Idle dreams aside, thinking about designing expert mechs at this stage was like putting the cart before the horse.
First, he needed to advance to Journeyman before he could contemplate his expanded options.
Ves exited the conference room, following after the armored and suited forms of the other Vandal officers.
They had just survived another briefing about what they might face at the end of their destination.
Nobody knew what to expect when they finally came within reach of the Starlight Megalodon, but that did not stop Major Verle and the planners.
They held several briefings now within the past several days, each of them meant to clarify their mission and their priorities.
Contingency plans heavily came to prominence during the briefings.
Everyone needed to know their roles during different events, such as if they fleet immediately encountered an ambush upon emergence, if the ships got separated from each other, if the flagship of one of the allied forces got taken out of action, if the disparate pirate gangs banded together in order to eliminate them first, and so on.
They even discussed the rather unlikely but potentially catastrophic possibility of Lydia\'s Swordmaidens turning against the Flagrant Vandals in the middle of a battle against other forces!
With Chopra Interstellar Security\'s tragic betrayal serving as a cautionary tale, the Vandals needed little psychological preparation to contemplate such a possibility.
Still, the Vandals expressed confidence that they could respond to any unexpected outcomes so long as they did not face a qualitatively better force.
Even in their diminished numbers, the Verle Task Force numbered far more mechs than most pirate gangs typically fielded.
Combined with their training and formation tactics, the Flagrant Vandals should be the most powerful cohesive force at the site.
At least they would be so long if detachments from other mech regiments didn\'t join the party as well.
As much as the Vandals didn\'t like to think about it, the Vandals needed to plan around the worst case scenarios, and facing a strong and powerful detachment from a legitimate military mech force instantly changed the entire equation.
Chief Haine stopped by his side.
Wanna grab a drink with me
The two went down to the lower decks and entered the ship\'s bar.
They ignored the off-duty servicemen trying to still their nerves.
Many Vandals feared what they might encounter at the end of the ride.
They vastly preferred the current pattern of hopping from mostly-empty star system to star system to reaching the end of their journey.
A change marked the end of a largely peaceful pattern and the start of frequent conflict and grueling battles.
Nobody expected to complete their mission without a hitch.
This wasn\'t their first rodeo to Ves and Chief Haine.
They each dealt with the uncertainty and anticipation of what might come in the future with stoic acceptance.
Why should they let their nerves destroy their moods when they had no way of influencing what might come
As they sat down next to a quiet table and passed on their orders, a bot hovered over thirty seconds later and dropped off their drinks.
So. Chief Haine started after she took a sip of the Shield of Hispania\'s signature brew.
You\'ve been rather occupied with other matters lately.
Both you and Avanaeon looked so obsessed with working on that strange black cube shuttle of yours that you even stopped attending our Pirate Empires sessions.
Ves shrugged, unapologetic about mission those meetings.
There\'s a time for fun and games, and that time isn\'t now.
It hasn\'t been for the entire month.
We all have duties to attend to and preparations to make.
I\'m a busy man and I can only be in one place at a time.
If you say so.
They quietly sipped their identical drinks.
Compared to the signature brew of the Gorgon\'s Gaze, the Shield of Hispania tasted a bit less intense, but it at least lacked the filmy aftertaste.
So what did you call me here for I doubt it\'s to catch up on old times. He said.
The chief technician took her time in answering his question.
Actually, I don\'t really know.
I wanted to be in the company with someone who isn\'t a real Vandal, I guess.
You\'re different from the others on this ship.
I\'m not a real Vandal I would think by now that I\'ve at least become an honorary member of your club!
Nice try, but you\'re not quite there yet.
To be a Vandal is to be our brother or sister.
Have you seen how close the Swordmaidens are to each other Of course you have, you have that little devil following you around half of the time.
Well, to me, my fellow Vandals are like family.
I care for them and stick with them through thick and thin.
As for you… well, you don\'t really fit in.
None of you mech designers really do, for that matter, but some at least try their best.
You on the other hand…
Perhaps I\'ve been a little too stand-off in my approach, but you can\'t fault me for that. Ves shrugged.
I\'m wearing the hat of a head designer right now, so there\'s a limit to the extent I can mingle with the rank-and-file.
Besides, the brass already told me that I\'m heading out after this mission.
Even if that is so, that is no excuse to pretend you live in a different orbit than us.
Maybe the other mech regiments are stricter in that regard, but the Vandals are a bunch of exiles from wildly different backgrounds and origins.
Everyone of us has screwed up at some point that caused the Mech Corps to punt us to this mech regiment.
Without a shared identity to keep us together and trust in each other, how can we stay strong and united against our external foes
Ves took a deeper gulp of his drink.
I don\'t disagree with what you are saying.
You Vandals have adopted an admirably casual and tolerant culture.
It\'s different from what my relatives have told me about the Mech Corps.
If nothing else, I enjoyed my time here and have learned a lot from you guys.
You\'re one of the strangest Larkinsons I\'ve ever met.
A mech designer from your family! And not only that, but one who\'s willing to play fast and loose.
The Larkinsons I\'ve served with in my previous postings would have wrung your neck out if they heard some of what you\'ve been up to during your time with us!
That caused him to turn his attention to her.
You\'ve served with one of my uncles or aunts
Sure! It\'s not as if I became a Vandal since the start.
I used to roll with a landbound mech regiment called the 9th Colocis Grand Rollers during the previous war.
They\'re the trump card regiment of the 3rd Bentheim Division.
They\'ve got lots of high-quality medium and heavy knight mechs and cannoneers.
Their mechs, mech pilots, mech technicians and mech designers are some of the best of the Mech Corps.
I\'ve heard some impressive stories about the Grand Rollers, but not a lot.
That\'s because their mechs are so expensive and polished that the generals are reluctant to throw them into the meat grinder. She said contemptuously.
The Grand Rollers have trained for years and decades for the sole purpose of breaking the lines of the Vesians, but because they have become so good at it, no commanding officer wants to be the one responsible for a defeat that results in losing tens of billions of credits worth of mechs.
Well, if they\'re a trump card regiment, then it goes without saying that they should only be employed in the battles that matter.
The Grand Rollers all understand that, but the lack of action grates on them.
Do you know what it does to a mech pilot when they are sitting safely behind the frontlines repeating the same simulation sessions over and over while their fellow soldiers are fighting and dying at the very forefront of the war
Shouldn\'t their leaders be aware of their frustration
Of course they do! Yet do they care They have bigger concerns than placating some bored and overly restricted mech pilots! Part of what I hate about my time with the Grand Rollers is that they\'re so bound by rules and discipline that they can\'t vent their frustrations on anything!
Is that how you got in trouble Ves asked.
She snorted at him.
My story is rather private, thank you very much.
All you need to know is that I didn\'t get along well with the poisonous culture and the shortsighted officers whose only response to the mounting frustrations is to whip the men with punishments and pointless assignments.
Her reticence increased his curiosity.
Ves became really curious how a good chief technician like Carletta Haine got exiled to a mech regiment like the Flagrant Vandals.
He admired her competence and leadership ability, and she could have made for a good chief in any mech regiment.
The Vandals should be lucky she led the mech technicians aboard the Shield of Hispania.
What were the other Larkinsons like I don\'t recall any of my relatives serving with the Grand Rollers, but there are too many of us to count.
I didn\'t serve with the Grand Rollers from the start.
I learned the roped in various other mech regiments, bouncing around from unit to unit until I received an enviable promotion to the elite Colocis Grand Rollers.
Don\'t believe the hype when it comes to elite mech regiments.
The more the Mech Corps invests in them, the more the mech regiment gets treated like a trophy instead of the tool.
It sounds as if you prefer to be with a mech regiment that gets treated like disposable tools.
Hah! Guilty as charged! She laughed.
I think there\'s something refreshing how disdainful headquarters treat the Flagrant Vandals.
The brass doesn\'t bother to ply us with fake niceties because we\'re not worth the effort to them.
Everyone Vandal knows the score.
That allows us to grow closer to each other due to our shared contempt at the officers who consider our existence to be a stain.
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Ves understood the underlying frustrations of what she described with the Grand Rollers.
Ever since the genetic aptitude of potentates became clear to them at the age of ten, they trained all their lives to become mech pilots.
Aftering attending several mech academies for twelve to fifteen years, they became eager to prove their worth!
What a shock it would be for these talented mech pilots who ended up in a prestigious mech regiment to be put on the sidelines for most of the war.
From what Ves had learned of the previous war, it had been one of the more deadlier and serious wars between the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom.
Under such dire circumstances, the power and determination of the Colocis Grand Rollers may have helped stemmed the bloodshed and slaughter on the side of the Bright Republic.
The conflict grew so heated during the previous generation that many veterans who rose up during that war were regarded with a bit more reverence in the Bright Republic today.
It had also scarred an entire generation of freshly-graduated young mech pilots who experienced war for the first time.
His father had been one of them, and ever since then he tried to seek peace and tranquility whenever he could on Cloudy Curtain.
Besides, Chief Haine added as she finished her drink.
There\'s one more benefit to rolling with the Vandals.
And what\'s that
We get to rob and pillage the Vesians to our heart\'s content, even outside of wartime. She chuckled maliciously.
It may not seem like it right now, but we spent most of our time planning and conducting raids on Vesian trade convoys and border systems.
It\'s always a blast to pay them back for the suffering they inflicted on the Bright Republic!