The Mech Touch Chapter 1027
1025 Four Pods
Captain Yemona Hoskie led her men to the bridge situated at the upper decks. They moved through empty corridors and ignored the handful of bodies and marks of damage. The pirates had swept through the corridors, killing those moving in the open.
Everyone puzzled over the identity of their captives. Earlier, they attempted to interrogate the wounded pirates along with their remarkably well-equipped leader, but they all committed suicide at the same time.
"Suicide implants." Lord Javier huffed over his private comm channel with Ves as he paced alongside his guards. No one else appeared interested in what he had to say, least of all Captain Hoskie. "No ordinary pirates would let someone implant them with those. If that isn't proof that they're not actually pirates, then you might as well cut me in half with that ridiculous laser weapon of yours."
"Do you recognize them perhaps?" Ves asked.
"No. I don't feel they're Vesian. Although they didn't live long enough for me to observe much at all, the pirates have this rough and ruthless quality to them that's far from the attitude ingrained in the Vesian underclasses."
Ves concurred with Javier. "They're far too disciplined and stoic to resemble the pirates from the frontier. There's little chance that they're elites from the Ravienne Alliance, though there's a small possibility that they are dispatched by the Dragon Alliance. It wouldn't make much sense, though. We are quite a distance away from the frontier and as far as I know, the pirates don't have much interest in meddling with our two states."
That only left one probably possibility.
"Dark mercenaries." Lord Javier said.
Killers for hire, the famed dark mercenaries who mainly based themselves in the Nyxian Gap earned their living through dishonorable means. Different from pirates who mainly relied on opportunistic preying of trade ships, dark mercenaries hired themselves out from the deepest depths of the underground.
They didn't work for everyone. Through intermediaries and trusted agents, they matched up with upstanding companies that sought to take care of something violently without the risk of tying the crimes back to their names.
Certain companies paid extremely well for these services. In general, a well-established dark mercenary corps not only lasted longer, they received better and much more regular earnings.
However, it wasn't so easy to establish a dark mercenary corps that companies would be willing to employ. Betrayals happened so often in this murky service industry that reputation and a track record of following through on agreements mattered a lot to both the clients and the service providers.
The high barrier of entry meant that only a relatively small number of long-standing dark mercenary corps ever endured for more than a decade. However, those who managed to survive the initial period would always be able to gain enough reputation to keep the repeat clients coming.
Dark mercenaries earned huge amounts of money. They faced less risks than most pirates but got to earn just as much if not more than even the more successful pirate gangs.
The difference between pirates and dark mercenaries also extended to their training. The latter mostly consisted of military mech pilots or veteran mercenaries with serious behavioral problems or gone afoul with the law.
Unlike the barely trained scum that made up most of the pirate mech pilots, dark mercenaries held themselves to a higher standard.
The discipline and training displayed by the so-called 'pirates' pointed strongly towards dark mercenaries. Still, Ves did not entirely know if they made use of suicide implants wired to a remote signal or some sort of trigger.
"Maybe they're commandos or intelligence operatives." Ves guessed.
Javier shrugged under his hazard suit. "Who knows. There are too many possibilities to guess, but personally I'm leaning towards dark mercenaries."
This speculation didn't help them all that much, but it did give Ves an idea on who they faced. Not everyone made use of well-trained soldiers and stealth shuttles, but some of the better and more renowned dark mercenaries were every bit as good as the commando forces employed by states.
Soon enough, they reached the deck which hosted the bridge compartment. They encountered a pair of pirates stationed at the main stairway, who instantly panicked and tried to run and warn their comrades.
Hoskie's men managed to gun them both down, but they weren't pleased.
"The pirates are probably warned of our presence." The captain predicted. "We've lost the element of surprise."
Even so, they still forged onwards, duty-bound to assist Senator Tovar. As they got nearer to the bridge, they encountered a security checkpoint that had been overwhelmed and taken over by pirates.
Even though the defensive fixtures received a lot of damage, they still offered much more cover than the completely open corridor leading up to the checkpoint.
"This is not advantageous to us." Captain Hoskie observed. "Even with our superior equipment, the pirates stationed twice as many men as ours. With the advantage of cover, they'll hold out long enough that they could easily bleed us dry if they're determined to fight."
Regular pirates folded easily when faced with stiff opposition. Ves did not have any illusion that these fake pirates followed such behavior.
"What do we do?" He asked. There was a reason why Captain Hoskie said those words in the common communication channel instead of keeping her doubts to herself. "Some of those pirates are carrying heavy weapons."
"I heard that you have a very nasty surprise."
In the end, the security checkpoint offered no hindrance to the two consecutive cutting beams that cut apart most of the cover and the pirates hiding behind. The pirates somehow hadn't been in touch with their comrades assaulting the armory, so they did not expect the attack at all. As Captain Hoskie and her men cleaned up the rest, Ves found that discrepancy to be very useful.
"The pirates jammed all long-ranged comms, preventing us from linking up but crippling their own means of contacting each other as well." He observed with a grin. "Usually, that works in their favor, but not this time."
Even so, the jamming prevented the scattered security officers from linking up and coordinating with each other which helped the intruders a lot so far. The defenders of the ship might be elites, but they expected a lot more help from the Remembrance's internal defenses.
If not for the complete loss of power, these pirates wouldn't have stood a chance as the artificial gravity slammed them up and down between the ceiling while turrets deployed from above and from the sides to pepper them with lasers and projectiles.
There was no use crying over the extent of the sabotage. They moved on past the fallen security checkpoint and moved on to the bridge.
Upon their arrival, they saw that they arrived too late. "The pirates forced through the blast doors!"
The bridge of the Remembrance should have been the thickest and most well-armored compartment of the ship. Yet a huge hole rested at the site where Ves attempted to enter only to be denied by the guards.
"How can this be?" Ves wondered. "If there's anything I know about the bridge, it's that those blast doors are much thicker and tougher than the blast doors protecting the armory!"
As the center of the operation of the ship and the principal station for the captain and Senator Tovar, the bridge was exceedingly well-protected. Yet somehow the pirates broke through anyway, and with explosive ordnance far more potent than anything they used before. The site of the ruined blast doors was so ruined that a huge chunk of the ceiling, deck and surrounding bulkheads had been blasted apart as well!
Captain Hoskie hastily led her men into the vulnerable bridge, only to encounter more than thirty bodies.
"All of the dead are bridge officers and security officers!" Ves stated with alarm.
The guards quickly scoured over the bodies, seeing no dead pirates among them. Instead, suspicious piles of ash and melted puddles suggested that the pirates cremated their dead and all of their gear with incendiary charges.
"Senator Tovar isn't among the dead. Neither can we find the bodies Colonel Xelven and Professor Ventag."
The chances were low that the pirates bothered to cremate them. It was much more likely that they'd been kidnapped!
Ves quickly observed something important. "The heat from these marks are still hot. They might not have gotten away from the ship yet! We can still catch up to them and their captives!"
"Let's move!" Hoskie immediately called.
They moved out and through the help of some advanced tracking software that followed residual footsteps taken by the pirates as they made their way out. They hurried down several stairways that led to the middle decks.
No hangar bay resided on the deck the pirates had reached, which meant they were trying to extract through a hole in the hull!
"Hurry up, we're getting close!"
The lack of artificial gravity hindered their movements as they always needed to fully place their magboots against the deck to gain traction. Ves and Lord Javier both moved the slowest by fair, but the exoskeleton soldiers simply picked them up and easily carried them forward.
It was a bit undignified to be carried this way, but it saved them precious seconds.
"We've almost reached the exterior of the Remembrance!"
Soon enough, they rounded another corner and came within sight of a large group of pirates with much better gear. They carried four pods that looked as if they held prisoners to the breached entrance to a large stealth shuttle that had opened its hatch to receive the returning pirates.
"Stop them immediately!" Captain Hoskie ordered and fired her heavy caliber rifle. "Ves, sweep up the pirates in the periphery. In no instance should you fire anywhere close to those pods!"
Ves inwardly grumbled about being ordered around, but he knew better than to make a fuss about it. Right now, rescuing Senator Tovar and the other prisoners took priority! If Ves slipped up his aim and hit one of those pods, he might as well give up his citizenship at the spot!
The heavily-armed exoskeleton soldiers ran to the front, confronting the fifty pirates head-on. The enemy enjoyed a heavy numerical advantage, and unlike the previous pirates they met these ones shed the pretence of dressing up as pirates in favor of better gear!
Even so, no matter how well their combat armor stood up agains the firepower of the Spiral Shocker security guards, when Ves swept up the left and right sides with the high-powered cutting beams from his Amastendira, a multitude of invaders fell or lost composure!
Even as Ves threw the Amastendira back into his Inventory after it entered a forced cooldown cycle, Captain Hoskie's men instantly finished off the remainder with well-aimed shots before they could harm their prisoners!
Unfortunately, one of them managed to unload a volley of rounds right through one of the thinly-armored pods, while another threw a grenade at another pod which heavily damaged its exterior!
Captain Hoskie cursed and ran forward without any regard for her safety. While her men repelled the waiting stealth shuttle and executed the pirates somehow clinging onto their lives, she approached the two damaged pods. Ves and Lord Javier followed suit when it seemed the coast was clear.
She first studied the worst pod that was riddled with holes. Its interior was exposed to vacuum, which quickly distorted the appearance of the dead body inside. She quickly sighed in relief. "It's the captain of the Remembrance."
Although it was callous of her to show relief, everyone was glad the dead body wasn't Camden Tovar.
She then checked the other pod which held another prisoner. The fragmentation grenade that landed on top of it not only dented the pod but breached it in several places.
This time, she looked down in alarm. "It's Senator Tovar!"
As soon as she pried open the damaged cover of the pod, the old man calmly climbed out of the pod. He showed no injury at all despite the fragmentation grenade!
"No need to worry, good captain. My shield generator protected me from harm." The senator calmly stated in his intact high-quality vacsuit and looked around. "My compliments to you, captain."
"Thanks, but we mostly managed to rescue you because of Mr. Larkinson." Captain Hoskie admitted honestly.
That caused the powerful senator to look towards Ves, who was in the middle of prying open the cover to the pod that held Professor Ventag.