The Flagrant Swordmaiden fleet emerged at the edge of the Mortose Star System. The name received its name from a treasure hunter who once visited this system and profited hugely from a discovery on the only habitable planet in the system.
Just before the transition, Ves had been supervising his student's attempt at fashioning a miniature mech by hand.
Denied the use of an assembly system, Ketis resorted to using her hands along with precision tools to put the tiny parts together. The work required a lot of mental effort because she needed to perform most actions manually rather than let some bots do the work in her stead.
Ves considered this activity as a way to train her severely-neglected assembly skills. A mech designer who couldn't assemble their own mechs was a disgrace to their craft, though he knew not every mech designer thought the same.
Those mech designers could suck it. As long as Ketis studied under him, he would impart her with his own principles, no matter how controversial they might be in the mech industry.
"Arrgh!" The woman burst out as she slammed her fist against the tabletop, causing Ves to wince. "This stupid tool doesn't do what I want! How can it be so imprecise?!"
The impact served as a detriment to her ongoing project, as the vibrations had almost certainly disarrayed the alignment of some of the delicate miniature connections she was in the process of establishing.
One of his big pet peeves were mech designers and mech technicians who had a tendency to lash out physically whenever they suffered a setback. Not only did the outburst accomplish nothing useful, it also damaged the very machines they tried to piece together!
Still, Ves decided to confront Ketis on her bad habit another time. Right now, the fleet would almost be transitioning out of FTL.
"You're getting closer to assembling a working miniature. Your progress is quite decent. I remember at the start where all the parts came off the 3D printer with distorted dimensions."
She grimaced at the memory of that embarrassment. "Don't remind me of that!"
"However, you need to work on proficiency with these precision hand tools. It's obvious that this is the first time you've used them. Have you even read their manuals?"
"No wonder." Ves sighed. "Those precision tools aren't as shallow as a simple wrench or as intuitive to figure out as a ubiquitous multitool. They are machines in themselves, machines designed to assemble other machines."
"Anything that I call a machine is complex enough to be worth reading the instructions that come with them. Neglecting to do so will lead to incorrect handling, which will spoil the outcome you've been trying to achieve all along. You were doomed from the start to fail."
"Why didn't you tell me earlier?!"
"Are you such a child that I need to hold your hand each time you go astray? The lesson cuts deepest when you eventually fall flat from your own bad choices. It hurts to be wrong, to fail in an endeavor you tried so hard to succeed. Yet the pain is essential in teaching you right from wrong. You're less likely to fall when you perform the same actions tomorrow, once you read the manuals of course."
Ketis glowered at him, but Ves took no notice of her frustrations. He cared more about unlearning some of the misconceptions she developed during her time with the Swordmaidens. Just because the slaves took up the responsibility of fabricating and servicing mechs, didn't mean the work was beneath a mech designer like her. On the contrary. Ketis should be much more proficient in performing the same kind of work!
Knowing how to fabricate a mech entirely by herself would be a massive boost to her in the future. She could easily take over running a mech workshop from Mayra once she became more familiar with the craftsmanship aspect of being a mech designer.
Not that she appreciated his intentions. Not yet. But she will. Ves grinned devilishly at his student. The act of designing a mech designer amused him a lot, and it served as a nice distraction from his own intensive studies.
"Stow away the gear and dump the partially completed miniature in the recycling bin. You're going to have to do the same routine all over if you want to create a product that's closer to a workable condition."
She seemed partial to her creation, though. She hugged it against her chest like a precious doll. "B-But my budget is running out! I only have one more chance to complete a miniature mech!"
"That's your fault for not being thorough enough and for biting more than you can chew. Will your Swordmaidens accept a botched mech from you? Are your principles so feeble that you would hand over a mech that could malfunction at any time to your comrades and sisters?"
"..No. I would never do that."
"That's why I'm telling you to chuck that failed attempt into the bin." He explained. "This might be practice for you, but it's also a way to instill you with the diligence you need to become a qualified mech designer."
Once she cleared the worktable and stowed away her tools, they exited the workshop compartment and headed to the upper decks. They passed by the armory and retrieved their personal sets of armor from the lockers before changing in them. Many Vandals had already changed into their suits of armor, leaving only a couple of stragglers alongside Ves and Ketis to adorn their personal protection.
You could never be too sure of the threats in the frontier.
Ves was glad that his suit of light combat armor lost the cape and most of its ridiculous surface embellishments. Among the Vandals, he had no need to puff himself up as a noble among pirates.
Naturally, Ketis still wore her exaggerated suit of heavy combat armor that was littered with tribal markings, exobeast bones and other savage accoutrements. Along with her greatsword, she looked as if she walked straight out of a drama that took place in the past when humanity thought that Old Earth was still flat.
"Let's go to the command center."
They entered the heavily-guarded command center where dozens of specialists and officers manned the consoles. Most of them didn't have anything to do yet due to the enforced isolation of every ship in the fleet and the general futility in trying to make sense of the environment during FTL travel.
Each wearing a suit of combat armor despite the inconvenience they brought with them, all the Vandals readied themselves for action the instant the Flagrant Swordmaidens exited the higher dimensions.
The transition came violently, causing both man and machine to lurch. It affected Ves a bit more severely than others due to his physical abnormalities, but he had become somewhat accustomed to suppressing his urge to vomit.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click for visiting.
It was a big disaster to vomit inside a vacuum-sealed suit of armor!
A few seconds passed as the crew picked themselves up and diligently performed their pre-planned assignments.
"Every starship of the Flagrant Vandals are accounted for, sir! All of them have transmitted their status to us. None have reported any incidents during FTL travel."
"Sir, our sensors failed to pick up any signals or emissions within the vicinity of our fleet so far!"
"That's not good enough!" Major Verle barked to the sensor officer. "I want to know everything that is going on within a one AU radius around our fleet. Get to it!"
A half a minute later, the sensor officer finally barked out the report they were all waiting for. "Sir, we've picked up a swarm of transponder signals from the inner system! Many of them appear to be transmitted by independent pirate vessels!"
A plot of the local system projected into view and displayed the exact location of the ships present in Mortose. While the ships of the Vandals and the Swordmaidens emerged in the outer slice of the star system, a large but haphazard collection of pirate vessels orbited around Mortose I, the only habitable planet revolving around the main sequence star in the center.
Though encountering a mob of pirate vessels should have been an alarming occurrence, in fact the Flagrant Swordmaidens already expected their presence.
"Is the Temple of Haatumak among the pirate vessels?"
"Yes sir! Our long-ranged sensors have confirmed that she's the largest starship in orbit of Mortose I. She's almost as large as a fleet carrier!"
They expected the presence of the massive Temple of Haatumak. As her name suggested, she served as a literal place of worship to a frontier cult that worshipped a god referred to as Haatumak.
Most Vandals expressed contempt when they first heard about the cult. What were the odds the original founders of the cult invented this 'god' and converted followers in a cynical attempt at fleecing them of their valuables?
Whatever the case, the worship of Haatumak fared better in the frontier than many other cults and two-bit religions due to one unique advantage that was normally in the hands of the big two pirate blocs.
The cultists somehow found a way to hamper the tracking abilities of the sandmen aliens.
As the good-natured cultists that they were, they sold their services to independents who desperately wanted to minimize their chances of getting caught by the sandmen energy hunters that constantly roamed this region of space. Of course, the Haatumak cultists charged a good price for their services, and constantly tried to convert their customers into worshipping their gods.
Due to the size of the combined fleet of Vandals and Swordmaidens, the odds of attracting the attention of the sandmen was very high. They desperately needed the help of the Temple of Haatumak in order to minimize the odds of encountering this implacable alien race. Fighting them was always a chore, and they never yielded any useful materials when they 'died'.
Commander Lydia had been the one to propose visiting the Temple of Haatumak as their first priority when crossing into the frontier. She happened to have her hands on a yearlong schedule of the Temple's journey through the untamed stars.
As the Vandals in the command center reported nothing but routine matters, Major Verle ordered Captain Rakeshir to coordinate with his Swordmaiden counterpart and collectively make their way towards Motose I.
"What can you tell me about the Temple of Haatumak?" Ves quietly asked Ketis. As a daughter of frontier, the Temple shouldn't be foreign to her.
"She's an ugly monstrosity that the fanatics managed to cobble together in a space worthy ship. I don't know why they need all that space, as they don't have the numbers to make use of all that volume. She's the one and only temple to Haatumak. Don't ask me about their beliefs, I don't have a clue what they are. The fanatics are possessive of their god."
"They never disseminated their beliefs in public?" Ves raised his eyebrow.
"Yeah. You need to be inducted into their ranks before you know what you're getting into. The secrecy surrounding their faith doesn't make them very popular."
Ves frowned a bit. A religion that didn't try hard enough to attract worshippers eventually fell into obscurity. "How is the Temple of Haatumak able to stay aloft?"
"Well, the service they offer is one reason. Another reason is that nobody is willing to harm them as long as they sell their abilities in public. If the Temple goes down, the independents have nowhere else to go but the Dragon or Ravienne Alliance if they want to obtain a blessing that hides their ships from the sandmen."
That explained the swarm of pirate vessels orbiting loosely around the Temple of Haatumak. Normally, they couldn't stand to be in each other's vicinity, but now they had gathered around the Temple in a mutual pact to protect her from malicious threats!
"For something as valuable as the ability to hide our ships from the sandmen's long-ranged detectors, they must be charging a very high price to perform their service." He noted dimly. "How much will it cost us?"
"It's... complicated." She replied as her face adopted a mixed expression. "They offer a ruinously expensive price if you want to obtain their blessings with the least amount of hassle. The exact price depends on the size and class of ship, but on average they charged about fifty K-bars per ship the last time we stopped by the Temple."
Ves almost vomited again when he heard that price. "Fifty K-bars is worth as much as an Inheritor mech! To bless the entire Vandal fleet, we'll need to cough up enough money to erect a mech company's worth of Inheritors!"
"That's why nobody is willing to pay such an excessive price. Luckily, the fanatics offer other ways to pay, though the alternatives... well, you should see it for yourself when we get there."