"Hahaha, the Reinaldans are taking a load of flack for the deaths!" Captain Orfan laughed as she patched into a news feed.
Throughout this entire ordeal, the planet had never lost connection to the galactic net. The neighboring states got to follow the chaos live as it happened!
In any case, the problem the outfits pushed onto the Reinaldans had already led to a firestorm of criticism and blame. Foreign diplomats went livid while Reinaldan politicians argued about the next course of action.
One political faction argued that since they already drew some blood, they might as well go all the way. Another political faction wanted to wash their hands of the incident entirely and ensure the deaths did not continue to pile up. Many Reinaldans scratched their head about the blockade. Why did they need to keep the foreign tourists prisoner on Harkensen I?
Ves only found it regretful that he couldn't identify the player among the Reinaldans. The aggressive faction counted too many Reinaldan bigwigs among their number. The player who pushed this cart along could be anyone of those figures.
If the player was smart enough, he or she would have kept themselves neutral instead, opting to achieve their goals by directing their pawns.
It seemed like every other player stuck to the rules of the game as well. Secrecy was paramount. No matter what, their identities could never be exposed in public.
"Right now, they're in the dark, and we're the chumps who they've pushed out in the light."
Naturally, the individual outfits who incited the butchery received plenty of accusations as well. The heroic halo cast upon the Flagrant Vandals had instantly been torn down. The Bright Republic went from worshipping their heroics to casting them aside like pieces of dirt.
"Feh. Typical." The mech captain spat. "There's no pleasing this crowd of soft-hearted cowards."
"We did go over the line, captain." Ves spoke. "This escalation of violence is too extreme. While it feels good to take the Reinaldans down a notch, we are still risking our lives by trying to challenge an entire state."
She waved her hand dismissively. "It won't go that far. Nobody wants to change the status quo, the Reinaldans least of all. They've got a good thing going right now, but the only way they can keep raking in the money is if they don't piss off too many states. If everyone is turning against them, their dreams of running a profitable trade hub will crash and burn."
That sounded surprisingly sophisticated coming from her mouth. Ves guessed that she merely parrotted the analysis of a logistics officer or something.
Ves looked around as he exited the shuttle. "Well, here we are. In possession of some transports."
These large interplanetary vessels formed the lifeblood of interplanetary trade. They possessed enough thrust to transport cargo between different planets without taking too much time.
Smaller than interstellar cargo haulers, they also lacked FTL drives as well as advanced life support. This increased the difficulty of their escape. They couldn't rely on these transport vessels to escape the Harkensen System.
He glanced at the serial number stamped on the hull of the transport. The vessel wasn't worthy of receiving a true ship name. Considering its paperthin armor and cheap construction, Ves could hardly blame this decision.
"This transport is two or three cannon impacts away from decompression."
"It's the best we got, Mr. Larkinson. The Masters of Combat and their ilk are hogging the best ships for themselves."
He turned around and noted the members of the other outfits crawling over the biggest ships. A large number of mechs stood on guard while fueling vehicles slowly filled up the tank.
The ships and vessels in possession of the outfits received the best treatment, but the other vessels received some attention as well. Smaller fueling bots paid a visit to each shuttle and spurted some fuel in their empty tanks.
In order for the next phase of the plan to work, the Vandals and their temporary partners still needed the civilians to act as their shield. That meant they needed to divert some effort into refueling all of those shuttles and other passenger craft.
Ves entered the transport along with a lot of other Vandals. The interior cargo holds lacked any form of seating or other comforts, but the Vandals already thought about that. Teams of mech technicians brought in foldable benches and crudely bolted them to the floor. They weren't crash seats, but the benches would be sufficient to keep the Vandals in place if the transport met some mishap along the way.
Half an hour passed as everyone raced to get their act together. Taking control over the ships and filling them up with passengers and cargo took a lot of time. If they hadn't planned all of their moves beforehand then it could have easily taken twice as long to get their act ready.
"Hurry up! Planetary Guard reinforcements are on the way. They're bringing out the big guns!"
The Big Breakout's success depended on whether the outfits moved fast enough. The moment they slowed down, the vengeful Reinaldans would certainly catch up!
Just as they finished loading in their cargo, something unexpected happened. The mechs piloted by the Masters of Combat suddenly turned on the Vandal-controlled Water Wraiths!
"Damnit, I knew those Vesians couldn't be trusted!"
The abrupt shelling heavily damaged the Water Wraiths. WW-4 outright malfunctioned and its pilot immediately ejected. WW-1, WW-2 and WW-3 immediately counterattacked in the vague direction of the Masters of Combat. The mechs controlled by the Masters of Combat immediately came under pressure. Though the Vesian mercenary corps managed to scavenge more mechs, they hadn't been able to restore their condition as well as the Water Wraiths!
Two of their mechs had fallen, and the rest immediately fell back. It became apparent that the Masters of Combat hadn't expected the Water Wraiths to hold up so well!
Ves looked around and saw a nearby mech officer hollering at his comm for the fighting to stop! They hadn't even completed their escape yet. There was no reason to turn against each other!
"What is the meaning of your hostility! The Big Breakout is still in progress! You are risking everything we have gained!"
The other outfits shied away from the spontaneous battle between the Masters of Combat and the Flagrant Vandals. Instead, they accelerated their preparations and hastened to lift off into the air.
Then, for some reason, they engaged hostilities against each other!
The mechs piloted by Lydia's Swordmaidens, the Caged and Bloodriven Sky all ganged up on the Glorious Space Knights for some reason!
Everything went to hell at the spaceport. Numerous shuttles filled with scared and frightened civilians exploded or vaporized as they got hit with errant shells or laser beams!
Many of the shuttlecraft piloted exclusively by civilians already made their way out. Having survived one active battlefield, they thoroughly became frightened at the thought of suffering the same helplessness all over again.
"Let's go let's go let's go! Forget about the mechs!"
Many of their transports started lifting off. Meanwhile, the mech pilots of the Water Wraiths steadily abandoned their mechs and attempting to board a nearby shuttle.
The Masters of Combat attempted to keep the Vandals in place by shooting at their vessels. However, the Vandals hadn't gone up into the air straight away. Instead, they attempted to mix with the other outfits, finally forcing the Masters of Combat to hit a couple of mechs controlled by the Caged.
The mechs of the Caged immediately pulled back from assaulting the Glorious Space Knights and turned against the Vesians!
"You crazies! Stop firing at us!" The lead mech of the Masters of Combat broadcasted. "We did not mean to hit your mechs!"
"We don't care! Nobody messes with the Caged and lives!"
The tangled conflict resulted in an enormous amount of collateral damage. The escape went ahead as thousands of small craft and larger craft flew into the air and sought to increase their distance from the spaceport. Most of them aimed to fly directly upwards until they escaped the planet's gravity well.
The fighting died down a bit on account of the evacuation. Out of every outfit, the Glorious Space Knights suffered the most. None of their mechs survived against the combined forces of three other outfits. The Masters of Combat joined up in the end as well.
WIth the mechs of the Glorious Space Knights down, the ships appropriated by the playboys and well-paid professionals attempted to make a getaway, only to get shot by the other mechs.
Ves immediately noted that the mechs tried to aim for the engines and other non-essential sections. The outfits didn't aim to destroy the spacecraft, but merely wanted to keep them in place!
Teams of armored infantrymen approached the vessels and broke into them without any compunction. This told him that the other outfits needed something from the Glorious Space Knights.
Could it be a Megalodon chip?
Ves shook his head. "Whatever they're up to, I'd rather get away!"
Compared to the Vesian animosity to the Vandals, attempting to obtain an encrypted data chip ranked much higher in their priorities. Though a few shuttles from the Vandals had been downed by their mechs, the larger transports still held up.
The craft boarded by the civilians and the Flagrant Vandals took the lead. Several other ships from the other outfits followed close at hand, though they left a part of their forces behind.
Every Vandal aboard the transport Ves was on had strapped themselves to their seats. For now, the transport's artificial gravity and inertial compensators prevented the passengers from getting squashed against the deck or some other surface. These vessels often carried various kinds of cargo, some of which must have been fragile. As long as the transports hadn't incurred any damage, the Vandals had nothing to worry about.
Ves activated his comm and patched into an internal feed that displayed their position. The vessels of the Vandals stuck close to each other as they finally departed from the surface of Harkensen I.
A large number of civilian shuttles followed in their wake. They had nowhere else to go and they instinctively flocked to the largest gathering of vessels. Of course, many other shuttles opted to get away from the outfits and immediately split up in order to get away from those recklessly dangerous outfits!
"Soon enough, we'll be bumping into the blockade."
The Reinaldan spaceborn assets hadn't sat idle while the surface of the planet descended into chaos. Many mechs of the Honored Ones had split up into squads and attempted to envelop the entire globe. With the sheer amount of Reinaldan mechs, there was no way the Vandals could sneak away through a gap in their patrols.
This wasn't even the most effective net. The blockade might have been able to stop a few small craft at a time, but facing hundreds of tiny vessels presented many of the same difficulties faced by the mechs at the spaceport. However, this time the Reinaldans hadn't been able to bring their planetary guard mechs.
Exacerbating the situation was that many starships showed up at a high orbit. Each of these ships was connected to an individual or a group on the ground. Keeping the foreign ships in place forced the Reinaldans to divert a lot of unnecessary strength to keep them out of their gates.
In essence, the spaceborn mechs of the Honored Ones were being stretched thin because they needed to keep an eye on ships coming from the surface and from deep space!
"We've established contact with the fleet!"
Captain Orfan's comm lit up as a projection of Major Verle appeared in front of her face! They had all missed his presence, and it was incredibly reassuring to see him once again!
"You've done the best you could, Vandals. We'll be reunited in time." He said, reassuring many Vandals that salvation was at hand!