The Mech Touch Chapter 1163
1161 Trail Of Tears
Now that Ves took a backseat in Axelar's mind space, he began to relax and look forward to the show he meticulously engineered.
Ves took sadistic pleasure in Axelar's misfortunes.
It served the wastrel right for wasting Ves' time by continually indulging in stimulants!
"It's not my fault that you're forced to renounce your old life and return to piloting mechs. Blame yourself for being such a useless individual! Even if you're a Terran clansman, you should at least make something out of your life instead of validating every stereotype the Rubarthans had spread about your kind!"
At this moment, Axelar was almost completely out of it as his mind continually rebooted. The stimulant-deprived mech pilot simply couldn't fathom how he could ever derail his life so thoroughly.
What Benny just repeated about his decisions in the last day was unlike anything Axelar ever wanted out of his life!
It didn't make any sense!
"Being sober is scary! Please give me a fix!" Axelar shouted as a machine was scanning his body.
The voice of one of the doctors patched into the chamber of the scanning machine.
"My apologies, Master Axelar, but in the interest of preparing you for battle, we believe it is best to administer only essential medicines. Right now, despite the lack of sleep, your body is in a fairly healthy condition. Excessive use of stimulants will only cloud your mind and degrade your performance for the upcoming mech duel."
"That doesn't apply to me! The cloudier my mind, the better I fight! Come on doc, I know you have some pain relievers or sedatives on hand. Give me a dose, please, I'm begging you! I can't take it any longer!"
"No can do, Master Axelar. It's out of my hands. The Streon Clan is directly patched into our network. They want you to be as clear-minded as possible so that you will be able to fight in your best condition!"
No matter how much Axelar moaned and begged, neither Benny nor any of the arena staff would ever allow him to get his fix!
Axelar needed a lot of time to come to grips with the situation he ended up in. He struggled to get used to his clear-minded state. For the last couple of years, he never went by without at least one drug taking effect on his mood!
Stimulants made his perception of reality come to life. Stimulants gave his brains a nice buzz and kept him entertained for hours from the hallucinations he conjured up in his frequent hazes.
A reality without stimulants was a dull and colorless place to live in as far as Axelar was concerned! A strong psychological yearning for stimulants constantly played on his sober mind. He would do anything for a fix!
Yet his wish was being denied. Instead of receiving a fix, he was instead being prepped for battle against a formidable mech duelist that he couldn't afford to lose!
If it was just a single public mech duel, then Axelar would have considered putting up a half-hearted fight and surrender as soon as he 'accidentally' slipped up and cause his mech to suffer crippling damage.
His reputation would go down the toilet, and he'd let down the Streon Clan as well, but what did that matter to him? The clan was the clan! Its reputation would never go to ruin just from the conduct of a single clansman!
As for his own reputation, he never cared about it very much even before he became an addict. If he ever cared about his reputation for even a tiny bit, then he would have stopped taking stimulants all day and start discharging his responsibilities on behalf of his assigned elite mech corps.
Yet his future trajectory encompassed more than the mech duel that was about to start. Axelar wanted to beat up his sober self to a pulp for what it did to him! Why did he announce that he would be taking part in the Trail of Tears?! That was practically handing over his application to participate in the elite training program in front of billions of people! He would never be able to walk back that that decision no matter how many times he pleaded insanity!
"Come on, doc! If not a stimulant, at least give me glass of beer! Make it a huge glass while you're getting one!"
"We aren't sensing any signs that you are dehydrated, Master Axelar. If you are nonetheless feeling a little parched, we can supply you with 150 milliliters of water."
"Plain water?! What does that even taste like? Will it get me high?"
Axelar couldn't even remember the last time he drank water!
Benny's voice patched into the comm channel. "You should get accustomed to drinking water, Master Axelar. The Trail of Tears is a training program meant to unearth potential through hardship. The only form of hydration that they'll provide is plain water and the only food you are allowed to eat are dense and energy-rich nutrient packs."
"I'll die! I'll starve to death!" Axelar practically burst into tears! "I can't live on water and nutrient packs! That's a space peasant's diet! How can Terrans do that to each other?! Not even the poorest Terran beggar eats nutrient packs!"
Benny commented further as if he didn't recognize his charge's distress. "The Trail of Tears is very adamant about rewarding success and punishing failures. Those who achieve the best results in the daily training sessions are bestowed with double rations while the worst performers have to make do with half rations. A considerable amount of trainees suffer so much from malnutrition that they are no longer able to keep up with the training."
Axelar's eyes held a ray of hope. If he could just underperform a bit and endure some hunger, would that mean he would be kicked out of the training program?
"The trainees at the bottom of the ranking list won't get any reprieve, however. They have already signed over their lives to the Trail of Tears! A considerable amount of deaths each year come from underperforming trainees who starved to death! Nobody is generous enough to share their food with the losers. Instead, their failures and deaths are used to motivate the surviving trainees to work harder in order to avoid the same fate!"
"That's murder!" Axelar shouted. "How can the Trail of Tears get away with killing so many promising Terran mech pilots!"
"Joining the Trail of Tears is a voluntary decision." Benny stoically replied, as if reminding Axelar that he made the decision out of his own volition! "No one forces you to participate in it. While the death rate is very high, it is one of the most successful training programs in the Confederation in producing expert pilots! Even the more well-off trainees who failed to advance to expert pilot have gone on to become notable leaders!"
The Trail of Tears was an unusually harsh training program, but it was actually rather modest compared to the outright torture the Rubarthans engaged in to draw out the potential of their own mech pilots.
Some of the leaders of the Terran Confederation recognized that they were being too soft on their own mech pilots. With the Rubarthans constantly outshining the Terrans, the first-rate superstate decided to create the Trail of Tears as an attempt to match their most hated rival!
This was why no matter how much the Trail of Tears mistreated the elite clansmen mech pilots who signed up, the training program was never under threat!
The Streon Clan had no recourse at all if Axelar failed to perform up to the rigorous standards set by the Trail of Tears. The training program was very meticulous in being harsh but fair. Anyone who failed only had their incompetence and lack of willpower to blame!
Axelar knew this much at least, which made him all the more distressed!
"The Trail of Tears is also a good opportunity to exercise your social skills." Benny said. "I've heard that trainees who don't have enough food often turn into bandits who fight and steal the rations of other trainees. Even those who received double rations aren't exempt from getting robbed! If you don't make some friends very soon, a very unfortunate fate will befall you even if you are a talented mech pilot who can keep up with the initial training sessions!"
This little tidbit practically gave Axelar a heart attack! He at least took some comfort in his high genetic aptitude, even though the average standard among the elites who participated in the Trail of Tears was already high.
Yet to hear that he wouldn't be safe even if he performed at his best frightened him to no end! What kind of training program allowed their trainees to descend into bandits and savages just for some scraps of awful-tasting food and water?!
"It is not all that bad, Master Axelar." Benny mused. "If I was a mech pilot, I would have signed up as well. The Trail of Tears is called that way because the training camp is a roving fleet of mech carriers and support ships. The fleet follows a random route that takes it to all of the hotspots and danger zones in Terran space. You will get to explore some of the most dangerous planets and regions of space that the Confederation has to offer! What an exciting adventure!"
"It's exciting enough to give me a stroke!" Axelar yelled back.
"I've heard one instance where the Trail of Tears dropped their trainees on a savage jungle exoplanet. Carnivorous exobeasts the size of mechs roam the planet, and in order to make sure they hunt down the trainees, the training instructors conditioned them to treat human flesh as a delicacy. Even though the trainees were informed that they would only have to survive for twenty-four hours, in truth the training instructors waited for an entire week and let the trainees despair in their abandonment before they finally sent out shuttles to pick up the survivors!"
"That's a war crime!? How can those training instructors still have their jobs?!"
"I've heard that the Terrans tried hiring normal instructors." Benny recalled. "The problem was that they couldn't bring themselves to push the trainees to their limits. That is why the Terrans replaced normal training instructors with the worst criminal mech pilots they could unearth from their prisons. They even hired Rubarthan prisoners of war who would like nothing more than to kill as many Terrans as they can get away with it! Only these types of scum are ruthless enough to give the trainees a strong threat to their lives!"
This revelation practically made Axelar choke in his breath. He was just exaggerating a little back then. How could it be that the Trail of Tears employed actual war criminals as their training instructors?!
"The Trail of Tears is so successful in its runs so far that the Terran leadership are even contemplating whether they should double down on its extreme training methods. The Rubarthans have already shown that these elite training programs can still achieve better results with higher pressure. To that end, the higher ups are debating whether they should increase the pressure until the death rate is doubled to fifty percent. Depending on how fast they resolve that debate, the changes might be implemented in time for your own batch!"
"Nooo!" Axelar screamed. "The politicians should take their time! And why do they feel the need to copy the Rubarthans all the time?! We're Terrans! We should stick to our own culture and customs!"
"I agree with you, Master Axelar. As Terrans, we should stick to our own identity. It's well-known that most of the survivors who managed to come back from the training program alive are mentally unfit to contribute to society. Rather than let them live, it is better for them to die in glory in the Trail of Tears. The training program should increase its targeted death rate to at least seventy-five percent!"
Axelar wanted to cry but had no tears!