"They call it The Big Breakout." Captain Orfan said to the crowd of high-ranking Vandals. "Everything is hush-hush for now, so don't spread it around. The only reason why the main players invited us is because we've salvaged some working mechs."
Everyone including Ves looked intrigued. Some of them might have been aware that some of the trapped foreigners attempted to organize a big escape. However, Ves did not expect they valued working mechs so much, but it made sense now that he thought about their scarcity.
Orfan smiled at the way the crowd looked at her. Another reason why they had been contacted was because she had recently shown her strength on Harkensen III. "Mechs are strategic resources on this planet. You all know how stingy the Reinaldans are with possession of mechs. If they aren't so busy chasing after the terrorists, they would have taken them away from our hands by now."
Right now, only the Planetary Guard remained to guard the cities affected by the attacks. The landbound mechs of the Honored Ones all pulled back to reinforce more strategic locations or assist with the ongoing counterattack.
Nobody was clear of the exact details. While Ves could always listen to rumors on the galactic net, the problem was that most of it was nonsense. The Honored Ones likely generated most of the rumors themselves in order to flood the net and make it impossible for anyone to figure out their true movements.
"When will The Big Breakout start?" Someone asked.
"They've only given us sixteen hours to reach the capital city. If we haven't reached Tecev City within sixteen hours, they're starting without us. Even if we join at a later stage, we might not be in time to obtain a transport or a ship by then."
The attendants of the meeting all showed ugly faces.
"Sixteen hours is too little time to bring everything with us!"
"It only takes an afternoon for us to fly everyone of us to the capital, but we don't possess a vehicle capable enough to bring along our mechs."
If Harkensen I's infrastructure had still been working properly, then it only took six hours to fly to Tecev City. However, under the collapse in order, safety couldn't be guaranteed. Who knew how many people would fire missiles at a fleet of aircars and other vehicles in the air?
The question on how to bring their mechs along became the most thorny issue. During their robbing spree, the Vandals prioritized the theft of heavy-duty shuttles. Even then, they barely gathered enough to lift two mechs and bring them to Tecev City at a decent speed.
"Do we really have to leave two mechs behind?" Chief Keys furrowed his brows. The man rarely spoke during the meetings. "I'm afraid we won't have much of a say if we only bring half our mechs."
A mech officer spoke up. "We have all these aircars. Can't we use them to lift up the mechs instead?"
"That's far too risky! Do you know how much a mech weighs? The Water Wraiths weigh more than a medium-sized office building! We need to connect a mech to more than a hundred aircars to generate the lifting power necessary to transport a mech. It only takes a single error for the entire arrangement to collapse. There is no way we can safely transport a mech to Tecev City in this way!"
Ves had thought about this problem ever since he suspected the Vandals intended to relocate to the capital city. With thousands of kilometers of land and ocean to traverse, bringing along the Water Wraiths was by far their greatest challenge.
"The Water Wraiths are amphibian mechs, right?" A logistics officer asked. "Why can't they get to Tecev City on their own power?"
"They're too slow." Ves immediately shook his head.
"But why? I thought that water mechs are supposed to be fast."
"It is indeed true that many aquatic mechs can traverse the waters quickly. They're larger and more powerful than landbound mechs and incorporate a special form of propulsion in their frame to achieve supercavitation. The shape of an amphibian mech of this price tier isn't compatible with this means of propulsion. In short, the Water Wraiths have given up their ability to move quickly over water in order to gain the ability to walk on land."
By definition, amphibian mechs were products of compromise. Their shapes, sizes, weapon loadout and means of propulsion all attempted to accommodate two wildly different environments. Torn between these two extremes, amphibian mechs could never match the performance of an equivalent landbound mech on land or an equivalent aquatic mech in water.
Everyone fell silent for a moment.
Out of all of those present, Captain Orfan appeared the gloomiest of all. "I already promised the big players that we'd show up with four mechs. If we only bring half of what they expect, we'll mess up all of their planning. Do we really have no way of bringing all of our working mechs to Tecev City?"
Since nobody provided any suggestions, Ves did not hesitate any longer. "I still have one suggestion. I'm not in favor of it because the Water Wraiths aren't in good shape, but it seems we have no choice but to consider the option. The problem right now is that it's too much of a burden to lift a couple of extremely hefty mechs. Why not cut them up? Let's disassemble the two Water Wraiths into several pieces. As long as we are careful, our aircars will have a much easier time in lifting a couple of parts."
The technically-inclined Vandals seriously considered the proposal. They did not show immediate enthusiasm for the solution because it came with several caveats.
"There are a number of issues that come with this proposal." Chief Vasar stated. "First, disassembling the mechs takes time. Assembling it back into a working mech takes even more time. Will we be able to do both as well as relocate to Tecev City within sixteen hours?"
"I'm not sure. But there's no harm in trying. It's better than leaving the mechs behind."
"Can the disassembled parts withstand the rigors of travel in this fashion?"
Ves already had an answer to this issue. "We don't need to lift the parts in the open. This shipyard stores many spare containers. We can disassemble the parts into pieces that can fit inside the containers to protect them from exposure and avoid attracting any attention."
A few more issues popped up, but either Ves or some of the other mech designers and mech technicians always managed to come up with a solution.
"Alright! It seems you fellows have this well in hand!" Captain Orfan finally clapped her hands. Many of the mech officers and ship officers looked bored at the discussion. "Since the clock is ticking, let's adjourn this meeting and get ready to move everyone out! We need to bring as many supplies as we need for the upcoming operation!"
The Vandals had already been ready to move out at any moment. With this much manpower, they tidied up the shipyard and packed up all of the supplies they thought they needed.
Preparing the mechs for transport took a lot more time, however. The Vandals spent two hours trying to speed up the partial disassembly of WW-3 and WW-4. Ves had decided upon cutting up the worst two mechs while leaving their better mechs intact in order to preserve their defensive ability.
Even if WW-1 and WW-2 were being towed in the air, they could still go online at any moment and fire at anything that attempted to threaten them. So long as they kept those mechs functional, the Vandals possessed sufficient deterrence to cross over to Tecev City without getting entangled along the way.
More than two hours later, the Flagrant Vandals collectively lifted off. Several hundred aircars moved into the air in waves. Sturdy alloy cables connected a dozen or so aircars to a container. Each group of aircar lifted off a separate container filled with Water Wraith parts along with other supplies.
The aircars formed into a giant but largely vulnerable fleet. In order to provide some measure of security, heavy-duty transport shuttles lifted up WW-1 and WW-2, both of which had entered standby mode. The shuttles positioned the mechs at the front and the rear of the fleet.
The massive swarm finally moved away from the city and started to make their way over to Tecev City. They made for a dramatic sight, and everyone that witnessed their migration became awed at their enterprise.
Seeing two functional mechs being towed in the air made for a profound sight to anyone who witnessed the movement. Every city or settlement in the way fell silent as the intimidating Vandals flew past their vicinity.
Word got out about their movements and the settlements along the way all turned out to witness their passing. Of course, not everyone was willing to see the Vandals make it out.
At another medium-sized city, a volley of missiles suddenly launched towards the fleet. With so many aircars in the sky, the missiles could have their pick of vehicles to blow up!
"Activate anti-missile systems!"
The Water Wraith at the front fired fragmented projectiles from their gun barrels, each aimed at a different incoming missile. Within a second, the deadly missiles had all been swept up, exploding harmlessly in the air.
"Backtrack the trajectory of the missiles and teach them a lesson!"
This time, WW-1 fired off all of its cannons. Instead of fragmented projectiles, the mech fired off solid kinetic slugs this time. Their high velocity quickly delivered them to the city block where the missiles had emerged.
The heavy impacts flattened the entire area around the enemy stronghold and certainly wiped out every human in the vicinity!
"That will show them what will happen if they mess with the Vandals!"
WW-1 deliberately went overkill in order to demonstrate their willingness to hit back twice as hard. By killing the chicken to scare the monkeys, every other group along the way who wanted to mess with the Vandals finally lost heart.
The fleet of vehicles reached the outskirts of Tecev City almost half a day later.
Ves peered through the window of the transport shuttle he was riding with and evaluated the state of the city.
The sprawled-out metropolis prohibited high-rise structures, so the capital city featured a gigantic sprawl of different neighborhoods and districts, each of which served a different community. The adobe walls and tropical climate evoked a sense of paradise, and ordinarily average people could only dream of living in this prosperous city.
Now, the paradise had fallen. Just like many other cities affected by the attacks, most districts witnessed a partial or complete collapse of order. Though the Reinaldans sent out a large amount of Planetary Guard mechs to keep the piece, Tecev City was host to many millions citizens and foreigners. It was impossible to pacify the entire city within a week!
The Reinaldans concentrated most of their defenses around government buildings and military bases. This left many gaps which turned into a gigantic no man's land. Every street was under the control of a different thug, some of which possessed the strength to threaten the Vandals.
Flying high above their heads was bound to be regarded as a provocation, so the fleet of aircars quickly descended from the air and landed a fair distance away from Tecev City's spaceport.
As soon as the aircars landed on the ground, Ves and the others quickly left their vehicles. "We've only got less than two hours left to reassemble WW-3 and WW-4! We need to hurry up!"
While Captain Orfan and some of the cadre flew off to meet with the organizers of The Big Breakout, the Vandals who remained needed to get ready to take part in the operation.
Their first priority should be to put the disassembled pieces of the Water Wraiths back together!