The Mech Touch Chapter 954

952 Friends

Having encountered many different pirate outfits, Ves knew that a trustworthy one practically didn't exist.

The value of the Swordmaidens was that they cared about their reputation for honesty. While this didn't rule out the possibility of betrayal, Ves nonetheless felt much more confident about going into bed with them than with any other gang of pirates.

If Ves let this opportunity to hitch his wagon onto the Swordmaidens go, then he would have to approach some other pirate outfit to do business with the frontier. Without a shared history of fighting and working together, and without approaching a pirate gang that used to be strong but was temporarily down on their luck, he would never obtain such good conditions for a private, under-the-table deal.

Certainly, even though he figured he got off rather cheap, maintaining a relationship with the Swordmaidens could easily cost him billions of credits a year, so the deal he just secured wasn't cheap in absolute terms.

However, Ves believed the business opportunities that opened up with this deal would more than pay back his investment.

While he might not be able to apply rare exotics to any of the LMC's standard mech models due to issues with explaining how he obtained them in the first place, they were enormously useful in designing custom mechs.

While he already had a lot of designs on his plate, he did not intend to neglect the top end of the market. Customized, high-quality mechs took a lot of time and effort to design, but it earned Journeyman Mech Designers a lot of fame and reputation if they became known for delivering hot mechs.

The more extravagant and powerful the custom mech, the more he and his products entered the news cycle.

Publicity and exposure was key to building his brand and gaining a higher profile without dumping in billions of credits each year on marketing.

Ves quickly shook his head to get his mind off the future. Right now, he was just laying the groundwork for his future ascension. Rather than fantasizing about advancing his career, he should go back to trying to survive the return trip!

"I believe that's all?" He asked.

"There are no more issues to address." Commander Dise said.

After wording and enumerating the two agreements on separate data pads, they shook hands as well, though it didn't have any greater meaning as of yet. Only after Ves returned to the Shield of Hispania and have Major Verle sign off the main agreement would the deals truly be closed.

Of course, some words in a virtual documents and a cheap handshake didn't mean the deals would pan out. There was no way anyone could enforce contracts made with pirates.

In fact, if Ves arrived at the Jaded Sword with just the deal on behalf of the Flagrant Vandals and the Bright Republic, Commander Dise would have probably doubted their sincerity.

The Swordmaidens would have to incur the burden of protecting the Flagrant Vandals while crossing the entire frontier. Yet their payment only came afterwards and it was a question whether the Bright Republic would honor this agreement in the first place.

What pushed Commander Dise into accepting it was because Ves wanted to close another deal at the same time. Not only did he show sincere intention into cooperating with the Swordmaidens, he also promised to 'compensate' them in the future if the Bright Republic reneged the main deal for some reason.

However, with Ves clearly aiming to build a closer relationship with the Swordmaidens, they felt a bit more assurance that both of the deals would be honored. This was because it benefited everyone involved if they played along. Achieving a win-win condition was the most secure kind of deal that they could make.

After they chatted a bit, Ves made to leave, but Ketis called for him before he left. "Wait a moment! Dise, tell him about the backup we arranged."

For a moment, Commander Dise glared at her. "You're not supposed to know that."

"Heh. I can't help it if I overhear some things using the sensors of my fancy new armor." Ketis grinned and knocked her gauntlet on her piratized CFA combat armor. "I know Ves has a way of blocking electronic devices from listening in. We just made a deal with him, maybe we should ask him for one."

Ves raised his palm. "Ah, I only have a single signal jammer for now. With the resource shortages we're suffering through right now, I don't think I can make a signal jammer that's effective enough to block out the sensors of her CFA combat armor. By the way, what's this about a backup plan?"

Even though Commander Dise glowered at them both, somehow Ketis' puppy eyes softened her up a bit. The new leader of the Swordmaidens sighed.

"You aren't supposed to know this, but Commander Lydia left a lot of plans behind. One of them involves calling in favors to gather a large number of friendly pirate outfits to meet us halfway. Once we enter their embrace, there are hardly any enemies that can muster the numbers to defeat us all. It's how we deter most enemies when they pursue us, actually."

Ves widened his eyebrows. He knew how significant such a plan would be, especially to the Flagrant Vandals who didn't owe anything to the pirates. "What would have happened to the Vandals if we jumped into a system with half-a-dozen or more of your 'friends'?"

"Well, who can say?" Dise smiled coyly at him. "It's very hard to control our friends, you know?"

This meant that the possibility of stabbing the Flagrant Vandals in the back definitely entered her mind!

Right now, the remnants ships and mechs of the Vandals and Swordmaidens roughly matched in strength. Once the balance of power tilted decisively to one or another, it would be hard to say if either of them remained staunch allies.

After all, each of them retrieved a lockbox from the Starlight Megalodon. The temptation to snatch the other lockbox away from their erstwhile 'allies' should have crossed their minds all the time.

If not for taking the initiate to propose a deal to Major Verle, thereby allowing him to visit the Jaded Sword to negotiate several deals in person, Ves would not have been aware of this looming disaster to the Flagrant Vandals!

Ves threw a grateful smile at Ketis. Even though she was a Swordmaiden, she cared about Ves and didn't want to see the Vandals and the Swordmaidens at odds for that reason.

All the effort he put into nurturing her so earnestly already paid off in spades.

He turned back to Commander Dise. "Now that we have made some deals to cooperate in the long-term, I suppose you'll put in a good word for us?"

"I'm sure that can be arranged. My friends are your friends."

"How certain are you that your 'friends' will still stay friends even in your weakened state?"

"Because they're our friends." Commander Dise smirked. "To an outsider like you, all pirates are scum who would kill their own mothers for money. That's not how it goes."

Ketis nodded. "I already told you about this, Ves. Our friends will stick with us just like we stuck with them when they fell into a bad patch. We independents have to cover each other's backs if we don't want to get eaten up by the pirate blocs."

Certainly, if the small, independent pirate gangs constantly preyed on each other, they would only pave the way for the rise of the Dragon Alliance and the Ravienne Alliance. Yet Ves couldn't quite wrap his head around pirates helping each other sincerely.

"Just trust us. We pirates have each other's backs."

"Not enough to help you rebuild, I guess." Ves observed.

"That's true." Dise admitted. "Solidarity doesn't extend to charity. Each of us has to show that they are able to stand strong in the frontier through their own efforts."

Ves caught the implication of her words. "It's not a problem to your friends if you fell into a rough patch and lost your strength. However, if years have gone by and you haven't been able to get stronger, it's questionable if your friends still have your backs."

"That's why these deals are really important to us, Ves." Ketis emphasized. "We need a lot of money. We used to get by with a large mech force, but now that we are like this, it's not so easy to earn as much money."

"In the frontier, your power and might directly affects your earning potential. With more mechs and more ships, you can go after much more lucrative scores." He surmised.

After the meeting ended, Ves returned to the Vandal shuttle and returned to the Shield of Hispania. He met up with Major Verle and handed over the data pad containing the deal he negotiated with the Swordmaidens.

Verle read through the entire document line by line. He didn't miss any detail. After he finished reading through the document, he put the pad down.

"The deal you've negotiated is relatively complete and covers all the points my superiors might find interesting enough to put their stamp on it. The only aspect I'm concerned about is the price we have to pay for the services. Aren't you being a bit too generous on this front? I know you're intimate with the Swordmaidens. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you are allowing them to rip us off."

"The prices are subject to adjustment depending on the services they provide, sir." Ves mentioned. "Besides, if you hear what I have to say next, I think you'll be glad that the Swordmaidens received a deal that's slightly to their benefit."

When he briefly brought up the Swordmaiden backup plan, Major Verle instantly turned grave. "Are you absolutely certain that they have called upon their pirate allies to meet them up in the frontier?"

"I don't think they are bluffing, sir. I already know that they are very well-connected among the independent pirate community. The lie detector module integrated in my Squalon also tells me that they are likely telling me the truth."

While Major Verle still expressed some skepticism, he couldn't afford to discount the possibility. A good leader wouldn't pretend that an awful outcome wouldn't come true just because they didn't like it. At least they became aware of what the Swordmaidens had in store.

"It's not all that bad, sir." Ves consoled the major. "They informed us of their backup plan ahead of time. This shows that they'll probably honor our new agreement and extend their protection to us. All we have to do is to pay them back. They are truly starved for cash and resources right now, and that is what we can depend upon for them to uphold their end of the deal."

Now that Verle thought about it, Ves did make some sense. While the deal paid a fairly high price for certain services, that didn't mean the Bright Republic would scoff at it. More options for engaging with the frontier was always worth it as it was hard to find reliable partners.

The promise of earning a handsome sum ensured the Swordmaidens wouldn't be tempted to betray them in order to make a quick but short-term profit.

Ves raised another point. "I have something else to add, sir. Commander Dise didn't tell me this, but I get the idea that the Swordmaidens aren't very content with their current backers. Right now, they have an opportunity to please their backers if they manage to snatch our lockbox from our hands. However, I don't think they're inclined to do so as long as they don't value their relationship with their backers."

"Hmmm, but you have no proof is this, right?"

"Mayra, their Journeyman Mech Designer who went missing in action, expressed some dissatisfaction towards finding out that the Swordmaidens are actually beholden to some powerful entity in civilized space. I get the idea that not many Swordmaidens knew about this connection in the first place. The fact that this mission led them to being used up until they only have three ships left is bound to alienate them against their backers even further."

"It's a good thing then that they aren't pining to exert their utmost in satisfying their backers, then." Major Verle smiled in a strained manner. "Did they tell you where they are meeting their friends?"

"No sir, but their first destination is to reach a specific star system that's still within the deep frontier. They hid a backup ship there that's loaded with some supplies as well as a working quantum entanglement node. Once the Swordmaidens retrieve the ship, they can call ahead to their friends to prepare a welcoming party."

"Right. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to ask if we can borrow their comm connection to call ahead."

The Flagrant Swordmaidens permanently shut down most of their quantum entanglement nodes and lost the remainder due to the spacetime distortion in the Aeon Corona System. This left them without any means of calling for help!