The Frosty Meteors immediately showed their intentions when they emerged from FTL. They approached the stranded Vandal task force at full burn without any hesitation!
Their arrogance knew no bounds! Conservatively, they would be outnumbered at least three-to-one, yet they showed no signs of slowing down!
The most prudent decision to make from Venidse's perspective was to wait for other friendly elements to catch up. After all, taking on the task force with only four spaceborn mech companies left them with very little margin for error.
The unspoken message behind their brazen course of action came as a slap to the faces of the Vandals! The Frosty Meteors obviously thought little of their opponents!
To be honest, Ves couldn't blame them for viewing the Flagrant Vandals with contempt. The two mech regiments differed largely in purpose, funding, tradition and fighting ability.
A raiding regiment such as the Flagrant Vandals mainly relied on their mobility to attack when they were strong and flee when they were weak. This was their main advantage, but also their fatal weak point. The moment when their mobility became hindered, they lost almost all of their advantages.
It was pretty much the opposite for the Frosty Meteors. Almost every fighting attribute reached an extreme. As a medium to heavy cavalry regiment, they leaned more towards the use of hefty armor. Every mech of the Meteors was at least twice as resilient as an equivalent Vandal mech. This difference alone gave the Venidse mech regiment a decisive advantage!
Everyone in the command center could tell how serious a threat they faced. Nobody belittled the Frosty Meteors for their arrogance or their lacking numbers. The Meteors proved their mettle many times in the frontlines of the previous wars. Slow they may be, even the most premier mech regiments of the Mech Corps abhorred getting into a slugging match with the Meteors.
After venting his fury, Major Verle opened a private channel to Ves. "What is your analysis as a mech designer. Will our mechs be able to withstand the Meteors?"
"I don't rate our chances high." Ves responded despondently. "With half of our fleet unable to move, we are forced to fight on their terms. The Meteors love nothing more than to bash themselves against soft targets like us. Neither the Inheritor or the Hellcat will be able to turn the tide. The only variable that I can't account for is how many heavy mechs they brought. Each heavy mech is an enormously difficult rock to crack. If they brought more than twenty heavy mechs, we basically stand no chance at all unless we adopt a clever tactic."
Ves knew his mechs, but even his perspective contained holes. The one element that Ves couldn't predict was the effect of different formations and tactics. Depending on how well the Flagrant Vandals and the Frosty Meteors employed their formations, the outcome of the battle might very well swing drastically in one direction or another!
Therefore, even if everything appeared hopeless, Ves did not give in to despair.
"Can we employ our landbound mechs to enhance our strength?"
"It's very difficult." Ves shook his head. Ves had seen such a drastic desperation move many times in action dramas. What worked in the dramas didn't necessarily work in reality. "Our landbound mechs aren't able to maneuver in space at all. They'll be sitting ducks against the enemy ranged mechs. There's also recoil and heat management to consider."
Mechs with ballistic weapons especially suffered from recoil. Each time these mechs fired their weapons, they would spin their entire frames like a wheel.
As for heat management, landbound mechs reliant on high-heat weapons such as laser rifles relied a lot on heat convection to shunt away their excess waste energy. Since there wasn't any air or solid ground in space, such mechs wouldn't be able to get rid of their heat fast enough!
"Is there no other option?"
"There is one I can think of, but it's rather silly. Just as how we employ our landbound Akkara heavy cannoneers as an improvised turret, we can make use of other landbound ranged mechs in a similar fashion by strapping them against the hull of our ships."
Such a tactic fell in the category of desperation move as well. While it came with a lot of malpractices, it had been used often enough during the Age of Mechs to be regarded as a viable way to leverage a mech force's otherwise useless landbound mech force in space.
Affixing the landbound mechs onto the hulls of their ships neatly solved their heat and recoil problems. The only problem for the Vandals was that it took a lot of time and manpower to set up. With the Frosty Meteors less than thirty minutes away, they wouldn't be able to affix more than a dozen or so mechs onto the hulls of their combat carriers.
Major Verle must have thought the same. "I've already considered this option. It is extremely ruinous for the landbound mechs because they have lost all of their mobility. Besides, if we want to employ all of our ranged mechs into ad-hoc turrets, we need several hours of preparation time."
Venidse timed their surprise attack fairly well. Only a couple of hours after they immobilized the Vandals, the Frosty Meteors arrived to deliver the coup-de-grace! Though it sounded simple, to plan and time such an outcome required extremely strong prediction capabilities on the part of the enemy!
They certainly faced a formidable opponent right now! Not only did they come with strength, they also showed an excellent level of coordination!
This was bad news for the Vandals because even if they fought back hard against the Meteors, they also had to worry about stealth attacks. This invisible threat constantly hovered over the heads of the Vandals. The moment the Vandals broke up their anti-stealth formation, their invisible opponents would have free reign to deliver another crippling blow to the task force!
Ves and Major Verle swapped a few more ideas, but none of them sounded promising. In the meantime the clock continued to tick. A few minutes into their burn, the enemy combat carriers finally launched their mechs.
A hundred-and-forty mechs launched in quick succession. As expected, the Frosty Meteors employed an even mix of ranged and melee mechs.
Their medium melee mechs carried a substantial amount of armor. Much of them consisted of space knights, which made them even more resilient as a whole.
Their ranged mechs on the other hand consisted entirely of ballistic weaponry. The Frosty Meteors famously eschewed laser weaponry because they preferred the tactile feedback of kinetic and explosive shells. Their rifleman mechs exclusively made use of heavy caliber rifles, while their cannoneers used even heavier barrels for maximum firepower.
What caused Ves and the others to despair was that the Frosty Meteors boldly displayed twenty heavy mechs. Half of them consisted of heavy space knights while the other half consisted of heavy weapon platforms akin to a spaceborn variant to the Vandal Akkara model.
Each and every mech model employed by the Frosty Meteors was state of the art. There was no question that the Frosty Meteors brought their best. This was no collection of rank-and-file elements like the previous appearance of the Calico Dancer Bats.
The Frosty Meteors basically believed that this battle was in the bag. No matter how much the Flagrant Vandals flailed, they couldn't change the outcome of the battle. It was a given that they would lose. The only question was by how much.
If the Vandals closed ranks, they risked total annihilation or capture. On the other hand, if the Vandals evacuated the immobilized ships and hurriedly ran away in their few undamaged ships, they might be able to run away before the enemy caught up.
Major Verle immediately shook his head when Ves suggested to cut off their tail and run. "We can't discount the enemy stealth units. Whether its shuttles or mechs that are lurking in the vicinity, both can easily hinder our transition into FTL by throwing out disposable gravitic mines in the surrounding area. This is one of Venidse's favorite tactics."
Even if they hadn't spotted any signs of enemy stealth units so far, Verle had no choice but to assume the worst. It might be that the Vandals overestimated Venidse's commitment and worked on false assumptions, but they truly couldn't afford to make a misjudgement at this time.
"The transports are emitting water!"
This was another tradition of the Frosty Meteors. The transports didn't carry any goods or supplies. Instead, their cargo holds had been converted into water tanks. Immediately before they entered into battle, the transports expelled their water from the tanks and allowed them to flash freeze in space, creating makeshift ice meteors.
Once the tanks ran out of water, the heavy knights accompanied by a handful of medium mechs maneuvered behind the meteors and began to push them forward using their powerful flight systems. Though this slowed down their overall approach, they also gained a shield of some sorts. If the Vandals wanted to damage the charging Meteors, they first needed to chip away at all of the ice in their way.
Just as Ves wanted to raise the option of splitting up the Vandal ships, Verle suddenly turned his head towards another private channel. For the first time since the Frosty Meteors emerged from FTL, he grinned.
"Mr. Larkinson, it seems we still have a lifeline. Venerable O'Callahan has decided to deploy into battle."
Major Verle didn't hide his words this time. Everyone in the command center heard his words. Upon mentioning the expert pilot, everyone instantly lifted their gloom! Some even outright laughed as they thought that Venerable O'Callahan would single-handedly be able to turn the tide!
Ves had never witnessed O'Callahan in action. From the archival footage that he perused in his spare time, he had to admit that O'Callahan might do well against the Frosty Meteors. The only problem was that O'Callahan would never be able to finish off all hundred-and-forty mechs on his own before they crashed into the rest of the Vandals.
Battle couldn't be avoided. They just had to go about it in a smart fashion. As long as O'Callahan and the regular Vandals worked together, they might be able to pull off a miracle.
Major Verle didn't need his advice on this matter. He probably knew much more on how to employ his mechs than Ves, so the channel immediately closed.
Several minutes passed by as the Vandals prepared for battle. Not only did they need to guard against any stealth ambushes, they also had to commit enough mechs to support O'Callahan's counterattack. This required a lot of judgement. If they committed too few mechs on either demands, then they risked a fatal flaw.
The wait was agonizing to Ves. RIght now, he couldn't do much except to uncover more details about the enemy mech models. He had no illusion that he would be able to find a critical weak point in their excellent designs.
Fifteen minutes until the Frosty Meteors arrived, the Parallax Star finally launched from the Gorgon's Gaze. As he witnessed the resplendent lancer mech take to the stage, Ves withheld his enthusiasm. While others showed their awe at the presence of their resident expert pilot, Ves felt some contempt at the Venerable.
Iris noticed his disaffection. "Why so glum, boss? We might be saved!"
"Hmph. The only reason why he dragged his corpse out of his hibernation chamber is because the Gorgon's Gaze is one of the ships that lost their sub-light propulsion. If not for that, he would probably be the first person to suggest we split and run. The Venerable is selfish to the bone."
It was a given that Venerable O'Callahan needed to expend a significant portion of his remaining vitality into the upcoming battle. If not for their hopeless situation, the stingy death-fearing old expert pilot would never use up his precious lifespan.
Even as the rest of the Vandals experienced a lift in morale, Ves crossed his arms and in expectation. The Vandals sacrificed a lot of resources to put O'Callahan on retainer. The expert should better reciprocate this time.
"Show us what you can do."