Humans used mechs as war machines. It sounded simple, but in the Age of Mechs, they became ubiquitous. For various reasons, regulations on owning a machine that could wipe out an entire town in a handful of minutes was fairly lax. Anyone decent enough and with the right paperwork could own one.
These days, much more mechs circulated on the market than in the military. Of course, the former couldn't compare to the latter in quality. Nevertheless, when it came to earning money, the private sector was the way to go.
Institutions that taught mech design groomed their students for the private market. Some did a better job than others, but the starting point was always focused on preparing future mech designers to the harsh realities of trying to compete in a cutthroat market.
This inevitably biased his studies and practical experience towards private sector mechs. He learned all about how to market his product and what he needed to pay attention to in order to maximize its sales.
Ves thought that knowing how to design a private sector mech was enough to encompass almost every standard mech variation. No matter how esoteric their design turned out to be, the fundamental goal was to turn a profit.
The battle currently raging a fair distance away from the ships of the task force turned his conception upside-down. Though he already experienced the humongous battles on land and in space at the Glowing Planet campaign, the scale was just too massive for Ves to relate. He also worried about other priorities back then. Now, he realized that he missed a lot of opportunities.
Perhaps because he was invested in the Flagrant Vandals and the Inheritor model, Ves cared a lot more about how mechs actually fought.
Mechs meant for the private market mostly relied on their individual characteristics as their selling points. Their performance, the quality of their materials and the technologies incorporated into them served as the fundamental measuring stick for their ultimate value.
When Ves initially began to take up his new duties with the Flagrant Vandals, he needed to readjust his commercial mindset a little bit. He couldn't help but look at every element of a design and make a mental calculation of their cost and price to performance ratio.
Not every mech designer looked at mechs in this light, especially the careerists. While they certainly needed to deal with budgets and other constraints, they only followed the rules because they'd been told to by their superiors, not because of an individual need to minimize their expenses.
In the end, the military and commercial mech industries differed too much.
The current battle between the fastest Vandal mechs and the Dancer Bat mechs revealed that mech battles revolved around more than just the raw performance of the mechs.
Formations played a significant role as well.
Mechs meant for the private market often ended up in the hands of mercenary corps and company forces. The mech pilots employed by these outfits only had a tenuous grasp on discipline, and their coordination was primitive at best.
Two private sector outfits going at each other resembled more of a street brawl than a proper battle.
Thus, Ves never had a proper introduction in the use of formations up to now.
The Calico Dancer Bats responded with the so-called Hamburger Chaotic Bat Formation. In this formation, the Brain Scramblers took a backseat due to their depleted ammunition, but the swift and agile Pinpricks picked up the slack.
Despite being outnumbered by the enemy, the Dancer Bats largely held on. It looked kind of silly to Ves. He even had a misconception of an oversized meat patty being sandwiched by two overly thin buns. The bread should have broken apart, but in fact they continued to pressure the somewhat constrained hamburger patty.
"Do you see, boss?" Iris noted. As a Vesian rebel, her understanding of the Vesian mech models surpassed his own. She knew the famous mech regiments such as the Calico Dancer Bats like the back of her hand. "The Dancer Bats thrive on chaos. It's what they've made for. Right now, we're losing our Inheritors at a rate to three-to-one."
Certainly, the performance of the Inheritors in this melee was frankly abysmal. The Calico Dancer Bats simply schooled them with the use of a particularly annoying sub-formation called the Batwing Ribbon Cutter.
Half-squads of five Pinpricks formed in a single file and looped around a single target. Each of them roughly followed the same trajectory and fired at the same target in a single instant, which almost always guaranteed a Vandal mech going down.
The Vandals switched up their own formation in response. Thankfully to Ves, the pilots pulled their Inheritors back from their overloaded state now that they didn't have to catch up anymore.
The Vandals employed the so-called Hungry Crow Attack, a formation that resembled the Batwing Ribbon Cutter but had been adjusted for melee mechs.
The Inheritors picked out a single target and dove at it in quick succession. The expectation here was that their target would definitely block or evade the knife attacks of the lead mech.
The second Inheritor followed up on the initial attack and stood a higher chance of inflicting damage. Even then, if their target still managed to get away, it should have certainly become more rattled. If the second Inheritor couldn't leave a mark, the third, fourth or fifth mechs all got their own opportunities.
Like annoying crows pecking at an increasingly feeble body, the Inheritors managed to take out more and more Pinprick mechs.
This tipped the balance in their favor. Even if the Vandals lost more mechs at the start, the Calico Dancer Bats only came with eighty mechs. Each mech that got wrecked weighed much heavier on them because it tilted the balance of power disproportionately to their enemies.
"The Calico Dancer Bats have done a lot of damage, but they're done for now. I'm impressed with their battle grit, but they've bitten off way more than they could chew." Ves guessed. "Their combat carriers are being threatened by our second wave of mechs."
While the Inheritor mechs kept the Pinpricks and Brain Scramblers busy, the Vandals also sent out a second wave of mechs to pursue the combat carriers that carried the Vesian mechs into this star system. Though the Hellcats and other spaceborn mechs of the Vandals couldn't quite catch up to the enemy combat carriers, just chasing it was enough of a threat.
As the battle progressed, Ves saw that the Flagrant Vandals got better at dismantling their opposition. Their early successes boosted their faltering morale and with the numbers growing ever greater in their favor, they began to crush the Calico Dancer Bats in numbers.
Naturally, the Bats didn't take this lightly and started to improve and adjust their tactics and formations. They started to get used to the fighting style of the Vandals and prevented a complete collapse.
Still, as much as both sides suffered, they couldn't let this battle of attrition go on. The Pinpricks simply didn't have the numbers to annihilate the quick and agile Inheritors anymore. In order to take down a single Inheritor, a half-squad needed to use up several magazines each just to strip away the surface armor have a decent shot of hitting something critical.
Thus, as the Calico Dancer Bats declined to about fifty mechs, the previously lackluster Brain Scramblers simultaneously fired shells in the middle of the melee that quickly exploded into massive particle clouds that acted as obscuring smoke.
"The Calico Dancer Bats are pulling back! Both their mechs and combat carriers are overloading their flight systems!"
By letting the Flagrant Vandals close the gap, they let themselves be crushed by overwhelming numbers. The Calico Dancer Bats evidently hadn't been ordered to fight to the death. Their decision to perform a tactical repeat marked the end of the battle.
The Flagrant Vandals won!
"Clean up the battlefield and retrieve of mechs and escape pods. Prioritize speed, I don't want to stick around in this star system longer than we have to. This is just the start. Imodris has more ships on their way."
"Sir, what about the enemy mechs and escape pods?"
"Leave them alone. We don't have the time to recover their mechs and tend to possible prisoners."
The Calico Dancer Bats sincerely fled from the Vandals. As the cleanup and rescue operation went underway. They received no obstruction from their distant opponents.
As for the enemy escape pods, it appeared that Major Verle didn't wish to offend the Dancer Bats. After all, the previous battle was fought in an open and upfront fashion. Although the Vandals lost a fair amount of Inheritors, the Calico Dancer Bats didn't go out of their way to destroy any flying escape pods.
The Vandals held no hard feelings towards the Dancer Bats.
While everyone rejoiced over their minor victory, Ves sighed and pressed his palms over his hand. He could already imagine the mountain load of work that needed to be done after the battle.
Perhaps the Vandals won the engagement by forcing the Dancer Bats to retreat, but they lost quite seriously in terms of mechs and resources.
"Is this what the Calico Dancer Bats are after? They attempted to force a fight not to delay us, but to starve us out?"
This was definitely a devious strategy! Lieutenant Commander Soapstone already told Ves that acquiring more resources was a titanic struggle in the Vesia Kingdom.
Ves gazed obsessively at the projections as they depicted the Vandal mechs retrieving the fallen mechs that hadn't made it to the end of the battle. This helped much to recoup some of their losses, but they still needed lots of supplements to repair most of the internal damage due to their reckless overload.
"I'm going to hate my job tomorrow. There are way too many issues with those Inheritors. Overloading their systems by thirty percent practically aged their mechs by several years.
Letting all of that wear and tear accumulate to such an extent was ruinous! Ves definitely needed to ride his people hard if he wished to get the Inheritors back to full strength.
The brief battle served as the prelude for their escape. The two companies made it off fairly lightly while the Vandals learned a brutal lesson that they still fell short of matching the military prowess of a proper mech regiment.
More importantly, it also taught him that Ves needed to pay attention to more than just the individual performance of a mech. Formations had the potential to leverage the strengths of the mechs that performed them and allowed them to exploit weaknesses they shouldn't have been able to do so by themselves.
"This engagement was rather short but devastating to us." Iris softly said. "Even if we drove them off, we won't be at our best in the following days."
"We'll just have to pull up our sleeves and work a little harder then." Ves replied. He already started to readjust his plans for the future. "The only thing we can't do is solve our resource problems. We're too short on the repairing every Inheritor mech that needs servicing."
Iris didn't have a solution for him, which he already expected. Neither did Ves for that matter. He needed to think the situation through and consult with the staff before he implemented his plans.
With the lives of thousands at stake, Ves couldn't afford to be careful and make unilateral decisions on behalf of himself.
The Vandals limped back inside their hangar bays as the fleet prepared to transition into FTL. The gravitic mines that formed such a nuisance to them had been shot down by the marksmen among them. The retreat of their enemy left them with ample time to aim their shots.
Thirty minutes after the end of the battle, the entire fleet successfully transitioned into FTL. They truly fended off extinction, but only for now. The next territory was the Venidse Duchy. The Vandals would all face different circumstances there. At the very least, they needed to get their hands on a lot of materials to cover all the reports.
Ves hated his job.