Some time later, Ves sat behind a terminal in the data center. More than two-dozen other rebels or Vandals performed their own tasks behind their own terminals in the partially enclosed space.
The hunt for Lord Javier continued. The rebels needed everyone they could spare to follow up on suspicious footage and anomalous signals. They had accumulated a vast amount of observation data, but possessed too few means to process them all in a timely fashion.
Thus, the need for Lieutenant Burke and some of her more computer-adept Vandals to check through mounds of data, just to obtain a tiny clue about the noble's whereabouts.
The manhunt for Lord Javier certainly took a toll on everyone. Forget about the Flagrant Vandals, the Detemen League which staked their all in taking down the man was nowhere close to pinning his location.
Addy explained the dire necessity of capturing Lord Javier to Ves at the end of the briefing. "Our rebellion is fighting against the Vesian way of governance. Many fellow rebel groups based throughout the Kingdom is paying attention to what is happening here. We've loudly proclaimed that we intend to take Lord Javier down. To that end, we've taken advantage of a so-called pirate attack and we are even working in concert with Brighters such as you. After so many sacrifices, failure will finish the Detemen League."
In other words, the Detemen League wanted to redeem the deaths and chaos that ensued in these chaotic days by taking down their most hated tyrant. As long as Lord Javier died in their hands, the public would willingly if grudgingly accept the enormous damage done to their planet.
Of course, Ves did not quite think that such a trade was worthwhile. Having roamed the streets of Neron City in person, the devastation was much more extensive and ruinous than the rebels initially thought.
Still, no matter how much the citizens suffered, the Detemen League were already riding the back of a tiger. They couldn't get off at this point without being savaged.
"This entire operation is stupid. Too much hinges on hope and desperation."
What irked Ves the most was that the Flagrant Vandals made overly rosy projections. Every single step of the plan was met with delays or setbacks. The original timetable for this operation no longer applied, and Ves got the feeling that most of the Vandals did whatever they thought was best right now.
Ves truly wanted to applaud Lord Javier for being such a decisive coward. Loathsome he may be, merely by going into hiding, he ruined most of the plans by the rebels and the Vandals. As long as Lord Javier remained out of reach, he would be able to destroy the foundations of both the Detemen League and the Flagrant Vandals.
Compared to letting half his planet burn, the little bastard probably thought the price would be worth the suffering.
Who was Ves kidding. Only the citizens suffered while Lord Javier leaned back and drank champagne or something.
"He needs to be taken down a notch."
What Lord Javier did in his own territory didn't matter too much to Ves. He sympathised with the righteousness of the rebel cause, but as a Brighter he preferred it if the Kingdom was plunged into turmoil. Perhaps if every Vesian planet rioted, then the Mech Legion wouldn't be pounding so aggressively on the Bright Republic's gates.
"Well, let's get back to my job. How will I be able to find the Loquacious Raphael?"
The rebels gathered a decent amount of surface intelligence on the Raphael. While they hadn't been able to get their hands on the juiciest files such as its design schematics or its spec sheet, they did get their hands on Constantine Reeve's maintenance instructions.
A highly advanced mech was a lot harder to maintain than a run-of-the-mill mech. Replacement parts consisted of difficult to work with alloys and needed to be reproduced to an exact degree in order to repair an advanced mech.
From the maintenance instructions that Reeve provided to Lord Javier, only the lesser components of the Raphael should be reproduced at home. For the more sophisticated components such as the power reactor and engine, Lord Javier had to request a replacement from Reeve's mech company.
"That's a shame."
From what Ves determined from the intelligence on the Loquacious Raphael, much of its fake resonance revolved around its powerful energy reactor. Without any schematics, descriptions or images of the hero mech's reactor, Ves had nothing to base his starting point on. He needed to fill the gaps with his imagination in order to progress.
"Okay, since the energy reactor is a black box, what about its lesser components?"
Ves quickly turned his attention to the arms. The asymmetrical arms incorporated a lot of sophisticated systems depending on what weapons they wielded. However, their propensity for damage and manageable complexity led Mr. Reeve to delegate the maintenance and repair to House Eneqqin's mech technicians. The arms didn't need to be reproduced in the most advanced fabrication environment. Just a normal premium production line would do.
The arms played an important role for the Loquacious Raphael. The effects of the fake resonance needed to be channeled from the power reactor in the torso to the weapons held in the hands. This demanded special channels to be run through from the base of the arms to the tips of the fingers.
The only problem was that Ves didn't immediately spot these so-called channels. He looked at the maintenance schematics of the sword arm and rifle arm but couldn't spot any obvious section which served as resonance channels.
It was like staring at a bundle of identical ropes. How could he determine the one that behaved differently from the norm when he had never seen them in action?
"These files are woefully incomplete."
It quickly became clear to him that the rebels hadn't managed to snag the complete set of maintenance documents. They only nabbed the most relevant documents to maintain the Loquacious Raphael on a day-to-day basis. Ves didn't have access to the documents related to the more substantial repairs.
"Is it even possible for me to make any progress at this point?"
Ves hit a wall about two hours into his investigation. He chased after several leads, but every potential resonance channel turned out to serve a different purpose.
"How does Constantine Reeve manage to pull off such a ridiculous mech?"
A lot of mech designers looked at hero mechs with skepticism. Ves inherited this standpoint from his teachers who believed the best mechs consisted of specialised mechs. Any machine that tried to perform multiple roles at once inevitably needed to compromise on its design.
Having worked on hybrid knights such as the Caesar Augustus, Marc Antony and Hellcat designs, Ves knew that was true. A mech that tried to do two or three things at once would never be able to deliver the same amount of performance as a mech that only tried to utilize one weapon well.
Still, his hands-on experience also taught him not to discount the concept of hybrid mechs. The way the Flagrant Vandals used the Hellcats certainly opened his eyes to their potential value. The mech regiment hadn't picked the Hellcats as their prestige mechs for nothing.
"Hybrid mechs have a superhuman quality to them. Even if their performance is supposed to mediocre on paper, with the right pilot they are able to pull off a lot more feats than if they only adhered to a single role."
It sounded like a paradox, but really wasn't. The key to appreciation hybrid knights lay in their ability to synergize with itself.
More weapons provided the mechs with more tools. They could tackle more problems on their own because they always had the right tool for the job. Even if the tools turned out to be a little shabby, that was better than having no tool at all.
The Vandals employed Hellcats as shock units, meant to overwhelm enemy formations through a short succession of highly kinetic attacks. From the missiles, to the nail drivers, to the charge and shield impact, every sequence involved putting the enemy at their back foot.
The strategy worked particularly well in space because mechs didn't have any footing in the first place. They relied on their flight systems to maintain their positions, and they could easily be overwhelmed if subjected to too much force.
In this way, the Vandals made brilliant use out of a mech that strangers would ordinarily dismiss as trash.
"Every mech possesses an underlying logic. The Loquacious Raphael shouldn't be any different."
In the absence of further data, Ves figured he needed to approach the problem from a different direction. He tried to put himself in Mr. Reeve's shoes and imagine the fighting style of the Raphael.
Hero mechs different exhibited many different variations. Some put the emphasis on sniping. They wielded a powerful semi-automatic ballistic rifle that fired powerful kinetic projectiles that took down their opponents from a long to medium range.
For battles up close, they tended to wield a spear or other long-handled weapon in order to fend off an approaching mech until the hero mech could point its powerful rifle at the offending mech.
Other hero mechs tried to be light on their feet and swift in their movements. They wielded short swords or knives in one hand that allowed them to be as deadly as skirmishers, but they wielded pistols or submachine guns in the other hand to pose a threat to aerial mechs and other distant threats.
The Loquacious Raphael happened to adopt one of the most standard hero mech loadouts, and the one most often featured in unrealistic action dramas. It wielded a rapid-fire ballistic rifle in one hand and a bog-standard sword in the other hand.
Every mech pilot trained with these two weapons from the start. It didn't take much of an adjustment for any mech pilot to get used to wielding both weapons at once.
The challenge lay in achieving enough synergies so that the mech pilot outperformed a rifleman mech or a swordsman mech by a wide enough margin.
Still, did hero mechs outperform standard mechs because they held more potential, or because mech pilots believed they would deliver a better performance with these machines?
"Are hero mechs only popular because they're piloted by the heroes in action dramas?"
It was an interesting question, but one which Ves would never be able to figure out on his own. The question had a chicken and egg type of quality to it. No matter the original merits of a hero mech, it was undeniable that their proliferation in the galactic media made them into mechs that were larger-than-life.
Perhaps that was what drew Lord Javier to a hero mech type in the first place. He wanted to become the hero of his own story, and distinguish himself from all the other mech pilots that settled for normal mechs.
Part of the reason why so few people piloted hero mechs was that it demanded at least thrice as much training as normal mechs.
Mech pilots needed to keep up their swordsmanship and marksmanship in equal measure. Then they needed to devote another round of training into mixing them together in a cohesive whole.
"It can't be done by an average mech pilots. Even my family never pays attention to it, and we're practically a military dynasty."
Only an extraordinary heir such as Lord Javier possessed the right conditions to make a hero mech work. If he possessed the resources, persistence and talent to not make a fool out of himself, then perhaps he was one of the few mech pilots who wouldn't be disgracing himself with a hero mech.
Ves looked back at the image of the Loquacious Raphael. Coated in House Eneqqin's astral blue and silver, the mech made for an extremely valiant sight. However, as much as its rifle looked shiny and lethal, Ves faintly felt as if it emphasised its sword a little more.
"Perhaps herein lies the clue."