The Mech Touch
After a long time, Ves finally shed himself of his military uniforms and his eye-catching medals and ribbons.
He packed all of them deep within his floating luggage trunk and planned to stuff them into his closet the instance he returned home.
Currently, Ves sat in a luxurious waiting area on one of New Foundation
’s commercial space stations.
The space station served as a nexus for transit in and out of the strategic star system.
Few people in the lounge recognized him despite seeing his face plastered all over the news recently.
He took a page out of Ketis ’ playbook and bought an overpriced beret from one of the trendy fashion stores at the space station.
The black beret rested comfortably on his mop of raven hair, though it wasn ’t the poofy kind which helped Ketis hide her horns.
In order to make himself more incognito, he also copied Melkor and bought a large violet visor that covered half of his upper face.
The bright violet color made his visor look gaudy, but it was the largest model the electronics store offered.
For some reason, slim and tiny visors were in vogue these days.
Complemented with a drab casual outfit, Ves looked completely from his sharp and impeccable appearance in the media.
Once he donned his accessories, practically no one on the space station gawked at him anymore.
Only one person approached him.
When Ves looked up from his seat, he recognized the newcomer ’s merchant navy uniform.
”Captain Silvestra! ”
Larkinson, the Barracuda awaits your arrival. ”
Let ’s go. ”
Ves followed the captain of his corvette out of the lounge and into a series of expansive hallways before they arrived at a pier dedicated to smaller starships.
After undergoing several security inspections, they were finally allowed to board the Barracuda.
Shortly after their entry, the Barracuda requested and received permission to separate from the space station and depart.
The slim corvette followed a fixed route and slowly sat in line as she waited for her turn to transition out of the New Foundation System from the closest Lagrange point.
After Ves settled in his luggage in his personal stateroom, he entered the bridge and witnessed the proceedings.
Even though several years had gone by, the Barracuda and her assigned crew hardly changed.
The interior of the ship may have received some new additions, but it was still essentially the same corvette that Ves received after reaching the finals of the Leemar Open Competition.
The small, all-women crew of the Barracuda looked as fit and attractive as ever.
They seemed incredibly familiar with the operation of the ship, which they should after serving on the same ship for years.
Ves sat silently in his observer seat as he witnessed Captain Silvestra calmly dealing with traffic control while at the same time issuing instructions to Miranda Pham, the ship ’s helmsman.
Only until the ship successfully transitioned into FTL did everyone relax.
It was always a hectic moment when they tried to navigate in such a busy part of a busy star system.
”We are now underway to the Rittersberg System, Mr.
Larkinson. ” Captain Silvestra reported.
Keep up the good work. ”
The New Foundation System was very close to the Rittersberg System so the trip would only take a couple of days.
Ves figured that since he was already close to the Larkinson Estate, he might as well pay a visit there before he travelled to the Bentheim region.
Ves planned to have a good talk with his grandfather and possibly make some dealings with the family
’s steering committee.
He did not forget that he was an elder of the family by virtue of his business accomplishments.
”How will they treat me now that I ’ve survived and thrived in the war? ”
Now that he gained possession of a normal commercial comm, Ves was able to catch up to recent events.
He did his best to ignore the stories related to the supposed romance between Venerable Foster and himself and moved on to any news related to the Larkinsons.
A lot of stories popped up.
As a famous military family, the Larkinsons attracted a decent amount of attention wherever they showed up.
Some of the military veterans of the last war distinguished themselves again during the current generation ’s war, but they didn ’t attract as much attention as the rising stars of the family.
Perhaps the most eye-catching Larkinson to stand out from the younger generation was Venerable Ghanso Larkinson.
”So he ’s a Venerable already? ”
He only spent a short time as an expert candidate before he quickly advanced to become the latest expert pilot for the 1st Volari Starhawks! Due to his quick and seemingly effortless advancement, everyone believed that Ghanso had a bright future ahead of him in the Mech Corps!
”Still, he ’s not the only Larkinson to excel in the war. ”
Perhaps owing to the shortened duration of the war, none of the other notable Larkinson mech pilots managed to advance to expert pilot.
Even so, two more members of the family managed to become expert candidates, giving them hope of catching up to Ghanso Larkinson in time.
The first one that stood out was Porellia Larkinson, the granddaughter of Ovrin Larkinson.
Unlike many other Larkinsons, Porellia eschewed more mobile mechs where she could put her excellent mobility training to use and instead opted to specialize in piloting landbound heavy artillery mechs!
Somehow, her operation of these sluggish machines became so good that she somehow reached a superhuman level of performance! All of the engagements she participated in accelerated her development as an expert candidate and it seemed it was only a matter of time before she advanced to expert.
”Good for her. ”
The other expert candidate in the family was Tusa Billingsley-Larkinson, the grandson of Raymond Billingsley-Larkinson.
Ves did not have the best impression of Raymond.
The old man never suffered any hardships.
As the Third Elder of the family, he managed family ’s trust fund and other finances.
Fortunately, Tusa managed to escape the fate his grandfather by possessing the right genetic aptitude.
He specialized in piloting aerial light skirmishers, which everyone regarded as one of the most dangerous mech types to pilot.
The dangers associated with piloting a flimsily-armored light mech above incredibly hectic battlefields scared most mech pilots away from piloting this mech type.
Knowing that some marksman mech could score a lucky hit and send it to the ground meant that only true daredevils possessed the confidence to specialize in these risky but incredibly versatile machines.
Even with the high degree of stimulation, Tusa only managed to become an expert candidate only recently.
This suggested to Ves that it might not be certain that his chances of advancing to expert pilot was a lot less optimistic compared to his cousin Porellia.
”Now that the war has ended, Tusa won ’t be able to stimulate his potential so easily anymore. ”
That was a shame.
Perhaps Tusa might have developed a grudge against Ves seeing as he was being associated with the drafting of the peace treaty.
’s not like he
’ll walk up to me and punch me in the face.
” Ves grinned.
”As a careerist, he ’ll be stuck in the Mech Corps for a long time while I ’m back to being a free man. ”
Naturally, Tusa would still get to enjoy leave and be able to return home in between his deployments.
During peacetime, the mech pilots of the Mech Corps never served consecutive tours of duty.
Otherwise, how would they have the time to start up their own families?
”My own father shacked up with my mother shortly after the previous generation ’s war. ” Ves recalled.
The end of a war meant a new beginning for many people.
Many people married and many children were born shortly after each war.
It was as if the citizens of the Bright Republic were eager to inject some happiness in their lives so that they could forget the horrors they suffered during the war.
Ves knew for sure that the higher ups like Senator Tovar deliberately fostered such an atmosphere.
Under this prevailing mood, the social pressure for unmarried men and women to hook up and start their own families became a major force in the Bright Republic.
”The Vesians are probably the same in that regard. ”
The Barracuda did not spend too much time in FTL.
She emerged from FTL in the sphere of influence of one of the gravitic anchors exerted by one of the four starforts in the capital system.
Ves admired the sight of the nearest starfort while the Barracuda underwent an extensive inspection by the local patrols.
The inspectors did their job diligently as if the war hadn ’t ended yet.
Just because hostilities ceased didn ’t mean that the threat had passed.
”The Vesians might still double-cross us, and the Bentheim Liberation Movement won ’t take the early peace lying down I think. ”
The BLM plotted to coordinate an attack on Bentheim with the Mech Legion for such a long time that the sudden cancellation of this major operation must have frustrated them immensely.
Ves knew that the BLM was incredibly persistent in its unrealistic dream to turn the Bentheim System into the heart of an independent state.
They would surely pull something off sooner or later, and everyone knew it.
Due to all of the security measures within the Rittersberg System, it took an extra day for the Barracuda to reach the orbit of Rittersberg I.
The corvette didn
’t even receive permission to dock at a space station, land at spaceport on the surface or park herself permanently in orbit.
Instead, Ves had no choice but to call for a transit shuttle that brought him from the Barracuda and flew down to the spaceport at Kelnar after some delay.
Once he arrived at the majestic-looking spaceport, he went through more inspections and bureaucratic hurdles before being able to board a shuttle sent by the Larkinsons.
The shuttle brought him from the capital city of Kelnar to the smaller, military-oriented city of Varleton.
There, the shuttle landed on the landing pad of the Larkinson Compound.
When Ves stepped out of the shuttle, he breathed the fresh air of the well-regulated planet and became invigorated.
”No wonder the Larkinsons make their home in Varleton.
It ’s so peaceful and serene here. ”
The plentiful greenery and large estates fostered a peaceful environment that was ideal for military veterans to recover from the traumas of the war.
Even Ves felt tempted to spend some months here.
Sadly, his business and career obligations prevented him from taking an extended time off.
His current design project demanded a lot of design work due to its high complexity.
When Ves stepped into the large, open garden courtyard of the Larkinson Compound, he immediately attracted a lot of attention.
He made for a very odd sight with his beret and visor.
Despite his disguise, it didn ’t take a lot of time for someone to recognize his identity.
”It ’s Ves Larkinson! ”
The younger Larkinson children already dropped their toys and scurried over to Ves.
He couldn ’t help but laugh at the sight.
His aunts and uncles watched on from their chairs with understanding smiles.
Even though they hadn
’t approached him yet, Ves could feel some kinship with the older generation.
They lived through the previous generation ’s war and had been marked by the conflict.
Compared to his last visit, a lot fewer Larkinsons resided in the compound.
Many of them returned to active duty due to the recent war.
Others just moved out and resided elsewhere.
A young girl tugged at his arm.
He recognized Lanie Larkinson from his last visit, though she was a lot shorter and cuter back then.
He couldn ’t help but smile.
”What is it, Lanie? ”
”You promised me a mech.
When will you give me a mech? ”
”Did I? ” Ves adopted a confused expression.
”You did! You promised to give me a mech for my birthday! ”
”I don ’t think you ’re old enough to test your genetic aptitude. ”
”It doesn ’t matter! I ’ll definitely become a mech pilot! ” Little Lanie pouted.
The other brats all started begging for mechs as well!
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