Chapter 1979 Taking The Step
As the Bright Republic faced its bleakest hour, many people throughout the star sector watched the battle with intense interest.
The Larkinson Clan and Ves dropped everything in order to tune in to the available broadcasts of the disaster unfolding in the Bentheim System.
Though the Mech Corps and the government no longer transmitted any footage onto the galactic net, plenty of private outfits and other third parties still kept their individual feeds open for a time.
As MTA mechs started getting overwhelmed by numerous sandman monoliths and as the warships of the MTA started to experience some strain, all of the feeds suddenly shut off. Not a single quantum communication node in the Bentheim System transmitted any data to the rest of the galaxy!
For a moment, Ves and many other people were stunned. Why did the broadcasts stop?
It didn't take too long for Ves to guess the answer.
The Comm Consortium shut everything down! Those bastards! He shouted.
Gloriana placed her hand on his arm. The Comm Consortium is operated by the Big Two to begin with. It's not that difficult to predict the CC would choose to shut off the feeds to avoid embarrassment.
No one knew what was going on in the Bentheim System right now. The overwhelming number of upgraded sandman monoliths were so powerful that they were even giving the MTA task force a hard time!
While Ves wasn't ready to count the MTA forces out, there was no doubt that the Battle of Bentheim was far more contentious than everyone initially realized.
The MTA is too arrogant! Ves vented. It was a mistake to underestimate the sandmen! If the MTA dispatched even a single battleship, the sandmen would have never been able to pressure its forces to this extent!
Gloriana didn't care about the Bentheim System. She found it curious that for all of his claims, Ves still cared about his old home.
Perhaps he was more of a Brighter than he admitted. He still possessed at least some attachment to the state that had birthed him and shaped him in the mech designer he was today.
Urgh! What am I supposed to do? My relatives and many of my workers must be fretting as we speak!
You'll need to fill in the void, Ves. Gloriana suggested. Since the Comm Consortium refuses to reveal what is happening in the Bentheim System, your people need reassurance more than ever. Go step up and address the fleet. I'm sure your Larkinsons need you at this time.
Ves sighed. You're right. In a way, I'm glad the Bright Republic persecuted my relatives. At least they're not a part of this ongoing catastrophe.
As Ves prepared to address his subordinates, elsewhere a secret base went on high alert for a different reason!
At the start of the Battle of Bentheim, many guards and administrators started to watch the broadcasts. Even though they were all supposed to be focused on the job while they were on duty, the security arrangements of the secret base were so secure that hardly any incidents had taken place in the last couple of decades!
Some complacency couldn't be avoided. Compared to their boring jobs of watching over a bunch of defenseless prisoners, the fate of Bentheim and the rest of the Republic was far more important!
Though the lower ranks were still expected to perform their duties, the prison warden and the senior administrators took advantage of their expanded privileges to tap into the broadcasts of the pivotal battle.
At this time, DIVA finally made a move!
With the alertness level of the people base at an all-time low, numerous disguised female agents started to hack into databases, assassinate key personnel and activate their prior sabotage measures!
No explosions wracked the base. No alarms filled the corridors. No guards were hunting down intruders.
In the weeks that DIVA managed to infiltrate the secret base, its agents utilized superior technology to affect sabotage at a much greater level than the base builders had anticipated!
As diligently as Spotlight tried to keep its bases secure, it was incomparable to DIVA. The sheer tech and talent disparity was so vast that only a handful of DIVA agents were enough to cripple the base!
Even though the disguised women were more than confident enough to overwhelm the base in a matter of minutes, they opted for a slower and quieter approach.
Different sections of the secret base were surreptitiously being isolated from each other. Spoofed data transmissions took the place of authentic data transmissions. No matter what kind of chaos took place, only a small section of the base were aware of the danger!
As a pair of female guards in uniform approached the cells holding Melinda Larkinson and other prisoners, the doors authorized their entry even though it wasn't their shift.
The two men on guard regarded their colleagues with confusion.
Wendy? Why are you here?
The other guard wasn't fooled though. He immediately brought his rifle to bear against the women!
You idiot! Remember the protocols!
Oh, damn, you're right!
Even though the two guards had a friendly relationship with their supposed colleagues, the guards employed by Spotlight were trained to react quickly under various circumstances.
In a case like this, it was better to shoot first and ask questions later!
The two guards unfolded their helmets from their combat armor. Immediately afterwards, they fired their rifles, aiming squarely at the heads and hearts of the approaching women!
A ballistic round and a laser beam struck each of the targets. Yet instead of seeing the women turn into a pile of burned or exploded flesh, two energy shields came to life, protecting the DIVA agents from the small arms fire of the loyal guards!
Boys. The left female smirked. They're so quick to attack. We haven't even said a single word.
The woman on the right shook her head. What can you expect from boys? These Brighters think they're better than anyone else, but they're just as flawed as any people who treat boys as equals. Let us correct their assumptions, shall we?
The two women withdrew compact laser pistols from their belts. They calmly drew their weapons at the armed and armored guards and fired a single strong beam.
Moments later, two half-burned hunks of metal and carbonated flesh dropped to the dock.
The women no longer paid attention to the fallen boys and directed their attention to the cells.
They hacked into the individual control systems of each cell, causing the energy screens that blocked the entrances to fall.
The DIVA agents were very careful about unlocking the right cells. The dissidents, rebels and other scumbags begged the agents to free them, but the women turned a deaf ear against their pleas!
Melinda Larkinson rose up from her cot as the energy screen in front of her cell fizzled out.
Who are you two? Wait a minute.. this smell..
As a former planetary guard officer, she recognized the faint scent in the air even though the ventilation system was doing its best to carry all of the unpleasant smells away!
There are bodies in the corridor!
As expected of a woman.
You.. you're Hexers!
Both DIVA agents smiled. Correct again. We've come to rescue you and your relatives. The Bright Republic doesn't deserve you anymore. Come with me and you'll be able to reunite with the Larkinsons that managed to slip the net.
I'm not so sure about this..
It's either that, or rot in this cell. We don't have the time to coddle you to safety. You're a woman. Act like it. We'll be freeing your other relatives.
The two DIVA agents exited the cell and began to hack into the other cells. Melinda faced the open entrance with a sliver of doubt.
In truth, she didn't expect this would happen. She never imagined that someone would be able to infiltrate Spotlight's base with such ease.
From what she had seen so far, the female infiltrators were truly Hexers! Their arrogance simply couldn't be faked, and the ease in which they hacked into the cells definitely suggested that they were in the possession of advanced equipment!
Melinda slowly stood up and approached the open entrance. She halted before she stepped into the corridor.
She knew that if she took this step, she would be crossing a point of no return. Any hope of reconciling with the Bright Republic and returning to her old job would be gone.
She loved her job. She loved her career. She felt that she had found her calling in life when she marched out of lockstep with the other Larkinsons and joined the Planetary Guard as opposed to the Mech Corps.
Now, she was at the point where she would be throwing all of that away. She could kiss her career, her colleagues and friends goodbye the moment she took part in this escape attempt.
Well, it's not as if the government values me as much as I value the Republic. She grimly muttered.
Through reasons outside of her control, her stable and steady life came to a very abrupt end.
It wasn't her fault. A part of her she still resented Ves for provoking all of this trouble.
However, different from many other Larkinsons, she possessed a good relationship with him. She knew Ves in person and was aware that he was too sweet and innocent to be at fault!
He's just a mech designer. What can he possibly do? I shouldn't blame him for all of our misfortunes!
In contrast, the Bright Republic revealed its ugly nature. Any remaining goodwill she harbored to her state was bleeding out by the second ever since Spotlight stuffed her in this cell.
As much as she wanted to hold on to her identity as a loyal Brighter, even she had her limits.
She made her decision. Ves is right. I don't owe anything to the Bright Republic anymore. I can't regain what I've lost, but I can at least move forward and build a new life.
She took a step forward and exited her cell.
Many Larkinsons made a similar choice. As for the ones who were too stubborn to abandon the state they dedicated their entire lives to, the DIVA agents just left them in their cells.
There was little point in taking these Larkinsons away. Since they were so determined to stay aboard a sinking ship, then they wouldn't be of much use anyway to the Larkinson Clan.
As various DIVA agents stationed throughout the secret base dismantled the systems of the base one by one, the former prisoners were slowly being corralled to the docks.
There, a prisoner transport vessel that was ordinarily operated by Spotlight had been taken over by another crew of DIVA agents.
Head inside and stay out of the way! We're leaving as soon as possible before the local garrison manages to get their act together! Women at the left and men at the right! Don't question our orders or you'll be shot and dumped outside the airlock!
The escaping Larkinsons hardly knew what was going on. Though they were disturbed that they were being rescued by Hexers of all people, Melinda and the more level-headed Larkinsons knew that this was not the time to ask any questions!
Come on, grandpa! Let's head inside the ship! We can ask them later whether Ves has anything to do with this operation!
Hundreds of Larkinsons of all ages hurriedly walked up the entry ramp and followed the instructions of the crews. The prisoner transport ship didn't offer too much space, as it was mainly built for stealth and speed.
The moment the Larkinsons who were willing to escape had all entered the vessel, the DIVA agents boarded last. The agents retracted the ramp and closed the hatch.
Minutes later, the vessel emerged out of the asteroid base and slipped past the blind and inactive security perimeter before blending in with the asteroids.