The Mech Touch Chapter 947
945 Remnant Flee
Once Ves left the shuttle bay and entered his office for the first time in a very long time, he noticed some changes since the last time he visited.
It was as if someone else took over his home.
"Well, it's not like this office is my personal home." Ves shrugged.
Soon enough, Ves keyed himself to the office and logged into the terminal. The first thing he wanted to find out was the disposition of the mechs at the disposal of what was left of the Flagrant Vandals.
The second thing he wanted to find out was their actual condition in space. Besides some short descriptions from Major Verle, Ves hardly knew where the remnant allied fleet still stood in the Aeon Corona System.
As Ves summoned up a plot of the star system, he studied the known and estimated positions of all the human and sandman ships in local space.
"Seems like Aeon Corona VII turned into a hive of sandman motherships."
He had no idea what really went on there, but for some reason a large majority of sandman ships in the system continued to converge in orbit of Seven. They didn't descend to the surface nor did they chase after human ships. Instead, they just orbited the planet as if they turned into satellites for some reason.
"Hmph. I bet that dwarf lover has something to do with it." Ves threw out a guess.
Ves only recently freed the sentient AI from its prison. Sigrund wasn't completely free of all of his shackles, and probably still needed some time to adjust his state.
Then, he would probably leave and go as far away as possible. Sigrund wouldn't possibly be stupid enough to stay here considering that a CFA warfleet would definitely arrive in the system sooner or later.
If there was one thing that could get the CFA's rocks off, it was the existence of an actual sentient AI! Such a development was the culmination of one of their greatest dreams!
The intense concentration of sandman ships orbiting over Seven practically ruled out any continued human presence in the vicinity of the planet.
As the Shield of Hispania beat a desperate retreat, they observed many distant battles as other fleets fell from the onslaught of sandman motherships. Vandals, Swordmaidens, Vesians and pirate vessels all succumbed to the overwhelming number of alien aggressors.
It didn't look good to the remaining cohesive force of Vandals and Swordmaidens. The two flagships survived as well as an additional Vandal combat carrier and two Swordmaiden light carriers.
"Five carriers in total. No transports, no cargo haulers, no logistics ships. Damn."
In the short term, the absence of their supply train wouldn't affect them that much. Yet in his position as head designer, Ves knew how vital it was to bring along an abundant amount of supplies.
This went double or triple for any operations in the frontier, where there was a dearth of space stations where the fleet could resupply!
Ves already started to develop a headache at the thought of trying to keep the Vandal mechs in fighting conditions as fuel, energy, materials and replacement parts began to dwindle quickly.
Worse, each battle the Vandals fought accelerated the consumption of supplies. The Akkara heavy cannoneers especially spewed bucket loads of laser beams and ballistic shells in rapid succession!
Though the loss of so many carriers meant that the remnant fleet didn't have to support so many heavy mechs anymore, what little they still possessed was more than enough to empty their reserves in a couple of intensive battles!
He came to an important conclusion after making this observation. "We need to avoid battle whenever we can! The more we fight, the faster we run out of supplies. It would be best if we didn't have to fight at all!"
Sadly, pirates and the deserters gunning for the remnants of the Flagrant Swordmaidens did their best to force the opposite.
As Ves played out the maneuvers the fleet and its pursuers performed in the last couple of days, it became clear to him that no matter where they turned, the ships aligned to the Dragons of the Void always moved in a way to intercept their prey.
This dogged determination led Ves to believe the pirates strongly suspected or outright knew what the Flagrant Swordmaidens managed to retrieve from the surface.
"They'll never give up pursuit if that's the case."
Even if the remnant fleet managed to transition into FTL, the pirates would sure be following right behind.
It was no wonder that Major Verle expressed an intent to battle. It was best to get rid of these jackals sooner than later!
Despite what was best for the fleet, Ves couldn't see any way that Major Verle would be able to get out without a fight. The pirates at the rear and the Finmoth Regal blocking the direction ahead became necessary obstacles for them to overcome.
"At least the pirates shouldn't outnumber us as much."
The Dragons of the Void suffered just as must as any force when calamity struck. Even so, losing most of their ships didn't deter the remaining pirate vessels from giving up the spoils Vandals and Swordmaidens obtained at great cost.
Ves considered all of the information he gathered and tried to figure out a way out of this hole they stumbled into. Yet no matter how hard he thought, he failed to come up with a viable idea.
"Even if we know everything about the Finmoth Regal, so what? We can't hack their mechs or sabotage the combat carrier from remote."
Mutiny, desertion and rebellion was one of the worst things that could happen to a mech regiment! All of the investment put into building up the Finmoth Regal and her mech roster not only became moot, but was even being turned against the original owners!
The thought of Inheritors, Hellcats and Akkara mechs slugging it out against each other in a mirror match sat very poorly with Ves. No matter how much he thought about it, the fleet would definitely suffer substantial casualties despite their local advantage in numbers.
"Should we negotiate?"
Perhaps something like that already happened. There wouldn't be any result. Desertion was hard to foment but even harder to reverse. Once someone forsook their oaths and loyalties, they would always bear the stigma of treachery. There was no way Major Verle would believe the Finmoth Regal rejoined the light.
"No. A battle is inevitable."
After staring at the plot some more, Ves simply couldn't figure out a way to get the fleet out of this closing trap. Sooner or later, the Dragons of the void would come close enough to force an engagement.
"Well, there's no other choice than to prepare the mechs for battle."
With great reluctance, Ves dropped his focus on the outside and began to focus inward. As he studied the condition of each mech, he noted many deficiencies that slowed down repairs.
"I guess I'll have to clean up after other people's messes again." He sighed.
Ves resumed his old routine as head designer. Back on Aeon Corona VII, Ves formed countless repair plans in order to cope with the breakdown effect. All of that practice made him extremely proficient in spotting faults and coming up with the most efficient way to address those problems.
Roughly speaking, his repair plans were up to fifty percent less wasteful and time-consuming than before! This was an enormous boost in efficiency that only seasoned mech designers specialized in repair services could accomplish!
As soon as he finished the plans, he distributed them to the maintenance crews of the two ships. After that, he considered his next steps.
"Making plans from my office isn't enough. I should drop by at the workshops."
Ves left his office and went down to the lower decks until he sought out Chief Technician Haine supervising the frantic repairs.
What struck Ves immediately as he walked through the corridors and entered the workshop was that the Shield of Hispania faced a serious congestion problem!
"We took on too much crew from other ships!"
The life support systems of the ship must be straining right now to accomodate all of the extra people the combat carrier currently supported.
More mech technicians also didn't necessarily mean the repair work finished faster. All the people in the way and the differences in methods, priorities and opinions that emerged caused many mech technicians to spend more time in arguing with each other than actually performing their assigned work!
"Chief Haine!" Ves yelled through the hustle and bustle of the busy workshop.
"Ves! You again!"
The familiar chief technician already chatted with Ves once earlier during the interrogation and interview sessions. Right now, Chief Haine appeared a lot more frazzled and even started to show her age.
Evidently, herding all of these mech technicians exhausted her enormously!
"What brings you down to this pig sty, Ves?"
"I came down to observe the condition of our mechs. I didn't expect the mech workshops to be this… lively."
Chief Haine scoffed at his description. "It's a dump right now. I don't like this anymore than you do, but Major Verle doesn't want the refugees we picked up from the other ships to be idling by themselves. Bad things happen when you leave a huge number of defeated and unruly Vandals by themselves."
"It will be a repeat of the Finmoth Regal. Gotcha." Ves nodded in understanding. "Even so, these mechs need to be repaired so that they can get back into action quickly. I don't know how much time it will take for the battle to arrive, but by my reckoning we don't have much longer than two or three days."
"That's a very tough time frame to accomplish anything, Ves." The chief technician furrowed her brows as she contemplated how many mechs they could bring back to fighting condition. "The awful thing about fighting the sandmen is that most mechs get outright crushed if they get caught by the sandman ships. However, that's not the only arsenal of the aliens. Most of their motherships are capable of firing a penetrating beam that can blast a mech to pieces or at least wipe out a significant chunk of their frame when hit."
"I'm aware." Ves nodded. "When I composed the repair plans, I noticed that we need to fabricate a lot of replacements parts to fill in the missing chunks. For expediency's sake, I mostly aimed to replace the missing portions with cheaper components that can be fabricated very quickly."
"In other words, you cut corners."
"I did, but at least I'm doing it smartly rather than opportunistically. The quality of the repaired mechs will slide, but they won't collapse at any moment due to developing a crippling weakness from sloppy repairs."
The chief grunted. "That will have to do, I guess. Even so, if we have five or six days or so, we can restore thrice as many mechs than if we only have two days. Many of our damaged mechs are really in such a horrible shape that it's impossible to fix them up within a day no matter how many mech technicians work on them. In fact, they're already slowing everything as you can see for yourself!"
Ves didn't pay attention to her complaint but instead focused on an earlier detail. "We need time. The more time we buy for ourselves, the more mechs we can field in the inevitable battle against the pirates. Our odds of winning are much greater if we can field ten or fifteen extra mechs!"
He knew what the Flagrant Swordmaidens needed to accomplish in order to improve their chances. Though he hadn't been able to come up with a way to avoid a battle, he could nonetheless come up with a way to stack the odds in their favor!
"Still, how can we stall our opponents?"
For some reason, Ves was reminded of Miss Calabast. This seemed to be more up her alley.