When the Flagrant Swordmaidens understood how difficult it would be to penetrate the astral wind, they treated it as both a benefit and a detriment to their survival.
The higher-dimensional particles never physically touched anything material, but they blocked any form of scans or signals from penetrating past a hundred kilometers. On land this distance spanned a small province, but in space it might as well be a couple of footsteps away.
This condition benefited the Flagrant Swordmaidens because it would be exceptionally difficult for the other forces that entered the Aeon Corona System to band up and track them down.
The disadvantage was that if an enemy force ever succeeded in bumping into the Flagrant Swordmaidens, the fight started right off the bat at close range in spaceborn combat terms!
Certain types of enemies fared better or worse in close-ranged combat.
The Flagrant Vandals for example fielded a relatively balanced spaceborn mech roster, though they slightly put more emphasis melee mechs.
Lydia's Swordmaidens on the other hand leaned heavily on melee mechs. Though each swordsman mech had the ability to sheathe their swords and wield spare ballistic rifles when they encountered sandmen, they usually chose to flee if they ever encountered a whiff of the aliens.
Unfortunately, the sandmen almost literally bumping into their patrols had left that choice off the table! Their forces approached far too close to each other to contemplate a withdrawal!
"The sandman escort vessel has entangled two of our Inheritors! One pilot has ejected in time but the other cockpit has been caught!"
Anyone caught by the sandmen would get crushed by the sentient sand particles as they sought to absorb as much energy as possible. Getting into melee range against any sandmen conglomeration was a recipe for disaster!
"Inform Captain Rakeshir to shift our formation away from the trajectory of the sandmen!"
The fleet turned around a moment later, every ship trying to curve to starboard in order to evade the lone sandmen escort that had very likely informed the rest of its buddies that it had encountered human machines to snack upon!
Major Verle quickly issued a set of orders that basically amounted to following a modified contingency plan in the event a sandmen force ambushed the fleet. All melee mechs had to withdraw and if possible exchange their melee weapons for simplified ballistic and kinetic rifles!
In the meantime, half of the Akkara heavy cannoneers started readying their physical cannons while shutting off power to their laser cannons.
Laser weapons generally inflicted limited damage against the sandmen due to their excellent heat conductivity. Dealing localized spot damage was nearly impossible as the individual sandmen constantly shifted around and diverted heat away!
Even the Parallax Star gave up its lance in exchange for a customized railgun that Miss Lisbeth once fabricated as an emergency option.
Ves didn't want to admit it, but for once, Miss Lisbeth's insane drive towards fabricating as many spare parts and options as possible actually turned out to be useful. The railgun packed a lot of punch, though the energy it expended and the high degree of wear and tear incurred in its use made it a very expensive weapon to deploy.
Right now, every single credit put into its construction and payment would be worth it if it gave Venerable Xie a powerful means of fighting back against the sandmen.
Sandmen vessels fared poorly against single powerful physical attacks. Though their fluid amalgamations were capable of absorbing a lot of shock, the energy constructs that animated them could only sustain so much shock before they fractured, essentially killing the consciousness that animated the sandmen.
"The Parallax Star will be ready to deploy in three minutes!"
"Clear the firing lines for our Akkara mechs! Tell the laggards to move their metal butts out of the way!"
The sandman escort ship had moved quickly in chasing after the fleeing Inheritor mechs. Armed with double knives or daggers, the light skirmishers fared exceptionally poorly against a sandmen vessel that engulfed anything that strayed close enough as their main means of attack!
Although the Inheritors moved fast, the sandman ship somehow managed to move even faster through their reactionless sublight propulsion! Two more mechs almost got caught, but managed to confuse the sandman ship by splitting up in diametrically opposite directions, causing its reigning intelligence to pause in indecision.
"Detecting several new sandmen signatures! Sir, we have made positive identification of their fleet type! It's a low-intelligence sandmen fleet based around a single cruiser-sized mothership and twelve frigate-sized escort vessels!"
The sandmen for some reason loved the number six, and their more basic fleets often deployed escort vessels in multiples of six. A twelve escort fleet posed a significant threat to the Flagrant Swordmaidens, especially if all twelve ships as well as the massive mothership managed to get into point-blank range!
Whatever Flagrant Swordmaidens did, they had to stop the sandmen ships from going any closer!
"Order the Akkara mechs to lay down suppressive fire. I want all of the sandmen frigates facing a storm of firepower!"
Half of the Akkara mechs immediately received new targeting orders, prompting their mech pilots to unleash their ballistic and kinetic cannons. Around a quarter of the rounds hit their mark, causing the sandmen frigates to encounter difficulties in closing in on the fleet that desperately tried to turn aside.
An increasing amount of Akkara mechs came online and started to add to the soundless barrage. Half of the mech pilots had remained on standby in their cockpits so could immediately jump into action, but the other half had to be roused from their sleep, causing them to be delayed for a critical moment!
A few other ranged mechs already deployed on patrol added their firepower, with mixed success. The fast and agile sandmen frigates moved as nimbly as a light mech despite massing much more than them. They zigged and zagged towards the Flagrant Swordmaiden fleet in an inexorable advance even as the frequent hits chipped away globs of lifeless sand.
The sandmen ships were undeterred!
One of the most annoying things about the sandmen was that they knew no fear, at least not the way other sentients experienced. Damaging them caused their amalgamations to grow smaller, but that only made them faster and more agile. They were like mechs outfitted with modular armor in that sense. Only by crushing them down until they reached the size of a melon did they finally become inert.
By now, the Misty Slashers, the Inheritors, the Hellcats and many other mechs launched out of the combat carriers as fast as possible armed with cheap backup rifles. While they packed less of a punch than anyone would want, they were cheap to procure and did not require too much complexity to operate.
Any humanoid mech could make use of them, even melee mechs. Their accuracy left a lot to be desired, but the large sandmen ships were easy to hit at medium range.
"Sir, the sandmen escort ships are forced to slow down under the weight of fire." The tactical officer said. "However, their mothership is advancing unopposed!"
"Assign Venerable Xie to the task of halting the mothership." Major Verle instructed. "Maintain our current targeting priorities. Right now, we need to whittle down the sandmen frigates."
The Flagrant Swordmaidens expended a large amount of ammunition by having hundreds of mechs fire their rifles and cannons at the twelve ominously agile sandmen escorts. Over three-fourths of the projectiles missed their mark, but enough hit their mark to physically hinder their forward momentum, buying precious time for more mechs to take up rifles.
"Sir, the Parallax Star has deployed! It's firing its railgun!"
The Parallax Star armed itself with a large railgun that outgunned the cannons of the Akkara mechs by a significant margin. Just the length of the weapon alone surpassed the height of the mech that wielded it! Its mass and size already made it clear that this was a weapon meant to be deployed in space. A mech on the ground wouldn't be able to hold this weapon properly under standard gravity!
The expert pilot already received permission to fire at will, so as soon as Venerable Xie drew a bead on the large sandman mothership, he pulled the trigger.
The firing sequence almost passed without any notice. If Ves hadn't glued his eyes to the stream depicting the Parallax Star, he wouldn't have noticed much. The mech's flight system and the railgun's inertial dampeners did an excellent job in compensating for the recoil upon firing.
The slug the formidable weapon fired impacted the mothership fairly hard! A small crater marred its smooth sphere-like surface. What must have been several tons worth of individual sandmen separated from the greater mass, the kinetic impact causing their energy constructs to be overwhelmed!
"The sandman mothership has sustained significant damage!"
The only downside to the artillery-scale railgun was that it required a significant amount of time to safely fire it again. An agonizing amount of seconds passed as the railgun finally shifted enough heat and energy as well as load in a new slug to fire again.
"The second railgun impact dealt less damage! The mothership is adjusting its structure into a hollow cage structure! It's adjusting its composition in response to the heavy impacts!"
Major Verle cursed. "It appears the sandman admiral isn't a total rookie. Divert ten percent of our Akkara mechs to suppressing the mothership. Don't let it get away with its latest shapechange!"
A small amount of high-volume firepower assisted Venerable Xie as his railgun accurately hit the hollowed-out mothership that had changed its structure into a multitude of hexagonal-shaped cages. Its overall volume ballooned in size but most of it consisted of empty space.
Each time a railgun hit the hexagonal cages, the constructions broke easily, but the lack of interconnectedness also limited the spread of damage. The mothership could last four times longer when it adopted this hollow structure!
This was why Major Verle insisted on adding some of the Akkara mechs to the equation. The thinner hexagonal structures didn't need a railgun to shatter apart, so adding the high-volume firepower of the heavy cannoneers on top of the railgun fire put the mothership under a lot of pressure.
The sandmen admiral decided to respond.
"Sir, the sandman mothership is accumulating energy for an attack!"
"What is it targeting?!"
"Seventy percent certainty the mothership is targeting the Parallax Star, sir! There's a seventeen percent chance that it's targeting the Gorgon's Gaze behind the expert mech!"
"Order Venerable Xie to evade!"
A few seconds later, the communications officer reporting something alarming.
"Sir, the Venerable has refused to follow your last order! He believes the Parallax Star can take the energy attack!"
"Damnit! Who does he think he is?! Tell him to pull back now!"
Too late! Just as the Parallax Star tossed aside its railgun to get it out of the way, an energy field formed around the unarmed lancer mech.
A bright yellow beam struck the Parallax Star with unerring machine-like accuracy! The sandman mothership only sustained the beam for 0.026 seconds, but it had transferred enough energy to bore through the armor belt of a combat carrier!
"The mothership has exhausted its attack. It is accumulating energy for a second energy attack!"
"What is the status of the Parallax Star!?" Major Verle demanded.
"The Parallax Star sustained light damage. Its energy field has largely negated the damage to its frame." Ves responded. He had kept an eye on its telemetry throughout the entire event. "Some of its energy field emitters have overstressed themselves. They won't stand up to repeated punishments."Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
"How many more attacks can it take?"
"If Venerable Xie is able to maintain the same strength of energy fields, then at around four to six full-powered blasts."
It was indeed a reckless move to tank the sandman energy beam without any attempts at dodging. The Parallax Star may not be the most agile mechs, but turning a head-on attack into a glancing attack would have saved it and its maintenance crew a lot of grief!
Venerable Xie, evidently satisfied with this test of his capabilities with his new mech, flew out to grab the spinning railgun and fired at the mothership yet again.
The battle was far from over, but the Flagrant Swordmaidens at least managed to stem the tide!