|APAGear II Archives||Volume 3, Number 2||March, 2001|
[NOTE: Part One can be found in Volume 3, Number 1 of APAGear. -Ed.]
Stella sat in her Jager Gear, lost in thought. The gears of her patrol were sitting in a garage, hiding from a Northern Spy Satellite that was due to pass overhead in a few minutes. The doors to the garage had long since been blown off, no doubt in one of the many skirmishes that occurred as the two polar nations fought for control of this town, and the rubble strewn street spread out before her.
The Northern city states and the Southern alliance had been fighting within this town for many weeks and the burned out hulks of various gears lay about. Barely recognizable was a Jager and two Hunters, lying in the same position since they had fallen. She could remember the final moments of a couple of the Gears.
At the far end of the street were the remains of a school. She focused her Omnicamera on the ruins. One section of the blackened wall had been blown inward, creating a gaping hole ringed by hooks of reinforcing steel rods. The school had been burned badly by the explosion. The roof was gone and only sections of the walls remained.
"Hey check out this guy." A voice crackled over her comm. Stella turned her Omni-array to look. A solitary figure walked boldly across the street. He was carrying a pack on his back and stared at the Milicia Gears. "Buddy looks angry at us."
"Big Deal Foster." Another voice pitched in. "Not everyone in this place wants us here. It's not like we haven't gotten dirty looks before."
"That was my point before Rickard." Foster replied. "They don't want us here and we don't want to be here. We should just nuke this rat-infested hole and leave. Scorched Earth policy."
The man walked into a building across the street, not once turning his gaze away. Stella couldn't help but feel the hatred burning in the mans eyes. In a sense she couldn't blame him. This town had been rather quaint before hostilities began. After the shooting started, this little town had become an objective, a number on a map, to be held and controlled by both sides. In doing so they had destroyed many buildings and lives.
Like the school.
It was only a week ago that Stella's group had encountered the forward element of a gear group. It was one of the many times that the North tried to take the town. Her cadre had been split up in the initial minutes of the conflict. Stella had suddenly found herself alone, sitting in a 5 meter tall walking metal target and death lurked around every corner. Her active sensors were almost useless in the urban environment. By the time that she had registered a target, she could make visual contact.
Her finger twitchy on the firing stud for her Jager's Light Autocannon, Stella had crept through the streets. Coming upon a cross roads, she peered into the adjacent streets and found her enemy. The two Hunter gears were stalking up the road using proper two-man team tactics. One gear would cover while the other crept forward. Both had their backs to her. Steeling herself, she targeted the closest Hunter and let loose a burst from her LAC. The shells tore through the rear armor and engine of the Hunter, detonating a fuel cell. The Hunter exploded rather spectacularly.
The Hunters partner reacted faster than she had thought. Stella saw the rockets leave the Hunters shoulder rocket pods as her threat alarm went off. She had ducked back behind the building that she was using for cover and the rocket volley went right past her and into the school building. The school was covered in a dark cloud of explosive force, windows shattering silently. And the children...
"We're not here to kill these people Foster. They're civilians. The MILICIA does not kill civilians."
Stella could only stand and watch as families picked through the rubble looking for survivors and the bodies of the dead. She wanted to run over and apologize to each of them. Apologize for not stopping the Hunters from destroying the school and their loved ones. But she couldn't. She could only watch in silence.
"Each one of these civilians can pick up a rifle and easily shift allegiance. The Northies don't seem to have a problem dispatching anyone that they consider a heretic. Why should we be any different?"
Fosters tone struck Stella hard. She knew about how fanatical the Northern religious sects could be. Their belief in the Divine Prophet seemed to give them licence to kill anyone who did not kowtow to their beliefs. Maybe it would be different if they did not have the Northern Guard to back them up, but the church controls the Guard.
She should have stopped the Hunter from destroying the school. Stella could have known that the Hunter would take out its anger on civilians. That the price for destroying a Guard Hunter would be paid for with the lives of school children. Stella turned her Omni-camera to look at the school again. It was hard to believe that the North, for all of their talk of love and peace, could be so cruel. What crime did those children commit other than being innocents caught in the crossfire?
"The Northies did us a favour when they blasted that school. Less little Basalites to worry.."
Foster's sentence was drowned out by a combination of static and an explosion.
"Shit! Foster's Down! Foster's Down!"
To be continued...
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 3, Number 2||March, 2001|
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