The Mech Touch Chapter 1021

1019 Possible Threats

Ves had mixed feelings about the lesson he received from Lord Javier. It basically boiled down to keeping his spine whenever he met someone of a superior class. He not only needed to remember his confidence in himself, but express it in a way that allowed him to gain the respect of others but not to the extent that earned their ire.

"How can you balance between the two?" He asked.

"Most of the time, the people you're meeting aren't worth the effort to placate." Lord Javier answered.

"I don't think that will cut it against someone like Senator Tovar."

"That old geezer is a special case. He and his club of geriatrics are really pissy about etiquette and stuff. They embodied the rules for so long that they're even willing to order the deaths of anyone who acts outside of their expectations."

Ves gulped. "How am I supposed to follow your advice in that case?"

"That's the fun of it all." The noble grinned. "Sometimes, you can get away with it. Earning a powerful person's respect is more than worth it. The better his impression of you, the more he'll be considerate of you. If it backfires, well, just consider it an instance where you gambled and lost. That's life."

"If that's the case, how are you still alive?"

Lord Javier patted his chest. "Because of my backing. Everyone who wants to touch me needs to consider the consequences. Even your Vandals never dared to chop off my head or put me through torture. You know why?"

"They're scared of provoking House Eneqqin and their allies."

"Exactly! Our house was at an apex within the Duchy of Imodris by the time I was still in charge of the Detemen System. I'm sure our prestige took a huge hit from my capture and the Vandal raid, but that's only a temporary setback. As soon as I get back and throw my weight around, our noble house's foundation will be rock solid again."

The situation at House Eneqqin seemed highly precarious to Ves. They depended too much on the powerful father-and-son duo to prop it up and remain in favor to the Duchess of Imodris. Now that Lord Javier failed in the defense of the Detemen System and got captured, one of the two legs of House Eneqqin got cut off!

Even if the noble house somehow managed to reattach its leg, the limb would never be able to function as smoothly as before. The rehabilitation process would be long and arduous, and Ves did not feel entirely hopeful that Lord Javier would have an easy time in power as before.

Of course, Lord Javier didn't express any doubts he would be able to regain his old height. Ves didn't know whether the noble was just pretending to be confident or if he really believed in his own optimistic delusion.

Either way, they still managed to grow somewhat closer despite their many differences. Ves got the sense that besides being deprived of company, Lord Javier also took pity on Ves.

It galled Ves a bit to receive the pity of a Vesian noble, but his self-respect took a backseat when it came to his current assignment. He needed to bear through the occasional indignities if he wanted to become adept at interacting with Vesian nobles and officials.

He figured he made good progress during their daily meetings. Lord Javier never bothered to adjust his attitude in front of Ves so he presented an accurate sample of how the typical Vesian noble would act.

While the Vesian peace delegation wouldn't consist entirely of nobles, it was still important for Ves to be able to gain their respect or acknowledgement when confronted.

As a week went by, Ves figured he was beginning to nail the kind of bearing and conduct suitable to mingle with the Vesians at the upcoming peace delegation.

By now, the fleet almost arrived at the borders of the Reinald Republic. However, this was also the most precarious time for the peace delegation.

The Reinald Republic's propensity of attracting pirates and all sorts of other shady outfits led to a certain amount of instability in the vicinity of the state.

While pirates and other criminals behaved relatively restrained within Reinald's borders, it was pretty much open season at the approaches to the pirate-friendly state.

A lot of illicit traffic flowed through the Reinald Republic's Harkensen System. The fleets and trade convoys that delivered the goods to the Harkensen System didn't teleport there from the other side of the star sector in an instant.

Just like any other starfaring vessel, their ships needed to hop from star to star. While port systems helped shorten the journey and increase security, such convenient steps didn't exist everywhere.

This gave wiley and greedy pirates the opportunity to intercept the shipments. Due to the nature of pirates, not everyone was as formidable or as well-equipped as the old Lydia's Swordmaidens.

In fact, a vast amount of pirates operated from a single converted carrier that hosted just a squad of shambling pirate mechs.

For these bottom feeders to take their ill-gotten goods to the Reinald Republic was nothing less than tempting fate! Larger pirate fleets that consisted of at least three or four carriers easily gobbled up these piddling little solitary pirate vessels.

Considering the strength of the Felicitous Remembrance's escorts, they should have been ruled out as a target. Hardly any pirate gang, no matter how strong, would be crazy enough to risk a direct confrontation against such a well-armed protection force.

The elite Spiral Shockers committed as much as five light carriers disguised as security company vessels from a generic-sounding company called Special Security Limited. While the SSL couldn't openly bring along combat carriers without drawing suspicion about their actual identities, all of their light carriers received a lot of reinforcement that made them substantially more resilient than a typical light carrier for sale in the private sector.

All of those carriers brought at least one full company of spaceborn mechs. While the Spiral Shockers couldn't bring along their expensive and well-designed signature mechs that embodied their names, they at least adopted some great mech models that sold well in the Bright Republic's mech market.

Ves found it regretful that his products wasn't among them, but then again he never designed a spaceborn mech for the LMC either.

"I should really plug that hole in the company's mech catalog. Landbound mechs aren't poor sellers, but spaceborn mechs are a major slice of the mech market that I can't afford to neglect."

The fleet didn't completely neglect landbound mechs either. On top of the Spiral Shockers, Ves also heard that another elite New Foundation mech regiment detached one of their landbound mech companies to the peace delegation as well.

Unfortunately, Ves didn't get to hear the details. He would learn of them soon enough once the fleet arrived at the Harkensen System and the members of the peace delegation shuttled down to the surface of Harkensen II.

Ves already visited Harkensen III and barely managed to make it out alive of Harkensen I. Hopefully, their upcoming visit to the Rittersberg-like administrative planet would progress more like the former than the latter. The Reinaldan Honored Ones should have gotten their act together after suffering a major calamity on their pleasure and tourism planet previously!

That reminded Ves of Miss Calabast and her affiliation to a hidden but surprisingly powerful force of instigators, terrorists and mass-murderers.

He never really got the full story about their abrupt attack, only that this mysterious force once placed a lot of untraceable mechs and mech pilots deep in hiding. They should have built up their strength and stayed hidden for a couple more years if the hunt for the Starlight Megalodon didn't come and provoked them into action early.

Ves suddenly paused. Could this mysterious force that originally aimed to destabilize or outright destroy Harkensen I be the greater threat that Senator Tovar cautioned about?

"It might also be something else entirely."

While none of the officials aboard the Remembrance ever defined the supposed threat, Ves basically narrowed it down to three possibilities.

"The first possibility is that it's another state within the Komodo Star Sector."

This was the simplest and most probable possibility. There were too many choices to consider, so Ves did not wish to narrow his vision by fixating on a couple of them. He just knew that it could be anyone of them. It could even be an entire coalition of neighboring third-rate states!

"The second possibility is a threat from outside the borders."

This could be either pirates or aliens. Ves pretty much ruled out pirates because he knew that neither the Dragon Alliance or the Ravienne Alliance would have the gumption to cross the CFA's bottom line by boldly crossing over into civilized space. That would just provoke the CFA into sending out their war fleets to stomp out the large and easily trackable pirate fleets.

So that left the aliens, and the only alien race of note in the vicinity of the Komodo Star Sector was the sandmen!

Could it be Sigrund stirring up the pot? Ves found it rather unlikely, but he couldn't judge Sigrund according to normal logic. The hybrid alien AI was too unfathomable for a human like Ves to predict. Perhaps he took control of the sandmen race and sent them all on a suicide charge against the Komodo Star Sector in order to further some other nefarious purpose.

"The third possibility is a threat from other star sectors."

While warfare across sector borders didn't happen all that often, it was not entirely unheard of. Star sectors mainly kept to themselves because it was very troublesome for regular starships to cross over to another star sector.

Star sectors weren't determined by drawing artificial lines through empty space! They were based on the natural gravitic fluctuations and turbulence!

In common parlance, gravitic walls separated star sectors from each other, making most conventional FTL travel that relied on transitioning into higher dimensions extremely dangerous.

However, fixed channels called gravitic streams ran through the walls at various points that provided a possibility for starships to cross into other star sectors.

Not just any ship could travel through the violent and turbulent gravitic streams. Without a robust and powerful FTL drive designed for this specific purpose, a ship could forget about surviving the journey without getting splattered all over the higher dimensions.

This didn't even include other complicating factors that made travel between star sectors so perilous and unpredictable. Phenomena such as gravitic tides and gravitic tsunamis all hindered cross-star sector travel and drove up the cost of transporting passengers and goods throughout the galaxy.

This was also the biggest reason why there was such a high threshold to importing and exporting mechs over multiple star sectors. The high prices charged by transportation, insurance and security companies involved with escorting products through a gravitic stream only made the effort worth it if the mechs involved possessed high profit margins.

If it was already this difficult to ship commercial products to other star sectors, then it was just as difficult for military forces to cross over their fleets into hostile star sectors!

"It's too troublesome."

Therefore, while invasions from one star sector to another did happen every now and then, Ves didn't figure it wasn't worth the trouble in this case. The Majestic Teal and Vicious Mountain Star Sectors that bordered the Komodo Star Sector both needed to unite before they would ever contemplate such a risky venture!

As Ves continued to juggle between the three possibility within his mind, an alarm suddenly sounded out.

It was a very familiar alarm to Ves. "A hostile force has arrived!"

Right now, the peace delegation's fleet had just stopped over in a well-frequented star system and just waited to cycle their FTL drives before making the next hop.

However, a major pirate fleet suddenly transitioned out of FTL close enough to pose an acute threat to the fleet!