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The Bull and the Genie
- Chapter 22 - Home Again, Part 2
[]

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MechWarriors do Math[]

Home of the Chengs - Brandis System, Taurian Concordat


The next two weeks went very well. Jennifer adored Mary and even got to show her off to her junior high school, all of whom were amazed to talk to a real general who had been born on Brannis.

Then Mary got yanked off to the planetary assembly to be granted an award and…

Well, she'd prefer the junior high school. She was told all about Jennifer's position as best baseball player at school, and how she also got to volunteer at the local clinic, handing out vaccines and things like that.

Jennifer, when she wasn't asking about Mary, loved to talk about what she did there, next to what she would do as a MechWarrior.

That subject came up at one dinner, and Mary noticed Mom twitch.

"And then, I won't have to worry about some people getting angry because I flunked math." Jennifer said.

Mary paused, some of Mom's homemade lasagna halfway to her mouth, then put it down. "Really?"

"Sure, Immortal Warrior never uses math!"

"Immortal Warrior isn't…" Mary paused. "Okay, try this. You're doing a hot jump, and suddenly your guidence computer died. Maybe you got jostled, maybe someone set off a nuke in orbit. Maybe just bad luck. but now you're falling and the computer's not going to help you. You have to do it manually, time everything or you're going to go spl—land off target."

Mom relaxed slightly.

Jennifer paused. "So you… use the emergency computer?"

"Yep. We call it the MK I brain." Mary said. "That's why we all have a writing pad so we can do calculations. And a mechanical watch that is immune to EMP and is accurate to the microsecond." She pulled one of the paper place mats out and produced her watch and pen. "So, I have to look outside my cockpit and time to rotation of the 'mech, which…" Mary bit her lip and started scribbling down equations. "Then we can time it…" She hit the counter on the watch. "And… okay, I need to figure when to hit my rcs pack…" She looked up at Jennifer. "Also, the park we went to yesterday, remember the spinning cups?"

"Yes?"

"The mech is doing that."

"What if you're wrong?"

"Then I hit, very hard. I have to get it right and get it right the first time, which means I have to know the math well enough to do it fast. I also have to be able to do the same thing if we lose navigation systems and I have to read a map and go by dead reckoning."

"Mechwarriors have to do math." Jennifer sounded like Mary had just told her Christmas was cancelled.

"Everyone has to do math." Dad said.

"Listen to Dad. It may not be the same type of math, but you need it—even if you have a computer, so you'll know if the computer is giving you the right answer, or garbage." Mary leaned back. "Like he time I led my lance in the opposite direction because I decided to trust the computer and not my instincts…"


Later, Jennifer was giggling, as Mary finished the story (minus the actual language her TO had used), and then went to bed. School years didn't stop, not even for Generals.

"So you're leaving this Saturday?" Mom asked, as Mary helped tidy up.

Mary nodded. "Getting a whole RCT ready isn't going to be easy."

"Jennifer adores you."

"She's gotten big.", she comment to her Mother.

"She wants to be a MechWarrior." Mom paused. "I—"

"Don't want her to," Mary said. "I can see it. Me being gone can't have been easy on you and Dad."

"And what happened to you at the Reach… you're a little different now. Jennifer is…"

"Gentle." Mary nodded.

"You were gentle.", her mother told her.

"But I wanted to see the stars, more than anything. Jennifer doesn't have to enlist to do that." Mary paused. "Staying on Brannis isn't any guarantee of safety. Mechs aren't the only thing that can hurt you. We have drunk drivers here, after all."

"I know.", admitted her Mom.

"I'll talk to her."


Sibling Chat[]


The last day, Mary took Jennifer to the greatest amusement park on Brannis. Or at least the oldest one, dating from the Star League. Most of the rides were newer, with "Attack of Davion" sitting next to "Wild River." There were even a few old 'mech pods, probably donated from the military base, but Mary begged off of those.

"Don't want to show any secrets." she told Jennifer.

By the end of the day they were standing up at the Pinnacle, designed to look like one of theh high mountains of Earth, complete with water misters and coolers producing artificial snow for the adventurous who wanted to ski, actual Ski-ranges being over three hundred miles away. Mary and Jennifer sat down, enjoying the cool air, but staying away from where some teens were having their romantic rendezvous.

About my age, Mary thought. Back when I signed myself up. Today, there was more room for college, more need for an educated workforce. She'd read that there were some groups wanting to push for the age of majority to be increased to 18, to be in line with the rest of the Concordat.

"Mom's worried that you want to be a Mechwarrior."

"I know, but I could do it."

"Maybe, if you forget your fear of math. Even if not that, you could join up as a regular." Mary glanced at her. "But why? Pretend I'm the recruiting officer. Why?"

"I—because I want to serve the Concordat, I want to be… you know, like you. Important! Win wars!"

"Be careful about that last." Mary quietly said. "I've had friends die. Had to write the letters their families get. No bodies, just cremated remains, unless they've requested burial where they fell. Winning can have a high pricetag, and it may be one you have to pay."

"You didn't."

"Nope. Came close. And I didn't win any wars."

"But the Reach thing, I saw the picture, you were there with Duke Diego and Lady Arano. Is it true that they were lovers?"

Mary blinked. Had a brief horrifying image of what they would do to anyone who said that to them.

"No… I think the age difference was a bit much." Mary paused. "But I didn't fight my way out of that war. Let's put it this way. A soldier can win a fight, right?"

"Yes."

"But he can't win a battle. A general can win a battle, or even a campaign."

"Okay…"

"But a general can't win a war, not ultimately. A politician can win a war, and more importantly make a peace from that war. So if you become a MechWarrior, you won't win a war. You'll be part of it, but ultimately, just a part, and you may not agree with what the general or the politician thinks."

"Generals can't?"

"No. Kerensky was a general, and he beat Amaris. But what happened then? What did he do with his victory?"

"He left.", Mary told her.

"He left, and everything he fought for turned to dust. Think of all the soldiers who died, thinking they were restoring the League. What would their ghosts say?"

Jennifer shivered, and Mary quickly changed tactics. "But there is a lot of stuff you can do. Warriors don't win wars, but they also don't build houses, cure people, teach people… Like Old Faithful down there." She gestured, the big looming mountain of water ride almost lost among the newer rides. "How old is it?"

"It's been here forever."

"Right. You know who built it, right?", she asked Jennifer

"Mike Donavan, he owned the park!"

"He owned the park and when the League collapsed and people started raiding Brannis. He realized that the rides were going to stop. The holo-games would be stolen or break down, so he took the last equipment he had, and used his mind. He couldn't save everything, but he could at least give people something to enjoy before he headed out and did his best to keep the canals running. I don't know if they told you, but he was a SLDF combat engineer who retired here. And he built Old Faithful—you know why it's so faithful?"

"Something about what he did?"

Mary nodded. "He knew that engines and pumps would break down or be stolen, so he punched down into the aquifer and created an artesian well that would keep the water flowing, even if nobody had the tools to fix it. And it has. Ever since the fall of the Star League, it has. Hundreds of years."

"I… I didn't really think of that.", Jennifer admitted

"But you liked it didn't you? Screamed when you hit the first big dip."

"Yeah."

"So did I!" Mary said. "It's been over two centuries, and every day, Old Faithful has been around. So… who helped more. Mike Donavan, or a Mechwarrior? Who made more of an impact on the people."

"I…" Jennifer was thinking hard. "..but he needed MechWarriors to protect him. That's why the park is so much bigger."

"That's true, but it'd be cold world to protect if there were no Old Faithfuls. And with that, I think we have time for one more ride on Old Faithful before the park closes. We can get soaked and dry off on the way home."

"Right!"

Jennifer jumped up, and Mary followed her. Well, Mom, I did try. She wouldn't lie to Jennifer, but maybe she'd helped show her there were other things to do other than be a Mechwarrior.

Granted, unless Jennifer could improve her maths, she probably wouldn't have to worry about it.

But telling Mom to encourage bad grades probably wouldn't go well. Mary smirked. The Protector might be the highest military authority, but Moms were another thing entirely. With that, she followed her younger sister down to the oldest ride on the planet.


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