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Self Configuring Modular Robot (Chapter Cover)

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Chapter 36 - Self Configuring Modular Robot[]


"What's the problem, Hank?"

Victor Steiner-Davion asked. Cadet-Leutnant Henry Ngo pulled a pen from his ear, and made another note. "Cadet Hauptmann, this truck is not suitable for service."

"What?"

"I said, this Prime Mover, assigned to support our training, should have been deadlined." Henry made another note in his notebook, then climbed down the fender.

"That's...how do you know?"

"That's because there's residue where hoses were replaced recently. Corrosion in the lubricant canister that wouldn't be there if it was routinely kept topped up . Cooling belts might be new, but the pulleys have rust-stripes from sitting shut down over an extended period of time..." Henry's hand opened, "And I caught a rat nesting in the intake filter."

Victor's eyes went wide, the Tharkad Militia is one of the best funded reserve forces in the Commonwealth. "Jesus!"

"Not quite, I'm told Jesus was a human being about your size, Sir." Henry quipped, "This is Rattus Tharkadias Norvegicus aka the common urban rat. Find one..."

"More are around." Victor completes sentence.

"Ayep sir. They used rubber conditioner to hide the fact the tyres are an off-brand lookalike, the spare's a farm tyre, and it won't hold the vehicle's weight, someone touched over rust with CART paint and did a fair job...and someone replaced the armor plate with cheap, civilian grade ceramic tiles." He reached into a pocket and handed the son of the Sovereign Archon a broken bit of ceramic, "Courtesy of a ball-peen hammer, Sir, which was, surprisingly, not as non-functional. 'soft spots in the armor' might not be such a prank, if you think about it. I'm gonna suggest you use some of that nepotism and get a team of auditors down here Instead of going on combat maneuvers...and this is why Kommandant Grady emphasized pre-inspections."

"Maybe it's a test?" Victor questioned

Henry looked thoughtful, "Hm, maybe. Let's go talk to the OC (Officer in Charge) and see."

"Let's check a couple more." Victor's frown was thoughtful. "We're training to be officers, after all."

"Ayeh Sir." Henry nodded.

The two sixteen year olds were of roughly equal stature, but Henry Ngo wasn't just 'wiry', he was ranked in the Academy Intramural Kickboxing standings, as well as standard Boxing, and was often tapped by Instructors to handle remedial hand-to-hand training to the point of having some Seniors detailed as 'students' for tutoring.

Which made the way that Victor's classmate spun a ball-peen hammer around his fingers like a dagger trick a little disconcerting as they walked up to the next Prime Mover in the motorpool.

This one also belonged to the maintenance section, and was a loaned piece from the Tharkad Miltia for tomorrow's field exercises.

The enlisted man assigned to the vehicle was nearby. "Koffler." Henry spoke, while Victor did his best 'senior officer' pose. "Open the hood, stow-boxes, and doors, then go stand by bumper thirty-one."

"Sir! This is highly irregular!"

"Do it, Kaporal." Victor had the poise and the charisma, but Henry spun that hammer a little faster, and his vocal tone had a sort of abyssal echo to it, filled with an implied threat.

The enlisted man got the hint, and buggared off to find his section Sergeant.

Henry began with 'soft spot' checks. Flakes of common ceramic snapped off the reactive armor blocks, revealing... Henry scraped some with his finger, and took a taste. "Modeling clay, not CM-11."

"You KNOW that?"

"Sure, CM-11 tastes like oily carrion smells. This tastes neutral." Henry said, "We played with some in Herflinger's class during the munitions disarm training."

Victor watched as Henry made notes, checking each part of the vehicle. "Fuel's topped up, but there's rust on the threads for the tank fill that say it spent a lot of time recently closed..." Henry prized open the protective jacket on a wiring bundle, "House wiring, should work, but it's not multistrand copper per the vehicle spec..." he checked the batteries, "The battery two and three are past their sell-by-date, cracked hoses on the cooling unit, rust on the belt drives for the powerplant, If I pull the injector, I bet we'll find other issues...ooh, another rat's nest in the map-case! Tyres...tyres...huh. Off-market farm truck tyres again. Not the ones meant for these wheels and the two up front have been washed with rubber polish."

Hank dropped off the fender next to Victor, and swept his eye around the site. "YOU! Private! Kommen-ze."

"That's not how you say that." Victor muttered.

"German's like my fourth language, Vic. I'm lucky I can even pronounce it THIS well." Henry muttered back, holding his free hand out in a summoning gesture.

The Reservist Private hurried over. "Sirs?"

"That plate carrier issued by your unit or private purchase, Private?"

"Issued, Sir."

"Alright. Now, do you have confidence in it?" Henry asked.

"Uh...yes, Sir?"

"Hold still then. If it's good, you have nothing to fear. If it isn't, I'll try not to make it hurt too much." Henry said it suggestively.

"Do I have to wear it, sir?"

"Up to you." Henry shot Victor a knowing look.

The Private took the plate-carrier vest off and leaned it against a post.

Henry took a hard swing on the chest portion, and there was an audible crunching sound. "Now, That's not right. Victor, I think you need to call your mom and dad."

"I think so too."

"Lemme see your filters there, Private-for your helmet's gas filtration, and while I'm doing that, go fetch your section leader." Henry told him, "Tick-tick, Private!"

"Dad's going to freak." Victor observed.

"Yeah, but not as bad as he would if, say, someone hard hit Tharkad and hit this level of 'readiness'." Henry commented. "Grandfather would shit fursnakes if the Kowloon militia was in this shit shape."

"but your grandfather died like, two years ago..." Victor commented

"Right. Hence how severe the reaction." Henry said it lightly, "Pat would probably be sharpening wooden stakes if the law would let him. Third line or not, there are standards."

"Your breath to god's ear." Victor agreed.


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