Jurgen frowned, glancing around as he realised something was wrong. His tank, the
Hakon, was roaring and clattering along as normal, but the scenery
seemed to have changed.
He klicked his throat mike.”Driver, halt.”
He held on to the rim of his cupola as the clatter stopped and Hakon lurched to a halt
under him with a squeel of brakes. The roar from the quad exhausts at
the rear slowed to an uneven rumble.
”Eh, no sir.” Came the static filled response in his headset. ”I've followed the same road since the last checkpoint.”
Jurgen frowned again,
glancing rearwards and then doing a slow sweep around his stationary
”Then how come we lost the rest of the column? And where the heck are we? There are no
pristine forests this close to the front.”
Jurgen sighed, shrugged to himself and simply replied ”kill the engine.”
The exhausts coughed and went silent, followed by the slowly fading whine of cooling fans,
normally hidden by the roar of the engine.
Horten, his gunner, clambered up through the already open loader's hatch on the right
front of the turret and settled with his legs dangling down the empty
hatch. He was followed a moment later by Derek, his loader and
youngest member of the crew, who was also sporting a dirty boot mark
on his shoulder.
Horten merely glanced around and arched a questioning eyebrow at his commander, fishing
around in a shirt pocket for a cigarette.
Jurgen shrugged back.
”We seem to have gotten lost somewhere along the way.”
obscuring compared to blasted craters and razorwire.
The soft sounds of wind through leaves and distant birdsong also made him tense, despite the
pleasant reprieve from the normal background score of gunfire and booming artillery.
Horten shrugged as well, lighting his cigarette and tipping his green helmet back a
degree, already wearing it casually unstrapped. He took a long pull
and scratched his dirty and unshaved chin.
”Eyuup.” He agreed cordially.
Jurgen glanced down at his young loader who was still standing in the
hatch, looking at him hopefully. He nodded at him to continue.
”What do we do now?”
Jurgen klicked his mike again, still keeping his eyes on his loader.
”Right, keep trying. Everyone, we'll keep going for another hour. This road is
”Nothing!” Came the hoarse reply from his radioman. ”Not a squeek. Can't
raise forward, local, nothing!”
obviously well travelled, there ought to be someone who can at least
tell us where we are. I'd rather gamble on reaching a staging post
than drive three hours back to the checkpoint. Driver, start the
engine. Forward march.”
With a stuttering cough the engine roared back to life and belched smoke as the tank lurched
and clattered forward again, shaking and throwing up dirt around the
poorly sprung tracks.
Horten held on to the pintle searchlight by the hatch and continued calmly smoking, while
derek hit his head on the hatch rim with a yelp and tumbled back down
into the turret. Horten looked down between his knees at the fallen
soldier and tugged at a chin strap.
He reminded with calm patience.
They didn't need an hour.
Twenty minutes later they had stopped again, by what was
obviously an apple orchard. Orderly lines of nearly identical apple
Filled with red apples.
”When was the last time any of you saw fresh fruit?”Jurgen asked between bites as they held an impromptu picnic. A rhetorical question.
Sometime before the war probably.
”Is this heaven?”
Asked Kloss, the hull gunner, filling the air with both his words and half chewed apple.”Hardly.”
Jurgen chuckled, slapping at his rough green jacket, sending dust flying.
”Angels would have the decency to get us clean clothes.
No gentlemen, we've ended up up far from the frontline. I honestly
don't know where or how. There's no farms on my maps, just hills and
Not that he was an expert on the subject.
Kloss nodded, wiping his chin and glancing along the road.
”So...”Jurgen shrugged slightly and threw what little remained of the apple core into the ditch.
”We'll continue I wager. Stash some apples in your packs and get back onboard. Where
there's a farm there ought to be a farmer.”
As everyone clambered back onboard or helped stash apples, Jurgen took a moment to stand up
in his cupola and take a good look around through his binoculars. The
orchards blocked much of his view, but what he could see of the
landscape and the hills around them failed to ring any bells. He even
thought he saw he saw a mountain far off in the distance with a
building of some sort clinging to its side.
A wind vane in the form of an apple caught his eye at much closer range however.
They screeched to a halt in front of a bright red farm house some ten minutes later.
Jurgen, Horsten and Derek stared. Two small horses, one red and one
even smaller in yellow stared back. The yellow one had a hat. Both of
them had pictures of apples on their rears.
a moment before turning back to Jurgen.
”You think there was something in them apples?”
Jurgen blinked, then clicked his mike again.”Driver. Let's, eh, keep going.”
The tank named Hakon roared and belched smoke as it clattered and screeched further along
the road, leaving two very bewildered ponies.
Not long after leaving the odd farmhouse and the two horses behind a small town came into
view as they crested a rise along the road.
Jurgen released his mike and brought his binoculars back up as his tank slowly slid to a
”Driver, slow stop.”
halt with a final slow screech of metal.
Surveying the town he frowned yet again. He'd been doing that a lot lately.Everything looked okay at a glance, but details seemed off. The white plaster panel and wood
frame houses with their thatched roofs were just a tad too pristine,
windows on even the smallest building a tad too extravagant, and a
prevalence of pink in decor.
What is that round building with flags on it? And is that a dwelling built into a giant
He couldn't see any emplacements or dugouts anywhere, no signs of war or damage. No signs
of people either for that matter, except more of those oddly coloured
tree? Were those horses going in and out of the buildings by
themselves? Where some of them pointing his way with their front hooves?
”Matriarch's fangs, this day keeps getting weirder.”
Jurgen lowered his binoculars again and let out a slow breath.