The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 327 Hatred


With only a little less than half a day away until they could transition into FTL, the two military fleets had already fallen out.

The amount of damage inflicted on both sides surpassed a value of billions of credits. Mechs continued to be destroyed at an unsustainable rate.

Sometimes, a combat carrier or two sustained major damage that caused them to drift out of formation. These losses were much more severe because the carriers had been constructed with premium materials that made them many times more expensive than a regular mech.

The loss of so much strategic assets on both sides grew more frigid once the expert mechs started showing up. The handful of expert pilots like Venerable Stanton Drake fought above the the general battle as their mechs possessed the capacity to inflict ruinous damage against a group of standard mechs.

The Fire Worm especially received a lot of attention from the Vesians. They couldn't afford to let the Fire Worm devastate a huge swathe of the Mech Legion's ships with its wide-area flamethrowers.

Despite the intense clashes, neither side expected the battle to end quickly. Most fights between expert mechs lasted at least an hour or more if they held back their trump cards. For now, the experts mainly tried to constrain their counterparts from the other side.

This put the onus of the battle on the masses of regular mech pilots.

Melkor who stationed his Stanislaw next to the opened hangar hatch of the Happy Jelly mainly stood by and shot down any stray missile that flickered in his view. As a small and rusty converted carrier, the Happy Jelly hardly attracted any attention from the Mech Legion.

The two average mechs that guarded the carrier also impressed no one. Dietrich piloted his old Harrier and kept his mech's rifle in a tight grip as he looked at the explosions happening in the distance.

"This is crazy!"

Walter's Whalers experienced a handful of large battles before on the Glowing Planet. The pirates never really put up a decent fight due to their lack of discipline, training and quality.

This was different.

The Mech Legion consisted of several ducal regiments of similar quality to their counterparts of the Republic. Highly ambitious commoners made up the rank-and-file while officers trained from birth to command and lead these mechs were hungry to earn merits.

As long as commoners destroyed ten mechs without losing their own, they'd be elevated to knights, which was the first and lowest rank of nobility within the Vesia Kingdom. Once a commoner became a knight, many privileges and opportunities fell into their laps.

Thus, the mech pilots of the Mech Legion fought with much greater passion than the Mech Corps. The Bright Republic's mech pilots mainly served out of duty, and while they enjoyed a fair amount of rewards for each mech they took out, they paled in comparison.

"Larkinson! Focus on the squad of cannoneers. They're trying to take out our carriers!"

Ghanso Larkinson listened to the instructions of his captain and shifted the Vhedra's rifle until it lined up with the cannoneers. Even from this distance, he managed to cripple two mechs at once before they pulled back.

"Man, your aim is getting better and better!" One of his colleagues praised. The shots of the rifleman mechs barely scarred the armor plating of the cannoneer mechs.

Another volley of lasers spat out of the Vhedra's laser rifle. This time, Ghanso managed to nail a swordsman mech in the back just as it was about to assail a defenseless mech from the Volari Starhawks.

To be honest, Ghanso could barely explain why he improved all of a sudden. Many of his peers gained an edge after cutting their teeth against the pirates, but Ghanso had changed more drastically than most.

Everytime a mech pilot asked him how he did it, he responded with the same answer. "Shooting down a regular mech is easier than trying to scratch an expert mech."

Compared to that expert light mech that got chased away by the Fire Worm, every other mech moved so slow to his senses. It was as if every mech had collectively decided to cut their speed in half. In those circumstances, Ghanso had been able to nail down every moving target no matter what kind of tricks they pulled off.

Unknown to him, a handful of observant officers of the Volari Starhawks marked him out as a possible expert pilot candidate.

Still, no matter how many mechs he mowed down, Ghanso was only one pilot among tens of thousands. His contribution hardly shifted the tenuous balance between the sides.

The battle between the Grand Chasers and the Volari Starhawks grew increasingly more heated. As the only two mech regiments to clash against each other in close range, the amount of casualties quickly piled up on both sides. All it took was one mistake to take out a mech.

The differences between the two regiments quickly became apparent. The Grand Chasers had left their bulky heavy mechs behind to guard their motherships in the main fleet of the Mech Legion.

Freed from the burden of their sluggish ships and heavy mechs, the mechs of the Grand Chasers tried to fly in circles around their adversaries. Their squads primarily consisted of light mechs. Each of them might not pack a lot of punch, but as long as enough mechs focused their fire upon the same target, they could systematically dismantle their opponents in quick succession.

Still, the Volari Starhawks refused to be their punching backs. Medium mechs made up most of their numbers, so they used that to their advantage to bull through the harassing fire and disrupt the rhythm of the circling mechs.

Meanwhile, the Happy Jelly sneakily slipped back into formation. The Mech Corps had assigned them in the periphery of the main fleet along with the rest of the ships from the Whalers and the Blood Claws.

Some of those ships suffered various mishaps due to sabotage. The Whalers lost one ship entirely while the Blood Claws lost six.

This frustrated the two gangs to no end. Many of those ships had been laden with exotics that could have been sold for a decent fortune. Their profitability took a sharp dive after sustaining such a loss.

"How is it possible for us to loose so many ships?" Ves asked in the open. "Only fifteen or so exoskeleton soldiers boarded our carrier. I doubt the other ships faced more than that. How could the Vesians get the drop on us with such a minimal investment?"

No one in the engineering bay dared to answer his question. In truth, everyone knew that they'd been complacent at the possibility of a stealth insertion. They paid dearly for their lax approach against stealth insertions.

The battle had raged over an hour now. Thousands of mechs had met their end along the trail the fleets left behind. A couple of stray and derelict ships spun off into nowhere, though in many cases their crew and cargo had been transferred onto other ships if they survived.

As a mech designer who'd been raised away from the Larkinsons who'd been indoctrinated into serving the Republic, Ves increasingly grew disgusted about the battle.

Neither sides fought for any strategic reason other than to try and take their adversaries down a notch.

It was as if the Mech Legion and the Mech Corps consisted of two school children with an unreconciled grudge against each other. No matter how many times you tried to lecture them, they still came to blows if they were put in the same room.

"So many people are killed and so many mechs are destroyed at this moment." He lamented to himself as he kept an eye on the information being fed to the command console.

The engineers had made some critical repairs that brought back the functionality of some of the more salvageable damaged components. The Happy Jelly now regained ample power to keep her thrusters active at full capacity while keeping enough juice to run her other systems like life support.

Ves didn't even need to lend a hand with the repairs anymore, so he stuck to the command console and paid attention to the battle outside while he inspected the various incomprehensible databases for any signs of sabotage.

"I don't know what the tech specialist did, but I can't track down anything that looks amiss."

His Computer Science Skill mainly focused on mastering the programming of a mech. The programming that ran a large vessel like the Happy Jelly might use the same type of languages, but its structure was at least ten times more complex. Every element of the Happy Jelly's programming had been applied in a different direction from what Ves was accustomed to with mechs.

In short, Ves had no clue what he was doing. Neither did anyone else, for that matter.

When Ves asked someone to take over his post, the engineers replied that only the head engineer figured the system out. Everyone else treated the programming like an alien artifact.

He shook his head. "Idiots."

To be fair, the Happy Jelly did lost most of their most competent engineers. The remaining survivors lacked the experience and knowledge to work in engineering.

Instead, they'd been tasked with watching over the less important systems like the oxygen replenisher and water recycler. These kinds of figures yearned for simple jobs where all they had to do was to sleep on the job or play some games on their comm.

The only times they got off their lazy butts was if something had actually broken down.

Thus, Ves had no choice but to remain at the engineering bay for a time. While the surviving engineers required no further motivation as their lives were already at stake, he occasionally had to warn them if they tried anything dangerous or wrong.

The relative lack of excitement continued for another hour. The battle outside died down as the Volari Starhawks and the Grand Chasers pulled back at the same time. They sustained too many casualties in one bout, and most of their mechs had started overheating from the intense exertion of their weapons and flight systems.

Ves suddenly received a comm message.

"Get over to the hangar bay! The Harrier has just returned and it's in really bad shape!"

"Dietrich!"

Ves left the command console and walked out of the engineering bay. He ran through the corridors in his hazard with his Amastendira kept safe within a pocket. Once he reached the hangar bay, he took a look at the steaming mess of junk the Harrier had been reduced too.

A handful of mech technicians brought in heavy cutting tools and started grinding through the cockpit area.

"What happened to the Harrier?! Is Dietrich still alive?"

"He's alive, but the data says he has a concussion!" A mech technician responded quickly as he tried to bore through the cockpit.

Ves shook his head and made a choice. "That will take too long. Let me try something."

Once he floated above the cockpit, Ves mentally recalled the schematics of the mech. The Harrier featured a typical reverse-V cockpit system where the thick, robust chest pating swiveled outward. This left open a gap near the neck area where a mech pilot would be able to enter and exit the hatch at the top of the cockpit.

This type of entry system gained a bad reputation because it was easy to jam the swivel procedure. Right now, the Harrier not only missed an arm and a leg. It also suffered severe explosive trauma evidenced by the cratering frontal armor.

"This is going to be a little tricky."

Ves did not bother with a plasma cutter. Who needed those heavy tools when he already had possessed a much more potent weapon?

He retrieved his Amastendira and dialed the power setting to a medium-intensity burn. He aimed the barrel of the pistol at the damaged chest armor and pulled the trigger.

The laser slowly melted through the Harrier's uncompressed armor plating. Even though the uncompressed armor lacked any notable attributes, the mech technicians still called out in alarm.

"How powerful is that gun?"

"Is this a new type of laser cutter? Where can I buy one?"

"You idiot. It's not a tool, but a weapon! Do you think any compact laser pistol can outperform a plasma cutter?"

"Ouch! You didn't have to hit my head!"

Once Ves carefully burned through the frontal plating, he called over a couple of aging bots to remove the excess debris. Once the bots peeled away the last layers, Ves came face-to-face with Dietrich's limp body.

"Hang on there, Dietrich! Help is coming."

A pair of homegrown medics climbed on top of the prone Harrier and carefully crawled over to the cockpit. "He's suffered more than a concussion! We need to take him to the medbay!"

The medics efficiently removed the unconscious Dietrich from the piloting seat and laid him down on a floating stretcher. In less than two minutes, they secured the Little Boss and guided his stretcher towards the medbay.

 
 


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