“Is war the natural state of man? I say the answer is
obvious. When is a man most keenly aware of life, most sensitive to its
fragility and beauty, than when he is about to lose it? What? Lovemaking, I
hear you say? Well, that is true, but those moments are few, fleeting, and
require far more emotion than most men are willing to invest. No, war is a far
better lover of men; her arms are always open.
- General Taragi Kurita, in a speech to the graduating class of the Sun Zhan Academy, 2866
The village was still burning when he returned. A thick pallor of dark smoke hung overhead, blotting out the midday sun.
The medics had said that here had been no survivors, and yet he could not believe it. Now, his Marauder stalked among the ruins, a metal god surveying the destruction it had wrought.
Truly, what remained seemed to him to be a picture of Hell itself. Fires raged everywhere, and the carcasses of BattleMechs, iron limbs strewn across the land, were the tortured souls of the damned. The roaring autocannons, the falling artillery shells, the screams of his dying friends, all echoed silently in his mind.
The 4th Sword of Light had made their last stand here. They were true samurai, and they had died like true samurai; their glorious, suicidal charge had nearly broken the 2nd Skye Rangers. He still vividly
remembered the Kuritan general reciting his death haiku over his Cyclops’ speakers:
Broken swords I see
Covering a broken land
Falling into night
Indeed, the Sword was broken, as was the land. But that was not his concern. He was searching for something. Something he found, as he came to the end of what had been the village’s main street.
The massive Battlemaster lay on its back, its lifeless gaze eternally facing the sky. As he got closer, he saw exactly what he had feared: the ‘Mech’s cockpit had been smashed in. Whether by weapons fire or another ‘Mech’s fist, it didn’t matter; the pilot would have to be washed out of there with a hose.
“No. It can’t be.”
Scrawled beneath the ruin of the Battlemaster’s head was “Lt. Dmitry Voskavich, Jr.”
Suddenly, he felt very cold and very alone in the cockpit of his Marauder.
And Dmitry Voskavich, Sr. began to cry.