The Mech Touch
In the time it took for the Scarlet Rose to pass through the territories of the Ordent Republic, Ves hadn ’t been spending his time in vain.
As someone who always indulged in paranoia, Ves never assumed the best case scenario happened all the time.
His temporary rational state did not diminish this aspect of his.
Instead, he became just as paranoid as any casual probability analysis concluded that Ves would surely encounter a situation like this where the Scarlet Rose couldn ’t shake off her pursuers!
If not now, then later! Ves had to pass through too many star systems, giving his pursuers plenty of opportunities to prepare an ambush!
Aware that fleeing was not always a viable solution, Ves had to prepare another countermeasure!
If he was a qualified starship engineer with many different ship-related competences, then he would have decided to tinker with the Scarlet Rose.
Perhaps he might be able to boost the propulsion system of the ship to provide her with a temporary doubling in acceleration.
If Ves happened to be very competent and in a gambling mood, then he would have taken his chances by performing a ruinous double jump!
Sadly, Ves only possessed a shallow understanding of starship engineering.
While he could have spent some time by studying some of the textbooks in Aisling ’s comprehensive library, it would take months or years to become competent enough to manipulate the Scarlet Rose ’s complex engineering systems!
Trying to master the Scarlet Rose by himself was a waste of time!
’t an engineer.
He was a mech designer! Rather than attempt to mess with something outside of his expertise, he should rather be leveraging his strengths!
And what better could he apply his expertise to than the four dormant second-class mechs stored in the mech hangar of the Scarlet Rose?
When Ves first visited the mech hangar in person, the cleaning bots already took away the bodies left by Lucky ’s rampage.
A bit of scars signifying weapon discharges still marred some of the portions of the mech hangar, but by and large everything was fairly intact.
The mech hangar wasn
’t actually very big.
The Scarlet Rose had to devote a significant amount of internal volume to provide enough space to accommodate four battle-ready mechs.
Each of the four mechs shared the same orange coating and markings of any mech affiliated with Clarion University.
Evidently, Aisling managed to replace the standard CRC mech compliment with four of her personal bodyguard mechs.
The design schematics and other files that Ves retrieved from her personal desk terminal proved to be extremely helpful in figuring out the mechs.
Without them, Ves would have wasted precious time and effort in deciphering the mechs!
Yet now that he possessed all of Aisling ’s notes about her own work, Ves rapidly understood the essence of the four mechs.
”These mechs are all reflections of her design philosophy! ”
She designed and built these mechs for herself.
This was different from designing mechs for external clients, who all possessed different demands.
Aisling ’s aim in designing these bodyguard mechs was to form a team of mechs that exerted as much strength as she could manage.
”The secret ingredient is neural interconnectivity! ”
Grouping four random mechs together did not necessarily yield greater results.
The challenge was to form four complementary mechs who each amplified each other ’s strength.
The goal was to achieve a level of performance that was stronger than the sum of its parts!
This happened to be something that Lady Curver excelled in! By employing a group of four, very close mech pilots and pairing them up with custom mechs that each connected to a neural network, the mech pilots were able to exert a level of coordination that was a level beyond what elite teams could manage!
While Aisling ’s application of neural interconnectivity was still immature to the more dramatic applications of Master Huron, it was enough for her four mechs to exert the effective strength of six or eight uncoordinated mechs!
Of course, all of that was rather moot to Ves.
With no mech pilots on hand, particularly those who possessed the necessary training to pilot second-class mechs, Aisling ’s specialty couldn ’t be leveraged.
In fact, without any mech pilots, how could Ves even make use of these powerful machines?
Surprisingly, Calabast came to the rescue.
Part of the software and data packages she included in her transmission consisted of programs meant to take control over Coalition mechs!
Though it required a bit of hacking and hardware modifications, Ves and Lucky easily managed to follow the steps outlined by Calabast ’s instructions.
After modifying the neural interfaces and replacing its software with a Hexer-developed control program, they eventually managed to convert the mechs into bots!
”Well, perhaps I should call them drones. ”
Regardless of how he called them, after a lot of modifications spanning an entire week, Ves managed to turn the four second-class mechs into unmanned fighting machines!
Ordinarily, Aisling ’s bodyguard mechs did not come with any automation.
If Ves wanted to convert the mechs into bots without any assistance, then he would have taken at least a month.
He would have been forced to spend most of the time on programming and configuring the AIs and control systems.
Calabast ’s timely gift provided him with a ready-made solution, allowing him to finish the conversion even before the Scarlet Rose left the Ordent Republic!
The end result made Ves excited.
The four unique mechs that used to be piloted by humans now turned into a quartet of battle bots!
Of course, these battle bots only exerted a fraction of their original effective performance.
The automation of the mechs was fairly limited and lacked a lot of ingenuity.
While it was no problem to command them to perform standard tasks, as long as they encountered formidable opposition, then the AIs controlling the mechs could easily be fooled!
This essentially meant that the four battle bots would certainly lose in a battle against four proper mechs if all else was equal!
In fact, the battle bots would still lose if they faced just two second-class mechs piloted by competent human mech pilots!
the Echo Spears that managed to corner the Scarlet Rose did not come from the Friday Coalition.
The mercenary corps was a homegrown outfit from the Great Zona Republic!
Their economical light carriers and their large number budget mechs with a handful of midrange and premium mechs all indicated that they were not swimming in money.
The chance that the Echo Spears were capable of fielding second-class mechs was practically nil!
This gave Ves the confidence to deploy his new battle bots!
Even though it was rather ridiculous to think that four battle bots could defeat a force comprising of 170 mechs, the quality disparity was very significant!
Why did the Coalition Reserve Force dispatch monitors to foreign states without any escorts?
That was because they didn ’t need it in most cases!
Four second-class mechs was enough to deter every opportunistic attacker who drooled over capturing an expensive ship from the Coalition!
Though Ves was forced to make do without any mech pilots, the AIs and remote control system were enough to breathe new life in the pilotless mechs!
As the two ranged mechs fired their second salvo, Ves instructed them to sustain their fire on the light carrier that he identified as the flagship!
Both visual observation and tracking the source of the earlier transmission confirmed that the light carrier flying in the center was the flagship of the Echo Spears!
”Commander Quint must be feeling really uncomfortable right now! ” Ves gloated as the two ranged mechs kept hammering the ship in question with an unrelenting staccato of laser beams and gauss cannon projectiles!
The former might not be too impressive, but the latter inflicted a devastating amount of damage to large but lightly-armored targets!
The Kravon, which was the name of the former artillery mech, was not very good at attacking mechs.
Its gauss cannon packed a huge punch, but it wasn ’t very good at tracing swift, mobile targets such as light skirmishers.
Instead, the Kravon was designed to take care of larger, more strategic targets such as space stations, fortified bases and starships!
The light carriers of the Echo Spears soon responded to the unexpected threat.
They no longer flew mostly straight but adopted a very chaotic zig-zag pattern.
Their helmsmen each took direct control over the vessels and followed their training to evade in a way that frustrated most automated target prediction algorithms.
It might have worked if the ships were as small and nimble as light skirmishers.
Unfortunately, vessels designed to carry up to forty mechs in battles were pretty much the equivalent of whales in space!
Despite the extreme range, the Kravon already came with a very sophisticated targeting system!
Not only that, but the Kravon also possessed a powerful ECM and ECCM suite, allowing it to pierce through the pathetic attempt by the light carriers to frustrate its targeting!
In order to observe the movements of its targets closely enough to form an accurate targeting prediction, the Kravon exchanged a lot of sensor data with the Selzer.
The former spaceborn rifleman mech excelled in ranged combat against mechs.
With its dual-type rifle switched to laser mode, the mech outputted a constant barrage of hot and energetic beams that was slowly softening up the flagship of the Echo Spears.
Powerful sensor arrays built into the frame of the mech constantly kept the flagship and the other assets of the Echo Spears in view.
If that wasn ’t enough, then the Selzer could also take advantage of the detailed sensor data provided by the Scarlet Rose!
With so much accurate sensor data at the Selzer ’s disposal, the mech never failed to hit its target!
Laser beam after laser beam continued to melt a hole at the exact section of the flagship! The Selzer ’s long-ranged accuracy was much higher than that of the Kravon!
Recognizing the threat, the flagship slowed down and turned her hull until the damaged portions no longer faced the battle bots!
”Hahaha! I was waiting for this! ” Ves grinned.
He manipulated the interface to adjust the targeting priorities of the Kravon and the Selzer.
Instead of firing upon the solid exterior hull plating, the two mechs instead started firing on the exposed main thrusters of the light carrier!
When the enemy flagship rotated on her axis to turn her heavily-damaged bow away, she inevitably exposed her thrusters and vulnerable rear!
This decision made in desperation was a big mistake!
Soon, the Selzer fired first! A laser beam instantly impacted a section of the rear hull that squeezed just between the main thrusters of the light carrier!
Ves knew that there was little use in firing energy weapons directly in the thrusters.
These components were built to be extremely resilient against heat.
Therefore, he instead opted to soften up the rear hull plating in preparing for the main attack!
Shortly afterwards, the Kravon finally fired its gauss rifle cannon.
A projectile larger than the rounds fired by the Deliverer ’s Executor rifle traveled faster than anyone could conceive!
Ves had deliberately held back the power of the Kravon ’s main armament in order to increase its firing rate.
Now, the artillery mech fired a heavy round accelerated to greater speeds than before!
The gauss cannon round closed the distance so fast that the helmsman barely had the time to juke the ship.
With the help of predictive targeting, the gauss rifle round managed to hit one of the main thrusters at an angle!
As a sensitive component, most forces did everything possible to avoid exposing the stern of their vessels to the enemy.
The reason why quickly became evident!
The Echo Spears underestimated the damage the Kravon could inflict! The round not only bore through the thrusters, but also penetrated deeper while transferring a cataclysmic amount of kinetic energy to one of the most sensitive sections of a ship, the engineering compartments!
A soundless explosion erupted from the stricken light carrier as her entire stern blew up!
The ship lost all propulsion and FTL capability as her entire engineering section became lost!
The mercenaries became stunned! How could their target, who was supposed to be alone and powerless, cripple one of their precious light carriers?
”This is impossible! ”
”It ’s unfair! ”
No matter how much the perplexed mech pilots complained, they couldn
’t deny the truth.
Their seemingly-harmless target turned out to be a wolf in sheep ’s clothing!
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