Chapter 9 – The Childhood Friend Battle, End Part

Chapter 9

“Two damaged rigs require full work-over after match”

“Sam really wasn’t kidding when she wrote that,” thought Jeff as he looked over the black boxes covered in cracks in all directions. They were so heavily damaged that it would be faster and probably cheaper to just send the data over to an unused rig then ship the broken rigs back to the manufacturer for repairs there. Since neither pilot would be fighting soon, it was a genuine possibility. It also had an added benefit that any waiting periods would be blamed on the admin team instead. How the rigs ended up in that state had to do with what happened at the end of the battle.

Weapons fire had cracked the outer armour, yes, but that could be replaced easily enough, and wasn’t even serious enough for the rig to return to its cube shaped standby form. What caused that was the inexperience and rashness of the pilots. So they they wouldn’t lose, they each overwrote a safety limit so that the power supply could harden the frames beyond their normal limit.

Counter-intuitively, the extra hardening worked against them. The rig was being instructed to harden but couldn’t make itself any more dense, so it instead thickened itself, expanding the cracks. They then tried to physically hold the armour together, making the stress travel inward to the delicate internals. When the fight was over, that stress was released in an instant which caused multiple failures throughout both rigs as elastic parts came loose. That wasn’t an issue that would have happened if they hadn’t overwritten the safety, so thankfully the department wouldn’t be blamed.

When Jeff told Sam that they would send the rigs away, she seemed to be noticeably more cheerful. The impending overhaul had seriously brought her down, even ending her celebrating having won her bet. She had cheered up so much that Jeff even gave her the honours of organising the transfer. It was an honour that she somehow didn’t seem to appreciate.

The best part was, the rumoured rematch turned out to be real; that sniper kid was going to fight Satou again. With very little work needed on either rig, it essentially meant that he would have a weekend off. To top that off, the fight wouldn’t happen until the start of the next week, meaning that the bar had time to advertise the fight and get people excited for it. Since both had personal rigs and fight history, people were more likely to watch and make bets. That in turn meant that the bet limit would be higher. It was a golden opportunity for Jeff to wipe a few more weeks off his servitude.

That same theory was why he recommended for most people to try the hobby; the more money in the pool, the larger his share could be. It could definitely be called cruel and heartless to try and get people hooked on gambling to cut back his debt, but working at that school had left him hollowed by work and fatigued. In particular, he didn’t feel bad if Sam needed to take out a scholarship; with her grades she could probably find work somewhere that didn’t treat her like crap. She could even be picked up as a personal mechanist if she bothered talking to pilots. As things were, she would probably never have the chance to go to the Great Antarctic Coliseum as anything other than a spectator.

The GAC was a the largest and most advance rig arena on the planet, powered and protected by three cores, just for itself. It was made at the middle of the icy lands due to an explanation to a treaty, that prevented any country from owning that land. That made it the perfect neutral ground where countries could compete. While professional matches would happen throughout the year, as international politics required, there was also a once every four years event, similar to the old concept of an olympic games. While the normal matches were for the counties, the Quadrennial Games were for the pilots. Well, the pilots and manufacturers.

The pilots would compete to establish their world ranking through a series of battles. The results of it wouldn’t affect much in terms of the normal competitions, but having the world’s number one pilot was a serious point of prestige for a country. For pilots that took breeding seriously, however, the ranking could also be an important thing. If two people had the same DC, then the one with the higher ranking would be preferential. Some pilots with low DC would try for a higher percentage partner by leveraging their rank; sometimes it even worked.

The prize pool was also nothing to laugh at. Since rig manufacturers and weapons dealers would flock to it as a way to advertise their gear, it was only natural that the amount of money that the winner would take would be a large sum.

For mechanist, being invited to work there meant that they had a pilot’s complete trust, and gave them a rare chance to see what the trends amongst developers would be in the coming years. It was essentially a trade show for some of the most advanced technologies being developed. Seeing what was in the works also gave them the chance to study up those areas before they were released, making sure that they would remain at the top of the pack.

Jeff had enough professional curiosity to want to go to one, one day, but it wasn’t his immediate goal. Instead, he wanted to get out his contract as soon as possible, so that he could go work for a professional team. The pay and working conditions were a lot better in that kind of work, with the downside that it involved a lot of global travel. While that could definitely be a good thing, it was also very tiring and took a lot to get used to. The odd hours he kept were almost training for the day he took one of those jobs.

An added downside to a job in the professional league, would be the danger to his life. With entire counties at stake, it wasn’t uncommon for mechanist to suddenly disappear just prior to major events, leaving crews shaken and unable to get their machines in top shape. While it was very risky for a country to target a pilot, it was very easy to target a mechanist, who would often have to travel to the destinations long in advance of the match.

The common thinking of why mechanist were more disposable than pilots was that more mechanist could always be taught, but pilots needed to be born. Jeff found that kind of thinking to be extremely short sighted, but since he had no say on global politics, there wasn’t much he could do.

He once heard a rumour about a machinist who deliberately tampered with the rig he was working on. That man had been bribed by the competing country and was somehow more disgruntled then Jeff was. He removed a couple safety systems and the rig short circuited when it was hit with an energy attack. The pilot fell two hundred metres out of the sky, and the mechanist moved to the country that bribed him, where he was hailed as a hero.

That was the what the rumour said, the official story was that it was an overlooked or unforeseeable error that the mechanist felt so bad about that he retired and left the country out of guilt. Deep down, Jeff wished for that kind of outcome. He wanted someone to bribe him enough that he could simply retire someplace cold and never have to work again.

With the dreams of corruption in his head, Jeff finished up his work for the day, that mostly consisted of mindlessly inputting student data into school models, and went home on time. He had the whole weekend to prepare for the match, so he managed to scrape together more money to bet then he normally was able to. He sent that money over to his contact at a different school and enjoyed a quiet Sunday of catching up on his sleep.

After he finished the final touches on the rig on Monday, he received a call from the principle. The short of it was that since Satou was going to try to replicate the pit crew method, Sam was going to have to be his acting mechanist, as she was the senior-most undergrad. The way she said that made Jeff realise that the principle probably didn’t realise that Sam was the only undergrad. Correcting her would have just made the call go on longer, so he just let it slide, realising that there was probably more than one reason why they didn’t get new hires.

However, since Satou had a rig with a core, Sam needed to have a supervisor, so Jeff would have to go along also. When he pointed out that he was scheduled to work the main system during the match, she just told him to do both. As wholly unreasonable as that sounded, he had no choice but to just agree. He could probably manage it if he prepared some scripts in advance and monitored the system from his phone. Networking external devices to the arena system was against the work policy, but he was fairly sure his working conditions were also.

After being hung up on, he wrote up a work document for Sam and left it on her desk, for when she got back from delivering Satou and Jenna’s rigs.

“Hey, we’ve been assigned to help that Satou kid out with his match. You’ll be taking point so make sure there’s no public betting, in your name, on the game.”

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