462 Vesian Welcome
Both the Heavensfall and the XX-REX missiles represent specific types of military ordnance. Compared to the missiles used by mercs and gangs, the missiles used by the Mech legion possessed a lot of advantages.
They hit harder, their ECM wouldn't be as easy to fool and they accelerated significantly faster as well. Superior development only played a minor role in their performance. The true reason why the Flagrant Vandals feared these missiles was because they incorporated various amounts of exotics.
The use of expensive materials lay at the root of their performance. The Bright Republic generally shied away from such practices, as they considered lacing their missiles with junk exotics or low-grade exotics to be an absolute waste.
A missile launched from a tube would be a missile that could never be recovered. Once it detonated or got intercepted, the wreckage would be strewn over a huge area, and in certain cases be blown by the wind on a planet or carried along their initial impulse in space.
It was safe to say that in cases like that, the expensive exotics would never be recovered.
Yet the Vesians didn't see it that way. Certainly, their active use of missiles cost a pretty penny, but they treated it as an investment. As long as they inflicted more damage on the enemy than what the missiles cost, then they came out ahead on a net basis.
That put the 150,000 missiles heading in their direction in a very ominous light. The resources put in their manufacture could have been used to acquire another combat carrier or two. If the Mech Corps faced the same equation, then they would have certainly gone for extra ships. Not so for the Vesians, who only thought in terms of how much damage they could inflict.
"Estimated casualties?" Major Verle asked a specialist in charge of simulations.
"A high possibility of three to five combat carriers sustaining heavy damage. One or two may even break apart."
The shipkiller missiles only targeted their ships. The Vesians might wish to target their transports and logistics ships as well because the Flagrant Vandals depended on them to make their way back home.
In any case, the incoming missiles needed to be dealt with. Major Verle stood up. "We've trained for this! Engage anti-missile countermeasures!"
With the Vesian propensity for launching mass missile swarms, the Mech Corps drilled relentlessly on how to take them out. Major Verle only needed to mention a few plans and issue a couple of instructions to make his ships and mechs adopt a defensive posture optimized against missiles.
Naturally, the Vesians didn't make it easy on their enemies to take their missiles out one by one. For one, they staggered their missiles in such a way that all 150,000 of them arrived near-simultaneously at their targets.
The first salvo traveled a little slower and adopted slightly arched trajectories, while the missiles behind them took a more direct approach and burned a little faster. Over time, the distances would diminish until they formed a combined volley of apocalyptic proportions.
The Flagrant Vandals much preferred the missiles to pour in to them one by one. This way, they could focus their full defensive envelope on a couple of missiles at once and take them out before the next one arrived. Sadly, no one with a brain would program their missiles to trickle in this way unless it served a special purpose.
The key to taking out so many missiles coming at them at once was to take potshots of them at extreme range.
A handful of missileers among the Vandals launched their own missiles. The salvo released by them only numbered just above ten-thousand, an absolutely pathetic amount compared to what the Vesians threw at them. Hopefully, at least half of them would score a hit at the incoming Vesian missiles.
"Lasers, fire at will!"
Every laser-wielding mech in the mech regiment aimed their guns and fired far off into the distance. At this point, not a single mech pilot would be able to spot the missiles with the naked eye. They entrusted the aiming of their weapons entirely to their targeting systems, which all networked back to the powerful processors aboard the combat carriers.
One of the biggest advantages of laser beams over kinetic weapons was that they traveled at the speed of light and that their range was potentially enormous in the emptiness of space.
In practice, space wasn't completely empty, and the laser beams also tended to become defocused across huge distances. In addition, although the lasers traveled really fast, the missiles didn't travel in a straight line either.
The Vesian missiles poured a lot of research into improving their capability to dodge extreme-range laser fire. Small boosters embedded along their structure pushed the missiles left and right, up and down and even back and forth.
Extremely sophisticated algorithms governed this behavior, and unless the Mech Corps cracked the code, the Vandals wouldn't be able to predict their dodging patterns.
Both the Heavensfall and the XX-REX missiles happened to be the one of the newer types of missiles introduced by the Mech Legion in the last couple of years. That meant that the Vandals practically faced them for the first time.
Hundreds of mechs kept firing their lasers off in the distance. They focused on the low-volume XX-REX missiles launched from the second moon because they were bigger and heavier than the Heavensfall missiles. This made them a bit more resilient, but it also made them a lot easier to hit.
Dozens of missiles got shot down as the mechs scored occasional lucky hits. The hit rate slowly increased as the missiles neared the Vandal ships, but it all went far too slow for their tastes. The extreme range along with the devilishly clever dodging patterns made each attempt to take them down a complete gamble.
In situations like this, neither of the mech designers played much of a role. Major Verle turned to others who studied Vesian missiles as their life's work. What Ves and Alloc knew about missiles wasn't very much, though Alloc at least tried to be helpful by trying to hack them in some way.
Good luck with that. The Vesians obsessed about having their missiles turn against them, so they employed many convoluted methods in order to prevent such an occurrence. In general, the Mech Corps only managed to crack lastgen missile models. Anything newer than that was pretty much a black box in their regard.
Many minutes passed by as the lasers took their toll on the missile salvos. Mechs that wielded projectile-based weapons stood by and waited for the missiles to come close before unleashing their own storm of fire.
Since their projectiles traveled much slower than the speed of light, it didn't make sense to fire them right now. The missiles saw the incoming projectiles coming and would have ages of time to adjust their trajectory and move out of the way.
Thousands more missiles died. Many expensive XX-REXX missiles blew apart as they got struck. Their payloads affected nothing but empty space. Yet the Vesians wouldn't consider their interception to be a waste. As long as they preoccupied the Vandals and prevented other missiles from being taken out, the XX-REXX missiles still served their purpose.
After a long while, the missiles finally entered the longest effective range of the Vandal projectile mechs. A huge volume of fire erupted from the mechs that had held their fear and indignation back. Now, they could finally unleash their pent-up frustration at the majestic cloud of missiles.
Thousands more missiles died each second. Ballistic weapons held a huge advantage in that they didn't generate as much heat. As long as their ammo lasted, the mechs could fire their rifles and cannons as much as they wished.
The Akkara heavy cannoneers pretty much stole the show at this point. Though they had already started firing their laser cannons at the start, once they unleashed their explosive shells, it was as if hell descended on the missiles.
Of course, the Vesians didn't pack the missiles close enough for multiple of them to be taken out by a single explosion. Still, the wide-area detonations made it easy to guarantee a kill.
The missile waves halved in numbers, with most of the XX-REX missiles taken out at this point. Yet that still left an abundance of Heavensfall missiles with very little time left to take them out as well.
Laser-wielding mechs kept firing their weapons regardless of the risks. Their mechs and weapons overheated in rapid tempo. Some mechs employed emergency coolant and other desperate measures to stave off a shutdown. They would rather fry their mechs than let a combat carrier go down.
In the meantime, every serviceman aboard the combat carriers buttoned down their gear and prepared for possible impact. In the Stubby Growler's command center, chairs shook as strange components ejected from underneath and flew to encompass everyone's bodies.
Everyone wore military-grade hazard suits now. They were rated to survive explosions, extreme temperature fluctuations and flying shrapnel, though only up to a certain point. They couldn't match full-blown exo-skeleton suits in toughness, but they made up for it in flexibility and several systems that enhanced their survival, such as water and oxygen recycling systems.
"I've heard stories about what the Vesians are willing to throw at us when it comes down to it." Alloc said in a prayer-like tone. Underneath his hazard suit, his eyes narrowed into slits. "It scares me, but also excites me in a way."
"I feel the same way, sir." Ves quietly said.
The diminishing missile salvos still contained many thousands of missiles. It was easy to mistake the incoming wave as a natural disaster to which no single person could resist.
Mechs shorted out as their most fragile components melted down. Weapons blew apart as the heat and stress put on them pushed them past their limits. The combat carriers huddled somewhat together and protected the vital logistical ships in the center of their formation.
The non-combat resource processing and fabrication ships possessed virtually no armor that could withstand the Heavensfall missiles. They had to be protected at all cost because the Vandals depended on the supplies they produced to operate so far behind enemy lines.
"Deploy final countermeasures!"
Chaff, sensor-blocking particles and more ejected from the combat carriers at the last instant. The ships ejected them at the last seconds in order to give the missiles as little time to adjust.
At the very end of their journey, the final Heavensfall missiles only numbered in the low thousands. Many of them got fooled by the emergency countermeasures deployed at the last moments. More of them got shot down by the Akkara heavy cannoneers that occupied the bunkers embedded into the ships.
Yet that still left less than a hundred surviving missiles. Out of the 150,000 that the Vesians started with, the tiny sum sounded pathetic.
It was not.
For some reason, the missiles all received an update on their targeting priorities in their final seconds of life. They clustered closer to each other as they converged on a handful of combat carriers.
"They're targeting our command ships!"
"The Stubby Growler is being pinged by twenty-seven missiles!"
"BRACE FOR IMPACT!"
Ves could barely hold on to his seat as it expanded and enveloped him in a huge crash ball. Everyone aboard the Stubby Growler became enveloped in these crash balls as well.
They certainly needed the extra protection as the Stubby Growler shook and shuddered violently over a span of a couple of seconds. A combination of kinetic and explosive missiles overwhelmed her armor and wreaked havoc inside. Entire sections of the combat carrier lurched away from her hull and flung off into space!
Many compartments became exposed to space, spilling their contents out or exposing the interior with destructive blasts.
Sometimes, the crash balls endured the impact and heat, and other times they cracked open. Even if they seemed intact, some of their occupants broke every bone in their bodies and died on impact.
From the lowest spacers to the highest officers, no one could escape the fury of the Vesian missiles!