Title: OF THE LINE
Author: Ghost who Walks
Disclaimer: I own none of it.
Responding to the “In Jim Baen’s Memory” Challenge #1578
Author’s note: Yes, I’m responding to my own Challenge, and yes, my response is not exactly what the challenge calls for. I hope it’s liked anyway... I shudder as the Enemy heavy projectile slams into my already breached hull. Despite the damage, I manage to pivot and reply with my sole functioning Hellbore and, thus, eliminate another one of the Enemy tanks. I am beginning to understand the human concept of despair. For every Enemy vehicle I destroy, it seems three more enter into the range of my damaged sensors. Even with the advantage of my greatly superior technology, I do not see a path that leads to victory ... I shake off the unworthy thought. I am a Bolo of the Line, of the first regiment of the Dinochrome Brigade, unit identification number 19692006/CH-E, a Mark XXX class Bolo. The Dinochrome Brigade has never had a failure, since its formation we have always protected the humans in our care. I will not be the first to fail.
I am rocked violently back and forth as I am caught in a crossfire by several Enemy vehicles. For a moment of time so brief I cannot measure it, I get a glimpse of white, and then my momentum carries me out of the crossfire and behind the rubble of a building. I once again run a diagnostic on myself: battlescreen offline; automatic repair systems offline, expendable munitions exhausted; main armament offline; secondary armament at 33% capability; main power offline; battery power at 20% ... the rest of the report is as dire. I consider the overall situation. The insectoid Enemy has forces all over my world but their only heavy forces lie here, in this valley, at what was once the main planetary defense base. I am confident that if I can eliminate the Enemy’s concentration here, the remaining human militia can remove the ... infestation.
Two Enemy scout tanks suddenly round the corner and fire. Everything goes white .....
I am on a white dusty plain, not belonging on any world in my data base. The plain seems to go on endlessly into the distance. On one side of me is a line of Bolos stretching through time from the battlefields of Earth’s World War II up until the present. On the other side of me, is a line of teenage female humans which seems to stretch from the present, back to a time before humans discovered fire. Both the Bolos and the humans wear their battle scars proudly, for all on this plain are warriors, from the gleaming honors bolted onto the Bolo hulls, to the way the humans hold various primitive melee weapons, their calling is clear. From both sides I, somehow, sense both approval and anticipation.
“Are you ready to be strong?” The question comes from behind me. I spin around and there, looking up at me, is a female human of medium height holding some type of axe. She has red hair and, her most exotic feature, glowing white eyes.
“I asked you a question young lady, are you going to answer me?”
“I am a Bolo Mark XXX, I am already strong.” She sets the melee weapon between her legs', and, reaching up with both hands, starts to massage her forehead.
“I somehow knew this was not going to be easy.” I hear her mutter. What follows is a most interesting conversation.