The Mech Touch Chapter 632
631 Multipurpose Mechs
The combat carriers of the Vandal fleet had taken a beating from the Vesians over the course of several battles. Sending them to the repair yards of Harkensen III had done them a lot of good. Though they hadn't returned to their original condition, there was no question that they could take a beating.
The ranged mechs of the Caged and soon after the Masters of Combat tried their best to whittle down the incoming force of Vandals and Swordmaidens. The ranged Vandals mechs deployed in space didn't particularly excel in long-ranged combat. They half-heartedly fired their laser rifles at the distant enemies, and hit perhaps about one out of fifteen shots.
Those armed with ballistic weapons didn't even bother firing yet. Anything other than a railgun or a weapon that fired rounds that traveled at relativistic speeds had a chance of hitting the targets. However, that would soon change as the range between the two forces decreased.
The ranged mechs of the Caged and the Masters of Combat predominantly relied on laser weapons. The Caged went for accuracy while the Masters of Combat emphasized staying power. While some of their mechs were capable of firing shells or kinetic projectiles, their influence in the battle could be ignored.
The Vandal ships getting raked by long-ranged fire absorbed the laser beams like champions. The combat carriers spun around like a drill as they followed evasive patterns. This made it difficult for laser beams to penetrate through the armor plating and reach inside the compartments.
By spreading the damage around in this manner, the combat carriers with the thickest armor lasted several minutes against a sustained barrage from the Caged Masters. The only reason why this interval was so short was because the enemy deployed over three companies of ranged mechs.
"Our ships can't sustain this beating for long!" Captain Rakeshir said over the comm channel. The senior ship captain never forgave Major Verle after he ordered the carriers to be used as shields. "By the end of this battle, the cost of replacing the damaged armor plating will reach more than several billion credits! And that's if we assume we can afford to send our ships back to repair yards!"
The mech commander dismissed the complaints. "The price is worth it if we can injure the Caged and take out the Masters of Combat. Don't forget what we are fighting for, captain. Resources are meant to be used."
That put an end to Rakeshir's objections. The captain turned his attention to micromanaging the formation of the combat fleet.
Though Ves was not a specialist in ship maneuvers, their current formation wasn't hard to understand. Lydia's Swordmaidens needed to be protected. Their only combat carrier was their flagship, and the vessel happened to be an aged, second-hand rustbucket. The remainder of their vessels consisted of a mix of light carriers and converted cargo haulers.
In other words, tin cans in space. It wouldn't take the rifleman mechs of the Caged a very long time to burn through the scrap that posed as their armor plating.
Only the combat carriers of the Flagrant Vandals possessed the bulk to absorb all of the laser fire. They flew in front, each combat carrier taking up the vanguard position for a couple of minutes before falling back. This was a very clever arrangement as it was meant to handle the heat transferred through the laser beams.
Therefore, even if the battle looked as if the Vandals took a beating for no reason, the actual damage amounted to using up a lot of expensive armor plates
"The same can't be said for the Caged Masters." Ves shook his head.
He felt pity for the enemy for getting caught up in a battle where they were outclassed in almost every aspect. The Vandals basically bullied their opponents, having caught them when they were unable to display their specialization. No matter how strong they performed on land, no matter how many landbound mechs they could field, the Vandals would never fight a battle at an environment of their choosing.
The Vandal spaceborn mechs consisted of a mixed bag of mech models centered around a trio of internally developed mech models.
Right now, the Vandals put the Akkara heavy mechs on reserve. The landbound mechs had already slotted themselves into the bunkers placed along the hulls of the combat carriers. While their firepower was prodigious, their impact was best at close range.
Their other ranged mechs steadily put pressure on the thickly-armored mechs of the Masters of Combat. The Vandals couldn't get at the fragile mechs of the Caged once they decided to hide behind their bulk. However, the well-armored Masters of Combat mechs couldn't never outmatch a combat carrier in armor.
"The Venidsan mechs are straining against our barrage! Half-a-dozen mechs have already sustained heavy damage! They're pulling back from their formation!"
Ves inspected the sensor readings of the damaged mechs. He had already pulled up the mech model from the central database.
The mainstay mech model of the Masters of Combat consisted of Nyven Skrat multipurpose space knights. In general, any mech type with the multipurpose prefix was just a way of saying that it carried a mixture of weapons.
Similar to hybrid mechs that sought to marry several weapon systems in a single frame, these multipurpose mechs attempted to offer a high degree of flexibility on the battlefield. They didn't pop up that much in the galactic rim because technological, material and financial limitations prevented them from reaching their full potential. A minimal degree of investment was necessary to make them viable against single-purpose mech types.
"Evidently, the Masters of Combat ignored this rule."
The elite mercenary corps fielded the Nyven Skrats in great numbers. They took advantage of scale to simplify their logistics and unify their training.
The Nyven Skrats featured four different weapon systems: a sword and shield, a laser rifle, a warpick great for piercing armor and a pair of missile launchers embedded in the torso.
All of these options turned the Nyven Skrats into a souped-up hybrid with plenty of options that could react to many different situations. Only extremely well-rounded mech pilots would be able to pilot them proficiently. This didn't hinder the Venidsan mercenary corps as they predominantly recruited veterans from the Vesian mech legions.
The Masters of Combat had a reason to adopt this arrogant name. Each of their mech pilots were combat obsessed and spent most of their time on polishing their piloting skills.
However, a jack of all trades was a master of none. Compared to the dedicated rifleman mechs of the Caged, the Masters of Combat fell short in both power and accuracy. The Nyven Skrats also needed to conserve their energy levels, so they didn't fire as frequently as they should.
"Entering medium range in thirty seconds!"
Once the fleets entered medium range, the mechs armed with kinetic or ballistic weaponry entered effective range. Thirty seconds flitted by and a significant amount of Vandal mechs lent their fire to the constant barrage.
The battle formation of the Caged Masters physically buckled! Shell after shell exploded against the durable armor plating of the mechs. Powerful kinetic rounds impacted the Nyven Skrats with force, cracking their resilient shells and crippling some of their more vulnerable components when hit!
"Mr. Larkinson, what is your judgement on the Nyven Skrats?" Major Verle suddenly asked. "I want to hear options on how to defeat them as economically as possible."
Ves had studied the multipurpose space knight model just enough to come up with an analysis backed by his professional judgement.
"Sir, the Nyven Skrats sound impressive if you list out their capabilities, but when you dig into their construction, they are riddled with holes. Multipurpose mechs aren't very popular for a very good reason. The sheer amount of compromises in their design choices has led to many internal flaws. The only reason why the Nyven Skrats are viable is because they carry enough armor to qualify as knights."
"So only their outer shells are tough?"
"Correct, sir. While that doesn't make it easy to get at their weak points, our job is mostly done once we can accomplish. The Nyven Skrats feature two major weak points. First, the integrated missile launchers are placed in their pectorals. One heavy hit is enough to demolish the launchers, opening up a gaping hole that's uncomfortably close to the cockpit and the power reactor. If the Masters of Combat are using low-quality missiles, then there's a high chance we can set off their warheads as well, causing a chain reaction that can blow up a Nyven Skrat from a single lucky hit."
Ves thought this was unlikely to happen, as the Masters of Combat was aware of this weakness as well. If they deliberately chose to rely on this mech model, then they would have invested in more expensive missiles with plenty of safeguards against unwanted detonations.
"That's one weakness. What is the other one?"
"Their rear." Ves replied with a grin. "Their flight system isn't all that powerful. It's only merit is that it's plated with armor, but they can't withstand a determined attack. The rear armor of the Nyven Skrats is also thinner compared to a regular knight. Volume management is a very huge issue with this multipurpose mech. It has stuffed too many systems in a single frame and there's only so much you can stretch it out without going through the upper bounds of what defines a medium mech."
Though the Masters of Combat focus on defensive tactics, their most complex tactics demanded enough mobility to react to various situations. Speed, acceleration and agility generally benefited skilled mech pilots more because they were able to leverage these advantages a lot better than lesser mech pilots.
Major Verle mulled on what Ves had passed on. "Very well. Attacking them from the front and rear is sufficient."
"Their armor is highly resilient against both laser weapons and ballistic weapons. Melee weapons can carve through the weak points of their armor, but multiple attacks may be needed to punch through, sir."
For now, the Vandals hadn't managed to wreck more than a handful of Nyven Skrats. Even at medium range, the mechs put forward their resilient tower shields and let them take the brunt of the incoming fire.
The shields didn't last very long against sustained volleys, but the most unnerving thing about the Masters of Combat was that they brought spares!
Verle grunted in annoyance. "The Nyven Skrats are impervious from the front. A flanking force is needed to pressure the Masters of Combat from the rear."
With the fleets coming ever closer, the firefight in space heated up. By now, he judged that the combat carriers had served their purpose. It wasn't worth it to risk greater damage than a couple of scorched and molten armor plates. The Vandal fleet pulled back a bit while they deployed their full complement of spaceborn mechs.
The Swordmaidens followed suit. With both fleets putting out their full might, they accelerated ahead and lessened the distance in rapid tempo!
Ves did not recognize the mech model utilized by the Swordmaidens. Neither the central database or the galactic net contained a record that mentioned anything similar to the spaceborn swordsman mechs racing towards the enemy!
"Do the Swordmaidens have a mech designer?"
Ves instantly recognized the homebrew quality of their swordsman mechs. Some of their parts looked crude, while their overall level performance indicated that the quality of their components was rather inconsistent.
Despite all these flaws, the Swordmaiden mechs did have one thing going for them. They were fast. Really fast. In fact, all of their swordsman mechs mounted powerful single-use boosters on their backs. Somehow the boosters managed to work in harmony with their flight systems, allowing the mechs to accelerate in space to the very limits of their inertial dampeners.
"Commander Lydia!" Major Verle composed a message to their partner. "We did not agree for the Swordmaidens to advance ahead of our mechs! We had a plan!"
The Swordmaidens ignored his plea and continued surging forward! Ves figured this wouldn't be the last time the Swordmaidens followed their instincts rather than their orders.