27 August 3066
The BattleMech moved as though its myomers and actuators were malfunctioning. Almost as though the fusion reactor at the heart of his Thanatos was operating at a “keep it warm, hon, I’ll be right back” mode. Despite himself, MechWarrior Felix Grimstead glanced at the readouts to his right, peering through the condensation starting to fog up the view-plate on his neurohelmet. Readouts looked fine, as he knew they would. He reached up and tried to splash away some water droplets. His teeth ached from the endless grinding.
“Hon, I’ll be right back. Ha! Right. ‘Right back’ like that DropShip captain said he’d be to pick me up. A year later! Three years ago!”
Anger slopped around the cockpit like the muck his seventy-five-ton BattleMech slogged through. Waves of sludge undulated in sickly currents. But if his ’Mech, Hangover , stopped moving, the water also stopped sloshing in an astonishingly short time, as though a growth below it was actively seeking to quiet the waters and let it go back to sleep.
“Now isn’t that just the sweetest thought. Right, hon?”
He wasn’t angry. Not really. After all, the annual parties the locals were starting to throw for his “goodbye” were getting epic. He’d lost most of a week last month and somehow wasn’t on the yearly DropShip run that brought high-price commodities on-world. No, not really upset about that. Not even about traipsing through a vile, Crocodilia-, leech-, and brainsucker-infested swamp the locals lovingly called Petey’s Bog.
“’Cause if you name it after a fun-loving bat-crazy uncle, that’ll make it better, right, hon?”
He reached out and patted the cockpit console like it was a favorite hound. No, not a favorite dog. An apocalypse dog, he thought, laughing out loud. Like in one those end-of-the-universe holovids where the dog stays by your side and saves you from the end times somehow. Yeah. Exactly like that. The anger wasn’t for him. It was for his ride. The Hangover was getting filthy, not to mention the sludge seeping past armor plates would clog up actuators and myomer bundles. Likely take a week just to dry out, and another three to clean it all up.
Despite the supposed hermetically sealed nature of the cockpit, the humidity was through the roof, and rivulets of sweat tracked down into several uncomfortable places. Not to mention the stink. Didn’t matter if his gauges told him the scrubbers were keeping the atmosphere out. His nose knew better. It always did.
“Gonna make those raiders pay, hon. Gonna make ’em pay for forcing us out into this dank, hot-as-Satan’s—”
A stretch of swamp vanished in the concussive blast of long-range missiles that abruptly corkscrewed down through the steaming sky. Waterlogged wood exploded in spongy splinters that sprayed his Thanatos like so much wooden hail, but ultimately left no damage. The blast wave frothed water and forced him to adjust his pedalwork as his BattleMech took a step backward with its back-canted legs to ensure he’d stay upright.
They fired without getting a real bead on my location. That’s gonna cost ’em. He pushed the throttle full-forward and swung the ’Mech’s arms like battering rams to finish bashing through the mess the raiders’ volley created. Then he strode into a relative clearing, sensors stabbing out to find his foes.
Seeking for the BattleMech hidden half a kilometer away, Felix almost missed the Hunchback squatting behind a titanic cypress. It rose from its position almost too quickly and stumbled as the pilot didn’t take the boggy ground into consideration.
Nice trap. But I’ll take a little luck on my side every time. With trained ease Felix raised the BattleMech’s right arm and smoothly triggered his Thanatos’s secret weapon: seventy rockets sprouted on columns of flame, and the Hunchback vanished under a cacophony of bursting explosions and light.
The coming of the Clans and their OmniMech technology changed the face of warfare within the Inner Sphere. Within a decade, various Houses were fielding their own OmniMechs, though often they were, at best, poor copies of Clan designs. Nevertheless it constituted a lucrative environment, and StarCorps Industries joined the fray, developing the Thanatos with that same vaunted tech. However, by the time of the ’Mech’s field trials, the market had shrunk considerably, with neither the Lyran Alliance Armed Forces nor the Armed Forces of the Federated Commonwealth espousing interest. With adroit agility, StarCorps revamped the Thanatos into a standard BattleMech.
MechWarrior Felix Grimstead is still not sure he remembers exactly how he came to pilot the Hangover. Then again, he doesn’t often remember all the wrong places he’s been or all of the wrong people he’s met. He even thinks his BattleMech once had a different name. But after several years of work on the planet of Swartklip, where he continues to boast he’ll be leaving but somehow never does, the new moniker seemed appropriate.
During an extended engagement with raiders, a combination of damage and low supplies forced him to refit the ’Mech with a bevy of rocket launchers. In fact, several such abysmal maintenance cycles forced him to revamp the weapon configuration several times, which ultimately gave him the most sophisticated rocket-launcher-armed BattleMech in the Inner Sphere—a joke he loves delivering in a bar or on a victorious battlefield.
Written by Randall Neil Bills
Catalyst Game Labs