Chapter 2344 - Bold Ideas
The various commanders filed out of the room. None of them held any smiles. Though they swapped numerous ideas during the meeting, none of them sounded good enough to save them from their current predicament.
Any external help, even from the MTA, would come way too late. The Nyxian Gap's remarkable properties also made it insanely difficult to get anywhere quickly unless someone had access to the so-called secret spacelanes.
These shortcuts were very obscure. The Peacekeeper Association which knew the most about the Nyxian Gap had absolutely no clue where any of them were and how to access them! Not even the Big Two's warfleets with their sophisticated detection technologies managed to sniff out these unusual spatial channels.
Whatever the case, the Larkinson Fleet was in too deep and the Allidus Alliance's punitive fleet was already heading to the border between Wreckage Paradise and Maynard Fields.
Perhaps the one useful suggestion offered by the various officers was one given by Fleet Coordinator Ophelia Kronon.
"There is no reason why we should accelerate towards the enemy. Confronting the enemy warsh.i.p.s one day sooner is worse than one day later. At the very least, delaying for time will give us more opportunities to turn the situation around. Maybe the pirate factions break off from each other. Maybe a spatial anomaly has swallowed the Gravada Knarlax. Though the odds of these events taking place are low, who knows what will actually happen."
Her suggestion was a good one.
"We should stop moving to the border of the Nyxian Gap. Instead, we should be travelling deeper!" Orfan suggestion.
"No." Ves shook his head. "This is still enemy turf. The deeper we go, the greater the chance we'll encounter interference from the established pirate groups. Don't forget that the stronger pirates are all located closer to the center of the Gap. The Allidus Alliance's punitive fleet won't be the only enemy we need to be worried about."
"We can slow our pace, but we should not stop." Ophelia said. "Parking at the same coordinates will make it much easier for the pirates to surround us. Instead, we should make steady progress while varying our course. We have to prevent the enemy pirates from predicting our route. Otherwise, we'll encounter a lot of traps hidden in the asteroids."
There were a lot of complex considerations behind these decisions. Since Ves did not specialize in navigation or fleet maneuvers, he left it up to the experts to decide their route.
Aside from this, no other meaningful topic had been raised during the meeting.
When everyone except Major Verle left, he turned to Ves.
"We will do our best to bring the odds in our favor, but it is likely not enough. Even if the rumors are exaggerated, there is little doubt the opposition possesses overwhelming power."
"Do you have any suggestions?" Ves asked with a hint of hope.
"Activate your signal jammer first."
Ves instantly pressed the button. He was so practiced with doing so that he didn't even need to look down at his toolbelt.
The major spoke after the familiar field enveloped them both.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures, sir. I.. am aware of some of your proclivities. The way you run through the bodies of the captives makes that clear."
Ves instantly put up his guard. "What about it? They're pirates! They have forfeited their human rights!"
The senior mech officer coughed. "I pass no judgement on what is taking place on this ship. All I know is that I have witnessed a fair amount of strangeness ever since my fellow Vandals and I have joined your side. Although some of the implications are disturbing, I have little doubt of the effectiveness of your applications."
"I am a Vandal, Ves. Don't you remember?" Major Verle grinned. "I also used to be a part of the Firestarters Division of Flashlight. Even though I have long renounced my Brighter ties, I still possess the background. I have taken part in operations that I'm not proud of. Yet I did so without complaint because everything I did was necessary to keep the Bright Republic going. Every light casts a shadow."
Ah, that was right. Major Verle and the rest of the Flagrant Vandals weren't a part of the squeaky clean portion of the Bright Republic. Whereas most of the Larkinsons served honorably, the Vandals mucked about in the dirt. Their morals were considerably looser, which was very useful.
Ves thought for a moment. "I have some controversial ideas. The experiments that I perform are meant to test these ideas and see whether they can be implemented safely."
"Are they useful ideas?"
"Oh, certainly! If they work the way I think they do, then the effective battle performance of any of our mechs will jump! Still…" Ves looked a bit glum. "Even if I go all out, I don't think the results will be sufficient to change the outcome of the decisive battle. Don't tell anyone about this, but I think I have a way of helping our expert candidates break through. The problem is that warsh.i.p.s don't care about expert pilots. A few direct cannon impacts can make short work of a mech regardless of whether there's a resonance field or not. Pure power can overwhelm any trick."
Many humans in the galaxy still believed that warsh.i.p.s were the apex of human civilization's might. Ves happened to agree with them. Even if high-ranking mech pilots were capable of making reality their plaything, there were only so many of them, and their capacity was finite.
Warsh.i.p.s may be expensive to build and difficult to crew, but once they got up and running, their combat capabilities vastly exceeded that of an expert pilot depending on their ship class and quality.
"Do you have any interesting ideas you want to implement?"
"Don't hold back, sir." Major Verle spoke in a soothing and encouraging tone. "We'll be dead if we don't do enough to get ourselves out of this predicament. Would you rather keep your honor and die or would you rather keep your life and live in disgrace?"
"The latter, of course. This is a no-brainer!"
"Then go loose. No matter how dangerous or ridiculous your proposals sound, just voice them to me. I won't judge you no matter how extreme you sound."
Ves believed him. No matter what, Verle was part of the Larkinson Clan. With the Golden Cat watching over every Larkinson, any intent to betray him would never stay hidden. This was something that he expressly added to the design of the ancestral spirit!
A few minutes passed as Ves calmly ran through his ideas, both recent and old. There were several controversial measures buried in the back of his mind that he never dared to entertain because of the immense risks involved.
Now that Task Force Predator was slowly being driven to a corner, Ves no longer cared that much. The desperation of the moment was already getting to him in a very bad way.
Ever since he entered the Nyxian Gap, Ves felt a lot more unconstrained in his actions. The lawlessness and degeneracy of the region made him feel both liberated and under constant threat.
For a long time, this was tolerable to Ves. With the strength of his task force and the protection of the Penitent Sisters, there were hardly any pirates who could withstand their might.
That feeling of superiority didn't last. Ves felt as if he had gone back to the days where he was serving alongside the Flagrant Vandals while travelling deep into unfriendly territories.
Ves let out a deep breath. He suddenly felt liberated after receiving Major Verle's encouragement. Keeping all of his controversial ideas to himself was stifling. He really needed a confidante who understood his difficulties. Sometimes, a helping hand and a second opinion could go a long way in helping him shape his solutions.
"The method that I have just alluded to might help our expert candidates out, but it isn't primarily targeted towards them. It's actually a way to empower our weaker mech pilots. By 'charging' up their mechs with an exotic form of energy, their mechs will become more 'alive'. It's difficult to describe the exact effects because I haven't really applied it to anything except for the Desolate Soldier mech I've tinkered with recently. Some of the mech pilots that I've stuck into its c.o.c.kpit have died. That should give you an understanding how dangerous it can be to play around with this idea."
"I believe you, sir. You are not the sort of person who tortures people out of enjoyment. Have you made any progress?"
Ves shook his head. "Not quite. Experimenting with pirates only gets me so far. If I want to take the next step, I need to apply the method I'm developing to our own mechs and mech pilots. So far, I have secretly applied my method to just one of our clansmen, but it remains to be seen whether it works. I didn't dare to go too far, so I'm afraid the effect might not be strong enough and that it will take too long to see the results."
"Will it help if you apply your experiments to more mech pilots?"
"Definitely. The concept should be sound, but I don't know how certain variables can affect the outcome. Performing actual experiments is the key to determining whether my method is safe and effective. It's just.. if I have miscalculated, our fellow Larkinsons may actually die."
"Perform the experiment on the Vandals."
"My Vandals soldiers." Verle said. "We are trained to take risks that no one else is willing to take. We have gone through hell and back several times. This is no different. If you aren't willing to perform this experiment on any other Larkinsons, then just use us. You can trust us to do our duty."
Ves felt touched by his offer, though he doubted whether the major actually spoke for the entirety of the Vandals.
"That sounds.. great, but the Vandals aren't suitable. Right now, they are mostly piloting their old Mech Corps machines. I can't apply the method that I'm developing to mechs that I haven't worked on. I can only empower mechs that are alive."
"Oh." The major frowned. "I did not know that. In that case, I suggest you turn to the Living Sentinels. While they are badly battered, there are still more than two-hundred mech pilots at your disposal. The Sentinels have performed the worst during this excursion and their battle strength is too low to play a meaningful role in the decisive battle. It's better to make a bet and find some way to strengthen the Sentinels no matter the cost."
"That's a reasonable argument." Ves nodded. "It would be even better if I apply my trick to the Avatars as well. The Bright Warrior mechs that are issued to a couple of mech companies are very suitable for empowerment. It also happens to die into my second possible idea."
"And that is?"
"There may be another way to enhance the battle strength of our mech pilots. It's.. inspired by the invisible network that ties our minds together. I'm sure you have noticed how some kind of invisible influence is affecting your perception and predisposition towards fellow clansmen. Right now, this network doesn't do much other than watch out for treacherous thoughts."
"I've noticed. It can do more?"
Ves reluctantly nodded. "The network I made was inspired by the neural network developed Master Huron. There are several parallels between them both, but they are being utilized for different purposes. My proposal is to replicate another feature of the neural network. I want.. to be able to connect the minds of every Larkinson mech pilot with each other in order to enable greater cooperation. There might even be other effects due to the nature of the network I want to create. If I combine this idea with the previous one we've discussed, the combination might even produce unexpectedly powerful results. What do you think?"
"You sure are bold." Major Verle responded mildly. "I understand why you have been reluctant to share them with someone."