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The ripples from the wedding between Ves and Gloriana faded. As much as this glamorous event captured the imagination of the public, people's memories were short.
To many ordinary citizens, the affairs of the rich and powerful were too far away. Life went on and neither the Miracle Couple nor the LMC exerted any direct influence on their ordinary civilian lives.
That did not apply to everyone. The products of the LMC became increasingly more popular throughout the region.
The Komodo Star Sector was its home market. Yet the availability of LMC mechs was not uniform.
One half of the star sector was devoid of these distinct machines. The Friday Coalition completely banned the use of LMC mechs.
This was not an unusual rule in itself. The Coalition already banned the use of mechs designed by Hexers or anyone aligned to them. However, a lot of avid customers were forced to relinquish their precious mechs.
The Desolate Soldier and its variants, which played a major role in the Sand War, no longer showed up in the Bright Republic and the Ylvaine Protectorate. A lot of states that relied heavily on Ves and Gloriana's work became closed to the LMC.
That did not apply to the other half of the star sector. The lesser states that fell within the Hexer sphere of influence did not receive any prohibitions against using LMC mechs. Their local governments were free to decide whether they wished to allow the LMC to expand their business operations in their mech markets.
Most of them did. The LMC may not be a part of their domestic mech industry, but the comprehensive value of its products was undeniable!
At this time, the LMC's product catalog consisted of a handful of third-class mechs.
Despite the lack of choice, a lot of the offerings were very compelling to many customers.
The Desolate Soldier model was the original bestseller of the LMC. It sold over a million copies during the Sand War and continued to sell millions more as the mech company expanded its reach across other star sectors.
From a performance standpoint, the Desolate Soldier and its variants was not that stellar. The lastgen model was dated and did not take advantage of the innovations of the latest generation. Its design was optimized for use against the sandmen and did not fare as well as other competing models when fighting against mechs.
What was even worse for the LMC was that its product margin was abysmally low. The large number of intermediaries involved in the production, distribution and sale of the mech model all took a cut of the earnings.
By the time the remaining profits trickled into the coffers of the LMC, perhaps only 50,000 hex credits remained out of the 600,000 hex credits the customer had paid!
Despite all of these shortcomings, plenty of customers in the surrounding regions continued to purchase the Desolate Soldier in greater numbers. Not only that, but the cheaper and less robust Prideful Soldier sold in great quantities as well!
Their glows were just too good. The duty-based glow of the Desolate Soldier was useful for law enforcement, militaries, mercenary corps, security companies and more customers. Everyone except pirates derived a lot of value from leveraging this morale-sustaining glow!
If not for the low profits per sale, the sales of the Desolate Soldier could have financed all of the Larkinson Clan's capital ship expenditures for the next decade!
The Aurora Titan failed to match the grandeur of the Desolate Soldier. Its extreme specs and its incredibly unwieldy handling turned it into a very niche product.
The rise of Venerable Jannzi Larkinson hardly boosted sales of this defensive space knight. Not even the growing reputation of Ves or the expanding reach of the LMC boosted sales that much.
Many Larkinsons within the LMC considered the Aurora Titan to be a flop. It wasn't even worth it to include the mech model in the company's product catalog anymore.
The Doom Guard was the second bestseller of the LMC. The striker mech possessed almost as many shortcomings as the Aurora Titan, but its glow was much more useful in combat.
It was a pity the Doom Guard underwent some changes. Its glow had changed characteristics, causing it to form a disorienting glow that disabled anyone who entered its range. This was a bit more difficult to take advantage of than scaring enemies away.
Sales of the Doom Guard were trending downwards for this reason. The release of a new mech model accelerated the striker mech's decline.
Compared to the Doom Guard, the Ferocious Piranha presented an all-around improvement. While it was a very different mech type, the Ferocious Piranha nonetheless captured the hearts of many mech buyers!
In the middle of an asteroid belt in Vicious Mountain, a squad of twelve Ferocious Piranha swooped forth!
A mercenary corps called the Thermal Ants accepted a mission to take down a pirate gang that was nestled within an empty star system.
While the pirates had hidden themselves well, somehow they exposed their whereabouts.
"Damnit! Who betrayed us?! Who sold us out?!"
"It's bad, boss! We need to run straight away!"
"There's no running from those light mechs. Our only choice is to fight!"
The pirates deploy a ragged swarm of 37 mechs. This was actually quite a respectable number for a simple pirate gang.
The Ferocious Piranhas clearly captured the emissions from the pirate mechs. Under ordinary circumstances, it was impossible for 12 light mechs to defeat twice their number.
While the quality and condition of the pirate mechs were horrible, their numerical superiority couldn't be overcome so easily!
The ranged pirate mechs began to fire at the light skirmishers. Unfortunately for them, the battlefield was not conducive to ranged combat.
The light skirmishers skillfully weaved through the attacks. They also made sure to take cover behind as many asteroids as possible.
With the abysmal marksmanship of the pirates, there was no hope of landing more than a few coincidental strikes!
The few laser beams that managed to strike the Ferocious Piranhas hardly left more than a shallow scorching scar. The thin but premium armor gave the Piranhas a lot more protection than other light mechs.
"Stop firing!" The pirate commander yelled. "Get back and give us some covering fire. Stay on guard against any other enemies creeping up on us from behind. There was no way the light skirmishers came alone!"
The pirates all thought the light skirmishers merely served as scouts for a greater force of mercenary mechs. They didn't expect an immediate confrontation as the pirates ought to be strong enough to make the mercenary light mechs pay if they approached.
Yet as the Ferocious Piranhas continued to advance, the pirates became confused.
Were these light mechs actually going on the attack?
The pirate commander grew furious! Just because the incoming light mechs looked a bit fancier than usual didn't mean they were qualified to challenge his mechs!
"These mercs consider us trash. Prove them wrong! Attack these idiotic scouts! As long as we crush them all, we can slip away unnoticed!"
That invigorated the other pirates. The pirate melee mechs surged forward.
Surprisingly, the mercenary light mechs did not veer away! Instead, as the range rapidly closed, their mech pilots each turned a mental dial.
Invisible fields formed around the light skirmishers. The mech pilots hardly felt anything different as their mechs wrapped a protective shield around their minds and the minds of their battle comrades.
With this essential protection in place, the light mech pilots continued to urge their mechs to advance.
Eventually, the two sides came within striking distance!
Shortly before the melee mechs were able to exchange blows, an enormous change took place.
The moment the Ferocious Piranhas came near, every single pirate mech froze or jerked out of control!
Some mechs flung their weapons away as their arms and fingers convulsed.
Other mechs locked up as their mech pilots became completely unresponsive.
Only half-a-dozen mechs managed to avoid the affliction that had overcome the other mechs. Yet even though the pirate commander and some of his oldest veterans managed to stay in control, their minds came under incredible strain!
"What is this!?"
"My meds! Where are my meds!"
The pirate commander felt wild and excited at one moment, only to be doused in ice as a wave of calm forced him out of his high. Before he could even begin to get used to his new state, the wave of aggression came back just a second later!
There wasn't enough time for him to adjust!
"Pull… back. Retreat. Don't let these mercs get close!"
The pirate ranged mechs overloaded their laser rifles in order to scare off the incoming light mechs. Even if most of their shots missed their marks, their increased rate of fire caused at least some beams to strike the Ferocious Piranhas.
Their attacks had no effect!
The light skirmishers rapidly closed in on the vanguard of the out-of-control mechs. The Ferocious Piranhas rapidly stabbed their daggers in the unprotected backs of their vulnerable targets.
Twelve pirate mechs lost functionality!
If two stabs didn't do the job, then four, six, eight or more attacks would do. Since the pirate mech pilots afflicted by the Ferocious Piranhas glow were unable to focus on piloting their mechs, their machines turned into sitting ducks.
What horrified the pirates even more was that the disabled mech pilots weren't even capable of ejecting their cockpits.
"Noo! Retreat! Don't fight these weird mechs!"
It was too late. The moment the light skirmishers entered their midst, the pirates had already lost their chance.
The light skirmishers split into two. Six Ferocious Piranhas rapidly closed in on the ranged mechs that were taking potshots at them. The other six continued to suppress the disabled pirate mechs until they were able to take their helpless targets down.
The pirate commander and his confidantes no longer thought about saving their buddies. They struggled to pilot their mechs away.
The wily pirates wordlessly split in different directions. In situations like this, grouping up only made it easier for their opponents to mop them up! The pirate commander gritted his teeth.
Even though fleeing in different directions was a good tactic to adopt, it wasn't the right response this time.
"You fools! We could have taken one of these light skirmishers down if we joined hands."
It didn't take a lot of time for the Ferocious Piranhas to mop up all of the disabled mechs. Soon enough, the light skirmishers split up in order to pursue the fleeing pirate mechs.
As the pirates largely made use of shabby-looking medium mechs, there was no hope of outrunning their pursuers.
It only took less than a minute for the Ferocious Piranhas to catch up to their prey!
"If you want to take us down, then you'll have to work for it!" The pirate commander roared!
His swordsman mech no longer flew away. Instead, the mech arced around in order to charge straight at one of the two Ferocious Piranhas on its tail!
Yet as soon as the pirate commander came close, his mind once again came under the effect of the Ferocious Piranha's glow!
While the pirate mech still closed in for the attack, its movements weren't as fluid as before. The pirate commander's battle effectiveness effectively dropped by 30 percent, which was a huge margin in battle.
The targeted light skirmisher easily dodged the pirate mech's sword strike. As soon as the sword swooped past, the swift light mech boosted forward and struck its daggers deep into the weak points of its target.
Just a second later, the second Ferocious Piranha struck the back with a flurry of stabs, causing the flight system and several other vital systems to lose power!
The pirate commander despaired as his cockpit lost most of its functioning. These new light mechs completely crushed his pirate gang without giving his men any opportunity to show their strength.
"What horrible new mech is this?!"
He was just the first of many mech pilots that fell victim to the latest carnivores of the battlefield!
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