This scene contains violence and death.
Ten vehicles approached the rail yard from the south, at first hugging the wooded hills along the western edge of the meadow to conceal themselves before turning northeast. Commanders rode with their heads outside their top hatches until they spotted the target area in the distance, and prepared for battle. Four M4 tanks, one special; two M3 Hunter assault guns; three Sd.Kfz. B Squire half-tracks, carrying ten men inside and five hanging where they could; and the Dicker Max experimental assault gun in the lead.
Several kilometers from Chanda the meadow climbed a few meters to become level with the terrain of the adjacent town of Benghu, and on this gentle rise the Benghu rail yard had been erected. It was a small, low capacity yard, with a little under a dozen buildings, many recent additions, and two platforms with small cranes. Nochtish aerial photos were grainy and taken in haste, as the weather and Ayvartan anti-air fire permitted. But they were enough for the tankers to become fairly well aware of the general layout.
From afar the tanks spotted the track, coming sharply in from the wooded east and disappearing behind a cluster of brick buildings. Set atop a flat plane of gray cement, the small warehouse area included a long row of buildings along the southern end of the rail yard and a second row behind the first, separated by concrete roads. Crates and discarded cars had been left between buildings to form a contiguous line against the meadow.
This was the first visible sign of the rail yard from the meadow. Along with the rectangular old station building, the warehouses blocked sight of the main rail platform from the meadow — and blocked the sight of the meadow from the yard itself as well.
Once the tanks drew within 2000 meters they spotted the sandbag emplacements and the guard pillbox, a cement square face with a cross-shaped slit housing an anti-tank gun. There the formation started to break up; the Panzergrenadiers in their half-tracks hooked around north, trying to find a different approach along the track itself, while the tanks rushed to the center of the meadow and moved perpendicular to the rail yard.
They did not expect to be the first to fire — they would depend on their armor to withstand long-range attacks from the common and weak Ayvartan 45mm gun in the pillbox.
Even that obstacle failed to materialize; through grass that only barely concealed them, the tanks crept to within 1500 meters and found nobody in the pillbox challenging them.
“Asleep at the wheel.” Reiniger said. He cracked a cruel grin to himself.
The Dicker Max was much more comfortable than his old M4. Thanks to the open-topped superstructure housing the gun, he could sit well, stretch his legs decently, and stand up, all without bumping into metal anywhere. His loader took seat beside him. Below them, inside the hull, was the driver. There should have been an additional loader, or so suggested that annoying computer woman — but Reiniger took only one. As an experimental tank there were all manner of oddities to it. Behind the superstructure there were armored compartments for personnel to hide in for some reason. And in the front of the tank there was a fake, enclosed driver’s compartment, symmetrical to the real one.
Pointless indulgences from the engineers; the real beauty was the tank’s long-barreled 10.5 centimeter gun. A cylindrical muzzle brake was attached at the end to help disperse the gun’s terrifying recoil force. There was no gun like it on any tank he had ever seen.
He expected great things from it; the time had come to do some experimenting.
Reiniger stood from his seat and looked over the armor. He could see the buildings, the sandbag emplacements atop the slope, the pillbox. It was all there for the taking.
“Hunters, elevate your guns and prepare to fire once the Dicker Max has taken three shots; Sentinels, start moving and join the attack then as well. Panzergrenadiers will continue east and north and attack along the track. Keep that train from going escaping.”
He received a few acknowledgments, the most half-hearted coming from a certain fairy. Reiniger fleetingly thought to give him a special assignment, but in this operation he was nobody. Just another tank. He could approach and attack in a line with the rest of them.
Almost breathless, as if in reverence, Reiniger approached the gun.
Looking down the gun sight, Reiniger aligned the pillbox on the tip of the triangle.
His loader picked up the heavy 10.5 cm shell and slid it into the breech.
Unlike his M4, there was no foot pedal for shooting. Just a good old fashioned chain.
With a glint in his eyes, Reiniger pulled the chain and watched the shell fly. He heard the muzzle blast clear as day even with the brake, and felt the recoil dispersing into the superstructure. However he could not see his shot at first — the Dicker Max raised such a large cloud of dust in front of the tank that nothing could be seen of the impact.
Across the meadow and atop the slope the pillbox went up in pieces, the large high-explosive shell almost causing the cement face to topple over completely. When Reiniger finally got a look at it, he found crumbled cement, a gun turned to slag, and fire and carnage behind the remains as the ammunition stored in the pillbox cooked off.
Around him the M4 tanks started to trundle slowly forward.
At his side the loader withdrew a shell from the rear storage and loaded the gun.
Reiniger traversed the weapon a few degrees to the left and raised the elevation.
“Fire on my signal.” He shouted to the loader.
Abruptly, he climbed out of the tank’s side and stood on the track, extending the radio cables almost as far as they could go out of the tank. He raised binoculars to his eyes with one hand and held on to the hull with the other. It was the only way he could observe the firing of the gun due to the amount of smoke clouding the sights and slits.
“Shoot now!” He ordered.
Inside, his loader pulled the chain.
Reiniger was almost knocked clean off the tank, to hang by the radio cord.
It took all his strength to stay in place as the shell soared over the sandbags.
There was a bright flash accompanying the eruption of the shell as it struck the building behind the emplacements. Chunks of brick and shell fragments filleted the defenders, and sandbags went flying from the force of the blast pushing out from behind them.
Almost the whole wall crumbled under the force of his attack.
Reiniger slapped the hull in celebration, overcome with child-like glee.
“This shit’s too good!” He shouted to himself, cackling. “It’s too fuckin’ good!”
Now this was what he needed all along; what was missing. It wasn’t him, it wasn’t his luck, it wasn’t that he struggled; all he needed was power, the right kind of power. Just as he crushed the anarchists in their holes in Cissea with the advent of the M3 Hunter, now the Dicker Max put him over the Ayvartan commies. He knew this to be true when he felt the force of the recoil shaking up the tank, smelled the smoke, and saw the havoc.
To think that Noel would give this up! Reiniger was ecstatic. This was a war-winner!
Finally the hand had come, the hand to lift him; and the hand offered a gun!