Border Patrol

Date: 4996890/M41

Location: Slevia/Ostia frontier, Hesch, K-H system

Long mechanical legs pump rhythmically, carrying a lightly armored hull between tall trees. Birds sing and the wind whistles, carrying a reddish leaf within centimeters of Corporal Styger’s visor. He doesn’t pay it much mind, for his attention is divided between the woods around his sentinel walker and the vehicle’s sensor display. The machine spirit has detected movement and the warmth of at least one engine up ahead.

“Possible contacts at 11 o’clock. Follow on my flanks,” he speaks into his comm and half-hears the acknowledgements of his two squadron-mates. Up ahead, he sees a stand of brush on a slight ridge paralleling the shallow river that marks this part of the Slevian border.

The signals are beyond the river. And approaching. Fantastic. He turns to follow the line of the rise, using the trees and tall bushes for cover. His vehicle strides along like a huge flightless bird, skirting the edge of the rise. At his signal, one of his squadron-mates follows the rise in the other direction to set up a flank if necessary while the second follows Styger’s lead. With a prayer under his breath, he initiates the arming ritual for his sentinel’s multilaser, and calls upon the machine spirit to assist his aim if it becomes necessary to unleash the weapon’s wrath. The targeting matrix comes online.

He turns and cuts around the edge of the hump of land, half-emerging through an opening between two trees. There, across the small river’s narrow valley, he finds himself staring down the barrel of another sentinel’s multilaser. The vehicle, like his, is half-concealed, but even as his machine spirit locks on to the target, he sees the markings of the Ostian military on its prow. Styger commits its regimental markings to memory to report back to his superiors.

Within seconds, another enemy sentinel comes in view even as his own companion takes up a position. Styger notes that according to his scanners, there must be one more Ostian walker as well, though he does not have visual on its position.

Both sides remain silent and unmoving for what seems like a very long time. A few more leaves fall in the breeze. Styger feels a trickle of sweat run down his temple.

A voice carries to Styger from the lead Ostian walker, “Hey Slev, you lookin’ for a fight?”

“Not I, Ostey, but I got plenty right here if you feel lucky!” the Ostian’s cheek nettles him, but he is relieved that the silence is over.

The voice comes again, tone edged and mocking, “got any mutes in your outfit, Slev?”

“Only as many as yours has brains, mate,” Styger smiles and continues, “Want to come over and see for yourself?”

The Ostian pilot, whose young face Styger can make out on magnification, chuckles but does not immediately respond. Styger follows up, “How about we all turn round and go report before anybody gets hurt?”

There is no need for further words. Both sets of scout walkers retreat, cautiously as long as the other is on scan, and then break into a run.

***

(two sentinels are pictured below)
Got any ewoks? The rebels have been routed and are fleeing into the woods

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