“Over the top soldiers! What do you think this is a mothers meeting!” The voice of a commanding solider barked pulling Jack out of his trance. He faced the glare of Major Garcia.
“Major. Can’t you see fighting these things with just rifles is suicide?” He asked.
“Tell that to the second gunnery when you see them all in hell. Every day is an opportunity to earn victory soldier. Didn’t I teach you that last time…”
From behind the front lime came a piercing fire of auto rifle. Jack cowered back to see a much more senior soldier look down at them all.
“All of you move in to battle now. You heard the order, go! Or face my bullets. That is an order!”
Major Garcia gave Jack a defeated look and then began to climb the trench.
“This is damn suicide,” Jack said.
“Sometimes that’s all war is,” Garcia added and moved out onto the battle field. Jack gripped the nearest ladder and hauled himself up.
“On your six Jack…” Franco followed his best friend into damnation.
“Come on, we’ve gotta to draw those things away from the front line…” Jack commanded alongside Franco.
“And then what?”
“We’ll think about that when we get there.” Thorn added.
He and Franco charged into battle and caught up with the Major. She stumbled back at the moment a barrage of bright bullets lit up her path. The soldiers in front were blown into vapour. Jack tackled her into a nearby crater and down they went. He didn’t look back to see if his comrade had followed.
“What are you doing Thorn?” She asked giddily.
“Saving your ass Major. We can’t fight these things one on one. They are too damn big, and their guns are two damn lethal,” he said and pushed the Major down.
Just over their covering crater the Shiftmaster stood. The red neon strip panned horizontally toward movement. Then it began to raise a forked arm toward Thorn.
“Take cover,” he shouted.
THUD. THUD. THUD.
Everything drowned away to white noise. Smoke filled the crater and the next thing Jack saw was the face of his best friend along with Connolly and Nicks.
“…either die from friendly fire or in battle,” Connolly shouted with Jack’s hearing coming back.
“Now take this you walking stack of tin!” Connolly angled up and fired his auto rifle.
“What are we aiming at. The whole thing is just metal,” Franco joined him and they both dropped down when more fire came over head.
“The only weakness of that thing seems to be the computer in it’s head,” Nicks said. She unstrapped her ruck sack and offered Major Garcia a bandage for her cut arm.
“The head is wrapped up tight in armour,” Connolly shouted over more fire. He peered up toward the nearby threat. From across the battlefield came a roar of screams.
“Damn that’s brutal.” Connolly and Franco watched the other Shiftmaster step down into a crater presumably full of soldiers.
In all the time this happened Jack sat there working things out. They needed to draw the Shiftmaster away without getting killed. The computer sitting in its thirty-foot-high head had been lashed in armour.
“Blunt force. What about an explosion?” Jack asked. He looked to Nicks.
“How do we get an explosion up there?” She asked.
“You got any gren…”
“Great minds huh?” From her rucksack she offered him two ball shaped grenades.
“Pull the ring and wait til the right time? Then throw but maybe lose an arm?” Franco said taking a grenade.
It wouldn’t be that simple. Too many maybes, if’s and buts. They would need to guarantee the explosion happened at Shiftmaster head height.
“That’s great thinking of a plan and all but the threat is very much knocking on the door,” Connolly said.
“I got it,” Jack said. He took the two grenades.
“You got any string or rope?” He asked to Nicks. She rifled through the rucksack and pulled a reel of fuse wire.
“It will have to do,” Jack said. He reeled off a length and Nicks moved in to cut it with a knife. Then he got to work looping the wire around a grenade and then through the pull ring.
“It’s here!” Franco shouted and they all looked up to see the large metal foot.
“Get it to turn away,” Jack ordered and already Connolly was moving.
“Come on Franco. We’re bullet fodder,” he dragged Franco up and they fired whilst clambering out of their crater.
Pneumatic whining droned down to Thorn. He briefly looked up to see the Shiftmaster turn to follow Connolly and Franco. Then the huge gun-mounted arm did the same.
“Get down!” Nicks shouted. She then took the first wired grenade whilst Jack used the same length of wire to loop in the second grenade.
“Over here bitch face!” Franco shouted with a whining fear in his voice. He erratically turned and fired.
The booming response replied instantly. Connolly had already dived into another crater and Franco somehow evaded the threat.
“Woo!” He shouted.
“Okay it’s done,” Jack said perhaps a little too loudly.
The Shiftmaster began to turn back their way.
“Shit,” Nicks said taking a step back. They had nowhere to go. The huge arm began to swing their way.
“Hey. Over here!”
Jack and Nicks looked to Major Garcia. She had slipped away and stood in the complete opposite direction. The neon strip had already turned to her.
“Do it Thorn! Take it down!” Garcia barked.
Jack stumbled out onto the muddy battlefield armed only with two grenades tethered to each other by fuse wire. He took one deep breath and swung them once around his head. Then he released. In slow motion his make shift slingshot grenade mock up careened forward. Almost instantly it darted to head height of the metal giant and clanged around it’s wide head.
“Get down Garcia. No!” Franco shouted from his crater.
In slow motion Jack watched the grenades wrap around the wide head before pulling the fuse wire tight. The looped rings popped out.
Bright large calibre bullets lit up the battlefield and coursed to Major Garcia. There were no craters for cover, and she stood in the line of fire.
“No!” Jack shouted and looked away. He closed both eyes for a moment and missed the booming roar from above.
A cheer of approval echoed from behind. The Shiftmasters head now resembled a smoking heap of metal and wires.
Jack had already broke into a sprint along with Nicks. They burst through bullet smoke and got to the Major. In the background came the sound of metal clanging to the ground. The Shiftmaster sunk along with Thorn’s heart as he dropped to Garcia.
“I guess, this is, how I would have, wanted it…” she said. Jack pulled her in close.
“Ah man. This is a mess,” Nicks said and had already got to work with trying to patch up the huge gaping holes flowing with red.
“Leave it, medic, you know, what comes next,” Garcia added with a deathly gurgle.
“Let her work Major,” Jack said. He saw her red stained teeth as she smiled.
“Stubborn, even in, the face of, death. Just like, Clark… yeah, I knew, your old man. I put in, that good work for ya, to the Sarge, also.”
“I know you did Major and thank you.” He knew this was it. She was going any second now and so he did the only thing he could, he took her hand.
“Don’t, you thank, me kid. This, deal, it’s your destiny. My advice…” The Major began to shake.
“Trust, your damn destiny kid.” And she took her final breath before both of her now watery eyes glazed over.
Another booming explosion roared from across the battlefield. Jack and Nicks looked to see the other Shiftmaster looming.
“We need to find cover,” Nicks said.
Jack gripped the body of Major Garcia and began to drag her back.
“What are you doing?” Nicks asked. Franco and Connolly passed her and helped Jack.
“I’m honouring the dead,” Jack barked.
The three of them hauled Major Garcia to their previous crater hiding spot.
“There are too many that will never get home. Even if they aren’t for this life anymore,” Jack said. They lowered her into cover.
“He’s right man,” Franco said and handed Jack his auto rifle.
“Take cover!” An incoming soldier roared. She led a small group to the crater just as the second Shiftmaster opened fire.
“How did you take the first one down?” She asked revealing a blood-soaked stomach.
“Let me take a look at that,” Nicks said and got to work.
“We need grenades,” Jack said to her.
“Thompson. You got any bangers left?” This commanding woman asked and winced as Nicks patched her up.
“Down to my last two,” a soldier called Thompson unclipped two grenades from his armour.
He handed them to Jack who already got to work with fuse wire.
“You want me to throw this time?” Franco asked.
“No. Just hold that thing back,” Jack said.
The second Shiftmaster stepped closer. They could all hear the hydraulic whine as it’s gun mounted forked arm began to move.
“Get down soldiers. Jesus we would have more room if this stiff wasn’t in the way,” the commanding woman said.
“This stiff was one of ours, so she stays,” Thorn said through gritted teeth. He finished looping the grenades and got ready.
“I’m gonna need some covering fire,” he ordered and shuffled back.
“That’s us Connolly.” This time Franco pulled Connolly out of the crater and soldier Thompson followed.
They side stepped whilst firing. Nicks dropped down and grabbed Jack’s rifle. With the woman she just patched up they began to fire
The Shiftmaster followed Franco’s group but the gun pointed towards the crater. Jack swung the grenades twice and released.
“This if for the Major!”
THUD.THUD. THUD.THUD. THUD
Mud and smoke kicked up all around them. Jack cowered back and went down with Nicks following. Everyone else in the crater laid low.
“Keep firing!” Connolly commanded from nearby, but it was too smoky to see.
Then came the popping explosion. Through smoke clouds Jack looked up to a brightness. Next, they all heard the clanging of metal falling to the mud. The huge arm mounted gun flopped beside the crater with a breeze that cleared the view.
Another cheering roar sounded all around. Jack stood in the midst of action, his mind shaken and body out of breath. They had downed the second Shiftmaster.
“Return to the line soldiers. Wounded are a priority!” The trench speaker system announced echoing out to them.
“Good work soldiers!” The commanding woman said and climbed out with others.
Jack stood reactionless looking at Major Garcia’s body.
“Come on. We can’t leave her here,” he said and with Nicks began to lift the body when both Connolly and Franco joined them.
Together they hoisted and carried the Major’s body out of the crater. Nearby soldiers looked on, some with puzzlement while others stood with defiance. That day they had all felt the true meaning of loss in conflict. Something which would unite them and create a bond only man and woman could find in fighting together. Major Garcia meant something to Thorn’s past and he would make sure her name was honoured.