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Chapter 1983 The Settling Sand

The Mech Touch
     Chapter 1983 The Settling Sand

    The Battle of Bentheim ended in tragedy.

    No matter how much the MTA tried to hide the news, it could not shut down the Komodo Star Sector's access to the galactic net forever.

    Even if the MTA tried to do so, the starships run by individual captains could just enter the Bentheim System, take a quick peek, and exit as soon as possible to ferry around the observation data to various people.

    Therefore, the Comm Consortium soon decided to lift the blockade on the quantum entanglement nodes just in time for everyone tuning in to see the MTA swooping in with thunder and fury!

    A much larger MTA battlefleet forcibly broke the system-wide gravitic interdiction field projected by the sandman monoliths through sheer brute force!

    A portal that was more powerful and stable than anything anyone had seen before spewed out ship after ship and mech after mech!

    Several MTA battleships in conjunction with an entire mech division of multipurpose mechs swept into the Bentheim System and showcased some of the might that made them so feared!

    The Compliance Department invested considerably in this attack, and its local leaders did not make the mistake of underestimating the enemy again!

    The sandstorms grinding every structure and life on the planet of Bentheim stopped as battleships fired some of their main armaments onto the surface from orbit!

    The huge vessels showed no hint of subtlety as they pounded every concentration of sandmen with explosions that shattered entire cities and energy that was enough to glass a region!

    Sure, the settlements on the surface often became unrecognizable in the aftermath, but it wasn't as if the sandmen had already done a fine job at wiping them out beforehand!

    Entire formations of mechs zipped throughout the entire star system to take out the sandman monoliths that had given the previous task force so much trouble.

    Better equipped with loadouts optimized for breaching the powerful shields of the upgraded monoliths, the mechs proved that the MTA still possessed the strength to dominate the galaxy!

    The mop-up operation went remarkably easy. It appeared that the sandmen expended almost all of their resources and energy to winning the Battle of Bentheim.

    To every other Brighter, this easy and overwhelming victory came too late. Hardly anyone celebrated the end of the menace that had terrorized the states close to the frontier for a year.

    In such a short span of time, dozens of border states went extinct and trillions of humans succumbed after their planets became engulfed by sand!

    The final sand storm that had enveloped the planet of Bentheim from all directions had been captured in perfect detail by many escaping mechs and vessels in the star system!

    Even when the gravitic interdiction field finally fell, plenty of curious ships remained in the outskirts of the star system to capture all of the might showcased by the MTA.

    Perhaps the MTA's Komodo Branch just wanted to reassert its dominance in the star sector. Their sudden and unexpected defeat was just a fluke!

    Still, the damage was done. Already, the CFA were gloating at the obvious failure of the MTA to clean up the remnants of a supposedly weak and marginal alien race.

    Even though the CFA's Archangel Battle Group had almost been done in by the sandmen as well, at least it didn't lose any ships!

    To most citizens, the rivalry between the two trans-galactic organizations went far above their heads.

    All they cared about was the immediate aftermath to their lives.

    Suffice to say, the Bright Republic suffered an immense amount of damage.

    The Bright-Vesia War had already taken a toll on the state, and the Sand War that followed afterwards devastated more than a third of its star systems!

    Yet despite all of the losses, the star systems that fell didn't play a critical role in the running of the war-stricken state.

    As long as Bentheim survived, the Bright Republic would rise from the ashes!

    As long as Bentheim stood, the Bright Republic would continue to prosper!

    Most of the propaganda of the state often emphasized the incredible value that Bentheim provided to everyone. As long as its economic engine could start again, everyone's lives would return to normal!

    Yet now that both the sandmen and the MTA bombarded and scoured it to oblivion, almost everything that made the planet valuable was gone!

    Its manufacturing complexes, its research institutions, its vibrant commercial trade hubs and its bountiful population of workers were all gone!

    Though the Bright Republic had already evacuated all of the most precious people and assets from the planet as a precaution, it wasn't enough to make up for the losses!

    Though the Bentheim System still retained its value as a port system, it would take an incredible amount of time and funding to rebuild it to its prime!

    With the dire state of the Bright Republic, it was practically impossible for the government to achieve this within a century!

    Naturally, the MTA didn't say a word about this. After it made sure to turn the sandmen into an extinct race, it pulled out its battlefleet, leaving the indigenous humans to clean up the mess.

    A lot of meetings took place after the end.

    Carlos Shaw wasn't important enough to be included in these meetings. Aboard one of the many combat carriers that managed to escape the Bentheim System, the Apprentice overlooked the repairs of one of the few military mechs that managed to return in one piece.

    What do you think will happen, chief?

    The gruff, middle-aged chief technician standing next to him spat on the deck. The Bright Republic is done. It's over. Even if the Friday Coalition swoops in and funds the reconstruction of the planet, which they won't since they're occupied with waging their own war, it will take decades to regain a fraction of what we lost.

    It's not just the star system that fell. Carlos sighed. Much of our Mech Corps and Starfighter Corps is gone as well.

    Aye. Our military is weaker than ever. Do you know how dangerous that is? The Vesians and the Ylvainans don't have to lift a finger in order to conquer our state! They can just send a couple of reserve forces to swoop in and roll over the non-existent defenses of the worthless star systems that we have left!

    It wasn't that bad, actually. The Bright Republic still had Rittersberg, New Foundation and plenty of other prosperous star systems to sustain its remaining economy.

    Yet.. the state's enormous dependence on Bentheim still hurt a lot. With all of the losses the military suffered and all of the debt the government accrued, the Bright Republic wouldn't be able to recover as quickly as the Ylvaine Protectorate or the Vesia Kingdom, both of which escaped the final counterattack of the sandman race!

    It's not fair! Carlos cursed. Why did the sandman target us?! Why not the Vesians? Why not the Reinaldans?!

    The chief technician patted Carlos' back. Kid, there's no point in questioning the logic of aliens. The sandmen were a pretty weird bunch to begin with. If they just kept minding their own business in the deep frontier, we would have never been forced to exterminate their race. Yet they attacked human space anyway for reasons that don't make any sense to us. I think there's a lesson to be learned from this catastrophe.

    Which is?

    The galaxy doesn't make any sense. Crazy stuff happens all the time. The best you can do is to be prepared.

    The mech designer scoffed. I already know that. If the galaxy truly made sense, then I wouldn't be here.

    The two fell silent as the sound of mechs being serviced echoed throughout the workshop compartment.

    Elsewhere, Captain Orfan stared down Major Verle with a piercing glance. She had just been summoned in his office aboard the Princely Jackal for a private discussion.

    Are you serious, major?

    Flashlight's intelligence isn't wrong. There are already numerous signs that certain actors within the government are holding secret negotiations between various foreign diplomats. From what the spies have gathered, there are hints that the Friday Coalition is brokering a deal that is meant to compel the Ylvaine Protectorate and Vesia Kingdom to invest in our state's reconstruction!

    That's impossible! Those two states are in a pretty bad shape as well! In fact, the Protectorate suffered almost just as much damage as us due to all of the rioting!

    The Friday Coalition is pitching in some funding as well. They just don't want to do the heavy lifting themselves.

    Why not grant the money directly to the Bright Republic?

    I'm unsure. Major Verle frowned. I don't have the complete picture, and neither does Flashlight I believe. Whatever the case, the Friday Coalition seems determined to assign the Ylvainans and Vesians the responsibility of reconstructing much of our lost infrastructure.

    Will the Ylvainans and Vesians even accept this deal, sir? Captain Orfan responded dubiously.

    They will. That's because the Friday Coalition may have forced our government to provide certain.. concessions to the two assisting states. Let's just say that we'll be seeing a lot of Vesian and Ylvainan influence in our state from now on. The foreigners won't be helping us for free.

    Nothing was free. Even Rosa understood this concept.

    Yet she believed the deal wasn't as simple as it appeared on the surface. Major Verle's concern was very obvious.

    There's more to it than that, right? What do the foreigners actually get out of this deal? How long will they actually stay and meddle in our affairs?

    I see you recognize the potential threat in this development. Major Verle offered her a rueful smile. Flashlight's analysts went to work and attempted to predict what will happen in the coming years. The projections aren't looking good.

    Tell it to me straight. I can take it, sir.

    In the most probable scenarios, the Bright Republic will still be an independent state on the surface. In practice, the economic and cultural influence of the two foreign states will both be deeply rooted into the fabric of our post-war society at that time! You can expect Ylvainan churches to pop up in every city. You can expect our founding families to adopt the strictures and customs of noble houses.

    This.. Captain Orfan looked shocked!

    The Bright-Vesia Wars won't occur again, because the Vesians have already conquered the Bright Republic in almost every way that matters! Major Verle exclaimed! Sure, they have to share us with the Ylvainans. Sure, they were denied the biggest prize in the form of an intact port system, but who cares? If you know those greedy Vesian nobles as well as I do, they'll be doing everything in their power to root their society in our state and make it stick!

    This sounded like a horror scenario to Captain Orfan! This was not only a betrayal of everything the Mech Corps fought for, but also the end of the state as she knew it! What was the point of wearing her uniform any longer if she would be starting to take orders from a Vesian noble instead of a proper Brighter commanding officer?

    I really hope your source isn't high on stimulants.

    My contacts are trying to verify this intelligence as thoroughly as possible. In the next couple of days or weeks, it will become clear what the future holds. I just wanted to inform you beforehand to provide some context for what I have to say next.

    What is it, major?

    After corresponding with high command, I have picked up some very discouraging clues. While it's still early, I believe the Mech Corps will soon enact a comprehensive reorganization of all of its units. There are so many incomplete mech regiments that it makes sense to merge them all together in order to form a smaller, more consolidated structure. I'm afraid that the 6th Flagrant Vandals as we know it will exist no longer. The generals will probably choose to merge us with a bunch of other savaged mech regiments!

    What?! Captain Orfan stood up from her chair. They can't do that! We fought through multiple wars! We earned a lot of honors! We even extended the life of that old bastard Senator Tovar!

    Major Verle calmly folded his hands. That was then, this is now. Our strength has decreased enormously. Our factory ship and several other expensive vessels have succumbed to the sandmen. With the economy of our state in shambles, do you really think the Mech Corps can afford to bring us back to strength? Even if the Mech Corps wants to do so, it will likely opt to reconstruct the premier mech regiments such as the Volari Starhawks or the Apocalypse Heralds!

    As much as Captain Orfan tried to deny it, she was sober enough to know that Major Verle was probably right! The Vandals had never been the darling of the higher ups!

    On top of that, captain, our existence will also become a bit awkward now that our state has to become friends with our former rivals. The Vesians will probably be happy to see us gone!

    So just because the Vesians resent us from running wild through their own space, we have to disband? That was war! We didn't do anything worse than the Vesians had already done to us in our own territory!

    Major Verle shook his head. Reality isn't fair, Rosa. To the Vesians, we are a living stain on their honor. If the Bright Republic wants to play nice with them, then disbanding our mech regiment is an easy gesture to earn their goodwill!

    Do our bosses have any pride?! We're Brighters! We always stood up to the Vesians!

    Pride doesn't pay the bills. Pride doesn't fill our stomachs. Our continued existence is no longer convenient. The opposite is true in fact. Ending our existence as an active mech regiment will reap plentiful rewards to the state! If you think the Mech Corps won't stand by this decision, then just look how the government treated Ves Larkinson despite all of his combat awards. Now, we're next on the chopping block.

    A short pause ensued as Captain Orfan took in this explosive news.

    What will you do?

    I think you can guess. There is only one way to preserve the Vandals.