ILLI was content with the results of the scouting mission and especially the initiative taken therein. Moreover, the repaired assets of Iron Pulse, Trident and Shadow Flare were securing the city, and while any large-scale conflict was being avoided, things were going relatively well.
There was an ongoing discussion of whether to attack now, or wait until further repairs. In about five days, the Erebos's orbit would be direcly overhead and there would be direct orbital reconnissance for a brief moment, which would set up a great timing and give a definite advantage, but at the same time, Teask-Dumar would have a chance to dig in and prepare for the conflict.
The discussion did not get very far, however, as pretty much all of the mercenary commanders were running their backup gear on fumes, and were as desperate for downtime as the enemy. Only Trident and Black Nebula were somewhat battle-worthy, but our players were lacking parts to repair their mechs and knew that should they move now, they would have to choose a very suboptimal set of materiel. Weighing all these considerations, waiting for the Erebos flyover seemed self-evident.
Waiting, however, allowed for a chance of almost full resupply for the attacking forces. It was decided that the third army needed relief the most, so the captured orbital factories would drop parts and replacements to the southwest and deliver them to the north by train, whencefrom a truck convoy would take them the last stretch, as the railway to the south of Feoul was still under enemy control. Along with several units from the other mercenary companies, two of the intact mechs from Black Nebula, namely Jiira's Jagermech and Günther's Marauder, would don an anti-aircraft loadout, rendervouz with the convoy and escort it to safety. The rest of the forces would try to maintain the contain of the fortress and the palace, so that the enemy could only attack by air.
The plan seemed foolproof, but as usual, execution did not end up being that easy. For some reason, the enemy attacked with almost a perfect counter considering what it could muster, as in an isolated stretch of hilly desert about a hundred kilometers away from the target, the convoy was ambushed by a large number of hovertanks, which had apparently slipped away undetected from the south. Fortunately for the defenders, the hovertanks' armor tended to be thin and easily pierced, and as such vulnerable to the same rapid-fire and cluster weaponry used to deter aircraft, but the fight was too close for comfort regardless, especially considering the crucial importance of the resupply. A bit too far from base and soon harassed by enemy fighters, any patrolling ILLI air assets were also of limited use. Jiira and Günther stood their ground, however, and used the hilly terrain to their advantage while trying to deny the enemy any flanking opportunities. For the third time in a row, the underwhelming and low-tech mech Jiira had managed to salvage, performed exceptionally well and saved the day, while Günthers ride was crippled, losing its side torso and most of its weapons.
The fight prompted the arrival of some reinforcements from the second army just in case, but another attack never came. However, the convenient timing and asset selection of the ambush made one wonder about the possible implications, and especially Heem-Lyeh became convinced that their plans were being leaked, prompting him to go over his information security measures once again. Also, speaking of espionage, Alexander's man-in-the-middle plant brought some fruit. Amid messages and connections from unrelated and unimportant sources, he caught a catalog of losses incurred during Teask-Dumar's initial invasion phase of the war, which gave some insight into the possible ultimate strength of their opponent and allowed Alexander to make some guesses about the amount of production capacity Teask-Dumar still possessed in Outlier. What's more interesting, it detailed the losses Teask-Dumar had suffered against pirates in the belt, which made the players re-evaluate the role of this wild card, as they had assumed most of the pirates were working with or for the enemy.
As customary for Alexander, however, he chose not to share this information with ILLI immediately, and was considering its value as the final preparations for the assault were being made. Everybody was doing the best they could and Jiira was working around the clock, while especially Charles and Ivan were considering options from the left field by plannign minefield positioning and creating improvised LRM carriers from the convoy trucks. Whether that would even work, remained to be seen.