The Mech Touch Chapter 753
751 Oppressive Expectations
"Thank you for informing me, but I have to wonder.. why did you call me here?" Ves curiously asked.
He didn't think he'd be summoned here because Major Verle needed a sounding board. The mech officer had his inner circle for that.
"I called you here because this ward is one of the few locations on the ship that is not connected to the monitoring systems. Just to be sure, I'd like you to activate your signal jammer device."
Ves carefully inputted the right settings, putting it at a high power setting at a range that encompassed the entire ward and then some. Once he sent out the remote command to turn it on, the entire room became a little warbled due to all of the interference that suddenly thrummed in the air.
"There is worse news that I haven't told you yet." Major Verle said with a serious expression. He gestured at the silent form of the Fourth Prince. "Prince Hixt-Klaaster is dying. His expensive body enhancements and genetically optimized physique may have saved him from immediate death, but his lack of physical exertion has proven to be his downfall. His brains are irreversibly damaged and are failing at this very moment. The doctor in charge of his care estimates he only has two more hours to live before his brains shuts down forever."
"This!" The bombshell stunned Ves. Even a fugitive Acolyte scurrying around the ship didn't frighten him as much as this! "Sir! If the Fourth Prince dies, the Venerable Xie will go crazy!"
The mech major actually smirked. "Not if we don't tell him of the prince's death."Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
"That.. you should know Venerable Xie won't fall for that, sir. Experts aren't stupid and possess a keen intuition. Doesn't he use his privileges to talk with the Fourth Prince over his comm every once in awhile? What will happen if the other end of the call falls silent? He'll definitely suspect something!"
"We've recorded enough footage of Prince Hixt-Klaaster to simulate a lifelike fascimile. In the short-term, as long as they don't talk about anything they experienced in the Dark Plasma Star Sector, we should be in the clear. I admit that this is a short-term solution, though. Eventually the imperfections of our simulation of the prince will fall through."
And when that happened, a reckoning may come. An expert pilot could do a lot of damage if he decided to turn on the Flagrant Vandals!
"Then.. why not be honest, sir? While Venerable Xie obviously cares for his former patron, the Fourth Prince is kind of a loser. He doesn't have any redeeming traits as a prince or a leader."
"The profile we have constructed of Venerable Xie suggests that his loyalty to the prince is too deep to expect anything but a backlash." Major Verle replied. "In truth, the Venerable has never once shown an attachment to the Vandals. We hoped to wear down his reticence and worm inside his heart over the span over several years, but that is contingent on keeping our promise of keeping the Fourth Prince saved. Seeing as we have abysmally failed in that task, our old methods of ensuring the Venerable's loyalty are no longer suitable."
This sounded worse and worse to Ves. The major's talk of abandoning gentle methods meant he must be thinking of more drastic solutions. Ones that he might not like.
"Sir, what is the plan, if I may ask?"
"You may. In fact, our new plan hinges on your expertise." Verle emphasized as he turned his back to the unconscious and dying prince. He sighed. "What I am about to ask of you.. I do not wish to resort to this solution, but our awful state leaves us with few alternatives. Not when we are so close to reaching our mission objective."
"What is my involvement in this.. new solution, sir?"
The major sighed, which was something he never did. The man always projected an image of decisiveness. Hesitation never marred his form. "All of our analyses are overwhelmingly pessimistic when it comes to Venerable Xie's attitude to the Flagrant Vandals. The chance of a violent separation increases to near-certain levels after three weeks of time. We have no means of knowing if he will turn his ire towards the Vandals first for failing to protect the prince, but the odds are too high of such an occurrence. As a former bodyguard trained for the job, he will almost certainly blame us for the prince's death, perhaps even thinking that we deliberately let the man die."
Verle threw a dirty look at Ves. "Of course not. We are not in the habit of risking utter ruin in our relationship with a potentially useful expert pilot, especially at this junction in our mission. Now, onto your involvement. After contemplating a number of methods, both open and clandestine, to insure our new expert pilot's continued loyalty, I have settled on the solution that kicks up the least amount of fuss."
A solution that Venerable Xie wouldn't notice but somehow involve Ves. As his expertise lay in mechs, he could only think of one possible 'solution' that could solve the issue of loyalty.
Ves widened his eyes and took a startled step back. "You can't! This is way over the line! Do you know the gravity of what you intend for me to do! You'll not only condemn me in the eyes of the MTA, but you'll drag down the rest of your mech regiment with you as well!"
"I see you have guessed my intention." Verle smiled at Ves. This time his smile took on a ghoulish appearance. After taking a good look at the active signal jammer, the major did not hesitate anymore and revealed his plan. "A mech pilot is able to manipulate a mech using a neural interface. While it is often the mech pilot that is manipulating the mech, I am well aware that there are means to reverse this process. According to the logs, did you not receive a crash course in how neural interfaces work?"
"I did, but she only taught me the bare minimum, just enough for me to recognize a compromised neural interface! She has never intended to teach me how to brainwash a mech pilot by manipulating the programming of the neural interface! Even if I can't do it, the MTA will go absolutely bonkers if they find out that we've brainwashed an expert pilot!"
The MTA may seem like a large but invisible power in the Komodo Star Sector, but the severe crime that Major Verle expected of Ves went way over the bottom line of the MTA!
Death was all but assured if they found out, which they would surely will after observing the expert pilot's altered behavior!
Perhaps the experts such as the Dragons of the Void were able to brainwash someone subtle enough to behave just like their old selves, but a rank amateur like Ves who hadn't even taken a single proper course in neural interface technology would surely make a million mistakes!
Ves had heard how tiny mistakes with neural interface settings often led to huge distortions in an expert pilot's behavior!
Even though expert mechs already came with neural interfaces that were carefully tweaked with effects that pushed close to the edge to outright brainwashing, each change had to be logged with the MTA for their express approval before the changes could go live!
The checks on the altered programming of an expert mech's customized neural interface was one of the strictest and most thorough certification processes performed by the association. The MTA cherished expert pilots like others cherished their sons and daughters!
The Parallax Star still utilized the previous programming optimised for Venerable O'Callahan. Just like any other customized aspect of an expert mech, the more the neural interface specialized to work with one specific mech pilot, its effectiveness when piloted by others suffered a substantial hit.
In fact, this poor fit deserved a lot of the blame for Venerable Xie's abysmal performance with the Parallax Star.
Ves had no way of fixing this problem, though. He completely lacked the qualifications to tweak the core programming of the neural interface. From what he gathered, in the last decade Professor Velten had always been the only mech designer to customize the neural interfaces for the expert mechs of the Vandals.
Even then, the professor only dared to do so after taking extensive scanning and active testing of the expert pilot under controlled lab conditions. The Wolf Mother factory ship hosted all of the advanced lab facilities, but she was currently with the main Vandal fleet that was far away from the frontier now.
All in all, it meant that Ves had no legitimate reason to mess with the neural interfaces. For Major Verle to come out and expect him to commit a major crime that might see his entire family purged was way out of line.
"This is an illegal order, sir." He hissed through his lips.
"Then it is a good thing that I am only making a request." The major replied smoothly as he turned around and bore his gaze straight into Ves. "I am quite aware of the magnitude of what I expect from you. Therefore, I am leaving the choice up to you. Cooperate or not. Just know that if you refuse, we will likely have to resort to extremely suboptimal alternatives, ones which may very well ruin our chance to benefit from the protection of a much-needed expert pilot."
"You are putting me on the spot, major! You're telling me that I have the benefit of choice, but at the same time you are telling me that the Vandals will suffer if I choose not to get on the MTA's naughty list. Don't you think that's rather unfair?"
Verle pressed into Ves. "I'm not just telling you the Vandals will suffer due to your desire to avoid the hard choice. The opponents we might encounter at the Starlight Megalodon may be fielding their own expert pilots. Without a loyal and dedicated Venerable Xie to hold the line, even a single expert can butcher hundreds of Vandal mech pilots! Such a loss will certainly break our fleet and consign us to defeat and death!"
The major deliberately piled up the pressure onto Ves without any intention of easing in the choice. This was open intrigue! Ves could either acquiesce and accept the request, or he could reject it but very likely be responsible for the deaths of every Vandal and the failure of their mission!
All of this hinged on his decision. Should he or shouldn't he? Ves thought hard and tried to sum up every objection he could think of. "Look, sir, we won't get away with this. We can't! If by some miracle we manage to survive and return to civilized space, the perceptive MTA won't be blind to the signs of brainwashing no matter how subtle the neural interface manages to exert its influence. Our jig is up by then!"
Major Verle grin grew wider at this point. "This problem is easy to circumvent. We merely have to insure that Venerable Xie does not survive the trip back home. If we want to be really thorough, we'll have to arrange for the Venerable's corpse and mech to be destroyed in action. I'm sure a mech designer like you can arrange some means to accomplish this on command."
Not only did his boss expect Ves to corrupt an expert mech's neural interface, he also suggested him to incorporate a killswitch as well!
"Sir, please give me a moment." Ves pleaded. "I need to go over this option."
"Don't take too long Mr. Larkinson."
How long could he stall? Not that long, Ves thought. The Flagrant Vandals still remained in a pickle. Damn, how come Verle came to Ves with this request? Couldn't the mech major go directly to Miss Lisbeth or something?
Then again, out of every mech designer among the Vandals, only Ves possessed the requisite knowledge and skill to pull something like this off. Just as none of the other mech designers possessed the qualifications to take over the position of head designer, so did none of the dummies possess any expertise in the highly-restricted practice of altering the programming of neural interfaces.
It was times like these that he finally experienced the downsides of assuming responsibility!