By Thomas CardinI closed my eyes to the whirling stars as my Ram-Jack spun out of control. Thirty tons of fighting machine, reduced to scrap. Well, thirty tons at launch would be more exact. Now with its head and right arm blown off and right leg more holes than leg, I would place the weight at more like twenty tons. Even with the damage, the damn thing should still fly.
“Lieutenant Kell, maintain radio silence. We are picking up your passive telemetry feeds. The bogies in your quadrant are targeting transmission sources.”
“Thanks for that bit of news,” I muttered to myself. “It’s a damn good thing I didn’t cry for help when my head stopped spinning.” That sounded bad for the other thirty one Ram-Jack’s in the trashed battle group. Those who called for help after the initial salvo of enemy fire must have gotten an alien care package, special delivery.
With my eyes closed, the diagnostic visuals were still alive in my head. Those would go out once all the reserve power was gone. I would get a few minutes of peace and quiet while I sucked on the last of my air, something fun to look forward to.
That was way down the road. I had at least a whole half hour to get the main battery power back on line. The two battery cells read zero amperage, when they should be at nearly full charge. They were either blown away, or otherwise disengaged from their couplings. Just one of them would be enough to light up the thrusters and limp back to the Battlecarrier Katrina, assuming she still existed by then.
I took stock of what I did have working on my Ram-Jack. My electronics and life support were running on reserve battery power. Communications, awesome, use it and eat a few more rounds of whatever the bogies were firing at us. Four of six ion ram thrusters, operational but powered down. They could not come close the charge needed to fire on reserve power. The armored cockpit around me remained intact and held full atmosphere. My neural interface was working as designed, giving me sensory feedback on what remained of my Ram-Jack. Three tons of railgun ammunition, it should be four since I had not shot any, but one ton must have gone with the right arm of the Ram-Jack. I could move the left arm and leg, but the servomotors would be a heavy drain on my reserve power.
Yes, I am indeed sitting in the remains of a battery operated giant robot. A running joke among my fellow pilots—we called ourselves ‘kids’, and there was no mistaking what our ‘toys’ were.
Left hand toolkit read intact—finally some good news. Now to see if the problem with the main batteries was something I could fix.
Cameras were at 50%. A significant chunk of what was missing had been on the Ram-Jack’s head, but there were many more scattered around the machine. I shut off the ergonomic interlocks and swung the machine’s left arm behind me. The main batteries were right where a human’s kidneys would be, right below the back thruster package. I isolated my view down to the left hand camera and took a look.
The armor skin had a nice, blossoming exit wound over the right side battery. All kinds of tasty goodness bled out in a thin spray of particles. I shivered for a second. That shot had to have passed very close to my cockpit hidden deep under the thickened chest armor, probably only inches past the plating where my right foot rested in its actuator harness. I swallowed that ninth life back down and examined the area over the left hand battery. Clean white armor skin.
“All right, let’s find out what’s eating you.”