Tales: Fortress - Pt.1

A battle was raging inside the town. Heavies, medium tanks, lights, and tank destroyers fought relentlessly for the upper hand. The two teams had run into each other as they both had intended to take the town, and of course this matter could only be settled by a fight. But as the casualties increased, it slowly became apparent that neither team was stronger than the other – which could only result in one thing.   In the middle of the struggle, a Jagdtiger 88 tried to avert exactly that fate; they called him Fortress. Another enemy died by his cannon, but at the same time one of his team mates fell. Their commander. Chaos broke out on the radio channel. Fortress knew one thing – if the battle went on like this, there would be no one left to keep the town, on either side. He hurried onward as fast as his engine let him, stopped before a wreck of a tank destroyer and pushed it forward as he cautiously advanced into the junction. One of his teammates was there, and their gazes met, but suddenly the T69 blew up and a KV-4 rolled past it. The heavy noticed the Jagdtiger at once and seemed shocked for a moment, backing up slightly. A lot of tanks feared Jagdtigers, and many also couldn’t tell a Jagdtiger’s mighty 12.8cm from the less devastating 8.8cm when they saw it.   But even the 8.8cm could do the job. The KV-4 bounced a shot off the Jagdtiger’s superstructure, then angled its turret and hull as it reloaded. Fortress shot the other tank’s turret ring, and the fact that the heavy tank couldn’t seem to turn its cannon towards him anymore told him that it had had the desired effect. Before the TD could reload, a Super Pershing appeared next to the KV-4, but it reversed behind its teammate at the sight of the hull down German. Fortress kept his cool. He had been outnumbered many times, but when he was in a good position like that, he could make it. He held his fire, waiting for the KV-4 to make the mistake it was going to make. In an attempt to get a line of fire despite its jammed turret, the heavy turned its whole hull around. Fortress had been waiting for that exact moment and shot the flat part of its upper front plate. It was a lucky shot; the tank started smoking and its cannon sank.   The Super Pershing peeked out from behind its defeated team mate, but immediately was hit in the outer drive wheel, which caused the track to snap off. Too bad for the guy. If it had just backed up and taken another lane, it could have flanked the Jagdtiger. But it was too late for that now. Also too bad for Fortress. He had been hoping to hit the glacis. Now not enough of the other tank was showing to comfortably take it apart from his spot. Two more allies stopped transmitting as the Jagdtiger rushed the medium tank. There was no other way - no time to sit and wait it out. Fortress took a shot in the upper front plate, which hurt like hell but broke nothing vital, and made short work of his opponent after all.   As he stood next to the wrecks and looked around warily, he tried the frequencies of his teammates, but only one of them seemed to be alive still. So it was two against two.   “Where are you?” Fortress asked. The Black Prince replied at once, but in the middle of her telling him her position there was a scream, the roar of a cannon, and the unmistakable noise of a tank blowing up. Her end went silent after that. Fortress realized that he was the only one left.   With a grim expression he turned the corner, and found himself cannon to cannon with a Kanonenjagdpanzer. Those pests had recently started popping up everywhere. It was in bad shape. A town was not a good place for a thinly armoured TD. Fortress didn’t hesitate and pulled the trigger, and the searing hot blast of the explosion let him flinch, but he shrugged it off. Now only one enemy tank was left. There was a feeling of futility, as killing the last remaining enemy tank when there were no winners left served little purpose, but it was drowned out by the thrill of surviving.   He had heard cannonfire in the direction where he was going, and it had sounded mighty enough for a T34 – the last enemy. The Jagdtiger knew that he wouldn’t stand a chance against the heavy if they were to brawl it out. But down the lane he could see a pile of rubble next to one of the houses, and he hurried to reach it. Before he could hide behind it, he saw a turret appear behind a wreck next to a building corner. Just when he had a clear shot, it turned towards him and a shell came flying into his direction. The poorly aimed shot missed, instead hitting the rubble and causing its components to be splattered everywhere. There was still plenty left of the pile however, and Fortress reached it immediately afterwards. He angled his armour and hoped that the heavy didn’t carry any APCR. But even if he didn’t, it looked bad for the Jagdtiger. He couldn’t do anything in his position. His shells wouldn’t go through the thick turret armour, and he doubted that this guy was stupid enough to expose his hull.   However, he didn’t seem to be the smartest either. Another shell was fired, hitting Fortress’ casemate. It bounced off. The Jagdtiger didn’t dare to breathe a sigh of relief yet. He frantically thought about his possibilities, and he was almost sure that the next shell would be an APCR one. But instead, ten seconds later, a HE shell blew up in his face. Fortress spluttered at the burning sensation, but other than causing him pain and breaking one of his view ports, it didn’t achieve anything. He retaliated by trying to shoot the roof of the heavy’s turret, but missed. At least he could be sure now that the other tank was just as desperate as he was. No APCR. Some luck amongst all the misfortune of the day.   The T34 obviously decided that using HE was futile, and had switched back to AP as his next shell bounced off the Jagdtiger, leaving a nasty mark. Fortress knew that the hostile tank wouldn't get through the armour like this, but he also didn't want it to lose its patience and come up with more cunning tactics. In terms of those, Fortress had been in similar situations before enough times to have his own.   “Stop,” he shouted. Another shot hit his casemate, burying itself in the metal but not breaking through. Fortress backed up slightly into the remains of a building, however keeping the heavy in his sights. “You’re being ridiculous!” he went on. “All you’re gonna achieve is running out of ammo!” That did the trick. The T34 really did stop shooting.   As Fortress was sure that he wouldn’t get shot again, he rolled back up to the pile of rubble. The other tank was staring at him now. Fortress tilted his cannon. Time for the next step in his emergency combat plan.   “What’s wrong? Aren’t you going to come and circle me?” he shouted.   “If you ask like that I sure won’t,” the T34 replied.   “Clever.”   The Jagdtiger 88 had upgraded his engine to a pretty powerful one long ago. He could easily outmanoeuvre someone as cumbersome as a T34. Many only found out about this when it was too late, if they even managed to reach him before getting tracked.   “So, what now?” the T34 asked after a moment of silent staring. He must have come to the conclusion that this was going nowhere. Fortress hummed pensively. His plan wasn't working out, but not all was lost yet.   “You could surrender,” he said.   “Like hell I will!” the heavy growled. “Why don’t you surrender?”   “There’s literally no point in us killing each other,” Fortress said in a diplomatic tone, “Of course I’ll gladly kill you anyway if you insist.”   “Oh? How?” the T34 replied. “Gonna raise your dead teammates and sic them on me?”   “What if I did?” Fortress said defiantly.   A chuckle escaped the T34, but he stifled it quickly.   “You’re right, there’s no point,” the heavy admitted eventually, serious again. “But don't pretend you’re not going to shoot me if I come out.”   “I might,” Fortress rumbled. The T34 probably felt that he meant it and hesitated.   “Well, let’s think this through,” the heavy mused, “assuming I come out, then what?”   Fortress thought about the question. With their teams being dead, they were in trouble. He didn’t know either what to do. His plan didn't extend past killing the last enemy. As he remained silent, the T34 spoke up again.   “How about we both come out at the same time?” he suggested. Fortress liked that idea a little bit better. This was going to turn into a stalemate if both of them kept hidden. They would be sitting here forever... or at least, until they starved. He nodded slowly.   “Okay,” he said.   After some hesitation, both tanks cautiously rolled out of their cover.   A moment of tense silence followed; then they both fired.   There were two outcries and they immediately retreated.   “Fool!” Fortress barked.   “Fucking-“ the T34 cursed.   Both of them were equally upset that they had been shot and that their own shot hadn’t killed the other. They went back to glaring at each other.   “Great,” Fortress said dryly. “So, sitting here until we starve it is.”   The T34 gave him a sore look.   “You shot too!” he hissed.   Fortress’ engine grumbled in response. He sunk heavily on his suspension and sighed.   Several minutes of silence followed. Fortress spent the time discreetly sending pings to his teammates, in the faint hope that someone may have only been unconscious and could come to his aid, after all. But instead of responses, what he received was a startling "PLINK" sound and something small bouncing off his armour. Fortress hadn't felt it, only seen some movement. He looked at the ground, saw a small stone that hadn't been there before.   He looked up, mildly baffled. The T34 was no longer just sitting still and glaring - one of his arms was extended and picking up another stone. Fortress watched the heavy casually toss the stone into the air a couple times, only to catch it again every time. Each time he caught it, the stone hitting the metal claws made a clacking noise.   Fortress frowned deeply.   "Are you ser-" he began to ask, but fell silent when the stone was thrown at him again. This time, - PLINK - it hit the front of his superstructure and landed on his hull roof.   The T34 remained silent. Fortress resisted the urge to reach out and pick the stone off his hull. Instead, he watched the T34 pick up yet another stone.   The tossing and catching resumed, and so did the clacking. It quickly started grating on Fortress's nerves. That repetitive noise was not the last thing he wanted to hear in his life.   "Can you-" he said politely, only to be - PLINK - interrupted again. Another stone landed on his hull roof.   Fortress started glaring. The T34 looked straight back at him and picked up another stone. He tossed it in the air again - and Fortress fired his cannon.   The T34 turned his turret slightly and stared at his hand, which was now empty. It was highly unlikely that the shell had actually hit the stone, but the blast wave had taken care of it for sure. The same was true for the previously thrown stones, which were no longer on top of Fortress's hull. Traversing back around to face the enemy once again, the T34 wordlessly retracted his arm back into his frame. Fortress gave a satisfied rumble from his engine.   “How are you enjoying our town so far?” he asked.  Our town?”   “Well, you didn’t win, did you? It’s a draw, so it belongs to both of us.”   The T34 nodded thoughtfully.   “It’s a bit bleak,” he said. “Didn’t expect to have it all for myself, you know?”   “Yeah.”   “Actually, I think it belongs to neither of us,” the T34 went on. “Technically, the battle isn’t over yet.”   Fortress snorted. The last thing he would have expected out of this fight was ending up discussing technicalities with a heavy tank.   “Does it really matter?” he asked.   Even if they teamed up, the town was really of no use to them anymore. Two tanks wouldn’t be able to defend it.   “I guess it doesn’t,” the T34 said with a defeated roll of his cannon.   A sudden movement behind Fortress made him hastily look back through his view ports, but he did not move his cannon away from the T34. The heavy didn’t move either. A Luchs had appeared in the lane, and at the sight of the two tanks it froze for a moment, then yelped and raced up to the Jagdtiger, hiding behind him.   It had been too far down the lane to quickly reverse back out of it, probably thinking that the two tanks in it were dead at first. Fortress couldn’t see it anymore, but he had caught a glimpse of the light’s cannon, which made him nervous. Moreover, he doubted that this tank had come alone. A third team must have shown up. They had probably just waited until the battle was over to effortlessly take the town afterwards. It looked like they hadn’t expected to find any survivors.   The Jagdtiger shifted on his suspension uncomfortably and noticed that the T34’s posture had grown tenser as well.   “Shoo,” Fortress said, wiggling on his tracks a bit. “Can’t you see that we’re in the middle of something here?”   The Luchs peeked out from behind him, but backed up again quickly.   “Why aren’t you shooting?” the light tank asked.   “We can’t hurt each other,” Fortress explained.   “Why?”   “Our armour is too strong,” Fortress went on patiently. There was a small “Ohhh”, followed by, “So, it’s a draw.”   “Actually…” the T34 began to say, but Fortress completed the sentence for him.   “….the battle’s still going on,” he said, his weariness of the fact bleeding into his tone.   “But,” the Luchs said with an audible frown, “neither of you can win! What’s the point?”   “He’s gonna give up eventually,” Fortress whispered. The Luchs whispered back simply because Fortress had been whispering too.   “Are you sure about that?”   The T34 craned his cannon, trying to hear them.   “Are you guys fraternizing over there?” he asked, unable to fully hide the earnest concern in his voice. Fortress realized that he could ask the Luchs to go and circle the heavy tank on his behalf, and maybe they would even do it, but somehow, the idea rubbed him the wrong way. This was between the T34 and him; involving someone else didn't feel right. He ignored the question and addressed the Luchs again, in a normal volume.   “I’m guessing your team will arrive soon,” he rumbled thoughtfully.   “Yep,” the Luchs replied.   “What will they do with us?”   “Not my decision.”   Fortress tilted his cannon.   “I’m sure you told them about us already,” he said. The Luchs fell silent for a moment, then hesitantly answered.   “We don’t know yet…”   “I see.”   Only moments later, the first tank appeared in the lane behind the T34. Another followed, and Fortress noticed other tanks popping up behind him as well, until the whole team had gathered. Twelve guns were pointed at the survivors. The Jagdtiger slowly raised his cannon barrel, and the T34 followed suit after a moment of hesitation.  
Stancer

A/N: This story is from 2015. I was reminded that it exists, so I decided to polish it a bit and upload it here. I never wrote a Part 2. Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. Fortress will show up again in the sequel of the Tanking League story either way - this is his "backstory".


Comments

Please Login in order to comment!
23 Apr, 2020 08:23

Glorious! XD

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused Celenia D10 RPG System.
23 Apr, 2020 08:26

Glad you like it! :D


Check out The Hummelverse, the world of AI tanks!
23 Apr, 2020 11:03

Arty, this is a pure joy to read. The part with throwing stones is brilliant. I could hear Fortress just sigh with each stone as it pelted him. The visuals are dead on for the characters, I got such a clear image with each one. Love how the personalities shone through.   For the background ... I kept wondering what time of year is it? Had it rained recently? or no? Stray thoughts I guess.   Anyway, just superb work! I love this!

— The wolf of Tales of Justice, Creator of Legends of Elohey, Star Wars: Shards, Fiven Chronicles and more!
23 Apr, 2020 11:14

Thank you for the kind comment! :D You make a really good point about the environment. It appears I didn't describe it much at all, maybe I should fix this!


Check out The Hummelverse, the world of AI tanks!
Powered by World Anvil