459 Lunar Fortress
Even before the combat carriers made landfall, the lunar fortress unleashed a deluge of missiles. Much less than what they ought to have been able to launch, but still a considerable amount.
Major Verle quickly issued orders to strike down the missile salvo. Akkara mechs anchored inside the bunkers along the exterior the of carriers started to fire their rapid-fire cannons in unison. They had been designed in part to provide a powerful form of defense against the Vesian propensity to throw out a lot of missiles. The incoming missile salvo already started to diminish.
Other mechs lent their firepower as well, though their coordination was lacking. The Vandals relied too much on random mech models stolen from the Vesians. Their weapon configurations differed very widely, making it difficult to synchronize their fire.
Nevertheless, the spaceborn Vandals acted competently and wiped out the missile salvo just as it entered medium range.
The lunar fortress failed to launch a second salvo. It appeared that the rebels hadn't been lying when they said that they destroyed most of their stockpiles. Still, the suspicion that the Vesians might be holding back their missiles in order to trap the Vandals loomed closely.
With the lunar fortress offering no further response, the Vandal combat carriers that arrived on the surface calmly disgorged their landbound mechs. Many of these machines suffered from unsteady footing. The small moon exhibited a very weak gravity, causing most mech pilots to curse as their feet constantly bounced them above the surface.
Fortunately, they adjusted quickly. A week before they arrived at the Detemen System, the mech pilots of the Flagrant Vandals drilled extensively in every possible environment they might be deployed on. They already learned how to deal with the second moon's gravity, but simulations were no substitute for the real thing. They wouldn't be as good as the defending Vesians in moving around, and that was a significant disadvantage.
The only upside to the moon's weak gravity was that the Vandal spaceborn mechs could lend a hand as well. They didn't fare too well under standard gravity conditions, but the moon was so small and weak that their flight systems hardly needed to compensate.
The Vandal mechs formed up. Due to the wide variety of mech models, they resembled a mob of pirate mechs more than a professional military formation. The only attempt at homogenizing them was to coat their exteriors in the regimental colors of the Flagrant Vandals, burgundy and black.
Even then, many subgroups adopted their own patterns. Some mechs employed camouflage patterns, while others adorned their mechs with animal heads. More utilized geometrical patterns that looked oddly hypnotic.
In the eyes of an outsider like Ves, the Vandal mechs looked disorderly. He could tell from the orders issued by Major Verle and the movements of their mechs that they operated in a very decentralized fashion. Major Verle only issued a handful of broad orders, which his subordinate officers translated into slightly more specific orders to the different companies that took part in the assault.
The true decision makers appear to be the captains that led their companies. These companies differed widely in numbers and mech makeup. Some of them were at half-strength at twenty-two mechs, while one of them moved with seventy mechs, each of them seemingly a different model!
As much as Ves wanted to spit out and decry the travesty of it all, the Flagrant Vandals somehow found order in chaos. They made their eclectic mix of mechs work seamlessly. Upon closer inspection, Ves realized that every mech company wasn't grouped by type or purpose and that they didn't choose to balance out their mechs either.
The companies had been grouped according to their movement speed.
This led to a surprising level of coordinated maneuvering. The scout companies moved first and approached the lunar fortress, which the Vesians chose to perch on a low hill surrounded by flattened terrain.
A lot of signs showed that the perimeter used to be very rocky, but the defenders deliberately cleared away the rocks and flattened the overall surroundings in order to deny any approaching enemy on land the benefit of cover.
"Heat signatures detecting! Incoming laser fire!"
The mechs atop the walls already started firing potshots at the approaching scout companies from the air and on the surface of the moon. Major Verle made a quick judgement and held his scouts on a leash, not wishing to go further and risk them getting attacked by a prepared volley.
The slower companies caught up while the scouts flanked the fortress. After a few more moments of preparation, the assault began.
"Attack! Breach the fortress and finish off the defenders!"
A heavy amount of firepower poured into the walls of the fortress, diminishing it at a surprisingly low pace. The walls had been laced with an abundant amount of junk exotics as well as a few more valuable substances, which was much more than standard. The cost to erect this fortress must be at least three times as much as a regular fortification!"
"The Detemen II is a resource processing center." Alloc reminded Major Verle. "Many materials are shipped in and out of this star system. Those fortress walls are laced with Brown Laxanite, which is famed for their ability to dampen shocks. That increases the resilience of the walls by at least half!"
"Is there anything else you can tell about the walls, Mr. Brandstad?"
Alloc furrowed his brows. Ves passed him a couple of observations, but none of them were notable enough to be mentioned.
"No, sir, only to state that the walls rely on Laxanite to withstand explosive and kinetic attacks, while utilizing their enormous mass to neuter any laser fire. It's incredibly resilient against every conventional damage type."
That left out a lot of weapons with strange effects, such as the Greater Terran United Confederation's Destroyer Weapons. One slice of a Destroyer Sword would easily be able to part the thick walls in half.
Naturally, the Vandals didn't carry anything like that.
"We're going to have to do this the old-fashioned way. Inheritors! Prepare to dive in!"
Major Verle constantly showed his impatience. Ves gathered that the commander wasn't being reckless, but the importance of staying on schedule weighed heavily on the entire mech regiment.
They only had four days to play with, and that was only an estimate of their allotted time. The Vesian reinforcements might come sooner or later, but the Vandals didn't count on getting lucky in that regard.
While much of the lower ranks of the Vandals remained ignorant, Colonel Lowenfield and her most trusted subordinates like Major Verle planned for this operation for years. They always intended to make a far-ranging raid on a star system deep within Kingdom space.
The Detemen System had actually been selected as a potential longshot candidate due to its stability, relative wealth and lack of internal conflicts.
That last point proved to be pivotal to this attack. Many star systems with a little bit more wealth might allow the Vandals to earn a bigger harvest, but their riches attracted plenty of ambitious nobles.
Not so for this star system. Detemen II was the main seat of House Jier, and while it would be possible to dislodge them, Count Reizen established lots of ties with his neighbors, which minimized the occurrence of violent conflicts.
As for Detemen IV, no one wanted to touch Lord Javier. As the sole son of Count Loqer, any other local noble would practically be committing suicide if they touched that planet.
Count Loqer's influence in the Imodris Duchy made him a powerful regional bully. He was the trusted hand of the Duchess and had served as her former chief of staff.
With the amount of favor Loqer earned from the Duchess of Imodris, House Eneqqin was on the rise. No one openly dared to defy them. Yet while this status might make their rivals back away, it proved to be one of the most pivotal reasons why the Vandals chose to attack the Detemen System.
House Imodris sent the majority of their legions to the frontlines. Those that remained had been tasked with guarding the Duchy's capital and several vitally important star systems. As much as the Duchess favored Count Loqer, she would never divert her crack troops to defend a marginally significant star system.
Because behind the open threat of the Vandals, a follow-up invasion might ensue if the remaining legions moved to aid the Detemen System.
As for the barons and counts that occupied the star systems closest to the Detemen System, they would definitely move to support their beleaguered neighbors when prompted by House Imodris, but they would be sure to take the slowest route possible without being accused of leaving the Detemen System out to dry.
"No one will come and reinforce the Detemen System for at least three days. That should be enough time to complete all of our objectives, but only if nothing else goes wrong."
The Vandals made slow progress into chipping away at the fort walls. Their ability to resist both energy and physical attacks made them extremely hard to deal with. Due to the angles, the landbound mechs stood no chance in weakening the defending mechs.
The defenders did not suffer from that problem as the Vandal mechs were exposed on flat terrain. They could easily fire on every mech they wished from their comfortably elevation positions behind the walls.
The only reason why the Vesians hadn't exacted a heavier toll was because they were pacing their face. Ballistic ammunition was in really short supply, and while they could replenish their batteries fairly quickly by recharging them from the fortifications power reactors, they could only recover so much juice at a given moment.
More than that, the Type D's paced their fire due to their inability to shunt their heat fast enough. Every time they built up a significant amount of heat, they retreated and deployed several spikes from their hips that anchored into the walls. This allowed them to transfer their accumulating heat through the spikes and stave off their heat limits, if only temporarily.
"The Inheritors are making their move!" Alloc whispered to Ves, which caused him to divert more attention to their plummeting descent.
They dove down on a diagonal trajectory, making it rather hard for the defending Type D's to target them. Several Inheritors got hit by the laser beams that raked their loose formation. A single laser beam wouldn't cripple them, but their armor was so thin that they would certainly feel the hurt.
The Vesian defenders became a little smarter about their targeting and started to focus their fire on a handful of Inheritors. This caused the targeted mechs to be extremely unlucky.
While the mech pilots of the Type D's weren't good enough to box their targets in an undodgeable storm of lasers, they at least managed to whittle down the Inheritors at a mildly alarming rate. Those assigned to pilot the Inheritors weren't exactly the best of what the Flagrant Vandals had to offer.
"Men, ready your knives!"
Still, the Inheritors zipped down so fast that the Type D's constantly had to readjust their aim to cope with the changing trajectories. As the Inheritors appeared larger and larger on their targeting scopes, the Type D's needed to swivel their aim in wider arcs in order to keep up.
"The time is upon us! Go in-and-out!"
The Inheritors engaged their flight systems in full, causing them to stop their impending crash to the ground and instead propel them forward, right into the lines of defenders. A handful of melee mechs stepped forth to shield their weaker comrades. The Inheritors that faced those melee mechs could do nothing in the short term to take these sturdy mechs down, so they preemtively circled around and flew back up.
As for the other Inheritors, they faced no obstacle except for the wall, and even that provided no succor to the Type D's. The Inheritors smartly passed over the walls and maneuvered around to hit the Type D mechs from the sides or from the rear.
The laser rifleman mechs stood no chance. The Inheritors showed extreme excellence in peeling apart the vulnerable ranged mechs. At least a third of the Type D's dropped their rifles and gripped their backup knives in time, but their mech frames were wholly unsuited to duel against a skirmisher.
It was a massacre.
Only ten seconds passed at most before the Inheritors finished their allotted time. Those that hadn't finished off their targets retreated without hesitation after reaching the limit.
The results of the short but intense action quickly became clear. At the cost of half a dozen Inheritors, at least a third of the defending Type D's had been taken out.
"We've got them!"