This “model” of the venerable North American Union Arbalest battlewalker is a testament to what happens when unchecked ingenuity walks hand-in-hand with insanity and an unorthodox design principle. While the American military designers are severely limited by budget constraints and the manipulations of various factions of the NAU parliament, the same cannot be said of the Barbary Bastards.
One of- if not THE- most powerful pirate groups, the Barbary Bastards stand out from the other raiders and marauders because of their sense of style and strange ideology. Romanticizing the pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries on Terra, the Barbary Bastards tend to have a more swashbuckler-esque mentality when it comes to pirating. While they are just as likely to kill anyone who resists, and are just as greedy as other, more conventional pirates in their pillaging, their strange sense of roughshod roguish honour- they tend to not harm children, rape, or brutalize their victims more than necessary to gain compliance- combines with their rather outlandish antics and anachronistic trappings to make them unique.
The success of the Barbary Bastards comes not from their acting like pirates from some sim or threevee movie, however, but from their blatantly insane risk-taking. They have been known to engage military capital ships with marauders, using innovative- and quite mad- tactics to slip away in the confusion. This battlewalker is another example of this ingenious insanity.
After the Capellan War ended in 2262, thousands of worlds were left littered with the detritus of war. The genocidal aliens had wiped out colony after colony in their rampage through the Terran sphere, massacring billions. After a world was scrubbed, the nightmarish teratogenical monstrosities the Capellans created- genetically-engineered lifeforms designed to act as morale-destroying organic killing machines- often survived, feeding on other lifeforms or the few surviving humans they could find… or collect into herds. With so many worlds left fallow, and so many dangers still remaining, many of the battlefield worlds have not been reclaimed even fifty-six years later.
Many scavengers salvage wreckage from these worlds, risking the remaining Capellan weapons and traps, technological and biological, to acquire lucrative military hardware to refit and sell. As the North American Union and Australio-Pacifica Coalition were the vanguard of the war effort, the majority of the weapons and ships recovered are older artifacts of their militaries. While outdated by today’s standards, they are still quite valuable to smaller mercenary corporations and Freespace and fringe colony militias. The Barbary Bastards were not about to miss out.
Among the many things salvaged by the pirates, they hit two jackpots. One was a dozen NAU Michigan-Class destroyers, and the other was a troop transport carrying over fifty Arbalest battlewalkers. Not satisfied with the antiquated battlewalkers, the Captain Bardin- leader of the Barbary Bastards- handed them over to their engineers with the simple command of “make them better”. Apparently, to the disgraced-but-brilliant engineers and mechanics the Bastards accumulated, “Better” meant “strap so many damned guns on it that it can barely walk, then add more.” This in mind, the engineers proceeded to violate every sane design principle of walker engineering, and even the laws of physics in a few cases.
The first step was to “tweak” the arms of the Arbalest, stripping off secondary safety governors and shielding to increase the output of the reactor core and adding small-arms-grade AP lancers to the outer armor plating. Next, the engineers stripped off two light particle projection cannons from a wrecked frigate and mounted them over the shoulders. They then discovered that mounting warship weapons on a battlewalker- aside from being impractical at best, and insane at every level- required much, much more power.
The solution was simple- ditch the gunner. The Barbary Bastards’ engineers reconfigured the battlewalker to operate with one pilot/gunner… a very small pilot/gunner… and used the extra space from the gunner area and the stripped-out mortar to mount a light starship antimatter reactor core. This gave enough power to run the big guns- barely- and the walker itself. To fit the reactor in the chassis, the Barbary Bastards stripped off most of the shielding and emergency containment systems, making it very vulnerable if the hull is ever breached.
Not satisfied with the number of weapons already mounted on the walker, the engineers then looked at every single possible point of attachment for more weapons. They mounted anti-personnel and AP lancer turrets anywhere that the gimbals could fit, and somehow managed to attach a light starship point defense turret under the chin and make it work. Another, smaller reactor replaced the ejection module under the pilot’s seat to power this cannon and the shuttle-grade shield generators added to the outer hull (since there was no more room inside the walker).
The end result has been the subject of study by military engineers of over three dozen nations. Many are puzzled as to how the bloody thing can even walk, with the imbalance created by the chin gun. It can only be deployed from a large dropship or troop transport, and is a walking deathtrap to its pilot if anything goes wrong. Between the hot-boxed reactors in the weapon arms and the virtually unshielded antimatter reactor core, this walker is potentially more dangerous in its demise than functioning, detonating with an equivalent yield of nearly half a gigaton of explosive force.
Stranger yet, there is, frankly, no point in this walker even existing. Ostensibly it was meant to be a shock weapon, to overwhelm colonial militias and other defenses. While quite capable of doing so, even a single mercenary support walker can outflank this monstrosity and pick it apart from a distance, and gravtanks can chew it apart in seconds. With walker design of most nations solidly in the fast-agile-shielded mindset, this behemoth flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Additionally, the Barbary Bastards prefer hit-and-run tactics, which makes one wonder if this walker was the result of one of Captain Bardin’s notorious moments of pharmaceutical-assisted descents into nuttery.