The loss of the Felicitous Remembrance severely damaged Senator Tovar's prestige. The 'pirate' attack also unleashed a wave of suspicion and everyone came under greater scrutiny. Even the Spiral Shockers dared not to exempt themselves for suspicion!
Morale on the Lormant Carnival dipped quite a bit after the battle. While the Spiral Shockers gave a good account for themselves, their failure to uncover all the sabotage planted throughout the luxurious ship as well as their near-failure to rescue Senator Tovar from being taken away in a stealth shuttle severely damaged their self-esteem.
The Spiral Shockers didn't spend their time wallowing in their pity, though. They took their failures to heart and strove to increase their training and inspections to prevent a repeat of the attack.
Not that Ves thought such a blatant incident likely. The Reinald Republic's Honored Ones responded really poorly at pirate attacks happening in their own territory. Anyone wanting to make a move on the Tovar Peace Delegation needed to use other means than siccing 'pirates' on them now that they entered the borders of this murky state.
Back when Ves described the Reinald Republic to Senator Tovar, he did not cast them in a good light. They were so money-mad that they let certain sectors become rife with corruption. The Honored Ones were also largely untested in an actual conflict, having spent most of their existence in peacekeeping efforts instead.
Even so, the recent large-scale attack on Harkensen I certainly woke them up. The earlier fiascos that took place on that resort planet shouldn't be happening again unless the Reinaldans were complete fools.
"Setting the site of the peace talks in the Harkensen System is a stupid decision."
Certainly, more was at play to hold the talks in the Reinald Republic, but Ves really didn't trust them to be competent in protecting them against sneak attacks.
He felt that this earlier incident would not be the end of the attacks on the peace delegation. Too many people from the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom wanted the war to continue. Other states including the Reinald Republic might also be glad to see the two at odds for a time.
However, Ves also felt that the upcoming negotiation might involve more than just a cessation of the war. Senator Tovar put a lot of effort into this plan and he did not shy away despite barely avoiding captivity.
During the remainder of the journey to the Harkensen System, Ves did not quite fit in with the crew. As a member of the peace delegation, the Spiral Shockers did not allow him to assume any duties, let alone giving him access to their mechs. Even if some of them heard of his surprising performance that proved pivotal in saving Senator Tovar's hide, they were unlike the Vandals in that they did not bend the rules just because they appreciated some of his exploits.
While Ves admired the Spiral Shockers for their confidence, skill, discipline and dedication to their duty, he also felt that they lacked something essential.
He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but somehow he liked the Swordmaidens and the Vandals over the Shockers despite the latter's obvious superior combat strength.
The answer came to him suddenly. "The other two both fight for something. The Swordmaidens value their sisterhood and their dream to elevate the status of women in the frontier. The Vandals fight for their comrades who have been forgotten by most of the Mech Corps."
As for the Spiral Shockers? What little he experienced so far showed him that they'd been trained to serve the Republic to a fault. They were also loyal to their fellow comrades, but there wasn't any special quality there. The ideals and beliefs of the Spiral Shockers seem remarkable bland and tame to Ves. It was as if they were all fighting for an abstract ideal instead of something more grounded and closer to their hearts.
"They're tools. Assets to be used at will."
Every mech regiment and outfit served a purpose. Anyone who bothered to invest in building them up always expected a return on their investment. However, that didn't necessarily mean that those who became part of these forces ignored their own pursuits.
Even though the Swordmaidens and Vandals suffered the fate of tools being put to heavy use, Ves admired their martial tradition. Their values, beliefs, cultures and customs all colored the way they fought and the way they organized themselves.
"They have personality. They have character. They developed their own distinct identities."
As for the Spiral Shockers, its proximity to the headquarters of the Mech Corps put it in extremely tight control. Headquarters determined almost every aspect about the elite mech regiment, optimizing them for great performance yet stifling any attempts at developing their own idiosyncrasies.
It was like designing an artificial baby. You got exactly what you wanted, but nothing more.
However, could truly great mech regiments be manufactured artificially?
"Their huge blunder from before proves that they have major blindspots in their routines."
Everything they did was by the book. This wasn't a problem because the existing book already covered a very wide range of decisions. However, this also made their behavior painfully transparent and predictable to people with access to the very same book.
The conspirators on the side of the Bright Republic must have taken advantage of this vulnerability in order to blindside the Spiral Shockers!
Neither the Swordmaidens or Vandals could have done any better in the same place, but it was the thought that counted. Even if Ves observed some deficiencies, the Spiral Shockers could still kick the former two's butts.
"Sometimes, a mech regiment only has to fight well."
Regardless, the contrast gave him a lot of food for thought. It made him reflect back to his Avatars of Myth which shaped up into a cohesive force under Melkor's direction. How would he shape their martial tradition? What values would he attempt to instill in the mech pilots who signed a contract to serve Ves for a number of years?
Every choice led to different outcomes and came with different implications. Creating a mech force was akin to designing a mech. While humans couldn't entirely be controlled like the components of a mech, they could still be shaped and directed in a way that fell in line to a greater design.
Same with a mech, a mech force could also possess a personality if their designer willed it so. In fact, it was much easier to do so with the latter. Therefore, Ves thought it was a missed opportunity for the Spiral Shockers to developed their own distinct character.
It was like the Mech Corps wanted to train an elite mech regiment while stamping out any uncontrollable factors. To Ves, it was as if the military killed the spark of life of the mech regiment before it could mature into a living identity.
He pushed aside his thoughts on this issue when he met with Lord Javier in the Carnival's much less luxurious lounge.
The Vesian noble only spent a day in the brig before the crew of the Carnival prepared his accommodations. Ever since then, he was allowed to go out for a walk, though he could hardly go anywhere. Lord Javier was still a Vesian, after all.
"I miss the Felicitous Remembrance." Lord Javier sighed as he reminisced about his time on that comfortable ship. "I felt like traveling on a cruise ship. Senator Tovar sure knew how to enjoy himself. The Lormant Carnival on the other hand is a huge bore. There's hardly anything to do around here for me without drawing a thousand stares from the Shockers."
"Please excuse the Shockers. They are having a hard time trying to protect Senator Tovar and us now that they know that someone is definitely gunning for us. Their time is better spent on evading the next traps than accommodating their guests."
"I know, I know. I'm just venting right now. What we experienced a few days ago made me think."
"The war, and our animosity towards each other."
"Did you develop any new insights, Javier?"
"Yeah. The war has warped both of our societies to such an extent that we turned into morons."
That was a very extreme expression! Even Lord Javier should have known better to utter such a blanket insult!
"Why would you say something like that?" Ves frowned, puzzled over the Vesian's uncharacteristic bout of introspection.
"Well, it's not like I have anything else to do aside from thinking, right?" Lord Javier smiled with a helpless expression. "So I was thinking about the depths we have to go through just to attend the blasted peace talks. Have you ever heard of anything as ridiculous as trying to evade your own people in order to do something sane?"
"I think something like that happens every day in the galaxy."
"Urhg. You get my point, right, Ves?"
"Oh, I understand your meaning, alright. I've long held the opinion that the wars between our states are pointless. What you taught me may have caused me to revise my opinion a little, but I still think we'd be better off if we aren't stuck in this eternal vendetta."
Lord Javier's eyes lit up. "So you understand! Frankly, it's all well and good to beat you Brighters up every generation, but the way both of our people have such a one-track mind about the war is dumb. Our states became so obsessed in waging this damn war that we've forgotten all about the threat from other states and alien races. Even if the sandmen have all gone mad and crossed over the border en masse, I think at least half of all the Vesians in my state would still insist on crushing the Brighters first before turning their attention to the sandmen."
That was a very bleak remark, but what Ves witnessed so far, that might be exactly what the conspirators against the peace talks were doing right now! "Although I can't speak for the Bright Republic, for what it's worth I agree with you. There are good reasons for us Brighters to hate you Vesians and vica versa, but is this the defining trait of our states? Our hatred against each other?"
The Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom often got referred to each other in pairs in the rest of the Komodo Star Sector.
The squabbling siblings fighting over the possession of the toy that was the Bentheim System.
The married couple that should have learned to live in peace but would rather fight every night.
How many ways had the Komodo Star Sector described their perplexingly persistent conflict?
It was as if the Bright Republic began to bleed their society of all of their states in order to fuel their burning hatred against the Vesia Kingdom. The same could be said for the Vesians as well as their nobles used the war as a perpetual pretext to fire up their commoners and use up their lives for political gains in their courts.
Still, Ves found it rather surprising that Lord Javier of all people would make such an insightful if highly controversial remark.
"You know, we'd be unstoppable in the surrounding region if we ever allied with each other. It would be even better if he came together in a union like the Friday Coalition!"
Ves snorted at such a fanciful notion. "That would never happen and you know it. Although it sounds intriguing, people have long memories and it will take at least a couple of generations to wash away the memories."
"So it's still possible. It will just have to take a while."
They kept up this outlandish talk for a while at the lounge. It wasn't until Ves received an alert from his comm that he interrupted his conversation.
Ves activated his comm and read the message.
"Who's calling, Ves?"
"I've been summoned by Professor Ventag."
Ever since they survived the attack on the Felicitous Remembrance, the Senator holed up deep inside the Lormant Carnival and and never came out. Ves had no clue what he was working on or if he was merely trying to bury his earlier shameless appearance.
Still, Professor Ventag was not a person who would waste his time on frivolous pleasantries. Whatever this meeting was about should be important.