The city displayed on the projection featured a fair amount of high rise structures. Most reached ten stories high though others reached as high as thirty stories.
Captain Byrd introduced the city to the Vandals attending the meeting. "Classified as A27 when our fleet scanned the surface of Seven from orbit, this city is one of the fifty-odd major settlements that is dotting the planet's more stable hemisphere. There are no outward farms or sources of water in the vicinity, but we believe they cultivate their food in underground farms and derive their water from an underground stream."
Someone already raised her hand. "Won't that take a lot of energy, ma'am? Where are they getting their juice from?"
Captain Byrd raised her hand, causing another projection to appear. This one showed sensor readings of possible energy sources in the city.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
"Despite the decrepit state of the city, it is very much an active one. While the age of the structures and the lack of expansion and growth suggests that the inhabitants have regressed, it is not to the point where they have forgotten how to build power reactors."
Chief Engineer Leslie Dakkon, one of the more experienced ones who survived the assassination attempts, analyzed the sensor readings made a tentative conclusion.
"The output of those power reactors don't look too high. The emissions they release also don't suggest any sophisticated reactions are taking place. They are definitely not making use of any of the high technology that the CFA is known to master. I think the total energy output is just enough to power the outdated antigrav modules that is protecting the city from Seven's gravity."
"Interesting observation." Captain Byrd tipped her head towards the chief engineer in appreciation. "A modern city that houses at least a hundred-thousand men and women consumes a lot more energy than the estimated output of these reactors. It is possible that A27 have developed other means of generating energy, but so far our scouts have been unable to observe any, though they are significantly hampered by the massive walls that surrounds the entire perimeter."
"Look at those old walls." Captain Orfan spoke up. "They're built for a reason. Look at how defensive it is. Look at the ditch they dug up, and the dents and scratches against its surface. The locals here are afraid of something. This is a city that has experienced many sieges."
The walls surrounding the city followed the shape of a circle instead of a pointed star. Nevertheless, it looked grand and formidable enough to withstand a mech raiding force, though there didn't appear to be any active defenses in view.
"Ma'am, have the scouts spotted any mechs or turrets?" Ves asked. "These walls don't look like they are meant to accommodate mechs taking cover behind them. The walls themselves don't look as if they are built to withstand mech-like attackers."
It looked like something a layman would design rather than something a modern fortification specialist might conjure up. The descendants of the crew of the Starlight Megalodon had truly regressed in many ways. Hundreds, maybe thousands of years may have passed since the crash before someone founded A27.
"None of our scouts have picked up any readings that match either mechs or any form of mechanized war machines such as tanks. This doesn't necessarily mean the inhabitants don't have them, but it is difficult for us to peer past the wall and the many dense structures to detect inactive vehicles."
"Have the scouts picked up any humans, ma'am?"
"None so far. We have picked up large quantities of heat signatures and other emissions that potentially match human bodies, but we have not been able to capture them on any of our optical sensors as of yet. We would need to fly over the city to make a visual confirmation, but we risk detection by the inhabitants if we do so. For now, the citizens of A27 remain ignorant of our presence."
A lot of other Vandals pitched in a word. Each of them derived various clues out of their observations. Though the sensors readings had been taken at long range in order to prevent the city from catching wind of the scouts, they possessed just enough detail to weave a story.
Captain Byrd looked satisfied at what the brainstorming session had come up with. "So far, we've derived a handful of possibilities from these observations. I think it is safe to say that the inhabitants are truly descended from the crew of the battleship, and that they have settled here in order to escape the pervasive influence of the battleship's ongoing catastrophe."
The projection flicked back to an aerial view of the less turbulent hemisphere of the planet.
"At least three-thousand years might have passed since the crash, but for some reason the amount of settlements haven't grown. The lack of growth and the emphasis on building high and thick walls around every settlement suggests that there is an outside threat that is keeping them locked within their cages."
"Uhm.. if there are beasts or something out there that poses a threat to these survivors, shouldn't we be worried about the threat as well?" A mech lieutenant asked. "We haven't set up any barriers around our base, and half of our mechs are pulled out of action because they are still waiting to be fixed."
"We can take them." Captain Orfan stated confidently. "We deployed enough mechs to cover every direction of attack. The ground is so hard and packed that anything attempting to burrow underneath us will face a nasty surprise."
Captain Byrd surprisingly backed up her rival's assertion. "I concur with that sentiment. Our defenses and alarm systems are more than adequate to anticipate any incoming threats. This is also an exceptionally barren region where no exobeasts should be able to survive. However, as soon as we move to the lusher regions of the planet, there is a significant chance of encountering the threats the settlements have been guarding against for millenia."
"So what do we do, ma'am?"
"We proceed cautiously until we gather a sufficient amount of intelligence to form a plan in response. Since the regressed descendants of a battleship are able to fend off the threats, so can we. To do so we need information, and I prefer to gather them before our journey brings us into the more populated regions of the planet."
The map of the planet centered back onto the base, though it also incorporated A27 along with a couple of other settlements in the vicinity.
"I've been in discussion with Commander Lydia over this issue and we have decided to take a joint approach at this problem. Our first thrust is to continue sending out scouts. They will be sent increasingly farther from the camp until they reach the edge of the forests and prairies. Once there, I expect them to find signs of more active life."
A series of arrows pointed outwards to the nearest regions in questions. All of them looked lush and bountiful enough that they might be able to support millions of dangerous exobeasts.
Another line emerged from the camp. This one traced a mostly-direct path to A27, only detouring when encountering difficult or impassable terrain.
In fact, Seven looked as if it once suffered a serious impact that cracked its entire surface. This made traveling in straight lines very difficult. Some of the trenches in the terrain reached an estimated depth of several kilometers.
"Besides sending out scouts, I also intend to obtain relevant information by making contact with the inhabitants of A27." Captain Byrd announced. No one looked too surprised by that, as they all knew they would have made contact with the locals eventually. "One of the reasons why we have decided to land close to A27 is because it is the largest and most normal-looking cities that we have been able to determine from orbit. We can only hope that the descendants are.. civilized enough to be able to establish peaceful first contact."
The ranking officer deliberately used the phrase 'first contact' to emphasize that they wouldn't be making contact with a normal group of humans. With how much time they spent in isolation on this planet, their culture and society must have diverged enormously from modern human standards.
The CFA used to pride itself as one of the pinnacle organizations of the human race. For their descendents to fall to the point where they eked out a potentially miserable existence behind high and sturdy walls signified that too much had changed.
The descendents may carry the blood of the CFA, but they likely forgot the essence of what it meant to serve one of the Big Two.
"Who will be part of the first contact team?"
"I will be going personally to establish first contact with the citizens of A27." The captain stated. "I am the only one among the Vandals with an inkling of diplomatic training, so there is no one else who can do a better job. I wish to bring a small number of experts along to observe the state of the city and its citizens and to provide consultation if necessary. Chief Dakkon, Mr. Larkinson, Dr. Tillman, the three of you shall be lending your expertise during first contact."
Ves feared such a request, but he half-expected it. Even if the inhabitants of A27 didn't appear to be making use of mechs, his depth of knowledge still made him a qualified general engineer who could provide an accurate assessment on many matters.
The same applied to Chief Engineer Dakkon. Even if it was unlikely that A27 operated any starships or shuttles, his expertise in large-scale machinery such as the industrial power reactors the scouts have recognized should be extremely relevant to their initial foray into the city.
Dr. Flosie Tillman on the other hand would be lending her expertise on the people and possible wildlife native to Seven. As a fairly young exobiologist, Dr. Tillman may not be the most competent researcher in her field, but she was one of the few the Flagrant Vandals managed to retain for whatever reason.
Since none of the experts in question objected to their assignment, Captain Byrd turned to Captain Orfan. "You and your assault company will be coming with me to provide some muscle. I think the sight of forty clean and deadly-looking mechs will be helpful in the negotiations to come."
"Why do I have to guard your wrinkly butt?! I'm not the only mech captain available here!"
"This 'wrinkly butt' of mine doesn't trust you to stay putt in camp. I'd feel much more reassured if you remain under my thumb. Besides, if first impressions have taken an awful turn, I am not above resorting to intimidation in order to force the locals into a dialogue. An aggressive boor like you speaks the same language as the primitives we might encounter if the initial meeting goes sour."
Some of the Vandals tried to keep in their laughter. Even if the mech regiment maintained a cruder culture, it would still be bad form to laugh in the presence of their current commanding officer.
Captain Orfan on her part looked as if she wanted to bark Captain Byrd's head off, but she painstakingly held in her irritation. She wouldn't be able to win a confrontation because Major Verle put Byrd in charge.
"Very well, ma'am. I'll play guard dog for you. Just don't expect me to smile while I'm at it. I'm not the kind of dog who plays tricks on command."
Byrd ignored Orfan's grumbling. "I have one more detail to add. I won't be making contact with the locals alone. The Swordmaidens have a lot of experience in making contact with indigenous settlers in the frontier who have lost contact with the greater galaxy, so they will be sending their own delegation along with a mech company as guards."
"Will Commander Lydia be joining the first contact delegation, ma'am?"
"No. The commander will remain behind in the camp in order to take charge of its defense should any threats emerge. She has pledged to send a diplomat from her own ranks."
That added up to around eighty mechs to escort the first contact delegation as they attempted to make contact with the inhabitants of A27. Ves hoped that would be enough to deter any trouble.
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