From the personal logs of MWSgt Melissa Blake

6 Feburary 3027
Fort Maxim, Somerset
Trellshire, Lyran Commonwealth

It's scary, almost.

But Tailbiter's cockpit looks the same as it ever did. Cleaned and polished, even. I finally manage to lower myself into my familiar chair. My hand trembles as I hang my spurs on their hook.

Why am I so nervous? What's the worst thing that he could have messed up? I shiver slightly. Guess I'll find out.

I key the canopy. Tailbiter's face slowly lowers before me, trapping me inside. The board lights up.

Good. Everything green or standby. Hey, they even replaced that flickering bulb on the number three jumpjet status.

I hook myself up to the feedback sensors, plug in my cooling vest, and lower the neurohelmet over my head.

I send Tailbiter the commands for a bow followed by a left handed salute.


Right. They had to blank the access code for the techs to run him.


I punch the voice identifier.

"State your name," Tailbiter says.

"Blake," I reply, "Melissa."

"Voiceprint identification of Blake, M, Mechwarrior, completed. Access code is presently clear. Do you wish to enter a new one?"

I respond properly and reset Tailbiter's key. Annoying. Big waste of time.

I send Tailbiter the commands for a bow followed by a left handed salute. He rumbles slightly as he awakens. Hmmm. Actually, that sounds more like a purr than a rumble.

I urge him forward, out of his mech cubicle. He responds quickly and precisely.

So far so good.

We walk out of the mech bay, heading toward the practice field. The stride feels correct. Even a bit smoother than before. No mush at all in the leg actuators. The arms respond correctly, and I can even wiggle all the fingers on the left hand again. The head twists back and forth properly, giving me the full sweep. Before I always had trouble turning it all the way to the left. A legacy from Reese's last battle. And Mom's.

I grab the control grip on the right arm of my chair. A vivid blue set of crosshairs gets painted in my forward view. I twist the grip slightly and the crosshairs respond by swinging back and forth across my line of sight. Hmmm. Looks like it aims properly. I trigger the target lock at a tree as I walk by. The sights blink and a circle appears around the target point. The PPC arm swings over to point at the exact spot. The sights remain in their blinking state a long time, losing the lock only when the target passes out of my field of view.

Hmmm. Maybe Dent isn't so bad after all.

I key up the PPC enable while flicking my visuals to IR. The particle cannon in Tailbiter's right hand grows warm as it builds up to a stand-by state, but it's not as bright as before. More efficient.

I grab the left-hand grip. A red set of crosshairs appears. So far so good. I hit the auto-reloader for the LRMs.


Damn! Punch it again.

Still nothing.

Hmmmph! How am I supposed to fight without the missile reloader working?

Well, that's really not a big deal. Maybe a loose connection. Johsua could probably find it. At least while I'm out here I can test the tracking system.

By now we're on the practice range. I look for a likely target and half-squeeze the trigger on the left grip. Good. The red sights are blinking. Halo appears. Target is acquired.

I accidently press the trigger a bit more....

And Tailbiter is unexpectantly rocked backward when the LRM laucher on his shoulder spits out its ten missiles!

The gyro whines until I get him balanced again. I wasn't prepared for THAT! What's going on?

I look to my right. There's the launcher on his shoulder, as always. But I don't feel a single....


I look at the weapons array on the board to see lights flicking on one by one. Eight. Nine. Ten. Green light.

Dent somehow got those jarring clunks out of the reloading mechanism!


Now how am I going to get my timing right in combat?

Written by and © Copyright 2002 Ed Barach.
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