The Mech Touch Chapter 1330
1328 Human Investmen
The next day, Ves and his staff said farewell to Kelandra and took a shuttle ride to orbit. They reached a space station orbiting a moon and took another ride back to Barracuda.
"Welcome aboard, sir." Crindon greeted Ves at the entry hatch. "We've made some minor overhauls to some of the systems of your ship. Please mind your step as some of the sections are still being worked on by her crew and myself."
Ves noted that some of the deck panels had been removed in order to access the ship components underneath.
Having performed similar kind of work in the past during the war, he recognized that Crindon had been in the process of replacing one of the Barracuda's many internal communication nodes.
"Keep up the good work."
"Thank you, sir."
"How long will this go on?"
"Months." His new security expert admitted. "The crew and I are trying to accomplish as much as possible before we arrive at the drydock we've booked at the Sentinel Kingdom. In the meantime, much of the internal communication and monitoring system will be taken offline as we can't determine to what extent they've been compromised."
Ves frowned at that. "Will that impact the functioning of my ship?"
"Not as much as you think." The Kinner bondsman smiled. "Your comm is sufficient to keep you securely connected to the ship's virtual network. The signal transmissions may be a little weaker than you'd like, but you won't notice the difference during normal usage."
The overhaul would continue to take place during travel. Even if Crindon cut the wrong cable or something, it wasn't as if the Barracuda would crash out of FTL. Starships featured a lot more redundancy and could still maintain some functionality even if they lost a third of their hulls.
After inquiring a bit more about the nature of the ongoing overhaul, Ves left the matter in Crindon's hands. While he could assist his subordinates in replacing the suspect parts with new ones, it was a waste of time for him to engage in this kind of menial labor.
He was a mech designer! Even if he'd been distracted by his hiring decisions lately, that did not detract from the fact that he should be spending most of his time on his work!
"I really should start coming up with a vision for my upcoming design project." He muttered to himself.
After waving Crindon goodbye, he entered the bridge in order to check up with Captain Silvestra before retiring to his stateroom.
While Lucky jumped to his bed in order to take a nap, Gavin and Nitaa both stood before his desk.
Each of them had something to address. Ves looked at the two of them before gesturing towards his executive assistant.
"You first, Benny."
"Ahem. I was just checking in with Commander Cinnabar. His fleet is already prepared to depart. All supplies have been loaded and the two Ingvars are safely aboard the Ion Tracker, though squeezing in their mechs took a lot of effort. They had to be stowed in the cargo bay, which means that deploying them during a battle is exceedingly risky."
With the addition of the Battle Criers, the Barracuda no longer traveled by herself. She formed the center of a new formation of five additional vessels.
Two of them consisted of the light carriers of the Battle Criers.
The Ion Tracker was the flagship of the Battle Criers and hosted their spaceborn mech contingent. Commander Cinnabar also resided on the Ion Tracker and could even take to the field with his personal striker mech if the situation became dire.
Their second light carrier was the Glaze Hopper, which hosted all of the landbound mechs of the Battle Criers. The Glaze Hopper was just as fast and agile as Ion Tracker but possessed the additional ability to land on planets as long as the gravity wasn't too high.
She was no combat carrier though. Just like every light carrier, their armor left a lot to be desired. Armor was by far the most expensive component of a ship, and most mercenaries couldn't afford to purchase anything but the vessels with the barest amount of protection.
Aside from these swift but highly fragile light carriers, the Battle Criers also brought along three additional vessels.
The Purple Star functioned as their logistics ship. She was smaller and less potent than any other logistics ships that Ves encountered. Her industrial capacity was tiny, but it was sufficient to service the needs of two regular mech companies during ordinary times.
The Belfast and Okuri were a pair of transport ships that carried most of the Kinner outfit's supplies. Smaller and lighter than a typical cargo hauler, they were also capable of landing on a planet. The Battle Criers often made use of this fact in the past by stuffing their cargo holds full with loot and salvage they scavenged off the battlefields.
As Ves recalled the composition of the Battle Crier fleet, he realized that each of its vessels shared a common trait.
They were fast. When Commander Cinnabar slowly built up his fleet, he prioritized the acquisition of fast but affordable starships.
Each of the vessels accelerated decently fast and their thrust-to-mass ratio each surpassed that of a skinny cargo hauler.
This turned the Battle Crier fleet into a fairly mobile element that could outrun any superior opponent while catching up to most inferior prey.
This was the kind of fleet composition one would find from a raiding force or a pirate force.
Obviously, the Battle Criers penchant for offensive missions was partially due to the vulnerability of their ships. They were very vulnerable to enemy fire if they ever ran into ambush. By taking action themselves, the Battle Criers could stow their ships somewhere safe and deploy their mechs at their leisure.
This didn't mean that their vessels fell apart after suffering a single volley of enemy fire, but Ves understood what Cinnabar meant when he said they were not used to taking on defensive missions.
"There are only two issues." Gavin continued, bringing Ves' attention back to the conversation. "First, the Ingvar siblings aren't really getting along well with the Battle Criers. Imon and Casella Ingvar may have fallen on hard times, but they used to be of noble blood. As for the Battle Criers"
Ves immediately understood the problem. "Most of their ranks consists of Kinner vatters. The lowest-born citizens of the Kinner Tribe."
"Exactly. The two are getting along like fire and water by all accounts."
Ves sighed. The Battle Criers were a bunch of ruffians, which was fine to Ves but not to those who used to be aristocrats.
While he was tempted to order the Ingvar twins to tough it out and learn what mercenary life was really like, he didn't want to push them too far. Unlike the Kinner bondsmen he acquired, hired hands such as the Ingvars could leave whenever their contract ran out.
If Ves mistreated the pair two much, he could say goodbye to studying and exploiting their special spiritual property.
He sighed. "Call Commander Cinnabar and tell him to send the two brats to the Barracuda via shuttle. I'll take the pair off his hands for now."
"I'm sure the Ingvar siblings will be much relieved at your choice. However, taking them aboard this ship will mean they'll have to take a shuttle ride back to the Ion Tracker in case you want them to deploy with their mechs. The delay will be quite significant."
"I know, Benny, but the Battle Criers are already capable of fielding forty spaceborn mechs. If any threat we encounter is too much to handle for a full mech company, then adding an extra two mechs won't make much of a difference."
While neither of them thought this was the right solution, Ves couldn't come up with a better solution off the top of his head.
Once Gavin relayed the instructions, he addressed another issue.
"The second point I wanted to raise with you is our next destination. The situation at the Chuko Republic has deteriorated in recent weeks. Back when we set your itinerary, the news coming out of Chuko hadn't sounded this bad. I highly suggest you reconsider stopping by this state."
"It's still within an acceptable range." Ves retorted. "All the trouble popping up in the news happens in the periphery of the state. We are traveling nowhere near the trouble spots."
"I don't know, boss. If you ask me, Chuko is like a powder keg that can erupt at any moment. The central government is already on the edge of teetering."
"They've been saying that for years." Ves casually waved his hand. "A complete breakdown of order benefits no one except pirates. Everyone with a stake in the conflict is better off with the status quo."
Gavin failed to change his mind. Even though his concerns were valued, this only made the Chuko Republic more attractive.
A ton of different outfits and forces frequently clashed in the state. It had become a melting pot of various influences. Its weak internal security allowed neighboring states, dark mercenaries and even clandestine powers from Vicious Mountain to treat its territory as their playground.
A low-intensity struggle for power paralyzed the weak republic for two decades and counting, but the seeds of the conflict had been laid a long time ago. The trajectory of the Chuko Republic deteriorated with each year that passed, and the common citizens were the biggest victims of the lack of stability.
Compounding the problems plaguing the state was its enduring brain drain. Every professional with valuable skills emigrated elsewhere as soon as they could book a passage.
Even though the government and the local powers did their best to hinder the outflow of valuable scientists, doctors, administrators, artists, mech designers and mech pilots, they simply didn't have the strength to form effective blockades.
Blockades were very expensive. While they hindered people from leaving, they also hindered everyone trying to enter. The state couldn't afford to put up too many barriers lest they scare away the meager amount of trade that still sustained its fractured economy.
Certainly, anyone who heard about Chuko's conditions would steer away from the state like Ves ran away from Gloriana on their first date.
Not this time. Gloriana might creep him out, but the chaotic situation at Chuko was a walk in the park compared to the pervasive danger in the frontier.
Gavin sunk his shoulders and slunk out of the compartment. He did not look forward to entering a state where half-a-dozen skirmishes erupted on a daily basis.
That left Fe Nitaa.
"I won't need you looming over my shoulder while I'm in my stateroom."
"I'll stand guard outside the hatch."
"No need. Just relax or train. No one is able to sneak aboard our ship while we're traveling faster than light."
"I will still stand guard regardless during the periods when this ship is out of FTL."
Ves sighed. "Fine. Just don't tire yourself out, alright?"
"I can manage, sir." The tall woman grunted. "I am still getting used to my position."
"We're all getting used to this situation. I'm confident you can fulfill your duties."
"While I appreciate your confidence, I can't do everything."
"Look, I've already discussed this." He sighed. "Even if you aren't equal to the better bodyguards on Bloodstone, I'm more than willing to invest in your training. Gavin should have already set up a budget for you and Crindon. Both of you will be allowed to study and train in your free time."
Both Nitaa and Crindon received a couple of million bright credits each, which was more than sufficient for them to purchase specialized handbooks and virtual training courses from the galactic net.
Once Ves returned to the Bright Republic, he planned to usher his two bondsmen into specialized training programs. While the Kinner Tribe did a decent job in educating them both, they still had a lot more to go, and Ves was willing to invest in their development in order to increase their value.
Since both Kinners were in it for the long haul, he might as well try to elevate their quality so that he'd be able to enjoy a handsome return on investment over the lifetime of his bondsmen!
"Gotta milk them cows!" He grinned under his breath.
Ves awkwardly coughed. "Nothing."