Walter, Fadah and the rest of the most experienced Whalers approached the landing site with haste.
From the sensor readings and their own observations, they knew that the pirate ship sustained a lot of damage and had been forced to descend in a controlled crash.
Different from an uncontrolled crash, the carrier and her occupants survived the impact. However, that didn't mean they regained their senses immediately.
Walter might not be a genius in administrative matters, but he had a good sense for combat. He wanted to seize the initiative and take out the pirates before they could muster a proper defense.
Due to the haste involved in this decision, Walter had to let the faster mechs go ahead, leaving his Urman to catch up from the rear. Fadah's modified Blackbeak showed its new strength in this moment. The slimmed-down medium mech caught up with the jogging light mechs without issue.
"The landing site is five kilometers away. We should spread out and cover the flanks."
The light mechs split apart without any further acknowledgement. Everyone understood each other due to the camaraderie they forged over a span of decades.
While the light mechs covered the flanks, the mainstay medium mechs took the lead and approached the dormant carrier from her rear. The ship dug a deep furrow into the craggy ground, leading to a messy stop at the foot of an obsidian cliff.
"The carrier is radiating a lot of heat. My sensors are going haywire from all of the junk. We don't know what's inside."
That prompted the mechs to approach the carrier with a little caution. Fadah and the others waited until Walter's Urman emerged from behind. He took one good look at the downed ship before issuing a command.
"What are you afraid of? It's a sitting duck right now! Shoot at it?"
"But boss, don't you want to salvage the ship? That's a medium-sized carrier!"
"Who cares about a half-wrecked ship! A couple of containers worth of junk exotics is a lot more valuable than this carrier. Shoot!"
The Whalers brought a handful of rifleman mechs and a single cannoneer. All of them unleashed their firepower on the static vessel.
The rifles only dealt shallow damage to the hull, but the ballistic cannon tore through the hull armor like a dog chewing through bone.
The alarming damage from the cannon prompted the pirates inside to action. Despite the hard landing, their mech pilots had all been safely ensconced in their landbound mechs. When they blasted open the hatch, they showed very little signs of losing their wits. They poured out of the carrier and fired back at the Whalers.
"They set a trap for us!"
"Calm down! They're out in the open and they don't outnumber us!"
The Whalers had spread out in a half-moon around the crash site. Furthermore, their mechs all took cover behind some sturdy rocks and hills, preventing the pirates from dealing any effective damage.
The pirates obviously realized that and shifted directions. If they charged down the middle, they'd be surrounded on all sides. Thus, they chose to charged towards the extreme left of the formation.
The Whalers dynamically adjusted their formation in return. They spun the moon so that the pirates would be forced to cash against Walter's Urman in a frontal clash.
By then, it was too late for the pirate commander to change his mind. The pirates committed to the charge, shooting at the Urman with their ranged weapons while brandishing their melee weapons to finish the bulky mech up close.
The Urman stoically withstood the impacts, having crossed its arms to let its thick armored gauntlets take the brunt of the blows.
On the pirate side, two swordsman mechs and one knight led the charge. As for the Whalers, they continued to maneuver from the sides in order to envelop the pirates. For this to succeed, Walter had to blunt the charge of the pirates by himself. He grinned inside his cockpit.
"COME!" He roared as he urged his Urman to lumber forward, building up momentum for the double fists it prepared to unleash.
The knight in front sheathed its sword and held its shield with both arms. The Urman looked like it could pack a mean punch, and the pirate mech didn't think it could withstand a lunging strike with a single arm.
The Urman outright shattered the shield, pushing the knight back and taking it out of the action for a few seconds. The swordsman mechs that came right after slashed forth with their swords, only to be caught by the Urman's heavy gauntlets.
One pirate had been smart enough to let go of his sword, but the other pilot stubbornly clung to his only weapon. Walter grinned and pulled the sword forward, which forced the mech that held an iron grip on the handle to stumble closer.
That was a fatal mistake.
The Urman let go of the words and wrapped the vulnerable knight in a clapping bear hug that squished its outer frame. Its heavy gauntlets dug into the thinner rear armor until they pried open the armor plating. After ripping open the rear armor, the Urman dug into it with its clumsy fingers and demolished the critical internals underneath.
The mech lost power, prompting the Urman to drop its first kill.
Both the knight and the swordsman mech recovered somewhat, although they hadn't made it in time to rescue their unfortunate fellow pirate. Both of them flanked the Urman and started to prod at the brawler mech with their swords.
While Walter occupied the two mechs, the rest of the Whalers dealt with the riff raff. Fadah's Blackbeak shone at this moment by weaving through the disarrayed pirates like a shuttle racer through an asteroid field.
Each time Fadah passed by a mech, he opportunistically thrust or slashed the Blackbeak's sword. Any retaliation sent in the modified knight's way would either be dodged or absorbed by its shield.
Fadah started to grow fond of this extra defensive option. "This shield is a cheat!"
Despite the shabby quality of most Whaler mechs, they had the edge over the pirates. The pirate mech pilots suffered from various amounts of disorientation while their mechs suffered minor impact damage from the rough landing.
The pirates could have recovered their full strength after an hour of acclimatization, but the Whalers spoiled their plans.
In addition, the Whalers spent days getting used to the Glowing Planet's unusual environment. The lack of atmosphere, the reduced 0.7 gravity and the strange everpresent green glow all took time to get accustomed to. Some Whalers even used the abnormal conditions to their advantage.
Fadah laughed as he piloted his Blackbeak like a nimble mouse among a clumsy herd of elephants. Even though his sword strikes didn't have much power behind him, his constant harassment successfully threw the pirates off balance.
His Blackbeak approached an enemy rifleman mech from behind and chopped at its arm, forcing the pirate mech to cease its attack on a vulnerable Whaler. Fadah didn't stick around to make a follow-up attack but instead preserved his momentum and veered towards another knight mech that locked its armament against a battle-axe wielding mech.
"Lou! Keep the git in place!"
"Got it, Fadah!"
Lou forced the pirate knight in a bitter struggle, pushing it back and knocking it slightly off-balance. Fadah took advantage of the opening by lunging forward and putting his mech's full weight behind its sword.
The tip buried straight through the back of the knight's substantial armor and happened to dig deep enough to slice through the cockpit, instantly killing the pilot within.
"Great job, Lou!"
"Thanks. Let's mop up the rest!"
The Whalers decisively tipped the balance in their favor over the next couple of minutes. With Walter occupying the their two best fighters, the pirates found themselves hard-pressed to fend off the Whalers attacking from each direction.
At some point in time, the pirate rifleman mechs shifted focus. Instead of shooting at the closest threat, they turned around and focused all of their firepower on one of the Whalers piloting a light mech.
A barrage of high-powered lasers and explosive shells struck the terrain around the light mech. The pirate mechs quickly corrected their aim and started landing solid hits on the Whaler mech.
"Hoyler! Get out of there!"
"I'm trying but they're boxing me in! URGH!"
An explosive shell ripped its leg, causing the light mech to falter in its steps. Hoyler's mech spun around and exposed its back towards the enemy for a single instant. The next volley of shells and lasers struck aside the flimsy rear armor and reached the compact energy cells buried underneath.
Hoyler's small and nimble light mech exploded before its pilot even had a chance to eject. The combined explosive and electric discharge wrenched every mech from their feet, flinging them away as the terrain buckled from underneath.
They landed on their backs or sides in a series of violent crunches. If the Glowing Planet possessed air, then the resulting pressure wave from the discharge would have squashed them straight into the cliffs.
Of all the mechs, only two recovered quickly. Walter's Urman only suffered marginally due to its immense bulk and stable footing. Fadah anticipated the blast in time and curled his Blackbeak just before their footing underwent an upheaval.
"Hoyler! He's gone!"
"Finish off these scum!"
With the help of the Urman and the Blackbeak, the Whalers ruthlessly finished off the immobilized pirate mechs. Their pilots hadn't been aware of the overcharge phenomenon so they hadn't been on-guard against a violent explosion like that. They never recovered before the Whalers stomped their cockpits with the foot of their mechs.
After they finished the battle, they stood in silence to honor their fallen brother. Hoyler had been one of Walter's early recruits, and while he never amounted to anything in the Whalers, his steady presence had been a pillar to the entire gang.
"Finish off the ship. Don't leave any survivors."
The Whalers didn't think about recovering the ship or any of its cargo. Their ranged mechs simply blasted it from a distance while the crew of the vessel ran around like headless chickens.
The gang didn't even bother chasing any of the pirates running away on foot. Their vacuum-sealed suits only lasted them a couple of days at most. Without any other supplies, they'd starve in the harsh and desolate landscape of the Glowing Planet.
Once the fallen carrier turned into a pile of broken chunks, the Whalers carefully dug up any pieces of Hoyler's mech they could find and bring them back to camp.
Ves halted the feed that enabled him to spy on the Blackbeak at work and sighed. "I told them they'd face setbacks."
The Whalers overestimated their abilities and committed to the fight with more aggression than they needed. Still, the intense battle gave Ves a first-hand glimpse of how the new Blackbeak fared.
Fadah delivered a marvelous performance. All of the modifications that added to its mobility had been worth it as Fadah flexed and moved his mech in a way that resembled a dance. The pirates had never been able to catch the Blackbeak once.
Still, Ves placed a caveat on his observations. "Fadah can only get away with it on the Glowing Planet."
The lack of atmosphere took away the need to fight against air friction. The lighter gravity allowed the Blackbeak to pull off moves that medium mechs wouldn't be able to in ordinary circumstances.
Ves had to admit that for all of his smarts, he overlooked the environment as a decisive factor that could change the performance of a mech.
He wouldn't be blamed for making such an elementary mistakes. Most battles on land occurred on terraformed planets that had been cherry-picked by colonists because their gravity closely matched the Terran standard.
Humanity's true origin came from Old Earth. Their species thrived best if they propagated onto planets with environments that closely matched their ancestral home.
The battle that Ves witnessed earlier taught him that his mechs may often be deployed under strange conditions. During the design process, he modelled his Blackbeak's performance under a variety of abnormal environments, but he always treated those simulations as a chore.
Now, he realized that those simulations foretold some very important outcomes for his mech. "The perfect mech that performs well in every possible environment doesn't exist. A bad design under standard conditions might be able to redeem itself in other conditions."
Ves quietly digested this lesson as the Walter and his men returned to their fortified camp.