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New Dawn in the Suns (Chapter Cover)

New Dawn in the Sun's - Chapter 3[]

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Trials of a new Machine[]


Pitcairn Legion Proving Grounds
Brockton, Federated Suns
March 2nd, 3015


"The idea isn't that complicated, I'll bet you had your own engineers telling you exactly how they could achieve what you wanted. I know that when I was at Point Barrow someone came up with the same damn system cobbled together from parts for their senior engineering project." Theresa Wallis ignoring the wind whipping the few strands of white hair which had escaped her braid as she spoke to the heir of the Taurian Concordat. She could have included his military aid in the conversation but she had found him to be an ignorant little shit, certain that his prejudices were reality, so excluding him came naturally to her.

"They did." Thomas agreed readily. Unlike most of the Inner Sphere natives he had met, he found that native Brocktonites were well informed about the level of education which was actually available in the Periphery, and as such lacked the characteristic arrogance he had come to expect from natives of the Sphere. "When we showed our engineering staff the data, we got from the Commando we had ten plans on my desk by the end of the day. Which still doesn't answer my question as to why this MML hasn't become standard issue long before now."

"Because while the engineering needed to knock one together as a one off isn't complicated… the engineering needed to put together a production line is." Andrew found himself joining the conversation between the chief of engineering for Brockton War Works, a wholly owned subsidiary of Trevlu Mechworks, and Thomas. "You need to get every step right, consistently, and you need to design and build completely new machine tools to do it if you don't want to end up doing half the damn work by hand. You can't just program what you want into a standard auto welder and walk away for the tubes, they need to be single piece cast. Then you need a chip forge, a programmable chip forge at that, so the damn thing doesn't try and jam the SRMs into the LRM slots and vice versa."

"Your people could do the casting themselves. Hell, they could get all of the mechanical bits done without any outside assistance." Theresa took up the conversation again. "That's a solved problem, and I don't doubt that your engineers can do it. It's the chips which are your road block. Unless things have changed you don't have a single manufacturer capable of putting together a military grade chip forge, or even one half way there like ours are. That was one of the key technologies which the Star League made damn sure you didn't get your hands on… then when they went away everyone else was too busy either buying up the production, or smashing it flat for you to get one. Then, without that key industry, you lost the institutional knowledge of how to program those chips. Not your fault, but it's a crippling defect you might want to think about for the future."

"To be fair… there are very few planets which retain the ability to program a new chip forge, let alone build one. We wouldn't have it if we didn't have a lower tech base then usual when we started." Andrew shrugged as he admitted that. "The ones we produce are much less efficient than what you would get out of a Star League era forge, and they require three times the trained manpower to use. Of course, the tradeoff is that training said manpower is much easier, as the Alliance wasn't nearly as dependent on black boxing to keep their scientific and industrial edge."

"Don't get me started on the spaghetti coding needed for Terran systems." Theresa shuddered as she said that. "That's on top of the DMR Terrans put into everything. Good luck getting Krupp to sell you what you need to build your own chip forge. They'll sell a chip forge, make no mistake about it, but it'll be limited and non-programmable, not to mention two or three billion C-Bills over cost and two or three decades late on delivery. No way in hell they sell what you would need to build it yourself. You might be able to get one of the Lyran corps to sell you what you need but… I wouldn't count on it. They guard their remaining tooling sites closer than the Archon's heir, and getting on the list as an acceptable customer? You'd have better luck getting into Mt Asgard dressed as a Drac officer and singing about how much you love the Coordinator."

"At least they have tooling manufacturers left," Andrew grumped. "We in the Suns started the wars dependent on Terran tooling."

"It explains why they were the first to bring the MML to market though… Probably started the project over a decade or two ago and only now are starting up the manufacturing. It makes sense for them; they've never had a light fire support design. Refitting the Commando like they did… I wouldn't mind shaking that designer's hand. Gives them a massive leg up on the leaguers, and puts them back into contention with the Drac lights." Theresa admitted freely. "If you can get the license, I would recommend you do so. Losing one missile to be able to throw down at both short and long range? That new Commando is a Sphere beater."

"That I knew. Am I out here to see your own attempt?" Thomas asked, mildly impressed by the analysis of the new commando model that Theresa had shared off hand. It matched what Taurian high command thought, and she hadn't needed a working group and three months to get there.

"Nope. We're here to see two new models," Theresa said easily. "Revised Swordsman, we stuck a five tube MML in place of the SRMs and LRMs and upped the armor. That's something I imagine that TTI will want the license for, or at least your high command will want upgrade kits for. You already dropped the small laser and downgraded the SRM pack in your two tee model for more armor… this will let you get back up to a vanilla two's firepower without losing any of the extra armor."

Thomas found himself nodding in agreement with the old engineer. The Swordsman had become something of a mainstay of the lower-level Taurian units and militias. It was cheap to acquire and operate, and good enough to hold its own against most pirates. While it lacked the firepower of the Davions preferred Icarus II with its Imperator B, it made up for it in battlefield longevity, versatility, and durability.

"You could do the same with a Shadow Hawk… it would be a bigger improvement then the two dee." Thomas mused aloud. "Lord knows that two ache doesn't have the firepower it needs. It's a work horse and everyone has them, but there's a reason why everyone tries not to have it as the main line medium and even then, they refit them to match their own preferred specs." The two kay was currently the most popular refit for the Shadow Hawk within the TDF. Personally, Thomas thought that was a mistake, after all the most common cavalry medium in the Concordat was the Griffin and the two kay was almost a direct mod cop of that design. Still better than the dee the Davions liked to run around in though, at least it was survivable if it came into contact with the enemy.

"We thought about that." Theresa acknowledged. "Wasn't enough though."

Before Theresa could say anything else a freshly painted Swordsman in militia colors jumped into the proving grounds and began to go through the scenario. Thomas made sure to keep his prosthetic eye on wide angle, so that he had both the mech and the displayed battle damage assessment in its focus. The recording would be valuable when he got home. The performance was entirely as he expected, a solid match to the Taurians own two tee's at long range, but one hell of a nasty infighter up close. The SRMs made a real difference at short range, though more exhaustive testing would be needed to see if the new model would be worth adopting into general service. The intangibles couldn't be shown in a short test like this after all.

"How much would it be for me to get… twelve of your MMLs for testing purposes?" Thomas asked after the demonstration was over. While he had confidence that Taurian ingenuity would be able to match these Davions it wouldn't hurt to have a couple of finished units on hand for the 'mech designers to play with while they were setting up their factory. "And a copy of the plans?"

"We could work out a deal," Andrew answered easily. "You think Pinard and TTI would both be interested?"

"Let me revise that, I'll need at least sixteen of those five racks for testing." Thomas was reminded yet again that these Davions knew all too much about the Taurians industries.

"Doable." Theresa put in clearly bouncing on her toes in anticipation of something. "By the time your new chip forges are ready to be loaded up we'll have that many prototypes produced. We won't be holding up your departure."

"You aren't worried about official notice?" Thomas asked mildly. Internally his mind was racing. This was far too easy.

"Not when we're going to be claiming that we stole the initial design from you." Andrew replied with a grin. "After all you came to us with the MML data you got from the new Commando."

"There is that… you really think that will fly on New Avalon"

"Ran Felsner is headed here with my oldest son." Andrew grinned as he said that. "That's a direct line to Hanse Davion's ear. We pass the specs on to him…"

"And all is forgiven." Thomas could see how that would work. He wasn't exactly pleased about helping the Davions out… then again if LIC and more importantly to his mind Coventry Metal works legal department heard about the Davions having their new technology before the Concordat got around to deploying it. He knew who would be blamed for the leak, and whose relations with the Commonwealth would suffer. He could actually pass that tidbit off to VMIs contract negotiators as a reason why they were so interested in a license for the new model Commando. It might not work, but it was better than admitting Coventry had accidentally sent them the data. That cheered Thomas up immensely, it was good to see the old Taurian standby of when in doubt blame the Davions being useful.

"This should be good!" Theresa was almost rocking in excitement as a new Shadow Hawk entered the course.

Thomas could see a few differences. It did have the expected five rack of MMLs in place of its LRM system. The real difference though was in the Autocannon. Thomas at first dismissed what his eyes were telling him, and then found himself focusing in on it again as the size of the barrels registered. He had thought it was just another multi barrel auto cannon model, but the barrels were too big. Unable to help himself he zoomed in with his eye on the auto cannon and pursed his lips. Each of the six barrels looked to his eyes like a long-range AC, Whirlwind L if he didn't miss his guess, the same single barrel type which was used on the Blackjack. Widening his vision again he pulled back to observe.

What he saw was impressive. He had known what to expect from the MML system, but the autocannon. Oh, the autocannon was special. It could pump out a variable number of shots, from firing a single barrel, up to cutting loose with all six barrels at once. Checking the BDA board, he was pleased to see that his assessment had been right about the damage potential of each barrel, but wrong in the potential of the weapons system as a whole. Going at full bore it could do as much damage as the largest SRM system at the same range as the lightest autocannon.

While Thomas managed to keep his jaw together, and hide just how impressed he was, his military aid wasn't nearly as capable. Cornet Shraplen wasn't able to keep from staring in a mix of wide-eyed astonishment and white-faced terror. The teenager had been good enough to keep his mouth shut so far, but he couldn't contain himself anymore.

"How!?? What devilry is this? That shouldn't be possible! Even if you simplify the ammo feed system each of those barrels should be three tons." Grover was babbling in what Thomas estimated was sheer terror. He had thought better of the boy, before this trip he had thought of him as an up and comer. He really hadn't expected him to go to pieces like this. Especially since fitting an eighteen-to-twenty-one-ton weapon into a Shadow Hawk wasn't possible. Obviously, they had done something else, and logically if they were showing it off it meant he would be learning about it before the Davions managed to get it into general deployment.

"Grover, enough." Thomas said flatly ceasing the babble coming from his aid. Before he could apologize properly to the Duke, the Shadow Hawk attempted a jump and locked up midair, crashing to earth in a tangle of limbs which indicated a Gyro failure. Emergency services seemed to appear out of thin air to converge on the downed 'mech and the Duke was screaming into his com. Thomas pulled back and waited, finding himself next to Theresa who looked stricken at the accident. He saw the pilot get out, and stagger a bit before righting himself and waiving off the medics before he decided to speak.

"Bad luck, but it looks like your man got out without injury." Thomas allowed a note of commiseration to enter his voice as he said that. They might be Davions but at least they were playing it fair with him.

"I don't understand." Theresa replied, white faced with shock and shame. "It was a brand-new chassis. We got it fresh from triple M, nothing had been installed on it. How could it give out like that. We've never had a problem with their quality control before."

"Triple M suffered a major engineering casualty last year, at least according to TMI, one of their auto welders stopped working as it should. If I don't miss my guess one of the data lines from the gyro to the central computer ripped off due to the jump." Thomas paused, noting that he had everyone's attention before continuing. Naturally he refrained from mentioning that TMI had thought that triple M had been using that as an excuse to retool to use the new Andurien developed medium range missiles on its next iteration of the venerable Shadow Hawk. Something they were keeping to themselves despite foreign relations best efforts. New Abilene was the mistake that just kept giving. "If that is what happened then I think we can confirm that rumor. Even with the accident though, I must say I'm impressed. That new autocannon of yours is something else."

"It was one of my husband's projects," Theresa said, clearly glad for the distraction. "He was trying to build a Code Red, but the metallurgy always seemed to come out wrong. This is the result of his last attempt before he passed away. He managed to get the barrel weight down, but he could never get the resulting material to accept the pressure needed to match the Code Red in performance. It's too brittle."

"Madam, if this is the result of one of his failures the entire sphere would tremble at his success." Thomas said flatly, trying to cheer the old woman up even as he considered what she had said. It was interesting data, mentally he revised his estimates on the range the new autocannon was capable of down. Even with that limitation in mind he thought that this was yet another game changing weapon to come out of the sphere, one he would have to see if he could get the specs on. If this new material could be scaled up then there were some real possibilities here, especially at the heavier end of the auto cannon range. Another thing to bring up with the designers back home.

"Hah, if I hadn't been pestering him, he never would have gotten these done. He always wanted to take the most efficient path, and say what you will about the rotary auto cannon it is not an efficient weapon. Brutal power? Oh yes, but not the clean one shot kill he wanted to develop. We have a larger bore version, but we haven't decided on what to mount it on yet so it hasn't gone beyond bench testing." Theresa grinned as she said that. "I can't wait to show that off."

"I thought you had decided to test it on the Icarus which just came off the lines?" Duke Andrew rejoined the conversation; he was trying to project a cheerful front but Thomas could tell he was worried behind the facade.

"A brand-new weapons system on a glorified second line machine, which a well-handled militia mech can beat, even one its own weight?" Theresa drew herself up in outrage. "Are you insane?"

"If we can prove it works then we can put it onto something more substantial." Andrew replied, his voice sharpening slightly. "If we could still make Talos then I would be all for putting it there, but we can't anymore." He carefully didn't mention the Swordsman they had fitted with the system. As open as he was being with their guests he didn't want to give away all of their secrets, just enough that the notoriously prickly Taurians weren't panicked when Davion units started showing up on the border with new weapons systems. From the look of the military aid Thomas had brought with him that could have resulted in disaster. Better the Taurians got advanced warning so they weren't inclined to do something stupidly aggressive out of panic.

"Fucking Free World carpet baggers." Theresa mutter mutinously.


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