The 'From the Ashes' Tournament
The Gun Striders team stands on the brink of disbandment. With their captain dead and their second-in-command missing, the five remaining members have chosen to stay together… for now.
Despite their best attempts to maintain their bonds, the recent power void has begun to cause a rift between themselves.
As the deadline for registration in the new Armoured Combat Arena season draws to its final days, the Gun Striders must decide on their next captain through a gruelling series of duels or miss their chance to reclaim the championship title. Who will be the one to lead them?
“The tournament begins! Arlette and Mikhail are the first two Gun Striders team members to duel for the title of Team Captain. Will Arlette outsmart Mikhail in her swift and deadly AMX 13 90, or will Mikhail claim dominance with this T-44 medium tank?”
Arlette could feel the heat trying desperately to work their way inside the tank as she waited for the duel to begin. A glance at the timer. Sixty seconds, it read.
“Can we start already?” She said, her feet tapping lightly on the pedal below. “The wait is killing me.”
Mikhail replied, his voice issuing from her headset. “I’m on my way. Figured you could use the extra time to read up on some tactics.”
“Don’t need ‘em today. Besides, I’ve got a feeling this will be an easy win for me.”
“You think so?”
“It’ll be over before you know it.” Thirty seconds.
No response. The timer steadily counted down to the single digits.
“I’m good to go,” Mikhail finally said. “By the way, I’m feeling pretty generous today so I’ll give you a piece of advice.”
“And what would that be?”
“Try staying still.”
The timer beeped. Zero.
“Watch me.” She slammed her foot down and her tank lunged forward.
“The fight continues, this time with Klara and Elenor! One controls a Rhm.-Borsig Waffenträger while the other commands the FV304. Will Klara manage to snipe the agile SPG or will Elenor emerge victorious in the resulting bombardment?”
“Hey Klara,” Elenor said. “How are you holding up?” She had arrived in her designated starting point early, as had Klara. She was deathly tired; mornings were not her favourite time of day. To make things worse, the coffee machine in the garage was also out of order when she tried to wrangle a cup out of it.
“Fine, I guess.” Klara mumbled over the speakers. “I don’t really care who wins. I just want to get this over with.”
“But you’re the one that came up with the idea, right? Winner of these duels becomes the team captain.”
“Yeah, but I only suggested that because everyone’s being so... weird about the whole thing.”
Elenor sighed. “Well, it’s happening, whether you like it or not. Now you’re fighting to be captain, too.”
“I don’t even know if I’m good enough to lead the team.”
“Of course you can.” Elenor said. “Do your best against me, Klara. If you really are better than everyone else, you should show us.”
It was about to begin. No turning back now.
“Alright.” She heard Klara say as the timer to signal the start of battle beeped. “Thanks, Elenor, I appreciate that.”
“It’s Arlette’s turn to face off against Klara. She may have defeated Mikhail last round, but will her AMX 13 90 be able to track down Klara before the Rhm.-Borsig Waffenträger manages to tear a hole in her light tank?”
Klara suppressed a grin as she heard Arlette’s excited tone. As relative newbies, the two of them had managed to defeat the tactical genius and the vigilant veteran.
Now it was her turn to face the impish girl. Only one of them will progress to the final round of duels against Nikolai, but as far as Klara is concerned, the mini-tournament had already resulted in a great boost of confidence.
“Feeling alright so far?” Klara said.
“Are you kidding? I’m better than great! I always knew I’m the best.”
Klara felt a wave of anger washing over her. Was that how she treats her teammates? As competition?
“Good for you.” Klara replied icily. “It must be fun to be so condescending towards your friends, right?”
“W-wait,” Arlette stammered. “I didn’t mean to-“
Klara muted her headset and gripped her controls. The countdown to zero was seconds away.
“With her victory over her other teammates complete, Arlette now finds herself against Nikolai and his IS-3. Her AMX 13 90 can outrun the heavy tank effortlessly, but her opponent is a true veteran and a dangerous opponent. The winner of this battle will henceforth become the new Captain of the Gun Striders. Who will emerge victorious?”
“Hey, old man.” Arlette said.
She heard Nikolai’s sigh. “I’m not that old.” He said.
“You sound like one.” She knew his real age, of course, but that’s never stopped Arlette from teasing him relentlessly. “I bet you’re slouching in your seat now, too. Sit up, no slouching!”
“If I were you,” Nikolai said, “I would think about how to win my opponent, not their posture.”
“Ah don’t worry, I’ve got some ideas.” In truth, Arlette was secretly worried about Nikolai’s tank. It has its fair share of weak spots of course, but she was sure that Nikolai knew about them too and would do anything to keep them away from her gun. Furthermore, the darkening sky seemed to promise rain and slippery mud, hindering her movement.
But there’s no point revealing all that to him. “So,” she said, recalling a previous train of thought, “remind me why you’re last again? Why do we have to fight three rounds when you only have one?”
“It’s fair that way.” Nikolai said. “I’ve led the team before, so I have the experience. Therefore I’m better suited to be the captain.”
“That doesn’t sound very fair to me.” Arlette’s eyes narrowed. “You just gave yourself a shortcut.”
“Sometimes you have to step up when you know you can handle the job.” He answered.
Arlette turned to look at the time. Seven seconds left.
“I still don’t think it’s fair.” She protested as she readied her tank.
“If you win, you won’t care.” He said.
“Well,” Mikhail said, “looks like you did it, Arlette.”
The group were assembled in the garage. The sky was completely dark; it had been a long day for them all.
Arlette pumped her fists in the air, cheering. “I won!” she yelled, pretending to jab at her teammates. “I can take you all on!”
“Don’t get too happy,” Elenor said, arms folded and looking more bored than irritated. “Being a team captain is a huge responsibility. You’ve got paperwork, meetings, extra courses to attend…”
“Ah, don’t worry about that. I’ll just delegate stuff!” Arlette pointed at Nikolai, who was sitting on a plastic chair clearly too small for him. “You! Bring me those meeting notes! While you’re at it, get me some dinner first.”
“I’ll bring you those meeting notes as dinner. Would you like some pencils with that?” The five of them cracked up in laughter, chasing away the last vestiges of tension hanging over the team.
“I’ve got another great idea!” Klara announced when the laughing stopped. “Let’s go for food right now. I’m starving.”
“Great idea!” Arlette strode towards the exit. “Follow me, team!”
“By the way, the captain pays.” Klara smirked.