TL: Chapter 7 - Falkendorf

“Is that it?” Arty asked. She pointed at the silhouettes of tall buildings that were becoming visible between the hills in the distance. The descending sun was illuminating them from behind, causing everyone to squint as they looked ahead.   “Indeed,” Fox said. “We’re almost there.”   They kept following the road and climbed another hill, after which the area became flatter. The scattered, destroyed buildings of Falkendorf’s outskirts revealed themselves to their sights. As Fox threw a brief side glance at the Sturmpanzer next to him, he couldn’t help but notice her tense posture. Her cannon was tucked firmly to her glacis, tracks stiff as she rolled along. To the King Tiger, these and similar surroundings were a familiar sight; but he realized that seeing the battle-torn town for the first time must have been intimidating. There wasn’t a single house here that had remained intact after decades of constant struggle. Every ruin and every strewn about wreck were a silent reminder of the countless battles fought and the countless lives lost here. Low tiers usually never saw these places from up close, for a good reason. It was understandable that they wouldn’t feel at ease entering such deadly territory.   But not only the low tiers seemed alarmed. Fox looked at Sky as she suddenly spoke up.   “Wait,” she said and halted.   Before anyone could ask her what was up, a shot crashed the brief silence. Everyone flinched and optics darted about in search of the shooter, but the sunlight’s inconvenient angle made it hard to see anything clearly.   “What the hell!” Sky and Fox shouted at the same time.   Another shot followed and hit Fox’ front plate. The tanks started to scatter, scrambling for cover. Fox saw a shadow zip past somewhere between the buildings. It had to be one of his team mates.   “Why are you attacking?!” he shouted at it. “It’s us!”   The response he got was another shell, hitting the side of his turret at a sharp angle, bouncing off luckily. He reached a building and took cover behind it. Throwing a quick look to his right, his optics met Rex’, who had taken cover behind a nearby building. The VK was about to say something when another shot whistled past him and hit the ground somewhere near Sky. She had hidden behind a wreck, which wasn’t big enough to cover all of her. Her agitated voice could be heard a moment later.   “Didn’t you say we’d be welcome? Because it doesn’t fucking look like it!” she shouted.   “This isn't supposed to happen!” Rex shouted back. “The town belongs to us!”   He had to duck away from another shot that had come from a completely different direction and missed his turret only barely. Backing up, he waited for his cannon to finish loading before he peeked out from his cover. A shell bounced off his sloped front. He fired at something that Fox couldn’t see, but didn’t seem to hit anything. Backing up again, the VK started barking into his radio.   “Whoever is shooting us right now needs to stop, goddammit!”   The shooting suddenly ceased. From their radios, the heavies heard a team mate’s voice.   «… Rex?»   “Yes! Who else?!” Rex replied.   Further down the road, a tank peeked out from between the buildings. Fox recognized the Hellcat at once. Nordic.   “It’s us! Stop shooting us!” Fox shouted.   The Hellcat tilted his turret.   “Rex? Fox? Hmm, you’ve changed,” he said.   Rex and Fox left their cover to approach their teammate.   “We are back from the clan wars. We’ve reached new tiers,” Fox explained. Nordic left his own cover completely. Behind him, the sound of tank engines started growing louder. He waved his cannon at the direction where the Tanking League was still hiding.   “But who’s those other people?” he asked.   Sky rolled out from behind her wreck. Arty and Awol dared to peek out from behind a building, while Noob curiously stared from beside a bush.   “We found them on our way back. They are lost and need to refuel,” Fox said.   He looked past Nordic as a T29 appeared on the road. A Centurion and a T-150 were following him. The T29 pushed a broken down car out of the way as he approached the newcomers. His expression was a deep frown — it seemed like Eject hadn’t changed at all while the heavies had been gone.   “What is the meaning of this?” he asked sternly as he reached Nordic’s side. His wary gaze wandered across the strangers that had lined up behind Fox and Rex now, standing there in an awkward line like new recruits at the physical examination.   Nordic turned his turret to look at Eject.   “Look what the cat’s dragged in!” he said with a cheerful cackle, obviously amused by the pun on his own vehicle type. After a moment, he went on, still amused. “They returned and brought us low tiers.”   Eject ignored the interjection and instead waited for his heavy teammates to answer.   “They are friends,” Rex said. “All they want is some fuel and a place to stay for the night.”   Eject seemed to consider this new information for a moment. He looked at the Centurion and the T-150, and they returned the look with shrugs.   “We’ll have to talk about this first,” he decided eventually. “They can wait outside until then.” The tanks who had come with him nodded.   Rex didn’t seem too thrilled about this announcement, but he didn’t say anything out loud. He was normally a mistrustful tank, but it seemed like in the short while they had travelled together now, the Tanking League had already grown on him. Fox didn’t really feel a similar personal connection to them, but he had promised them help and he intended to keep his word.   “Go, we’ll wait,” Sky said. Rex hesitated for a moment, but then nodded. He and Fox followed their teammates as they returned into the town. Only Nordic stayed behind for a bit longer to tell the Tanking League where to wait while the Falkendorf team would discuss their possible stay.  

***
 

Inside the town, Fox and Eject were driving next to each other as they followed the road that led up the big hill near the town’s centre — the place where meetings were usually held. Rex was following behind them, as the road was too narrow for three tanks. The Centurion and the T-150 were driving along after the VK. None of them were particularly fast at scaling steep inclines, so the climb offered enough time for a full report of what Fox and Rex had been up to. The King Tiger had taken it upon himself to tell Eject about the most important and noteworthy events during their absence.   “… didn’t go too bad, overall,” Fox mused.   “You out-tier a lot of our members now,” Eject said with a pensive nod.   “You’d think we’d get some respect now, …” Fox replied, in a pensive tone as well.   “… but you’ve been part of this team for long enough to know better.”   Fox gave a defeated huff. Catching their envy was much easier, indeed.   “We’ll see in a few minutes, I guess,” he said.   “It’s the same as last time,” Eject said.   That caused Fox to roll his cannon.   “Unhappy that we left?” he said. “I wonder when they’ll realize that more fighting experience is better for everyone.”   Eject hummed a knowing “Mh-hm”.   “Anyway, that’s all I have to report,” Fox concluded.   Eject nodded, and they drove on in silence for a while before he spoke again.   “So, where is Pepper?” he asked. “He didn’t get himself destroyed, did he?”   “Oh no, not at all. Quite the opposite,” Fox replied in a casual tone. “He said he wanted to stay for longer, that's why he didn’t return with us.” He shrugged. “Said he was so close to being able to afford that one tier 10 cannon. He’s really keen on it, but it’s expensive as hell.”   “Is it a particularly powerful one?”   “… It’s got a stabiliser.”   Eject’s reply was a flat “… Ah.”   “You should have seen how he detonated when his clan lost their last battle,” Fox went on, “because he messed up a vital shot. People were afraid to talk to him for a while.”   Eject nodded.   “Why waste your time on practising your aim when you can waste your money on a miracle cure, right?” he sighed.   “Gets ‘em every time.”   “Who’s going to tell him?”   “Not me.”

 
***
 

Most of the other tanks were already there as they finally reached the top of the hill. Some of the tanks were talking to each other to pass the time while they were waiting for everyone to arrive. Eject overheard some chit-chat as he joined the crowd, but the majority of his teammates were silent, which made him suspect that the actually relevant things were said in private.   As the last tank arrived, the team formed a loose circle. Before someone could even formally open the meeting however, a T34 raised his voice. He sounded upset and made no secret of it.   “No way they can come!” he said. “We need all our fuel, we can't just give it to strangers.”   There were a few acknowledging nods in the crowd. Eject looked at the others thoughtfully, but didn’t say anything just yet. He hadn’t made up his mind yet and would listen to what the others had to say first. Fox spoke up next.   “They are low tiers. Most of them, anyway. They won’t need a lot, and they might die before they can find another team that offers them fuel,” the King Tiger said firmly. It seemed to make some of the present tanks rethink their view on the matter, but the general opinion still seemed to be a rather negative, distrustful one.   “If we give them fuel, why don’t we just go and open a fuel station? If we give to one team, the next step is giving to every team," a voice threw in. Eject didn’t have to look into the direction of the speaker to know whom it belonged to. Only one of their teammates spoke in such a conceited tone at all times — the GW Panther. Eject looked at her after all, and her turret was turning ever so slightly as she checked the reactions her words had caused. Some of her teammates indeed seemed to agree to her, and no one pointed out the obvious fallacy, so Eject felt compelled to do it.   “That’s ridiculous,” he rumbled.   An AMX 13-75 in bright camo colours spoke up as well, defending the GW Panther he was standing next to.   “She’s right, though! What's so special about these tanks that makes us obliged to feed them? They’re just a team, like every other team.” His tone grew snotty as he went on. “Just because you travelled with them for a bit and found them cute doesn’t mean that the rest of us does.”   Next to Eject, Rex’ engine started growling. He must have taken offence by having such disrespectful behaviour directed at him and his friend.   “Listen here, pal …” he hissed.   The AMX 13-75 revved his engine as well, but the resulting noise wasn’t nearly as powerful as that of the VK’s engine. The two tanks glared at each other, while Eject felt the mood of the whole team tilt towards a much more aggressive one. The T29 felt himself grow tenser as well. He didn’t like to admit it, because by all means it shouldn’t be that way, but lately he always half-expected shells to start flying whenever the team started disagreeing on something. Their habit to think of themselves as a functional team despite this fact only attested further to their hubris.   “It’s no use to give fuel to outcasts who will most likely die soon anyway,” another SPG — a M40 — said, his voice bare of all emotion as he did.   A very uncomfortable looking Indien-Panzer decided to add his opinion directly afterwards.   “Wouldn’t you want the same to be done for you if you were starving? What if you guys got lost and couldn’t conquer a base? You would hope that someone would share with you too, wouldn’t you?” he said. He immediately ducked as he was given some very dark looks. Eject made sure to look at each teammate individually, gauging their expressions. While the GW Panther and the AMX 13-75 were outright glaring at the Indien-Panzer, the T34 and the T-150 weren’t looking much happier either. The tank destroyers had their cannons averted — either they didn’t want to get involved, or they felt their conscience acting up.   No one said anything at first, but then the T34 made his stance on the matter even clearer.   “Bullshit!” he burst out. “It’s every tank for himself! You seriously believe that anyone would have such mercy?”   That seemed to be a sort of sign for the others, who immediately started talking over each other.   “I don’t know, maybe they can give us something in return?” the Challenger said.   “Don’t make me laugh!” the T34 barked.   “They didn’t earn it!” the AMX 13-75 shouted. “I refuse to give some random strangers anything!”   “It’s just my opinion, you know?” the Challenger defended herself, shouting as well.   “I risk my turret every battle for —” the AMX 13-75 went on, but the GW Panther was even louder.   “It’s unacceptable!”   “If this was the East, something like that wouldn’t even be up for discussion …! Ridiculous …” the T-150 rumbled. It would have been swallowed by the noise if Eject hadn’t been standing close to him.   Only the Centurion tried to contain the increasingly heated argument, if unsuccessfully.   “Please calm down, everyone! I’m sure that we can find a solution that everyone —”   It was impossible to hear the rest of his plea among the other voices.   Eject noticed that Fox and Rex weren’t participating in the discussion at all. They were looking at each other, most likely having their own conversation. But then, it seemed like Fox had found a resolution. He drove forward, which got him the attention of some of his teammates. The ones who didn’t notice and kept shouting at each other eventually fell silent as well, as their comrades had started looking at the King Tiger quietly instead of responding. The expectant silence stretched on for a couple of seconds, until Fox finally said what he wanted to say.   “I want to see even one of you step forward and say that you would want to be responsible for the death of four lost tanks —” he began, but the GW Panther interrupted him.   “Are we really going to do what this —” she said scornfully, but got interrupted as well.   “Let him speak!” Rex snapped.   A few of the other tanks nodded. The GW Panther raised her cannon defiantly, but did as she was told. Fox waited for another moment before he went on.   “… four lost tanks, who meant no harm to us but only asked for a little favour that would help them survive,” he said slowly. This time, the other tanks let him finish. “Don't you think that they would return the hospitality? Does comradeship mean nothing at all anymore?”   He threw a look around, but no one said anything. As the silence prevailed, he added, “They are not the enemy.”   Even if he couldn’t decide for the team, Eject had nevertheless made a decision for himself.   “The King Tiger is right,” he said. “I agree with him. Who else agrees?"   Some cannon barrels rose. Not many, but no one protested. Therefore, the matter was decided. The meeting was over.   The tanks left the hill to continue their previous activities, except for some — specifically, the GW Panther and the AMX 13-75. Eject was about to turn around when he caught the SPG shooting him the darkest glare. He just frowned and didn’t hold the gaze, instead turning to Rex and Fox like he had been planning to do.   “You must be hungry,” the T29 said to them. “Go refuel, I’ll go and get them.”   “You don’t have to,” Rex replied. “We can take care of it and refuel afterwards.”   “A couple more minutes won’t kill us,” Fox agreed.   “I want to have a word with them,” Eject explained. The other heavies looked at him with their cannons tilted for a moment, but then Fox shrugged.   “Fine,” he said. He nodded at Rex and turned to leave. The VK and Eject followed him to the foot of the hill, where Eject took a different street than his two teammates.


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