The Flagrant Vandals already deduced that the Temple of Haatumak and her accompanying swarm of independent pirate vessels intended to arrive in this star system.
The invisible Acolytes stationed aboard almost every vessel of the Flagrant Swordmaidens hadn't been placed there for sightseeing. The only conclusion the Vandals and the Swordmaidens could make was that they'd been placed as a fifth column placed ahead among their ranks.
As long as they utilized their strange form of stealth to remain completely unnoticed, they would be in a prime position to facilitate a two-pronged attack once the main force of the Church of Haatumak arrived and commenced their attack!
With the key to enter the Aeon Corona System in the hands of the Flagrant Swordmaidens, the cultists who plotted against them from the start needed to make their move very soon if they wanted to obtain the key.
Dealing with the Church of Haatumak already posed a significant challenge. Not only was their Temple almost as huge as a fleet carrier, they also enjoyed the devotion of many independent pirates who would gladly throw hundreds of mechs at the Flagrant Swordmaidens to please their god!
Fending off a swarm of low-quality mechs would take every bit of strength the Flagrant Swordmaidens could summon. If the invisible Acolytes suddenly assassinated the majority of their upper hierarchy, then the loss of command and coordination would certainly spell their end at the hands of cultists and fanatical pirates!
Even if the Vandals and the Swordmaidens confronted the Acolytes earlier than scheduled, they still had to deal with the other prong of attack. That was why Ves became confused why he only received a delayed notification of the threat.
Shouldn't they be fighting for their lives since the first message arrived? Ves looked up its timestamp and noticed that it had been sent just after he activated his signal jammer!
"What?! An hostile force transitioned into the star system and nobody warned me?!"
Ves emerged out of his hut of crates and marched towards the exit. He unlocked the hatch and slipped out before confronting the nearest security officer. "What's the state of the battle?!"
"Uhh.. battle, sir?"
"The Temple of Haatumak arrived in this system some time ago, isn't that right?"
"That is correct."
Something strange was going on. "Did a battle erupt between cultists and our forces?"
Ves blinked. "Then what did the forces aligned to the Church actually do?"
"They went on the attack, Mr. Larkinson. It's just that they didn't aim for us, but rather the Vesians!"
This sounded extremely preposterous at first. Ves raised his comm and read through the subsequent messages. He had a feeling he missed some details.
The messages indeed stated that the cultist fleet emerged close to the entry zone where the Vesian fleet had arrived. All of this had actually happened a few hours before, but the light of their emergence only just started arriving to the Vandals.
To sum up the observations made by the Vandal long-ranged sensors, they detected a significant amount of disarray among the Vesian fleet. Their countermeasures against long-ranged observation abruply ceased while several valuable combat carriers flew out of poisition or slowly began to blow up!
"The Vesians paid a visit to the Temple of Haatumak as well!"
Evidently, the Vesians sought out massive Temple in order to pay their respects and requested their ships to be blessed by their Priests so their powerful and energetic fleet wouldn't have to skirmish against the sandmen every step of the way.
It made sense for the Vesians to do so, yet it allowed their ship to be infiltrated by the creepy invisible Acolytes who had a tendency of stalking important people at close proximity from behind.
The Acolytes must have initiated a decapitation attack as soon as the Temple of Haatumak and her sycophants jumped into the system and closed in on the disarrayed Vesian force!
Presumably, with many officers assassinated or taken out of action and with sabotage wracking several of their vessels, the Vesians shouldn't have been in a good shape to repel the swarm of pirate mechs that deployed from the pirates.
The first minutes of the battle proceeded chaotically as the Vandal long-ranged sensors worked hard to figure out what was going on, something which the battle didn't help with all of the lasers and explosions scattering light in every direction.
When the battle between the Vesians and the worshippers initially began, the Vandals expected to witness a difficult battle for both sides. Which side won depended whether the numerically-inferior Vesians regained enough wits to form a coordinated defense.
Something like this should be hard to achieve if the Acolytes had free reign aboard their combat carriers. Unlike the Vandals, the Vesians couldn't rely on a tip-off from Ves to be prepared to root out an invisible intruder among their ranks.
The subsequent messages that arrived at his comm reflected this prediction as the Vandals expected the pirates to vanquish the Vesians, though at heavy cost as the Vesian mech pilots didn't go down without a fight.
Yet the battle did not proceed along this fashion, because at some point the Vesians deployed an expert mech.
How did the Vandals know? Because of the mech's subsequent performance and the resonance emanations their sensors picked up. The mech was like a beacon in the dark!
This expert mech first proceeded to crash in the middle of the pirate ranks. Having entered the chicken coop, the wolf proceeded to demolish them in rapid tempo!
In the first minute, it slew twenty pirate mechs!
In the second minute, it destroyed fifteen pirate mechs!
In the third minute, it slashed apart twenty-seven pirate mechs!
The pirates fell into complete panic where the expert mech went. Not a single pirate mech dared to confront the insanely lethal expert pilot in close combat! This caused the expert mech to single-handedly disrupt and push back the pirate mech swarm until the Vesians finally gained sufficient room to regain some of their organization!
After that, the Vesians counter-attacked! They charged into the uncoordinated pirate swarm and used superior formations and tactics to mow down the pirate mechs with the expert mech in the lead!
Eventually, the Temple of Haatumak and her pirate escorts ordered a full retreat, pulling back their mechs and burning away from the Vesian fleet as fast as possible!
The Vesians didn't pursue, likely because they already broke the pirates and gained nothing from stomping the overconfident pirates and cultists further into the ground. Besides, they still needed to deal with the aftermath of the assassination attempts and the sabotage wracking their vessels.
Ves looked up from his comm. "Have heard some rumors about how the Vesian fleet is doing right now?"
The man in front of him shrugged. "I'm just a security officer, sir. All that mech and spaceship stuff is out of my purview. However, I did hear rumors of how the Vesian evacuated a couple of combat carriers and ships from their supply train. Over two-thirds of their surviving mech force along with the expert mech resumed chasing after the attackers, up until the pirates voluntarily gave up ten random pirate ships."
The Vesians suffered the same problem as the Vandals, but to a much more serious degree. Not only did they lose more ships and officers, but they also needed to obtain replacement ship to provide new homes to mechs that have lost their motherships.
The grit and discipline shown by the Vesian mechs on the field and the stellar performance of the expert mech frightened the wits out of the Vandal analysts. Even in their damaged state, they likely still outnumbered the Flagrant Swordmaidens and their expert pilot alone already exhibited a much stronger resonance than Venerable Xie ever demonstrated!
"I need to return." He said. "Please inform the captain of the Gorgon's Gaze to prepare a shuttle ride back."
He then turned around and sought out Miss Lisbeth. The deranged mech designer still wore a hazard suit as she sat behind a console. As best as Ves could tell, stared listlessly at past combat footage of the Parallax Star in action.
She acted like an addict who had her supply of stimulants taken away. Ves shook his head. She made for a pathetic sight.
"Yes head designer!" The woman immediately turned around and gazed at Ves with pleading eyes. "Please tell me you are finished with modifying the expert mechs! I need them back! It's been more than twelve straight hours! I can't sleep as long as they're separated from me!"
Ves wanted to palm his face and give her another rebuke. Eventually he held off because it wouldn't change anything. Witnessing her appalled reaction made him feel rather sorry for Miss Lisbeth. She had come into touch with knowledge and design concepts beyond her means to understand and became irrevocably warped by those experiences.
That made her a useful mech designer to help keep the expert mechs in tip-top shape, but the continued exposure only deepened the damage.
Ves could have ended up like that if he strained his design philosophy a little more. It was a good thing he respected his limits and took a detour to achieve his results.
"Miss Lisbeth, I've finished implementing the classified changes. I suggest that Venerable Xie should first test out the adjustments in the simulator pod before taking the Parallax Star out into space for a spin. I'm sure I can get Major Verle to approve a live test when I return to the Shield of Hispania."
Her eyes immediately began to glow as all signs of glumness disappeared from her face. "You're finished? Great! I will prepare the Parallax Star for deployment immediately! Don't you worry, head designer, with me in charge nothing will go wrong!"
"Make sure to log the telemetry of the simulator pod and the actual mech and all the other relevant data you can gather. Put that all into an encrypted data chip and send them over to me via shuttle. Don't transmit the data remotely."
Once he issued his orders, he turned around and headed down to the shuttle bay. He entered a prepared shuttle and carefully swept its passenger compartment for any uninvited guests before he took a seat.
Even though he didn't expect to meet an Acolyte this time, he could never be too sure.
As the shuttle calmly exited the Gorgon's Gaze and brought him back to his assigned ship, Ves reflected on what he had just done.
To say that he felt conflicted was an understatement.
While he eroded his conscience to such an extent these days that he shouldn't be disturbed at plotting to harm an expert pilot indirectly under his care, his design philosophy disagreed.
"My mind reluctantly accepts the necessity, but my heart is disgusted at my actions."
He hadn't just turned his back on his principles. He ran them over with a battleship and threw down a few nukes for good measure!
Yet despite treating them so rottenly, Ves felt as if he could bounce right back to normal after his sordid actions faded from his mind!
The more he deceived, the easier he could maintain his doublethink. Even though he performed a heinous crime, he still thought of himself as a good mech designer. The mental gymnastics he performed in his mind became so sophisticated that he felt his conscience should go back to normal after it stopped making a fuss.
However, his design philosophy was another matter entirely. Even if he could lie to his mind, he couldn't lie to his heart.
It had suffered a lot of stress from being bent in every direction. Restoring it to its normal, pure, bright and aspirational form wouldn't be easy. He had a suspicion that it took more than time to straighten it out into its original shape.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
"Well, if my design philosophy is a little bent, then I'll just have to hammer it back into shape."
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