The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 774 Supply Constraints


Once the long and complicated briefing came to an end, the projections of the other Vandal officers winked out. Major Verle immediately left the conference room while the others also returned to their stations.

They had a lot of work ahead of themselves! As soon as the planners selected a landing site, they would need to spend several days just to transport all of their landbound assets to the ground. This slow and delicate operation required a lot of planning in order to proceed smoothly.

Ves slowed down a bit to catch up to the suited form of Chief Haine.

"Chief! Can I ask you something?"

"Sure, Ves."

"What can you tell me about Captain Byrd? I don't think I've met her on Detemen IV or any of the other groundside operations, though I've seen her during the briefings."

Most of the battles and incidents the Flagrant Vandals went through lately all happened in space. This left landbound mech pilots like Captain Orfan impotent and relegated to a spectator role.

The chief smirked at Ves. "Captain Byrd is an old salt among us Vandals. She may not be in her prime anymore, but she's still a good and dependance knight mech pilot. She's one of our steadier and older mech captains. If Colonel Lowenfield or Major Verle want to accomplish something hard and fast, they go for Captain Orfan. If they want to accomplish something carefully and with absolute certainty, they go for Captain Byrd. The reason why you never heard of her is because she's usually assigned to hold the rear guard or perform some of the more boring assignments."

Ves understood the difference between the two captains now. "I would have thought that Major Verle or the mission planners have already decided the ranking officer beforehand. Or just go with seniority in the first place."

"We don't do that with the Vandals." The chief shook her head. "The mech officers we promote come from a mixed bunch. If we let the ones who promoted the earliest to take charge all the time, our mech regiment might not exist today. The brass always picks the officer who is most suited to the mission to take the lead. Before we arrived at Aeon Corona VII, we didn't know if we could get to the Starlight Megalodon instantly or not. If the distortion wasn't so bad, I bet that Major Verle would have picked Captain Orfan or one of the other aggressive officers to be in charge."

That made sense. Still, Ves recognized the contention in some of the Vandals when Major Verle announced the leader for the forces on the ground. Not everyone liked Captain Byrd for some reason.

"It would have been nice if Major Verle could come with us and take charge down on the surface." He sighed. "Too bad he's needed with the fleet."

"Without a good commander to keep our ships intact, there's no way we can exit this star system. In addition, our spaceborn forces will have to establish mines on one of the moons in order to supplement our supplies. All of that needs protecting."


A defeat in space could instantly negate any successes on the ground. Ves learned that lesson during the Groening mission. As long as Major Verle remained in charge of their spaceborn assets, the Vandals on the ground didn't have to worry too much about their escape route being cut off all of a sudden.

Keeping the Flagrant Swordmaiden fleet intact was a big job. Not only did they have to secure their starships and mine the moons for resources, they also had to fend off potential attacks from the pirates, Vesians, sandmen any whatever else the star system threw at them during these months.

Furthermore, they also needed to safeguard the key that allowed them to configure their FTL drives to avoid the gravitic storms on their way out. If they ever lost the key, they'd be trapped inside the Aeon Corona System!

Therefore, both in space and on the ground, the Flagrant Vandals and Lydia's Swordmaidens needed to put their best leaders in charge.

While Major Verle would remain in space to lead the fleet, Commander Lydia would be joining the bulk of her Swordmaidens on the ground. Her rich frontier experience and proven leadership ability ensured that she would have most to say on the ground.

Due to the considerable amount of challenges their landbound mechs likely faced on the Super Earth, both Ves and Mayra were obliged to accompany the mechs sent down from orbit.

Though Ves did not like to admit it, the older Mayra would likely do a better job than him in keeping the mechs up and running under challenging circumstances. Deferring to her suggestions on major decisions may not be a bad idea. After all, this was exactly why the Swordmaidens became involved in the first place.

As they reached the juncture in the passageways where they split up, Ves asked one more question. "Do you have any advice for me when I'm deployed to the ground?"

"Yeah, plenty. This will be a lengthy campaign, so differences between the Vandals will flare up. The rivalry between our mech captains can be really fierce. Don't get caught up in their turf wars and pissing matches. Some of the more savvier mech officers will try to get in your good books. As head designer, you're above these stupid fights. Captain Byrd is in charge on the ground. If you have to listen to anyone, defer to her. Other than that, keep your head down and focus on doing your job."

"Thanks for the advice." Ves said appreciatively. If Chief Haine hadn't reminded him of this, he might have fallen into someone's camp without knowing it. "Hope to see you again in a few months. Until then!"

"Take care!"

When Ves returned to his office, he called his student forward. "Ketis. I'm not sure where you should go, to be honest. Mayra and I will be deployed to the surface, but you haven't received any assignments. You won't be able to stay on the Shield of Hispania unaccompanied, so you need to make a decision. Do you want to return to the Jaded Sword and remain in space, or do you want to follow us on the ground?"

"Of course I want to follow you down there!" She enthusiastically replied. "I heard there's lots of dangerous creatures down there, and I also get to meet the folks who managed to survive for thousands of years. Why shouldn't I go with you all?"

"It'll be dangerous. Besides the risks of approaching the spacetime distortion, the planet itself may throw lots of hazards at us. The fact that the descendants have only managed to settle a handful of large cities after millenia of development already shows how hard it is to survive on the Super Earth."

Ketis grinned even wider. The threats that Ves listed out only stoked her eagerness to join the ground forces. "That sounds like music to my ears! Do you think a Swordmaiden like me wants to turn away from such an adventure? Count me in! Besides, Mayra is going down there as well."

"Alright, I'll add you to the list. Just don't regret your choice."

The Flagrant Vandals and the Swordmaidens engaged in a flurry of work to prepare their landing operation. Sending transports loaded with mechs and heavy equipment onto a Super Earth wracked with astral winds forced them to adjust their original deployment plan. For one, they needed to make a lot more trips and carry less with each trip.

It may take days before the allied force finished conveying all of their landbound assets on the ground.

He spent the next hours adjusting the schedule so that all of the most battle ready mechs went down first. Wherever the Flagrant Swordmaidens decided to land, they might end up in the midst of hostile territory. From some of the rumors that started circulating, the exobiologists threw out the possibility that some monstrously strong and powerful creatures had emerged.

There was a chance that continued proximity and exposure to the higher-dimensional particles that made up of the astral wind had affected both the wildlife and the stranded humans in unpredictable ways!

No one could tell whether the astral winds prompted an adaptation or a mutation to the organisms. Aside from that, the Super Earth also contained exotics concentrated in various deposits scattered here and there. Just like Groening IV, the presence of deposits may have guided the evolution of the indigenous life forms in an unpredictable and dangerous direction.

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After more than half a day of extra preparation and delay, the Flagrant Swordmaidens finally moved on to the next phase! The fleet went to lower orbit and specialized transports and shuttles modified with stronger propulsion and antigrav fields started to load up the initial mechs.

The first ones to go received the job of securing their landing site.

After a lot of discussion, the Vandals and the Swordmaidens decided to land in a barren, hilly terrain. Vandal geological scanners already detected a significant deposit of junk exotics in the hills which they could mine and use to produce more supplies or barter for goods and services with the descendants.

One thing was for sure. The supplies the Flagrant Swordmaidens prepared for this mission likely wouldn't last them for the entire duration! As the earlier briefing already made it clear that the forces on the ground couldn't expect much replenishment from orbit, the ground forces needed to be self-sufficient!

"That's going to be too difficult!" Ves observed as he studied the final plans. "We're sending down way too much heavy equipment. Just dragging all of that stuff with us as we march towards the Starlight Megalodon will be a huge burden."

On a planet with a gravity that multiplied everything's weight by six, the consequences to everyone deployed to the ground was drastic.

A serviceman wearing a hazard suit weighed something like a hundred kilograms in standard gravity. Once that person landed on the surface of Aeon Corona VII, they suddenly weighed more than half a metric ton!

Without any servos or mechanical assistance, an average human wouldn't be able to move under those circumstances!

This only applied to their personnel, but it was far worse for their mechs and transport vehicles. Mechs would move as if they carried five extra copies of its model on its shoulders, while the Vandals were forced to deploy legged versions of transports in order to carry around their supplies!

The large number of antigrav modules incorporated in all of the mechs, vehicles and other equipment helped mitigate the crushing gravity. However, working non-stop to counteract at least five g's at all times drained a lot of energy.

The number one priority of the Vandals and the Swordmaidens on the ground was to protect their portable power reactors and to figure out a way to increase their power generation! Without enough energy to feed their antigrav modules, their mechs would slow to a crawl and their personnel would be forced to lie flat on the ground in order to avoid blacking out!

Solving such problems became the responsibility of the logistics officers and the various technical staff accompanying the mech pilots deployed to the surface.

In fact, Ves predicted that people like him would play a leading role. The challenges the Flagrant Swordmaidens faced on the ground were predominantly technical in nature.

"The first transports have reached the surface. Our vanguard has secured the landing zone. Prepare the second wave for departure!"

Ves currently wore his Earth Ant and all of the gear he could carry on his armor. Ketis sat next to him brimming with excitement. They both sat among the Vandals assigned to join their comrades on the surface in the third wave.

An entire hour passed before the second wave finished making landfall.

"Send in the third wave! Go!"

The shuttle flew out of the shuttle bay of the Shield of Hispania and oriented towards the storm-wracked globe that dominated their view. With a careful spurt, the shuttle began to descend at an angle. Already, the errant distortions caused the shuttle to rattle.

"Woohoo! Here we go!" Someone shouted.

"Get ready boys and girls, because this is going to be a wild ride!"

 
 


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