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Exile in Syberia
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Unit Log, Current Unit Designation WheelMech GRF-1-74-0107C-J
Date 3018-08-31 17:22:41, Log Entry 16

It’s funny that, as I got more comfortable in this “what’s old is new again” body of mine, Manx got more and more uncomfortable about his whole situation. Yesterday, I found him staring at his old chassis again. The lack of facial expressions on his temporary Phoenix Hawk body made it a little harder to tell what was going on, but his body language seemed a bit clearer, with the way he stood, his shoulders set, just radiating stress.

I walked up alongside of him. “So…what’s up?”

Manx turned towards me slightly. “I am considering how I might continue to engage in my primary function in the antiquated chassis that you previously were in.”

Huh. Thought we were past this with him. “OK, let’s start with the obvious question: what is your primary function?”

“I am programmed to be a ReconMech.” Manx replied.

“And my old chassis is too big? Too slow?” Obvious thoughts, I know, given my old body was more than twice as massive and two-thirds the speed.

“Both, actually.”

“Okay,” I mused. “I can see that would be a bit of an issue. I take it changing your primary function by retraining isn’t so straightforward, Manx?”

“No. I am a ReconMech.” he agreed.

“Why?” I asked. “I mean, Manx, we’re here in the base with a ReconMech who isn’t just a ReconMech, right? I mean, yes, Glyph is a ReconMech, but she’s also an Analyst, she said, studying not just what other AutoMech groups on Syberia are doing, but where you all came from, right? Scout, intel analyst, historian, even trainer, right?”

“True. In time, I may be able to do the same. But my primary role will remain ReconMech, just like Glyph’s primary role is Analyst.”

“And, of course, meanwhile you’re in a body that’s actually well-suited to the role because, after all, that was one of the Phoenix Hawk’s primary jobs, but you feel stifled because you can’t transform into an alternate mode, specifically one with wheels, because you’re programmed for ground movement, right? Not flight?”

“Also correct. You see my dilemma.”

“OK, here’s the other thing, though. How far are we from someplace you could, in theory, get a new body of the same type as your old?”

“Our capital is approximately 4,500 kilometers away. There are smaller facilities closer, however.” Manx noted warily.

“OK, and I’m guessing we’re closer to the Autonomous Barony’s territory than we are to the Democratic Conglomerate’s, right?”

“Yes,” Manx agreed readily. “We’re significantly closer. I was surprised to see a penetration raid by the DemoComs this far past their general boundaries into our territory.”

“And they used a Sounder to do it, I might point out. And my old chassis is its progenitor…or, at least, the missing link between the old Thunderbolt and the Sounder. You could still do recon in that chassis. But, you’ve got options available, Manx.”

“What would they be?” he asked.

“The first would be to go either to one of the smaller facilities,” I noted. “Or, worst-case scenario, spend the 71 hours or so it would take to walk back to your capital, then get yourself put back in a body more like you’re used to, assuming one’s available.”

Manx shrugged. “A difficult journey, but a feasible one.”

“Right,” I agreed. “Or, alternatively, you can let Spanner finish customizing my old proto-Sounder chassis out for you, use that, and stick to your old role, just as heavy recon instead of light recon. What were you and Spanner settling on for the modifications you could make here?”

“Removal of jump jets, replacing the small lasers with three medium lasers, addition of a recon camera, and addition of four single heat sinks,” Manx rattled off. “Additional communications equipment would be retained, as removal would require more significant overhaul of the chassis. Shifting of core computing components to external head unit also possible thanks to salvage from DemoCom Sounder.”

“You’re kidding me,” I said flatly. “You’re going to have a head. On top of the center of your torso. In a humanoid layout.”

“Well, yes. Spanner said he had time to integrate it. He also noted it would facilitate future efforts to remove the additional communications gear at a future date.”

“Okay,” I replied. “So you’re a bit slower, but you also have the option to carry a mini-drone or two to extend out your scouting ability. You’ve got communications gear you can use to monitor remote sensors. You’ll have a recon camera you can use to get a better look at things. And while you’re slower, you’re going to be tougher in a fight than you’d otherwise have been, even if you’ll need to watch your heat a bit closer. That’s a viable enough loadout that you might be able to continue to function as a ReconMech, Manx, and it opens up new doors on how to accomplish that role. You may find you work best not just as a ReconMech, but coordinating the activities of other, smaller ReconMechs as their commander. If not, you can always see about swapping out for a different body back at the capitol.”

Manx sighed. “You have a point. May I confess something?”

“Sure, go ahead.” I replied, not sure where he was going.

“Once Spanner confirmed he could mount a head onto it in a manner much like a human, I had briefly considered asking if you would be willing to return to the Sounder prototype chassis, and allow me to have your current chassis instead, before I eliminated that as a possibility.”

“OK, not disagreeing with your choice to drop the idea, Manx,” I said, “but what made you decide to drop it?”

“You appear to be far too well-adapted to your Streaker prototype chassis for me to ask you to uproot yourself again. And if the idea of being in a 55-ton, more durable AutoMech chassis was appealing, then being in a 60-ton, better-defended one is even more appealing. Plus, you appear to have knee actuator problems.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “I’ve always had knee actuator problems, even when I was still human. That’s nothing new for me. Too much cumulative damage over the years.”

“That sounds actively terrible, and makes me glad I was never human.” Manx replied.

“Oh, it wasn’t all bad,” I said defensively. “And look at it this way: I may be in a far more durable body, and obviously the computer cores holding my mind can be moved from chassis to chassis as one wears out…but, unless I invent time travel, I’m also never going to see my family or my friends ever again, given everybody I’ve ever known has been dead for centuries at this point. No matter what I do here on Syberia, Manx, that’s one part of my purpose I’ll never be able to fulfill again. By way of comparison, customizing out your new BattleMech body isn’t so bad, is it?”

“I had not considered that,” Manx said apologetically. “Given the circumstances, you seem remarkably stable.”

“What’s the use in falling apart?” I noted. What I did not say, however, was that time travel was exactly what I hoped to accomplish. Or traveling between alternate realities. Or whatever else I’d need to do in order to get back to my home reality. I couldn’t do that here on Syberia, though. The only place I knew of in the California Nebula that gave me a chance at all of doing so was the world of Toreel, if I could figure out how their “magic” worked.

That, however, would mean leaving Syberia. Which would preferably mean finding some form of working JumpShip. Which, in turn, ran the risk of running into the “Star Empire”, them figuring out FTL tech, a way out of the California Nebula, and a brand-new Clan-style invasion of the Inner Sphere. Let’s, like, not let them do that.

So, like Manx, I had a choice to make: do I abandon my purpose of trying to find my family, and try to find a life for myself here? Do I risk unleashing the Kraken by trying to find a working JumpDrive and risk stumbling into the Star Empire? Do I slow-boat my way to Toreel at sublight speeds, taking decades or longer to get there, in the hopes that whatever “magic” they’re capable of can help me offset this enormous gulf of time, space, and whatever else separating me from my old life?

I don’t know. The only thing I do know is that I don’t know enough right now to make a decision. At some point, I’m going to have to secure my little hidey-hole here as best I can and see the rest of the planet. And the idea of doing that, and risking getting blown up, scares the hell out of me.

Breaking myself out of my internal introspection/panic, I turned more towards Manx, clapping him on the shoulder. “C’mon,” I said, “Let’s go talk to Spanner, see how much longer his refit’s going to take, so you at least have the information you need to make an informed decision.”

One problem at a time. Solve that, move on to the next problem. What else could I do?


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