The Mech Touch
The next day, Ves and Gavin woke up and prepared for another day of Kinner shopping.
This time, Ves resolved not to go back empty-handed this time.
His extensive talk with Gavin pulled him out of his obsession of collecting the best of the best, regardless whether they were available to him or not.
Continuing to pine over Commander Oryn Mair after the mercenary captain resolutely ruled out working for him should have been the end of the matter.
’s truly a pity to leave behind a gem in the rough.
” Ves shook his head in regret.
”Still, the price I have to pay in order to obtain an unattainable treasure may be greater than I can stomach. ”
His actual demands were nowhere near as high.
Hiring a decent Kinner mercenary corps ought to satisfy most of his immediate needs with regards to his security.
Rounding that out with a personal bodyguard and an experienced spy adept in virtual security filled up the other gaps.
Though Ves could always hire more, his budget wouldn ’t allow it at the moment.
He would just have to stick to the safer parts of space.
After heading down to the hotel lobby, Kelandra greeted them both with an amiable smile.
”Good morning, Mr.
Shall we resume our search at Ornament Halls, or do you prefer to visit the smaller recruitment venues instead? ”
’s return to Ornament Halls.
” Ves decided after a brief moment while holding Lucky.
”There are plenty of mercenary corps we haven ’t encountered yet.
I ’ve also readjusted my priorities, so I might want to revisit some of the mercenary representatives that I ’ve spoken to before. ”
We can do that. ”
As they began to walk towards their aircar, Ves also mentioned his other demands.
”After discussing my lack of qualified help with my assistant, I ’d also like to hire some other bodies outside of a combat force. ”
”Such as? ”
Ves listed out his list of priorities.
”I was wondering if you would turn to the rest of our job market.
” Kelandra nodded in understanding.
”Many clients who visit Bloodstone have the same needs as yours.
While we are famed for our loyal Kinner mech pilots, not everyone is destined to follow their vocation.
Aside from raising logistical personnel to assist our mech pilots, we also excel in raising Kinners who can fulfill other jobs.
While low-skilled labor is our most abundant export product, we do offer a fair amount of specialized, high-skilled labor. ”
”What is their quality? ” Gavin asked.
”Do not expect to encounter any exceptional talents.
Our systematic education system is geared towards educating a large amount of qualified Kinner experts instead of trying to raise a small number of exceptional talents.
Those that do happen to turn out exceptional often join the tribal corps or auction themselves out to our most wealthiest customers. ”
In other words, Ves should not expect the best.
Just like with hiring a mercenary corps, he still lacked the wealth and reputation to buy out the most premier Kinner tribesmen.
The aircar lifted off from the hotel grounds and flew towards Ornament Halls.
The short trip ended quickly and the passengers disembarked in order to enter the bustling grounds.
They first resumed touring the halls where the Kinner outfits hung out.
Ves talked to numerous representatives, finding out their history, their track record, their fighting strength, their price, their willingness to be bought out and so on.
Most reps happily answered his questions.
He kept his spiritual senses peeled for remarkable individuals, but he found no one that came close to matching Commander Mair.
Although Ves could keep looking for better options, he did not wish to prolong his search any longer than necessary.
He decided to take a brief break and discuss his options with Gavin and Kelandra.
”What about the Uliver Dornshields?
” Their guide suggested.
”While their mech pilots are on the younger side, they are very enthusiastic about signing on to you, Mr.
Gavin shook his head.
”They are rather lacking in experience.
None of them have ever traveled beyond the region surrounding the Kinner Tribe.
I ’m not sure they ’ll be able to handle the situations we encounter as we travel further away from their home state. ”
’s a good point.
” Ves remarked.
”While younger Kinners have the advantage of a longer shelf life, their lack of experience can be a serious detriment.
We can ’t afford to train them on the job.
I need mech pilots who are already competent and capable of adjusting to different environments. ”
A short pause ensued as Gavin perused the notes he took on his data pad.
”Remember the Pulsar Thieves? They ’ve been around for several decades, experienced various ups and downs and undertook missions on both the Friday Coalition and the Hexadric Hegemony sides of the star sector. ”
Ves shook his head.
”They are kind of washed-up, though.
You can see the tiredness in the eyes of their representative and accompanying mech pilots.
They just returned from a mission gone wrong and are on the lookout for an easy retirement. ”
Their drive is obviously lacking.
Their average age is also on the higher side, so their shelf life isn ’t very long.
Despite these factors, they still dare to price themselves as if they are still in their prime. ”
The group entertained other suggestions.
Though Ves did his best to lower his standards, he still found some issue that disqualified a particular Kinner outfit from consideration.
Gavin became increasingly more exasperated at the nitpicking going around.
”Fine! What about the Battle Criers!? Sure, they ’re a bit cruder than the other outfits, but they tick most of your boxes! ”
”The Battle Criers?
” Ves seriously considered the suggestion.
”They ’re a bit..
Kelandra knew more about them.
”No one expected the Battle Criers to last, to be honest.
They rose up from humble beginnings after their founder, Hugin Cinnabar, joined hands with a band of like minded former cadets after graduating from the mech academy.
Somehow, despite their shabby mechs and limited numbers, they ’ve grown to a respectable height over the years, mostly due to their penchant for accepting odd missions. ”
”That has backfired on them several times, though. ”
”True, but it is admirable how the Battle Criers never came close to dissolvement even after suffering a loss.
Unlike the Pulsar Thieves, they still managed to retain their fighting will. ”
The representative of the Battle Criers was a bit..
Frankly, the Battle Criers reminded him of both Lydia ’s Swordmaidens and the Flagrant Vandals.
They simultaneously possessed the savageness of the Swordmaidens while pairing it up with the occasional cunning and lack of scruples of the Vandals.
Unfortunately, the Battle Criers did not possess the single-minded devotion to training of the Swordmaidens or the military discipline of the Vandals.
The impression that Ves got out of observing the representative and accompanying mercs was that they were a bunch of courageous but dim-witted ruffians.
Yet how stupid could they really be if they managed to survive for a couple decades?
Ves developed an interest in their mercenary commander.
While Hugin Cinnabar was just as old as Oryn Mair, the two were completely different leaders.
Whereas Commander Mair enjoyed a privileged military upbringing, Commander Cinnabar rose up from the lowest ranks.
While Commander Cinnabar lacked much of the training and sophistication of Commander Mair, the founder and leader of the Battle Criers still managed to climb to the same height from a much lower starting point.
”Commander Cinnabar must be quite resourceful despite his humble origins.
” Ves surmised.
”It ’s not easy to start a mercenary corps from scratch and keep it going for two decades. ”
Though their story was quite remarkable, Kelendra did not entirely approve.
”I ’m not so sure whether the Battle Criers are the most suitable mercenary corps to protect you.
They are much more capable of performing offensive missions.
While they are still willing to serve as protective duty, it goes against their instincts.
I ’ve heard stories that their men can get unruly if nothing exciting happens. ”
”I think I can handle that.
” Ves determined.
”If not me, then Commander Cinnabar will surely be able to keep them in line.
He ’s got them this far.
If he ’s willing to accept a protection mission, then he ’s surely prepared to address this problem. ”
There were plenty of reasons to hire the Battle Criers.
They were a mixed mercenary corps.
They fielded one landbound mech company and one spaceborn mech company.
Whether in space or on land, Ves was assured of all-round protection.
They possessed two serviceable light carriers along with one small logistics ship and two transport ships.
Such a fleet was sufficient for them to operate in deep space and cut off from civilization for half a year or more.
Their mech pilots were a mix of younger and older Kinners.
While they suffered occasional battle losses, they always recruited young blood to invigorate their ranks.
In this way, they pooled together youthful enthusiasm with tempered veterancy.
They possessed a good employment history.
Only a few failed missions marred their record, and none of them placed the bulk of the blame on their forces.
Best of all, their buyout price was very reasonable, regardless whether Ves opted to obtain their assets.
All in all, as long as Ves didn ’t mind being around some rough men and women, he ’d be able to obtain the dependable and trustworthy Kinner mercenary corps he originally set out to hire.
”Their mechs and ships are still kind of shabby, though.
Commander Cinnabar is not a believer in paying for quality. ” Gavin pointed out one last flaw, as if to deter Ves.
”While it ’s all well and good to replace their old mechs and ships with brand-new ones when you return home, right now we are far away from the Bright Republic.
Do you really want to entrust your protection to a bunch of mechs that already look second-hand when bought? ”
That happened to be one of the reasons why Ves initially dismissed the Battle Criers.
Commander Cinnabar ’s haphazard command style frequently resulted in losses.
This development likely steered him towards purchasing cheaper and more expendable assets.
For this reason, as a fighting force, the Battle Criers depended more on their quantity rather than their quality to win battles.
The overall level of training among the Battle Crier mech pilots also left something to be desired.
Compared to Commander Mair and his Edge of Redemption, the disparity in strength was significant!
Yet the more Ves thought about the Battle Criers, the more they started to grow on him.
His nostalgia towards the Vandals and the Swordmaidens left him with a lingering attachment towards crude but earnest mech outfits.
” Ves stood up with gusto while picking up Lucky.
”We don ’t need to hire a crack mercenary troop to fulfill a mere protection duty.
The Battle Criers are more than sufficient for the job! Let ’s go and speak to their rep! ”
Though both Kelandra and Gavin still possessed some doubts, this was one choice that Ves was determined to follow through.
After referencing her comm, Kelandra led the group to a hall at the periphery of the grounds that they visited before.
Once they squeezed through the crowd of clients and mercenaries, they eventually reached a corner where a rough-faced mercenary representative sat on a chair with his feet propped on a table.
Ves observed the squished carcass of a native Bloodstone bug stuck on the sole of the representative
Its blood and insectile juices had dripped down on the surface of the table long enough to turn dry.
His lips curled up in a rueful smile.
He had already resolved to endure some uncouth behavior from his guards.
” He began.
”We ’ve spoken to you before, remember? ”
” The representative blearily directed his bloodshot eyes as Ves before taking a huge swig of his cheap beer.
”I dun remember you.
Fagh! When am I finally done with this boring duty?! PTUH! ”
A beer-laden glob of spit landed awfully close to Ves ’ impeccably clean shoes.
He was starting to have second thoughts about this idea.
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