Once the Flagrant Vandals occupied the shipyard and chased away the stragglers, the place began to come to life. After Ves delegated all of the essential tasks, he basically sat back and watched his underlings do all of the hard work.
"It's good to be the boss." He said with a satisfied smile.
The Vandals happened to have found a couple of heavy-duty transport shuttles in a forced-open hangar structure. While it couldn't match the lifting power and cargo capacity of a proper transport, they were better than nothing.
Unfortunately, the previous occupants of the shipyard broke into them and attempted to fiddle with their hardware and software in order to circumvent its locks. The broken parts and garbage strewn about made it clear that they hadn't been very proficient in their attempts.
"Can they even fly?" Ves asked with skepticism.
"Don't worry about it, Mr. Larkinson." Chief Vasar said. "While I'm not familiar with this transport shuttle model, they're not so different from each other. I can definitely fix up the broken parts. As for the operating system, our hackers should be able to subvert them quickly."
The small collection of transport shuttles became the most important asset of the Vandals stranded on Harkensen I. they were not only capable of conveying mechs over long distances, but they also possessed the ability to climb into space.
However, relying on these transport shuttles alone to bring the Vandals into space wouldn't work. Anyone who flew into orbit would summarily be blown apart by the spaceborn mechs patrolling in orbit. In addition, they would only be able to convey several hundred people per trip.
The Reinaldans didn't even dare to capture any escaping ships, for fear that they had been rigged to blow. They would never grant the Vandals the time to make several round-trips. For better or worse, the Vandals needed to obtain enough space-capable transport capacity to lift up into space in a single escape attempt.
Under the experienced eye of Chief Vasar, the mech technicians and hackers slowly fixed up the shuttles while bringing them under their control. The hackers didn't even have to sweat too much to subvert their programming because their civilian-grade security suite hadn't been updated for years.
"Good! Now that we've got some lifting capacity, it's time to bring in the mechs."
Other Vandals had already been sent out to scout the outskirts of the city for salvageable wrecks. They mostly aimed their sights at the remains of the amphibian mechs.
While the Vandals could have opted to salvage the wrecks of the mechs from the Planetary Guard or the Honored Ones, that would have pissed the Reinaldans off.
Right now, the Reinaldans already had their hands full trying to put up multiple fires. The devastating at the larger cities was especially damaging to their prestige. For now, they channeled most of their resources and attention at providing relief in those regions, leaving medium-sized cities like the one the Vandals resided in on their own.
This outcome suited the Vandals, and they did not wish to attract the attention of the Reinaldans. As long as nobody crossed the red line, the Vandals would remain below everyone's radar.
Still, that didn't mean the Vandals had free reign. Many different outfit members gathered together and fought over strategic resources. While the Planetary Guard dropped an abundant amount of nutrient packs and packaged water from the air, ensuring that nobody would starve, many visitors desired for more. Tools, weapons, vehicles and more became highly sought-after goods that incited some people to risk their lives to obtain.
The Vandals did not disappoint in this aspect. Their numbers made them one of the largest cohesive groups in the city, and their military training and coordination overwhelmed any opposition in their way. Gang members revelling in the chaos tended to become overconfident, but once they fought twice or thrice the number of Vandals, they quickly learned their lesson or landed in an early grave.
Ves did not have to concern himself with protecting the salvaging parties. The mech officers such as Captain Orfan had the issue well in hand.
A sudden cheer erupted from the edge of the complex.
"We've recovered our first wreck!"
A decently-intact wreck hovered into view from above. Several chains connected the wreck to a formation of shuttles flying in unison. Several heavy-duty lifter bots placed on strategic positions around the mech helped take up some of the burden.
Even then, the amphibian mech that weighed as much as a medium knight mech could barely be brought back to the shipyard complex.
"Well, let's see what big boy we have here."
As Ves and a number of mech designers and mech technicians gathered over to the wreck that had been dumped at a designated area, they got their first clear look at the machine that caused them terror last night.
"Its design is really good!" Ves said with evident admiration in his tone. "Has anyone identified its model yet?"
"It's an unregistered model. There's no record of this exact mech model in the MTA's database." Mercator answered. "However, I've snooped around and found a partial match for Gliesen Systems' Water Wraith WAWA-44AE model. The mech model is designed around the concept of bombarding shore positions from the water. The AE variant sacrifices all close-ranged combat options for stronger ranged abilities. Its dual-purpose cannons are highly effective on land, but not as good underwater."
The Water Wraith looked like a fat humanoid mech with extra bits. Its surface was coated in blue and green, and besides bearing the insignia of the True Sons of Vesia, it exhibited no other noticeable features.
Even without studying amphibian mechs in depth, Ves could tell the Water Wraith's design tried its best to balance out its performance over land and underwater. Its thick, streamlined armor had obviously been designed to keep it watertight and capable of withstanding a fair amount of pressure. Different from true aquatic mechs, the mech model hadn't been designed to withstand the crushing pressure of the deep. Depending on the characteristics of the ocean, diving three or four kilometers deep was probably their limit.
"Where is Gliesen Systems based at?"
"It's... not a company native to the Komodo Star Sector. According to the records, it's a mech manufacturer from the Vicious Mountain Star Sector."
That caused everyone to mutter in surprise. Humanity settled Vicious Mountain earlier than Komodo, so its overall level of development was significantly higher.
"Does Gliesen Systems maintain any branches in our star sector?"
"None as far as I'm aware of. They may have extended their presence here through hidden partnerships, but if there are any, you won't be able to find any proof on the galactic net."
This oddity sounded very strange to Ves. Why would the masterminds behind the terrorist attacks make use of a Vicious Mountain mech design? It was not as if the mech designers from Komodo lazed about. They developed more than enough amphibian mech designs to choose from. Could this be a hint that the scope of the conflict encompassed multiple star sector, or was this just another red herring meant to lead investigators on a false trail?
No matter the truth, the Vandals had to work with the mechs at hand. "Alright, there's no point in speculating. Let's start by fixing up this mech! Mr. Mercator! Since you're so good at investigating stuff on the galactic net, see if you can't dig up some schematics or specifications on the Water Wraith. Even a repair manual will do."
The other mech designer shook his head. "Mr. Larkinson, I'd like to remind you that the wrecks from the battlefield are not exact copies of the Water Wraith. What is the use of digging up those documents?"
"Even if these wrecks are variants, they should still use the same components. Restoring them will be a lot easier if we have something to base our work upon."
"But.. not everything will match. How are we going to deal with the discrepancies."
Ves sighed. "Leave that job to me. Jury rigging is something of a specialty of mine. If we can't make the right parts, we can always fudge something up until it resembles the original. We're not looking to produce a long-lasting mech! It's good as it holds up for a week or so!"
The reminder set their priorities straight. They did not need to work at the highest standard of quality. While that was important when it came for the main mechs of the Vandals, right now they only needed to borrow the strength of the Water Wraiths for a few days.
Once they transported the wreck to a workshop area converted for their use, Ves inspected the
wreck and drew up a preliminary restoration plan.
"The front armor looks trashed, but the internals don't require too much work to fix up." Ves stated his conclusions to the crowd. "Both the engine and the power reactor look like they can hold up, but we should double-check their integrity nonetheless. The cockpit is a total loss, though. Replacing it is going to be the biggest hassle to restoring this mech."
The Vandals opted to recover this particular mech first because it seemed the easiest to repair. Compared with fabricating an entirely new engine or power reactor, duplicating a cockpit was much simpler. The only complication was that they needed to replicate the software as well, which was a significant hassle but not a big one as long as they employed hackers.
"Alright, let's temporary designate this mech as WW-1. Mr. Vedette?"
Loke Vedette stepped forward. "Yes, sir?"
"You're in charge of restoring this mech."
"Me? But this is too big for me!"
"Oh, don't be such a worrywart. I'll take care of the design work. Your only job is to supervise the restoration process and to fix the small incompatibility issues that emerge."
Ves assigned Vedette to WW-1 because the mech was probably the easiest to bring back to life.
His judgement was proven right because in the next couple of hours, the transport shuttled dragged over several wrecks in increasingly more awful conditions. One lost both of its legs as well as a head, while another one exhibited a hole from front to back which swallowed half of its power reactor.
He assigned Mr. Mercator, Chief Keys and Chief Vasar to oversee the restoration of the other mechs. As for the wrecks the Vandals brought afterwards, Ves gave up on them after determining their exact state. The damage they suffered was so extensive that the Vandals likely needed materials they couldn't obtain from the city.
They were only useful for the spare parts that the Vandals could scavenge off their broken frames. In particular, armor plating was hard to come by, so having a ready source available helped speed up the restoration work.
Ves busied himself with solving all manner of technical problems. Despite the number of wrecks they recovered, some broken parts simply didn't have any spares to go around. He felt as if he became an emergency responder who constantly had to go back and forth in order to put out the fires started by his own underlings.
Time passed as the mechs slowly started to get back together. Since their lives and freedom depended on their efforts, the mech technicians required no further encouragement to work hard.
Ves had rarely seen them work at their full potential. It turned out that they became quite capable. The mech overseen by Vedette only needed a couple more hours to return to fighting condition. The other three Water Wraiths required further work to get back online, but would likely be back in working condition on the next day.
The Vandals became fully alert when night fell. They feared a repeat of what happened last night. Vandals on night shift vigilantly kept their eyes and scanners peeled for trouble.
Having learned their lessons this time, the Vandals procured a large batch of scanners from somewhere and pointed them in every direction, including the water.
Anyone approaching from stealth would regret it. Ves had become somewhat paranoid about this issue, so he also implemented some other tricks.