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Gundam Liberate
Liberate 102
Major Christiaan Boshoff, Ph.D, sat in his cramped-but-comfortable seat and reminded himself that the physician had insisted that his eyes were no longer bleeding and that any trickling he thought he felt was strictly psychosomatic.
It didn't really help, of course, but it was something to do while he waited besides rail once again at the ghost of one of the men he had respected most in all the world. If only Doctor Ngumba had just told him, told anyone, said something... but the old man hadn't, and now he was dead and there was nothing to be done but try and see to it that his work ended up in the right hands.
And if that idiot who'd taken over from the late Colonel Sebe wouldn't see it, then Boshoff's own people - who were some of the best the entire damned human race had to offer! - could, and they'd pulled together magnificently to find a way to do something about it.
Chris had never been prouder to work with them, let alone be permitted to claim to lead them, but he'd overruled the motion to draw straws to do the actual dirty work. When the Imperial Army's power blocs started to move to squash this insolent independence, they'd find only a single staff officer who'd gotten too big for his britches and ordered his subordinates into compliance, rather than a full unit mutiny or some similar pretext for a crackdown.
Assuming that their guesses at the insurgents' route was right, and that things went as planned... if not, then his worries would be over rather sooner...
    * * * * * * *
Maximum endurance five hundred hours life support and ten hours combat consumption with six km/s delta V... "Christ," said Anabelle Targia, "This thing's a monster."
"What's that?" Tim asked, poking his head out of his bunk at the far end of the no-longer-quite-so-crowded pilots' quarters.
She let her face drop into the book, since her neck was starting to get a crick from reading lying down. "That Gundam whatsit they sent us for. Once they mass-produce those things we'll get completely eaten. It's better than a Rat in every way."
He rolled into the aisle and walked up to perch on what had been Marie's bed, across the isle from Ana's. "Like how?"
She sat up, too - it was that or display herself like some pinup, really - and told him. "It's faster, smarter, literally stronger, tougher... and it's got some kind of special system that I think must have been giving the research guys fits. They haven't even written any real documentation for it."
"Or you just didn't find it." Tim was always entirely too prone to pointing out flaws and errors in the world around him. Besides the fact that he was usually right, his saving grace was that he wasn't any kinder to himself.
She shook her head. "Doctor Ngumba put everything into this. I think he must have given us a complete copy of that place's mainframe, somehow. Along with all his own work."
His ears perked up almost visibly. "A complete copy?"
"Yeah. No encryption, just basic internal passwords. But as far's I can tell without tangling with those, it's got everything - research work, personal files, security calls and responses... everything."
Then something exploded in the distance. Meeting Tim's eyes told her that he'd heard it too, and then they were both rushing to drag on their suits.
The Martian Liberation Army's standard combat pressure suit was almost unaltered from the construction-worker's type that had been produced by the tens of thousands to protect the laborers responsible for the Valles Tent. As such, it had been designed primarily to protect its wearers from industrial accidents at an affordable cost. It had four main layers - an inner layer of durable but comfortable fabric, a thicker padded middle one composed of heat-trapping fibers, and a kevlar-based outer layer that could stop most sorts of flying debris, including small-caliber bullets. Even with all of that, it still would have been a tight-fitted enough garmet to make a pretty embarrassing spectacle of its wearer if not for the final layer of precisely shaped composite plates that lay over most of its owners' vitals.
Its bathroom arrangements had also been designed for comfort over long periods, rather than comfort in - or even ability to be - made quickly. Making the flying jump across the gap to their transport's second car was a challenge under that circumstance, but, unfortunately, one she had practice at.
The field train was an essentially unmodified civilian cargo-mover. The pilot's quarters - such as they were - were a simple pressure canister attached to the flank of the 'prime mover' in the #1 position, which used liquid hydrogen and oxygen passed to it by the 'tender' at #2 to generate electricity that was then wired to the motors of those two and the cargo trucks, #3-#8. While technically rated to carry up to three hundred tons each, the cargo trucks had only carried two mobile suits each on their way out. Besides leaving room for maintenance gear and such, it'd been intended to make sure that they'd have carrying capacity free to cart off salvage.
There hadn't turned out to be that much of that, but the lighter loading had made the cross-country journey easier, so the spare trucks had been kept.
The machine she'd named for its purpose - 'to liberate the colonies from the burden of Earth's past hatreds and vendettas,' as the blogger'd had it - crouched low on the front half of the first truck. Now that she knew what to look for she could check and be sure at a glance that the thruster verniers, sensor plates, and gunports all looked clear and in working order. Tim sprinted past as she caught herself on the boarding hoist and Adoph, the head mechanic, shimmied out between two of the venitian-blind plates framing either side of suit's waist. "Soldier boy thinks he's fine," he said, jerking a thumb up at the massive war machine looming over them, "And far's I can tell he's right. You watch your pretty ass, though, lady - I can't make heads or tails of half his innards and I just do not trust a Terran to handle dust right."
"I'll be careful," she promised, and hit the key and hung on as the winch yanked her off her feet and up to the cockpit ledge. In this position she had to squeeze up along the short ladder in a narrow access way to reach the front and main opening of the cockpit sphere - as designed, it was stable and level with the ground, completely insulated from the attitude of the machine it was mounted to. Ana'd memorized the override to that function - it might be useful for pilot comfort, but in a fight the disconnect between her inner ear and the feedback she'd be getting from her suit would be nauseating, at best.
She laid the back of her helmet against the headrest and strapped herself down, then gritted her teeth and hit the little recessed button on the side of the cockpit console for a combat start. There was a quiet 'click' as she slid the connection home to link her pressure suit's electronic's to the mobile suit's, then the expected surge of unpleasant sensory white noise as the MS computer synchronized with and started to take inputs from her braintop. When her vision had cleared and she could let her breath out again, they had edited the mobile suit's cockpit out of her field of view and replaced it with a detailed construction of what was being fed in from the two main cameras. Combined with the force-sensor feedback from the chassis, the illusion that she was suddenly twelve meters tall and kneeling bent-over on the front of a child's toy wagon was almost irresistable.

Ana shifted, raised herself - her suit - a little, then hopped carefully off of the cargo truck. Her care didn't really help - the force needed to lift eighty tons even a couple of meters into the air bottomed the truck's shocks out with a bang that made her chest and tailbone hurt in sympathy.
After a moment, the mobile suit's computer blatted at her and highlighted something up in the sky in red. She squinted and it zoomed in - a diaphanous flying wing with a single driving fan and a bug-faced sensor pod was orbiting several thousand meters up. She didn't recognize the specific model, but what it was in general was clear enough: an unmanned reconnaissance drone.
It was out of range of her gatlings and the rifle wasn't accurate enough, but... Toggling the sensors to check radio wavelengths caught the clear, laser-straight 'searchlights' of its controlling and reporting transmissions. "Observer at 3800 meters altitude; estimated control unit bearing two-eighty-eight," she reported over the tactical frequency, and started into motion to keep from being left behind where she stood.
Not a moment too soon, it turned out, as a hypersonic dart of heavy metal alloy burst through an intervening sand dune and traced a nearly perfectly flat incandescent trail right through the space she'd been standing in a moment before. "Correction," she said dryly, and had to pause to swallow her heart again. "Two-eighty-five."
"Boot in two," said Lauren, almost overlapped by Luke's curt 'Four minutes.' "Buy us some time."
"Rodger," Ana said, and launched herself up the dune in a long flat leap that was mostly rocket driven. Behind her, something blew up in one of the salvaged Rats as another shot burst through the earth beneath her.
Once the crest of the dune was past she tweaked the angle of the jets, focusing them entirely into forward motion. Gravity, of course, promptly had its way, but she let the legs take the shock - let Liberate pivot around his leading foot and start to lean forward - and pushed off again as hard as she could, bouncing back into the air in a headlong, hurtling run that would have been guaranteed to break her neck if she'd tried it with her own body.
One more shot snapped past her through the thin Martian air, and then she came over the last rise just in time to see her foe aiming straight at her.
"Oof!" she said as the straps punished her shoulders. One of the three main rocket engines buried deep in the heart of Liberate's chest showed lurid red, and the batteries and fuel feeds surrounding it likewise. The fuel feed for the nearer of the other two rockets was golden, damaged, but the cockpit was unbreached and the machine's interal compartmenting had kept most of the power supply and all four limbs in perfect working order.
In Samurai making that diagnosis would have taken several seconds of looking at her cockpit screen, but Liberate's computer fed its reports directly into her implants - guessing its damage was as easy and as instant as feeling a cut or a bruise on her own body.
For a wonder, though, the attacker wasn't one of the standard tanks the terrans used. For that matter, it was more than a bit of a shock that there was only the one of them...
The basic chassis was easy enough to recognize; the four-wheeled armored dune-buggy layout of an African heavy core tank, but it had a bizarre rack thing ont he bustle and a long, heavy gun fixed to its topside rather than the usual turret. The gun might not have been placed to track well, but it had plenty of power, as much or more than the standard tank gun, as the red and yellow on her damage display made crystal clear.
She hit the ground, tumbled forwards and came up into a run to the right... and of course forwards. Liberate kicked ass but he didn't have any weapons that could penetrate a tank's armor - nothing but the sword she'd pulled from Samurai's wreck.
The African twisted and reversed with the usual clouds of thrown dust around all four wheels as it spun its entire hull to track, aim, fire once and miss clean twenty meters ahead, fire again and come three meters from her trailing heel...
Ana twisted mid-run, throwing one foot out in front of her and driving the other dep into the sand under her center of mass, scraping to a halt and gouging deep trenches into the sandy topsoil as the African fired again...
...and missed wide as the abrupt change in speed threw its aim completely.
Liberate's interior roared and shook as she spun the throttles on its rockets wide open and threw his eighty-ton bulk high into the air, seemingly wide open to that deadly gun as it elevated to follow her...
...then cutting the engines and dropping into freefall the very split-second that the reload cycle completed and let it fire again so that she could duck under the hasty shot and run five precious ten-meter steps closer before dodging as near to ninety degrees to the right out of the way of one more shot before she was taking that last step, hunkering slightly and bringing the blade up from the low guard into a flashing thrust...
...that missed, she missed, impossibly, as her enemy snapped into the start of a turn then revved forward and rear wheels against each other and skidded its entire mass sideways a short, critical distance before cutting two of them out of the circuit and twisting it inside its own length to bring that hideous gun to bear again.
She threw herself flat and felt her blood chill despite her racing heart at the sharp 'klang!' as the hyperpenetrator skipped off the armor sheet covering Liberate's back. There wasn't time for the terror, though, and she rolled into a forward kippup and flipped up into the air in a move she'd never have attempted with her own flesh - and came down squarely in front of the muzzle of that horrible gun as the African rolled away in full reverse.
Her - Liberate's - hands were a bare instant faster than the gun's loading cycle, and the sword swept across the length of the heavy railgun just in time for its capacitors to begin dumping their charge and short out through the conductive monocrystal of its blade in a spectacular flare of actinic light.
Ana sat, perched in the cockpit, leaning forwards on the edge of the seat with her weight on her arms and the control joysticks. Then, just as she had been taught, she took a deep, slow breath and sheathed the blade.
A quick mental command sent a short data burst under her old fireman's code - still valid thanks to certain freinds in low places in Mariner City - and the enemy machine's surviving computers sent a familiar block of structural, environmental and biometric data.
Breathing, heart rate... adult male in good health, enough air and power that he'd stay that way until inevitable rescue mission arrived. "Lead, Five," she radioed, and brought up the electronic warfare menu to make sure her next words were correct. "Target silent, no more in sight. Want me to grab the chassis and drag it back?"
"No, return to base, we haven't got room."
"Figured. On my way back."

"V, did you do something foolish?"
"Yes, and it was glorious."

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Gundam Liberate - by Valles - 12-25-2007, 11:10 PM
Liberate 102 - by Valles - 01-10-2008, 12:01 PM

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