The Mech Touch Chapter 680
679 Drift On A Chartless Resistless Sea
As soon as the Flagrant Swordmaidens transitioned into FTL, a preplanned series of actions took place.
First, every ship except for the Jaded Sword and the Shield of Hispania effectively trashed their quantum entanglement nodes. They decisively trashed a score of the expensive, fragile devices worth at least 100 million bright credits for the cheapest versions.
Ves had to wince at the thought. Trashing so much quantum entanglement nodes meant that both forces needed to spend billions in bright credits to replace the modules after they returned from the frontier.
"It's a good thing we raided the Castle Breakers. Selling their surviving ships and mechs should earn us more than enough to compensate for the cost of replacing the nodes."
Because each ship traveled through FTL, they had no way of communicating with each other outside of exiting FTL. A new set of protocols came into force. Something like martial law came into effect where servicemen needed to be more careful of what they blathered out of their mouths and where the officers began to enforce discipline more strictly.
They were truly alone in the stars, at least when the ship plunged into the higher dimensions of FTL travel. Strange things happened when ships became isolated for long stretches of time. Even if the vast majority of the rank and file were never allowed access to the galactic net, the thought that their higher ups still let the rest of the galaxy know they were alive served as a comfort to the Vandals.
Losing this safety blanket made the Vandals nervous and restless. How would you think if you were stuck on a boat that was flung across many lightyears away from the nearest human-occupied star system?
Isolation bred madness. Everybody knew that. Sure, the Vandals could cope by socializing with each other, but their nerves and their anxieties might grow to an uncontrollable level. Illusions and hallucinations might start to settle in among their worst. The darkness of space might creep up to them, surrounding them in a miasma of terror and the endless black night.
Darkness. Empty. Alone.
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown."
A common superstition among spacers and the spaceborn was that terrors lurked in the dimensions that most physicists thought was empty or filled with formless energy. The dominant form of FTL travel that their race stole from the aliens worked by breaching beyond the four material dimensions.
Though many smart people claimed to know what happens in these higher dimensions, nobody truly knew. It wasn't as if they could take a recording from the observation deck, because what was visible from inside the ship simply couldn't be perceived by human or electronic eyes.
It might be that every vessel that plunged into FTL was blissfully swimming in a dimensional sea surrounded by enormous planet-sized alien horrors, each possessing enough power that a single sneeze was enough to snuff the life of a star!
Though these figments of imagination sounded silly to a sober person, long isolation in space tended to lead spacers into darker train of thoughts.
These space horrors didn't exist, did they?
A shudder ran through his back. Just because they couldn't prove the existence of these gigantic alien space tyrants, didn't mean they never existed. Maybe human means and technology simply hadn't developed yet to the point where they could force these sleeping terrors into view.
The act of waking them up from their endless slumber may in fact announce the end of the existence of the human race.
The insatiable curiosity of humanity for the unknown would ensure such an event came to pass.
Death. Lifeless. Nonexistent.
"That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die."
"Ouch! What was that for, Ketis?!"
Ves turned around his spinny chair to face the naughty little Swordmaiden, who guiltily withdrew her offending fist that had playfully bumped against his skull.
"You were daydreaming or something, teach. There was a funny look on your face and all, and you started muttering about death and crap like that. That's not funny at all."
He sighed. "Don't call me a teacher if you don't intend to treat me like one. Haven't you learned how to respect your teachers?"
She shrugged. "Hey, when I'm feeling energetic, I sometimes hit up Mayra for a spar or two. She doesn't look like it, but she's a nasty kicker with her legs."
Ves palmed his face. This time, it was safe, since they both shed their extravagant suits of armor and returned to their normal uniforms. Ves in his dark green mech designer uniform, and Ketis with her vacsuit and exobeast pelt combo.
"I'll have to add some extra lessons to your schedule, then. I know it's a faint hope, but I hope you can get around to living like a mech designer from civilized space."
A snort escaped from her nose. Her sneer made it abundantly clear what she thought about the soft and weak nerds who spend every waking moment of their lives in some stuffy design studio drafting endless sketches or performing complex mathematical calculations for their next simulations.
Such an image hardly appealed to her at all. Ves knew that he had a long way to go before he could drag her kicking and screaming towards the light.
He looked down on his comm, which faintly displayed a clock. It is almost time for the general meeting. They're finally going to tell us what this operation is all about. I've been told that you're not allowed to attend, so you're going to have to fend for yourself for now.
"Who told you that?!"
"Just sit here and wait for me to bring back the news. I'll pass on anything to you that isn't classified."
Ves left the scowling Swordmaiden mech designer behind and marched over to the conference room. It was packed to bursting this time, and because almost every quantum entanglement node was down, every person present was a living breathing human.
Because the conference room couldn't possibly fit the entire crew, not to mention that it would have been reckless gathering each and everyone of them in a single vulnerable location, the rank and file would be informed of the essentials by their immediate superiors who were currently present in this room.
An unprecedented air of serious fell among Major Verle and the Vandal cadre.
The import of the situation dawned upon each of them. None of the Vandals present were stupid. They saw the hints of what was coming, and might have extrapolated what might be in store for them. There couldn't be that many reasons why the battered and diminished Verle task force needed to be sent to the frontier instead of the frontlines of the latest Bright-Vesia War.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click for visiting.
"Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Vandals," Major Verle began. "The time has come for you to learn the nature of our clandestine operation. I have carefully held this secret close to my chest along with a small number of officers because of the sensitive and outlandish nature of the mission. Even now, I am only allowed to illuminate a small part of what we are after and why we must enter the frontier."
The conference room dimmed, and a projection came to life.
Ves knew this image. He knew it well.
"T-That's a CFA battleship!"
"She's an old one." A ship officer said. "I recognize this style. She's several hundred years old. They don't make battleships like they used to these days."
The bold lettering on her sides revealed the august name of this venerable creation.
"The Starlight Megalodon." Someone whispered. "Isn't that an old wife's tale? The missing battleship? She's gone off the deep end two or three hundred years ago."
The Starlight Megalodon. A fully-fledging capital ship whose main guns could crack a moon and whose superweapons possessed enough might to fracture a terrestrial planet. This was not just a weapon of the stars. It was a weapon capable of bringing enough firepower to match the flare of a star down on a single target.
She was a hammer in the hands of the Common Fleet Alliance, meant to hammer down the nails that represented the stubborn alien races that lived in the periphery just outside human-occupied space.
Just like other human ships, her hull was shaped like a fish or a reptile without limbs or fins. Long, perhaps a little fat, but not wide enough to present a huge profile when facing the front, the battleship ranged at least eleven kilometers long.
Her main cannon emplacements jutted out from almost every direction. No matter what direction she faced, she could at least bring a single main cannon to bear upon her opponent.
Her armament layout might not have been the most efficient in terms of offensive power, but she was built like a cosmic brick. The most amazing feat was that her entire eleven-kilometer exterior was clad in the highest-quality compressed armor plating!
The sheer amount of medium and high-grade exotics used in the mass-fabrication of the armor plates would have been enough to upgrade every mech in the Bright Republic with high-quality compressed armor!
And that was just one estimate. A more ridiculous estimate stated that the Starlight Megalodon carried enough compressed armor to clad the Friday Coalition's entire mech roster with the substance!
These unfounded estimates illustrated the sheer extravagance put into their construction. With a strong emphasis on defence, the Starlight Megalodon served as a defensive bulwark as well as a battering ram to any fleet centered around her presence.
Major Verle smoothly picked up after the alarm died down. "This is the CFA's Starlight Megalodon. Let me tell you why this missing battleship is relevant to our operation."
Their commanding officer briefly described what Ves already heard or derived from Calabast's spiel. Nothing in their explanation diverged very much. They both stated that the Starlight Megaladon had long been presumed missing, but that descendants in FTL-capable shuttles randomly popped up in the frontier for some reason.
The major skipped the part about the encrypted data chips and their necessity in tracking down the current location of the derelict battleship. He simply stated that the Vandals and the Swordmaidens combined possessed the means of navigating towards that hidden treasure.
Everyone still sat stunned in their seats as the revelations surpassed every rumor that had been bandied about by bored spacers with an overactive imagination.
The major finally came to the part where he declared their actual objective. "Make no mistake. The Starlight Megalodon is a vault of technology that the Bright Republic still hasn't mastered despite several hundred years of progress. If we can obtain a smidgeon of their tech library, we can advance the Mech Corps by leaps and bounds! Our primary objective for this excursion is the Starlight Megalodon's primary data banks!"
Pretty much everyone bought it hook, line and sinker. If Ves hadn't heard the cynical truth from Calabast, maybe he would have fallen for it as well. Right now, Ves faked an expression of shock and puzzlement on his face. It wouldn't do for the Vandals to find out he already knew the dirty details well before the rest of the crew got to learn the truth!
"The foundation of human civilization is the technology that we master. Yet is it fair for the CFA, MTA and the first-rate superstates to hoard their technological superiority from us?! Just because we are situation near the edge of the galaxy doesn't make us the refuse pit of the human race! We deserve a fair share of the technological spoils, and if the galactic center is too conceited to give us a leg up, then we will take it from their forgotten ship! Do you know why? Because we are the Flagrant Vandals, and we take what is ours!"
"We take what is ours!" The rest of the crowd echoed the motto.
Ves refrained from joining in. He wasn't a genuine Vandal, after all. The rest would excuse him for holding back while the rest were swept up in the fervor of robbing a derelict battleship from the CFA.
He keenly noted that Major Verle never mentioned anything about the life-prolonging serums and medicines even once. The topic of side objectives that boarding parties would grab as 'targets of opportunity' was the most he had to say about that.
The mech officer couldn't let the rank and file know they were about to risk their lives so that some old geezer back in the Republic wanted to life a few hundred years longer.