Once Captain Byrd approved his research proposal, the Vandals moved quickly. They stopped avoiding the tribes and instead tried to seek them out.
The only challenge was trying to identify which wildling possessed the power to interfere with the operation of mechs.
Was every wildling that rode atop a godling a potentate?
Besides offering up their mechs, the Vandals weren't quite sure. In the end, they decided to kidnap the most formidable-looking dwarf and let someone else sort out the problem!
Of course, the Vandals declined to use their mechs to kidnap the dwarves. Not only was it massive overkill, none of the mech pilots wanted to experience the same humiliation of being defeated by a dirty savage on foot!
The security officers went into action this time. It would have been ideal if they could tranquilize the dwarves and pick up their unconscious bodies, but unfortunately their unnaturally strong physiques made it difficult to sedate them without causing their bodies to fail and die.
Instead, the Vandal armorers fabricated electrorods and net launchers to stun and capture the dwarves. In addition, the engineers developed a robotic crawler that could pick up the immobilized dwarves and place them in the cage on its back.
Armed with all of this gear and aided by the large and formidable-looking crawler, the security officers captured about fifteen ferocious dwarves from several small-scale tribes. Though the remaining dwarves howled in anger or grieved at the loss of their strongest warriors, the Vandals didn't show any sympathy.
The dwarves were savages! Most Vandals and Swordmaidens didn't even consider them human anymore.
This was a significant change, because humanity had been brought up with the belief that the human race possessed its own dignity. This belief initially emerged during the Age of Space when a nascent humanity became pressed on all sides by arrogant, old alien civilizations.
It became ingrained in their race once they brutally expanded among the stars during the Age of Conquest. Their constant victories against supposedly superior alien races and their rapid expansion until their race ruled over the largest territory held by any single alien species cemented this manifest destiny.
Humanity was destined to conquer the Milky Way Galaxy!
Technically, no matter how much the genes of the wildlings had diverged from the genes of a baseline human, they should still be counted in the same group. Though it sounded disgusting, these primitive dwarves possessed the ability to interbreed with both the blessed people and any other strains of humanity, including the Vandals and Swordmaidens!
Of course, no one seriously entertained this incredibly repellant act.
Right now, the ground expedition made good progress towards the city of Samar. Fifty kilometers away from the city, the Flagrant Swordmaidens decided to stop and set up another temporary camp at a defensive position.
This also allowed Ves to divert some engineers construct a temporary testing facility. Due to dangers involved with this experiment, the planners placed the testing facility at a fair distance from the main camp. Mechs received clear instructions to avoid the vicinity, which the mech pilots scrupulously obeyed.
No one wanted to lose control over their mechs all of a sudden!
Once the construction bots finished piecing together the prefab testing facility, Ves and Ketis entered the lab.
The interior of the lab incorporated a decent amount of sensors and scanners. It also served as a prison for the dwarf captives. A number of security officers assigned as wardens kept guard over the captured wildlings.
The wardens made sure the dwarf were fed and watered and prevented them from fighting among themselves. The Vandals had to separate the captives in their own holding cells in order to stop them from beating each other up.
As Ves and Ketis stepped into the section housing the holding cells, they came into clear view of the prisoners. The savage dwarves yelled aggressively at their armored forms and spoke in a different incomprehensible language that differed drastically from the tribes they met before.
Each tribe constantly developed their own languages. The dwarves never recorded their knowledge into words, and so their languages remained unmoored. Every hundred years, the language of a tribe shifted so drastically that different generations of tribesmen might not be able to understand each other anymore!
All of the variations made life hell for the translator AIs and prevented Ves from understanding what they said.
He didn't need to, though. Their angry scowls and their fierce shouting already made it abundantly clear how much they hated their captors.
"They look kind of pitiful." Ketis said. While she didn't sympathise with the captives, even she thought Ves was going a little too far with his experiment. "Don't you feel sorry for them sometimes?"
"Human or not, these dwarves are a threat. So long as they are a threat, I can do whatever I want with these prisoners." He replied.
The dumb dwarves still hadn't learned how to use a toilet. The wardens constantly had to send out cleaning bots in order to clean up after their messes. Worse yet, the dwarves always treated the bots as hostiles and tried to attack them every chance they got, so the only way to clean their cells was to restrain them first.
Still, despite their awful behavior and ugly appearances, these dwarves possessed far more potential than the beautiful but stagnant blessed people who holed themselves up in their cities all the time.
Ves needed to remind himself not to hold these dwarves in contempt. Underestimating them had already taught the Swordmaidens a painful lesson.
Once he became satisfied with the testing facility, he immediately began his first tests. Ves designed and constructed a facsimile of a mech cockpit that was more than just a simulator pod.
The neural interfaces incorporated in a cockpit and a simulator pod differed drastically. In order to obtain the best results, Ves had to replicate the circumstances of piloting a mech as closely as possible. However, Captain Byrd forbid him from using a live mech for his experiments, because if a talented dwarf potentate somehow managed to wrest full control over a mech, then that would be a disaster for them all!
However, a cockpit without a mech wouldn't do. Without a way to communicate with the dwarves, how would Ves be able to encourage them to use their mind voodoo?
As Ves struggled to come up with a solution to this problem, Ketis came to the rescue with another one of her stupid-but-genius suggestions.
"They're used to bonding with their godling mounts, right?" She said one day. "Why not create a mech that looks like one of those big lizards and put the test cockpit inside its belly?"
Ves was tempted to smack his face with his gauntlet. "I should have thought of that."
These dwarves may not know what to do when presented with a cockpit or a mech, but they grew up alongside their godling mounts for generations!
Ves quickly designed a godling-like mech that was large enough to accommodate the test cockpit. It didn't have to be a fully-functional mech. In fact, Ves crippled most of its functions to save time and to prevent anyone controlling it from doing any damage.
He incorporated some hardware safeties. When these safeties engaged, the mech pilot wouldn't be able to move the mech at all!
In order to make the fake godling appear more convincing to the dwarf, he even fabricated a fake scaly hide to cover up the test mech's metallic surface.
Now, besides its unnaturally immobile state, the godling mech looked like a decent copy of the real thing!
"We can begin the experiment now." Ves grinned.
While the rest of the Vandals and the Swordmaidens spent their energy on establishing first contact with the ancient city of Samar, Ves holed himself up inside the testing facility.
He first designed a couple of variants of the most common model of neural interfaces utilized by the Vandals. Over the past few days, Ves had developed many possible solutions, but he lacked the confidence and theoretical backing to know for sure whether they would work.
Ves applied each possible solution to different variants and fabricated them personally in a jiffy. He then installed them in the cockpit of the godling mech and tested out their integrity.
Ves didn't know whether these neural interfaces were still safe to use! So before he brought in the dwarfs, he first needed to find out whether the normal two-way man-machine connection would still be stable!
At this stage, Ves required a test pilot.
Understandably, not a single mech pilot wanted to volunteer themselves as his guinea pig!
"Are you crazy?! Do you know how dangerous it is to mess with these neural interfaces? Something like a third of all former mech pilots retired because their cockpits got damaged and screwed up their brains!"Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
In fact, the actual statistic swung wildly from state to state and from one generation to another. Overall, as cockpits became increasingly more sophisticated in terms of safeguarding their pilots, the rate of forceful retirements due to a loss in neural connectivity steadily decreased.
It still happened a lot. So much so that many mech pilots dreaded the thought of being forced into retirement due to suffering from a faulty neural interface.
To mech pilots, losing their piloting ability in this manner was as awful as if they were men suffering from castration!
Still, Ves needed test pilots to get his experiments going, so Captain Byrd came up with a clever solution.
"Whoever slacks off the most or received the worst performance reviews has to volunteer for testing duty!"
This immediately made most of the dutiful Vandals sigh in relief. Only the worst of the Vandal mech pilots cried and protested, but no one cared about the slackers. Due to the recruiting patterns of the Vandals, many of their servicemen failed to live up to their responsibilities.
Many of the worst mech pilots had already died as the many battles the Flagrant Vandals experienced up to now had filtered them out. Those too incompetent to survive simply hadn't made it as far as the journey to Aeon Corona VII.
Still, some lucky bastards still existed. These cowardly mech pilots that excelled in nothing but saving their own lives finally needed to make their own contribution to the cause!
Escorted by firm-looking security officers, these unwilling mech pilots entered the testing facility and grudgingly entered the cockpit of the godling mech.
Standing behind a control panel in an observation room looking over the testing chamber, Ves began to commence the initial tests.
First, he tested out the standard neural interfaces that received no modifications at all. The test pilot didn't experience anything abnormal.
Once he confirmed that the godling mech worked, Ves proceeded to insert the modified neural interfaces into the cockpit.
The first twelve tests went normal. Ves deliberately designed the cockpit in a way that made it fast and easy for him to switch out the neural interfaces, so he quickly ran through a score of different neural interfaces.
Something finally went wrong with the thirteenth test.
"AHHH! This friggin' hurts!"
The test pilot immediately slammed his fist against the button that caused the experiment to halt. Ves initially didn't want to give the test pilots the option to stop the test on their own initiative, but Captain Byrd forced him to do so.
Ves frowned inside the observation room. The telemetry of the cockpit spiked a bit, but he couldn't make sense of what had happened.
The only way to find out was to ask. He opened a channel to the cockpit. "What happened? What went wrong?"
"YOU CRAZY MECH DESIGNER! YOU SHOULD BE ARRESTED AND TRIED FOR WAR CRIMES! MY HEAD IS BROKEN! IT HURTS!"
Ves switched off the comm channel. "Okay. Seems like this one is a bust."
He amended his logs and disqualified the thirteenth modified neural interface. Whatever he did to this iteration somehow caused an adverse reaction.
The worst thing about it was that Ves didn't know why.
He shrugged. "That's the nature of trial and error. I'll just have to discover what's safe and what's not by trying them all out."
As a couple of bots brought the mentally-injured mech pilot out of the testing facility onto a stretcher, the next test pilot looked at the pained form of his comrade and gulped.
"Okay, send in the next test pilot!"
The second test pilot began to cry.
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