JOTUN (56.2)

This scene contains violence.


All around him the plan was unraveling. But Badir would not blame himself.

His troops probably thought him insane at this point.

He thought he had never been so clear on what had to be done.

He could not pause to think about what was happening and why; it was a shock of such great magnitude that it simply couldn’t register. It made no sense to him that he had lost so many troops and matériel, that under his leadership Lion could sink so quickly against a cornered enemy. He blamed everyone but himself, and he focused on killing this one tank. Then he would double back and destroy that enemy column invading his headquarters. After that he would gather whatever he could and go on the offensive toward Council.

That was a Badir the Lionheart style plan. Kill the enemy, and then go kill more.

“Fire!”

Badir cried out and his guns cried with him shortly thereafter.

His short-barreled 76mm gun lobbed an explosive shell.

Beneath it, the anti-tank gun opened fire as well.

Ahead the enemy tank pushed to one side, barely losing speed.

Both shells flew past it and exploded harmlessly.

“God damn it! You are lions, you fools! Fire more accurately!”

He chastised his troops but not their lack of a stabilizer.

He could not fathom their performance.

Badir’s Lion Battalion was an elite force, a force of strong, able fighting men.

His was not one of the units that had gotten trapped by Nocht a week ago.

He had avoided the encirclement and continued to fight. Back then he fought because fighting was the fire in his veins and the lightning in his eyes. Nocht was something to kill to feed some blood to his decaying spirit. Nocht pushed and Battlegroup Ram could not push back. And yet Badir was the winner there, the one who decided his destiny. He was not one of the losers, who followed the plan unwillingly. He had chosen his path.

He had chosen Rangda; to fight for Mansa and for the seat of his old power.

He had chosen to defy Solstice, to defy their mediocre dogma. He chose strength!

And yet, would he be the first domino to fall now?

First to the city, and yet first to defeat?

Everything around him was crumbling, but he lashed out to pick the pieces up.

“After them! Can’t this thing go any faster?”

His driver quickly informed him that it couldn’t. Already, the Jotun was chafing against thirty kilometers per hour, against the forty or fifty the enemy Light could perform. To try to go any faster would have shattered the stressed transmission. But Badir was not about to give up the point. As if driving a horse, he continued to yell, to metaphorically whip.

Badir knew horses, but all of his horsemen, including his right-hand man, were dead.

Horses could go faster. They could push until their muscles snapped and broke.

Somewhere in his mind he realized that the Lion battalion was defeated.

He could sway the battle at Muhimu Shimba, the battle that he had taken the Jotun out of and with it his remaining command structure. He told himself that if his inexperienced artillery was spared annihilation by that meddling Kobold, he could defeat the enemy.

Even if he did, he had run clean out of effective combat power now.

Like the horse, he could push faster, but his legs would surely break now.

But he was not allowing himself to think rationally about that.

Badir the Lionheart always forged ahead on a path of blood.

In the cramped central turret of the Jotun, sealed off from the rest of the fighting compartments, and thus spared the smoke of the ruined fifth turret, Badir drummed his fingers on his lap and stared through his periscope. In front of him, his gunner, a young man chosen for his small and slender size to maximize the Jotun’s interior space, waited nervously for orders. Beneath the two of them, the driver sped the monster forward.

Jotun, the magnum opus of a disgraced genius, much like the dream of Old Rangda.

It had attracted Badir’s eye because of this.

Anything Solstice did not want had to be useful.

And yet, it could not seem to equal the playing field against these communist dogs.

“Have you got them in your sights? I can see them from here!”

Ahead of them the miserable light tank was heading deeper into the campus. It was moving faster than any Goblin. It had to be one of the KVW’s secret models. Nevertheless it was still small and that meant weak armor and pitiful weapons. Jotun, with is robust, masculine size and weaponry, had to be more than a match for it, Badir thought.

“Fire at will!”

Badir’s gunner loaded a fresh shell and fired.

He was joined shortly by the useless machine gunner and the AT cannon.

Automatic tracer fire flew wildly in every direction, scoring no hits even on the exposed idiot riding the back of the enemy Light; the shells both went wide, Badir’s crashing just behind the tank and exploding, and the AT shell flying in the distance and hitting ground. The Light continued to gain distance from them on the flat, even terrain of the road. Was their driver that skilled? It was almost as if they could tell where he would shoot!

No, it was not their driver, but his gunners. His gunners had to fight harder!

“Can you fools even hit the broad side of a battleship? Where is your conviction? Rangda cries out for rescue! You are soldiers of the elite Lion battalion! Destroy that tank!”

“Yes sir!” came the replies on the radio.

There was no enthusiasm. There had been none from the start.

That was why he was faltering now!

These were men and women raised by the hand of Solstice, giving them free food and shelter in exchange for their complacency. They knew not the glories of old Rangda, how full her markets were with goods, how awash in gold were its high societies, how wealthy and powerful its elite. How the strong and true led the weak and infirm, how conviction and ruthless effort was greatly rewarded. That had been a Rangda worth striving for!

A Rangda where he was on top! A Rangda where his power was truly valued!

Not this castrated husk, full of lentil-fattened stunted man-children!

Badir was a man from a cutthroat world, and he would see it restored.

‘For the glory of Mansa!’ his mind cried out, over and over like a song.

Already the muscles had snapped and the legs broken but Badir did not even know.

“Fire!” He cried out again.

Ahead of him, the light tank swung another corner, weaving through the roads with a maneuverability he and his guns simply could not match, and all of the Jotun’s ordnance crashed into buildings and streets. A sign was unearthed, a decorative tree smashed to pieces, and the machine gun failed to place more than one bullet in any given place.

“God damn it! Move faster! Shoot more!”

Not once did Badir reconcile that his enemy was fighting so vehemently and with such cunning for the system he hated and disparaged, and not once could he connect that to the weakness of his own troops in trying to tear that system down or subvert it.

He was too busy warding off the impossible thought of his own failures.

The blood of those tankers would make an excellent balm for his fracturing ego.

As he forgot to win the battle he left behind, he would remember to lose the one ahead.


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