The beetfield were silent. Dead. With absolute no traces of life remained on the old battleground. All could be seen were pure devastation of the fight that occurred not even a few hours ago. Destroyed tanks and APCs, both Gallians and Imperials, laid bare on the ground, either burning, without a turret, or both, ornamented with piles of dead soldiers nearby. A few of these vehicles were lucky to keep their appearance clean, in hopes of being recovered after the war, and maybe sent to a war museum, at best, but more likely under the shredder.
It was a powerful reminder. Of an ill-fated squad in the Militia, Squad 13, who had perished under the ruthlessness of the Imperial soldiers, and the incompetence of the Gallian Military high command. No wonder why they bore the number thirteen in their squad name. The Militia were pretty much the cannon fodder of the Gallian military forces, being sent to suicidal and unnecessary missions again and again by the Military. Squad 13 was no exceptions, being thrown into countless battles like that. Pragmatically speaking , anyone righteous person with a right mind would never ever put their soldiers into unnecessary danger like that, but considering most of the high command were a bunch of buffoons whose only thing they could see was their pathetic personal desire for glory and their own life, it was not a surprise. Even the incredible luck that pulled Squad 13 out of many predicaments did not save them this time. They were dead to the world now. Gone.
Or so they thought…
In the midst of the smoke, the stench of death and blood, there was a tank. A typical Gallian light tank, armed with the standard 75mm cannon, laid motionlessly on the muddy ground, thankfully not burning. The tank was especially ornamented with multiple sandbags at the front and a couple of tree logs on the side, with some armor plating in the turret, which is turned towards the side, the guns pointing down. On the side of the turret painted eight white letters, resembling a word in a particular language, and was also the name of the tank itself: Pacifier. At the lower glasis of the tank was a mark of an AT shell, either from a tank or artillery, still fresh and new. It did not punch through the armor, but it caused the area to bend in considerably. Although the tank wasn’t burning, it still gave the impression that it had given into its fate. That impression proved to be a merit to the crew inside. “Ok I think this should finally does it.”
Inaudible from outside, the voice of a blonde man nearing his twenties, echoed inside the tank, from the driver’s seat. He was bending himself in his seat, so that his hands were able to reach the tank’s hydraulic system, which contributed to the movement of the front wheels. The tank’s driver winced as he attached the two wires together, causing a slight zap that flashed his eyes one bit. It was bad damage, very bad.“It should work.”
Said another man with a slight Imperial accent, sitting above him, underneath the commander’s hatch, wearing the uniform of the Gallian Militia. He was also blonde in hair color, but was slightly and visibly older. His eyes were grass green, beautiful but hollowed, just like his history. He was no stranger to this kind of things. This wasn’t his first time seeing it. “We’ve been out here for nearly two days, no food, no communication, surrounded by dead corpses. I believe I don’t need to make myself clear of being sickened just by being here.”
The man in the driver’s seat clenched his teeth tightly, angered, frustrated.“Those bastards in the Military. It’s their fault this had happened…”
The tank commander sighed audibly in exasperation“What’s good with complaining about it now? You’ve been saying the same freaking thing for the entire day.”“Those noble savages.”
His curse rose. “Living off people’s skulls like that.”“God damn it. Joachim, that’s enough.”
The tank commander raised his voice against him, not too loud, but was stern and austere. “Oh ok Hans. My whole squad died for some nobilities who cannot see anything but their own asses, and now you’re gonna stop me from saying anything about it?!”
His voice was more sarcastic, but still very angry.“So what? Are you gonna pour it on us instead? You aren’t gonna kill anyone with words you know. Shut up and do your work.”
He finished, leaving the rash driver to continue his mumble on his own.
With a simple shake of the head, in irritation, he turned away from him, to another particular member of his tank crew. She was in her seat, but was kind of restless, looking back and forth, her braided black hair swaying around in motion. “Sora, what’s wrong? Nature’s call again?”
She lightly shook her head“I am wondering if it is ok to leave our friends like that out there.”
She said, with melancholy. “I think they’re cold. We should give them proper burial.”
Hans’s head plummet, as he sighed again, but this time with more compassion, and less irritation, than with Joachim.“I know they don’t deserve deaths here. We all know that. But we also know that we don’t deserve death as well. Let me remind you that we are still in the enemy’s territory. So it’s better that you resist your own temptation to put others ahead of you.”
He said, as Sora simply sat down. He knew her feelings, but realistically speaking, going out there and dig massive holes together was a total bad idea. The Imperials wouldn’t be so noble to let three Gallian soldiers to live so that they can bury their dead comrades. Reality didn’t work that way.
“This is a war, not some fairy tales where you can do whatever you want to do. I expect you all to pull yourself together. At least until this conflict draws a conclusion.”
Hans said. “Do I make myself clear with you?”
Only Sora replied with a slight nod. “Again, do I make myself clear?”
Hans repeated, sounding more serious and militaristic.“Yes sir.”“Yes sir...”
They both replied this time.“Alright.”
He could note the discouragement in their answers, but he could just simply let it pass this time. “Looks like the coast is clear. Let’s get this tank back on its track again.”
Joachim stopped bending himself, after several hours trying to repair the damaged tank. The stretch was especially painful, but as someone who had known it for years before in the construction site, the tank driver was used to it. He sat back up on the chair, properly checking all the equipment, then tried with the hydraulic system again, to see if the wheels actually span as he would like it. For the first try, it did not went on. It was so for the second. Then the third. “Work you lil-”
Thankfully, the fourth was the final call for it. The tank’s wheels rolled again, pulling its track with them, after an entire day laying dormant in the bare rain.
The Pacifier had come back to life again. Its turret began to readjust itself to its righteous position, as the tank started to move. Turning itself around, it began rolling back to where it came from, silent, carrying the sorrow and unspoken desire of the dead to come with them.
The camp’s residences were especially unprepared for such emergence
A tank that was thought by everyone to be destroyed; its crew dead, was now rolling through the camp’s entrance. Even the camp’s guard didn’t even bother stopping them for a check. They were too shocked, as the tank continued rolling past them.
They were no strangers to these tankers. Their reputation for being one of the only, if not only, Gallian tank to destroy an Imperial heavy tank on a head-on tank battle, did not go unnoticed. Normally, Gallian tanks were mostly used against infantry and destroying fortifications, while it was the Lancers who were actually the main forces that destroy tanks, for the reason that Gallian tanks were normally outgunned when faced with the superior engineered Imperial tanks. Because of that, the Pacifier’s victory over the heavily armed Imperial heavy tank was a remark to the crew’s personal abilities as a whole. Hans did get a terrible injury in that fight, but he at least got a recognition medal for it.
Stopping at the camp’s ground, one particular officer, who had known Hans for a certain amount of time, along with his battle record, was standing right there. His face bore a myriad of emotions. Some happiness, some relieves, but mostly as shocked as everybody else.
From the top of the tank, from the hatch, the crew members popped themselves out. Hans quickly got down to the ground. It felt so distant, so luxurious for those like the three of them at the time. He greeted the officer not with a salute, but a formal handshake.“Thought you were dead. Where’s the rest of Squad 13?”
The officer said.
Hans looked back at the tank and back at his superior, filled with irony and sarcasm.“We’re ‘it’.”
The officer was in no surprise, but his expressions right now were so hard to even be explained. While he was happy that his good soldiers were still alive, he found it more and more difficult to treat him now. He had seen many things, soldiers from the First Europan War suffering mental issues over their dead squadmates. Honestly, it was a bit cruel to admit, but it was better that an entire squad died at the same time than having one or two members alive and suffer from it.
But Hans were in no particular mood for dwelling. “I believe my crew needs more than a simple rest. So can you either take us to a new camp, or settle us in now?”“Ah, yes. Give me a moment. You guys can rest at your old squad’s common room. We’ll try to accommodate you in a minute. I’ll discuss this with some of the base’s CO.”
Hans wasn’t particularly happy with the suggestion, since his crew hadn’t really gotten over the deaths of all their squadmates. But in a circumstances like now, there should be no complaints over it“Yes sir.”
He replied, as he climbed back to the tank.
A few minutes he said, it took them a whole day to actually make the decision. The word was as expected: Reassigned.“Second Gallian Militia HQ. Squad 11, under Lieutenant Tankreith.”
Hans gave his two comrades a short briefing outside their tank before their sortie. “We will take a quick route through the forest, since we are quite late.”“How late?”
Sora asked“A day late. We should’ve been there yesterday for settling in. But it can’t be helped that we suddenly return from the depths of hell.”
Hans replied. “But if we depart as early as now, we can arrive on time for the introduction. Any questions?”
The two of them shook their heads simultaneously. Hans simply gestured them to take their respective positions inside the tank. Slowly, yet steadily, the tank moved again.
A few hours later, after emerging from the woods uneventfully, their new HQ came in sight. A series of tall and sturdy building, standing bare backed against the seemingly tropical sun. The weather around the area was especially refreshing, as the coast was only probably a twenty minutes drive from there. The base gave off the aura of safety and protection, the one that soldiers would desperately need at some point during this conflict. From the looks of it, it appeared to suit this tank’s preferences.
The tank soon came to the gate check, in which the notification paper helped giving them an entry to the interior. Luckily, the guard there was nice enough to provide information regarding where and when the briefing would take place, which was the second workshop of the Northern Depot. Eventually, the tank arrived at the destination. At the time, there were a few who had already been residing in the area, two of whom appeared to be commanding officers, as their insignias, postures and positions suggested.
The tank rolled past the entrance gradually, the sandbag and log ornaments made the vehicle stood out in comparison to the other motorized transportation and war machine in there, parked in an empty slot, and simply went silent, as the driver simply turned off the engine. The three crew members of the tank quickly climbed out of the tank, but did not exactly stood in line yet, as they noticed some of the people there were still in their own world.
It was a new beginning, with a new squad, new commanding officer, and new missions to come. In the heart of all three of these men and women, they hoped that it would not end so disastrously like the old squads. Perhaps it will. War never changed. But hopefully not...