While Lord Javier spent some time locked in an enclosed cell in the brig, Ves sat on a chair placed on the other side of the cell.
They kept each other company through a communication channel.

”So is the battle over? ” Javier asked with a bored tone as he laid down on his cot.

”From what little I ’ve heard, the pirates retreated on their own accord.
After the Felicitous Remembrance blew up and our shuttle made it to safety, the Spiral Shockers are no longer weighed down with the need to protect us so much.
They began to take the offensive and employed aggressive formations to turn the tide against the pirates.
Even if they are skilled and pilot some good mechs, they ’re no match against the Spiral Shockers once they unleash their potential. ”

”The pirates, or rather the dark mercenaries gave up rather easily.
It ’s strange they didn ’t bring enough forces to overwhelm Senator Tovar ’s escort force. ”

”It ’s not so easy to muster up so many mechs and ships on short notice. ” Ves spoke, using his experience in logistics to make this judgement.
”This attack is well-planned but the uncertaining timing and route must have imposed limitations on the conspirators.
Also, it ’s very precarious for forces to adopt the identity of pirates in civilized space.
The larger the pirate force, the more attention it attracts from the surrounding states.
In the worst case, the MTA ’s Compliance Department might send out one of their dreaded fleets! Our attackers won ’t be returning anytime soon, I think. ”

They both knew that their attackers were anything but ’pirates ’.
Even so, trying to figure out their true identities was impossible with the amount of effort they put into their ruse.

Ves felt as if everyone played by a common set rules again.
Previously, the players involved in the competition to unearth the treasures of the Starlight Megalodon all maintained a code of silence.
Even if word of such an event did spill out on the galactic net, the complete lack of media attention meant that nobody actually found out about the truth!

Right now, something similar seemed to take place.
Senator Tovar and the Spiral Shockers did their best to hide their actual identities and allegiances while their attackers adopted a disguise as well!

They took their roles so seriously that they even downgraded the quality of their gear and assets to match what security forces and pirates usually made use of! Such a willingness to weaken their own forces in order to sell the idea that they were someone else went too far!

These strange rituals made Ves suspect that the powers-that-be who ruled the Komodo Star Sector all adhered to a secret set of rules.
It might be some exclusive assembly, a secret society, an informal gathering or even just a communal comm channel group where leaders could exchange ideas more openly than in a formal setting.

Ves still had much to learn about the galaxy, it seemed.

”You said earlier to me that you believe in Senator Tovar ’s warning. ” He spoke.
”How come you ’re so… ”

Sane? Rational? Not crazy? It would be insulting for him to voice those words out loud, but Lord Javier read the unspoken meaning regardless.
He smiled sardonically at the ceiling.

”The war between our two states has gone too stale.
It ’s a ritual more than anything by this point.
A bloody one, but a predictable one.
Nothing truly new happens anymore.
We know each other so well that neither side can do anything to gain a decisive advantage in our wars.
Don ’t you think that somewhat defeats the point of a war? ”

”They say that war is the continuation of politics by other means. ”

”You ’re right, Ves.
For so long, our two states used the Bright-Vesia Wars as a way to hone their state and population into a more efficient fighting machine.
The mutual competition did us both good, but let ’s face it.
We ’ve reached a plateau where we aren ’t able to gain any further improvement.
The only point to the war by now is to maintain the edge we ’ve sharpened.
It doesn ’t even feel like we ’re fighting all that hard against you Brighters to be honest.
What ’s the point of sharpening a weapon when you never put it to its intended use? ”

Ves was familiar with Lord Javier ’s perspective on the Bright Republic at this point.
He regarded the Republic as a punching bag and a sharpening stone for the Kingdom.

While Ves did not like how Lord Javier dismissed the Bright Republic so casually, he could excuse it since the Vesians always held the upper hand in military strength.

”So what are you thinking about? Would you rather see the Vesia Kingdom invade another state instead? ”

Lord Javier grinned.
”Wouldn ’t that be a great sight? Most of the states that surround our two states haven ’t fought so frigidly and frequently as us.
Since we aren ’t making any progress against each other, why not turn attention elsewhere? ”

”That sounds quite logical, though I don ’t think there ’s any appetite in the Bright Republic to conquer another state. ”

”You ’ll have to.
If we Vesians expand our territory, manpower, industry and prestige by conquering our neighboring states, we ’ll return to our original foes at some point and hit twice as hard.
You Brighters may sometimes profess peace and prosperity, but the likes of Senator Tovar won ’t allow your Republic to become a fish for the chopping block to us.
My sovvies are on the Coman Federation.
Those transhuman freaks don ’t have any friends and allies so there ’s little chance you ’ll draw more enemies once you turn on their augmented butts. ”

”It ’s not that simple. ” Ves retorted.
The Bright Republic dreamt of expanding their territory in other directions many times if they somehow didn ’t have to worry about the Vesians.
”The Coman Federation is no slouch when it comes to their military.
Anyone who conquers their star systems will have to deal with a bunch of fanatics who are impossible to pacify unless you take extreme measures that the MTA will surely disapprove of.
They ’re more trouble than they ’re worth. ”

A lull in the conversation followed.
After some time, Lord Javier asked another question.

”Do you think we ’ll ever see a time where Brighters and Vesians fight alongside each other against a common foe? ”

”It will have to be a very serious threat for us to band together.
Anything short of an apocalyptic threat to our states won ’t be enough to force our people to set aside the hatred and animosity built up over centuries of intermittent war. ”

”Why not? We managed to become friends, right, Ves? ”

Ves snorted.
”I wouldn ’t exactly call us friends.
We ’re just familiar with each other that we no longer repel each other. ”

”By my definition, that ’s friendship in a nutshell. ”

During their time together, they did grow closer despite their differences.
Ves did not know whether this was a blessing or a curse.
He also didn ’t think he could repeat this feat when he came in touch with the other members of the Vesian peace delegation.

Would the peace talks still go through now that they suffered such a heavy attack? Ves doubted it, but they already came so close to the Reinald Republic that it would be a waste to turn away at this point.

After some time, Ves and Lord Javier experienced the disorienting and nauseating feeling of transitioning into FTL.

”Seems like we ’ve finally left the battle site. ” Ves commented.
”We ’re safe now for the moment. ”

Shortly afterwards, a security officer walked up to Ves.
Larkinson, Senator Tovar would like to see you now. ”

”Very well.
Lead the way. ” Ves stood up and waved Lord Javier goodbye, not that he could see it from his enclosed cell.

Ves followed the guard out of the brig and to the upper decks where a stateroom had been set aside for Senator Tovar.
The guards there forced him to relinquish the light combat armor and most of his other gear before he entered.

The latest abode for the senator lacked the luxuries and artwork from his previous stateroom on the Felicitous Remembrance.
Even so, the Tovar patriarch made the best of the situation and already reconfigured the projectors into displaying some flowing art.

The senator caught his glances.
”Do you appreciate my taste of art? ”

To be honest, Ves did not see the merit in the artwork on display.
The visual art looked pretty in the way the gradients of colors formed into various patterns on a canvas.
Yet Ves also felt that for all of their soothing visual flair, they carried no greater meaning.

”They are very aesthetically pleasing, senator. ” Ves replied simply, opting for a neutral answer.

”Your record states that your mother was an artist.
A mech designer is an artist as well as an engineer, no? Your best mechs certainly showcase your artistic prowess.
By the way, the record on your mother is remarkably slim and lacking in detail.
My investigators have also found some discrepancies in her record.
Minor ones, but improper nonetheless.
You wouldn ’t happen to know anything about that, Ves? ”

Ves suddenly shook.
He had some guesses.
Dangerous guesses.
”My mother..
I hardly knew her.
She left me far too soon. ”

He hoped to forestall any further questioning with this emotional response.
It was a fact that she died.
That hadn ’t been faked, and Senator Tovar should know it as well.

”My apologies for prying into old wounds. ” Tovar said in a seemingly contrite manner.
”Let ’s move on.
I won ’t bore you with a debriefing.
I have heard quite enough from Captain Hoskie and Lord Javier ’s surviving guards.
It seems that you are in the possession of a very dangerous tool.
Did you know that the scanners and sensors in this stateroom has been scouring your entire body from top to bottom for any items? According to the results, aside from your uniform and your comm, you carry nothing else, but we both know that ’s not true.
Even now, you are capable of killing me if you so wish. ”

Ves doubted it.
Senator Tovar definitely possessed a shield generator, and who knew what other toys he relied on to stay alive.
This great statesman didn ’t live to almost three-hundred years old without learning how to survive a couple of thousand assassination attempts!

Right now, Senator Tovar adopted a light and casual tone.
Ves took that to mean that he wasn ’t hungering for the Amastendira for the moment.

It wouldn ’t end well for Tovar if he insisted on Ves to give up his prized weapon.
The Amastendira saved his life over and over again and he developed a strong degree of possessiveness towards it.
In some matters, Ves could be quite irrational!

Fortunately, Senator Tovar himself would not be unaware of this, having manipulated people all his life.
Besides, as a man near the height of his power in his own state, he did not lack for toys.

”Everyone needs a way to bail themselves out. ” Ves replied simply, having become adept at answering nosy questions with a vague and indirect response.
”It ’s good to be taken care of by others, but in my time in the frontier I ’ve learned that sometimes you need to take matters in your own hands. ”

Camden Tovar smiled in a patronizing manner.
”What a youthful expression.
That isn ’t the first time I heard such a remark.
Very well.
Let ’s leave aside the many swirling around you.
Despite your..
complications, I am not blind to your service to the Republic and myself.
I will make sure you are adequately remunerated once we return to the Bright Republic.
For now, we need to deal with what is immediately ahead of us.
If we experience no further attacks, we will reach the Harkensen System within a week.
You ’ve visited this star system some time ago, correct? Please give me your impressions. ”

Ves was glad that Tovar changed the topic.
Even though he doubted if his impressions of the Harkensen System would be of use, he did what he was asked to do and began to ramble about his experiences in the Harkensen System.

He had the feeling that Senator Tovar specifically scheduled some time to indulge him.
Ves didn ’t know whether that was good or bad for him, especially since he likely made enemies with some of his own family members!

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