"The hell is that?"
Mick turned to look at Oscar, sitting at the commander's station and focused on one of the screens in front of him, bathing his face in a green hue.
"What?", the gunner asked.
A shell came flying towards the Badger, Oscar saw the muzzle flash of the cannon hiding inside a toppled hab-block, and for that one instant he truly believed it was all over. Tharsis-pattern tank destroyers were not built with very thick armor. They packed a mean punch, could move insanely fast, but they could barely take a hit. Good for hit-and-run tactics, the way the Martians like to fight. A white hot flash, blue sparks, and the faint smell of electricity in the air. They could smell it despite the rebreathers, and they instantly knew what it was. A cloud of dust surrounded the Atomic Badger, and residual static arced around it until it faded seconds later.
"The deflector was on," Oscar said, his hand shacking as he reached for the console. "I can't believe it, it was on all this time. What dumb luck."
"We gotta move!" John yelled out, pushing the throttle.
Before the destroyer could move, the bridge under it cracked and collapsed, taking the vehicle down with it. It hit the ground hard, and the her crew was tossed around inside like rag dolls. Rubble fell on top of the turret and chasis, burying it.
Deflectors were a relatively new technology, having been perfected for combat use little over a decade ago. In the most basic terms, it was a dish shaped device with a proximity and velocity sensor. When the sensor detected an incoming object at a specific speed or higher, the dish would discharge a spherical shaped electromagnetic blast, and the incoming projectile would ricochet, losing most of its velocity in the process. The most immediate drawbacks of the deflector were it's range and velocity sensor, and the damage it could cause. If a projectile was fired within the perimeter of the sensor, or if it was slow enough, it would not trigger the deflector. Furthermore, the blast from a deflector discharge would cut down anything in it's path. Be it flesh, concrete or metal, it would cut through it like a hot knife through butter. And that was precisely what happened to the bridge the Atomic Badger was on.
Mick couldn't tell how long he'd been unconscious, but by the time he woke, John and Oscar were at their stations, one evading detection as he drove, the other hunting. The gunner felt a sharp pain on his forehead, and just by gently touching it he could tell he had a cut. Blood trickled down, and he did his best to wipe it off his eyes. It was then he realized he could only hear a ringing sound, and he began to panic. Had he gone deaf? No, deaf people don't hear a ringing in their ears, or do they? He didn't know, and he didn't want to know. He could now hear muffled voices, impossible to understand at first, but slowly it all came clear again. And yet the ringing persisted.
"Turn her around, you sonofabitch!" Oscar barked, pointing menacingly at his driver.
"Fuck that, we're lucky we survived this time, but your luck runs out fast," John said, focusing on the task at hand.
"The bastard is still out there, and he's probably looking for us right now-"
"And that's why we've got to get out of here. The engine doesn't sound right, that fall hurt us pretty bad. Now is not the time to go picking fights."
"It's a fight we can win!"
"You aren't thinking straight, Oz. You're letting your temper get the better of you."
Oscar kicked and shifted violently in his seat, and Mick couldn't help but remember every time his younger brother threw a tantrum. The tank commander reached into a small compartment and retrieved a roll of duct tape. He then removed his helmet while holding his breath and applied the tape to a large gash on the face plate of the helmet before putting it on again. The air in Titan wouldn't kill a person instantly, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
"Does it still work?" Mick asked.
"The helmet, does it still work? It looks bad."
"This thing is tougher than it looks. Feed is a little fuzzy on the top left corner, but it's all good. Sabot still up?"
"Yes, boss. But what good is it, we're getting out of here, right?" He had a strange feeling in his gut when Oscar didn't reply. "Right?"
Oscar continued to ignore his gunner, and flipped a switch on his console. John turned his head and caught a glimpse of what his friend was doing, raising an eyebrow when he spotted the active switch.
"Oz, what are you doing?"
The sergeant didn't say a word. Instead, he thumbed an orange glowing button, and the heard something shoot outside of the hull. John began to sweat, looking at the roof, and back to his commander.
Oscar sat back with his hands behind his head and closed the visor of his helmet, hiding his face and muffling his nervous laughter.
The gunner couldn't believe what he was seeing. Are they trying to pick a fight? Is that it? If so, whoever was inside that tank destroyer must've had a death wish. He turned around to look at his commander, whose face was covered by a helmet painted with the skull of a wolf.
"Hey, boss. It's them guys with the destroyer again, they shot a flare up high. I think they want a fight."
The commander leaned forward heavily, and the screens from his console bathed the terrible visage of his helmet in a red light. The skull seemed to be smiling, its fangs soaked in blood and thirsting for more.
"Then let's give 'em one."