Disclaimer: I do not own Battletech, Bun Bun, or anything else you might find familiar.

I always get the shakes before a drop.

I don't remember where I read it, but it fit me to a 'T'. Oh I've done all the stuff that soldiers have done since before Athens ruled the waves. I got a good night's sleep, had a hearty meal, invoked my Gods of choice, inspected my personal kit just in case I have to bail and then inspected my 'mech too even though my tech already did—Cally is the best tech in the fleet (her service records say so) but it's my neck on the line, see? And then I've done the stuff that they didn't have millennia ago but probably would have done if they had: carbo-loading and hypno-prep and inoculations a-plenty. The Surgeons have studied my brainwaves and asked me silly questions—when you're being trusted with a war machine capable of devastating a city you have to put up with some silly shit on the part of those doing the trusting—and they all tell me that I can't really be afraid. That the shakes are just a little pre-engagement jitters that burn off some nervous energy…which is utter bullshit because I'm scared silly every time. Frankly, I think there's something wrong with those who aren't. But of all the bad drops—and there are some really bad ones—delayed stealth insertions are the worst.

Consider this: while your other buddies are heading for dirt in a show of light and thunder—provided by engines trying to keep dropships from going 'splat'—you are strapped down inside your 'mech, inside a drop cocoon that has been left suspended in space. While they're on their way dirt-side they're surrounded by armor, ECM, chaff, and all other sorts of things to encourage people who might be inclined to discourage them from landing to miss—and all sorts of weapons to deal with those who don't. On the other hand you are stuck in orbit in a heavily-stealthed drop-cocoon, but if someone happens across it you're a sitting duck and all the ECM in the galaxy is useless since you can't use it without giving away your position.

If the seals on your cockpit crack you get to the unenviable experience of trying to breathe the inert argon atmosphere filling the cocoon. If cocoon seals crack instead you're one crack away from trying to breathe vacuum, you no longer have a nice insulating layer between cold emptiness and your mech, and there is a good chance that if you live long enough to head for dirt the cocoon will implode—or something like that—when it hits atmo (there is a reason, after all, why there is an atmosphere inside the cocoon even if it escapes me at the moment).

Strapped in and waiting to die in 'mech that was almost completely powered down to cut down on emissions gives one a lot of time to think, which was the last thing I really wanted to be doing. So instead I kept myself busy by checking the few systems that were online and drawing from my very limited battery. First there were the canned air—which didn't rely on batteries, but the scrubbers did—and then the heat-sinks, only they were hooked up to the cocoon to absorb thermal radiation from the system primary. This had the effect of keeping the inside of the cocoon cool to observing thermal sensors, and also provided a limited amount of heat to keep me in a condition somewhat better than that of a popsicle. The complicated heat-exchange system was working in reverse of its normal operation. Instead of keeping the 'mech—and the pilot driving it—cool (normally necessary to keep one from locking up and the other from cooking) it was pumping the little available heat into both to keep ice crystals from forming in the actuators and the pilot (yours truly) warm enough that he would, hopefully, not be an ice cube when the call came in to hit orbit.

Unfortunately a long battery-life isn't something most battlemech designers think of as important. Certainly not on the same level as, say, the engine, weapons, and armor. Usually they're right, but every so often a time comes along when one of us 'mech-jockeys wish we had a little bit more. For example, I was going to have to consider fairly soon whether I wanted to stay warm, keep breathing, or have enough power left in the cells to kick-start the fusion plant. But I had a little while before that point so I sat back, closed by eyes, and tried not to dream.

I'm not successful.