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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 8[]

State of the Union[]

Caddo City, New Dallas
Free Worlds League Space
5 January 3063

Moving carefully so as not to dislodge his mask, Daniel wiped sweat from his forehead. He was wearing a Mechwarrior's cooling vest inside the confines of the construction exoskeleton but, it didn't change the fact that New Dallas had a surface temperature nearly sixty degrees higher on average than Terra did. Caddo City wasn't in a particularly temperate location to begin with. Only the fact it was surrounded on three sides by ocean to absorb the heat made it bearable at all.

"We're almost through." Frye called from the other exoskeleton, shovelings away debris left by the drill mounted on the Workmech they were supporting. "Once more should do it."

Frye was wearing no more than Daniel was - shorts and a cooling vest - but the sight had stopped being titillating long ago. He helped her scrape away the last fragments and then they backed up to let 'Max Sears' apply the drill again.

True to the Glowworm engineer's prediction, this time the drill dug less than a meter deep before resistance stopped. Controlling the 'Mech carefully, Sears withdrew the drill and then applied it again twice, widening the hole. Frye and Daniel backed up in case the structure broke down under the drilling and the mass of the workmech, but there was disarmingly little reaction from the dome's floor.

"Oh..." His voice cracked and he wished he could just take the mask off and drink freely. Instead all he could do was suck a trickle from the straw built into it for situations like this - enough to lubricate his throat but hardly satisfying. "Okay, let's see what we've found so far."

It was the thirteenth hole dug and the fifth to find a cavity beneath the massive crystalline domes that had once housed the nascent New Dallas colony. None of the domes was still intact but they were unsafe for the Glowworm, which had to remain kilometers away at the drop-port.

"Your turn to go first." Frye said with some relief and started securing cables to the nearby buildings. Daniel let her attach the cables to his exoskeleton and watched as Sears marched the Workmech away only to return lugging a pair of A-frames and a connecting beam.

The simple crane arrangement was easily erected above the hole and Daniel marched around it, leaving enough slack in the three cables that were now attached to the upper spine of the exoskeleton for Sears to lift them up and over the beam.

"Ready?" asked Frye, rhetorically for she'd already activated the winch.

Daniel gulped and tried not to lose his lunch as the cables pulled him towards the hole and then up off the ground, dangling over it. He swung back and forth for what seemed to be forever until the motion died away. "Lower two meters." he ordered.

The cable played out and he descended steadily until his shoulders were level with the ground. "Another two meters."

Down again. The lights on his exoskeleton played out on unrecognizable angles and objects, too confusing to tell how near they were. "Wait one." He played one of the lights down and confirmed the floor below was clear. A laser rangefinder told him he was about twenty meters up.

"Five meters." he said cautiously and watched as the cable spooled out.

"Found something?" asked Sears. He sounded indecently comfortable, but then he was inside a sealed cockpit. He didn't even need to wear a mask all the time, the lucky rat.

Daniel played the lights around again. Walls in three directions, nothing visible in the other, at least within easy reach of his lights. "Some sort of storage maybe." He didn't want
to get his hopes up. "It's tall enough for 'Mechs... give me another ten meters -" The line jerked out and he squawked the next word: "Slowly!" "Sorry!" Frye apologized and the descent steadied. Daniel forced himself to remain still, he'd started to sway and that could be bad. The walls were broken by catwalks, he saw, and framing that could possibly be 'Mech bays. If so they'd been stripped of working gear and lay empty. Another disappointment.
"Okay, gradually give me another five or six meters." he requested.

The floor when he reached it was reassuringly steady. "Okay, definitely part of a larger complex." he said guardedly. "Not sure how large it is."

Flashing his torch around he saw something sprawled on the floor. Whatever it was, it was huge - taller lying down than he was in his exoskeleton. "I think I'll need some help to look around."

"Roger," Sears agreed. "I'll call in Mr.Morgan and his team."

Daniel disconnected the cables and began to pace out the echoingly vast space. There were more of the shapes - all wrapped in some sort of white plastic, all broadly the same size... twelve meters long, at least five wide and more than three tall. Each was laid partially within the bays and partly extending out into the wide central corridor. Maybe he'd found a vehicle bay of some kind.

There were six on either side from his landing point to the wall at one end, but the broad storage area extended considerably in the other direction.

By the time he was back, a pair of exoskeletons were coming down and Daniel waited for them to reach the ground.

"What have you found?" asked Ardan Morgan. He played his own searchlights around.
"I don't know. This might have been a Mech hanger once I guess. But what's actually in here, I can't guess."

"Easy way to find out." Frye offered and deployed a pair of shears. "Let's cut this covering off and take a look."

Behind the mask, Ardan's eyes were eager but his words were cautious. "Don't cut through the contents. And make sure you can re-seal it if we need to."

"I brought duct tape." the woman declared and pulled a corner of the plastic wrapping away. The shears cut a little and then she had to relax them. "Damn, this stuff is tough."
"It's a good sign. Someone wrapped it for storage so it may be valuable." Ardan noted. He stepped aside as two more exoskeletons lowered. One occupant was visibly smaller than the other - Daniel's father. Looking down from above were others waiting to join them, Catherine Morgan's blonde hair easily identifiable among them.

Daniel started to help Frye, cutting away from her original incision as more prospectors descended. Eventually they'd cut enough away to open the incision and Daniel peeled it back and lit up the contents.

"Jesus, what is that stuff!" one of the team exclaimed, eyeing the slug-like contents visible inside the wrapping.

"Myomers," Clovis said eagerly. "It's a myomer bundle, this is some sort of industrial or military 'Mech."

Ardan nodded slowly. "Paydirt."

"If so, why lay out out flat?" asked Daniel. "And why isn't there any armor or at least a chassis?" It was unsettling like finding a giant body skinned.

"The owners can't have planned on going to all this trouble to keep it wrapped." one of the prospectors suggested. "Check to see if there's a seam that's supposed to be cut open and we can look at the whole thing."

Workers spread out around the frame, lifting and pulling the wrap. Eventually one found a blue line that had been under a fold in the wrap. Fresh shears made quick work of it and together, a half-dozen exoskeletons dragged the wrapping off it.

"It's a 'Mech alright." Ardan sounded chastened. "Not sure what type without the armor on it though."

"And no weapons." Daniel walked along the side and examined it. "Barely any arms for that matter."

His father started unfastening his exoskeleton. "Let me take a closer look."

Daniel moved around to help his father and was halfway through removing the salvage gear when Ardan raised his voice in alarm. "Where's my sister?"

A quick headcount turned up one missing member of the team: Cat Morgan and her exoskeleton. "We have footprints here in from the dust we dropped digging through." one of the prospectors noted and pointed along the store room. "She went that way."

Their boss closed his eyes for a moment and when he opened them they were fierce. "Okay. Clovis, stay here and figure out what we're dealing with. Who's lowest on air for their masks?"

Comparisons turned up that it was Daniel and Frye, which made sense as they'd not replenished since they began helping Sears dig this hole.

"Right, you two head back up and get fresh air and some water." Ardan ordered. "The rest of us will start surveying this place. Whoever finds my sister let me know."

It was tempting to insist on staying but water sounded real good right now. When he heard about the cache Daniel had envisaged powerful warmachines lined up, polished and ready for action given just a little preparation. The way they'd been in the Helm Cache according to Gray Death Legion accounts of that found. This stripped carcass of a BattleMech was far from that.

Sears, still in the workmech, hauled them up out of the hole. "What did you find?" he asked. "Some sort of 'Mech."

"About half of one that we've unwrapped so far." Daniel told him. "Whoever stored them seems to have stripped everything useful."

"I wouldn't go that far." Frye disagreed. "There's still all that myomer, the structural framing and it looked like it had a reactor. And there's, what... a couple of dozen of them?"

"At least that we found so far, yeah."

"That's got to be worth at least ninety thousand each, more if the reactors are in working order, and then there's historical value." she said optimistically. "It might not be what Mr.Morgan was hoping for but at least he's turning a profit."

Daniel grunted as they freed themselves from the cables. "Maybe." The myomers hadn't looked corroded so that was something, he guessed. "I wouldn't want to be Cat Morgan when her brother catches her though."

"Oh yeah. He's the type to worry and let that feed his temper." the engineer said with a roll of her eyes. "Come on, let's get back to the shelter. Soon as I have more air I'm going back down there!"

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