ething disconcerting.
”Where is Vincent? ”

The young rebel ’s mech had left the fight and approached one of the containers.
It bashed apart the hatch with its mace before stowing the weapon to free up its hand.
It retrieved a large, reinforced barrel that barely fit in the mech-sized hand.

”You think you got me? Think again! ” Vincent roared as his mech threw a threw the barrel in the middle of the fight.
The mech quickly repeated its actions, causing half-a-dozen barrels to spill a strange, fluorescent fluid over some of the mechs.

”What ’s this? ”

”Heavens! That ’s high-density shuttle fuel! ”

”Who the hell is stores flammables in a random container like that?! ”

”Pirates and rebels aren ’t big on safety, you know! ”

”Stop fighting! Don ’t ignite the fuel! ”

The mechs belatedly stopped fighting, but it was too late.
Vincent ’s mech raised its arm and and fired off its laser cannon.
The thick beam instantly hit a patch of fuel, causing it to ignite in a massive blaze that overloaded everyone ’s sensors.

By the time their systems compensated, they realized that half of the mechs erupted into flames.
The inferno didn ’t distinguish sides as the fuel splashed both mercs and rebels alike.

Most of the mech pilots followed their training and quickly ejected once they realized they couldn ’t put out the fire.
Those who remained performed all kinds of shenanigans such rolling their mechs over the ground.

While the mercs fussed over their friends, Vincent quickly took the chance to flee.
His battered Marc Antony charged forth with its shield and slammed into one of the lighter frontline mechs.
The impact crunched aside the flimsy mech into an awful heap.
The rebel leader quickly took advantage of the opening and slipped past the mercs.

”Boss! ”

”Traitor! ”

”General Vasil won ’t let you get away with this! ”

Vincent felt no regret in leaving his subordinates behind.
He only cared about saving his own hide.
Besides, the general likely wouldn ’t fault him as Caruthers conveniently collapsed the route to the power plant.
The only way to get past that obstacle quickly was to use a digger module which none of the mercs possessed.

”Get back here Vincent! ” Caruthers yelled as he and a couple of mercs followed on his heels.

They quickly neared the conflict zone where the 3rd Infernal Hellhounds stubbornly blocked the routes to the ship bay.
The chaos of battle quickly engulfed Vincent ’s fleeing mech, causing the pursuing mechs to lose track of their prey.


Despite their best efforts, the mercs failed to sniff out their bounty.
The rebels and pirates who desperately tried to punch through the Hellhounds increasingly brought more mechs to the fore.
Caruthers and the rest of the mercs were forced to drop their search and help the Hellhounds withstand the latest wave.

Captain Caruthers gnashed his teeth as his mech moved into position.
”I ’ll get you for this, Vincent! You haven ’t seen the last of me! ”

As a significant portion of the Bentheim Liberation Movement fought for their lives, Ves leisurely ate his lunch aboard a fairly expensive passenger liner.

Though impressive in the standards of the Bright Republic, the Vision of Astoria did not measure up to the floating resorts of the Friday Coalition.

Unlike the Torch of the Vanguard, the Vision used an older generation FTL drive that forced the ship to jump further from the edge of a star system.
Everytime the passenger liner made a stop, she had to spend a large amount of time to reach the inner system and dock at a station.

Ves patiently endured the stops as this was already the most direct route from Bentheim to Rittersberg.
The two core star systems were located at the opposite ends of the Republic ’s borders.
It made for a lengthy and somewhat boring flight.

Even Lucky stopped exploring the ship.
The lazy gem cat simply sought out Ves and slept on his lap whenever possible.

”We ’re almost there, Lucky.
Our ship is almost out of FTL. ”

After finishing his lunch, Ves brought his cat to the upper deck and entered the observatory.
Many other passengers had already arrived to take a seat or grab a snack from one of the vendors.

A shipwide alert informed the passengers of the Vision ’s imminent transition back to normal space.
Ves quickly took one of the dwindling seats and looked upwards at the swirling grey confusion beyond the ship ’s transparent windows.

A few minutes later, a black expanse of stars replaced the hypnotic view as the Vision of Astoria finally reached the Rittersberg System.

Beyond the emptiness of space, a large amount of ships and defensive installations loomed over a massive starfort.

The ancient structure along with three identical forts had been built by the descendants of the original pacifists who settled this remote system.
They salvaged many unique systems from their old Rubarthan capital ships and incorporated them seamlessly into the central structures of the forts.

Among those, the gravitic anchor played an essential role in keeping the starfort relevant.
They distorted the surrounding gravitic topography and drew in every incoming ship that travelled to the Rittersberg system.

Any hostile force that wished to invade the Republic ’s capital had to overcome a starfort before they opened up the rest of the system.
The Republic hadn ’t slacked off and constantly reinforced the forts until they reached a point where they were virtually impregnable to any conventional force.

Perhaps the Vesians might be able to overwhelm one of the forts if they were willing to sacrifice a couple of divisions of mechs.
Such a price was too much to bear.
If any Vesian monarch tried to force an offensive, they ’d be deposed by their own subjects before such madness could go through.

”I ’m finally back. ” Ves sighed as he drew his eyes past the giant starfort and tried to spot one of the twinkling lights that represented the capital planet.
”I wonder if anyone still remembers me. ”

He graduated from the Rittersberg University of Technology with grades that were only slightly above average.
Most likely, no one expected Ves to amount to anything.
His father had to go into debt in order to cobble up a shabby mech workshop, and that still left him with little means to acquire a production license.

Things were different now.
With the help of the System, Ves rapidly established his chops as a young but promising mech designer.
In fact, Marcella recently transferred 60.8 million credits to his bank account after handing over his finished products.

”I wonder what my grandfather will say when he sees how much profit I ’ve made. ”

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