This is a short story I’ve been tinkering with over the past few months. It is told from an assembler’s POV of building this mech SDR X-1 Tatiana Battle Mech
I remember the first time I saw her like it was yesterday.
For two long years, our whole facility had been redirected from our normal tasks of mass producing battle machines for the military, to working on a singular project that, from what I had gathered, no one person knew exactly what was.
All that myself and my fellow workers had seen were glimpses and snippets, pasted on the display screens belonging to the engineers designing this…thing.
Whatever it was we knew it was larger than anything we had worked on before, and that the company’s execs wanted to keep it as secret as possible.
The secrecy had been frustrating for both us and the managers of the plant, but somehow we had managed to get done what the company’s heads wanted.
It was around the start of Summer they had finally announced that our work was ‘done’ and we could go back to working on the mass produced models.
Every component that had been built up in our plant was suddenly packed up, and trucked off to the new hangar bays for some ‘finishing touches’ by the engineers. A few of our best assemblers went with them to help them, but even they were sworn to silence.
In our sleeping quarters at night when they’d return, we tried to ask them what it was we had been working on for so hard and for so long.
They didn’t tell us, all they would say it was like ‘nothing the world had ever seen before’.
Our curiousity would finally be come to an end, when at the end of Summer we were all called to the hangar bays to attend a special ceremony, orchestrated by the head of the project himself, Doctor Luthor Simonson.
Doctor Simonson, they say had been assembler back when the company started, but had worked his way up through the ranks due to his intellect and expertise with electronics.
The scene was far from silent outside the factory doors that day, as all of us were called to the ‘special meeting’ to attend just outside the newly finished hangar bay, where they would store all the finished machines before shipping them out.
What we had built would soon be unveiled to us.
It was hot that day, but then what day wasn’t out in the middle of a desert?
A wide swath of sand had been levelled and cleared of debris in front of the hangar’s tall doors, not so much as a foot print could be seen in it.
The crowd of workers had been gathered in two whole groups, one on one side of the hangar, and one on the other divided by that clean patch of sand and a small wire fence.
Everything looked so small compared to the hangar, even the 4 meter tall Hermes type bipedal machines parked to on either side of the bay. The doors themselves were at least 30 meters, while the roof of the building was nearly 40 meters.
What on earth had we built that needed such a large space to be lodged in?
A garbled command erupted over the intercom, and those huge doors started to open slowly, creaking and grinding as the motors that drove them pushed them outward.
The clamor of talking died down to silent gasps and whispers as a mechanical screech rose from behind those open doors.
Heavy thuds shook the ground, as the machine took its first steps into the desert sun.
It was then I finally saw it, in all of its glory.
It looked like a gigantic mechanical cat, lean and thin like a cheetah, with the long fangs of a fearsome sabertooth in its upper jaws. For eyes it had these three horizontal slits, that glowed and pulsed with a yellowish light.
The polished unpainted shell of the machine reflected the sunlight, blinding myself for a few moments until it had moved further past where I stood.
The machine moved like no other I had seen before. It behaved as if it was a living being, a predator on the hunt for prey. If it weren’t for the cockpit I saw mounted in the chest, I would have perceived that this mechanical beast was some creature from a world were life was made of metal instead of flesh and bone.
As it moved it made an unusual chuffing noise, much like the noise I had heard tigers at the zoo make when I was a child.
It stopped when it came to the edge of the smooth sand and looked slowly from side to side, before rearing back its head and releasing a high pitched trumpeting howl.
I remember noticing the engineers looking a bit perplexed by this, as if it was something they had not put in themselves, but they seemed undeterred as they proceeded on with tests.
“Brothers and sisters. This is the creature that you have put your blood and sweat in these past years.” An accented voice clearly spoke over the intercom. I would later learn that it belonged to the beast’s designer, Doctor Simonson. “She is the first of her kind. We gave birth to her. Behold our daughter, our silver Tatiana”
More garbled commands spouted from the intercom, and the mechanical titan started to move forward, towards the testing fields on the far side of the facility. With each step, it increased in speed, going from a slow trot until finally a full on run.
I had never seen such a sight, the whole earth shook as it sped away, and once it again let out that eerie spine-tingling howl.
Tatiana, he called her. Tatiana. We had made her, this marvelous tiger in steel skin.
As the year progressed, those of us who were responsible were organized into a crew of mechanics, specifically tasked with the upkeep of her.
She stayed at our factory for more than two years, with contractors from the government and the military visiting the test site to see how Tatiana performed in the various scenerios she was put in.
Rumors spread like wildfire, She was going to be sold. She wasn’t going to be sold. She was going to be massed produced. She wasn’t going to be massed produced. On and on they went over the two years she was tested and trialed under the scrutiny of a plethora potential buyers.
Finally, the rumors came to an end, and official news came from the managers; Tatiana was going to be sold to make up for massive cost, and she was going to be shipped off to a small military company in the west somewhere. as for the production line, the government ordered more of her kind, but not to her specifications.
The A.I. Tatiana had been equipped with was too advanced and too expensive for mass production, and the government did not want a thinking machine to be a liability in their armies.
We were all sad to see her go, as she had given all of a sense of accomplishment whenever we saw her in action.
Her whole mechanics crew, desiring not to lose her to uncaring hands, all quit their jobs here at the factory and joined the PMC she was sold to.
I am still here, helping assemble Tatiana’s ‘children.’
None of them are as unique as her, seeming as dull and boring as the smaller mechs we used to build. Our company now uses her effigy as our new logo, marking all of our products and uniforms with her image.
Sometimes we hear about her escapades on the news, and see videos of her online. She no longer has her silver shine, her hide is dented and battered from her many battles, but she still looks as remarkable as that first day she first stepped into the sunlight. I marvelled at the sight of footage of her taking on a pack of newer models that had been stolen by militants, showing her superiority to the production line mechs we were putting together monthly.
Alas, even her alloy hide was not invincible. On the day I hung up my tools and safety glasses for the last time, we received word she had been ambushed in the African desert and they had lost contact with her.
I still think she is out there somewhere, and sometimes, I imagine I hear her chuffing engines, and her alien roar.
My new job is on a salvage crew heading to Africa, maybe, just maybe, I can find her out there.
One can only dream I suppose.
Sleep well, Tatiana, silver tigress.