|Author||Ilsa J. Bick|
|First published|| 30 November 2004|
13 May 2011 (re-release)
|Era||Star League era (Age of War)|
|Followed by||Prometheus Unbound|
Break-Away (Proliferation, Part I) (full title), by Ilsa J. Bick, is the first story in the Proliferation Cycle. It narrates how Charles Kincaid got to be the first BattleMech pilot. Subsequent Proliferation Cycle stories narrate how the revolutionary new technology then spread among the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere.
|“||BattleMechs have been kings of the battlefield for centuries. But it wasn’t always so. In this first installment of a grand new series, the "Proliferation Cycle" looks at the rise of BattleMech technology and a story of the first people to be tapped as the first MechWarriors. Story by Ilsa J. Bick.||”|
|“||The choice of first pilot for the first BattleMech was a difficult one, and fierce; perhaps too fierce?||”|
In late December 2438, four potential test pilots for the Mackie, the first BattleMech, undergo a Level-C SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) trial in Wyoming, Terra: Equipped only with survival gear, remotely accessible IFF-style ID tags and a non-lethal targeting laser rifle, they have to reach a radio station and call a VTOL to evacuate them. The group includes Colonel Charles Kincaid, betrothed in a purely political marriage to Isabelle Cameron, the Director-General's third cousin, and his wingman and lover Major Amanda Cunningham. Whoever reaches the radio first will likely be chosen to pilot the Mackie, and they (working independently) are explicitly allowed to "kill" each other with the laser. But the exercise has been infiltrated by an assassin who brought a live gun and kills people for real during the exercise—a Capellan Colonel with a grudge. He aims to exact revenge on Kincaid and Cunningham, and has taken over Kincaid's identity on the training grounds while the real Kincaid has been captured and is held by the Colonel's Maskirovka team.
Simultaneously, Dr. Carolyn Fletcher, a civilian veterinarian who works on the neuro-science staff developing neurohelmet controls at the Yakima Proving Grounds, has stayed at the lab over the holidays. She notes unusual behaviour among the chimps in the lab and believes it to be connected to a recently-implemented neurohelmet technique called augmentation loop. While arguing about her findings with Colonel Nathan Powers, a flight surgeon on the project, a ruckus among the chimps promts them to look after them. Horrified, they find that the alpha male has killed and mutilated one of the females and their baby in what seems unnaturally aggressive behaviour. Powers suggests that heightened aggression might actually be a good thing in a military application, a sentiment not shared by Fletcher. They leave the facility to report on their findings, but Powers draws a gun on Fletcher and orders her to drive out into the steppe where he intends to kill her. She eventually crashes the car, which gives her the opportunity to struggle with Powers and shoot him.
Kincaid manages to free himself and confront the Capellan Colonel, who has captured Cunningham, in a sniper duel. Things come to a head when a VTOL appears, upsetting the Capellan's planning. Kincaid, a noted marksman sniper, shoots the Capellan through his visor as he is taking aim on Kincaid in turn, which gives Cunningham an opportunity to push him over a cliff.
It is narrated in the end that Fletcher raised the alarm, which prompted the VTOL to appear over the training grounds. It remains uncertain if Powers was connected to the Capellans, or working for a third party.
- Colonel Charles Kincaid
- Major Amanda Cunningham
- Dr. Carolyn Fletcher
- Colonel Nathan Powers
- unnamed Capellan Sang-Shao (Colonel)
- Tybalt - mentioned for the Battle of Tybalt in 2435 where Kincaid and Cunningham bested a pair of Capellan fighters (implied to have been the Capellan Colonel and his wife)