The Mech Touch Chapter 1052
1050 Depth Of Thinking
Once Kester Hills got over the attack, the peace talks slowly resumed. Most people affected by the poison recovered without any complications. All of the sabotaged equipment had either been patched up or replaced with more secure gear.
Security practically tripled overnight. Mechs openly patrolled in the outskirts of the retreat without any concern of distressing the members of the delegations with their close proximity.
Frankly, the presence of mechs reassured them. They were much more difficult but not impossible to sabotage, as demonstrated previously when men on the inside scrambled their operating systems.
The Honored Ones were still rooting out the units assigned to secure Kester Hills for treacherous agents.
Even though the peace talks suffered a major interruption that almost threatened to break them off entirely, the negotiators who resumed the negotiations didn't act very reserved despite the absence of their former leaders.
Not everyone knew what exactly happened Colonel Xelven and Count Reginald. Only a couple of people included Ves knew that their decapitated heads had been brought back to a specialized Reinaldan medical facility elsewhere on Harkensen II to attach them back onto healthy bodies.
Even with the best care the Reinaldans could offer, it would take at least a couple of months to to insure a complete and healthy reattachment.
As for Ves, he mostly spent his time in his quarters brooding by himself. He wanted some alone time to clear his mind and go over recent events.
Besides, it wasn't as if Venerable Foster wanted to meet him anymore. Ever since he used her as a human shield and surprised her with some of his tricks, she no longer wanted to hang out for him for some reason.
Ves chuckled to himself. "Of course she hates me now. Not that it's any different from before."
This didn't really result in any consequences to him. Ves had the feeling that he had served his use in the delegation. He was a spent card, and so was Venerable Foster. His previous obligation of trying to connect with the Vesians seemed like a giant joke in hindsight. The senator never brought him along to make friends with the Vesians in the first place.
"I'm merely a wildcard who can be put into play when every other card is neutralized."
Senator Tovar kept the rest of his cards close to his chest, revealing little to Ves. This prompted him to spend his time in contemplation by guessing what kind of scheme the senator and prince were running.
"Both of them are aware that they drew the attention of enemies within their own states." Ves observed. "They made several precautions while they waited for their enemies to make a move."
He made another important observation. Though Ves mostly stayed in his quarters, he did hear some gossip every now and then when he went out to eat. The negotiators quickly came to an agreement on the intractable Bentheim issue. It only took two days after the attack for them to settle for a compromise that forced the Bright Republic to concede a small but unspecified amount of tax revenue to the Vesia Kingdom for the next decade!
"Before the attack, the peace talks have stalled for several weeks without a solution in sight. How can they get over their differences so easily all of a sudden?"
By now, the negotiators already moved on to finalizing the issue of settling the ownership of dozens of star systems in the border regions. The brisk pace discomforted everyone, but some were glad that they wouldn't be forced to stick around for months.
Ves had the feeling that everything that happened before was theater in a sense. The threats and ultimatums flinging in every direction served to give the mistaken impression that the Brighter and Vesian peace delegations didn't get along.
"If the conspirators struck during this tenuous period, they can easily deflect the blame to the peace delegations."
The peace talks would certainly break under a tide of mutual accusations and suspicion. It didn't matter at that point if they believed that others were behind the attacks.
However, the conspirators made two mistakes.
First, they didn't completely account for the wildcards in play. Venerable Foster's presence limited many convenient options. Ves' presence spoiled the key part of their elaborate operation.
The second mistake was that they made a move when Senator Tovar and Prince Colchester specifically stared at their domestic enemies. Ves threw out a guess that Flashlight kept an eye on the Ramza Family and other powerful families and organizations within the Bright Republic.
However much Ves found Flashlight to be abhorrent, he did not doubt their competence. No matter how much the others hid their actions, once Flashlight put their mind to it, they got what they wanted.
Once Senator Tovar and Prince Colchester identified their foes and gathered evidence of their misdeeds, they abandoned the puppet show that previously took place. The glacial pace of the peace talks abruptly entered into a sprint, and it looked as if a peace treaty might be formed by the end of the week!
The depth of thinking behind the senator and the prince astounded Ves. "Their plotting is first-class! While everyone was thinking three moves ahead at most, they were thinking six moves ahead!"
What Ves speculated so far only formed the tip of the iceberg regarding the depth of Tovar and Colchester's plans. The peace talks only formed one component of their master plan.
So far, Ves did not think this plan merely aimed to achieve a momentary peace between the Bright Republic and Vesia Kingdom. The two old men were laying the groundwork for something much larger.
Right now, Ves was too far removed from power to even make a guess of what the endgame would look like. What grand design did these two statesmen have in mind for their respective states?
Ves shook his head. "It doesn't matter. I'm just a mech designer."
A mech designer with a special gun, but a mech designer nonetheless. As long as Senator Tovar gave him his bag of rewards and sent him off, Ves was fine with whatever the devious old geezer plotted behind everyone's backs.
The more time Ves spent under Tovar's thumb, the more he realized he was out of his depth. Old fossils like Senator Tovar and Prince Colchester thought and schemed on an entirely different level than normal people. The closer Ves got to them, the higher the chance of getting pulled into another dangerous scheme!
If there was one benefit to the brisk peace talks, it was that Ves saw actual hope in an early end of the war. From the way negotiators agreed on every point and how the Brighter and Vesian members of the delegation bonded over their shared experiences, the impetus to achieve peace was never stronger!
In fact, one of the main reasons why both sides wanted to achieve peace so badly was to spite the conspirators who plotted against them. It was incredibly frightening and discomforting to be laid low so utterly and completely.
"The warmongers overplayed their hand." Ves remarked.
While Ves didn't know how exactly Senator Tovar and Prince Colchester held the known conspirators to account, it was evident that they no longer feared their opposition that much.
After some time, Professor Ventag finally dropped by his quarters one evening.
"My apologies for my extended absence, Ves. The negotiations picked up so much speed that I've been swamped with work."
"I understand, professor. You have better things to do than pay me a visit."
"Come now, Ves. Don't discount yourself. I heard that you stopped going out since the attack. Are you suffering from any physical and mental repercussions? I can call for specialized aid if you need the assistance."
Ves shook his head. "No, I'm fine. It's just you know that Colonel Xelven almost got his head carried away. I'm glad I was in a position to stop that, but how can the situation devolve to such an extent that every security measure in place to prevent this attack failed so completely and utterly?"
"Our detractors are numerous and powerful." Professor Ventag remarked. "Their means are just as elaborate if not better than what we have at our disposal. The only way that Senator Tovar can outplay them is to outwit them. It is not a coincidence that while Kester Hills is heavily secured, it did not offer as much security as we do now."
"Are you suggesting that Senator Tovar and Prince Colchester intentionally set us up as bait?"
The professor calmly crossed his arms. "I am not making any claims here. You should be careful of what you say here, lest you be accused of slander."
Ves glowered at that. Obviously, he couldn't just say that the two old men put their delegations which consisted of some of the most powerful and influential military officers, government officials, bureaucrats and academics at risk just to mislead their enemies and to entice them into action.
"The key point here is that we have managed to advance our interests at the expense of our detractors without paying a major price." The Senior continued. "The balance between the supporters of peace and the supporters of war is no longer tilted against us. No matter how much people disagree with Senator Tovar's intentions, it does not change the fact that he carries an official sanction directly granted by the highest officials of the state. To resort to foul play against an official government initiative is already bad enough. To be caught in the act is worse."
There was a hidden implication in the professor's words that Ves picked up with his suspicious mind. "From the way you refer to the government, you don't just mean that they're paying lip service to the notion of peace, right? The bright president and the cabinet must be fully behind it, belying the previous impression that only a handful of people know about this initiative!"
"Do you think the bright president is stupid?"
"No." Ves shook his head. "You don't get to be the boss of the Bright Republic by being stupid."
"With what you know so far, do you think the bright president would be rational enough to recognize the merits of peace over war? What about his cabinet?"
"If they are as clever as they ought to, they shouldn't be so obsessed about the war and prejudiced against the Vesians to insist on continuing the fighting." Ves observed with greater clarity. "The support for peace isn't as weak as you initially painted. In fact, there should be a substantial amount of support behind it as long as the reasons behind it are compelling."
Ventag smiled and nodded. "That is what we all hope. An important point to take note is that the detractors of the peace talks are also aware of the threat to their interests. They know that if they don't do anything, the peace treaty might become accepted by the two states and go in force. I'll spare you the details, but the outcome of this incident has forced them to curb any subsequent actions."
"What does that mean for us, then?"
"It means that peace is very likely, Ves. Once our negotiators agree on the terms of the peace treaty, the official signing of it can be done in a matter of weeks."
Ves didn't hold much hope for peace before the incident. Peace seemed very far away due to irreconcilable differences between the Brighters and Vesians. Yet now those assumptions seemed laughably off the mark.
For a moment, he felt lost. He only spent a couple of years in military service, but already he felt like he survived a lifetime of war. His memories of his experiences before the war paled in comparison to the perilous but unforgettable missions he took part in. The war shaped both his design philosophy and his attitude towards life.
What would he do once he returned to civilian life as a changed man? Would he miss the excitement, and crave for more? Or would he be able to find the peace he lost as he was constantly subjected to danger?
Whatever the case, peace didn't sound so bad.