The Mech Touch Chapter 493
495 Two Fleets
His colleague from the same batch of conscripted mech designers led him around the temporary base. Ves thought that someone like Pierce who grew up under a mech designer from the Friday Coalition should have experienced a lot of sights, but the man behaved like a kid who entered a candy store for the first time.
"Look at this Ves! This scrapheap is all the mechs they'd been able to salvage from the defenders of the city's manufacturing complexes. Most of these scraps aren't very valuable, so the Vandals plan to leave them behind."
The sheer amount of mechs and mech parts piled up showed Ves that the Vandals overwhelmed a lot of complexes. They took back the goods they produced and the most valuable materials used in their production. They also dragged back any spare wrecks and raided the most valuable components out of their hulks.
The mech graveyard in front of him appeared notable in that over half of their mechs lost their armor plating. The Vandals must have stripped them out because they incorporated valuable exotics.
Pierce showed him several other sights, all the while describing the battles the ground forces fought. The young man was visibly enamored with all that had happened.
Ves was different. What Pierce described was actually a routine invasion against a semi-prepared but inferior defense force. The mechs aligned to House Eneqqin put up a valiant fight, but their lack of numbers skewed the battles against them from the start. There was no doubt that the Vandals would gain ultimate control over Neron City.
He had to stop himself from shaking his head or giving Pierce a patronizing look. After living through harrowing times on Groening IV or the Glowing Planet, what happened on Detemen IV seemed like a cakewalk.
This was the benefit of experience, he guessed.
A mech designer that saw more of the galaxy possessed a wider perspective. This extra life experience broadened their vision and numbed them to the mundane things that others found special.
It also made Ves feel as if he stood apart from an inexperienced mech designer like Pierce. Though the man helped design many mechs while under the employ of a large mech manufacturer, it also isolated him from experiencing the outcome of his own work.
Ves felt that was important somehow, especially now that he compared his own life experience to Pierce's.
At the end of the tour, Ves and Pierce waited to be sent back into space. Once they finally received a message to board the next transport that would lift off into orbit, Ves eagerly headed towards the vehicle.
"Whoa there, Ves! What's the hurry?"
"I don't want to miss my ride!"
Ves became a bit paranoid about being left behind on this awful planet. While not as bad as some of the places he visited, he still didn't wish to linger any longer than he had to.
More than an hour later, Ves finally transferred over to a combat carrier. While he would only be aboard the ship for a few days, he already felt as if he returned home.
The Flagrant Vandals accumulated many different models of combat carriers, so every ship looked unique. Different from the Stubby Growler, the Antecedent took on an even fatter shape. This reduced her maneuverability under atmosphere, but in the vacuum of space, most of her mobility remained unaffected.
Though Ves possessed little expertise in spacecraft, he traveled aboard many different ships. In some, he even got the opportunity to be part of the crew, so he picked up a few things here and there where his expertise in mech design overlapped with ship engineering.
Ves didn't know anyone aboard the Antecedent, and the Vandal officers didn't spare a glance at them. Ves and Pierce mostly stayed holed up in their cabins as they waited for the Vandals to depart from the star system.
An alarm quickly blared over their heads, only to shut off a second after.
"What's that?!" Pierce jumped up.
"I don't know, but if the captain of the ship shut off the alarm right after, it's nothing serious." Ves guessed.
They both left their cabins and wandered over to the mess hall where spacers simply couldn't shut up. There, they overheard the reason why the alarms had been tripped.
"The Vesians reinforcements have arrived."
A bit sooner than expected, the first Vesian fleet arrived at the outer regions of the Detemen System from the closest star system.
"They're here fast. I thought they would be taking their sweet time."
"This system's neighbors can't be seen dragging their feet too blatantly. They'll fall out of favor with the Duchess if they scorn her commands."
"How long do we have?"
"Jimmy told me that we've got to scram within four hours. Any longer and we'll get caught by the leading elements of the reinforcement fleet."
Four hours was a very short time. The ground forces needed to evacuate with extra haste and leave behind their less valuable loot at this rate. While unfortunate, the early arrival of the reinforcement fleet was well within their expectation.
Though Ves hated to admit it, the constant insistence on haste worked in their favor. Though their operations on Detemen IV didn't proceed very smoothly, they hadn't suffered many delays. Everything proceeded roughly on schedule, and the Vandal presence on the ground rapidly diminished as every working mech got boosted into orbit.
With cargo holds laden with mechs, materials and other goods, the fleet element under the command of Major Verle started to approach the nearest Lagrange point.
Ves and Pierce returned to their cabins for safety and looked at the fleet's progress on a small projector that displayed their position in the star system.
He could see that the Vandals that orbited Detemen II took their sweet time in extracting from the planet. Since their planet was deeper within the star system, it would take a bit more time for the Vesians to intercept them. This gave the Vandals orbiting the second planet from the twin suns a larger buffer into getting all of their affairs in order.
Another fleet of rebel ships emerged from the surface of Detemen IV. It appeared the rebels stowed them somewhere deep and obscured their existence until the time had arrived for them to depart.
"What a sad collection of ships."
"They don't appear to be in the best shape." Ves concurred with Pierce.
Compared to the worn but threatening shapes of the Vandal combat carriers, the ragtag collection of second-hand ships looked as if they belonged to a failed gang. The cargo haulers and transport ships limped slowly towards the Langrange point with barely functional thrusters.
"Seems like they didn't have the funds or resources to spare for better ships."
Once they reached the point where opposing forces of gravity caused the area to have no strong force of gravity acting on it, the rebel ships transitioned into FTL without a hitch. At least the rebels must have taken some precautions with regards to their delicate FTL drives.
"Lord Javier is supposed to be aboard one of their ships, right?"
"That's what I heard." Ves nodded. "Though I'm not sure if we should believe everything we heard. Our own side has fooled us more than once."
He couldn't discount the fact that the rebels loudly spoke about taking custody of Lord Javier on purpose. It wouldn't be above the Flagrant Vandals to play along with this ruse and quietly bring the noble away aboard one of their own vessels.
"Did you see him in person?" Pierce asked in an excited tone. Everything that happened so far has kept him in high spirits.
"I did, briefly."
"Is he as much of a douchebag as everyone says he is?"
"I think so. I can't tell you much about the guy except to say that most of the stereotypes about him are probably true. He's a real piece of work."
Ves also got the sense that Lord Javier was a lot more dangerous than he appeared. Even with the doctors stripped him of all of his implants and hidden tools, the noble still emanated a faint aura of threat that Ves only perceived from truly dangerous individuals such as Doctor Jutland.
He shook his head. Jutland was dead and the lordling was in their custody. What did he have to be so scared about? He turned his attention back to the display.
Over at the far side of the display, the ominous shapes of around a dozen combat carriers approached with indomitable purpose. Ves guessed that they likely didn't possess the strength to crush either of the two Vandal fleet detachments, but possessed enough strength to interrupt any FTL transitions out of this star system.
Human FTL drives worked reliably in space with few gravitic disturbances. The depths of interstellar space formed the most ideal circumstances to transition out of the material dimensions, but sufficient distance from stars and Lagrange points formed tranquil enough areas that FTL still worked.
The incoming Vesian ships therefore weren't out to get into a slugging match with the Flagrant Vandals.
They instead planned to harass their FTL transition by disturbing the Lagrance points where the Vandals currently flew towards. Any kind of gravitic mines and other means of generating artificial gravity could halt their escape and delay their departure until more reinforcements arrived.
Some of their fears came true when more reinforcement fleets arrived. Luckily, they all started at the same distance from the binary stars, and they arrived at a further angle from Detemen IV. This basically meant they needed to fly for more than five straight hours to reach the industrial planet.
"All of the other reinforcements will be too late." Ves nodded. "Just as expected."
The Vandals got the timing down pretty well. They gave up on hauling more loot from the surface at a certain time and they departed for the nearest Lagrange point with thirty minutes to spare.
In space combat, thirty minutes was cutting it close. Ves could even imagine some of the crew of the Antecedent grumbling about how much risks Major Verle had taken in order to retrieve as much valuables from Detemen IV as possible.
Fortunately, they encountered no delays or unforeseen problem. Only until the Antecedent entered into FTL along with the rest of the fleet did Ves truly relax.
"We're finally out of the woods!"
Though the Vandal Fleet still faced a perilous journey to return to Republic space, at least they overcame the important hurdle.
Ves felt a bit directionless again in the next couple of days. From what he eavesdropped from the crew, the ships under Major Verle currently headed towards a lifeless star system. There, they would meet with the VRF and some other rebel movement who would subsequently guide them to their next hop in their journey.
Strangely enough, Major Verle's detachment wouldn't converge with Colonel Lowenfield's detachment at their next destination. Ves had to approach a spacer and ask her in person to learn why.
"If you remember the system map, Detemen IV is located on one side of the twin stars while Detemen II is located roughly perpendicular from the stars and the other planet. This basically means it's a bit troublesome for Colonel Lowenfield's ships to transition immediately towards our upcoming destination."
Basically, the ships that raided Detemen II wouldn't be able to rendez-vous with the ships that attacked Detemen IV without cutting through the gravity field of the twin stars.
Ships that attempted to do so never met a good end. It was already perilous enough to try to transition into FTL at a Lagrange point.
In the end, this meant that the Flagrant Vandals had to make do with two fleets at half strength.
That made him a bit uncomfortable. There was safety in numbers. Traversing through the heart of Vesian space with around fifty of their usual strength put both fleets in significant danger. The sooner they merged back together, the better.