The Mech Touch Chapter 735
733 Fragile Alliance
Whoever attacked Chopra Interstellar Security fleet did a fairly hasty job at cleaning up the battlefield. As the Flagrant Swordmaidens finally reached close enough to resolve some actual details from the debris field, they quickly obtained more details.
The first observation was that the winner of the battle looted all the easily-accessible valuables. Intact containers, stores of spare materials, semi-complete mechs and more were in very short supply.
In addition, the winners executed every Chopran survivor within easy reach or detection. A large amount of broken escape pods, scraps of frozen biological material free floating in space and more strongly indicated that an indiscriminate massacre took place.
However, the continued existence of more than a hundred escape pods, many of which boosted far away from their ships, indicated that the victors of the battle hadn't been too thorough. They only picked the low-hanging fruit before they decided to move on. Ultimately, finding the Starlight Megalodon was more important than processing the entire debris field.
"There's nothing worth salvaging in the debris field." Ketis opined. As a member of a pirate gang, she had a keen eye for salvage. Picking up free goods from floating debris field was every pirate's specialty. "The easy stuff that's easy to recover and turn into something valuable has already been taken away. I can immediately tell an old hand in the business is responsible by the way the debris field is cleaned up. Pirates are involved."
Ves trusted her judgement. "We'll know for certain once the rescue teams have picked up the survivors. Really though. Of all the possible outfits we could meet in our journey into the deep frontier, why did we encounter a mercenary corps from my own state? How many possible outfits and influences are actually involved in the search for the Starlight Megalodon?"
The possible answers he came up with unsettled him. He really did not like the implications of their encounter with the remnants of Chopra Interstellar Security.
At the very least, their previous encounter with the remnant survivors of a doomed fleet could be chalked to coincidence. Only the most suspicious Vandals believed the Fourth Prince and Venerable Xie schemed against the Vandals from the start.
They couldn't dismiss the presence of the Choprans with the same excuse, though.
Search and rescue teams deployed from the Swordmaidens and the Vandals.
The Swordmaidens mostly spent their efforts on 'searching' and 'rescuing' any loot and valuables the previous looters hadn't been able to retrieve. All Ves could say about their behavior was that they sure had their priorities straight.
The Vandals on the other hand were in no mood to raid the rotting corpse of what used to be an upstanding Brighter mercenary corps. The personnel rolls of Chopra Interstellar Security numbered in the hundreds, and the overwhelming majority of its people hailed from the Bright Republic.
The fact that Chopra, like many mercenary corps, began as a private venture between a band of veterans from the Mech Corps hit the Vandals fairly hard. Which Vandal didn't dream of starting a second career in the private sector?
Because the tragic fate of Chopra was so relatable, the Vandals all put their full efforts into spreading out their mechs and shuttles towards rescuing as many escape pods and free floating Choprans they could find.
Most could easily be tracked down by their active transponders, but some became so terrified by the thought of being hunted down by whoever defeated them that they disabled the transponders and any other emergency signallers.
The Vandals managed to locate a portion of these paranoid folk, but they probably missed tens of Choprans who hid their signature behind pieces of debris or the like. Their own efforts at minimizing their chances of detection inexplicably doomed them from any chance of rescue, as the Vandals couldn't afford to stick around forever.
The Starlight Megalodon beckoned.
As survivors and frozen corpses trickled in, security officers trained in interrogation and investigation questioned the first coherent Choprans they managed to get their hands on. Through these preliminary talks, they finally found out which outfit was responsible for dooming the mercenary corps to dust and ruin!
"They got shanked by an independent pirate gang called the NIN."Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
"NIN? What kind of name is that? What does it stand for?"
"Beats me, but get this, the Choprans originally banded up with the NIN!"
"Then how come they came to blows in this star system? Aren't they allies?"
"Well obviously the NIN had a change of heart, because they ambushed the Chopran patrol mechs with precision attacks planned beforehand!"
The gossiping Vandals quickly fell silent after hearing the latest rumors. The gravity of the situation didn't escape the servicemen. If the so-called NIN could turn their coats and turn their weapons against Chopra, then what if history repeated itself?
A few days ago, the NIN backstabbed the Choprans. Today, Lydia's Swordmaidens may as well turn their swords against the Flagrant Vandals!
Ketis scrunched up her nose when she saw how the Vandals all became vigilant in her presence. She pressed her fists against her hips. "Really now! Do you think we're really the same as the NIN? I've heard of those bunch of losers. They're a bunch of frontier scum! They don't have a single honorable bone in their bodies!"
"For what it's worth, I believe in the Swordmaidens." Ves backed her up, though whether he actually believed in his own words was another matter. He cared more about keeping himself in her good books right now. "From the early accounts we've received, the NIN predominantly took the Choprans by surprise by a massed ranged attack. The Swordmaidens won't be able to take us by surprise that way because most of their spaceborn mechs are sword wielders! If they ever have any evil intentions, we'd at least see them coming."
Ketis frantically nodded her head. "Yeah! Even though we have a couple of ranged mechs in our lineup, what can we do with them? They're not even enough to take down a single combat carrier! You Vandals already outnumber and outgun us from the start. There's no way we can win against you even if we launch a surprise attack."
This still didn't preclude other forms of betrayal, such as leaving the side of the Vandals just as they engaged against a formidable opponent. However, Ves didn't mention all of those possibilities because this line of questioning only led to excessive paranoia.
He already had enough potential threats on his plate. He didn't need to add one more. For some reason, the Swordmaidens gave Ves a good feeling. They were remarkably plain and honest about their intentions. None of them except Commander Lydia seemed to be the type who looked capable of performing subterfuge.
The Vandals picked up two notable Chopran cadres from the debris field. They found one ejected cockpit that preserved the life of Captain Fez Murtadon, one of the senior leaders of Chopra Interstellar Security!
His rescue presented Chopra with the hope for rebirth, because Captain Murtadon could take charge over all of the remaining assets of the mercenary corps left behind in the Bright Republic.
The search and rescue teams found another notable survivor from an escape pod ejected early in the battle, and therefore strayed a lot further away from the debris field than the other pods.
This didn't say anything good about the occupant, but when the Vandals interrogated the flighty Chopran, they found out that he was a mech designer!
The man didn't know much about the actual attack, though he had been a helpful source about the military might of the NIN. After several hours of interrogation, Ves had been invited to have a chat with the fellow.
"Because you're a mech designer." A security officer garbed in heavy combat armor gruffly replied. "You mech designers are a species in itself. Sometimes we miss stuff that other mech designers find important. Just talk with the fellow and see if you can fish for any information. It doesn't matter if all we hear is duplicate of what he has already told us, but keep his mouth moving so that we can get a more precise read on his bearing. That will help us figure out which parts he's been a bit hazy with the truth."
"Alright. What will happen with the mech designer after we finish the interrogations?"
The security officer sighed. "He'll have to stay in custody with the rest of the Choprans. Even with our shared background, the Mech Corps has already taken them off their rolls. Brighter or not, they'll have to remain in the brig for the foreseeable future."
Ves couldn't blame the Vandals for doing so despite the disservice it represented to the surviving Choprans. The Vandals had their own mission to pursue, and it was probably very likely that the Choprans and the Vandals possessed different backers. Of course the Vandals would never allow the Choprans to succeed in whatever they came out here to accomplish.
After entering into a small, plain compartment configured into an interrogation room, Ves sat himself down on the only available seat. On the other side of the table sat the surviving mech designer of the Choprans.
He was older than Ves expected. The mech designer appeared a little haggard in his Chopran brown uniform, as if the Vandals hadn't bothered to clean him up after pulling him out of his escape pod. The man looked to be someone in his mid-fifties and his face betrayed a tinge of Asiatic heritage.
The mech designer completely ignored Ves when he entered. Instead, he desperately munched on the raw semi-solid contents of a nutrient pack. The man occasionally stopped his frantic eating by sipping his glass of water.
Ves looked at the man in bemusement. He had never seen someone so eager to eat the contents of a stale, decades-old nutrient pack.
He decided to push this conversation along.
"My name is Ves Larkinson. I am the temporary head designer of this task force. Would you like to introduce yourself?"
The man wearily diverted his attention from his meal. "Eric Kichiro, Novice Mech Designer. I used to serve in the Mech Corps as well, you know. I survived the last Bright-Vesia War against all accounts. Horrible time. Horrible. Horrible."
"Okay, Eric." Ves respect for the man had gone up a bit. Any low-level mech designer who survived the war possessed a decent head on their shoulders at the very least. "Before we begin, can I ask why you're so eager to eat right now? Shouldn't you have access to enough nutrient packs in your escape pod?"
Eric violently shook his head. "No! I mean Yes! My pod did have a stash, but I never expected to be rescued so soon. This binary brown dwarf star system is so far away from any human presence that the odds of being rescued by another human force is small! I tallied the available supplies and drew up a rationing scheme that stretches them out for a month! Unfortunately.. The Choprans never invested much in their escape pods. It lacks the ability to recycle oxygen and water. I run out of oxygen first before I run out of food and water."
It sounded like Eric suffered from a severe case of cabin fever. The poor mech designer must have obsessed about his supplies for hours on end ever since his pod ejected from its doomed ship.
"Look, you're safe now. You're among the Flagrant Vandals, and while we might not be the famed Volari Starhawks or the Infernal Hellhounds, we're not pushovers either. Tell me, what was your position at Chopra Interstellar Security?"
"Hng.. I needed a job and the Choprans offered to hire me. Even though they paid less than some of the other gigs I used to hold, they don't expect me to do much either. The Choprans all rely on commercial mechs bought from reputable sellers on the market. As the only real mech designer in the mercenary corps, I've been tasked with ensuring their quality and designing minor tweaks and modifications at the mech pilot's requests. The most involved I've ever been in my job is when we needed to repair a heavily-damaged mech."
In other words, it didn't sound any different from what low-ranking mech designers already did in the Mech Corps.
"You're the most senior mech designer in the mercenary corps?"
"Yes. The Choprans can't afford anyone better, and they don't really need one either. It's not economical for them to develop their own mechs when a lot of good mech models are already available on the market."
Ves found it rather regretful that Eric decided to coast along in the latter part of his career. If he showed some more drive and initiative, he could have leveraged his previous service into applying for a more challenging job that allowed him to develop his mech design skills.
As it was, the man would likely remain a Novice for the rest of his life.
"Alright, enough about yourself. Tell me about the NIN. How did they overwhelm you Choprans so fast?"