“Congratulations on the easy win, the variety pack missile launcher is a nice touch.”
Reading that message, Sam felt like her worries came true. She told Sachiko to only use the custom missiles if they were needed or hidden, so when they were used in the barrage of explosives she had hoped no one would see. It was evident from that message that Jeff was warning her that she was easily seen through.
If the secret was blown, they only had a couple options; pretend that the heat rounds were the only ones or use the variety as a staple. It was unlikely that many people from the school league noticed, and given the extra expense of the custom missiles it was reasonable to assume that heat was the only option. With that in mind they would continue to pretend unless it was necessary to do otherwise.
Another problem they were facing was the expenses that were building up, even after a single round in a single match. Sachiko was used to unloading everything she had at her opponents and that meant they had to continue to buy more bullets. The government subsidised the price of bullets to the point where the rounds that Sachiko’s old weapon used were nearly free, but the same couldn’t be said about the new, more powerful gun. Since each bullet was considerably more expensive, they were burning through their reserves far too quickly.
The school did provide an allowance to cover some of the tournament expenses, but at the rate they were going, it would be used up before the finals. After that, they would have to use the winnings from the school league to pay for the Junior League. While Sam was stressing about that another message arrived from Jeff.
“Think about the weather conditions more.”
Her mind went blank for several minutes, trying to work out what he meant. Finally giving up, she went outside to try and find inspiration. The hot sun cooked her skin from the moment she left the air conditioned comfort of the workshop. With that, she realised that his hint was entirely too obvious. Because the school and university were in Sam’s hometown, she had built up an image in her mind that attack builds had to use solid rounds. That was because the air in that city was entirely too wet, dropping only as low as 75% humidity on its driest days. Since too much energy was wasted in environments like that, she was used to dismissing the energy weapon option off hand.
But the town they were in was different; it was so dry that it felt like the moisturiser she had applied would evaporate in seconds. The environment was only a couple percentage off the lab testing conditions the weapons were built for. Without the need to pay for ammunition, it was exactly what she needed.
The only problem was, they didn’t own any. There were some that were publicly licensed by her country and other’s that were available internationally, but those kinds of free weapons were never very good. Especially since their designs could be looked up at will, so the opponent could easily know where the vulnerabilities were. There best bet would be to borrow a physical weapon from somewhere.
That was when she remembered her team-mates, Satou and Mia. Mia had access to all of the Rossi Manufacturing licences, as well as having a lot of spare weapons that she would never use.
After talking it through with her, they made a deal over the use of a licence. Sachiko would be able to use the weapon in any fight of the school or Junior League matches, except for during matches against Satou. Furthermore, the licensing fee was a little more than a tenth of what it would normally be. It was a generous offer when considering Mia’s responsibilities.
With that sorted, the gatling was replaced with an energy beam weapon, almost as large as it was. The strengthened arms were no longer needed so they were removed in order to provide additional power to the beam. That left Sam with a choice. Since the strengthened arms were removed from one side, the other side would feel off balanced. On the other hand, the strengthened arms were needed for the larger missile launcher.
A competent pilot could adapt to being off balance, or in some cases even use the strange weight distribution to make more unexpected movements, so it was really a matter of pilot comfort. For inexperienced pilots, however, comfort could have a large impact on performance. While Sam was sure that Sachiko could eventually adapt, with no time to prepare, it was a far safer option to balance out the rig. The plus side to that was they would have ever fewer expenses from having to restock less missiles.
With that decision made, Sam spent the remainder of the day implementing the changes so that they could be implemented overnight, Sachiko could train in the rig in the morning.
Their next match was a lot more tight than the last. The fight started at around midday on the second day, with only a few hours to get use to the changes and repair any damage from the practise. Their opponent was another attack type rig, but one that used weapons proprietary to their families company. The weapons were a rig-scale crossbow with a variety of bolts that continued to harass and confuse. The worst part was their speed, the low rate of fire was compensated for with a speed that would be respectable in a speed type rig. The only notable drop in speed was when they needed to rearm their weapon, which cause the entire rig to slow for a full second. Sam couldn’t imagine the force of the bow if it strained the power of a rig that heavily.
While that was an obvious weak point, the pilot was always careful about when to do it, and would often deploy traps and mines to create the time they needed. The worst was when they started to reload the moment after shooting, leading Sachiko to think that they were planning to use her dodge time, when it turned out that the bolt they shot had an explosive charge in it, so even after avoiding it, they were still thrown of balance.
That steady harassment meant that the first round was won by them on points.
In the second round, they started to get the hang of the bowman’s tricks, and more importantly stopped falling for them as often. After avoiding a lot more successfully and scoring a lot of light hits, Sachiko evened out the score.
The final round was the where the difference really started to show. The bowman seemed to be out of tricks and Sachiko controlled the round from start to finish. The round ended when he tried to do the explosive bolt trick again, only to have Sachiko shoot the weapon as it fired, causing the bolt to detonate and destroy the weapon. Surprisingly, a number of other unused bolts also got caught in the heat and also activated, causing the rig to system freeze and left the pilot to fall from the sky, shattering both legs. That was one of the most common injuries in the sport.
After the repairs were finished for the day, they spent their remaining time watching the opponent they would face the following day. It was actually fairly worrying, they were going to be facing an abnormal type rig in the semi-finals. The pilot was the only child of the legendary pilot, ‘Black Spider Donna’, who specialised in stealth based combat. From what they saw, or rather didn’t see, their opponent had learnt from their mother well.
Throughout the match they watched, they only caught four glimpses of the rig; the start and end of each round. Through a combination of stealth, traps and speed, the match ended without the second generation spider taking any damage.
On the other side of the arena, Sam spotted Jeff was in the crowd. Without hesitating for even a second, she sent him a message.
“How do you fight something like that?”