The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 707 Gracious Response


Acolyte Evie won!

Ves turned towards Mayra and bowed his head. "Congratulations on your mech pilot's win. Your Redemption Rose has vanquished my Evaporating Spear."

"The duel was too close to call." She said graciously. Still, she couldn't help but smile at her victory. "The quality of our mechs are roughly at the same level. We chose to emphasize different aspects of our mechs, and the only reason why the Redemption Rose took the advantage is because we dealt with the neural interface issue in different ways."

"That's true." He nodded. "I've chosen to limit the amount of input, while you've opted to rely on AIs to maximize the output. I should have gone for this solution as well, but I guess I was too prideful in my own methods."

Besides his ingrained bias towards relying on artificial intelligences, Ves also opted against them because they didn't fit with his design philosophy.

Ves in fact contemplated whether his design philosophy had room for autonomous mechs. It seemed self-evident that if Ves would be able to bring mechs to 'life' one day, that they be able to gain the ability to move by themselves.

He opted against such a future. At the very least, he did not wish his mechs to gain autonomy from a mind based on data rather than spirituality.

A small intuitive feeling made him feel as if the best way for him to go forward was to continue to work around the unity of mech, mech designer and mech pilot. The entire X-Factor centered around an alignment of their strengths. If Ves started cutting out the mech pilot out of the equation, why wouldn't mech designers be made irrelevant as well one day?

Ves did not wish to become an archenemy of the MTA and virtually every mech designer in existence by pursuing autonomous mechs! He'd be dead so fast once a battleship dropped a bunch of anti-matter bombs over his head!

The MTA wouldn't hesitate to wipe out the planet he was residing at if that was what it took to eliminate the scourge of self-operating mechs!

Therefore, after a long moment of introspection, Ves still considered mech pilots to be a vital partner to the mechs he designed.

He had witnessed the strength of the man-machine connection first-hand. It was not his goal to saw off one of the legs of that partnership. Instead, he wanted to strengthen the other leg so that the combination stood more firmly.

Such a stance benefited high-end mechs piloted by elite pilots the most. If Ves chose to go the other way, then he would be able to excel at designing low-end mechs meant for mass production.

"They're retrieving Acolyte Evie." Ves noted as he gestured his hand towards the projection that showed the two tow mechs grabbing hold of the immobilized Redemption Rose. "I wonder how much is left of her after this duel."

"Not much." Mayra shook her head. "Poor girl. She's rather young for an acolyte, and if she joined the Swordmaidens she would have enjoyed a brighter future. What the worshippers of Haatumak do to the winners of this Redemption Duel.. only they would consider it a redemption. To us, akin to damnation to become a Living Altar."


She obviously knew more than Ves, but with Acolytes Villis and her own minder standing close by, Mayra wouldn't reveal anything more.

The end of the Redemption Duel marked the end of their involvement and whatever emotional attachment they placed in their mech pilots. Mayra won while Ves fell short. He had nothing against the Swordmaiden mech designer for besting him. He even found it to be an honor to acquit himself well against a Journeyman.

He only wondered whether the Church thought the same. They initially told him that they Acolyte Gien didn't necessarily have to win for him to receive his rewards. If the duel excited their god, then both mech designers stood to gain their rewards.

As cultists started to depart from the observation chamber, Ves calmly continued chatting with Mayra while he waited for the final verdict.

The hatch suddenly slid open after some time. The Soulless Priest himself had come to greet the mech designers.

"Mayra of the Swordmaidens. Congratulations are in order."

She bowed to the Priest. "Acolyte Evie deserves all the praise. I merely provided the tools."

"As you say. Rewards are in order. I think you will find our offerings exceedingly satisfying."

The two older mech designers chatted a bit, though Ves found it difficult to follow their conversation as they only referred to important matters with euphemisms and code names.

Eventually, the Soulless Priest spared a single glance at Ves, not that he could read the man's expression as it was shrouded in shadow.

"Mr. Larkinson."

"Yes, sir?"

"Your mech has failed."

That was laying it thick. Ves instinctively felt his pride creeping up at him, but he pushed it down. It was never a good idea to act like Ketis in front of more experienced mech designers.

Ves had the feeling the Soulless Priest tested him once again. He needed to be careful of what he said. "The Evaporating Spear performed admirably in the hands of Acolyte Gien. Their combination closely matched the pairing of the Redemption Rose and the Acolyte Evie. Victory and defeat shifted back and forth but eventually Evie had the benefit of retaining her battle effectiveness longer."

"You made the wrong design choice." The Soulless Priest spoke. He did not need to specify which design choice Ves had gone wrong. "Your ingrained aversions to certain solutions is a shackle that will limit your capabilities."

"I do not agree." He responded. "You are right that limiting myself will restrict my choices, but that only means I can focus on improving the tools that are still in my grasp."

The conversation strayed in the age-old debate between specialisation and generalization. It was a debate neither mech designers wanted to stray into, because it was impossible to come to a consensus on the matter.

"I admire your convictions. At the very least, you are willing to stand up for your beliefs even if they are misguided." The Soulless Priest quickly activated his comm and flicked a virtual invitation card to Ves. "Here you go. I won't have you departing from the Temple of Haatumak empty-handed. As for the discount, your colleague Mayra has already won that in your alliance's stead."

"Thank you, sir!" Ves grinned. He constantly worried about whether he had earned the Soulless Priest's approval. 

"Don't thank me. Praise Haatumak's generosity."Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.

"Err.. okay."

Once the Soulless Priest departed from the observation chamber, their Acolyte escorts led Ves and Mayra to depart from the Temple of Haatumak. After meeting up with some familiar Swordmaidens and Vandals who looked as if they went through the wringer, they both split up and returned to their own ships.

Their visit to the Temple of Haatumak came to an end. The Flagrant Swordmaiden officers all partook in various rituals and ceremonies, and their collective performance largely pleased the cultists.

This was why on the way home, various Priests boarded Church-owned shuttles and flew towards the various ships of the Flagrant Swordmaiden fleet.

The Priests were on their way to uphold their end of the bargain, which was to bless the Vandal and Swordmaiden ships with some kind of sorcery that prevented the sandmen aliens from detecting them at long range!

"Was all of this worth it?" Ves asked to Chief Avanaeon, who sat next to him in the shuttle again. "A lot of weird stuff went on aboard the Temple. I'm not sure what we're getting in return is worth the emotional damage we've sustained."

"We'll just be suffering a couple of nightmares at most, and we have pills for that." Avanaeon remarked without concern. He held up a lot better than some of his colleagues, who looked as if they still saw ghosts. "The Swordmaidens told us what to expect. If we can save a large amount of K-coins by participating in their sick games, it's well worth the pain."

The Flagrant Vandals still couldn't shake off their money-grubbing instincts. If someone offered something for free in exchange for a few favors, they'd take the bait without any hesitation.

Once their shuttle returned to the Vandal flagship, every Vandal breathed easily once they returned to familiar ground. The abundant lighting, the clean, filtered smells, the bots that kept the deck and bulkheads clean and tidy, the lack of prayer sounds, the absence of idols and religious iconography, and above all else being surrounded by fellow Vandals who didn't creepily hide their bodies beneath voluminous robes reassured them all that they returned to familiar soil.

"Home sweet home." Someone uttered, and everyone who visited the Temple agreed to that sentiment.

Everyone needed a touch of normality after witnessing so many bizarre sights. Ves returned to the armory along with the other Vandals. He changed out of his extravagant suit of armor in favor of a standard underlayer vacsuit with his sober and boring green uniform on top. Although his piratized outfit looked incredibly dashing, the Vandals weren't pirates who judged each other by how formidable they appeared.

"This is one pirate habit that I'm eager to get rid off." He huffed as he stowed his custom set of armor in a secure locker.

Another day went by as Ves returned to his routine. While he caught up on his paperwork and issued some new revised designs to his subordinates, the Haatumak Priests each conducted an elaborate ceremony on every ship. This took some time as they needed to spread their blessings on both the combat carriers and all of the logistics ships and smaller transports whose only purpose was to carry their supplies.

When a robed Priest stepped aboard the Shield of Hispania and threw some incense smoke around, Ves paused from his backlog of work and entered the hangar bay where the worshipper performed his ceremony.

A gaggle of Vandal ratings and officers stood well out of the way, staring at the robed Priest as he muttered some incomprehensible words interspersed with praise for Haatumak.

"What is that fellow muttering about?"

"I don't know. The only word I recognize is Haatumak."

"Do you think Haatumak really exists?"

"Beats me. He might as well be an alien who hoodwinked these gullible idiots."

"Shhh! Don't insult those crazies while he's working his magic! Misguided or not, their 'blessing' is the real deal!"

Many Vandals found it difficult to process how the robed Priest accomplished this effect in the first place. The sandmen were a menace that posed an existential threat to all concentration of forces. The larger the force, the greater the odds of attracting the sandmen.

Still, many of them couldn't figure out what kind of secret the Church of Haatumak employed to circumvent this disaster. Ves himself spent a lot of minutes staring at the Priest. None of his senses including his sixth sense detected anything unusual.

He suspected that the Priest was merely speaking gobbledygook and waving around his incense holder in order to hoodwink their clients.

Ves stepped back from the front row and put some bodies between him and the Priest. He had an awful suspicion about what really went on.

He activated his recently-discovered spiritual vision for a single second. During that time, he swiveled around his head as if he sought a familiar friend.

His enhanced vision captured the presence of several invisible robed figures in the hangar bay!

Each of them stood behind an important figure to the Vandals! One of them followed behind Major Verle, while another trailed after Lieutenant Commander Soapstone like a haunted ghost. Chief Technician Haine's exuberant gestures while she chatted with her fellow mech technicians forced her personal stalker to weave and dodge.

For some reason, the invisible cultists preferred to stay in extremely close proximity to their subjects. It was creepy and unnatural and Ves couldn't tell whether they were invisible or intangible.

Worst of all, when Ves swept his view, he also caught a glimpse of a presence behind his back! He hadn't managed to catch the complete form of his stalker, but he recognized the form and shape of the dark robe.

Acolyte Villis!

There was no doubt about it! He recognized her hunched form and ratty dark robes anywhere! Just thinking about her presence right behind his back gave him the creeps!

This wasn't part of the deal!

 
 


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