The Mech Touch Chapter 288
Chapter 288: Grand Chasers
Vesians had a penchant of starting off any engagement with a massive missile barrage. The Bright Republic's pilots called it the Vesian Welcome Package.At certain times, the massive Vesian opening salvos disintegrated their targets if they didn't bring enough countermeasures. Even if the defenders did bring enough guns, the chance of a couple of projectiles slipping through could never be eliminated.Ghanso's Vhedra-S hastily emerged from the launch bay of the fleet carrier and flared its powerful flight systems forward in order to catch up with the formation of his squad.Even under these dire circumstances, the mech pilots of the Volari Starhawks still maintained their discipline. The high levels of discipline, coordination and logistical support that underpinned the Mech Corps enabled it to wipe the floor with any gang or mercenary corps.The pilots of the Starhawks followed their training and entered into a predetermined matrix formation that maximized each ranged mech's coverage so that they could spread out their anti-missile capabilities."Damn it. Why did they send torpedoes this time?"Captain Rynsel passed down word from command on the comm channel. "The incoming torpedoes are all old stock. They're using up their aging reserves first, so cheer up folks, because their ECM won't be as sophisticated as the newer ones."How old are we talking about?" Old Man Alex asked. "Are they like old-old, like last war surplus?""They're using a mix of torpedo designs from the interwar period, so they're not as obsolete as you think."Ghanso took that as a serious warning not to rely too much on his targeting systems. A rifleman mech pilot like him didn't rely too much on outside aid anyway. While the Vhedra-S variant lacked a bit in extreme range precision, it should be able to make up for it when the torpedoes approached into terminal range."Larkinson, Don't forget we're facing torpedoes, not missiles." Lieutenant Fairfax spoke to the side as he brandished his ballistic rifle. "The Vesians design their torpedoes to be tough as hell. They can take a lot of hits and are practically impervious to low-intensity laser fire. It's best to switch to full-powered beams."He already knew that, thank you. Ghanso already switches his rifle's mode before he even launched from the fleet carrier.He looked through the optics of his Vhedra-S and stared at the black void of stars. In the distance, he saw nothing but the void, but his mech conveyed hundreds of approaching carriers from the Vesians.Once he switched the mode of his HUD, the empty void of black lit up in a flare of pinpricks as his mech conveyed the sharks lurking far beyond his range of vision. The eternal night disappeared in a dazzlingly enchanting confluence of light and motion."The torpedoes are two minutes away! This is it, lads! Give 'em all you got!"Only a few mechs among the Starhawks fired their weapons. Only the best sharpshooters had any realistic chance of hitting the torpedoes at this range. Even if everyone else relied on their targeting systems, the ECM and physical juking of the torpedoes ensured that most attempts ended in failure. It was better to hold back until the torpedoes came closer.Blooms of anti-ballistic missiles flared to life from the midst of the Starhawks. Over ten-thousand small but potent missiles streaked towards the Vesian torpedoes with nothing but their goal in mind. Despite the substantial amount of missiles, no one held up their hopes they could catch every torpedo.The Vesians knew their missiles, and packed their torpedoes full with countermeasures of their own.As the missiles curved to the side and followed an arcing intercept towards the incoming torpedoes, Ghanso finally received permission to let loose."Open fire!"Ghanso held his mech absolutely still inside the formation and began to open fire with measured beams of lancing hot lasers. His mech didn't possess the sensors to see the result of his first salvo, but the collective observation capabilities of the ships backing up the mechs provided an accurate picture of what happened at the other side.His initial laser volley hit the head of his targeted torpedo head-on but failed to take it out. The Vesians incorporated a lot of junk exotic alloys in the nose of their torpedoes, ensuring that they wouldn't fold in a single blow.Fortunately, Ghanso didn't fight by himself. A mech pilot from another squad noted the damage sustained by the torpedo and delivered the coup-de-grace with his precision ballistic rifle. The torpedo's weakened nose couldn't withstand the sudden kinetic impact and its payload detonated in a powerful focused blast that had been designed to punch straight through thick layers of starship hull plating.By this time, the anti-ballistic missiles they launched also reached the torpedoes. Both waves of projectiles engaged in an elaborate electronic battle as they tried to fool their opposites without getting fooled in turn.Over three-hundred torpedoes perished outright and around two-hundred more suffered incidental damage to their exterior.It wasn't enough.As the torpedoes entered medium range, every mech with a gun opened fire. Even space knights like the one piloted by Old Man Alex fired back with their backup pistols.Over half of the remaining torpedoes fell into quick succession. The closer range enabled mechs to worry less about accuracy and focus more on firing as fast as their heat management systems could handle the successive build-up of waste energy."They're getting close! Only less than three-hundred are left! Kill them now! For a brighter tomorrow!"Every pilot echoed the slogan. "For a brighter tomorrow!"A sense of sacred duty filled Ghanso's mind as he spoke those words. His aim grew steadier and his breath grew even as he methodically shot down torpedo after torpedo with the help of his fellow Starhawks.The spirit of the Starhawks infused his neural connection between his brain and his mech and the two fought closer in sync. His Vhedra-S became an extension of his body as he utilized his substantial training take down as many torpedoes as they entered their terminal mode."They're speeding up!"The Vesian torpedoes always left the best for last. They kept a fourth of their energy reserves for the final sprint, burning it over the final seconds before impact to ensure a powerful and unavoidable collision for any bulky ship."Not enough." Ghanso gnarled as he sent a mental command to override his rifle's safeties. Heat leaked out from the built-in heatsinks in his rifle and warmed up the entire frame, but the Vhedra-S handled the weapon like a machine gun, firing a succession of rapid full-powered laser beams at the rapidly accelerating torpedoes.He only caught one torpedo while his colleagues destroyed over two-thirds of the torpedoes that made it this far."Here they come! Brace yourselves!"Ghanso ceased his fire and huddles his mech into a ball to expose as little of its frame as possible.The Republic's ECM successfully fooled twenty-six into hitting non-existent targets. They only found empty space in place of solid ships and detonated quickly after, dealing little damage as few ships had been in range of their concussive blasts.That left seventeen torpedoes who found their marks. They all rammed into their chosen ships, punching deep into their hulls before detonating in highly devastating explosions that destroyed the smaller combat carriers outright while crippling the fleet carriers."The Harmony of Revel is gone!""Every person aboard the The Farchis Endymion is dead!""Feldman's Ire entire rear half has split apart! She's drifting out of formation!"The Vesians reaped a terrible toll on the Starhawk fleet, and this was just the opening act. Ghanso became distracted by the cries for help that had somehow snuck their way into the command channels.The Virulent Remedy had been the closest ship to Ghanso that had suffered a hit. It was a combat carrier, a medium-sized carrier built small and light enough to convey as much mechs to the surface of a planet as possible.The Remedy didn't stand a chance. The torpedo bore straight through its outer hull before detonating right against its inner layers. The blast ripped through a quarter of her compartments and outright tore apart several critical systems such as the bridge and life support.A cascade of critical failures piled up in an instant that riddled the Virulent Remedy's tortured hull with scores of secondary explosions. Some of them reached her reactor and damaged its robust but ultimately helpless containment, causing the entire combat carrier to be lost in a massive blast of exotic and radioactive fury.At least eight-hundred spacers lost their lives aboard the Virulent Remedy.While a number of mechs and smaller vessels started rescue operations, the rest of the Starhawks readied themselves for the second round. The Grand Chasers hadn't been sitting idle while they launched all those torpedoes.Captain Rynsel shook the younger pilots from their horror. "I know it looks bad, but the battle isn't over yet! Let the damage control teams take care of the mess. Focus on the enemy in front of you!"In the next couple of minutes, the Volari Starhawks and the Grand Chasers shifted their formations in response to each other. The Grand Chasers followed an oblique trajectory that aimed to pass the flanks of the Vesian formation.To be honest, they wouldn't be able to do much damage, but it galled the Mech Corps to remain passive when the Vesians made their firing pass. Thus, the Starhawks boosted away from their damaged ship to intercept the incoming Chasers."Alright folks, command wants us to make a single pass." Captain Rynsel spoke through the channel. "Stay in formation and hit the bastards straight in front of you. Don't get bogged down in dogfights and don't let your squad mates drift off in space if they're immobilized."Neither the Chasers nor the Starhawks wanted to get entangled in a muddy dogfight at this stage. Any fight that got bogged down in space turned into vulnerable targets to both sides.Ghanso's Vhedra-S boosted in line with his squad as he worked to cool his mech for the upcoming firing pass. His mech suffered substantial internal damage at the final moment due to all the excess heat and energy running through its systems.He faced a minor dilemma on whether he should keep pushing his mech or conserve its integrity by holding back some power."This is merely the start. It's too early to go all-in."The Vhedra-S slowly cooled down as Ghanso focused on venting as much heat as possible while lowering its overall output. By the time the Vhedra-S returned to a relatively normal condition, the Grand Chasers neared into effective range."Alright, lads! Here they come! Keep firing and keep moving. Don't ever stop!"The two formations of mechs followed intricate arcing patterns as their squads followed trajectories meant to spoil the aim of anything that shot at them at long range.Once they approached into closer range, thousands of mech started to open fire against each other.This time, the Volari Starhawks gained the advantage. The Grand Chasers mostly consisted of lighter mechs. Without their heavy missileers, their formations lacked the punch of the more balanced composition of the Starhawks.Many Starhawk mechs fell out of formation due to being picked out with focused fire. Each Vesian squad focusing on taking out one or two mechs at a time, thus allowing them to compensate for their relatively lighter armament.Meanwhile, the Starhawks left the choice up to the pilots themselves, as they required less firepower to take out a fragile light mech. Ghanso still found it to be a challenge to actually land a hit against the agile light mechs, but once he succeeded in landing a shot, it often crippled the unlucky target."Larkinson! They're shifting fire to you! Dirge, cover him!"A volley of ballistic fire streamed past the frame of his mech, pulling him out of his target fixation. Ghanso knew he was in trouble and started juking around like hyperactive monkey."Stop bouncing around and get behind me!" Old Man Alex shouted as his space knight valiantly positioned itself in front of the Vhedra-S before it could suffer significant damage. "Stay calm and fire over my shoulder!"Ghanso had forgotten himself for a moment. He grew angry for his disgraceful behavior and poured his vengeance into his rifle, firing right back at his attackers as they tried to get past the space knight's meaty shield."Hahaha! The Grand Chasers don't have the weight to get past my shield!"The space knight fared well against the Chasers. Their skinny rifles and cannons hardly dented Alex's shield."They're getting close!" Lieutenant Fairfax reminded everyone. "Watch your angles and don't get hit from behind!"Seconds passed as the two formations meshed through each other. A chaotic flurry of shots and hits exchanged in rapid tempo as the Starhawks and the Chasers merged together before breaking apart in the opposite directions."I got hit!" Ghanso gritted his teeth as his mech spun away from formation. "My flight system is inoperable. It got hit by debris from the rear!"