The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 306 Devourers


The Gregarious Wrath primarily functioned as a tunneler, but that did not describe the extent of her purpose.

Many battles that took place on planets actually took place underground. While controlling the surface was important to control the local population and much of the smaller industries, the real jewels could be found at least a couple of kilometers underground.

While this brought a lot of inconveniences, the huge barrier of soil formed the most formidable fortification against bombardment, raids, infiltration and a host of other nasty consequences.

The main reason why the LMC spent half a billion credits on their production complex was because Ves wanted to create a giant underground fort. Considering the onset of war, such an extravagant precaution might definitely pay off.

In any case, with the proliferation of underground bases, a means had to be developed to strike them. After all, even pirates used underground fortifications to hide or withstand against the wrath of the lawful authorities of the galaxy.

Thus, Ves learned why the Gregarious Wrath adopted such a strange and aggressive name, and why the Mech Corps maintained such a large and expensive machine.

The Wrath performed the role of siege breaker.

As the anomalies neared the immobile tunneler, hatches opened up, allowing aerial mechs to emerge. Most of these mechs had their energy cells replaced by the undercharged variants that Ves had developed, so none of the pilots showed any hesitancy in sortieing out.

Meanwhile, everybody inside the Wrath went to their action stations. Ves had to leave the labs as well. As a guest, he should be returning to his bunk and hole up while the Mech Corps took care of the threat, but Ves wasn't in a mood to hide.

"I still have those permissions given by Chief Petrisc. I'll probably be able to enter the engineering bay."

Ves resolutely found the nearest fast platform and stepped onto its surface. The platform instantly zipped away along a special track in the corridors. Many other crewmen had boarded the same kind of platforms in order to quickly traverse the entire length of the Wrath.

His platform deposited him a couple of compartments away from the rear engineering bay. After going through another security checks, he finally entered it and found Chief Petrisc. The man occasionally issued orders while he kept his eye on a projected multi-pane interface that showed almost everything that happened inside and outside the Wrath.

"Ves, I figured you'd be here. A Larkinson never shies away from a fight! Come here and help me make sense of the readings."

Glad that he hadn't been chased out, Ves approach the command console and turned his attention to the proximity map. Twenty-five mechs made up of the first wave. Without a better understanding of the incoming threats, the captain held back the other mechs.

Also, the expanded tunnel around the Wrath didn't offer a lot of space anyway.

The deck beneath Ves rumbled a bit, and the reactors stationed at the center of the bay powered up.

The Wrath slowly powered up her systems and started digging again.

"Why are we tunneling again?!"

"We need to make more room for our mechs to fight!" Petrisc replied as he swiped his fingers across the projection, making adjustments on the fly. "The tunnel we've made doesn't give our mechs a lot of room to maneuver, and the Wrath is vulnerable as well if she remains stuck like this."

The Wrath slowly started to curve upwards. The recently deployed mechs followed in her wake. After making a deliberate course change, the Wrath now pointed upwards, leaving plenty of room for the mechs to meet the approaching signals coming from the core of the Glowing Planet.

"The signals are moving right through solid matter." Ves noted quickly as he studied the plot. "They're moving through both mundane and exotic materials like they don't exist! I don't think any machine made by man can do such a thing!"

Both of them came to the only conclusion possible. "They're indigenous life forms!"

Three strong signals burrowed through the core like it was made out of vacuum. Ves tried to guess at their properties and wondered if they descended from the native wildlife that had once roamed the Glowing Planet when it still orbited around a star.

As the three signals came closer, the Wrath's sensors resolved more data. Ves found them to be difficult to parse. The sensors failed to detect any mass readings or pick up any vibrations that indicated the signals burrowed through the terrain. Yet the amount of energy they held should be enough to power ten elite mechs.

"What kind of life forms are these?!"

"Whatever they are, they're heading straight for the Gregarious Wrath! I think that says enough about their stance towards us!"

The galaxy spawned countless wonders throughout its ten billion year history. Many strange and unusual life forms emerged from these unique conditions, and humanity had encountered billions of them during the Age of Conquest.

Many times, these indigenous life forms seemed omnipotent, but they all fell in the end against the might of humanity's inexorable rise. No one on the Wrath feared the approaching indigenous aliens, even though they possessed enough energy to riddle the Wrath from inside-out.

As Ves quietly tried to make sense of the increasingly detailed but incomprehensible readings, his mind inadvertently drifted back to the moments he met the ghost that wore his mother's face.

"They're energy life forms! They don't possess a material form!"

Chief Petrisc's face turned grim. He instantly sent off a message to the captain before he even tried to confirm the wild guess. "If those are energy beings, then we're in a lot of trouble."

Humanity encountered a handful of energy beings, whose existence in the material dimensions could only be sensed indirectly. It wasn't accurate to call them ghosts, but most laymen treated these intangible energy beings this way.

That was because they couldn't be hurt by a laser or projectile. Swords and shields flew straight through their transparent forms, though sometimes they didn't even show any hint of their existence. These near or fully invisible creatures harvested countless of lives, mechs and ships before humanity finally found the key to repel their cheat-like existences.

"Do we have an expert pilot on board?" Ves asked with sharp eyes.

"We do. Venerable Stanton Drake is standing by to deploy. The only problem is that the mech technicians recently overhauled his Fire Worm. It's a highly complex aerial striker mech that uses up a lot of power. Standard energy cells won't meet its energy consumption so the scientists have been trying to adapt your energy cells for expert mech designs. They only managed to do so a day ago."

"It's been weeks since I released those designs. It's taken them this long to develop a new energy cell?" Ves sounded exasperated. "They should have consulted me!"

"You know how the Mech Corps works. Those scientists holed up in their research bases are pissed at you because you upstaged all of their efforts. They don't want to admit a single mech designer can trump over their collective smarts."

Whatever the case, the mech technicians in charge of the Fire Worm raced against time to hammer the mech back together from its semi-disassembled state. So long as the Venerable didn't have access to a mech tailored to his talents, he wouldn't be able to display his full might.

Ves didn't offer to assist, since he would surely be rejected. He didn't possess the right clearance to work with highly sensitive expert mechs. These mechs cost many billions of credits to make and often incorporated some of the best technologies available to the Bright Republic.

In any case, a dedicated team of mech designers and mech technicians always accompanied each expert mech. Ves wouldn't be able to add anything unless he became more familiar with the Fire Worm's design.

"How much time do they need until the Venerable can deploy?"

"Ten minutes. We have to hold out for at least ten minutes."

After several tense moments, the alien energy creatures finally emerged from the core. They appeared to be semi-corporeal, with a transparent green glowing body that evoked the image of an illusionary snake the size of three mechs stacked on top of each other.

Most notably, the limbless creatures didn't possess any sensory organs. The only thing that distinguished its front from its back was the gaping toothless maw that possessed some sort of attractive force.

When the mechs that escorted the Wrath finally opened fire, the energy snakes widened their incorporeal maws.

Amazingly, every laser, shell, projectile and missile sent in their way curved their trajectories until they ended up inside their maws, where they promptly disappeared.

"What happened?!"

"How can all of those projectiles disappear!?"

"The worms are glowing brighter! They're feeding off the incoming fire!"

The mechs soon received orders to cease fire. After failing to make a dent through ranged fire, a few courageous melee mechs flew forward to meet the giant snakes in close combat.

It quickly turned ugly for the Mech Corps. The mechs hardly thrusted out their swords and spears before the snakes sped up and engulfed the mechs with their transparent bodies.

This time, the mechs hadn't disappeared. The snakes passed through the mechs as if they passed through a paper-thin screen. They completely dismissed the mechs that suddenly halted their flights.

After a few seconds of silence, the mechs lost all of their remaining power and dropped down to the core. The lighter gravity deep underground made the falls appear gentle, but no one knew whether the mechs could still restore its systems or if their pilots were even alive.

"They devoured all of the energy inside those mechs!"

"They're energy eaters!"

"Not only that, they can eat smaller solid substances as well!"

Chief Petrisc and the handful of men standing around him quickly summed up the traits of the energy snakes. Their existence couldn't be understood through a conventional lens. The abundant variety of exotics buried in the Glowing Planet spawned a bizarre form of life that brushed aside a well-equipped platoon of mechs.

"They're still heading for the Wrath!"

Chief Petrisc couldn't take it any longer. He raised his comm and hailed the bridge. An interference field automatically sprung into being that prevented Ves and any bystanders from eavesdropping on the conversation. Once the chief engineer finished the call, he issued an important order.

"Polarize the hull!"

The power reactors cranked up all of their power towards an intricate set of systems that caused the entire exterior of the Wrath to glow. The snakes halted their approach and curved around the Gregarious Wrath's strange new condition.

"It worked!" Ves exclaimed.

"Don't celebrate too soon. The Wrath can't stay in this condition for long. It takes a ludicrous amount of energy to maintain this state. I'll be forced to pull the plug in less than two minutes."

Polarization was a rare and underdeveloped technology in the Bright Republic. They expended so much energy that only their most important ships could be equipped with this option. Even if the Wrath possessed an abundant amount of energy sources, even those would be drained in record time if the tunneler had to maintain its polarization state.

Right now, both sides waited patiently. The snakes somehow sent that it took a lot of effort for the Wrath to keep up her polarization, while the crew aboard the Wrath tried to buy enough time for restore Venerable Drake's mech. Only an expert could save them from the devourers yearning to drain them of their energies.

Amazingly enough, despite the enormous power draw, the Gregarious Wrath largely held up. Much of the repairs and preventive maintenance done to the tunneler had paid off. Only a couple of auxiliary systems malfunctions as the Wrath strained to keep up its polarization state for two full minutes.

'How much longer until the Fire Worm is ready?" Ves asked.

"They need at least four more minutes! The mech technicians are already rushing their work as it is."

That was far too much time. As the final seconds approached, everyone aboard the Wrath held their breaths. Eventually, a lot of indicators on the status pane sent out alarms, and Chief Petrisc reluctantly pulled the level that shut off the polarization systems.

The Gregarious Wrath had dropped her defenses. The devourers already reared up to fly right through her meters-thick hull.

 
 


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