The Leichttraktor had seen one thing coming for a while — that he would wake up alone one day.
He wasn’t a very strong tank. He was stuck in a low tier body. Not that he was unskilled, but the fact that he refused to upgrade had caused his teammates to advance to stronger tiers while he was still his good old factory-fresh self. He was simply comfortable with his model, much more comfortable than he could imagine being in any other body. Unfortunately, no one understood this. They had told him many times to finally upgrade, and things had escalated a little when they had eventually tried to force him. They had been fed up with him, and he had been fed up with them, and now they were gone.
But who needed those elitist idiots anyway?
He would find someone else, a new team. He was following a set of track marks right now, so it could only be a question of time until he found someone. He wasn’t going at full speed to avoid running into any ambushes and to conserve fuel, but the fact that there was no one anywhere had made him a little less cautious as the hours had passed. He had no idea where he was anymore, all he knew was that he was following a seemingly endless road towards the mountains.
The travel was excruciatingly boring, the rhythmic clacking of the Leichttraktor’s tracks on the asphalt terribly lulling. He was having a hard time not just nodding off while driving. As he became aware of this, he realized that it was time for a break if he didn’t want to sleep-drive into an enemy team. He halted abruptly, and as it turned out a mere second later, this sudden action saved his life.
The ground at the very spot he would have reached had he driven on suddenly exploded. Wide awake and fully attentive again at once, the Leichttraktor stared at the crater in front of him. It took him a couple of moments to process what had happened, but then he acted immediately.
His turret swung around in search of an attacker, but he couldn’t see anyone. Quickly, he accelerated backwards in hope of evading the next shot that surely was about to follow. The strength of that explosion … that must have been an incredibly powerful cannon! His engine was thrumming with fear. There was no way he could defeat a high tier tank! Anxiously, he kept accelerating until he reached one of the bushes that were lining the road, and drove behind it quickly.
‘I’m so dead …!’ he thought as he cowered behind the bush, frantically trying to come up with something to do. He had no doubt that whoever had attacked him would now come for him and finish what they had started. However, he neither heard the sound of tracks, nor did another shot follow. How strange. Had his attacker lost interest because he was just a little Leichttraktor, barely worth the shells that a tank of a higher tier could shoot at him? As he stopped panicking, he picked up another sound, however. There was something that sounded like rattling, but not the kind of rattling sound that tank tracks would produce.
‘What in the world …?’
The Leichttraktor tilted his turret as he listened closely. The sound wasn’t coming from very far away, so whatever was causing it had to be pretty close. Now full of curiosity, he tentatively inched out of his cover a little to get a look and hopefully spot what had fired at him this time. He could have sworn that he saw something move behind another bush further down the road. But then there was a scream, and a second detonation right in front of the Leichttraktor’s bush let dirt fly around his turret.
He cursed and quickly reversed back into his hiding place.
That shot hadn’t been fired with the intention to kill. Or if it had been, its shooter must have been clumsy enough to mess it up.
Maybe the other guy was just as scared as he was? There was only one way to find out.
‘Oh dear. Oh boy. This is the end.
That tank behind that bush over there … must have been a heavy tank at least. The Wespe’s sights were fixed on the bush down the road. He could see the other tank sit behind it, but he was shaking too much on his suspension to aim properly. His cannon was reloading as well, which made matters only worse, especially as the enemy tank poked out from its cover again. It was for sure that it had realized what it was dealing with — a defenceless low tier artillery — and would go take care of the annoyance now. The Wespe was as good as dead. He should have never run away from his team. But if he had stayed …
It was raining fire. The Wespe backed up, and backed up, but found himself with his back against a cliff as the enemy tanks closed in. Their T28 Prototype intercepted, stalling the advance as he fired a round at the spearhead of the enemy attack, destroying the medium with one shot. The Wespe tried to focus on his sights as he aimed for the moving enemies, but his barrel shook too bad. The T28 Prototype was suddenly in flames; two others took his place but were dying fast under the onslaught of enemy forces. There was a distressed comm from his sister, a Pershing, but the Wespe could barely make out any of the words as an enemy Luchs broke through, sprinting towards the Wespe's position. The allied M44 right next to him died under a hail of bullets, and that was when the Wespe's tracks gained a life of their own. He turned around as fast as he could and sped down the nearest hill, the Luchs pursuing but not getting a clear shot yet. Shells whistled left and right of the Wespe's armour, some of them hitting their target, but not slowing him down in the least.
He drove as fast and as far as he could and didn't look back.
… he would have died as well. The Wespe trembled even more as he allowed the bad memories to return and distract him for a moment. Did he really survive that slaughter just to die to a single enemy now? He shook his cannon and quickly focused on said enemy again. He couldn’t see it clearly at all, so he himself rolled out from his own bush a bit as well to take a direct look. The other tank was still peeking out of its cover. The little gun barrel on the rear-mounted turret was turning hastily from side to side, still looking for the source of the fire. It was … just a Leichttraktor. The Wespe blinked. He felt bad killing such a low tier tank, so he decided on a different tactic.
“Go away!” he shouted. The Leichttraktor’s turret turned towards him at once, and the Wespe quickly disappeared behind his bush again. While the SPG could have killed it easily, the Leichttraktor’s cannon still wasn’t harmless to him should it decide to use it. As soon as he was hidden again, the Wespe quickly checked his artillery sights again. The Leichttraktor had started moving indeed, but … towards him. Before he could even think of what to do about this, the light tank already popped up next to him with a cheerful “Hey!”.
The Wespe yelped and stared at the other tank. The Leichttraktor grinned at him.
“What, are you scared of that gun?” he said.
“Wh- what?” the Wespe replied, too shocked to think of something wittier at the moment. It took a moment until he figured out that the stranger wasn’t about to kill him. He went on warily. “Who are you?”
“They call me Noob. You?” the Leichttraktor replied cheerfully. Apparently he too was happy to run into someone who wasn’t trying to kill him.
“I'm …” the Wespe began to say, but he fell silent and dropped his gaze. He could have told the stranger his real name, but he felt that something else was better suited for him now. He still didn’t look at the other tank, but went on after all. “… Awol.”
“Nice to meet you, Awol!” Noob said, seemingly not affected by the Wespe’s gloomy voice and behaviour at all. He went on immediately, in the same cheerful tone. “Why are you travelling alone? Isn't that dangerous for artillery? Where's your team?”
Awol was a bit overwhelmed by the barrage of questions, and on top of that the shame from his desertion was still too fresh to tell the story.
“I don't want to talk about it …” he said quietly. He threw another sheepish look at the Leichttraktor, who was rocking back and forth on his tracks, obviously enjoying the conversation despite the SPG’s hesitant participation. Noob seemed almost impatient, as if he had places to be. If he wasn’t as lost as Awol was, maybe this was the Wespe’s only chance at not dying alone after all. Awol’s voice gained a hint of hopefulness as he went on. “Where are you going? Can I come with you, maybe?”
The reply he got was a hearty laugh, and the Leichttraktor drove a little circle around him.
“Of course you can! We're going to … uhm … a cool place.”