The Mech Touch Chapter 489
When the artificial meteorites fell, House Eneqqin unleashed all of its hidden anti-air batteries in Neron City. This enabled the rebels to locate them and neutralize them. The same couldn't be said for the batteries erected by the rebels in secret.
Due to the need for utmost secrecy, the Detemen League only installed a limited amount of turrets in the city. Only a handful of batteries were in range of Lord Javier's flying cockpit at this time.
Laser beams hit the cockpit in an instant, but surprisingly left no mark! The orange energy field enveloping the cockpit prevented any damage from going through!
Missiles soared into the sky after the laser beams puttered out. The rebels launched them out of the few mobile missile platforms in their possession. A larger number of shoulder-launched missiles fired by infantrymen followed suit.
Each of those missiles unerringly hit the cockpit that made no attempt to hide its presence. Even if it wished to deploy any stealth or ECM, the enormous amount of heat released by its boosters and energy field overpowered any attempts at covering it up.
"What does it take to down this cockpit?!" Addy screamed in frustration over the command channel.
"Don't stop hitting it!" Ves urged the rebels. "The cockpit shouldn't possess much of a reserve. It's not as invincible as the Raphael when it was still intact!"
Regardless of his words, the rebels hated the man inside the cockpit so much that they never let up. More and more laser beams struck the energy field while missiles of varying payloads constantly tried to disturb its integrity.
It took some time, but the energy field eventually began to flicker. It had obviously reached the end of its reserves. Only a few more hits would tear apart the cockpit's protective coverage.
"Hold your fire! Don't put anymore missiles in the air!"
Missiles already in the air still slammed into the energy field, but no one launched another salvo. A handful of laser turrets continued to strike the cockpit unerringly. They chipped away at the remnants of the energy field until it finally winked out.
"The cockpit lost its protection! Take down its boosters! Be careful with it, we want him alive!"
The cockpit's exterior was made out of lightweight but highly resilient compressed alloys. This eased the burden on the laser turrets as they accurately took out the vulnerable boosters and anti-grav modules.
With less and less components keeping the cockpit aloft, it slowly plunged towards the ground in a barely-controlled crash.
"Surround the crash site! Don't leave any gaps exposed!"
Ves watched from his terminal as the rebel forces moved in position to surround the projected crash site. Some of their vehicles hurried to keep up with the plunging cockpit.
As the cockpit slammed into an abandoned street and slid forth for a short distance, Ves wondered whether this ordeal would finally be over. As much as he enjoyed being useful, he could have offered the same level of assistance in orbit.
"I'm not cut out for the battlefield."
Though he long shed his innocence, he still disliked being jerked around in places where he shouldn't even be present. "I hope after this, the Flagrant Vandals will take a lengthy vacation."
Once the rebels brought Lord Javier under custody, the Vandals should have nothing left to tie them to this star system.
"There's also their operation in Detemen II."
Though Ves thought that Detemen IV played a vastly more important role, Colonel Lowenfield opted to take charge of the detachment responsible for fulfilling their objectives on Detemen II. He found that to be a very odd decision. Why would the colonel pay so much attention to that smaller, more impoverished planet?
"The only thing of strategic value on that planet is their renewable exotics mine. Even then, it's nothing remarkable. An endless stream of junk exotics isn't anything to get crazy about."
The sad truth about third-rate states was that anything valuable got snatched away by the local hegemons. In the case of the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom, the Friday Coalition often appropriated their treasures under a variety of excuses. Though compared to the Hexadric Hegemony, the Coalition partners at least had the decency to compensate for some of their losses.
The fact that neither the Coalition or the Hegemony snatched the renewable exotics mine from Detemen II should have hammered in the point that it didn't hold too much value.
"Is it the solar foundries that they're after?"
Ves tentatively rejected that possibility. The solar foundries carried the same worth as a large-scale manufacturing complex. They stored a lot of raw and processed materials, but their value was purely economic.
From the start, he always got the sense that the Vandals omitted many details in their operation. From their planning to their objectives, all of it seemed plausible enough to fool the rank and file.
To Ves, the more he witnessed the Vandals and rebels in action, the more he questioned their motives. Assaulting an industrial star system in the middle of an enemy state was almost never done, because most people had the sense to call it crazy.
Even now, at the cusp of success, they still had a long road ahead of them. "We've certainly riled up the entire Kingdom. Let alone Imodris, every other Vesian will be out for our blood."
No matter how he looked at the picture, the risks far outweighed the possible benefits. If the Flagrant Vandals wanted to earn some cash to alleviate their massive debts, they could have invaded an industrial system closer to the border. Imodris sat well past the border regions, and neighbored several other formidable Duchies within the Kingdom.
Getting out of this cordon would test the limits of their trust in the Vesian Revolutionary Front. The Kingdom-wide movement promised to extract the Vandals after they finished their operation, but Ves found it dubious to rely on the rebels to keep their word, especially since they came from opposing states.
"Do the Vandals and the VRF have something in common?"
That was the only theory he could come up with that made some sense, yet he couldn't imagine what it looked like. Just because they shared a common enemy didn't mean they were bosom buddies. At the very least, the Flagrant Vandals must have invested several decades into befriending the VRF.
"Or perhaps it's the other way around."
Maybe the VRF saw the Vandals as a useful cudgel that they could point at their enemies to bludgeon their faces. They certainly did so now in an attempt to win the favor of the Detemen League.
By now, Lord Javier's cockpit came to a stop. Several rebel vehicles flew forward and landed close to the cockpit. Lightly-armored infantrymen surrounded the cockpit with their weapons bared.
One of their cadre moved forward and approached the hatch. "Step out of the cockpit, Lordling! There's nowhere else to go!"
Ten seconds passed by. The cockpit exhibited no activity at all. Its hot shell wafted steam and other matter as it slowly started to cool down.
Commander Breskin forestalled the call to surrender. "Forget about it. It's not in Javier's nature to concede on anything. Proceed with the breach."
Some of the rebel infantrymen approached the steaming cockpit and attached some sort of apparatus against the armored hatch. The device instantly started to burn. This went on for over thirty seconds.
Slowly, a rectangular man-sized hole appeared on the surface of the cockpit. A pair of soldiers grabbed onto the handholds of the apparatus and pulled the rectangular section of alloys away. Another pair of soldiers jumped inside the hole.
Seconds later, they conveyed an alarming piece of news.
"Lord Javier is absent!"
Ves and the commanding officers of the rebels patched into the sensor feed of the soldiers inside the cramped cockpit. They ignored the luxurious interior and focused their gazes on the burning hole that ran through the floor of the cockpit and reached past the street. The hole reached all the way into the tunnel underneath the street.
"His cockpit possesses an emergency underground boring system!" Addy spoke. "He snuck away while we were waiting for him to surrender!"
"What are you waiting for?! Get after him!" Commander Breskin barked. "Keep up the cordon and extend our perimeter to the drainage system underneath the streets. While you're at it, deploy every anti-stealth measures that we have on hand! He couldn't have snuck under our noses without employing some sort of stealth system."
Everyone on the field scrambled to track down the elusive bastard. Several rebel specialists jumped down the hole inside the cockpit and activated specialized tracking devices that could magnify even the smallest traces.
"The trail is faint, but he's heading west!"
This prompted the rebels to deploy a special canister. Once thrown, the device stopped in mid-air and dispersed coarse particles in the air. These particles floated in the air for minutes at a time and looked very distinctive. Anything that passed through would immediately stir up the particles, exposing anyone trying to sneak past the affected area.
It was an extremely low-tech solution to a high-tech means of evasion. Despite the simplicity of the idea, it was very reliable when deployed in a smaller area as long as the search parties brought enough canisters.
The rebels didn't expect their target to be stupid enough to stumble into the particle fields. Instead, they formed a cordon of particles in a loose circle surrounding the cockpit crash site.
After they deployed the first wave of canisters, the rebels tightened the circle and deployed another wave of canisters. This would go on until they uncovered their target or met each other at the center.
The people on the ground also utilized other methods to track down Lord Javier. For example, the trackers in the drainage tunnel followed the faint trails that Javier's stealth system hadn't been able hide.
"Keep an eye on the particles! He won't be able to bypass them, but he might attempt to mold his suit behind an obstacle. Double-check each surface if you have to!"
As Ves watched the rebels trying to sniff out their fleeing prey, he began to frown a bit. Most of the rebels believed that Lord Javier might have nowhere else to go, but he didn't believe that the man would be so easily caught. After witnessing so many of his tricks, Ves kept getting the feeling that they overlooked something important.
His brain churned as various ideas flitted past his mind. He tried to put himself in Javier's boots. A frightening possibility emerged in his mind. Though he lacked the proof to back his assertions, he nonetheless felt it was important enough to inform the rebels.
Ves switched into the command channel. "Commander, Addy, don't put too much stock on the trail! I would bet a billion sovvies that the trail in the tunnel is a decoy!"
"So you believe he climbed back to ground level?" Addy asked with a fair amount of skepticism in her tone. "Even if he snuck back onto the streets, he won't be able to evade our particle emissions."
"The particle clouds won't do a thing to Javier because they only float up to five meters in the air! Think! Does Javier lack any means to float into the air?! I believe he's trying to fly away under stealth right this instant! He's laughing at us while we toil on the ground!"
"I believe you." Breskin responded. He hardly hesitated in believing this possibility. "We've borrowed much of our tracking methods from the instruction manuals of the auxiliary regiments. Lord Javier would certainly take into account that we would deploy these methods beforehand and plan ahead."
Still, even if they suspected that he was getting away in the air, they didn't possess enough canisters to cover the entire airspace in the area surrounding the downed cockpit.
They could either deploy their limited canisters in a limited volume of space above the ground, or continue their sweep on the ground. They couldn't pursue both options at the same time, not without bringing additional canisters stored back in base!
By the time they transported the extra canisters to the area, Lord Javier might have gotten away already!