As someone who made use of a really great stealth system from the System, Ves knew all about their strengths and weaknesses. Though he had no clue how the stealth system prevented any signals from leaking out of a bubble of space and covered all of his tracks, it still wouldn't be able to deal with something as simple as a cloud of particles or other junk.
Though the particle canisters offered the rebels on the field with a ready-made solution to sniff out anyone under stealth, before the invention of canisters, humans improvised many other means.
"Wait a moment." Ves interjected. "You still have a lot of missiles left, right?"
Breskin immediately knew what he was thinking. "Slaying Lord Javier is out of the question. We can't afford to pulverize him with a blanket missile bombardment!"
That sounded really strange to Ves. Weren't they out to kill Lord Javier? What did it matter if he died on the battlefield, when they would just kill him in their custody? Ves set the matter aside and focused on persuading the commander before Javier flew away.
"You don't have to set the missiles to maximum lethality. Make them explode above the altitude that Javier is probably trying to reach and saturate the surroundings in a dome of explosions. The smoke and shockwaves will be sufficient to disturb his stealth even if he's well outside the blast zone of the payloads."
"I understand what you're saying, but it's an enormous risk."
"It frees up your particle canisters." Ves pointed out. "This way, you don't have to decide between spreading your particles at ground level or in the air. Your infantrymen can keep sweeping the streets while letting your missiles take care of whatever might be floating above.
Breskin needed to decide quickly, because with each second, Javier would slip further and further away.
"Let's do it." Addy said. "The missiles are meant to be used, and if we accidentally kill the bastard, then it's still better than letting him get away scott-free."
They ultimately bowed down to necessity. As much as they evidently wanted to keep the little bastard alive, they couldn't afford to lose in front of everyone that paid attention. Their prestige didn't allow them to fail at the cusp of victory.
The rebels moved quickly. They still possessed a decent stock of missiles, enough to blanket a wide dome around the abandoned cockpit for ten or so minutes. Ves helped tweak the programming of some of the missiles to limit their lethality and disperse their emissions.
His shallow familiarity with missile weapons left out any drastic modifications. While low-tech explosive missiles weren't very sophisticated, it still took an expert to optimize them to achieve a specific outcome.
Dedicated missile developers and mech designers specialized in missiles could do a much better job than Ves, but he made do regardless by tweaking the easiest settings. Since time was of the issue, he only spent thirty seconds at most.
"Launch them now!"
The operators in Breskin's mobile command center planned out the missile launches in the time that Ves tweaked the missiles. This didn't take a lot of time, since they instructed AIs to calculate an optimum spread of missiles above the streets. They spent more time in double-checking the results to insure the missiles didn't detonate next to one of their men or something.
"Three, two, one, launch!"
Over a hundred missiles launched in the air from various points. Most of them consisted of smaller shoulder-launched warheads. Only a small amount of vehicle-launched missiles joined the fray. While larger missiles blanketed a much larger area, their lethality encompassed a much wider zone. The AIs calculated that it was better to saturate the airspace with lots of smaller missiles than a smaller number of larger ones.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
Deep thrums shook the ground as the explosions in the air kicked up a lot of air. The airspace above everyone's head whipped up violently as multiple shockwaves from near-simultaneous explosions overlapped with each other.
In the meantime, all sorts of sensors focused in the air. They tried to pick up any disturbance they could pick up. Inside the rebel base, processors worked to interpret any anomalies in the sensor data, dismissing most of them as artifacts or erroneous readings.
One anomaly quickly stood out. A small, indeterminate mass hovered a small distance away from the Raphael's cockpit. The moment the shockwaves from the nearest explosions blanketed the coordinates of the mass, some of the winds swept around the mass instead of going through it. Though the signs were subtle to the naked eye, it might as well be in plain sight to the cold hard electronics that made up the sensors and the processors.
"There! Throw up a smaller range of explosions around that area!"
A small number of shoulder-launched missiles flew into the air and detonated in a smaller dome around the anomalous location. This time, the explosions happened a little bit closer. The closer range and the higher concentration of missiles whipped up a lot more air than last time. This only made it more obvious that an invisible object displaced some of the winds around its form.
"It's definitely a stealthed object!"
Though they only established that they found a stealthed object, the shape and dimensions of the object looked suspiciously like a man-sized stealth suit.
The Detemen League moved quickly upon confirmation that something invisible hung in the air. A pair of armored shuttles flew from the distance and halted in mid-air in the region around the invisible object. Hatches slid open, enabling the infantrymen inside to throw out a bunch of particle canisters.
Particles spread out in a large and hazy cloud around the shuttles. Almost immediately, a very obvious deformation stood out in the even spread of particles. "Over there!"
One of the infantrymen in the shuttles stepped forward. Unlike the other men, this soldier carried a man-sized fluid projector borrowed from the local Planetary Guard. After a brief windup, a brown slurry of slime propelled from the nozzle of the projector.
Under the onslaught of the sticky slime, the stealthed shape could no longer maintain its invisible state. A skintight suit enveloped in increasing amounts of slime appeared in the air.
"UGH! Disgusting!" Lord Javier's voice sounded out from the helmet. "Ah! Help! I can't maintain altitude!"
The gunk weighed down the suit and affected the suit's antigrav modules. The man inside the suit could only be the person they had been searching for, and right now he flailed his limbs in panic as his suit slowly drifted down.
"That's enough slime!" Breskin warned the soldier with the fluid projector. "Catch him when he lands. No wait, grab him from out of the air. We can't risk our target falling to his death."
Someone else deployed a net launcher that reeled in the slime-covered stealth suit. The soldier with the fluid projector switched settings and doused their captive with a different spray of fluids that caused the slime to dissolve and wash away.
This enabled the rebels secure the man and remove all of the holdout weapons and gadgets embedded into the suit. Still, that didn't remove the risk of any other tricks, so the soldiers unceremoniously tore off the stealth suit and the helmet away from their captive.
Once they pulled off the helmet from the man, the familiar face of the man who once ruled Detemen IV scowled at the rebels in the shuttle. "Do you know who I am?! You're dead! You're all dead!"
One of the rebels smacked his gauntlet against Javier's face. "Shut up!"
They possessed enough training to focus on their duties. They ignored the squealing noble and frisked his naked body with utmost seriousness. Lord Javier proved his craftiness many times.
The scanners running over his body beeped in alarm as they detected several anomalous objects. The men didn't hesitate when they cut Javier's arm to extract a tiny device embedded into the muscles. Once they pulled out the object, a medic sprayed the cut with a solution that rapidly healed it up.
The soldiers repeated this routine several times, only stopping when they found they couldn't easily extract the foreign materials that had been buried deep within Javier's body.
"Bring him back to base." Breskin said with an exhausted tone. "Our doctors will pull out all the rest. After that, we can commence with the interrogation."
"Let me go!" Javier screamed over the pain of having his skin cut and healed. "My father will hound you until the ends of the galaxy for this, and he's not the only one who has an eye out on me! If you know who you just pissed off, you'll be pissing your pants!"
"Shut him up. We don't need him conscious."
One of the soldiers injected Javier with a knockout solution that instantly sent him to sleep. The quiet brought some tranquility back to the shuttle.
Ves leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. After so many risks, they finally managed to get their hands on Javier. He almost didn't believe that it was finally over. From what the lordling demonstrated so far, Ve was sure that Javier would pull another rabbit out of his hat.
"Evidently, there is only so many rabbits he can pull out at any time."
As he waited for Javier to be brought back to base, Ves reflected on Javier's struggles. The depth of his preparation exceeded anything that Ves could imagine. From falling back to his hidden base underneath the recycling plant to sneaking off in a stealth suit, Lord Javier had demonstrated an extreme capacity for survival.
If not for the critical clues that Ves deduced in time, Lord Javier would have slipped through everyone's grasp.
Witnessing the entire chase made Ves feel a little inadequate. While he could have emulated most of the noble's methods with his old comm, his current service with the Vandals forced him to do away with most of his survival tools. Compared to the gadget-laden Javier, Ves felt very barren.
"I have to be more tenacious."
Once the Flagrant Vandals retreated from this star system, Ves planned to remedy this shortcoming. Of course, that entailed asking for special dispensation from the Vandals to carry more special equipment, but with his substantial contributions in this operation, Ves hoped that his superiors would be lenient.
"I deserve a bonus for all the work that I've done."
Without Ves, Captain Orfan wouldn't have been able to field the mechs of the Dastardly Handsome Bastards. Without Ves, the rebels wouldn't have been able to track down Javier's location. Without Ves, Javier would have gotten away by flying leisurely in the air under stealth.
And that only encompassed his greatest contributions. Ves didn't know what kind of merit system the Vandals used, but Ves felt that he would have been eligible for promotion for everything he did.
"Too bad mech designers don't fall into their organizational system."
In the end, if Ves wanted any rewards, he had to knock on Professor Velten's door. The notoriously stodgy old lady was a stickler for rules, and Ves wasn't sure if any of his achievements gained him any rewards.
"I can't wait to get back, though. I'm more than done with this crappy planet."
Everyone felt relieved with the hunt at an end. Once the rebels took custody of Lord Javier, the remaining forces of House Eneqqin in the vicinity broke apart and tried to flee the city.
The Vandal mechs that delayed them from reinforcing Lord Javier let them go without a fight. In any case, they completed all of their objectives. They never intended to crush every enemy mech.
Of course, the rebels also spread the news of the successful capture through their propaganda networks. News of what had happened spread through both sides of the conflict in an instant with the help of the galactic net.
Both the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom reacted with astonishment!