Seventeen: Oscar Kilo

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“You've got to be kidding me.”

I stared up in horror at the mech before me.

Daylight shone through the hangar windows high above, tinted grey by the cloudy Atlantic weather. Far below, the choppy, gunmetal grey sea reflected the colorless sky. This uncolored light bounced off the mech that hung before me, the replacement for my Prowler.

A Galatine.
I threw up my hands in disbelief.

The British mech was the smallest of three models, built for reconnaissance and not much else. The mech's flimsy grey frame resembled the armor of a knight, titanium plating spreading upward into a squat cockpit and broad, sloping shoulders. The entire mech seemed hunched forward and unbalanced, protected only by the thick lead shield it held in front of it. The shield hung on a track attached to the mech's right shoulder and could be slid in and out of position at will to allow for mobility and adaptability. My only concern was that this shield was the robot's only defense mechanism. Without it's shield the Galatine was exposed. Vulnerable.

“That thing looks like it couldn't take a shot from a plasma launcher, let alone a sniper shell!” I complained aloud. “How am I supposed to do anything in that?”

I had been unsuccessful in discovering my new mech last night as it hadn't been ready, so I'd gone to bed annoyed. Waking up early had worsened the mood and the reveal of my new mech was just the icing on the cake. Lucas, however, looked chipper and alert. I supposed a dropship pilot was used to flying long distances and remaining awake.

We were all gathered together on the bridge over the hangar bay where I'd searched in vain for my new mech last night. Many mech pilots weren't quite awake. Even Commander Telbus stifled a yawn as he strode towards us, Daewi in tow.

“That Galatine is tough,” Lucas grinned. He gestured to the large shield that hung off it’s right shoulder.

“It has tough drive motors and it's nearly as fast as your last mech.”

He grinned.

“It was even a donation from a British pilot who defected to our cause, so it's already missing it’s tracker and none of the internal components had to be replaced. This mech is in mint condition. Nobody ever ejected from it, so everything is original.”

I shrugged. The mech was sounding better and better but I still didn't want to like it. I knew I sounded childish but using the Prowler in battle had been the most exhilarating experience I'd had since entering the Iron War. However, I'd have to accept what I could get for now. Times were tough.

As I watched, my Galatine was hoisted into the dropship and the ship’s gaping mouth of a door closed. The transport was returned to it's landing platform by a mechanical lift system for refueling and pre-launch setup.

Lucas patted me on the back.
“That's my cue. See you shortly.”

He strode over to the edge of the catwalk, grabbed onto a ladder and slid out of sight.
That left me to deal with-

“Alright, pilots!” Daewi shouted, a little too loudly. “We head out in one-five minutes on a course for Italy, do you copy? I want everyone bright-eyed and bushy tailed as we ship out, Oscar Kilo?”

Nobody moved.

Martin Telbus stepped in front of Daewi with a sigh. He shrugged at us, then translated.

“Sorry folks, Commander Park here had a little too much coffee with his rations this morning.”

That elicited a chuckle or two from the tired crowd. Martin held up a hand to silence us, then continued.

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