Stewing in his paranoia, Ves imagined the worst about Venerable Xie. Although they rarely came into touch with each other, Ves grew increasingly more unsettled at the thought of Venerable Xie developing some kind of revenge fantasy against the Flagrant Vandals.
They did screw over the Fourth Prince, the fallen noble who Venerable Xie trained all his life to protect.
Ves cursed Prince Hixt-Klaaster and his untimely death while under the protection of the Vandals. Why couldn't he cling to his life? The entire basis of the agreement with the Vandals and Venerable Xie rested on the premise that the Fourth Prince was in safe hands.
The Prince's death sent the Vandals down into a tailspin. Ves shouldn't have succumbed to Major Verle's coercion and agreed to mess with Venerable Xie's neural interfaces.
"I can't leave this situation hanging." He muttered.
Three tampered neural interfaces existed. Ves didn't have to worry too much about the Parallax Star's neural interface. As a spaceborn lancer mech, it had been left with the fleet that was still under the command of Major Verle.
As the only other Vandal in the know, Ves already hinted at him beforehand to take good 'care' of the Parallax Star's neural interface.
Therefore, Ves only had to worry about the neural interfaces of the Pale Dancer and the expert pilot's personal simulator pod. If the Vesians ever got their hands on them and dug out their programming, they could instantly tarnish names of Ves, the Larkinsons, the Flagrant Vandals, the Mech Corps and even the entire Bright Republic with his crimes!
Sometimes as serious as being accused of brainwashing an expert pilot was just as bad as plotting to murder them! The MTA wouldn't tolerate such a matter. The entire Bright Republic might be sanctioned for this incident alone!
Therefore, this matter affected more than his personal reputation! He needed to take action for the good of the Bright Republic!
"Nevermind that it's my own fault for provoking this crisis in the first place."
Yet no matter how much he tried to justify his intentions, he wasn't a spy. How could he possibly sneak to the neural interfaces and access them long enough to wipe away the evidence?
There was no way the vigilant expert pilot and his band of confidants allowed outsiders access to his personal territory.
This problem continued confound Ves as time went by. He resumed his duties and continued to prepare the Vandals for mechs, but his heart wasn't in his work anymore. His productivity dropped as more than half of mind fantasized about cooking up some wild schemes that allowed him access to the neural interfaces.
Yet what could a mech designer do? Nothing.
He may wield a wide amount of influence among the Vandals, but he had no effective control over an expert pilot. Even if he advanced to Journeyman, he could never surpass the prestige enjoyed by an expert pilot among mech pilots.
"Even prestige has its limits." Ves grimaced.
Even though Ves made up his mind to take action, he simply couldn't come up with something that wouldn't backfire on him. The same limitations that prevented him from doing something earlier still existed.
Ves felt as if he was playing a game of chess where he already foresaw that he'd be put in checkmate in a couple of moves. No matter what decisions he came up with, none of them forestalled the disaster that he saw coming.
"It's like I have no other option but to concede."
Yet that was unacceptable to Ves. Even if he only possessed spurious proof for his fears, just the possibility of it was enough to dominate his imagination.
His thoughts became very dark as a consequence. When Ves finally put down his work and entered his office to clear his mind, the mech technicians around him sighed in relief.
His Earth Ant creaked as he sat down on the reinforced chair. He activated the desk terminal and called up a basic blueprint of the camp.
Due to Venerable Xie's esteemed position, the Pale Dancer and him resided close to the center of the temporary camp where security was highest. There was no way anyone could realistically sneak inside even if they wore an infiltrator suit.
The security officers all made use of the stealth detectors adapted from an earlier version developed by Ves. The Vandals all grew concerned that the Vesians might employ cloaked saboteurs, even though neither Imodris nor Hafner matched Venidse's dependency on stealth tech.
"It's not like I have a stealth suit anyway."
Ves turned his imagination to more extreme possibilities. If he couldn't forestall a checkmate through legitimate moves, then what about cheating?
He could either cheat or flip the chessboard entirely! After all, why should he lie down and consign himself to condemnation?
Just as Ves started to explore more extreme solutions, the office suddenly became engulfed in a jamming field. That caused Ves to jump from his reverie and frown.
"That's strange. Is my signal jammer acting up?"
His high-powered signal jammer gadget never showed signs of malfunctioning. In fact, even though Ves pretended to tinker with his personal gear on a daily basis, none of his advanced technological devices showed any signs of degradation. He long abandoned any speculation about the inexplicable reason for their immunity against the breakdown effect.
When he checked the signal jammer gadget embedded into his Earth Ant, he found to his surprise that it still remained dormant. It never turned on without his permission. So why did he became engulfed in the jarring signal jammer effect?
Ves immediately jumped out of his chair and drew out his backup laser pistol in the direction of the voice.
Standing in the middle of an office stood a very familiar woman garbed in a reinforcement infiltrator suit. Compared to the last time he saw her, the woman obviously beefed up her gear, as her infiltrator suit now encompassed the slimmest gravitic backpack he had ever seen.
Even though Ves only met Calabast a couple of times, he had a deep impression of the gorgeous, dark-haired lady. She posed herself as an intelligence operative of the Vesians, but Ves would be stupid to believe the image she presented on the surface.
Her sudden emergence in his office despite the base's precautions against infiltrators put Ves into an intense feeling of crisis.
How did she manage to sneak inside the camp?!
"Come now, Mr. Larkinson, if I was out to harm you, I wouldn't have revealed myself to you like this." Miss Calabast grinned. "Let us dispense with the threats, shall we? I've come to talk. May I take a seat?"
Ves quickly weighed her words and knew she had a point. This was a woman who behaved as if she was fully in control. Even in the middle of the Flagrant Swordmaidens, the raven-haired femme fatale radiated a confident demeanor.
Someone as devious as Miss Calabast wouldn't have presented herself to Ves without taking precautions. It felt as if she already put Ves on checkmate even before beginning the match.
It grated on Ves that he was compelled into a specific direction by someone else. Yet he also knew his limits. Therefore, Ves holstered his useless laser pistol and calmly sat down behind his desk without another word.
Miss Calabast took his actions as an assent, and casually plopped herself down on the opposite chair reserved for visitors.
"Why are you here?" Ves asked grumpily.
"Would you believe it if I wanted to see how my favorite mech designer is doing?"
Ves snorted. "Yeah right. Are you spying on us on behalf of the Vesians? You did claim to be an agent of the Seven Stars Intelligence Agency back on Harkensen I."
Calabast teasingly smirked at Ves. "Wouldn't you like to know? I do have to applaud you, though. You didn't take me at my word."
"You don't exactly do your best to come off as trustworthy."
"I believe the galaxy is a more interesting place if everyone isn't so honest with each other. Now that you've spent a lot of time away from civilized space, do you realize how liberating it is to escape the influence of the MTA and CFA? Out here in the frontier, everything humanity tries to cover up is exposed. Don't you feel that it's liberating to be out here and be able to do whatever you want?"
While Ves didn't want to listen to Miss Calabast, he actually agreed with her sentiment. Yet what did that have to do with this conversation?
"Stop screwing around and get to the point."
"So grumpy! Relax, Mr. Larkinson. No one will come and disturb us. We have all the time in the galaxy."
Ves didn't know why she was confident in her claim, but she was right. He never allowed visitors to come into his office uninvited, as he preferred to work without anyone disturbing his concentration.
Even if the mech technicians came up with a problem, they already learned to hold themselves back until Ves emerged from his office.
"You're no friend of mine or the Vandals, Miss Calabast. I doubt you're here for a friendly visit either, so don't waste my time and get to the point."
She still maintained her smirk, as if everything was still under her control. "Very well. I'm sure you have your thoughts about the Starlight Megalodon. This planet, Aeon Corona VII, experienced a lot of changes ever since the battleship crash landed on this planet a hundred kilometers away from here. Tell me, from what you've witnessed so far, do you truly believe that the Starlight Megalodon suffered an accident?"
"You're driving me to conclude that someone deliberately induced the Starlight Megalodon to crash on Aeon Corona VII." Ves responded calmly. "While I have my thoughts on the matter, I don't have any solid proof of what really happened."
Someone like Calabast had a way with words, and if Ves wasn't careful, he'd fall into her word traps without even realizing it. The scariest form of indoctrination was one where the victim voluntarily believed in something out of their own accord!Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
"Ugh." Miss Calabast palmed her face, pretending to be frustrated at his obstinance. "You blockhead. Okay, I'll be more direct. As a capital ship and the flagship of a formidable warfleet, the Starlight Megalodon is more than a battle wagon. She's a floating city and houses thousands of different research projects. The CFA may be one of the foremost organizations of human civilization, but it is constantly fighting to maintain its edge over the MTA and any other rival organizations."
"The CFA has access to huge amounts of funding and the best researchers in the galaxy. It's no surprise they're engaged in the forefront of research."
"There's more to it than that." Miss Calabast replied. "While the CFA has erected many starbases and strongholds, they are true spaceborn at heart. The admirals who wield the highest power keep their most valuable research projects close to their chest, and there is nothing closer than conducting them right on their own flagships."
"All you're telling me is that the Starlight Megalodon used to host a lot of highly advanced research projects. Is there something special going on there?"
"You got me." Miss Calabast teasingly admitted while playfully putting up her palms. "There are plenty of valuables aboard the Starlight Megalodon. Her vault alone likely contains valuable life-prolonging serum that is of considerable interest to the power brokers that pull on everybody's strings."
Ves sat up straighter in his chair. "Don't try to jerk me around. If this mission is just about the life-prolonging serum, then I might as well put a laser beam through my own head!"
Miss Calabast looked taken aback, though Ves believed she was still putting up an act. Her misdirection so far wore his patience thin. That may have even been her purpose from the start. If Ves became unbalanced by her antics, he'd be more susceptible to her manipulations.
Ves took a deep breath and forcefully calmed himself down. He even concentrated his mind in order to center himself. Right now, it wouldn't do any good to get caught up in his emotions.
Evidently, Calabast caught his actions. She shook her head in disapproval. "So boring."
He'd rather be boring and retain his rationality than to lose control and fall into whatever schemes she had in mind.