889 Unexplainable Feelings
Ves and Ketis ran out of the workshop with their packs slung behind their backs. The Swordmaiden mech designer attached the floating scabbard that usually floated after her on her back this time.
Caught up in their panic, fear of death and gleeful vandalism, the Vandals and Swordmaidens around them didn't notice the odd pairing. Those who left instinctively grouped up but didn't really care about who they fled with. Others didn't bother about running and resolved to wreck as much gear as possible.
"Run, brothers! Live on and tell our tale! Don't let our mech regiment forget about our sacrifice!"
The centuries of hatred fermenting between the Brighters and the Vesians along with the sensitive nature of the mission insured that few would live past this day. Perhaps in civilized space the two sides didn't dare to go too far, but out here in the deep frontier the Vesians anything could happen.
A lot of servicemen and pirates already evacuated beforehand on the fleeing fast transports. Though they wouldn't make it far into the red zone, they still hoped to reach the fabled safe zone.
Nonetheless, plenty still remained behind to perform some final errands. They also figured that the Vesians would pursue the fast transports first. They gambled upon fleeing in a neglected direction and use their field craft to hide their presence from Vesian pursuers. The hilly, craggy, half-broken and complex terrain in the red zone easily allowed small figures to squeeze through the cracks and hide themselves from most scanners.
With so many Vandals and Swordmaidens fleeing in the red zone, Ves figured there might be a decent chance for a handful of them to make it to the Starlight Megalodon. No matter what, the intense breakdown effect and the interference in the air enormously complicated any searches.
"Where are we going?!" Ketis asked as she followed after Ves.
"The third party I've contacted is waiting for us at a specific location! Let's hurry up because she won't linger around forever!"
Both of them jogged out of the collapsing camp and headed into the red zone at an angle. They avoided the straightest route towards the Starlight Megalodon and instead honed in on the outer edge.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
Not many Vandals and Swordmaidens fled towards this direction as it didn't bring them towards the safety of the red zone.
Right now, the mechs of the Flagrant Swordmaidens no longer maintained their combat cohesiveness. The Hostland Warriors and Meandering Monkeys surrounded them in order to annihilate them to the last mech.
Some of the Meandering Monkeys already turned towards the enemy camp. Their approach was only a matter of time!
"It's here!" Ves said after they ran for ten minutes straight. "Calabast! Where are you!"
A stealthed vehicle emerged into view. It consisted of a small, slim aircar-sized crawler. Six sturdy legs supported a narrow chassis.
Ves immediately recognized the exquisite application of stealth technology. The Six-Sided Dice he jointly developed with Chief Avanaeon was like a horse cart in front of this crawler in terms of stealth refinement!
A hatch opened up, revealing Miss Calabast sitting behind the controls. "Get in quick! The Meandering Monkey mechs are already surrounding the perimeter. The sooner we go the smaller the chance we get caught!"
While Ketis looked stunned at the appearance of the stealth crawler, Ves shoved her inside and squeezed in after her. The interior of the crawler obviously underwent some hasty modifications. The rear portion of the interior should have held a crash seat or the like, but someone crudely cut away the fittings in order to make room.
Even then, Ketis and Ves barely fit in the rear! Their armor pressed and chafed against each other as they tried and failed to get comfortable. Ketis even had to detach her scabbard and place it on her lap at an awkward angle to make room. The crawler had never been designed to accommodate more than two people!
"I see now why you said we couldn't bring Mayra along." Ketis uttered with barely any emotion. "If this vehicle was bigger…"
"Sorry doll, but this stealth crawler is a state-of-the-art all-terrain infiltration vehicle." Miss Calabast said from the front. Garbed in her semi-flexible reinforced infiltrator suit, she looked completely out of place from the passengers wearing rigid combat armor. "To be frank, we only ever use this crawler to sneak in or extract solo operatives. It's capacity may not be much, but its stealth systems are top-notch. Bigger isn't always better!"
As someone who studied stealth technology from the ground up, Ves knew what she meant. The larger the vehicle, the more energy and processing power required to sustain active stealth.
A crawler like this was obviously designed to minimize all possible forms of emissions on land. A stealth shuttle may be faster and possess more reach, but the disturbance thrown up in the air by a passing vehicle in flight was a lot harder to cover up.
Obviously, its long but narrow profile was a deliberate design feature. The small size of the crawler also allowed it to squeeze through narrow terrain features or even smaller alleyways. Stealth vehicles stereotypically consisted of broad, squat shuttles so a crawler like this fell out of most people's expectations.
"What's this vehicle called?" He asked with evident curiosity in his voice. "Who designed this crawler?"
"Wouldn't you like to know." Miss Calabast smirked.
Evidently, she knew more but kept her mouth shut. This crawler was a highly sophisticated stealth vehicle designed by a considerably powerful organization. Calabast didn't dare to mention any names because that might allow someone to trace its origins.
The crawler engaged its stealth systems again and began to plod slowly into the red zone. Ves noticed that the crawler moved fairly briskly under a complete antigrav field.
"Isn't it risky to run a full antigrav field? Any mech with a decent set of gravitic sensors will be able to detect its presence." Ves questioned.
Miss Calabast nonchalantly shrugged. "Relax, Ves. This crawler has a lot of capabilities. Combined with the interference, a mech has to come within a kilometer to be able to detect anything amiss. That's plenty of time for me to deactivate the field. We'll have to endure the heavy gravity head-on when that's the case, so I suggest you lie down."
That was easier said than done. Ves and Ketis barely squeezed together in a sitting position due to their bulky armor. In order to lie down, they needed to lay on top of each other, which neither of them wanted to do!
As the crawler went underway, a raft of emotions flitted through Ketis. She became increasingly distressed at the implications of this defeat. Many of her sisters would surely lose their lives! Mayra's fate remained unknown and her possible death cast an enormous shadow over her heart.
Ves tried to exercise some self-control. He adopted a rigid expression in order to avoid giving any ammunition to the extremely perceptive Calabast.
Still, he couldn't slow down the fluctuations of his heart.
The Flagrant Vandals were his comrades as well. Even though he never held a permanent position within the mech regiment, Ves spent too much time among them to remain detached. He held a considerable amount of respect for the likes of Captain Byrd, Chief Dakkon and Dr. Tillman.
The thought of their imminent capture and execution weighed heavily on his mood. He felt profoundly helpless that a mech designer like him was absolutely powerless in the face of superior Vesian might.
Just like Ketis, Ves yearned to obtain the power to protect those he cared about! He did not want to repeat this miserable experience ever again.
The battle between mechs only involved a thousand mech pilots at most, but the support personnel added up to ten-thousand men and women. The outcome of the battle affected all of their lives, condemning them to death no matter how hard they fought back.
This was the tragedy involving battles between mechs! Once a side lost its capability to field mechs, they no longer possessed the power to resist their enemy's predation!
The strong devoured the weak, and on a battlefield like this, there was nothing stronger than a mech. Even after incurring all of those losses, the Hostland Warriors and Meandering Monkeys each retained more than a hundred functional mechs each.
Just this might was more than enough to sweep away most of the fleeing Vandals and Swordmaidens!
"Why did you choose to bring me along?" Ketis suddenly asked, interrupting the tense silence in the crawler. "You're a Brighter, right? Why not choose to rescue on of your own?"
Ves asked this question to himself many times. When Miss Calabast initially consented to his request of bringing along an extra, he spontaneously settled on Ketis.
Frankly speaking, while Ves considered Ketis his student and his friend, properly speaking the Vandals belonged to his own side. Why did he decide to skip over his own brothers and sisters?
As a Novice Mech Designer with a patchy foundation, Ketis possessed no value to Ves. What she could do, Ves could do better. Besides her considerable swordsmanship and combat prowess, she added nothing to the table.
On the other hand, if Ves extended the invitation to someone else, he might have been able to gain more confidence in their survival. Bringing someone like Chief Dakkon along enormously enhanced their technical prowess. A chief engineer specialized in the operation of starships, so Chief Dakkon would have been the perfect companion to accompany Ves and Miss Calabast into a battleship.
Opting to rescue someone like Dr. Tillman on the other hand plugged a very crucial gap in understanding the local life. With all of the deliberate genetic modification going on, they would certainly encounter biological horrors along the way. One of the biggest reasons why the ground forces of the Flagrant Swordmaidens achieved significant success was because they managed to research some of the mysteries surrounding the wildlings and the god species.
Nonetheless, Ves didn't forget about the initial exploration party and the follow-up party of mechs and transports. If Miss Calabast didn't lie about the safe zone, then there was a good chance he'd be able to reunite with the Vandals and Swordmaidens cut off from the rest.
After a long and obvious pause, Ves finally answered the question. "I guess I care about you more than the Vandals. I think you hold a lot of promise as a mech designer. It's a shame for you to land in the clutches of the murderous Vesians."
Ketis may be a mech designer, but she was also a Swordmaidens who fully embraced their traditions. Her extensive genetic modification changed her outward appearance and strengthened her beyond the baseline human norm. To the undiscerning Hafner mech pilots, they would certainly paint her in the same brush as depraved pirates such as the Red Tongs. Her fate wouldn't be good.
Yet that didn't sound like a sufficient reason for Ves to opt to take her along. In truth, Ves simply couldn't explain it. The thought of picking anyone else over Ketis just felt wrong to him. Why was he being so irrational about this momentous decision? It felt as if he couldn't exert control over this aspect.
No amount of logic and rationality could defeat his feelings on this matter!
Miss Calabast smirked behind the controls, but she refrained from fanning the flames.
As the crawler slowly trod deeper into the red zone, Ves tried to distract his attention away from this unexplainable conundrum. He'd rather talk shop than talk about his feelings.
"We're venturing straight into the heart of the red zone right? Won't this technologically-advanced stealth crawler break down very quickly?" Ves asked.
Miss Calabast shrugged. "I never intended for us to make it all the way across in this crawler anyway. Rest assured, there are still ways for us to circumvent the Vesian search parties when we are forced to go on foot. Don't forget that the Vesians are subject to the same effects as well. They only developed a limited amount of mechs that are resistant to the destructive environmental effects, and they'll be keeping their eyes peeled on much more visible stragglers. As long as we make a decent effort at hiding our emissions, their impaired sensors won't be able to pick us up."
That didn't sound very reassuring, but it was better than nothing.