“Yes, pilot, why didn't you check in when...”
An electronic voice says, “Simulation ending.” The visor display retracts from my face and...
“BOY, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN THERE?!”
I look up to see Captain Howard angrily glaring down at me and Marty with a very puzzled look. I’m not completely sure what I've done wrong, but judging from the Captain's face I'm pretty sure it's serious.
“How did you get logged in under Joe's sim ID?” It is not a question, more like a demand, and I rather be shot than invite the wrath due for failing to answer the Captain.
“Joe lets me log in every week when he is out, especially Friday mornings before ten.”
“When did you say?” Marty now seems more interested than confused. He and the Captain share a quick look and now look back at me.
Captain Howard queries, “And what do you do when you are in before ten on Fridays? For that matter, how long have you been doing it?”
I look back and forth between the two of them hunched over the sim cockpit and worry that I’m getting Joe into a world of trouble... and wonder what is the right way to answer that will keep me in my job and Joe from restricting me from piloting the simulation at least occasionally. Finally, I just settle for the simple truth, “He lets me run some of his favorite sims and it's been probably six months. Please, Sir, I didn't mean to get him in trouble.”
To the Captain, Marty says, “well, if Joe is toast and Paddy here has been doing his qualifying for the last six months, maybe we won't have as much trouble tomorrow.”
They both look down at me and I feel really odd.
Ok, before I get too far, let me tell you a bit about me. My name is Padraig OBrian, but most folks call me Paddy. I am the crew chief, mechanic, ammo loader, weapon polisher, mech washer, mud scrubber and occasional vomit cleaner for an old Raven piloted by the sometimes sober Lieutenant Joseph Green. Even though I’m just seventeen, I’m actually getting pretty good at my job here in a little two lance 'Mech merc unit called the Green Zone Riders (don't ask me where that name came from, I just work here).
Now before you get your pants in a knot about my age, I bet I’m the equal of your best mechanic. Around here, even old gray-headed Master Wolte who crews the Colonel's old Dragon accepts me as capable, and he has fought in real wars.
Ok, I gotta admit it's just natural for me. You see, my da is a mechanic. Granda, too. Fixing things is in my blood... sorta. Once I grew big enough to hold a torque wrench, I was invited into the shop. The lads figured out quickly that if they showed me anything once, I caught on and could help... and when I was old enough, just to do it on my own. I always wanted to know what things did and why, by the time I was 13, I pretty much understood the complex systems that made up the heavy farming and transport machinery that modern life seems to depend on. Soon after, da started taking me all over the planet to help with big contracts. I was never the best on our teams, that was da, but I was close and I knew it. When I turned 15, I finally got tired of being in da's shadow and wanted to prove I could do things on my own.
Da listened when I sounded off, but said I was not ready. Even worse, he said I needed time to mature. At the time I thought he was angry and hurt that I didn't want to stay and inherit the business, but now I'm not so sure. Didn't matter, I felt burdened to be there in our shop. I needed change.
I remember that the advert was pretty simple: “Heavy equipment mechanic needed. Great pay and travel opportunities. Need Immediately.” I sent what was asked for to the contact number, thinking it was a long shot, but wanting any chance to make my mark... on my own.
Almost before I sent my info, I had their reply. In retrospect, it might have seemed they were a bit too eager... almost desperate... to talk with me. Yeah, I neglected to accurately present my age; an act of omission rather than lying with a false number.
It was Master Chief Wolte who met me in that downtown warehouse near the Spaceport. Face like chiseled granite, I hadn't learned yet to read what he thought, but his questions were direct and he soon had me assemble what looked like a large hydraulic actuator and install it onto what I now know was a Hunchback lower-leg assembly. Testing wiring bundles followed, then diagnosing a simulated problem in what I now know was a myomer bundle. It was not until he asked me to troubleshoot and repair the alignment on a large bore weapon with complicated magnetic coils and capacitors that I began to suspect that this was something more than the average job.
I remember looking at him and asking, “just who would I be working for?”
He laughed and answered, “The Green Zone Riders, a Battlemech Mercenary Corps. Still interested?”
I guess I saw nothing but glory in the very idea, without thinking through the reality of life like this. I was younger and very excited at the chance to do even more than I thought my da could ever do... and I said, “Yes.”
In the end, I was offered the job. I wondered that he never even asked my age, but I now think he didn't care. My problem was, they were leaving the next morning and I could not get home in time to talk it over with da. Master Wolte needed an answer then, and I again said, “Yes.”
Now I’m on a dropship parked at the edge of a hot spaceport on a dusty little world at the border of the Periphery... I don't even know the stupid planet's name. I work on our least glamorous mech, a RVN-2X. If I understand its history correctly, it was captured by the Federated Suns many years ago from the Capellans and refitted, then after a murky period wound up being added to our stable from the selection some dealer on Solaris VII. By the time I got to be its caretaker, it had been rebuilt and refitted to the point of battle-worthiness, but not much more. The job of keeping it running has meant a lot of long nights, especially considering the casual and somewhat haphazard approach to piloting that Joe brings to the command chair.
“You will be in my office in twenty minutes of I'll have you scrubbing deck plates until we have a rock I think I can fairly to drop you off on.”
They exchange looks again and the Captain strides off.
“Am I in trouble?” I ask Marty.
He smiles and cryptically answers, “Define 'trouble'.”
As he too walks away, I have to wonder...
Edited by cmopatrick, 23 November 2012 - 02:44 PM.