Banzaidyne Press

"Heavy Gear: The Spirit of St. Louis, Part One"

Miguel hated these long patrols.

His squadron of Hunters were on deep patrol in the savannah several kilometers from the city-state of Coronado. The squadron was surveying a possible route between Coronado and a large aluminum deposit for the city's aircraft manufacturing plants. For Miguel, though, the importance of the patrol was of far less importance than the state of his Gear's air conditioning system, specifically that it had crapped out completely. The cockpit had become so hot that, at risk of a reprimand, he was driving the Gear with the torso hatch open, trying desperately to catch what little breeze was blowing across the hot savannah.

Just as Miguel came to the edge of a ravine, a strong breeze came up from the shaded ravine floor, delicious in its coolness. "Blessed Mahmoud," Miguel breathed as he took off his helmet and let the breeze wash over him for a moment.

His helmet's speakers crackled and spoke. "King Three, this is King Six, over."

Miguel swore softly as he put his helmet back on. The section leader would have to call now. "Uh, King Three, go."

"King Three, what is your status, over?"

"King Six, I'm at the edge of a ravine. There's no major obstructions, just some boulders in the underbrush. Uh, the side doesn't look too steep, so I'm starting down now," Miguel said into the helmet's microphone. As he'd need the Hunter's head sensors on the torso hatch to make it down the ravine safely, Miguel reached for the switch to close the hatch.

Something hit the left side of his Gear with a loud thump. Miguel turned to look out. "What the -"

The biggest dawg Miguel had ever seen stuck his head inside the hatch and tried to bite him, snapping its jaws just centimeters from Miguel's face.

"SHIT!!!" Miguel screamed, as he instinctively grabbed the Hunter's control sticks and brought its left arm up, batting the dawg to the ground. The dawg hit the ground with an oomph, but it got up, shook its head, and jumped back on the Gear.

"King Three, this is King Six, come in," Miguel heard over his helmet's speakers as he slammed his thumb on the hatch switch. The hatch began to move, but the dawg managed to shove its head back under it before it could close. The hatch's hydraulics wailed in protest as the dawg gasped for air, flicking its tongue against the visor on Miguel's helmet. Even through the helmet's filters, the stench of the dawg's breath was enough to make Miguel retch.

"King Three, this in King Six, please respond."

Trying to keep his hands away from the dawg's still snapping jaws, Miguel reached for the revolver he kept strapped to the inside of the torso hatch.

"King Three, what's going on? King Four, this is Six, go check on Three, over."

Miguel got the gun free from the hatch. With a shriek of rage and fear, he pointed the revolver at the dawg's head, cocked the hammer, and pulled the trigger. The revolver thundered, and tissue and blood sprayed over the hatch, the cockpit and Miguel as the dawg's head drooped lifelessly on his leg.

"Was that a shot? King Three, this is King Six, report, over!" With an effort, Miguel reached back down to the hatch switch and thumbed it to the OPEN position. The hydraulics' whine switched to a soft purr as they raised the hatch, and Miguel shoved hard against what was left of the dawg's head. The dawg's body slumped off of the Gear, fell to the ground with a loud thud and didn't move again.

Just then, Harris, his squadronmate in the Hunter known as King Four, came up next to Miguel's Gear, and called over the radio, "You okay, buddy?" Miguel could only nod as the other Hunter's head sensors trained on him, then the dead dawg, then back on him. Miguel could almost hear the smile in Harris's voice as he said, "Sweet Mahmoud, that poor dawg must have been hungry."

Miguel made an obscene gesture, then hit the hatch switch to CLOSE as he called over the radio, "King Six, this is King Three, over."

"King Three, this is Six, this had better be good, over."

"King Six, yes sir, um, I encountered some local wildlife, uh -"

"Heads up," called Harris, "here comes a bunch more!"

Miguel turned his Hunter's sensors to his left and saw another dozen dawgs coming up from the ravine floor towards him, some even bigger than the one that had attacked him. Before Harris could do anything, Miguel readied his Gear's autocannon, and emptied its clip into the pack. His weapon tore several dawgs to pieces, and Harris finished off what Miguel didn't hit. One of the rounds from Harris's autocannon hit a boulder on the ravine floor, and ricocheted off with the twang of metal hitting metal.

"What was that?" Harris wondered aloud as Miguel tried to bring his breathing under control. Harris moved his Hunter down into the ravine, and used its free hand to clear some dawg parts and underbrush away from the boulder he'd hit. He turned his Hunter's head back towards Miguel and said, "I guess they were all really hungry, huh?" Miguel only chuckled as he also went into the ravine, and brought his Hunter alongside Harris's Gear just as Harris revealed what he'd hit. The boulder was no boulder at all, but rather a badly twisted and corroded metal frame.

"King Three and Four, this is King Six, what are you two jokers doing, over?"

Miguel just shook his head as Harris called over the radio, "Uh, Six, this is Four, uh, situation normal. Three had a, uh, very close encounter with the lead dawg of a nasty pack. We've dispatched the rest of the animals with no problems. Uh, we've also found some pieces of metal framework here in this ravine, possibly pieces of a vehicle. Please advise, over."

"King Three and Four, King Six, hold your positions and stand by, over."

Miguel just sighed as he felt the heat beginning to build up again in the cockpit of his Gear. He fumbled around for a rag, and began to clean the dawg's blood and gore off of his clothes and instruments, all the while trying to think of a good explanation for having his hatch open like he had.

This was going to be a very long patrol....

Continue to Part Two

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