uld 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!

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