Forty-Four: Hornet's Nest

188 21 3

The hangar was in chaos. The near-uninterrupted silence I'd enjoyed the previous night was no more. Men and women whose names I didn't even know ran across the hangar floor and along the catwalk high above. I stood at the base of my Spartan. It occurred to me I was looking up at my father's legacy, staring at the mysterious mech that he had once piloted with the same goal as me.

To end the TCC, once and for all.

I'd told Mallet about Laura's departure early this morning, as well as most of what Laura had said. I glossed over Laura's negative opinions towards Mallet's command, figuring it was a discussion the two could have in couple's counseling when the war was through. Nevertheless Marissa had been crushed, though she tried not to show it, upon discovering that her ex's dropship had indeed undocked from the spare hangar bay and flown away late last night.

She'd returned to her room for a moment to strategize, telling me to begin addressing my squad without her and that she'd be along shortly after.

So there I stood, at the base of a mech I'd only just begun to understand, attempting to fill a roll I hoped I was worthy of. It helped that Martin Telbus stood next to me, ready to interject should I need aid. I'd lead small squads before on infiltration missions, but this was no mere team of six.

I was leading over forty people into battle, many of which who would not return. Everyone was counting on myself and Martin to lead us to victory.

Martin nodded in my direction. It was time.

"Pilots!" he called.
A few heads closest to us turned.

"Pilots!" Martin shouted again.
More people looked, but still some talked, unaware.

Martin frowned, bent down and grabbed a discarded wrench from the hangar floor. With a childlike grin he whipped his arm around and smashed the wrench against my Spartan's new armor plating.

The impact was thunderous, the hollow armor catching and carrying the sound through the whole hangar. The talking stopped.

I grinned. Not a scratch. The Spartan was unscathed.

"Pilots!" Martin called. "If we can have your attention, please!"

He nodded to me.

"Good morning everyone!" I called. "I hope that you got all the rest you needed, because that chance is gone now."

A few chuckles. At least they were listening.

"Many of you will notice that your usual mechs have been modified, your weapons have been changed, or that you have a new mech entirely," I continued. "Because of the siege on Yamantau we are low on Barricades and are not expecting a new shipment from our Chinese allies until next month."

All eyes were on me, now. I felt no small pressure to make sure everyone was ready.

I raised a finger.
"However, some of you have another choice. We had to get creative when equipping your mechs and it means some pilots will be trying some interesting strategies."

I grinned.
"Take for example, a little something we like to call the Wedge."

A salvaged British Excalibur roared by behind me, hung over our heads by automated mechanical arms. It would be loaded into the dropship of whichever volunteer we could find.

The mech was not tall, but it was wide. A larger version of the Galatine I'd piloted in Zolotoy, the "Wedge" was aptly named. The mech was squat and broad-shouldered, with a massive, immobile armored plate dominating it's front. This alone made the Excalibur one of the world's toughest and heaviest mechs- so much so that the British had strapped twin rocket engines to its back just to give it some speed. These conical engines jutted out of the Excalibur's mottled grey armor and were directly connected to its reactor. It was, for all intents and purposes, a truly formidable mech.

Iron EmpireRead this story for FREE!