“Rescue Delta. Do we have eyes on our DM?”
Negative, Rescue. Downed mech is not visible. Tracking is enabled.
“Copy, HQ. Transfer signal now.” Simeon went radio silent while they waited. Once the indicator light shone on the dark tracking screen, he spoke again. “Tracking received. En route.”
Stevens turned the massive armored vehicle toward the location of the latest downed pilot. Aiden looked over the signature readout. “Hey, this is Clover. He tends to hide in the tree lines. If he’s not visible by air, he might have ended up in there.”
Stevens focused on the dirt track they were using for a road, but asked, “He’s a light, right?”
“Yeah.” Aiden directed the Rescue and Recovery team toward the bright green dot filling his screen. It was the emergency beacon that came on when a mech was no longer mobile.
The low slung, squat forest of trees wasn’t easy to navigate in the big machine, and they took a more than a few of the drooping tree branches with them as they went.
Stevens stopped the vehicle. Aiden sighed and busied himself unstrapping and getting his gear, throwing on his combat helmet embedded with a heads up display tuned to the downed mech.
“Rescue Delta has no visual. DM appears to be behind the tree line. We’re going to dismount.”
Roger, Rescue. Dismount procedures activated.
Meaning that now the friendlies would have them on their heads up displays as individuals. Aiden stepped down from the large passenger cab, and joined Hawking and Dix on the ground. The driver never dismounted. Procedure dictated that the only way to remove a driver from a rescue AT was to blow him out of it, which wasn’t easy to do.
While Hawking moved with the easy grace of an old soldier, Dix was fresh out of training, and nervous, if his rechecking of his gun was anything to go by. They approached the thick, dripping foliage of the trees. Big trunks covered in peaty moss blocked out most of the light within the actual wood. Hawking’s deep, scratchy voice broadcast through the helmets.
“Drone activity detected. At least one. Signal’s not coming through well.”
Aiden sighed again. “All right. One slow sweep farther back into the trees, until we reach the mech.”
Aiden took the westerly position, while Hawking watched their right flank with Dix in the center, and they started a slow, careful search of the trees. As they moved deeper in, the light became dimmer, blocked by the heavy boughs above. The forest floor was bare of anything but fallen branches and moss, making it slippery in places and obstructed in others. Twice, he had to sidestep a fallen branch or trunk.
Hawking said, suddenly, “Clover has a green mech, correct?”
“Yes, he does.”
“Going to heat scan,” the other man said, dropping his visor. “Got him.” They didn’t speed up, but rather continued their cautious pace to the mech. “The mech is crashed.”
“Shit. Any sign of Clover?”
The men converged on each other and the completely smoked mech where it leaned against one of the larger trees. “Cockpit’s intact. Looks like eject was engaged.”
“In here?” Dix said, quietly looking around at all the trees. “That’s insane.”
Aiden looked around the smoking hulk. “It’s possible it auto-engaged.”
He peered into the tree tops as far as he could. “Stevens, check the trees.”
“You don’t think…?”
“We’ll see. Dix, keep sharp. There could be stragglers.”
Aiden watched as Dix took up a sentry position and began a scan for drones, then he began looking the mech over for some indicator of what had taken place. They each took their task, and, within moments, Hawking shouted, “Got him!”