“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.”
That news turned out to have come a bit too late, as the new undergrad turned up even before being hired. Mia Rossi, heiress to the major rig weapons manufacturing company, Rossi International inc., was an unmatched genius who really had no business being in a piloting school. She graduated from high school at the age of eleven and was already in the final year of her rig mechanic degree. Her age was sixteen. When she heard that the DC record holder was recreating the pit method, she insisted on serving her final year as Satou’s partner.
That was how the short and curly brown haired girl with skin like polished bronze came to the school. When a genius with wealth and connections wants something, there was nothing that could stop her from getting it. That kind of determination, as well as her looks, gained her the nickname, ‘The Hungry Wolf’. Though, from Sam’s perspective, she seemed more like an excited puppy than a wolf.
That might have also been bitterness. In order for Mia to get what she wanted Sam needed to get out of the way, and there was no way that the school was going to support Sam over Mia. Luckily for Sam, she had already started her contract so for the school to break it, they needed to give her a payout. She was even still able to continue her accelerated course, mostly due to the school being short-handed after Jeff’s sudden departure. As it turned out, the principal was aware of him building funds to get out of his contract and initially planned ways to keep him around for longer, but when he went to buy out of his contract, she forgot who he was and accepted it.
That meant that the rest of the department was working longer and harder to just get everything finished, and having Sam able to cover more jobs was something they needed. In the short time since Jeff left, they had already left Sam to work unsupervised, but writing in their reports that she was, just to get things done.
The worst hit was the rig research section of the department. Jared, who had mostly given up on the maintenance side of rigs, hadn’t returned to his lab in days. Instead, he was something akin to Sam’s permanent supervisor while he finished up other jobs.
It was a situation that was very much not being helped by semester reaching its first exam period. With that, almost every school model rig needed to be constantly updated to different users, adjusted to different training grounds and repaired when failing students used them. The worst part was that a certain oblivious student with a highly influential family name, used her name to have the arena to herself to train with Satou after school. The way they trained meant that the school rig that the big breasted tree in the forest used needed to be overhauled afterwards, each time. And there was no way that the school would ever risk letting a member of the Kaya family enter a rig that hadn’t been completely looked over beforehand.
That was why Mia was a welcomed addition, even if it hurt Sam personally. Mia was now Satou’s personal mechanist, so each day when they went out to train, Mia would be responsible for his rig, not them. She even, somehow, had an exemption from needing supervision. Sam hadn’t even heard that that was possible as an undergrad. From what she had read, it wasn’t. The difference in their power was so great it was almost palpable.
That would have been another strike against her, if not her her being so bright. She was so social and energetic, that it almost hurt Sam to look at her. Looking around the workshop, it seemed that it wasn’t only Sam that felt that way. That same innocent appearance was why Sam was so surprised when she heard that Mia moved in with Satou.
The school had a college dorms system that provided particularly nice rooms for the students, room much larger than Sam’s apartment. Although the buildings were coed, the rooms were usually shared by two students of the same gender. That was aside from the international students and students with the highest grades; they could choose to have their own rooms. The school, unofficially, promoted that since it meant that there was a much higher chance for the students they wanted to breed to do so. High achievers for better pilots in the future and international students do that they would migrate. The country’s legal age for that, meant nothing since it was being deliberately overlooked.
Knowing what living together implied, Sam was really surprised that the young mechanist was that bold. In the end, she concluded that it was probably just how the world of the rich was.
It was also strange to see a mechanist do that, since it was like jumping into a tiger’s den. Even though polygamy was legal, it was still a very rare occurrence, with most people still having more traditional relationships. The exception would be amongst rig pilots, that had a disproportionate amount of it compared with the rest of the population; though that was mostly accounted for by political marriages and marriages for the sake of kids. That meant that even if Satou was obviously in a relationship, there would still be people trying to get themselves mixed in.
Another couple weeks of exhausting worked passed by, and Sam was greeted by an unexpected guest as she walked into work, still very early in the morning. Long Black hair right down her back, tall with a focused, yet somehow soft, expression, two towering piles of useless fat on her chest; it was Sachiko Kaya. Apparently she had heard about Sam being kicked away from Satou, and noticed that even after the exam period had ended no one had tried to recruit her as their own personal mechanist. As such she wanted to try and hire Sam herself.
That Sachiko even noticed Sam’s existence was a good sign for her as a pilot, especially since her earlier decisions had only left bad impressions, but her noticing a mechanist could really be because of her background. The Kaya family had a special relationship with mechanist. On one hand, they provided the cores that allowed them to run the rigs that were their jobs. On the other hand, accidentally triggering the anti-tampering defences resulted in over a third of all mechanist deaths. While those measures were needed to control how the power was used, it was still a bitter thing to work so closely to what would likely be their deaths.
In particular, they had denied the union’s request to know exactly what set off each of the incidents, as even if it would prevent others from making the same mistakes, it would aid people in working out ways around it. Since they were treated almost like necessary sacrifices, there were a number of mechanist that held bitter feelings towards them. There were also many that held them up in reverence, maybe even a majority. It was, however, a constant threat that they had to be aware of. If anyone was ever going to snap and attack a Kaya, it was most likely going to be a mechanist. As such, they were always taught to acknowledge the lives and works of mechanist.
Since Sam was still in an accelerated course, it made a lot of sense for her to pair up with a pilot, and doing so would basically force the school to hire more staff, so she promised to think about it and get back to her.
Sam thought to herself after Sachiko left, and she felt that she would likely accept. Not just for the benefits, but also because Sachiko was so sincere about it. Sam was approached before work, even though that was extremely inconvenient to Sachiko, when she said she wanted time to think about it, Sachiko gave it to her and didn’t try to use her position or family to pressure her. It felt like she was being genuinely respected, like her choice in the matter was actually important. Feeling like that, Sam started to actually want to work with her.
That was another part she liked; ‘with’, not ‘for’. When she had heard the other members talk about their experiences getting asked, it was always ‘for’. Pilots weren’t after partners, their rig was their partner. To them a mechanist was like a friend’s doctor; kind of important but not directly relevant. That kind of thing wasn’t how Sachiko’s invitation sounded. It sounded much more like a partnership.
Two days later, Sam signed a partnership agreement.
It was rare for a pilot without a personal rig to have a personal mechanist, though not unheard of, but no one really made much of a fuss, since Sachiko could have one any time she wanted. There were even rumours that she knew how to make a core, though since her mother’s cores only started production several years after she was rumoured to have started her apprenticeship, it was very unlikely.
Sam’s agreement with Satou was one that was formalised with the school, so the school had control over the arrangement, and risks, but the agreement with Sachiko was organised between the two. As such, Sam wouldn’t charge fees to Sachiko, but would instead get a share of her winnings. Even school level tournaments had substantial prizes, so losing a consistent fee still worked out as a profit if Sachiko did well in those events. Even if she didn’t do well, Sam would still receive a retaining fee from the government so long as Sachiko entered the events as a resident of the country. The amount wouldn’t pay for her sleepless, but it would cover living expenses. With the payout from the school, Sam’s degree was paid for, so with her job, Sam wouldn’t be short for a while to come.
Another week passed, and the school managed to hire two new mechanist, both fresh out of university and no way ready for what they signed up for. They seemed to have used some connections during their degree to do work experience in research labs, and hadn’t thought about the workload involved in a school. What was even more unfortunate, they joined not long after an exam block, so things were fairly peaceful. By the time things got bad again, the cooling-off period would have passed and they would have to pay a large fee to break the contract.
Someone could warn them, but then the department would be short on workers again. It was the comradery of the damned; so long as they’re stuck there, everyone’s stuck there.
More surprising than the principal tricking two poor souls, was an announcement made by government event organisers. It was a one off Junior League event against a neighbouring country. Apparently both countries were developing new rig components and the prize that was being bet were the designers. What made it different to normal, was that there would also be an inter-school event over just the designs.
Considering the even terms, low risk and involvement of school rigs, it was very likely that the event was intended as a friendly meeting between countries more than an actual competitive tournament. Since there was a prizepool, however, the pilots involved would still take the event incredibly seriously.
Recognising the name of one of the teams entering the Junior League, Sam realised that Jeff would be entering. Furthermore, the top three from the School League would be able to enter the Junior League, if they had a rig with a core. After school finished, Sam rushed over to meet with her partner to show her the news. Seeing Sam’s enthusiasm, she agreed to ask her mother for a core. After hearing that, Sam sent a message to Jeff.
“You’d better look out, my partner and I are headed to that friendly international. If you’re not careful, you’re partner’s rig’ll hit the arena hard!”