|First published||27 February 2010|
|Era||Succession Wars era|
|Timeline||10 September 3028—2 January 3029|
The story is "Dedicated to all the men and women of the armed forces who valiantly serve their countries each and every day."
|“||The girl had taken the wrong box.||”|
On 10 September 3028, during the invasion of New Hessen, Bravo Company, Third Battalion, 2nd New Ivaarsen Chasseurs, is ordered to set up an ambush in Municipal District 3 of the city of Buchvaal. Despite his misgivings about fighting in a housing area AFFS MechWarrior Sergeant Danny SinClair eventually moves his Hunchback into hiding in an apartment building as ordered. When Capellan BattleMechs retreat into the area he fires his AC/20 at an enemy Locust. Much to SinClair's horror, a little girl (later identified as "May") runs onto the street from a house near the Locust just as he is pulling the trigger. The point-blank shot causes the Locust to explode.
On the early morning of 21 October 3028, retired CCAF Captain Toma Fu Shieh, troubled by phantom pain in his prosthetic leg and walking with a cane, arrives at Hsu's Tea House. He almost gets into an argument with the waiter who refuses to accept Yuan and describes the Liao currency as worthless, as New Hessen is now occupied by the Federated Suns. His old shi fu, master Jien Zhiang, intervenes on Toma's behalf, and his word obviously carries great weight as the waiter complies immediately. Toma is revealed to be a Minder and Jien Zhiang his mentor and Examiner. They have prepared a box with an explosive device, and Toma can "do it" as he has access to the Yellow Zone.
While they talk, a young girl with burn marks and wrinkled and soiled clothing (implied to be the same girl that was wounded a month earlier when the Locust was destroyed) enters the Tea House to buy food. Evidently a war orphan, she reminds Toma of his own dead daughter who would be of the same age now. When the starved girl's coins are insufficient to buy a second meal, he orders it for her. After she leaves, Toma has second thoughts about the planned bombing and refuses to deliver the device, but his master indifferently points out that the girl inadvertently took the bomb and left her own box (containing a tin of black shine, a lighter, a toy animal, a few crayons and a dirty rag).
Divining that she would seek to exchange or earn more money at the Yellow Zone, Toma desperately tries to find the girl there but is slowed down by his injury and by the crowd of Capellan citizens there. Simultaneously, Danny SinClair tries to smuggle some food out of the Yellow Zone, despite trading in rations having been disallowed. The girl, meanwhile, irritates the guards at the checkpoint because she refuses to hand over her box for inspection (falsely believing they want to take it away from her) in a sandbag shelter. SinClair tries to intervene on the girl's behalf, but gets into an argument with the watch officer who turns out to be his Leftenant Jennifer Berri, dispossessed after losing her Phoenix Hawk and blaming it on SinClair. She escalates the situation by drawing her sidearm. At that point, Toma rushes in and is promptly shot in the shoulder by Berri. In the ensuing commotion, the girl drops the box, unaware that it contains a bomb.
On what would have been May's ninth birthday on 2 January 3029, a wounded Danny SinClair lights a candle with a tag revealing that she died on 21 October 3028 at a war memorial. He reflects on how he tried to help May after accidentially wounding her, to come to grips with his feelings of guilt, and how her death upset him all the worse for it.
- AFFS MechWarrior Leftenant Jennifer Berri
- AFFS MechWarrior Sergeant Danny SinClair
- AFFS MechWarrior Sergeant Joseph "Big Joe" DuBois
- AFFS MechWarrior Tim Duvalles
- AFFS Private Spaynck
- AFFS Colonel Stephenson (mentioned)
- Captain (retired) Toma Fu Shieh
- Jien Zhiang
- Lui May Sung