Home ->The Mech Touch ->794 Unequal Exchange

 The relations between the Flagrant Swordmaidens and the ancient city of Mulak started off frosty. Though the two duels fought between the champion mech pilots and the so-called sacred gods earned the visitors some respect, the primitive society that ruled over the city couldn't handle too much change at one time.

The sociologists and related experts in the service of the Flagrant Vandals collaborated together with the experienced Swordmaidens to formulate a plan of engagement with Mulak.

"We've stoked their interest with our technological prowess and what we can bring to the table." Captain Byrd said during a conference meeting shortly after the return of the delegation party. "On the other hand, we have sounded out their willingness to trade for information and goods such as their god crystals. The only problem is that they are rather reticent to an exchange. Pirisa claims the decision lies with the sacred gods."

Captain Orfan snorted. "They're big dumb beasts! What do they know about trade? I bet the reason why the city has slid so far backwards in technology is because those humans turned into their cattle!"

Some of the officers, experts and chiefs shifted in their armor. This theory gained prominence among the rank and file. They believed that the main reason why the blessed people lost touch with technology was because they turned into religious nuts that put the welfare of the exobeasts ahead of their own people.

Naturally, the Vandals would never admit that to the face of one of the blessed people.

"There is definitely a driving force behind the inability of the natives to maintain their past level of technology, but we are not here to enlighten them. We can leave that to the CFA who will inevitably send a follow-up fleet to the Aeon Corona System. Right now, we need to focus on gaining an advantage that will ease our journey to the Starlight Megalodon. Chief Dakkon, how soon can we begin to move?"

"Our preparations continue to proceed on schedule, ma'am." The chief engineer answered while he referenced a data pad. "If you want a fast start, we can begin to depart immediately within a standard week. However, I suggest we delay the departure date by another week so that we can make some preparations against the threats the natives have outlined."

"What do these extra preparations consist of?"

"The natives described three threats which fall into two categories, ma'am. Our mechs can handle the large exobeasts referred to as wild gods, but if a horde of more than a thousand wildlings or godlings storm our moving supply train, then we might not be able to eliminate them quickly enough before they reach our legged transports. They're like ants to our mechs. While our machines can kill them by the hundreds, once they reach our transports it becomes difficult to dislodge them without damaging our own vehicles. This is why we are augmenting the transports with various countermeasures."

The Vandals also beefed up their anti-infantry countermeasures and increased their vigilance against infiltrators.

As weapons of war, mechs could handle most types of opponents on the battlefield, but that did not mean they were applicable in every situation. Traditionally, they fared most poorly in urban environments where saboteurs avoided the mechs and sneaked on foot to assassinate important offers or sabotage critical supply depots.

Captain Byrd approved of the measures. Though they only had the word of the natives to go upon, it didn't hurt to be more prepared.


On the other hand, Captain Orfan chafed at the delay. The Flagrant Swordmaidens deployed around five-hundred landbound mechs in total! That was enough power to steamroll through every settlement on the planet! Why did they have to show any scruples to degenerated dwarves and stupid wildlife?

Everyone pretty much learned to ignore her frustrated outbursts, so the meeting proceeded smoothly as everyone chipped in to the meeting.

Ves reported on the progress of fixing up the mechs.

"The cockpit modifications have proceeded ahead of schedule. Now that the mech technicians are familiar with the procedure, they're able to convert the cockpits faster than before. Within a week, all of our mech pilots will be able to recline in their seats to some extent, helping them cope with the heavy gravity if the antigrav modules built in to the gravitic packpacks, cockpits and their piloting suits all fail for some reason."

"What about the light mechs, Mr. Larkinson?"

"Their situation isn't as good as the larger mechs, ma'am." He conceded. "The dimensions of the interior of a light mech cockpit is severely cramped. They're meant to be as small and light as possible for a given degree of combat effectiveness, so mech designers often opt for the smallest cockpits they can get away with. None of our light mechs are geared towards heavy gravity operations, so I've been forced to finagle improved solutions by ripping away non-essential cockpit parts in order to make room."

"Will that affect the functioning of the light mechs?"

"Not too much, ma'am. It is a worthwhile tradeoff, and most of the light mech pilots agree."

Ves sometimes pushed through changes without consulting the mech pilots, but this was one change which directly impacted the mech pilots. Overall, they gave out a positive response, because they did not want to end up stuck in a sitting position if the power to their antigrav modules somehow all cut off.

Once they blacked out, it was game over!

A few days went by after the meeting. While the Vandals and the Swordmaidens all worked as fast as possible to get their act together, they also attempted to increase their relations with the rulers of Mulak.

Each day, they sent out a squad of mechs to make contact with the city. At least this time the city didn't launch any boulders at the mechs, but neither did they open their gates.

Captain Clarissa expected such a response. The goal of sending the mechs into viewing distance was to build up familiarity and curiosity with the natives. They spent so long under isolation from the rest of the galaxy that they fell into considerable confusion about how to engage with the outsiders.

The Vandals and Swordmaidens fell outside of the wildlings, godlings, wild gods and the forces of the other city! As an entirely new category of people, the inhabitants needed to make up their own minds whether to treat the newcomers with a fist or an open palm.

Ketis surprisingly showed a lot of familiarity with the current actions advocated by Captain Clarissa. She had been a part of the Swordmaidens for over a decade, so she became familiar with their playbook in terms of engaging with isolated human settlements.

"It doesn't take a lot of time for a stranded group of people to devolve into savages." She spoke as if she had personal experience in the matter, which she did. "Without a functional starship, quantum entanglement node or even a way to escape the atmosphere of an alien planet, it's easy to forget your roots."

"I understand that. So what is the Swordmaiden way to approach these settlements?"

"Well, we take full advantage of their ignorance and rip them off as much as possible." She grinned. "It's so easy to show to dangle something worthless to us as a shiny bauble in exchange for something valuable that is unique to the planet. Rare exotics, strange plants, special beasts, the locals may have gathered countless treasures without even realizing their true value."

"What if they refuse to trade? Do you attempt to use force?"

Ketis surprisingly shook her head. "Some pirates do, but we generally don't. There are few settlements in the frontier as it is. If we destroy every settlement we find in order to rob them of their goods, we can only gain one big payoff at most. It's much better to milk them of their worth through multiple visits. Each time we close a trade, the locals are much more willing to provide us what we want, and they'll even look for the resources on their own initiative. It's a win-win situation for us both!"

Well, the Swordmaidens definitely won big, while the locals may have won much less than they thought.

"What kind of goods have you traded?"

"Generally, we trade basic weapons and machines. Think of pistols, air conditioners, ground vehicles, prefab housing and other trinkets like that. One of the best ways to get into a settlement leader's good graces is to gift them with a cheap low-level laser pistol that we've plated in gold and socketed with shiny synthesized gems. Lasers are like magic to them. Possessing the only laser weapon in the settlement strengthens their positions and makes them more open to further trades with us."

Ves snorted at such a shameless means of ensuring the cooperation of the settlement. "Ah, the good ol' bribery. As long as the leaders get ahead, they don't care how much the rest of their subjects are losing out. What if the settlement is advanced enough to retain some laser weapons?"

"Then we offer something else as shiny." Ketis waved her hand dismissively. "A gold-plated suit of combat armor, for example, or a pimped-up aircar with heavy restrictions. Just letting them fly fifty meters above the ground for ten minutes at a time is enough to turn them into megalomaniacs. The capabilities aren't too important as long as they are better than anything else a primitive settlement has left. The key is to make the association that the leaders can enhance their status if they engage in trade with outsiders."

"Does it work?"

"Hmm.. not all the time, but mostly. It works best if there's a single tyrant in charge of the settlement. It gets more complicated if the isolated settlement is ruled by some kind of council. The politics can get kind of messy. We have to play the council members against each other. Sometimes, the people from the settlements are so xenophobic to outsiders that it's impossible to have a cordial conversation with them. We usually leave them alone and move elsewhere."

The existence of isolated settlements was a lot more prevalent than most people thought. The spread of humans in the galaxy had not gone entirely without hitches. The invention of the quantum entanglement nodes helped keep the human race connected to each other, but it was impossible for their owners to repair these expensive devices once they sustained any damage!

Once a population of humans got cut off from the radiant civilization that governed half the galaxy, it was remarkable how fast they degenerated. No amount of preparation from the settlers could enable them to maintain their extremely advanced technology.

The price of greater advancement was that humans needed an ever greater base to maintain their technological development!

In fact, one of the doomsday scenarios bandied about on the galactic net was what might happen if every quantum entanglement node ceased working some day. Perhaps the Comm Consortium pulled the plug, perhaps some cosmic shockwave ran throughout the entire galaxy, perhaps some conspiracy by the aliens managed to succeed.Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.

Whatever the cause, the sudden breakdown of all instant communication in human space would prove catastrophic. Many places would break out into riots, while others might manage to retain control, but only for a limited time.

The galactic net served an essential purpose in binding humans throughout the galaxy together no matter the distance. Its absence might make all of that come crashing down, turning states and star sectors into independent islands that developed in different directions at different speeds.

What happened to Aeon Corona VII may very well be repeated more than a billion times if such a disaster came to pass!

At this time, an alert popped up on his comm. Ves looked at the message and became stunned.

"What is it?" Ketis asked. As a lower-ranking mech designer, she usually didn't receive any important notices. "Is it the natives? Did they agree to open up to a trade?"

"No, it's not that. Our scouts sent to the nearest prairie region from the camp have encountered what they suspect to be a wild god!"

Ever since the delegation heard about the threats in the wild from Pirisa, they didn't just take her word for it. The Flagrant Swordmaidens wanted to confirm the information through first-hand encounters, and so issued long-ranged scouting missions to the nearest regions that supported life.

After a few days of searching, one of the Vandal light mechs spotted an exobeast similar to the sacred gods!