The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 551


Chapter 551
A hatch slid open, allowing Ves entry into the dinghy compartment . Compared to the clean and relatively tidy interior of the rest of the Shield of Hispania, Ves had entered what should have formerly been a backup storage area .



A large closet, in other words .

Now, the compartment had been turned into a lounge of some sorts . A couple of sofas, some pots with alien plants and a simple table surrounded by chairs took up much of the room while muted projection of archival mech duels played in the background .

Chief Technician Carletta Haine, Chief Engineer Morgan Avanaeon and Lieutenant Command Lisea Soapstone already sat on three of the four chairs . They all greeted Ves as he took the final seat .

"Good to see you Larkinson . "

"Been working hard today, eh?"

"You still owe me three tons of platinum!"

"I'll make it up to you, Soapstone . " Ves said somewhat tiredly . "I hadn't anticipated using it as a substitute material for my repairs . "

Chief Haine who set up this compartment in the first place pressed her finger against the table, causing a projection of a sophisticated board game to appear on the table . The game featured miniature mech and ship models, only a couple of which the players started out . The space above the table turned into a three-dimensional star map where the game would be played out .

"Pirate Empires again?" Chief Morgan whined as he whipped out a bottle and glass from somewhere and poured himself a drink . "This game is over a century old . No offense, but you see the same strategies play out over and over again . "

"That's the beauty of this game . " Soapstone said with a smile . She gripped the projection of a random assortment of identically scaled mechs and ships and rolled them around like they were dice . "If we're all familiar with the same strategies, the game becomes a contest of mind games . Why do you think chess is still the same after several millennia after its inception?"



"I'm running this game with all the latest expansions . " The chief technician added . "The threat of a major alien invasion will spice things up if you want to deal with an extra challenge . What do you think, head designer?"

Ves yawned a bit . "I'm not very familiar with the last couple of expansions, but I'm aware of the rules . The game developers have added even more randomization in the game, I hear . That's going to be annoying to deal with . This game is pretty much ninety percent about luck and ten percent about skill . "

"You're wrong, Larkinson . " The chief engineer replied . "That ninety percent luck you're talking about really refers to your ability to manage fortune and risks . Good and bad things happen in every game . It's your ability to mitigate the bad outcomes and benefit from the good outcomes that determines whether you are winning . "

Pirate Empires was a game of exploration, conquest and profiteering . Having been developed in the galactic rim, it proved to be a breakout hit and became a rim-wide phenomenon . Riding on its success, the developer actively published countless of expansion packs, add-ons and star sector-specific flavor packages over the years .


The premise of the game was that players took on the role of an outfit leader . The only choice provided by the base game used to be a pirate captain, but later expansions added the option of playing as a legitimate mercenary commander or the leader of a treasure hunting expedition .

Whatever the case, the goal of the game was to amass a set amount of wealth in money or assets through killing, plundering, cheating, or hundreds of other ways allowed by the rules . All of this took place in the frontier beyond the border of human space .

Ves never paid too much attention to this game in his youth, but he played a few matches here and there . Recently, he gained a lot more appreciation of the game because it served as a somewhat accurate depiction of what the owner of an outfit had to deal with . The game treated the frontier as a region where opportunity and danger coexisted .

"Let's begin . I've waited long enough to get this session started!"

The four players chose their roles and began to make their first moves into the untamed stars . Each of them picked the exact same roles as last time . Everyone's choices appeared to reflect their personalities .

As a chief technician, Haine always leaned towards playing a pirate . The key to running a successful pirate operation was to keep your unruly subordinates under your thumb . Haine had a lot of experience knocking some sense into the skulls of mech technicians .



"What's the difference between a pirate and a mech technician?" She asked one day . "A pirate is led by a lawless maniac while a mech technician is led by a lawful maniac!"

Haine's usual strategy leveraged her skill in managing all kinds of bastards and scum to amass a pirate fleet in the early phases of the game . If the other three players let her build up a veritable armada, then it was too late to stop her from steamrolling them one by one .

The chief engineer pursued the opposite strategy . Avanaeon pursued quality over quantity, and therefore opted to play as a mercenary commander . His outfit always stayed small, but through a steady accumulation of wealth through low and medium-risk ventures, he amassed a collection of elite mechs and ships, all crewed by some of the skilled and deadliest subordinates available in the game .

"The best hardware paired with the best people trumps anything you can throw in my way . "

Avanaeon knew his ships well, and invested in them very early . This allowed him to pick and choose his battles and avoid any attacks directed against him in the first half of the game . He would never be the first player to fall in every match .

The only logistical officer among them favored playing as the leader of a treasure hunting outfit . Different from pirates which usually raided other players or neutral human presences on the map, treasure hunters aimed to raid the unclaimed bounties of the stars . Treasure hunters strictly challenged the environment and often explored the most hazardous regions on the map .

"You fellows fight too much . " Soapstone often remarked . "This game is about hoarding the most wealth . Taking it from someone else all the time only builds up grievances among your enemies . "

That said, Soapstone did not fare very well once she entered a bad encounter against another human force . Her force mix predominantly focused on strengthening her landbound combat and exploration capacities, while most of her ships focused on maximizing their cargo capacity .

Each of the three had been familiar with each other since accepting their postings aboard the Shield of Hispania . One day, Chief Haine invited Ves to join their little circle, and out of curiosity he accepted the offer .

He quickly became immersed into the game . What he used to play for fun in the past served as a fun way to practice running his own outfit someday .

Harkening back to the Avatars of Myth he founded a while ago, Ves opted to play as a mercenary commander as well . In the first sessions, he experimented with a variety of strategies, but eventually settled on taking steady missions while preparing for a high-risk high-reward treasure hunting opportunity .

"Since this is just a game, I can go wild . I always love to make a big gamble . "

It was safe to say that Ves played a very risky game . He generally aimed to grow his mercenary corps as fast as possible without taking too much risks at the start . He preferred to go for mid-game value for money when acquiring new mechs and ships . This allowed him to tackle a big treasure hunting score when his search had finally stumbled upon a promising opportunity .

Anything could go wrong in these treasure hunting expeditions . From battling fire dragons while attempting to mine valuable exotics from a lava planet, to braving the risks of diving into the upper layers of a gas giant to harvest valuable concentrations of a very rare component ingredient of extreme-density fuel, his operations was always one step away from disaster .

His track record so far didn't look very good . In the current session, Ves bumped into a treasure hunting opportunity fairly early and was forced to go for it before others snatched his opportunity . His understrength collection of mechs suffered a lot of casualties on the field .

"Why do you insist on these stupid gambles?" Chief Avanaeon asked for the umpteenth time . "Chief Haine is snowballing again . I could have used to cut her pirate fleet down to size . "

Ves smiled ruefully as his latest venture appeared to be heading nowhere . "I'm not in the right position to help . It's not my fault my mercenary corps spawned on the other side of the map . "

The chief technician practically beat the chief engineer black and blue in the game . Playing pirates well required a good heaping of luck as well as excellent people management skills . Though Chief Haine's luck seemed to be average, her ability lent itself well in gathering a horde of low-quality pirate assets for an early game advantage .

Just now, she halved Avanaeon's forces and even added a couple of salvaged mechs to her own retinue . After this victory, Chief Haine began to focus on subduing other pirate gangs with higher quality ships and mechs .

Soapstone ignored the chaos that had erupted elsewhere and focused on taking commissions from foreign states to prospect valuable exotics for them to mine .

Ves on the other hand received a heavy thrashing from his initial failed venture . His mercenary corps licked their wounds while he accepted a couple of easier assignments . He never lost heart, though . As long as nobody hunting him down, he was still in contention .

That didn't change the fact that his mercenary corps had fallen behind compared to the other players . The only way he could salvage this unlucky turn of events was to roll the proverbial dice again . He prepared another his forces to go on another high-risk mission .

"Oh come on, do you really think that will work, Larkinson?"

"Hey, don't count me out yet . I'm the comeback kid . "

"Huff, if you're the combat kid, why are the repairs of our mechs behind schedule?" Chief Haine bit back . "Major Verle went through all that trouble sending our landbound mech pilots into a crash course on how to pilot spaceborn mechs . Some of them are pretty talented and decent at it, but they don't have any mechs to pilot!"

Each formally-trained mech pilot trained to pilot the machines for more than a decade . Every mech pilot acquired a basic proficiency on piloting landbound, aerial, spaceborn and in some cases aquatic mechs .

The only snag was that mech pilots usually specialized fairly early . Piloting mechs on land was easier and more intuitive, so it attracted a lot of mech pilots . Those who opted to train in piloting spaceborn mechs tended to be more skilled and better learners .

Thus, getting spaceborn pilots to crosstrain into piloting landbound mechs was easy . Forcing landbound mech pilots into becoming proficient in piloting spaceborn mechs proved to be a massive challenge .

So far, Major Verle tentatively trained up over fifty cross-rained mech pilots that showed enough competency in the simulations to survive the first five minutes of a battle . That was better than nothing .

"Hah!" Ves erupted into a cheer . "My expedition hit the jackpot!"

His mercenary corps excavated an ancient alien ruin that held a bounty of interesting alien technology . Ves could easily trade his gains to the MTA or CFA for a very high price . Once his mercenary corps extracted from the dangerous planet that held the ruins, they bee-lined to a star system occupied by the CFA and redeemed his findings for an incredible amount of credits .

It was enough to expand his mercenary corps by five-hundred percent!

"You better ready yourselves for a fight, because here I come!"



 
 


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