Chapter 4122 The Ultimate Sacrifice
Anton had spoken to the right target.
After making his offer clear, Venerable Stixson immediately nodded.
Count me in! I love my place in the Blue Cavalry and all, but I have long grown tired of this basic expert mech.
It is nowhere near as powerful and exciting as the ones piloted by my more experienced peers.
I don\'t have the patience to wait a decade before I am eligible for an upgrade.
It was easy to reel a new expert pilot into Anton\'s scheme.
Although expert pilots were treated as heroes and champions by the rank-and-file, the Vermeer Group as a whole did not care too much for them at first.
Those that had recently broken through were too weak and still had a lot to go before they could turn into true powerhouses.
Since the Vermeer Group had limited funding and resources at its disposal, it had to be able to spend them as efficiently as possible.
It made a lot of sense not to invest too much in providing brand-new expert pilots with powerful expert mechs because the absolute increase in performance was not that much.
It made much more sense to concentrate all of those resources on a smaller group of proven expert pilots.
Their formidable resonance strength allowed them to deliver much greater performance with the same amount of investment!
While all of this made perfect sense, the reality did not make Venerable Stixson happy.
THis was why he did not have to think too long at all before agreeing with Professor Anton Mendoza\'s offer!
The two were already acquainted with each other.
In Venerable Stixson\'s experience, mech designers were always helpful towards him.
He did not have any doubts about Professor Anton\'s sincerity.
Expert pilots were decisive people by nature.
They rarely hesitated or procrastinated over their decisions.
As long as they wanted to do something, they would go ahead without any second-guessing.
They were also quite sharp about judging other people\'s character.
Venerable Stixson\'s intuition did not warn him that Professor Anton meant any ill will.
In fact, it was quite the opposite.
The Senior Mech Designer was being incredibly earnest about trying to help him obtain a stronger expert mech!
A whirlwind of activity took place after that.
Professor Anton did not know how Director Trinsael and his subordinates managed to pull it off, but they successfully arranged a series of events that caused Venerable Stixson to be reassigned from his current posting in the Blue Cavalry to a secret research group that was supposedly set up by an obscure branch of the Vermeer Group.
No one was able to identify the exact research group or government branch that authorized all of this.
Most people lacked the authority to read the classified information.
Those that did had no reason to pay attention to such a small dossier.
No matter what, the manipulation allowed Venerable Stixson to shake his minders and reach the same rural star system at the edge of the Vermeer Group\'s territories without incident.
Professor Anton! It\'s good to see you again! You did good work with my expert mech even if it did not reach its full potential.
The two men embraced each other for a moment.
Although the other people in the secret base were complete strangers to them, that didn\'t matter because they trusted each other.
Now that Anton managed to obtain the final and most important element he needed in order to proceed, he immediately initiated his research.
Several months passed by as he worked intensely on the problems that lay ahead.
Many times, he had to involve Venerable Stixson by scanning his body, taking out tissue samples and performing other examinations.
Many of these procedures were rather tedious, but they were all necessary in order to make essential progress.
Soon, the big day had come.
With the help of his research findings, Anton managed to fabricate an expert mech that incorporated numerous tissue samples taken from the expert pilot.
In theory, Venerable Stixson should recognize the new expert mech as his own body, thereby empowering it in a way that was different than before.
Yet when Stixson finally interfaced with the mech for the first time, the initial performance results were hardly any different than before!
Other than a minor performance boost which could be chalked up to Venerable Stixson\'s greater mood, the expert mech functionally did not become any stronger!
Professor Anton frantically conducted additional experiments where he adjusted the variables and tweaked the design of the new expert mech.
The data did not improve.
Though Anton strongly believed he was on the right track, he was still missing an essential element that prevented his work from displaying its true potential.
What am I missing!
Eventually, he had to account for himself in front of Director Trinsael.
While I am glad to see that your research has not produced any catastrophic consequences, I am not as pleased with the lack of results.
We invested in you in order to see whether you can make a difference.
A negative research result is still a useful piece of information. Anton lamely replied.
At least you know what doesn\'t work.
That hardly justifies the resources we put at your disposal and the strings we pulled to bring over Venerable Stixson.
Tell me, professor.
Do you have any solid ideas on how to remedy your current problem, or do we have to shutter this project of yours
To shut down his research project when he was still grasping for an answer was intolerable to Professor Anton!
No! Do not pull the plug so soon! He shouted.
I still have a way! The reason why we failed to achieve any results so far is because the measures I took to enhance the expert mech were too tame.
I should have realized that it takes more than a couple of blood samples and tissue samples to affect a mech that weighs so many tons.
Give me another chance! I am certain I can produce a successful result in my next attempt! I just need your help again.
Director Trinsael looked quite intrigued.
I was of the opinion that what you have attempted is the extent of your idea.
I did not go far enough.
You see, I feel I can go much further.
The only problem is… that I cannot proceed without satisfying a set of stringent conditions.
Tell me what you need.
Professor Anton reluctantly did so.
While he previously withheld these thoughts for fear of obtaining a negative response, at this point he had nothing to lose.
Surprisingly enough, Director Trinsael did not react negatively to Anton\'s most extreme proposal yet.
The mecher actually looked interested rather than disgusted.
I can see why you held back this idea.
It is quite… something.
However, if your theories are truly correct, then this is the best opportunity to achieve a positive result.
I approve, but only if you can satisfy the additional requirement.
Leave it to me, director.
It took several more months to satisfy the additional conditions.
It took another couple of weeks for the new guest to arrive at the secret research base.
You have arrived.
It is an honor to meet with you.
I cannot thank you enough for the sacrifice that you are prepared to make.
The old and aging expert pilot smiled at the eager-sounding Senior.
The Vermeer Group is my life.
I owe everything to it.
I have always regretted that I cannot serve it anymore after I failed to achieve a breakthrough before I was forced to retire.
I refuse to go out with a whimper.
Rather than letting my body rot away in my home, I would rather give myself up entirely and help my fellow comrades one last time.
Both Anton and Stixson became incredibly impressed by the powerful will and conviction that radiated from Venerable Zoman\'s mind.
The retired expert pilot\'s body might be in shambles, but the man\'s willpower was still formidable!
Unfortunately, the Vemeer Group and the Blue Cavalry deemed it uneconomical to extend the life of its experienced expert pilots.
The cost was simply too great.
It was much harder to prolong the life of a high-ranking mech pilot in general, so this service was only reserved for ace pilots and those that showed true potential in breaking through.
With Venerable Zoman\'s full cooperation, Professor Anton was able to move forward again.
Venerable Stixson kept the aging expert pilot company while Anton made the right preparations.
Once everything was ready, the three had gathered in the experimental chamber where the expert mech stood dormant in the middle.
So this is it, huh Venerable Zoman uttered.
It doesn\'t look as impressive as I thought.
I am sorry, sir. Professor Anton said.
The expert mech may not look like much, but it is the research result that will truly make a difference.
As long as I am able to prove that this concept works, I will be able to apply my research to many mechs of the Blue Cavalry.
That will result in the greatest benefit to the Vermeer Group.
You are correct.
Let us proceed then. The aged expert pilot said before his expression turned complicated.
I am not accustomed to looking forward to my own demise, but I feel surprisingly eager this time.
We… will try to make it as painless as possible, Venerable Zoman.
We will simply put you into a sleep where you will never wake up. Anton gently explained.
They put Venerable Zoman into a medical pod which subsequently sedated the expert pilot.
Then, the pod injected additional chemicals that slowly suppressed the man\'s body activity until it grew entirely still.
Anton and Stixson both saluted the old soldier for making the ultimate sacrifice in the name of science.
Hours later, Professor Anton solemnly lifted a clean and sterile skull with his hands.
Even though it was made out of reinforced bone, he could still feel the echo of Venerable Zoman\'s will from the organic remains.
Venerable Stixson looked fascinated at the skull.
It\'s as if he is still alive.
How is this possible His brain and all are entirely gone.
In the industry, we call this the X-Factor. Professor Anton grinned as he became more and more impressed at the ingredient he held in his hands! It is a difficult phenomenon to describe, but suffice to say it will be the key to allowing your expert mech to surpass its limits and reach an unheard of level of efficiency!
Professor Anton quickly processed the remaining biological remains and proceeded to \'integrate\' them into the existing expert mech.
As he finally stepped back from his work, he already felt that the machine that he had created with his own efforts had changed in a subtle manner.
Now it was time to test his work for real.
As the young and still living expert pilot entered the cockpit and began to activate his expert mech yet again, Professor Anton closely paid attention to the data feeds.
As the expert mech completed the boot-up procedure and achieved resonance with Venerable Stixson, Professor Anton watched on with increasing trepidation as the numbers slowed down as they reached their previous maximums.
Once they reached this crucial line, Anton held back his breath as the performance of his \'skull mech\' did not rise any further.
Then, a couple of the numbers jumped beyond their previous states!
Yes! Professor Anton erupted in jubilation.
Although not all of the performance parameters had risen after integrating Venerable Zoman\'s remains in the expert mech, the differences were already a good sign.
As certain parameters continued to rise for reasons that eluded Professor Anton, the entire secret base suddenly shook, causing him to wobble on his feet!
The base shook again, then another time, then two more times in quick succession.
For a moment, Anton became bewildered.
He wanted so badly to get back to studying the incoming data, but the constant shaking prevented him from devoting himself to his task.
What was strange was that alarms had yet to sound throughout these disturbances.
Not a single base employee had come and informed him of what was taking place.
As the shaking grew increasingly heavier and more violent, Anton was completely forced to put down his ongoing work.
He just managed to put on an emergency hazard suit that was stowed inside a hidden compartment of the observation room before the wall that led through the testing chamber abruptly exploded!
Venerable Stixson\'s expert mech immediately pulled out its rifle and adopted a defensive posture as half-a-dozen blue-coated mechs barged into space!
The Blue Cavalry had arrived!
What is the meaning of this! Professor Anton broadcasted towards the mechs on an open channel.
Why have you intruded into this base and interrupted a vital and delicate experiment!
One of the mechs began to project the body of a familiar-looking mech designer.
Anton. Master Rexen greeted as he looked around the testing chamber.
Do you have any idea of what you have done
I completed my research project. The Senior claimed as he waved his hand at the nearby data panels.
Look at these readings! I succeeded, Master.
The improved expert mech that I have built is already performing 8 percent better than normal.
Master Rexen grew angry.
YOU FOOL! The performance gains that you have made is not related to the purported enhancements that you have made to the expert mech.
They are solely derived from the placebo effect.
Venerable Stixson, the expert pilot who you managed to deceive and fool into conducting this heinous experiment, thinks his expert mech has become stronger, therefore he resonates better with it than usual.
That is why only the parameters that are most closely related to resonance have improved.
If you look more closely at all of the precious data of yours, then you will see that the parameters that are not as affected by the pilot have remained virtually unchanged!
Anton\'s eyes grew wide as he made the same conclusion as Master Rexen.
Compared to his initial explanation, the one provided by his former mentor and superior was much more logical!
I…I… Why… are you here The Senior asked as he grew increasingly more lost and confused.
I thought… the mechers…
Did you think this secret research base was built by the MTA
I… Director Trindael said…
You were fooled. Master Rexen flatly stated.
This base and its people, who conveniently disappeared before we could apprehend them by the way, has nothing to do with the mechers.
Do you know who is truly responsible for constructing this base and deceiving you into working on your forbidden research project under their noses
The members of the Gauge Dynasty.
It is true.
Our intelligence services have determined that the ones responsible for turning you into a war criminal and spurring you to slay one of our most honored expert pilots are nothing but agents of a rival coalition partner!
What is worse is that a portion of your deeds have leaked onto the galactic net!
If Professor Anton hadn\'t taken enough hits already, the revelations that his controversial actions spilled into the public eye was devastating!
His world broke entirely at that point.
He dropped to his knees as he lost the strength to keep himself up.
No… this can\'t be… I was convinced it was all true… it had to be the mechers… maybe… maybe they bailed out on me and cast the blame on the Gaugers in order to preserve their reputation! That has to be the case! Master Rexen, you should readily be able to confirm this! Just study this base and all of these advanced facilities! There should be teleporters and first-class alloys and—
We noticed that just before our mechs punched through them as if they were made out of paper.
They are all illusions.
They are ultra realistic physical projections that present a false reality.
You have been lied to, Anton.
You have been lied to all this time.
For a moment, utter silence reigned as Professor Anton\'s mind blanked out.
It was as if his brain had become stuck due to the rapid influx of all of the conflicting and shocking input.
The Senior slowly raised his helmeted head and gazed towards his precious skull mech.
The thought that everything that he had done was ultimately in vain and that his expert mech hadn\'t grown any stronger due to the honorable sacrifice of a retired expert pilot became too much for him to bear.
As total and utter desolation descended upon his fragile mind, he did the only thing he could at this point.
Hehehehe… hehehehe… hahahahaha… hahahaha… HAHAHAHHAHA! HAHAHAHAHA!
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