The two argued back and forth but they largely repeated the same arguments.
Ves hadn ’t been able to come up with a compelling argument to convince the Mudriders to partake in the defense with all their heart, so Ves simply chose to be firm and unyielding.

Certainly, he felt a little bad about the Oodis Mudriders, but compared to his own benefits, why should he care about the well-being of some random mercenaries?

”Are you not a mercenary? ” Ves pressed, having just reminded himself of Melkor ’s advice.
”Do you still wish for the Oodis Mudriders to exist after this assignment? If the Mech Nursery falls, your mercenary corps is ruined.
You ’ll lose every opportunity to clear your records of your black marks. ”

Commander Husaan frowned.
”Is the alternative any better? You ’re throwing us to the meat grinder! ”

”That ’s because you signed up for this job! You wanted to prove your valor, right? Then do so! Proving your courage means you should stand up to adversity when everyone else tells you to run away! It ’s disgraceful of you to hear you try so hard to shirk your duty.
Do you need a reminder on what a high-risk assignment entails? It ’s not a walk in the park, for heaven ’s sake! ”

”Even if you ’re right, you are going too far with this! You are not our commanding officer.
Your word isn ’t law! Don ’t think that I won ’t dare to pull my forces out of this deathtrap of a complex if I think you ’re about to throw away our lives! ”

”If the Mech Corps hears about your words, they ’ll scoff at them.
The nature of combat doesn ’t allow us the privilege of choosing our battles.
The Vesians are spoiling for a fight.
So what? Countless pilots of the Mech Corps are doing their duties right now without any complaint! If they can step up, why don ’t you? ”

”That ’s because the Mech Corps enjoy the best training and the best equipment! Their mechs are all top-notch machines while my Mudriders are working with five to ten year old mechs! ”

I ’ve seen your mechs.
You can ’t fool a mech designer ’s eyes.
Your mech models are all robust designs.
They ’ve got plenty of life in them yet! ”

”And we ’ll risk losing most of them before the end of the week if we cash head-on against the Mech legion! ”

Obviously, Ves did not manage to shake Commander Husaan ’s position.
After a brief moment of silence, Ves decided to resort to the carrot rather than the stick.

”If the Mudriders do this for my, I won ’t skimp on the rewards. ”

”We ’re already entitled to the highest class of hazard pay as well as compensation for any damage we might incur.
Still, no matter how much money you throw at us, it won ’t make the dead come back to life. ”

”I ’m not talking about more money.
How about receiving a couple of exclusive mechs in exchange? ”

”Are you kidding me? ” Husaan began to turn his back to Ves.

”Wait a minute! These aren ’t your average mechs! ” Ves quickly followed up on his statement.
”You must have heard about the LMC and its latest model, right? The Blackbeak ’s characteristics fits perfectly with the Mudriders.
It ’s mobile, resilient and doesn ’t require frequent resupply.
I ’ll personally fabricate two top-tier gold label Blackbeaks for your mercenary corps. ”

Although it sounded ridiculous that Ves attempted to bribe Husaan with a couple of mechs, the mercenary commander couldn ’t help but halt in his tracks.
He knew about the renown of the Blackbeaks.
They were excellent mech models and their quality surpassed the machines that the Mudriders currently employed.

Two mechs might not sound like much, but the rarity and status of any gold label mech from the LMC could not be belittled.
Ves worked hard to elevate the value of his handcrafted mechs exactly for moments like this.
Commander Husaan knew what kind of treasure that Ves was offering.

”I ’ll also add in one of the first copies of the laser rifleman mech that ’s currently in development.
I can ’t say too much about the design, except that it shares most of the traits of the Blackbeak and will certainly outclass any of your current rifleman mechs. ”

As much as Commander Husaan acted tough, every mercenary was a mech geek at some level.
They passionately slobbered over mechs and could talk in detail about them to their fellow mercenaries.
They favored different brands and followed the exploits of various famous mech designers.

As an up-and-coming mech designer, Ves hadn ’t managed to build a huge following outside of Cloudy Curtain, but his talent was more than evident from the meteoric rise of the LMC.

This might not be so important to Husaan personally, but he did not think about his own benefits.

Rather, he thought about how owning three prestigious mechs would affect the renown of the Oodis Mudriders.

Outfits that owned and flaunted rare and valuable mechs attracted a lot of attention, for good and ill, but mostly the former.
Husaan fell silent as he thought about how he could use the gold label mechs as an opportunity to revive the Mudriders after surviving this assignment.

He could already see it now.
With the surge of interest from the possession of the exclusive mechs, the Mudriders could easily replenish its ranks even if most of the new hires would never be able to pilot the valuable machines.
In effect, their combat effectiveness only played a secondary role compared to their fame.
It was enough to treat them as mascots.

Husaan looked at Ves with a speculative look, but the mech designer kept his expression neutral and composed.

Ves did not open his mouth again because he did not want to fall into a trap.
It did not cost the company a lot of resources to fabricate those mechs for the Mudriders.
That did not mean that Ves was eager to fall into a one-man bidding war and be forced to raise his offer to a ludicrous level.

Three mechs was enough.

He did not know what Husaan was thinking about, but the man offered up his hand for a shake.
”Deal. ”

After Ves left the mech stables, he silently sighed in relief.
He only went out on a limb there.
Although he could have raised the price if Husaan remained stubborn, even he had his limits.

It was an extremely unpleasant experience to be blackmailed by the mercenaries that you had already hired.
The Mercenary Association heavily frowned upon what happened just then, although exchanges that happened under the table always took place anyway.
This was one thing that no rule or regulation could abolish.

In any case, while Commander Husaan placed a lot of importance on those three mechs, the bureaucrats of the Mercenary Association would likely swipe away the report within the blink of an eye.
After all, it was just three mechs.
Ves might as well offer a fruit basket instead.

Just after Ves left the mech stables of the Mudriders, a lot of shouting and movement erupted from the place.
Even if Commander Husaan let himself be pursuaded by Ves, it was another challenge entirely to convince the rest of his men to go along with Melkor ’s defense plans.

Ves left them to it and returned to the command center.
Men and women dutifully labored to bring the Mech Nursery ’s defensive measures up to full readiness.
While Sanyal-Ablin controlled most of the defensive systems, a handful of other functions remained in control of Ves and his forces.

Melkor looked up from a projection of an intricate battle simulation.
It showed a large amount of miniature Vesian mechs punch through the outnumbered mechs from Sanyal-Ablin and begin to divide and surround each separate group of mechs.

Meanwhile, the mechs outside the base that represented the Whalers and the Mudriders stood in place, well away from the fight.
They never moved forward for a single instant during the entire battle.

The simulation painted a very grim picture of what would happen.

”Ves. ” Melkor raised his head with a hopeful expression.
”How did your talks go with Commander Husaan? Did he relent on his stance? ”

”It took some convincing, and I also had to throw in an incentive, but he finally agreed to station his mechs at the front. ”

”Thank you! You ’ve been a lifesaver for me! That ’s just what I needed! ”

With the tentative cooperation of the Oodis Mudriders, the defenses at the walls stood a much better chance of surviving the initial push.
Melkor showed Ves of how the battle might play out.

”If the Vesians stick to the most convenient strategy in their playbook, although I have to mention that there ’s no guarantee they ’ll stick ot it, then our job will be to put up enough of a fight to make them reconsider. ”

Ves picked up on the distinction between Melkor ’s words.
”You don ’t think there ’s any hope we can defeat the Vesians? ”

All the evidence we ’ve gathered suggests that the 3rd Imodris Legion is a standard Vesian Legion.
That means that their mechs are designed and built to military standards and their mech pilots went through strict, systematic training.
There ’s no way they ’ll expose any flaws for us to exploit.
We have to beat them fair and square. ”

The problem with beating them fair and square was that the Mech Legion specialized in those kinds of fights much more than irregular mech outfits.

”So if we can ’t defeat them, we just try to bleed them as much as we can in the hope they get scared of all the blood they lose? ”

”Essentially, that ’s the plan. ” Melkor nodded without shame.
”It ’s a different story if the Mech Corps is stationed here, but all we have are a handful of disparate mech forces, and we ’re still outnumbered to boot as well.
The only factor that ’s in our favor is that the Vesians won ’t be setting out for a fight to the death.
They only want to do a quick smash and run attack. ”

Ves nodded.
”We ’re not important enough to force them to sustain massive losses.
Now that I think about it, it ’s already generous for the Vesians to send out two mech companies to destroy only three mech production lines.
In their eyes, we are targets of opportunity. ”

”Exactly so.
The 3rd Imodris Legion is hitting over twenty star systems at a time.
They aren ’t necessarily out to inflict massive damage to our industries.
They are attempting to put a dilemma on the Mech Corps forces stationed in the Bentheim System.
Will they move out to reinforce the besieged star systems? Will they split up to help each system at once, and risk getting ambushed, or will they choose to abandon some systems in favor of more strategic ones? ”

All of them posed very interesting questions, but Ves left the problem for the higher ups of the Mech Corps to come up with a response.
Ves knew well enough that Cloudy Curtain ranked at the bottom of their priorities.
He could not count on the Mech Corps to provide any timely assistance.

Ves studied the simulation along with Melkor.
With the help of the Mudriders, the Vesians mechs had a much harder time trying to penetrate inside the complex.
However, the simulation turned a little fuzzy then, which indicated that the AIs found it difficult to predict what would happen next.

Melkor slammed his fist against the tabletop.
”This buggy system! ”

”Even if the AIs could make up their minds, we can ’t rely on their results, Melkor.
It ’s all up to fate right now. ”

”You ’re right. ” He sighed.
”I predict that the Vesians have to sustain up to twenty percent losses to make them reconsider their raid.
They won ’t shy away before then, because they ’re trained to accept adverse losses in the course of their duties.
Their willpower can ’t be shaken.
We can only hope their commander is rational enough to weigh the risk of further losses just to smash a single manufacturing complex. ”

With those words, Ves left Melkor with the final planning.
Ves did not have much to bring to the table.
Before the Vesians made their landing and revealed their mechs, Ves could not even use his expertise as a mech designer to identify any potential weak points.

Ves returned to his office and helped coordinate the evacuation of personnel and the buttoning down of various valuable equipment.

Everyone moved to prepare for the incoming raid.
Over ten hours went by in relative quiet, only to be broken when the planet ’s perennial cloud cover momentarily parted to make room for a large number of mech transports.

The Vesians descended from orbit.

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