After weeks suffering raids from the rebels from the Belus region, the UEC forces had finally managed to pull themselves together and organize an offensive into rebel territory. It began with a surprise attack, MAVs leading the way into the several outposts the rebels had across the area to monitor the governmental movements.
A part of the assault group formed a spearhead that moved in the direction of Belus itself. Back in the command center, in the Enuma Mines, to the north of the colony, it was decided to intercept the column and hopefully damage it enough to force the military to scrap the whole offensive altogether.
Once more, Claire Campbell was in the forefront of the effort.
As she moved down the slope of a stubby hill, Claire contemplated the battlefield.
Three governmental MAVs were pushing back into the opposite side of the hollow beyond the slope. To the northwest, a dozen pillars of smoke rose from the destroyed remains of several modular vehicles, rebel and governmental alike.
A shell detonated a few meters away from the feet of Claire’s MAV, sending shrapnel flying in every direction. The massive war machine quivered, and a few red lights lit across the control panel.
Maybe she should start to listen to the advice of some of her comrades, but it was hard for her to separate from Brasswolf II. The machine, the one she’d captured in her very first battle, was a walking pile of disparate parts, equipped with a trio of high-powered battle rifles in the left side of the hull and a pair of mining drills in the right. That arrangement made for an asymmetric, but somewhat sinister, chicken-walker that Claire rode in those weeks of nearly constant fighting. Although the machine had been repaired after each fight, she was starting to think that maybe Brasswolf II was indeed becoming worn and obsolete.
Yet, she had earned that machine, and she got to know it from the inside out, all the vices and all the small quirks.
The battle rifles came alive as she depressed the trigger, lashing at the leftmost of the enemy machines with a volley of armor-piercing shells. Brasswolf II leaned slightly because of the kickback, but Claire accounted for that so she could spread the damage over the four-legged hull of the governmental MAV.
“Karan, go for the guy in the right,” Claire yelled over the radio. Karan Jhumki was her partner in that operation. A miner from the Kur colony, he piloted a large tracked mining vehicle covered in armor plates and armed with machineguns and rockets.
“Got it!” the young man replied, his voice distorted by static. He fired a full volley of rockets into the hexapod military machine on the other side of the small hollow, but all warheads failed to the hit the lumbering beast.
The third enemy MAV, mounted on a hover platform, simply dashed away. For a moment Claire thought it was retreating, but then she saw the other rebel MAVs on the top of a distant hill. Those were from a new addition to the rebel coalition, the Asag colony, and were responsible for the western flank of the assault.
“We’ve got ‘em!” Karan yelled.
Claire unleashed a screamer missile from the pod on the back of Brasswolf II, and then turned to move along the slope, keeping her distance from the enemies. The missile detonated into the quadruped MAV, tearing apart a leg and around half of the weapons systems.
Things seemed to be going rather well, but something didn’t felt right to Claire. Somehow, there seemed to be too few vehicles involved in the offensive. During the briefing both Mister Zhou and Miss Epstein spoke of around two dozen governmental MAVs. Even if the enemy had split its forces to cover the flanks and the supply lines, there should be far more units in the immediate field of battle.
As soon as the thought formed in her head the radio came alive again, this time with a message from the command center. A tense female voice was barely audible through thick layers of static. At first it was nigh impossible to understand what she was saying, especially in the middle of an ongoing battle. But then some words started to make sense.
A cold shiver run down Claire’s spine as she connected the dots. Could the command center really be under attack? But how?
She was suddenly filled with an urge to forget about the battle and go back to check on Xoán and everyone else. If there were enemies at the base, then her friends could be injured, or worse.
“What are they doing?” Karan’s voice pulled her focus back to the battle.
The concerns with the main base and her friends was put aside as she checked on what was happening. The hover MAV was coming back. But it was not alone. One of the Asag units was walking beside it. The second one stood on the top of the opposing hill.
At that moment Claire recalled something else. A warning Mister Zhou had given her weeks ago.
Not all rebels could be trusted.
The traitor MAV on the hilltop opened fire with its shoulder-mounted railgun. A massive slug hit Karan’s machine, shattering armor and weapons. The vehicle actually reeled, almost toppling over, but the wide tracks managed to keep it on the ground.
Gritting her teeth, Claire trained the sights on the damaged governmental quadrupedal MAV. The barrage opened large holes across two of the remaining legs, and they promptly collapsed under the machine’s sheer weight.
With that enemy out of the fray, she moved down the slope, trying to get closer to the incoming threats. A few badly aimed rounds hit her machine, but without causing too much damage.
It was evident now. They were betrayed by those who should be their allies. Worse, the government was using that betrayal and their own offensive to keep the rebel MAVs away from their command center so they could destroy the war machines and the command structure in one single swoop. Claire would never be able to go back in time to saver her friends, the very people she had sworn to protect.
“Keep alive, Karan,” she said to her companion, hatred seeping into her usually calm voice. “This is just getting started.”