The moment the three pirate-affiliated expert mechs moved into action, the rest of their ilk regained their courage.
Unless an ace or god pilot came along, expert mech pilots enjoyed an unparallelled amount of regard.
Their presence alone lifted up the pirates and depressed their opponents.

Ghanso Larkinson shivered as his memories cast back at the time when he almost died to an expert mech.
Of the three incoming mechs, he recognized one of them as the foreign-owned swordsman mech.

As a light mech, the sophisticated swordsman mech excelled in both speed and offense.
It was a one-trick pony that relied on its devastating speed to slice apart any mech in its way and avoid anything that posed a threat.

Right now, that light mech took a backseat to the rifleman mech at the center of their formation.
The expert rifleman pilot had already begun to shoot at the Mech Corps with his precision focused laser rifle.

Even at such a ludicrous distance, the expert marksman never failed to miss a target.
To consistently hit mechs after mechs when it moved so fast was a testament to the pilot ’s skill and the mech ’s advanced targeting technologies.

”Get your heads back together, men! ” One of their commanding officer spoke over the channel.
”Expert mechs aren ’t invincible.
They can be damaged, hindered and deterred just like any other mech! Pirate experts are the lowest of the low.
They have forsaken all of their honor and dignity to pursue scraps of wealth.
They are nothing compared to our conviction! We are the Volari Starhawks! We are the spaceborn might of the Republic! ”

”For the Republic! ”

”For the Starhawks! ”

”Down with the pirate experts! ”

Somehow, Ghanso got caught up in the excitement.
His fears faded away once he realized he had thousands of brothers and sisters at his side.
”Experts can go toe-to-toe against a hundred mechs, but fighting thousands at once is a tall order even for them.
We have our own experts as well! ”

Half of the Starhawks split up to deter the other pirates with long-ranged fire, while the remaining half tried to stall the approaching experts.
Ghanso tried to recall his anti-expert training.

”Spaceborn expert mechs are fast and durable no matter their weight-class.
As wasteful as it sounds like, the best way to prevent them from acting with impunity is to throw as much firepower in their direction as possible. ”

Many squads already started spraying their rifles and cannons in the direction of the experts.
Unfortunately, the trio ’s space knight flew forward and deployed a rectangular tower shield that extended into a half-dome after deploying extendable side plates.
The entire shield also started glowing as some kind of energy screen set in.

”Flank the experts but watch your firing lines! Follow your assigned plots! ”

More than a thousand mechs dispersed into a sphere that tried to envelop the incoming expert mechs.
Despite the naked challenge, the pirate experts refused to be cowed by such tricks.
They slammed head-long into the sphere.
Dozens of mechs blew up to accurate high-powered laser fire and thunderous sword strokes.

”Open fire according to your sequence! ”

The mechs that made up the sphere fired their weapons as soon as they received a special signal.
Enough mechs fired at the same time to pressure the enveloped experts from each direction.
They only stopped firing when the signal went out, which usually happened if they risked hitting a friendly mech on the other side of the sphere.

Though accidents occasionally happened, the tactic produced solid results.
The expert space knight tried and failed to cover the expert rifleman mech.
As one of the more fragile expert mechs, the rifleman mech started to sustain significant damage to its rear armor.

However, its rear armor ’s toughness still surpassed the frontal armor of a regular heavy mech.
The rifleman mech didn ’t go down that easily.

In the meantime, the swordsman mech diverged from its comrades and started to assail the sphere with constant high-speed passes.
Each time the expert light mech passed a mech, its swords managed to bisect them in two.

Many of the mechs that tried to target the light mech failed to land a hit.
The mech was so remarkably fast and agile that even a hundred mechs failed to land a blow through saturation fire.
The expert pilot skillfully moved his finely-tuned machine like an acrobat that always managed to find the tiniest gap in the volleys thrown in his way.

”This slippery bastard! ” Ghanso cursed at Old Man Alex ’s killer.
He had no idea why this foreign expert sided with the pirates, but he promised to himself that he wouldn ’t let this expert get away with his slaughtering this time.
”Die! ”

His Vhedra took up a stationary position in space, which turned him into a sitting duck.
However, only by reducing all of his frame ’s movement-related vibrations to a minimum could he ensure the highest accuracy.

”I can do this.
I hit him once, I can hit him again. ”

The last time he scored a hit, the light mech charged at him head-on.
It didn ’t require too much technique to land a lucky hit.

This time was different because the expert flew back and forth throughout the sphere formation.
Ghanso had to tilt his rifle in much greater angles in order draw a bead on the light mech.

As he tried to gain a feel for the light mech ’s dodging patterns, he dialed up his laser rifle ’s power to the maximum.
A regular medium-powered laser beam didn ’t cut it against this opponent.
Even an expert light mech boasted enough armor to put an advanced medium knight to shame.

Once his mech received permission to fire, Ghanso pulled the trigger.

The laser beam went wide! It missed the light mech by more than ten meters due to the expert pilot ’s abrupt maneuvers.
The beam instantly travelled onwards into deep space for many light-seconds, growing ever wider until it scattered out of focus.

”Damn it! ”

The previous time he hit the light mech turned out to be a fluke.
Still, Ghanso tried to regain his calm and returned to his sniper state.

By now, the light mech destroyed seventeen mechs in a row.
Fortunately, the expert pilot never deviated from his targets once he began his approach, so many of unlucky mech pilots ejected early.

Nevertheless, the Volari Starhawks kept getting chewed with hardly any results in return.
The laser rifleman covered by the space knight continued to disable mech after mech with his lance-like laser beams that burned straight through compressed armor with each shot.

Ghanso took a deep breath and focused on landing his second shot.
Once he pulled the trigger, his beam missed again, but only by five meters this time.

”So close! ”

He made the right prediction this time, but his mech failed to keep its rifle steady.
His nerves grew increasingly frayed as he checked the heat levels of his rifle.

He specifically applied to wield this model.
It boasted a vastly higher maximum output capacity at the cost of generating an extreme amount of heat.
His rifle could only take three more shots before it automatically entered a forced cooldown cycle.

”I ’ve got three more chances. ” Ghanso gritted his teeth and aimed again.
This time, he didn ’t take as long to draw a bead as he grew increasingly familiar with the light mech ’s movement patterns.

This time, a sharp red beam emerged from his rifle and managed to score a glancing blow at the light mech ’s left foot.

It barely scorched the armor.
The expert pilot basically ignored Ghanso ’s attack and kept focusing on decimating his nearby opponents.

”Don ’t ignore me! ” Ghanso uttered and fired off another shot propelled by his anger.

Whether he lucked out or not, the second beam impacted the railings of the light mech ’s flight systems.
The mech instantly ceased its attack run and whirled away its sword into a different direction.

The sword top pointed straight at Ghanso, as if the pilot had marked him for death.
With a blast, the light mech entered into its high-speed mode straight towards Ghanso ’s Vhedra in a comet-like approach.

The expert came for Ghanso ’s head!

”Even as his squad leader yelled at him to eject, Ghanso kept his mech in place and aimed his almost-overheated rifle at the incoming comet.
His eyes twitched as he cast his mind completely into his mech.

He stroked the mental trigger of his rifle, spitting out one, final beam.

Though the light mech barrel rolled aside at the last moment, Ghanso incredibly predicted the expert ’s split-second movement and struck the light mech ’s face head-on with a high-powered laser.

This time, the expert mech suffered a substantial blow, as its head enjoyed much less armor than its other parts.
Even though the damage was largely cosmetic, Ghanso had literally slapped the expert mech ’s face.

The uber-fast light mech bayed for his blood.

Ghanso knew he pissed off the light mech for sure.
He switched off all of his communication channels, which stopped the incessant calls to eject.
”It ’s useless to eject.
He ’ll chase after my cockpit and slice it apart. ”

In effect, he cut off his own escape route.
He was fine with that.
As the light mech neared his position, he grew increasingly excited.
His warrior ’s blood called to him to meet the swordsman mech in earnest.

The Vhedra mech threw away its useless overheated rifle and let it drift away in space.
Instead, it pulled out one single backup knife from its sheath.

The cheap, standard-alloy knife looked pitiful compared to the majestic sword in the light mech ’s hands.
Ghanso ’s knife incorporated just enough low-quality exotic to hold up against compressed armor, if barely.

”I ’ll have to aim for its weak points.
Stabbing its chest or back is useless. ”

Ghanso ignored the ridiculous thought of fending off an expert swordsman mech with an ordinary knife.
Even as his death had become a near-certainty, his overwhelming hatred against the foreign expert reached a blinding height.

As the light mech rapidly surged towards the Vhedra, Ghanso closed his eyes and opened them to reveal his burning conviction.

”For the Republic! ”

His weak Vhedra mech surged forth.
Everything about his spaceborn mech had been optimized for ranged combat.
His mech ’s own sluggishness provided an incredibly sharp contrast against the incoming light mech that was seconds away from slicing it in half.

”Come on! I can take you on! ”

At the final second, just as Ghanso secretly resigned himself to death, a blazing hot jet of flames passed over his Vhedra ’s head.
The light mech had barreled straight towards Ghanso ’s mech with its full momentum pressing forward.

Even though it rolled aside at the very last moment, half of the mech suffered heavy burns from the extremely jet of flames.

Ghanso ’s communicator suddenly surged to life.
An external override had forcibly connected it to a private channel.
”You did good, kid, but that ’s no reason to throw away your life.
Pull back and rejoin your squad.
Leave the rest to me. ”

An orange striker mech flew past the paralyzed Vhedra ’s position and began to chase the alarmed enemy swordsman mech.

As a bona fide soldier of the Mech Corps, Ghanso knew each and every expert pilot by name and mech.
He recognized the orange striker as the characteristic Fire Worm.

Venerable Stanton Drake had saved his life!

Just as Ghanso came to terms with that fact, his attention turned to the battle at hand.
Two other expert mechs had joined Venerable Drake in occupying the enemy expert mechs.
At this stage, any help from the Volari Starhawks did more harm than good, as they could easily hit their own experts as they engaged in close-quarters combat with the enemy elites.

Therefore, Ghanso and the rest received orders to disengage from the sphere formation and rejoin the larger battle against the hordes of regular pirates.

As Ghanso unwillingly turned the Vhedra away, he kept glancing over to the duel between Venerable Drake and the enemy swordsman mech.

It was no contest, really.
Striker mechs always countered melee mechs.
This basic rule held true on land as much as in space.
Every time the expert light mech tried to approach the Fire Worm, Venerable Drake spat out another deadly jet of highly potent flames.

The light mech lacked the capacity to suffer many blows from the intense heat.
Its inability to take the flames head on constrained the expert mech to such an extent it had turned into a whipped dog.

Even as the light mech tried to disengage from the striker, the Fire Worm aggressively chased after the foreign mech.

The wide area of its jets of flames gave the light mech a lot of grief.
Unlike a laser beam which only required a minor bump to dodge, the wider flames forced it to go through extreme lengths to escape its area of effect.

As Ghanso came off his high, he shook his head in disappointment.
The light mech still possessed the edge in speed, so it would likely be able to shrug off the Fire Worm eventually.

Experts rarely perished in battle.

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