Long Live Winston

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Author's Notes: So this story starts out light and then gets darker than the others really quickly. It finally sheds some light on what happened to turn Winston the Sherman into the dummy tank he is today. I had a great time writing it and I hope you guys will enjoy!


Few cannons could get through the armor of a superheavy tank. Claudia the Maus was maybe not as tough as an MBT, but she seldom had to worry about getting hurt. That was also why instead of say, her team’s excellent scout, she was usually the one who was sent in first to explore new areas. Today, the new area was a town.

Her heavy tracks crushed debris and tore up the road underneath them as she leisurely advanced through the outskirts. This town was called Ruindom, and famously inhabited by a very powerful team - since many years. Under normal circumstances, not even Claudia would have dared to venture even close to it. But the circumstances on this day were anything but normal. The Ruindom Team was no longer in charge of this town. Or at least it could be assumed it wasn’t. Because the whole team had … mysteriously disappeared.

That’s nonsense,” Angler the Chaffee had claimed. “That just doesn’t happen. Who the hell kidnaps a whole team?

But Claudia’s optics and sensors told her otherwise. She was by now trundling down the main road towards the town center, and along the whole way, hadn’t seen a single wreck or any other hint of what could have happened to the Ruindom tanks. It did look like something had gone down here, though. In some of the buildings, dying down fires or smoke could be seen. In fact, the air here was full of ashes. Claudia shuttered her intakes with disgust.

«Seen anyone yet?» a stern voice from her radio asked. It was her team’s leader, Winston.

Claudia replied to the Sherman with a curt “Negative”.

When the Maus and her scavenger teammates had arrived here, they had been hoping to maybe find some wrecks to plunder. The news had been going around that the Ruindom Team had been defeated. But either some other scavenger team had been faster and taken literally everything, or something very strange had happened.

«Alright, we’re going in as well,» Winston went on. «Angler, are you— where the hell have you gone?»

«I found a bunker,» the addressed Chaffee replied casually.

«That’s nice, but we’re—»

«Ugh, oh-kay!»

Claudia shook her turret, but didn’t comment. She was reaching the town center and decided to not waste any more fuel on driving any further. She sat down low on her suspension and waited for the others to join her.

It didn’t take long for Angler to show up. The light tank prided himself on his speed, to the point where sometimes it seemed like he didn’t actually know how to put in a lower gear. He was wearing a slightly disgruntled expression as he halted next to Claudia with screeching brakes.

“Looks like you were right,” he said, but turned up his cannon haughtily as if he hadn’t just admitted being in the wrong. “I checked the rest of the town. There’s no one.”

Sky the Panzer III arrived soon after. He was wearing a frown as well, but by the way his optics shifted, Claudia guessed that he was just very suspicious of what was going on in this town. He didn’t say anything as he parked himself nearby.

Winston and their team’s Löwe — the ever so taciturn Berlin — were the last ones to appear.

With that, the scavengers were complete … and rather clueless what to do next. They formed a little circle and started brainstorming.

“Staying here is pointless,” Angler said. “There’s nothing for us here.”

“It’s also dangerous …” Sky added. “Surely, other teams will show interest in claiming the town soon.”

Berlin didn’t share his opinions.

Winston scratched the mantlet of his tilted cannon.

“So maybe if we stay nearby, we might witness some fighting and something might be left over for us,” he mused.

“Well, I did find a bunker,” Angler noted in a snippy tone. He was obviously still peeved at his discovery being ignored earlier.

Winston gave a drawn-out “Hmmmm” before he made a decision.

“Alright. The bunker it is.”

The other scavengers nodded. The little group set themselves into motion and let Angler lead the way to the bunker.

***

Evening came quickly. The bunker, located just outside the town’s borders, had turned out to be surprisingly big. It had taken the tanks a while to explore all of it. As soon as they had finished doing that, they had made themselves at home. However, Claudia had made it clear that she wasn’t a fan of being confined underground. She hadn’t stayed in the bunker for any longer than absolutely necessary. Instead, she was staying nearby in the fields outside it. Angler was also outside right then, but because he had been assigned the task of keeping an eye on the town.

He was currently driving circles around it. That seemed like the best way to him to make sure he would see anyone who was getting close — from any direction. Even though he was by no means going slow, each complete circle he drove took about twenty minutes. Unfortunately, it was rather repetitive after a while. He was just passing the same boundary sign he had passed what felt like a hundred times already.

But this time, something was different. He slowed down with a puzzled expression as he heard something unfamiliar. It was a weird, loud noise from above. Looking up, he couldn’t see anything unusual at first. Just the clouds and the setting sun. But then, as he squinted at the bright horizon, he could have sworn he made out a dark silhouette against it.

There was a moment where he wondered about the unusually big-looking bird. Then, there was the moment where an almost forgotten memory resurfaced.

Angler’s optics grew wide.

“S-Skytank!” he yelped.

Bad. Very bad.

There was only one option: Run.

The Chaffee spun around and raced off, back towards the bunker. He could only hope that the flying machine hadn’t seen him. He anxiously looked up as he sped across the field. The skytank was … catching up to him! Oh no.

He expected it to start shooting any moment now. But strangely enough, it didn’t. Before he could even reach the bunker, the skytank flew a big loop above him and headed back into the direction it had come from.

Angler slowed down again and looked after it with a dumbfounded expression. Well, maybe it had lost sight of him? It was getting a bit dark now …

In any case, he needed to tell the others posthaste.

“Claudia, where are you?” he barked into his radio.

«Why? Something wrong?» she replied, talking as slowly as she always did.

“There’s a skytank about! Get to cover, don’t show yourself!”

«A … what now?»

“I’ll explain later. It turned around but it might come back.”

«Uhh … Alright.»

The Chaffee drove on and hurried into the bunker.

***

Winston frowned deeply.

“I don’t know what that is,” he stated in a grumpy, but concerned tone.

“It’s a tank but … it flies. Above the ground,” Angler replied, gesticulating to the ceiling with his arms. “Among the clouds.”

There was a confused grumble from Sky.

“Tanks can’t do that,” he said.

Something very rare happened: Berlin spoke.

“Plane,” the Löwe said deadpan.

It earned him a puzzled glare from Angler. But Winston finally understood.

“Okay, so, we might be in trouble. Or we might not,” he thought out loud. “If it turned around, maybe it won’t come back. Maybe it was just looking for easy targets. Maybe it’s gonna look somewhere else now after you got away.”

“So … you want to stay here anyway?” Angler concluded.

Winston nodded.

“As long as you don’t see it again, I think it’s safe.”

Angler didn’t look thrilled about having to go back out there. But he obliged with a curt bow of his cannon.

***

It took until the early morning before Angler returned to the bunker. His teammates were sleeping, but he made sure to wake them up instantly with his yelling.

Tanks approaching! Incoming team!

Winston awoke with a start and only caught a glimpse of the Chaffee racing past his room. The Sherman rolled out into the hallway and looked after his teammate.

“Where’s Claudia …?” Winston asked no one in particular. Angler halted and looked back over his fender.

“She’s still out there! She went for a drive through the town,” he replied grimly.

The others poked their turrets out of their rooms as well.

“Did you tell her?” Winston asked on.

“I did, she’s looking for cover.” Angler grimaced.

“Wouldn’t it be safer for her to come back?” Sky threw in.

“No. God knows how long it would take her,” Angler grumbled.

“Alright. Let’s hope she managed to hide well, then,” Winston said.

“What about us? Are we just going to sit in here and wait for them to leave?” Angler asked, tilting his turret critically.

“Well, you for your part, should go back outside and keep an eye on them,” Winston replied with a knitted optic ridge.

Angler gave him a dismayed stare, but wrestled an “Understood” from his voicebox. He zoomed off without another word, back to the bunker’s exit.

***

Claudia wasn’t happy. A superheavy tank wasn’t meant to hide. She didn’t care about sitting inside a burnt out building and hoping no one would figure out she wasn’t a part of it. Even less she cared about holing up inside a bunker. But right then, the latter was starting to look preferable.

She was gazing through a window with her gun sights and didn’t like what she was seeing. The view of a whole horde of tanks approaching was anything but reassuring — the Maus ended up unwittingly messing with the debris she had piled on top of herself to blend in at least a little better.

There had to be at least 40 tanks. That was an utterly insane number of vehicles for a normal team. And those were only the ones Claudia could see marching down the road in a seemingly endless column. Towards her, nevertheless. They were already eerily close. It had to be less than a kilometer of distance between them and her now. And most importantly … the bunker was on the other side of that column.

Even if she — and hopefully no one else — could see it, Angler was also somewhere over there. On the other side. He had sneaked up behind the convoy.

The Chaffee had radioed her previously. His hope that she was nearby enough to simply return to the bunker had been wishful thinking. He was surely seeing the exact same thing: that there was no easy way past these tanks.

Angler sent another radio transmission.

«I’m calling in the others,» he whispered.

“What for?” Claudia replied with a frown. “All they could do is sit and stare as well.”

«Do you have a better idea?»

Claudia shifted on her tracks. She could of course just keep sitting here and hope that when the strangers eventually found her, they would not be hostile. But that was a chance she couldn’t afford to take. The probability of them just tearing her apart on the spot for her parts was much higher. There was only one option, really.

“If you can distract them, I can try taking a detour. If I can drive around them, I might make it out of here alive.”

Angler didn’t sound thrilled.

«That’s crazy. You saw how many they are! If one of them gets my tracks, it’s Game Over!»

Claudia’s engine growled with discontent.

“Well, then. I’ll just sit here until they find and kill me,” she muttered.

«Ugh! Bye.»

There was no follow-up transmission. Claudia found it upsetting that her light tank teammate had apparently just decided to abandon her like this. That faithless little twerp …

She wasn’t sure what to do now. Silently, she counted the shells in her ammunition stowage; but that wasn’t really necessary. She knew there wouldn’t be enough to fight her way out of this, even if each shot took out an enemy.

I’ll take as many with me as I can, then,’ she thought grimly as she loaded her cannon. There was no place for cowards in the Peaceful Fields. If she was going to go down today, she wouldn’t go down without putting up a fight.

The tanks were close. They would spot her any moment now. They had reached the big square that the building Claudia was hiding in was located at.

Leading the column were two M48 Patton tanks. Main battle tanks, but the least scary kind, probably. Claudia watched them through her gun sights. Both of them were wearing an unfamiliar, crimson red insignia on their hull, but were otherwise unremarkable. She knew that she had at least a chance at taking them out. The ones driving right after them them, too … But never the entire convoy. The moment of surprise could only get her so far.

Claudia slowly traversed her guns onto the first enemy. She aimed carefully. She held her breath.

The silence burst.

But it was not her cannons that did this.

The streets were suddenly filled with the far-away echoes of a song. The recording was of such a poor quality that it was hard to identify as music at first. But it became clearer as the source of the noise approached. An orchestra blared in the background of a voice singing what sounded like French.

The Pattons and the entire column turned their turrets around in unison, in an unnatural-seeming display of synchronicity.

Claudia didn’t wait for another miracle. She fired at the exposed side of one of their turrets. One of the shells ricocheted off, but the other tore through the plating effortlessly. Something vital inside was hit; flames shot out of every gap as the turret violently launched itself off the hull.

There was no time to congratulate herself on the kill. She backed up as at least one of the tanks turned back around towards her. The Maus caught a glimpse of the convoy spreading out. Some of the tanks were moving out to the sides of the square and searching for the attacker, while the ones further back headed off to investigate the source of the music.

It was hard to pinpoint at first, but something felt very off about what Claudia was observing. Only as she fired a snapshot through the skeletal remains of a wall she was rolling past, it occurred to her. Her shot took out another tank. But none of the others seemed to take notice of it. They hadn’t really done that for the first tank she had killed, either. Beyond the completely stoic response of changing formation, there was no indicator that they were even startled by the sudden death of a teammate.

But Claudia had no time to think about this right now. She had to take the small chance she was given.

«Hey, you still alive?» Angler’s voice asked via radio.

Claudia’s engine laboriously carried her into a side lane.

“So far. Yes,” she replied curtly.

She turned her turret around to face any possible pursuers. The music got louder, competing with the noise of cannon shots.

Another transmission, this time from her team’s leader, reached her.

«We’ll get you out of this. Hang in there,» Winston said, his voice firm.

Hurrying down the lane at an excruciatingly slow pace, Claudia started wondering why no one seemed to be going after her. They must have seen her leave the square for sure. Unfortunately for her, the question was answered sooner than expected. No one was going after her, indeed. They just suddenly appeared at the end of the lane. Three American medium tanks came rushing around a bend. They must have anticipated where she had been going and decided to cut off her path.

Claudia turned her turret to the front as fast as she could. The hostile mediums opened fire at once, but only one of their shells penetrated the Maus’s thick armor. One was bad enough, however. There was no time to assess the damage. Claudia fired back, took out one of them. The remaining two rushed her. She turned her turret to face at least one of them as they approached her from both sides. But the lane was too narrow for them to make it past her — at least if she made any effort to block them. Claudia realized this and traversed her hull at an angle to block off the lane.

One of the mediums fired again. The shell ricocheted off the Maus’s left track. The other medium tried to hurry and squeeze past her before she could finish her hull’s turn; this was a mistake. Claudia didn’t hesitate to keep turning and wedged the enemy between her front and the buildings. Its tracks dug into the road, throwing bits and pieces of it behind itself — but it couldn’t move. Strangely enough, it was also completely silent. Claudia kept her sights on the still mobile medium. She finished reloading. The medium seemed to reconsider its options, and came to a halt, then started backing up. The Maus put a shell through its bow. The enemy’s cannon sank immediately and it became motionless.

“Where are you guys?” Claudia barked into her radio.

Before she could get a response, she noticed movement behind her.

With wide optics, she looked back and saw that more enemies were appearing where she had come from. So they had caught up to her, after all.

“I could really use some backup!” she urged.

Another flash of motion made her gaze dart back to in front of her. But this sight was a relieving one. She recognized Angler’s zig-zag camo. The light tank had appeared at the end of the lane, just rushing past it. He spotted Claudia and her trapped enemy in return, did a u-turn and fired at the medium that was wedged between Claudia and the walls. The shot hit its engine deck and made it go up in flames.

Claudia was about to breathe a sigh of relief, but then Angler suddenly turned back around and rushed onward. The Maus wanted to yell at him to come back, but then saw two hostile light tanks zip by the lane as well, obviously hunting her teammate.

The Maus focused on the approaching enemies behind her again. She turned around. There was a Tiger I and yet another American medium. Claudia tried to get her front to face them as fast as possible. Her turret was a bit faster. The enemies opened fire at her. She returned it while backing up frantically and trying to hide her weak tracks and lower plate.

«We have to retreat!» Berlin shouted on the radio. When someone who barely ever spoke raised his voice like this, it was obvious that the situation was dire.

Time was running out. Claudia grimly reloaded her cannon. The Tiger blew up after the second shot she fired at it. The medium took cover behind the wreck. Claudia’s optics darted about as she made sure that no one was approaching from the other side again. Then, she set herself into motion and rolled towards the surviving enemy. The medium started retreating as it was charged like this, but Claudia placed a well-aimed shot from her secondary cannon into its tracks, getting it stuck in place. Her main cannon finished it off.

Ten shells remaining. The music had stopped.

The Maus turned around once more and hurried on.

***

Winston grimaced. He ducked behind a wall as a shell barely missed him. As the enemy Patton reloaded, the Sherman rushed to the next cover. He fired back on the way, but his hastily aimed shell bounced off harmlessly.

“We can’t leave her behind!” Sky pleaded. He was taking cover on the opposite side of the building while a heavy tank destroyer was just waiting for him to poke out and get torn to pieces.

“Can you hold them off? I don’t think so!” Winston replied. He was trying to keep his voice firm. It was expected of him as the leader to keep a cool head. But this situation wasn’t like any they’d been in before. They were scavengers, for Sulfur’s sake! He couldn’t keep a noticeable tremble from sneaking into his words.

Turning to his radio, he tried one last time:

“Claudia, where are you now?” he asked the allied Maus.

Angler replied instead of her.

«She didn’t make it very far!» he said in a rushed tone. Was he still being chased?

A nearby explosion made Winston flinch. Berlin’s mighty cannon had eliminated another one of the enemies … but there were still so many of them. It seemed like their onslaught just didn’t end. If one thing was clear to Winston, it was that they were in over their head. There was no way they could defeat this team — or even buy their ally any more time. If they tried, they would all end up dead. Really, it was a miracle they hadn’t been swarmed and slaughtered yet.

Claudia herself finally responded.

«I am … almost at the border!» she said, her voice strained. «I’ve got six shells left.»

Winston perked up. Could she maybe make it … after all?

He peeked over the wreck he was hiding behind. A shell came flying his way, but hit the wreck instead. Berlin took a hit, but it didn’t seem to bother him.

If Claudia was almost at the border …

“Is anyone going after you right now?” Winston asked the Maus.

«I don’t think so.»

“Alright. Claudia. Listen to me. You need to make it to the bunker. I know you can. We’ll keep them distracted as long as we can.”

«Understood!»

Winston turned to Sky, who gave him an encouraging nod. The Sherman then gave the difficult order:

“Everyone! Fall back! We’ll regroup at the bunker!”

***

Shells whizzed through the air, tore up the ground where they struck it. Angler swerved frantically. He stared back at his pursuers, two powerful light tanks that he could only barely outrun. They were single-mindedly chasing him, cannons locked onto his frame. No matter what he did, he couldn’t shake them off.

We’ll regroup at the bunker!’ Easier said than done!

Angler broke through a fence, raced through a garden. His tracks tore through bed of dead flowers. The enemies followed in his track marks. He could have just rushed back to the bunker, but what about the tanks following him? He’d be leading them right to it.

His mind was racing even faster than his engine’s pistons.

As he ran over the other side of the fence, squeezing through a gap between two buildings, he had a sudden idea. For a moment, the line of sight to his pursuers was blocked. He hit the brakes hard and swerved to the side, circled a small wall and halted behind it. It took all of his discipline to remain motionless and resist the urge to keep running.

He heard the enemies’ engines close in, then saw both of them zoom past him.

Before they could notice that he was gone, Angler hurried to kick his engine back into gear. He turned around and ran off into a different direction — the direction of the bunker.

«Angler??» Winston asked on the radio. «Where the hell are you?!»

“I’m on my way!” the Chaffee replied in a hurry. “Where are you?

«We’re back at the bunker. I don’t know how much longer we can hold them off!»

“What about Claudia??”

«I’m almost there,» the Maus said with a forced calm. In the background of the transmission, shots and impacts could be heard.

Angler sped down a street that was littered with wrecks and empty shell casings. The tall buildings were making way for more scattered about ruins. It was the town’s border. The sound of cannons became louder again.

As he looked ahead, Angler could see in the distance what looked like a wall. It was made of tanks. They were seemingly mindlessly closing in on a trio of retreating scavengers. Whenever the scavengers’ guns took out one of the enemies, a new one took its place. Slowly, but surely, the mass of hostile tanks was pouring out of the town and encircling them. Angler slowed down at the sight of the desperate struggle. Every bit of reason and instinct was screaming at the Chaffee not to approach this mess. The others needed to get inside the bunker as long as they still could. There was no way they wouldn’t get overrun otherwise. But what about Claudia?

Angler’s gaze darted about. He spotted the Maus to the left, crawling towards the fight. She was so close … but yet so far. No, she would never make it in time. Even if she somehow would manage to fight her way through the horde of enemies, it would be way too late for the others.

The Chaffee had a sinking feeling in his fuel pump. He was paralyzed by the hopelessness of this situation.

He looked back to his other teammates. He only knew one thing in that moment: He had to help them.

Taking a heart, he set himself into motion again, accelerating to full speed.

He headed right towards the enemies. Approaching them from behind, no one even took notice of him at first. They were all focused on the tanks in front of them. Angler couldn’t believe it — but it worked. He reached the first tanks, drove right through the crowd. Cannons were fired around him, some turrets turned, but he just raced on, past all of them. A moment later, he broke through the front of their line. He saw the surprised and baffled looks of his teammates as they suddenly saw not an enemy, but their ally emerge from the hordes.

Winston was the first one to regain his bearings.

“Get inside! All of you!” he ordered.

The scavengers didn’t have to think twice and obeyed immediately. Berlin shielded them as much as he could while they retreated through the bunker gates. The Löwe took a nasty hit that seemed to break his turret ring. His cannon was still facing the enemies however; he fired and took out one more before he too rolled inside the gates. It was his last shell.

“But— Claudia!” Sky cried out as Winston started closing the gates. “What about her??”

“We’ll open back up when she gets here!” Winston said in a strained voice.

Angler didn’t know what to say or to do. He looked at Sky. The Panzer III knew he wouldn’t be able to take even one good hit from the enemies out there. But he obviously wasn’t ready to give up on their teammate just yet. He shook on his tracks, terribly aware of his powerlessness in this situation. Berlin was silent as always, but right now, his expression was full of speechless grief. Winston had turned away, hiding his features.

From outside, shells hammered against the bunker gates.

Inside, silence started filling up the stale air.

***

Claudia’s expression grew grim as she saw the bunker gates closing. They fell shut with an ominous crash.

The enemies shot the heavy steel doors, but they didn’t budge an inch. Surely, they would come up with a more effective tactic soon.

The Maus rolled on, even if the goal of reaching the bunker seemed obsolete now. She counted about 30 hostile tanks that were still alive. Some of them had turned around and noticed her. The first shells started flying into her direction.

She had six shells left. A few more for her secondary cannon.

There was a moment of melancholy as Claudia did the only thing she could do right then.

She turned on her radio, playing back the song she had heard earlier on full volume. Most of the enemies started turning around.

The hostile tanks seemed to forget about the bunker completely. The horde started moving. Thirty tanks approached the Maus.

Claudia put her engine on cruise control and took aim. She’d make every shot count.

***

The scavengers avoided looking at each other. There was no telling if the enemies outside had lost interest in breaking into the bunker, or if they were just formulating a new plan. That is, until suddenly, very faintly, they could hear noise from the outside. It sounded like … music? And then the sound of cannons.

All four of them looked at each other with puzzled expressions.

To Sky, however, it was clear what was happening. That knowledge didn’t make it easier to bear.

“She’s … fighting them! She must be right outside!” he wailed.

Winston’s optics darted to the gates.

Sky stared at him imploringly.

“We need to help her! We can’t let her fight them alone!”

“That’s madness!” Winston spat. “She’s throwing her life away, and if we join her, we’ll all die!” His engine was revving anxiously. Their leader was scared. And so was the rest of his team.

“Open the gates,” Berlin said with a low growl.

Winston’s turret jerked around to the Löwe.

“No!” he snapped.

“We can save her, come on!!” Angler pleaded. He couldn’t just sit there while his ally was forced to fight to her death.

The gates stay closed!” Winston yelled.

His tone made the others fall silent for a moment. They stared at the Sherman with disbelief. He looked back at them, meeting their optics with fearful glares.

“I’m the leader, I make the decisions! Claudia doomed herself when she didn’t stay in the bunker! No way in hell I’ll sacrifice my entire team to save one tank! Can’t you see how that’s insane?”

His rant echoed through the bunker’s halls.

Only the music and cannon shots outside disturbed the silence that followed it. But then, the music went quiet. Instead, a loud banging on the bunker door made everyone inside flinch.

From the outside, muffled screams could be heard.

Open up!!

Everyone present knew the voice.

Let me in! Now!!

Somehow, Claudia must have made it to the gates. Her desperate cries from outside made everyone’s plating crawl.

More shots. Muted explosions. More screaming from outside.

“What are we waiting for?!” Angler shouted. “Open the damn gate!!”

Winston stared at him as if he was insane.

“We’ll all get killed!” the Sherman gasped.

Sky couldn’t watch this. He yelled at Winston, “Coward!”, and rushed over to the gate to open it himself. Winston, however, drove to his side and did his best to keep him from doing that. The other two tanks stared, completely dumbfounded.

Open the fucking gates!!” Claudia screamed outside. She hammered against the steel doors.

Sky desperately fumbled for the door’s lever against Winston’s grasp, but then the Sherman aimed his cannon at Sky’s turret point-blank.

Don’t make me do this,” Winston threatened. Sky froze.

Open up!

Sky slumped and let go of the lever. Angler watched with an aghast expression. Berlin frowned.

Please!! Open the—

There was another cannon shot. A crash followed it.

Everything went quiet after that.

***

It seemed like an eternity had passed while the silence inside the bunker had become deafening.

Winston’s gaze was fixed on the ground. Everyone else’s optics were resting on him, piercing through his plating.

The shooting outside had ceased what felt like hours ago. It was probably safe to assume that the enemy force had departed.

“It’s over,” the Sherman said. His voice was quiet and heavy with defeat. “Angler, go outside and take a peek.”

Angler didn’t say anything, but obliged. He slowly rolled over to the gates and unlocked them. He pulled the lever. The gates opened.

The sight that greeted him outside was almost more frightening than the enemies had been. He had expected to see wrecks — among them a certain one. But there was not a single one. If the ground hadn’t been torn up by countless tracks, and the shell casings hadn’t been covering it, one could have believed no battle had happened here at all.

Angler turned around and returned back inside.

He rolled up to the others and shook his turret.

“They’re all gone,” he said gravely. “They … took her with them.”

Distraught looks were shared. Angler dropped his gaze and bit back a growl of his engine. There were no words he could think of that could sufficiently describe how disappointed and upset he was at his leader right then. And he was sure that his teammates shared the sentiment. He didn’t know where to go from here. But he did know one thing for sure: that Winston couldn’t just get away with this.

Something had to happen.

To him.

***

“What … what is the meaning of this?”

Winston was backed up against the bunker wall. His optics darted back and forth between his teammates with great concern.

“Dear leader,” Angler said with grim formality, “We are very unhappy with what went down today.”

“We’d like to file a complaint,” Sky added with an equally grim expression.

“We think you have made grave mistakes,” Berlin rumbled.

Winston stared at the tools that his team was wielding. What the hell did they bring saws for …?

“Okay?” he said nervously. “I guess I had a good run, if any of you want to be promo—”

“Oh no, don’t worry. You’ll remain in charge. But there are some … adjustments in order,” Angler said in a sinister tone.

Winston’s optics grew wide.

The scavengers inched closer. Winston would have loved to become one with the wall.

“We’ll make sure you’ll never point your gun at a teammate again!” Sky said.

“You’ll never have to make another decision,” Angler added.

“You’ll never have to worry about anything ever again,” Berlin concluded.

Before the Sherman could say anything else, the others rushed at him, restraining him. As the saws started cutting into his frame, the scavengers chanted gleefully over his agonized screams:

Long live Winston!

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25 Mar, 2021 20:00

Oof that ending was super dark! But a very well-written short story. I hope to keep peeking in every once in awhile at this world! It's very intriguing.

~TimeBender~
26 Mar, 2021 07:53

I'm glad you enjoyed it! Yeah, the Hummelverse can get rather dark on occasion. It's a dystopian post-apocalyptic world after all, even if that's easy to forget sometimes. :)


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