Alven had no reason to respond to the demon. Why would he believe in the malignant demon's lies.
"Begone with you, demon! My faith in Apellix is the only aid I need to beat these rebels!"
Ves truly tired of those perfunctory displays of faith. The worst thing about them was that Alven wasn't hypocritical when he said those words.
"Your faith is doing well so far, has it? I'm sure you can outfaith your opponents, but what does that matter if your side is outnumbered by at least three-to-one?"
Short of an intervention by Apellix himself, the battle was as good as lost. Even a bystander like Ves could see that. He tried to broadcast his cold and brutal analysis of the situation to Alven.
The truth hurt much more than any threat spoken by a demon.
Ves showed Alven the dire state of the walls. He showed the pilot the dwindling number of defenders, the lack of reserves, and the excellent state of the attacking mechs.
"This can't be true!" Alven cried out. "The true Dominion never loses!"
If facts didn't work, perhaps another attack on his spirit worked better.
Ves invaded Alven's core and inflicted some mental damage. This caused Alven to lose control of his Firerunner, which almost caused it to hit a shell in the face!
"I'll keep doing this until you listen!"
Alven's resolve weakened a little. "What do I need to do?"
The Dominion pilot hated listening to a demon, even though it pretended to help. Still, if the Sunstar Dynasty summoned the demon themselves, then it probably wouldn't eat his soul.
The defense at the southwestern wall started to falter as fewer reinforcements came to shore them up. The rebel mechs had lost a fair amount of mechs in their offensive push, but they were on the verge of creating a breach.
Ves urged Alven to pull back his mech and head towards the nearest supply point. The Firerunner left the wall to the indignation of the loyalists officers, but neither Ves nor Alven cared for their opinions.
The Firerunner navigated the debris and craters until it arrived at the closest depot.
"Grab a fire hose. The grey one. That's the cryo projector."
With all the complicated materials being used these days, some of them easily caught fire. Bases genetally hosted different extinguishing solutions, one of which happened to be a cryo projector that drastically lowered the temperature of any material.
Cryo projectors weren't available in the galactic rim. Even in the heartland, cryo projectors still used up too much bulk to be used as an independent weapon system for mechs.
Besides, most mechs possessed strong resistance against frost due to the extreme environmental conditions they might be subjected to. This pretty much relegated these kinds of projectors solely for firefighting.
"Grab a hose and point it at an enemy shield formation."
Though Alven still held plenty of doubts, he did as he was asked and grabbed a projector. The hose automatically extended itself from a socket as Alven ran back towards the half-collapsed walls.
"Which setting should I use?"
"Use a concentrated stream. It will take a while for the temperature changes go set in. Aim for the middle of their shields."
Alven proceeded to approach the enemy lines and hosed down the thickest concentration of mechs.
The rebel pilots momentarily panicked before getting back their senses. Why would their shields be vulnerable to being frozen? It hadn't failed them so far.
"It takes a while for the changes to settle in. Blast each shield for around eight seconds. That should be sufficient to wreck them over time."
Soon after, the frozen shields started to crack. As the remaining defenders shot their weapons at the enemy mechs, only to be stopped by the oversized and incredibly thick shields, the slabs of alloys started to crack.
One shield even caved in when shot by a railgun!
Both sides quickly caught on what had happened.
"This is a miracle! Hahahaha! Apellix hasn't abandoned his children in their greatest crisis!"
"Kill the mech with the cryo projector!"
"Protect Callisto's mech! Fifth squad, pull back and grab more cryo projectors. I'll inform command of what's happened!"
Alven's action started a remarkable change on the battlefield. Mechs started grabbing every availanle cryo projector in the base and began to howe down the shields one by one.
The agressors faced an unexpected setback. The rebel mech designer in charge of fabricating the shield even slammed his table back at the rebels' main stronghold on Rilrod.
"The loyalists still have a competent mech designer among them! I thought every Senior and Master has defected to us!"
Another mech designer standing next to him rubbed his chin. "Interesting. All the other elder mech designers in the Dominion are accounted for. Maybe the Sunstar Dynasty managed to hire a guest designer."
"Hmph. Whoever dares to intervene in our revolution will go down with the Sunstars. A single decent mech designer won't save their base from being conquered."
The rebel-aligned mech designers did not speak nonsense. Even after neutralizing most of the shields, the loyalists were still in a precarious situation.
Ves privately made the same judgement as he piggybacked behind Alven's mind as he frantically tried to freeze as many enemy shields as possible.
Eventually, he realized that this base wouldn't last a day. Alven had no chance of surviving past this day. Even if he did the unthinkable and surrendered, the rebels wouldn't take him prisoner.
Wars between religious groups often turned out to be the bloodiest.
The realities of this situation forced Ves to reevaluate his strategy. He already harvested a little bit more of Alven's experience in maneuvering his mech. He only missed out on the most important bit, which was observing him when he fired his laser rifle.
After making a decision, Ves choose an opportune moment to interrupt Alven by making another attempt at invading his Spirit.
Ves happened to have interrupted Alven at the same time the attackers shot apart his cryo projector. The damaged nozzle spewed out an uncontrollable spray of freezing liquids and gasses before the connection forcefully shut off.
"Are you trying to kill me, demon?! Oh wait, of course you are!"
"Stop whining and get back to shooting!"
Since every other cryo projector was in use, Alven went back to wielding his laser rifle. Ves closely studied Alven's thought processes and instincts as he dove from cover to cover, relying on his Firerunner's mobility to avoid getting pinned down.
The broken walls and the increasing accumulation of rubble, mech wrecks and debris made it harder for the Firerunner to take advantage of its relatively high top speed. It was not the most agile mech by far, and often Alven had to rely on various tricks to get around an obstacle in the way.
"Still, the fluid manner in which Alven navigated the increasingly crowded battlefield gave Ves a lot of insight on what really mattered to a rifleman mech. Alven's proficient use of the Firerunner illustrated that having a high level of agility was not necessary to avoid enemy attacks.
Rather, running fast enough while performing minor changes in velocity and direction proved to be sufficient to throw off the aim of any enemy mech that targeted Alven's mech.
Of course, skill and fervor only brought him so far. His Firerunner regularly got hit by glancing shots that Alven failed to dodge in the nick of time. Ves mentally frowned again. At this rate, the Firerunner would be chewed up before Alven could reveal all of his piloting skill.
Ves quickly analyzed the enemy mechs and tried to figure out their weaknesses.
"Those red railgunners pack a punch, but they run out of projectiles rather fast. Just stay away from them while they focus their fire on you."
"The laser rifleman mechs draw much of their power from the modular backpack module. If you can manage to damage the backpack's integrity, a lot of failsafes will set in, disabling the extra power source entirely."
"Don't bother trying to wear down their knights. Those models are built to withstand lasers. Leave them to the railgunners."
One major difference between the galactic heartland and the galactic rim was that railguns supplanted the role of ballistic rifles entirely. Though they lacked in versatility, they more than made up for it in sheer power. The ability to send out a huge kinetic impact was extremely useful in breaking apart the enemy's trutleshells.
Alven intensely disliked Ves. He outright ignored the sensible advice and stuck to his old ways. This frustrated Ves to no end and forced him to teach another lesson to Alven's spirit.
"AAHHH! That hurts!"
The forceful invasion unsettled Alven and disrupted his fighting pattern. The Firerunner stumbled again and attracted a lot of enemy firepower for a moment.
"Listen to me or suffer!"
"Evil! You're pure evil!"
Ves needed to prod Alven several times in order for him to follow his suggestions. His battle performance instantly improved by a significant margin. Despite this success, Alven thought that Ves had performed some demonic witchcraft to accomplish such a result.
Alven became crazed from the pressure exerted by the demon. Somehow, Alven became a rabid dog, and channeled nothing but his instincts and the core of his training to resist the relentless rebels that sought to overrun the southwestern walls.
Much of the reason why Alven fought so hard was because Ves learned how to manipulate his spirit. As he became more familiar with spiritual attacks, he realized he could do something else than inflict pain.
"It's much like assimilation, but instead of taking over his entire spirit, I can choose to affect a couple of aspects."
Even though his attacks looked crude and did a lot more damage than necessary, Ves enjoyed a strong advantage over Alven in terms of mental strength. This left the mech pilot helpless.
If not for being in a position of control, Ves would have gotten spooked that such a thing was even possible, although he doubted a lot of humans could perform such an attack. Only through extremely special circumstances did Ves end up in Alven's mind.
"Callisto!" A loyalist officer barked over the comm. "This is no time for heroics! You are disrupting our defensive lines! Fall back to the inner defense lines!"
The gratuitous mental damage inflicted by Ves caused Alven to disregard the order. Ves had to prod Alven yet again in order to turn around.
Ves noticed that the more he intervened, the less Alven became capable of thinking rationally. By now, he'd gone halfway feral. He fought on mostly through instinct and training. While that helped Ves understand the most important skills to rifleman mech pilots, he did not wish for Alven to die so soon.
He decided to do something drastic. He wanted to take over Alven's mind entirely.
The action came with a lot of risk, but as long as he did not completely assimilate Alven's damaged mind, then the act would still be reversible. Ves had no intention of taking over a religious nut's mind.
After deciding on his course of action, Ves practically swarmed over Alven's mind. His previous attacks wore out the mech pilot's defenses, so he could offer no substantial opposition to the takeover.
Alven screamed and instinctively pulled back. His Firerunner went from fighting a pitched battle to fleeing as fast as possible. The remaining loyalists all looked at Alven's mech like it had gone mad, but they quickly turned their attention back to the attacking mechs.
If Ves had to describe his takeover, he would say that his mind turned into a blanket that covered Alven's most essential elements of self. They represented his consciousness and formed the main control center of his body and mind.
When Ves covered himself over those elements, Ves effectively captured Alven's consciousness and hijacked its connection to Alven's body and mind. For a brief period of time, Ves was Alven.
A flood of information streamed into his mind, but Ves blocked most of it, only letting the purest piloting instincts go through.
"Let's see if I can pilot a mech this way."
When Ves gained sufficient control over the process, he attempted to interface with the Firerunner.
Alven cried out in pain yet again, but this time it was Ves who suffered the brunt. The neural interface might have connected with Alven's brains, but it was Ves who attempted to connect with the mech, not the original consciousness.
Ves thought to circumvent his inability to pilot a mech by hijacking Alven's body and mind, but it seemed that things weren't so simple.
The pain caused Ves to eject from Alven's spirit. His own spirit sustained a moderate amount of damage as well, and he was in no shape to make another attack. Not that it mattered, because Alven's mind received so many shocks he effectively turned into an idiot.
Without any active control, the Firerunner collapsed. This turned it into a sitting duck and a magnet for enemy fire. Less than thirty seconds later, the mech blew up.