A Moribund Hero
The ride back to base was fortunately uneventful. Leon relished the comfort of riding with Lucy in the tank. Rabbit rode shotgun with Wolf on his motorbike.
Night fell quickly by the time they had arrived at their destination. At one point, Leon had feared they were traveling out into the middle of nowhere, as the way had been flat land and dirt road with only the odd cactus and boulder for landmarks. So, he was relieved and intrigued to see where they had stopped.
Bessy eased into an old fashion barn with the outline of low hills behind it. It was obviously originally built for livestock. It had been reconstructed to fit the mini tank with ample space.
The barn's inside was clean metal and a stone floor, with a couple of fuel pumps to feed the hardworking black metal beast.
"Everybody out." She yawned as she prodded Leon to open the hatch and get off.
Leon hopped out and took in more of his surroundings. Galvanized cabinets and benches at the back wall contained various mechanical tools, steel drums, and containers. The fuel pumps on one side consisted of refined biomass. It explained why he had detected a lingering stench of rotten eggs from it.
"How far can your tank go?" He blurted out his curiosity.
"How far you'd think?" She grinned, feeling giddy that he was interested in her ride.
Of course, who wouldn't be thrilled with Bessy. The tank was badass and one of its kind. Made before the Golden War a hundred and thirty years ago. The metal beauty was labeled a mech-hybrid. Inspired by the M1 tanks of the late 21st century, it was made to be half the size of one; lightweight, compact, and flexible to literally hop over rocky terrain. Its original purpose was for hunting terrorists in some rocky cave or paddock. Bessy was best handled by two people; a driver and a gunner for, well, the gun. There was an additional turret for a mounted sniper.
She had inherited Bessy from her late uncle when she had received her honorary title. He was a veteran of the old times. He never said where he had got it. She suspected it had been carjacked during a skirmish and never returned. Since the People Army was mainly made up of common people itching to fight and serve the Anti Pope, they were glad she could BYO her own war machine. Just as well because Bessy was her baby.
"With the consumption of biofuel, possible 270 - 300 miles per hour, perhaps." He mused.
She heartily slapped his back with congratulations. "For your reward, you get to sleep in the barracks."
And sheepishly added. "Maybe."
Regardless, he followed her lead out and across a clearing to the single limestone building. He scanned the construction and learned the place was an ancient structure called a chapel. This one was established in the early 19th century.
"This is your barracks? It's a relic!" he blurted with awe.
"I know right? The damn thing has outlasted sixteen world wars and many cartel uprisings. Lucky, our squad leader had inherited the place. La Capilla is blessed by the gods." Lucy nodded.
He looked up to the weathered name plaque on the eaves. "La Capilla de Nuestra Señora."
A few meters above the plaque rested a sanctus bell hovering in the bell cot. Although, the bell was actually a ball aerial drone on standby to activate a magic barrier.
Nodding his head, he passed through the doors. The inside was partially cleared on one side, and the opposite side had a few rows of pews and dark wood booths.
At the chapel's far wall was an enormous colorful stained glass window behind a low-rise podium.
The window depicted a benevolent man in robes among flowers and a large silver cross. He had never seen the likes of it before. It made him gasp with awe.
"Duck!" Lucy screamed and slammed her body to the floor.
Leon yelped when a rubber bullet slammed into his stomach and sent him flying back out the door.
"When I said, report back to base. I DIDN'T SAY TAKE THREE HOURS TO DO IT!" yelled a woman.
Leon shuffled back into the chapel, holding his aching stomach, and found himself reeling from a cushy ball thrown at his face. It was another attack aimed at Lucy that she had dodged.
"Avril! Why're you attacking me?!" She whimpered.
Wolf sighed. "Yah bring home a couple of pets. Spend three hours procrastinating by shopping. What yah expect?"
His hypothesis scored him a rubber bullet in his gut. He groaned next to Leon, who was praying he wouldn't see the Mother anytime soon.
"Honestly. I'm this close to having a heart attack!" An older woman stepped down the aisle before them. She dumped her training rifle on one of the nearby pews and pulled out a white pill bottle from her pocket. "You see this? My cholesterol pills are almost empty. I almost ate an egg today! It's bad enough, I have to keep the Clerics off our backs. We're lucky, they didn't disband us!"
"Ma'am. Remember what Butcher said about doing the wood-ha-ha." Lucy carefully approached her, doing some heavy breathing. "Wood-ha-ha. Wood-ha-ha."
The woman was calm after a few wood-ha-ha breathing sessions with Lucy.
When Leon's eyes had stopped watering, he was able to see the woman better. Rabbit helped him straighten up and gave him a healing vial for the pain.
Avril was solid and seemed trained to weather sieges and the front lines. Obviously older than all of them, but her freckly face was still young and fresh enough for her age. Her green eyes held wisdom and strength honed over the years of fighting in the People's Army.
Unlike Lucy, her red hair was cropped in a clean cut with a small fringe to balance her naturally bushy red eyebrows, thin nose, and small mouth.
She wore khaki pants tucked into black heavy boots and a long-sleeved no collar shirt showing her sergeant title beneath the People Army emblem. A red scarf covered her neck. Holding up her pants was a heavy utility belt supporting her sheathed guns on each hip, a dagger, baton, and small pouches at her front and back. Padded leather gloves protected her hands.
Despite her warrior stature and passionate responses, Leon sensed a kind and caring vibe from her.
"Well, you're here. Go to the mess hall and eat something." She grumbled as she folded her arms over her chest.
Lucy grabbed Leon's arm and hastily led him around the outer edges of the main hall and into the connected kitchen.