The Mech Touch Chapter 693
692 Temple Of Haatumak
As the Flagrant Swordmaidens neared Mortose I, their sensors managed to resolve the Temple of Haatumak in her full glory.
When Ves initially heard the secretive cult cobbled up the Temple of Haatumak in a massive starfaring ship and house of worship in one, he expected something like six massive cargo haulers welded into a single abomination.
A cargo hauler basically looked like a set of massive cargo holds thinly held together by the thin superstructure of a ship. To shipwrights, their design exemplified the pursuit of maximizing cargo space while incorporating the minimum amount of structure necessary to keep it all together.
The Temple.. resembled something greater than that. The outer hull must have been a Swordmaiden's wet dream, because she consisted entirely of bones of a massive leviathan-like alien that spanned at least two kilometers if the sensors estimated her size correctly!
"She's a near-capital floating temple chimera ship!" Someone uttered. Others would argue that length-wise she already qualified as a capital ship.
Though the word salad may not have done the savage and crudely fashioned temple ship justice, it certainly described her accurately enough at a single glance. She was a pure expression of the savagery and idolatry that the sons and daughters of the frontier so revered.
Lydia's Swordmaidens could only be regarded as posers in front of the real thing!
"From which creature did those bones come from?"
"Maybe they came from an exobeast that evolved on a gas giant!"
The speculation briefly disrupted the tranquility of the command center. Everyone couldn't help it. Though the Vandals witnessed larger ships before, many of them never saw a chimera ship before.
She was jaw-droppingly crude, but emanated a sense of majesty as well!
The vaguely whale-like set of bones with a lot of eerie limbs attached from the flanks encompassed a core of what used by be cargo haulers. Obviously, the worshippers of Haatumak had done their best to build out and expand, reinforce and even change the inner contours in order to hide their humble origins.
Ves wasn't fooled. He could easily read the traces where the armor covered up the contours of what used to be humble ships that plied the stars while carrying countless tons of goods.
Still, no matter how she started out before, the constant transformations as well as the incorporation of those tough, powerful and intimidating set of bones had given the Temple of Haatumak a status that few vessels in the Komodo Star Sector could match!
The closer the Flagrant Swordmaidens approached, the more the details became clearer to see. The rugged, frontier flavor of the Temple of Haatumak only grew stronger as Ves was able to pick out remains from salvaged ship and mech parts jutting out of the metallic portion of the ship hull.
It was as if the worshippers of Haatumak simply threw a lot of junk at their ship and crudely welded them together!
Certainly, cladding a vessel at least two kilometers long with proper armor cost a huge fortune in K-slates. Even if the Temple of Haatumak raked in a lot of money through rendering their services to the independent pirates, the cost was too prohibitive!
The end result bemused Ves. He appreciated the ingenuity behind her construction. "It's a cheap way to bulk up a ship."
It might be more appropriate for him to regard the Temple of Haatumak as a floating solidified junk yard in engineering terms. Her armor literally consisted of junk, and only acted as armor by dint of their sheer amount.
The immediate consequence of piling up all of that low-quality junk was that the Temple of Haatumak must be one of the most sluggish starships in the Faris Star Region!
While the ponderous bone-covered vessel already settled into a stable orbit around Mortose I, allowing it to swing around the naturally habitable planet with deft speed, everything would change once she started to move out. Those massive thrusters affixed to the stern of the Temple looked as effective as trying to move a mech by putting it on a cart with sturdy wheels and trying to pull it with a dozen men.
How could this Temple still survive the harsh frontier when she was so slow? Certainly, she'd be able to withstand a great deal of punishment, but if the sandmen dropped into the Mortose System with a significant sandmen fleet, then that moving junkyard of a ship would never be able to get away in time!
When Ves posed the question to Ketis, she returned a surprising response.
"As far as the Swordmaidens are aware of, the Temple of Haatumak has never been attacked by the sandmen."
"How is that possible?!" He whispered back. "The barely sentient sand-like aliens are indiscriminate when it comes to harvesting high-quality energy! A big vessel like the Temple might not contain as much energy as a proper fleet carrier, but she's still enough to sate the sandmen for quite a while!"
Ketis had no answer to that. "Don't ask me. Let alone Commander Lydia or Mayra, even I don't know what's going on with the fanatics. They're really weird and creepy. Mayra told me they were exiled to the frontier several hundred years ago because civilized space didn't want them and their weird beliefs. The Temple of Haatumak on the projector is actually the third temple they constructed!"
"What happened to the previous two Temples? Did they get destroyed?"
"No. They just.. rusted away and degraded over time. They became too outdated even for the frontier."
There was definitely something fishy going on with this strange religion. From the moment Ves beheld the current manifestation of their place of worship, the sight of her rankled in a way.
The Temple brought back some unwelcome memories from his time at Groening IV to Ves. The majesty radiating from the bones embracing her hull resembled the raw might and unquestioned rule of the Kaius, the huge chimera mech built out of the carcass of a hexapod king.
What was it with crazies and their fascination of incorporating remnants of living creatures into their machine? To Ves, the addition only served to impress the ignorant laymen and show off the remnants as trophies. At least the Skull Architect had a deeper reason for incorporating human bones in his mechs, even if he was misguided.
Still, as much as the bones of long-dead alien exobeasts didn't add much to their performance, the sight of it alone turned what should have been a drab, ugly amalgamation of junk into an impressive frontier starship.
"So in a way, the seemingly superfluous decorations are worth it if they succeed in leaving the desired impression."
The Vandals wouldn't have nearly been so cautious and apprehensive about meeting the cultists if they hadn't embellished their ship like that. In a way, he appreciated her artistry as a craftsman. The sight of the Temple made Ves feel better about his own habit of adding artistic embellishments to his mechs when they didn't exactly impact their performance.
"Ships and mechs are machines, but they are also so much more. Their existence and use is undeniably connected to humans."
Some mech designers believed that mechs should be the purest expression of a war machine. Their designs should be stripped of every superfluous part and contain only the bare minimum of what they needed to fulfill their missions.
While their ideology sounded somewhat attractive to Ves, he eventually rejected that school of thought because their emphasis on the science of mech design led them to disdain the artistic side of their profession. Art was a necessary evil in order to inject some brand of creativity in their designs, but as soon as they partook the bare minimum, the mech designers shut themselves off to any further irrational impulses.
Their mech designs tended to be boring and drab, but solid performers on the market. Ves described their designs as utilitarian and focused in their conception. A machine or tool designed for only a single purpose, and nothing more.
"Design can be so much more. Who says a product only needs to fulfill a single purpose?"
In any case, hours trickled past as the Flagrant Swordmaiden fleet came nearer and nearer until they were only an hour away from entering their designated orbit around Mortose I.
"Mr. Larkinson." Major Verle spoke out abruptly. The mech officer had been making plans and discussing their approach to the cultists with Commander Lydia all this while. "I would like to hear your insight on the mechs piloted by the members of the Church of Haatumak. Can we defeat them if necessary?"
The fleet had just come close enough to resolve the hundred-odd spaceborn mechs that patrolled around the Temple of Haatumak. Ves had already begun to analyze them once the first detailed scans came through.
"It's possible for the Flagrant Vandals to overcome the patrol mechs at their current state, but it will cost us, sir." Ves replied with a grim face. "That's only the case if we leave out Lydia's Swordmaidens and the chaotic clumps of pirate mechs deployed from the other pirate carriers. If they all intervene, then even I can't predict the result, other than that we'd be horribly outnumbered."Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click for visiting.
The independent pirate vessels that volunteered to escort the Temple of Haatumak formed an effective deterrent against anyone wishing to make trouble with the cultists.
Ves inputted some commands in his console which caused the main projector to display three different Haatumak mech models.
"The worshippers of Haatumak employ three distinct mech models, each shaped like bestial or aquatic mechs adapted to spaceborn combat. The first one is this whale or seal-shaped mech."
The biggest and fattest of the mech models grew larger, dominating the available projector space.
"While the mechs are broadcasting their identity and allegiances via transponders, the annoying thing is that they don't mention the name of the mech model. I've never seen anything like their designs before, so it's highly likely the worshippers have developed these mech models in-house."
Sections of the projection of the whale-like mech lit up in red.
"I've taken to calling the biggest and most heavily armed mech model the Gun Whale. It aptly describes their purpose, as the cultists have slapped six integrated limbs that transition into integrated weapon systems above the 'elbow' portion of the limbs. Each limb can bend and rotate in every possible direction, so they're a lot more complex than the run-of-the-mill spaceborn frontline mech."
"Are the weapons formidable?"
"They are, sir." Ves nodded without hesitation. "Don't underestimate them because they aren't as hefty and chunky as heavy mechs. Their firepower can surpass the output of several average rifleman mechs. "What's worse, their aquatic bestial shapes allows the designer to stuff a lot of systems inside the mech, so you can expect the Gun Whale to hit hard and sustain their rate of fire without suffering too quickly from depletion or heat build-up."
"They're big and heavy. Just like the Temple of Haatumak, that inevitably makes them slow. I think the original designers didn't care too much about that disadvantage because they envisioned them as the Temple of Haatumak's most staunchest guards. Technically, if a melee mech can fly through the intense rain of firepower it can unleash, it can take complete advantage of the Gun Whale's lack of melee armaments. Basically, even if the Gun Whale weighs as much as a medium space knight, its better to treat it as a heavy mech."
This was all he could figure out in a short amount of time. He had a feeling the unorthodox shape of the Gun Whale hid some other surprises, but the only way to find out was to employ powerful active scanners, which the Temple of Haatumak would certainly consider a hostile act.
"What about the second and third mech models?" Major Verle pressed.
"If the Gun Whale is their defensive fire support platform, the latter two act as the offensive arm of their church."