleeping soundly, and I step into her room to place her in her bunk. It goes smoothly, so I put a blanket over her and watch as she turns over.

“Goodnight, kid.” I murmur. She’s got a lot to do tomorrow.

As I exit Rose’s room, I spot a familiar face walking up to me - Jake.

“Yo, my dude, I was looking for you.” Jake says, giving me a wave. I wave back.

“Well, you found me. What did you need?”

Jake shrugs. “Well, I’m not really great with the whole… thinking thing. I’m more of a fighter - give me the tanks, and I’ll use ‘em as well as I can. But I’ve been grateful to have you around. We’ve have never dropped those fools without your help.”

“Oh, well…” I murmur. Jake looks at me with a serious expression.

“This’s my home, my dude. It means a lot to me that you’re willing to fight so hard to protect it when it’s not even your crib.” Jake replies. “So, uh, I knew I wouldn’t be able to help you with the planning, but Max tells me you like some beats when you’re takin’ on a final battle like this.”

I watch as Jake pulls out a small CD case, and hands it over to me.

“I put some tracks together, burned a CD for you and Rose to blast tomorrow. It’s got some good ones - I asked Max and Sonja for you and Rose’s faves. Hopefully I got ‘em all.”

I want to speak, but I’m not sure what to say. I’d never expected something like this from Jake. A mixtape?

“There’s a few of my favourites on there too. I… hope you like it.” Jake says, shrugging, seemingly nervous all of a sudden. “Uh, that’s all. I gotta go now. I’ll see you first thing tomorrow for the beatdown.”

Jake turns and begins to walk away, pulling his headphones back on.

“Jake!” I say.

He turns back.

“I’ll blast them on full volume tomorrow.” I reply with a grin. Jake shoots a finger gun at me and walks off more confidently now. I pocket the CD, excited to listen to the tracks tomorrow, and prepare to head back to my room. It’s about time I got some sleep.

Big day tomorrow.


Voting for the second round of Their Finest Hour, where we find out everyone's favourite soldiers, has opened once more. Follow this link to place your vote! I'll put the link in the contents, too - and otherwise, I'll see you all next week.