The Mech Touch Chapter 767
The completion of the C22 Earth Ant along with the upgrades to the armor worn by Ketis marked the end of his preparations.
After thanking Chief Mandelson for her generous assistance, Ves left the armory wearing his new and lightweight Earth Ant along with a replacement for his standard-issue comm.
Major Verle promised him a better comm, so Ves drew out an officer-grade comm that integrated neatly in the systems of his C22 Earth Ant. While it came with some extra features, Ves chose to go for a high-quality comm model with the most extensive security suite and remote signal hardening.
Having been burned by an unsecure comm before, Ves wanted to make sure he didn't repeat his mistakes.
The officer-grade comm he received complimented his secure comm pretty well.
The officer-grade comm became his primary comm which he could use to connect to other Vandals remotely at a very long range.
Ves repurposed his secure comm as his 'offline' backup device which he could use to access the contents of encrypted data chips which he couldn't afford to leak. It had the ability to operate under intense jamming and other forms of electromagnetic interference, though its lack of remote connectivity wouldn't allow him to call for help.
Not that the jamming and interference would let him in the first place.
In any case, Ves tentatively judged that he made adequate preparations to survive whatever hell the Aeon Corona System threw at him. He mentally listed out his full complement of gear.
The C22 Earth Ant needed no introduction, as his new suit of light armor surpassed any suit he had ever worn before. The greatly strengthened armor plating, the added integrated modules and the many dedicated storage slots for his weapons and his gadgets turned it into a veritable
For his weapons, he could rely on his Amastendira as his trump card and a backup laser pistol as his official weapon. While he was at the armory, he exchanged his barely-used ballistic pistol for a handy laser pistol compatible with his Earth Ant's new targeting and aim assist modules.
"On a planet where everything weighs at least five times heavier, ballistic weapons are going to have a hard time."
Compared to a ballistic round that quickly sunk into the ground due to gravity, a laser beam would still travel straight ahead at shorter distances.
All of his remaining gadgets and equipment completed his loadout.
His signal jammer granted him some moments of privacy from the ubiquitous monitoring system.
His stealth detector enabled him to expose invisible bastards hiding under electronic stealth systems.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
His military-issue multiscanner allowed him to scan all kinds of unknown objects and substances.
And finally, he possessed a spare ultracompact battery. He wanted to reserve its use for a third gadget, but Ves figured he wouldn't have the time to design and fabricate an entirely new device.
"Oh well, I can use it to supplement the power supply of my Earth Ant."
One of the features he included in the design of the Earth Ant was a robust slot that could handle the power output of an ultracompact battery. Ves did not intend to direct an excess amount of power to any of the integrated systems in his suit. Instead, he reserved the battery as an emergency long-term source of energy if he ever got stranded and cut off from the Vandals.
Together with the completion of the Six-Sided Dice, Ves hoped that his preparations left him with enough tools to secure his life in the coming storm.
"You're so obsessed with gearing yourself up." Ketis remarked as she witnessed Ves treating his gadgets and his new armor like precious treasures. "It's like you're one-hundred percent certain that we'll lose all our ships and that we're going to be stranded by ourselves with no mechs of allies to protect us from whatever you expect to find in the Aeon Corona System."
Ves pressed his lips. "If you've lived through all the battles the Flagrant Vandals have gone through ever since we entered Vesian space, you'll grow as insecure as I. The fact of the matter is that the Flagrant Vandals is set up like a raiding regiment, and not a particularly good one either. They lack funding, skilled personnel, a good cadre of capable leaders, a martial tradition that has been tested over centuries and ample preparation. It's that last one that's really the cause of all of my brushes with death."
"Yes, preparation." Ves reiterated. "All of those earlier faults can be compensated to some level if the Flagrant Vandals had months or years to prepare for this mission. It's obvious though that some higher-ups dropped this mission on their lap without giving them the time to prepare. Just look at the Vesian fleet. Even if we could only peek at them through long-ranged sensors, what we've already seen is that they're superior in all the fronts I've mentioned even after the Church of Haatumak stabbed them in the back."
"Yet the spooky Vesians got stabbed in the back and not us. We took care of our ambush early." She pointed out. "Unlike those Vesians you Vandals are all so scared of, you've got us Swordmaidens to cover your back!"
He chuckled a bit. They hadn't been very useful up to now. Their real strength lay in their landbound mechs and this advantage hadn't come into play yet. "However much you believe in our combined strength, it is not comprehensive enough to protect us individually against every threat. The Vandals don't care about me in particular. They care about themselves and their mission. I don't blame them for their priorities, but this does leave me at an awkward position. The only person who cares about my life is myself."
"That's not true. I care about you, Ves." She said.
"Ah, thank you for correcting me. I care about you too, perhaps more than any other Vandal that's supposed to be on my own side." Ves smiled sardonically. "I guess I don't quite fit in with the Vandals in the first place."
In his perspective, the Vandals exhibited a certain amount of cockiness to keep up morale. From what he could guess, Major Verle decided to maintain everyone's level of morale in order to prevent them from questioning the purpose of their mission or start to realize how deep in alien space they had ventured.
Such a policy paid dividends. The levels of anxiety among the crew hadn't boiled over yet, at least aboard the Shield of Hispania. This was despite the occasional turbulence that wracked the ship as she attempted to bore straight through a narrow channel of relative calm in the middle of a horrible spacetime storm.
The shaking and creaking of the combat carrier along with general wave of nausea and unpleasantness that did their best to unsettle the crew. If not for all the constant drilling and the frequent pep talk sessions, who knew if someone snapped.
Ves did not have much work in store. With the Shield of Hispania isolated in FTL, he couldn't issue orders nor keep tabs on the mechs aboard the other Vandal ships.
He felt a burning curiosity how his modifications affected Venerable Xie. The foreign expert pilot often practiced with the virtual version of the Parallax Star in order to grasp some of its nuances.
If the changes Ves had made to his simulator pod came through, then the expert pilot should slowly become more loyal to the Flagrant Vandals.
Other changes should also bring out more of his strength in the coming months at the cost of burning out. Ves felt the most guilty about this particular change because it condemned the expert pilot to a slow and irreversible death.
At least humanity developed means to remedy or reverse the effects of brainwashing.
Though Ves attended daily briefings, Ves felt as if the planners spun off increasingly more unlikely contingency plans. Every major detail had already been discussed to death, so they started running on fantasies to foster discussion and make sure that everyone knew what to do in the event of an unlikely occurrence.
A couple of days quietly passed until their emergency out of FTL came abruptly at an unexpected time.
Ves slept quietly in his bunk when the ship suddenly jerked out of FTL. He almost fell out of his bunk, his sheets tangling his legs, as the red alert immediately flashed.
"UNEXPECTED FTL EMERGENCE! RED ALERT! ALL HANDS TO ACTION STATIONS!"
"What the hell is going?!" He slapped himself awake. "I thought we are two days away from reaching the Aeon Corona System?"
Had the Shield of Hispania encountered an interdiction? Did the spacetime storm throw them off course? All kinds of awful disasters sprung into his mind. The only good thing was that the Vandals developed contingency plans in these kinds of cases, so Ves and the rest knew what to do.
In any case, the first step they needed to do was to hop inside their suits and get to their stations!
Ves kept his C22 Earth Ant on a rack mounted against the bulkhead of his cabin. He shed his pajama's and wore a thin underlayer skintight vacsuit before inserting his body into the open armor. The C22 Earth Ant had been constructed in such a way that it could fold itself open like a beetle spreading its wings.
Once he positioning himself in place, the armor plating folded around his body, enclosing him in a tight fit that felt a little bit too snug. He experimentally moved his limbs around, first with servo-assist and then without mechanical assistance, and nodded in satisfaction.
As a newly modified suit of armor, Ves frequently encountered minor issues in the first couple of days. Every day, he returned to the armory so that Chief Mandelson could perform minute adjustments.
"Well, let's head to the command center now."
He marched into the corridors and followed the route to the center of the combat carrier.
Groups of Vandals in hazard suits and various forms of armor briskly walked towards their stations. Each of them exhibited panic in their expression, but none of them broke out into a run.
Running while potentially wearing suits of various sizes and mass could be a real hazard if they crashed against someone. No matter what kind of emergency the Shield of Hispania had landed themselves into, it did not absolve them from the safety rules!
As Ves went through a fast but thorough security check, he passed through the hatch and jumped into his observer's seat.
A minute later, Ketis arrived decked out in her heavier suit of armor. Among the officers and operators manning their stations in the command center, she looked larger and more menacing than most.
Naturally, she couldn't beat the exoskeleton-suited security officers standing guard inside and outside the compartment.
"What's all the fuss about? Why did we get thrown off FTL?" She asked in a sleepy and befuddled manner. Being forcibly awoken from her beauty sleep had made her crankier than usual.
"From what I can gather, we've arrived in the Aeon Corona System ahead of schedule, but we don't know why! Also, we can't get in touch with the other ships of our combined fleet! There's some sort of interference that's hampering our communication and sensor arrays."
They had entered the Aeon Corona System blind, deaf and mute and that frightened the Vandals most of all!
When they switched their view to a normal optical camera, they began to see a warped storm of yellow and orange particles flowing through space. These particles didn't appear to be solid or dangerous, but they effectively blocked all of their sensors starting from a range of just a hundred kilometers away!
In stellar navigation terms, this was practically point-blank range!
Throughout the haze of yellow-orange streams that played havoc with optical and gravitic sensors, somehow the planets and the trinary stars shone like beacons in the light.
The Aeon Corona System turned out to be a massive star system! With over nineteen planets and hundreds of moons of varying shapes and sizes, this star system contained enough real estate to make it an ideal capital system for a second-rate state!
Even deep within the frontier, a rich star system like this shouldn't have been hidden away from everyone!
"Sir! We've detected an incoming patrol of mechs. They're from the Swordmaidens! They report that their ship is just out of our sensor range!"
Everyone sighed in relief. The presence of the Swordmaiden patrol indicated that while the fleet might have been scrambled a bit when they transitioned out of FTL, they should at least be able to gather back together.
"Deploy our full complement of spaceborn mechs. Spread out in a spherical search pattern and track down the rest of our fleet!"