Chapter 1995 Resentful Sisters
His fleet was growing bigger and bigger. Ves felt as if he was in the process of accumulating every outcast or exile from the Komodo Star Sector!
So far, his forces consisted of outcast Larkinsons, Brighters who forsook their state to follow him to the Red Ocean, the members of the New Ylvaine Dynasty, the Battle Criers, the Black Cats and now the Penitent Sisters!
It had become increasingly more cumbersome to Ves to manage all of these disparate groups, especially since they were so distinctive and eccentric.
Fortunately, his decision to delegate most of the management to his deputy leaders has worked out so far. He no longer needed to pay any personal attention to the running of his individual groups.
The sudden addition of the Penitent Sisters didn't intimidate him once he got over their rabid anti-boy tendencies.
When Ves, Gloriana, Calabast invited the three representatives of the Hexer outfit to the Scarlet Rose's conference room, the tension between them was palpable.
Commander Valerie Chancy did not do much to restrain her dislike. As the leader of the Penitent Sisters, her open negativity did not reflect very well on her leadership.
Supposedly, the Penitent Sisters disavowed their extremist ways. Ves did not see much repentance in their eyes. Only hatred and disgust welled within their minds.
When Ves inspected them from a spiritual perspective, he saw nothing that made him doubt his initial judgement!
Once everyone sat down, everyone looked at each other in a rather tense standoff.
What Ves found curious was that while the Penitent Sisters directed most of their ire towards Ves, they weren't very happy with Calabast and Gloriana either!
A state as big as the Hexadric Hegemony always contained a lot of internal division. Different interests groups and ideologies often clashed against each other. The Penitent Sisters just happened to be part of a cult that lost a power struggle.
From the looks of it, the extremist Hexers still harbored a grudge against ordinary Hexers!
Lucky glanced vigilantly at the three Penitent Sisters. The gem cat obviously picked up the hostility emanating from the Hexer exiles.
Clixie was the same. She rested on the conference table in front of Gloriana but her muscles were all tensed up. There was no doubt she would claw out the faces of the Sisters if they posed a threat to her owner!
Ves held the Larkinson Mandate in his hands. He felt a bit more confident and grounded when he held the book.
No matter how much the Penitent Sisters tried to glare him to death, the reassuring glow emanating from the book bolstered his defenses and allowed him to maintain the demeanor of a leader.
The Golden Cat affectionately rubbed against his spiritual presence. The love and trust she held towards him dispelled some of his nervousness.
The others were also affected by Goldie and the Larkinson Mandate.
Gloriana held just as much affection towards the book while Calabast was oddly intrigued by its extraordinary properties.
As for the Penitent Sisters, the longer the silence stretched on, the more the book seemed to magnify in presence.
Though none of the three women possessed spiritual potential, today they became exposed to Ves' characteristic glows for the very first time!
The mechs in the Scarlet Rose's mech hangar and the Larkinson Mandate both caused the women to reevaluate their impression towards their new 'employer'.
Welcome to my group. Ves eventually spoke once he regained his calm. While the circumstances surrounding your disposition are unusual, I hope we can maintain a cordial working relationship.
Let me be honest, 'sir'. Commander Chancy spoke up with her harsh and barely-restrained voice. None of my sisters want to work for you. If it was up to us, we would rather throw ourselves at the Fridaymen in the frontlines. You robbed us of this chance to redeem our honor.
Commander, I think you are mistaken about something. Calabast interjected as she crossed her arms. You are on punishment duty. The opportunity to redeem yourselves is a privilege, not a right. Whether you deserve absolution or not depends on your sincerity to abide by the terms of your punishments.
Gloriana spoke up as well in her formal tone.
Serving us is an honor in itself. My boyfriend and I are some of the most prominent young Journeymen of this entire star cluster! It is not a disservice that your Penitent Sisters are assigned to protect us. The more we can work uninterrupted, the more we can contribute to the war effort. In time, I am confident that our mech designs will be able to tip the balance in the Hegemony's favor!
We have already managed to do so in the Sand War. It will be no different for the Komodo War. Ves backed up Gloriana's boasts even though he didn't feel so confident himself about her assertion. The Friday Coalition has already attacked me several times. If you are truly a proponent of the Hegemony, then you should do everything possible to protect us against every threat. With many millions of Hexers mechs clashing against Fridaymen mechs at the frontlines, do you really think your little outfit can shift the outcome of the war? Trust me, the best way you can help your fellow Hexers win the war is to allow us to design our mechs without interference!
Obviously, his statement didn't sound credible to the Penitent Sisters. While they grudgingly respected Gloriana's ability, they held no good opinion towards male mech designers!
Perhaps in their eyes, allowing Ves to design mechs for the Hex Army was a disaster in the making! Only their oaths and other restrictions prevented them from shooting him to pieces!
While Ves was sure he could count on the Penitent Sisters to abide by their oaths, it was best not to test their limits. He didn't intend to order them around like dogs or squeeze them until there was nothing left.
While it was too much to ask to earn their loyalty, Ves nonetheless wanted to turn the Penitent Sisters into an element he could rely on. Right now, the Glory Battalion had suffered substantial losses and still hadn't replenished all of the mechs it lost at the Battle of Kesseling VIII.
With the loss of so many second-class mechs had always made Ves nervous. Now that his escorts were bolstered by the addition of six-hundred second-class mechs, he had nothing to fear now! The persistent worry that the CRC might try to catch up and intercept his fleet had disappeared now that his forces were ten times more difficult to defeat!
As Head Designer Stameros passed on some files detailing the mech roster of the outfit, Ves was very satisfied with the mechs that joined his fleet's protection detail.
While the Penitent Sisters nominally brought 300 spaceborn mechs and 300 landbound mechs, in practice both mechs were sophisticated enough to operate in any standard environment. Second-class mechs above a certain price point were almost designed to accommodate multiple environments, and this time was no different.
Certainly, on land the landbound mechs could easily crush the relatively more fragile mechs. In space, the spaceborn mechs held an undeniable performance edge against the sluggish landbound mechs.
However, even if the mechs could only exert seventy to eighty percent of their potential in a different environment, that still put them heads and shoulders above any third-class mech!
With so many formidable second-class mechs bolstering his fleet's defenses, Ves was confident he could come out on top against a third-class mech division!
The value of all of this added protection didn't just secure him against the Friday Coalition. Ves also felt much more confident about his relations with other states!
The Penitent Sisters formed a very scary deterrent against betrayal by state actors. Not only was it costly for third-rate states to overcome 600 second-class mechs, but their presence around Ves also signified that he enjoyed solid support from the Hegemony's government!
It couldn't be more clear that messing with him meant messing with the Hexers! Considering the frightening reputation the Hexers accrued over the years, Ves believed that the Penitent Sisters wouldn't even need to fight any battles.
Their presence alone was enough to scare away every opportunist!
As Ves quietly studied the mech roster, he hummed and made some noteworthy observations.
The mechs of the Penitent Sisters mostly consisted of second-hand castoffs. Ves had the impression that Hexer outfits all traded in these machines when they decided to refresh their mech lineup when the new mech generation kicked into gear.
Pretty much every mech consisted of commercial midrange mechs. They lacked the exclusive components, materials and features seen in the mechs fielded by the Hex Army, but Ves already expected that. It was too much to ask for the Hegemony to provide him with their best mechs and tech.
Even so, the Hegemony made sure that Ves didn't get too many goodies. The mechs assigned to the Penitent Sisters were quite worn and exhibited frequent repairs.
They were nearing the end of their effective lifespan. On average, they wouldn't last more than half a decade or so, though that was dependent on many factors.
He looked up from the projected list. Miss Stameros, how long do you think your maintenance crews can keep the Sister mechs in working condition?
Though the female mech designer didn't want to answer this question, she wasn't gutsy enough to violate her oath.
She answered his question with gritted teeth.
I am confident that most mechs will be able to perform reasonably well for at least three or four years. After that, the decay will accelerate and breakdowns will become more frequent. If you refuse to provide us with the funding and materials required to produce replacement parts, then the mechs won't be able to perform up to expectation.
How well can you service all of your machines?
Not that good, 'sir'. While we can effect a lot of repairs in the mech workshops in our combat carriers, we lack a dedicated factory ship or logistics ship. We used to possess an outdated fleet carrier, but the Temple of Hexism took her away from us when we received our latest assignment.
Juliet Stameros resented that, of course. Even a small, sub-capital fleet carrier provided a lot more servicing capacity than a cramped combat carrier that was stuffed with mechs and armor!
The removal of such a valuable fleet asset significantly crippled the outfit's ability to service all of its aging but still sophisticated mechs. None of the mech workshops of his third-class ships were capable of servicing higher-classed machines.
I'll solve your maintenance problems in time. Ves promised. The Hegemony wants me to replace your existing mechs with machines of my own design, and I intend to fulfill this obligation.
The faces of all three Penitent Sisters worsened. To them, forcing their mech pilots into the cockpits of mechs designed by boys was one of their worst nightmares!
Though Ves knew that their reaction was anything but encouraging, he didn't take that to heart. This was one of the explicit conditions set by the Temple of Hexism!
After going through the mechs and starships of the Penitent Sisters, Ves had to decide how to manage them. Though Ves was aware that he needed to assert his authority right away, he didn't have the time to micromanage this new outfit.
He made a quick decision.
Once we reach the Sentinel Kingdom and have the opportunity to settle down, I'll inspect your outfit more thoroughly to enact some necessary changes. He announced. For the time being, you take orders from Calabast here. Right now, we are still in unfriendly space and the Friday Coalition still poses a threat from us. If you don't want our enemies to have their way, then you should do your best to fall in line and adjust to your new duties. Do you understand?
Yes… sir. Commander Chancy practically spat.