Some of the shipwrecked Vandals stranded in the rebel base requested to be sent back to their comrades. Now that their forces took out most of the anti-air turrets controlled by the household troops, it was a lot safer to fly some transports in the air.
Certainly, many enemy mechs and turrets remained intact, but their owners lacked the guts to fire upon Vandal or rebel assets. Everyone who survived up to now tried their best to bury their heads in the sand while their enemies run amuck in the city.
"Are you sure you don't want to leave with our batch?" Lieutenant Burke asked Ves. "Our job is done here."
Ves shook his head. "I'll follow you out in the next transport. I want to be there while the rebels interrogate Lord Javier. I've managed to convince the commander that my presence would be useful if Javier spills out anything related to mechs."
His help was integral in catching the the little lordling. Ves built up a substantial amount of goodwill with the Detemen League. When he asked to be present at Lord Javier's interrogation, the rebels easily accepted his lame excuse. To them, Ves was pretty much one of them. This was an amazing concession of them because they refused the presence of every other Vandal aside from Captain Orfan.
When the lightly-wounded captain entered the base, Ves became affected by certain emotions. He was very clear that Captain Orfan didn't give a damn about him. The captain barely nodded at him before she resumed her discussion with Addy.
Ves didn't need her to like him, but he at least wanted her acknowledgement.
"Well, I don't need her to recognize me anyway."
It was in the nature of mech pilots to forget the existences of norms, those who fell under the vast majority of people who would never be able to pilot a mech. Some potentates possessed stronger biases than others.
The most extreme cases called for a drastic rearrangement of human society in the model of Ancient Sparta. In their delusional imagination, only mech pilots deserved to be free. As the only citizens of the state, they possessed all the rights in exchange for shouldering the obligation of piloting mechs.
As for everyone else, they would be destined to carry the label of slaves. Anyone without the potential to pilot mechs was expendable. Even the most renowned mech designers that enabled the mech pilots to exert their skills enjoyed no extra rights. In the perspective of the ruling class, mech designers were slaves as well, only with a bit more value.
The crazy thing about this imagined utopia was that a number of human states tried to implement such a society.
Every attempt ended in ruin. In truth, depressing the potential of over ninety-six percent of the population caused these extremist states to stagnate. Slaves without any sense of belonging never worked to better their masters as much as a free man.
Numerous examples throughout the Age of Mechs illustrated that humanity needed to work for every human, not a tiny subject with a mutant brain.
Sadly, it appeared that Captain Orfan didn't get the message. She barely treated Addy with respect, something the observant rebel woman noted fairly quickly. Regardless, Addy flexed her diplomacy and managed to convince the mech captain to rest somewhere in piece. Once she got rid of Orfan, she strayed over to Ves.
"I never really did thank you for your help. You've really saved us, Mr. Larkinson."
Ves smiled at that. "Any other mech designer could have done the same."
"Yet you're the only one who's here."
That soured his mood a little. "Have you ever found my colleague Alloc?"
He tried to look up the Journeyman Mech Designer's whereabouts. As his mentor within the Vandal design department, Ves appreciated Alloc's insightful lessons. The lack of news regarding his status concerned Ves a lot.
Through the rebel base's communication channels, Ves contacted the Flagrant Vandal fleet in orbit several times. Each time, they told him that they hadn't picked up Alloc's crash ball in space. Since Alloc sat next to Ves in the command center of the Stubby Growler, there was a high possibility that Alloc's crash ball followed the same trajectory as the one that held Ves.
"Maybe he landed somewhere else over the planet."
Not everyone who crash-landed onto the surface of Detemen IV chose to converge at Neron City. Those with timid hearts chose to land somewhere desolate, and await for pickup from a Vandal shuttle. It was a much safer option than landing in the vicinity of the most important city on the planet.
A familiar armored shuttle entered the vehicle bay of the underground base. As soon as it touched down, a full squad of armed infantrymen hauled the unconscious form of Lord Javier.
In a minor gesture of decency, they clothed his previously-naked form with generic grey clothes. Nonetheless, the drab fabric only accentuated his fall from grace. His matte blond hair was normally styled in exquisite fashion in public. Now, they looked tousled and sweaty beyond recognition.
A number of rebels that hadn't shipped out yet goggled at Lord Javier's beaten form. They hardly believed that they actually managed to capture such a powerful figure. Though they worked together with Flagrant Vandals to accomplish this feat, it was still an exceedingly rare achievement for a local rebel movement.
Every commoner of the Kingdom learned early on that the dignity of a noble should not be sullied. Profane acts such as questioning their sexuality might even prompt a Vesian judge to sentence them to death!
Thus, witnessing the powerful Lord Javier being dragged to the medical bay like a dog was a very transformational moment for the rebels. Everyone present made up the cadre of their organization, so they all believed in the cause with the depths of their hearts.
They just never imagined that they could pull down a noble from his pedestal in their lifetimes.
"He's really here. I still can't believe it."
"We did it… we did it!"
"None of the other rebel groups can boast what we've done!"
Some of the members of the Detemen League grew emotional and knelt down. Others cried and hugged each other. After living in Detemen IV like rats, they showed that they still possessed teeth.
Ves was the odd man out in this spontaneous emotional outburst. Compared to everyone's jubilation, he only felt weary and longed to return to the Wolf Mother. Only in the confines of the factory ship would Ves feel at home.
"What the Vesian nobles do to their commoners and vica versa is not my business." He reminded himself. "Only the interests of the Republic matters to me."
In that regard, stirring up the Kingdom by facilitating a rebellion certainly weakened the Kingdom.
Some time later, Ves entered an observation room that looked out into a plain interrogation room. For something as sensitive as this, the rebels didn't employ any projectors, for fear of leaking out this session. Having learnt his own lesson on how powerful hacking could be, Ves understood the necessity of these precautions.
A handful of other people stood in the room. Ves recognized Addy and Captain Orfan. Most of the others consisted of the highest-ranking rebel cadre.
It appeared that the rebels treated this interrogation with utmost importance.
A couple of medical doctors stood behind some sort of console that displayed Javier's every physiological reaction. Right now, they appeared to be administering some stimulants to his body.
"Careful with the dosage." A senior doctor warned. "Lord Javier has undergone many surgeries and treatments that optimized his body and mind."
This meant that Javier would also be more resilient to many forms of interrogation. Perhaps Lord Javier would still be forced to spill out all of his secrets if the Coalition managed to get their claws on him, but the rebels only possessed means comparable to a local law enforcement office. They didn't have access to better tools.
"He's waking up."
A groggy-eyed Javier woke up from the chair that bolted down his limbs. He tried to jerk at them, only to press his skin.
The young noble blinked a few times more and shrugged off the fog in his mind. He tried to stare ahead but didn't get blinded by the concentrated light that shone down onto his face.
"If that's your best attempt at disorienting me, then I've got nothing to fear from you scum!" The noble boasted with confidence.
Commander Breskin sat in the opposite seat. The rebel leader appeared to be alone in the room with Javier, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In the observation room Ves could see a number of operators sitting behind their consoles feeding in information and suggestions into Breskin's ear.
"You're alone, Javier. Your honor guard is dead or missing, and your household troops have scattered in the wind. There is no one left in Neron City or the entirety of Detemen IV for that matter that can come to your aid."
Javier spat at the table. "I know you won't let me go. Is your drivel meant to make me lose heart? Never! I know my own fate! I won't live past this day, and I've accepted this fact! So skip all the pleasantries and put a laser beam through my head!"
One of the doctors in the observation room scratched his head. "I thought the drugs and stimulants have caught on. The subject is supposed to be in a highly suggestible state!"
"That's why I told you that most of our preparation don't work. His brains work differently than ours. It's been augmented to such an extent that most of our drugs are ineffective."
Ves understood that the rebels wouldn't be able to resort to any easy means of getting Javier to open his mouth. Even torture wouldn't accomplish anything.
Therefore, Breskin didn't employ any fancy tricks of high-tech means of getting Javier to talk. The old commander opted to go for a plain but direct approach.
"I'm not interested in the secrets of your House." Breskin stated. "Nor am I eager to break you down. You're not even worth that much to us dead."
Javier stared down Breskin with resentful eyes while keeping his mouth shut.
"We both know there is one thing we'd like to obtain from you. Two, in fact, but we found one of those things from your cockpit."
"That thing was too for me to carry around while I escaped. My stealth suit doesn't allow me to bring anything anything of that size. How did you even find me at the end? From what I know of you and your pathetic rabble, you should have been fooled!"
"We benefited from some outside help."
"Brighters." Javier snarled in a low tone. "It's one thing to overthrown our rule. I can respect your commitment to better your people, even if you sad sacks of meat don't deserve to crawl out of the mud where you belong. Joining forces with the Brighters is another matter. That's treason of the highest order!"
Some of the rebels in the observation room became affected by that accusation, while Captain Orfan shifted on her feet.
"We'd be better off if the Bright Republic won our generational war." Breskin grinned. "Call us traitors all you want. In my eyes, nobles like you are the real traitors here. Ever since you took up the reigns on Detemen IV, your very actions betrayed your duties to shepherd your people."
"Your people?" Javier raised his eyebrows. "None of you are my people! Lowborn filth like you don't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as my father and I."
Breskin shook his head. "You still adhere to those warped ideas. Let's go back to my main point. As I've mentioned, while we've obtained one of the things we're looking for, we know you still have the other thing in your mind."
"What do you want to do about it?" Javier grinned savagely at Breskin.
"I'd like to ask you politely to hand over the other thing."
The mood turned strange in the observation room. Everyone leaned forward in anticipation while Ves stood cluelessly in the rear. Even Captain Orfan appeared to be in on the secret.
What were these 'things' that Breskin referred to?