Proper Path to Glory

On a Pedestal

---- September 10, 1943
---- Capel-le-Ferne Airbase
---- Enlisted Personnel Quarters: 01:50 hours

"…ohhh… ohhhhhh… godohgodohgodohgod … yoshika… i…

… … mmmm… love… mmnnn… sooo… … …

… … huh? … … ..."

Lynette Bishop blinked slowly as she sleepily reached out to embrace the form next to her and smiled. Her smile slowly faded as she came fully into wakefulness and realized that what she was holding in her arms wasn't the girl she loved, but one of her pillows. She stared at it uncomprehendingly. Her face was emotionless but tears began to leak from her eyes nonetheless. "…only a dream." she whispered to herself. “Again.”

Lynette's first... intense... dream about Yoshika Miyafuji happened about a month after the little Fuso maiden had become a full-fledged member of the Strike Witches.

Earlier that day the Neuroi had launched a major offensive across the Dover Straits from Gallia, attempting to establish a Britannian beachhead on the easternmost point below the Thames Estuary. The 416th Air Squadron were engaged elsewhere, so it was pretty much up to the 501st and the 508th to carry the entire battle.

The action was heavy and the battle dragged on much longer than the typical firefight. Lynne pushed through her fatigue for a while, but eventually it was just too much for her to handle. Her reactions were sluggish and it was becoming so hard to keep up with the action around her.

The young Britannian had just dispatched an enemy craft and swung aroung to find herself directly in the path of another one. In panic, she whipped the muzzle of her gun around and felt her stomach hollow out as heard the metallic 'klatch' that indicated the rifle was jammed. Exhaustion swept over her in a sudden rush.

Her engines faltered momentarily. She tried to put up a shield, but it was impossible. She just didn't have any more to give. The engines cut out again for an instant. The Neuroi craft began to glow as it built up power to unleash its weapon. Lynette dully realized that she was out of options. She closed her eyes, not in fear but in resignation. "I'm going to die now, aren't I?"

The scream of annihilated air molecules drowned out everything else as the Neuroi weapon discharged. At that exact instant she felt a small but strong arm wrap around her waist. A calm and confident voice filled her ears. An emotional lightning bolt tore through her as she realized it was the one voice she wanted to hear the most in all the world.

"I've got you Lynne-chan." The bashful Britannian opened her eyes cautiously, only to see the Neuroi particle beam splashing harmlessly off Yoshika's shield like water. She could only stare at Yoshika as the tiny chestnut-haired girl gave her a confident grin. "Don't worry Lynne-chan. We're almost done here. Just hang on a bit longer, okay?"

Yoshika's eyes narrowed with determination and she began to press them both forward, steadily advancing on the Neuroi craft. The screech of the Neuroi weapon was almost deafening as they moved closer and closer. The constant bombardment didn't seem to put much strain on Yoshika at all. They were almost physically touching the alien craft when it suddenly flared with light and exploded before their eyes.

"Yosh!" the tiny brunette exclaimed, pumping her fist in the air. Then, catching Lynne's expression, she grinned sheepishly. "I was pretty sure that would work."

Yoshika's cute, bashful grin was the last thing Lynette saw before she lost consciousness. When her eyes opened once more she found herself being cradled firmly in those same small, strong arms.

"Welcome back, sleepyhead." Yoshika murmured with a soft smile. "We're almost home."

With her arms wrapped around Yoshika's neck Lynette had to look upward to see the younger girl's face. Craning her neck to look over her right shoulder she saw the towers of Capel-le-Ferne in the distance. The Britannian girl felt just like a Princess being carried home by her brave Knight. A feeling she had long since told herself she would never experience. There in Yoshika's arms she felt safe and at peace, felt a contentment that she had never believed possible.

That night the little Fuso girl filled Lynette's dreams. She stood before Yoshika in her nightgown, cheeks flushing at the hungry look in Yoshika's eyes. The younger girl nodded her head and Lynne knew instinctively that Yoshika wanted to remove her nightgown. She allowed it without hesitation and trembled in desire at the approving stare the younger girl gave her.

Dream Yoshika moved confidently towards her, easily lifting her off of her feet and laying her down gently on the bed. They kissed hungrily. Then Yoshika began to softly kiss her neck, her shoulders… stopping at her breasts to nuzzle them. The pleasurable torture continued as the Fuso girl began to slowly make her way down between Lynette's thighs… That dream had ended abruptly with Lynette waking up confused, embarrassed and heavily aroused. It would not be the last time naughty thoughts about the tiny Asian maiden would disturb her sleep.

Before she met Yoshika Lynne wasn't really close to anyone. Social interaction made her very uncomfortable. She always saw herself as clumsy and inadequate. She always felt out of place. Yoshika never made her feel that way however. Cheerful and positive and guileless, Yoshika always encouraged her and was always patient with her. Their friendship blossomed quickly and soon the two were inseparable.

Lynne had taken notice of Yoshika immediately. From the very first day they met, Lynette had thought that Yoshika was absolutely the cutest little thing she had ever laid eyes on. As they became close - as Lynette learned what a generous and loving soul the spunky little brunette possessed - the powerful physical attraction quickly turned into romantic love.

Yes, Yoshika was headstrong. And stubborn. And a bit of an airhead. But to Lynette those traits only served to make Yoshika even more adorable. And she would never stop fighting for what she believed was right... which caused Lynette to love her all the more.

Two weeks ago she had decided she wasn't going to just sit back and do nothing. She wanted Yoshika to know her feelings and decided to try dropping subtle hints wherever she could. During one of their strolls Yoshika was venting her frustration about an incident that occured earlier in the day. She had made some Fuso sweets for the flight crew that maintained her Striker as a thank you for all their hard work. The crew chief had gently but firmly rebuffed her, informing the Fuso pilot of Commander Wilcke's policy forbidding the flight crew fraternizing with the Witches.

“That doesn't seem very fair to me.” Yoshika ranted. “Those guys work real hard to make sure my stuff is ready for me to go into battle with confidence. And I can't even give them sweets as a thank you? It just doesn't seem right.”

"Why is it such a big deal to her?” Lynette wondered. She herself didn't mind the policy in the least. It kept her from being the object of unwanted male attention. On base at least. She was unsure of why it bothered Yoshika, who seemed quite agitated over the situation. “Maybe... d-does she like men that way?"

From all their talks, Lynne had at least been confident that Yoshika was into girls too. But maybe she had misread that - projecting her own feelings on their relationship? She suddenly felt her world tilt sideways.

Unsure of how to respond, Lynne ended up fully confiding to Yoshika about her lack of interest in men or interaction with any except for her brothers. How she felt uncomfortable around men and wasn't attracted to them at all. It just flowed out and she thought she may have said too much. Glancing at Yoshika, she saw the Fuso girl open her mouth to reply. But before any words could come out…

... a young crewman from the IFS Akagi suddenly appeared in front of them. He bowed to Yoshika, thanking her for saving their ship from the Neuroi attack that occurred on their arrival in Britannia. Yoshika smiled from the compliment. Then the crewman held an envelope out to her. "Please accept this."

In Lynne's mind Yoshika seemed uncharacteristically flustered by the attention. And what was with that goofy smile? Lynne suddenly felt sick to her stomach. "She does like guys after all. She seems really happy about all this." Her emotions were a jumble. "I want her to be happy. I love her. If I can't make her happy, then maybe…"

Before she could second-guess herself, Lynne leaned over to Yoshika and whispered. "Isn't that a love letter?"

Yoshika gave her a surprised look. "Love letter?"

"Yes." Lynne beamed, hiding her true feelings under a mask of encouragement. "You should accept it." Taking the box Yoshika was carrying from her hands Lynne gave her friend an encouraging smile. Her mind however, screamed the exact opposite. "Please don't take it, Yoshika." she thought in despair.

Yoshika reached out for the letter but the wind carried it out of the boys hands and directly into Commander Wilcke's. Minna scolded the terrified young sailor for violating her "no-fraternization" orders and gave him his letter back unopened.

Ever since that day Yoshika had seemed a bit off. Sad. She tried to cover it up, but Lynette could see right through her "She probably feels rejected, kind of. I can tell it's bothering her." She wished her friend could be happy again. But more than that, she wished she could be the one that could make her happy.

The more she thought about it over the succeeding days, the more she realized that she could never be in a relationship with Yoshika. Yoshika was strong and courageous. She possessed an indomitable spirit. Lynette knew that she could never measure up to the young Fuso maiden.

Lynne continued to lie motionless in her bed, heartbreak etched upon her features. "I'm such a burden to her. I'm always holding her back. She can't do her best because she always has to look out for me." Her self-loathing deepened. "She's so amazing and I'm just so… so… useless."

Suddenly she could no longer contain the anguish she felt. She buried her head in her pillow and began to cry even harder. "Yoshika could never truly love me." she thought sadly. "I'm simply not good enough for her."

---- September 10, 1943
---- Capel-le-Ferne Airbase
---- Enlisted Personnel Quarters: 02:30 hours

"… oh… ohhh… ohhhhhh kami-samaaaaaa… lynn-chan… lynnnnnnn… channNNNN…"

Yoshika bolted awake, her body bathed in sweat, the sheets awkwardly twisted around her body. She blinked groggily a couple of times, still half-asleep. She made a little 'meep' sound as the graphic images from her dream flooded her memories. And another when she realized what her right hand was doing. Her head cleared as she came fully awake and a bittersweet sadness washed over her as she realized that it was only a dream. Again.

Yoshika's first erotic dream about Lynette Bishop came soon after she joined the 501st. She had flown a mission that day… her first official action since the incident aboard the 'Akagi' when she had arrived in Britannia. The tiny Fuso maiden had (quite literally) supported Lynne in combat and gave the Britannian pilot the confidence and opportunity to take down an enemy aircraft after it had eluded both Lieutenant Juutilainen and Commander Wilcke.

Lynette had been overjoyed to be able to actually contribute in a big way towards her squadron and she had realized she could not have done it without the spunky little Fuso girl. Hugging Yoshika tightly, she thanked her over and over for standing by her and believing in her. Yoshika's head was pressed rather firmly into Lynne's soft and ample bosom. At first she thought she couldn't breathe, then she realized she could and was overwhelmed with the light fragrance of Heather from Lynette's soft skin.

That night the bashful Britannian girl filled Yoshika's dreams. Together with Lynette, naked in a warm blue sky… not flying but floating… touching, caressing, kissing, drifting like autumn leaves to softly land in a sunlit patch of mossy grass. Making love slowly… passionately... deeply…

The dream had ended with Yoshika hopelessly tangled up in her sheets and tumbling out of bed with a loud crash, causing the object of her desire come rushing to her aid. It would not be the last time the normally unflappable Yoshika Miyafuji became completely flustered in the presence of this girl.

Lynne was very unsure of herself when Yoshika first met her. Afraid to make friends, she kept herself closed off. However, Yoshika saw something in Lynne that Lynne could not see in herself and, for some reason, Yoshika was able to reach her where others could not. Their friendship blossomed quickly and soon the two were inseparable.

From the very first day they met Yoshika had thought that Lynette was, in fact, the loveliest girl she had ever seen. As they became closer, as Yoshika learned what a sweet and gentle soul the shy beauty possessed, the powerful physical attraction quickly turned into romantic love.

Yes, Lynette was shy. And clumsy. And a bit of an airhead. But to Yoshika, those traits only served to make Lynette even more adorable. And she was always trying her best... which caused Yoshika to love her all the more.

She let out a disturbed sigh.

Having erotic dreams didn't disturb her. She'd been having them since she hit puberty. Masturbation, of course, didn't disturb her. She understood it was a simple biological/psychological need… no real angst involved. She was from a family of physicians after all.

The fact that she was having erotic dreams about another girl didn't disturb her. She had known of her preference since puberty as well. Many of the sleepovers with her dear childhood friend Michiko, over the past couple of years, had included 'experimenting' as Michiko liked to call it.

No, what disturbed her was the fact that her love now seemed unattainable. Two weeks earlier she had been confident. She was certain Lynette shared her feelings and she was ready to confess her love. Even better, on one of their daily strolls Lynne had confided to her the fact that she didn't really like men, except for her brothers. She felt uncomfortable around them and wasn't attracted to them at all. This was it. The perfect opportunity for Yoshika to tell Lynne how she felt. But before she could utter a word…

... a young crewman from the 'Akagi' suddenly appeared in front of them. He bowed to Yoshika, thanking her for saving their ship from the Neuroi attack that occurred on their way to Britannia. Yoshika smiled in embarrassment from the compliment. Then the crewman held an envelope out to her. "Please accept this." he said in a frantic voice. Yoshika looked at him with confusion.

Lynne leaned over to Yoshika and whispered. "Isn't that a love letter?" Yoshika looked at Lynn and was surprised and a little disappointed to see that she was smiling. "Love letter?"

"Yes." Lynne beamed. "You should accept it." She insisted, taking the box Yoshika was carrying from her hands. Yoshika was stunned. "She… she's encouraging this? But why? I thought… maybe… I thought she…" She glanced to her right. Lynne was looking at her expectantly. Giving her an encouraging smile. "Why?" thought Yoshika in despair. "It's like she wants me to go out with him."

Trying to keep her emotions in check Yoshika had hesitantly reached out for the envelope. The wind carried the letter from the boys hands and directly into Commander Wilcke's. Minna scolded the young man for violating her "no-fraternization" orders and gave him his letter back unopened.

Yoshika never did get to read what was in the letter. Not that the letter mattered to her at all. All that she could think about was Lynette's reactions. "She doesn't want me. She doesn't see me that way." Her heart ached with the loss of something she had never had in the first place. "That's right. We're just good friends aren't we?"

The confidence she once carried had been shattered like glass.

"Obaa-chan, your medical text books told me everything about sex, but they didn't say anything about love." She thought sadly. "Like how much it hurts. Why does it have to... hurt so much?"

The more she thought about it over the succeeding days, the more she realized that even if her feelings were returned they could never be together. Lynne's family probably wouldn't accept their relationship. Not that there was a problem with same-sex couples in this society, but there was a question of status… and it was very real. And in social status Lynne was far above her, after all.

Lynette's family had an extensive military background and had served King and country for countless generations. The family's service to the Crown had been recognized long ago. Her paternal great-grandfather became the first Duke of Glys, a title now held by her father. She had had the finest schooling. She was knowledgeable about things like world affairs and classic literature. Even Perrine treated her with deference, but only because she considered Lynne her social equal.

A rare frown crossed Yoshika's delicate features as she hugged her pillow. "I hate to admit it but Perrine-chan is right. I'm just a stupid country bumpkin. Lynne-chan is a fine lady from a titled family…" The gloom in her mind thickened. "…I'm just a… a… a Raccoon Dog."

Something inside of Yoshika finally gave way. She began to sob quietly into her pillow, hot tears spilling down her cheeks. "Lynne-chan could never truly love me." she thought sadly. "I'm simply not good enough for her."

---- September 11, 1943
---- Capel-le-Ferne Airbase
---- Mess Hall/Quad: 13:10 hours

Vincent Mallory caught up to Francesca as she was leaving the mess hall. "S'cuse me Ensign Lucchini, y'all got a second? I wanted ta ask ya somthin'."

Francesca was walking down the dirt path with her hands clasped behind her head. She spun around to face the young pilot while continuing to walk in the same direction, only backwards. "Sure, Mallory, what's up?"

"Well I was wonderin'… you're partnered with Lieutenant Yeager right?"

"Yup. I set 'em up, she knocks 'em down." She grinned. "Why do you ask?"

Mallory laughed nervously and unconsciously rubbed the back of his head. "Well, I was wonderin' if maybe you couldn't, kinda' introduce me to her. I... ummm... I just wanted to ask her a couple a things, y'know?" He gave an awkward chuckle. "I can't jus' walk up to her and say 'Hey!'. She outranks me, for one thing."

The little Romagnian raised an eyebrow at the request, wondering what on earth this kid wanted with Shirley. Then she took a closer look at what the pilot was holding in his left hand and smiled. "Sure. No problem. She's in her quarters. I was just heading over to ask her something anyway. Come on."

Mallory began following the pint-sized Ensign as she walked deeper into the base, past the Enlisted barracks, past the Officers quarters, towards a cluster of Quonset huts on the eastern side of the base. Mallory recognized the area. Every base had one… the Motor Pool. One of the buildings was set slightly apart from the others. It was that building Francesca led the callow southerner to.

They walked in through a side door and Mallory found himself standing in what appeared to be someone's living quarters, taking up about half of the building's square footage. There was a couch and an assortment of chairs, a card table in the corner and something that looked like a wet-bar running along left wall. On the right was a pre-fab wall with a door cut into it. Through the opening, Mallory could see a dresser, a desk, the end of a bed and a footlocker.

"Come on in." Lucchini motioned Mallory to follow her down the central hallway. There, on the back wall, was an open set of double doors. A bright light was streaming from within and the sound of a radio blaring the throaty polyrhythmic chops of a Jazz trio.

Stepping through the doorway, Mallory simply gawped at the contents of the huge open space that comprised the remainder of the building. In the center of the open area, a Striker Unit was suspended in mid-air by a hydraulic lift. The engine hatch on the left leg unit was open and the engine itself missing. A workbench filled with random parts and unrecognizable gadgets took up the entire far wall and doglegged left to run partway along the back wall. Next to that was a large work area containing a standing vice, drill press, metal lathe and power-sander. A wall-mounted rack filled with tools dominated the work area. The tools were arranged in painstaking order and glittered under the ceiling-mounted flood lamps.

At the main worktable, a busty redhead sat hunched over the missing Striker engine, dismantling it adroitly. Absorbed in her tinkering, Charlotte didn't take notice of the two youngsters until Francesca cleared her throat and announced "Shirley, you have a visitor."

Charlotte glanced up from her work to see Francesca and one of the MAGUS pilots, the latter still taking in his surroundings with an awestruck look. "Well, hello Mr. Mallory. What can I do for you?"

It took Mallory a second to process Charlotte's words. Her friendly greeting and easy smile helped him to calm down a bit. "Well, ma'am, I… I'm a huge fan a' yers. An' I was wonderin' if'n you'd sign this fer me."

The object he had kept at his side he now brought out into the open and held toward Charlotte like a holy offering. There in his hands was a mint condition copy of the program from the 1940 Bonneville Speed Trials. She took the magazine from his outstreched hands and opened to the bookmarked page.

There it was. The full-page color picture of herself, standing next to her motorcycle and giving the camera a thumbs-up and her most winning smile. She was wearing low-cut shorts and a white button shirt, open at the top to expose her even-then ample cleavage. She also wore the leather Bomber jacket and soft leather aviators cap that had once belonged to her grandfather. The goggles were perched rakishly on her forehead and her red hair spilled out from underneath the cap and down her shoulders.

"Where did you get this?" Charlotte asked bemusedly.

"My pa's a racer too. We drove fer five days ta get ta Utah so he could compete in th' four-wheel division. He came in 12th…" he grinned sheepishly "… which ain't bad when ya consider it was a field a' fifty." Charlotte grinned as the boy continued.

"So we was right there watchin' in th' forward gallery when you broke th' record. I mean, damn… oh, beg pardon Lieutenant, but… I mean…damn 187 miles an hour.” He shook his head in wonder.

“Ah clocked 142 once. Kept her pegged fer about 45 seconds.” he enthused. “Ah could'a kept goin', but th' damn piston shot clean through the engine block. Pert' near tore my knee off." Charlotte laughed as Mallory related his story. "But what a feeling though…" he continued "…I can't wait ta try it agin." He looked at Charlotte with unconcealed admiration. "And now, yer th' first person ta break th' sound barrier. It musta felt incredible."

"It was incredible." Charlotte answered. "It was like entering another world. I can't even begin to describe it." Grabbing an oil marker off her workbench she signed her name over her picture. "What's your first name kid?"

"Vincent." he said. Then with a panicky wave of his hands, he added "Oh, write it ta 'Vince', okay?"

"Oh?" Charlotte smirked, "Not 'Vinnie'?"

"God, no." Mallory shuddered.

"You got it. Vinnn-cc-e." She scribbled a small message thanking him for his support and wishing him well in his future, a fellow human with a need for speed. As she handed the magazine back to him, he saw something over her shoulder he had somehow missed before. Two motorcycles. One, a clunky-looking Karlsland make with an attached sidecar, sat at the rear of the space near the bay doors. The other… the other looked as if it had just materialized out of the magazine he now held again.

"Is that…?" Mallory began. Charlotte followed his gaze to where her Indian Scout was parked.

"Yup." Charlotte acknowledged. "I had her shipped to me after I was sure I was going to be stationed here permanently. You want to take a look at her?"

"That'd be swell ma'am.” Vince enthused. “Thank ya kindly."

"Ooo-kay." Francesca announced loudly "I can tell things are about to get all technical, so I'm out of here.

As she turned to leave Charlotte called out to her. "Hey, you said you wanted to ask me about something? What was it?"

"Oh! Yeah. That. Totally forgot." she shrugged. "I was just wondering if you knew what tomorrow morning's meeting is all about. How come it's just me and you and Yoshika and Lynne? Are we in trouble?"

"Not that I am aware of." Charlotte answered with a smile.

"Am I in trouble?"

"Not that I am aware of."

"Okay. Good." Francesca sighed in relief. "Now I have another, completely different question."


"What language is that guy speaking?" Francesca asked seriously. "I can barely understand him."

Charlotte laughed as she turned to go back into her workshop. "I'll see you at dinner."

~ … to be continued ~

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