TL: Chapter 16 - Showdown Pt.4

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Eject could do nothing but wait, and it was eating away at him like a giant patch of rust. It wouldn’t take Fox longer than two minutes or so to reach the street — probably — but a lot could happen in a battle in two minutes. For example — the wall next to him could be blown to pieces.   With a gasp, he turned around. He stared at the crumbling building. Something with massive firepower must have hit it. Something like —   «Hello, Eject.»   Eject immediately recognised the bitterly smug voice. He had to double check the radio channel to make sure it wasn’t his private one; he didn’t remember ever giving the GW Panther his private frequency. As it turned out, she was using the team’s common channel. Said channel had been dead silent all day, but it was safe to assume that every Falkendorf tank was still tuned into it.  That’s just like her,’ Eject thought with a growl. Even in the middle of her team’s final battle, she just couldn’t resist causing a scene. Of course, just greeting him couldn’t be called a ‘scene’. But only a fool would think she’d leave it at that.   “I take it Nordic failed to shut you up permanently,” Eject replied on the same channel. He then immediately got moving — staying in this very same spot now that he was in her sights would be highly unwise. The problem was that Eject — like every other teammate smart enough to care about memorising the lines of artillery fire — was aware that this street was a death zone. The only safe spots were further behind him.   «He did,» the GW Panther said, «quite pathetically so. Why don’t you come and give it a try as well? We could put your little threat to the test.»   Eject didn’t bother with answering to her again, and instead focused on an incoming message from Eohelm.   «Eject, Eohelm. Is—»  Exactly what you think is happening … is happening,” Eject replied before Eohelm could finish.   «In that case …» Eohelm went on with a tense sigh, «Fox, as you were.»   «Eohelm, Fox,» the addressed King Tiger responded. A short silence followed — before a shouted «Well, fuck!» ended his transmission.   Backing up as quickly as his engine allowed, Eject muttered his own share of curses. Of course, the GW Panther broadcasted another message a moment later. She was celebrating this.   «Where do you think you’re going?» she jeered. «You’re too slow to outrun my cannon.»   She didn’t really need to tell him this. In a very prominent part of his conscience, Eject was already counting down the seconds of the GW Panther’s reload. The tall buildings behind him were the only viable cover.   … 6, 5, 4, …   But as she had correctly pointed out, they were still too far away. He wouldn’t make it.   … 3, 2, 1, …   He braced himself. Before anything else happened, he caught a glimpse of movement — something that looked very much like the Challenger rushed out into the street.   But Eject couldn’t react in any way — the telltale hiss announced the arrival of the artillery shell. Concrete and foliage burst under a singeing hot blast. The shot was a miss — the collateral damage however was enough. Eject felt the impact of something very heavy on his turret. He didn’t feel anything after that.  

***
 

If Rex hadn’t been so busy with the T34, he would have paid more attention to the team channel. Or, actually, it was the other way around. He was keeping his attention on the battle, because listening to the GW Panther’s spiel would only make him too furious to focus on anything else. He did however notice the concerning radio silence from Eject after the second explosion in his street. Even when Eohelm asked the T29 if he was alright, no response came. He couldn’t be …?   Rex hissed a low “Miststück…”, but knew that he couldn’t do anything about this. Even if he hadn’t had a T34 to take care of — he was neither anywhere near Eject, nor anywhere near the GW Panther.   The T34, on the other hand, was finally in reach. He had just reached the big junction below the central square. For a moment, he was completely without cover — an opportunity that Rex used to shoot the other tank’s track, if unsuccessfully — but then, the T34 seemed to have a sudden idea. He backed up, out of the junction. Instead of bouncing yet another shell off Rex’ armour, he turned his turret to the side. Rex watched with wide optics as the other heavy shot the buildings to the right. The fronts came toppling down immediately. Rubble rained down into the lane, completely blocking it off.   Rex sped up, drove up to the newly created blockade. His turret turned from side to side as he frantically looked for a spot that he could maybe climb over, but it was too massive. He couldn’t even see the other side.  No!” he yelled. “You fucker!!”   Even though it was pointless, he was about to shoot the big pile of debris. However, before he could do that, he noticed something in the corner of his field of view. He looked to the left — and saw the Challenger. She was sprinting through the big street below the central square, coming straight at him. Rex flinched and quickly turned to face her. Strangely enough, she didn’t even try to shoot him; instead, as she seemed to realize that he was about to make short work of her, she yelped and did a sharp turn to her right.   She disappeared behind a building corner. Rex squinted.  Isn’t that where Fox-’ he thought, but couldn’t finish the thought before it already got confirmed. He heard the Challenger scream, followed immediately by the crash of Fox’ cannon being fired at her. Rex turned back around because he didn’t expect her to survive that encounter — but just as he had finished turning back towards the rubble, the Challenger came into view again. Rex did a double take, just staring after her as she fled the other way, towards the rails.   Rex took aim at her, and almost hit Fox in the back as the King Tiger suddenly emerged from the lane as well. Luckily, he managed to turn his cannon aside in the last moment.   “Hey!” he complained. Fox only briefly glanced back at him.   “You done with T34?” he shouted and set himself into motion to follow the Challenger.   “Nah,” Rex shouted back. He hurried to catch up with his friend. “I’ll deal with him later.”   “Fair enough.”

 
***
 

Eohelm knew that he wouldn’t be able to keep this stalling tactic up forever. He was still driving erratically to deny the T-150 a clear shot, while shooting back at the heavy occasionally — he didn’t expect to hurt him, but there was always the hope for the miracle of a lucky hit. A shell that wedged itself into a viewport, or a track that snapped off. Nothing of the sort happened.   To be frank, things weren’t looking good. He wasn’t going to proclaim everything lost yet, but a pending victory looked different. There was still no response from Nordic — though the GW Panther’s words gave Eohelm a good idea of what had happened to him. Eject’s status was unknown, the T34 had escaped. The Indien-Panzer and GW Panther were still alive, the latter continuing to be a serious threat. The Challenger may have been running, but she was keeping two heavy tanks busy.   At least, Sky was catching up.   She was approaching the T-150 from behind, which should enable her to finally put an end to this chase. Eohelm caught a glimpse of her between the wagons. She was unfortunately suffering from the same problem that Eohelm had caused for the T-150; it was difficult for her as well to get a line of fire. On the other hand, the T-150 either didn’t notice her approaching, or didn’t care. He was still single-mindedly chasing his designated target.   Eohelm had almost reached the end of the train he was hurrying along, and with it, a relatively open space. He had seen this coming, of course, and had no intentions of making the T-150’s task a lot easier at once. The moment he passed the last wagon, he did as sharp a turn as he could manage. His side was turned to his enemy only for a moment, but it felt like an eternity. Giving the heavy such a big attack surface was a desperate gamble. Eohelm was hoping that he wouldn’t catch on quickly enough to take advantage of the opportunity … but the Centurion had to find out that he had miscalculated.   A shell struck the side of his turret.   Yelping from the sudden, sharp pain, Eohelm finished his turn nevertheless. He disappeared to the other side of the train and hastily checked if anything important had been hit. There was some negligible general damage where the shell had torn through the interior of his turret; judging by the location of the penetration and its trail of minor destruction, it had luckily narrowly missed the cannon breech. But then, Eohelm noticed something tumbling about — catching it with one of his internal arms, it turned out to be his radio. It was still dangling from some cables, but had been ripped from its mounting. As he tried to see if it was still working, all he got was static and distorted fragments of other sounds.   That was … bad in so many ways.   He tried to stuff it back into what was left of its mounting while hurrying on — to no avail. Not that he believed that this would have fixed it. A moment of racing thoughts later, he decided that Sky would have to be his radio now. He tried to spot her ahead of him, but couldn’t see her at the moment. Throwing an anxious look to the side next, he briefly saw the T-150 through the holes in the wagon next to him as he passed him by; the heavy’s cannon was pointed at Eohelm, but by the time he pulled the trigger, Eohelm had already left his line of fire.

 
***
 

Eohelm’s radio wasn’t the only broken one. Nordic’s frantic efforts to contact anyone had all failed — but after taking a hit directly into the back of his turret, that wasn’t surprising. He was simply in denial about this fact, unable to accept that his teammates wouldn’t suddenly appear and get him out of there, after all.   His turret was facing the street, his optics struggling to gaze through the dizzying blur that his vision had turned into. Maybe in a moment, a tank would appear. Maybe Eohelm, or … who else was there? Every thought took great effort and an increasing number of tries to finish. As his conscience was fading, so was his faith in a possible, miraculous rescue.   He shut his optics. In that darkness surrounding him, all that remained was noise — muffled. Distant shots, light rain. Leaves rustling in a gust of wind. Since his engine had failed already, he could also hear the sizzle of sparking connections and failing circuits. And among those noises … an approaching vehicle.   Nordic looked up. A tiny flame of hope lit up inside him. It was extinguished almost immediately as he recognized the Indien-Panzer. The medium spotted him, came to a halt. He pointed his cannon at Nordic, who didn’t bother with loading his own. But instead of putting an end to the Hellcat’s suffering, the Indien-Panzer slumped, looking at Nordic with sad optics.   “I’m so sorry, Nordic,” he said, his voice full of remorse. His cannon sank. “I never wanted things to end like this. All I wanted was a better future for everyone …” He went back to aiming at his teammate, his tone turning even more upset. “You could have been part of it …! Why did you have to betray —”   “Spare me …” Nordic interrupted him, slurring the words. The Indien-Panzer fell silent for a moment. He was about to reply something, but Nordic went on. “… the weltschmerz.”   The Indien-Panzer stared at him, flabbergasted. It took a few moments before he shook his cannon with a sigh.  Oh, Nordic … I’m going to miss you.”


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