The Mech Touch Chapter 328

Chapter 328: Loop
In a battle between forces comprised of over one division, the worth of a single mech had been reduced to almost nothing.Mechs continued to fall and ships sustained more and more damage. The willingness to fight on and inflict more casualties to the opponents continued to burn unabated.From the initial explosive start, the battle had turned into a lower-intensity battle of attrition. The two fleets widened the distance between each other and started rotating their spent mechs in and out of their carriers in order to replenish or perform some emergency repairs.Even though the Mech Corps and the Mech Legion worked their mechs and mech pilots to the bone, they only had each other in their sights. No matter how much they suffered, as long as their enemies suffered with them, their willingness to get back in space remained steady.The momentous battle had a profound effect on Ves, especially when Dietrich returned with wounds."Will he make a recovery?""He's still in one piece." Someone said. "That's good, right? When a cockpit is breached, the pilot is always dead. Dietrich only got away with a couple of hard bumps so he should be back on his feet in no time."Ves truly hoped his friend would recover. The Whalers had suffered enough on the Glowing Planet and losing another ship from the Vesian sneak attack put them in a very somber mood.He left the hangar bay and returned to engineering before stepping up to the command console again. Once he activated the plot of the local space, he noted that the two fleets still hadn't shown any signs of retreating.From his observations of this battle, he made two conclusions.First, the mercenary corps and gangs stood no chance against a military force. While the mechs of the Mech Legion didn't always trump over the mechs of the private sector, the level of training, discipline and coordination became a huge force multiplier that mowed down any undisciplined group of mechs."No wonder Dietrich hadn't made it. As far as the Mech Legion is concerned, he's a lone wolf with nobody else to back him up."Second, the battle also showcased that the best mechs didn't always prevail. Some of the bigger outfits like the Blood Claws fielded advanced mechs piloted by their best champions. These mechs cost about the same as the Bloodbeak and featured compressed armor and a robust flight system.They should have stolen the show when they faced a squad of cheaper Vesian mechs, but in actuality the opposite happened. The Mech Legion had no scruples in ganging up on these elites with an abundance of frontline space mechs.These frontline space mechs utilized designs that barely looked like mechs. They resembled spacecraft with arms, as their legs had been made redundant entirely. Instead, the designers extended the waist and stuffed some extra thrusters to enhance their forward acceleration.Ves estimated that frontline space mechs like these shouldn't cost more than 15 million credits. On the plot, eight of them managed to isolate an advanced mech from its escorts. They pelted the unfortunate mech from all sides and quickly overwhelmed its defenses, shooting it into pieces.The unlucky mech pilot managed to eject in time, but the Mech Legion didn't let it off and sent out a single frontline space mech to tear it to shreds."Numbers and skill matter more than quality in a large scale battle like this. The value of an advanced is marginal in these circumstances."At best, a comech with compressed armor lasted a little longer in battle. If they pilot didn't possess the skill to back up his daring, even a comech wouldn't be able to save his life.Ves understood now why the Mech Corps and the Mech Legion utilized frontline mechs and employed regular mech pilots with no prospect of advancing into a higher tier.He also understood why the military let go of the advanced mech pilots who possessed some talent."It's better to form a large, cohesive force than a smaller number of unruly elites."The entire battle lit up a light inside his mind. His conception of mechs and their use on the battlefield evolved to take into account a new kind of situation. Even though Ves had read the theory on the use of mechs in massive battlefields, he almost entirely forgot about it. Only when he truly came in touch with mass death and slaughter did he admit that he'd been wrong.He kind of understood the System's insistence on proliferating his designs. A top mech designer should not only aim to design the most exquisite mechs for the most elite pilots, but they should also be able to design affordable mechs for the common mech pilots.Witnessing hours-long struggle fanned his desire to design a cheaper mech. The quality and performance between the different bottom-tier designs varied wildly.Ves had already seen the worst in the mechs of the Whalers. The designs utilized by the Mech Corps and Mech Legion possessed a lot more refinement without letting the cost get out of control.Seeing them in action taught Ves a lot about how the mech pilots squeezed every bit of potential out of their modest mechs. From moving in unison to focusing their fire, the importance of teamwork could not be overstated.He also understood why mech pilots enjoyed much more prestige than the mech designers who made their machines."The differences between mechs don't matter that much compared to the training of the mech pilots who use them. Just when Ves thought this battle would continue until the losses grew to an unsustainable level, a sudden accident on the battlefield changed the entire equation.The Mech Legion occasionally launched a volley of torpedoes at the ships of the Mech Corps. Most of the time, the Volari Starhawks and the other regiments of the Mech Corps whittled them down before they impacted a ship, but the extended engagement had reduced their number to half.In those circumstances, the Mech Corps still expected to be able to shoot down the torpedo volleys.Yet the Mech Legion didn't send out a regular volley this time. They held back beforehand to lull the Mech Corps in a sense of complacency.Their next volley carried fifty percent more torpedoes this time.The moment the Vesians launched their latest volley, the Mech Corps knew they'd fallen into a trap.Many mechs of the Volari Starhawks tried to disentangle from their dance with the Grand Chasers, but failed to break away. The Grand Chasers knew that this was their coup-de-grace and did all they could to bind the Starhawks in place.The other regiments that hovered close to the fleet went in action to take out the torpedoes. While they felled a fair number of explosive payloads, it was never enough as the surviving torpedoes filtered through the dense rain of fire.Even though a handful of ranged mechs hastily emerged from the carriers to help out their comrades, a couple of torpedoes still made it through in the end.Four ships suffered severe damage. One torpedo missed its mark due to being subjected by an intense amount of ECM.However, its programming forced it to continue on with its terminal flight and just happen to strike a nearby ship.The damaged ship just happened to be a transport carrying a large-scale dimensional smoother.The moment the ship blew up, a strange pulse of spacetime wracked the impact site. The immediate area around the wreckage deformed in some way. The mechs nearest to the damaged site splintered apart into tiny hand-sized pieces as if their mechs ran through an indestructible net.The disaster spooked the Mech Corps, and the brass quickly issued a call for a general retreat.The massive fleet comprised of the ships from the Bright Republic finally moved away from their Vesian counterparts.The Volari Starhawks pulled back as well. Though some of the Grand Chasers showed signs of moving in pursuit, they received orders to pull back as well.As the distance quickly widened, the mechs stopped shooting each other as their shots increasingly missed the mark."Why did they retreat all of a sudden?"He understood why the Mech Corps retreated in the face of such a disaster. Without the dimensional smoother keeping the local spacetime stable, they risked getting felled by another anomaly. They had to rearrange their formation as quickly as possible and that took time.The Mech Legion should have pushed their advantage and exploit the opening revealed by the Mech Corps.Then, he looked at the live feed of the area in space where the dimensional smoother had been torn apart. Debris thrown away from the explosion halted their outward expansion and started to reverse.The site of the explosion thrummed and vibrated as if a singularity came into being.Instead, something more miraculous happened. Time seemed to reverse as the broken parts converged into one. A blast reappeared, but this time it started outwards and compressed inward like an implosion. The debris lost their deformations and slotted back into a single whole transport as if it had never been destroyed in the first place.The torpedo that struck it got restored as well, but it traveled away from the previously-doomed ship as if time continued to rewind."What?!"Ves scratched his head. Had the ship really been restored to whole, just like that?Then the torpedo slowed down mid-flight, before travelling forward as if time had been flipped in the right direction again. The torpedo juked back and forth as if it dodged a storm of counterfire and made a drastic turn as it got affected by ECM before impacting the transport yet again.The exact same explosion happened and the ship got destroyed in the exact same way. Besides having been left behind by the fleet, nothing appeared to have changed.Moments later, time reversed yet again, and the debris pulled back together until the ship came back to life. The torpedo that felled travelled outwards again as hale as if it had just been launched.A spike of fear ran through his spine as Ves continued to watch the same event happening over and over again. Of all the things he expected when a dimensional smoother got destroyed, he never realized it could actually lead to a strange loop in time."What the hell is a dimensional smoother made of?"Ves had the conception that humanity had been playing with fire when they came up with such a device. Although its ability to force space and time to remain stable proved useful, the dangers resulting from improper use scared the living light out of his soul.When Ves thought about the attempts to overload the dimensional smoothers aboard the Gregarious Wrath, he broke out a nervous sweat.No wonder the Mech Corps pulled out so quickly. Even the Mech Legion wanted nothing to do with the anomaly despite already passing it by. Their excessive caution indicated that the anomaly might expand and engulf others into this seemingly endless time loop."At least they stopped fighting."The battle might have made sense to the higher ups, but Ves always worried about getting the Happy Jelly shot out from underneath him. As a former transport vessel, it lacked the toughness and structural integrity of a purpose-built combat carrier. Even a single mech acting out alone would be able to cripple the Jelly.The two fleets continued to drift apart, going in slightly different directions as they made their way out of the Glowing Zone.One remarkable thing happened as they made their final leg of the journey. Rescue parties from both sides flew back and descended on the debris field to pull out any survivors that had been left behind. A handful of transports also grabbed some of the smaller intact containers and brought them back to their fleets.Ves found it remarkable that the rescue parties went out of their way to avoid each other. Not a single mech or shuttle clashed against each other.It seemed that even if the Republic and the Kingdom hated each other's guts, they still possessed some sense of humanity."This should be the end of this campaign."After seventy days of traveling, fighting, and making a profit, the survivors would finally return home with their booty.