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Exile in Syberia
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Unit Log, Current Unit Designation WheelMech GRF-1-74-0107C-J
Date 3018-08-23 17:30:04, Log Entry 15

Well, that didn’t suck as badly as I thought it would.

In my old form, I was a terrible shot.  Amongst the Inner Sphere and Periphery, and even amongst the Clans, it’s not uncommon to rate MechWarriors by their experience and ability into a handful of general categories: green, regular, veteran and elite.  Exact standards for each category may very slightly, and there were those who might not easily fall into one category, but they worked for general guidelines.

AutoMechs, because they’re capable of learning and improving over their lifetime, not surprisingly use similar standards, undoubtedly something left behind by their human progenitors.  By those standards, in my old body, I was beyond green, into the category where the other AutoMechs considered me actively defective: my ability to move in my own body was bad, while my ability to shoot was far worse.

To test my ability to shoot in my current body, Glyph planned on running me through two different training sessions: static gunnery, and mock combat.  A kilometer away, Manx stood in the distance, keeping a lookout for DemoComs, appearing disinterested in my training session.

For the first training session, Glyph started me out with firing my PPC at full power at various static targets, generally consisting of particularly interesting plant life, larger rocks, and the occasional bit of scrap that wasn’t going to be usable for, well, anything.  This was pretty comparable to what she did a couple months ago (has it really been that long?), when she first decided that I was nearly hopeless.

This time, however, things went better.  For the first part of the course, I was shooting from a standstill, allowed to take all the time I needed.  Here, I found that, when I could take my time, brace properly, and bring my PPC up and shoot it from the shoulder like a human would a rifle, I did…fine – there were enough points of contact between the PPC and my ‘Mech body to hold the weapon steady, and I could blast accordingly with my particle beam.

GroundWave Mk2 (Griffin)(WiS)

Groundwave (new body)

Things got a bit more tricky in the timed “shoot and scoot” portion of Glyph’s testing, where I’d move to a location, stop, shoot at a target, and then move to the next location to repeat.  While I was once again stopped while shooting, I was in more of a rush, which means I couldn’t take as long a time aiming, and my accuracy suffered accordingly.  Things weren’t completely hopeless, but even with the ridiculous velocity and flat trajectory of my particle beam, my accuracy was rapidly approaching “minute of barn door” standards.

The other problem, though, is one of heat.  Syberia’s surface temperature is hot, and its atmosphere is on the thin side.  While I had the benefit of not needing to breathe, per se, I did need airflow over my heat sinks for them to work at full efficiency, and I didn’t have the added benefit of double-efficiency heat sinks like Glyph and Spanner had.  With an average equatorial temperature comparable to a sunny summer day in the desert on Earth, this actively impaired my ability to cool down the high heat my PPC could generate with each shot, forcing me to fire more slowly than I otherwise might’ve been able to do.

When I was done, Glyph took the opportunity to review my performance.  “The good news,” she started, “is that you are, in fact, more coordinated in this chassis.  Your methods of aiming and firing are unusual, but the results cannot be argued with, and when you are in a static position and have time to aim carefully and brace your weapon with both hands, there is a good likelihood you will hit your target.  The more your firing method is forced to depart from this method, the more your performance suffers, but not overly so.  Based on your performance, your gunnery rating could easily be rated Green, which is generally considered acceptable for an AutoMech whose primary function is not direct combat.  While this may be acceptable for a DoctorMech like Spanner, we will need to ensure you practice more.  There is a matter I am concerned about, though.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Your primary weapon.  At least in your current configuration, with the less-efficient, more primitive single-capacity heat sinks, you lack sufficient capacity to cool the heat from the weapon effectively.  And that had a noticeable effect, correct?”

“Yeah,” I agreed.  “I had to periodically drop my rate of fire to cool down.”

“Correct.” Glyph noted.  “However, there is another issue as well: the snub-nose PPC emphasizes shorter-range engagements, whereas you are at your most effective when firing from a static, stable position, which is ideal for longer-range fire.  You would be more effective with a weapon like my own extended-range large laser, which would appear to be a more effective general-purpose weapon, but your lack of double heat sinks would similarly impair your ability to use an ER large laser effectively.  Double heat sinks, of course, would also be ideal.”

I nodded in agreement.  “True.  It’s just that both are outside the realm of what we can realistically do here in the back end of nowhere, with our limited resources.  Even swapping the weapon in my gun mount seemed to be a bit beyond what Spanner seemed comfortable doing.”

“Spanner is concerned that, without a backup mount, any failure on his part to convert another weapon to that mount type would result in you being disarmed entirely,” Glyph observed.  “We also wanted to wait and observe how the change in chassis would affect your abilities, which we are not finished doing. Let us continue.”

Glyph’s next idea was for us to wage a mock battle.  Like regular BattleMechs, our energy weapons have low-power modes or, in the case of my PPC, an integrated laser, allowing us to essentially play laser tag – the sensors embedded in our armor were tied to the Diagnostic Interpreter system on our chassis, which, for an AutoMech, acted as our reflexes and central nervous system, and would allow us to judge whether any particular shot we took would be effective.

Physical combat would be a bit trickier.  Because this was a training exercise, we would not be punching and kicking at each other at full speed and power, and we’d have to indicate what we were doing when we made physical attacks.  It was less than ideal, not entirely realistic, but would also cut down on the repair bills.

Our first fight went pretty poorly for me.  Because I was nearly as fast as Glyph on the ground, walking at 54 kph to her 64, and running at 86 kph to her 96, I tried to fight a running battle to throw her aim off, and close in, where my snub-nose PPC both hit harder, and I’d have more opportunities for physical combat.  That didn’t work as well as I’d hoped: because I kept moving, I had a hard time aiming at Glyph, who while only a little faster than me, was remarkably nimble.  Simulated hits from her laser kept piling up, and while I could close the distance, she could use her better agility to flank me easily.

It wasn’t until I surprised her with an unexpected burst from my jump jets, streaking just above and past her, firing my PPC as I went, aiming at her right side.  Glyph, seeing the barrel of my PPC swing towards her right arm, twisted to expose her left side, protecting the ER large laser in her right forearm.  Exactly what I’d hoped she’d do.

Landing heavily, my simulated and real heat both climbing, I snapped out a kick aimed at Glyph’s midsection, yelling “HIP!” as I did so, placing my armored foot dangerously close to her left hip joint, then pulling the kick back.  Now wobbling and off balance by the maneuver, I dropped into a more stable stance to keep from knocking myself over.  Warning alerts about the status of my knee joints shrieked, as I continued to exceed the limits Spanner had recommended for them, but both held for now.

“HOLD!” Glyph barked in reply.  Freezing, I waited for her to continue.  “Good hit,” she replied.  “Your PPC shot missed, but your maneuver forced me to protect my laser, and exposed my hip to your kick.  Had that been a real kick, it’s possible you would have damaged my hip actuator.  You chose to close in rapidly, rather than use aimed fire from static positions.  Why?”

“You’ve got too much of a range advantage on me.” I noted.  “If I held back and tried to fire from static positions, you’d simply pick me apart from a distance, and outside 450 meters, my PPC basically worthless, giving you a 120-meter window I can’t respond at.”

“Good analysis.  Bear in mind that may not always be the case, and against short-ranged AutoMechs, holding position and taking careful aim may be a better strategy, forcing them to approach you and take fire.  Your coordination in this chassis appears to be significantly better, and your ability to make physical attacks much improved.  Again, I see little difference in terms of your physical coordination compared to Spanner’s though, as with ranged combat, you appear to have predefined methods that you prefer that are unlike standard AutoMechs, but in line with recordings we have of human combat methods.  I find that interesting.  Let’s begin again, and continue to play to your strengths.”

Glyph wasn’t the only one who was finding my training interesting now.  By this time, not only was Manx watching us with interest, but both Ripley and Spanner had gathered outside as well.

For our second match, Glyph and I switched starting points.  Whereas before I approached from east, I’d instead start to our west.  This proved to be a useful advantage for me, as I had both better hillside and plant coverage from this direction, allowing me to dig in, while Glyph was forced to approach to get good line of sight to hit me.

Another thing this did was put me close to one of the piles of debris we used for target shooting.  Letting my “eyes” scan over the debris, I picked out a couple of interesting items that might make a decent impromptu club.  Picking up a broken I-beam about leg length, I carefully set it in front of me, braced against the hill, and waited for Glyph to approach.

I didn’t have to wait long, as she sped across the terrain, sprinting over the open areas to use the denser areas of brush. What passed for trees here to obscure her approach, firing once she was under cover.  Holding my fire, I traced her movements, keeping my head down as she got closer:  450 meters, 390 meters, 300 meters…

Finally, at 270 meters, I fired, striking Glyph with a simulated hit to her right arm, as she lifted her arm to fire at me, taking the simulated hit in my torso in reply.  Deciding it was time to move, I pushed back from the hillside, grabbed my impromptu club in my left hand, and, holding it close to my left leg, fired my two jump jets again, sailing over the remainder of the hillside onto the hard-packed sand and dirt below.

Within seconds, Glyph was upon me again, maneuvering widely, but I chased after her, trying to close the distance, knee actuators flashing angrily again, but taking advantage of the fact I was only slightly slower than her to close the distance to less than 90 meters.

Once again, Glyph’s agility and speed proved advantageous to her, as the AutoMech stepped laterally to her right, intent upon putting my own bulk between her and my PPC, to then flank me and shoot me in the back.  It almost worked.  It probably would have worked, in fact, if I hadn’t had my club.

As Glyph maneuvered to pass behind me, I pivoted to my left, but swung my club in a high, lazy arc, yelling “HEAD!”  Glyph immediately tried to drop her own head down, while arresting her forward motion at the same time, raising both her arms up ahead of her to protect her head.  Meanwhile, I’d released my PPC’s interlocks and tossed it to my side, stepping forward so that I was behind a now-stopped Glyph and, carefully grabbing her right shoulder with my now-open right hand, I brought my I-beam club down in front of her, pinning her in place, and yelling “HALT!” myself, then immediately withdrawing my club, letting go of her shoulder, and stepping back to pick up my discarded PPC.

No one spoke for what seemed like an eternity, before Glyph finally said, “What.  Was.  That?”

“Uh, me playing to my advantages?” I replied.  “If the hit from my club didn’t disable you, I had a solid enough grip on you to be able to do a throw by pivoting back and dropping my center of gravity.  Then I could just kick you while you were down.”

“That…” Glyph began.  “That…that is exactly what I told you to do, isn’t it?  An I-beam?”

“Well, I didn’t have a sword handy…”

“You know how to use a sword?” Glyph asked flatly.

“I'm no expert, and it depends on the sword type, but, yeah.  Mostly the Katana and related swords like the Wakizashi, and then the smallsword, spadroon, and fencing epee, but there's some similarity in forms and techniques between swords like the longsword and the katana…” I trailed off.  “What?” I asked, as Glyph seemed to be getting more agitated.

“Why are you using a completely unsuitable weapon like your snub-nosed PPC when you could instead be fighting with a sword?”

“I have no idea – those memories are completely lost, remember?  Besides, I do ok with a rifle-mounted weapon, too, and it's not like you have a sword or a lighter PPC around, is it?”

“A lighter PPC?” Manx asked, having come down to meet us.

“Yeah, say three tons, comparable range to a standard one, half the power output of a standard PPC, but half the waste heat, too?  I wonder if we can lighten this one up…”

“Glyph,” Manx said, “remember how I doubted Groundwave’s claim that he’s been copied from a human brain?”

Glyph nodded.  “I do.”

“Never mind.”


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