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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 12[]

State of the Union - Book 3[]

New Hanover, Arc-Royal
Donegal Province, Federated Commonwealth
August 24th, 3067

Daniel Holstein didn’t make much of the fact that the Archon-Prince’s sister was his pen pal. He was already the boss’ son, there was no need to add fuel to the suspicions at Arc-Royal MechWorks that he had his job at an unusually young age because of who he knew rather than what he knew.

His place on the Verfolger team was something he felt qualified for. He’d assisted his father during the development of what had become the main production model, the VR5-R - although mostly as a sounding board and to double-check the numbers. Since then he’d been putting his experience with the Mackie refits to the test, in getting the Mackie II production line running; so moving onto how Arc-Royal Mechworks’ first home-developed heavy ‘Mech could be improved upon seemed like a natural progression.

Once it came up in their correspondence, this meant Catherine Steiner-Davion had written to him with suggestions; but unlike most of those he got from people with pet projects to move forwards, hers came with material support.

Daniel wasn’t sure why Catherine’s notes discussed the proposed variation as the ‘Lament configuration’ - the Verfolger wasn’t an omnimech - or why she had sketched some kind of puzzle box in the margins. The head with pins in it was equally off-topic, he hoped she wasn’t getting into voodoo. However, since the message had come with a shipment of Diverse Optics’ newest medium and small lasers, he was happy to set those points aside. According to Catherine, the lasers should be within a few percentage points of having the same range and power throughput as their clan equivalents.

The real prize in the shipment was a pair of Magna Hellfire heavy particle cannon. The Federated Commonwealth had been trying to replicate the Combine’s heavy PPCs since they first encountered them during the Civil War. James Sandoval had captured several during his unauthorized attacks on the Combine, shipping samples back for reverse-engineering at NAIS and other research facilities.

“An all energy variant would address concerns about the ammunition storage in the right torso of the Verfolger.” Daniel explained to the team. “Even with the cellular ammunition storage systems, right now if the bins are hit the engine would be trashed and the ‘Mech goes from full effectiveness to zero, until it goes through a major rebuild.”

Jacques Gleason shook his head. “But the Verfolger can’t handle that heat burden, Danny. The coolant system can’t dissipate the heat of two of those monster PPCs, and replacing the lasers with these extended range models will just make it worse.”

It was a predictable complaint and Daniel tapped his controls, moving the holotable display to an exploded view of the interior of a Verfolger side torso. “Without the autocannon and the ammunition bins, there’s room to add additional heatsinks that’ll bring heat dissipation up to a manageable level for firing both PPCs while on the move, with a margin for use of the anti-missile system.”

“What anti-missile system?” Alice Sakhalin was as sour-faced as ever. “You know how much it adds to the Verfolger’s survival chances on the battlefield, but with no ammunition it’ll be useless.” She had done most of the design work to incorporate the anti-missile system into the current Verfolger’s head, if Daniel was remembering correctly.

“Thank you, Alice.” he said politely. Never be rude to an adversary, his father had advised him. It shows weakness. “I was hoping you’d have some suggestions for adapting the mounting you devised to mount this new anti-missile system.”

The holotable switched to his next display: a diagram that took the engineers a few moments to parse. Daniel sat back and watched their faces, judging their reactions.

“A laser anti-missile system.” Gleason shook his head. “This is unproven - no, it’s actually untested equipment, Danny. The Wolves have been working at that for twenty years and they haven’t got anything fit for use.”

Sakhalin looked distracted, “I think it would fit.” she mused. “So if this is a working model it’s down to the size we’d need… how heavy is it?”

“About twice the mass of the current system.” Daniel shrugged. “It’d make the ‘Mech more top-heavy but without the autocannon mount on the shoulder, that’s hardly going to be an issue.”

She snorted dismissively at the qualification. “Interesting. I’d want to get my hands on a working model, before I ventured any opinion on its feasibility.”

“Of course.” He tapped his nose. Khan Kell’s technicians have been able to share their data with NAIS again, since the end of the civil war. They’ve provided us with their latest prototype and they’re currently working on production issues.”

Gleason sniffed. “So it’s not actually available?”

“We’re looking at a future production variant ourselves.” Daniel reminded the older engineer. “It’s no more assured that we’ll have a Verfolger ready to carry one by the time they have a factory set up for this Laser AMS, than it is that they’ll be ready by the time that we are. But if we get in on this now, the VR5-L could be the first ‘Mech in the Inner Sphere - or among the Clans - to sport a laser anti-missile system.”

That got heads nodding. Everyone knew that whoever managed that would have military procurement knocking at the door.

“Can we fund it?” asked one of the men in suits who had been listening, but keeping quiet, as the engineers hashed out what was possible.

“There is a military research grant available.” he said, not bothering to try to get his tongue around the string of numbers and letters to identify the exact one. “Felix Industries tried for it with some sort of chemical laser arrangement that got exactly nowhere, but the Federated Commonwealth Navy is interested in potentially saving themselves a few tons of explosive ammo feeds through their warship hulls. Field testing its installation on a ‘Mech would be stretching it, but right now the NAIS, Diverse Optics and Wolf teams are the only game in town…”

“And if no one claims the grant, that office won’t have one to offer next year.” the accountant agreed. If a government office came in under budget, they would find themselves with a lower budget as a reward - a truth as old as accountancy. For that reason, even a marginally applicable project would likely be accepted by the navy rather than have no takers at all.

Gleason looked annoyed, but his own proposal didn’t have the mix of money and prestige that would sell it. “Well, it deserves a closer look.” he admitted grudgingly. “So who gets to be project lead on this one?”

All eyes went to Daniel. It was his idea (as far as they knew) and he was Clovis Holstein’s son.

He shook his head at the implied suggestion. “I’m junior and I’m on the recall list for military service if there’s a forward deployment against the Wolves-in-Name-Only.” he observed before someone explicitly put his name forwards. “It wouldn’t do to see the project fail because military exigencies mean the lead role gets handed around.” He locked eyes with Gleason. “How about it, Jacques?”

The older man looked surprised, but then pleased. “Well, I do know a little about coolant systems…” He’d probably expected that he would be relegated to some makework like mirroring the right arm’s existing weapon mounts and battlefist for the left arm. Which would be necessary, but not exactly challenging.”

“I admired your work on the PPC mounting we have on the Verfolger right now.” Daniel continued. “Adapting it for a heavier PPC seems like it could be one of the major stalling points.”

“May I see what you have on the idea so far?” he asked.

Daniel yielded control of the holotable and let Gleason look. By the end of the week, he suspected that the veteran engineer would be the project’s strongest advocate - the man had only narrowly missed out on getting project lead for the first Verfolger’s development and losing out to the boss's son might have driven him to look at moving elsewhere.

The younger Holstein huffed mentally. If the Wolves weren’t across the border, he could have at least pushed for co-lead, but between that and office politics… Well, he wasn’t exactly running out of time. There would be other projects and…

His comm pinged and he stepped out of the room to read the message.

When he saw the contents, Daniel punched the wall and then winced. That was stupid, he’d barked his knuckles. But still…

Another Diverse Optics shipment was coming in, this time of new pulse lasers; and he’d been requested - by name - to help organize fitting them as upgrades to the Kell Hounds and Fifth Royal Guards ‘Mechs that carried older models.

There were times when having royal attention opened doors, but right now it was very much a mixed blessing. So much for having much time to work with Gleason on shepherding the Lament variant of the Verfolger through the design process.

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