Thirteen: Silver Bullet

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

I swiveled the head of my Predator impatiently. I hated this, but still I marched dutifully behind the jerk in a silver mech. Who painted a mech silver anyway? What kind of advantage did that get you? Certainly not camouflage.

“The highest concentration of enemies remaining in the city will be in this direction,” I stated, more to continue to sound in charge than to be helpful.

“They'll have Legions with close-combat weapons guarding the long-range mechs.”

The Xiezhi’s head swiveled towards me again. I could sense the pilot inside was growing impatient.

“You assume I haven't fought in a battle before?” The pilot responded, voice crackling over the comm channel.

I didn't respond. He kept walking.

“Are you following that Xiezhi, Private Park?” Martin called.

I ground my teeth.

“Yes,” I growled, trying not to let the frustration get the better of me, “our newfound friend has decided he wishes to aid us for a price.”

Martin was silent for a moment.
“What price?” he asked.

Warren's shout interrupted my response.
“Enemy sighted! South-southwest!”

Sure enough, my radar let out a ping and the target-lock symbol descended over my HUD screen. It was close enough that my scanners could detect it but I couldn't see the mech through the thick smog that surrounded me.

“All units,” I began, but the Xiezhi pilot cleared his throat.

“I don't have time to wait, pilot," he responded. “This battle must end quickly. The Iron War may depend on it.”

The high-and-mighty Xiezhi turned towards the enemy and, with a sudden burst of speed, leapt away into the fog. The sheer force of its movement caused my Predator to stumble and kicked up the dust, further blanketing me in smoke. Lucas was going to freak out when he found out I'd witnessed a dash mech’s ability first hand. If only he knew about my time prior to the Chinese-Canadian Alliance.

There was dead silence for several seconds, then suddenly the crackle of a static cannon cannon split the fog. I tasted metal on the tip of my tongue but knew I the blast hadn't hit me. I heard the rattle of an rocket launcher and somewhere inside the layer of smog I saw the shadow of the Xiezhi, backlit by a chain of violent explosions.  

A moment later there was a loud pneumatic hiss, like the brakes on a bus. The Xiezhi pilot shouted something in Korean I don't care to repeat and a command capsule fired straight upwards, like a beacon into the dirty sky.
Everything was still. Absolutely still.

“What the hell just happened?” I said, quietly.

Out of nowhere a Legion came tumbling out of the fog, front end destroyed, collapsing only a few hundred yards in front of my Predator. It was unremarkable in design, exactly like every other Legion the TCC mass-produced. However, the genuinely interesting thing was its weapons loadout. Attached to one side of its armor was a static cannon, smoking from recent use. The Legion's second weapon was no static cannon. A long, hollow opening protruded out of the robot's armored shell, and a silvery cord hung limp from the barrel. The cord traced across the cracked ground and out of view.

“What the fresh heck is that?” Commander Telbus breathed.

“I don't like the looks of that,” Warren said.

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