I was at the top of my class at Sector 217 Terran Preparatory Academy; straight A student, captain of the varsity mech squad, the Firelions; the biggest fish in a little pond. I was, until the day Yoshi arrived from the Lunar Protectorate.
Loonies practically live in their mechs from the time they’re old enough to walk; the lunar atmosphere is still too thin and the gravity too weak, even after thirty years of terraforming, for humans to work there unsupported. What this means, as I found out to my great chagrin, is that Loony jocks wear their mechs like a second skin.
It would probably surprise most pikers- er… sorry, I mean retainers, of course, no offense. It would probably surprise most retainers that jocking a mech is a subtle art, requiring exceedingly fine motor skills- the first mistake most neophytes make is exaggerating their movements, expecting the suit to be “heavy”. It only took a few casualties before the Academies developed the virtual training facilities. The neurokinetic actuators that translate your muscle impulses to the mech’s gravimetric engines are tuned for maximum response and minimal delay. In a combat or emergency situation, especially in space, the difference between life and death, between safety and catastrophe, can be measured in nanoseconds. The real trick of jocking is finding that infinitesimal space between thinking something and actually doing it, and riding that razor’s edge indefinitely. Going liminal, was what veteran jocks called it, and it was what we- well, I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I. I was telling you about Yoshi.
We had just mobilized on a virtual defensive sortie against a mock raid from “Sector 00”, the imaginary adversary all Academies used to represent potential aggressors in times of peace. Each class of students was assembled to represent their township’s foot regiments, deployed in support of their local knighthood, each regiment armed and provisioned according to their specialty- Infantry, Recon, Medic, Artillery, Engineering, or Supply.
Technically, anyone could pilot a mech, but in practice, only the nobility could actually afford to have them built and maintained. As the eldest progeny of a Countess, naturally I had access to the most state of the art technology, as well as the most fashionable accoutrement, for both my real and virtual ‘lions. The heirs of my mothers’ vassal lords took the field in their own ‘lions under my command, each of our mechs flanked by the foot regiments of our retainer townships.
We were proud of our tight formations, our splendid array of banners whipping in the virtual wind. We had always beaten whatever the AI cluster behind the Ought-Oughts could throw at us, and we were secure in our place as masters of the battlefield.
What we were, was cocky. And about to get a spanking.