APAGear - Volume 5, Number 6 - October 2003

The Angry Armadillos

Part Two: Remembrance

Dennis R. Johnson

Note: Continued from the August Issue. -ed

33 Spring TN 1937

Jan Mayen was a city in ruins. Northern and Southern forces had been fighting in and around the city for the past hour now, each side attempting to claim it as a supply depot. Its inhabitants, human and GREL alike, were being cut down like wheat in the murderous crossfire. Sous-Lieutenant Sven "Armadillo" Molovski watched the city burn with a pained heart and a troubled soul. He had been to Jan Mayen many times before, and many friends he knew still lived there. Now he didn't know how many DEAD friends were in there. But his unit had been ordered up, and he had no choice but to obey orders. His Black Mamba bounded through the ruined streets and destroyed ranches, watching for any survivors attempting to flee. Those few he had found, however, he left with the three marine escouades traveling behind him in Caimans.

"Armadillo! Jaguar on the right!!" shouted Caporal Siluka. Sven spun left and ducked behind a water tower just as the space he was in moments before suddenly filled with autocannon rounds. Sven waited a half-second, then burst from cover, emptying half of his rocket pack into the Jaguar trying to draw a bead on him. The high-explosive warheads turned the pride Gear of Northco into so much scrap metal in less than a second. A quick check of his sensors told Sven another northie was coming up behind his now dead partner. Seizing the initiative, his Gear leapt through the smoke, autocannon blazing away at the surprised Hunter. Several shots connected, and smoke poured from the stricken Gear before it collapsed.

"Merde! I'm pinned down by a Grizzly here!" the voice of Sergeant Marquis cut through the haze of battle.

"Hang on, Sergeant. Armadillo responding. Where are you?"

"Over by the northernmost Oasis tower."

"Roger that," Sven quickly made an adjustment to his course. Instead of taking the Grizzly head-on, he decided to catch it from behind. With one enemy always having a shot at its backside, the Grizzly would have two options: flee or die. Sven hoped it chose die. He rounded the last corner at full throttle, his Gear's feet kicking up massive clouds of dust as he sprayed the Grizzly with autocannon fire. As the Grizzly turned to face him, the loudest sound in a soldier's world was made. The dry click of an empty weapon. Yelling a vicious string of curses that would make even a landsailor blush, Sven drew his vibrorapier and slashed at the Grizzly. The first swipe cut the heavy autocannon the Grizzly was bringing to bear in half, and the next cut through the Gear's omnicamera, blinding it. But the finishing stroke was delivered by Sergeant Marquis, who planted his vibromachete in the dead center of the V-engine. Smoke bellowed, fuel spilled, and the two victorious Gears took off in pursuit of more sport.

"Thanks for the save, sir," Marquis said.

"Always happy to help waste a northie," Sven replied as his Mamba reloaded its spent autocannon.

"Didn't you say you've been here before?"

"A lot of times, Jan. It hurts me to see it like this. Northern bastards. They never should've come here. Then again, neither should we. I just hope..."

"Hope what?"

"Never mind, Sergeant," I just hope Zara has enough sense to stay out of this. Sven thought. He said a quick prayer that God would keep her safe. "Section Rouge, sound off!"

"Sergeant Marquis, at the ready, sir!"

"Caporal Siluka, at the ready!"

"Sous-Sergeant Lansing, aye!"

"Sergeant Sabin, want me to move?"

"Negative Deliah, stay there," Sven responded. Sergeant Sabin was the regimental sniper. Piloting an elite and rare Snakeye BM, all she needed to do was get a good vantage point and start picking off targets.

"Blacktongue, you copy?"

"Blacktongue copies," came the deadpan voice of Sous-Adjutant Melanie Lancee, "Lancee cadre all present...wait one..." there was a brief pause before she continued, "and accounted for,"

"You under fire, Lancee?" Sven inquired.

"Not anymore, boss."

"Ah. Good to hear that. Now rendezvous with me so we can keep going." Suddenly, a voice broke into the comm-net.

"Duelist! This is Commandant Tomas, do you copy?" Commandant Guy Tomas was the regimental commander of the 26th Bloody Sabres, Sven's unit.

"I copy, sir."

"Good. We have reports of the Mayens firing on Gears, so I want you to shoot any you see, understood?" Sven balked. The information he was given was woefully short of several items, the first and most important being information. What types of Gears? North, South, who? Why? Did the GRELs just start blasting or were they provoked? He knew Tomas was an Alliance vet, and probably was looking for an excuse to kill some Earthers, especially when they're running around a battlefield. He also knew the Janite GRELs, and while most continued with service in the militia, he had a gut feeling they wouldn't further risk their city unless they were really provoked. Like Tomas firing first.

"Negative, sir, I do not have enough information to make a clear decision. I've got dozens of civilians running around here, and I can't tell who's who," Sven said, testing his commander.

"Then just kill them all. They're just GRELs and Earther collaborators." Sven turned pale beneath his helmet at the thought. He swallowed hard and steeled himself for what he had to do next.

"No, sir. I cannot obey that order. It is direct violation of the Code."

"WHAT?!? I don't give a snake's ass about your damned Code! Just kill the xenos bastards!"

"I'm one of those 'xenos bastards,' sir. And I'm telling you no."

"Don't move, Molovski, I'm on my way to deal with you myself." Sven snorted in disgust when a round from an anti-Gear rifle exploded off his Mamba's chest armor. Sven whirled his Gear around and pointed his autocannon at the armadillo-riding GREL. Sven looked down at the Morgana pointing the rifle at him...and saw it was Zara. He saw a brief flash of recognition in her eyes, and he presumed it to have been when she saw the armadillo painted on his Gear's chest. Sven lowered his weapon, and Zara did the same. He saw she was traveling with about a dozen other armadillo riders who were escorting about 60 civilians, some badly injured. As he was about to climb down and talk to her, however, Tomas arrived on the scene.

"Molovski!! What the hell have you been doing? Why haven't you killed those GRELs yet??" Commandant Tomas marched his Razorfang Mamba right up to Sven's.

"Because they're not hostile, sir. They're just trying to walk the civilians out of the hot zone."

"So? Kill them!"

"Sir, I will not take an innocent life if I don't have to."

"Guess what. You have to."

"Sir, it goes against the Code! Regiment before Self, Justice before Reconciliation, Thought before Action, and-"

"Fine! I'll kill them myself!" Tomas turned his autocannon on Zara. In a flash, Sven's Black Mamba leapt into action, smashing Tomas back with his spiked buckler. As his Gear tumbled back, Sven saluted with the vibrorapier before plunging it deep into the Mamba's cockpit. The stricken commander took one more step back, then toppled over, crushing a shop in the process. "And Honor before All." Sven finished, "I'll not dishonor my name or my regiment's name by slaughtering civilians." Sven then turned to his assembled section and pulled out the vibrorapier. None failed to notice the blood.

"I'm leaving, and I'm helping these people out. You have 3 choices: Kill me, let me go, or come with me. Decide now." It took about a half second to get his first answer.

"I'm with you all the way, boss." Lancee declared.

"She speaks for the whole cadre?"

"She does, sir," confirmed Sous-Caporal Natheri

"All right, then."

"I'm in, sir!" Siluka announced.

"Me too, mon commandant!" Marquis agreed.

"I'll follow you wherever you need me to go, sir," Lancing stated.


"Sir, if I wasn't on your side, you'd be dead already." Everybody laughed at that. It felt good to relieve some of the tension of what had just happened.

"All right, then. I'm going to talk to the group's leader, and then we're gonna get outta here." Sven popped the hatch on his Gear and leapt down to the dusty ground. He pulled off his helmet and ran over to where Zara sat astride her armadillo. She smiled with both relief and delight on her face when she saw him.

"Damn, Sven, I've never been happier to see you," the GREL beamed, "I take it you've submitted your resignation from the MILICIA?"

"Yes, and so have the other nine pilots of mine. We're gonna help to walk you out of the hot zone, but it'd be a lot easier if we had some kind of mass transportation for all these people. Anything in that northern tower over there?" A woman in her forties stepped forward.

"Yes, sir, there's a couple of Springers, a least 3 Antelopes, and a Behemoth in the main corridor," she volunteered.

"That's great! If we had a tanker or something similar, that'd really help." Sven exclaimed.

"There's a fueling station there with some jerry cans, too," the woman said.

"Ma'am, I could kiss you right now." Sven joked, and everybody laughed. "All right, let's get a move on! Zara, you take these people over to the oasis tower, we'll cover you with our Gears from outside. Move everyone but cavalry into the Behemoth and one of the Springers. We'll fill the jerry cans and put them in the other Springer, and use the Antelopes as point defense. Mount them up with Minervas and Maxwells if there are any. Best drivers and shooters to fill what's left. Any questions?"

"What happens when your former comrades come after you?" Zara asked.

"Me and my section will draw them away while you make a break for it. Follow the caravan trails to the Serpentine Range. On the eastern side there's a series of caves 4 kilometers off the trail. You can camp there and then move on to Erech, my parents will keep you safe. I'll follow you if I can. Now, go!" Sven turned and climbed up his Mamba, resealing the hatch.

"Okay, here's the deal," he said to his troops, "We're walking the non-coms out of the hot zone and to safe territory. Right now they're moving to that nearby oasis tower to get some vehicles and fuel for all of us. Following that, we're going to take the caravan road out to the Serpentine Range, where I'll brief us on our next leg. If I'm killed, follow Morgana Zara's lead, she knows what to do and will brief you."

"And if she's killed?" Lancee asked.

"You're in charge. Move out." Sven's grim tone brooked no refusal. The ten Gears took off towards the oasis tower, covering the knot of civilians.

Thirty minutes later, the call Sven dreaded came through. The command circuit, busy with directing the other sections, turned on him.

"Section Rouge, come in," Sven made no reply, "Section Rouge, we have you on our sensors, please reply. Section Rouge, what is your status!" Sven swallowed hard and keyed the link.

"This is Sous-Lieutenant Molovski, Section Rouge, reporting sector secured, sir," he ferverently hoped they'd buy it. They didn't.

"What? Last report showed GREL cavalry in that area and more moving in! And what happened to Commandant Tomas?"

"I don't know, what happened to him?" Sven was desperate, sweat forming on his forehead. If they found out before they got outta here...

"His last report said he was on his way to deal with you. Something about not firing on GREL cavalry..." The voice behind the microphone was starting to pick up what happened. "Sous-Lieutenant, you stand relieved. Report to base immediately where you will surrender your Gear and its sensor logs."

"Negative, command." Sven said, and he felt his teammates' eyes on him. The line was about to be crossed. "Sous-Lieutenant, either you report back immediately or we send someone out to bring you back in, by force if necessary." God help us all, Sven thought.

"Come and get me. Molovski out." Sven said and killed the command channel. The line had just officially been crossed. Sven and the nine other members were now traitors of the Southern MILICIA. "All right, boys and girls, they're coming for us, get ready." The air turned grim and somber as the ten Gear pilots prepared themselves with a fight against their former comrades. It wasn't but a few minutes before the first MILICIA troops arrived.

"Attention, Section Rouge! This is Adjutant-Chef Morgan Fey, we've come to join you, sir!" Sven blinked in surprise. It was the three infantry escouades that had been following Sven into the city!

"Uhhh...my thanks, Adjutant-Chef, but why? You don't know why I turned." Sven asked.

"No, sir, we don't, but we know you're a good man and loyal. If you thought it was worth defecting and fighting your way out, it's good enough for us."

"I see. Very well, then. We've got some GREL cavalry inside helping load up civilians into several transports. Its our job to see they make it out of here. When they come out, I want your APCs to run alongside the convoy, and the GREL cavalry will cover your flanks."

"Roger that, sir! We'll do our best!"

"I expected no less, Mr. Fey." Sven replied. Several minutes later, the convoy had exited the oasis tower and was formed up and ready to go. Lancee and her cadre led the pack, with her mighty King Cobra in the lead. Twenty armadillo riders and the 3 Caimans covered the flanks, while Sven's cadre took up the rearguard, ready to break away as a decoy. As the convoy began to make its way into the desert, the first MILICIA forces appeared. A cadre of Jagers, using a nearby rock formation as cover, pounced the convoy as it was passing by. A Caiman APC and 3 GRELs were killed before the cadre was ripped to pieces by both GREL and Gear. Another cadre attacked the convoy from the flank and managed to destroy all three antelopes. All nine people, a mix of GRELs and humans, were killed. Meanwhile, back in the city, a recon cadre and an infantry cadre announced their defection as well and attempted to join with Sven. They were quickly cut off by loyalist forces and killed. Sven heard their demise over the comm-link, but he could sadly do nothing except listen too them die. He also heard reports from other units that gave Sven the impression that the battle for Jan Mayen was becoming more unorganized and more of the city was being destroyed. When he heard that Southern and Northern units had begun simply shelling the entire area, Sven severed the comm-links to everyone but his section. The helplessness threatened to overcome him, and it was all he could do to keep his gear moving forward. About 10 kilometers outside the city, however, the greatest tragedy was about to occur. The convoy was moving steadily forward, and every GREL, pilot, and soldier had their eyes peeled to the surrounding environment even though they hadn't been attacked for the past five kilometers. The first inkling that Sven had that they were under fire was Marquis' Jager disintegrated into a fireball. He didn't even have time to scream. Barely-controlled panic erupted. "What the hell happened??"

"Oh, great Prophet, Marquis is gone!"

"Anybody see anything?"

"What was that? Where'd it come from?"

"Contact! I read two Nagas, 373 meters! They were using passive systems only!" cried out Sous-Caporal Natheri from his Iguana. Silence fell over the comm-net. Striders. Heavily armed and armored machines capable of taking out a Gear with a single shot.

"Oh, dear God," Sven gasped, "Armadillo cadre, break off and engage! Lancee, get these people out of here at top speed! Fly, girl, fly!" Lancee quickly signaled to the lead convoy vehicle to haul ass before switching into SMS mode and taking off. Sven, Lansing, Sabin, and Siluka all took off towards the striders, running in zig-zag patterns to try and throw off the missile locks. Sabin was the first to get a shot off, firing her laser at the lead Naga, destroying its left missile launcher in a shower of sparks. Sven and Siluka both fired what remained of their rockets at the Nagas, most connecting with the first, smashing the cockpit open with a fiery blast and killing the crew. The second Naga, however, took its revenge on Lansing. It fired a single anti-tank missile at the Sous-Adjutant, who nearly swerved out of the missile's path. Nearly. The missile exploded just to the left of the Gear, destroying the left arm and peppering the chest with shrapnel. Lansing went down with a cry of pain, smoke leaking out of the holes in the chest.

"Lansing!" Sven exclaimed, "Lansing, its gonna be okay, we're gonna get you out of here."

"Don't think so, sir," Lansing coughed over the link, and it sounded like his mouth was full of something. Like blood. "I'm pinned to the seat. Damn shrapnel's stapled me in here. Even if you could get me out, I wouldn't make it. Just go, I'll distract the damn thing long enough."

"Oh no you don't Lansing! You aren't gonna die here! C'mon, get up! Get up soldier!!" Sven cried, tears forming in his eyes. Lansing had been one of his closest friends. They had gone through boot camp together, rose through the ranks together, and when Sven opted for OCS, Lansing had decided to stay as a senior NCO.

"I'm done, sir. You guys just get out of here, I can still fire a gun." To emphasize his point, Lansing's Black Mamba raised its autocannon and fired several shots at the Naga trying to lock onto Siluka. It turned to face the stricken Gear. "Go!" Lansing shouted, still firing at the strider that closed in on him, obviously planning to use its autocannon to finish the job.

"No!!" Sven cried, firing round after round at the Naga, the shells harmlessly deflected off its thick armor. "Siluka! Waste him! Now!" Siluka's Gear, a Brawler Black Mamba, stopped, leveled its grenade launcher at the Naga and fired two grenades at it. The Southern machine's side crumpled as if it were made of paper and exploded out in all directions. Only the legs remained, which quickly toppled to the sand. It was too late, however, to save Lansing. The Naga had already fired several rounds into Lansing's stricken gear, killing him. Smoke now billowed out of the nearly gone remnants of the torso. Sven stood before the remains of his friend, now forever entombed in a twisted metal shell. He knew that this was no time for mourning, and he had to catch up with the rest of the convoy. So Sven Molovski left behind Sous-Adjutant Karl Lansing's body for the desert to claim.

"Sven, what do we do now?" he heard a voice ask. "Sven? Sven?"

Sven jerked back into the present, looking up into the concerned eyes of Zara. Maybe this was becoming a problem.

To be continued...