Chapter 181: A Shoulder to Lean On
The departure of Doctor Jutland and his gigantic Kaius mech gave the hunting platoon a much-needed reprieve. Mech technicians and supplies continued to pour down the transport at a steady rate. A maintenance team replenished some of the depleted energy cells of the battered mechs. They also replenished the Empyreans with ammunition for their railguns.
As for the Ajax Olympians, they both suffered badly in the last engagement. One heavy knight laid down on the ground with a mangled leg while the other stood haplessly with a scorched exterior. Both mechs required an extensive overhaul, something which Ves couldn’t do in the middle of an alien jungle.
In order to bring the damaged mechs back home, Ves prioritized restoring some mobility to the mech with the crippled leg. The limb suffered grievous damage, but the readings the scanner module spat out showed that he had a way out of this mess.
“Looks like the chimera mech’s teeth haven’t cut very deep.” Chief Ramirez muttered as he stood next to Ves. He gestured to the center of the wireframe leg. “While much of the outer sections are in disarray, the internal frame of the limb is still intact.”
Both of them had worried about this possibility. Since it functioned as the leg bone of the aforementioned limb, a broken internal frame meant that the mech couldn’t support its weight on the limb even if they fixed some of the internals. The Olympian simply couldn’t walk in this condition without snapping its hastily propped up leg in that case.
Fortunately, the scans revealed that the leg suffered from extensive but shallow wounds. Ves already adjusted his preliminary repair plans.
“We can get this Olympian back up its feet if we replace the broken control modules and repair some of the tears in its musculature.” Ves explained and pointed at the most critical components to repair. “At a minimum, we have to fix these areas in order to raise the load-bearing capacity of the leg. That’s the real challenge that we’re facing at the moment. Even with some patches and improvised repairs, the mech might never be able to walk on its own feet without crippling the leg again.”
Ramirez nodded, though his hazard suit hardly bobbed. “It’s this damn heavy gravity. I reckon we won’t be able to bring the mech up to a state where it can walk under its own power. A couple of Volmars are needed to support the Olympian on its way home.”
“Are you certain that the Volmars won’t get crushed under all of that weight? The moment the Olympian diverts more than twenty percent of its weight onto a Volmar, the latter mech will get crushed.”
“Let’s run the numbers then. You’re a wizard at math, right? Let’s say we fix the Olympian so that it will be able to stand and walk with assistance. If nothing else, we can employ the other Olympian as a support as well. Only a heavy mech can support another heavy mech’s weight.”
“I don’t think Captain Kaine will like that proposal.” Ves carefully replied. “We’re in a bad spot right now and Doctor Jutland might be cooking up another attack. Pinning down our remaining heavy knight leaves the hunting platoon with no viable tank that can meet the chimera mech’s charge.”
Both of them had to keep in mind that they faced a lot of constraints. Not only did they have to make repairs in the field with hardly any proper facilities at hand, they also had to keep in mind the constant threats from the environment.
“I’ll go begin to prep the leg and clean up all the ruined parts. You should stay here and refine the repair plan.”
They split up to perform their own tasks. With a mech designer like Ves on hand, Chief Ramirez didn’t have to perform a haphazard repair job that might work out for a couple of days but quickly broke down afterwards. While Ves modified the Olympians to perform beyond their safety margins, the heavy knights still had to last for at least another month.
The mech technicians started to use their limited supplies to cut open the mangled and deformed armor plating. Once they opened up the leg, they quickly tore out the internal components that looked dubious.
By the time the repair team was about to install some replacement parts, Ves finished testing out a rudimentary model. He passed on an updated repair scheme to Ramirez, who used it to guide his men in prioritizing the restoration of a small number of critical sections.
The repair team made good speed in restoring the functionality of the leg. After half a day of rushing the repairs, the Olympian managed to rise up to its feet with the assistance of the scorched Olympian. Once it stood on its own two feet, a pair of Volmars took over and carefully let the half-crippled heavy mech sling its arms around the skinnier medium mechs’ shoulders.
An awful sound of metal pressing against metal sounded out, but the Volmars hadn’t caved in yet.
A lot rested on the shoulders of the pilot of the damaged Olympian. He had to juggle between balancing the right amount of weight his mech put on its damaged leg and the shoulders of the Volmars that supported his machine. He had to put some weight on each of his supports, but not too much to overwhelm any one of them. The hunting platoon had no choice but to take it slow.
Once it became clear that their repairs accomplished something, the repair team started to pack up and lifted their gear back up to the transport.
Ensign D’Amato approached Ves as he stared out at the metal forest. “Commander Tregis has sent his compliments to you for a job well done. It will take a about two days for the hunting platoon to return to base, but at least it will be able to do so under its own power.”
He nodded at the ensign’s words, but took them lightly. Ves was only here to do a job. Once he completed his mission, they’d go their separate ways. Building up a favorable impression availed him nowhere at this moment, especially considering House Kaine’s current stance.
“I’ll return to the transport in a moment.” He answered to D’Amato. “Let me admire the scenery while I can.”
Once the nosy ensign walked away, Ves leaned his hazard suit against a metallic tree trunk and beckoned with his hands. “Lucky!”
The cat sprung out from nowhere and landed its paws in front of his feet. Lucky looked fairly frazzled at the moment. Ves quickly picked up his pet and removed the comm he slipped around the neck.
“Good work, buddy! Hopefully you got in some good shots.”
Since they arrived at this location, he let Lucky loose with his comm attached to his gem cat’s collar. Ves wore a replacement comm on his wrist that could send out simple commands to his primary comm.
The moment Doctor Kaius showed up, Ves quietly relayed a couple of commands from his replacement comm. He first sent the code to activate the Stealth Field on his primary comm along with its attached recording sensors. He then ordered Lucky to find a way to sneak inside one of the Kaius’ many holes in order to record its internal state.
While Ves also ordered Lucky to try his luck in trying to approach Doctor Jutland, the shield generator prevented his pet from getting anywhere close. If Lucky succeeded in his mission, Ves could probably look forward to a couple of minutes of valuable footage of the chimera mech’s internal makeup.
Lucky kept yowling at his owner. Ves exasperatingly made another promise.
“Okay, okay, I’ll make it up to you! Once we’re back, I’ll order another batch of luxury minerals for you to munch on.”
After placating his cat some more, Ves finally joined the rest. He stepped on a lifter platform and let it bring him back up to the hovering transport up above. It gained a few more scratches on its hull after suffering from sporadic hexabat attacks. Though the vessel boasted thicker armor than regular transports, even the smallest indigenous life forms on this planet could tear through the armor over time.
Once they finished loading all of their gear and men, the transport returned to base along with its escort. The mechs from George’s Cavalry and the Stanislaw adopted a dispersed formation and overtook the hunting platoon in their fairly brisk journey back to base. Besides encountering a couple of wild hexapods, they enjoyed a quiet trip back to the safety of the base camp’s walls.
Ves let out a deep breath. Everyone on the repair team started to relax once they realized they had a couple of very thick walls between them and the monstrous Kaius. While the frightening Doctor Jutland still had the run of the forest, at least the mech technicians didn’t have to risk their lives in the field anymore.
Ensign D’Amato received a message on his comm. Once he read his instructions, he turned to Ves. “Commander Tregis wants to debrief me in his office. While I’m gone, you should start setting up a plan to bring both Ajax Olympians back to full functionality. They’re the only mechs we have on hand that can withstand a head-on charge from both the hexapod kings and the Kaius.”
“I understand. I’ll be sure to work with the chief to set up a detailed plan.”
“Also, your presence is needed two days from now when Commander Tregis convenes a meeting on how to handle Doctor Jutland and his Kaius. Your expertise will be of vital help here. You can access the workshop’s secure terminal to look at the recordings and sensor readings we’ve taken of the Kaius.”
“I’ll be sure to do that.”
The repair team settled back in the maintenance department and immediately went to work. Ves hadn’t spent the trip back to base idling around. He already formed an extensive repair plan that saved as much time as possible.
Ves didn’t anticipate much of a challenge in this matter. The experienced mech technicians serving under Ramirez could fabricate and install the replacement parts on their own.
However, a complete repair required at least two weeks of constant working. With the limited manpower and facilities on hand, they’d waste far too much time, leaving the mercenaries out in the field without a shoulder to lean on when they encountered a hexapod king.
In order to speed up the repairs, Ves and Ramirez huddled together in order to determine which parts needed to be replaced and which parts only needed a couple of taps to bring it up and running.
“We’re cutting a lot of corners here.” Ramirez remarked as he leaned back onto his seat. They both worked for hours to complete a detailed repair scheme. “This is real sloppy work. I won’t be surprised if a few components blow apart under stress.”
“Heavy mechs have ridiculous amounts of redundancy. It can take a few malfunctions.”
The repairs of the Olympian with the crippled leg was fairly simple. In comparison, the other Olympian who bathed in the flames of the chimera mech’s breath weapon posed a thornier problem.
While the heavy knight remained functional bar the need to replace its shield, its entire frontal area had been subjected to a massive amount of heat. This not only degraded the integrity of its extremely expensive armor, it also affected the components at some level. Most of them functioned properly for now, but who knew if the Olympian could sustain its current level of performance.
Ves made a difficult suggestion. “We can keep most of the existing components in place. We should trust in the quality of the Olympian. All of its internals are rated to withstand a very high heat level already. As for its armor, we can manage for now if we settle for replacing its upper layer. It will take far too much time to fabricate replacements plates for its middle and lower layers.”
Chief Ramirez shook his head. “It takes over two days to fabricate a single plate with our facilities. The only heavy duty armor compressor in this expedition is back on the Ark Horizon. The fabricators there will have to work around the clock to form the most essential replacement plates and ship them to surface in the next couple of supply runs.”
That meant they had to pick and choose the worst sections of armor to replace. Ves didn’t look forward to making the decision. If he made the wrong judgement, the Olympian might suffer grievous damage when its armor failed to hold up against a heavy blow.