Copyright 2019 by Scott Moon
A Mech Warrior’s Tale
The first thing you need to know is that seventeen tons makes you a lightweight.
That’s the world I live in.
The largest battle mech on the Doomsday planet is five hundred short tons. Each of its three gauss cannons can level a building with a single shot or punch a hole through a mountain. The heatsink for its energy weapons has never been pushed to its limit, which is to say it can fire almost continuously.
Scariest enemy imaginable. If you’re the type to stand there and punch it. Spoiler alert, I’m not and I fear nothing. The Goliath—what a waste of resources. Too big not to fail. Asshole.
The monster has everything from slug-throwing machine guns to mortars to long-range plasma cannons. It can scoop up rocks and launch them like hell’s own catapult. I bet it even has a pilot’s lounge like a starship.
I saw it from a distance once. Went the other way, snuck through some shadows and raided the harbor it was defending. (Did I mention the big G can wade through most harbors?)
Forty to a hundred tons is more standard. All the elite mech warriors drive machines in this weight class. If you know me, you’re probably about to ask if that includes my twin sisters Sheila and Stacy.
Of course it does. The best weapons for the best fighters. That’s the way it works here. They’re UCOW hotshots, for sure. Battle Axe Class forty-five tonners.
Do they help a brother out?
No. They call me Shorty. Because I’m small. Just seventeen tons.
Today I’m gonna get respect.
The field before me is littered with five hundred years of destroyed machines. There are paths through the wreckage. I know them, like any good ambush artist should. Hit and run. That’s the ticket.
I suspect nature buried more of our legacy than we will ever know.
The reason we fight hasn’t changed. Doomsday has an enormous supply of natural resources, especially metals and exotic elements. It’s also a big, dense planet. The gravity is miserable without mechanization.
Mechanics, engineers, and other critical support staff wear bodysuits that would make them pretty tough a thousand years ago on another planet but are just sufficient for them to do their jobs here. I try to stay away from the civilian softies because I draw fire.
Why? Because I’m small. I’m Shorty.
There isn’t a mech warrior so big or so elite that he or she won’t stop to pick some low hanging fruit. But what I lack in mass, I make up for in knowledge of the terrain—all of which is stored in my computers—and some of the best technology on the planet.
I’m fast and I don’t miss. How else would I stay alive?
* * *
“I have the foundry in sight,” I say. “Five kilometers, 260 degrees true. Low visibility and high local activity. Advise.”
Danielle answers, her voice so sexy I want to ask her if she’s got a filter on it and what she paid to sound like paradise. Not like I’m lonely or anything, not at all obsessed with seeing her in person even if it is just for a second. Before then, I’m likely to get stomped on or pulverized by an orbital bombardment. She flies a space-capable jet fighter that can live in the stratosphere.
Must be nice to get resupplied from space and charge your ship’s powerplant with sunbathing solar panels.
“I’m picking up a lot of heat signatures on the defense grid. Very organized. Some kind of major operation going on down there. You’re taking care of yourself, right? Staying low? Managing your heatsinks? Looking for targets before they look for you?” she asks.
“You’re my overwatch. Most of that’s your job.”
“I can’t duck for you.”
“Come down sometime and I’ll show you how.”
“Don’t tempt me. I know Doomsday is a hellish mess but watching it from on high makes me more curious every day. I fantasize about putting my boots on the ground.”
Several lurid thoughts involving her lack of boots race through my head, but what surprises me are more domestic images—hanging out with her on the beach, learning what she actually looks like, handing her a cup of coffee.
“Are we talking about fantasies now? Cause I have a couple.”
“Don’t gross me out.”
“You’re the one with the sexy voice filter.”
“It’s nice, isn’t it. We have a son-of-a-bitch of a dust storm moving in. I’m above it—no need to worry about my safety, because I know you are—but I can’t see diddly squat unless I go low enough to brush the mountaintops. Not terribly interested in dying.” I scan the broken terrain with infrared, sonar, and laser rangefinders. Sensors in the feet of my mech pick up a lot of information when I’m not moving. “Dying sucks. Do what you gotta do.”
I squat so low I look like a banged-up metal ball instead of a two-legged war machine. “A lot of vibration down here. Can’t see what’s causing it yet. Some of that dust is blowing in. Also got pollution from the foundry and something from the salvage maze around it.”
Three lava flows run between me and my destination. I’m pretty sure I can jump them. My jets can push me higher than they would a bigger mech and I retrofitted some expandable wings that give me a hundred-meter glide in a pinch.
I rarely use this last option because they’re not durable. The first time I get hit with a plasma round or land wrong I’m out the investment and probably stranded someplace where I’ll be killed immediately. Better to leave flying to real pilots like Sexy Danielle.
I really need to get a look at her some day; meet her face to face.
On the other side of this junkyard valley is the foundry. It’s one of the four largest on the planet. Not the best, but that’s part of its appeal. Most of the elite mechs are fighting over the Alpha and Bravo Foundries. UCOW, UNA, The Greater Galactic Republic of France (GGRF), and The Chinese Communist Empire (CCE) are gnawing on the Alpha and Bravo region like jackals on a downed zebra.
So what’s the difference between the old world, space-capable nations and the United Coalition of Worlds? Not all of them have land on the homeworld. That’s the difference. Some risked everything during the great expansion, started completely over.
“Why are you doing this, Chandler?” she asked.
“That’s not my name.”
“Someone is going to pay for letting that slip.” Chandler Michael Dane III is my full name. Don’t tell anyone. Pretty sure I have warrants on Red Sun.
“You haven’t answered my question.”
A thought hits me with the force of epiphany. “You’ve been talking to Shelia and Stacy.”
“I’ve flown for them a few times.”
“Huh. They doing all right?”
“What do you think?”
My sisters have skills I can barely believe. They’re ruthless as fuck and have the full support of the UCOW. Anything they want, they get. Which used to make me pissed off they never showed up to help a mercenary, like me.
“I bet they’re getting by on their good looks and cutting wit. Kind of like me. You wanna know why I’m attacking a foundry by myself? Well, it’s about respect. And reputation. Reputation is everything.”
Danielle sounds tired when she responds. “I thought you were planning to get off this rock. Apply for a real outfit someplace. Become part of a team.”
“I’m a lone wolf. Don’t need help.”
* * *
Foxtrot Foundry specializes in industrial machinery—only occasionally do they roll out military-grade gear.
But I don’t need much. Foxtrot will fix me up nicely. All I have to do is take it, hold it long enough for some retrofitting and get out before anyone realizes the defenses are breached. Maybe I’ll earn enough to go off planet with all my gear. I’ve worked hard for this crap. Leaving it on Doomsday would break my heart.
The foundries, even Foxtrot, are nearly impregnable. If they weren’t, the warrior mechs would loot them. Each of these city-like fortresses has super-secret quick reaction forces nobody wants to mess with. Not even UCOW or the UNA.
Most of them are city-states unaffiliated with galactic superpowers. During the good times, they make a lot of money selling weapons.
Charlie Foundry, set apart from the others on Brendon’s Continent, is and always has been UCOW. Great mechs get manufactured there. The kind they ship off world to fight battles for the United Coalition of Worlds rather than contest this shithole.
Delta belongs to the UNA for now, but they didn’t build it; they stole it from the CCE after the CCE ran afoul of Void Trolls on Centro XXIII. The Chinese almost held onto the mech production foundry, but in the end, they had more than they could handle on Centro. The UNA shamelessly stole the facility while their attention was elsewhere.
Try out the Shortyverse for $0.99 each.
Can you enjoy the upcoming novels without reading these stories? Maybe. Probably. But why wait?