The Mech Touch
After rambling for five straight minutes about her fantasies, Gloriana abruptly halted.
”Ah, sorry there Ves.
I didn ’t want to overwhelm you with my aspirations.
Irene warned me that I shouldn ’t get carried away in front of you.
I hope I haven ’t frightened you too much with my forwardness. ”
That was the least of his problems with Gloriana!
”…It ’s okay. ”
” She grinned.
”I should probably get going now, but know that you will always be in my heart! I ’ll be in touch again.
In the meantime, I hope you keep thinking of me.
I ’ll definitely help you overcome your anxiety.
Bye bye! ”
The comm call finally ended, leaving Ves behind with two conflicting emotions.
One part of him deeply wanted to grow closer to Gloriana.
Another part of him strongly urged him to do the opposite!
Neither side could eliminate the other.
Both maintained a tenuous balance.
”Am I overreacting or am I being prudent? ”
No matter how much Ves wanted to repress his attraction towards Gloriana, his heart was not that easy to deceive.
He still possessed a crush on her.
Even her confidence that she could make her relationship work was attractive to him.
He felt deeply flattered that she still wanted him after he stiffed her on their first date!
”Yet this woman is really something else. ”
Her background and her extreme opinions wouldn ’t have been such a big deal for Ves if she did not believe in them so earnestly.
’t specifically against religion.
It was more in how fanatic she became when she expressed her ideals.
Ves met a lot of fanatics in his life.
People like Doctor Jutland, the Vesian rebels, the Bentheim rebels, the worshippers of Haatumak, the True Believers and so on all turned into unhinged extremists due to the strength of their beliefs!
”At some point, devotion turns into madness! ”
He had many awful experiences with fanatics who believed in their own cause.
They couldn ’t be reasoned with and common sense was dearly in short supply.
How could Ves ever be comfortable in their presence when they were one step away from insanity?
Yet… was Gloriana as bad as the others?
’s smart and not that all close to going out of control.
” Ves admitted.
Sure, she was a little too eager to chase after him, but a part of him felt very happy about that.
”I can ’t put Gloriana in the same box as the likes of the Bentheim Liberation Movement and the New Ylvaine Dynasty.
When it comes down to it, she ’s just a strong-willed mech designer, kind of..
like myself. ”
Every Journeyman held strong beliefs.
It was part of what elevated them from Apprentices.
Their design seeds not only solidified their deepest desires and ambitions, but also amplified them in a way that helped them stay on track as they worked to realize their design philosophies.
Ves himself knew that his true beliefs already sounded very odd even to himself.
Even if he left out the hyperbole and exaggerations he used to mislead the MTA, the thought of making mechs come alive already sounded very controversial.
Perhaps calling Gloriana crazy was like the pot calling the kettle black.
He turned around on his bed and lazily picked up Lucky.
”Who do you think is crazier, me or Gloriana? ”
”Pff! Why me?! ”
”Only a crazy person would run away from a pretty woman who ’s totally into me? Pff! ”
Ves tossed Lucky away, who halted himself in the air after engaging his flight ability.
’s objections fell on deaf ears as Ves blanked out.
Too much had happened today and the emotional rollercoaster he had ridden left him completely put out.
He really didn ’t want to deal with anything else today.
Sadly, duty demanded otherwise.
He still needed to meet with the guest that the Rim Guardians had dumped in his lap.
Keeping this mech pilot waiting for so long would doubtlessly prove detrimental to his chances of fulfilling this already impossible task.
”By their own account, this mech pilot is a coward.
How can they ever expect a wimp to become an expert pilot? It simply can ’t be done! ”
The only way to remedy this fault was to inject the mech pilot in question with a lot of courage.
Yet the Rim Guardians had years to do so but completely failed.
”I bet they can probably turn the biggest coward in the galaxy into a hero as long as they brainwash the individual in question. ”
Naturally, using forceful methods came with their own costs.
Ves even suspected the brainwashing might even hinder the advancement process.
He would meet the mech pilot in person soon enough, so there was no need for him to make any judgements before that.
Hopefully, he would at least have something to work with.
Every man should at least possess some pride.
After half an hour of relaxing, Ves slowly rose from his bed.
The brief break allowed him to regain his composure and put Gloriana out of his mind.
Though the female mech designer still popped up in his thoughts every now and then, Ves no longer as if she had taken over his life.
’m a mech designer, not a love-drunk teenager.
Even if she ’s fascinating, I ’m better than this! How can I call myself a Journeyman when I constantly allow myself to get distracted? ”
The difficulty was that despite all of his protests, he truly felt attracted to Gloriana.
Her call earlier invigorated the desire in his heart because he realized he still had a chance with her.
Her forgiving attitude towards him was so lovely that the romantic sap in him wanted to turn the Barracuda around!
”I can ’t do that! ”
Ves vigorously shook his head.
Once he became sure he scrambled all of his distractions, he stood up and left the stateroom while calling Gavin.
”Benny? Please bring our new guest to the ship
It ’s time for me to meet this foreigner. ”
”I ’ll bring him in right away, boss. ”
Once he entered the lounge, he sat down on a sofa while he waited for the arrivals.
A few minutes later, the hatch slid open, revealing Gavin dragging in a skinny mech pilot.
”Here you go, boss! ”
”Unhand me, you servant! I never gave you permission to touch me! You have no right to treat me as a prisoner on this rickety boat! ”
Ves beheld the complaining mech pilot.
Although the mech pilot ’s body appeared lean and fit, he bet that most of the man ’s fitness came from augmentations and specialized treatments.
The slight hunch in the newcomer ’s back and his whiny voice as he expressed his dissatisfaction firmly reinforced the notion of a pushover.
”You can go now, Benny. ” Ves waved his hand in dismissal.
Once Gavin left the lounge, the mech pilot stared at Ves with a frail sneer.
”You must be the illustrious owner of this tiny, cramped prison.
Ves Larkinson, right? That ’s what your lackey called you when I asked. ”
”That ’s my name, yes. ”
”As a third-rater, you should stand up and pay your respects towards me.
I am an esteemed scion of the Slicer Tribe! I ’m fully aware that your tiny Bright Republic is too remote to know what that means, so let me explain! The Slicer Tribe is one of the foremost tribes of the Garlen Empire, a long-established second-rate state that has dominated the Vicious Mountain Star Sector for centuries! ”
That caused Ves to raise his eyebrows in mild surprise.
This fellow possessed a big background.
Unlike what the Garlener on the ship believed, Ves did know a thing or two about Vicious Mountain.
The Garlen Empire was similar to the Friday Coalition in that it wasn ’t very unified for an empire.
The different tribes that held sway over much of the territory of the empire frequently called the shots.
Though that sounded similar to the Vesia Kingdom, there were many differences between the two aside from their scale.
Sadly, Ves did not familiarize himself too much with the history and present attitudes of each individual tribe of the Garlen Empire.
He hardly knew anything about the Slicer Tribe aside from its crude name.
”What ’s your name? ” Ves calmly asked.
”You have the great fortune of meeting the great William Urbesh, future patriarch of the Slicer Tribe! ”
That sounds very impressive. ”
After interacting with the MTA and Gloriana, Ves no longer became impressed with citizens of second-rate states.
Aside from their wealth and pomp, they were hardly different from third-raters like himself.
How could this skinny William ever succeed in intimidating Ves with his background?
Besides, this William sounded more like a blowhard than a true heir to a great power within a second-rate state.
The Garlener exhibited none of the inherent class and ingrained superiority that Ves had encountered from the likes of Lord Javier or Senator Tovar!
Ves decided to burst William
”If you ’re so great, why did the Rim Guardians tossed you aside like discarded trash? ”
That caused William to look awkward all of a sudden.
The intensifying stare from Ves didn ’t help his composure any bit!
”Well, you see, my parents sent me to the Rim Guardians in exchange for a heavy favor and some future concessions. ”
”That ’s none of your business! ”
” Ves grinned in a dangerous manner.
He performed some cheap spiritual tricks to make himself appear more menacing.
”What if I say it is? Tell me.
William squirmed in his place.
The Garlener really did not say anything, but the pressure piling up on him eventually caused him to crack.
”Alright! My Urbesh Clan isn ’t exactly in a great position within our greater tribe! My forefathers used to lead the Slicer Tribe for several generations, but now we ’ve weakened to the point where my clan is on the cusp of being driven away! ”
”Why is that? ”
”Because I can ’t step up! Each clan within the tribe only holds power so long as there is at least one expert pilot or higher in charge! ”
Ves recalled now that the Garlen Empire revered high-ranking mech pilots.
They admired them so much that they even got to rule the entire state!
In general, a state led by mech pilots usually turned into a disaster.
It was very similar to states ruled by military leaders.
The biggest difference was that states ruled by generals or admirals at least had the benefit of being ruled by highly-educated leaders.
Such states at least maintained some measure of civility.
Not so for states like the Garlen Empire.
Mech pilots were required to devote so much time to piloting training that they hardly ever received a rounded education.
They were warriors and soldiers to the core even if they advanced to experts.
No matter if expert pilots had transcended the limits of humanity, they still retained everything they were before.
Expert pilots might make for fantastic combatants on the battlefield, but putting them in charge of the economy of a state made no sense at all!
Still, the Garlen Empire wasn
’t blind to these faults.
In practice, while high-ranking mech pilots made all of the top-level decisions, the technocrats in the service of their clans and tribes handled all of the actual work.
In this way, the Garlen Empire managed to achieve some semblance of stability.
As Ves mused over these implications, William no longer experienced any pressure.
The mech pilot immediately took advantage of that fact.
”Are you impressed, Larkinson? I am a future leader of the great Garlen Empire! You should kneel in my presence! As long as you snivel before my feet, I might be considerate enough to invite you to serve the Urbesh Clan! ”
Ves did not look amused.
Now that he recalled the importance of expert pilots to the Garlen Empire, he knew that William would never be able to back up his boasts.
Because he wasn ’t an expert pilot! As long as William remained a mortal, he had no say in his clan, his tribe and his empire! He was a nobody!
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