[May 19th, Stellar Year 2148]

Edward sat atop of his tank, idly knocking the soda can against his knee as he watched the Seabees perform their work. He raised the soda can to his lips, sipping it as he listened in to the idle chatter of his fellow crewmate.

"I'm fucking tell you, these guys are prideful pricks," Benitz said, looking up to Edward as he leaned against the left cheek of their tank.

"I know. Every time I walk in there to report to Recker, they're always seeming to give me the stink eye. And I'm starting to think it's not because we just showed up in their country unannounced four days ago."

Two days after the U.S showed up in San Magnolia, negotiations seemed to open just as fast from the initial contact. Already from the information they acquired from the Government of San Magnolia. They were combatting a fully autonomous force for the past nine years, named The Legion. An entirely unstoppable force with swarms that can disrupt wireless communications, So the higher-ups halted any combat operations planned to combat the threat, well. They would have if the Government didn't stop declining the military support of the U.S.

"Oh yeah, you know what else pisses me off?" Edward shook his head and sighed. They didn't really need to talk about the lack of discipline and incompetence that the San Mangolian military displays outside of a select few.

"At least that Major of theirs displays some form of discipline." Benitz nodded in agreement. "Yeah, but she's sixteen. I know desperate times call for desperate measures, but what the fuck."

"Fucking child soldiers, man, it's just another Korea at this point." And his reason wasn't unfounded; the constant propaganda spewed in North Korea prior to the war breaking out made fighting for every inch of land costly due to the populace being nearly fanatical.

"Don't remind me." Benitz stared off into the distance, a thousand-yard stare that they all understood. They were like this for a few minutes, none saying a word as they watched the Seabees construct the new FOB, which would become their staging grounds for further operations.

The FOB, officially designated as FOB Magnolia, was unofficially coined as Alnus Hill Two by the residents of the FOB, is a self-sufficient fortification that can keep several tens of hundreds of personnel fed and provide spare parts for maintenance to building entire vehicles with the use of their factories. The need for self-sufficient FOBs came in World War Three where several military installations came under siege without being resupplied and couldn't hold out long enough to be reinforced.

Edward finished the can before lobbing it at the nearby trash can in the motor pool, the can landing neatly inside. "Nice throw," Benitz commented, nodding before snapping his head to his left. Edward followed his gaze, briefly catching a glimpse of silver-hair fluttering in the breeze, the clicking of heeled boots audible over the banging of wrenches and hammers as crews performed maintenance. The said clicking of heeled boots halting just right in front of them, Edward caught the Blue and White Prussian dress uniform of the females, having seen them when he entered their HQ to report to Recker. He lifted his eyes up, catching her silver eyes in his.

"I'm Major Vladilena Milizé of the San Magnolian Military, one of the Handlers of our automated forces. I'm currently assigned as a liaison for the U.S Military. I was told to report to the crew of Monarch. You can just call me Lena." She broke out into a salute, her boots tapping together as she stood at full attention.

"Speak of the Major, and she shall appear." Edward sarcastically said before hopping down from the tank. He stood just a few metres in front of her. "At ease, Major. Never thought I'd say that in my life, but hey, first time for everything."

Lena changed her stance into parade rest.

"Oh, Jesus Christ, Lena. Stop it with the formalities. We don't need that shit round here." Edward just sighed. "Welp, as a long-standing tradition. I am Staff Sergeant Edward Welkin of the United States Marine Corps, First Marine Tank Battalion, Misfit Company and Tank Commander of Monarch. And over there with that lazy ass is Private First Class, Benitez Ramirez. Our loader."

Benitez flicked his head in greeting. "Hola."

Lena had an exasperated expression at how relaxed they were. Edward noticed this and shook his head at how uptight she was, but still nonetheless continued. "Since you're a liaison and assigned to us poor bastards, we'll give you a rundown of our fighting vehicle. Behind me." Edward flicked his head back at the Abrams, "is an M1A3E2 Abrams, designed as a direct upgrade of the M1A3 Abrams having noted that it proved inadequate to protect the crew and destroy enemy tanks."

Lena turned her head towards the tank; she could see the words' Monarch' scribbled on the barrel. "This here beauty is our main battle tank, MBT for short. She sports a one-hundred and thirty-millimeter smoothbore gun, meant to penetrate any poor bastard looking at it in the wrong way, and added the fact she has depleted uranium armour on both its sides, if not a thin layer to provide extra protection. She is a monster to fight, hence why she was coined the name. The Mobile fortress."

Lena glanced at Edward, who was staring lovingly at it, raised an eyebrow but nonetheless didn't comment.

"I can show you the insides, come on."

Edward deftly climbed up. He turned around to see Lena struggling to get onto the tank. He and Benitz held back the slight amusement watching someone unaccustomed to climbing these types of vehicles.

"Alright, let me give you a hand." faint amusement laced in the tone of his voice as he reached out. Lena gratefully took his hand, hauling herself up onto the tank.

"Hey, Edward! Recker wants us to demonstrate the capabilities of the Abrams to Lena so she could report it back to their General." Benitz spoke up from looking at his PDA.

"Well, looks like we'll need her geared up. Where did everyone go?"

"Rose and Johnson hit the chow hall earlier. Owen is probably sleepi-" Benitz cut off, realising the opportunity that presented itself. They both grinned mischievously to each other as Lena glanced between them in confusion.

"Benitz, you know the drill buddy. Make it count." Edward patted his shoulder before turning around to the Major. "Well, Major, looks like we'll be throwing ourselves into a combat exercise in which you can write a nice little report on how we boys in the Marines do it."

Lena's heart skipped a beat at that; she'll get to see the tanks in action after their fateful day. "We'll need to get you some gear before we go on the range." Lena quirked an eyebrow. "It's to protect your hearing since this." Edward patted the gun. "Is very loud when it fires. We'll also need you to wear a vest in case shrapnel comes flying at you. Of course, we won't be firing that close, but it pays to be prepared."

Edward hopped down before extending his hand towards Lena to help her down, who accepted it and hopped down as well. "Now, if you'll follow me, Lena. We keep our gear stowed away in the lockers."

Lena nodded before realising Edward had already made some distance and stared back at her with a raised eyebrow. She hurriedly picked up her pace before falling in step just a few steps behind him.



"Huh?" she reflexively said, confused.

"Just call me Edward, no need for rank."

"I… ok then, Ser- Edward."

"See? Much better."

Edward sidestepped to make way for a Marine with Lena following in his footsteps.

"So, what were you going to ask?" Edward questioned Lena.

"I was going to ask if you people are usually this lax?"

Edward stifled a chuckle, "Trust me, your Majesty, we're one of the best the U.S has to offer on the field, we are the lads that jump into hell feet first before we end up in heaven."

Lena let out a blank look. "Please don't call me that."

"What, your Majesty?"


"Alright." Edward shrugged, stopping just in front of the Armoury. The term armoury has changed quite a bit from its initial meaning of storing weapons and ammunition, it now encompasses the place to put on gear like the tactical vest to strapping on EOD equipment.

"Welcome, to my most second favourite place in the entire world. The Armoury!" Edward stretched his arms out wide. "Hey dipshit, you're blocking the doorway." He turned his head around to see James standing there in full combat gear.

"You going to the firing range?"

"Nah, hitting the course and then the range."

James spotted the Major, having realised she was standing there the entire time. "You taking her out to the range?"

"Nope, Recker wants us to demonstrate the tank capabilities in an exercise. Probably just hit a few targets."

"I see, well. Good luck to you." Edward stepped out of the way for James, who nodded his head at the Major and walked off.

"Who was he?" Lena asked quizzically, glancing at his retreating back and back at Edward.

"James Nimitz, he's the tank commander for One-Four, and who we all call Midway for shits and giggles."

"Midway?" She tilted her head in confusion

"Ah, you wouldn't know. But Midway is one of the most important battles fought in World War Two, in the Pacific." Edward stepped into the Armoury, Lena following a few steps behind him as he took a turn into a locker room. "Planned by Admiral Nimitz after intercepting Japanese communications, he laid a trap for them." He opened a locker door, taking out a vest. "Wear this, just place it over your head, strap it in a few places, and viola. Also, here's a headset, you know how to put one on right?" Lena nodded, placing it over her head and adjusting it into a comfortable position. Edward stepped back, admiring how the vest and headset suited her.

"You know, you don't look half bad in that get-up, probably change your uniform to one of ours and you might just fit in." Edward patted her on the shoulder, "By now, the rest of the crew would be waiting by our chariot, and probably an Irate driver."

Lena didn't know what to think about the Marines, on one hand, they're lax and seem quite undisciplined at first glance, but the way they carried themselves belay that thought. They walked around half-expecting an ambush or attack at any second, and they always seemed alert to the slightest bit of changes in their environment.

Lena shivered at the thought, these Marines were dangerous, and they were on their soil, training, setting up a foothold, scouting the area. They were disciplined, like calm wild dogs waiting for the command to be unleashed. She shook her head to banish the thoughts, right now. She needed to catch up to Edward who was keeping a few paces in front of her.

Still, she couldn't get the words out of her head 'World War Two'. She somewhat remembered an old history book she found naming a war like that, but to hear it with such conviction. All she could do was press on.

"Before you were cut off, could you tell me more about Midway?"

Edward glanced back to her "Sure, just keep up pace. Anyway, where was I?"

"You left off at the part where Nimitz laid a trap."

"Ah, yeah. Anyway, Nimitz laid a trap at Midway where we caused a decisive blow to the Japanese by sinking three of their aircraft carriers, but not without losses of our own with the sinking of one, the U.S.S Yorktown. Midway is heavily regarded as the turning point of the Pacific theatre."

"Aircraft Carrier?" Lena questioned, unfamiliar with the term used.

"I thought you'd folks knew what it is-" Edward took a second to think about it, if they were pushed back this hard to build a wall to protect their nation. Then of course the ones born within the walls wouldn't know.

"Don't worry, we'll explain it to you in due time. Now." He turned into the motor pool, seeing his crew lounging around the tank.

"Alright, Misfit One-Three! Attention!" He dragged out the word. He watched them scramble before standing at full attention in front of the Abrams. He nodded as he walked by, hands behind his back.

"Alright you Misfits, Today is your lucky day. Today, you are to provide a demonstration for our good Major here." Edward indicated Lena who was standing off to the side. "About the capabilities of our pride and joy sitting behind you. Let's show the good Major how we Marines do it!" They answered back with a loud Oorah. "Excellent, now mount up."

Edward watched his crew mount up the tank, taking their respective positions within it. He turned on his heel to Lena. "Alright, today is your lucky day as well, you get to have a ride on the Abrams." marching over to the said Abrams, he deftly clambered up the side, only turning around to give the Major a hand before opening the hatch into the Commander's seat and sliding in.

"Owen, you know what to do." The Abrams coughed into life before quietly rumbling. Edward felt the tank lurch forwards, easing itself out of the Motor pool as they steadily made their way towards the range. Edward twisted himself around to face the Major who was nervously gripping onto something tightly, her eyes darting around scared, but with a hint of awe.

"She's a beaut, battle-tested on the frontlines of the Asian Theatre." Lena cocked her head to Edward, an eyebrow raised.

"Asian Theatre?" She questioned, her voice audible over the roar of the Abrams

Edward's eyes seemed to gloss over, his gaze turning into a thousand-yard stare. The suddenness of it is what scared Lena, his gaze seeming to tell an untold story to her, but he immediately perked up. "Don't worry about it, just that we trust this piece of equipment and she saved our lives many times over."

She watched him break out into a smile, but something in her heart pained to see it, a smile that hid untold misery and pain behind it. The Abrams rumbled underneath her, as if to say it shared the same thoughts she had. Lena shook her head, no. That was preposterous, it couldn't be a living thing. But somewhere deep in her subconscious seemed to deny it.

"We're coming up on the range now, I'll help you off." Edward's voice broke her out of her thoughts, her head perking up. She noticed his finger pointed at a raised platform that overlooked the entire range. "Head there, you'll be able to oversee the entire range. We'll radio you in when we get into position."

Lena nodded, she eased herself down with the help of Edward before making her way towards the platform. Walking up the steps, she turned her head to her left, she watched at the ordered chaos of U.S Seabees constructing the FOB, carefully unloading building materials from trucks that seem to stream in by the dozen. Just another fact of how cemented and unopposed these 'Americans' were.

Lena shook her head to banish that thought, they're here to help us… and possibly the Colorata beyond the walls. She took up position by the railing, she skimmed her surroundings until she saw the tanned shape of Monarch take up position on a small mound, overlooking a field

"This is Misfit One-Three to Lena, do you read? Over." The headset on her ear buzzed to life, nearly startling her before she calmed herself down.

"This is Lena, you're coming through crystal."

"Affirmative, executing demonstration." Lena heard a buzzing to her right, she twisted her head around only for a black blur to pass through her field of view, taking up position further in the field. What surprised her, however. Was the blue light that shone from the front of the object, the light slowly beginning to materialise into a form which had a more rounded turret, opposed to the bulkier design of the Abrams with its left and right cheeks. But the most distinct look of the tank, was the red eyes that sat on either side of the gun.

"Hostile T-90B, direct front! Load Sabot!" Lena watched with bated breath as the turret of Monarch swivelled to meet its oncoming foe. She could hear the muffled actions of the crew, the heavy clinking of machinery being pushed together.

"Sabot loaded!"

"Affirm, Fire on my command!"

Lena leaned forward, watching as the now identified T-90B nudged itself to the right, angling itself. "Fire!"

"On the way!" The Abrams let out a deafening roar, she watched the Depleted Uranium Tungsten round soar through the air before phasing itself through the hologram, not a second later it burst into flame at the bewilderment of Lena.

"Hit, Hit, Hit! Traverse right, Russian T-90 coming on our flank! distance five-hundred metres!" The Abrams reversed, angling its armour as the T-90B let out a roar of its own, the holographic shell bouncing off the cheek of the Abrams. In anger, the TOW launcher of the Abrams fired, the missile phased through the hologram again, kicking up dirt and dust but it had its intended effect. The holographic T-90B burst into flames before exploding, the turret flying before landing with an audible bang.

Lena gulped at the firepower displayed, she had her doubts on the capabilities of these Americans. But seeing them in action, with every call to announce what they were doing, she knew they were a cut above her fellow Alba. They could easily take over Magnolia if they wanted… but above all else, they could help the Eighty-Six.

Edward sat in front of Recker, watching Recker pace back and forth as he rubbed his chin. He eventually turned to him, pointing a finger.

"So, let me get this straight. The Liaison we assigned to you, just gave what is pretty much damning information of what the hell kind of government we are currently working with?"

"Yeah, that about sums it up." Recker swore under his breath.

"God damn, I knew those fucking stink eyes weren't for nothing. God, damn it"

Edward could only nod, he leaned back in his seat as he stared into the ceiling, letting out an exhale at how fucked the situation they got themselves into.

"I'll get this reported to the top brass, it'll be passed along until it reaches Washington. After that, we wait and see."

[Same day]
[Time: 11:00pm]

Lena stood on the small hill overlooking FOB Magnolia, gazing over the lights that spread out in a single line. The low drone of a turbo-prop engine reverberated in the air, slowly picking up speed before it passed directly overhead of her. The dark silhouette of a bird visible in the bright night sky.

"I have something to tell you." Edward glanced at her, having dismounted from the Abrams.

"What's up? He questioned, curious. "In private, please."

He slowly nodded, he dismissed his crew before following her footsteps, taking him into a secluded area.

"I have… news, pertaining to beyond the Grand Mur." He frowned at the pause, steeling himself to what he would consider confidential.

"The rumours of the drones we as Handlers use, they're not fully automated. Far from it, they're piloted by people. People who have their rights stripped from the Special Wartime Peace Preservation Act." Lena clenched her fists, anger intertwining into her tone.

"It sickens me on what we did to them, the Colorata. They're treated as subhuman, and the meaning of our flag of freedom, equality, brotherhood, justice and nobility are a joke. We're just hypocrites." Lena felt a hand get placed onto her shoulder, the grip firm. She slowly craned her head upwards, the absolute darkness in his eyes scared her.

"I saw this once before; I'll get this referred to my higher ups and see if what you say is true. By tonight, we're going to send a scout over the wall and see what you hold is true. You have my word." Lena could detect the pain, the anguish, but above all else, the tone of a person who had seen this before and is willing to do whatever it took for it to never happen again.

Lena's lip trembled. "Thank you."

Edward smiled at her. "don't worry."

With a heavy breath, she turned her back and descended the hill. Hoping she chose the right choice.

I'll admit, this is a thousand words shorter than the prologue, and I apologise for the length it took to release this. I'll put this on a brief hiatus as I read up on 86 so I don't fuck it up, to put it frankly… and because several people in the discord server am in is kind of hounding my ass to catch up, lmao. Anyway. I'll see if I can get a Christmas special up, but it looks damn bleak. I started this on a whim, but if god will stop me, I'll try and see this through.

P.S. The quality of my writing took a nosedive in this one, but eh. Also, California dreaming is a bop and in my opinion fits 86 well.

This is AWACS Freeshipping.

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