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Exile in Syberia
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Unit Log, VeeMech TDR-1-74-01107C-J
Date 3018-07-23 10:22:17, Log Entry 10

Combat sucks. It’s intense, it’s exhilarating, it’s terrifying, but it’s not a video game, and it has real consequences. People get hurt, whether those people are squishy humans or multi-ton AI-driven robots. People die.

Committing acts of violence bothered me, and I was glad that it still did. Something like that should never get to be easy. I’d been in fights before, or at least I remembered being a human who’d been in fights before, though not a dire life-or-death fight. That’s not to say I’d never had weapons pointed at me before, but that the times where I had, I’d been able to present a deterrence enough to keep from getting attacked, defused the situation enough to keep from getting attacked, or both.

This time, though, I’d been thrown into a situation where four of us were trying to stop, and by “stop” I basically mean destroy or kill, three “bad guy” AutoMechs belonging to the Democratic Industrial Conglomorate, the “DemoCon” knockoffs of the Decepticons I remember from cartoons. We’d knocked out all three, but at the cost of one of our own, and significant damage to two others.

And why? Over a political dispute between two long-dead groups of human beings who’d managed to get themselves killed as a result? Because a writer thought it’d be funny to set up parodies of an ‘80s cartoon in the Battletech universe, and needed to find a way to make the facile good-vs-evil of the original material fit into a much grayer fictional universe? Because some ****** who, from my perspective, is basically omnipotent decided it’d be hilarious to drop a copy of my mind into an AutoMech, turn me loose on Syberia, and see what happened?

Real fighting isn’t a joke, and isn’t funny, as I’m sure the dead AutoBoP and DemoCon AutoMechs would attest to if, y’now, they weren’t dead.

The thing with AutoMechs, though, is they don’t necessarily stay dead. Manx had his engine taken out, and the skeletal structure of his torso ruined. There’s no rebuilding his current body, but his head, and thus his core computers, were intact, and salvageable. Currently, his head and the remains of his torso were set aside, until Spanner can get ahold of a new body for him, at which point they’ll try to bring him back online.

Our DemoCon interlopers, meanwhile, had also been stripped for salvage parts, their heads, containing their computer cores, set aside until an AutoMech with a more particular set of skills could go through and try to mine data from their onboard computers, to clean useful intel data from them.

That AutoMech wouldn’t be me, however, and for that I was thankful. In theory, both Spanner and I had the gear to do so. In practice, though, Spanner’s skillset emphasized diagnostics and repairs, not intel gathering. My own AutoMech skills, meanwhile, were sorely lacking, and my understanding of what was going on “under the hood” of an AutoMech computer essentially nonexistent, and crawling around in the memories of a mostly-dead AutoMech seemed particularly awful.

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, though, and like I mentioned in my last log, Ripley had some good news for us: she managed to break through the caved-in area and shore it up enough for us to get through to the other side. We found an elevator, which we're still trying to get to work, but there's also a ramp that leads farther down into the complex, still partly obscured. We also found something else, though: a hatch, one big enough for BattleMechs to pass through. The hatch somehow still had some power going to it, and we were able to force it open just a little bit before it jammed: not enough for an AutoMech to slip inside, but enough to get a recon drone inside.

“Wait, a recon drone?” you ask. Or, y’now, maybe you’ve already encountered them here on Syberia, and you’re not surprised. But, either way, I’m going to explain what they are.

So, in my last supplemental log entry, I mentioned that Sounders and their variants, including VeeMechs or me, carry one or more 3-ton cargo holds. They don’t always use that for spare parts, or loot: often they carry small drones, ranging from 3-ton solar-electric UAVs to smaller humanoid models. They don’t have the space or mass for the computers a full AutoMech has, so while they're capable of carrying out specific instructions, they're basically dumb as a post.

Spanner, as it turns out, has a whole team of humanoid drones he uses to help him repair areas he couldn’t otherwise reach in an AutoMech. Blast Sounder, the not so friendly DemoCon we took out, had most of his drones taken out by Glyph and Manx during the last battle, before Spanner or I stepped outside to help. I hadn’t realized it, but it turns out I’ve got a drone, too, which nobody really thought to tell me, because they didn’t know I did. Glyph and Spanner were surprised I didn’t know about it, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t going to make my life just a little bit easier.

My drone was basically a fully-robotic version of the Nighthawk, the 400kg armored exoskeleton, that the SLDF Special Forces used shortly before the collapse of the Star League. No integrated weaponry, but a pair of gauntlets that could carry handheld weaponry, not that it’d do much against a full-sized ‘Mech. At not much bigger than a really big person, though, it was perfect for checking the other side of the door, or beyond the obstructions still blocking the ramp. It would have been damned handy to try to search some of the smaller human-sized passageways I’d seen but had no way to explore.

And, no, it hadn't even occurred to the Glyph to try, or Spanner, to try using his little repair bots that way. Innovation and creativity aren't strong suits for AutoMechs, and they don’t tend to think about how the difference between a 2-meter tall human and a 10-meter tall AutoMech might look at the world.

It took a bit of trial and error, but I figured out how to deploy my “little” drone, which I shall hereafter call “Mini-Me”. Even better, while Mini-Me might not be smart, exactly, its onboard computers were purpose-designed to allow me to connect and take control of it, as if Mini-Me were my own body. Operating Mini-Me that way wasn't the same as being the OEM organic body I still remembered having, but I'll be damned if it wasn't close. Moving around as Mini-Me was easy. Even Glyph, who was convinced I was nearly hopeless, and obviously defective, began to seriously consider that maybe I really had been human once.

I'd felt more like myself than I had in the entire time I remembered being on Syberia. But using Mini-Me that way is problematic. I'm only vaguely aware of what's going on in my AutoMech body, and trying to directly control both at the same time is just not possible. My AutoMech body didn’t exactly have an autopilot, either. It was another reminder that, as nice as having Mini-Me was, it wasn’t my real body, the AutoMech was, and the computers that hold my consciousness, that make me “Groundwave”, reside in that body, not the human-sized drone.

I remember just sitting down and crying digital tears for a half-hour hour after that realization. Then I got back up and, using Mini-Me, scaled the debris still by the door and checked out the other side.

There wasn’t exactly a lot of light, but I found the problem quickly enough: the door hydraulics had failed, causing the emergency blast door to drop closed. At first, I thought someone had tried blasting through it, perhaps to try to storm inside, or rescue people trapped in the base, but hadn't been able to.

That wasn't the case, though. Looming in the barely lit room was a familiar form, though one so enormous, even my main AutoMech body would have been dwarfed: a 1900-ton Leopard class DropShip, a spacecraft large enough to carry four BattleMechs and a pair of aerospace fighters, partially crashed in its hangar.

“Well,” I remember saying out loud, “that's a thing.”


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