The Flagrant Swordmaiden fleet transitioned out of FTL in the star system suspected to be one jump away from the suspected coordinates of the Starlight Megalodon.
How did they know that?
Under the dim light of the brown dwarf in the center of this forgettable star system, the carcasses of both mechs and starships drifted in every direction. Several debris fields filled with hundreds of mechs and dozens of ships bore the marks of intensive battle.
The Vandals identified the distinctive profiles of several ships they previously observed. For example, a converted carrier from the NIN mixed up in one debris field, while in another debris field several starships from the Caged and the Red Tongs kept the other wrecks company.
All of these wrecks indicated that every participating force started to converge to a single point in space. It made a lot of sense for other outfits to choose this star system as a stopping point.
The second clue came from the incidental starships that have sustained severe battle damage and drifted so far away to the point where their fellow comrades abandoned them. Certainly, it would have made more sense to save them or at least recover their crew and cargo.
Yet if it came to some cheap converted carrier that was already falling apart anyway, then the pirate gangs who snapped them up on the cheap really didn't care about recovering anything from them. They would rather save the extra hours and make the fateful jump to the Starlight Megalodon!
This not only applied to entire ships, but also from mech pilots who ejected their cockpits or crew members who boarded their escape pods!
Stranded, helpless and left behind, the survivors did everything to save their lives. The ship crews utilized whatever mechs or shuttles they had to stop their uncontrolled coasting in space and tow their ships towards anyone that could help.
The people stuck in their cockpits enjoyed no such luck. They broadcasted the facts and their calls for help in open space for anyone to listen.
Sometimes, a surviving pirate gang picked them up, only to enslave them or torture them for fun. Others simply fired their weapons at them or smashed them into pieces by driving their ships straight through the free-floating escape pods.
The final clue that told the Flagrant Swordmaidens that they had almost reached their target was the ambush that fell upon them seconds after emergence.
"CONTACT! Sir, our near-range sensors are detecting incoming space mines!"
"Hostile signatures detected within one light-second of our fleet! The signatures match the profiles of both ships and mechs in three different formations! An estimated number of four-hundred spaceborn mechs are inbound!"
Four-hundred mechs! Those numbers were enough to threaten the Flagrant Vandals even if most of them consisted of bargain bin mechs!
"Sensors have detected a large swarm of fast-moving signatures! They've just been identified as missiles! At their current acceleration profile, they will impact our fleet in three minutes and forty seconds!"
A mass of reports and alerts sounded out as the Flagrant Swordmaidens immediately entered hot water. Due to the recent transition, the sensors and several sensitive systems of their ships and mechs still needed time to recover and adjust to the material dimensions.
During this limited window of time where the fleet was at its weakest and most vulnerable, the helmsmen of the combat carriers all tried to orient their vessels so that the strongest side faced the incoming attacks. The combat carriers also contracted their formation so that their armored bulk could cover for their flimsier logistics ships.
A series of rumbles shuddered throughout the Shield of Hispania! The mines previously laying dormant in the minefield began to pelt the combat carriers with their payloads!
"Our armor belt is holding up, sir! The payload of the mines are weak! They've never been designed to take out a decently armored ship!"
Ves nodded in agreement. Light mines like these would have wreaked carnage among a fleet of light carriers or converted carriers along with their accompanying transports. Basically, that sounded like the average pirate or mercenary fleet.
Too bad their ambushers attacked the wrong force. While the Swordmaidens endured the bombardment a lot worse than the Vandals due to their smaller numbers and lack of combat carriers, Major Verle only hesitated for a moment before commanding Captain Rakeshir to move the fleet to partially cover the beleaguered Swordmaidens.
This also had the effect of putting the Vandal ships at the mercy of the Swordmaidens.
In the middle of an attack, neither of them couldn't afford any hesitation in making their decisions! When it came down to it, the Vandals were willing to extend their trust to the Swordmaidens!
The Swordmaidens for their part didn't initiate any shenanigans. They deployed their meager lineup of spaceborn ranged mechs first in order to intercept the mines. Fortunately, while most of their starships couldn't be called combat carriers, they heavily modified their cheaper vessels by piling up a lot of thick plating around their hulls. This provided them with enough of a buffer to form a response!
After a few minutes had passed, the sensors and systems of the Flagrant Swordmaidens fully recovered by now. Akkara mechs that had been stationed beforehand in their bunkers started unleashing their prodigious firepower at the incoming mines with a high degree of accuracy.
The missile volley proved a bit more difficult to intercept! Unlike the large and lumbering mines, the missiles all entered into an agile evasion pattern at the final phase of their flight!
"Prioritize the interception of the incoming missile volley!"
Over half of the Akkara cannoneers shifted their firepower from the mines to the closing missile swarm. Their counterfire largely consisted of dialed down laser beam bursts in an attempt to intercept as many missiles as possible without excessively overheating their laser cannon mounts.
An interesting detail was that the Akkara mechs actually cheated a little when it came to managing their overall heat. As they hunkered down in the bunkers built into the sides of the combat carriers, a lot of their surface area touched the hull structure of the vessels. This direct connection siphoned away a huge amount of heat from the smaller mech to the humongous ship.
In effect, if the Akkara mech pilots maintain control over their fire rate, then they could essentially continue to fire without any concern for reaching their maximum heat capacity. The ship they connected to essentially acted as an enormous heat sink!
This was a huge advantage in spaceborn combat because venting heat was one of the biggest technical challenges in spaceborn mech combat!
Along with an abundant amount of energy and ammunition at hand, these Akkara mechs exemplified their role as turrets as they threw a prodigious storm of firepower against the incoming missile swarm.
Even though hundreds of them attempted to assail the ambushed Flagrant Swordmaiden fleet, none of them managed to survive at the halfway point!
"I need the identities of the parties attacking us! Who are we dealing with?!"
"Sir, we are having difficulty parsing the variety of pirate mechs and ships! Even the Swordmaiden database doesn't have entries for every ship we've managed to observe. From what we can tentatively gather, we are facing at least thirteen different small-scale pirate gangs, of which half only owns one carrier vessel!"
"Bottom feeders." Major Verle growl. "These vermin have messed with the wrong fleet. Prepare for a counter-attack as soon as the mines are cleared out!"
During the time the other officers and operators handled the immediate crisis, Ves and Ketis calmly performed their own duties in the background. The two tasked themselves with identifying the origin, providence and attributes of the mechs arrayed against them.
While Ketis managed to identify a couple of mechs from the top of her head, most of the motley mechs arrayed against the Flagrant Swordmaidens consisted of cheap salvaged junk. They were so inconsistent that Ves had no way of determining their original mech models through all of the sloppy 'accessories' and other junk the pirates tacked on!Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
Ves had to make a brief visual inspection in five seconds and quickly list out the most pertinent strengths and weaknesses that came to mind within the next five seconds.
Observe a new mech for five seconds.
List out its traits for five seconds.
Observe another ugly pirate mech for five seconds.
List out the new mech's traits for five seconds.
His quick, bot-like manner of analysing the mechs would be sent into the local database, which would corroborate his analyses with the ones performed by AIs and other experts. As Ves was a bona-fide mech designer who also happened to be the head designer, his analyses usually trumped the others, though the AIs usually managed to pick up something new due to their radically different thought processes.
All of this information became available to the mech pilots when they deployed into the field and faced off against one of the identified mechs. The wondrous part about the man-machine connection between a mech and their mech pilot was that they shared the best of both worlds. They combined a human's ingenuity and spark of imagination with the raw analytical and calculative ability of a machine.
In essence, the effect enhanced a mech pilot's judgement and responsiveness to that of a human implanted with an AI chip or a biocomputer. The difference was that the machine half of this union transcended a mere chip or computer.
Nonetheless, despite these fundamental differences, the fact remained that they became partially capable of reading and internalizing a large amount of data than a normal human possibly could withstand.
This advantage or mutation to be more precise could bear the load of so much data that some people even believe that potentates were destined to be the next evolutionary step of humanity!
In short, this amazing capacity to internalize a large amount of sensory, mechanical and external data inputs and process them in an extremely efficient way became the signature ability of modern mech pilots. How else could they exert fine control over a massive multi-ton mech the size of a structure that ran millions of different processes at the same time?
Ves recently gained a new appreciation of their information processing ability after witnessing the sick Redemption Duel held by the Church of Haatumak. Even as their nerves withstood tens if not hundreds of times the routine input of a mech, Acolytes Gien and Evie still managed to persevere and exert a limited amount of control.
Compared to the flood of data that poured into those poor acolytes, the minute amount of data that consisted of his analysis was nothing to be concerned about. The mech pilots would easily be able to process his analyses and subconsciously adjust their fighting methods to take advantage of their opponent's weak points while avoiding their strong points.
"The mine field is almost expended, sir! Only fifteen percent of the original mine field remains!"
"Redirect all Akkaras to target our opponent's motherships! Put pressure on the vessels even if they are out of optimal range of our cannons! I don't believe these cowardly pirates are so united that they are willing to ignore the threat to their own rides home."
Major Verle's orders caused the heavy mechs to turn their firepower towards the distant carriers that hovered at the periphery of the battle. While the kinetic and ballistic rounds from the Akkara mechs had a hard time hitting the moving vessels, the laser cannons proved to be more accurate as they seared long rents into the cheap junk-grade armor of the ramshackle carriers fielded by the pirates.
The combat carriers of the Vandals actually sustained quite a large amount of accumulated damage, but their thick and superior armor plating prevented them from affecting the hull structure. Mostly. A few errant compartments blew out due to successive impacts at the same armor section.
"Sir! The enemy mech swarms are faltering in their charge! A number of them are pulling back to their sieged carriers!"
The Akkara mechs barely bombarded the pirate carriers for more than a minute, but already the damage began to tell. The fact that the pirates already started splitting up due the resilience shown by the Flagrant Swordmaidens signified that they weren't under a strong unified command!
The Vandals had grasped their weakest aspect! Four-hundred incoming mechs quickly became three-hundred attacking mechs as at least a hundred of them had second thoughts.
"Let's split these pirates even further." Major Verle grinned.
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