“Congratulations on your first win. I might be in touch when the dust settles.”
Leaving that note was the last thing he did before he left that school for what he hoped would be the final time. At the time he wrote it, Sam was doing her after match repairs as The pilots were going up on the podium for the victory to be declared.
In a way, he was lucky that she hadn’t stopped by the workshop before the match, though Jeff also had something to do with that. He hadn’t wanted her to see the cleared out desk before he left, and started asking questions, so he had anyone he could help out with her preparations so that she would be too busy to notice. That part was particularly important; if she started to suspect that something was wrong, she might have looked into the base code of the rigs.
There was no way that Satou could have lost that match.
Not because of his piloting. Not because he trusted his mechanist. Not because the pit method worked well.
Those things would certainly play a part in a match, sure, but there was another undeniable reason for his victory. Jenna lost. She never had any chance of winning; Jeff made sure of that. When he first heard that Sam would be the lead machinist, and he would have control over the main system, he hatched a plan to ensure the outcome.
He first wrote a malicious piece of software and segmented it into four parts. Jenna’s rig, Satou’s rig, Jeff’s phone and the Arena system. Each section of the code looked like scrap code left behind by past programs, something that would get cleared next time they were cleaned. But, during the match, when the four devices were connected together through the network, he could connect the pieces and activate the program.
With it, he had subtle control over the primary elements of Jenna’s rig. Secondary elements were the interface components, the parts of the rig, both reshaping and fixed, that could be effected by a pilot’s direct control, like firmware that could be rewritten while in use. Primary elements however were the sections of the code that allowed the reshaping materials to form the components that ran the secondary elements. A really rough analogy would be the firmware that an assembly line in a factory ran on, but inside the device. As a side note, tertiary elements were control systems for things being manipulated by secondary elements, such as the control system for a weapon in the rig’s hand.
With Jeff controlling the primary elements, Jenna had no way of knowing there was a problem, since all of the displays were under his control. Even when she did a system check during the breaks, Jeff just had the system tell her that there weren’t any issues. Without Jeff doing that, there was no way that Satou’s would have survived the first round without shutting down.
Jeff controlled the deployments system so that the power cables that connected to the Rig-Breaker Rifle would be hollow in the middle, greatly reducing the amount of power that could travel through them, while outwardly looking the same size. That way, whenever Satou was hit, the impact was far less than it should have been. Jenna might have noticed the difference in bullet speed if she was more experienced, but since the power system was telling her that it was acting normal, she believed it.
The second round victory was also because of Jeff. Jenna trusted the speedometer more than her eyes, and simply thought that the turning speed of the cannon was faster than she thought it would be; rather than the unlikely possibility that someone had narrowed the thruster holes, making the rig slow down and heat up. He even had a plan for the third round, though that turned out to be unnecessary, since Sam’s plan worked fine.
The best part about the hacking was, that no one would every be able to prove he had anything to do with it, since the code on his phone and the system was wiped clean afterwards. No one even questioned him wiping them, since it just looked like he was hiding the mobile monitoring. Since the school would also want to keep their unreasonable treatment of staff hidden, they would also try to keep that secret for him.
But the how wasn’t even the most important part. The ‘why’ was what mattered; and it was a really big why. It was a ‘why’ with a lot of zero’s after it. He bet on the match. Or rather, someone else bet on the match for him. And not just a little, it was enough to pay for his contract and still have enough to survive on while he goes through the application process involved in joining a professional team.
It would have been perfect if not for Jeff underestimating Satou’s fame. Some government officials were watching the event, which meant that there was a chance that they would notice something off and investigate. As such, the moment he confirmed his winnings in his account, he transferred it to the contract account and called the principal to resign. He was surprised at first by how easily she agreed. He wasn’t going to question it, and instead left the note to Sam and headed home.
After a day spent catching up on his sleep he logged into the Mechanist International website to start applying to various teams. On paper, he was actually a really good employee. He had never had any official reprimands or known rig failures. He even had a number of connections built up in manufacturing companies, one of the benefits of having to deal with a school’s worth of rigs. He had a reputation for volunteering at a neighbouring school when it was in need and was known for his ability to get work done in small time-frames. None of that was something he wanted for himself, they still lead to him having a very positive reputation. Even his gambling was a relatively small issue.
Within a week of starting to look for a team, he had interview booked for two teams. Neither job was local, but he hadn’t really expected that to be the case. As it was the country where the Kaya’s were believed to live, the mechanist moved there in the hopes of meeting them. Alicia and Sachiko Kaya had left a bad impressions on Jeff so that hope didn’t really mean much to him.
One of the offers was very appealing to him, though. It was a country that recently won back some land after consecutive losses. They were formerly on the verge of following in the footsteps of many other small nations and being eaten up by large states, but with their recent win, seemed to be on the verge of a comeback. He was being offered a position as a personal machinist for a member of their junior team. Junior teams were just members that had only graduated from a pilot school within five years, so their battles were often fought over smaller bets. Instead of land, they would instead bet resources, state secrets and key personnel.
If he worked well with the pilot, it was likely that he would follow them when they entered the professional league. While there wasn’t a Junior league for the Quadrennial games, the mechanist were still often invited to the trade shows, so there was no real way for him to lose from accepting the position. The Junior league even had a much lower chance of being assassinated, though still not zero.
A further week later, he was standing in a brightly lit office building, being introduced to his new colleagues. In particular, his new pilot.
They were a soldier, one from a long line of soldiers from back when that meant something. More than anything they wanted exact commands and had an understanding of the parts used in their rig. Jeff honestly couldn’t ask for a better type of pilot to work with, and after seeing their rig he could only hope to work with them for a long time.
After a couple days of getting to know the pilot and the rig, Jeff’s friend and gambling accomplice sent him a message that she wanted passed along to Sam. While the two had never met, Jeff’s friend had a tendency to care for newcomers and felt that the warning was important. After hearing the news, Jeff immediately agreed. Things had been going very well for him and, from what he had heard, Sam also, so the knew seemed to come out of nowhere. After work had finished for the day, he verified the story and sent the warning over to Sam.
“Hey Sam, how have you been? Bad news is headed your way and it could be bad for me too if the worst happens. I’ve attacked the full report but the short of it is your school hired a new undergrad.”