MWO: The Rank and File

Training Officer Lander watched with grim dispassion as a pair of burly laborer caste drones hefted another heavy desk and carefully removed it from his classroom. They had taken three in all, at Lander’s request, and grumbled all the while. There were three fewer cadets, and Lander hated letting desks sit empty. The wastefulness of it rubbed him wrong, so he simply had them removed. The cadets who had so recently filled those chairs had been removed after failing one trial or another. Lander paid that as little thought as he paid the laborers. It was not his place to ensure his charges succeeded, but only to give them the tools they needed to do so. Whether or not they thrived depended on whether or not they were warriors. It was that simple.

His charges stared at him from the doorway, standing at rigid attention and in sullen silence. The removal of the desks had become something of a weekly ritual. Lander always waited for the cadets to arrive before he would let the laborers move even a single desk. Cadet Gwen was in the front ranks. For an instant he thought he saw determination in her dark brown eyes. It didn’t matter. Even a favorite could fail.

“Take your seats, kittens,” he rumbled, finally giving them permission to enter. They filed in as quickly as they could, not running but they all remembered the day Lander had closed the door on two cadets who’d lingered too long in the hallway. Both had vanished that same night. Lander neither knew nor cared to which caste they’d been relegated.

“Cadets,” He began as he always did, pacing like a caged tiger all the while. “Over the past month, you have learned light `Mechs inside and out. You have learned how each myomer bundle influences their movement, and the combat tactics that will make you successful light `Mech pilots. You have even learned how to configure light `Mechs in an honorable fashion.” He skewered each of the thirty remaining cadets with his eyes. They were alert, ready for whichever new horror he was preparing to unleash. “Today, we leave the light `Mechs behind us.”

His cadets straightened almost imperceptibly. Lander smiled, “Today, we move on to bigger things. Note that I do not say better, merely bigger. Medium `Mechs are the workhorse designs of the Clans. Most serve general purposes: they are battlers, heavy-weight scouts, and more. If any of you become warriors, you could very well spend your whole careers piloting medium-weight designs.”

I'm a published BattleTech author who's also responsible for inflicting the "Let's All Play BattleTech and rewrite Inner Sphere history" thread on the Something Awful forums for the past 2+ years.