The Mech Touch Chapter 719
717 Deep Frontier Encounter
Ves saw no reason why the Flagrant Vandals should involve themselves into a dispute between two fairly strong outfits in the middle of nowhere. The sandmen presence further added to the danger.
While it appeared that none of the three forces possessed the strength to defeat the Flagrant Swordmaidens, they could still inflict a significant amount of damage if they fought to the death.
As far as Ves and most Vandals were concerned, they were merely bystanders on their way to another destination. The incidents that happened along their route shouldn't concern them at all.
Yet curiosity tickled at them. What made these two forces venture so far out into the frontier? They had long reached past the point where regular pirate outfits roamed. This was because pirates earned their living by robbing other ships or settlements, and those mostly popped up in civilized space or just beyond its borders.
The further someone ventured into the frontier, the fewer signs of human presence they encountered. How could pirates ever earn a living in such a desolate place?
Therefore, those who tended to venture this far out either sought out a specific treasure or attempted to flee from some pervasive threat.
The odds were high that the two warring outfits in the interior of the so-called Ermeghast System possessed peculiar backgrounds.
The possibility that the two outfits might be hunting for the same objective as the Flagrant Swordmaidens hadn't been lost on their commanding officers. Both Commander Lydia and Major Verle grew suspicious at encountering two strong forces on their route towards the Starlight Megalodon.
While the sensor operators busied themselves with figuring out the providence of the two separate outfits in the inner system, the tactical officer provided a preliminary report on the composition of the sandmen fleet.
The Flagrant Vandals didn't know much about the sandmen. To be honest, the tactical officer borrowed heavily from the intelligence provided by Lydia's Swordmaidens. As a pirate gang that roamed the frontier for decades, they had their fair share of encounters against the sentient sand-like race.
"Sir, our preliminary estimates suggest that the medium-sized sandmen fleet is led by an inexperienced sand admiral. The leading sandman doesn't show a lot of imagination in the deployment of its fleet elements."
"What is their concrete fleet strength?"
"If they aren't hiding any other assets, then we've pegged their fleet composition at one sandman mothership and twelve sandmen escort ships, sir. After analyzing their sizes and comparing them to historical data, we've also estimated the effective strengths of their 'ships'. The effective combat strength of the sandmen mothership is analogous to a combat carrier with a full complement of spaceborn mechs, while the strength of the escort ships is comparable to a converted carrier and its complement."
This sounded formidable to any medium-sized mech outfit, but the Flagrant Swordmaidens had little to fear from such a force.
Due to the decentralized leadership structure of the sandmen race, every sandman leader expressed themselves differently. However, almost all of the sandmen leaders who brought their forces into space tended to start from the same default template.
The template of a sandman fleet always consisted of a 'mothership' housing the sandman admiral and a number of uniform escort 'ships' in multiples of six.
Some exoanthropologists asserted that the sandmen operated on a base-six numeral system. Put simply, it was as if the sandmen counted with the help of a pair of hands with three fingers each.
A handful of conspiracy theorists even speculated whether the sandmen and the Hexadric Hegemony were one and the same! After all, they both worshipped the number six! Of course, the Hegemony always lashed out violently when somebody tied them to an alien race that just happened to share a love for the same number.
In any case, calling the clumps of sand-like agglomerations of semi-sentient materials a 'ship' was something of a human misnomer. The sandmen might not consider them ships at all. They could be their homes, their hives, their slave pens or whatever else. The point was that treating sandmen 'ships' as ships imposed human qualities on them that didn't exist.
Case in point, one of the favored ways a sandman ship employed against a human ship was the sandstorm attack. A sandman escort vessel broke apart into streams of sand and attempted to engulf or run through a vulnerable enemy ship in a cataclysmic flood of living particles!
The best way to fight against a sandmen fleet was to bombard it at long range, preferably with kinetic or explosive weapons. Energy weapons such as lasers hardly scratched them, and in certain cases even replenished their energy reserves!
Naturally, melee mechs only brought brought themselves to their deaths if they approached a sandman ship. The living sand would instantly turn into a huge mouth that engulfed these metallic morsels as soon as they got close!
Everyone in the command center had already been briefed in basic sandmen naval doctrine. They also knew that the sandmen tended to become smarter in larger groups.
A single fleet composed of a mothership and twelve escorts should be capable of some imagination, but more often than not made a couple of dumb decisions.
"Sir, the sandmen are currently prioritizing energy capture. They have chosen to sit on the debris field near the asteroid belt rather than to chase after the two human fleets. This indicates that they are rather starved and desperate to gain more energy."
Major Verle nodded in acknowledgement. "This far out in the frontier aren't very good hunting grounds for sandmen. All of the sandmen governors have already laid claim to promising colony sites, so they're forced to roam the stars in search of prey or to passively absorb heat from the local stars."
Sandmen didn't fare very well when exposed to the direct radiation of a star. While stars outputted an enormous amount of energy, it came in the form of extremely destructive radiation that posed a threat not only to humans, but also to sandmen. Therefore, they preferred to obtain their energy by other means, such as stealing them from humans or by absorbing them on certain planets that shielded them from the most harmful aspects of radiation.
More information poured in, but this time about the human presence in the Ermeghast System.
The Flagrant Swordmaidens didn't possess any direct quantum connection to the battle that took place in the inner system. The light that emanated from the battle took a long time to arrive at their emergence point.
Therefore, everything they saw right now was like a security recording of something that had already happened. The combatants might have already left the system at this point!
"Sir, the Swordmaidens have identified the identity of the two human forces. The ships being chased by the other human force are remnants of the Shining Stars Colonization Fleet, which is composed of exiles from the Dark Plasma Star Sector. At the time the light of this event has reached our location, they are actively pursued by the Fire Treaders, an aggressive pirate gang that hails from the Ravienne Alliance!"
The information provided by the Swordmaidens stunned the Vandals. Shining Stars Colonization fleet? Dark Plasma Star Sector? Fire Treaders? Ravienne Alliance?
None of those names sounded simple!
Just the mention of the Ravienne Alliance alone sent shivers through their back. Headed by Ravienne's Ravagers, this pirate bloc was one of the two most powerful pirate alliances in the Faris Star Region. Compared to the insidious Dragon Alliance, the adherents of Ravienne were all a bunch of violent anarchists that wanted to set the galaxy alight for their own amusement!
"What intelligence have they shared on this gang? No wait, let me connect to Commander Lydia directly. I want to hear from her own mouth how much of a threat these Ravienne Alliance pirates represent."
Commander Lydia's bust quickly popped up in a projection in front of Major Verle's command chair. "Verle."
"Commander, what can you tell me about the Fire Treaders?"
"The Fire Treaders are bad news. They're pyromaniacs and they love to set everything on fire. They employ both spaceborn and landbound mechs, but they're mostly known for the latter because ships in space don't tend to burn very well. As far as we know, they aren't after money and they don't fulfill any missions for their alliance. They're just a bunch of mad dogs who go on random burning sprees and keep themselves afloat by salvaging what's left among the ashes."
"If we happen to come into conflict with the Fire Treaders, will we land ourselves in trouble against the Ravienne Alliance?"
"It depends." The commander pressed her lips against each other as she contemplated the potential consequences. "Ravienne hardly cares about the cannon fodder that comprises the bottom of their organization. If we come to blows for some reason, we won't be welcome on their space stations, but they won't go sending hunting fleets after us."
"That sounds.. rather mild."
"The Ravienne Alliance are a bunch of crazies, but even they'll get tired if they constantly chase after small fry that provoked them for some reason. Also, you have to know that most gangs that make up the Ravienne Alliance are crazy themselves, so they constantly get into fights without a reason. Generally, as long as you kill only half of them and let the other half go, the Alliance won't make a big fuss. It only becomes an affront to Ravienne if you wipe them all out."
This sounded as if being a member of their Alliance provided almost no protection, which defeated the main point of joining such an organization in the first place!
"How can the Ravienne Alliance even work with a structure like this?"
"Oh, the Alliance is split up into several tiers." She explained. "There are a lot of peripheral outfits who are competing hard against each other to become a part of their core. Once an outfit reaches that point, they become part of the leadership structure. A peripheral outfit that's too weak and stupid to survive on their own isn't worthy to be part of the Alliance's core."
Ravienne sure knew her stuff when she instituted such a promotion structure. It sounded like a great way to weed out the idiotic, the suicidal and the overconfident among her organization.
Commander Lydia frowned through the projection. "Why do you ask?"
"There's something about the so-called Shining Stars Colonization Fleet that interests me." Major Verle replied. "Look at that debris field. The majority of the ship wrecks likely came from the colonists. Who knows why they came all the way to this remote section of the frontier from the Dark Plasma Star Sector, but if they're so desperate to flee this far, there is bound to be a story behind their desperation."
Both of them nodded at each other as they shared similar suspicions. A colony fleet of this size wouldn't randomly traverse so deep in the frontier for no reason. The chance of getting caught by the sandmen grew further and further the more they traveled into territory untouched by human civilization.
Still, the three-way battle also threatened to be a distraction from their main mission. Nothing that happened in the Ermeghast System should concern them. The Starlight Megalodon awaited further up ahead in their journey. Even if the Vandals harbored some sympathy for the colonists, they only had themselves to blame for their demise.
"We should hail the lead ship of the Shining Stars Colonization Fleet." Major Verle suggested. "Much of their fleet is in ruins and only remnants are left. It's safe to say their colonization effort has died in this star system."
"I don't oppose this course of action. If we can gain some advantages from this tragedy, then I don't mind a small detour!"Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
Both of their commanding officers had the same idea in mind. The ships who survived the destruction of their colonization fleet likely carried some of the most valuable goods and supplies! If the Flagrant Swordmaidens played their cards ripe, these goods and supplies would be ripe for the taking!