The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 421 Like Pirates


After a number of transfers, Ves entered an old-model transport ship. While large number of bots filled up the ship's cargo hold with containers of supplies, Ves and two other mech designers entered a nearly-empty passenger compartment.

The compartment offered enough space for thirty passengers, though space was at a premium and the amenities left much to be desired. The yellowing white-paneled corridors and the faded and worn furniture made it clear that the vessel wasn't well-maintained.

"This is where you mech designers will stay for the time being." A crewman assigned to guide them said as he chewed some sort of stimulant that would have seen him cashiered aboard a properly-run ship. "Once you enter, the main hatch here will lock so you won't wander off and disturb the rest of the crew."

"We have to stay here for the entire duration of the trip!?" The only female mech designer among them spoke out. "There's barely anything inside!"

"You can always stay within your bunks and go back to sleep. There's a cabinet of nutrient packs along with a food recombinator, so you won't starve. If you want some distraction, we left you some data chips that contains some of the games we play in our off time."

Ordinarily, Ves could at least browse the galactic net if he wanted a distraction. However, ever since he received his military-issued comm, he started to get around the fact that the Mech Corps would never let someone like him with a sliver of access to the rest of the galaxy. The local networks plainly refused to let his comm access the galactic net.

The spacer quickly went through some obligatory safety instructions before letting the mech designers stew inside their empty but cramped abodes.

A couple of seconds passed by as the three looked at each other awkwardly.

"Let's claim our bunks before the others arrive."

"Good idea." The young woman nodded.

They each split up and entered some of the available cabins to claim their preferred sleeping spots. Ves stayed within the cabin and started to rearrange his thoughts. Ever since he learned he would be joining the design team of the 6th Flagrant Vandals, he dredged up every piece of knowledge that pertained to spaceborn mechs.

While spaceborn mechs didn't look very different from aerial mechs, they actually operated under very different circumstances. An aerial mech could operate in space in a pinch, but would only be able to express eighty-or-so percent of their strength.

Spaceborn mechs on he other fared much worse in atmospheric conditions. Some didn't even carry a strong-enough flight system to let their mechs remain aloft under standard gravity conditions.

Compared to landbound mechs, spaceborn mechs predominantly carried a notch less mass around. This was because it took a lot of energy to move these mechs around in space. The heavier the mech, the more energy it took to get it to move and make it come to a halt once it reached its destination.


Therefore, spaceborn mechs consisted of a much higher proportion of light mechs, though plenty of medium mechs existed as well. Besides the space knight mechs, every other medium spaceborn mech tended to mass at the lighter end of the medium weight class.

The decreased mass allowed these mechs to accelerate and decelerate rather quickly with more efficient but less powerful flight systems. It wasn't unheard of for spaceborn mechs to be able to last an entire standard day in space.

"They're smaller and lighter, but they're also more fragile."

The emphasis on speed and agility and the vast room for maneuvering in space shifted the design of spaceborn mechs away from a reliance on armor. While the existence of Space Knights and the like still proved that armor played a role, in space, speed, or rather acceleration was king.

The higher a mech's ability to accelerate, the better it would be able to dodge incoming attacks. Fast, unpredictable dodging patterns threw off the aim of enemy pilots.

For this reason, ballistic weapons was a tad bit less popular in space, though they still played a huge role when it came to attacking ships. It took far too long for lasers to carve through the hull of an enemy combat carrier.

Melee mechs played a role as well. Light skirmishers generally boasted excellent thrust-to-weight ratios, allowing them to close the distance to elusive ranged mechs and carve them up from up close.

"Still, the lack of any cover in space makes ranged mechs the dominant types of mechs in space."

Many battles took place in orbit or in the middle of an empty patch of space. Only rarely did battles erupt in asteroid fields or any other area where lots of objects floated nearby.

The lack of any cover for mechs to hide behind heavily favored ranged mechs. Even though their targets were easily capable of dodging most enemy fire, as long as a squad of mechs coordinated their fire, they could trap their target in a cage where they would get hit no matter where they dodged.

"In short, it's a numbers game as well."

Spaceborn mechs therefore tended to be rather cheap and disposable. Their lighter construction meant they got damaged more easily and needed more frequent repairs or replacements. Fortunately, they rolled off the production lines in great numbers.

Only their mech pilots couldn't be replaced. Although spaceborn mechs skimped out on a lot of areas compared to landbound mechs, the one component they left intact would always be the cockpit.

"This way of combat still sounds really wasteful."

The nature of space combat meant that skirmishes started and ended quickly. Whoever won the fight received the opportunity to salvage the wrecks and recoup the costs.

When Ves finished sorting out his knowledge base, he realized he still possessed a couple of holes in what he acquired up to this point.

"For spaceborn mechs, it's important to know how flight systems works and how to compartmentalize the interior of a frame to the point where every separate compartment was airtight.

The most complicated variable related to space combat was definitely heat management. Without ground and air to transfer much of the heat generated by mechs, mechs mostly radiated out their heat like the ancient practice of toasting a bun.

This was far too slow compared to the amount of heat a mech built up during battle, so mech designers did everything possible to extend the time a spaceborn mech could fight without becoming too hot.

The Bright Republic didn't have access to a lot of means to improve the heat management of their mechs. Therefore, the Republic's spaceborn mechs tended to be built according to endurance and efficiency rather than peak performance.

That was one area where Ves happened to know a lot.

Ves reluctantly concluded that he should be able to understand most spaceborn mech designs. He could even design a mech on his own, though it would be a lot more inefficient compared to what was available in the market.

Someone knocked at the door of his cabin. It was one of the guys who initially boarded the ship. "Mr. Larkinson? Can you come to the common room? We should talk."

"Coming."

Ves jumped to his feet and smoothed down his standard-issue clothes. The Mech Corps stocked the dressers in the cabin with a simple green uniform that carried a patch of a half-designed mech. This was how a working uniform looked like for mech designers called up during the war.

The mech designers that formed the true core of the design teams wore the same uniform, but boasted a couple chevrons that denoted their higher stations.

As Ves exited his cabin and approached the common room, he took a seat at an oil-stained table. He looked around, and besides the young man and woman who arrived aboard the transport ship together with Ves, no one else was there.

"Is this it?" Ves frowned.

"I believe so."

Bentheim held an enormous amount of mech designers. Ves only saw a couple of hundred mech designers in the processing center where he went through training, but the Mech Corps erected a lot of other processing centers elsewhere. All those mech designers should have finished their training by now and boarded their ships today.

"Maybe we finished sooner than others."

"I just checked the panel near the hatch." The other man said. "It projects the estimated departure time of this ship. She's disembarking from the military station in less than fifteen minutes. It's safe to say that other passengers won't be joining us."

This really startled Ves a bit. "Truly? I thought that design teams needed at least fifty mech designers or more."

During his training, Ves learned that design teams typically employed around full-time mech designers. During wartime, these design teams needed to accelerate the development of new designs, so the Mech Corps supplied them with a lot more mech designers.

The reinforcements consisted of one or more Journeyman Mech Designers accompanied by at least fifty Apprentice Mech Designers.

Hearing that this transport ship would depart with only 3 Apprentice Mech Designers was a whole other thing. Neither of the two other mech designers had a clue why their ship was empty of passengers.

"Maybe the Tarry System already received a batch of mech designers, or maybe they are aboard a different ship."

"Don't kid yourself." Ves interjected. "This is the only transport ship that's headed to the Tarry System. It's not because their needs are already met, but because one ship is sufficient to supply the Vandals."

"What?!"

"Do you know what the 6th Flagrant Vandals looks like?"

Both the male and female mech designers shrugged or shook their heads.

"They're a bunch of rogues." Ves began, and proceeded to bring his fellow mech designers up to speed with their reputation.

"They sound like pirates!"

Ves found that description to be particularly apt. It actually led him to believe that the Flagrant Vandals used to be a pirate gang that went legitimate.

The table fell into silence once again. Both the other two mech designers shuffled around their chairs with discomfort. They took part in the same training regime as Ves, so they still looked at him with apprehension.

"I'm not going to bite you all." He sighed. "I'm a Larkinson. You ever heard of them? I'm no different. I just chose to be a mech designer instead of a mech pilot."

That helped calm them down a little. The Larkinsons were known entities to the two designers, so associating them with Ves turned him into a somewhat more relatable person.

"Let's start with the introductions. You already know who I am, so let's move on to you two. Who are you?"

The woman started first. "My name is Laida Nnvist. I'm an Apprentice Mech Designer."

"Where are you from?"

"...Haston."

That caused Ves to take another look at Laida. The woman looked young and rather timid, completely unlike the stereotypical assertive hags that often came from this low-class city on Bentheim.

"That's… interesting." Ves quickly turned to the other guy in the room. "And you?"

"Pierce Yuvalis." The man spoke in a low tone, as if he was affected by the presence of Ves as well. "I came from the Friday Coalition."

If Laida's peculiar background raised some eyebrows, then Pierce's origins absolutely floored Ves.

"Which partner do you hail from?"

"The Gauge Dynasty."

Both Laida and Ves stared at Pierce as if he was an alien. How in the hell did a mech designer who hailed from the most powerful partner of the Coalition ended up in the clutches of the Mech Corps?

"Tell us more."

Pierce provided some context. "My father is a mech designer from the Republic who emigrated to the Gauge Dynasty and married a local there."

Though Pierce was a little reticent, Ves applied a little pressure in order to get him to open up. It turned out that Pierce was the oldest among three children. He was also the least talented of the three.

Whereas his younger siblings excelled early in their studies, Pierce turned out to be a tad bit slower in being able to understand the fundamental sciences that every mech designer needed to learn.

His father, angry and disappointed at Pierce's performance, pretty much banished the lad to the Republic.

Ves didn't know what to say about that. It must have been a crushing letdown to be sent away by your own father. Moving from the most prosperous part of the Friday Coalition to the backwards Bright Republic would have pushed most mech designers into ending their own lives.

Hearing their stories and matching them with his own made him realize that they were outcasts.

 
 


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