Chapter 1977 The Battle for Bentheim
The Bentheim System. Usually bustling with trade ships and passenger ships of all shapes and sizes, in recent days civilian traffic practically dropped to nil.
No more resources were being supplied to the factories on the ground.
No tourists came to experience the hustle and bustle of the Bright Republic's liveliest planet.
No mechs and other manufactured goods were being shipped to other locations.
The star system turned into the opposite of what a prosperous port system should look like.
Part of the decrease in traffic was due to the destruction of a lot of border states.
Without a lot of secure and established trade routes, how could the bounty of the frontier and the border states be shipped towards the center of the star sector?
The loss of so many trading partners already hurt Bentheim and the Bright Republic considerably.
Yet the more important reason why commercial ships avoided Bentheim like the plague was the imminent arrival of the greatest threat the Bright Republic had ever faced!
Captain Rosa Orfan of the Flagrant Vandals sat in a waiting room next to the mech hangar of the Wolf Mother.
The huge and expanded factory ship groaned frequently even in rest. Due to the nature of her numerous additions, the ship never flew as smoothly as ships that were built to this scale from the start.
The Flagrant Vandals were still scraping by after the last Bright-Vesia War. Though the Vandals managed to build up a reputation due to their exploits in the conflict against the Vesians, the sandman invasion quickly sucked up all of the attention.
Funding started to decrease as the Bright Republic became increasingly more preoccupied with pumping as many starfighters as possible.
Due to the great losses the Vandals suffered, the mech regiment never managed to replenish its ranks to its old levels. Other mech regiments needed to replenish their ranks as well, and the higher ups began to disregard the Flagrant Vandals yet again.
Captain Orfan wasn't happy. She had already grown a little bit disillusioned with the leadership of her state, and recent events just soured her feelings even further.
Why am I even here? She sighed.
She looked at the empty bottle in her hand and threw it over her shoulder. It clattered against the deck of the waiting room before rolling against the bulkhead.
A cleaning bot soon arrived to take the bottle away and bring it to recycling.
I know. The Republic I knew is gone.
She activated her comm and checked the overall state of her customized Novabreaker.
As a melee mech specialist, and a landbound one at that, she was not very pleased with her currently-assigned mech.
It was too bad that her opponent consisted of an alien race which possessed absolute superiority up close.
I'd rather fight the Fridaymen rather than the sandmen! At least you managed to tear down some of their expensive mechs! What I wouldn't give to be a part of that fight!
The only melee mechs allowed to fight the sandmen were expert mechs. Many expert pilots such as Ark Larkinson already proved that they could keep themselves safe while simultaneously dealing serious against their monoliths!
Captain Orfan wasn't an expert pilot, though. She was just an expert candidate, and the exact circumstances of her advancement were highly unusual.
Expert candidates hardly possessed the extraordinary might of fully-fledged expert pilots.
The only advantage that Captain Orfan truly possessed was that she broke through her human limits. This enabled her to improve at a rapid rate and learn how to pilot spaceborn mechs and ranged mechs remarkably easily.
During the height of the Sand War, Captain Orfan enjoyed so much target practice that she had become quite a decent shot these days!
It's not the same. Ranged mechs are so cowardly. I can easily crush a dozen mechs by the time my pitiful ranged mech with its pitiful peashooter can barely defeat a single machine!
The Sand War and the Komodo War both weighed on her shoulders despite her desire to have nothing to do with them. She was tired. She had gone through a traumatic mission in the frontier and still hadn't recovered from all of the friends and comrades she lost.
Fighting the sandmen might have been cathartic to a point, but the stupid sand-like aliens were no better than punching bags. There wasn't any fun or satisfaction in beating them up, especially when another sandman fleet arrived the next day.
As Captain Orfan continued to talk to the air, an alarm finally sounded in the waiting room.
[RED ALERT! OUR SENSOR NETWORK HAS JUST DETECTED A HUGE WAVE OF GRAVITIC DISTURBANCE!]
The sandman planet! Captain Orfan gasped.
It was finally time for her to move into action.
While it would probably take hours before Orfan gained a chance to test her mettle against aliens, she still stood up and exited the waiting room.
After she entered the large and cavernous mech hangar, she passed by lots of mech technicians as they ran around to ready the mechs for their impending deployments.
Carry on, techs. We're depending on you all! I don't want a single mech of ours to malfunction today!
Don't worry, captain. We've been tuning these mechs for weeks. They're running as smooth as silk!
The woman eventually reached the site where her Novabreaker stood ready for activation. The mech technicians had already finished prepping it for battle.
Chief Carmon. Orphan gruffly greeted the chief technician. How's my mech?
The middle-aged woman in overalls nodded towards the expert candidate while chewing a stimulant.
We couldn't implement all of your requests. There's only so much we can do to enhance the firepower of the Sandbreaker rifle. It's a weapon designed for the mass market. There is hardly any room for performance enhancements. The best we could do was to tweak its ammunition and reinforce a couple of portions of the rifle.
The chief technician also implemented some other tweaks. The Novabreaker was an excellent design. Five Ansel Seniors pooled their strengths tot design the award-winning Dawnbreaker mech that had become the preferred model in the Sand War.
Though the Desolate Soldier designed by Ves had an even greater effect on the war, its inherent fragility meant that the casualty rate of its mech pilots was several times greater than the mech pilots of the Dawnbreaker!
The Novabreaker was the militarized variant of the Dawnbreaker. Its performance in almost every aspect surpassed the base model. Though the costs had risen as well, the excellent protection it offered to its mech pilots was incredibly valuable!
After the techs completed their final checks, Captain Orfan entered the cockpit and waited in the darkness.
Nothing except a large projection of a map of the star system lit up the interior.
Right now, a lot of dots of light were interspersed through the Bentheim System.
Most of them represented the mechs and ships of the various mech regiments of the Mech Corps. The bulk of them oriented themselves towards the direction of the former Coman Federation.
Everyone anticipated the sandman behemoth to enter the star system from this direction.
Of course, just to cover their bases, the Mech Corps also stationed plenty of elements in other directions. Even if it was just a low-probability event, the military couldn't afford to get caught with its pants down!
Captain Orfan noted keenly that the Flagrant Vandals were stationed at one of these flanking positions.
Unlike the premier mech regiments, the Vandals didn't have the honor of meeting the foe at the start where all of the recorders would catch them at a good angle.
However, Orphan didn't think the premier mech regiments would have a chance to fire their weapons at all. To many Brighters, the biggest threat in the star system wasn't the sandmen.
It was the MTA.
Though not as formidable as the CFA warfleet that ravaged the sandman empire, the MTA task force with its highly-advanced fleet carriers, formidable-looking cruisers and destroyers and exceptionally nimble combat carriers made for a very impressive sight.
The MTA task force already demonstrated its prowess several times when it deployed its famed first-class multipurpose mechs in leisurely practice runs.
Situated very close to the estimated emergence point of the sandman planet, the MTA carriers were already starting to deploy its mechs.
Captain Orfan patched into a feed transmitted by a nearby scout ship in order to observe the mechs that launched from the carriers.
The multipurpose mechs were bigger and tougher than any of the mechs she was used to dealing with. Many of them were laden with weapons and modules, only a fraction of which were visible from the naked eye.
As a mech pilot who had entered a derelict CFA battleship and looted it of some of its valuables, Orphan didn't regard the mechs with the same degree of envy as her fellow comrades.
Though the CFA and MTA often acted as if they were invincible, Captain Orfan knew very well that they just happened to be the biggest bullies in the galaxy.
She even suspected that the main reason the MTA dispatched its task force to Bentheim was to make a show of force!
The gravitic disturbance grew even greater. Though her Novabreakers didn't possess the sensors to detect more than a fraction of the fluctuations, the ships of the Flagrant Vandals and the network of listening posts and other assets strewn throughout the star system all transmitted very worrying telemetry.
The fluctuations were so large that they covered the entire star system! They reached such strong levels that no one wasn't sure anymore where the sandman planet would emerge!
The Mech Corps waited with bated breath. The mercenary mech pilots who had come to take part in a historic battle also froze. The sensor readings had already exceeded anything they witnessed in their lives!
They're coming! Wait! They haven't arrived at the front! They're knocking on our rear door!
A surprisingly small sandman amalgamation emerged at the opposite side of the star system!
Everyone was stunned!
This is impossible! FTL isn't supposed to work that way! All of the scout ships were sure the sandman planet traveled straight to Bentheim from Sydney Superior!
Wait! That's not a sandman planet! It's mass and volume are way too small! It's.. it's just a monolith!
The fluctuations hadn't ended though. A few seconds later, a dozen different signals spiked from various edges of the star system.
More sandman monoliths emerged in a direction away from where everyone expected the sandman planet to arrive!
Hundreds of signals spikes. Thousands of signals spiked. Tens of thousands of signals spiked!
Sandman monolith after sandman monolith kept entering the edge of the Bentheim System from every angle! In a matter of minutes, a huge and dispersed ring of sandman monoliths finished their transition back to reality!
A sense of horror dawn on everyone's mind.
The sandmen fooled us! They never intended to attack the Bentheim System as a single, massive planet! They split up their planet at the final leg of the journey and dispersed back into countless smaller units!
Even Captain Orfan lost her confidence. Before the sandman race halted its invasion, it had been doing an excellent job pressuring thousands of star systems at a time.
All of those sandmen fleets had overrun dozens of border states and put another dozen states under an incredible amount of pressure!
Now, the sandmen seemed to have eschewed its strategy of dispersing its strength. Instead, it pooled its sandman fleets together to attack a single star system, but not in the method every human anticipated!
Even the MTA appeared stumped at this new development. Even though its powerful task force was capable of deploying hundreds or thousands of first-class mechs, it was impossible for this force to cover each and every direction!
Looks like this won't be a walk in the park after all! Captain Orfan concluded.
As soon as the sandman monoliths returned to realspace, they all accelerated forward as an indomitable swarm!