The Flagrant Swordmaidens began their lengthy march across Seven. It took around two months to reach the turbulent hemisphere. This was the side of the globe that centered around the Starlight Megalodon's crash site.
Once they crossed into this storm-wracked region, the ground expedition could no longer receive any shipments from the fleet up in orbit. Not even the sturdiest transports would be able to make it through the roiling astral winds alive.
While that hadn't stopped the Starlight Megalodon from launching an antimatter torpedo through those very same turbulent higher-dimensional particles, the visitors didn't possess the same advanced technologies.
During the lengthy journey, the men and women had plenty of work to do. Not only did mechanical breakdowns occur several times more frequently despite all their precautions, a lot of research also needed to be done.
The two major research projects occupied most people's attention.
The most critical project by far consisted of unlocking the potential of the god crystals. The Vandals gathered an entire pile of them when they took them off the dead bodies of Pairixan and his subordinate gods.
Despite the many attempts by the engineers and other specialists to elicit a reaction out of these mysterious god crystals, they stubbornly remained inert.
Chief Engineer Dakkon tried everything from whacking them with force, zapping them with electricity, exposing them to different forms of electromagnetic radiation, cooking them or freezing them with different levels of temperature.
Nothing worked. Not even touching them with their bodies helped. They missed an essential link. Without this essential link, their attempts to create a local power source that could draw their energy from the astral winds stalled horribly.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
Rather than resume their fruitless guessing and experimentation, the god crystal project started to cast hopeful eyes at the beast rider project.
"Ves, my boy!" Chief Dakkon said with a familiar tone to Ves as he sat behind a terminal. "When are you going to let the big girl do her thing?"
Exasperated at being interrupted from his difficult and tedious attempt at programming the translation filter for his beast rider neural interface, Ves turned around in his chair. "That's not up to me. It's up to Qilanxo herself to decide when she wants to demonstrate her powers to us. You know she's still wounded, right? Any exertion at this point will delay her recovery."
"She's practically healthy in my view! Surely these beasts are capable of drawing upon their powers when wounded, right? What's stopping Qilanxo from doing her tricks?"
Ves couldn't answer that question. He only knew that Qilanxo refused to call down an energy tornado or demonstrate her space barrier powers when asked. As for the reason why, Qilanxo refused to go into it. Privately, the experts in the research believed she still suffered from some lingering trauma due to barely surviving the explosion that defeated her mate.
In any case, neither Ves nor the candidate beast riders thought it would be a good idea to push Qilanxo. It already chafed her to be a virtual prisoner amidst the Flagrant Swordmaidens. Menacing mechs continued to keep an eye on her, ready to spring into action if she ever rebelled from her captivity.
The change from being a god and ruler over hundreds of thousands of people to a lowly draft animal to a strange group of outsider humans already affected her mood. Ves basically banked on time and daily interaction by Captain Orfan and Lieutenant Dise to lessen her animosity and lower her objections towards cooperation.
Pushing Qilanxo to demonstrate her powers needed to be done eventually, but moving too quickly while she was undergoing a change in mentality might harm their relationship irreparable.
To be frank, Ves hoped to convert Qilanxo from a captive into a willing collaborator. If she was willing to let go of the grievances of the past, then they didn't have any reason to remain hostile.
Over the last month, Qilanxo not only started to recover her old strength, but she healed many old wounds that had been left as mementos of her early life of conflict and struggle. Certain advanced supplements and treatments even enhanced her original body quality and invigorated her mind.
As long as this luxurious care continued, Qilanxo would definitely be able to surpass her old self!
All of this was part of a deliberate carrot and stick to encourage the sacred god to willingly throw herself into their camp. The key to luring her to their side was that the stick shouldn't hit too hard.
Nevertheless, the ground expedition's energy budget started to look worse and worse. With the loss of three essential power generators, of which the fleet only sent a single replacement copy, the mechs and transports would eventually run out of energy to move their limbs in two months or less.
This was far too fast! They wouldn't be able to reach the Starlight Megalodon under their own power at this rate!
Therefore, Chief Dakkon's concerns grew increasingly more important. If the Flagrant Swordmaidens had to choose between taming a sacred god and mastering the ability to generate power from the god crystals, they would definitely choose the latter.
Though Ves knew how important such an outcome represented, he really didn't want to abandon the soft approach to Qilanxo. He developed a soft spot for her, just like how a mech designer adored their custom mechs.
Put more cynically, he became obsessed into his attempt of trying to turn Qilanxo into a mech analog. As a mech designer, he couldn't stand leaving such a promising mech unfinished.
"Give me a timeframe then, Ves. When do you think Qilanxo will be ready to show off her tricks?"
"Before we cross over to the stormy side of Seven at the very least. Four weeks. No more."
Most of the exobiologists agreed that Qilanxo reached a healthy state, though it would still take half a year for her to grow into her peak steak.
"I'll hold you to that promise. You better get her ready in four weeks or less. The project I'm in charge of is basically without direction without this advancement."
As the Flagrant Swordmaidens continued to navigate across the planet, they came across many wondrous sights. Lush fields of grass that stretched unendingly. Herds consisting of hundreds of thousands of animals moving slowly in unison. Wild gods lazing underneath the astral winds, only waking once every half month to gorge upon the nearest herds of animals.
The terrain varied wildly as well. One day, they'd be travelling through sparse desert-like terrain. Other days, they forcefully felled the trees as they cut their way straight through an ancient forest.
Due to the human terraforming activities initiated long ago, many local plants and animals bore the unremarkable genetic stamp of Old Earth. However, their genes incorporated many interesting modifications that improved a lot of aspects, chiefly among them the adaptation to heavy gravity.
Sometimes, original aborigine wildlife popped up here and there that resisted extinction. For one reason or another, these exotic-looking plants and animals survived the displacement by the aggressive Earth-derived species and stubbornly clung onto life in their new ecological niches.
For the exobiologists, all of this interesting biodiversity practically presented a mystery to them. This was because they continued to see signs of deliberate intervention and change.
The entire planet's ecology was an artificial construct from the start ever since the Starlight Megalodon touched down on this planet.
Sometimes, Ves would sit on top of a heavy transport and look out at the different sights underneath the perpetual golden glow of the astral winds. As the transports stopped to make a temporary camp for the 'night', most Vandals and Swordmaidens went to sleep, though a sufficient amount of mech pilots remained awake to stand on guard.
No threats popped up during this time. One reason was that the ground expedition deliberately steered clear of any ancient city. They never strayed within two-hundred kilometers of one of the cities ruled by the sacred gods and blessed people.
This sometimes forced them to make awkward detours that added a couple of extra days to their schedule. However, Captain Byrd much preferred to avoid interacting with the locals than to risk another incident like what happened with Samar.
As time continued to flow by, more changes happened. For one, the frequent mental resilience training sessions taking place at the Mind Blender became somewhat of a staple to the mech pilots. The sessions only happened during the downtime, allowing the mech pilots to enjoy a good rest afterwards so that they could resume piloting their mechs with very little hindrances.
While their overall performance hadn't increased, several reports from some of the more observant mech captains already detected some cautiously positive changes to the quality of their subordinates.
"The mech pilots are more attentive and patient. They used to complain all the time when assigned to lengthy reconnaissance missions, but now they stoically accept every tedious task!"
"The men last much longer during simulation practice. They're far more willing to endure difficulties than before. It's surprising how much has changed!"
This transformation occurred most dramatically among the ranks of the Flagrant Vandals. While the Swordmaidens experienced some improvements as well, the mental quality of their mech pilots had always been stellar, so the added boost was merely a cherry on top.
From all of the data Ves had gathered to quantify and track these changes over time, he managed to come up with two conclusions.
First, the mental resilience training sessions impacted low-quality mech pilots the most. Those with attitude problems or underwent faulty training that left them with shaky minds and unsteady discipline somehow stiffened up after they underwent a dozen rounds of training sessions.
One change led to another. A higher tolerance for pain and suffering also increased their tolerance to endure the work they used to shirk.
In some way, this training method could be utilized to iron out a large amount of shoddy mech pilots. While it didn't turn them into elites, at the very least it shaved off some of their bad habits and instilled them with both patience and tolerance.
Second, the training sessions continued to pay dividends even after most of these changes played out. The doctors paying attention to the changes in their minds noted gradual changes in their brain structure in response to having their mind slightly messed around with by the dwarf captives.
What these changes truly led to, Ves wasn't sure. Many experts taking part of the beast rider project believed these changes may not even be benign.
In the face of all of these uncertainties, Ves reluctantly curtailed the operation of the Mind Blender project. Instead of letting mech pilots go through a training session once every three days, Ves reduced the rate to once every two weeks, mostly to preserve their existing gains.
This was the shortest interval the doctors came up with that wouldn't stimulate the brains of the mech pilots to adapt to the foreign impulses.
Ves felt like he was drawing his mech pilots back from overdosing on the stimulants he initially hooked them up with. Once he announced reduction in training sessions, many Vandals and Swordmaidens actually protested.
"Why did you stop?! I can't go without my fix! Let me in! Didn't you want us to train our minds?!"
"This is unfair! Who let you be in charge?! My performance in the simulations shot up by thirty percent, and this isn't my limit!"
Already used to being jeered at by mech pilots, Ves readily ignored their howls. He found it funny that a few months ago, they cried about what a torture it was to enter the Mind Blender.
Now, they actively fought against the reduction in training sessions.
Nonetheless, Ves really feared what might happen if the dwarf captives continued to muck about in their minds through the neural interface of their test mechs. Would they begin to take dwarf-like traits?
Ves shuddered when he considered that possibility. Once every two weeks should be more than enough to maintain the mental health of the mech pilots.
"Let it not be said that I've brainwashed our own mech pilots into becoming dwarf sympathisers."
Speaking of the dwarves, they encountered many different tribes along their way. The Mind Blender frequently replaced their worn out dwarf captives by kidnapping new ones from these inconsequential dwarves.
One day, however, they encountered something much more formidable than a small tribe of a few hundred dwarfs riding on their godling pack mounts.
They encountered a large nomadic dwarf tribe. One with several wild gods under their control. Or was it the other way around?