As I mentioned in my previous post, my current miniatures wargaming project is nearing completion but still has several models unfinished. As I finished a key part of the army, the Kodiak Gear pictured above, I decided it was good material for a little longer piece of backstory, detailing exactly how awkward a malfunctioning and uncalibrated mech could be for a unit…
“It’s not working.”
“It should be.” The computers on the crowded workbench showed no obvious problems. “Try again.” A dentist-drill whine built up in the air, and the coils of the energy weapon in the mech’s hands began to glow.
“We’re getting somewhere. Power is holding, we’re-”
There was a snapping sound. Smoke flooded from the gun’s inspection panels and cooling vents, and a heat exchange plate embedded itself in the floor.
“Well, shit.” Yuu Sakomizu slammed the laptop’s screen closed and pulled himself upright on legs that had got set in place. “This thing is cursed.” The fire suppression system decided at that point to go off, just as the immobile Kodiak’s cockpit opened. As Adette Morgan tried to wipe the foam from her eyes and hair, and Sakomizu rushed to stop too much of it encroaching on the other bays, the hangar access door flew open.
“Keep that stuff away from my suit! And what the hell were you doing, was that-? Oh, that is it!” Heads turned at the disturbance. “Corporal Sakomizu, Senior Corporal Morgan, were you, or were you not, performing a weapons test inside the hangar?”
“Not so much a weapons test. More an internal electricals test. Powering up each system in turn, checking for-”
“That is part of a weapons test! The part where you, in fact, supplied power to a weapon inside our own hangar without warning everyone is the problem here! There are procedures for system diagnostics, and you have clearly not followed them!”
“Look, Lieutenant Vander, we have the Northco specialist coming any time now and I want to get that thing in something approaching good order for its final calibrations. Heaven knows it’s taken long enough for them to send someone.”
“And now there was very nearly an ammunition explosion, and it seems there’s this horrible slime everywhere and you are going to damn well face some kind of reprimand for this!” The three pilots all instinctively retreated half a step, simultaneously thinking the same thing. Step back, compose yourself, don’t say anything you’ll regret.
“With all due respect if you check the system logs the firing circuit was locked. We simply checked if the capacitors could hold a charge. There was no way the weapon could discharge.” Morgan plugged a tablet into the maintenance panel on the Kodiak’s torso, and called up a wireframe of the suit’s internals. “I don’t profess to know exactly what rule you are citing here but it is my professional opinion there was no present risk to any personnel present. Nevertheless, if you-”
“We’ll discuss what happens to you later. Get that thing cleaned up and shut down. I want its weapons removed until it’s had a proper inspection. Now, make yourselves useful and clean my suit!” Despite Sakomizu’s abortive efforts prior to Vander’s arrival, a good two inches of foam had accumulated on the shoulders and ankles of Vander’s Gear and was setting into an unpleasant residue.
By the time the hangar floor, and Vander’s Gear, were foam-free the short daylight hours had drawn to their end and light, steady snowfall was well-established for the evening. Doors closed across the 9th Regiment’s base, and lights began to burn for those not ready to sleep. Come the morning the staging-ground would need clearing.
Sakomizu and Morgan were woken before dawn and ordered to clear it. At some point the snow had stopped falling, and the night had been cold enough that it had not even begun to consider melting. By the time the pair were done, cold winter light was beginning to turn the remaining areas of white carpet into treacherous icy sludge, and another cycle of work was beginning. While most of the pilots ate a substantial, if bland, breakfast under a regime of bolstered winter rations, Morgan and Sakomizu were presented with a small amount of dried fish and plain bread. Even though Vander was yet to discuss what was to happen to them for yesterday’s mistake, her touch was everywhere about this. Eating thus took very little time, and they had a good thirty minutes to fill before the daily assignments and schedule.
In that time, they happened to be well-positioned to be the welcoming committee for the Northco offroad vehicle that pulled into the now snow-free staging-ground.
“Must be that tech they’re sending to unfuck your Kodiak. Heard tell it’s a woman.”
“Bets it’s the usual sort? You know, the “Northco Rep” they send out to tell you to turn it off and on again… Sharp skirt, high heels, completely unsuited for-” Morgan was leant against the wall of the mess hall and seemed to be speaking from unfortunate past experience.
“You got some issues you need to work out?”
“You mean you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting a military contractor who’s more used to working with officers than actually getting their hands dirty?”
“Can’t say I have. Guess I’m lucky.”
Morgan was about to carry on her tirade against contractors when the Rep got out the car. Sensibly dressed for the weather, carrying a metal case that she recognised as a diagnostic kit, and looking very much like she had heard everything.
“Let me guess, you were expecting someone more… blonde?”
“Did you- did you hear what I said?”
“I saw two wise-ass pilots who clearly don’t want to be waiting in the cold for a VIP looking like they were one more curse from spitting on my name, and I’ve been on enough of these calls to know what you lot think of my lot. So I didn’t need to hear what you were saying to work out what you were expecting. Ion Zender, by the way.”
“Well, Ms. Zender, if you’d like to step this way I’ll introduce you to the patient. She’s in a bad way. I was trying to get her in slightly better shape to save you some work and-”
“And you fucked something up because I’m the one with the qualifications in keeping your shit moving and you’re the one who put together a junker in your uncle’s barn during your misspent youth and think because you managed to drive to the next town for beer without the wheels falling off you can maintain expensive military equipment. Again, I’ve been on enough of these calls to know what well-meaning idiots can do to our products under the guise of field repairs.”
“That would be a lovely story, Ion, if it weren’t for the fact I volunteered to transfer to active duty two years ago from the engineering corps, if I didn’t have two cycles of duty in a Bricklayer behind me and if this fucking Kodiak wasn’t still technically factory-new because it hasn’t been able to pass basic preflight checks yet. So- oh you have got to be kidding me.”
“Where are you going, Sakomizu? We need to discuss your impending disciplinary review which you will be pleased to know I have brought to the attention of the highest authorities on this base. My apologies, madam. Angelise Vander, effective ranking officer here.”
“Ion Zender, Northco. Here to supervise repairs for a damaged Gear. I believe I was talking either to its pilot or chief mechanic.”
“Neither, actually. Corporal Sakomizu is just a nuisance. And while Senior Corporal Morgan is technically to pilot the Gear in question, she is currently grounded following an unfortunate incident involving an unauthorised weapon test inside a populated hangar. Our proper engineering team are waiting inside for you. Good day.”
While Vander led her two victims off to the command building, Ion was left looking into the hangar as pilots began preparing for their daily patrols. The proper engineering team were otherwise engaged preparing Gears for action, and she was waved in without much ceremony. Her patient was waiting sadly in the furthest gantry, looking for all the world from this distance like nothing needed doing. Expecting an easy task, she swept Sakomizu’s effects from the workbench, set up her computer, and ran a cable to the diagnostic port. While it booted, something caught her eye. The rifle’s heat exchangers were slightly out of line.
Tapping the access panel, something else seemed wrong. There was a slight acrid smell surrounding the gun’s power source.
Unauthorised Weapon Test cycled through her mind.
The panel was surprisingly resistant to being opened, and she rooted through the tool rack for a screwdriver to pry it open. Not technically protocol but good enough if the thing was powered down.
The interior was a mess of burned-out circuitry and debris from where the heat exchanger had exploded. As she took this in, rooting through the shattered capacitors, the diagnostic terminal suddenly burst into a cacophany of error noises all trying to make themselves heard at once. FCS, weapon cooling systems, balancers, even the internal heater and air conditioning were, apparently, non-functional. And, of course, the pilot non-functional.
Just the usual calibrations to get something from factory settings to usable, right?
Morgan had said from the start the Gear was cursed. That nothing about it had worked properly, that even its learning CPU had been a cantankerous and barely functional mess. Had she not currently been receiving a lengthy and circuitous lecture from Vander, she could have told Zender this before the engineer had even set her tools up, saving quite a lot of time.