The Mech Touch Chapter 754
While Ves had recently realized he no longer needed to march in lockstep with the MTA's principles, brainwashing an expert pilot carried same severity as outright murdering an expert pilot under his care!
In fact, if Ves completely gave in, then he would in effect be guilty of committing two capital crimes in the eyes of the mech industry!
Even getting caught by one of them was enough to ruin the career of the Skull Architect and exile him to the frontier!
Ever since the Farund Affair took place, the Mech Trade Association became extremely paranoid about tampered neural interfaces.
"I can see you are concerned at the possibility of getting caught." Major Verle spoke out. "Let me assure you that won't be the case. The only people who will be aware of what you have done are you and me. With your jamming device doing its magic, there is no chance anyone else is listening in. I can promise you that I will tell no one of this nor include it in my formal and informal reports. Neither Colonel Lowenfield, Professor Velten or some pencil pusher at the Mech Corps will ever learn of this plan."
That did not reassure Ves enough. After all, even if Major Verle seemed to be the dependable sort, he was only human. Who knew if he changed his mind someday?
"How can I trust your word then, sir? I need more than just an empty reassurance. This matter is too serious for me to believe in your good intentions. Not when you are willing to plot against an expert pilot at the same time."
Ves may have gone a little too far in his doubts, but he couldn't care less right now. If Major Verle expected him to roll over and commit a grievous crime that could lead the MTA to condemn him to death, then he better get a receive a good answer!"
The major sighed for the second time that Ves had ever seen him do it. "Very well. Let me provide some additional reassurance to you. Let me begin by asking you a question. Do you think the Flagrant Vandals are normal?"
"No, sir." Ves replied without hesitation. "Frankly speaking, there are too many discrepancies between the Vandals and any other mech regiment of the Bright Republic. Even if that is by design as alluded to by the name of the Vandals, I have been harboring serious doubts about the purpose of the Vandals. Is it really just a place for the Mech Corps to dump their undesirables and unleash them onto missions of dubious legality?"
"You are on the right track. It's good that you have been aware enough to maintain a shred of skepticism. Yet you have fallen short of identifying the critical link that ties us all together. I don't blame you, Mr. Larkinson. We do our best to hide our other connections and make it seem we are truly abandoned by the Mech Corps."
"Wait.. so all of those tales about lack of funding and being saddled with troublemakers is a lie, sir?"
"Not at all. That is all true both on the surface. We have truly been gotten by with trying to make soldiers out of dysfunctional men and women and to fund our operations by earning our income through our own efforts. Yet this is merely the smokescreen that hides our true nature. I am sure you have noticed that certain individuals among the Vandals, particularly the mech designers who are attached to our units, tend to get transferred out at some point. Now try and think what other service branch of the Bright Republic don't hesitate to recruit troublemakers for their unique talents and their unconventional thinking?"
What other branch of service was out there besides the Mech Corps? The various Auxiliary Corps? A mech designer or a mech pilot played no role among infantry or tank regiments…
A light shone in his mind as soon as he focused on the word unconventional. Rather than think of something like the Mech Corps or the Auxiliary Corps, he should rather be thinking about the intelligence services!
"You guys are fronts for spooks!"
"Crudely put, Mr. Larkinson, and not quite apt. We are not engaged in the act of spying. We are more like the people who are sent after a target after the spies have done their legwork. Call us unconventional problem solvers if you will, or operatives if you want to use the boring name."
When Ves heard something like that, he recalled the image of Calabast again for some reason. Her role likely fit this job description to a tee.
He didn't know what he was supposed to feel after hearing this revelation. It explained much of the discrepancies about the Vandals, yet… what did that change, really? Soldiers or operatives, they still served the Bright Republic, at least in theory. This simple realization allowed Ves to accept this abrupt piece of news.
He could think about the greater implications later. Right now wasn't the time to commiserate about who he really served.
"Okay. I can accept that you are part of some intelligence service, sir. Which one exactly?"
One of the areas in which the Bright Republic excelled at compared to the Vesia Kingdom was its intelligence services. Each of them focused on different missions, but all of them had proven to be crucial in mitigating the Republic's military disadvantage against the larger and more numerous Vesian Mech Legion.
Major Verle retrieved a strange badge from a slot in his armor. He held it out to Ves, who looked at the extremely lively patterns. This was no mundane badge. The craftsmanship and exotics incorporated within turned this ornament into multifaceted work of art!
A small natural projection emerged from the badge. Ves knew the effect hadn't been generated by any electronics embedded into the object, but came from a precise arrangement of exotics.
The projection formed into fiery letters that laid to rest which intelligence service the Flagrant Vandals truly belonged to. Pretty much every adult Brighter heard of this name before, which was often associated with daring actions against the Vesians during the war!
'FLASHLIGHT' MILITARY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE
'FIRESTARTERS' UNCONVENTIONAL ACTION DIVISION
"Flashlight!" Ves gasped.
He had never heard of the Firestarters division before, but every Brighters revered Flashlight. The strangely-named organization earned their fame by their ability to fool and lead the Vesian mech legions into traps, cut off their supply lines and causing them to butt heads with each other. Though the details on how they accomplished these feats were scarce, that didn't stop the government from leaking a couple details of their successes to raise morale.
"Right, Flashlight." Major Verle nodded while he carefully put back his precious badge. "Although you Larkinsons have never entered the murky territory of military intelligence, many victories of your relatives couldn't have been achieved without our timely and relevant intelligence gathering. We are the darker brother to the Mech Corps."
"Then.. the Firestarters is some kind of division within Flashflight? A group of operatives?"
"Close enough, but essentially correct. Flashlight illuminates the path, while we Firestarters tread it to set the target on fire. That is the simple meaning of our names, which describes our missions as well."
"So that promotion opportunity that's offered to me if we finished the mission and returned to the Republic. It's a transfer to Flashlight, right?"
Verle grinned. "Flashlight is too boring for an experienced man like you. In truth, the Firestarters have room for unconventional mech designers like you. I won't be able to tell you the exact details of what we have in store for you, but I can already tell you it will be more impactful than becoming a forgettable cog in the machine if you are assigned to an elite mech regiment."
The revelation along with the badge convinced Ves that the major wasn't talking out of his butt. That still left him with the same dilemma, although he became a little more convinced of Verle's credibility.
"Okay, sir." Ves let out a deep breath and tried to think through the implications. "Military intelligence or not, does that excuse the frankly outrageous request you've pushed onto my shoulders? What you're asking me to do isn't trivial at all! We are talking about a deliberate attempt to brainwash an expert pilot against his will and to dispose of him when his use comes to an end!"
Ves still couldn't quite get over the magnitude of such a crime. It was one thing to brainwash a regular mech pilot. Trillions of mech pilots existed in the galaxy so the MTA didn't care for them at all, as evidenced by the continual existence of the Dragons of the Void despite their penchant for mind control and memory warping.
"I am aware of the risks, Mr. Larkinson. As the mech officer who proposed this course of action in the first place, I cannot escape responsibility either. We are both on the same boat. Does that provide you with sufficient reassurance?"
He shook his head. "You'd have to pay me a hundred billion credits to convince me to betray the principles of the Mech Trade Association. They can be really scary when it comes to punishing errant mech designers!"
Even though he sounded scared, Ves looked at Major Verle with sharp eyes. In fact, while he pretty much accepted that he had to break his principles once again to insure his survival, he didn't want to concede to Major Verle for free!
Ves realized that ever since he entered the recovery ward, he'd been pulled into a negotiation. He only realized this belatedly because of all of the pressure Major Verle exerted onto him. The mech officer probably wanted to force a quick decision out of Ves before he clued in to the fact that he possessed a lot of negotiating power in this verbal tug-of-war!
The mech officer went directly to Ves because he was the only mech designer in the entire fleet who could pull of the request! Not perfectly, but good enough to secure a decent chance of success!
Since the outcome of the mission hinged on his participation, Ves enjoyed a decent amount of leverage in these negotiations!Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
This was why he threw out the ridiculous sum of a hundred billion credits in the mix. Ves spoke those words because he wanted to signal to the Major that he wanted real benefits in return to the risks he undertook to meet the request!
"While I cannot make any direct mention about this request in any documents, I can still put a note on your record that we have benefited from your exemplary assistance." Major Verle drawled out. "This is one of the ways we note your contribution while obscuring its illegal nature. Flashlight can infer the risks you undertook in order to be of service and will be most appreciative of your sacrifice and discretion. Along with my personal commendation, I have no doubt Flashlight will treat you with more trust and attention than before. Even after the war is over, you will still benefit from this advantage."
All of that sounded swell, but how did this benefit Ves? Major Verle only listed out some vague promises about how Flashlight would treat him with a bit more care. Ves did not trust anything he claimed that wasn't written down in a contract.
"I think the expectation being set on me deserves a little more recognition, don't you agree, sir? Between Flashlight and the MTA, the former can't protect me from the wrath of the latter. Besides, regardless of whether I accept or not, how are you so certain my beginner-level knowledge in neural interface technology is sufficient enough to brainwash an expert pilot? I haven't even pulled apart a neural interface or tinkered with its programming even once!"
"I will let you peruse every textbook, blueprint and other related material on neural interfaces in the technical library of our local database without limits." Verle added without hesitation. "While our offline database isn't as extensive as the central library, I have full discretion over who I can grant permission to access the library. I can grant you permission at any time. No red tape will get in the way."
That did sound extremely attractive, if a bit more worrisome for Ves. Perverting a neural interface went against his design philosophy, and studying how to become proficient against it would inflict real damage to his very design DNA!
While his fragile but flexible design philosophy could bend with the wind, he doubted it would survive against a hurricane!