of the government are in cahoots with the attackers. ”

”So we should let the attackers go? ”

”I ’m not saying that.
We should simply ensure that we should not be the ones who launch the first attack.
As long as we can get the other party to do so, we ’ll be justified in our reprisal. ”

Nitaa disagreed.
”I don ’t think that excuse will necessarily hold up.
Aggressive posturing is a naked provocation.
If the attackers are smart enough, they ’ll know what we are up to and will withhold their fire in order to prove they aren ’t related to any assassination attempts. ”

”Hahaha! That ’s not going to be a problem! My Battle Criers will make sure the hidden mechs will attack first.
You can trust my word on this, sir! ”

Though Ves was inclined to do so, Nitaa held another concern.

”There ’s another problem, sir.
If we allocate all of the Battle Criers to the attack, only the Dustravens are left to protect us against hostile mechs.
If they happen to be a part of the conspiracy, that will leave us all dangerously vulnerable. ”

”We can split our forces up. ” Cinnabar suggested.
”Half of my mechs will move out as planned while the other half will stay behind.
If I ’m guessing right, then the mechs preparing to attack are mostly ranged mechs.
They don ’t perform very well when taken by surprise.
The underground parking hall won ’t offer them much distance against my melee mechs. ”

What the commander said made a lot of sense.
Only the ranged mechs of the Battle Criers kept the Dustravens in check.
Leaving behind half of the Battle Criers also protected Ves against the other cards the assailants held in reserve.

the question was whether the Battle Criers could truly triumph against the dozen of hidden mechs.
The Battle Criers only received permission to bring twelve mechs to the surface.

This meant that if Ves went through with this plan, he could only count on the six ranged mechs for protection.
As long as the Dustravens were still on their side, then this would not be a problem.

Yet if the Dustravens did happen to be compromised, then the Battle Crier mechs would have to focus their full attention on deterring the aerial mechs.
This left them vulnerable if another hidden mech force emerged!

”This talk is getting way out of hand. ” Nitaa spoke.
”Regardless whether the Dustravens turn out to be hostile or not, they won ’t be able to do anything while we are still holing up in the lobby of Linzif ’s headquarters.
Any operation that is targeted at us is likely aimed at taking out our shuttle.
It ’s a lot harder to attack us while we are still inside this structure, especially from above.
The most the attackers can do is collapse the entire building. ”

”They won ’t do that. ” Ves asserted.
”Felicity Linzif is still present in the building.
She managed to stay in business to a certain extent by aligning herself to at least one strong local patron.
An attack on the headquarters is an attack aimed at her, and by extension her backers. ”

”What if the attackers don ’t care? What if Linzif and the attackers are in the same boat? ”

”Then we ’ll just fight our way out. ” Ves declared.
”Every modern office building of this size should be connected to an underground tunnel system.
We just have to find one of the evacuation exits. ”

Time was running out.
Almost fifteen minutes after Lucky departed, the orders that Commander Cinnabar discreetly passed on to his mech pilots began to take force.

Six of the Battle Crier melee mechs abruptly separated and headed towards a specific direction!

As befitting for an offensive mercenary corps, the mechs that departed all consisted of light and medium mechs that emphasized speed and offensive power.
They traversed the largely-empty streets of the fallen office district with prodigious speed and reached the entrance of a closed underground parking hall.

The melee mechs stabbed their weapons through the thin protective cover and cut open a huge opening!

Since the material they were cutting through merely consisted of conventional alloys, the mechs faced very little resistance!

Within no time, the mechs formed a square opening through the metal cover.
They filed through and engaged their alternate sensor modes in order to observe the completely darkened hall.

Back at the lobby of Linzif ’s headquarters, Commander Cinnabar impatiently stared at the projected interface of his comm.
A message finally came through.

”They ’ve spotted the hidden mechs! They ’re all grouped up and unprepared to repel an attack! ”

”Are they firing at your Battle Criers? ”

”So far, they ’ve withheld their fire. ” Commander Cinnabar grinned.
”We ’ll see how long that lasts. ”

In the meantime, Ves received a nonsensical message to his own comm.
Although both the sender and the message itself consisted of garbled data, Ves nonetheless recognized a few prearranged patterns that in themselves conveyed a brief message.

”Lucky succeeded! ” Ves smiled.
”He managed to take out the guards and use the vial to knock the leader out! Evidently, they never thought they were already exposed! ”

”Did they activate any boobytraps? ” Cinnabar asked.
”Sneaky folks like these often have the habit of preparing several traps and safeguards. ”

”I have confidence in Lucky.
I ’ve already instructed him to sabotage anything that looks dangerous. ”

The commander briefly paused as his comm received another notification.
”Sir, Commander Meivin has just sent an urgent message to me.
He ’s asking what the hell is going on! ”

Ves idly waved his hand.
”Tell him to go on high alert and guard against any acute threats.
Don ’t say anything else. ”

”The Dustravens won ’t like being kept in the dark.
Commander Meivin isn ’t stupid.
If we don ’t tell him anything, he ’ll realize that we ’re doubting his loyalty. ”

”He ’s a mercenary.
Being regarded with suspicion and distrust already comes with the job.
If he ’s truly innocent, then he won ’t take this incident to heart. ”

Even if Ves unjustly maligned the Vindar Dustravens, that was better than putting his blind trust in their loyalty!

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