The Mech Touch Chapter 281

Chapter 281: Convergence
Thousands, if not tens of thousands of ships converged upon the Glowing Planet. Much of them consisted of cheap converted transports, but some of them boasted enough tonnage to overrun a small planet in a day.The Glowing Planet's fate was sealed as soon as the trade convoy led by the Calcardon had stumbled upon it. Even if every crew member aboard every ship swore an oath of silence, word of the miraculous planet's existence would have still been leaked.Now, a horde of locusts descended upon its virgin lands, the trade convoy first among them. Driven by rapacious greed, all of the haulers and mercenary carriers ignored their contractual obligations in favor of descended upon the planet.Even if they lacked the specialized mining equipment to get at the most valuable ores, they still thought they could get their hands on some valuable chunks."Even if we can't find any rocks, we can still use the weapons equipped on our mechs!"The hasty approach didn't end well for them. They underestimated the anomalies such active planets induced upon their environments. Even their orbits suffered from its chaotic wrath.It took only a single day for the Calcardon to fall. Her hull stretched to pieces as she suddenly fell into a swirling tide of gravitic pressure. None of her crew and mechs survived.Some of the other vessels in the former trade convoy could have pulled away from the planet, if not leave its vicinity altogether. Yet in their haste to harvest the Glowing Planet's treasures, they ignored the Calcardon's fate and dismissed the incident as a low-probability occurrence."The Barbed Lynxes had it coming. There's no way the same thing will happen to us!"They vastly underestimated the hazards.By the second day, no more ships remained in orbit. Random spasms in the fabric of reality had rent most of them apart across time and space. Some pieces of debris had even crossed back into time, not that it mattered since they largely floated in the humongous void of interstellar space.Meanwhile, the Glowing Planet continued to drift away in space. Soon its journey would bring it outside the borders of the Republic. At least, that would have happened if humanity hadn't gotten word of its existence.Aboard the flagship of the Blood Claws, Raella relentlessly trained her physical body in preparation for the hard slog ahead. She had locked herself inside a hard light simulation cage, which presented a variety of projected thugs and beasts for her to dance around and knock them out with her arms and legs. She dexterously weaved between the savage imitations of life and dismantled them with ruthless efficiency.Once the simulation ended, she exited the cage while letting a bot wipe away her sweat and freshen up her body. "Wooh! I broke my record!""Great job!" Dietrich said from the side. He already finished his daily marksmanship training. "Let's go eat some chow."They walked over to the mess hall a few decks above the massive fleet carrier. Unlike Walter's Whalers, the Blood Claws knew how to keep their ship running. Hardly any spec of dust marred its gleaming corridors. That might soon change once the campaign heated up, but for now, the Blood Claws looked prime and ready to go to war.Once they sat down at a table, a pair of bots automatically delivered a meal tailored to their tastes and their bodily needs. Raella eagerly grabbed her drink and gulped down half of it in an instant."I've been talking with Ves a few times. He's eager to meet you again once we make landfall."Raella pressed her lips. "It's touching to hear he cares, but he didn't need to travel all the way here. He should have stayed back on your miserable little farm planet.""Hey! Cloudy Curtain isn't bad once you get to appreciate its charm!""Whatever you say, farm boy."They paused their discussion to eat. Both had become famished after finishing their training. The food easily slipped down their throats as they devoured their meals."You know, it's not going to be easy to survive down there." Dietrich started up again. "I've been hearing some news that the anomalies around the planet has already claimed the lives of an entire trade convoy. If it's already so bad up in orbit, it's surely going to be worse on the surface.""Even if that's true, the Blood Claws or the Mech Corps will figure something out. They're not going to let a bunch of unruly special effects ruin the harvest of the century."Dietrich hoped the people upstairs remained clueless. As long as they didn't figure out an answer to tackle the anomalies, Raella wouldn't get the opportunity to descend with the rest of the Blood Claws.He discreetly shook his head. Since when did he care so much about a girl? He had plenty of flings in the past. Why did Raella catch his heart?As he stared intently at she tackled her dessert, he figured he became attracted to her strength. A dump like Cloudy Curtain couldn't have produced a woman so skilled at piloting mechs.Dietrich loved her exuberance, but did Raella love him back? Perhaps she treated him like he treated his former flings. It didn't help that her abrupt decision to join this expedition had introduced some friction in their relationship."Babe, I won't argue about your desire to make landfall. I know how much you crave action. Just let me be with you. I'll back you up as best I can.""Awww, you're so sweet, Dietrich!" Raella laughed. "All of the boys at Rittersberg would have been too busy turning up their noses at the sky to think about protecting me. But really, I don't need your coddling. I can handle myself, no matter what the Glowing Planet throws at us.""It's not the Glowing Planet I'm afraid of. Well, that's not true. I am afraid of it, but I'm more scared about the riff raff that will arrive in the next couple of days.""I'm sure we'll be able to clean them all up. Trash will be trash. I've dealt with several of them when I fought in the underground arenas."Dietrich grabbed her hands and clasped them in his own. "I still worry about you. All the real opponents you've faced so far are rejects compared to the pilots who joined the military.""I know how good they are. I'm a Larkinson, remember? Even if they can kick my butt, I'll make sure to kick theirs in return, just like what Melinda did to Captain Vicar."Her tone betrayed a hint of envy. Why did Melinda get to show off the Blackbeak in a crowded arena? That should have been Raella! Even if she didn't specialize in piloting mechs, she still would have managed to deal with the pressure.In a way, she craved to prove her courage, to test whether she had what it took to be a Larkinson. She couldn't wait for the war to erupt and she didn't think she'd see any action anyway if she kept patrolling some stupid workshop.The Blood Claws presented an opportunity for her to make her mark. Her biggest aim was to distinguish herself in battle.While Raella dreamt about overshadowing Melinda, plenty of other people aspired to fulfill their goals in the upcoming campaign.Over a third of the Bright Republic's mercenary corps had converged around a small number of charismatic mercenary leaders. While no single mercenary corps possessed the numbers to defend themselves against a major power, the balance of power changed if they managed to unite.The emergence of the so-called mercenary lords allowed the smaller outfits to band together to form a temporary alliance. While none of them really trusted their colleagues to risk their lives for a couple of strangers, they still shared enough in common to let a lord order them around.Of course, that only held if they got paid. An alliance would instantly disintegrate if the lord became incapable of delivering the goods.Thus, the leaders faced a lot of pressure to succeed in their expeditions. They'd be ruined if they left with empty hands. The mercenaries that tentatively answered their calls could easily turn against the lords if they showed an inkling of weakness.Interestingly enough, many of the mercenaries piloted mechs designed by Ves. For the first time in his career, a large number of his products would be tested in an actual combat situation.And what a test it represented! The fight over the Glowing Planet would definitely spark more than a couple of cautious skirmishers. Wealth had a way of infecting the most prudent individuals with boundless greed. No one was in a mood to back off. Not at this stage.The mercenaries brought two distinct models to the war zone. First, the Marc Antony Mark II's had become a staple in some mercenary corps. While the LMC never produced very much of them, they still brought a lot of value to the smaller and less financially capable outfits.The only downside to the Mark II's was that they only functioned for a relatively short period of time. Much like the Havalax, the Mark II excelled at forcing a quick resolution of a battle. Fortunately, the hybrid mech possessed many tools to force such an outcome.As for the Blackbeaks, many of their owners and mech pilots had barely gotten a grip on them. The design showed a lot of promise, but aside from a single publicised duel, the Blackbeak hadn't been tested for the role it had been designed to fulfill.Still, the pilots believed in the machines. The Blackbeaks looked and felt impressive. Actually piloting the wondrously crafted machines proved to be a sublime experience, especially for the limited number of gold label mechs.EME actually produced most of the Blackbeaks in the hands of the mercenaries going to war. The affordable and more easily available silver label mechs didn't match the quality of the original version, but that didn't lessen their value by much. The guts looked the same no matter their labels, and their pilots readily entrusted their lives to their impressive machines.It could be said that a lot of eyes kept an eye on the Blackbeak. They wanted to see whether offensive knight had what it took to fight a war. Many professionals with money to spare eagerly awaited the final verdict on the design.As for Ves, he faced a much more pressing priority. Getting the sad excuses of his mech technicians to work."Come on, Mr. Larkinson!" A sleazy-looking fellow whined. "I just checked the integrity of the armor like you told me to do. There aren't any cracks worth mentioning!""Lucky."His mechanical cat jumped from its perch on his shoulder and jumped straight past the bewildered technician."OUCH! That hurt!"Lucky only needed to mark their skins to provide an abject lesson on why they should listen to Ves."Don't try to fool my eyes. I know my mechs, and my judgement is telling me that this light mech needs another set of armor. So get off your lazy but and scan it again!""Yes, boss!"Ves shook his head as the tech scurried back to the scanners. The main issue that plagued the mechs owned by the Whalers was that the mech technicians lacked supervision. They didn't hire a chief technicians to ride on their backs.This left Ves with the tiresome job of hounding the awful technicians to do the work they should have been doing from the start."Really, they've cut so many corners that these mechs could have been round at this point. It's truly a wonder that the Whalers haven't collapsed from all the rust."It truly vexed Ves to know how badly the Whalers handled their logistics. He wasn't even sure if a single whaler besides Dietrich even knew what that word meant.