TL: Chapter 8 - Shelter

The Tanking League was waiting just outside the town, near the train tracks that led out of it. The spot was where they had been left behind by the Falkendorf Team’s Hellcat. They sat in a little circle, except for Arty, who had nodded off in the meantime. What kept the others awake was mostly hunger. At least Noob suspected that, based on his own experience at the moment. The mood was gloomy, way too gloomy for the Leichttraktor. He looked at Awol with a little, sympathetic frown. The Wespe’s cannon hung low with worry.   “I don’t think they'll let us in,” Awol said. “They’re probably just waiting until we go away on our own.”   Sky was giving him a concerned look as well. She was about to say something, but Noob beat her to it.   “Nah, I think they will,” he said with utter conviction. “You worry too much!”   What he failed to mention was that he himself wasn’t quite sure, but he didn’t want to bring the rest of the team down even more. Awol didn’t say anything else, and neither did Sky. They just looked at the ground. Noob’s optics darted from one tank to the other for a moment as he was trying to think of more uplifting things to say, but not even he could find anything positive about their situation. He sighed and started pushing around small stones with his tracks. It was a pointless thing to do, but still better than just sitting around and doing nothing.   Suddenly, Sky looked up. She traversed her turret around, gazing at the street that lead to the tracks. Noob looked into the same direction, but couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Sky nudged Arty, who woke up and looked around in confusion. It took a few more moments until an engine could be heard. A heavy tank appeared in view. Noob had no idea what model it was, but he recognized the tank from earlier. The tank was driving down the street and followed the rails until he reached the Tanking League.   Noob had a sinking feeling in his fuel tank. They would find out now what their fate was.   Eject halted and gave the four tanks a pensive look.   “You're allowed to stay for now,” he said eventually. Noob slumped with relief, and so did his teammates.   “Come with me, I’ll show you where you can refuel and where the garages are,” Eject went on. The others nodded quickly and followed him as he turned around and started driving back towards the town. As they were following the train tracks, he looked over his fender. Noob thought he was just making sure that no one was getting lost, but then the heavy said “Pershing” and nodded to his side. Sky drove up to him. Noob watched them drive next to each other in silence for a moment, then Eject spoke again.   “What’s your name?” he asked.   “I’m called Sky,” Sky replied after a moment of hesitation.   “My name is Eject,” the heavy said. “I’m the one you can seek out if you need anything.”   “Gotcha.”   Eject’s engine rumbled thoughtfully.   “Not everyone’s happy with the decision. Try to keep a low profile,” he said.   Sky nodded. Both tanks remained silent for the rest of the drive.  

***
 

The lamps inside Eject’s open garage slot provided just enough light for the tanks that were standing in a little circle before it. Other adjacent garages were illuminated as well, but other than some wary looks being thrown at them, no one had paid any attention to the visitors. Only one tank had approached them — the Centurion that had also been present when they had been received outside the town. The first impression they had gotten of him was loud music coming from his radio, but after being yelled at by some of his teammates for it, he had turned it off. Now he was sitting next to Rex and Fox, who had also joined the gathering.   He had introduced himself as Eohelm, and like Eject had suspected, he had started telling the newcomers his many stories almost immediately afterwards. Eject however was only half-listening. He already knew the stories, and even if he hadn't known them before meeting Eohelm, he would be tired of hearing them all the same by now. His teammate never passed on an opportunity to talk about past battles, be it historical ones or those that their team had fought. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing that he reviewed the battles that thoroughly, over and over. He was the strategist of the team after all, and the insights he gained were only beneficial to the team. Most of his teammates just wished that he would gain them in silence.   It took a long time, but eventually, he was apparently done talking. He gave the crowd curious looks. Eject already knew what his question was going to be. Besides telling stories, Eohelm also loved to listen to them. Especially if they involved fighting, which tank stories almost always did.   “So, what about you? What’s your stories?” he asked. “I mean, you’re quite an unusual bunch. I'm sure all of you have got a little tale to tell."   It was obvious that no one wanted to start talking, so Eohelm decided to give them a verbal nudge.   “What about you, Wespe?” he asked Awol, who immediately turned his gun to the side in startled embarrassment. Eject raised an optic ridge. The SPG started fumbling for words, but Sky spoke instead of him.   “We’re looking for a new home,” she said plainly. There was a short moment of silence as everyone apparently expected to hear more, but nothing of the sort happened.   “That’s all?” Eohelm asked eventually, speaking everyone's mind.   Sky nodded sternly.   “That’s all.”   Now Eject was somewhat curious about what had happened. He felt that he wouldn’t find out however, even if he would ask about it further.   Eohelm didn’t seem too puzzled and just went on.   “And our other artillery?” he asked, looking at the Sturmpanzer instead now. She didn’t answer immediately and raised her cannon barrel a little, as if she was mentally preparing herself for what she was about to say. Eject got bored of it and let his gaze wander, but did a double take when she finally replied.   “I … killed a teammate.”   The present tanks stared at her. Eject’s optics wandered to Rex and Fox. Fox returned the look, but it was hard to tell if he looked so shocked because he had just found out what he had dragged into the town, or if it was because the truth was out. Eject sent him and Rex a nonverbal message.  You didn’t mention that,” he said.  We didn’t know!” Rex replied immediately. Eject decided to believe them for now and looked at Eohelm next, who had fallen silent. As the Centurion didn’t say anything and no one else did either, Eject turned to Sky.   “You allowed a teamkiller into your team?” he asked in a neutral voice.   Sky seemed just as baffled as everyone else, and Eject caught Arty throwing a pleading look at the Pershing. It took a moment longer until Sky replied.   “She didn’t mean to do it,” she said quickly.   Arty nodded frantically.   “It was an … an accident!” she added.   Eject felt skeptical about that excuse. It sounded exactly like something a teamkiller who had just been found out would say. The Sturmpanzer threw imploring looks at everyone. Eject received a message from Eohelm a moment later.  Well, she admitted it at least …  The Centurion shrugged as Eject looked at him for a moment. Admitting it was indeed a strange thing to do. She could have just not said anything about it, and they would have never guessed it.  So, do we kick her out, or …?” Fox asked.   “An accident,” Eject said out loud. Arty seemed to shrink, nodding again meekly.   “I’ve seen a couple of such cases,” Eohelm added.   Eject was surprised that his teammate was siding with the teamkiller, but then again he had always been too kind for his own good.   “It happens to the most loyal of tanks,” Eohelm said.   “You wouldn’t do it again, right?” Rex asked Arty.   “Of course not!” Arty replied. Quietly but with conviction she added, “Never …”   “It’s okay!” Noob chimed in. Most optics were directed at him next. “It’s okay,” he repeated as soon as he had everyone’s attention. “I’m worse! I slaughtered my whole team!”   Their jaws would have dropped if they had any.   Eject recovered sooner than the others. He rolled his cannon at the badly timed joke, but he guessed that the Leichttraktor was just trying to take the negative attention off Arty.   “Quite messy, I tell ya,” Noob went on, his tone serious. He probably expected someone to start laughing, because his optics darted about for a moment, while he seemed to get increasingly uncomfortable.   “I’m kidding!” he eventually chirped with an awkward laugh. “They left me behind …”   “I wonder why,” Eject said deadpan.   Noob pouted.   “It’s because they thought I suck!” he said. “But it’s not true, I can be good if I want …!”   Eject was still unimpressed.   “Sure.”   “I can show you!” Noob said, wiggling on his tracks. “I can shoot a leaf from a hundred meters away!”   Eohelm quickly stepped in.   “That’s actually not a bad idea,” he said.   The others looked at him with tilted cannons. He elaborated.   “While you’re here, we could train with you a little,” he said to the Tanking League. “I mean, a little practice never hurts, right?”   Rex started chuckling.   “Yes, we could use some target practice,” he said.   Fox nudged his friend chidingly, but there was a small grin on his features as well.   “I’d be up for that,” Sky said, ignoring the teasing. “When do we start?”   Eohelm angled his turret in thought.   “Tomorrow sounds like a good time,” he said, threw a quick look at his teammates to confirm their approval. “You won’t have to leave right away, I think, so we can squeeze in some training.”   “You’re on guard duty tomorrow,” Eject reminded him.   Eohelm sighed wistfully.   “You’re right.” He turned to the Tanking League again. “You’ll have to do it without me, I guess.” He fell silent for a moment, apparently having another thought. “I should probably get some sleep, then.”   He bowed his cannon and turned to leave.   “Good night, everyone!” he said, waving at the others. They wished him a good night as well.


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