Thursday, June 14, 2012

Gearing Up

33 Winter, 1926

The ingenuity of Khayr ad-Din's residents when it came to garbage never ceased to amaze Lyta. She was just grateful that, snug in the cockpit of her new Jaguar, she didn't have to smell it. Though, looking around, she suspected that right at this location, there might not be a much stronger smell than the background odour that pervaded the city. Scrap metal lay piled in heaps, clearly designed with a purpose. It might not have been the B'Ti, but someone had obviously thought things through.

When she'd told Ti she wanted to learn more about Gear piloting, he'd told her to come here, to the informal training yard on the outskirts of the city, and that one of his contacts would meet her. Lyta picked up the sensor ping long before it came into view. Lyta waited for it to find her, and it didn't take very long before it was standing in front of her. A Warrior, dark blue with snazzy red trim.

"You Lyta Lassander?" came a voice over her comms. It had a touch of a Southern accent.

Lyta nodded, then realized the pilot obviously wouldn't be able to see her doing so, and cursed herself. She hated Gears more than she hated guns, which was one of the problems she hoped this intensive bout of training would fix. "Yeah. You Ti Corovan's friend?"

"That's me," came the response.

Lyta opened up the cockpit and took off her helmet. A few moments later, the other pilot did the same. "I'm Ari Mendelbaum, this is Corsair."

Lyta nodded. Mendelbaum looked to be about twice her age, old enough to be a war veteran, and Lyta suspected that was where he'd met Ti. He had bright red hair that didn't look dyed, sapphire eyes, and the long, thin fingers that she'd often seen on elite Gear pilots.

Mendelbaum gave a low whistle, and Lyta was on the verge of starting a fist-fight when she realized it wasn't meant for her.

"Nice Gear," he said, taking it in with a practiced eye.

Lyta blinked. "Thanks." Her Jaguar had been in the shop long enough to fix all the internal damage, but she'd had them leave some of the cosmetic marks, both to give the impression that it was older than it was, and to give it some character, a few scars to match its pilot's.

"How long you had it?"

Lyta shrugged, old habits dying hard. "Not long. Definitely not as long as you had yours."

Ari grinned, an easy laugh coming to his lips. "If you had, you'd'a been the youngest Gear pilot on Terra Nova."

Lyta laughed with him. It was infectious. "Nothing that glamorous."

If Mendelbaum wanted to press for any more information, he didn't show it. His eyes traced over the lines of the Gear the way another man's might have passed over a girl's curves. "She got a name?"

"Dervish," Lyta said. "And it's he, not she." She'd found the term in one of Todd's old books, back when she was a kid, and it seemed to fit.

Ari nodded. "Good. Gives the right image, based on how I'm guessing you want it to move. Ti told me you're a gymnast."

Lyta wondered for a moment how much else Ti had told the Gear pilot about her, but decided that was an argument best left for another time. "Used to be," she said.

"And I'm betting you're having a hell of a time getting a Gear, even a beautiful one like yours, to move like your body." He looked at her pointedly.

Got it in one, Lyta thought. She wondered if it was that obvious, or whether Mendelbaum just had enough experience to know what she was going through. "Something like that," she managed.

Ari leaned forward. "Well, the good news is that it can. Dervish can really move like his namesake, if you want him to." He held up a hand to ward off any protests before Lyta could voice them. "I know, I know. Five thousand kilos is never going to move like fifty, but you can get it just as good, I promise. You done any customization to the neural net yet? Subroutines, macros, that sort of thing?"

Lyta stared at him blankly.

"Well, that's our first step, then," he said, grinning. "I'm guessing you're not a programmer, so we're just gonna go through it the old-fashioned way: do the same thing a zillion times until the 'net learns what you want. How much time you got?"

Lyta thought. By the time she started working with Pinky, she doubted she'd have time to keep training, and she had no idea what she was doing after that, or even if she'd still be in Khayr ad-Din. "About a week."

Ari leaned his head back against his headrest a moment and breathed out slowly. "Only a week," he murmured to himself. He opened his eyes and pulled on his helmet, and Lyta could only catch his grin for a split-second before the helmet's connectors clicked in place. "That's barely any time at all. Best get started."

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game

Hermes 72 - Heavy Gear RPG - Most artwork Copyright 2002 Dream Pod 9, Inc.