The Mech Touch
Everyone expected the Vesians to come to the Glowing Planet.
How could they not, when its resources lay bare to their archrivals?
Anything the Bright Republic enjoyed, the Vesians always tried to ruin it.
They ’d been waging several wars against the Bright Republic for over a hundred years just to snatch the Bentheim System.
It was a matter of time before they came.
”They still arrived too quickly.
” Fadah muttered.
”They must have sneaked past the border the moment they heard the news.
Not that ’s it ’s hard to cross the border anyhow. ”
In the vast depths of space, borders served a symbolic purpose.
The distances involved were simply too large to defend.
Still, even if the Vesians strolled past the Republic ’s outposts, they shouldn ’t have reached the Glowing Planet for at least a couple more days.
Ves deducted a frightening reason why they showed up so early.
”The Vesians already prepared their invasion forces.
They finished their mobilization a while ago.
It ’s not too much of a stretch to think they readied their mechs and ships for a short hop across the border. ”
The Vesians already primed their forces for an invasion.
Upon obtaining word of the Glowing Planet, they merely had to gather some extra mining equipment and obtain a couple of dimensional smoothers before they could make their move.
”Damn! They deployed a jamming field! We can ’t get a good look at what they brought. ”
The Blood Claw fleet shared some telemetry with the other fleets in order to determine the fleet ’s makeup, but all they could figure out was that the Vesians numbered in the hundreds.
”It ’s not a huge fleet, but they can steamroll any other fleet in their way. ”
Despite their presence at the opposite side of the Glowing Zone, nobody truly panicked as of yet.
Just because the Vesians arrived didn ’t mean they could destroy anything in its way.
As long as any fleet built up enough relative velocity, they ’d be able to evade any pursuit.
Still, that didn
’t help too much if a fleet wanted to support their mechs on the ground.
Only the most powerful fleets possessed the strength to contest for orbital supremacy.
All of that remained a concern for the future, as the Vesians didn ’t appear to be in a hurry to move.
”I think the Vesians are waiting for reinforcements.
They don ’t have the numbers to match the 4th Bentheim Division. ”
’s likely the Vesians have spread out their forces along the border.
The ones who came first just happened to be nearest to the Glowing Planet. ”
Despite the interruption, the Mech Corps and the other fleets aligned with the Republic resumed their burn to the Glowing Planet.
Covered under the protective embrace of the dimensional smoother, none of the ships had to worry about being torn apart by a freak gravitic storm.
Still, some of the ships at the edges occasionally shook, as if the Planet attempted to pound past the field emitted by the smoothers.
The Happy Jelly suffered three major impacts, in fact.
Ves didn ’t know whether the transport was unlucky or offended the Glowing Planet in some way, because they all suffered from continuous turbulence.
”This is ridiculous! It ’s like the Glowing Planet has it out for us! ”
Ves approached the lazy technician from behind and kicked him from his perch.
”If you have enough free time to complain, then you have enough time to the reassembly.
Get to it! ”
According to the plan, they
’d be making landfall in a day or two.
Ves did the best he could with the limited amount of manpower and resources available, and he succeeded in increasing the longevity of the mechs under his purview.
’s all band aids compared to what they really need.
Half of the mechs in the fast-reaction squad are nearing the end of their service life. ”
At least learned a lot out of this experience.
He witnessed many ways in which a mech started to degrade.
The most typical cause of failure was when a mech ’s processors and delicate components started to falter first.
Those were easy enough to replace.
Unfortunately, when larger components showed some signs of giving up, the mech technicians simply shrugged and went back to sleep.
That left many mechs with a dangerous build-up of fragile components that could break as soon as something gave them a little push.
Ves had already prepared himself for massive casualties among the Whalers if the Blood Claws didn ’t give them an easy assignment.
Over the next two days, the Whalers finally turned a little serious.
More ships arrived.
An uncountable amount of ships had gathered in the Glowing Zone, and many of them had never been seen before.
Very likely, the ships that tried their best to obscure their identities came from murky backgrounds.
The thought of competing against hordes of pirates and other scum forced the ships from the Republic to move quickly.
The transports carrying the dimensional smoothers picked up the pace, forcing many outdated transports or converted transports to stress their thrusters to their limits.
All of this had been worth it, because the Blood Claws and their allies arrived over orbit with hardly any opposition as of yet.
The 4th Bentheim Division arrived first, of course.
Their modern, combat-hardened ships could muscle through anything, and the abundant number of dimensional smoothers in their fleet ensured the planet wouldn ’t be able to stop their approach.
A number of mechs had already been deployed to the surface.
They scouted the terrain and made sure the dimensional smoothers sent alongside them worked as advertised.
The Blood Claws didn
’t wait for the tests to conclude.
They sent down their own mechs to secure the juicy territories allocated to their fleet.
Right now, not a lot of ships had neared the Glowing Planet as of yet, as none of the opportunists had access to a dimensional smoother that could grant them safe passage.
”While the pirates and lone wolves are figuring things out, we
’ll be on the surface picking up credits from the ground!
” Walter announced at the main hangar.
”Now, the gravity of the planet is only 0.7 g, which is enough for some of our lightest transports to shuttle our mechs down.
That said, I ’m not feeling confident they ’ll hold up very long if we do that, so we ’ll stick with our newest ships. ”
The Whalers acquired a decent amount of ships in the last couple of years, but none of them possessed clean histories.
Walter tentatively picked out two reasonably intact transports to bring their mechs down to the surface.
Fada and the fast-reaction squad had been assigned to the second wave after Walter and his closest men arrived first.
Ves had been assigned to the second wave as well along with some supplies and some technicians.
He stared at the projection of the Glowing Planet.
Now that they arrived in orbit, Ves got to enjoy a beautiful picture of a planet in chaos.
For some reason, the planet predominately glowed green.
Its scarred and broken land masses showed that it had suffered enormously from the event that threw it off into space.
Further exotic activity had further damaged the continents until they became an ugly manifestation of the raw forces of the universe.
”How rare are treasure troves like this? ”
”Planets like these are come from the galactic heartland.
” Ves explained to Fadah as they boarded the passenger compartment of the transport.
”They ’re not exactly common, but they ’re abundant enough that it won ’t alarm an entire star sector.
It ’s just another tuesday for them as far as they ’re concerned. ”
”I guess that ’s why they use the work junk exotics.
As if any exotic is as plain as sand. ”
The entire incident showcased the disparity between the galactic rim and the galactic heartland.
Before the Age of Mechs, humanity had undergone a feverish expansion into the stars.
As they travelled towards the galactic center, they came across increasingly more valuable and abundant exotics, to the point where most of the pioneers hardly looked back to Earth.
The galactic rim was the largest but most resource-depleted portion of the galaxy.
Sometimes a treasure hunter scored a lucky find, but its value always amounted to a fraction of what someone from the galactic heartland earned in day.
The transport finished loading up the supplies and drifted away from the Happy Jelly.
It turned towards the chaotic blackened landscape below and aimed for a spot near the landing site of the Blood Claws.
”Here we go, folks! I suggest you hold on to your crash seats, because we ’ll be going in fast! ”
The transport shuddered severely as it dove towards the surface alongside a Mech Corps vessel that carried a dimensional smoother.
The Whaler transport had to endure a punishing descent in order to keep up with the faster Mech Corps ship.
The Glowing Planet didn
’t possess an atmosphere, but spacetime didn
’t always work as expected up close.
Even within the envelope of the dimensional smoother, the transport still encountered lots of turbulence.
’s crash seats closed up around their bodies in protective pods.
The systems governing the transport had judged the situation to be too dangerous.
Inside his seat, Ves quietly waited for the transport to make it through.
He held Lucky in his grasp.
The cat had grown scared of the intense fluctuations around them.
”It ’s okay Lucky, we ’re almost there. ”
Two agonizing hours later, the transport eased its turbulent flight.
They successfully reached the surface of the Glowing Planet.
It landed a moment later on a crude landing pad that the first wave prepared after their arrival.
Once the transport shut off its engines and opened up the hatch, everyone released a primal roar for making it out alive.
”Alright, enough hooting around! ” Fadah yelled over their comm channel.
”Get in your mechs and follow your assignments! ”
Similar to Groening IV, the Glowing Planet wasn
’t able to support human life.
Perhaps it might have featured its own alien ecosystem, but getting knocked away from a sun had a tendency to kill off everything living on the surface.
Temperatures had reached far below freezing points as well, which forced everyone not inside a mech to wear a bulky hazard suit.
Even Ves didn
’t dare test his genetically modified body against the frightening chill that pervaded the planet.
No sun rested in the sky to warm up its surface.
No atmosphere allowed life to breathe any air or propagate any sounds.
When Ves stepped out to the surface, he admired the raw beauty of the broken landscape before him.
Among the shards of broken rocks and the ominous glow of green, Ves enjoyed a sensation of wonder and purpose.
”Maybe I should have been a treasure hunter.
Setting foot on the unknown always seems to buoy me up. ”
He let down Lucky on the rocky ground and looked whether he did anything special.
The gem cat had already recovered from the harrowing descent, and began to sniff the nearby terrain.
His mouth opened up in a meow that couldn
’t be heard due to the lack of atmosphere.
It didn ’t matter much as Lucky raced off towards a nearby hill of rocks.
Lucky deftly clawed a couple of useless pieces apart until he came across a mineral vein that glowed in low green.
The mechanical cat sliced a generous portion from the rock with his energy claws and began to shop it into finer bits before beginning to gobble them all up.
Ves laughed at the sight.
It figured that Lucky would be able to locate any nearby exotics.
Lucky loved to eat exotics, though Ves never brought him much due to the expense involved.
The LMC would have to go bankrupt in order to satisfy his pet ’s rapacious appetite.
”Looks like that isn
’t the case here.
The minerals also aren ’t as tough and hard to find as those found in Groening IV. ”
While that made it easier for the Whalers to extract some extra wealth, it also presented an irresistible draw to unsavory people.
The pirates wouldn ’t be content to watch on while the rest started pulling riches from the soil.
The Whalers could celebrate for now, but once the riffraff moved into action, they ’d be hard-pressed to keep their lives.
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