Gunjin Hataka gently wrapped the headband around his head as he knelt before a single candle and a burning stick of incense. He knew that this could very well be his last day alive, so he savored the sensations as he meditated on the nature of bushido. Of being a warrior.
And also why he was cursed with the regiment’s only remaining Charger.
Technically, it was a promotion of sorts. He was now piloting the heaviest ‘Mech in his lance, almost double the weight of his Chu-i’s Phoenix Hawk. A proud Combine design that had served with distinction throughout the Succession Wars and bore the visage of a true samurai.
But Hataka knew the truth. Although his Charger massed 80 tons, it had the same armament as a lowly Locust. Five small lasers meant he must close to perilously short-range combat in order to be even remotely effective, and at that distance, he might as well start punching with his reinforced left arm. And with so little armor protecting him, the odds of closing to that distance was vanishingly small. His new ‘Mech made almost every assignment a suicide mission.
Hataka felt like a warrior of the divine wind about to attack in a war fought many centuries before he was born. Thus, it was only appropriate he honored their memories in a similar tradition.
After several moments, Hataka bowed low enough so the rising sun on his headband touched the floorboards. Then he stood and walked away confident he would never return.
Of all the ‘Mechs SLDF procurement somehow approved, the Charger CGR-1A1 is perhaps its biggest mistake. By the end of the Star League, corruption was so rampant that procurement officers rubber-stamped an assault ‘Mech that had so few weapons it wouldn’t concern most light ‘Mechs if one were to encounter one on the battlefield. The ‘Mech’s massive LTV 400 engine was also so expensive that you could purchase multiple traditional scout ‘Mechs for the price of a single Charger.
And yet, through grift, graft, or grit, Wells Technologies managed to secure funding to produce an assault scout ‘Mech–a battlefield role that never existed until Wells Technologies dreamt it up. Their proposal, the Charger, was an 80-ton ‘Mech equipped with the largest engine available, so large that it actually comprised more than 60% of the ‘Mech’s total weight. Ten tons of armor meant that the Charger was more than adequately protected in its role as a scout, but this left a mere 2.5 tons left for weapons.
Wells did the best they could, but the end result was still so pathetic that the finished machine was almost immediately ejected from the SLDF after its introduction in the year 2665. A top speed of 86 kph was only barely acceptable for a scout, and five small lasers meant that the Charger was outgunned by nearly every ‘Mech in existence.
Nobody saw the benefit of an 80-ton scout ‘Mech that couldn’t fight, so every Charger was returned to Wells Technologies en-masse. This resulted in Wells warehousing over a thousand Chargers as the company desperately tried to find a buyer. Lucky for them, the fall of the Star League and the start of the First Succession War brought forth an eager buyer happy to take every Charger Wells had in stock and more.
The Draconis Combine contracted Wells for an exclusive production contract in addition to every ‘Mech they had. Chargers were then distributed throughout the DCMS to fulfill whatever role was required of them, but because of their poor armament, the Charger was most often relegated to anti-insurgency work or garrison duty in low-conflict zones. Oddly enough, this led to numerous Chargers surviving the Succession Wars where many other designs didn’t.
Still, the DCMS wasn’t entirely filled with fools, and this meant that Wells Technologies would frequently receive requests for alternate variants that emphasized firepower over mobility. Most often this meant dropping the 400-rated engine down a few steps and improving the armament by adding a large autocannon. Several variants sold to the Capellan Confederation through the Kapteyn Accords did exactly that, and the Charger gained a reputation as a fearsome assault ‘Mech on the other side of the Inner Sphere.
Back in the Combine, the Charger would eventually serve as the base chassis for the vastly-superior Hatamoto-Chi, a ‘Mech that took the Charger‘s samurai aesthetic and dialed it to an extreme that wouldn’t be matched until well after the Jihad. While developing the Hatamoto-Chi, Luthien Armor Works also used newer technologies to retool the elderly Charger, coming up with the CGR-3K model. This replaced the standard engine with an XL version which added enough room to replace the Charger‘s armament with four medium pulse lasers and an LRM-20 with Artemis IV fire control. It also gained additional mobility thanks to five jump jets.
As for Wells Technologies, they were less successful than their machine. Although the Charger was ostensibly a Combine ‘Mech and Wells Technologies was under an export restriction, the company sold Chargers on the black market illegally to recoup its costs on several other failed ventures. Combine officials eventually found out and punished Wells with enough lawsuits to push the company into insolvency. Luthien Armor Works then purchased Wells for a steal, ending the centuries-old company in 3027.
There’s absolutely an argument to be made for the Charger as an ideal melee fighter. Its mass and barrel fist could be employed to devastating effect if a foe were foolish enough to close the distance with a Charger. But few pilots would be foolish enough to close with a Charger after recognizing its distinctive silhouette even after multiple upgrades gave the ‘Mech vastly improved firepower.
The Charger remained in production by Luthien Armor Works until the factory’s destruction during the Jihad. After that, Charger numbers finally dwindled until they eventually disappeared for good.
Consider this Sarna’s Christmas gift to you, dear readers. We’ll have one more news update before the end of the year and then it’s off to 2022.
And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.