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July 4, 2010, 11:02 am

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The L-1 Liberty


Mistakes were made, people will be held accountable

Following the eight year war with the Protectorate of Spica, the Caerinelle Alliance was riding a wave of patriotism. the Alliance flag was being flown from every courthouse and spaceport across the 23 worlds that composed the alliance. The last year of the war saw some of the largest military budget expendatures and earmarks in Alliance history, and even a 30 foot tsunami of nationalistic pride would hold up such record spending.

Across the board, military programs were streamlined, or outright cut. While most of this was entirely expected, there was a great deal of concern. The standing army was greatly reduced as the volunteer infantry divisions and militias were disbanded and allowed to go home. Construction on the two battleships, the Knuteria and the Radhamas, was indefinately suspended. War industries saw their orders dry up almost overnight, which as mentioned, was entirely expected. After 8 years of war, the last three seeing a boom in production left the military heavy with tanks, air and aerospace craft, and no shortage of mechs. Most of the heavy manufacturers had peacetime applications to fall back on. DaiSumo Heavy industries stopped tank production and went back to building industrial vehicles, while Ouristi Mechanized resumed building armatures for factories and space stations.

Vasser War Industries had no such good to fall back on, the company having only been founded a few years before the outbreak of the war. The board of directors determined that the company had to retain at least one major contract, or it would be out of business before the end of the solar year. It was determined that the only way to save the company was to make the new prototype L-1X Liberty so attractive to the military that they couldnt say no to purchasing it.

At the Alpharetta Proving grounds, the cabinet of generals of war was given a presentation of a pre-production Liberty heavy mech. At 70 tons, she was a monster, bristling with heavy weaponry and impressive armor. The generals were impressed with the machine. She sported a torso/hip mounted rail gun with an integrated laser designator targeting system, multiple 25mm laser systems, and an extended range heavy laser capable of boiling through a foot of plate steel in seconds. Aside from sheer firepower, the Liberty was able to keep pace with strike armor and close combat mechs, and carried ample armor, enough to survive hits from it’s own weaponry. The generals were impressed, but expressed their sympathies and condolences over budget restraints and cost cutting.

Vasser execs played the trump card, the mech was cheap, despite it’s advanced equipment. They were stunned at the price tag, it was what they would expect to pay for a medium mech closer to 50 tons, rather than 70 tons. After some intense wrangling and lobbying in the budget cobinet, the mech was purchased. A good deal is a good deal, and the current mech forces were a motley batch of pre-war machines, and interrim designs produced through the war. The Liberty was ordered, the first order for 3000, and another 10,000 to be delivered over the next 12 years.

Vasser War Industries bloated on revenue from mech sales, and expanded their plants to keep up with the demand for the mech. Secondary markets were allowed to purchase the mech as well, but retrofitted with basic autocannons in place of the rail gun, and standard beam weaponry as well. Soon, the basic mech of the Alliance military was the Liberty, forming almost 40% of their standing mech forces.

The next three decades saw a smattering of skirmishes and brushfire wars, the sort that were ended in less than a year, most only lasting three to five months. The Liberty performed below expectations, but won through the day if by nothing else, sheer size. The design demonstrated chronic machanical problems after a few years of use. This was a concern as the Liberty was expected to stay in service for at least 50 years, and were already showing fatigue problems after 10. Vasser pointed the finger at unexpected enviromental concerns, laxity on the part of army mechanics and technicians, and improper handling and storage of the machines in question.

Some 30 years after the end of the Spican war, the Alliance found itself embroiled in another major war. The Miran Ascendancy launched a major invasion aimed at siezing 12 of the Alliance worlds that were outside of the Caerinelle cluster of stars. Stunned by initial losses, the Alliance rallied it’s forces and launched naval and planetary counter assaults against the Ascendancy. While the naval battles were victories for the Alliance, they couldnt hold their ground objectives. Miran mechs were proving superior to Caerinelle mechs and armor, though this was correctly attributed to Miran tactics on the battlefield.

The Salucca Campaign showed the weakness of the Liberty in plain sight. As some seven legions of mechs, supported by a score of armor and infantry brigades attacked the Miran forces at Salucce, the Liberty was painfully absent. It was discovered that more than half of the mechs on planet were out of commision, not due to damage, but mechanical problems. The dynamic reactors had spooling problems and vibration feedback, the skeletal chassis showed extensive metal fatigue, and the sythetic muscle bundles were frayed and torn from excessive weight. The Salucca campaign was a victory for the Alliance, and after it, the Mirans sued for peace. The Gorno Pact ensured a lasting peace between the two powers, which gave the Alliance time to investigate the Liberty and Vasser War Industries.

The Investigation into the Liberty program revealed some shocking revelations, both into the the mech itself, and the group of men and women who did what they did to get it into production. The machine was full of mechanical pitfalls and lurking problems, all of which were carefully glossed over. Corners were cut deeply to slash the cost of the machine by almost 30%.

The Tokamak-Arc reactor that powered the Liberty was undersized and underpowered. It managed to keep the machine running since each power plant was overclocked and ran on average at 120% output. Such a reactor could be expected to last for decades with regular maintenance, but at such a heavy load, the reactors burned out parts, wore out with surprising regularity, and were frequently rebuilt rather than replaced. The limitations of the arc reactor were most obvious in the field when machines were pushed to the limits, driving the electro-musculature and providing power for beam weapons. More than a few machines were lost when they suffered reactor black outs in the heat of combat.

The chassis, literally the ferro-aluminum superstructure that held the entire machine together was also undersized, the various load bearing members being thin and lacking robustness. While the direct members, analogous to major bones didnt fail, the various joints, rotators and sockets did fail with common frequency. The most common mechanical problem keeping Liberties out of action were blown hip and knee joints, followed by broken foot pads.

If building a glass-jawed mech wasnt enough, the weapons suit of the machine was a far cry from the machine paraded in front of the generals decades before. The rail gun was only installed on 93 of the Liberties, the rest were armed with a variety of autocannons, all of which fell short in terms of range, damage, and accuracy compared to the rail gun. The entire beam weapon system was likewise declawed, with the advanced optics and long range lasers being replaced with solid state systems, most being decades old in design themselves.

The investigation turned their findings over to the Caerinelle Trans-Solar Court, and waited for the findings of the Probe into the Military offices that approved the Liberty. More than six dozen cases of bribes, coercion, kick-backs, and other corruption were discovered, all between the execs of Vasser, and purchasing agents. By the time this was discovered, the military officers in question were all either retired in their 80s and 90s, or already in their graves. The same held for the corporate officers of Vasser War Industries.

A leak divulged this information to the populace of the Alliance and the outrage was immediate. It could not be determined exactly how many lives had been lost due to the gross incompetence and corporate maleficence on the part of the Libery. More than 11,000 pilots were killed in or with the mech, but the numbers that couldnt be counted were infantry and civilians. On multiple occasions, Liberty mech units failed to hold objectives, or failed to repulse enemy attacks, leaving the infantry to weather the storm alone, and tanks and armor to do the heavy combat expected of the mechs. A conservative estimate was released of close to a quarter million people died due to the Liberty and it’s failings.

The Alliance wasted no time in cancelling all of their orders with Vasser War Industries, and when this action did nothing to quell the populace, they were forced to take further action. As riots erupted on several worlds, the government nationalized Vasser, siezing their assets, finances, and all holdings. The material goods were liquidated, and the frozen assets were vested into the military pension trusts on a dozen worlds all afflicted by the Liberty’s fiasco.

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Comments ( 7 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

November 29, 2008, 10:33
Done with this one. Out you go.
Voted Silveressa
November 29, 2008, 14:53
A nice back drop of a mecha readily usable as fluff for any mechwarrior/battletech rpg or as part of a settings background to add a bit of depth.

This piece is the sort of background I would love to see included in a mechwarrior vehicle source book instead of the mere paragraph or so most of them have.

Of course creative gms can also take the piece and use the mech as one of their campaigns centerpieces (complete with all the hidden problems/flaws) to give more of a "desperate underdog" feeling to the users.

Over all nice piece of fiction and reads like a war machine history archive report. (which is a good thing in this case)
Voted Siren no Orakio
November 29, 2008, 17:58
Good writing.
Voted EchoMirage
December 2, 2008, 6:06
Echo likes! not every mech is bound to be a killing machine... this makes for fun fun fun as a mech falls apart under you!
Voted valadaar
December 2, 2008, 12:35
The most detailed mech description I've seen thus far -nicely done Scras!
Voted Cheka Man
January 31, 2009, 11:43
A really well done submission of yours.
September 11, 2011, 9:38
I can not help but wonder how close this story is to the current procuring practices of the Pentagon. Do you work for defense Sca? A dastardly GM might put the PCs in these deathtraps or the Pengerak...


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