The Atomic Badger had moved away from that graveyard of steel, leaving behind the ghosts of her sister tanks. John sat at the controls, driving the tank destroyer with the skill of a seasoned veteran. Mick had taken the gunners post and was trying his best to catch some sleep, despite the loud rumbling of the powerful engine behind him. And Oscar was standing, leaning over the top of the gun turret, half exposed to the elements like the commanders of old. Studying the maps on his wrist pad, he had come to a sobering conclusion: his driver had lied. There was no way they would make it to Shangri-La Station in their condition. They would need to refuel along the way, and that was only in a scenario in which they didn't run into unwanted trouble. But Oscar wasn't that lucky, and he knew it.
Oscar hunkered down and closed the hatch on top of him, and took off his helmet. To his left, Mick had finally fallen asleep, and Oscar was savoring the opportunity to wake him up with malice. How would he do it? A loud noise? Turning off his rebreather and wait for the beeping alarm to go off? That was always fun to do.
"Boss", John called out.
"It's sort of important".
"I'm sure it can wait. Now, what to do to you, new guy?"
The vehicle came to a sudden stop, and Oscar jerked forward, hitting his head against one of the control panels at his station. Mick woke up at that moment, bracing for anything.
"John, what the hell was that?", Oscar asked, rubbing his forehead.
"It's what I was trying to tell you, boss", the driver said. "We've got something up ahead".
Oscar put on his helmet and lowered the visor, connecting it to the cameras on the hull of the Badger, and giving him a 360-degree view of the outside. Right in front of them stood a gate at the end of a paved road, one of the many highways that connected the terminals and stations of Titan. The gate had been blocked with damaged cars, trucks, and rubble. Peering over, he could see the tops of buildings, but there were no lights, except for the buzzing and flickering lights over a sign at the top of the gate. Solas Terminal. Oscar knew about it but had never been there. And he certainly didn't expect to find it in such conditions.
"Are we going in?", Mick asked.
"It'll take us forever to go around the Terminal, and we can't just waste our fuel like that", Oscar said, lifting the visor. "John, let's try to push that barricade out of the way".
The Badger advanced towards the gate slowly until its mine plows dug into the side of a turned over truck. The destroyer's engine revved and roared, and slowly but surely it began to push the makeshift barricade out of the way. Once the road was cleared, they were free to enter the city. From the outside, it had only looked abandoned, but now that they were inside, they could see clearly the full extent of the damage. It wasn't just abandoned, it had been a war zone. Walls riddled with bullet holes, impact craters from artillery strikes, still burning buildings with their facades completely blown off, rubble scattered all over the place. They could hear some gunfire off in the distance, and Oscar decided it would be best to steer clear of that area.
"What happened here?", Mick asked, gazing outside through the optics of the main cannon.
"The same thing that happens after a war such as this, everyone struggles to stay on top, and the weak get trampled on. My guess is that our once unified front has split into a bunch of different factions, now fighting each other over scraps. Take it all in new guy, this is what it looks like when a revolution fails".
"Boss, up ahead", John said as they came to a full stop.
Oscar lowered his visor and looked ahead of the Badger. The road split down the middle, going up an overpass to the right, and down a bottleneck to the left. The tank commander didn't like his options. If they were spotted, the overpass would make them an easy target with little to no way of defending themselves. If they went down below, they'd be trapped in a tight straight line, unable to turn the turret around. Either way, they were a sitting duck.
"Should we turn around?", John asked.
"No, that'll just make us waste time looking for another way through, we're taking the overpass. New guy-"
"Mick...", the gunner interrupted.
"Whatever, load sabot. John, advance with caution".
"Advancing with caution".
"Sabot up", Mick replied.
The Atomic Badger moved towards the right, going up the ramp and onto the overpass. Oscar ran a systems check on his console, making sure nothing had gone wrong since the last time he checked. The deflector was working, the Remote Weapon Station was working, the engine was well within its normal parameters, the TOW launchers were operational. He was seeing green across the board. And then there was red.
"Damn, the FCS is down, EM blast from that railgun must have fried it".
"What's wrong?", Mick asked.
"You know degraded gunnery, right?"
"Uh, I was a machine gunner on an IFV, I don't really know big guns".
"We're screwed", they heard John say from the driver's seat.
"With a little luck, we won't need to worry about it", Oscar said, trying to put on a brave face.
"Boss, I hate to tell you, but you're not half as lucky as you think you are".
"Shut up and drive".
From the commander's seat, Oscar scanned their surroundings, trying his best not to miss anything. But he did, and it would cost them. He overlooked a fallen building, not paying attention to one of the many holes on its walls, not seeing the muzzle of a cannon slowly following the Badger. Inside the hidden tank, the gunner licked his lips, his right eye pressed against the gun sight, and he swatted at his sleeping commander to wake him.
"What's it now?", the commander asked with a scruffy voice. "If it's just civvies again, leave 'em be, I don't want to bother with small fry".
"I dunno, man. Do civvies normally ride tank destroyers?"
"The hell are you on about?"
"I'm sayin' we've got us a live one out there!"