The Mech Touch
Chapter 3327: The Statue War
Though Venerable Jannzi gave him a lot of grief, she could do little else but rant in front of his face.
She lacked the power and authority to hinder his plans. Her influence was not small, but her weight in the clan was not heavy enough to make him think twice.
Of course, it was a mistake to dismiss her so easily. Even though Venerable Jannzi didn’t have any meaningful way to stop Ves from triggering a civil war within the Vulcan Empire, more and more Larkinsons learned about her principled stance and her noble opposition against an immoral and uncaring patriarch.
She not only managed to take the high ground, but also blackened her opponent’s reputation in the process. As long as several more incidents like these took place, Ves would see his reputation sink to the point where he had no credibility left!
“I can’t let that happen.” He frowned.
The problem was that the only way for Ves to keep Venerable Jannzi from gaining more influence was to maintain the respect and support of his clansmen.
Ordinarily, that wasn’t so difficult as he frequently made sure that their needs were taken care of in the clan.
What truly put him at risk was when his decisions got Larkinsons killed or when he engaged in ‘dishonorable’ acts.
Most clansmen didn’t want to die. They also didn’t want to degenerate into butchers. Ves knew it was wrong at some level to implicate the entire civilian population of the Vulcan Empire, but he didn’t let his conscience get in the way of his goals.
“The next phase will start soon.” He whispered.
Though he no longer looked up any specific news articles about the infighting between the dwarves, he was still aware of how the crisis was unfolding from a macro perspective.
More and more planets and provinces were becoming engulfed in war. Though there were plenty of reasons for the extremists on both sides to back off, the militant dwarves had suffered too much and sacrificed too many lives to stop at this point.
Victory was all that mattered to the radicals and traditionalists! The immaturity and lack of perspective that Minister Shederin had spoken about caused the dwarves to lack a crucial quality that could have let the calmer heads among them negotiate a compromise.
As a result, a lot of mechs and war assets that were initially meant to fight against the tall folk were instead employed to kill shorties just like themselves!
Neither side of the conflict was capable of showing any respect for their adversaries. They completely forgot about their true opponents and regarded their former neighbors and friends as their archenemies!
The dwarves were too prideful to back out. The bravest Vulcanites were those who fought for their beliefs just like the rebels of old. Many believed that if the heretical beliefs of their enemies became dominant, then the true Vulcan god would forsake the dwarven state and turn its back on its own people!
In the words of many fervent priests, this struggle was not just about setting the record straight whether Vulcan was a human or a dwarf. It was an existential crisis where the truth could save the entire state and where embracing the wrong version of Vulcan could literally cause their god to forsake his flock!
With stakes this high, it was no surprise that the infighting unfolded into an outright civil war!
A new rebellion had erupted as the massive state split into two different camps!
Many provinces mostly fell into one or the other camp, but there were plenty of places where both sides were equally as strong! These battleground provinces turned into the hotspots of the sector-wide civil war as the traditional believers and the radical cultists sought to expand their territory and obtain enough superiority to suppress their opponents!
When Minister Shederin stopped by in order to explain what was going on, he called up a map of the Vulcan Empire.
“The dwarven state is not a monolithic entity, as I have explained before. There are strong regional identities that are based around provinces. Each province is the equivalent of a small-to-medium state in any other star sector. Capturing them and keeping them is key to winning this civil war.”
Ves nodded in understanding as he inspected the map. “I see that the rebel cultists have more provinces in their hands than the central authority.”
“That is correct, sir, but don’t let this map fool you.” Shederin said as he switched the view to one that showed the GDP of every province. “The Dwarven God Cult initially gained influence in the lesser provinces and planets of the Vulcan Empire. The majority of these provinces are less densely populated and are not as developed as the more central provinces. The Uriburn Province that is firmly in the grip of the Vulcan Faith is worth at least five times more than the Ferril Province.”
Indeed, the provinces held by the central authority were much more developed in almost every criteria.
The question was whether this was enough to keep the fight even.
“Who has the advantage?” Ves asked.
“That is not an easy question to answer. The central authority that officially supports the Vulcan Faith is still in charge of most of the military. While there are mech regiments and even entire mech divisions that have defected to the extremist dwarves, there is no denying that the rebels do not grasp as many military units.”
“Doesn’t that mean the central authority can crush the cultists?”
Shederin shook his head. “There are many more factors that could even up this struggle. The Dwarven God Cult effectively controls the majority of the provinces. They can draw a large amount of mercenary or private forces under their banner to bolster their numbers. The combat effectiveness of these irregular troops might not be as good as their professional military counterparts, but the advantage of numbers is a powerful boon.”
Ves also figured out another difference. “If my guess is right, there should also be an enthusiasm gap between the two sides. The Dwarven God Cult has always been good at poaching worshippers from the Vulcan Faith, and that is not without reason. The cultists have a better story and they are much more enthusiastic about worshipping their dwarven god.”
“The enthusiasm gap isn’t as big as you think. The Vulcan Faith has enjoyed a resurgence as of late due to your human statues. The extremists who have seen your work in person are just as fanatic about their beliefs as their enemy counterparts. However, you are correct that the largest group of supporters are less fervent on average.”
This resulted in an interesting asymmetrical matchup.
The central authority had to rely on the abundant number of professional military units under its control to regain control over its provinces.
The rebel cultists had the advantage of numbers and overall morale and needed to rely more heavily on its grassroots units to squeeze the territories of their enemies.
As the civil war continued to heat up, this was exactly what happened. The mech regiments that remained loyal to the grand regent were able to defeat many forces that fought on behalf of the Dwarven God Cult.
Unlike the Larkinson Clan, many private armies and irregular forces didn’t possess trump cards such as battle networks. There was also a distinct gap in the amount of expert pilots that both sides could field.
However, the forces aligned to the Dwarven God Cult began to avoid frontal battles whenever possible. They still had plenty of military officers at their side who soon formulated a new strategy.
The rebel forces began to gnaw at many different territories controlled by their enemies at once. They refrained from attacking the highly-populated industrial strongholds and instead sought to sweep aside resistance on many different rural systar systems!
The military under the control of the central authority couldn’t afford to split up its troops and send them off to all of the smaller sites. That would just dilute their strength and make them vulnerable to being defeated in detail!
“We’re getting attacked from a thousand different directions.” a traditionalist general stated. “We can’t let these rebels take over all of our farming planets. Our urbanized planets are too densely populated to be able to feed themselves.”
“Can’t our urban population subside on nutrient packs for a time?”
“Our stockpile of nutrient packs is enormous, but it was never designed to keep entire planets fed for years!”
“That’s not the only issue. The Dwarven God Cult has already taken over most of our peripheral provinces. If the cultists gain even more ground, they can form a blockade around the space that we effectively control, thereby squeezing out any trade that keeps our bellies filled and our industrial war engine running.”
This was indeed a grave concern! There were more factors at play that worsened the position of the central authority in the long term. The dwarves who inherited the belief that Vulcan was a human thought that they were in the right. They could not allow the upstart liars to erase the truth and rob Vulcan’s glory from their proud state!
Another general pointed at a core star system controlled by the opposition. “If time is on their side, then we will have to win the war before our window of opportunity is lost. I propose we launch an offensive on their strongholds and take the fight to their territories!”
“The price is too big! It is easier to defend than to attack a location. We will bleed heavily if we wish to take over most of their core systems.”
“Then what would you have us do instead? We cannot keep acting like turtles when there are ants drilling through our cavities. Given the current conditions, we cannot outlast the rebels. If we attempt to do so, we will only run our military units ragged.”
There were more arguments in favor of going on the attack than to maintain a defensive posture. Once the leaders had made the decision, their mech armies quickly launched massive offensives onto the major star systems controlled by the enemy!
If the collateral damage was already bad before, now the amount of dwarven lives that were being lost had reached meteoric proportions!
What surprised people like Ves about this civil war was how quickly it escalated.
Unlike the Komodo War where the Friday Coalition and the Hexadric Hegemony each occupied different sides of the star sector, the Vulcanite civil war was characterized by lots of immediate contact between the two sides!
Provinces and star systems belonging to one side often burdened a territory that belonged to the other side!
If possible, a mech unit stationed in one of these places only needed to make a single, direct FTL hop in order to launch an assault on an enemy position!
Incidents like this took place in thousands of different conflict areas. Some local commanders didn’t even wait for instructions from their higher ups before they commanded their troops to barge into an enemy star system and fight the supposed heretics who believed in the wrong version of Vulcan!
Hundreds of thousands of dwarven mechs were clashing against each other with little regard for self-preservation. The most celebrated soldiers were those who were willing to give it all and die for their righteous beliefs!
“Tear down the corrupt rulers!”
“Wipe out the incorrigible rebels!”
The conflict that eventually became known as the Statue War started off so hard and so suddenly that neither side had made adequate preparations.
Plenty of mistakes, misunderstandings and missteps caused the dwarves from both sides to blunder more often or collapse sooner than expected. The bloodshed that ensued from all of the chaotic battles could fill entire oceans.
The entire Smiling Samuel Star Sector was dyed in red!
To think that all of this came to pass because Ves mailed 2000 of his own handicrafts to different dwarves.
“It’s not my fault.” He insisted to himself. “The Vulcanites started this fight. I’m just finishing it. My response is definitely proportionate!”