The Mech Touch

The Mech Touch Chapter 750 Another Crisis

As everyone in the command center of the Shield of Hispania constantly put out the fires as they came, Major Verle suddenly received a priority message. The commanding officer took one look at it before he instantly discolored.

He quietly cursed and jumped out of his command seat.

"Maintain your duties and keep the fleet from falling apart."

The latest crisis must be a really huge one if the big man himself had to depart from his command seat. The Flagrant Vandals could still manage without him, but his constant presence and his measured confidence had done much to disperse the confusion and stabilize their flagging morale.

Right now, the Swordmaidens and the Vandals each focused a large amount of their efforts into breaking in their newly-captured light carriers they liberated from their previous owners.

Of course, pirates being what they were, practically all four carriers were cesspools of filth, junk and other unpleasant goods. Cleaning up the compartments and throwing away the junk into space took much longer than they thought. This was in addition to the expansive inspection of all of their systems.

The Boiled Duck, the unflattering name for the light carrier handed over to them by the Swordmaidens after they killed the original crew, hid a large number of boobytraps. They already caused some of the Swordmaidens some grief when they took over the ship, and they became an enduring headache for the security officers slowly sweeping them up and defusing their deadly mechanisms.

Ketis didn't look surprised. "Every decent pirate captain boobytraps their own ships to hell and back. It's standard procedure out here where every large pirate gang won't hesitate to take over your ship if you're alone. Filling up your ship with traps will at least make others hesitate in trying to take over your baby."

"How come you Swordmaidens easily managed to board and take over the light carriers?"

"We're very good in boarding combat." She grinned. "Our swords are sharp enough to bore through the thinner bulkhead sections that allows us to circumvent choke points entirely. Besides, those pirates aren't very well geared in the first place. At least half of them likely aren't wearing anything heavier than a hazard suit. The captains don't want their underlings to be too well-armed, you see. They might think they're strong enough to demand a greater share, or force a change in leadership."

Ves scoffed at that. "I don't envy pirate captains. Even their own crew are constantly suspect in their eyes. It's a wonder they can remain afloat under those conditions."

Half an hour went by as they returned to their individual duties. He tasked Ketis with cataloguing and profiling the pirate mechs still in space in case they ever launched an attack, while he himself started to manage the other mech designers. They needed to be more proactive in order to avoid the mech technicians from sinking into an abyss due to the elevation of incompetent mech technicians to chiefs.

He encountered a lot of obstacles while doing so, as most mech designers simply didn't have what it took to take on a leadership role.

Still, if they didn't step up, then who would be able to serve as a check against some of the idiotic decisions the new chiefs had already started issuing?

Almost every ship and every department dealt with the consequences of losing so many experienced Vandal leaders. Their only consolation was that many of the wounded would see a full recovery in the next couple of weeks.

Yet even this absence hurt the Vandals a lot as the mission had reached a critical moment. It was like showing up to a mech arena match with three out of five star athletes taken out of commission because they boarded a shuttle while drunk and crashed it into an ocean.

The reserve athletes who replaced the incapacitated mech pilots couldn't measure up to the original lineup. It would be good enough if they exhibited half the skill of the original star athletes!

"This is going to result in a lot of screwups down the line." He muttered.

Just as Ves went back to riding herd over his mech designers who appeared unable to show any initiative during a crisis, he received a high-priority alert on his comm.

"What? Major Verle wants me to come down to the infirmary?"

Did he change his mind about granting Ves permission to inspect the corpses of the acolytes? Probably not, since the security officers likely inspected them at their own department. The message also explicitly summoned him with urgency, so he doubted it had anything to do with an autopsy.

"Stay put." He instructed Ketis. "I'm being called elsewhere. If I'm delayed for any reason, I'll tell you what to do."

"Okay, teacher."

"You don't have to call me teacher anymore. You've graduated from my instruction. You can call me Ves if you like." He smiled.

"Really? That seems rather disrespectful.. Mayra always told me you civilized folk like to keep it stiff and formal."

"That's with strangers. We're long past that stage. Besides, Brighters aren't as stiff as the Vesians and many other states. None of the Vandals will turn up their noses if you call me by my first name."

"Okay then, Ves!" She chirped.

As Ves navigated through the corridors of the Shield of Hispania, he walked past many busy work crews in full gear. Security officers in bulky exoskeleton armor swept the corridors with a variety of means, forcing Ves and the other Vandals to press themselves against the bulkheads to go past their ranks.

A strong undercurrent of concern spread among the crew. The Vandals all anticipated the imminent arrival of either the Temple of Haatumak and her many pirate escorts or some other force that worked on their behalf.

The Flagrant Swordmaiden fleet herefore tried to boost as far away from the emergence zone as possible. Any force that followed their exact same route would likely transition out of FTL within that zone and be in easy engagement range to the allied fleet if nothing changed.

Even then, the recently conquered light carriers and the sabotaged Finmoth Regal and the Linever Swan slowed them all down. A chain was only as strong as its weakest link, and the crippled combat carrier and logistics ship needed to be towed by other vessels in order to get a move on.

Everyone thought their flight was too slow. Towing the big, fat Linever Swan especially strained the Vandals as three whole combat carriers lent their propulsion power to get her going.

As Ves finally reached the infirmary, he nodded to the doctors and nurses taking care of the wounded who managed to survive the strange attack method of the acolytes and walked over to an isolated ward of some sorts.

The heavily-armed security officers standing guard outside the entrance was new. Unlike the other Vandals in armor, these fellows kept their helmets folded over their heads to shield their entire bodies from harm.

They must be guarding something critically important inside.

"Mr. Larkinson? Major Verle is expecting you inside. Please relinquish every device and weapon in your possession. They will be returned to you when you exit."

Ves acquiesced to the demand. It wasn't as if the security officers looked like they accepted any excuses from him. Though he felt reluctant to part with his two expensive gadgets again, he trusted the guards to keep them safe.

He didn't feel so bad about handing over his military-issued comm and his ballistic handgun. They were just tools that Ves used for convenience. Unlike his personal gadgets, he never designed or crafted them by hand, so he lacked an emotional connection to these devices.

Surprisingly, the security officer handed him back his signal jammer after performing a cursory inspection. "You're allowed to carry this inside."

Once the security officers swept him one more time, the hatch finally opened up and allowed him entry. Stepping inside, he appeared to have entered some kind of long-term recovery ward for senior officers or very important people.Find authorized novels in Webnovel´╝îfaster updates, better experience´╝îPlease click for visiting.

The dominantly white compartment and sparse but tasteful furniture made out of high-quality materials provided the best environment for someone to recover from a severe affliction.

Ves stepped over to Major Verle, who looked down upon a frail-looking figure resting inside a sophisticated medical pod. Its semi-transparent upper surface showed the patient to be in a bad condition, as discolorations and bindings covered half of the poor man's body. They even removed his hair!

"I've received your summons, sir. Where am I needed?"

The mech officer idly gestured at Ves. "Come closer and look down on this patient. Do you recognize him?"

Ves did so and peered through the transparent cover. He frowned. "He looks familiar, but the discolorations and bandages make it hard for me to recall. Who is he, sir?"

"You should have recognized him. This man is the current Fourth Prince of the Royal House of Talk, the ruling dynasty of the Palast Kingdom which is a third-rate state of the Dark Plasma Star Sector. He is also the former leader of the ill-fated Shining Stars Colonization Fleet and the former patron and employer of Venerable Karol Xie."

"What, sir?! This is Prince Hixt-Klaaster!? How did he end up like this?!"

The exiled prince previously appeared a little haggard, but very must healthy and in the prime of his life. To see him reduced to a skinny state with visible and invisible wounds marring over half of his body, Ves wondered how he ended up like this! Shouldn't he be under strict guard?!

"The Acolytes may have failed to take out our command staff aboard the Shield of Hispania, but they have succeeded in a range of smaller sabotage attempts." Major Verle stoically explained. "One of their attempts targeted the hidden and highly-guarded compartment where we stowed away the Fourth Prince."

"Why do his wounds look so strange, sir?"

"As far as we are aware of, he has been struck by the same type of attack employed by all the other Acolytes."

"That.." Ves frowned even deeper. "Doesn't that mean we didn't kill all of the cultists aboard the Shield at the conference meeting, sir? Have the security officers guarding the Fourth Prince at least taken out that Acolyte?"

"Unfortunately, they hadn't been able to act fast enough. By the time we sent out the alert for a code 835 situation, the Acolyte already struck the prince and fled immediately. So far, we have not caught a single trace of this remaining infiltrator. We have quietly suspended all shuttle transfers and limited our mech deployments to keep him bottled up on our ship, but I do not have much faith in our chances to capture this invisible interloper."

When Ves heard about the remaining Acolyte at large, a chill ran down through his spine. They still hadn't swept up all of the uninvited guests! Even one single survivor could do a lot of damage at a critical moment!

"What are our countermeasures, sir?"

"Every important officer or chief needs to wear the heaviest suit of combat armor at all times. While armor has proven to be largely ineffective at preventing their silent and invisible attack method, they do not appear to be able to repeat the same feat in quick succession, so it will at least guard our officers against mundane weaponry. I will assign two security officers to tail each of our officers and chiefs, you included. We cannot afford to lose any of our cadre."

Hopefully, the remaining Acolyte would be cornered in time, though Ves doubted it. Someone invisible could go anywhere and the checkpoints the security officers setup may not be sufficient for the task.

Ves knew that the best way for the Acolyte to escape a combat carrier was to infiltrate one of the hangar bays and stow away aboard a mech with a roomier cockpit. Though that left the Acolyte with the problem of getting somewhere offboard, at least they only had to deal with a single mech pilot instead of the full complement of the Shield of Hispania.

"If I may make a suggestion, sir, I'd advise you to double or triple check the cockpits of each mechs that are about to deploy."

"We have already taken that possibility into account. No one is allowed to smuggle themselves out by hitchhiking on a deploying mech."

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