The Face-Off

They called Altær the fastest artillery gun in the West. And the North... And basically, Everywhere Else, as well - because he surely had gotten around quite a bit in his life. It wasn't because he loved travelling so much, but rather a pretty hopeless pursuit of finding a team that would accept and tolerate him for an extended time.   The problem wasn't his competence or battle prowess. He would have died long ago if it was. His issue, his incompatibility with most teams, lied elsewhere...  
***
  Cackling laughter filled the team's radio channel.   "Hah! Did you see that? Did you see that?!" a certain leFH18B2 jeered. "That must have hurt!"   «Shut up, dude!» an exasperated medium tank shouted.   The leFH's attention turned to said medium tank. On this wonderfully clear Spring day in the North, he had no trouble making out the far-away shape of his teammate. What his senses also told him was that this teammate was trading shots with what looked like a heavy tank. Its bulky shape poked out against the rocks it thought it was taking cover behind.   "Need help with that?" the leFH asked in a sweet voice and tossed a shell into his cannon breech, pinging the position on the radio while he did.   «No, I-» the medium teammate tried to say, but was cut off.   "Sorry, already fired!" the leFH grinned. A moment later, the medium could watch a shell plink off his enemy's turret. That turret turned towards the source of the shot with confusion, but then back at the medium as no obvious target was in sight.   «What the fuck was that?» the medium teammate snapped.   "Oops, wrong shell," the leFH replied innocently. A moment later, an explosion blew up in the enemy heavy's face. The heavy backed up further behind its cover, was now out of a line of fire for the increasingly disgruntled medium. He could only watch as another shell from above detonated on top of the enemy's engine deck and seemingly broke something important. There was a scream loud enough to be heard almost all the way over to the artillery's hiding place.   That hiding place was a plateau-like hill, which had only sparse cover available but was elevated just enough to give the two SPGs of the team a nice vantage point for their sights. Near the edge, parked behind a row of bushes, the leFH had set up.    Altær always liked to be as close to the action as possible, which was why he hadn't joined the other artillery, a Grille, much further in the back. 400 meters of distance between himself and the closest enemy were plenty, in his opinion. He idly kept an optic on this enemy, an AMX ELC, who had been trying to get behind their lines. But it seemed hesitant about continuing that endeavor after Altær had fired a warning shot at it. Hopefully, a nearby StuG was also further deterring it. Altær was not keen on having that teammate "cower" so close to the artillery, in his opinion it should be picking off the enemy tanks from a perfect spot that he had identified with his artillery sights. But the StuG was adamant about not following the leFH's suggestion and just sat behind a bush, waiting for the enemies to politely run in front of its gun, apparently.   Whatever, Altær was too busy with enjoying the battle to really get upset about the incompetence of one teammate. He lobbed another shell at his previous target, gleefully observing the blast wave of the explosion his hit caused as the heavy blew up.   There was a pretty exasperated radio message from the medium teammate who had been "able to handle that one just fine", but Altær ignored it and scanned the surroundings for a new target. The feedback told him there was a light tank on the foot of a hill further to the South-West of his position. The allied Chaffee was struggling to get shots on his foe, as both of them had to risk peeking over the hill ridge in order to shoot each other. As neither was willing to expose themselves like that seemingly, Altær just watched them both drive back and forth uselessly.   Altær tossed a careless shell into the general direction of the enemy light. By the time he observed the explosion tear up some of the dirt instead of the tank, he had already grabbed a new shell. He shot again, missed again. Oh, this little-   The allied Grille suddenly spoke up on the radio channel for the first time in the whole match.   «Watch out for ELC,» he said with an anxious and rushed voice.   Altær realized he had gotten distracted for a bit. He quickly checked the ELC's last known position... and it was gone. Well, that could be bad. Altær looked to the allied StuG, who was still sitting in the same spot as previously.   "StuG, go look for him!" Altær barked into the radio. He could barely see anything between the thicket and rocks that were covering the East flank. The ELC must have disappeared somewhere in there.   The StuG protested for a moment, but the team's leader chimed in and told him to go as well, just in less nice words. With a last grumble, the tank destroyer set himself into motion. Altær aimed at the direction his teammate was going, ready to fire blind if he was told coordinates. But as the StuG made his way towards the South-East of the battlefield, he didn't seem able to figure out where the ELC went, either. Even as he finally arrived at the position that Altær had told him to go to previously, there was apparently no sign of the hostile light.   Altær noticed that his tracks were getting tense. He wasn't one to mind fighting an enemy one-on-one from up close... but he wasn't keen on getting surprised and shot in the back. He turned to the left, focused his sights on the closer surroundings. If many close-quarters-combat encounters had taught him anything, it was that light tanks had the habit of always popping up much nearer than you'd think they could have gotten in the time since you last saw them.   And truly - with his next pulse of feedback, Altær noticed something moving, and doing so horribly fast... and right towards him. He hastily switched back to his regular sights and now clearly saw the ELC barrelling straight towards his position. There was no doubt that Altær had been discovered.   "Idiot StuG, you ran past him!" Altær whined on the radio while rushing to take aim at the light tank. Despite approaching at breakneck speed, the enemy was going in a perfectly straight line; Altær fired,... but it seemed like the HEAT shell had either missed or somehow achieved nothing. Desperately rummaging through his ammo storage, Altær couldn't seem to find a more suitable HE shell. He gaped at the rushing light, who was at best a hundred meters away anymore.   An incoming shell came flying, but harmlessly ricocheted off Altær's side armour. He tried to load his cannon, but in his hurry dropped the shell. The light had almost reached him, and surely would start circling now, but... somehow it looked like that wasn't the plan. He was still making a beeline for the leFH.    On the radio, the team leader was yelling that someone needed to go back - but everyone claimed they were too busy. Altær realized he had only one chance of survival. He kicked his engine into gear, trundled towards the ELC. Said ELC must have suddenly figured out what was going to happen, but it was too late to do anything about it. All he could still do was avert his cannon as far as his limited turret traverse would let him. He was going at full speed, and so was Altær, and a moment later the two collided with a big crash.   For a couple seconds after that, both Altær and the ELC were silent, too shaken and befuddled from the sudden harsh impact to do much. Altær was the first one to regain his bearings. His tracks seemed fine, and he didn't notice any serious damage to his front armour. He looked down at the ELC, who looked a bit like he had hit a wall - his bow was pretty crumpled, one of the mudguards had straight up flown off and the other was completely bent. The only reason why his cannon hadn't been reduced to half its length was that he had managed to look off to the side, so it stuck out right next to Altær's right track. He wasn't moving at all, but his engine noise was still present.   Altær didn't hesitate any longer. He knew he had to kill this light before it came to again and would start attempting to do the same - probably with more success. He tried to take aim, but... it didn't work. No matter how much he tried to lower his cannon, he couldn't get it to line up even with the ELC's turret. The light tank was... too short. Letting out a frustrated growl, Altær shot anyway, but the shell just hit the ground behind the ELC.   The blast from the shot startled the light tank awake, however. His cannon perked up a little, and Altær could watch his optics grow wide. The ELC fired as well, out of reflex probably, but since his cannon was pointed past Altær's track, he couldn't hit the SPG back, either.   The two tanks stared at each other for a moment, then the ELC started struggling.   "Ffffffffffuck off!" the ELC shouted and tried to back up. Altær pursued immediately, knowing that the moment they'd separate, he'd get killed.   "No, you fuck off!" Altær spat.   "Then let me!!" the ELC said with a growl.   Altær had reloaded his cannon in the meantime, and tried to back up now to get a better angle on the light tank and maybe shoot him after all. But the ELC understood what he was about to do right away, and now was the one pushing against the leFH to prevent getting separated.   "Oooohhh nooo, you don't!" the ELC hissed.   The team's radio channel was still occupied by the team leader trying to persuade anyone to go help Altær, but still, no one was willing. At least it seemed like none of the enemy tanks was close enough to help their light tank, either. Unfortunately that meant that the two opponents were now stuck.   Altær got frustrated and pushed against the ELC again, who wasn't strong enough to not slip backwards from it.   "You didn't think this through at all, did you?" Altær scoffed.   Before the light could answer, there was a hiss of a shell somewhere from the left, and a big explosion that dazzled Altær, singed his front armour, and made him splutter. As soon as he could see clearly again, he noticed that the ELC in front of him was now missing its turret.   Altær's gaze darted to his left, where the allied Grille had appeared nearby. His cannon barrel was still smoking from the shot. The leFH blinked.   "Oh wow. Thanks!" Altær said. He backed up slightly from the ELC's wreck and made sure everything in his frame was still working correctly. Except for some paint having burnt off and the glass of one of his optics having cracked from the blast of the explosion, his armour and modules seemed fine.   The Grille tilted his cannon, then turned away.   "Screw you, I was just trying to help," he grouched.   Altær gave him a confused look.   "What? I literally thanked you," he said.   That seemed to confuse the Grille as well. He turned towards Altær again, and gave a small "...Oh".   Altær shook his cannon and got behind his bushes again to continue participating in the battle. He noticed the Grille looking at him for a moment longer, before the other SPG followed suit.

Comments

Please Login in order to comment!
Powered by World Anvil