Ten: Back to Basics

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Report: QuinnThe irradiated remains of Moscow

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Report: Quinn
The irradiated remains of Moscow.
A radioactive "exclusion zone".
Neutral territory, until now.

Six hundred meters. Five, four, three, two, one, THUMP.

My teeth rattled and ash floated up around my mech as I touched down in what was left of Moscow. The exclusion zone was a battlefield, with Chinese-Canadian forces dropping in every possible location. We had the enemy surrounded and outnumbered, but not outgunned.

There were forty of us with replacement mechs to spare, broken into teams of six or fewer. Each team was assigned to a location in the exclusion zone or the area surrounding it. Through some measure of luck my team was the second of three teams tasked with assaulting the city center. This wouldn't be easy, as the center of the exclusion zone was dominated by a massive impact crater. The impact zone was easily one-hundred meters deep by three-hundred in diameter and would provide only sparse cover against incoming fire.

Worst of all? We didn't know where the enemy was hiding. Intelligence had determined that there were at least thirty Legions scattered throughout the smoke. We didn't know where in the city they were, but the disadvantage worked both ways. We couldn't see them, but they couldn't see us coming. I just hoped that they weren't all clustered together in the city center, waiting for an attack. If they had seen us coming I was almost certainly a dead man.

The command console came online with a warm hum. Topography, comms and a Geiger counter all flickered to life, ready to help me in any way possible. I sighed happily and activated my comms headset.

"Sometimes it's good to go back to basics."

I was piloting not the Prowler, which would've likely been torn apart by such heavy enemy mechs, but one of the Alliance's numerous Valkyrie mechs that we'd 'borrowed' from the Germans. Long before the Prowler had been a concept I'd been running a Valkyrie in battles, slaying enemies with all types of weapons. The grey, angular Valkyrie was a marvel of German engineering, built for firepower instead of stealth. It wasn't as fast as the Prowler by a long shot but it would do as a workhorse. Considering I hadn't been a full-scale battle for a while, I was out of practice in the slower, heavier mech. However, heavier mechs had bigger weapons, so Valkyries could be used as a jack-of-all-trades.

I pushed forward on the controls and felt the familiar kickback as the mech began to move. It felt good, like riding in a favorite car. I chuckled to myself. That was an odd thought. Without the Iron War I would've been driving in a car and working somewhere normal.

I swung the head of the mech around, getting a feel for the response times. This particular Valkyrie was outfitted with an massive heavy shotgun and three machine guns. Compared to the Prowler's sparse arsenal this mech was a walking weapon.

The Americans were surrounded by many more mechs like it.

My comms crackled.

"This is Commander Telbus," a voice said, at once firm yet quiet.

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