APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 9 September, 1999



Janne Kemppi

Giorgina scanned her surroundings. Fighting had died and GREL infantry were returning back to their mighty hover tanks. They were escorting few dazed prisoners that were lucky enough to survive systematical annihilation of their once proud Heavy Gear Regiment. Fighting had gone quite well today and they were left with only a handful of lost Predators. Small price to pay for scores of enemy fallen littering the desert.

One of the bodies in desert wasn't a body yet. Jean was -by any rational measure at least- dead but his stubborn body hadn't accepted it. Instead he was lingering in the edge of forever darkness. He was now a war hero, like he had dreamed all his life to this morning. Somehow it just didn't feel that way. He had joined to army like everyone else in his university class when the war had started. They were supposed to fight for homes and freedom against brutal CEF and their inhuman GREL servants. They had said that battlefield was a field of honor and a test of manhood for a young man.

Little did Jean know back then what this all really was. His training had been short, brutal and to the point. There was no honor in it, just learning to kill enemies as quickly as possible. Still, he knew that all that must somehow be worth it all and no one in his training camp was happier than he was when they received orders to march to Badlands to meet the enemy.

Battlefield was a shock to him. Their ranks were decimated with missiles and artillery fire even before they set their eyes to GRELs. Then amidst burning fuel and smoke screens hover tanks arrived. The end result was plain murder. Chevaliers L'Enfer were like everything he'd heard in training, massive primeval monsters that spat fire and death while coming and going like ghosts you could never hit. Pressing his teeth together he had done his best to stop himself from running away from the inferno. They had, however, managed to do something to their enemy as smoking carcass of burned-up hover tank proved.

Giorgina's Predator parked next to last hover tank lost in this small battle. She was commander now, and her visor was filled with data as GRELs reported in with inhuman precision everything achieved and consumed from body count to flare expenditure. She signed but there had been a time when she felt quite exhilarated by all that.

Reports flowed in bringing status reports of both friendly and enemy weapon systems and their users. They had been shot, exploded, burned and suffocated with the very same professional expertise that CEF was always so famous for. She sighed but there had been a time when she had cheered for all that.

Instead of cheering Giorgina looked the burning hulk of a destroyed Predator. Battle had gone forwards like it always did. Kurt had been advancing with the first wave when his panzer had flown through the white ash cloud fired by ambushing patrol. Cloud of white death had engulfed Kurt's hover tank, his panzer, immediately. Filters had somehow failed and Predators fans sucked it all in and burned out in a second. As ash tore fan blades out the Predator immediately lost its balance and dived. Worst of all, the tank had overturned in a crash like a giant turtle.

Only a moment later half a dozen gears were surrounding helpless panzer and perforated the vulnerable belly of Kurt's tank with their cannons. Predator's ammunition magazines ignited only a second later with a massive smoke pillar rising to the sky. No one could have survived that. Giorgina had seen it all through her sensors. GRELs manning her own panzer then methodically wiped out ambushing Gears but it was too late to Kurt and his crew. It was too late.

At the bottom of the ridge Jean coughed. His Squadron had been in a good position behind a ridgeline when one of those flying monsters flew right in the middle of their positions. They all fired instantly. Enemy hit the ash cloud and dropped down like a poisoned fly. Jean and his companions had then fired at it with everything they got, happy to have some kind of solid target they could see, fire and destroy.

Jean had launched the ash cloud and he had fired the rounds that destroyed the monster. He was a hero now. At the moment of truth he had forgotten his fears. As he smiled at his success and conquest something had hit his Jaguar like a giant fist and Gear then collapsed on sand. Everything had gone dark then.

Jean's lips were bloody now. He had no feeling in legs and he couldn't move his right hand. His thoughts were interrupted with coughing as blood in his lungs started to smolder the flickering flame of life inside him. He tried to concentrate and he saw a CEF trooper standing on top of his huge monster tank. No doubt enjoying the killing GRELs had done, Jean thought as his body finally succumbed to massive trauma he had suffered.

Giorgina looked down the ridge at pile of Jaguars wiped out by her panzer in vain rescue of Kurt's Predator. Her hands were shaking violently like they always did after the battle when combat drugs and adrenaline started to wear off leaving her numb, tired and vulnerable. The shakes always started from her hands and then moved to her legs no matter how hard she tried to grasp the edge of her tank's hatch. Then the tears started to fall down her cheeks as the trembling took over her body and careful composure.

Giorgina was trembling like her mother had so many years ago when she was a little girl and a strange man came to her mother with a letter. Her mother had immediately ordered her back to her room. Later in the evening Giorgina had awoken to a terrible thunderstorm and she seen her mother sitting in kitchen and weeping. Back then she didn't fully understand why her mother had held father's picture in her hands and cried so much.

Today she knew why.

Kurt was dead and no matter how high the enemy losses were nothing would bring him back. Kurt would be like her father, who never came back from the war.

She had never been so lonely. Company of GRELs was with her but talking to them of emotions was like talking to a wall. Kurt had been different. He had been funny and nice. You needed someone like Kurt, someone to listen, care, hug and caress.

But now he was dead and something inside her had died as well.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 9 September, 1999