The Mech Touch Chapter 761
759 Sacrificial Lambs
Once Ves finally returned to the Shield of Hispania, received an immediate summons to Major Verle's stateroom. After activating his signal jammer, he provided a brief report of his work using allusions, indirect words and code words.
Just because Ves trusted his signal jammer to disable most types of recording devices did not mean it could defeat everything. The Privacy Shield from the System worked a lot better than his cobbled up device, and worked on scientific principles far beyond his depth.
"So you don't have a high degree of confidence that your modifications have worked?" Major Verle pressed with a frown.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
"No, sir." Ves replied. He really wanted to scratch his head right now, but his armored fingers wouldn't make that a pleasant experience. Due to the continued state of heightened alert, nobody had shed their bulky suits as of yet. "Look, the best way I can put it is like putting a third-year mech design student in charge of designing a mech. There's a fifty percent chance the mech works and there's a fifty percent chance the mech will suffer a catastrophic error such as blowing up or cooking the mech pilot alive."
"Maybe sixty-forty. I have a bit more confidence in my success than failure, sir. Even then, there are different gradations of success and failure. A partial success would be that the.. intended effect is working, but the intrusion is too blunt and noticeable. A partial failure may be that my modifications are working, but it is achieving the wrong effect."
"How do we know whether which one is the case?"
"We don't, not at first. I had to make a choice how strong I wanted to push the modifications. If it's shaped like a hammer, we risk incurring immediate damage. If it's as soft as a pillow, then the effect won't be as obvious, but it will take a lot of pillow hits in order to achieve the same effect as a simple hammer strike."
"What's the timeframe until we are able to perceive a difference?"
"I truly don't know, sir. According to historical examples, it may take up to a week of piloting time to achieve a lasting change. The effect is more telling with the real thing rather than with a simulation. I highly advise conducting at least one simulation session and one live exercise before we depart this star system. I can compare the telemetry of both situations. While it doesn't allow me to determine whether the effect has the desired outcome, I can at least identify if anything has gone wrong or if there are unintended consequences."
A simulator pod contained a lot of safeties and hardware limitations for Ves to circumvent. Although it couldn't prevent the brainwashing effect entirely, it severely curtailed its effect.
A neural interface faced fewer limits, especially when it came to versions geared towards expert pilots. They needed to be capable of channeling a lot more data as expert pilots exhibited a massively increased capacity towards processing data. Ves possessed a lot more flexibility in abusing its expanded capabilities to his will.
"Alright. I will immediately schedule some tests. It will take at least four to five hours before the Finmoth Regal and the Linever Swan regain FTL functionality. Once that is done, we will key in the right settings into our fleet's FTL drives so that we can punch through the spacetime anomaly of the Aeon Corona System and finally reach the other side. The chief engineers have estimated that the journey will take about five to twelve days, depending on how much spacetime turbulence we will finally encounter. That will give us plenty of time to see whether your modifications have achieved the desired effect."
"Sir, if I may ask.. Do we know what's out there on the other side?"
The mech officer gazed at Ves with a sharp glance. "We have.. clues. Snippets of information. If you are asking me if we know why the Aeon Corona System is surrounded by a spacetime anomaly, I can't explain that. We don't know how many planets orbit the trinary stars nor do we know what opposition we will meet beside our competitors."
"And the Starlight Megalodon, sir? How are you so sure she's there and crash landed onto a Super Earth?"
"We don't. We only have third-hand information at best. What information we have gathered on the long-lost CFA battleship is obtained from interrogation and torture conducted by others. I've been told the interrogations hasn't achieved a lot of results. The shuttle pilots that have escaped the Aeon Corona System for the first time in three-hundred years actually turned out to be clones. They only provided the answers they intended to disseminate."
"That makes this entire venture even more suspicious!"
"Don't you think we don't know that?!" Major Verle slammed his fist against his desk. His suit's servos enhanced the impact force, causing the desk to rattle. "Even if the Aeon Corona System is a trap, someone has to take the bait, because the news we've learned is too great for us to ignore. Why do you think we've been sent? Because we are expendable! No matter what dangers we meet, all of the risks are worth it if even a fraction of what the clones have spilled are true!"
"This.." Ves knew in his heart that this had always been the case. He just hadn't expected Verle to be so upfront about it. "What are we really after, sir? What is so valuable about the outdated remains of a CFA battleship that's so attractive that the Bright Republic readily sends us out as sacrificial lambs?"
Major Verle didn't sigh, but his face took on a weary expression. The pressure of shouldering a monumentally dangerous mission deep inside the frontier had taken on him as well. As the highest-ranking Vandal in the fleet, his decisions could either save or doom the thousands of Vandal servicemen under his care.
"Everyone is a pawn for someone else. It is not my role to question the orders handed down to us from above. Even if we are acting on dubious intelligence, someone has to go, because the consequences of missing an amazing opportunity is too dear to miss. Might I remind you that the Vesians have sent out their own expedition here, one that is both stronger and more costly than ours."
That reminded him of the strange battle that took place after he isolated himself in his work. It had been a stroke of luck to the Vandals that the Vesians fell prey to the vagaries of the frontier.
Major Verle quickly lost his patience and shooed Ves away. After orienting himself in the corridor, he decided to return to his office. It appeared that due to the sudden ambush by the forces aligned to the Church of Haatumak, the Vesian fleet decisively halted their pursuit to the half-crippled Flagrant Swordmaidens.
Both of them suffered from the aftermath of the Church of Haatumak's aggression. Neither the Flagrant Swordmaidens nor the Vesians ever expected the low-key cultists to abandon their centuries-long neutrality to plan a surprise attack on both forces. They must have thought that the price must be worth it. Ves keenly noticed that Major Verle deftly skirted around the question of what drove them to such lengths to reach the fabled Starlight Megalodon.
"So many forces have gone through so many extremes. What is driving them so mad?"
Life-prolonging treatment serum? Advanced technological data banks? Tons of high-grade exotics? All of them sounded attractive, to be sure, but Ves had an inkling it might be more than that. Whatever drove the big players so mad, it must have been something truly substantial.
"Well, in a few hours, we'll finally be on our way."
Ves returned to his office. Right now, Ketis was off-duty and asleep so Ves had some time to himself. He nursed his head and thought about the problem with his bent design philosophy. As he came out of his most reject assignment, he had some time to rest his mind and take stock of his current mentality.
It didn't look good. It appeared when Ves kept playing with fire, eventually his fingers might sustain some burn damage even if he thought he'd been careful.
His design philosophy lost some of its luster, and it had suffered quite a bit from all the abuse Ves subjected it too. He felt a little guilty at his recent appalling behavior. Even if he did some of them out of necessity, those were merely rationalizations that could only convince his mind, but not his heart.
"I can lie to my mind but not my heart."
He'd have to brainwash himself to achieve such an effect, kind of like what he attempted to do to Venerable Xie.
"Well, I could give it a try if only my genetic aptitude isn't so abysmal."
He chuckled to himself. He seriously contemplated putting himself under the same circumstances as his latest guinea pig. If not for the impediment of being unable to interface with a mech, then it might have worked!
He couldn't cheat his way out of undying the damage he inflicted upon himself. He acted like a crook, and now he had to pay for it. "I still don't regret what I've done."
Perhaps being unrepentant may not be the best course of action towards recovery, but starting with honesty was a necessary step. The fact of the matter was that he willfully schemed against an expert pilot who piloted the expert mechs the Venerable had entrusted to the Flagrant Vandals.
As the head designer, Ves bore the responsibility of ensuring that they functioned safe and well. It was one thing to neglect his duties and let them rot due to lack of maintenance, but it was another thing entirely to deliberately turn them into a brainwashing machine that slowly sapped their mech pilot to death!
The only reason why his design philosophy hadn't cracked was because Ves performed these modifications for a client who became a danger to himself and the Vandals.
Treating his latest customer like an enemy instead of a valid client helped soothe some of his ethical conflicts, though strictly speaking the MTA wouldn't think of it that way. They always took the side of the expert pilots over the mech designers.
"A true mech designer doesn't care whether his customers are friendly, neutral or hostile. Their only job is to design mechs. How they are distributed or sold shouldn't matter to them. Even if he ends up arming his own enemies, the mech designer ought to celebrate because his mechs are so good even his foes can't help but favor his machines!"
This kind of example expressed the dominant viewpoint the MTA liked to espouse. Mech pilots fought for power, politics, ideals and more. They were the stars of the show that decided how the galaxy should be run.
Mech designers acted as their support crew. They provided the most important tool for the mech pilots to exert their power. A mech designer was not meant to wield power for themselves. The mech industry tolerated a certain amount of influence gathering as long as their ambitions remained within the scope of the mech industry.
A mech designer ought to be detached from politics. If the Vesia Kingdom by some miracle successfully conquered the Bright Republic, Ves should feel no compulsions about working under the Vesians.
The MTA was delusional if they believed that would happen. Mech designers loyal to the Bright Republic wouldn't accept their new rulers, and the Vesians would certainly favor their native mech designers over their newly-conquered subjects.
In essence, they key to solving his wounded design philosophy was to recognize that Ves did not harm his own client. Rather, he needed to convince his heart that he instead followed orders to sabotage a potential enemy, thereby neutralizing a ticking time bomb that could have exploded in everyone's faces.
While he had a fiduciary duty to deliver a safe product to his clients, he had no such obligations to do so to an acute threat to his life!
Ves felt out his heart and found that his design philosophy had grown a tiny bit less agitated. "Maybe I'm onto something here."