Chapter 1914 Stepping Up
An exodus ensued after the Battle of Kesseling VIII.
After a hard-fought victory, the forces aligned with Ves and the Larkinson Clan cleaned up the battleground and picked up as much valuable scrap the cargo holds of their vessels could hold.
No one believed the crisis was over. The Coalition Reserve Corps may be one of the lesser paramilitary branches of the Friday Coalition, but when it gathered all of its might, the CRC could easily overrun dozens of lesser states in an instant!
The only reason why the Larkinsons managed to foil the CRC's surprise attack was that it possessed a very broad mandate. It had to split up its forces across multiple territories in order to fulfill a multitude of different responsibilities.
However, just because the CRC spread its forces out didn't mean it had to stay that way. As long as the need was great enough, the CRC could easily order their nearby assets to converge on each other like the sandman converged in the former Coman Federation.
Just like the sandman planet that was rumored to attack the Bentheim System, the CRC could very well form an armada that could easily defeat the forces of the Larkinson Clan ten times over!
Every leader under Ves knew the precariousness of their situation. If the Friday Coalition truly decided to expand the Komodo War to the lesser states, then they were basically stranded deep behind enemy lines!
The distance towards the nearest state that was under the Hexadric Hegemony's umbrella of protection was at least two months away, and that only assumed their fleet would travel on the most direct and predictable route!
Ves would know what to do in this situation. Gloriana sighed as she leaned her head against her palm. He's been in these kinds of flight situations several times.
She missed Ves. She missed his decisiveness during a crisis.
Though Ranya recently informed her that Ves made it through the extended implantation surgery without any permanent impairments, it would still take at least a month for him to heal the remaining damage.
Damn traitorous doctor. She scowled. You got off far too easily!
She always thought that Ves went a little overboard with his preparations and precautions, but now she realized that he was very right to invest so much in prevention and disaster preparation.
It's not paranoia if they are really out to get you!
She felt as if she understood this phrase for the very first time after this long and exhausting day.
Previously, she thought that her boyfriend irrationally feared the prospect of installing a cranial implant in his head. Back at the Hegemony, her peers installed such implants all the time with hardly any stories about botched surgeries or problems related to sabotage.
Yet her friends and acquaintances weren't like Ves. They weren't third-raters who managed to provoke the CRC. They weren't as talented as Ves, nor did they possess an inkling of his potential.
None of the mech designers he knew possessed the power to influence the course of a war or swing the destiny of entire states like Ves!
Even when he was in a coma, her boyfriend still managed to make an absolute mess out of the Ylvaine Protectorate!
With the scattered communications blackout, the Battle of Kesseling VIII couldn't be hidden from the population for long. Many Ylvainans soon found out the truth, and their rage and ire at the government was immense!
In fact, many members among the middle and lower ranks of the Curin, Poxco and Kronon Dynasty joined the opposition as well!
The loss of the Great Prophet's grace was very evident! No one had to look any further than all of the Holy Soldiers and Deliverer mechs that lost their blessed glows.
How could any devout Ylvainan support the blasphemous actions of their leadership? A huge uprising swept throughout the Ylvaine Protectorate, causing the entire state apparatus to become completely paralyzed!
While Gloriana didn't really excel in crisis leadership, she knew that she needed to take advantage of the current circumstances while they were still favorable!
With the absence of Ves, his remaining people lacked a single voice. He never appointed a second-in-command. No one possess enough clout to step up and be accepted as the temporary leader in charge of the Larkinson Clan!
To address the issue of leadership, Gloriana convened an emergency meeting in the conference room of the Stellar Chaser. Various shuttles arrived at her personal ship. Various passengers continued to enter the opulently-decorated conference room.
The new entrants all frowned when they took in the Hexer influences in the interior design.
The conference table was shaped like a hexagon. Six unobtrusive but very symbolic images were projected from six sides.
Along with what the passengers saw when they walked through the corridors, it became clearer and clearer that Gloriana was completely different from the rest of them! Their apprehension and alienation towards Hexers only increased!
Unfortunately, Gloriana failed to pick up their discomfort. If Ves was still awake, he would have convened a meeting on the Barracuda or the partially-refitted Scarlet Rose rather than the Stellar Chaser!
Clixie flicked her head against her owner's palm.
Gloriana smiled and petted Clixie's head. I'll do my best.
The cat went back to the center of the table in order to brush her body against a very large and ornate book!
The Larkinson Mandate placed on the center of the table could not be missed. Its inspiring glow, which was identical to that of the famed Glory Warrior mechs that had earned them a decisive victory in space, was core to the identity of the Larkinson Clan!
No one was allowed to take outright possession of the book. Ves surprisingly designated Nitaa as the primary caretaker of the book.
Right now, Nitaa refused to leave the recovery room where Ves was resting after his surgery.
Therefore, the book temporarily fell into the care of Raymond Billingsley-Larkinson, but only for this meeting.
The glow of the book reminded Gloriana what she needed to do. The people depending on Ves needed direction. During this pivotal moment, she needed to step up!
Ladies and gentlemen, let's begin. Her clear and cultured voice interrupted the low conversation between the attendees.
Though she fell short in some aspects, Gloriana was very much at home in other aspects.
She adopted a serious and imposing demeanor as she sat at the conference table. Everyone who had been invited for the meeting settled down and turned their attention to the woman they needed to keep happy in order to save their lives.
No matter what they thought about Hexers or the Hegemony, they all knew they had to play nice with them! No one else in the star sector could protect them against the aggression from the Friday Coalition!
Therefore, a certain degree of tension descended on the conference room. Not everyone was happy with their current circumstances. They never wanted to become enemies of the Friday Coalition!
Fortunately, this was just a smaller meeting. Gloriana only invited those who were likely to be on Ves' side.
We managed to achieve a very great victory, but we have all suffered greatly in return. She spoke in a measured way. We can mourn later when we are out of the reach of the Fridaymen. What is more important is that we need to discuss how to go forward. Let us begin with our troop disposition. How many mechs and mech pilots have we lost?
Everyone looked at each other before Commander Magdalena Larkinson decided to bite the bullet.
The Living Sentinels have been savaged. Over two-hundred of our mech pilots have either perished or have become permanently unfit to pilot a mech. We've lost at least double the amount of mechs. The good news is that while our landbound mech companies have suffered a disproportionate amount of losses, our spaceborn assets are in a much better shape. My Sentinels are still reasonably combat-effective in any spaceborn engagements.
Commander Melkor stood up next.
The Avatars of Myth have suffered a similar proportion of losses. We lost around 150 mech pilots, though most of them were recent recruits. Like the Sentinels, our landbound combat capabilities are severely crippled. Not only have we lost a lot of mech pilots, but we don't even have enough intact mechs to put up a decent fight on a terrestrial environment.
Your spaceborn combat capabilities are still strong, correct? Gloriana interjected.
Melkor nodded. A grim smile appeared below his visor. The Bright Warrior that you and Ves designed has proven to be remarkably effective against a mixed force of mercenaries and second-class mechs. Admittedly, we faced much less CRC mechs in space than on land, but we are all immensely grateful that your mech has given us a chance to defeat second-class mechs without resorting to reckless dogpiling tactics.
As the Sentinel Commander and the Avatar Commander projected a brief overview of casualties and the state of their current forces, everyone lightened up a bit.
The casualties suffered by the Avatars and Sentinels in space was fairly light. The CRC heavily underestimated their spaceborn contingents, not expecting that the so-called bridge mechs could defeat their superior mechs!
What about you, Commander Dise? Gloriana turned to the dark-skinned woman who attracted more than her fair share of attention.
Surprisingly, it was Calabast who was sitting next to the Swordmaiden Commander who opened her mouth.
My Swordmaidens have lost over forty mech pilots and even more mechs. Our spaceborn assets, though relatively small, are still fully intact, as I saw no reason to deploy them during the previous battle. We can still make a contribution in any space battle.
No one begrudged the Swordmaidens for holding back their mechs in space. The impact they made on the land battle was very great, and the losses they suffered when they boldly confronted the squad of CRC defensive mechs was horrendous!
Our Glory Battalion is effectively down a mech company. Venerable Brutus stoically said. While our mech companies may be slanted towards land or space, they can fight in both environments. We haven't lost as many mech pilots as the other forces. This means that as long as we can restore our mechs, our excess mech pilots can contribute their strength once again.
A short pause ensued as everyone tried to estimate how well they could withstand any follow-up attacks.
At the risk of sounding callous, we are rather fortunate. Ovrin Larkinson mentioned.
As Benjamin Larkinson's brother and the Speaker of the Larkinson Assembly, the old and respectable Ovrin was one of the most important civilian leaders of the clan!
As a veteran mech pilot who had gone through his fair share of war in his youth, Ovrin was no stranger to crises. His words, while blunt, served to focus everyone's attention to their current needs.
I agree. Director Clinton Larkinson said. Our landbound losses, while grievous, can be disregarded for the moment. Right now, we must flee across a large stretch of space before we can shake off the inevitable retaliation from the CRC. There is no reason to land on any planets during our flight. For this reason, we should focus all of our efforts on repairing our spaceborn assets and transferring as many landbound mech pilots to spaceborn units as we can. Stick them into our spare Desolate Soldiers if needed.
Almost just as old as Ovrin, Clinton had also been bestowed with authority within the clan. He was currently one of the few respectable Larkinsons who had received the assent of the Assembly to assume a position within the all-important Larkinson Court!
Though it wasn't entirely proper for Director Clinton to attend this kind of meeting, he cared too much for the Larkinsons to miss out on this pivotal meeting!
Your suggestion is in line with my thoughts. Commander Magdalena nodded in support.
The director and judge made a very sensible argument. Hardly anyone objected to its merits, so the attendants all agreed to prioritize their ability to fight in space.
This quick consensus may have been a small victory, but it put everyone in the right mood. A faint optimism spread throughout the conference room.
Their situation wasn't as untenable as they feared. As long as they enhanced their strength in space, they might be able to make it to safety!