Red Squad

Copyright Lisa Brandel © 2008

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

Egan sat in his Mech tapping his targeting sensor with his gloved finger. His jaws clenched and released as his finger tapped repeatedly. What he was seeing could not be right, nothing not one thing on targeting, neither friend nor foe. If there was no malfunction to his equipment, then not only were they gone but so was his entire force. He closed his eyes.

Only hours ago his squad was called to the front to secure the lines. To hold them off to give their women and children time to escape base five, and as he closed his eyes, he could see that morning perfectly. Torres had been humming that damned dance tune from the night before. McClellan, with his precision, was polishing his helmet so that you could see his face reflected in its red surface. Fido, the oldest of them, was standing in front of his locker clutching his child's drawing, and though no one else had seen it, Egan could remember seeing him weep.

Now, Egan was sitting alone on the battlefield with nothing on his scanner, tapping ruthlessly on a device that only told the truth.

He pressed a few buttons and his Mech opened. He descended to the ground, pulled off his helmet and tossed it to the side. Cold wind stung his face and started to freeze his sweat soaked hair. A cacophony of smells assaulted his nose: burning fuel, hydro fluid, blood, and searing flesh. It punched him hard dropping him to his knees and making him vomit. A primal scream erupted from his throat as it cleared of sick. Around him, carnage had already drawn carrion eating animals.

Twisted metal limbs interlaced with the soft flesh of his friends, dripping mechanical fluids while blood congealed and flowed. The savage landscape strewn with piles, for as far as he could see was relentlessly pounding in his mind.

I'm done, Egan thought, No more of this, no more of me, no more killing. He drew his knife from his boot and looked at it longingly. If fate would not allow him to die with his squad, then he would take fate into his own hands. My blood with your blood, my comrades. The gleam of the knife blinded his tear-flooded eyes, as he readied himself to strike wildly at his own flesh. His vomit slick gloves, and his grief-ravaged muscles, however would not let his mind win the need for death. His uniform deflected Egan's first strike easily, leaving only a small slice in its fabric. Before Egan could make another pass, his weapon slipped from his grip and fell into the vomit mixed mud.

As he started to reach for the blade, his helmet came to life with the familiar click of the radio. Egan immediately abandoned his knife and scrambled for his helmet. It was covered by a piece of paper debris, but he found it and returned the call. "Come in.," he said out of breath, his heart pounding.

"Red squad 13, report….Enemy line held…last evac ship ready for take off…"

Egan could barely hear the static muffled voice, but to him it may as well have been an angel. They had held the line, the women and children were safe. He pealed the paper from his helmet and opened his mouth to speak, when he realized what the debris was, Fido's child's drawing. A simple home with a happy sun, and crude handwriting: I love you From Maggie.
A moment passed before he spoke, not to the radio, but to the child who, thanks to her father's sacrifice on this day, might live to see this home and happy sun. "Don't worry, Maggie, I am still here to protect you…" In Egan's next breath he called for his own evacuation, the line had been held, and though the price was high, it would have been higher if not for the blood of his squad.