The Mech Touch Chapter 945
943 Tech Envy
Major Verle's question came out of the blue.
What did guilt have to do with Ves?
"I don't understand what you mean." Ves replied while squirming in his seat. "What's this question about, sir?"
His default dark green mech designer uniform made him feel awfully exposed and vulnerable. He badly wanted to get back to wearing the Squalon.
"The psychoanalysis programs analyzing your expressions state that you are shouldering a considerable burden of guilt. Therefore I'm asking you whether you feel guilty."
"I don't." Ves answered simply.
Ves shrugged. "I have some regrets. I regret not finding a way to save the ground forces. I regret not being able to help the mission more. I regret…"
He regretted having to kill Venerable Karol Xie in the eve of battle. Though it seemed unlikely that Xie could have turned the tides against Venerable Relia Foster and her ridiculously extravagant Belisarius mech, perhaps Xie might have still been able to mitigate the losses somehow.
Though Ves hadn't pulled the trigger that put a laser beam through the expert pilot's head, it was through his insistence that made Calabast arrange for the expert pilot's death.
He had blood on his hands. The blood of an expert pilot.
"Hahaha!" Ves burst out an unhinged laugh without any regard for his audience.
In the end, no matter what kind of excuses he came up with, he was guilty of the same crime that led the Skull Architect to flee to the frontier!
If the MTA ever learned what Ves did, they'd probably put a bounty on his head as well!
"Got it out of your system yet?" Major Verle asked.
"Ahem. Yeah. Thank you for your patience sir. A lot of awful events happened on the surface. There was no time to stop and take the time for me to go through my experiences."
"There is help for you when you need it Mr. Larkinson. Many mech pilots haven't gone through the trauma you must have undergone."
"No thanks, sir." Ves brushed off the major's concerns. "I'd rather just return to work, if I'm allowed to. Working with mechs is the best therapy for a mech designer."
"You'll have to go through a more thorough debriefing as well as another checkup and observation period, but you are more than welcome to resume your post as head designer. Mr. Mercator who has been filling your seat in your absence has proven… less than capable."
Ves smirked. "I can imagine. It takes a lot more than conceit to fill in such a big pair of shoes."
Due to all the monitoring, Major Verle didn't take too long before he left. After his departure, the Vandals resumed their observation on him. Several days went by as Ves went through a more thorough medical checkup as well as going through various competence tests.
His performance during most of these tests exposed how much all of his cognitive enhancements turned him into a freak in this regard!
In fact, his record already included his abnormal cognitive functions, but all the experiences he went through matured him quite a bit since the start of his draft. All the treatments and operations he received on the Starlight Megalodon also comprehensively boosted all of his cognitive abilities by a small notch.
All of this resulted in complete puzzlement on the part of the doctors and specialists administering the tests. Ves performed so far out of bounds in many physical and mental aspects that they simply couldn't judge whether there was anything wrong with his health or mental state.
In the end, they metaphorically threw their hands up and took Ves at his word that he felt fine.
Doctor Cuscar blew out a tired breath as he held a data pad that contained the results of a thorough brain scan. "Compared to an average baseline human's brains, yours is so far out of the norm that you could be mistaken for an alien species."
"Any problems, doc?"
"Hell, what do I know? I think someone who specializes in studying alien biology can tell you more about yourself than a simple doctor like me! You'll have to undergo a more thorough examination at a military hospital if you want to have any hopes of deciphering the impact of all your transformations on your health."
"No thanks. I trust in the CFA's work. There's nothing wrong with me, really."
Though Dr. Cuscar seemed skeptical about the quality of medical treatment a crashed battleship could provide, Ves just wanted to get this all over with. There was no way the Bright Republic's standards on medical technology could ever fathom the work of top-tier trans-galactic organizations such as the CFA and the Five Scrolls Compact.
After his examinations finally ended, he finally received his gear again, having been cleared to make use of most of his gear including his CFA comm, though such a decision was strictly against regulations.
According to Chief Armorer Mandelsen who passed Ves back his gear, Major Verle himself overruled the rules concerning the use of foreign devices and technology.
"We've been going from one crisis to another." Mandelsen remarked as she signed off on all the gear being returned to Ves. "We're still gathering a slew of surviving ships and trying to find the best way to jump out of this forsaken star system. There's pirates, Vesians and above all else the sandmen lurking in every corner. If worse comes to worst, you'll be better off in your fancy CFA suit than the crappy goods us space peasants use."
Ves raised his eyebrows at her cynical words. "Oh, come now, chief. I'm still a Brighter, just like you. You should call yourselves space peasants."
"Isn't that what the folks from the CFA call everyone else who isn't a part of the Big Two and the first-rate superstates? In the eyes of the people at the top, most of human space only exists to mine exotics for them and occupy space that they disdain to take for themselves."
This wasn't the first time Ves received this response. For some reason, when people found out that he underwent several CFA gene optimization treatments and received his own customized set of CFA equipment, they somehow believed that he transcended his origins and joined the CFA for real.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The real CFA would never acknowledge his highly unconventional and outright fraudulent means of fooling the Starlight Megalodon to commission him as a lieutenant commander of the service.
Ves would rather they didn't find out entirely.
After he retrieved his Squalon and immediately fitted into it, he finally marched to Major Verle's stateroom and entered it. To Ves, it almost felt like old times.
"Take a seat, Mr. Larkinson."
"Am I allowed to activate my signal jammer here?"
Once he did so, the entire compartment became engulfed in a strong interference field. Compared to his self-developed signal jammer, the one he received from Virtual Chief Armorer Levitt not only blocked more esoteric means of observation, it also possessed a much higher strength, so much so that Major Verle looked a lot more uncomfortable due to the unstable waves passing through his body.
"So this is CFA tech."
"Yup." Ves nodded. "This little gadget only scratches the surface of what wonders the Starlight Megalodon truly held, sir. She's truly a treasure chest of wonders."
"Now that we're amongst ourselves, please relate to me the details that you were hesitant about telling me in the interrogation room."
"At least I can get some things off my chest."
In the next couple of hours, Ves related more stories and details on some of the more unsavory events during their trek to the surface. He mentioned the unethical experiments, Project Icarus and the deliberate transformation of life on Aeon Corona VII and briefly touched on his partnership with Miss Calabast.
Ves held back on that latter topic. Luckily, Major Verle seemed much more taken by one of the other revelations to care about his temporary cooperation with a third party that came out of the blue.
"Is Project Icarus truly this ambitious? I have never heard of a means where mech pilots can be artificially elevated to expert candidates. Do you know how much the galaxy will shake once news of this get out?"
"I think it's a lot harder to replicate this process than you think, sir." Ves shrugged. "The conditions that made it possible for Captain Orfan and Lieutenant Dise to be turned into expert candidates should be almost impossible to replicate without so many prerequisites. Somehow, the higher-dimensional particles and energy leaking from the Starlight Megalodon is necessary to foster a unique ecosystem that can support the growth of the god species, who themselves have many unfathomable aspects."
"So only the big boys can make use of this development?"
"I'm not sure if that's even possible, sir. Right now, the laboratory and mainframe holding all of the files on Project Icarus has self-destructed due to the triggering of a trap and perhaps the sandmen will scour the entire planet of life. If the CFA ever comes, there won't be much left for them to reconstruct the conditions that made Project Icarus succeed."
If the Bright Republic ever held the means to foster expert candidates, then they would certainly have to relinquish the method to the Big Two. Major Verle wasn't truly serious about pining after Project Icarus' research data.
Still, the thought that something like this went on underneath everyone's noses in the deep frontier still astounded him. It made Major Verle question what other profound innovations the Big Two kept under wraps.
"Much of the wealth and technology in the hands of the CFA is out of reach to the Bright Republic. There's no point in envying their power." Ves responded.
They had a word for this phenomenon. Tech envy. Much of the galaxy lived in inferior conditions compared to what the citizens of the first-rate superstates and the people privileged to be part of the Big Two all took for granted.
The galactic center was where all the magic happened. The extreme density stars and all the energetic reactions and collisions that took place there constantly generated an abundance of remarkable exotics and anomalies that could easily be leveraged to produce wondrous applications of high technology.
Yet there were far too many hindrances involved with spreading the wealth. The less well-off galactic heartland and the deplorably underdeveloped galactic rim could only stare with envy as the so-called 'first-class citizens' of the galaxy kept the best for themselves and only threw some scraps to the beggars outside their porch as charity.
"You're right." Major Verle smiled deprecatingly at himself. "Chasing after the greater wonders of the Starlight Megalodon has always been a bit of a stretch for us. We should be glad that we obtained a lockbox from one of the battleship's vaults."
The confidential discussion proceeded to move on to other areas. Even though Ves tried hard not to draw attention to his interactions with Calabast, Major Verle wasn't so easily fooled.
"Now, I've already heard from Captain Orfan that the only reason you managed to gain entry to the Starlight Megalodon with the help of an alleged intelligence agent you encountered once before on Harkensen I, is that correct?"
"Yes, sir. At least this time she didn't make herself out to be a Vesian intelligence officer. I think. She's certainly not on the side of the Vesians, that's for sure."
Major Verle grimaced at Ves. "It's obvious you're reluctant to explain your dealings with her to me. As someone who has a foot in the dark, I know very well how murky it can be to deal with these types of people. Nothing ever good comes out of collaborating with foreign intelligence agents."
No matter how much the major poked and prodded him, Ves kept his mouth shut regarding Miss Calabast. "I'm sorry sir, but I really don't want to talk about her. Could you leave this portion out of your report?"
"I'll consider it. In truth, there are many aspects about the mission that the Bright Republic rather not wish to follow up on. Technically, we did steal CFA property though. Even though they'll probably dismiss us as beggars digging for their trash, it's better if we don't attract their attention at all by leaving behind a detailed record. Besides, we have other concerns to deal with at the moment."
Ves voiced a nagging concern of his. "If I may ask, why haven't we jumped out of the Aeon Corona System yet?"
He would notice something as obvious as an FTL transition. Yet over the course of his checkups and interrogation, he never felt the discomfiting sensation of FTL travel even once.