Chapter 3040 - Divided Guests
Though the new MTA mech pilots did not really expose any notable information about themselves, the Black Cats keenly observed them as they went through introductions.
Not enough time had passed for the Larkinsons to get a good sense of the traits of every mech pilot that aimed to become more. However, through scans and observation by behavioral experts, the agents answering to Calabast gleaned a lot of clues from the twenty individuals.
"My first impressions of our guests are that they are quite unprepared for this assignment."
"Unprepared?" Ves raised his eyebrow.
"Yes, unprepared." Calabast smirked as she scratched Arnold's funny ears.
"Squeak! Squeak!" Arnold enthusiastically responded.
When Master Willix initially introduced this mission to Ves, he gained the impression that she had only recently begun to build relationships and increase her qualifications.. Before the Crown Uprising broke out, she didn't really seem to be in a hurry to gain the appreciation of her superiors.
A sinking feeling overtook Ves. "So these guys are actually a lot less willing to go along with us than we initially expected."
"I wouldn't say that. I am merely stating that they look unprepared or bamboozled. They have been thrust into a very dubious training program that they never asked for. They look as if they are here only because their patrons or commanders told them to and not because they have undying confidence in our ability to transform them into expert pilots. This has resulted in a noticeable enthusiasm gap."
That sounded very troublesome to Ves because turning any of them into expert pilots was not a simple task. They all looked to be around thirty to forty years old. While this was the prime period for mech pilots, it was extremely late for them to develop spiritual potential by themselves.
From what Ves had observed from other people, teenagers and humans in their 20's had the best chance of developing spiritual potential. After that, those who never accomplished this would have to climb uphill.
While Ves did not completely rule out the possibility of success, he felt the chance was too small for any of the twenty mechers to overcome this impossible hurdle.
That meant that they needed help. Ves happened to have a way to place some stairs in front of this hurdle that would make jumping over it a lot easier.
The problem was that the 'stairs' in question were covered in sharp and lethal spikes! If anyone stepped on it without care, they would just impale their own feet and fall down to the ground!
What Ves needed to do was to refine the design of these 'stairs' and reduce the danger to such a degree that a trained athlete could at least place his toes in the areas where there were no lethal spikes.
This metaphor generally described his current challenge. Unless he was able to reduce the lethality of the Aspect of Transcendence, he would probably be unable to make any progress in the mission that Master Willixed dumped onto his lap.
"I must say your strategy to divide them into different training groups is an apt way to handle these privileged mech pilots."
Calabast leaned forward a bit. "The MTA's reputation is unassailable in human space. Its members derive a lot of confidence and conceit from that. Even if they have been told to hide their identities, they are not professional spies and thus cannot shake their original mentalities. Arrogance and superiority towards space peasants is rooted in their bones. If they form a united front, it will be extremely hard for you and the rest of the Larkinsons to control them while they remain our guests."
"I see." Ves frowned. "Even I would feel hesitant to push them too far if all twenty of them take issue with my approach."
"This is why dividing them into different groups is such a genius idea!" Calabast grinned. "You not only separated them by their degree of willingness to play along with us, but also set the stage for further division between the groups."
"It's quite simple. From the moment they split up into three groups, a competition has essentially formed between them. You forced each of the mechers to make a difficult choice that has a great impact on their lives. Now, they are motivated to do their best and make as much progress as possible to vindicate their choice. Don't you see? These highly-trained individuals who have always been told that they are the best can't bear the thought of losing!"
This was human psychology. No one was immune to envy, jealousy, regret and other selfish emotions. In this new situation, the MTA mech pilots divided into three new groups would naturally work hard in order to prove that their judgement was right and that the others were wrong!
If Ves had deliberately set out to divide and set the MTA mech pilots against each other, he would have patted himself on the back.
As it was, he completely overlooked this dynamic. If Calabast hadn't pointed out this situation, he would have remained ignorant!
Fortunately, now that he knew about it, he could tailor his future plans with these underlying tensions in mind. Competition was a powerful driver, and the developing rivalry between the three groups would ensure that the guests wouldn't expend all of their energy making trouble for the Larkinsons.
In fact, their eagerness to one-up their rivals might drive them to cooperate even better with the clan!
Ves smiled. "You just made my day a little better. Do you have any advice on how to manage the groups better?"
"Well, out of the three groups, which one do you wish to succeed the most?"
"Do you have to ask? I don't want those nine dummies who chose to form their own training schedules to get ahead of the rest. It is somewhat more acceptable for the seven mechers who chose to keep an open mind and listen to the advice of our people to succeed. What I really want is for the four fellows who put all of their trust in us to make the most progress. If all four of them advance to the rank of expert pilot within five years, then that would ensure the rest would become convinced of our methods!"
Calabast hummed and nodded. "That is the most ideal scenario. If you can succeed in transforming the group of four into expert candidates, then that will already prove your ability. What you need to do now is to make sure that you can actually get them that far. Tell me honestly. Do you think you can succeed?"
He refrained from giving her a spurious answer in order to reassure her. She knew him well enough to know when he was lying. As one of his confidantes, she deserved to know the truth.
"I'm… not that confident at all at the moment." He sighed. It was difficult for him to admit his doubts and fears, but he had to do it in order to give her an accurate picture of the future. "I have to perform some very dangerous experiments in order to refine my method. The problem is that I am currently lacking in test subjects. If I stayed on Prosperous Hill VI a little longer, I might have been able to refine my method."
The woman sitting opposite to him looked sharper at him. She even stopped petting Arnold, much to the exobeast's chagrin.
"You need to make progress sooner or later. MTA merits are vital to our development. You can never have too many of them. Do I need to.. procure more test subjects on your behalf?"
A shudder ran through his spine. Ves had the feeling that Calabast would start something very dangerous if he said yes!
He quickly shook his head. "Let's not head in this direction. I don't want to be caught messing around with this stuff. Besides, the study I have in mind doesn't necessarily require.. humans. I think I can obtain accurate and representative results if I perform them on exobeasts instead. They just have to be smart and sentient enough. I've already tasked Dr. Ranya Wodin to procure suitable batches of exobeasts. The Dragon's Den has a lot of impressive biomes but few creatures to populate them. This ship has to show her value."
In fact, the Dragon's Den was already paying for herself. All of the former citizens of the Life Research Association absolutely adored the partial biovessel. The highly-skilled doctors and other biotech professionals who had settled on this grand research vessel were already providing invaluable services to the rest of the Larkinson Clan.
That said, the Larkinsons had yet to maximize the value of the Dragon's Den. As long as he could fill her biomes with lots of beasts, Ves would be able to advance his spiritual engineering a lot further!
Ves and Calabast spoke a bit more about what he needed to accomplish in order to pave the way for the MTA mech pilots to transcend their mortality.
"I have several different ideas in mind, but I'm not in a hurry now." He spoke. "Right now, I think it is fine to rely on conventional methods to stimulate the mechers. I need to devote most of my time on developing our first batch of expert mechs. They're all incredibly promising and I can already feel my passion firing up. I don't want to get too entangled by other issues while I am devoting my entire time towards my main pursuit."
Calabast frowned a bit. "Five years is a long time, but if you squander a year or two, you will have a lot less time left to make significant progress."
"I know that, but I can only handle so many priorities at once." Ves helplessly shrugged. "I will have plenty of time to try out serious solutions on the lucky four mechers who have volunteered to become my test subject in a couple of months maybe. I won't waste the year-long period that they have given me. In the meantime, I'll just hand them over to our instructors and our expert pilots and see if they can do something to whip these mechers into shape."
To be honest, he didn't expect much out of this. The MTA mech pilots already enjoyed some of the best training that mech pilots could ever enjoy. Their skills were already top-notch among regular mech pilots so not even expert pilots would be able to help them in this aspect.
The only area these mechers truly needed to develop was their mind and will towards their vocation. This was a more individual and esoteric field. No successful systematic training existed in human space that impart any regular mech pilot with the qualifications to become an expert pilot!
"Enough about this topic." Ves tiredly waved his hand. "General Verle has already made the necessary arrangements. He will be the one who will determine our treatment of these powerful mech pilots. Tell me something good this time."
"I may have found a lead on a suitable diplomat to take charge of our new Foreign Relations Department."
Ves immediately sat up straighter when he heard that. He had long wanted to find a diplomat that could forge deals with difficult trading partners, establish new friendships with powerful organizations and prevent the clan from provoking new enemies during its travels.
The problem was that he had set his standards too high. He wanted to obtain a diplomat who was both incredibly competent but also fully committed to the Larkinson Clan.
Apparently, finding someone that could satisfy both these requirements was rare!
This was why Ves became very intrigued by Calabast's claim. If she was confident enough to reveal this news to him, then she was definitely confident about her lead!
She tapped her terminal and activated a projection. Ves instantly recognized the Winged Serenade Star Sector. She tapped once again to show a single second-rate state.
"Have you ever heard of the Grand Loxic Republic?"
"I have." Ves nodded. "That is where the parent organization of the Infinity Guards are headquartered. The Star Strider Security Group is a big force over there."
"Well, the Star Striders aren't doing so well lately, and so is the rest of the Grand Loxic Republic. The Crown Uprising has caused a lot of cracks to form in this second-rate state."
Ves looked skeptical. "The crown terrorists are very difficult to stop, but they can never deal enough damage to shake the foundations of a state."
"Are you sure about that? What if the crown terrorists managed to assassinate the leader of the state?"
"...That would do it, I guess."