Unfortunately, the engineers at the Antecedent hadn't been able to pull back the venerable combat carrier from her doom. The acolytes of Haatumak demolished their ranks so severely that the ones who survived and managed to stay conscious lacked a deep understanding of power reactors.
Remote assistance or transferring chief engineers from other ships to the flailing Antecedent only resulted in delaying her inevitable violent death. If the chief engineer of the Antecedent had reacted immediately to mitigate the sabotage, then the ship could have been saved like the Finmoth Regal and the Linever Swan. Unfortunately, the chief engineer died right at the start of the crisis.
The displacement of so many crew, mechs and whatever supplies they managed to evacuate in time needed to be stashed somewhere else. For now, the other ships temporarily took in the excess, but they had to sacrifice precious space reserved for securing the spaceborn mechs currently deployed in great numbers around the fleet.
They needed to throw as much mechs in space not just to deter the neutral pirates from taking advantage of their temporary disarray, but also to clear up more space!
This couldn't go on. The Swordmaidens had it worse because they lost three whole carriers due to sabotage. While the acolytes who ambushed the Swordmaidens mostly got chopped apart before they could kill too many of their officers, their engineers were obviously less adept, as they mostly failed to fix the sabotage done to the power reactors of their starships.
The Swordmaidens either employed enslaved men as engineers or female combat fanatics that mostly earned their engineering chops by following free lessons on the galactic net. The difference between a pirate engineer and a military-trained engineer was like night and day!
If the Church of Haatumak stationed more acolytes on the Swordmaiden vessels, then they could have probably crippled their entire fleet!
Sadly, they rightfully regarded the Flagrant Vandals as the greater threat, and prioritized eliminating their key officers and chiefs at a critical moment. The esoteric stealth methods of their acolytes likely gave the cultists boundless confidence in their ability to defeat the Flagrant Swordmaidens in a single blow before they departed for the Aeon Corona System with the all-important key in tow.
Of course, the other Vandals also began to figure out that the acolytes had been placed aboard their ships as a supplementary attack to the main threat!
"The Temple of Haatumak and her swarm of pirate escorts must be on their way right now." Major Verle concluded with a grim face. Everyone felt the pressure. "We need to move fast! Capture the marked-out pirate vessels and load in our mechs and supplies. Start using the key and configure our FTL drives for the jump to the Aeon Corona System."
"Major, our Swordmaiden allies report that some of their ships have lost their FTL drives! They will need at least half a day to rig up their spares!"
"That's too slow! One of our chief engineers to each ship that requires a replacement drive."
"Sir, we lost five chief engineers during the ambush! Almost all of our surviving and unwounded chief engineers are occupied with replacing the FTL drives for the Finmoth Regal and the Linever Swan!"
"Spare what we can. It matters little if we get our FTL drives up faster if the Swordmaidens can't keep up. We have traveled too far to abandon our comrades now."
The sensor officer spoke up then. "The pirate ships have ceased their salvage attempts, sir. They are attempting to flee from our approach!"
The pirate scavengers always remained skittish as they attempted to loot the spoils of the Flagrant Swordmaidens. According to custom, the salvage belonged to the victors, so the neutral pirates always maintained a wary posture in case the winners changed their mind.
Besides, the pirates constantly observed the movements of the Flagrant Swordmaiden fleet. The sudden evacuation and collapse of four whole starships caught their attention instantly.
They knew the implications of floating in the vicinity of a force with too many mechs and too little ships. Such a force would immediately seek to steal someone else's ships!
So they made the logical decision and ran!
"Hehe. Look at these fat tubs run! They'll never be able to get anywhere!"
The independent pirate vessels mostly consisted of cheap and dubiously shipworthy converted carriers. The Vandals and the Swordmaidens each possessed more discerning tastes, so they outright ignored these ramshackle ships that began their lives as cargo haulers and moved on to the slightly more upscale light carriers.
Despite being called light, this quality only referred to their relative place among the carrier classes. Compared to the beefier combat carriers or the capital ship-sized fleet carriers, the light carriers formed one of the favorite mech carrying starships for the serious mercenary or pirate commander.
Although the pirates as a rule never took great care of their ships, the Flagrant Swordmaidens weren't spoiled for choice. While the light carriers out-accelerated converted carriers by a wide margin, they couldn't outrun the Inheritors and the Misty Slashers! Ships may have the advantage in terms of reach, but in shorter distances the superior acceleration of mechs trumped the sluggish vessels which needed a long time to get going.
Neither Ves nor Verle nor any other Vandal or Swordmaiden expressed any concern about the success of their mechs. The pirate scavengers all spread out and claimed their own little territory across the debris field. They also didn't trust each other, so they would never united and face a common threat.
Their low-quality mechs, their low-skilled mech pilots, their inferior numbers, their low morale and complete lack of coordination all resulted in a complete collapse within minutes of contact.
The Inheritor light skirmishers developed an intuitive cooperation with the Misty Slasher swordsman mechs. While the Inheritors distracted the pirate mechs and hemmed them in, the Misty Slashers collapsed on the bewildered pirates and cut them into ribbons!
In most cases, the Hellcat hybrid knights arrived too late to contribute to the battle.
With the pirate mechs taken care of, the crew of the vulnerable light carriers mostly began to evacuate their doomed ship or tried to sabotage as much as they could. Boarding shuttles sent by the Swordmaidens arrived quickly enough to secure the engineering bay and the bridge, preventing the pirates from destroying the precious light carriers.
Due to the haste behind their actions, the Swordmaiden boarding parties suffered slight casualties due to carelessness, but they had no choice. They needed to secure the light carriers as fast as possible!
Due to the bloody battles, the Swordmaidens weren't feeling very generous. They killed every pirate who lingered aboard the ships, not even sparing the slaves that surrendered instantly. Even if they could use more crew to man their ships, the Swordmaidens couldn't afford to trust these dubious prisoners.
Blood flowed like rivers aboard the captured light carriers!
"Major, incoming message from Commander Lydia! The Swordmaidens report they've secured four pirate light carriers from their former owners. They have presented one of them for our use!"
"Did they gift us the best or worst light carrier?"
The worst, as she turned out. The Swordmaidens kept the best-maintained and least undamaged ships for their own uses. No matter. As long as their new carrier flew and didn't leak too much air, they could work with that. While her sublight propulsion and FTL drive sustained some damage during her capture, the Vandal overstretched engineers would make her work somehow.
As Ves witnessed the Vandals putting out a number of fires, it became clear to everyone that their well-oiled machine started creaking. The temporary or permanent absences of more than eighty officers, chiefs and other vital personnel gummed up their response times.
Too many mech lieutenants filled the shoes of their fallen mech captains, while the same applied to ship captains, chief technicians and chief engineers. The loss of just five chief engineers hurt the Vandals incredibly badly right now because their expertise was sorely needed to resolve the damage to their ships.
While the loss of leaders seriously affected the smooth running of the task force, Ves worried about the longer-term issues as well. "The loss of an veteran mech captain hurts as much as losing an entire mech company, while the loss of a chief engineer is equivalent to losing several hundred ship ratings. Our overall efficiency will be seriously affected from this moment out."
Due to their special recruitment conditions, the Flagrant Vandals had an abundance of bad apples but very few true talents. Cases like Chief Haine who had been exiled to the Vandals despite her strong ability proved to be the exception rather than the rule.
Most Vandals in fact resembled types like Captain Orfan, who should have never been promoted in a position of leadership were it not for the overall lack of qualified alternatives.
All the field promotions and temporary elevation of positions resulted in a lot of garbage being shoved up the hierarchy!
"Ketis, how are the Swordmaidens doing?"
"Bad." She replied, mourning the losses her fellow sisters suffered. "Those bastard backstabbing cultists blew up three of our ships!"
The Swordmaidens suffered hugely from losing so many ships at once. Even if they appropriated three new light carriers, it took a lot of time to repair the battle damage, remove all the boobytraps and make sure no survivors made it past their sweeps.
The Flagrant Swordmaidens had reached their weakest point since the start of their journey into the frontier!
In the meantime, Ves became interested in the autopsies of the acolytes and how they managed to kill or incapacitate their targets with nothing but a wave of their hand.
They had definitely mastered a way of employing spirituality offensively! Having experienced its lethal effects up close, he'd be lying if he said he held no interest in copying their methods.
The trouble was that while Ves had been credited with exposing the acolytes, the autopsies and the footage of the attacks remained strictly in the hands of the security department. When he begged Major Verle for access, the irate and overstressed commanding officer curtly shot him down.
"Mr. Larkinson, while I may have given you certain liberties, that does not mean you are in charge of the Flagrant Vandals. Colonel Lowenfield you are not. Return to your duties and leave the investigation up to the experts."
Ves inwardly snorted. The security officers had completely dropped the ball with regard to the cultist infiltrators. The freaky invisible acolytes hid among their very own for well over a month without at risk of detection!
If he hadn't tipped the Vandals off by looking up the code 835 and discreetly sending out a warning to Major Verle from the Gorgon's Gaze, then the Vandals would have lost more than one ship!
Still, Verle had a point. Due to all of the shuffling and confusion, Ves had a lot of work on his plate. "Yes, sir. I'll return to my duties."
Ves had a headache when it came to managing the aftermath of the partially successful ambush. The sudden loss of a number of critical chief technicians that kept their department together had left a lot of mech technicians listless and without effective leadership!
The average caliber of mech technicians among these leaderless Vandals did not instill Ves with much confidence. The Vandal officers aboard the affected ships may have field-promoted the most senior mech technicians among their bunch, but these fellows mostly consisted of cynical old salts. They resembled the old grandpas and grandmas who held a very dim view of authority, and only became competent with working with mechs due to sheer repetition.
In terms of leadership and technical ability, these so-called acting chief technicians couldn't match even a fourth of the capabilities of their predecessors!Find authorized novels in romanticlovebooks，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.romanticlovebooks.com for visiting.
All of this showed as the overall productivity of the maintenance departments instantly plunged. Mechs that needed servicing didn't get serviced while mechs that cried out for repairs received the wrong mech technicians who didn't specialize in repairing the specific damaged components.
"It's time for my mech designers to get off their lazy butts. Useless, eh? Not worth assassinating, eh? I'll show those acolytes that mech designers are worth something!"