The Mech Touch Chapter 830 Crunchy Snack
Despite returning them unharmed, their spirit and confidence essentially broke. The trauma of residing inside the maw of a giant monster became imprinted in their minds. The parting words from Ves also didn't help hem them get over their ordeal.
Every time they returned to camp, Ves patted their shoulder with mock-friendliness. "I hope I won't hear any complaints about you again. If I do, then don't blame me for tossing you back inside QIlanxo's mouth. She's well-behaved for now, but don't forget that she eats natives for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There's a chance she'll slip up and confuse you for a snack. I pray that doesn't happen to you, but you never know."
This 'friendly reminder' only exacerbated their trauma and scared the wits out of them well after their brief excursion.
To be honest, what Ves just did to all of the chiefs was tantamount to torture and abuse. The only reason why Ves got away with it was that he could already do whatever he wanted, within reason.
While these impromptu sessions definitely toed the line, he made sure never to cross it. Mental torture was a lot less transparent than physical torture. Ves was sure if he ordered Ketis to beat up the chiefs, he'd be met with howls of protests.
Yet because Ves never physically harmed the chiefs, it became extraordinarily difficult for the victims to leverage their suffering into outrage.
In the end, the Flagrant Vandals was still lacking in terms of institutional constraints. They never really paid attention to governance and rules, and only when Colonel Lowenfield took command of the mech regiment did they begin to shore up their compliance.
Still, no matter how much the legendary colonel managed to reform the mech regiment, a leopard couldn't change its spots. They were scoundrels at heart who preferred to follow unwritten rules rather than the written ones formulated by the Mech Corps.
The unwritten rules and conventions the Flagrant Vandals adhered to possessed a lot of gaps and shortcomings. However, the guiding principle at the heart of them were also exceedingly simple, so much so that it didn't take much convincing for the Vandals to adopt them wholeheartedly.
Another way of putting it was that the end justified the means.
"The method doesn't matter as long as it works." Ves repeated to Ketis. "Captain Byrd and all the other worrywarts won't find fault with me as long as the chief technicians no longer stir any trouble. In the short term, they should be sufficiently cowed as they are wracked with nightmares and irrational fears."
"You make it sound as if it won't work anymore."
"Time solves all wounds. Sooner or later, the chiefs won't let their trauma get in the way of their interests, especially if they undergo therapy and take some medicines. This is also good, because I don't want these experienced mech technicians to be incapacitated forever. Even if they are bastards, they still possess vital skills."
"So what if they recover and go back to their old ways?" Ketis frowned. "Do we toss them inside Qilanxo's mouth again?"
"Hopefully not. I think that by the time their mental wounds fade, you've gained enough experience and studied a sufficient amount of supplementary textbooks that you know your way around the workshops by then. Remember what I said last time? As long as you can out-technician a chief technician, the entire basis of their complaints no longer exists."
Essentially, Ves bought Ketis a month or two of time to grow into her role. After the mech technicians heard what happened to their chiefs, they no longer stuck out their necks and obediently performed their duties without any fuss.
Though the mech technicians didn't show much motivation in their work, at least their productivity went back to normal.
With that problem solved for the time being, Ves returned to his old duties. He began the difficult process of trying to figure out how to build a neural interface that connected the mind of a human to the mind of a beast.
It quickly became clear that while he didn't have to make too many complicated changes to the hardware, the programming needed to be changed.
Having studied the way the dwarf captives interfaced with mechs, it became clear that the natives used a different thought protocol to baseline humans. Though Ves never measured the data patterns emerging from one of the blessed people's beast riders, he bet that they probably followed the same thought patterns when they interfaced with their sacred gods.
Essentially, the natives communicated with the god species in an entirely different language from what normal mech pilots used when interfacing with their mechs.
"Why complicate matters and resort to a different language?" One of the experts in the beast rider project expressed her puzzlement. "If the natives and the god species are engineered to be compatible with each other, why not take the simple route and make use of the existing mental languages of mech pilots?"
"It's not entirely correct to refer to the thought patterns as a language. That is simply a metaphor to describe something more complex." Ves warned. "As for the reason why, I think it has to do with the neural receptor inside the heads of the god species."
Every wild god and sacred god grew out an organic neural interface, but functioned substantially different from mechanical neural interfaces. Study into these structures continued, but the exobiologists lacked crucial knowledge needed to decipher their greater functions. The organic neural interface incorporated both mech designer and exobiologist expertise.
In the face of these difficulties, Ves could only fumble forward and hope they managed to get it correct. All of this took huge amounts of research, involving not only Qilanxo, but also the dwarf captives.
When Ves brought one of their dwarf captives to Qilanxo one day, the beast grew angry. It stared at the unkempt diminutive figure held in place by a pair of security officers with heated eyes.
She considered the cursed people to be her enemy!
Ves attempted to explain why he brought forth the dwarf. "We need to perform some experiments. We don't know how we can get your new chosen to interface with your minds, as they lack the genetic modification to do so by themselves. We can only try and emulate the way this dwarf interfaces with your mind. The readings we accumulate will help us enormously. Are you willing to cooperate?"
Qilanxo widened her maw and released an angry roar. The sheer air released by the sacred god bowled Ves over and caused the security officers to lean backwards a bit.
Faster than anyone could recover, Qilanxo yanked forward with her head and pulled against her restraints. She slithered out her tongue, which stretched much farther than anyone suspected, and somehow managed to hook onto the dwarf.
The tongue pulled the unlucky dwarf out of the grips of the security officers before landing squarely inside Qilanxo's mouth.
This time, she didn't hold back her restraint. Her teeth slammed shut, causing gouts of blood to spill to the sides!
With a couple of brutal chewing motions, Qilanxo mercilessly mangled the dead dwarf's corpse before she swallowed it down to her stomach.
The security officers all became alarmed while the researchers nearby all took a lot of healthy steps back. Some of them had been in range of that tongue! If Qilanxo ever felt like it, she could have snapped them all up as a snack!
"Calm down! Calm down!" Ves yelled, trying to prevent the Vandals from doing anything extreme. "She had a bad response against the dwarf, but we're different!"
It took some time to calm down people's tempers and shut off all the alerts. Qilanxo regained her peace after eating the dwarf the Vandals had the temerity to present in front of her august presence.
Obviously, people's vigilance towards Qilanxo increased, but to their credit neither Orfan nor Dise displayed any fright.
"The big girl here is okay with us." Captain Orfan said. Having spent a significant amount of time in Qilanxo's company did much to dispel their initial fears over being in the presence of a dangerous exobeast.
Even though she was large enough to snap them with her maw, she was also a very intelligent creature. That fascinated the mech officers, and helped them bond with her. It was kind of like bonding with a pet dog, though perhaps a hundred times bigger.
The inability of them to directly put a dwarf into contact with Qilanxo set back the beast rider project. Ves ultimately had to resort to using the abundant data gathered through the frequent mental resilience training sessions that went on at the Mind Blender.
The training sessions went back into full swung a while ago, enabling it to capture every scrap of data the dwarf channeled to the neural interfaces of the test cockpits.
While most of the data looked like gibberish to Ves, the testing facility gathered so many readings that Ves thought about translating them to normal human thought patterns.
"If I can translate this gibberish, I can incorporate a conversion filter into the neural interface of the beast riders." Ves surmised. "Each interaction between beast rider and the sacred god goes through the filter that essentially performs real-time translations."
Ves initially wanted to 'translate' the gibberish by having the dwarf interface directly with Qilanxo and have her describe the meanings. Unfortunately, Qilanxo very much opposed that plan.
Therefore, as an alternative, Ves had to resort to trial and error and attempt to work out something indirectly. All of this was very complicated but it basically amounted to a lot of data crunching, improvisation, educated guesswork and dangerous experimentation.
"That sounds right up my alley." Ves ruefully grinned.
While Ves slowly started with the data gathered from the Mind Blender and cobbled together a heavily modified neural interface, several days passed by.
Eventually, the mech technicians from both the Vandals and the Swordmaidens managed to fix up the mechs that sustained varying amounts of damage from the orbital bombardment and the attack by the sacred gods.
While the repairs only fixed the essentials and left many problems untouched, the mechs at least regained their mobility. As long as they could keep pace with the ground expedition as it moved, the mech technicians could always perform the repairs during the lengthy rest stops.
Of course, the frequent unscheduled halts due to turbulence from the astral winds also resumed, much to everyone's irritations.
One of the biggest changes to the expedition was the addition of Qilanxo.
With their mechs mounted on heavy transports, both beast rider candidates spent much of their time in Qilanxo's company, attempting to make sure she followed after the column of fast and heavy transports.
In order to make sure she kept to the route, a rotating squad of melee mechs constantly surrounded her humongous body. With the presence of these mechs, Qilanxo had no choice but to move in the designated direction.
"Urrggh. That stinks!"
The main reason why the ground expedition placed Qilanxo at the rear was due to her enormous toilet breaks. The Flagrant Swordmaidens already diverted mechs into hunting the surrounding wildlife in order to keep the voracious sacred god fed.
At the start of the resumption of their trek, Qilanxo frequently took forlorn glances in the direction of the ancient city of Samar. Wherever the foreigners from beyond the stars took her, she might never be able to go back to the city she resided at for hundreds of years.
Fortunately, the constant company of the candidate beast riders kept her company and prevented her from growing too lonely.
"Don't worry big girl. Everyone needs to leave their home." Captain Orfan soothed the melancholic sacred god. "Think about all the new things you get to see! There's an entire planet for you to explore!"