947 Calculated Sabotage
As soon as Major Verle approved the plan concocted by Ves and Avanaeon, he took it to some strategists and fleshed it out. Not only that, he also selected the best shuttle pilot and a specialist in explosives.
The Six-Sided Dice was fairly small for a shuttle and possessed even less internal volume. It only fit four passengers in ordinary circumstances, and even after taking out all the emergency nutrient packs, oxygen tanks and water filtration system, they still couldn't stuff too much explosives inside the stealth vehicle.
Nonetheless, if the calculations performed by Ves and Avanaeon panned out, they didn't need to plant too much explosives on the Finmoth Regal to cripple her sublight propulsion system!
Of course, a key part of the plan entailed the use of compact but extremely potent directional explosive charges.
Much like any other weapon system, they came in various shapes and sizes. For this mission, the Vandals pulled out all the stops. All of the best armorers and bomb experts gathered together to custom fabricate a special batch of shaped charges.
While Ves didn't verse himself too deeply in bombs and explosives, a shortcoming that he definitely planned to fix in the future, he knew that the shaped charges would do the job of penetrating through the weak points of the Finmoth Regal's patchy armor.
With all the data at their disposal, the bomb experts calculated the force needed to breach the armor and have enough force left over to damage the vulnerable components and compartments underneath.
Naturally, in order to damage portions of the core systems buried underneath, the shaped charges needed to be made of potent, high-quality materials. The Shield of Hispania used up several rare and volatile exotics to form these potent but very compact charges, but no one begrudged the expenditure.
If these rare exotics allowed the remnants of the Vandals and Swordmaidens to slip through the net and avoid a destructive battle, then the investment already paid off in spades!
"It's done." Chief Avanaeon said as he accompanied Ves to the CFA shuttle. "I thought my days of entering the fray were over. I feel kind of nervous depending on the ECM systems of this shuttle to keep us under their notice."
"Don't worry, chief. I already flew this shuttle fairly close to the Finmoth Regal and they didn't have a clue. As long as we don't come close enough to be caught on their optical sensors or plain human eyeballs, we'll be fine."
Due to various reasons, the two would be riding aboard the shuttle that would follow the stealth shuttle from behind and coordinate the upcoming stealth operation with the help of its pinpoint comm buoys and advanced sensors and scanners.
Much of these systems couldn't be accessed without the availability of authorized personnel. For now, only Ves himself could unlock the full capabilities of the shuttle.
A handful of other Vandals entered the shuttle and took the helm or set up various makeshift control panels in the passenger compartment. Each of the people chosen to ride the shuttles were abundantly competent in their respective fields.
After a quick greeting and introduction, everyone turned back to their own preparations without further word. As professionals, they'd rather focus on doing their best to increase the success rate of the coming operation.
Everyone knew what was at stake. If they succeeded in crippling the mobility of the Finmoth Regal, the Flagrant Swordmaidens would be able to take instant advantage of the deserter ship's inability to maneuver!
Shortly after, both shuttles launched out of the Shield of Hispania's shuttle bay and quickly flew off into the void of space.
The distance between the Flagrant Swordmaidens and the Finmoth Regal wasn't too large. It only took a couple of hours for the shuttles to reach the vicinity of the latter, and this was in a state where they pulled back the throttle in order to minimize their emissions.
The CFA shuttle stopped well outside the range where it might risk being detected by the deserter mechs. In the plan refined by the strategists, the CFA shuttle would never be employed as a vehicle to conduct the sabotage.
The Six-Sided Dice took on the starring role instead. As Ves and Avanaeon sat side-by-side in front of their own control panels, they carefully observed as the stealth shuttle threaded its way through the various mech patrols orbiting the Finmoth Regal.
"Did you ever reckon we would put our stealth shuttle to offensive use?" Avanaeon asked.
"Nope." Ves shook his head. "Then again, I never expected to be plotting against one of our own ships. If we targeted any other pirate ship, I wouldn't have risked it. The only reason why I proposed this action is because we are probably more familiar with the Finmoth Regal's hull structure than her entire crew."
He couldn't overstate the advantage in information. Combining detailed scans with archival data stored within the Shield of Hispania's local database allowed them to plan ahead and account for almost every variable.
With all of these preparations, the stealth shuttle should easily be able to sneak close, which it did as time went by.
Although Ves grew a little more apprehensive as the shuttle got dangerously close to the ship and her powerful sensors, he also felt confident enough about the effectiveness of its stealth systems to stay calm.
As the stealth shuttle came closer, the CFA shuttle began to employ some subtle scans to confirm the condition of the Finmoth Regal.
"So far, the Finmoth Regal received a small amount of patchwork repairs." Chief Avanaeon stated as he poured over the incoming scan data. "It's not much, though. I think their engineers and technicians hate the thought of performing EVA work out here."
"They might not be loyal to the cause either." Ves added. "From what I've gathered of the mutiny, those who readily turned pirates are usually those with the most grievances. The more skilled and competent Vandals shouldn't be as enthusiastic as the bottom ranks."
"That theory doesn't apply to the ringleaders such as Mech Captain Bonnet. They made the decision to desert for more reasons than poor treatment."
They both fell silent upon that. This wasn't the time to talk about why the Finmoth Regal deserted in the first place. Certainly, desperation at being hunted down by the sandmen and gratefulness towards the Dragons of the Void for rescuing them certainly played a role. Yet the leaders of the Finmoth Regal must have had their own ideas to embrace this grave act of betrayal.
As the Six-Sided Dice exerted its stealth systems to the utmost, it deftly slid around the detection radii of the increasing number of mech patrols as it neared the ship.
The closer the stealth shuttle got, the more it risked brushing within a couple of kilometers past the orbiting mechs on patrol!
Although this sounded like a huge distance, in space it was practically close enough to spit in each other's faces. Due to the sheer emptiness of space, any signal of heat emission, no matter how minor, would immediately stand out like a candle in the dark, especially at such a close range.
Therefore, both Ves and Avanaeon hoped that they did a thorough job in the initial development and design of the shuttle. The most precarious part about their use was that even a single leak or gap in its stealth cover would be able to expose its existence!
So far, though, everything went as planned. The Finmoth Regal hadn't put up their guard up at all against possible stealth incursions. The Inheritors upgraded with stealth detector arrays kept the fragile and energy-hungry sensors dormant.
For once, their plan proceeded without a hitch. Though Ves tensed his body in case a complication arose, the stealth shuttle never risked exposure even after it reached the Finmoth Regal's stern section!
The various Vandal specialists poured over the scans and relayed various bits of information to the stealth shuttle with the help of the pinpoint comm system. The CFA shuttle already deployed its small and stealthy comm buoys beforehand which currently surrounded the Finmoth Regal in a triangle formation.
"The Finmoth Regal isn't on high alert. Her crew is operating under yellow alert. No deserter crewmembers are near the target sections."
"The deserter mechs are continuing to maintain their routine patrols at half-strength. Scans of the mech stables and workshops suggest that no additional mechs will be able to deploy from the Finmoth Regal within three minutes."
The lack of vigilance on the part of the deserters enabled the stealth shuttle to open up a tiny gap and affix the shaped charges at the exact points along the Finmoth Regal's hull where they could do the most damage.
This was the most delicate portion of the operation. It was impossible for the Six-Sided Dice to perform their sabotage without exposing itself, it only a fraction.
If the sensor operators of the Finmoth Regal were a little more alert or if its system was watching out for stealth shuttles from the start, then the Six-Sided Dice risked immediate exposure!
Fortunately, none of these possibilities came through. The Finmoth Regal maintained a steady course at low burn in order to maintain position in front of the path that the Flagrant Swordmaidens dearly wanted to pass in order to exit the star system.
"The bomb expert has finished planting half of the charges! The stealth shuttle is proceeding from the starboard side to the port side of the Finmoth Regal to emplace the remaining charges."
Like most combat carriers, the Finmoth Regal possessed a lot of redundancy. In the case of her particular ship model, she possessed twin mirrored propulsion systems that mostly operated as a single entity but could be used separately if needed.
That meant if one of them got knocked down, the Finmoth Regal would still be able to maneuver at half propulsion!
While knocking out one half of its sublight mobility would severely constrain the Finmoth Regal's ability to cut off the Flagrant Swordmaidens, it was best to be thorough!
At this point, a complication finally occurred.
"Detecting a long-ranged signal from the direction of the pirate ships! The encrypted signal has reached the Finmoth Regal!"
"Do we know what the pirates said to the deserters?!"
"We can't crack the encryption in a short time! However, the data transmission isn't large. I think.. I think the pirates just transmitted movement orders to the Finmoth Regal!"
Half of the Vandals in the CFA shuttle widened their eyes. "Tell the stealth shuttle to cut short and pull back! The Finmoth Regal is about to turn!"
Too late! The huge combat carrier began to heat up as her main thrusters and maneuvering thrusters came to life. The Finmoth Regal began to rotate on her axis!
Unfortunately, she changed her course in such a way that caused the stern port section to abruptly slam against the stealth shuttle.
"The Six-Sided Dice has collided against the hull of the Finmoth Regal!"
The sheer difference in size and mass caused the cube-shaped stealth shuttle to be flicked off into space in a nigh-uncontrollable spin! The Six-Sided Dice had never been a very tough and robust vessel, and its stealth systems couldn't handle such a powerful impact and shock.
"Stealth systems have shut down! It's exposed!"
The Finmoth Regal immediately entered red alert as her sensors detected a small objects flinging away from the combat carrier!
"The mech patrols are alerted to the threat! A squad of mechs are beelining towards the Six-Sided Dice!"
"Tell the crew to re-enter stealth! The entire shuttle is exposed!"
"They can't. The collision has broken its active stealth coverage." Ves declared as he pointed the shuttle's scanners towards his own creation.
The outcome was already set in stone as soon as the butt of the Finmoth Regal bumped against the Six-Sided Dice.
No matter how much Ves, Avanaeon, Major Verle and the rest planned this operation, in the end a simple set of maneuvering orders transmitted by the pirates at an inopportune time jeopardized the safety of the stealth shuttle!
"The stealth shuttle won't have the opportunity to plant more charges. Detonate the existing ones now before they detect our sabotage!"
A Vandal officer aboard the CFA shuttle activated the detonation command.
As a number of deserter mechs approached the stealth shuttle, the shaped charges abruptly exploded, directing most of its potent power towards the weak points, piercing right through them and affecting numerous delicate and important components and compartments!
Because the Finmoth Regal had just completed a course adjustment, her main thrusters were more active than usual. This also caused the ship to suffer significantly more damage as all of those active systems suffered catastrophic damage!