The Mech Touch Chapter 562
The invasion of Nova Migolatus I by the Flagrant Vandals had taken a very unexpected turn. The Verle Task Force expected to stomp through the jungle and strangle a baby in her crib. They never imagined that the baby would grow up all of a sudden and turn into a dinosaur.
By definition, an expert candidate could always break through to the next rank. Yet most of the times the expert candidate had to accumulate up to that point. This was why Venerable Foster's sudden advancement came as a surprise. She practically leapt through several stages at once!
"This is going to be another hard-fought battle." Ves thought as he watched on as the Vandals prepared for the worst.
Already, the sensors that the Vandals had placed around their beachhead detected the approach of large groups of Hafner mechs.
They had initially spread out in every direction in order to confuse the Vandals, but ever since Venerable Foster revealed herself, they changed gears and grouped up in one massive formation. With veteran instructors rallying promising young mech pilots, even without an expert pilot at the helm the group had become very formidable.
Naturally, the Flagrant Vandals didn't shy away from a fight. They possessed their own pride, and after repeated beatings from the hands of different Vesian mech regiments, the Vandals eagerly wished to redeem themselves in battle.
"How manipulative." Ves remarked as he recognized Major Verle's influence in action. "If I haven't been watching out for his effect, I might have been caught up in this rising tide as well."
He had gained a greater understanding of Major Verle's methodology. The man utilized various channels to promote a standpoint. From broadcasting announcements to spreading rumors from chosen agents among the lower ranks, the mech officer always managed to succeed in getting the Vandals agree to every major motion.
If Major Verle hadn't intervened at this point, the Vandals would have lost heart against an expert pilot. The strength and dignity of a demigod was not something which mortals could withstand!
Every average mech pilot would blanch at the thought of fighting an expert pilot directly. Even if Venerable Foster lacked an appropriate mech, it would be trivial for her to defeat twenty or so mechs at once with a single mech. Ves found it difficult to estimate the damage the superhuman might of an expert pilot could inflict.
Still, she wouldn't be able to defeat a hundred mechs by herself. The Vandals would have already evacuated Nova Migolatus I if that were the case!
"The Hafner mechs are coming!"
The enemy took their time. Likely, some of the instructors realized that time was on their side. After they converged with each other, they made no moves to attack or retreat until some Vandal scouts harassed them from a distance.
The longer the Hafner mech stayed in place, the more harassment they encountered. The added pressure was meant to move the Hafner mechs into action. They couldn't retreat, because the Vandal mechs would continue to harass them from behind.
Every other option led to a slow defeat. The training camp participants couldn't remain passive in the face of enemy harassment.
Vandals obviously favored long, drawn out fights where their superior numbers and abundant supplies could tide them over. The group of Hafner mechs on the other hand were all alone and lost their base. The only choice remaining for them was to force an immediate confrontation.
The Hafner mechs came into visual range with the Neyvar in the lead. After a tense moment of silence, the lead mech opened up a broadcast.
"Flagrant Vandals. You have one chance. Go back to orbit and leave this star system immediately. If not, I will hunt you down and avenge my fallen comrades!"
None of the Vandals responded. Verle looked tempted to patch into the temporary base's speakers, but refrained from doing so. The prestige of an expert pilot was dreadful, and engaging in a direct conversation with one might ruin his men's morale.
Instead, he issued out a single command. "Open fire!"
Every ranged mech started to fire at the Neyvar. The swordsman mech reacted quickly and pulled back behind a massive tree trunk before it got hit!
The second battle had commenced!
The ample amount of trees provided both sides with an ample amount of cover. Though the Vandals surrounded their base with prefab walls, they mainly relied on the hardy tree trunks to shield their mechs from enemy fire.
Compared to the Hafner training mechs, the Vandals disgorged a lot more firepower at the enemy. Not only did they field more mechs, they also didn't have to worry about running out of energy or ammunition.
Ves observed the happenings from the command center of the Shield of Hispania orbiting high above. Since the battle took place at the oval scar, the beachhead was able to transmit a direct signal to the Vandal fleet.
This was the benefit of a higher position! As head designer, Ves possessed the authority to send out other mech designers on site. So far, Mercator, Trozin and Vedette had done a decent job in servicing the mechs on the ground.
Since their lives were at stake, the three mech designers hadn't slacked off at all. Ves had nothing to complain about their work ethic, though they hadn't been very helpful when it came to identifying the weak points of the enemy mechs.
Ves had to do that for them. After the first battle, he spent an entire hour going through the footage of the Neyvar. He tentatively identified five major weak points that the Vandals could take advantage of in the next battle.
Right now, the Hafner mechs fell into a weak trend. They hadn't managed to fell a single Vandal mech. Conversely, the Vandals failed to inflict more than a couple of scratches on the Hafner mechs.
"They're stalling, sir!" The tactical officer exclaimed. "Compare the firing rates of both sides! The Hafner mechs are conserving their ammunition while dragging out the battle!"
Now that he mentioned it, Ves noticed that the Hafner mechs largely kept themselves behind cover. The massive and highly durable tree trunks absorbed most of the firepower being outputted by the Vandals!
This proved once again that while the Hafner mechs couldn't run away, they weren't too eager to confront the Vandals either. They played it smart and focused on conserving their strength.
Right now, the ball was in the Vandals' court.
"This looks kind of fishy." Major Verle stated. He turned to the sensor officer. "Are there any anomalies on the plot?"
"None detected so far, sir."
"What about the monsters?"
"They are showing no signs of.. no wait, they are massing together into a horde!"
According to the sensor plot, every monster pack began to congregate into a roving horde that was slowly moving towards the beachhead. They had already gathered more than a hundred monsters so far, but their count constantly grew.
The only relief to them was that the monsters moved rather slow!
"At their current pace, the monster horde will arrive in roughly fifty minutes!"
Hafner implemented a backdoor in their genetic programming after all.
"Hackers, get to work."
Ves did not expect too much from the hackers in the short term. Those monsters would overrun the beachhead long before the hackers managed to figure out a way to override Hafner's controls.
"Our position is untenable if we let the Hafner mechs run out the clock. Begin with the second phase!"
The Vandals gave up on trading potshots at each other. The abundant amount of cover in the forest prevented them from gaining any advantages in a firefight. They needed to take this battle up close and personal.
The Vandals broke up into squads and mech companies and moved out of the base. Taking advantage of their numbers, their mech companies spread out in different directions and unleashed a fusilade against the Hafner mechs from different angles.
The Hafner mechs faced a crossfire if they remained in place! They quickly pulled back from their battered tree trunks and swung around to attack a single flank of the approaching Vandals.
"They're aiming to run through our flank!"
The Vandals outnumbered the Hafners but it wasn't easy to encircle them. The Hafners chose to take the bull by the horns and chose to take the offensive rather than to let the Vandals complete the encirclement. With the Neyvar at the head, the Hafner mechs charged into the Vandal mechs without compunction!
Mechs collided as both sides clashed against each other! The flanking Vandal mechs had quickly adjusted their formation and greeted the incoming Hafner mechs with expectation.
For a moment, Ves found it difficult to distinguish what went on. Throughout the chaos, Ves finally managed to pin down the Neyvar.
A Vandal mech captain and a handful of chosen surrounded the swordsman mech in an attempt to contain it! For now, the Neyvar fell into a passive position as it desperately tried to fend off attacks from every direction.
The only problem was that the Neyvar was weaker than expected! Had the mech sustained more damage than projected?
"Sir the Neyvar is a decoy! Venerable Foster is piloting another mech!"
Damnit! Now that he thought about it, the Neyvar demonstrated none of Venerable Foster's distinctive sword style. Right now, it only performed the basic moves as it defended itself against multiple Vandal mechs.
"Where is she?!"
Just then, another Hafner swordsman mech exploded into action. This bog-standard copy of an average mech model called the Mackey Craic dropped its camouflage and displayed skill akin to a sword demon! It chopped up three nearby melee mechs in quick succession and helped the Hafner mechs punch through the Vandal line!
"That Mackey Craic is piloted by Venerable Foster!" Ves declared with alarm. "It's a completely fresh and undamaged mech!"
Though its overall specs fell short compared to the Neyvar, its pristine state meant that Foster didn't have to worry about her machine breaking down mid-battle!
Right now, the Mackey Craic obviously began to strain against the stress that Venerable Foster was forcing upon its frame. The mech moved faster to accommodate her violent Astral Swordwind techniques. Each attack finished off a Vandal mech with a single move at the cost of wearing down the Mackey Craic!
"Death to pirates!"
"Victory to the righteous!"
The Hafner mechs gained inspiration from their Venerable's performance. Their morale surged enormously as the Mackey Craic ran through the Vandal mechs like a hot knife through butter. Its killing spree only came to a halt when two Vandal mech captains confronted it before it could break the Vandals.
In addition, other Vandal elements had caught up by now and pressured the Hafner mechs from their rear. The battle instantly swung in favor of the Vandals. The Hafner mechs hadn't managed to break through in time!
"Curs! Get out of my way!"
The Mackey Craic roundly outplayed the two mech captains and took out their mechs with superior skill! She resumed carving up her opponents, causing the Vandal mech pilots within her sight to shy away. They began to lose heart!
"Sir, our mech pilots at the flank are breaking! The Hafner mechs are breaking through"
"Hold the line, goddammit!" Verle yelled into the command channel. "The Hafner mechs are being hammered from the rear! We can finish them off if we can hold them in place!"
Unfortunately, though the battle went well at the rear of the Hafner formation, the front was a very different matter. The specter of Venerable Foster frightened the nearby Vandals into running away. None of them stood a chance against an expert pilot!
With every Vandal mech at the front trying to widen the distance, the Hafner mechs succeeded in removing themselves from the clash. They lost a lot of mechs during the brief engagement, but they succeeded in bleeding the Vandals as well. Venerable Foster was responsible for downing most of the Vandal mechs!
"The monster horde is approaching the beachhead!"
The Vandals needed to finish the battle quickly!