Twenty-One: Trust Issues

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My new comms headset was clasped tightly over my left ear as I fell from the sky. Since I’d escaped the first explosion my right ear had been ringing, but now it was completely silent.

The headset had been given to me by the woman I'd met on the dropship. It crackled as I adjusted the frequency until I began to hear voices from my team clearly. I tapped the microphone that hung in front of me with my hand and spoke out loud.

“One two, one two, anybody getting this?”

My voice sounded muted behind the earpiece but the others got it loud and clear. Several sighs of relief echoed across the airwaves.

“You're lucky Lucas was there to grab you,” Daewi chuckled, “or you'd be a pancake right now!”

“Lucas?” I intoned. “I got picked up by some mystery woman! She gave me back the Prowler!”

Silence for a few moments, punctuated only by the jerking sensation of my mech touching down.

“Jax, did you hit your head?” Kedrick sounded genuinely concerned.

“He's not kidding,” Karen gasped, “the Prowler just landed.”

My HUD blinked into existence and I took in the warzone that Zolotoy had become. The enemy had made it up the ramp but had taken heavy losses. Most of the team was holed up around a loading dock at the western edge of the mining district, using the large structures nearby as cover.

“Alright Jax,” Daewi said, “here's an update."

As he spoke I took off running towards the sounds of weapon fire in the distance.

“I think we can handle the remaining Apollo mechs but that Legion us giving us trouble,”
Daewi said. “Could you take care of it for us?”

I grinned and changed course.
“On it.”

I could just make out the Legion standing vanguard on the dam at the far end of the riverbed. I had about seven seconds of stealth to keep the Legion's howitzer cannon off my back, but after that I was vulnerable. My only advantage for the moment was that the Legion was focused on my team and not me.
A shot whizzed over my head and I sighed. So much for not being noticed.

“Okay, I have his attention,” I said, “but you guys need to keep those Apollo mechs occupied.”

“Oh, don't  worry,” Karen grunted. An explosion from nearby caused a bit of feedback over the comms. “We can handle them.”

That left me and the Legion. If I played my cards right, I'd be able to make it up the riverbed without being blown away by the metal slugs it fired. The Prowler’s legs pistoned as I ran to the closest cover, a small grain silo. A shell vaporized the ground beside me, spraying me with dirt.

If I guessed it right, I had about four seconds before the howitzer cannon reloaded.  A third shot rang out seconds later, tearing the top off the grain silo above me. Seed bounced off my hull, sounding like raindrops.

I had another four seconds. I sprinted to reach my next cover. I was approaching the shielded farmhouse, the imposing reinforced fuel silos blackened and dented from the Apollo explosions they had weathered. A few yellow metal corpses littered the ground nearby. I had cover here, for the time being, but there was no way the Legion hadn't seen me move.

As if to prove that theory, the silo closest to me rocked as a metal slug impacted it. It shook but held solid. I was preparing to duck out from behind the silo when I heard a gasp over the comms.

“Crap! One got away!” Kedrick shouted. “Jax, it's heading your way!”

The rogue Apollo had broken from the pack and now rushed towards me across the riverbed. If it reached me I would have to leave cover to escape it, risking fire from the Legion. If I stayed and fought I would be destroyed.

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