The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 494 Missing


The interrogation turned into a strange direction. Breskin tried to coax their captive into giving up the other thing. Nobody in the observation room looked puzzled when the interrogator and the interrogated spoke of the 'thing' and the 'other thing'.

Was this a deliberate precaution against leaking out the true shapes of the 'things' to Ves?

That didn't make any sense. If so, the bedraggled Lord Javier should have been doing everything in his power to publicize the 'things' out of spite. That he played along proved that the significance of these 'things' were of such import that even he couldn't lightly mention them by name.

Over time, Ves realized that they adopted this terminology because they'd been trained to avoid leaking any inadvertent information from any hidden recorders and spying bugs. Though the observation and interrogation rooms had been swept as thoroughly as possible, that was only up to the standard of a third-rate state.

What if a greater power such as the Friday Coalition or even the Mech Trade Association listened in on their conversations? Certainly, they wouldn't devote a human to listen to their talk. Instead, they'd task some AIs to be on the lookout for certain key phrases that signified something of exceptional value.

Therefore, as long as everyone agreed to abide by generic words such as 'things', they wouldn't be able to attract too much attention from any high-tech listeners. At the very least, even if some AI suspected that they talked about something valuable, they wouldn't be able to figure out any clues.

"I have nothing to say to you." Lord Javier responded smugly to Breskin. It was as if he had the upper hand in the interrogation room. "The 'other thing' is safe as long as I'm alive, I can assure you.

Even a dummy like Ves could see that the lordling held all the cards in this game. The Detemen League and the Flagrant Vandals attached a lot of importance to these so-called 'things'. So much so that Breskin seriously contemplated whether to free Lord Javier in exchange for obtaining the 'other thing'.

After ten more minutes of cajoling, Breskin finally shook his head. "We will talk again after we have evacuated from this star system. For now, you will be coming with us."

He glanced at his comm and pressed a button, causing Javier's restraints to inject a substance in his bloodstream. The captive quickly lost consciousness again. A pair of guards entered the interrogation room and took him away.

"Show's over now."

"Damn, I really hoped that Lord Javier would give up what he knew."

"There's no chance of that as long as he's sober. We're going to have to work for it. With an augmented mind and body like his, it might take months to compel him to spill the 'other thing'."

Ves wandered out of the observation room with more questions than answers. He even began to doubt the purpose of this entire operation. Could this entire operation have been set off to obtain the 'things' in Javier's possession?


"Probably not. It's likely a combination of factors that led to the Vandals choosing to invade the Detemen System. Hitting multiple birds with one stone, basically."

In any case, now that the Flagrant Vandals completed all of their objectives on this planet, it was time to leave. Ves received a notification that he was assigned to the second convoy to the Vandal beachhead on this planet.

"You'll be leaving soon, right?" A voice spoke from behind.

"I am."

"I never got to thank you for all the help you gave us." Addy said. "Lord Javier is much more capable of hiding than we thought. If you hadn't pointed us in the right direction, we would have let him slip. On behalf of the Detemen League, we express our thanks to your aid. No matter how far our paths diverge from this day, you'll always be a friend to us."

At least the rebels showed their appreciation to him, unlike Captain Orfan.

Ves smiled back and shook her hand when she extended it. "It's my pleasure. Any competent mech designer can do the same. I suggest you obtain your own means of fielding mechs when you escape to the stars. It's too dangerous to roam around in space without the protection of mechs."

"We are working on it. We have to start from scratch, so it will take years to build up a mech tradition in our group."

For a local rebel movement, the Detemen League enjoyed a fair amount of support, especially in the later years of Lord Javier's despotic reign. They didn't lack for numbers, but in military terms this only granted them access to lots of cannon fodder.

They lacked an elite or sophisticated force that could act as their fist. While they mastered other forms of warfare, their severe deficiency in mechs would become a fatal flaw in the wildlands of space. No one respected any other vehicles except for mechs.

"Do you have any plans for the future? Where are you going to settle next, and what will you do in the coming years?"

Talk of the future caused Addy to grow melancholic. "I've never left this planet, do you know that? Most of us don't. Leaving our home planets for the first time is going to be hard for us. Becoming vagabonds in space is not what we intended to become, but that appears to be the life set out for us. Many other rebel groups in the Kingdom have been pushed off their planets over time."

"And the most successful ones emerge to become regional powerhouses, I guess."

"That is how most regional rebel movements have come into being. They no longer become so attached to a single planet or star system, but set their sights over an entire region or Duchy."

A rebel movement without a home still needed to claim some turf. Perhaps in a couple of years, the Detemen League would call themselves by another name.

"Well, though I know your chances aren't that great, I hope the ideals you're fighting for will eventually succeed."

"Our cause has always been a stretch, Mr. Larkinson. Even we are realistic enough to recognize the apparent futility of what we are aiming to achieve."

"Then why fight in the first place? From what I've seen so far, while most commoners don't care so much about the nobles, they don't hold very strong animosity against the ruling class. It's going to be extremely hard to shift the public against the nobles at this rate."

"It is hard to convince the ignorant flock to open their eyes, yet we never pause. We can't. Even if we're nothing but annoyances to the nobles, at least we are expressing our existence. The presence of rebel groups like ours restrain the nobles from going too far. The more depraved they become, the faster we grow."

In other words, even if the rebels possessed a limited amount of influence and power, the threat of their existence and the possibility of fueling their rise curbed the worst excesses of the nobles that possessed absolute power over their territories.

Tradition, laws and culture might have given the nobles the right to rule their lands, but the foundation of their power lay in how much the commoners supported them. Any territory with a discontented population became a net drain on a noble's earnings.

"If I may ask, there is one more thing I'm curious about. During Javier's interrogation, Breskin keeps asking about theā€¦ stuff. I don't know if I'm the only one in the observation room who wasn't clued in, but can you tell me something about what you were talking about?"

Addy pursed her lips. "If you don't know the true meaning of that word, then you shouldn't know about it in the first place. I'm sorry Mr. Larkinson, but knowledge of what they talked about is only available on a need-to-know basis."

That definitely shut up any avenues for questioning. Ves couldn't ask anything else about the sensitive topic surrounding Javier's capture. All he knew was that the rebels would be taking the little bastard with them in their flight from the system.

After Ves said goodbye to Addy, he walked over to the shuttle filled with supplies and a couple of men that was about to head over to the Vandals. Ves saw Captain Orfan sitting in the front, but he didn't go up to greet her. Instead, he sat in the rear of the shuttle.

The armored shuttle began to lift off a few minutes later. Escorted by a bunch of other vehicles, the shuttle ascended fairly low in the air and navigated over Neron City, straying far away from any compounds with a significant amount of defenders.

The journey proceeded quietly. None of the local powers dared to intercept their shuttle. The moment they showed any hostility, the Vandals would surely come and crush them. It was better for them to wait out this invasion and thank their lucky stars that they'd been able to make it through the crisis intact.

Ves almost expected something to happen anyway. Throughout his unprepared adventure on the surface of Detemen IV, a lot of things that could have gone wrong actually did go wrong. All of the pressure kept Ves in a high-strung mood, and he expected trouble from every corner.

That nothing happened during the flight only raised his hackles a bit. The possibility for a major disaster always hung over head.

"Huh. We made it through alive."

Ves stepped out of the shuttle with bewilderment. The armored shuttle successfully managed to cross half the city and reach the small beachhead the Flagrant Vandals initially set up as their temporary base during their stay on this planet.

The Vandal ground force erected dozens of prefab structures. Most of them appeared to be warehouses that received incoming loot and sorted them out into compact containers to be shipped to orbit.

A new transport or shuttle descended from the air around every two minutes. Bots led by a few cargo handlers stuffed them full of containers and other goods before sending the vehicles back to orbit. The sheer amount of vehicles touching down or lifting off all the time hinted to Ves that the Vandals obtained plenty of valuables during their raids on the local manufacturing complexes.

Ves loosely estimated that the Flagrant Vandals wouldn't be able to pay off their enormous debts, but the profits should be enough to half their financial obligations.

Of course, this only applied to the detachment over Detemen IV. The other half of the fleet must have raided a lot of valuables as well over Detemen II.

"Ves! Is that you?!"

"Pierce! What are you doing down here?!"

Ves never expected to see an Apprentice Mech Designer on the ground. Seeing Pierce Yuvalis again put a smile on his face. They hugged each other in brotherly camaraderie, not caring for everyone else's stares.

"I volunteered to go down the surface." He explained a short moment later. He thumbed his finger towards one of the nearby heavy mechs that entrenched itself in some sort of purpose-built half-bunker. "I've been assigned to the Akkara design team, but I don't possess a natural affinity for heavy mechs. It's hard to see them in action in space, so I asked the professor to send me down with the ground force so I can stay close to the Akkaras without exposing me to too much danger."

"Has it been useful? I was preoccupied with trying to survive on the other side of Neron City, so I haven't been able to catch up to the battles that took place here."

"You haven't? I've witnessed so many maneuvers, some of which you should definitely know about! Let me bring you back to my temporary office so I can show you some of the recordings."

"Ah, one more thing. Has there been any word of Alloc?"

Pierce faltered a bit. "He's still missing as far as the Flagrant Vandals are concerned. Professor Velten is all worked up about it and she's been nagging the forces on the ground to expand their search perimeter."

Alloc hadn't been found yet? That did not bode well for the Journeyman Mech Designer. Ves grew rather concerned by now. He shouldn't have been out of contact for so long. Even if he became indisposed for some reason, his comm should have enabled the Vandals to hone in on his last known location. That the search parties failed to sniff out his trail meant that the Journeyman's fate wasn't so simple.

 
 


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