After trying to kill each other, two strangers get stuck with helping each other survive.
The Sturmpanzer’s strained engine was the only noise that filled the air. Pulling the Covenanter had tired her out quickly, but she was still continuing on. It probably used up a lot of fuel, but on the other hand the light tank needed much less as all he was doing was rolling along. She hoped that it evened itself out.
“You should take a break,” the Covenanter said from behind her.
The sun had long vanished behind the dunes, but the Sturmpanzer wanted to go on. They needed to find someone who could repair the light tank’s track, and she didn’t want to waste any time with resting.
“I’m okay,” she replied stoically.
“You’re the most unreasonable tank I’ve ever met,” the Covenanter griped. He braked and the Sturmpanzer’s tracks started slipping.
“You need a rest!” he said and the Sturmpanzer stubbornly continued driving on the spot for a moment longer, throwing sand at him, before she gave in with an exaggerated sigh. The Covenanter shook the sand off his turret. She released him and both of them rolled back down into the valley between the dunes. The Covenanter stretched his remaining track with a yawn.
“What made you tired?” the Sturmpanzer teased. He gave her a small, diagonal nod of his cannon, the equivalent of sticking out one’s tongue.
“Get stuffed,” he said, but turned more serious again afterward. “Go ahead and sleep. I’ll wake you up if something happens.”
The Sturmpanzer tilted her cannon. “But that could be too late,” she said, “I’ll stay awake and keep guard. It will be relaxing enough.”
She turned to leave, but he told her to wait. She gave him a curious look.
The light tank hemmed and hawed for a moment before he said what he wanted to say.
“Thank you,” he mumbled, and didn’t have to say what he was thankful for.
The Sturmpanzer gave him a crooked smile but didn’t say anything as she turned around again.
After the night had luckily been without any incidents, they continued their travel.
Two more days had gone by when clouds had suddenly appeared in the usually empty sky, and soon it started raining heavily. But it was over almost as fast as it had begun. The tanks shook off the raindrops and continued on. After a couple of minutes, the Sturmpanzer noticed something to their right. Something was sparkling in the sun, too far away to see what it was. The two tanks’ still wet armour was probably sparkling in the same way, so the Sturmpanzer quickly reversed behind the dune she had just crested.
“What’s wrong?” the Covenanter asked.
“Something’s over there,” the Sturmpanzer replied.
“Can you see it with your sights?”
“It’s too far away.”
“If you push me up I can take a look,” the Covenanter said.
The Sturmpanzer nodded. She released the towing ropes and got behind the Covenanter to push him up the dune just far enough so he could peek over it and use his scope.
“What do you see?” the Sturmpanzer asked anxiously, hoping that it wouldn’t be a team that could have seen them. The Covenanter ground his gears pensively.
“I can’t see it clearly, but it’s not moving,” he said. They rolled back down.
“We should wait until we’re dry and go take a look,” the Sturmpanzer suggested.
The Covenanter nodded and they sat down in the valley. Only when the sun had dried them completely, they cautiously started making their way towards the spot where they had seen the sparkling earlier.
They took a bit of a detour, avoiding the dunetops, and the Sturmpanzer made sure to check behind every crest, but also look ahead to see if their destination was getting into reach of her sights. Eventually it did, and the Sturmpanzer wobbled on her suspension excitedly.
“It’s a camp!” she said. A handful of tents had been installed on a flatter part of ground, and tanks were visible between them. The Sturmpanzer focused, and saw that two of them were TRVs, also an M3 Lee and and some sort of TD. There had to be a couple more tanks, judging by the number of tents.
They were probably inside them, or – guarding. The Sturmpanzer noticed too late that one of the guards had been coming right at them. Only as the light tank crested the dune in front of them, the Covenanter saw it and gasped, causing the SPG to hastily switch to her normal sights.
All three of them froze, and the Sturmpanzer slowly averted her cannon as she stared at the scout. The M5 Stuart stared back at them, but then quickly spoke into his radio, reporting two strangers to his team.
“Please don’t shoot us,” the Covenanter said, trying to sound calm. The Stuart’s gaze fell on him, then on the missing track. He seemed to decide that those two weren’t too much of a threat, and his posture grew a little less tense. His gun was still pointed at them, however. Now more tanks crested the dune, and they all looked at the strangers warily. All guns were aimed at them.
“What business have you to be here?” the M5 asked.
The Sturmpanzer spoke up.
“We’re lost and need repairs,” she said, with a hint of pleading urgency in her voice.
“Can you pay?” another one of the tanks asked. It was ogling the fuel cans that were affixed to the SPG’s side armour.
“Yes,” the Sturmpanzer replied.
The other tanks gave them another round of distrustful looks, but then the Stuart nodded.
“Alright, come with us,” he said.
Both the Covenanter and the Sturmpanzer slumped slightly with relief, and they followed the other tanks to the camp. Another TRV – a converted Matilda – had emerged from a tent, and the three of them started working on the Covenanter at once. More tanks had appeared to look on.
It didn’t take very long until his track was fixed, and he drove a little circle to test it. The Sturmpanzer had had to give half of their fuel and all spare parts to the team in the meantime. They could make a simple repair as expensive as they wanted, since the strangers had no choice but to pay them.
After his short test drive, the Covenanter drove up to the Sturmpanzer again and they turned to the Stuart.
“Thank you for your help,” the Sturmpanzer told the light. He nodded.
“You can stay for the night, if you wish,” he said pensively.
The Sturmpanzer blinked with surprise.
“We would appreciate it,” she said at once. Staying with a team meant safety, even if it was just for one night. The Stuart nodded again and invited them to help making a campfire.
Night fell, and they joined the team at the fire. The wariness of the others was gone, and the two strangers took part in the conversations. The fire made the coldness of the night so much more bearable, and they enjoyed being among people again. It only slowly had started dawning on them that their fate had taken a positive turn. Even if they couldn't stay with the team, they wouldn't be lost anymore. Their odyssey was over.
But things got even better. The Stuart suddenly drove up to them and asked them to have a word with him.
Curious what he had to say, they agreed and followed him a bit away from the fire. He got to the point immediately.
“The day after tomorrow, an allied team will visit us,” he said, and the Sturmpanzer and the Covenanter had an exciting suspicion what his next words could be, but they didn’t even dare to think it. They still couldn’t believe it when he said it out loud.
“They are looking for members, so maybe we could ask them if you could join them,” he went on.
The two tanks just gaped at him.
The Sturmpanzer looked at the team before them.
The Covenanter had just finished telling their story to the team’s leader, and she looked at them thoughtfully.
“You’ve been through a lot,” she said, “and you managed to survive it. I think you might make a good addition to our team.”
The Sturmpanzer and the Covenanter bowed their cannons hastily.
“Thank you so much,” the Sturmpanzer said. “We’ll do what we can to not make you regret this decision.”
The team’s leader nodded. Together with their new members, they said their farewells to their allies and set off.
“I think,” the Covenanter said, looking at the Sturmpanzer that he was driving next to, “I’ll miss being stuck with you.” He gave her a sheepish grin.
“Well,” the Sturmpanzer replied with a smile. “I’m still here, ain’t I? You’re not getting rid of me yet.”
The Covenanter laughed.
“That’s true,” he said.