The Praedian Records

J.G. Phoenix

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Fleeing Victory #2

by | Oct 10, 2021 | FV, Pinned, Short Stories

The Tanks Have Arms

That was Munica’s new weapon, Ricard thought bitterly as he grasped at his senses. He found himself lying facedown, his goggles pressed hard against his eyes. He could feel a trickle of blood in his nose as he rose onto his hands and knees. Everything hurt, particularly his back and the bridge of his nose. Nicholas was just coming to as well, but he looked a lot better than Ricard felt. A part of him desperately wanted to get back down and lie still, rather than risk being noticed by the Munican colossus. The other part, the part that was in control for the time being, had to get the word out. The entire purpose of this blockheaded push toward the Rojo Mountain Base was to lure out the very weapon that had just attacked them.

Ricard looked back toward Agile’s remains and saw nothing but whirling sand, rising smoke, and dancing embers. The colossus was gone, but it had to be close by. The storm hadn’t let up, so he and Nicholas couldn’t have been unconscious very long. The crew’s radio was almost certainly destroyed, but there was one other option Ricard had for contacting the rest of Intrepid. His commune codec was on his person and still working, but curse this storm and whoever was conjuring it if the interference was too great. “This is Intrepid 18 to all allied units, we’ve spotted our objective in the dust storm! I repeat, objective spotted inside the storm! How copy?!”

“Don’t forget to tell them it’s a colossus,” Nicholas said, carefully sitting himself upright.

“Yeah. Wait, how’d you know that?” As far as Ricard could remember–which admittedly wasn’t much–Nicholas hadn’t even seen the colossus before they were both knocked cold.

“Well, when Agile backed up, it felt like we got stomped on. Hey, where’s Agile? Is he okay?”

Ricard was too focused on listening for a reply to break the news to Nicholas. He almost didn’t register the mechanic’s educated guess about what attacked them. If he had, he might not have caught Lieutenant Rog’s reply. It was something like an echo in his mind. “Solid copy,” Ricard heard back as he tried to tune out the chorus of wind all around him. All Cordaean arma commanders had to have advanced training in commune techniques in order to ensure communications weren’t severed by mere equipment failure or heavy fighting. Because commune techniques used mana as a medium instead of radio waves, Ricard’s thoughts could be carried a short distance to other commune specialists. The commune codec was a device that enhanced commune abilities, encrypted messages stored in mana, and carried a special type of mana suited to the work. Right now, it was their only lifeline.

As much as Ricard would have liked to tell his allies where the Colossus had been, he didn’t even know where he was. They had lost track of their position a few minutes after the artillery started raining down. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that the Municans were well aware of every minute advantage these fake sandstorms gave them. Fortunately, this wasn’t an uncommon problem for the Cordaeans. Eventually, after the Municans used this trick one too many times, some poor group of mages would get blown up while huddling around some device and the sandstorms would stop. They would start up again once a new batch of mages and their tech were brought in, but Cordaea always found her reprieve. Ricard hoped he and Nicholas would, too.

“Negative, Lieutenant,” Ricard shook his head at his commander’s order, “We can’t track the colossus for you. Agile’s scrap and we’re injured … over.” He could only wince when he looked to check on Nicholas, seeing that his colleague had just figured out what happened to their arma.

Nicholas stumbled toward Agile’s blackened and crumpled remains. Even for a light arma, to be left so unrecognizable in a single attack was nearly unheard of. He fell to his knees in front of Agile’s right arm, one of the few familiar parts left of the arma. It was torn off in the explosion and remained barely intact a half dozen meters from the wreck. There was no fixing this. The 203rd Reconnaissance Battalion’s best mechanic could only look on in grief.

Ricard was at wit’s end, and barely able to keep up his comm procedures. He was trying to get rescued, while Lieutenant Rog was trying to locate the colossus for his own superiors. Wasn’t it enough to know the plan as a whole had worked? They knew for a fact that Munica’s new weapon was operating in this area and that it was indeed a colossus. Couldn’t they regroup and try to take it down some other day? Until the sandstorm let up, or the other recon teams sabotaged it, no one was going to be able to keep track of their target. “Just guide us out of here for God’s sake!”


Ricard straightened up in surprise. He could have sworn he knew this other person calling out to him. He refocused himself and started tuning out Lieutenant Rog as he responded. That conversation wasn’t going anywhere anyway.

“Sergeant Silva speaking. I copy. Who is this? Over.” Ricard thought it might be Casey, the arma commander from Intrepid 20, and a good friend of his. If Casey was alive, then just maybe his fellow crewmate had also survived. He had to be sure and not get his hopes up for nothing.

“Rick, it’s Casey. Listen. Alice and I are in a bad way. Blitz’s treads got blown off. We tried to fix them, but Alice got hurt.” Ricard wanted to ask for details, but Casey wasn’t quite finished. “I pulled out everything I could and we’re about to blow this thing. Let’s link up and get out of here.”

A good idea, but in this storm, all they could do was find the right bearings and hope they didn’t pass right by each other. Did they even have time for that? Just because the shelling had stopped didn’t mean the Municans were done with them. The colossus was still out there, and as soon as they were finished smothering them with the sand storm, they would undoubtedly send in their own recon teams to clear the place out. They would be fortunate to be taken as prisoners of war, but Ricard couldn’t ignore the possibility that they might all just be shot on sight. “We’re not doing much better. Agile’s gone and we can’t stay here too long trying to rendezvous. Can’t you head east like us?”

“I can’t haul Alice, the rep kit, our water, Blitz, and a machinegun the whole way!”

Casey had to carry Alice, too? Ricard prayed she wasn’t gravely injured, but if she couldn’t walk, then it must have been serious. “You can ditch the repair kit; we won’t need it if both armas are out. Anyway, our bearings aren’t going to help much if our last knowns are off. We have to think of something else.”

“Well, I’m about to blow what’s left of Blitz’s body. Watch for the fireworks and tell me the compass bearing. We’ll match and meet you halfway. I’ll even let you carry Alice. Sound good?”

Of course it sounded good, and to think Alice had survived after all. Even if she was injured, that was far better than the alternative. Now he just had to reach her. Ricard figured the most difficult thing left to do would be deciding what to say to her after their near brush with death. “Stay in contact and give me a count when you set it off,” he said sternly, “This is only going to work if I know to look when the flash comes. If I miss it, we’re stuck following the sound.”

“You got it! Standby.”

Ricard and Nicholas stood back to back to cover every angle the explosion might come from. Both kept their eyes peeled and their compasses out in front of them. The sound would give them a general direction, but the sandstorm was severe enough that they could pass right by each other if they were more than a hundred meters apart, and likely far less than that. The detonation on the other hand, would give them a more precise location, but it would only be visible for an instant, being distorted and diminished by the storm.

“5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Eyes and ears, boys!”


Ricard caught a teal flash out of the corner of his eye and immediately pegged it at his 10 o’clock. He felt Nicholas turning to try and help him as he lined up the brief flash with his compass. “That was … north 30 degrees west.”

“North 30 west. Alright! We’re headed your way. Stay on that bearing and try to make some noise.”

“You’re the one with the machinegun,” Ricard muttered.

Just as they were about to start off, Ricard and Nicholas both spotted another light to the west. This one was white, and flashing like a strobe light. Stranger still was its up and down bobbing, which made it seem as if the vehicle was challenging some hostile terrain. The only thing Ricard was sure of was that the vehicle was using that light to get their attention.

“Is that another arma?” Nicholas said, eyeing the distant figure carefully.

Ricard easily confirmed that it was once it was closer, but he didn’t know what to make of it at first. “It’s one of ours. Why didn’t they sound off with the rest of us?” Maybe they had and wound up running into trouble right afterward. Ricard knew what that was like.

The friendly arma approached them using a method of propulsion neither of the two had seen since their days in training. Much like Intrepid 20, this arma had lost one of its treads to the blind artillery barrage and was pressing on in spite of it. Its remaining tread worked in conjunction with the mechanical arm on the opposing side of the hull. Acting as a crutch, the arm helped the battered vehicle hobble along at a slow but steady pace. This tenacious arma must have expected more extensive help, as its broken tread was strewn over the right side of the hull, just waiting to be fed back into the track system and reconnected. Ricard soon noticed blood and sand splattered across the heavy armor plates of that same arm, and he was able to quickly piece everything together. “They got out to try and fix your tread so you could get moving again,” Ricard explained as the arma stopped just a few feet in front of them, “then another shell landed. A near miss is all it takes.”

“That’s terrible,” Nicholas winced at the gruesome pattern.

“Bet it’s the same thing that happened to Alice and Casey. They just got lucky.” If this arma’s crew had just waited a few minutes, Ricard mused, realizing there had probably been ten surviving teams in total before this incident, not eight like he thought. He wasn’t sure why Alice and Casey hadn’t reported in, but he suspected it was simply a case of bad timing, combined with some kind of carelessness on Casey’s part. With this arma and its crew, Ricard imagined they had gotten to work on those repairs right around the time Lieutenant Rog called. He would never be completely sure.

“Your name’s Chaser,” Nicholas said, reading the arma’s burned name plate with his fingers, “You’re with Intrepid 9. Rick, let’s fix Chaser’s tread and go pick up the others.”

“Can’t,” Ricard shook his head, “no repair ki–Casey!” Ricard dropped to one knee and tried to focus as quickly as he could. Casey was already heading in their direction, but with his load slowing him down, there might still be time. “Casey, don’t leave the repair kit! Do you copy?! Do not leave that repair kit! We need it!”

“I copy, but I wish you’d told me that sooner.”

“We can’t wait for Casey to get here. I’m going to go help him out. See what you can do in the meantime.” Ricard didn’t wait for an acknowledgement from Nicholas, and took off running with his compass close to his chest. “Casey, I’m heading your way. We can’t stay here or they’ll find us. When I get to you I’ll take Alice. You get that repair kit back to Nick as fast as you can. He’ll fix Chaser and then we can get out of here.”

“Got it. You okay?”

“Well,” Ricard’s pace slowed as he thought back to Agile’s destruction. They hadn’t stood a chance, and it felt as if divine grace alone was keeping the Municans and their colossus off their heels. “We lost Agile, and it wasn’t from all the shelling. Munica’s testing a colossus out here. That’s what got us. It’s still out here somewhere, Casey. I can feel it. We have to go.”

“I always hated hide and seek,” Casey sent back, “never feels like there’s a good place to hide.”

“We’re not hiding. We’re running.”





  1. Fleeing Victory #1 | The Praedian Records - […] To be continued […]
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