Short Story: The One Armed Bandit

The One Armed Bandit

“..*.*#..DOON! Wher..**#….an?”
“Whhhaaaaa…?” My voice weak. The smell of burning silicon and wires oppressive in the scorching hot cockpit.
“Kjudoon! Are you receiving me?” I couldn’t recognize the voice. My ears still rang from the impact of two AC20 rounds having struck my mech, one of which to the head. The cockpit canopy was starred in one corner. Fans blasted in fresh air and drew out the smoke fast, but not fast enough.

“Yeah! I hear you… kinda!”
“Where are you? We’re pinned down!” I still couldn’t place the name to the voice. I am pretty sure I have a concussion and my right arm is screaming at me. Wait. It wasn’t supposed to be folded that way, was it? I thought elbows came standard facing backwards, not forwards. Ohhhh… this isn’t good. Not good at all.

“I hear you but I’m a mess right now. Give me a minute to figure out what’s going on!”

“We don’t have a minute! Target Kilo and start dropping fast!” Oh right… missiles on target. Gotta help them out. I reached for the joystick instinctively with my right arm, then nearly blacked out from the sickening crunch from my elbow as the arm reversed its direction. I choked on a scream of pain resulting in a sickening gurgle into the mic.

I suddenly watched two blue names go red in my lance.

In that moment of pain and grief as I realized I failed two of my lancemates, I gained back the clarity as pain cleared through the cobwebs in my head. It was December of 3050 in some little industrial world in the Zion sector of Marik space. Liao had sent in a group to raid an industrial facility. Nothing more than pirates really under a modern letter of marque. Elements of the 7th Seraphim had dropped in to dissuade these miscreants from their intended goal. So far, it was not going too good.

Quickly I scanned over what was left of our augmented drop with local militia and noticed I was the only mech left functional. A few messages scrolled from downed mechs and some had ejected when their mech dropped with their portable com gear. I was high on a canyon ridge in a very beat up Shadowhawk that I had just received a few weeks earlier for fast missile and long range support.

“Kjudooner… you still out there?” My colonel’s voice crackled over the com.

“Yes sir, I’m… ack!…. I’m still here and moving. Weapons online still.”

“Good. It’s duel time. That last push that took out my mech and the rest of us left only one of their mechs up and then just you.”

“So what’s the bad news?”

“It’s a DDC and he’s untouched.” My heart sank. I was in an LRM5 boat with an ERPPC as backup. My Angel Hawk as I called her was a good mech, but I don’t know if I could handle a fresh DDC on my own! Now, with only one arm.

“Do you know where he is,” I asked with some nervousness to my voice.

“Not sure, but he was heading towards our forward base camp. You’re the only one able to stop him.”

“Rodger.” The reality was, I was now nothing more than a speed bump to that DDC. With that, I grabbed the joystick with my left hand and started piloting as best as I could. It was comical as I twisted painfully in my seat. Amazingly, for all the trauma that my body was obviously in, I saw no blood. Funny how that works some time. Each step was a jolting reminder of how badly broken my elbow was, and the pain both sharpened and focused my mind.

I pulled back along the ridge line, weaving through the hoodoos looking for a way to spot a stealthed out one hundred ton monster, without dying. He saw me first, but the Lord smiled on me and his alpha strike missed, exploding the ridge before my feet and I quickly pulled back behind a rock stand. Quickly, I peeked out and ducked back. There it was. Looking right at me, 100 tons of death, invisible to my main weapon.

“Okay, I’m back into our com net.” Alex said. Looks like he might be new. I’m watching through your cockpit cameras now. “He’s moving pretty clumsily.”

“I’m not too light on my feet either, you know. My right elbow’s shattered. I’m doing all this left handed. So I can either move or fire.”

“You’re wounded? Well that’s not the worst news I’ve heard all day. I seem to have misplaced my mech under a pile of scrap.”

“Ha, Ha, boss.” I backpedaled away from the canyon edge, and ran down behind the cap rock to try and get behind the DDC as it was looking for a way up out of the canyon to higher ground and equal footing with me. Quickly I looked around a corner, stopped and shifted hands to fire. The ERPPC slammed into the lumbering DDC’s back side torso armor and his ECM quickly went down for a split second. I slammed the lock home and ducked back.

“Great shot!” Alex cheered. I even heard a few other voices from the militia cheering over the tactext net. I popped out again. The DDC was looking for me but hadn’t seen me yet. I changed from piloting to targeting again. This time my ERPPC hit, and I got lock again and launched. The 20LRM volley splattered all over the DDC, and I even got a second launch into the air with the re-established lock before his return fire caught me napping, as I reeled back shouting in agony and triumph, my arm screaming in pain.

<Why is he piloting so slow?>
<Yeah, he’s not moving and firing. Whatup with that?>
<Some hot shot mercenary. I can do better than that.>

Great. Even the militia was trolling my piloting. I saw a flicker of motion and frantically backpedaled again behind my cover as another AC20 flew by my mech’s nose and a few medium lasers scorched my shield arm. Falling back again towards base, walking backwards. The DDC had come right up to the lip of the canyon but the slope was too steep for him to climb up where I was. I knew he was probably frustrated because he could not figure out where to go. I rolled farther back and then poked around the corner about 400m distant from him. He was still struggling to get up what looked to be a lesser grade to get even with me. I started launching missiles by dumb fire. Three, four, five salvos of LRM5s slammed into the DDC in a chain. The rocking thunder of the missiles was accented by ERPPC fire. Most tore up his right torso and arm. The pilot wheeled to face me and his shots went wide or were only on me a fraction of a second and I kept pouring it on. The Tactext was rolling with cheers. I could feel Alex holding his breath.

The world turned upside down again as that huge AC20 slammed into my left torso. Betty started screaming, my arm erupted in new levels of agony, and I spastically jerked my mech backwards. Heatsinks were gone in my left torso, but the XL was still there. My left shield arm sat on the ground before me.

“Okay Sergeant… you’re still in this. You’ve got this,” the colonel encouraged. “Don’t let those militia bother you. You’re wounded and doing a great job. My tactical view is showing him backing away from you. He’s smoking from his right torso, and still looking for a way up.”

I peeked out again. The DDC was watching, but missed as his big AC20 roared and hit the canyon wall next to me instead, the medium lasers raked my torso making Betty scream at me again. I could see he was backing up towards his command point to a known grade up the canyon to finish the job. A plan came to me.

I bolted back down behind the ridge into another canyon and ran along it’s base top speed to a point that would allow me to fire on him better as he was stretching the range. I reached a point near the monorail bridge and jumped. The jets slammed me into my chair, and I started to gray out from the pain. The DDC was now hurt pretty bad from the pounding, but that was nothing in comparison to where I was. I took up position between two large boulders that gave me excellent cover from the beast below, and then stuck my right side out again.

His back was to me. He was focused so intently on my former position, he had backed up slowly, and this had caused him to get near a rock that will get him stuck if he continued. Not only that, his right rear armor was gone and sensors showed bright orange critical damage. He hit the rock and stopped… waiting.

I flipped over to chain fire and launched. Missiles screamed out of my launchers, my ERPPC crashed, and I laid everything into that DDC I had. Under a heavy barrage, the giant wheeled and tried to see, but couldn’t get a line of sight on me. His twisting torso let me know he had no idea where I was. Then the right torso and arm was gone! It vanished in a huge smokey explosion of wreckage and sparks. The wounded beast turned again, as I continued to pour lightning and meteors into his torso. His front armor failing as he turned to face me, his main weapon gone. Medium lasers scorched rock and I continued to fire unrelenting. Betty howled about the heat that was building so fast.

I listened as the reactor shut down and my rain of pain continued to fall on that DDC. I prayed that my mech would restart in time to move before it got that last fatal shot on me.

I’m not sure if the pilot ejected, really. The explosion from that brute’s center torso obliterated my vision as the last two LRM packs sliced in and perforated the engine. The Tactext net lit up in cries of victory.

“That was incredible work there, Kjudoon!” I slumped back relieved. My hands shaking with the adrenaline, blotting out almost all the pain for a minute. I was nearly sobbing with the strain of what had happened. As my breathing slowed. I had slain my first DDC, alone. I had been outgunned and just plain lucky. Somewhere in the back of my head, my sense of humor kicked in in a desperate attempt to stay sane.

“Yeah, that’s me. The one armed bandit. I’m the raccoon that gets in your mess kit and steals your breakfast.” I heard the chuckle from the mic.

“Kjudoon the one armed bandit. I can see you as a raccoon already.” Wait… what?

“Did I just say something I’m going to regret?”

“Oh yeah. You sure did.”

“Aw jeez. I’m blaming it on the wound, then.”

“Doesn’t matter to me. You earned this one, wiseguy.” I grimaced again.

“See you back at the fire base,” I sighed heavily.