The Mech Touch
As Ves and Gloriana kept improving their ability to work off each other ’s strengths and specialties, a minor incident interrupted their travels.
As their combined fleet almost left the territory of the Reinald Republic, they inadvertently transitioned into a star system under attack by a sandman fleet!
Both Ves and Gloriana entered the bridge of the Stellar Chaser upon the sounding of the alarm.
”What is the situation? ” Gloriana immediately took charge.
”The local star system is under attack by a single sandman fleet, ma ’am. ”
”One sandman capital ship.
Six sandman escort ships. ”
Ves recognized that as the standard sandman fleet composition.
Only the young and inexperienced sandman admirals adopted this stale and highly-exploitable formation.
Having met them in battle before, the sight of the sandmen fleet did not arouse any fear in him.
In any case, the sandmen fleet was many light-hours away from their current position.
”What are the sandmen doing? ”
’re about to engulf the rural planet.
” Ves answered grimly.
”The sandmen are attracted by energy.
While the power generators of a thinly-populated planet don ’t amount to much, they ’re easily digestible to the sandmen.
The aliens love that. ”
Gloriana gasped with horror.
”Those poor people! How come there aren ’t any mechs protecting the planet from the sandmen? ”
”Look over there.
” Ves pointed at the side of the local plot.
Faint signals flew towards the edge of the star systems.
”Those two light carriers are running as fast as possible.
I ’m guessing that they ’re the ones that are tasked with defending the local population. ”
”Are they running? ” She frowned.
Wow, the sensors of your ship are really good.
I can even tell they never even attempted to fulfill their mission.
See how they ’re completely undamaged? Look at how many mechs are orbiting them.
I don ’t think they ’ve lost a single one in battle. ”
His cynical-sounding description painted a bleak picture.
Based on the distances traversed by the sandman fleet and the fleeing light carriers, the outfit hired to defend this star system ran as soon as the aliens appeared!
Even if the mercenaries signed a contract and received some rewards, they never appeared to take their mission seriously.
When faced with an actual sandman fleet, they would rather run than fight!
Ves understood their reluctance.
A single sandman fleet consisted of so many masses of sand that two mech companies would have a hard time wearing them down.
The only way they could defeat the sandman fleet before it reached the planet in the inner system was by pestering the sandmen over a long period of time.
Such a strategy came with inherent risks.
The sandmen possessed the sporadic ability to fire incredibly strong lasers.
Their firing rate was slow, but their firepower was enough to take out a mech in a single shot!
The longer a battle dragged on, the greater the chances the sandmen scored a hit.
Every successful hit signified a dead mech and very likely a dead mech pilot.
In fact, the power of a laser beam fired from the sandman capital ship was so powerful that it could even threaten the light carriers!
Faced with a situation where the mercenaries would suffer severe, guaranteed losses, it was no surprise that they had opted to run!
”Does this mean the people on the planet are defenseless? ”
”The people living on the planet are likely doomed the moment the mercenaries decided to abandon their mission.
Perhaps they have a bunch of landbound mechs to defend themselves, but once the sandmen land on the surface of a planet, it ’s ten times harder to resist them! It ’s unlikely that this planet can field so many mechs. ”
Gloriana studied the data on the planet.
”Seven million people live on the surface.
Will the sandmen really kill all of them, Ves? ”
”Every living human is a threat to the sandmen.
They ’re not in the habit of taking prisoners. ”
Melody decided to step forward this time.
”Gloriana, don ’t get any wild ideas. ”
”I was just considering, that ’s all! Isn ’t the Glory Battalion strong enough to repel the sandmen?! ”
”If we want to help, we
’ll have to reach the inner system first.
” Ves noted.
”The sandmen will have reached the planet at that time and begin to engulf every energy source and human on the surface. ”
”If my Glory Battalion hurries up, they can make it in time to save the survivors who are left. ”
Ves shook his head.
”Forget about it, Gloriana.
I ’m with your assistant on this.
It ’s not our business.
Even if we reach the planet in time and manage to repel the sandmen, we ’re not going to get anything in return.
In fact, we ’ll be paying a price for this by delaying our arrival to the Bright Republic by three to five days, depending on what happens. ”
His current priority remained returning to the LMC as fast as possible.
He already anticipated that their fleet might encounter a situation like this where a populated planet came under threat.
Unless there was a compelling reason for them to dispatch their mechs to assist, Ves would rather leave as soon as the FTL drives of their starships finished cycling.
”I don ’t know, Ves… I don ’t feel so good about this situation. ”
’s none of our business.
So many planets and star systems have already fallen to the sandmen.
Trillions of people who were unable to obtain passage on a refugee ship have died at the hands of this alien race.
More will die in the coming months. ”
”I know that! I just find it hard to accept doing nothing when a tragedy like this plays out right in front of my eyes! ”
Ves sighed and embraced Gloriana with his arm.
”You ’re too soft, Gloriana.
The galaxy is a cruel place, and people die all the time.
As mech designers we are indirectly responsible for much of the killing that goes on in the galaxy.
The primary function of the machines we design is to fight. ”
Due to her privileged upbringing, mechs had always been a technical marvel to her.
She never actually experienced a lethal battle up close in her life.
The closest she ever came to seeing mechs in battle was when she attended mech duels or something.
Fortunately, after Ves hugged her a bit, she became swayed by his argument.
”I guess you
It ’s the Reinald Republic ’s responsibility to defend its citizens when you think about it.
They should have been more thorough in allocating mercenaries to defend their star systems. ”
Ves chuckled darkly under his breath.
He doubted whether an honest Reinaldan mercenary even existed.
He had a very poor impression of Reinaldan culture and military readiness.
Their so-called ’Honored Ones ’ were so unfit for war that Ves doubted the Reinald Republic would even be able to survive the crisis!
As the pair exited the bridge without issuing any orders to save the beleaguered planet, Ves tried to console her as best as possible.
”We are mech designers.
We don ’t solve our problems by dispatching mechs at them.
We design mechs that are suited to tackle the problems.
That is why I came up with the Desolate Soldier.
If the mercenaries fielded our new mechs, they probably wouldn ’t have run as fast. ”
”I guess you ’re right.
To be honest, I ’m grateful you ’ve convinced me out of it.
I wasn ’t acting like a proper Hexer back then.
It ’s just that I ’ve never been in a situation where so many humans were under threat.
Now that I ’ve calmed, I realize that those people aren ’t actually worth my attention. ”
Ves wasn ’t sure whether he should be pleased at her words.
”We all have a bit of selfishness.
The MTA refuses to save the border states and all of the people who live there despite possessing an abundance of power.
The CFA isn ’t doing more than sending out a single warfleet towards the source because they ’re obligated to.
The Friday Coalition and the Hexadric Hegemony have both decided to stay put and stare at each other instead of lifting their hands to help.
In every case, those who possess power prioritize their own interests above everyone else ’s.
As far as I ’m concerned, we ’re no different. ”
’re right, Ves.
You ’re so right.
I ’m so glad you ’re so understanding.
I love you, Ves. ”
”I love you too, Gloriana. ” He smiled back.
Their fleet quickly transitioned out of the star system just as the sandmen fleet was about to reach the defenseless planet.
By the time they reached their next star system, another seven million people lost their lives to the heartless alien race.
Fortunately, they didn
’t encounter any similar incidents along the way.
Right now, the sandmen were still in the process of battering the second line of defense.
States such as the Bright Republic, Ylvaine Protectorate, Vesia Kingdom and the Reinald Republic only met with sporadic leaks.
As Ves kept track of the news, he noted that these incidents started to become more and more prevalent.
That was a sign that the second line of defense was starting to fail.
The news emerging from the second line of defense took on an increasingly more fatalistic tone.
Most relevant to Ves was the fate of the Coman Federation.
As the state that stood in the way between the sandmen and the Bright Republic, Ves hoped that the Comen lasted as long as possible.
” Ves shook his head in disappointment after reading the latest news.
”They ’re already starting to break. ”
The Comen were anything but weak.
They were very open about augmenting themselves to the point where they worshipped transhumanism.
The Coman Federation also possessed a strong military culture that had given the Bright Republic plenty of headaches over the centuries.
Yet no matter how conceited they were, the sheer quantity of sandmen fleets battering their star systems was too much for them to bear.
While their fortified star systems withstood the waves of sandmen without consuming too much strength, their lesser star systems fared much more poorly.
Though the Comen mercenaries and outfits hired to protect these locations fought bravely, their numbers were ultimately insufficient.
There were too few mechs to adequately cover every star system!
The loss of insufficiently-defended star systems meant that a crack had formed in the Coman Federation
The sandmen fleets that arrived later no longer bothered stay around in conquered star systems and instead directed their attention elsewhere.
This basically meant that more and more sandmen fleets began to batter a smaller number of star systems.
The increase in intensity meant that more star systems started to get overwhelmed.
This in turn meant that the besieged star systems became host to even more sandmen!
This was how pretty much every state in the second line of defense started to fall.
Even though they received some advanced warning, their preparations turned out to be insufficient.
Already, many Comen had seen the writing on the wall and fled to the Bright Republic or beyond.
Of course, since starships were in short supply, only a fraction of the population managed to make it out.
The rest were destined to become crushed in a tide of sand.
”Hasn ’t the Bright Republic done anything to assist the Comen? ” Ves suddenly frowned.
He searched the galactic net and found out that the Bright Republic deliberately withheld any aid.
They even issued a warning to mercenaries not to lend their assistance to the Comen!
Though the Bright Republic never really liked their neighboring state, Ves still thought it was in its best interest to reinforce the Comen!
”It ’s better to contain the damage in the Coman Federation rather than letting it spill into the Bright Republic! It ’s too late now! ”
From what he could gather from reading all of the political analyses on the news, the leaders of the Bright Republic wanted to use the sandmen to get rid of the Coman Federation without getting any of the blame.
As long as the Bright Republic successfully repelled the sandmen, the Bright Republic could easily double its territory by taking over all of the star systems formerly held by the defunct Coman Federation!
Ves couldn ’t help but laugh when he understood the Bright Republic was doing exactly what he had been thinking!
”Even my own home state is pursuing its own self interests! ”
Of course, by denying the Comen any material assistance, the Bright Republic was about to pay the price for their inaction.
Once the sandmen finished consuming the territory of the Coman Federation, the aliens would definitely direct their might towards the Bright Republic!
If the leaders of the Bright Republic had bet wrong, then they stood to lose their entire state due to their selfish decisions!
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