Captain Melinda Larkinson gritted her teeth as the empty void of space lit up by a multitude of lasers.
Since no mech was stupid enough to employ lasers against the sandmen, only the enemy utilized this method of attack!
When she took in the overall battle situation, her heart chilled.
Two huge spherical monoliths dauntlessly pressed forward.
If that was it, then the defense force could have bombarded their huge surface areas with impunity.
The problem was that a huge swarm of sandman drones surrounded the monoliths!
An estimated twelve to fifteen sandman admirals led this huge fleet, causing the higher ups to dispatch at least several mech regiments and auxiliary forces to meet this incoming threat!
While the power of so many mechs and starfighters was terrible, the sandmen did not go down without a fight!
Explosive shells and kinetic rounds slammed against the monoliths on a continuous basis.
Compared to the swift and agile sandman drones, the monoliths were so big that it was impossible for a mech to miss their shots!
However, half-a-dozen rods sticking out of the monoliths accumulated energy regardless of how much damage the monolith sustained.
Even if a couple of salvos of concentrated fire managed to break one of the rods, the other rods finished their accumulation and discharged a very powerful laser beam that was equivalent in power to warship armament!
No standard mech could ever output so much energy in such a devastating laser beam!
The worst part about the laser beams was that the monoliths didn\'t waste their awesome firepower on the mechs.
Instead, they targeted the carriers flying in the rear!
Due to the need to resupply exhausted mechs and take in ejected cockpits, the ships couldn\'t be too far away from the battle.
Each heavy laser beam struck a deep groove in the surfaces of the heavily-armored combat carriers.
While the integrity of the carriers weren\'t affected, it was not very easy to repair the battle damage!
Due to the scarcity of exotics, the Bright Republic simply couldn\'t afford to waste so many resources on repairing combat carriers.
The best the Mech Corps and the Starfighter Corps could do was fill up the gaps with cheaper and more inferior armor plating.
In such a costly situation, the carriers should have withdrawn further away.
However, due to the accuracy of the lasers against large objects, the distance needed to dodge the heavy laser beams was too unreasonable! A distance of hundreds of thousands of kilometers meant that mechs and starfighters would have to exhaust a lot of energy or waste a lot of time by coasting on a ballistic trajectory in order to intercept the sandman fleet.
In addition, the monoliths did not possess a single mode of attack.
If the sandman admirals detected that no ship was in range, the monoliths would immediately retract the large rods and form thousands smaller ones instead to target the small craft!
In such a situation, the casualties among mechs and starfighters would surely grow exponentially worse!
Therefore, the generals in charge of the war theater made the difficult decision to use the combat carriers as bait.
Even though repeated exposure to heavy laser strikes would surely consume the combat carriers, they were just ships!
Unless armed with shipboard weapons, the carriers could not stop the sandmen by themselves!
At this moment, ships were valuable, but effective combat units were even more valuable!
As long as the Bright Republic still fielded mechs, it still had hope of winning the war!
As an officer of the Planetary Guard, Melinda knew all of this.
She had no choice but to accept this situation despite knowing how big of a price the Bright Republic would have to pay afterwards.
Her modified Desolate Soldier continued to fire its Sandbreaker rifle at one of the monoliths, which rapidly lost a lot of mass due to all of the damage it endured.
However, most of the damage only affected the exterior shells of the monoliths.
So long as the center of the huge amalgamations remained untouched, it took far too much effort to destroy the monolith!
That was because all of the sandman admirals hid in the core portion!
The second-generation starfighters that screened the mechs couldn\'t handle so much overwhelming firepower! Despite their heavier armor, the sheer amount of sandman drones rapidly ate away at these slower-moving small craft!
This was the downside of targeting the monoliths first.
The amount of sandman drones hadn\'t diminished at all, which meant that their effective combat strength against mechs and starfighters still remained intact!
The strategy adopted by the defense force was very clear.
The generals would rather sacrifice the combat carriers and the starfighters in order to preserve as much mechs as possible.
Melinda\'s heart bled as she saw hundreds of starfighters and their pilots succumbing against the sandman drones in just a single minute!
Fortunately, the designers of the second-generation starfighters managed to improve the ejection system of these fighter models.
Their thicker armor gave the starfighters a longer buffer to eject.
The decision to eject had largely been automated.
So long as the starfighter detected that it was reaching its limit, it would automatically eject its pilot without any further delay!
As for letting the starfighter pilots decide themselves whether they should eject, that option had been removed in the second generation starfighters.
Too many starfighter pilots would not hesitate to eject immediately as long as their craft suffered a single scratch!
For this reason, the decision to eject had been taken away from their hands, which deeply disconcerted Melinda.
To her, it was one thing to answer the call of duty.
It was another thing to be forced into duty!
Is this really the Bright Republic I know and love She whispered to herself.
Though she understood the merits of these decisions, morally she found the desperation exhibited by her home state to be more and more abhorrent.
A part of her would rather see the Bright Republic fall than to let it continue its existence through dishonorable means!
That was what her Larkinson blood and heritage compelled her to think!
She firmly shook her head.
What am I thinking! There are trillions of innocent lives at stake!
The Bright Republic may have made a devil\'s bargain, but it was for a good cause.
Hundreds of occupied star systems were in danger of being engulfed if the fighting forces weren\'t able to block the sandman advance!
When so many innocent lives were at stake, Melinda couldn\'t bring herself to blame the higher ups for their callous commands.
As Melinda grappled with her morality, Raella was having the time of her life!
Come on, you bastards! You call yourselves Blood Claws! Hit harder! Fire faster! Don\'t think of retreating until your ammunition stores run dry!
Yes, Blood Champion!
Inwardly, she sneered.
As one of the premier underground organizations on Bentheim, the Blood Claws never hired incompetents.
Yet those who applied to work for gangs were never the cream of the crop.
The fact that she rose up the ranks so quickly was because she was one of the few who received excellent systematic training.
Compared to real Larkinsons, the rank-and-file of the Blood Claws were nothing more than thugs who happened to be a bit better than usual.
If not because her standing in the organization relied on how many subordinates she brought back alive, she would have let them fend for themselves.
As it was, she needed to babysit them every once in a while.
Fortunately, ever since the Blood Claws began to field the Prideful Soldiers en masse, it became a lot easier to compel them to fight!
Different from the solemn, duty-minded glows of the Desolate Soldiers, the Prideful Soldiers instead inspired courage and aggression.
Oh, there were definitely some similarities between the two.
However, she vastly preferred the Prideful Soldiers because of the way it got her blood pumping.
Not only her, but every other mech pilot became eager for blood!
Kill! Kill! Kill!
Hah! This monolith is a sitting duck!
Though the Blood Claw detachment only contributed a marginal amount of firepower, the intense battle stoked the confidence of every mech pilot under Raella\'s command!
Before they knew it, a series of shining projectiles slammed in the cavity that had been dug by countless hits.
The extraordinary rounds penetrated even deeper until they exploded in radiant fury!
The monolith is dead!
Every mech pilot cheered at the fall of the monolith, whether they were mercenaries, soldiers or irregulars.
They knew that the expert pilots had finally made their moves!
Only a few didn\'t join the cheers.
Raella\'s eyes darkened a bit.
Some people are born lucky.
While she was already fortunate to possess the right genetic aptitude to pilot mechs, she saw no hope of going further.
No matter how hard she trained, she never experienced any of the signs that foretold that she was close to reaching an expert candidate.
This was one of her hidden regrets.
Her fellow cousins like Ghanso and Porellia had become the stars of their generation.
They were destined to become the mainstays of the Larkinson Family.
As for an outcast like Raella, she would only be able to live a relatively mundane existence barring anything exceptional taking place.
She knew that mech pilots tended to reach the next stage when stimulated in battle.
The more desperate, the greater they drew out their potential!
One of the reasons why she didn\'t object to fighting the sandmen despite piloting a flimsy Prideful Soldier was because she needed to face the danger head-on! Not even the most challenging mech duels she fought made her feel that death was as close as facing the sandmen!
Instead of feeling fear, her boiling Larkinson blood only made her more daring in the face of a mortal threat!
Come! She exuberantly roared! I\'ll kill you all before you manage to kill me! This is my promise!
Though she had missed participating in the most recent Bright-Vesia War, the Sand War had come at a good time for her! She could fight to her heart\'s content, and be rewarded for her courage!
The second monolith fell soon afterwards.
Though the starfighter screen had diminished enormously, most mechs were still intact despite expending more than half of their ammunition reserves.
Some mechs had even shot their magazines dry!
Nevertheless, there was enough ammunition left to diminish the sandman swarm! Even as the alien drones started to pick off numerous mechs, their rapidly-declining numbers constantly lessened the rate of casualties among the defenders.
Among the forces wiping out the sandman drones, the Blood Claws under the command of Raella distinguished themselves by exhibiting more bravery than many mercenaries!
One of the big reasons for that was the constant encouragement provided by the glows of their Prideful Soldiers!
Though her unit started to suffer some casualties, Raella completely forgot about her orders to safeguard the lives of her subordinates.
Killing the sandmen came with its own rewards! The Bright Republic awarded rich bounties for every confirmed kill! Otherwise, the private outfits would never fight as vigorously as now!
Hahahaha! Is that all you got, you pieces of sand! This isn\'t enough!
As Raella became more consumed in slaughtering the sandmen, she began to align herself more with the Prideful Soldier\'s glow.
Her inner pride and her fighting spirit made her more receptive to its glow, resulting in a subtle, unknown interaction.
Though she wasn\'t the only one to echo with the glow of her mech, she happened to enjoy the strongest feedback from her mech for some reason!
Many light-years away, on a desolate moon-sized rock floating in the Nyxian Gap, a very exceptional-looking tiger mech jerked for a brief moment.
Inside the cockpit, Ryncol Larkinson blanked out for a bit.
What was that He whispered.
The strange sensation had come and gone in an instant.
After several minutes of pausing, he shrugged off the incident and resumed sneaking his Devil Tiger up to a hidden pirate base.
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