Chapter 93 – Hardened Defenses

Chapter 93 – Hardened Defenses

“Have to say, Colonel, I’m really glad you’re here to help!”

“You can just call me Saito,” Saito replied. “You’re not in my command, so no need to use my rank.”

“Heh, I’ll remember that, then, Saito!” Selind remarked with a grin as she winked at the Colonel.

Saito glanced up at Selind before turning his attention forward again. The Tresédian woman was built similarly to Major Hackett, what with a six foot height, black hair, and an athletic build — but the similarities stopped there. Selind’s hair was shoulder-length and messy, and her tanned skin put her right in the middle of Saito’s light tone and Hackett’s dark one. She also seemed a little thinner and more lithe, though Selind’s exact build was hard to determine under the baggy white cargo pants and large beige shawl she wore. Nevertheless, Saito knew that, first impressions aside, Selind was far more similar in demeanor and skill to Captain Travis than she was to Hackett — she constantly walked around with a long-barreled laser sniper strapped to her back, after all.

“Anyways, I really can’t tell you just how glad I am to have you and your team around,” Selind commented, walking side-by-side with Saito down the streets of Compound Tresnon. “With Hunger’s Bane comin’ up, you’ll be a big help!”

“Help that, hopefully, won’t be needed,” Saito replied.

“Ha, if anything, I think you’re a perfect deterrent!” Selind declared. “With all the folks that’ll be in town for Hunger’s Bane, I’m sure we’ll be fine. Hell, I know from experience that my daughter, Karísah, Ralak, and Davídrius alone are already more than enough to handle whatever the Bleeders could throw at us. Add in two of Davídrius’s old friends, a Chaotic from the galaxy’s most renowned PMC, and two battle-hardened military squads from SERRCom, and Tresnon might as well be invincible!”

“There’s certainly a lot of power and skill gathered here, but I’d still be careful, if I were you,” Saito countered. “There’s always some way that things can go wrong.”

“Yeah yeah, I know that, I’m just speakin’ a big game. I’m the Head of Defense of Compound Tresnon, after all. Have been for years. You don’t get where I am if you don’t take defense seriously.”

“Is Compound Tresnon particularly important, or something?”

“Tresnon is the biggest, most well-defended of all the Compounds in Treséd. There are only a couple cities bigger than us: Nock, the old capital of Treséd before the place fell into lawlessness centuries ago; and a few towns down in Rokres, on the southern peninsula. Nock is way across the continent, though, and the folks of Rokres always keep to themselves, so Compound Tresnon is effectively the biggest, most influential place on this side of the continent.”

“I see. You are located on the shores of a massive lake, so I suppose that makes sense. Are there other lakeside Compounds?”

“Of course, but less than you’d probably think. Water’s a valuable resource, after all, and one of the main things that Bleeders go raidin’ for. It’s hard for new lakeside Compounds to get off the ground with the Bleeders around, so the only lakeside Compounds on Mirage Lake are ones that’ve been here for a long time.”

“Hmm… well, with that kind of risk, I expect the defenses around here must be impressive.”

“Of course. That’s the whole reason you wanted to talk with me, innit? To get the lowdown on what our defenses look like.”

“True,” Saito replied, his attention momentarily drifting toward the Compound walls he could see in the distance, between the buildings of the town. Selind seemed to be leading him away from the outer walls, however, and toward a more central location. “So, where are we going, then? I would’ve thought you’d want to show me the walls.”

“That’s where most of our defenses are, aye, but not all of ‘em,” Selind said. “At the end of the day, physical walls ain’t doin’ much to stop an attack. Just about every Chaotic ever has a way of dealin’ with walls, not to mention what any modern weapon will do to one.”

“True. Even a modern sidearm will blow a concrete wall to shreds.”

“Exactly. The walls themselves are more symbolic than anything, at this point. The weapons we got on them, however, aren’t. Likely nothin’ too impressive for a well-outfitted military man like yourself, but we got a few dozen wall-mounted miniguns for emergencies. Enough to give coverage over 90% or so of the desert outside the Compound.”

“A few dozen, eh? How well-maintained are they?”

“Decently well, for hunks of junk we picked up from the dumpin’ grounds. We got a handful of Chaotics around here that can fix up or clean movin’ metal parts, so the guns are always in good condition. It’s the bullets that’re a problem. Makin’ ones to spec with the guns is hard for most Chaotics, apparently, so we have to secure ‘em the normal way. Which is even harder ‘cause the guns we’re usin’ are apparently a century old…”

“I was about to say — if the guns are using bullets, then they must be old. All Nimalian equipment nowadays are lasers or plasma weapons, with the sole exception of the Nitak pistol that some NSD soldiers use.”

“I’d really like to replace those miniguns with lasers, myself — I know well how effective they are,” Selid remarked, gesturing with her thumb at the long-barreled gun strapped to her back. “It’s hard, though. Don’t find many intact laser weapons at the dumpin’ grounds, and the other countries seem really wary about sellin’ laser weapons to anyone in Treséd.”

“Well, hopefully that means the Bleeders won’t have any, either.”

“Not sure we can get our hopes up there, Saito. I’m sure you’ve heard how they’ve shown up in Black Suns armor — with modern sets, at that! Who knows what kinda equipment they got with ‘em now.”

“That does work vaguely in our favor, however. Kinetic weapons are more effective against energy shielding than laser weaponry, from a raw damage-dealing perspective. All of my team’s weapons are electromagnetic launchers, the Black Suns Officer’s weapon is electromagnetic, and I assume your wall-mounted miniguns are as well, if they use bullets. As long as you have people who know how to accurately man the guns, you should be decently-well prepared.”


“My main concern is the size of any potential attacking force. If you have miniguns, of all things, covering over 90% of the desert outside of the walls… just how many attackers do you expect to have to fend off at once?”

“Hard to say…” Selind finally stopped walking just outside of a large building, her gaze turned out toward the far walls as she let loose a weary sigh. “When Bleeders fully attack a Compound instead of just raidin’ it, they usually do so with around fifty people, maybe five or so of which are Chaotics. That’s more than enough to overrun any smaller Compound. Tresnon is much better defended than the smaller Compounds, though, so I don’t know what kind of force the Bleeders would try to use against us. If we assumed that every Bleeder had powered armor, then… that could be a problem, but it doesn’t seem likely. If only, say, half of ‘em had armor, then… might take a few hundred of ‘em to burn through our defenses. Maybe even a few thousand, if we get the shields on in time.”

“Shields?” Saito questioned, “as in, energy shielding?”

“Ayup.” Selind nodded in response before turning toward the large building next to them and taking a key out of her pocket. As she inserted it into the doorknob, she remarked, “most Compounds have some kind of energy shielding, but Tresnon is the only one with a full array. One primary generator, and five secondaries. Personally, I’m proud of ‘em.”

“I see. So this is one of the secondary generators, then?”

“That it is. It’s off for now, though. Don’t got the power to keep ‘em on 24/7, while also keepin’ the lights on in the rest of the town. Anyways…” Selind finally unlocked the door and grabbed hold of the knob. “Figured I’d show you this, first. Hoped you might have— oh, hey.”

With the door now open, Saito and Selind could see clearly into the room beyond. The room itself was a large space, nearly ten meters on a side and just as tall. Concrete covered the floor and walls, coupled with a variety of maintenance equipment and wires, contributing to an overall feel of a garage or mechanic’s shop — though instead of a car, the center of the room housed a massive electrical generator, with an umbrella of metal panels extending out of the top. A small interface terminal was located on the side of the generator… and standing behind the terminal at that moment were none other than Captain Travis and Researcher MacTavish.

“Eep—!” MacTavish jumped in surprise as the sunlight from outside fell on her, prompting her to whip around and stare at Saito and Selind like a deer in headlights.

“Oh, Colonel, Selind.” Travis acknowledged the two with a casual wave.

“…Travis, MacTavish,” Saito addressed them warily as he and Selind stepped into the room, and the latter locked the door behind them. “What are you two doing here?”

“Ah, don’t worry, Saito, I gave ‘em permission to be here,” Selind remarked, stepping away from the door to address the room with her hands on her hips. “I heard from Luke that Kirstin here has a way with tech, so when she said she wanted to look at our shield generators, how could I say no? Skies know these things could use a proper tune-up, ha ha!”

“Seemed to be in decent shape, to me,” Travis remarked, “though I’m not a techie, I guess. Plus, the main power is off…”

“Yeah…” Selind smiled sheepishly as she looked over at the dormant generator. “Tresnon’s got hydro and solar power, but it still ain’t enough to power the city and the shield array at the same time. So we only turn on the shields when we need ‘em, or during the monthly tests to make sure they still work.”

“Ah, I was just about to ask about that. So you do test them regularly?” Saito questioned.

“Aye. We Tresédians know the value of maintenance — we have to, when replacements are so hard to come by.”

“I see. Well…” The Colonel then turned toward MacTavish. “What have you been looking into, with the generators?”

“Uh, j-just some specs, and, um, p-potential improvements…” the Researcher replied, and then shifted her attention to Selind. “Th-there were a few, actually… y-you have an array, b-but, um, the individual generators are still set t-to make full, uh, shield domes. I-if you change the settings, you can, um, reduce the surface area each generator, um, g-generates, w-which increases shield lifetime, without, um, losing coverage of the city. M-maybe even by triple, here, g-given the layout. A-and also—“

“Whoa, hold on, now,” Selind interjected, throwing up her hands in confusion. “I appreciate the tips, really, but, uh, could you write them down? You’re movin’ a little fast for me.”

“O-oh…” MacTavish looked down. “S-sorry…”

“No, no, it’s fine! If you know a way to triple anything related to the shields, then that’s a massive gain! Just be sure to write it down so I can get my folks to go through it all when we got time. And, uh, maybe make your instructions as comprehensive as possible…?”

“Uh, r-right.” The Researcher nodded before bowing out of the conversation to tend to the terminal again. “I-I’ll do that…”

“Not familiar with energy shields?” Travis questioned, turning his attention to Selind.

“I know how to work a generator well enough,” Selind insisted. “Compounds have been usin’ shield generators for long before I was born. Shield arrays are a new thing, though. Tresnon only got this array about… five years ago, maybe? And only ‘cause Kaoné made ‘em on the spot. Man… still wish we could ask her to make more shit, but Davídrius refuses to ask…”

“Kaoné… that’s the Materiatechnic, right?” Saito asked. “If she can make complicated objects like shield generators out of nothing, then that’s an incredibly useful ability. Can you not get her to make you up-to-date weapons and defenses?”

“Well… Kaoné’s a pacifist, so I hear,” Selind replied. “Even during her time with Hero Machina and the NSD, she only used her powers directly against the Nanocreatures. Davídrius has said that he doesn’t want to ask her to make weapons, and I don’t want to force her to, either, but, damn. It’d be pretty useful.”

“At least she made you a shield array, huh?” Travis commented.

“Ha, yeah. Though it’s usually my daughter who tunes the things. I bet she even had them all setup properly, and I just accidentally screwed up the configs during one of the last couple tests, ha ha! Oops…”

“You’ve mentioned your daughter before,” Saito said. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to meet her, as well as this ‘Karísah’ you mentioned, especially if they’re going to be helping with defense.”

“Sure thing, Saito!” Selind responded cheerfully. “Could do Relia good to meet some more outsiders like you. She won’t be around for a few more days, though. Never shows up ‘til just before Hunger’s Bane…”

“She isn’t here? Where is she, then?”

“Oh, I think I heard about Relia…” Travis mused, “she’s a friend of Karísah’s, right? Wanders the land, or something like that?”

Selind nodded. “That’s right. She decided to set foot out into the world about five years ago. She’s been wanderin’ between Compounds ever since, doin’ odd jobs and helpin’ locals out against the Bleeders. Folks in the region call her the Wanderer, heh.” She then adopted a forlorn smile as she looked down at the ground. “…Wish I could get her to come home more often, but, eh, that’s just how it is… least she’s bein’ helpful and makin’ herself useful.”

“Are you saying she travels alone?” Saito questioned. “I thought the lands around here were dangerous. Why else do you have miniguns and shield arrays?”

“They are dangerous,” Selind replied. “But Relia can handle the danger. She’s only 21, but she’s still a skilled Chaostechnic. She’s even beat several of the Elite Six in fights, ha!”

“Elite Six?”

“Well, sir, there’s six Schools of Chaos,” Travis explained. “As I understand it, ‘Elite Six’ refers to the most powerful student at each of the schools.”

“That’s right. And one of ‘em’s a Materiatechnic,” Selind declared. “And Relia still kicked his ass! Ha ha, oh man, I wish I had been there to see the look on that smug brat’s face…”

“I… see,” Saito responded. “Alright, well, it certainly sounds like she can take care of herself, then. I assume the other Chaotics you mentioned are similarly skilled or experienced?”

“That they are.”

“Ha! Well, throw in the power of the Eximius Vir, and this place might as well be invincible!” Travis remarked. “Right, Colonel?”

“That’s exactly what I was sayin’ earlier, Luke!” Selind replied with a grin. “Nice to see we’re on the same page!”

“Nice to know I have another Travis on my hands,” Saito muttered, though he wore an amused smirk as he did.

“Ah ha, sorry about that, sir,” the Captain responded, and then turned to Selind. “But hey, I have my actual sniper rifle with me now. I was gonna go shooting with Gavon this afternoon, you want in?”

“You really think I’m going to miss a chance to see a modern, state-of-the-art electromagnetic sniper rifle? Hell yeah I’m in!” Selind exclaimed. “Just let me get Saito here up to speed on Tresnon’s defenses, first.”

“Well, well, making friends here, eh, Travis?” Saito passed the Captain an amused look. “Finally found some fellow gun nuts, huh?”

“Suppose you could say that, sir…” Travis replied with a sheepish smile. “Hope it’s no problem, what with Gavon’s job, and all…”

Saito passed Selind a glance, only to then sigh and shake his head. “…It’s fine, for now. Just follow the OpSec guidelines, and you should be good. Even around Black Suns officers.” The Colonel then shifted his attention to MacTavish, who was still standing off to the side in her own little world as she interfaced with the dormant shield unit. “…Just don’t forget that dinner with MacTavish that you set up for us.”

“Heh… thanks, Colonel,” Travis responded. “And of course not, I’ll be back before then.”

“Anyways…” Selind spoke up as she moved to the entrance to the generator building. “C’mon, Saito. I’ll show you some of the old artillery we have, just in case we need to break a siege, and then I’ll show you the walls. That should cover everything.”

“Wha— breaking a siege?!” Saito echoed incredulously.

“Ah, it’ll never happen, it’s just in case,” Selind insisted. “Last time the Bleeders actually laid siege to a Compound was decades ago. Still, better to be prepared, I say.”

“I can’t argue with that, but…”

“It’ll be fine, Saito, it’ll be fine! Now!” Selind threw open the door and confidently strode out onto the streets, with Saito not far behind her. “Let’s show you what else Compound Tresnon has to offer…!”