The Mech Touch Chapter 621
620 Bloody Dilemma
The attacking force had already been psychologically prepared to drive some of their fellow citizens to death. Each outfit not only selected among their best mech pilots to helm their limited number of salvaged mechs, they also chose their most ruthless ones.
None of the mech pilots firing back at the Reinaldans possessed any morals worth noting! Even if they felt someone should be held responsible, they would no doubt push the blame entirely on the Reinaldans!
It was their fault for fighting back!
Laser beams hummed and various projectiles thumped and screamed in the air above the heads of helpless civilians. None of them had any clue what to do other than to keep running towards the spaceport! Right now, they could only rely on the righteousness of the Reinaldans to save them from this hellish massacre!
Ves had seen a lot of cruelty from the hands of the Vandals. Their callous disregard for collateral damage and their willingness to leverage the lives of innocent civilians in this manner rankled Ves a lot. After all, one of those people running for their lives right now could be him or someone he knew!
"It's useless to sympathise for those civilians." Captain Orfan remarked as she glanced up from her data pad and noted his disturbed expression. "It's not like they were compelled to gather at the park earlier."
He shook his head, though he didn't go in on who was truly at fault here. "I'm afraid that all of these sacrifices might prove futile. How many people have already died due to collateral damage? Two-thousand? Five-thousand? Maybe the figure has already surpassed ten-thousand. I don't know. Yet even with so many dead, the Honored Ones aren't backing down."
They obviously hesitated for a lengthy period of time. Ves figured that they struggled to decide between repelling the attackers and protecting the lives of foreign visitors. Something must have pushed them into action despite the repercussions.
"Look at those Reinaldan mechs. Ignore the Planetary Guard mechs, they're pretty much useless now. Instead, look at each of the mechs from the Honored Ones."
Ves immediately picked up an important detail. Many of the mechs of the Honored Ones to utilize their weapons to their full potential. One rifleman mech wielded a laser rifle capable of firing once every two seconds. Instead of aiming to achieve the highest possible firing rate, the mech pilot dithered and only fired once every seven seconds or so.
This was far from the only mech that held back their killing potential. The aerial mechs of the Honored Ones basically danced in front of the aerial mechs of the attackers. Despite their overwhelming numerical superiority, they did not dare to engage their outnumbered opponent! As soon as one of them suffered fatal damage, their frames would drop from the air and splat all over the teeming waves of civilians!
A single drop had the potential to reap over five-hundred lives at once! If they fell on top of a particularly high concentration of people, perhaps thousands might get crushed from the enormous impact and the debris flinging in every direction.
Of course, to achieve this deterrence, the aerial mechs in the hands of the outfits deliberately hovered over the densest parts of the mob!
Some of the participants of this scheme earned a reputation for honorable and valorous behavior on the battlefield. None of that was on display right now. The Masters of Combat basically turned their core tenets upside down, while the Glorious Space Knights who fancied themselves as saviors became indirectly responsible for the deaths of thousands of fellow Lisvians!
If everything went as predicted, none of them would be able to retain an unblemished record. Their behavior was simply too despicable to remain clean!
Of course, to scum like the Flagrant Vandals or Lydia's Swordmaidens, the loss of reputation didn't bother them that much. It was nice to be so highly regarded, but it wasn't essential to their functioning.
They would rather pursue their own goals over listening to their conscience.
As for the Reinaldans, they highly favored the opposite!
Their orders compelled them to fight, but their heart wants to let the civilians go. Stuck between their duty and their moral fiber, many Reinaldan mech pilots endured the greatest dilemma in their lives.
Did they enjoy the feeling of blood dripping from their hands? Should they continue to follow the orders of a superior who was probably several light-hours away from the battlefield?
A ripple went through the mechs of the honored ones. By now, every mech of the Planetary Guard had either been disabled or retreated from the battlefield. As long as any meh of the Planetary Guard popped up, the attackers immediately shifted their firepower towards the unlocky mech!
This was all in the name of depriving the Reinaldans with the means to subdue the crowd with half-hearted warnings and idle threats!
"Whoever is ordering the Reinaldans to persist in the fight is an even greater heartless bastard than us." Captain Orfan noted with a smirk, as if the deaths of thousands of Brighters had nothing to do with her at all. "Yet the mech pilots aren't bots who follow orders without question. The Honored Ones are famous for thinking on their feet."
The Vesian Mech Legion trained their mech pilots to obey their orders and pursue their mission at all cost. While their rearguard units may not be very diligent, their frontline units rigidly adhered to the expectations of their superiors. In a society ruled by nobles, these privileged sons and daughters did not wish for their subordinates to develop any initiative.
It was different for the Reinaldan Honored Ones. Their name betrayed their past as a band of honored fighters. Codes of brotherhood as well as a martial tradition that venerated the ideal of a warrior allowed for a high degree of personalisation. While each mech pilot still received the same training in every mech regiment, they didn't necessarily have to follow the orders of their superiors if they were objectively bad.
In comparison, the Bright Republic's Mech Corps fell into the middle ground somewhat. It different from mech regiment to mech regiment, but overall bad orders didn't happen as much because the Mech Corps prized promoting officers for their competence. Very rarely did bad apples get to reach a higher rank.
"They've finally had enough!"
Around twenty percent of the defenders spontaneously ceased to fight. They rebelled against their orders and attempted to step back from the battle.
This was made more difficult due to the sheer amount of people running between their legs. The civilians had no choice in the matter because the people pressing behind their bodies didn't allow them to turn around or change their course!
Inevitably, dozens of people got crushed beneath the feet of the Reinaldan mechs as they attempted to move. This incited the crowd into a greater panic, yet the rush to storm the spaceport never abated.
"Hahahaha! Keep running!" Captain Orfan laughed. Whether she referred to the mechs or civilians, Ves didn't know. "The rest are following suit!"
The Honored Ones possessed a marked advantage against the opposition. Their numbers were greater, their units were uniform, the quality of their mechs was high and all of their machines were in tip-top shape.
In a frontal engagement, the attacking force would lose ninety-nine times out of a hundred! There was no way the Reinaldans could lose unless they made a massive blunder.
The Vandals knew this. The Masters of Combat knew this. Lydia's Swordmaidens knew this. Everyone else could perform the same arithmetic.
So in order to achieve victory despite facing such an overwhelming disparity, they lured these civilians over and basically took them hostage.
What could the Reinaldans do? Killing foreigners in a star system meant to attract tourists was extremely bad for business. The diplomatic repercussions of this fight might lead the Reinaldans to face heavy retaliation from almost every nearby state in the star sector!
In addition, the honor espoused by the Honored Ones rejected wanton massacre. Not every military mech regiment was as callous as the Flagrant Vandals. Though the Reinald Republic involved themselves in many shady affairs related to pirates, their military had been molded as a counterpoint to their activities in the dark.
The Honored Ones were supposed to be heroes, not butchers!
Ves believed an additional element was at play here. He believed some Reinaldan influence was definitely competing for the encrypted data chips that contained the route that led to the Starlight Megalodon. From the heavy-handed blockade that the Reinaldans had instituted so far, this influence must have been helmed by a very senior government or military official.
This influence had likely ordered the Reinaldan defenders to open fire despite the sheer amount of innocents at risk.
Too bad humans piloted the mechs of the Honored Ones. These people didn't follow orders without question, especially when they led to an enormous amount of blood being spilled.
Already, the collateral damage had taken its toll on the mob. Craters and molten puddles sprinkled the open field, each of them surrounded by broken bodies and enough blood to fill up a cargo hauler.
The frantic mob, the unrestrained attackers, the inappropriate orders from a distant superior, all of this pushed the Honored Ones in the field to their breaking point.
"The Honored Ones have given up! They're pulling back!"
The Reinaldan mechs simply had enough. Fed up and tired of spilling so much blood, they collectively pulled back, moving slowly enough to give the innocent people underneath their feet some time to avoid their footsteps.
For their part, the attacking force let them go. They never intended to drive the Reinaldans into a corner. Forcing them to continue the fight was detrimental to them for many reasons. As long as the Reinaldans ceded the spaceport and its immediate surroundings, the outfits were content to let them retreat.
While the Reinaldans decisively pulled back from the spaceport, the Vandals and the other outfits started to go forward to claim their own ships. Of course, they didn't forget to drive the hysterical mob to the field where thousands of parked vessels lay dormant. Without their presence, the outfits lost their protective talisman.
By now, the Reinaldans certainly hated their guts!
Naturally, the triumphant attackers didn't forget about the fuel supply. A third of the mechs diverted from the spaceport and moved to secure the nearby warehouses.
"The first step is over, thankfully." Ves sighed. "If this engagement went on any longer, then I can't even imagine how many people perished here."
The outfits did a very good job in gathering all of those foreigners to the spaceport. Attracting all of these people had been essential in pressuring the Reinaldans.
"All that's left is to lift off and run through the blockade in space." Orfan noted with a satisfied smile. "That's going to be trickier now that the Reinaldans know what to expect."
The crazed and frightened civilians had reached the dormant vessels by now. All of them attempted to break into the locked ships and get inside. Aircars landed near the vessels. Hackers went to work in breaking through their security systems.
On the other side of the spaceport, hovering fueling vehicles flew towards the ships in order to inject their empty fuel tanks with some juice. The fueling vehicles didn't need to fill the fuel tanks to the brim. The ships needed just enough to escape the planet's gravity well and fly in space for a couple of hours.
Through fear and authority, the outfits imposed some measure of order to the mob. Though many of them had quietly turned around and started to run from this hellscape, a sufficient number of mechs had forced the people to stay.
They still needed these hostages to act as their shield!
The Flagrant Vandals may not have been the main drivers of this plan, but they had definitely been complicit in its execution. "Our reputation will end up in the toilet by the time this day is over."
The worst thing about it was that his personal reputation might be tainted by association. Though he wasn't in the chain of command, the mere fact that he'd been attached to the Flagrant Vandals may be enough to affect his future business career.