Another Day in the Fields
A Short Story
By Benjamin Gu
Jack stared up the sky as he lay on his back. It was actually quite beautiful, being clear with only a few clouds. Unfortunately, the view was immediately ruined by an artillery shell passing by overhead, and the realization that he was seeing it through the screen of his EXO, an 8 meter tall, bipedal war machine.
He immediately set his machine upright before turning to see a friendly tank roll up to him. The tank commander popped out to address him.
“Are you okay? We thought that artillery shell had finished you!”
“My EXO’s fine. We’re taking that hill over there, right?” Jack pointed his EXO’s finger at a plantation in the distance.
“Yeah, don’t fall behind, okay?” With that, the tank commander went back inside his vehicle and both tank and EXO rejoined the main force. As they drew closer to the hill in question, artillery fire from the enemy began to get heavier and more accurate, with several trucks and tanks succumbing to the periodic barrage. Jack zoomed in with his EXO’s long range scope, and saw a network of trenches had been dug at the foot of the hill. There were gun emplacements every few feet along the edge, and he could plainly see several bottlenecks meant to serve as deathtraps for infantry, tanks, and EXO alike. ‘Oh, this is going to suck.’ Jack thought to himself as he checked the ammunition in his EXO’s rifle. Radio chatter informed him that long range fire support had been deployed, and, true to form, several missiles impacted against the trench network a few seconds later.
Encouraged by the sudden disarray in the enemy defenses, the army surged forward. Jack fell into a staggered ‘V’ formation with several other EXOs, all of them going forward at a full-tilt sprint. They opened fire simultaneously on an artillery launcher, destroying it in a matter of seconds. An incoming volley of mortars forced them to break formation, scattering in pairs among the trenches. Jack found himself with a rather gung-ho pilot who was constantly spouting insults at the enemy.
“You guys can’t hit jack! How do like 30 millimeter armor piercing rounds, huh?” Jack’s companion shouted out to no particular enemy as they both fired uphill at another gun emplacement. Quickly realizing that they were getting nowhere, Jack’s compatriot decided on his own course of action. “Ah, screw it! I’m going up there, cover me!” With that, he spurred his EXO forward and started running up the hill.
“No, wait!” Jack had spotted a tank that had moved into position at the top of the hill, but he was too late. The tank fired, obliterating the EXO’s torso-and by proxy the cockpit-sending the legs, waist, and what was left of the arms tumbling down the hill. ‘That idiot!’ He thought to himself as he fired at the tank, only to see his bullets impact against the armor uselessly. At that moment, a group of friendly tanks fired up the hill, destroying the enemy tank. Jack nodded his thanks via his EXO’s head before rejoining the other EXOs and moving up the hill.
The climb up the rest of the hill was a brutal slog, with Jack being forced to duck into cover periodically to avoid an armor-piercing round or an artillery volley. Upon reaching the top of the hill, he gave an inward sigh of relief, as his role in the battle had come to an end.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t. As infantry were preparing to storm the plantation building, a friendly EXO exploded. Jack turned to see that a group of enemy EXOs had set up an ambush in the event that they made it to the top of the hill. Almost immediately things devolved into one-on-one battles between the EXO groups to protect the infantry, with Jack squaring off against a more durable model.
The enemy EXO leapt into the air, firing as it went. Jack immediately moved backwards while also firing. Most of his bullets missed, but those that did hit left sizable dents in the enemy’s armor. Despite this, Jack knew that he would so lose in a contest of armor, so as the enemy descended, he readied his EXO’s missile launcher, which was normally reserved for use against enemy aircraft, and fired all 4 of his missiles and emptied his rifle’s magazine as soon as the enemy touched down again. The resulting explosion left little more than bits and pieces of the enemy machine in the air, all of which immediately fell to the ground. He looked in the distance and saw that the infantry had managed to take the plantation, as his military’s flag was now flying over the roof. He looked back over the carnage that had taken place in the trench network and sighed.
‘Another day in the fields, I guess.’ He thought to himself.
(Artwork by Peter Han)