The Mech Touch
As their preemptive counterattack took place, Ves frequently itched his hand towards his holstered Peaceful Repose.
His eyes also frequently strayed towards the
’ that Nitaa carried in her spare hand.
He was tempted to order her to hand it over to him so he could don his custom suit of combat armor.
Who knew if the headquarters was about to come under attack?
Yet the days of stumbling across trouble or running into battle with his Amastendira spitting lasers were over.
As a Journeyman Mech Designer, his place was in the rear, far away from the action where all of the actual combat took place.
Ves felt very strange about this.
While he knew he ought to be placed in the safest position possible, a part of him wanted to get close to the action.
How could he call himself a man if he cowered so far in the rear that he couldn ’t even hear the sounds of mechs clashing against other mechs?
He disliked how well Mrs.
Linzif ’s headquarters isolated sound.
None of the characteristic noises of mechs on the move or launching attacks reached the building.
In fact, soon after the fighting at the underground parking zone began, the entire headquarters entered into lockdown!
Metal shutters slid over the transparent windows and entrances.
The receptionists and other personnel immediately evacuated their posts while armored guards began to mobilize into action.
The security guards regarded Ves and his company with wary apprehension.
They had observed some of the Battle Criers moving out and breaking into a nearby underground parking hall.
Ves was definitely responsible for the fighting that occured not too far away!
When the security captain that walked up to them asked them to leave, Ves plainly refused.
”We will be staying here for the moment.
It ’s not safe outside.
If the situation deteriorates, I hope you will make your underground evacuation exits available to us. ”
The imperious tone of voice left no room for arguing.
The security captain had no choice but to return empty-handed.
He was deeply reluctant to antagonize a Journeyman!
”As long as Mrs.
Linzif doesn ’t say anything, we can stay. ” Ves said.
”Why hasn ’t she told us that? ”
”Because she doesn ’t want to get involved in this mess. ”
As events continued to unfold outside, Ves, Gavin, Nitaa and Commander Cinnabar continued to wait for further development.
During the wait, Ves became increasingly impatient.
He hopped from foot to foot and continually caressed his holstered gun.
It felt too unnatural for him to be so far from the fighting! Even though he knew he wouldn ’t be of any use in this situation, he still felt antsy about his lack of agency!
Both Nitaa and Commander Cinnabar recognized his abnormal behavior.
”So the stories I
’ve read about you on the galactic net are true.
” The Kinner mercenary leader remarked.
”You really did live through a couple of battles. ”
Ves sardonically smiled to himself.
I did live through some battles, but I never asked to be there.
I know better than to run head-first into danger.
It ’s just that in the past I ’ve come under attack a lot.
Being on the other end is a surreal situation for me.
It ’s rare for me to be in the position to preempt an attack on me by attacking first. ”
”This is what I am here for.
What we are here for. ” Nitaa answered from her helmet.
”I don ’t know what your previous circumstances were like, but you ’ve made a good choice bringing us aboard.
It is our job to address your security concerns so you don ’t have to pull out your gun and fend off the attackers by yourself. ”
Her words reflected the changes that Ves had been through lately.
No longer did the galaxy regard him as an inconsequential Apprentice Mech Designer.
Now, he not only became a Journeyman, but also a galactic citizen! While the utility of the latter was a little dubious, it nonetheless signified that he had become a person of means!
Rather than equate himself as a gun-toting mech designer, he should instead regard himself as a true leader.
Someone who sent others to battle in his stead because it was completely unnecessary for him to move into action in person.
The logic of it was very clear.
Most of his fellow mech designers had no problem recognizing this simple truth.
But not Ves.
He was different.
The irrational part of his mind still found it disturbing that he opted to cower in the lobby of Linzif ’s headquarters than to go out and give the assassins a piece of his mind!
For now, he managed to control his urges.
He wouldn ’t be able to do anything meaningful anyway.
A few minutes passed by as Ves continued to press down his nerves.
At some point, Commander Cinnabar received a hopeful message.
”The hostile mechs have all been taken down.
” He grinned.
”Two of our mechs suffered severe damage, but that ’s the extent of the damage. ”
”Let me see the extent of the damage. ” Ves demanded.
The mercenary commander ’s comm displayed a simple readout of the damage.
”All of the damage is from laser weapon fire.
” Ves noted.
”The hostile mechs are completely geared towards launching a surprise attack on a vulnerable vehicle.
They ’re not equipped to fight against mechs with at least decent armor. ”
Ranged mechs armed with laser weapons packed a lot less punch than mechs armed with physical weapons.
They could unleash a lot of damage over the course of a battle, but they fared poorly when beset in their hideouts by a bunch of melee mechs!
Despite outnumbering the Battle Crier melee mechs by two-to-one, the hostile mechs had truly been unable to put up a good fight when cornered!
”Seems like our bet to launch a preemptive attack worked out.
It would have been a nightmare to fight those mechs in the open. ” Cinnabar grunted in satisfaction.
”The only issue now is that our actions have alarmed the Planetary Guard.
We ’re to cease and desist all ongoing action. ”
Tell Commander Meivin if he can help us smooth over our differences with the authorities.
If that ’s not enough, I ’ll go talk to Mrs.
Linzif and see if we can ’t work something out.
The opposing mechs did fire first, right? ”
”Haha! Of course! It was easy as pie to provoke them into firing at us! ”
”How did your boys manage to do it? Tell me honestly. ”
”My mechs merely closed the distance while broadcasting insults and threats.
Once the enemy mech pilots heard how we plan to torture them, they quickly lost their nerve and fired! ”
Well, I would fire too if I were in their position. ”
The Battle Criers evidently bluffed and won.
Even though both sides knew that the side who launched the first attack would incur a justifiable response, the enemy mech pilots still attacked first.
They had no choice! Letting the Battle Criers walk up to their ranged mechs meant giving up their crucial distance advantage!
If the Battle Criers disregarded the rules and swung their swords, then no amount of trust in the rules would protect them from those who acted like they broke them for a living! The obvious hoodlum nature of the Battle Criers played a key role this time!
At some point in time, the Planetary Guard arrived to impose order.
Though the fighting had already ended, the authorities still treated the Battle Criers mechs as potential hostiles.
A huge back-and-forth ensued over what exactly happened and what gave Ves the right to order his escort mechs to launch a seemingly unprovoked attack.
Ves declined to say anything about the observers, the coordinating figure who directed the operation or his own suspicions towards the shady group of mechs holed up nearby.
He simply answered most of their questions with a simple statement.
”They fired first. ”
Naturally, the Planetary Guard did not treat this answer seriously.
According to the footage they obtained, while the unknown mechs did look suspicious, the Battle Crier mechs that barged into their hiding spot did everything possible to provoke a hostile reaction!
For this reason, the excuses that Ves had offered stood on shaky grounds.
He already knew he wouldn ’t be able to talk himself out of this situation alone.
He was counting on someone to bail him out.
To his surprise, after an hour of maneuvering behind scenes, Commander Meivin of the Dustravens finally managed to get the Planetary Guard off their backs.
The Redweller mercenary commander had long exited his own mech in order to report to Ves in person.
”The authorities are reluctant to let the matter go, but my contacts managed to persuade them their time is better spent elsewhere. ”
”What ’s the price? ” Ves asked.
He was not naive to think the Planetary Guard retreated without a fuss.
’ all of the wrecks.
The Battle Criers won ’t be able to claim salvage on any of the trashed machines.
Supposedly it is for compensation for all of the damages we ’ve caused. ”
”They can have the salvage. ”
Sure, a single half-abandoned parking zone got trashed, but so what? The Planetary Guard had plainly demanded a bribe!
Fortunately, Ves was more than happy to relinquish the salvage.
Right now, getting the authorities off his back was much more important.
Finding out the motives and the identities of the attackers was another priority.
”All of the hostile mech pilots committed suicide before we could capture them.
” Commander Cinnabar replied with a scowl.
”We won ’t get any answers from them.
”We ’ll have to see what Lucky managed to do. ”
Once they got rid of their entanglement with the authorities, they openly began to move towards the hidden command center of the attackers.
None of them had any illusion that the Planetary Guard stopped paying attention to the foreigners.
The high-profile mechs accompanying their shuttle already made it impossible for them to obscure their movements.
For these reasons, Ves did not even bother to hide his movements.
Some time later, he and his group entered a medium-sized abandoned office building.
They moved all the way up to the top floor where they entered an office room that used to belong to an executive.
’s a lot of equipment.
” Ves commented calmly as he took in the projectors, the terminals and the other gear.
”They held the entire city district under observation! ”
Most of the gear had been wrecked.
Numerous claw marks rent their way straight through most of the processing banks.
The few projectors that remained functional displayed various angles of the streets around Linzif ’s headquarters.
As Ves focused on the hardware, Gavin quickly ran out of the door and barfed out the contents of his stomach in the corridor.
The stench of blood and the sight of half-a-dozen corpses sickened him to no end!
Different from Gavin, Fe Nitaa and Commander Cinnabar looked impressed.
”Your cat is more effective than any infiltrator!
” Nitaa praised.
”None of these operatives managed to pull out their guns before their throats got clawed out! ”
”My cat is very talented.
” Ves grinned.
”Did you think I ’m only bringing him around because I need something to pet all day? To be honest, you aren ’t the first bodyguard in my service.
Lucky has been fulfilling this role all this time. ”
Ves and the Kinners directed their attention to the star of the show.
The cat proudly sat on top of the chest of an unconscious man.
”You did a good job, Lucky. ”
As Ves showered his vain cat with praises, Commander Cinnabar approached the unconscious figure and searched his pockets.
The search yielded various weapons, gadgets and other knick knacks.
The thin and seemingly ordinary man carried a whole host of equipment!
”This is the loadout of a spy. ” Ves observed.
” Nitaa concurred as she remained on high alert.
”The operation here suggests that everyone here are professionals of sorts. ”
”Of sorts? ”
’ve seen better, sir.
These operatives don ’t appear to be too well-trained and their equipment is only average.
It ’s unlikely these operatives belong to an intelligence agency. ”
Hearing her judgement made Ves sigh in relief.
While she may be wrong, Ves had a hunch that her description was accurate.
”That still leaves a lot of options, though. ”
Ves suspected that either the Bloodwellers or the Whitewellers organized this attempt.
Only either of them possessed compelling reasons to kill him in Redwell Province!
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