"Halt the planned attacks on the research base. We're moving on to the next phase."
Major Verle unwillingly retreated from the third moon. The ships under his command consolidated in orbit over the second moon and started to retrieve the mechs and loot from the fallen lunar fortress.
The battle there ended quickly once the Vandals overcame the inner walls. Not wishing to fight to the death, the defending Vesians surrendered without exception. For their part, the Vandals accepted their surrender and took the mech pilots into custody.
They restrained the norms that acted as support personnel in place because they held no value. Taking them along burdened the Vandals more than the Vesians, and they didn't feel like killing them after they magnanimously surrendered.
Ves got the sense that the Vandals weren't above killing their prisoners, but only if the Vesians pissed them off in some way. In that regard, the Vesians manning the lunar fortress did their duty but nothing more.
The Vandals took slightly more than two hours to strip down the lunar fortress. They retrieved most of what they could easily salvage, but hadn't managed to clean the fortress out entirely due to lack of time and lifting power.
They did leave a parting gift as the last mechs boarded the combat carriers and lifted off from the surface. Several portions of the fortress blew up, causing almost every section to collapse except for the areas which held the prisoners. It would take a significant amount of effort to bring the fortress back to strength after all of the destruction.
With the moons taken out of consideration, if only nominally, Major Verle turned his attention to the planet that held most of the star system's riches. Detemen IV, the fourth planet from the binary suns.
At the major's orders, the combat carriers formed up and moved into a lower orbit over the bountiful temperate planet. Much of its cities burned, but from high up the planet still resembled a jewel.
The attacks on the moons only served as their appetizers. Making landfall on Detemen IV and completing their subsequent objectives would be the main course. They gathered as much information as they could about Detemen IV and its local forces, but the rebels who provided most of their intelligence had been proven wrong several times before.
It was too easy to hide any number of assets on a planet. Even as the Vandal combat carriers turned their sensors towards the planet and attempted to scan the underground layers, they failed to turn up any results.
The Vesians either hid their assets well, or they really hadn't stationed any hidden forces on the planet.
"Don't get complacent, Ves." Alloc whispered to him. "What comes up next will be our real test. Urban combat is always messy. Depending on how much the locals can organize themselves, we can have a real fight on our hands. They still collectively outnumber us."
As much as that fact concerned Ves, the chances that they would unite in a common defense was low. That would mean submitting themselves to a single leader. Short of Lord Javier, no one possessed enough clout to unite the local forces.
"I've never been through a raid from the perspective of the raiders."
"This is more than a simple raid, Ves. We've established many objectives, but our main goals are to rob enough to make our losses worth it and to root out Lord Javier from whatever hole he's crawled into. That's going to be difficult to complete in a very short timespan."
Ves thought that they had made a lot of haste, but evidently Alloc thought otherwise. With time pressing on their backs, they couldn't afford to delay their steps. The Vandals readied themselves to be deployed. The combat carriers split in two. Those that carried spaceborn mechs would remain in orbit while those that carried landbound mechs descended to the surface.
A tense moment ensued as some of the combat carriers made the risky action of descending into hostile territory. Though the rioting and the anarchy caused the planet to be thrown into confusion, that didn't mean that every local lost their minds. A counterattack could come at any moment.
While the combat carriers made the drop, Ves and Alloc already started analyzing the data that the rebels constantly poured in. They captured a lot of footage of mechs stomping around. Many influences held back some strength, and if not for all the strife, they never would have pulled out their reserve forces.
It was the job of the mech designers to analyze each model spotted in the wild and give out a cursory evaluation of their strength. With hundreds of different mech models spotted on the surface, the pair would have succumbed from all of the work, but luckily they didn't work alone. Other mech designers assigned to other ships did their part as well, thereby massively speeding up the identification and classification process.
Ves had never analyzed so many different mech models in such a short amount of time. The effort strained him somewhat and he made a lot of mistakes. Yet each time he fell, he picked himself up again and learned how to do better. He became increasingly proficient in spotting the strengths and weaknesses of mechs merely from spotty footage.
Besides their propensity for missiles, the Vesians on Detemen IV also leaned towards bestial mechs. These animal-shaped mechs took the place of melee mechs mostly as they all focused on closing in the distance with their four limbs and savage their opponents with claws and perhaps teeth.
"House Eneqqin is very partial to bestial mechs." Alloc quickly explained. "They're famous for fielding the Imodris Duchy's premiere bestial mech regiments. Most of them are sent to the frontlines, though, so we won't meet those elites on the field today."
So that explained it. House Eneqqin's rich tradition in working with bestial mechs helped compensate for the increased difficulty in mastering those types of mechs. Human mech pilots adjusted best when they piloted humanoid mech models.
There had always been sceptics who claimed that the human form was not always the most conductive form for combat. They derisively dismissed the bipedal human form and their dependance on tools as inefficiencies. Mech designers who adhered to this school of thought instead sought to develop alternatives based on animals and aliens.
The so-called bestial supremacy movement was a powerful strain within the galactic mech industry, but their grip in the Komodo Star Sector was fairly weak. The main advantages of bestial mechs was that they provided a lot of variety. The downsides to using them was it took a substantial amount of effort to train them with different animal forms.
That made animal-shaped mechs rather rare in the resource-starved galactic rim.
Pretty much every mech designers in the galactic rim fell into the humanoid supremacy movement, including Ves.
In practice, no one in the Bright Republic paid attention to these doctrinal and ideological disputes. Perhaps closer to the center of the galaxy, mech designers from different camps would confront each other and even initiated design duels to prove their point, but Ves found all of it rather silly.
"Those bestial mechs are geared for standing battles. They're not the hit-and-run types."
Ves studied the models seen in the wild and quietly agreed. These tiger and wolf-shaped mechs possessed a lot of bulk, putting them well in the upper range of the medium weight class. This gifted them with a hefty charge and powerful attacks but slow attacks up close, but it didn't do their speed and agility any good.
Nonetheless, due to their form, they were just a notch faster and more agile than humanoid mechs that weighed the same. Their four limbs provided them with a lot more stability as they didn't have to worry about tipping over as much.
The downside of course was that they couldn't make use of external equipment such as swords and rifles. They went into battle with the weapons already fixed into their frames.
Fighting them would be a nightmare on land, but aerial mechs should make quick work of them. Unfortunately, the Vandals weren't very strong in the air. They focused primary on spaceborn mechs and diverted some of their efforts on building up a force of landbound mechs by necessity.
Perhaps some spaceborn mechs would accompany the landbound mechs on the ground, but Ves couldn't see a fragile machine like the Inheritor ever doing so. He was familiar enough with its design to realize that the Inheritors would get massively slowed down when put under the influence of gravity.
As Ves continued to analyze mechs, a sudden change occurred just as the combat carriers heading to the surface touched land. A large number of heat signatures and alarms blared over the consoles of the specialists.
"Detecting active scanning from seventeen different locations from the surface! Our ships are being painted, sir!"
"What?! Plot those locations on the map right now!"
The central projector which displayed Detemen IV lit up with seventeen different points strewn about in random locations in the wilderness.
"Sir, detecting mass missile launches from eight other locations on Detemen IV and the second moon!"
More points lit up. This time, several trails flew up from these locations. Both in front and in their rear, the Vandal fleet faced an incoming surge of Vesian missiles.
No doubt whoever was in charge had been holding them back until the Vandals landed half their combat carriers. The Akkara mechs that served as their point defense would have been a significant help in shooting down the missiles. Now it was too late to recall the landed ships. The missiles traveled too fast for them to catch up.
Though Major Verle and the fleet in orbit had plenty of time to meet the incoming missiles, that hardly served as a consolation to them due to the sheer size of the missile salvo.
"What is the current count?"
"Reporting, an estimated number of forty-three thousand missiles have launched from Detemen IV. Fifteen-thousand missiles coming inbound from the second moon."
"Sensors have detected a second salvo!"
The mood in the command center plummeted at this point. Dealing with almost sixty thousand missiles was already a challenge. Dealing with twice as much would strain their defenses until they broke.
The news was already bad enough, but what came next was worse.
"A third salvo of missiles have launched from Detemen IV!"
"What about the launch sites on the second?"
"No activity detected! By all accounts, the crew of those sites have evacuated."
The third salvo looked a little more ragged. Evidently, the Vesians had thrown whatever they had left at the Vandal fleet up in orbit.
A total of 150,000 missiles headed in their direction. To a mech regiment that favored melee mechs over ranged mechs, this was an absolute disaster.
"Tell me of their makeup, now!" Major Verle bellowed.
Alloc and Ves already started to work on that as soon as the Vandals detected the missile launches. Eventually, they both came to the conclusion that only two types of missile had been launched.
"The missiles comprise of two different types." Alloc answered. "The missiles launched from the surface all consists of the Heavensfall HVA-535, a standard Vesian surface-to-space shipkiller missile type. They're characterized by their extremely powerful propulsion that lets them escape the gravity well of a terrestrial planet and build up a significant amount of velocity. Their payloads are largely explosive or kinetic depending on the variant, which we haven't been able to determine as of yet, sir."
"Then get on that as soon as possible! What of the other type?"
Since Ves analyzed those missiles, it was his turn to answer the major. "The hidden lunar sites have launched two salvos of XX-REX Mark 54-H missiles. The XX-REX type missiles are characterised by their high explosive payloads, and the H variant of the Mark 54's denote the heaviest version of this type of missiles, so they pack an even greater punch."
They both relayed the exact numbers to Major Verle's terminal, who studied the data with increasing alarm.
The waves of missiles from the surface of Detemen IV needed to fight against gravity to reach the orbiting Vandal ships, so they generally didn't have too much left by the time they reached their targets. The sheer amount of missiles made up for their relative weakness in this area.
As for the XX-REX missiles launched from the second moon, they came in much fewer numbers, but a combat carrier that got hit in the right sections would certainly crack apart despite their superior armor coverage. The amount of damage they could deal already approached the level of torpedoes.
In short, they were screwed from both the front and the rear.