br>Nobody wanted to be foisted with a baseless accusation of being a traitor, and mech pilots often lashed out with physical violence.

”Eh, what do I care.
They ’re either sitting in their mechs on standby or have deployed into space to intercept the mines.
I only need a brief look to placate my concerns. ”

Ves began to do the same thing he did with the officers.
He called up many feeds and stacked them next to each other so that he could save time.

From looking at their faces, Ves understood that the mech pilots lost some of their edge at the start.
The constant and predictable stream of mines made it easier for the Vandals to cope.
However, this in fact lulled the Vandal mech pilots into a false sense of security.

The worst thing about their complacency was that Ves couldn ’t tell them to pay more attention.
The constant mine bombardment would definitely stretch out over hours, so every mech pilot had already prepared to deploy for the long haul.

As Ves swiped his hand over the projection and let another set of footage play in front of his eyes.
The same pattern of complacency appeared yet again.

”This might even be the full scope of their trap.
Imodris intends to delay our escape, wear down our nerves and lull us in a false sense of security. ”

Iris turned her head to Ves and nodded.
”That ’s what makes it so important to get rid of this minefield.
There are too many ways in which our opponents can mess with us.
They ’re only stringing us along because it will take some time to gather enough ships that can match our half-regiment. ”

Ves already understood that.
Imodris had cast a lot of nets, expecting most of them to accomplish nothing of note.
The spread of traps over many star systems placed the punitive fleets in a fairly awkward position.
They couldn ’t possibly split up their forces and garrison each planet with a small handful of military-grade combat carriers.

Ves bet that the main enemy force parked in the most centrally-placed star system.
This meant there was an inevitable delay before they arrived at the star system that hosted the net that caught their enemies.

”It ’s strange for Imodris to employ this kind of trapping strategy.
Do you think that Imodris has let down some of their pride and asked Venidse to collaborate on our capture? ”

”That ’s simply not possible! Even if their capital planets are bombarded from orbit, they would never deign to ask their rivals for help.
Their mutual disagreement is intense.
Imodris believes that Venidse ’s suppliers charge too much for their export materials, while Vendise thinks that Imodris is taking advantage of them.
The rivalry between them reaches the very top, from what we ’ve gathered. ”

”Okay, I can see the chances of collaboration is low.
Venidse might not even want to stop us as long as we are still inside the borders of the Imodris Duchy.
They want to see their rivals suffer a humiliating defeat. ”

”That only make Venidse more eager to catch us themselves. ” Iris pointed out with resignation.
”How better to show that they are better than Imodris than to catch a prey that their bumbling neighboring territory had let slip from their grasp? ”

”We can worry about that tomorrow.
Right now, we need to get out of our current fire. ”

Ves kept flitting over footage of mech pilots out in space or held back until their shift came up.
His eyes raked over hundreds of faces, which all responded in a variety of ways at their current predicament.

Suddenly, Ves stopped swiping his hands to bring up the next set of pilot footage.
His eyes narrowed into slits as he studied the peculiar behavior of one of the pilots.

He read out the brief summary of the mech pilot ’s profile.
”Nemo McAllister.
Male, twenty-eight years old.
Three-year veteran.
Light mech specialist.
Known for being a violent drunk.
Never let him close to a drink. ”

Nemo piloted an Inheritor mech.
The light skirmisher didn ’t come with any ranged weapons that would have been useful in shooting down the mines, but the Vandals handed it a light laser rifle they had in stock.
Nemo frantically fired at the mines that entered his arc like his very life depended on it.
He wasn ’t too bad of a shot either.

This immediately caught his attention.
”A three-year veteran isn ’t really a veteran at all.
We might be facing an onslaught of mines, but they haven ’t reached the point of threatening our lives so far.
This guy is way too panicky to match our current circumstances. ”

To Ves, it felt as if the man tried too hard to convey his fears to his observers.
This act might not have looked out of place immediately after they dropped out of FTL, but now that a lot of time had passed, everyone should have calmed down somewhat.

”Iris, look at this fellow, will you? Do you think he ’s a fake? ”

Iris took a brief glance at Nemo.
”If he ’s a spy, he ’s a really bad one.
Maybe he ’s faking it for another reason.
No matter how long I stare at him, I can ’t see him as a spy at all. ”

Even if Nemo wasn ’t the phantom that Ves was looking for, his abnormal behavior still merited a closer look.
Ves leaned forward and pulled up the Inheritor ’s telemetry.
Having studied and worked at its design for an extended period of time, Ves gained a good understanding of its workings.

The biggest advantage to becoming head designer was that the Vandals finally pulled open the curtain that hid some of the inner workings of the core components.
Parts such as the power reactor or the flight system no longer appeared in the form of black boxes.
Ves could intimately study how they ticked at his leisure, though the risks of contaminating his design philosophy still remained.

Though Ves had been busy ever since he became the head designer, he hadn ’t neglected this opportunity entirely and briefly studied the uncensored versions of Inheritor, Akkara and Hellcat designs.

This was why he immediately spotted an anomaly in Nemo ’s Inheritor.

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