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September 20, 2011, 2:47 pm

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Rubikon RT-4 Modular Tank

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The blast of charged particles tore into one of the entrenched tanks, then from the 'Mech's other barrel-arm into its mate emerging from behind a corner.
Commander Ratzelle had to admit - letting the rookie ride in the Warhammer was not such a bad choice after all; indeed was he a crack shot.
"Ha! There it goes, blown into pieces! We'll never see their sorry asses again!"
"I wouldn't be so sure about that, greenhorn" the lance leader replied. "Get ready for clean-up! We have to root them out by nightfall!"

On a battlefield dominated by anthropomorphic combat mecha, the tank seems an antiquity - at least until one considers its advatages. A low profile, combined with relative cost efficiency and significant possible payload allow tanks fielded en masse to pose a real threat to BattleMechs. Alas, one has to admit that the cavalry suffers significant material and personnel losses from the war-walkers it has to face.

***

"What do you mean by "joining the corps" and "serving your country?" Leonard Pompey was furious. "You can serve them best by studying and putting that mind of yours to good use!"
The youth remained adamant: "I have already signed up, and to decline would be treason, father."
The professor stood in consternation as his sole son picked up the duffel bag and headed to the door.
"Tell me at least you're joining somewhere fairly safe - the aero-corps or logistics teams?"
"The 7th Mallorean Chargers, father, an armored regiment."
They were silent for a while.
"At least hug me goodbye before you storm off to get killed."
They embraced, then the boy left. So young, recently nineteen. Naught but fluff on his chin.
Leonard despaired - what could he, a civil engineer, do?

***

When the army called for him as well, not to fight but to develop tools of war, he seriously considered drawing his sidearm and shooting the recruiters where they stood. Alas, they were twelve a dozen, non-descript and sure to be replaced. Indeed, putting them full of holes would be a trivial yet futile exercise.
Then, it dawned on him, and Leonard released his grip on the handle. "Certainly, I shall."

***

"I tell you, general, all the prototypes blew themselves apart; only this Pompey guy has a strange yet working model."
Vladimir Fiodorovsky frowned. "Show it to me, then. Roll out!"
Leonard was content - having sabotaged the other pieces, his was sure to win out. He felt no guilt, for his model was best. Yet, above all, it was the safest.

***

The Rubikon were fielded soon enough, and performed above expectations, and continued to perform, over and over again.
Why?
Leonard Pompey may have been a civil engineer at first, but knew his job well. Working on utilitarian environmental systems both for land-side use and for space, terraforming equipment and their likes, he knew a thing or two about system redundancy, reliability and replacability, about fuel efficiency and personnel safety too.

The Rubikon is a peculiar design: with no moving parts except where necessary, the medium tank suffers from little wear and requires only slight maintenance. Systems are controlled using an efficient programming language invented by the professor, and can easily be repurposed to take over the tasks of failing ones.

The main distinguishing feature of the tank is that it's highly modular - it can be taken apart and assembled with minimum equipment, and shipped easily in parts. Self-contained units holding the individual subsystems can easily be withdrawn and replaced even in field conditions; when one system blows, the surrounding ones are usually unaffected. Indeed, a majority of a destroyed Rubikon tank is salvageable, to the extent that wrecks can be reassembled into functional models in field conditions. Demolished modules are almost 100% recyclable.

Even further, tech teams have begun to discover that the tank is more of a construction kit, with different models being possible to build from the same components; the professor is being bombarded with requests usually beginning with: "I could build the perfect tank if you only designed a piece that goes somehow like … this..."
He does not mind, but that concern is secondary to the tank's safety.

Surprisingly, the tank is quite low-tech, with established mechanics creatively applied: computers for example are banks of lesser processors, ingeniously programmed to support each other and handle partial tasks.

strong>The Rubikon uses only one crew member, providing him with extensive computer assistance. The crew compartment is in fact a self-contained armored environmental capsule ready to eject either automatically, or on command. The soldier within is unaffected even if the rest of the vehicle should go up in flames.
To further survivability, the tank can run on one of two settings - the basic one maintains the tank as it is, but the 'cautious' setting can disassemble the tank once armor is breached or ejection has taken place, giving the impression of a destroyed vehicle, with all systems shut down, and abundant smoke pouring from everywhere. Nonetheless, almost all of a Rubikon that has disassembled in 'cautious' mode is salvageable, hence why generals (grudgingly) permit this feature's use.

Optimized for warfare in cramped terrain, the tank has a low energy profile, as its miniature fusion plant gives off little heat. Smoke and chaff screens are standard equipment, as is layered ablative armour. The armor is less effective against direct physical assault, though.

In standard configuration, the Rubikon is equipped with four co-axial light rail guns in a rotating turret; these can be fired in semi-automatic or fully automatic mode, alternating their fire - or firing in salvos. Due to their shorter barrels, they lack the long-range accuracy of the standard gauss rifle design, yet still pack considerable punch. A heavier Rubikon version with two reactor modules can carry and power the standard long-range versions, though.
strong>Six light machine guns provide anti-infantry capabilities; when fighting without friendly infantry support, they can be set to autonomous fire, the computer targeting anything vaguely human that moves.

With the use of a few creative modules, the vehicle can easily be repurposed to a bulldozer, tracked cargo hauler or crane; the reactor module features outlets and variable settings to power a variety of other appliances.

***

The design has a few drawbacks - first of all, the production cost of a Rubikon is not the cheapest endeavour. After all, fusion reactors and railguns aren't free. Only in the long run do the tanks begin to pay off as their components and crews survive destruction over and over again.
Second, the tank is quite vulnerable to electromagnetic pulses, providing a convenient way to shut it down. Leonard Pompey did not see this as a terrible drawback, for shorted-out tanks stay intact, and the pilots alive. He made sure the crew life support uses different circuits and is autonomous and shielded.
Last, the railguns use a higher technology base than the rest of the tank. Thus, while almost the entire vehicle can be produced in basic factories, the armaments require dedicated facilities.

***

With years of use, pieces of Rubikon tanks began to show up as components of entirely unrelated machinery - so the miniature fusion reactor has found its way into a variety of heavy vehicles, the piloting computer was repurposed for everything from ships to hovercrafts and aircraft and the cockpit continues to save lives outside of war, as escape pods.

Similarily, while they could not match Pompey's genius, third parties have begun developing modules for the Rubikon to expand its utility further. Nowadays, Rubikons are fielded with a variety of weapons from autocannons to missile launchers, reducing the cost of these models significantly. And, after conflicts where this tank was fielded by at least one side, civilian vehicles in post-war regions are often re-purposed Rubikons.

Of course, in war a side that does not field this tank takes extra effort to shoot up a wreck thoroughly, even though this may prove an unaffordable luxury in a full-fledged battle.

***

The Rubikon saved the life of young Michael Pompey twice; the then corporal died after he left the cavalry and joined the airforce; a maintenance omission turned his flier into a fireball.

***

Plots:
*Like a Phoenix from ashes: you've made it behind enemy lines with but a mobile field base and a handful of men. The fields are littered with the remnants of your tanks... time to re-assemble them and charge the enemy's rear!

*What do you have I can't possess?: you're embroiled in a conflict where both sides use the Rubikon tank. You must capture as many tanks as possible!

*Stranded: your unit was assigned to safeguard a newly founded colony - yet all contact with home broke off. Luckily, you have these handy tanks!

*The Junkyard: long obsolete, the Rubikons have finally been decomissioned. Yet, amongst the heaps of rusting metal, something has awakened, and is looting the wrecks to build .. something different.

 

The Stats:

For the use in Battletech, the Rubikon would carry four light Gauss rifles with shortened range and thus lessened weight. Energy efficiency means two can be fired every turn while two recharge. If all four are fired at once, the tank cannot fire the next turn.

The six light machine guns deal 1 damage to armored targets, and 1d6 to infantry.

The reactor should be lighter than normal, as the design, integral heat sinks etc. are optimized.

The speed could be 4/6/0.

In the Rubikon's cautious mode, if the armor is penetrated or a random critical hit rolled, the vehicle is disabled and the pilot ejects. In normal mode, the vehicle simply always suffers 1 critical hit less.

Finally, if you're using salvage rules, usually most of the tank is salvageable.



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Comments ( 4 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted hylandpad
September 21, 2011, 10:01
5xp

I can see it now: A Tank being assembled ten minutes before battle; giant crane arms pull components from large steel truck boxes and slap them together like legos, finally the cockpit, complete with driver is inserted, and a conveyer belt sends it out of the garage - ready to be driven to the front. Very cool, very futury, well balanced and pretty original. I like it.

EchoMirage
September 21, 2011, 10:20
0xp
It sure would explain the building speed of tanks in real-time strategy games...
Phaidros
September 23, 2011, 13:28
5xp
Reading this, I had a big "D'oh!" Moment: I wish I had thought of this. Modular tank building has been a feature of RTS games for a long time. I bet every Rubicon ace has his own preference on modules.
Voted Scrasamax
September 26, 2011, 23:51
0xp

Ready to roll out! Mass produced mass production tanks



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