The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 326 Cut Down


When Melkor and Ves barged into engineering, they turned slightly and approached a ramp which gave a commanding view of the entire compartment. While Melkor took up a prime position to shoot down all of the huddled exoskeleton-suited intruders, Ves looked around the chamber for any signs of sabotage.

He spotted two alarming observations.

First, they placed something that looked a lot like explosives on the FTL drive. Ves found it funny that the boarding party went through the trouble of affixing its exterior with explosives when they could easily wreck it with a hefty kick from their exoskeletons.

Second, a Vesian tech specialist seemed to be digging deep into the central control console. The corpse of the previous head engineer bleeding out next to the console must have granted them access to the controls. Or, they might have hacked its outdated security settings.

Whatever the case, Ves had to deal with both these dangers quickly. The reason why he accompanied Melkor into engineering was because he was deeply afraid of just these kinds of tricks.

The moment the hostiles realized they couldn't hold their position, they wouldn't hesitate to destroy the power reactor or the FTL drive, or induce them in a manner that would blow up the entire Happy Jelly.

Ves bumped Melkor's combat suit and gestured towards the FTL drive. He held up his old laser pistol to show his cousin that he could handle himself. Even if Melkor held some misgivings about his presence here, the stealth augment had almost run its course.

No time for second guesses.

"Go!"

Once the stealth augment ran out of power, Ves sprinted for the FTL drive while Melkor pulled the trigger of the Amastendira.

Another massive, long-duration laser beam extended out of the barrel of the mastercrafted weapon. Melkor ran the entire beam along the engineering bay like a scythe cutting through wheat. More than half-dozen armored boarders lost their lives when the super-powered laser beam cut right through their military grade exoskeleton armor.

Entire bodies split in half along with their armor and any gear they carried. Instantly, Melkor neutralized over two-thirds of the threat in the compartment!

To their credit, the survivors responded swiftly to Melkor's sudden appearance. They snapped their rifles and wrist-mounted lasers at his position and barraged his position until the ramp became filled with holes.

"Agh!"

While Melkor had already begun to run, he still got hit by their uncannily accurate return fire. His light combat suit suffered a nasty series of burns and crater marks, wearing away the thin layers of armor until he dove into cover behind a thick enclosure.

One of the Vesians lifted up a launcher and fired a series of grenades at Melkor's position, causing him to jump away in haste. All the while, he fired shorter bursts of high-powered beams straight through the cover of his opponents.

At this power setting, nothing could stand in the way of the Amastendira. Though its power reserves rapidly drained and its heat capacity started to get overwhelmed, Melkor icily took out one exoskeleton soldier after another.

If he had to resort to his standard laser rifle, he might have needed to strike the same location five times in a row to get through the thick infantry-scaled armor.

Though the Vesians put up a good fight, their numbers rapidly dwindled to the extent where they sought to activate their failsafes. The commanding officer of the boarding party sent out a signal and expected and explosion, only to be met with nothing of the sorts.

"I disarmed the explosives!" Ves yelled to Melkor as he detached the last explosive charge from the exterior of the FTL drive and threw it in a random corner.

Though the charges still posed a threat, he successfully disabled their receivers. Right now he ran towards the console and shot at the tech specialist who had been forced to disengage from the controls.

"Damnit, this gun is really no comparison to the Amastendira." Ves cursed as he engaged in a stale and anemic standoff against the specialist.

The Vesian tech specialist obviously received more training than Ves, and he slowly got the upper hand. He already struck Ves' hazard suit a number of times, which melted away a significant slice of civilian-grade armor.

Compared to how Melkor systematically dismantled the Vesian soldiers, the fight between Ves and the tech specialist resembled a kiddie fight.

Ves became increasingly suppressed to the point where he didn't dare to emerge from cover. "Melkor! Help me out here!"

Seconds later, a bright beam of gold punched through the tech specialist's cover and vaporized his entire torso. His combat suit posed no impediment at all against the fury of a mastercrafted weapon.

The casual shot had taken almost no effort at all, though Melkor got into a sticky situation when the survivors tried to retreat from the engineering bay. As he chased after the stragglers, Ves approached the command console and tried to restore power to the Happy Jelly.

"Come on, don't tell me you've given up the ghost!"

Though Ves only understood half of what the command console spat out, he still figured out that engineering had become a mess. The tech specialist had been rooting through the core settings doing who knew what.

In addition, the earlier battle also ruined many secondary systems in the engineering bay. It was a miracle that Melkor's liberal use of the Amastendira hadn't struck anything vital like the engine, fuel supply or FTL drive.

Still, his work aboard large vessels like the Happy Jelly and the Gregarious Wrath had given him plenty of pointers on how these vehicles worked. After a couple of minutes of kludging, he managed to spool up the power reactors and reconnect them to the rest of the carrier.

As Ves worked the controls, the motley crew led by Fadah finally showed up. The Whalers stopped in their track as soon as they saw the carnage. Wide stretches of scorch marks and molten alloys crisscrossed the entire chamber.

What upset them the most was spotting the fallen corpses of the intimidating exoskeleton soldiers. Ordinarily, an entire squad of heavily armed Vesians would have chewed up the Whalers pretty good.

The fact that Ves and Melkor took them out alone while getting only scratches in return spoke wonders.

"Fadah, stay here and reinforce the engineering bay. I don't know if this is the only batch of Vesians aboard the Jelly. Remain alert."

"On it." Fadah nodded. He didn't quibble with Ves because he knew that their survival relied on holding engineering.

The lights switched from red to neutral aboard the entire ship. The Happy Jelly woke from her forceful slumber.

Not only did Ves restore the lights and life support systems, he also restored communications. He instantly contacted the bridge.

"Walter here! What's going down at engineering?!"

"Everyone's dead here. The Vesians kill everyone off and tried to sabotage the entire place, but Melkor and I have taken care them. I don't know how many Vesians remain, but engineering is safe for the time being."

"Good work, Larkinson. We're getting our bearings back on the bridge, but as far as we're aware of there are still a couple of uninvited guests aboard the ship. We're already sending out some men to sweep them up."

"What's the situation outside?" Ves suddenly asked.

"Not good. The Mech Legion has shed all pretences. Many ships are drifting away without power, while their missile mechs are pounding upon the fleet carriers of the Mech Corps."

Ves summoned up a plot of the local space and saw that the formerly neat arrangement of fleets had descended into a very divergent picture.

The Mech Legion largely maintained cohesion, but much of the allied ships of the Mech Corps suffered from sabotage. A handful of ships regained control, but dozens more blew up as their power reactors overloaded.

While the Vesians had caught the Mech Corps flat-footed, the Brighters launched their own surprise.

A handful of ships at the vanguard of the Mech Legion fleet ran into deadly stealth mines. Though the Mech Legion fleet swiftly changed course, the mines followed with them and turned into impromptu missiles that felled a number of smaller combat carriers.

The mines briefly disrupted the Mech Legion's tempo, allowing the Brighters to catch their breath. The battle transitioned from an ambush into a messy slugging match.

The Vesian Grand Chasers led the charge and clashed against the Brighter Volari Starhawks in the middle of the No Man's Land. Other mech regiments stuck to their fleets and engaged in a heated exchange of long-ranged fire.

From his limited tactical knowledge of battles in space, Ves tentatively concluded that neither side had gained a decisive lead.

Though the Mech Legion maintained a substantial advantage, their starting gambit focused mostly on the rabble that surrounded the ships of the Mech Corps. It mattered little if some tiny outfit like Walter's Whalers lost control of their ships, as the core strength of the Bright Republic's fleet still remained intact.

"The battle has turned into a slugging match! This is madness!"

If Ves was in charge, he would have pulled away. Neither side benefited from the losses they suffered. Ships lost propulsion and mechs continued to be obliterated in the cruel millstone of generational hatred.

Neither side had issued a formal declaration of war, but already they were going at it as if their entire state was at stake.

Walter growled on the other side of the communication channel. "Madness or not, we're in the thick of it now. The first thing we need to do is get back in formation. We've drifted off-course and we need to turn back around. Can you take charge in engineering?"

"I'll do the best I can, but I have no clue what I'm doing."

"Hang on for now while I round up all of the engineers who are still alive. Make sure that nothing breaks in the meanwhile!"

That was easier said than done. The Amastendira had inflicted a lot of collateral damage. Ves called over a floating toolbox and began to clean up some of the damaged systems and prevent them from degrading even further.

In the meantime, a couple of engineers stationed elsewhere on the Happy Jelly entered the engineering bay and took stock of all of the damage.

Ves looked up from his repair job. "How's the damage? Can the Happy Jelly still fly?"

The ship engineers reluctantly nodded. "If we divert some power from other systems, she can still keep up with the fleet. I'm not so sure about jumping into FTL. The system that's responsible for calculating our navigational plots is cut in half."

That didn't prevent them from transitioning into FTL, but if they made any mistake in calculation, they risked getting lost in the sea of higher dimensions. They could end up thousands of light-years away from their original destination, or get sucked into a random stellar body like a star or a black hole.

"Let's worry about that later. For now, we have a ship to repair and a battle to survive!"

Everyone proceeded to put out the fires and assess the exact damage. From what Ves had seen so far, the Happy Jelly still had a lot of fight left in her. Most of her basic functions such as her in-system thrusters and her FTL drive sustained no damage, so there was no need to evacuate as of yet.

Once Melkor returned, Ves put down his tool and approached his cousin. "How's the rest of the ship? Did you catch the stragglers?"

"We cornered them in the cargo bay. Because of all the reactive exotics stored in that compartment, I couldn't shoot off my laser pistol willy nilly. It took a decent amount of effort to flank them and assault them from multiple directions."

Melkor had no need to tell Ves how that final stand ended. With the Amastendira, the Vesians stood no chance even if they took a couple of containers of exotics hostage.

"I think we don't have to worry about hostile boarders at this point. Both fleets are hammering each other apart with mechs right now. I'd feel safer if you hopped inside the Stanislaw and station yourself at the hangar bay's hatch."

The idea sounded a bit weak, but they couldn't employ the Stanislaw in any other way since it lacked a flight system. Melkor nodded inside his helmet and turned around. "I'll get on it."

"Wait a moment. Give me back my Amastendira!"

 
 


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