The Mech Touch Chapter 959
957 Shoddy Mechs
The Dragons of the Void were some of the most persistent and annoying enemies that Ves had ever encountered! Even now, they hadn't given up on intercepting the remnant fleet.
The only consolation was that the remnant fleet barely exited the deep frontier. They currently passed through one of the most desolate areas of the Faris Star Region. Very few outfits made their homes here due to the lack of human presence. Ves figured that sandmen ships still outnumbered human ships this far from the border.
Nonetheless, the Woolox Star System hosted a small space station where a number of dependents of the Dragon Alliance made their home. The Swordmaidens received word that some of those subordinate pirate outfits suddenly mobilized into action and transitioned out of the star system in a hurry!
Not only that, but their destination brought them closer to the route the Flagrant Swordmaidens would likely pass!
As Major Verle informed him of the approaching threat, Ves relax a little bit. "Just to be clear, sir. It's not the main forces of the Dragons of the Void coming after us, but some hick pirates that became affiliate members of their alliance, right?"
"Correct. Even so, the estimated number of mechs the pirates can muster is of great concern. If their carriers are all filled to the brim with spaceborn mechs, then we can easily expect over two-hundred mechs bearing down on us at once!"
As the head designer, Ves knew quite well how many mechs the Vandals could muster at this time. So far, the mech technicians all exerted their utmost to raise their strength to seventy operational mechs.
The Swordmaidens should be in a slightly better state. So the Flagrant Swordmaidens would probably be able to field a hundred-and-fifty mechs perhaps.
A complicating factor was that the lack of supplies and materials left many of their mechs in a state of disrepair. There was only so much the mech technicians could do to patch up all of the missing and damaged parts!
"Do we know what we're up against, sir?"
"We do. The agents in Woolox who sent word to the Swordmaidens also included every scrap of intelligence they gathered about the outfits arrayed against us. Individually, they're nothing to be concerned about, but together they are a force to be reckoned with. Here is all the information you need."
Ves accepted the data pad that Verle slid over his desk. He browsed the summary and raised his eyebrows. "Kaso's Remediers. Medium pirate gang. Slick hairs. Small pirate gang. Blind men. Small pirate gang. I didn't see these names the last time we visited the Woolox System, sir."
"The pirates that usually take refuge in the Woolox System aren't very well off. They wouldn't be forced to base themselves in the most distant known space station in the frontier if that's the case. Pirates continue to come, but most are never heard of again in time. The sandmen probably got to them. Yet new batches of pirates keep pouring in. From what the agents gathered, the three outfits you mentioned aren't exactly in the best books of the Dragon Alliance."
Ves looked at the number of mechs these pirates could muster. "We're going to have a hard fight on their hands if they managed to corner us and force us into a battle. Is there no way to outmaneuver them and avoid them entirely, sir?"
"The Dragons of the Void doesn't have much of a presence here, but we suspect that they planted many hidden listening posts in the star systems in this area. There isn't much of a chance to keep our route hidden from this strike force. While it is possible for us to take wide detours to prevent their interception, that will waste vast amounts of time, giving the Dragons of the Void enough time to muster up a proper interception fleet from their core territories and send them out to cut off each direction we can take."
In other words, time was of the essence. They needed to get past the obstacle of the Dragon Alliance's fast strike force in order to rendez-vous with the 'friends' of the Swordmaidens.
"What did the Swordmaidens say about the threat? They know our opponents better than we do, sir."
"True. As far as the Swordmaidens are aware of, Kaso's Remediers are the ones to watch out for. Not only are they able to field more mechs than the other two gangs, they also possess a very wide and varied mech roster. Kind of like us, in a way. Much of their mechs are garbage but there are a few notable machines reserved for their officers that can give us a run for our money."
Their modus operandi sounded similar to what the Flagrant Vandals did in civilized space. They excelled at raiding lightly-protected trade convoys and shipping fleets.
Of particular note was that they existed the longest as well, which meant they developed a substantial martial tradition and wouldn't make too many mistakes on the battlefield.
The other two gangs seemed less concerning than the Remediers.
"The Slick Hairs fancy themselves as sophisticated thugs. They're known for how much time they spend on grooming their slick dyed black hair."
"Sounds like they belong in a theater rather than the frontier." Ves snorted.
"It's a gimmick, yes, but it's one that unifies them and brings them together, much like the obsession of swordsmanship among the Swordmaidens." Major Verle replied, taking it much more seriously than most. "The Slick Hairs mostly field a mix of light skirmishers and other assorted cheap mechs. Visually, they've modified their mechs by giving them the same slick hairdos."
As Ves browsed the image captures of the mechs fielded by the Slick Hairs, he had to admit the hairdos gave the mechs a sense of class that they didn't actually deserve. Beneath their slick hairs and polished exteriors, Ves spotted the telltale signs of neglect and faulty repairs.
It reminded him of the shoddy mechs of Walter's Whalers.
Verle turned to the last pirate gang. "As for the Blind Men, they aren't blind. They just call themselves that for reasons I can't be bothered to explain. While their rituals and customs are strange, they are known for their marksmanship. Their spaceborn rifleman mechs are all armed with laser rifles tweaked for power. While their fire rate is rather poor, leading to an awful performance at close range, their rifleman mechs are quite fast."
Overall, three distinct pirate gangs joined forces to intercept the Flagrant Swordmaidens at the request of the Dragons of the Void. While the pirate mechs didn't look impressive, the mechs of the Vandals and Swordmaidens didn't look much better due to lack of supplies.
"I'll take these files and study them to see if I can ascertain their weaknesses." Ves said as he kept studying the details on the enemy mechs. "Almost every mech model in their roster belong to the bottom tier as far as quality goes, so I'm sure I can find some weak points that can be exploited, sir."
"Do your best to make life easier for our mech pilots." Major Verle dismissed him with a wave, evidently not expecting too much from his efforts. "If you have any other ideas that can make our lives easier in the upcoming battle, don't hesitate to bring them up to me. You've already surprised me several times with your suggestions."
"I don't think I can pull another rabbit out of my hat, sir. It's very hard to do things when we're so short on supplies, mechs and manpower." Ves sighed.
"Don't we all know it. Now get out. The battle will start in less than a week according to our projections so make sure you have everything ready."
As Ves departed the stateroom and shuffled back to his office, he began to study the contents of the data pad in greater detail. Having worked with so many damaged mechs due to Aeon Corona VII's breakdown effect, he developed a sense for damage and imperfections in mech frames.
Ves merely had to look at the outward appearance of a random mech for a moment to deduce its major shortcomings. As Ves flitted through images of the pirate mechs on patrol or resting in their mech stables, he gained a broad sense of how each of the pirate gangs treated their mechs.
"Kaso's Remediers has too many mechs but doesn't allocate enough of their budget on mech maintenance and repairs. The Slick Hairs treat their mechs with much more love, but they are obviously deficient in technical personnel. I'm almost certain they don't have a mech designer presiding over their mechs, and their mech technicians aren't any good. Only the Blind Men are of concern since their mechs seem the most well-maintained of the bunch. The only upside is that they predominantly use the same mech model so that all of them share the same flaws."
All three forces adopted different approaches to their mechs, so Ves needed to treat them separately and in different manners.
As Ves dove into analyzing the mechs, he started with the easiest and most numerous mech roster. Kaso's Remediers seemed to have prioritized the acquisition of any cheap mech they could get their hands on to expand their numbers.
"Much of their mechs are probably second or third-hand wrecks that have been restored to a functional state by shady repair businesses."
Ves spotted the telltale signs of cut corners and inadequate repairs. None of the mechs in the possession of the Remediers would be able to exert more than eighty percent of their peak strength.
"All of these mechs have holes in their current states!"
He enjoyed picking apart each documented mech. All of the analysis that Ves performed would be uploaded to the internal database and be made available for access to the Vandal and Swordmaiden mech pilots in battle.
Their mechs would automatically overlay the weak points that Ves identified as well as supply some advice on how best to exploit them. The Vandals already achieved substantial success with this method before, and they had come to expect this service from their resident head designer.
The only downside to using this approach to Kaso's Remediers was that they didn't make any attempts at standardizing their mech roster at all. They fielded countless different models spanning over several generations and mech types. The only thing they had in common was that they were all universally cheap!
The intelligence the Swordmaidens passed on also only included footage of half the mechs the Remediers actually owned. This meant that while Ves brutally identified critical faults of half of their mechs, the other half remained completely unknown.
"Oh well. On to the next gang then."
When Ves studied the mechs of the Slick Hairs again, he got the notion that they would make for very good display mechs. Their slick hairdos and dashing paint jobs would have turned them into the perfect mascots for casinos and similar entertainment establishments.
"Even if it doesn't look like they have the help of a mech designer, their style sense is really good if they can make their mechs look so slick and cool."
Nonetheless, appearances mattered less to mechs than performance. Ves already found out that the mechs hid a lot of inadequacies beneath their stylish appearances. Corroded parts, shoddy repairs and more marred the mechs of the Slick Hairs.
It became very easy for him to pick apart the weak points of the mechs of the Slick Hairs. It didn't help that they only fielded a couple of melee mechs models.
Once Ves finished with analyzing the mechs of the Slick Hairs, he finally turned his attention to the mechs of the Blind Men.
As he studied their rather decent-looking spaceborn rifleman mechs, he started to experience an uncanny feeling about them. Something about their design seemed awfully familiar to Ves!
"This looks familiar. Very familiar."
A memory of his Crystal Lord Design suddenly sparked in his mind. When he overlaid the mental image of his Crystal Lord over the design of the mechs of the Blind Men, Ves found to his horror that they had a lot of things in common!
"SOMEONE RIPPED OFF MY DESIGN!"