Four days had passed without reinforcements. Ammunition was scarce and difficult to come by, with what little supplies could be located in the heart of Ephyra. The air was thick with the smell of discharged weapons, smoke, and leaking fuel. The Centaur Main Battle Tank that Echo Squad used to traverse the city had been disabled by a swarm of tickers, preventing the Gears from escaping their current location. The vehicle came to a halt within a central courtyard of a former government building, surrounded on several flanks by locust snipers and drones.
“Webster, get to cover!” The largest soldier in the squad quickly ducked behind the smoldering remains of the Centaur, positioning himself underneath the main cannon.
“We have incoming fire!” Bringing his Lancer Assault Rifle upwards, Lieutenant Stratford unleashed hell on the incoming Locust forces from a firing stance near the disabled vehicle.
The explosion had torn through the Centaur tank, killing one of the four crew members. Vito could barely manage to gain his bearings on his surroundings; he couldn’t tell where he was within what was once the armored vehicle. The only noise besides the monotonous ringing from the explosion was that of the Lieutenant barking orders to the surviving members of the squad to take cover from the hail of gunfire directed towards them from every direction that could provide an advantage in a firefight.
Vito managed to roll from underneath the wreckage of the Centaur tank and onto the cobblestone pavement below. He finally had a fresh view of things from inside his helmet; the devastation brought from the pack of tickers had been much more destructive than he had originally anticipated. The vehicle had been completely spilt open, with most of its internal parts spread across much of the courtyard. Without hesitating, Vito dove behind rubble that originated from a collapsed building, creating a large obstruction in the main avenue upon which the rest of the squad hunkered down from enemy fire. Becoming irritated of being pinned down, Vito returned fire. He emptied half a clip towards the direction of incoming fire, hoping to pepper Locust infantry with a hail of bullets.
His efforts were met with further frustration, as none of his shots met their mark. The incoming Locust Drones quickly scrambled behind stone columns no further than twenty feet away. The sounds of war filled Vito’s helmet with a chorus of gunfire from just about every type of weapon he used during basic training. He was one of the last soldiers in the COG to finish basic training before being shipped out for active duty. The war had driven the Coalition of Ordered Governments to make hasty choices for troops on the battlefield, showing how desperate the war effort had become; command relied on Veteran Gears teaching rookies the ropes.
Vito found himself locked within a dazed, trance-like state, his body filled with fear and his mind wrecked with the thought of death. The sounds of his squad mates broke the silence he experienced in his mind.
“Rodriguez!” “Prime your grenade, soldier!”
Vito quickly dipped his hand into the satchel attached to his thigh, priming a bolo grenade for use. Leaning against a crumbled pile of concrete, he began swinging the grenade in a quickened, circular motion. The explosive attached to the chain-like extension was swung around and released when enough momentum was gained to throw it. He watched the device clatter along the cobblestone surface before landing next to a pair of Locust drones. The next thing he knew, chunks of the enemy combatants landed everywhere near the location he tossed the grenade.
“Echo squad! Full retreat! Take cover in that building!”
Lieutenant Stratford and Private Webster bolted off towards the building, filling the air with the sounds of Lancer rifle fire, which echoed loudly in the courtyard. Compelled by the will to survive, Vito followed after both of his squad members, in the hope he too, would survive the ordeal. The young soldier vaulted over a pile of sandbags, preventing incoming Locust fire from hitting him while he had his back turned to the enemy.
The squad seemed to be safe from the Locust threat for the time being. They had made it into the cover of the bombed out building, surrounded by all sides by sandbags and rubble. With each suicidal attempt, a Locust soldier would rush the fortified position; the combined firepower of their weapons quickly dispatched all incoming hostiles.
Private Webster turned to face Vito Rodriguez, whispering under his breath. “So…soldier…what units were you assigned too before joining with us this fine morning? More importantly, what is your name?”
Webster grinned towards the rookie Gear, loading a fresh clip into his rifle.
Vito placed his weapon against the sandbag he positioned himself against, quickly replying to the other soldier.
'“Vito Rodriguez, Private 2nd' Class, COG-117316-AP-17Y. 26'th' Royal Tyran Infantry, 216'th' detachment, Echo-nine.”
“Didn’t need your whole life story, kid. You can call me Webster.”
Private Webster reached over to Vito, offering him a firm handshake. They exchanged greetings before looking to the Lieutenant.
“That kid… is Lieutenant Stratford. A real hero and a living legend; He served in the Pendulum Wars.”
Vito’s eyes widened beneath his helmet, gazing towards the infamous soldier from the Pendulum wars.
“Wow…really? I didn’t even know that anybody was left from the Pendulum Wars.”
Vito shook his head in disbelief, refusing to believe that anyone could possibly survive so many encounters with the enemy and still be breathing.