Ves supervised the intake of mechs sent down to the surface of Aeon Corona VII from a prefab bunker that functioned as a temporary headquarters for Captain Byrd and all of the staff.
Due to screw ups in the loading order and the irregular streams of astral winds that made it unsafe to fly to at some times, plenty of mixups happened that needed to be untangled.
The wrong mechs got sent down first.
The transports brought down spare parts for spaceborn mechs instead of landbound mechs.
They brought down too much shuttle-grade fuel and too little mech-grade fuel.
A handful of landbound mechs collided against each other and incurred some awful dents when a transport almost lost control during the descent.
Because the Flagrant Vandals sent down almost two-hundred-and-fifty mechs and enough supplies and equipment to make them mostly self-sufficient, logistical matters became the number one concern for the allied forces.
While Captain Byrd assigned mechs on patrols and scouting missions and prepared her entire available force of mechs against any possible attacks, nothing threatening showed up so far.
Only bacteria and perhaps some errant bushes lived in these arid parts.
The barren, ore-rich region they landed in never hosted any life from what they could gather.
This sounded perfect for the Flagrant Swordmaidens as they sorted out their various problems in peace.
Both the Swordmaidens and the Vandals also needed to become acclimatized to the foreign environment.
Anytime someone looked up their heads, the sky became dominated by the constant flows of astral winds.
It reminded Ves of Cloudy Curtain, but only much more cheerful.
One peculiarity about the astral winds was that they did not obscure any stellar objects.
The small dots that signified one of the five moons or the three suns radiated through the higher-dimensional particles as if they resonated with each other in some way.
Not even the astrophysicists had come up with an explanation for that phenomenon.
They were all hard at work trying to make sense of the astral winds themselves and how a battleship with a malfunctioning FTL drive could even release so much of the stuff.
From an engineering standpoint, Ves had some questions as well.
For example, how could that leaky FTL drive remain operative after three-thousand years of continuous operation!
Any machine this complex would have broken down after a couple of months of continuous operation due to sheer wear and tear.
In the longer term, corrosion and other possible influences became greater concerns.
Is there someone or something maintaining the operation of the malfunctioning FTL drive Ves wondered.
No matter what the deal was with the Starlight Megalodon, the truth would be revealed once they reached it.
They just needed to get there, and that was a massive operation in itself.
The Flagrant Swordmaidens needed to cross tens of thousands of kilometers through hostile terrain and unknown threats.
In the meantime, they continually had to fight against Seven itself, its crushing gravity continuing to loom over them and only staved off by their technological countermeasures.
Besides logistics, Ves worried deeply about the performance of the landbound mechs outside the base\'s antigrav field envelope.
The Vandals tested each of their landbound mechs.
Each of them underwent a raft of modifications to prepare them for their deployment on a planet like Seven.
Through the preceding months, Ves had inspected each landbound mech\'s individual design and put his stamp on them, assured that they\'d be able to hold up against six times normal gravity.
Yet calculations and simulations only went so far.
The true test came when the actual mechs subjected them to the planet\'s gravity in all its glory.
Fortunately, the mechs held up.
As Ves switched his console to a feed that depicted various mechs stepping inside and outside the base, he noticed that most of them did so under the influence of their heavy-duty gravitic backpack modules.
The backpacks the Vandals and the Swordmaidens procured on Harkensen III did their jobs as advertised.
They lighted up the influence of gravity just enough to make them able to move and fight as if they moved on a planet close to standard gravity.
Of course, all of this performance came at the cost of expending huge amounts of energy.
The backpacks barely lasted an hour of normal operation.
The energy expenditure of running close to five-hundred landbound mechs by both the Vandals and the Swordmaidens would drain them dry of energy after a month!
In the meantime, continuous long-term operation wore out some of its components quickly, so it was essential for the Flagrant Swordmaidens to set up a dedicated department that serviced the backpacks as they slowly degraded in performance.
Still, that\'s not as interesting as seeing mechs attempting to move with the backpacks turned off.
He switched to another feed where the Vandals conducted a test with an average spearman mech.
The machine in question fell within the middle of the medium weight class, and therefore served as a good guide to how the other mechs might fare under the same circumstances.
The test area in which the mech stood suddenly lost its antigrav field, subjecting the spearman mech to the full might of Seven\'s gravity.
The mech\'s weight suddenly multiplied by six, causing the machine that was as tall as a small office building to falter and strain as its mech pilot frantically tried to adjust.
The antigrav fields came back online after a few minutes had passed.
The test ended early because the mech pilot risked blacking out!
Ves dove into the logs and the preliminary results of the test.
It turned out that while the mech barely possessed the power to move, it largely held up against the strain.
Most of the modifications that Ves had pushed through safeguarded its delicate components against the persistent effects of heavy gravity.
The weak point turned out to be the mech pilot.
The heavy gravity curtailed the mech pilot\'s heart from pumping a sufficient amount of blood to the head, thereby starving it of the oxygen it desperately needed to operate the mech!
As the act of piloting a mech essentially centered around interfacing the mind of the mech pilot with the mech in question, a starved mind wouldn\'t have the energy to effectively control a mech!
Damn. Ves cursed.
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While the cockpit and the piloting suit incorporated smaller antigrav modules that lightened the gravity the mech pilot was subjected to, they hadn\'t been activated during this test.
It appeared that a mech which turned off its gravitic backpack really couldn\'t do without any gravity compensation for the pilot!
I can\'t believe I overlooked this fault. He grumbled.
He should have implemented a modification that allowed the mech pilot to recline on his back while piloting.
While this would be an easy change to implement for some mechs that make use of less rigid neural interfaces, others required a lot more effort in order to implement such a change.
It would be especially challenging to push through such a change for light mechs as their cockpits sometimes didn\'t have enough space to accommodate a fully reclining mech pilot.
I\'ll have to discuss this idea first with the other mech designers and chiefs. He decided.
Maybe I can discuss this further with Mayra as well.
They definitely needed to do something.
Ves wouldn\'t contemplate such a change if the Flagrant Swordmaidens only intended to stay for a week or so.
That wasn\'t the case though, as a trek involving tens of thousands of kilometers took them at least half a month to a year according to most estimates.
There\'s going to be times when running an antigrav field may not be possible or advisable.
Antigrav fields didn\'t mix well with strong spacetime distortions.
In addition, they functioned like beacons in the night on gravitic sensors.
While the astral winds limited their long-ranged detection range, they would have no trouble finding mechs over the horizon if they ran a sufficiently strong antigrav field!
Therefore, trying to find ways to cope with the heavy gravity became everyone\'s overarching concern.
There were too many chances of equipment failure and they plainly lacked the energy budget to keep all of the backpacks running.
Even deploying less mechs won\'t help that much, because how are we going to move them in the first place
Right now, the Vandals and the Swordmaidens focused much of their limited industrial capacity on expanding the base and constructing cheap legged transports.
These huge machines that resembled six-legged hexapods could carry a mech or two or a handful of containers on their backs.
While they boasted a lot of carrying capacity and the ability to move without under the influence of an antigrav field, they came with their own downsides.
For one, they progressed forward at a snail\'s pace, and expended enormous amounts of energy or fuel by doing so.
Fortunately, these legged transports didn\'t require any high-quality fuel to run.
The Vandals brought down plenty of cheaply synthesized fuel to run these crawlers as the Vandals called them in an efficient manner.
Still, their fuel ran out eventually, so the Vandals needed to secure another source of fuel eventually.
Everyone involved with logistics wracked their heads over the deficiencies in their energy budget.
In the headquarters, Ves heard Lieutenant Commander Soapstone talking to everyone about this issue.
For now, nobody came up with a viable solution except to abandon the transports one by one as their supplies slowly dwindled over time.
This journey isn\'t going to be easy. Ves shook his head.
After a long stretch of work, Ves ended his shift by scheduling a meeting for the next standard day.
He wanted to meet every mech designer and chief technicians sent to the surface and discuss the various issues that have cropped up during this time.
Ves knew that if they wanted to last the entire journey to the Starlight Megalodon, he needed to keep a tight lid on the mech designers while making sure the chief technicians were all on the same page.
The chief technicians might not necessarily fall in line with Ves.
They were part of a separate hierarchy and technically Ves was merely an advisor to them.
He did not intend to let the chiefs do whatever they wanted, especially since some of them had recently been elevated to their ranks after the Acolytes of Haatumak assassinated their predecessors.
Ves was determined not to tolerate any screw ups under his domain.
Advisor or not, Ves wanted the chiefs to be firmly under his thumb by the end of the week.
Nobody except him was more capable to lead the complex maintenance department of the Vandal groundside forces.
The actual chain of command be damned, this was his kingdom!
Ves was absolutely certain that nobody else among the Vandals understood mechs more than him.
Without Major Verle looking over his shoulders, he felt less constrained in his actions.
Taking on a bit more authority than he officially had been granted with may not be very kosher, but he doubted anyone among the Vandals cared.
I\'ll have to sound out Captain Byrd and see what I can get away with under her. He cautioned himself.
From all accounts, she\'s a conservative leader.
I shouldn\'t rock the boat too much at first.
Ves already heard some grumbling from the servicemen about her elevation to the commander of the Vandal groundside forces.
With the astral winds preventing any direct communication between the landed troops and the fleet orbiting far above the glowing sky, Captain Byrd wielded sole authority over every aspect of their unit.
The Vandal ground force lived and died by her decisions.
That concerned Ves a bit, because unlike someone such as Captain Orfan, he had never come into contact with Captain Byrd nor experienced how she exercised her commands.
Was she a careful, meticulous thinker and diplomat as the rumors had said, or was there something more to this quiet mech captain that somehow gained Major Verle\'s appreciation
I should have a meeting with her as well.