“Sergeant!” A voice echoed through the cavernous `Mech bays, barely audible over the muttered curses of a dozen technicians and the distinctive hiss of an acetylene torch. Deep within a new toy that still bore House Kurita’s cute little dragon-on-a-meatball, Sgt. Geoffrey Barnes uttered a particularly foul epithet and tried to pull himself more deeply into the machine’s mouse-nibbled guts. He was already buried to his elbows in twisted myomer bundles, and something singularly unwholesome dripped down his back. Barnes suspected it was the machine’s last pilot.
A firm hand gripped him by the shoulder, and with an exasperated sigh Barnes lightly tapped his forehead against one of the `Mech’s titanium bones before wriggling himself free of the wire bundles that hung from the `Mech’s shredded armor like loops of intestines.
“Lieutenant,” Barnes sketched a quick and lazy salute before letting his arms fall almost defensively across his rounded paunch. “I’ve got a lot to do sir, if you’ll excuse me?”
“I hear we’ve taken some spoils?”
Lieutenant Aaron Cooper stood with his hands buried in his pockets. His wild hair was streaked through with white, and perhaps three days of salt-and-pepper stubble stood out from his square chin. Barnes found himself wondering if the man had been drinking again. The scent of Cooper’s breath as he resumed speaking put any doubt out of his mind.
“What’ve we got?”
“Anything worth taking’s already been snapped up by jocks who were there,” Barnes admitted. “I keep telling you, if you want them to seriously consider findin’ you a new ride, you’ve gotta—”
“I’m a Mechwarrior,” Cooper sneered. “I don’t do technical work. If you want another AsTech, you can send a requisition. So, what’s left? At this point, I’d even take a Wasp.”
“We don’t talk about Wasps in the 19th Lyran Guard,” Barnes replied automatically. He sighed. “The only thing that wasn’t claimed was this Trebuchet we’re about to strip for parts—”
“I’ll take it, I don’t care what kind of shape it’s in.” Cooper grunted as he reached upward to slap the Kurita Dragon on the snout. He looked thoughtful for a few moments before he slipped into a grin. “Well, it’ll need to be repainted no matter what. Tell me about it.”
“Lieutenant,” Barnes paused, his need to work clashing with his love of the sound of his own voice. “I’ve really got a lot of work to do already, but fine. The TBT-5N Trebuchet is a medium fire support platform that mates LRM-15s with Medium Lasers in the arms. Think of it like a lighter, slightly quicker Catapult.”
“Sounds good so far, so what’s the problem?”
“Well, it only mounts seven and a half tons of armor to start,” Barnes began. “For comparison’s sake, the HBK-4SP Hunchback has ten tons; and unlike the Hunchback the Trebuchet’s launchers are split between the left arm and the right torso which is going to make target tracking harder than it should be. The Treb also only has two tons of ammo for those launchers, which isn’t so bad but the real killer is the heat sinks: or complete lack thereof. The Trebuchet mounts no extras, so you’re stuck with the ten in the engine. If you fire everything at once I’d say you’ve got a pretty good chance of just shutting down completely.”
“We haven’t poked inside this one yet but if you’re lucky,” The Sergeant paused to better emphasize the word ‘lucky,’ “we’ll find out it’s a TBT-5J. The -5J trades the -5N’s left arm launcher for jump jets and five extra heat sinks. We don’t have any good Lyran Griffins, so this Drac-made junkpile would at least make you one of the Regiment’s only medium jumpers. If it’s a -5N.”
Barnes rested heavily on the `Mech’s sloping ceramet chest, rapping his knuckles on the machine as if to stave off the unthinkable. Still, he smiled. Needling Lieutenant Cooper was a joy in itself. He leaned in as if he were about to bestow one of the mysteries of the universe on the young Lieutenant. “If you’re really unlucky, this monster’ll turn out to be a TBT-7K. I’m not sure what Takashi’s ancestors were doing when they threw that -7K together, but with an Autocannon/5 in the left torso, a PPC in the right, and an SRM-2 in the right arm the -5K is schizophrenic as all get-out. I mean, maybe you could turn it into a less-obvious Hunchback or a substandard Gauss platform, but anything you do’ll be hampered by the low armor, and the low number of missile tubes in the arm’ll make it unsuitable for anything beyond a Streak SRM system.”
“There isn’t much chance of it being a -5K, is there?” Cooper replied, shaken. The man rubbed at his chin stubble as if massaging his face and eyed the captured `Mech with a look of such utter suspicion that nearly made Barnes laugh out loud.
“Well, what do you expect from a `Mech made in the Free Worlds League or the Draconis Combine?” Barnes coughed, trying to cover his growing amusement. “Nothin’ good, I promise you that. Still, LT, I think maybe we can help each other.”
Cooper’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “And how can we do that, Sergeant?”
“Ah, well, I’ll understand if you’d like to pass on the `Mech. I was just thinking, if you were willing to drop those poker debts I owe you—and any I might owe you in the future—and I could see to it we ‘discovered’ this Treb is actually a good old-fashioned TBT-5S Steiner model. It’s nearly identical to the -5N, except it strips out those heavy missiles for SRMs and uses the savings to mount eight extra heat sinks so you won’t shut down instantly if you decide you want to actually, y’know. Use your weapons.”
A wicked smile crossed Lt. Cooper’s lips. “What poker debts, Sergeant?”
Barnes laughed, and clapped the Lieutenant on the shoulder. “Well, it’s a good thing your new TBT-5S wasn’t as shot up as our guys on the field first thought, eh? Don’t worry, Lieutenant. We’ll have her up to speed in three weeks. Maybe two, if you’re willing to get those Mechwarrioring hands dirty.”