Chapter 1916 Orders are Orders
In the end, the Larkinsons who attended the conference meeting agreed to the proposal to put Calabast in charge of planning their escape route.
First, she was truly the most qualified individual to plan their escape. Though flawed, having at least one information network was better than possessing no network at all!
Only the Wodins could offer something comparable, but the Larkinsons were very hesitant towards the idea of letting them take charge of their clan!
The Larkinson Clan was never supposed to become a vassal of the Wodin Dynasty! Hardly any Larkinsons would agree to such a ridiculous prospect!
Second, as a former intelligence operative, Calabast also possessed a lot of expertise in these matters. Even if she didn't excel in space navigation, she had plenty of specialists in her employ that could provide her with the necessary scientific expertise to form a clever route.
The Larkinsons lacked a strong naval tradition. They were almost completely devoted to piloting mechs.
Out of all of the attendees, only Fleet Coordinator Ophelia could make an informed pushback.
While I am not entirely comfortable with the suggested route, I believe it is safer than passing through active space. The Bright Republic, Vesian Kingdom and etcetera are all aligned with the Friday Coalition.
Though Ophelia's backing didn't count for much since she was a True Believer, it was a different matter when Ves himself threw his support behind his strategic partner!
Gloriana looked pained as she reluctantly tapped a button on the projected interface of her comm.
Ves appeared over the conference table yet again.
[Hello everyone. If you see this, then a situation might have arisen where you may be wondering whether you must put your faith in the Hexer known as Calabast. Let me tell you that while she is slimy, arrogant, deceitful, absent, inscrutable and unreliable, she is still worthy of our trust because our success is linked to her own success. Both of our goals are aligned, and Calabast truly brings a lot to the table. Don't reject her voice just because she isn't a Larkinson. She can be a very staunch ally of ours. Don't underestimate her capabilities.]
Calabast offered everyone a shaky smile. Her relationship with Ves was obviously more than just a mere business partnership given how many insults he hurled at her. Some people even switched their gazes between Calabast and Gloriana as if there was a hidden subtext!
You heard it from the clan patriarch himself. He knows I am the only one who can successfully lead us to safety. I did so before when Ves escaped the clutches of the CRC and I can do so again! The former spy smiled and leaned back against her chair.
Let me remind you that the Fridaymen don't look kindly on us Hexers. Gloriana noted. Calabast and I are not welcome in this region of space. We want to escape the reach of the Friday Coalition just as much as you. Therefore, even if you have cause to doubt Calabast's motives, please don't doubt her willingness to avoid our mutual enemy.
This caused the Larkinsons to lay down some of their objections. While none of them really wanted to trust this strange woman completely, it was undeniable that they were on the same boat.
After addressing a few more topics, the conference meeting finally came to an end.
With the help of Ves' contingency plans, everyone had a clear idea on how to go forward. Right now, they needed to do everything possible to escape pursuit! Once they reached a region of space where they were no longer under threat of annihilation, they were free to address other priorities, but until then they better focus on saving their hides!
Once the attendees bid farewell and returned to their shuttles, Calabast lingered while Raymond reverently took hold of the Larkinson Mandate.
Let's stop by Ves. Gloriana suggested as she picked up Clixie.
Hihihi! Gloriana giggled, completely losing her stiff and stately demeanor. I did well, right?
Oh, I'm sure Ves would be proud of my performance!
The reason why the meeting proceeded so amiably is because you invited all of Ves' closest supporters along with some pliable guests like James. Raymond gently remarked. If you had to face the entire Larkinson Clan, I can guarantee you that it won't be nearly as easy to come to a consensus.
The mounting discontent among the survivors was still welling up. Plenty of Larkinsons exhibited some form of buyer's remorse. They wished they would have rather remained with the old family rather than get drawn in by one of Ves' troubles!
They soon arrived at the entrance of a heavily-guarded compartment. After passing a few security checks, Gloriana, Raymond and Calabast entered the chamber.
Dr. Ranya was standing next to a very advanced recovery machine. She inspected the readings projected by the pod-like machine.
Gloriana carefully stepped close until she loomed above the transparent cover that showed Ves' body immersed in some kind of nourishing fluid.
His head looked intact, but Gloriana knew that it would take a long time before Ves was ready to emerge from his coma.
I want him to recover as soon as possible. It's not the same without him. If he was still awake, he would have been able to squash any possible revolt before it becomes a threat.
Clixie squirmed out of her arms and jumped over to a table where a mechanical cat was watching over the pod.
Meanwhile, Raymond gently returned the Larkinson Mandate to Nitaa, who carefully slotted the book into a holder built into her suit of combat armor.
That Ves decided to entrust Nitaa with the Larkinson Mandate while he was incapacitated was a very perplexing decision! Gloriana wasn't sure why he didn't entrust it to Raymond as usual, but even she couldn't fully fathom his genius or madness.
I have to leave in order to take charge of the LMC and the Executive Council. Raymond respectfully spoke to Gloriana. Hopefully, Ves can recover sooner than a month, because all of his contingency plans aren't enough to keep us going.
I know. Gloriana whispered as she placed her palm on the surface of the transparent cover.
Once Raymond left, Gloriana turned to her cousin.
Is there anything new?
No. My estimates are still the same. Ranya closed the projected interface. Ves came off very lightly from the incident at the operation room. The traitor could have done more damage if his control to the operating machines hadn't been cut off. I guess we owe Calabast a lot of thanks.
I need to study and analyze the latest developments in order to optimize Ves' recovery.
Thank you for what you've done.
Once Ranya departed from the compartment, Gloriana was left with Calabast, some cats, the Larkinson Mandate and a few guards she disregarded entirely.
So. She spoke to Calabast. Tell me about our situation. Are we on the right track?
You're doing fine so far. The older woman said as she leaned against one of the bulky medical machines. The losses we suffered are great, but our core strength is still intact. So long as Ves remains alive, we can always recover. We just have to make sure that his clan still exists when he finally wakes up from his coma.
Gloriana frowned as she twirled one of her locks of hair. The Larkinson Clan…
The clan is too young. Even though it branched off from the Larkinson Family, for all intents and purposes it is still a fragile entity. Many of the Larkinsons who decided to join the clan did so in order to pursue greatness or prosperity.
Do they expect to achieve greatness without making sacrifices?! Do they think they can grow rich while sitting back and relaxing all day?! Ves chose the Larkinson Clan's motto for a very good reason! His clansmen won't amount to anything if Ves isn't there to push them forward!
I don't think your words are without merit, Gloriana, but tell that to the Larkinsons who expected a mech designer like Ves to shovel easy money into their bank accounts. Expectations and reality often seem to find a way to diverge, and this battle has brutally popped their fantasies. Over forty trueblood Larkinson mech pilots died, do you know that? In a clan composed of less than a thousand members, that is a painful loss, especially when you realize that the amount of Larkinson mech pilots is only a fraction of that number.
The clan suddenly lost a substantial amount of landbound mech pilots after the Battle of Kesseling VIII. This meant that their representation in Avatars and Sentinels had dropped, especially in their landbound mech contingents!
The Larkinson Clan was not like the Mech Corps. Unlike the military which could always supplement its lost manpower by replenishing it with transfers and fresh recruits, the Larkinson Clan required decades to birth and raise new mech pilots!
Therefore, these losses were especially painful to the clan!
Usually, the original Larkinson Family managed to keep their numbers stable because the Bright-Vesia Wars always erupted roughly once every generation.
Even if a number of Larkinsons had fallen, the survivors would still be able to return and pass on their genes and teachings to the next generation!
While this model had served the Larkinsons well, frequent battles threatened the foundation of the clan.
If the clan lost too many mech pilots, it risked losing its military tradition!
Just when Gloriana didn't think the situation could grow any worse, Calabast suddenly stiffened as she received some sort of message.
What is it, Calabast?
The spy looked grave. Now that the Coalition Reserve Corps moved to decouple the Protectorate from the Hegemony, the Friday Coalition has shown that they are very willing to drag the lesser states in our war. Don't forget that there are more Larkinsons than the ones who have joined the clan.
Gloriana widened the eyes. That means the Fridaymen must have exerted their influence on the Larkinsons living in the Bright Republic as well! Damnit! I hope Ves' grandfather and other relatives can make it out. If the Fridaymen truly dare to lay a hand on the Larkinsons in his old home state…
It hasn't come to that. Calabast smiled. My agents have always been ready to assist the Larkinson Family into evacuating the Bright Republic. Besides, they aren't being hunted right now. The CRC has dispatched most of their available assets to assist in their operations in the Protectorate. Officially, the Fridaymen relayed instructions to the Bright Republic to take the Larkinsons into custody.
Again?! How dare they?!
Don't be alarmed! This time is different. It seems the Bright Republic's government has learned its lesson this time.
What are you talking about?
Let's just say that the Brighters are.. less than eager to stab the backs of one of the most honorable military families of their state. The centuries of loyal service and selfless duty by the countless descendants of the Larkinson Family is not something that their government can ignore! Unlike the Protectorate, power is more divided and based on laws and public opinion. Just because a couple of higher ups and a few founding families like the Cavendishes support the measure doesn't mean the rest of the state is eager to betray their ideals and principles!
Does that mean they are safe?! Gloriana looked hopeful.
It's.. complicated. Some Larkinsons have it easier than others to escape the clutches of their own government. My agents are doing the best they can to facilitate their flight, but we can't help every Larkinson!
Across the Bright Republic, many areas became turbulent!
This was because the Larkinson Family had abruptly been designated as enemies of the state!
Though the government tried its best to keep these controversial movements secret, they quickly leaked onto the galactic net within a matter of minutes!
The amount of public indignation directed towards the Bright Republic's government may not be as great as their Ylvainan counterparts in the Protectorate, but it could not be ignored!
Practically the entire Mech Corps threw its full support behind the Larkinsons! After the disgraceful attempt to capture Ves and sell him out to the Friday Coalition, the military was highly opposed to this latest measure!
Though the government was still able to dispatch Spotlight and some other groups to arrest the Larkinsons, Flashlight and many other groups were openly obstructing their progress!
In one space station at Bentheim, Raella and Ketis hastily boarded her Blood Claw carrier under the urging of one of Calabast's agents.
Hurry up! Spotlight is right on our heels!
At the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense on Rittersberg, a pair of Spotlight agents immediately restrained Benjamin Larkinson and escorted him out of his office.
A senior agent nodded respectfully at Benjamin. Orders are orders. I hope you understand, sir.
I'm old. The elder Larkinson sighed. I don't care what happens to me. I just want the rest of my family to be safe.
On a combat carrier stationed at the edge of the Bentheim System, Ghanso Larkinson shook his head at the security officers that arrived at his stateroom.
I appreciate your offer, but I can't in good conscience allow you to violate your orders.
The young expert pilot held out his arms. Put the cuffs on me and escort me to the brig. I am confident the government will absolve us loyal Larkinsons.
At an immense fleet floating in an empty star system in deep space, Ark Larkinson pressed a button on his uniform that caused all of his badges and rank insignia to fade away. He saluted the ranks of soldiers who gathered at the hangar bay to send him off.
Over a thousand soldiers returned his salute!
After bidding farewell to the 1st Havensworth Division, Ark solemnly boarded his Bright Star and departed from the fleet carrier.
As he flew his expert mech towards a smaller civilian vessel that would bring him and a number of other Larkinsons in his division away, his arm gripped one of the controls in a crushing grip.
His face displayed so much pain and agony that his Bright Star started to shake and resonate in a discordant manner!