The battle against the pirates erupted in a mass of chaos and individual action. The Volari Starhawks and the other regiments had spread themselves thin, and that had forced the pirates to disperse as well.
The Dragons of the Void could have chosen to concentrate their ships and mech, but that would have allowed the Mech Corps to close the envelope and trap them in each direction. They decided it was better to remain elusive at all fronts.
All of this meant that Ghanso and his squad members only faced a couple of mechs at a time. Ghanso methodically shot at the approaching mechs with his laser rifle set to medium. He didn't require any more power to take out half-rusted mechs that looked second-hand at best.
"Incoming ship! She looks like she's carrying at least eight landbound mechs! Forget about the small fry and take her out!"
Ghanso switched his target in a heartbeat and opened fire on the incoming carrier. His laser shots merely scratched the coating of the immense ship, so he cranked up his laser rifle until it released beams as thick as the arm of his mech.
His super-heated laser beam did almost nothing to the frontal cone of the carrier. "My lasers aren't doing anything to the ship!"
"My rifle bullets are bouncing off the cone!"
Captain Rynsel made a risky decision. "Cease fire on the carrier and resume targeting her escort mechs. Once the carrier passes us by, try to hit if from behind."
They exchanged fire with the escorts which drew closer, but Ghanso had a hard time landing any hits due to their speeds. He lost his previous calm when frustration started to creep in. Why couldn't he hit any mechs?
One of the pirate mechs swiveled his rifle and spat out a volley of explosive shells at his Vhedra-S. Old Man Alex moved his mech in front of Ghanso and shielded him from the blast.
"Get a hold of yourself, Larkinson! You're overheating your rifle!"
He cursed as he noticed the build-up of heat. If he continued firing at this pace, he'd hardly have anything left once the pirate ship passed by their squad. Ghanso stopped his fire entirely in order to allow his rifle to cool as fast as possible.
"This isn't the first time you lost your mind!" Old Man Alex admonished him as he moved away to shield another squad mate. "Whatever crap you're dealing with, it's not as important as the mission! Everyone is counting on you to do your job, so do it!"
Ghanso growled in frustration, but kept his opinion to himself. Alex had been right that he should be focusing on his mission instead of letting his emotions dictate his actions. Overheating his rifle early would only benefit the pirates instead of their own side.
Even as his instincts yelled at him to take down the pirate mechs, Ghanso remained fixated on the incoming carrier. Now that the pirate ship neared their position, he noticed that her dull black coating his a surprisingly thick frontal cone made out of random plates of scavenged mech armor.
"Damn. How many mechs worth of armor plating does this carrier have?"
"More than ten I bet. These plates must be the refuse that had been dislodged from their original mechs."
Despite their damaged state, the plates possessed enough integrity to withstand most of the attack sent in their way. Their thickness prompted Captain Rynsel to give up taking out the carrier from the front. Instead, they all waited until the ship came close.
"Get ready to turn around and shoot at the rear!"
Five, for, three, two, one, "Open fire!"
Not every member of the squad could open fire on the carrier. For some reason, the escort mechs turned berserk and assaulted the closest Starhawk mech they could find. Alex and a couple of other melee mech pilots raced to the rescue while Ghanso focused on the thrusters of the descending carrier.
He took a deep breath and released a penetrating laser beam. Its seconds-long burn hit the rear of the carrier but did practically no damage.
Thrusters had been built to absorb a lot of heat, so the laser beam didn't do much damage. Ghanso shook his head and shifted his aim, though the rapidly widening distance made it hard for him to focus on a single section of the ship. He quickly fired again before the ship flew out of range.
This time his lasers glanced off the side of the carrier. Despite the near miss, his laser happened to strike a less heat-resistant part of the ship. His highly potent laser beam melted through the armor and damaged a couple of compartments, though none of them seemed important.
Nevertheless, the opening made by his lasers prompted his squad mates to focus on that vulnerability. Together, they widened the hole in the carrier and inflicted increasingly severe internal damage.
A final explosive shell landed deep within the ship and destabilized her power reactor. The ship lost control and spin uncontrollably.
"She's dead! Good job!" Captain Rynsel praised.
If the ship lost her power, her inertial dampeners would quickly drain their meager reserves. Once that happened, the occupants of the ship would have no way of protecting themselves against the g-forces induced by the ship's decent and uncontrollable spin. Everybody's body would undergo an experience akin to a blender. Their bodies didn't stand a chance.
"Eyes up! Two more ships are passing through our sector! If they've got a strengthened cone as well, then wait until they pass us!"
Neither ship turned out to be as abnormal as the first one. Ghanso and his squad comfortably blew up one ship, but they didn't spare enough firepower to take out the other one. Even as they shot at the rear of the surviving carrier, her mech escorts plunged into their midst, forcing them to deal with them first while the remaining pirate ship got away.
This pattern repeated over and over over the entire globe. Even the Vesians dropped their vigilance against the Mech Corps in order to prevent the pirates from gaining a foothold on the planet.
Both the Mech Corps and the Mech Legion soon found out they underestimated the resolve of the pirates. Many pirate mechs that accompanied their carriers towards the surface recklessly entered into mortal combat against the defenders that made up the net. They attacked with no regards to their lives and always fought to the death.
Though costly, the distraction worked. Ghanso lost track of how many dinky carriers passed by their squad as they tried to fend off the latest wave of suicidal pirate mechs.
"Since when did pirates fight to the death?!"
"Beats me! Pirates aren't the smartest bunch of people in the first place!"
"My ammo is running low! I'm all out of high explosive shells!"
"My energy reserves are dipping as well!" Ghanso reported. Even at the lowest settings, the rate at which he fired off his beams had led to an inevitable drain on his energy cells.
Sometimes he wished his mech suffered from the overcharge phenomenon, but it appeared the Glowing Planet only affected mechs closer to its surface. Just in case, the mech technicians had overridden the power safeties of each mech, but it hadn't been necessary for now.
Down on the surface of the Glowing Planet, Ves just finished affixing back the last piece of plating on the Urman. "Your mech is back in one piece, Walter."
"Took you long enough." The big man gruffed as he zipped up to his cockpit. "Don't wander off. It's going to get dangerous soon."
As Ves watched the Urman come online and move out of the workshop, he felt a little lost. Due to the pirate incursion, Ves had been forced to curtail his extensive rework of the Urman and rush to put the mech back together.
"I could have learned much more if the pirates didn't chose to drop from above." He sighed with regret.
He picked up Lucky who had been staying alertly by his side as if he expected an imminent attack.
"Do you sense the pirates approaching from above?"
Lucky certainly became more perceptive ever since he gorged himself to the mineral wealth of the Glowing Planet. His exterior had turned into a soft and pliable silvery alloy, but Ves had no doubt that its toughness surpassed the previous bronze-like exterior.
"Well Lucky, let's go up to the roof. I'm not content with holing up in this workshop."
Ves didn't want to cower in the face of the pirates. He walked over to where he stored his hazard suit and put it on in record time before he raced up to a lifter platform that brought him to the upper ramps. There, he found a secured entryway to the roof which Ves easily opened with the access codes he received from the Whalers.
Once he stepped outside, he watched at the blinking lights falling down from orbit. The lack of air meant the mechs and ships descended without the pesky build-up of friction and heat. This made it rather difficult for Ves to spot the descending pirates with the naked eye.
He had to establish a connection with the base's sensor net, which had to borrow the telemetry sent out by the Blood Claws and the Mech Corps before they could make out how many pirates fell from the sky.
His helmet visor bloomed with menacing purple icons. The sunless sky over Ves alone contained over fifty falling mech carriers. Occasionally, the space around them flashed as the pirate mechs fought back against the forces of the Mech Corps trying to stop their descent.
"Too many ships are making it through." He determined.
Only a fifth of the carriers encountered a mishap as the various spaceborn regiments of the Mech Corps feebly tried to catch as many pirates as they could.
Ves didn't blame the Mech Corps for their failure. Unlike them, he knew how many cannon fodder the Dragons of the Void were willing to sacrifice in order to advance their goals.
A spread of seven different pirate vessels happened to aim their trajectory close towards their position. As the collective sensor net refined their readings, they even determined their most probable landing zones.
One medium-sized pirate carrier happened to land a short distance away from this camp. Despite their threat, Ves remained in place. A single carrier shouldn't be able to convey enough mechs to threaten the Whalers.
The anticipation within him grew bigger as the carrier descended into visual range. Amidst the ever-present green glow, the underbelly of the pirate ship reflected back the light as if it was a star.
Alarms rang out throughout the base as the anti-air turrets oriented their barrels towards the incoming carrier. After sounding out a final warning, the turrets thrummed as they shot laser beams after laser beams at the incoming pirate ship.
The carrier happened to be a sturdier specimen from the rest. Her underbelly bore the laser beams without buckling. Each beam only left shallow furrows into the armored hull.
A couple of turrets that fired kinetic projectiles opened fire after that. This time, they left deeper scars, but the sturdy carrier endured the rain of projectiles until it whooshed past their line of sight and landed a fair distance away behind some jagged cliffs and hills.
For a moment, the base fell silent. The turrets returned to standby once their targets left their line of sights. Meanwhile, Walter, Fadah and the other leaders fell into a quick discussion on what to do next.
Ves wasn't privy to their conversation, but he didn't need to make a guess because they already went into action. A couple of squads led by Fadah and some other cadre exited the base and cautiously approached the landing site of the carrier.
He approved of their action. The mechs and pilots inside the carrier must be suffering from the aftereffects of their crash-like landing. Even if the ship had survived the entry onto the Glowing Planet, that didn't mean the carrier had made it out unscatched.
Ves patched into a private feed he surreptitiously added to the Blackbeak's systems. His helmet visor shimmered before it began to transmit the Blackbeak's view. He wanted to get a first-hand view of the Blackbeak's upcoming performance. He especially wanted to determine whether Fadah could cope with all the changes he demanded from Ves.
"Don't screw up, Fadah."
Please go to https://www.qzxyzy.com/The-Mech-Touch/
to read the latest chapters for free