The Mech Touch Chapter 377

Chapter 377: Sectarian Strife
Ves ended up in the middle of a battlefield on a terrestrial Earth-like planet. Ves looked around the view screens of the cockpit and noted that the battle took place at a fortified military base placed in some kind of mountainous region that made it difficult for landbound mechs to approach.However, no terrain could truly stop a mech from ascending up a mountain. The enemy mechs carried modular mountaineering equipment that allowed them to scale the mountains with a bit of effort.In addition to the threat from below, a large amount of aerial mechs systematically harassed the base from the air. While the defenders possessed a lot of anti-air, the sheer numbers arrayed against them slowly overwhelmed these weapon emplacements."Get up!" Ves mentally shouted at the consciousness of his current host. "Alven, your comrades are dying! The base is about to be overrun! Your god demands you to fight!"That brought the man named Alven Callisto out of his daze. A surge of duty, devotion and fury swelled in his mind as he dove back into his mech.The damaged rifleman mech climbed back up to its feet and resumed firing its laser rifle at the approaching waves of enemy mechs.While Alven got back on track, Ves took the opportunity to study his current circumstances. The battle took place on Rilrod, a planet ruled by the Holy Dominion of Apellix, a third-rate state from the Rolling Wind Star Sector.Ves had never heard of this particular star sector, but that wasn't anything strange, as the galaxy was divided into many millions of star sectors. The Rolling Wind Star Sector actually fell within the range of the galactic heartland. This meant that the level of development was a lot more prosperous than in the galactic rim.When Ves studied the mechs around him, he realized their prowess surpassed the third-class mechs used by states such as the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom. The mechs actually fell within the range of second-class mechs, which was nothing unusual for a third-rate state in the galactic heartland."There is so much wealth laying around here that any casual state can arm their mech forces with second-class mechs!""What was that?" Alven asked."Nothing! Keep fighting!"Ves still had to figure out his own situation before he could offer any assistance to his temporary partner. Now that he got a sense of where this battle took place, he tried to figure out how far back in time he traveled.He quickly read the details from Alven's mind. His metaphorical eyes widened as he realized he traveled twenty-five years ago! That was much closer to the present!This made it easier for Ves to apply his current knowledge, but it also made it harder for him to analyze the mechs being used at this time period. Most of the mechs used in this conflict consisted of machines from at least two generations back.Ves possessed a fair amount of experience with lastgen mechs, but he did not study the generation before that too closely. Still, if nothing else, he could make up this deficiency along the way.When he dove into the background of the war in question, he found out that it was actually a civil war. The Holy Dominion of Apellix worshiped a god predictably called Apellix. The religion had been founded by a charismatic leader that founded the state more than a millenia ago.Naturally, the leader proclaimed himself and his progeny to be descended from Apellix. Thereby, his bloodline enjoyed a supreme status in the Dominion.To an outsider like Ves, the Dominion's history sounded like one giant scam. Inventing your own religion to justify your special privileges was the oldest trick in the book. A fair number of delusional founders turned to religion to solidify their rule.When Ves peeked at Alven's mind, he found to his regret that the mech pilot was a full-throated orthodox believer in the Church of Apellix. The man had been indoctrinated to believe in the divinity of Apellix to the point where outsiders like Ves would receive a punch in the face if they tried to tell them that they'd been lied to all their lives."This is a thorny problem."Even worse, Alven fought on behalf of the increasingly corrupt Sunstar Dynasty descended from the original founder of the state and church. Each subsequent generation took the power bestowed upon them by a mass of brainwashed sheep for granted. The Holy Dominion grew more oppressive over time,The current generation of the Sunstar Dynasty regularly indulged in pleasure and often extorted the citizens of the Dominion of their wealth.Even if the citizens all believed in Apellix, they could only handle so much abuse.Tensions boiled over in the past couple of years and the Church split into two. The so-called Reformers claimed to be the true believers of Apelllix. The rebel leaders proclaimed that he received a divine mandate of their god to cleanse the Sunstar Dynasty from the galaxy.No matter if they spoke the truth, their message resonated among the oppressed. More than half of the Dominion immediately swung over to the rebels, leaving the Sunstar Dynasty in control of a couple of important star systems around the capital.The planet Rilrod formed a vital part of the loyalists to the Dynasty. This planet contained a lot of advanced factories that produced a lot of mechs each day. It was the non-port system equivalent of Bentheim, and whoever possessed it would gain a decisive advantage in this civil war."Alven! Your mech is too damaged! You can't fight on!""Don't distract me, spirit!"Alven shook his head and tried to focus on the fight. His mech jerkily ran back and forth along the mech-sized wall that surrounded the immense military base.The wall already started crumbling from the sheer weight of fire being thrown in its way. A group of heavy artillery mechs stationed behind a hill constantly shelled the base and its walls with high explosive shells.If one of those shells hit the Firerunner mech that Alven piloted, Ves could kiss his Mastery experience goodbye.Still, the mech functioned pretty well even after having all of its chest armor stripped. As Ves studied its design, he became increasingly awed at its well-optimized design. This mech made full use of its materials and squeezed out every bit of performance hidden in the frame.As the name suggested, the Firerunner excelled in speed and mobility. It possessed a fairly high top speed for a rifleman mech at the cost of not being able to change its course as fast. This was a normal tradeoff, and Alven already possessed sufficient training to modulate his speed according to the situation at hand.Currently, Alven weaved the Firerunner in a wave-like motion, dodging most of the fire sent in its way. The wall blocked most of the projectiles, allowing Alven to face much fewer attacks than he should have.Still, the damage and stress sustained by the Firerunner deeply worried Ves. "Your mech is heavily damaged. The power reactor's compartment has been breached. I estimate this mech will only function without problems for about ten minutes or less. You've got to pull back within that time!""What nonsense are you speaking about, spirit! Get out of my head!""I'm not some random spirit! I'm a mech designer!""What fart are you good for?!""I'm from the future! Just read what's on my mind!""I don't have time for this nonsense! The priest will expel you later!"Ves faced a thorny issue. His host didn't care about his presence and wanted him to go. Obviously, Ves did not wish to leave so soon. He was constantly absorbing Alven's experiences as he struggled to fend off the overwhelming waves of rebel mechs.Even though he warned Alven that the Firerunner wouldn't last, the mech pilot seemed determined to fight to the end.Although Ves admired Alven's determination to fight, he did not wish to go down with the ship. He turned his attention to the enemy mechs that assaulted the base.Most of them consisted of rifleman mechs. A handful of knights and other melee mechs acted as their meatshields. The melee mechs even put away their weapons in order to carry thick temporary shields meant for sieging.Alven's laser rifle fared very poorly against these hastily fabricated slabs of alloys. Ves could tell that the temporary shields mostly consisted of a mix of mundane metals and junk exotics. They possessed no merit other than their thickness. This slowed down the mechs that carried them to a crawl, but that hardly mattered up to this point."You're going at it the wrong way!" Ves argued Alven. "Even at your rifle's highest power setting, you can hardly burn a hole through those alloys. It's too thick!"Alven let out a frustrated growl. He'd been fighting against these shields over an hour, and pretty much all of his laser beams had been neutralized by this awesome defense."Then what do you suggest I do!?"Ves thought about it for a moment. It was easy to point out a mistake, but hard to come up with a solution.Still, Ves came up with something that stood a decent chance of working, but he needed Alven's cooperation."Give me control over your body for a moment. I need to reprogram your laser rifle.""What?! Never! Begone, you demon! Go back to your pathetic rebellious masters!"Ves wanted to curse this impenetrable fool. Couldn't he tell that Ves only wanted the best for Alven?"I'm not part of the rebellion and I'm not some kind of demon! I'm just a mech designer who happened to land within your mind! I never even heard about the Rolling Wind Star Sector in my life. I don't have a stake in this fight!""Don't bluster me with your lies, demon! I know what you are! Continue to spout your lies! It will do nothing to shake me from my faith! For the Sunstars! For Apellix!"Alven's lust for battle grew superheated and he started to take unreasonable risks to get around the heavy shields of his opponents. A couple of times, his Firerunner narrowly escaped death in an attempt to take down the enemy mechs behind the shield.The situation didn't look so good. The rebels eventually wore out their shields, but they brought out a lot of spares. This pretty much negated the defensive advantage of the defenders. Added with the numerical advantage of the attackers, Alven's situation did not seem so good.Ten minutes eventually went by and the Firerunner's systems started issuing a lot of alarms."Your mech won't last another minute! Eject!""No! My faith is strong! The Sunstars shine upon me even now! I can feel it!"Ves wanted to strangle this stubborn suicidal idiot. This religious nut threatened to cut his precious Mastery experience short, effectively wasting much of his 40,000 DP. He couldn't afford to let Alven die so soon.If persuasion didn't work, what about coercion?He never thought about using force against an uncooperative partner. He hit it off with Barley immediately last time, so he never thought about ending up in a situation like this. Ves started to think up some ideas on how to pressure Alven into doing what he wanted.He took inspiration from the conflict between the images he regularly conjured up for his mech. He particularly took note of the fight between the crystal leader's spiritual remnant and the other two images arrayed against it. What mattered the most in that fight was that the remnant possessed a lot more strength than its opposition.Ves tried to compare his strength against Alven's and found to his suprise that his mentality was a lot firmer than his host."I might be able to pull something off."He did not wish to kill Alven, nor assimilate the mech pilot into his own mind. Ves only needed to threaten the obstinate pilot a couple of times to get it to do what he wanted."Since you're a religious nut, then don't blame me for using your beliefs against you."If Alven believed that Ves was a demon, then he would act like a demon.