Twenty-Two: Loss and Gain

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Report: Fisk
The Nevada Desert.
Arizona.
TCC manufacturing base.
Designation: "Alpha Bravo"

"General Fisk, your superior is on the line," Captain Oakley said.
I held up my finger.

"Not now," I responded. It wasn't efficient to be interrupted. "He can wait."

I replayed the video, taking in the sights and the sounds of the second battle of Zolotoy. A battle that, for a second time, we'd lost. A terrible waste for the TCC, but even the most crippling of losses could hold a small bit of gain.

There it was again.

I rewinded the video with a flick of my finger, the light from the tablet dancing off the far wall in my office.

"General, sir, he says he cannot wait," Oakley continued.

I shook my head.

"Anyone can wait, Andros," I responded. "If they wish to or not is another matter. Time is money, after all."

Captain Oakley winced, holding the mobile phone away from his head as if someone were yelling at him loudly.

"Sir, he says he'll pull TCC funding if you refuse to answer, especially after the disaster in Zolo-"

"The Founder cannot pilot a mech, let alone control an army!" I exploded.

I stood from my seat, slamming a fist on the table.

"It was me that he put in charge of winning this blasted war, and that's what I'll do whether he wants it or not!"

I took a breath, composing myself before I scared away Andros. You couldn't find help with a good backbone these days. The Iron War had killed most of them.

"Two losses does not mean a problem," I said, keeping my voice level. "We may have lost the Exclusion Zone and Zolotoy to those insurgents, but we routed their infiltration during the Lighthouse operation and have taken countless locations since."

I waved to Andros, who had calmed slightly.

"Come here, Captain. Hang up the phone."

"But-"

"Hang. It. Up."

I stared Andros down, willing him to obedience.

"I promise you I will deal with the Founder myself," I said sincerely. "Besides, I want to show you something."

Andros Oakley nodded, pressed a button on the phone and pocketed it as he walked towards me.

"Look," I said, replaying the video. I turned the tablet his way, enjoying his look of disbelief as he realized what I had been watching.

It was shaky, low-resolution footage transmitted by satellite from the cams of a mech in battle. One of our mechs.

"Is that footage from an Apollo prototype?" Oakley asked, tentatively. "I heard they were destroyed before they could accomplish-"

"Quiet," I whispered. "Watch closely, Captain."

The video continued for a moment with nothing but explosions and crackling static, but then I saw it again. A British Galatine, armor pitted with bullet holes, was dead in the sights of the Apollo mech. The distance closed as the Apollo we were watching tore forward. The Galatine swung around at the last second and then a blur of static overtook the feed, making Andros flinch beside me. The camera rocked in it's casing and the Galatine flew backwards as if it had been shoved, crashing down into a skyscraper and shearing off the building's outer wall.

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