The Mech Touch - Chapter 2480: Fall On Her Sword
Chapter 2480: Fall On Her Sword
Aside from helping Gloriana prepare for the wedding, Ves also had to stay on top of the major developments taking place in his clan.
One of the issues he urgently needed to address was the future of the Living Sentinels.
It was clear to anyone that the Nyxian Gap Campaign dealt a heavy blow to them. Their mechs weren’t as good as the ones used by the Avatars of Myth. The quality of mech pilots and their lower training intensity also contributed to the losses they suffered.
The funerals proceeded quickly. Both Ves and Gloriana wanted it out of the way as quickly as possible so that it wouldn’t cast a shadow over the upcoming wedding.
Soon after the funerals, Commander Magdalena met Ves in person. She entered his office in his mansion on Cinach VI and stepped forward with obvious gloom.
“We need to talk.”
“Yes. Please have a seat.”
Once the Sentinel Commander sat down, Ves saw how much the pressure on her shoulders was crushing her. She looked as if she aged at least a decade.
Ves gently spoke. “It’s not your fault. Many of the circumstances that led to the deaths of your soldiers were out of our control. We couldn’t have done anything to prevent this outcome.”
“I could have pushed my mech pilots harder. I could have worked harder to acquire better mechs for them. I could have changed their tactics.”
“Don’t get caught up in your remorse. There are plenty of Sentinels who still need someone in charge.”
“That someone shouldn’t be me.” Magdalena said. “I need to take responsibility for this disaster.”
Ves grew serious. This was one of the outcomes he was worried about.
“You still have my confidence, commander. Nothing ever goes well during battle. The enemies we’ve faced could have killed us all. While we managed to avoid the worst, we still sustained damage after every battle. Due to the inherent traits of the Sentinels, your troops were always the first ones to suffer.”
Magdalena shook her head. “You don’t need to make excuses for me. I’m older than you. I know clearer than anyone who is at fault. The family, friends and colleagues of the men who we have just buried all deserve an explanation. When 500 hopeful Sentinel mech pilots enter the Nyxian Gap but only 120 of them manage to return, someone has to answer for this result.”
“You want to fall on your sword.”
The older woman smiled wryly at him. “The Sentinels have been traumatized. Morale is low and our recruitment from within the ranks of our clan has crashed. Some have even quit.”
“You can fix this, commander.”
“No. Not me. The Sentinels need venting. Not many dare to question you openly, but I am not held in high regard. While I tried my best to keep my Sentinels together, they still blame me for the losses we’ve suffered. I lost their trust.”
This was an incredibly difficult situation. Once Commander Magdalena lost the trust of her men, she no longer exerted effective control over them. While she could resort to force and coercion to get things done, this was not a desirable way to lead an organization.
In his experience, truly great mech forces consisted of well-trained, motivated mech pilots. The men needed to feel they belonged there. Developing an esprit de corps was essential to unite the entire force.
From what Commander Magdalena described, there was too much negativity in the Living Sentinels to further this development. While Ves could force her to stay, the Sentinels would remain as dead as a random group of conscripts who were hastily thrown together and armed with weapons. There was no way the Sentinels could reach their potential with such a lethargic atmosphere.
Ves bowed his head. “I don’t want to do this. As someone who also bears some responsibility, I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss you. Doing so would only vindicate the mistaken view that you are the primary person responsible for all of those deaths.”
“Whether I am truly to blame is moot.” She sighed. “What matters is preserving what I have built. I still care for the Living Sentinels despite most of my subordinates turning against me. Let them believe what they will. If that allows them to process the loss of their comrades, then they are welcome to think I’m incompetent. It is better than letting my soldiers wallow in self-pity or committing suicide.”
It was actually quite difficult for anyone to commit suicide. Those who pressed their service pistols against their heads wouldn’t even be able to pull the trigger. The operating systems of their guns would never allow their own wielders to harm themselves.
As for other means, that was what the monitoring systems were for. AIs constantly looked out for problematic behavior. Once they identified a risk factor, they automatically informed an officer or a mental health counselor to prevent the situation from becoming worse.
That said, the Living Sentinels had more problems than that. While Ves still believed that firing Commander Magdalena was as crude as using a hammer to untie a knot, it was one of the most effective ways to change perception.
This was what mattered the most.
“Are you really sure?” Ves asked with resignation in his voice.
“A change of leadership will allow the Sentinels to undergo a reset. This will especially be the case if my successor is very different.”
“If you’re leaving, we need someone who is capable enough to pull the Sentinels out of their rut.”
“I have some candidates in store.” Magdalena said. “I will send you their profiles so that you or Major Verle can make a decision. If you’re not satisfied with them, you can expand your search.”
“I’ll look over them later. Do I need to make a decision soon?”
“Not necessarily, but the sooner, the better. I can use the time that I have left to implement some unpopular changes in order to pave the way for whoever you choose.”
He didn’t like the way she beat herself up. She didn’t deserve all of the blame in his opinion. However, he didn’t stop her from offering her resignation because he benefited from her actions.
Once she fell onto her sword, most of the resentment should stay with her. The Sentinels would probably direct a lot of blame towards him, which was good because he still needed them to assume their role in the coming years.
The main reason why the Living Sentinels suffered so many losses was because Ves forced them out of their elements. Their training and doctrine was almost entirely geared towards defending the Larkinson fleet.
In other words, they were glorified security guards.
As long as the Living Sentinels were allowed to fight around and fortify themselves in the fleet, they should be fine.
However, throwing them at the enemy was something different. When Ves and Major Verle discussed the Larkinson Clan’s combat doctrines, they never accounted for the possibility that the Sentinels might have to perform so many offensive actions.
It was like pulling a fish out of an ocean and depositing it on a beach. There was no way the fish would feel comfortable!
“What will you do once you’ve put down your hat?” Ves asked.
“My days of piloting mechs and commanding troops are over. I will go back to being a civilian and swap old war stories with the other retired veterans of the clan. There are plenty of them to keep me company.”
The habit of Larkinson veterans gathering together every day probably helped them through their traumas. It was not without reason why so many veterans of the family used to hang out at the Larkinson Compound at Rittersberg all day.
Aside from being able to commiserate with those who lived through similar experiences, the old dogs were also able to pass on their wisdom to the younger generation who lived there.
This not only gave the future mech pilots of the Larkinson Clan a head start, but also healed the hearts of those who had endured too much death in their lives.
Ves hoped that this tradition would continue in the Larkinson Clan.
“I think it’s a waste for you to retreat altogether.”
She looked confused. “Pardon?”
“No matter what people think of you, I think you have done a decent job. You could have made better decisions, but you have hardly run the Sentinels into the ground. Since you have set them up, you know how they work better than anyone. I still need that in order to run them effectively. Besides, the battles you’ve fought and lived through have given you a wealth of combat experience that is impossible to gain through any other means. This is valuable in itself, and I don’t want to waste this asset.”
“Are you saying…”
“I still want to keep you, commander.” Ves emphatically said. “The Military Bureau under Major Verle is still short of senior staff officers. Your addition to the general staff will ease the major’s burdens and allow him to get more work done. This is especially important as our mech forces replenish their losses and expand their numbers.”
Commander Magdalena looked at the floor. “I did not expect to receive such an offer. I don’t believe it is wise for you to recommend me to this function. The Sentinels might think you are rewarding me with a promotion.”
“That’s because it is. You know the realities of combat. You know how hard it is to command a large mech force.”
“There are many other seasoned veterans in the Larkinson Clan who can fill the same shoes.”
“Those old veterans of the Bright-Vesia Wars or other wars aren’t as relevant to our clan. Their old wartime experiences are mostly in the context of battles between other states. The Larkinson Clan is nothing like that. The way we fight is very different, and you just happen to possess the deepest and most up to date impression of that. Not only that, I believe you care too much for our men to ever let the previous disaster happen again. You may not be able to make up for it as the Sentinel Commander, but you will still be able to exert some influence as a general staff officer, just like Ophelia Kronon.”
She eventually succumbed to his request. “Very well. If you truly trust me to watch over our combat forces, then I will agree to join the Military Bureau. I hope you don’t regret your decision.”
The two shook hands. Commander Magdalena looked considerably better now that her career in the military hadn’t come to an end.
“Thank you for this. You truly deserve to be the patriarch.”
“No problem. I just think you’ve been dealt a bad hand.”
As a trueblood Larkinson, Magdalena valued her honor. Resigning her command under these circumstances was a massive disgrace that would permanently tarnish her reputation.
By shifting her over to a staff position, Ves gave her a lifeline. While her position didn’t allow her to exert as much influence as before, she would still be able to restore her honor over time.
This was also a way to assuage his own guilt. Ves knew very well that he was the principal culprit behind the horrendous losses of the Living Sentinels. He shouldn’t have brought them to the Nyxian Gap.
On the flipside, he also couldn’t have made so many gains if he hadn’t brought enough sacrifices. The Sentinels may not have fought as well as the Avatars, but they performed their role as cannon fodder.
“Some critics within the clan think we should disband the Sentinels.” Magdalena remarked. “What do you think?”
“I don’t agree. The premise and concept of the Living Sentinels are sound. It’s just that our execution has fallen short. As long as we learn from our errors and address our shortcomings, the Sentinels shall definitely rise again.”
“I look forward to that day.”
Ves wondered who Magdalena would put forward as the next commander of the Living Sentinels. The demoralized soldiers needed a strong personality in order to correct their course!