Ves figured out a fundamental rule in the galaxy. The further away from the galactic center, the lower the average intelligence quotient of the people he met.
Certainly, exceptions to the rule existed. Great leaders and driven individuals such as his uncle Ark, his grandfather Benjamin, Colonel Lowenfield and every Senior and Master Mech Designer he met soared from the muck and mud.
But these exceptions only emerged from one out of a million or one out of a billion people. Such low odds condemned the vast majority of the galaxy to the vagaries of the stupid.
No matter which mech pilots fired those laser cannon beam that almost separated Pier 34 from the main superstructure of the Independent Harbor, Ves had no doubt that the threat could have come from any of their comrades fighting in space.
What was their fight all about, anyway? It practically made no sense to Ves! The Castle Breakers would be idiotic to force a fight with the Omen of Misfortune in the vicinity of Mancroft Station! Just those errant laser cannon beams alone made them persona non grata to the Bosey Clan!
The gains, whatever they were after, could never match the enormous losses they were about to suffer!
"That's not true, is it?" He rhetorically asked himself as his light combat armor clung for dear life on the free floating pier that had just detonated itself away from the main superstructure. The pier even threw into a light spin that it couldn't compensate for because it hadn't incorporated any boosters! "I can think of one object to gain that is worth fighting for! It may even be an enormous enticement for the Swordmaidens and the Vandals!"
What else could there be than an encrypted data chip from the Starlight Megalodon!
Even if the Flagrant Swordmaidens gathered a sufficient amount of data chips to figure out the route to the derelict capital ship, there was no harm in securing more, if only to deny their competitors the chance to follow the same route!
"Ugh, no wonder Mancroft went to hell in a handbasket. It's possible that there are six pawns in this star system!"
He mentally tallied them up. The Flagrant Vandals. Lydia's Swordmaidens. The Caged. The Red Tongs. The Castle Breakers. The Omen of Misfortune.
None of them sounded weak, though the Flagrant Vandals had the edge in numbers, quality and martial tradition. Yet even then, sheer numbers could easily overwhelm them. Attracting the ire of hundreds of the smaller pirate outfits that congregated at Mancroft at this time would certainly lead to an assured loss.
"The Vandals aren't the top dogs here. They've never been the top dogs whether they are in civilized space or in the frontier."
The older and more established mech regiments in civilized space could easily trounce the Vandals, while the big pirate blocs were enemies the Vandals could not afford to provoke. These complicated circumstances meant that the Vandals shouldn't easily get entangled into random fights.
However, if the Castle Breakers were after an encrypted data chip, then that almost guaranteed an intervention by the Vandals.
"If that's the case, this battle might have a ripple effect. If the Omen of Misfortune can drag in some friends, why not the Castle Breakers?"
The latter pirate gang might have been an independent outfit, but if there was one thing he had learned from Ketis, it was that no independent outfit survived without friends. With the stupid cultural expectation that you backed up your friends if they fell into a spot of trouble and called for help, this battle might very well drag in half-a-dozen outfits more!
This certainly explained why his comm blared out messages sent from the Vandals through their internal network.
Lydia's Swordmaidens answered the call to battle on behalf of the Omen of Misfortune!
The Flagrant Vandals followed their obligation to back up the Swordmaidens and indirectly lend a hand to the Omen of Misfortune!
The Caged and the Red Tongs both joined the side of the Castle Breakers!
A random collection of names representing small, single-ship or double-ship outfits joined the side of the Castle Breakers or the Omen of Misfortune.
The Boseys and everyone else tried to stay as far from this pissing match as possible! They already had their hands full in trying to subdue the unrest and regain all of their crew. They had no time nor desire to join a battle that didn't concern them at all!
The Vandals sent another message to his comm.
[TAKE CAUTION AROUND THE MEMBERS OF THE OUTFITS OPPOSING THE FLAGRANT VANDALS! IF POSSIBLE, TAKE THEM OUT BEFORE THEY TAKE YOU OUT! THE FLAGRANT VANDALS ARE CURRENTLY ENEMIES OF THE CASTLE BREAKERS, THE CAGED, THE RED TONGS,...]
Ves cursed, because weapons fire already flew over his head a few seconds earlier! A small group of pirates in red heavy combat armor had magged themself to the deck further down the pier and spotted the conspicuous Vandals first. Like the idiots they were, they opened fire on Ves and his escorts without considering their relative strengths.
"Wait! They're the Red Tongs!" Ketis shouted over the command channel. "If we fire at them, we'll be
"I don't think they care, Ketis! I'd rather survive this day than risk a puncture in my armor suit! Lieutenant, keep firing! Disable them if you can, but kill them if you have to!"
In a fight like this, holding back was a sin. One benefit of the heavy exoskeleton suits of the Vandal security officers was that its strong legs provided solid and stable magnetic footing. They could even walk upside down in a metal corridor under standard gravity if needed!
Thus, the security officers were virtually unhindered by the free floating pier and its slight uncontrolled spin. They fired their heavy guns at the armored Red Tongs, who numbered around twelve. The durability of their heavy combat armor matched Ketis' combat armor, but that didn't count for much as the heavy firepower overwhelmed them quickly enough.
The numbers advantage of the Red Tongs didn't account for much in the end! The quality difference between heavy combat armor and exoskeleton armor was too vast!
The only complications the Vandal security officers faced was that they needed to protect their VIPs. They positioned their sturdy bodies around the prone forms of Ves and Ketis and made sure to block any angle that could get at the two mech designers from the Vandals and the Swordmaidens.
Ketis and Ves added their own firepower as well, not that it made much of a difference. The medium caliber ballistic pistol Ves fired in the direction of the red-armored pirates hardly managed to land a hit. His marksmanship improved lately, but he hadn't spent enough time to become proficient with ballistic weapons!
Each time he fired his pistol, he managed to control the considerable kickback with his muscle strength with a dollop of help from his armor servos, but the round landed meters away from his intended target!
Laying just next to him, the brightly armored form of Ketis methodically focused her own ballistic handcannon on a single target at a time. Despite her enthusiasm for swordplay, she wasn't a slouch in marksmanship either. Combat practically ran through her veins despite her occupation as mech designer!
"How are you so good at landing those hits?" He asked with evident puzzlement in his tone.
"Hah! It's not me, but my auto aim system built into my handgun and my personal armor! I only have to program in the targets and pull the trigger and the auto aim system will do the rest!"
Okay, he revised his original assessment. Perhaps Ketis wasn't as good of a shot as he thought, but she certainly equipped the right gear for the right situation. Ves should have thought about incorporating an auto aim or aim assist system in his loadout as well!
Still, Ves grew up in a society where dependence on automatic systems was frowned upon. Though the same function existed on mechs, there were too many ways to fool or mitigate its effectiveness. The worst case scenario was that someone managed the hack the auto aim system and configured his enemies as friendlies while switching the statuses of his allies as his opponents!
No automated system was infallible! Plenty of horror stories and cautionary tales had taught humanity the folly of entrusting too much of their work on virtual dummies.
The recent cleaning bot apocalypse was a case in point!
The best solution would be to train his marksmanship the old fashioned way, but then again he risked falling into the same trap that Ketis had stepped into! Ves only had a set amount of time at his disposal. Hours being spent on anything other than furthering or developing his mech design career only wasted his potential.
Fortunately, between the choice of relying on some AI system to do the fighting for him or spending thousands of hours practising his marksmanship in the firing range, a third solution presented itself. Rather than force a non-combatant like himself to defend his life, he could instead follow his original plan and leave that job to the professionals!
The twelve Red Tongs who thought their numbers availed them an overwhelming advantage had all been mowed down by the Vandal exoskeleton wearers. Their armor suits might have been awfully slow, but anything short of another exoskeleton armor or something even heavier had no chance of inflicting any serious damage to their tank-like exterior.
The Vandals achieved another complete win!
Fragments of red armor along with morbid body parts floated around in vacuum. The blood and flesh of the former Red Tongs flash froze in the awful condition of space, limiting the potential mess that could have ensued if the battle took place in a pressurized environment.
"Keep a lookout for more members of the Red Tongs and the other outfits that have arrayed against us. I don't want us to be taken off-guard like that again." Ves spoke in a commanding tone.
His group began to move forward again. Ves tentatively rose to his feet, but was unable to deal with the shifting inertia caused by the slight spin of the detached pier. He was forced to bend to his knees and crawl forward like a baby.
It was a wholly undignified sight, especially when contrasted against his majestic caped armor!
He felt a little jealous of Ketis, whose combat training and heavier armor afforded her a much steadier footing on the rolling deck.
For a moment, he considered asking for a helping hand from Nolsen, but the security lieutenant already bent down to grasp in inside his strong, armored grip. Though his new position looked a little undignified, it beat crawling on the deck like he was less than one year old!
"You were slowing us down."
The Vandals and the Swordmaiden cautiously proceeded forward at a clip pace, which wasn't easy under these circumstances.
Fortunately, besides that first group of Red Tongs, no one else summed up the courage to attack their group. After five long minutes, they finally reached the shuttle they initially rode to the space station.
The pilot and its passengers hadn't left them behind!
The shuttle was active with its thrusters and modules ready to go. The passengers slid open the had by a tiny slither, from which the muzzle of a rifle extended out. The shuttle occupants had been on the lookout for trouble.
"We're here! Open up and let us in!"
The hatch slid open, revealing exoskeleton-suited security officers identical to the escorts accompanying Ves. Their hulking forms thudded aside to let the latecomers pour into the shuttle. Immediately, they found themselves on solid footing as the shuttle's artificial gravity asserted itself over the complete lack of the pier's own artificial gravity.
Ves could finally stand on his own power now!
"Thank the heavens for that! Are we ready to go?"
"You're the last delegation to arrive, Ves." Lieutenant Commander Soapstone said from the side. She was clad in a slightly scuffed version of his armor and had already strapped herself into her seat. "Strap in, boys and girls. We're about to blast off!"Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click for visiting.
They quickly secured themselves to the seats or the bulkheads and deck in case of the exoskeleton wearers. As soon as everyone confirmed they were secure, the shuttle blasted off at the highest maximum acceleration! Ves felt pressed into the seat as the shuttle raced out of the unstable and vulnerable pier with thousands of visitors and Bosey Clan guards still trapped inside!
What met them in space was a chaotic space battle spanning over thousands of kilometers in orbit of the lifeless rock that anchored the Mancroft Independent Harbor.
Getting back to the Shield of Hispania might prove challenging to a single, vulnerable shuttle!