|APAGear II Archives||Volume 3, Number 3||April, 2001|
[NOTE: Part Two can be found in Volume 3, Number 2 of APAGear. -Ed.]
A Heavy Gear Story by Grizzly Bryan Lee
Ethen could remember the very moment that his life was stolen from him. It was a scant week and a half ago. Monday. A Monday that was burned into his mind for all time. It marked the moment that his world was torn apart and he was reborn as shadow of his former self.
The day had started out as most days did under the Southern occupation. His family sat down for their daily breakfast routine, his wife and daughter eating quickly. They were late for school. He kissed his wife goodbye and left to open the general goods store that he owned. It would be the last time that he would kiss Maryanne.
Ethens family had been caught up in the fighting for as long as he could remember. Warfare seemed to be the one constant in his life. In seconds everything that his parents had built up would be destroyed. His fathers garage was comandeered for MILICIA use and he was denied access for fear of sabotage. He was unable to play outside on most days for fear of stray gunfire and landmines. Even the act of going to get food for the family meant putting on an old helmet and staying close to buildings. And then there were the multiple interrogations and house hold searches conducted by both sides. Soldiers would just burst into the house and tear the place apart looking for something. Ethens parents tried to remain neutral in the conflict, for choosing a side would only make matters worse.
One day the family packed up whatever belongings that they could carry and left their hometown in a small caravan with other refugees. Rumours had floated through the town that the MILICIA unit was being replaced with a Legion Noire unit, and the Legion was not known for being gentle to civilians. Several days later the town had all but been leveled by Northern Ortillery.
Ethen swore that his family would not let warfare affect them. They moved as far from the center of the fighting as they could and lived rather contented lives until the scope of the conflict exploded. The North became involved, supposedly as allies, and there were few places that could escape the fighting.
Only recently had the battle for their town intensified. Several times a week two patrols would clash, rarely did they meet in town. Ethen still kept his store open and Maryanne continued her work as a teacher. They would take shelter when the fighting came into town, but Ethen refused to let the conflict affect his family. They lived as normal a life as was possible.
It was a foolish dream.
That Monday a Northern patrol had come upon the town suddenly. One minute everything was quiet and the next cannon fire was ricocheting down the streets. Ethen hid behind the solid metal counter in his store and waited for the fighting to stop. The first sign of trouble was when Rob from the volunteer fire department burst in looking for him. They needed every able man to help. Of course Ethen volunteered.
Ethens stomach began to tighten as he realized where they were going. The school. The black plume of smoke at the end of the block turned his nerves on end. His run became more desperate. Maryanne and his son were supposed to be at that school today.
He could only stand silently, mouth open and voice hoarse, as he came upon the burning building. Townspeople were scurrying about, some with fire hoses others screaming for loved ones. Ethen had to find his wife and son. He pushed past Rob and ran to the building. He collided with a medical team bearing a stretcher that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere and tumbled to the asphalt. The stretcher fell and its contents tipped onto the ground. Ethen looked back at the medical team, who were chastising him, and he saw the body. It was a young boy, badly burned and almost unrecognizable.
Almost unrecognizable to anyone but Ethen. The face, although blackened, belonged to his son. Ethen reached out and touched the charred flesh, flakes coming off with his touch. The boy was dead, his last few moments frozen on his face.
It seemed like an eternity that Ethen stared at his sons body. He was then shaken out of it by thoughts of Maryanne. Where was she? Was she okay?
He joined the other frantic relatives as they ran about the outside of the burning building. The survivors were pulled out and taken away to a triage center but none of them were Maryanne. The remains of the building were picked through over the next couple of days. No matter how hard he looked, Maryanne was nowhere to be found. He feared that she had joined the other unidentified bodies that were buried in the mass grave.
Ethen thought back to that Monday as he finished putting the small box into a backpack. He did not want to get his family involved in this war and tried his best to live a normal life despite it but it was not to be. All that Ethen had left was his anger, anger at himself for not protecting his family better and anger at the nations that had killed his family.
The pack was tied up and Ethen tossed it over his shoulder. With one last look around his home, he steeled his resolve and walked out the door. The day was surprisingly clear, not a cloud in the sky. The heat from Helios did not bother him as he stepped out into the street.
Several blocks later he neared his final destination. He glanced over to the garage where the Gears were hiding. They usually took cover in the garage around this time, very timely and predictable. There were five Jagers, a patrol cadre. They stood motionless, dangerous metal golems, and only thin wisps of exhaust indicated that the gears were still up and running.
Several gears swiveled their cyclopian Omni-camera sensor arrays at him. Ethen just glared back. He hated the Gears. They represented everything bad that had happened in his life. He was certain that the Gears could feel the hatred in his gaze but he didn't care. They wouldn't be moving for another 20 minutes.
He crossed the street and picked his way through the ruins of an office. Winding his way through the building and passing through several others, Ethen reached his destination. It was a blown out building, rubble strewn about creating dunes of broken concrete. He carefully picked through some of the rubble, keeping low so that it would be difficult for those outside the building to see him.
Ethen found the boxes buried in separate piles in the building, exactly as he had been told. He opened the boxes and checked to make sure that he had everything. Nothing was missing. It had taken some convincing but Rob had come through for him. Of course Rob wasn't surprised when Ethen asked him for the favour and the information. Rob always was a good neighbour, and the fact that he was part of the local resistance helped.
Carefully repeating the steps that he had been shown, Ethen assembled the Anti-Heavy Gear Rifle. It was a rather large beast that required a bipod to fire properly. He had heard that it was possible to fire the rifle from a standing position but only by those who were either very strong or GRELs. Out of the pack that he brought with him, Ethen pulled out a small box of cartridges. He fit one of the large bullets into the rifles magazine and then snapped the magazine in place. The charging handle was pulled back and a single shell was loaded with a loud click.
Ethen froze and listened. The bolt seemed louder out here than in the basement where he practiced. The Gear Cadre had an infantry group supporting it in the town and although Rob had said that they were on the other side of town there was always the fear that the platoon had changed its pattern. If they lay nearby and heard the bolt close then they might come looking for him. Ethen felt for the holster in his jacket and was comforted somewhat by the familiar bulge that was there. Rob had certainly come through for him indeed.
A non-reflective sight was attached to the top of the rifle and Ethen crawled into position. He concealed himself behind the ruins of a furnace and took aim. One of the Jagers that was taking shelter in the garage down the street filled the crosshairs. Visions of his son and wife danced in his head. He could see his sons burnt body and smell the seared flesh. He could see the bits of body parts with no identifiable features.
With a squeeze of the trigger, Ethen found a new life.
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 3, Number 3||April, 2001|
Heavy Gear is © 2001, Dream Pod 9, Inc. All rights reserved. APAGear is not affiliated with Dream Pod 9 in any way. Submitted material remains the property of the creator.