FOR THE HONOR OF THE REGIMENT
My forty-seven pairs of flint-steel roadwheels are in depot condition. Their tires of spun ber~yl~lium monocrystal, woven to deform rather than compress, all have 97% or better of their fabric unbroken. The immediate terrain is semi-arid. The briefing files inform me this is typical of the planet. My track links purr among themselves as they grind through scrub vegetation and the friable soil, carrying me to my assigned mission.
There is a cataclysmic fuel-air explosion to the east behind me. The glare is visible for 5.3 seconds, and the ground will shake for many minutes as shock waves echo through the planetary mantle.
Had my human superiors so chosen, I could be replacing Saratoga at the spearhead of the attack.
The rear elements of the infantry are in sight now. They look like dung beetles in their hard suits, crawling backward beneath a rain of shrapnel. I am within range of their low-power communications net. "Hold what you got, troops," orders the unit's acting commander. "Big Brother's come to help!"
I am not Big Brother. I am Maldon, a Mark XXX Bolo of the 3rd Battalion, Dinochrome Brigade. The lineage of our unit goes back to the 2nd South Wessex Dragoons. In 1944, we broke the last German resistance on the path to Falaise—though we traded our flimsy Cromwells against the Tigers at a ration of six to one to do it.
The citizens do not need to know what the cost is. They need only to know that the mission has been accomplished. The battle honors welded to my turret prove that I have always accomplished my mission.
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