The group along with their cargo bot trundled along the nearest route back to the shuttle bays.
Their progress was hampered by the fact that Mancroft Station ’s ad hoc upgrades and expansions never planned for rapid transit.

Normal space stations at least incorporated tunnels of fast-moving trains that brought people from one side of the station to the other side within minutes.
Other stations, particularly those built within hollowed-out asteroids, allowed the use of aircars which brought people from place to place without disturbing the foot traffic beneath.

Mancroft had to make due with cramped corridors and a schizophrenic station architecture that changed every five-hundred meters or so because of the addition of different modules over the years.
Each station owner had different intentions for the Independent Harbor, so Ves could practically read the history off his surroundings.

Throughout their silent journey home, they passed by thousands of frontiersmen and adventurers, each of them wearing different styles of clothes and armor.

Mancroft was a melting pot of cultures, just like Harkensen.
The difference between the two was that the latter hosted more people from civilized space, while Mancroft became a microcosm of what the frontier had to offer.

People grouped themselves around their outfits rather than their origins.
Pirates who looked as if they grew up on the same dusty planet acted like enemies against each other as they belonged to rivaling pirate gangs.
They eagerly forgot their shared birthplace, and shifted all of their loyalty to their fellow comrades and brothers.

Another noticeable difference between the crowds of Mancroft and Harkensen stood out to Ves.
A high proportion of the scum on the space station consisted of men.
This made sense to Ves, as the conditions and technological conveniences that equalized the differences between the genders was absent in the frontier.

In a more primitive society, women lost more advantages than men.
In a society ruled by the law of the jungle, the physical strength of men alone already placed them in a leading role.

Therefore, while female pirates existed, they formed the exception rather than the rule.
Those that did join looked like they were able to take care of themselves.
Much like the Swordmaidens, the women who were able to escape the settlements and prosper in the stars needed to be at least twice as ferocious as their male counterparts.

Still, male or female, a pirate remained a pirate.
Almost none of them earned an honest living.
Even in the remote galactic rim, the sheer amount of commerce that took place constantly attracted robbers, who could easily become instant millionaires after pillaging a single unsuspecting shipping vessel!

Sadly, the glamorous life of a pirate was anything but the unrealistic dramas portrayed.
Logistical and practical issues such as maintaining your own ships and mechs as well as keeping unruly, badly-educated subordinates in line consumed an awful lot of time and money.

By the time the rank and file finally obtained their share of the spoils, only breadcrumbs landed in their hands.
Perhaps their total earnings didn ’t even surpass one K-coin!

It was no surprise therefore that the pirates on shore leave at Mancroft all sought to distract themselves from their less-than-glamorous career choices.
Some were constantly drinking or injecting themselves with stimulants.
Some threw what pitiful money they saved on carnal pleasures or the feeble chance to win more money at the gambling venues.Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click for visiting.

Right now, their gambling woes became the biggest concern to Ves and his increasingly tense security guards.
The majority of the pirates placed their bets on the Deathless, a significant portion even going all in! The stupid pirates trusted the Deathless ’ of never dying on the arena grounds to double their savings.

Gosh, the sheer brainlessness of these dolts rankled Ves.
Hadn ’t they ever heard of making a proper risk-reward assessment? Couldn ’t they have one little lick of common sense in them? Just because an event was ninety percent certain to happen didn ’t mean the remaining ten percent could be ignored!

Naturally, clueless idiots who went all-in on their bets vented their frustrations in public.

”My life savings! I lost all my life savings! I was saving them up to pay for my daughter to attend an elite school! ”

”The entire grudge match was rigged! It ’s a conspiracy, I tell you! Both the Boseys and the Castle Breakers are in on it! They took all of our money in one fell swoop! ”

”The Hellvoice cheated! The Hellvoice cheated! The Hellvoice cheated! ”

”Everyone who lost out, this isn ’t the end! Don ’t let the Bosey goons shut us up! As long as we make ourselves heard, the Boseys will have no choice but to return our money! ”

A handful of exoskeleton-suited Bosey guard arrived from nowhere and approached the latest loudmouth in an indomitable march.
Their loud footsteps thundered against the rusty deck with implacable force, causing everyone ’s footing to grow to sense the rumblings come closer.

”Look! The riggers of the grudge match are coming to shut us up! Don ’t let them keep our life savings! ”


”NEVER! ” The pirate who lost everything shouted back and yanked out a laser pistol from his shoulder holster.


Before the pirate could even bring his weapon to bear, a shoulder-mounted electrorod from the Bosey guard captain fried the man to a crisp!

Electrorods were short-ranged weapons that could zap people or objects from a distance.
They worked instantly, though required a fairly careful aiming mechanism to ensure the electric bolt it projected didn ’t hit anything it wasn ’t meant to.
If anything went wrong, it could have easily diverted and hit Ves!

Mech-sized electrorods generally didn ’t show up in third-class mechs because of the high stresses needed to generate an electric bolt strong enough to damage a mech.
The melee version of the electrorods, called electrifiers, did show up now and then.

Ves knew a thing or two about electromagnetism, and knew enough about electrorods that the Bosey guard captain could have opted to dial down the power to a nonlethal setting.

Evidently, the patrol leader didn ’t want to bother with taking the desperate pirate into custody.
Right now, everyone stepped back from the epicenter of the incident as the foul smell of cooked human flesh started to proliferate.
They also didn ’t want to implicate themselves!

”Move along, folks! ” The guard captain growled.
”Unless you want to join your pal that ’s smoking like a barbeque, I suggest you move elsewhere right this instant! ”

The message was clear.
The Boseys liked their space station to be orderly, and they really didn ’t want to hear about refunds!

This kind of scene repeated many times as Ves and his escorts made their way back through the main shopping streets.
The closer they got to the arena, the more they stumbled upon the aftermath of brutal executions.

The reign of terror from the station owners succeeded in cowing the reckless gamblers into silence, for now at least.
However, whenever Ves looked into the eyes of the aggrieved visitors of the space station, he saw anything but resignation!

Nolsen noted the same thing.
”These losers will never be satisfied until they get a refund or bailout. ”

”Hmph! ” Ketis huffed.
”I don ’t get all the fuss.
They placed a bet on a candidate who ’s strong, but not invincible.
Didn ’t they get their just desserts? It ’s their fault they lost all their money! Serves them right for emptying their entire savings for a gamble! ”

Ves kept a wary eye to his surroundings.
The people milling on the crowded streets resembled a powder keg that was about to blow!

”It ’s not as simple as that, Ketis.
Think of how much they worked for to accumulate their savings.
It represents months and years of serving aboard a crappy ship, risking their lives to rob a trade vessel, fending off assaults from rivalling pirate gangs and more.
Almost literally all their lives had been wasted due to one awful decision.
Even if it ’s their fault for making such a stupidly risky bet, these bankrupted pirates don ’t want to hear anything about why they are to blame.
They ’re looking for a chance to go back in time, or failing that, a scapegoat! ”

Pirates embodied selfishness.
If anything went wrong, they were never to blame! It was always someone else ’s fault! The nature of gambling made it so that the most committed suckers sometimes tended to be the people who managed their money the worst.

Gambling was a pretty dubious way to earn more money in the first place.
It didn ’t surprise Ves that the people who were the least qualified to manage their money often splurged out the most!

And underneath it all, a different threat lurked.
The shouting about the possibility that the Hellvoice cheated her way to victory came from the most ardent fans of the Castle Breakers.

If the fans all thought this way, what about the outfit itself?

An alarm tone suddenly rang throughout the entire space station! It quickly cut off, but each and every individual stopped what they were doing!

Moments later, word spread out why the space station suddenly rang an alarm.
The Castle Breaker fleet had lurched into action! It abandoned its stable orbit in the vicinity of the Independent harbor and started to move towards the ships belonging to the Omen of Misfortune.

”Not good! ” Ketis exclaimed.
”The Castle Breakers are larger and better than the Omen of Misfortune in almost every way! The Hellvoice ’s outfit is going to lose badly if it comes to a fight! ”

Already, a minor panic broke out in the space station as worried visitors scrambled to get to their parked space vessels and move them as far away from the impending battle as possible! Even though thousands of kilometers separated their ships in orbit, that was still too close for comfort!

Worse, the losers who were irate at losing their money over their bad bets saw an opportunity.
Instead of following the visitors who were worried about their rides, the rotten gamblers started stirring up trouble again, brandishing their weapons and shouting calls for refunds!

”Oh, you fools. ” Ves sighed, already imagining the carnage that would ensue.
”Everyone! Projectiles and laser beams will start flying at any moment! Get ready to fight our way out! ”

They pulled down their faceplates to form an airtight seal.
Ves retrieved his ballistic handgun from his holster and deactivated most of its safeties.
While the military-issued firearm wasn ’t as good as his Amastendira, it was a lot less conspicuous.

The others prepared their weapons as well.
Ketis unsheathed her greatsword and flourished her naked blade as a deterrent and a threat.
Nolsen and the Vandal guards readied their heavy caliber rifles to fire at the drop of a hat.

None of this was their fault.
The Flagrant Swordmaidens just happened to stop by the Independent Harbor just as a prominent grudge match between two famous mech champions commenced.

If Ves knew the significance between the two duellists, he would have suggested to Major Verle to skip the space station!

News continued to pour in from the situation out in space.
Ves and the others had to rely on second and third-hand information to learn what went on outside.

”The Omen of Misfortune fleet is on the move! They ’re trying to run away, but they ’re failling because the Castle Breakers have a head-start! ”

”The Bosey Clan ’s spaceborn forces have deployed all of their reserves! They ’re holding their ground before their space station, but aren ’t moving in to stop the fight! ”

”Those useless cowards! ”

”Did you expect any different? ”

The grumbling of the visitors didn ’t change the stance of the Boseys.
Their highest priority was to keep the peace in the space station and to keep it together in one piece.
If they intervened in every petty conflict between two rivalling pirate gangs, then they would have lost all of their men and mechs from attrition within the year!

Too many fights erupted for all sorts of reasons that it was better to stand aside than to play the hero!

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