Eddie pulled the electric car into a parking spot not far from his apartment. He and Jane got out quickly, but Marvin was slower, not that they were in a hurry or rushed him. While he slowly climbed out on the drivers side, Eddie went around to the other side, grabbed the box with the pizza from the restaurant, and handed it to Jane. "I'm gonna walk him back to his place," Eddie said, pulling a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from a pocket of his jacket, handing her the car keys.
"Alright." She said with a faint grin. He returned it, winked, and she started off to Eddie's apartment. Eddie turned back to the car, to see Cowboy had finally gotten out. Eddie walked back over to the side, locked and closed the door. He pulled out a pair of cigarettes from the pack, which went back into his jacket, and held one out for Marvin.
Marvin shook his head. Eddie clicked his cheeks. "Take it." He said. Marvin sighed and did so, taking the lighter as well. Eddie followed suit, replacing the lighter in it's pocket, and pressed Marvin slightly on the back, getting him to slowly start walking roughly in the direction of the younger man's own apartment. "It's never easy to see someone like that, is it?" Eddie said casually.
Marvin grunted, but Eddie wasn't sure whether it was in agreement or simply acknowleding that he'd heard him. Eddie went on. "He's right, though. Can't let this s*** eat at ya."
Marvin finally took his cigarette out of his mouth, letting out a large cloud of smoke. His voice cracked, and it looked as if he'd begin to cry again. "I-I can't help it anymore..." He sighed. "With the old guys... I don't f***in' know." Cowboy spat with a shake of his head.
"It ain't easy," Eddie shrugged, "You just..." He paused, trying to find the right words. "...You just have cope. You can let it eat at ya for a bit. Mourn, cry, all that crap, whatever helps, but you have to move on. It can't stay with you forever."
Marvin just went on. "With the old crew... I guess I didn't know them as well as I thought..."
"You'd only been with them for a few weeks. It was different," Eddie pointed out, letting him talk.
"And I don't think I even knew Roy that long!" Marvin said between drags.
"He was a good guy," Eckardy stated simply.
"And now Ian..." Marvin muttered.
Eddie vehemently shook his head. "Don't start thinkin' it's your fault he got hurt. The only person who needs to blame for that s*** is the motherf***ers who shot at him." Eddie sighed and took a puff from his cigarette. "It's cold. It doesn't really seem comforting, but it's true. And there is no but's about that." Eddie added.
They continued walking. They were had gotten off the path to Marvin's apartment, and were now merely just wandering through the huge complex. There weren't many people about. The two went along in silence for a few more yards. Marvin still wasn't sure what to think, it seemed to Eddie, who himself was trying to find some way to explain things better, as Ian had asked him to do. But this was all beyond him.
"Listen," He tried again, "You just have to remember that now, yeah, this all sucks. But, things get better. They always do at some point."
"When?" Marvin asked, his tone desperate.
"Well... You never really know." Eddie shrugged once again. "Just think about the good s*** from before, and the good s*** that'll happen again later. Find something that keeps you happy. Gotta keep in touch with life outside of this s***."
Eddie blew out another puff from his cigarette. "Look..." He said, his tone more subdued than it had been before. "That story I told you before, the one about Welchel's bottle of vodka from back in the war..."
"I used to like that one. Now..." Marvin mumbled around his cigarette.
"Yeah, well, it didn't end with him getting over it and us playing cards or whatever." That got Marvin's attention, as he glanced at Eddie, who was frowning now.
"So what did happen?" Marvin asked, suddenly curious. The previous line of conversation seemingly forgotten.
And Eddie told him.
-May 15th, 0079-
-Somewhere in Southern Russia-
-19:16 Local Time-
"God damned c*** suckin' bastards..." Welchel swore quietly as he climbed back up the turret of the Type 61 tank, smacking the 12.7mm machine gun to spin it out of his way, glaring back at his two crew. He held the clear bottle in his hands and he dangled his feet in the hatch.
McKenna, sprawled across the twin 150mm cannons, broadly grinned back at the tank commander.
And Eckardy, who had been blamed for the theft of the clear alcohol, was now doubled over next to the tank, tears in his eyes as he laughed. "Holy s***, man!" He yelled, still laughing. "We f***in' told ya that ya can't leave that s*** laying around!"
"We did." McKenna added quietly, still beaming.
"F***in' f*****s." Welchel was still muttering. "Motherf***in' homos." He continued, pausing only to spit over the back of the tank. He took a deep breath and shook his head, cursing quieter now so the rest of the crew couldn't hear him. Some of the other tankers and infantry from nearby vehicles, seeing the situation apparently resolved, went back to their own various activites.
Eckardy continued to chuckle. Finally, he got control of himself, and pulled his tanker helmet off to examine a scratch that had developed as Welchel had chased him around, which prompted the 20 year old gunner to frown. "Aw f***! Scratched the paint!" He rubbed at the front of it, where a long grey scratch marred the odd red, white, and black pattern he had placed on it.
McKenna turned his head to look down at Eddie. "Not like anyone 'cept you would know, Ed." Eckardy waved him off, and started brushing away several blades of grass that had gotten stuck to it.
Welchel had turned to look at them. "It won't make you look any better, Eckardy." He stated matter-of-factly, with the slightest of grins as he got over the breif theft of some precious alcohol. They hadn't drank any of it, after all.
Eckardy opened his mouth to comment, but the scream of jet engines drowned him out. Barely two hundred feet overhead, a flight of four Fly Manta fighter-bombers raced by at top speed. Before anyone could comment, they were followed by a second flight of four, and then a third, and then a fourth. The fourth group had barely passed overhead before the flashes of distant explosions came over the ridge, followed by the sounds.
For a brief moment, nobody reacted, but that passed. Instantly, people were running. The engines of tanks, hover trucks, various types of armored personnel carriers, and every other vehicle in the 20th Composite Armored Regiment roared to life. A jeep quickly began speeding through the rows. Standing in back, one arm wrapped around the mounted M299 machine gun, an officer yelled into a megaphone. "Mount up! We're moving out in five minutes! Let's go! Get your asses in gear! Go!" The jeep rolled along, slowing to allow infantry and others rush to their vehicles. Men and women quickly packed up whatever items they had unpacked in the lager. Campfires were left burning, but every item of importance was tossed into a vehicle.
Welchel dropped into the turret, as McKenna pulled in his legs, dropping to a crouch between the barrels, and moved to the driver's hatch. Eddie pulled his helmet down onto his head, climbed onto the hull of the tank, and from there onto the giant turret. He slipped into the hatch as Welchel moved back into his spot, pulling on a steel infantry helmet, checking his headset. Eckardy moved into the cramped gunners seat and instantly went to work. He plugged his own headphones in, as the crew began an intercomm check. McKenna already had the engine warming up. Welchel yanked the hatch down and looked through the cupola, before checking the smoke grenade launchers. Eddie pressed the button on the auto-loader, which rammed in a pair of massive 150mm shells into the breech of the cannons. They were ready.
Behind him and to his left, and slightly above, Welchel held his hands to his ears. "S***!" He muttered. "Alright, somebody f***ed up again. We were supposed to go over the ridge right as the fighters hit the Zekes."
"Oh f***." Eckardy muttered.
"Crap." McKenna's voice cracked over the intercomm at the same time.
"Yeah, so now we're just going over. Arty'll do what they can. The Russian battalion is leading off." Welchel said. Although nobody commented on this, all were concerned. The 20th Composite Armored Regiment was so named because the largest contingent of it's men, about 40% were from the 20th Armored Regiment. Men and women from nearly a dozen other units, in some cases single tanks, in other cases companies or battalions, had been joined with them to form a single, regimental sized force. They had more tanks, but were light on infantry. They had a lot of artillery, but much of it was small scale, under 100mm, and the higher ups were still trying to organize it. It didn't help that a number of the units were local divisions and reserve formations, and so there were far too many men who didn't speak English. The list of problems went on and on. The regiment had only been formed 12 days prior, had been in combat nearly the whole time, and had been adding more and more units to keep it up to strength. To call it chaotic would have been a massive understatement.
The five minutes raced past and, slowly, everything began moving. They had been in lager behind a ridge, with the Zekes holding the next ridge, just a kilometer or so away, after they had lost it two days prior. "Here come the Mantas..." Welchel said, popping the hatch again. He chambered a round in the 12.7mm machine gun mounted up there, for all the good that gun would be, and counted the fighters. "Nine... Ten... Eleven... Twelve-no..." Inside the tank, they heard the sputtering sound of the jet engine, followed by another explosion. The hatch was sealed again and Welchel was back on the radio, trying to figure out whatever he could.
Eckardy, for his part, kept an ear out for what the tank commander said, but just drummed his fingers on the turret controls without any serious thought. He'd already lost track of how many times they'd gone through this exact situation, hitting back at the Zeon troops who had just bumped them off some ridge, or out of some town, or whatever. He did, however, remember how many times it had worked. Eddie pushed that thought out of his mind and started thinking of a girl he had seen in a propaganda poster for the EFSF...
But that thought was disturbed a few moments later by the thunder of artillery. A few hundred meters behind them, every gun the regiment had opened up. The best was a battery of 300mm rocket tubes, antiques that somebody had gotten from one of the local units, which unloaded with nearly deafing whooshes that went on for several seconds. Through his targeting scope, Eddie could only see the massive dust cloud all the regiment's vehicles were kicking up, and a hint of sky, where he saw the smoke trails of the rockets. A few moments after that, the distinct sound of their impacts barely made it over the roar of all the vehicles. Eddie noted off-hand that they hadn't felt the shake, for the tank was moving so much.
"Russian's going over now." Welchel reported. Normally with a larger crew, he handled the duty of tank commander and radioman, the latter job normally done by an assistant gunner. Outside, Eddie vaugely saw the crest of the ridge ahead. The thunder of 150mm cannons from T-61 tanks, which was basically the only type in the regiment, began.
"Here we go..." McKenna said from down in the hull as they neared the crest. Welchel was talking to their company commander on the radio, but Eckardy was glued to the gunsight. The tank hit the rounded top of the ridge, artillery still banging away behind them, and suddenly, they over.
The stabilizer kept the cannons pointed out ahead. Already, there were several vehicles knocked out. McKenna swerved the tank to the left to avoid a Type 61 that had lost it's turret. Men on the ground were moving. Infantry from a knocked out hover truck were waving their M72A1 bullpups at anyone, trying to get a ride foward. Already, the Zeons were returning artillery fire, but it was scattered and light. Eddie focused on the ridge, but didn't have a great view. "Welch, whadda see?" He asked.
"M-1's and Magellas. No Cyclops yet."
Eddie frowned at that. They had been knocked it off by Zakus. The two types of Zeon tanks were vastly different. The M-1, Zeon's first tank, as a small conventional design, but it lacked the armor of a Type 61, and only mounted a 105mm gun, and was hardly a major threat. The giant Magellas, with their insane flying turrets that couldn't turn on their own, didn't have much armor either, but their 175mm guns nearly had enough power to get through the tough front armor of a T-61. The designs were weird...
Eckardy shook his head and stopped worrying about it all. He spotted the small, narrow turret of an M-1. "M-1. Twelve o'clock, giving two." Eddie called as he pressed the firing buttons. The tank rocked as the two 150mm cannons fired, but the shells fell short, tossing up dirt ten meters infront of the enemy tank. It seemed to take forever for the auto-loader to ram in another pair of shells, allowing Eddie to fire again. This time, one of the shells was on target, causing the enemy tank to explode in a fireball.
"Magella! One o'clock! F*** 'em up, Eddie!" Welchel called. Eckardy spotted the tank, forty meters to the right of the burning M-1. The bigger target was easier to hit, but Eckardy only hit the base. The machine guns mounted there were instantly wrecked by one or both 150mm's, Eddie wasn't sure, but it gave the driver enough time to become a pilot. The turret raced up, firing a 175mm shell, but not at their tank. Another Type 61 exploded in front of them. The 150's had barely reloaded, but somebody else swatted the Magella turret from the sky, leaving only another smokey cloud in the sky.
"S***! Tell them idiots to speak English!" Welchel screamed into the radio. It had happened again. The Russian troops had panicked and were speaking in their native language. Eckardy could vaugely make out the lead tanks, now reaching the base of the enemy held ridge. Many were moving oddly, going parallel to the ridge, rather than up it. Infantry had dismounted and were moving, fighting with Zeonic infantry or simply attacking on foot, Eckardy couldn't tell, but many of the lead battalions tanks were clearly gone. Other vehicles were still moving, but most of them were useless in the fight.
Eckardy scanned for targets, in the center of the Federation formation, he couldn't shoot at many. He fired at a another, only to see it smashed a split second before he fired. He did shatter a Cui APC, and fired at what looked to be a wooden bunker, before they were at the base of the ridge. There were only a handful of tanks infront of them left from the lead battalion.
"Zaku at three o'clock!" Welchel screamed. Instantly, McKenna turned the tank in that direction, putting their thick frontal armor against the Zaku II. The 120 couldn't break the front armor, but they could fire so many shells that they could hit the weaker side or top armor. Eddie aimed and quickly fired, but the shells went wide. The Zaku pointed it's ZMP-50D into the valley and let loose a long burst that even shook the tank. The sounds of the shells hitting, and subsequent explosions that could only be other Federation vehicles, roared around them. Two more Zaku IIs came up further down the ridge, along with several Magella Attack tanks, Cui APCs, and infantry on foot.
The entire Federation force pivoted to face the new threat, and almost all opened fire. Half the shots were poorly aimed, but there were so many from the dozens of tanks that the sheer numbers helped. The left most Zaku, the one Eckardy had fired at, had it's left arm blown off, but it still held it's machine gun, blazing away at the Federation troops. The Zaku next to it was less lucky. Hit by no less than a dozen 150mm shells, it fell apart and exploded, taking a Magella and two dozen infantrymen with it.
"More Zakus to the left!" Welchel yelled, before switching raido channels and yelling for help. McKenna spun the tank again, while Eckardy worked the turret, just in time to see five more Zakus, three MS-06-types and two of the older models, Zaku I's, along with more tanks and infantry. Eddie managed to fire, hitting one of the Zaku II's square in the chest. The machine didn't explode, but simply fell backwards and didn't get up. The noise of the ZMP-50D's, which all of the Zeonic MS carried, was deafening.
The auto-loader was still working when a pair of 120mm shells hit the tank, stopping it cold. Instantly, Welchel was yelling, "Out!" as he scrambled out of his seat, opening the top hatch. Eckardy was right behind him, only now noticing he hadn't zipped his flak jacket. Eddie climbed out and quickly rolled off the left side of the tank. He glanced back, seeing the flexible 12.7mm was wrecked, the barrel bent. He saw Welchel leaning over the driver's hatch, trying to get it open. The left front corner was gone, the tread wrecked and totally off it's wheels.
And then the tank was hit again. Eckardy didn't see what it was, but the force of the blast knocked him down. He rolled onto his side, only to see the tank in flames. Going on reflex and instinct, Eckardy got to his feet and took off running. Even through the thick tanker helmet, he heard sounds of shrapnel and bullets wizzing around him. Eddie scambled around another burning Type 61, and nearly tripped over a Regina missile launcher, but kept running.
A Type 74 came by, slowing down but not stopping. An infantrymen in the side hatch held out his hand, which Eckardy grabbed, and pulled him into the machine. The pair fell over, but the rifleman recovered quickly and scanned Eddie. "He's okay," he yelled, prompting Eddie to notice a medic working on wounded men in the bay. "Just stay out of the way," he panted, moving back to the door. Eckardy crawled on his hands and knees, ending up underneath the 20mm vulcan turret. A blue haired girl who looked all of 15 stood in the turret, blasting away wildly. The soldier in the door pulled in another Federation soldier, a rifleman with a mass of blood on his chest, who was quickly grabbed by the medic. Eckardy knew basically nothing about first aid, and simply curled up so as to be out of the way.
It seemed to take forever, but finally the soldier in the door gave up, he screamed at the driver. "Floor it, Glen!" The driver yelled something in return, and the Type 74 took off. Eckardy couldn't see anything, and was knocked and bounced around as the hover truck raced back toward their old positions. The sounds of explosions outside was now mixed with the screams of the wounded in the back. The soldier in the door stood there, now holding an M72A1, occasionally firing it behind them, for all the good it would do.
Above him, the turret stopped firing and the young girl just curled up in the gunwell, head in her hands, crying. Eddie glanced at her, but saw she was unharmed. Eddie noticed that the weapon was out of ammo, when the hover truck was rocked by a nearby explosion. Eddie turned back to see the soldier in the door gone.
It took another ten minutes before they were back over their ridge. The hover truck came to a stop to move the wounded and Eddie got out. Along the crest of the ridge, two companies of tanks were blasting away at the Zekes on the far side, a clear delaying action. Zeon artillery was dropping more heavily, and there were the rapid series of explosions as Zakus lobbed 120s into the area. Overhead, Eddie saw fighters flying back and forth, too high to make out, but shooting at each other. Men were running everywhere, trying to find their units, or simply a way out. Eckardy turned to see the hover truck he had just been on pulling away. Muttering a curse to himself, and ran for a 6x6 cargo truck with the patch of his battalion on it. Eddie climbed in back, seeing it packed with bailed out crews and a handfull of infantry. He recognized a few, but didn't remember. Eddie felt exhausted and checked his watch. It was 19:51.
Two minutes later, the truck took off, joining the growing column of Fedeation units in yet another retreat.
Eddie threw his cigarette into a trash can. He considered another, but decided against it. "And then I got folded into another regiment, 62nd I think, and we did the same s*** again three days later."
Eckardy sighed and forced a smile. "Look, the whole point of that I went through that same situation probably a hundred times. There were only eight or nine times the attacks actually worked. It sucked. But, I survived. And now, whenever we get into some s*** with the Titans, I can think back and say, 'At least I'm not in a f***ing Type 61 anymore.'"
Marvin nodded his head and finished his own cigarette. He pulled out a pack and lighter of his own and lit another. "I... I understand, I guess." He took a puff. "I just don't have anything to, uh, remind me, I guess." He shrugged.
"And it all seems hopeless. I know the feeling." Eddie patted him on the shoulder. "Just find something, anything. Don't let it constantly eat you up. Be happy sometimes. Be stupid." Eddie's usual goofy grin came out for what seemed the first time since they had been in the restaurant. "You got that, Cowboy?"
Marvin managed a faint smile around his cigarette. "I'll try, Ed." He looked around. While Eddie had been telling the story, they had just wandered through the complex, but they had ended up close to Marvin's apartment. He finished around in his pocket and found his keys. "I think I'm going to go get some sleep. Maybe try and see Ian myself tomorrow."
"Good." Eddie smiled. "If you want me and Jane to tag along, or do anything, feel free to call."
Marvin nodded, waved good bye, and started off toward his apartment. Eddie watched him for a moment, just to see if he looked any different. Eckardy wasn't sure, and started back to his own apartment. He opened the door a few minutes later to find Jane sitting on the couch with her shoes off. "How'd it go?" she asked.
Eddie shrugged. "Eh, we'll see." He smiled at her. "Where'd you put that pizza?"
I must betray Stalindog!!!
RPG TRINARY: Mash
Die Anti-brutale Kraft: mcred23 (Call me 'red', not 'mcred')