The Mech Touch

The Mech Touch Chapter 496 Unwind

Their brief stay aboard the Antecedent yielded little excitement. Ves got to relax for the first time in almost a week, while Pierce still brimmed with excitement of all the fighting he witnessed on the surface.

"Man, calm down Pierce. You're jumping around like a rookie whose cherry got popped. It's starting to become embarrassing!"

"I'm sorry Ves." Pierce apologized and quickly calmed down. "It's just that I've never witnessed the majesty of mechs at such a massive scales. Numerous companies of mechs moved around and clashed against each other in the suburbs of Neron City. Sometimes, over three-hundred mechs battled at once!"

That was nothing to Ves. He once witnessed the dreadful scale of two entire mech divisions trying to murder each other without reserve. The collision of a handful of mech companies paled in comparison.

"If you've learned anything from what you've seen, make sure to write them down before you forget them. There's no guarantee we'll witness another battle of this scale any time soon."

No matter how impressive such battles appeared, they drained a lot of money to both sides. Without any gains, a money-conscious mech regiment such as the Flagrant Vandals would never willingly throw themselves at formidable enemies.

The next couple of days, Ves and Pierce drew up their sleeves and helped with the aftermath of the largely successful operation. The spacers aboard the Antecedent took stock of the casualties and the haphazard piles of loot they stuffed inside the cargo hold.

The two mech designers spent most of their time assessing the battle damage of the Antecedent's complement of mechs, which wasn't much. As a spaceborn-oriented combat carrier, she took part of the initial battle and chase of the Vesian garrison fleet the Vandals smashed at the start of the operation.

Because that battle mainly unfolded into an ambush on the Vesians, the Antecedent's mechs sustained relatively little battle damage.

Of course, chasing down a cornered rat often led to retaliation. Mech pilots with nothing to lose sometimes lashed out with all their hearts, which led to a handful of heavily damaged spaceborn mechs.

Surprisingly enough, the Inheritor light mechs took the brunt of the damage.

"These mechs aren't very difficult to repair." Ves judged. He studied the spaceborn skirmishers extensively, and possessed a moderate grasp on their design. "The only challenge is to perform them as cost-efficient as possible. The easily solution would be to scrap the damaged portions and replace them with pristine equivalents."

At their current state, such a ham-fisted repair procedure would waste a lot of the fleet's stock of rare exotics. These types of exotics needed to be bought from dedicated suppliers. The Vandals wouldn't be able to plunder them from a random trade convoy or manufacturing complex.

"No, the best option is to restore the damaged components as best as we can."

With the help of the chief technician, Ves devised individual repair plans for each damaged Inheritor mech. He took into account the skill level of the mech technicians and low-ranking mech designers aboard the Antecedent. He quickly found out that the crew wouldn't be able to accomplish the most complicated repairs with the facilities at hand.

This wasn't an issue as the fleet enjoyed the services of several capable logistics ships. While the massive Wolf Mother accompanied Colonel Lowenfield's detachment that escaped in another direction, the smaller logistic vessels at Major Verle's disposal possessed sufficient capabilities by themselves. Ves merely needed to queue some orders for the most difficult parts to help the repairs along.

Ves also spent some time getting debriefed by a Vandal intelligence officer. This was mainly a dry affair where he mechanically recounted what he did aboard the Stubby Growler and when he crash-landed onto the surface of Detemen IV.

When he mentioned that his assistance was pivotal in tracking down Lord Javier, the officer raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Are you certain that you haven't overstated your importance? Be aware that we have access to your logs on your comm."

"Go ahead, sir." Ves waved his hand. "The logs should clearly show how much I contributed to Lord Javier's capture."

He knew that his military comm wouldn't be such a simple device. It figured that it had some way of keeping tabs on his activities.

"Very well, Mr. Larkinson. You will hear from us later if we need some clarification. You can go back to work now."

Recounting recent events put Ves in an introspective mood. The relative period of tranquility aboard the Antecedent allowed him to unwind his nerves. While this relieved some of burdens, thinking about the chaotic circumstances of his accidental deployment on the surface of Detemen IV ruined his mood.

He couldn't help but contemplate on whether he made a number of big mistakes. He could justify small mistakes and certain oversights on account of working under difficult circumstances. No one would be able to think clearly in the midst of several crises.

The only mistake that Ves really got hung up on was his extended use of his self-fabricated comm. Even though he always knew that the Mech Corps and by extension the Flagrant Vandals treated foreign electronic devices with paranoia, he still dared to make use of a civilian-grade comm.

In ordinary circumstances, such a sloppy oversight would have earned him a court-martial!

"Am I in trouble for this?"

Ves weighed the possibilities and tentatively judged that it wasn't likely the Vandals would bring it up. He was alone for quite a while and tried to survive on the streets by himself. Such a lapse in security was excusable.

It was less excusable for him to continue to hang on to the comm when he came under Captain Orfan's wing. In that, he made a genuine blunder.

"Although… it might not be due to my mistake that the base got bombarded."

As a local hegemon, House Eneqqin possessed many means of observations. The Vandals under Captain Orfan's command didn't surpass more than sixty or seventy servicemen. Most crucially, they lacked a hacker specialist who would be able to fool every enemy sensor in the vicinity.

"It's likely that House Eneqqin has become aware that Captain Orfan took over the former premises of the Dastardly Handsome Bastards as soon as the takeover started. They just took longer than I thought to get their assets in position to bombard the base."

This possibility meant that even if Ves screwed up, his mistake might not have made a difference. If anything, it would have confirmed what House Eneqqin already knew.

Ves felt easier after coming up with his guess. Even if this hadn't actually happened, it still served to alleviate his guilt somewhat.

"I need to go back to work."

Days passed. Once they arrived at their destination, the fleet that attacked Detemen IV took stock and began to transfer people and supplies among themselves. Major Verle ordered a comprehensive reorganization before his fleet resumed their flight.

In their haste to outrun enemy reinforcements, the Flagrant Vandals focused solely on speed. This had the unfortunate effect of stuffing mechs, salvage and supplies at any available space on hand. This led to many inefficiencies, such as storing an abundant of raw materials aboard a combat carrier while storing a lot of spare mechs aboard a cargo hauler.

Thus, the moment the fleet emerged from FTL, numerous amounts of shuttles and transports bounced from ship to ship to reorganize all of their cargo, mechs and personnel.

Ves received orders to transfer to the current flagship of this detachment, a command-oriented combat carrier called the Shield of Hispania. The Antecedent where they had been hastily dumped in wouldn't allow them to utilize their capabilities to the fullest.

Other mech designers from the Vandal design teams got reallocated as well. Pierce for example would be taking up a post at one of the logistics ships of Major Verle's fleet.

As Ves arrived on board the Shield of Hispania, he sighed as he studied a map of yet another combat carrier. Contrary to her name, the Shield of Hispania couldn't endure a lot of hits. Compared to the Stubby Growler, the Hispania's ship model was a lot older and had gone through many battles.

These battles slowly stripped her original excellent armor plating. With the Flagrant Vandals tight on money, they couldn't afford to replace the damaged armor with plating of the same quality. They instead resorter to a cheaper armor system.

"Even with their ships, the Flagrant Vandals are forced to make a lot of compromises."

A fully funded mech regiment would never concern themselves over their budget to this extent. While mechs formed the primary mode of combat in human space, every large outfit on the scale of a mech regiment required a fleet of sturdy ships.

Plenty of stories existed of mech commanders who invested all of their outfit's resources on mechs. They barely paid any attention to the ships meant to convey their precious mechs.

Without fail, all of their enemies who studied these outfits in detail exploited this vulnerability. Though their mechs fought valiantly in space or on the ground, cheap second-hand ships such as carriers converted out of decommissioned haulers always blew up after suffering damage that would be a glancing blow to proper carriers.

No matter how expensive and deadly their mechs, without any ships left to transfer them across interstellar distances, they became completely ineffective. All of that money invested in building them up turned into loose sand without the means to travel to a different planet or transition to another star system.

In fact, Ves grasped the necessity of a good ship as well. Otherwise, he wouldn't have splurged billions of credits of his personal fortune to acquire the Trieste-class light carriers for the Avatars of Myth.

No matter if it came to mechs or ships, you got what you paid for, to a certain extent. The Shield of Hispania obviously used to be a prized vessel among the Flagrant Vandals, but after enduring a lot of abuse and inadequate repairs, her effective combat ability received a substantial truncation.

Without referencing any other documents, Ves could deduce all of that from the map projected by his comm and a visual scan of the exterior of the carrier as his shuttle approached one of the hangar bays.

More than that, Ves also noticed that the command center of the Shield of Hispania sat a bit awkwardly in the center of the map. The command center was a lot smaller than the one aboard the Stubby Growler, and the compartments around it adopted fairly awkward shapes.

"The command center must have been added later on as a retrofit. The shipwrights who designed and implemented this change tore up a lot of stuff as they did so."

This inevitably weakened the integrity of the Hispania's hull and internal structure. It would be as if Ves crudely added a flight system to a landbound mech. Such a thick and heavy mech had not been designed to accommodate the space and energy draw that a flight system demanded. Thus, the only way to merge these two together would be to jury-rig a solution.

All of this pointed out that the Shield of Hispania could potentially crumble after receiving a couple of soft blows! The dual weaknesses of weak armor coverage and weak internal structure meant his berth was exceptionally vulnerable to kinetic and explosive damage!

"At least she won't succumb after suffering a couple of laser hits. Even if her armor is of inferior quality, the sheer amount of thickness will help with absorbing a lot of energy."

"Switching out the Hispania's original compressed armor system for a much thicker uncompressed armor system also slows her down to a major extent."

It was as if a professional sprinter grew fat. There was no way the sportsman would be winning any prizes at such a deplorable condition.

Ves would rather remain aboard the Antecedent. He even preferred to be transferred aboard one of the fragile logistics ships like Pierce because the Vandals cherished their safety.

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