So this is how it happened.
I’m out on regular patrol… OK, it was a peaceful joyride because Miss Junior Pilot was being angsty in my general direction and I needed to get out of the house… anyway, my Smilodon Aurora picked up a blip on the scope.
Active mech, medium cruiser weight range, power plant running but no active weapons system. Stationary, maybe around 3 clicks Nor-Norwest of us.
Now I know the terrain in this area so that would drop it into a lightly wooded depression. Could be lying doggo with an external spotter. The returns weren’t coming back with the slight refraction you get from a Crystal mech; this was a solid Niode job.
The thing was, even adjusting the signal to account for local conditions, I couldn’t get a reasonable read on the type.
Ah well, if anyone is going to come pay me a visit for a game of cruiser tag, they’d better arrive bearing an alcoholic picnic or a large bank balance for their repair bill, because insurance doesn’t pay out on stupid.
Boyed by this little bit of self promotion, I threaded my mount across the intervening distance, knowing where the hard cover and lines of fire were and how to get past them in the shortest amount of time. At about 50 metres from the rise I dropped Aurora into stalk mode and she belly crawled to the lip of the depression.
Still no movement. No weapons activation, nothing. It just sat there with its power plant idling.
I popped the hatch and scooted forward for a closer look while Aurora sat on overwatch. Its possible that whoever was there was just dozing in the seat and would be woken by a passive motion alarm. Heck, they could have simply dismounted to take a ‘nature break’ and could pop out from behind a rock or tree at any second.
Then again, its not unheard of for any driver to have a medical alarm at the wheel, so with that in mind I straightened up and called out, walking carefully towards the mech and keeping a wary eye on my surroundings.
The mech itself was an unknown, but I didn’t want to get distracted by that. Instead I mounted the hull and checked the handle on the entry hatch. Unlocked, open, and after a quick check, nobody home.
I jumped down and called again. Still nothing. The relay on my wrist comp showed that apart from myself, Aurora was picking up no life signs larger than a possum.
Just like this mech.
Since I had the time, I gave it more than a cursory once over now. From the look of it, somebody had taken damn near a straight copy of the drive train you get on the Zadok or Nephilax and Niodised it for strength. That was where any familiarity stopped.
Uniform drab green. Ugh…
And the main body looked like it had been styled by a blind man with a meat cleaver while attempting to navigate the Niagara Falls in a barrel. It was about as sleek as an industrial warehouse.
Still, a cruiser mech is a cruiser mech and since they are my stock and trade, I seriously wanted to see what this oversized brick could do.
I hearkened back to one of the Heroes lesser known mottoes; “Finders keepers, Losers can’t produce valid ownership documents in less than five minutes like we can…”, and so with another quick glance to make sure nobody had showed up I decided to take it into my custody until, ahem, a ‘valid owner’ presented themselves to claim it.
I set Aurora off on an autopilot recall to base while I powered up the new beast and quickly navigated the fast paths back to the hanger that would attract the least attention.
Apparently I wasn’t the only pilot who had stumbled across one of these things. Inter clan chatter had reports of them coming in from most sectors, and more than a few of us had managed to acquire one. So I filed the relevant paperwork and checking my (seriously depleted) bank balance, decided to bite the bullet and see if I could work out how it was going to stack up as it upgraded.
I was shocked to say the least. Or rather confused… the logic behind this thing didn’t seem to follow any known mech design I’d come across.
For a start it steers like an arthritic walrus. I put that down to somebody trying to take the same amount of armour plate you use for an 80 ton Frigis and haul it around on a chassis designed for 40 tons. I’ll be honest, on my way home I’d been pretty gentle in case the leg bearings popped, because there was a hell of a noise coming from them. I had originally put this down to it being second hand and poorly maintained… I later found out that the grinding noise was annoyingly normal.
As was the need to permanently red line the plant to get any kind of acceleration from it.
I also learned that this was by design, or rather the designers didn’t care… in order to get past any engineering tolerance issues that would result in catastrophic failure, they’d simply added auto-repair to it right out of the gate!
Actually, this wasn’t straight AR as we are used to; these were the new Med-Bot modules capable of carrying out repairs to an adjacent fellow… but of course they will repair the host mech if it is in any way shape or form damaged.
Like I was doing now by ripping the drive train to shreds and blowing out the engine pistons simply by using the throttle.
Well, I guess it makes sense in somebodies’ universe.
By the time I’d run out of available funds, I’d managed to get it up to 11th level and the amount of AR on the thing was obscene! I’d rarely put this much into a main line big boy, and only if I had lots of spares lying around that wouldn’t fit on another chassis.
Apart from a direct strike by munitions, I was fast coming to the conclusion that this thing had been designed to be indestructible. Saying that, I hadn’t handed it over to a three year old to play with, and was certainly not going to tempt fate by sending it through the Royal Mail marked ‘fragile’.
In fact, from the colour scheme to the simplistic and indestructible nature, I had the sneaking feeling that this thing had been designed by…
Now I admit that even though I’ve been a bit disparaging of this thing so far, I will be honest and say that by the time I had managed to level it up to 11 I was starting to get pretty excited.
I even commed our other cruiser specialist Skywise and told him he was going to love it if he managed to get hold of one.
Whatever this thing was, it seemed to fit in with the Heroes build doctrine beautifully.
The amount of repair it had was already obsene. There was innate shielding appearing as well as freeze and slow. It looked to all intents and purposes to be a very tough, very able ice mech in the making, which was all the better since I had retired the last of my Freons. It was also at 65 tons looking like it would be an upgrade to my long serving Buchis mechs.
I’ve always said that the sign of good gear is that when you see it, you can instantly think of an application, and not only was I planning on using this as a Buchis replacement, I knew exactly where in the line it was going.
There was something niggling at me. Something I’d overlooked.
Then the overly inflated copper coloured coin dropped.
My earlier assertion wasn’t accurate, because while I was concentrating on the auxiliary systems being upgraded, plus the general handling of the machine, the one thing that I failed to notice at first was just how poor the weapons suite was. In fact checking later with an unadulterated unit I picked up as a war prize, I found that the only equivalent weapon suite was from a Nifthel or Oggun.
Now whoever decided it was a good idea to mount a crystal class set of gun mounts of at least 15 tons lighter on a niode cruiser mech seriously needs their head examined.
No infantryman in his right mind is going to deliberately arm himself with the equivalent of a shrimp fork as his primary weapon…
This gave me some serious cause for concern, but I admit that I was looking at this unit from a very specific standpoint, that of being a cruiser specialist.
So in order to give the mech a decent crack of the whip, I turned to Miss Junior Pilot’s line-up and cross checked with what she had.
Now at less than half my piloting skill, she is still working up on the heavier mechs and still has a number of the really big ones locked to her. She still has a few cruisers in her main formation.
Being that much lower, the fact that a Tick is so under-gunned is far less noticeable and it could feasibly hold its own. Couple that with the fact that the average weapon damage is that much lower and mechs are still building up their internal equipment mounts means that she is far less likely to run into something that is maxed on speed or dodge.
With less damage and more misses, her firefights are more protracted. In other words the ideal environment for the Tick to be able to do its thing… sit and soak up damage, take advantage of a longer fight and bring itself and its line-mates back up to full operation in a stupidly short amount of time.
Yes, at those levels I can perhaps see what they were driving at with the design. I’m still sceptical however that “stand and be shot at” is a valid war winning tactic… It didn’t work that well at the Somme.
I was still pondering this at the back of the old grey matter when lo and behold, a Cruiser KotM was called. 65 tonners to boot.
Another gold, but not that surprising since I was at the top end of the level bracket. Any cruiser pilots that I was wary of at this weight class were a good twenty or so levels above me.
But what was interesting was that somebody had levelled up a Tick to the point where they were comfortable throwing it in the line.
The result only cemented the view that I was not impressed with it. In fact I almost missed the fact there was a Tick on the field until my line trotted past the wreckage. I had been seriously hoping that it would have made more of an impact, but it was not to be.
I had a fair amount of time at the top of K5 while waiting for any counterattacks. Apart from the usual lavish picnic followed by a decent bottle of Riesling, I got reasonably bored and started casting around for something to do since my opponents weren’t doing a very good job at ousting me.
I decided to review the gun cam footage and telemetry to see what I could discern of a battle ready Tick.
The first viewing showed how pitifully it had fared. Two shots to destroy it, no shots fired in return. The lack of a decent firing rate I had half expected and 2 shots to kill was around average. I had perhaps expected a little better from it since it was facing my worst line with the least powerful weapons.
The second viewing showed how good its repair systems were. It had taken 2 lots of collateral damage and had fully repaired both, in addition to helping a line mate out before I blew it away. So perhaps it had managed to repair enough for me to expend at least one or two more shots. Not bad, but in the fast paced combat of a cruiser fight, it wasn’t a game changer.
The third viewing I was really analysing things, because the lack of offensive fire was really bothering me. And that’s when I spotted the secondary batteries come into play. Actually, they aren’t proper weapons as such, it was another new system.
The Tick has built in Reflect.
What I witnessed was one of my damaging shots reflect off skyward at an acute angle, while the second, the ‘kill shot’ bounced back partially and damaged the Buchis that had delivered the fatal blow.
Now that gave me pause for thought. Reflect damage can’t be shielded against. And if it had been an overpowered X2 or higher from a decent weapon, there’s a good chance that the retribution would have disabled my own unit.
Were they relying on Reflected damage to make up for its lack of conventional firepower? That would require further testing.
Now I know some of you think I make this stuff and rely on opinion rather than solid testing. Feel free to go back to your spreadsheets.
Pass number 4 of the battle tapes confirmed something that had been nagging at me. These things, from examination of my own lightweight unit and from reading the blurb in the sales brochures were supposed to be absolute granite blocks when it came to taking damage.
Not only built in shields, but more external shield mounts than you get on most BFMs. I had scythed through it like it wasn’t there. Footage showed that my opponent had hardly anything mounted. I took the readings as perhaps a single Gamma… not even a Saturn shield had been spared for this Tick. The rest were either unfilled, or were crystal. So not a true test. Hmmm…
Tape review 5.
I needed a calculator for this one.
Two low-power shots shouldn’t have been enough to take down what purports to be a concrete pill box on legs. Sure enough, I had faced a half baked Tick. The armour was way too light; I calculated that it must have been around level 60, against a level 140 well equipped cruiser squadron.
No wonder I blew it away, and no wonder it never got a single shot off.
I suppose the only way I’m going to be able to form a reasonable take on the Tick is to level and equip one myself.
On the plus side, at least I know that I have a decent amount of good cruiser gear in the hanger to put a fair and balanced configuration on one, so when it hits the line it will be an above average build.
On the downside… it’s an expensive gamble. This thing really does look like the Frankenstein’s Monster of all mechs. I’m not confident of the design.
Let us summarise.
A 40 ton crystal weapon system carried on a 65 ton chassis, protected by 80 tons worth of armour and around 100 tons worth of shielding hardpoints. With enough Auto Repair for the bulk of a battle rank. Which tactically appears to rely on being hit so it can spit back damage at the attacker for its main offensive firepower, because a 40 ton Crystal weapon loadout isn’t worth a damp chocolate chip cookie in a blast furnace.
Then it needs to survive long enough to repair the damage so it can get shot again.
Hands up anyone who can spot the flaw in that?
‘Critical Hit’ I heard somebody yell from the cheap seats. Well, it has shielding for that built in, although not enough to make it completely ineffective.
It can’t stop either Freeze (which will stop the Auto repair) or Ignite.
And I still have serious doubts that ‘being shot at’ is a valid tactic. The blurb may say that it has good speed and is even a hair faster than a Smilodon, but that isn’t in a straight shoot-out; very quickly the Smilodons throw weight of metal will outpace it to the point it has difficulty getting a shot off. The fine print doesn’t mention that the rated speed is flat out running away from a Smilodon while trying to repair…
I think I can see what they were trying with this design, but it is so out of the box that this is going to be a very tricky machine to place and optimise. It’s either brilliant or nuts. Luckily for me I’m confident in my abilities to test a Cruiser mech.
But I will test it… oh yes, test it I shall.