The Mech Touch - THE MECH TOUCH Chapter 1650 Empty Hear
“You’re so cute, Lucky!” Lanie Larkinson grinned and embraced the cat. “Ves is so lucky to have you. Do you think he’ll buy me a mechanical cat like you for my birthday one day?”
While the Sand War intensified, the Cloud Estate had become host to less Larkinsons than before.
Many Larkinsons, whether retired or in the prime of their years, reenlisted in the Mech Corps or volunteered in some other way.
Even without the family explicitly exhorting them to do something, the Larkinsons embodied duty.
All of the Desolate Soldiers fielded at the Cloud Estate and the Mech Nursery were pretty much redundant for the members of the family. Their heritage and expectations of their fellow relatives was enough to move them into action!
The absence of so many Larkinsons made the Cloud Estate a lot less crowded.
Nonetheless, the liveliness remained largely the same. Plenty of spouses of those serving in the Mech Corps remained behind. While they merely married into the Larkinson Family, they already started to embody some of their virtues.
Old, disabled or tired veterans counted among those who remained behind as well. They had already sacrificed too much and wouldn’t be able to help much in the war anyway.
Many of them preferred to pass on their wisdom and experience to the next generation of mech pilots at the Larkinson Basic Mech Academy. Their competence in teaching mech cadets had already won plenty of praise from their pupils.
Naturally, the bulk of the Larkinsons left behind consisted of the youngest generation of Larkinsons.
Many young Larkinson potentates moved to Cloudy Curtain in order to attend the Larkinson Basic Academy. Not only would they be able to receive the same level of focused, individual tutelage from all of the Larkinson veterans at the Cloud Estate, they also received excellent instruction at their family’s own mech academy.
The teaching conditions at Cloudy Curtain had become so good that most Larkinson potentates preferred to stay at the Cloud Estate rather than the old Larkinson Compound at Ritttersberg!
Even though the capital planet of the Bright Republic was one of the most pleasant places to live on, attending an academy run by experienced Larkinson veterans beat many of the other prestigious mech academies at Rittersberg!
This was why children such as Lanie Larkinson, who recently discovered that she was a potentate, resided at the Cloud Estate.
In her opinion, Cloudy Curtain was a much better planet than Rittersberg!
The Larkinsons and the LMC pretty much dominated Freslin. No one dared to despise the Larkinsons in this local area!
In contrast, Rittersberg hosted many other powerful families and influences. Lanie felt suffocated whenever she visited a city or attended school.
“What’s that, Lucky? You want more company?”
The cat thrusted a paw at a tree. More specifically, the person sitting emptily underneath it. Lanie immediately recognized the woman.
“That’s our guest!”
Davia Stark was no stranger to the Larkinsons residing at the Cloud Estate. Ves practically dumped her on their laps without much of an explanation besides telling them that she was a foreign mech pilot who had lost her state to the sandmen.
No one made the initiative to approach Davia at first. However, the fearless Larkinson children eventually grew curious enough to approach the stranger.
Right now, one of Lanie’s youngest cousins toddled over to Davia.
Afraid that the obviously traumatized veteran might hurt the young boy, Lanie walked over in order to make sure to protect him if necessary.
Much to her relief, Davia did not react to the young child’s presence. She merely looked up for a moment and grimaced.
“You shouldn’t be here, kid.”
“I don’t want your company.”
“You look lonely. Do you want a flower?”
With befuddled eyes, Davia accepted the flower that the boy clearly plucked from a nearby flower garden.
When Lanie reached over to the boy, she watched Davia becoming increasingly more fascinated by the flower.
The boy grinned. “See? My parents told me that presents always make you happy!”
The older woman softened a little. “Thank you. This is the first present I’ve received in years. You’re a good kid.”
“Madame Stark. How are you today?” Lanie respectfully asked.
Though the woman did not appear very notable, she carried the same air as the other veteran Larkinsons. In fact, now that she came close to Davia, she felt as if there was more to the foreign mech pilot than she initially realized.
She grew curious.
Davia’s eyes raked over Lanie’s academy uniform. “You’re a potentate?”
“Yup! It’s my dream to pilot a mech one day!”
“I’m a Larkinson after all! We aren’t true Larkinsons unless we serve in some way!”
“That’s not a healthy attitude. I’ve never encountered a group who is so eager to fight and bleed for others than your family.”
“We’re different!” Lanie proudly exclaimed. “Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not going to enlist in the Mech Corps. I’ve set my sights on the Avatars of Myth! I want to pilot the best mechs designed by the best mech designer of our family!”
“I want to join the Avatars too!” The little boy echoed.
“Wait until you’re ten, cousin. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.” Lanie lectured him, though she had been secretly guilty of this as well.
Just as expected, the boy stubbornly shook his head and scowled at her. “I’ll become a mech pilot for sure!”
As Lanie and the little kid argued with each other, Davia looked on with a hint of bemusement.
The empty void in her mind stirred a little bit as she witnessed the two young kids tussle with each other.
Sights like these happened every day as the rambunctious kids treated the gardens of the Cloud Estate as their own playground.
Her heart couldn’t help but warm each day she spent outside. Despite the depressing clouds that covered the skies, the cheer and exuberance from the Larkinsons were infectious.
However, each time she was about to smile, the awful memories of the war reasserted themselves.
The memories of losing her comrades, her commander, her home planet and her entire state burned in her mind as if they were searing brands!
The helplessness she felt at the time despite advancing to expert pilot was something that broke her utterly. If not for a passing evacuation ship that picked her up because they wanted the protection of another mech, she would have thrown herself against the sandmen to join her comrades in the afterlife!
A profound sense of weakness swept over her body, causing her to slump against the trunk of the tree.
She never wanted to experience those harrowing events again. The sandmen were too terrible to face, not because they were strong, but because they were heartless.
Perhaps other aliens might enjoy slaughtering innocent humans, but the sandmen didn’t feel the way other sentients did. They were barely sentient at all and people still weren’t sure if they felt any emotions.
One thing was clear to Davia. The sandmen did not kill all of those humans at the border states because they liked it. They killed them because they were in the way. Nothing more.
Her resentment against the sandmen had reached a peak because of this. While most humans such as the Hexers and Fridaymen were preoccupied with fighting against their own kind, too few were left to deal with the true threat!
The dormant soldier within her wanted to come alive, but the crushing sense of loss and despair quickly squashed this impulse.
She was too broken to fight anymore!
While his ‘rescuer’ mistakenly thought that she was an expert pilot, Davia knew better. She had barely been a demigod when she was at her peak, and she lost it all when she saw her state succumb to the sandmen first-hand.
A failure like her didn’t deserve to be called a Venerable!
To Davia, another day went by without much change. Her mental scars stifled any attempts to rouse herself to fight her demons and avenge her fallen comrades.
Elsewhere on Cloudy Curtain, Leland met with Gavin at a cafe in downtown Freslin.
Though no one should have realized it, the cafe was fully under the control of Flashlight. It was one of the many properties the spy agency prepared on the planet in order to keep an eye on Ves and the LMC.
“Hey.” Gavin nervously greeted as he sat down on the other side of the circular table. “Is it alright to meet like this? You told us we’re being tracked.”
“It’s exactly because Ves’ resident security experts are scrutinizing us that we have to meet. Do you really think you survived the recent firing spree because Ves is ignorant of your hidden duties?”
“We’ve analyzed your employer’s behavior extensively. We can conclude with 90 percent certainty that Ves is definitely aware of your associations with our organization!”
“Why didn’t Ves fire me, then?! He terminated Mr. Altern’s employment without remorse!”
“That’s because he likes your company.” Leland smiled. “You’re not like the other workers, who are just names on a list to him. You’re a confidant. He remembers your face. He appreciates your advice.”
“And that is reason enough to exempt me from getting the boot?”
“Yup. That’s how people work sometimes, Gavin.”
“That doesn’t make any sense from what I know of Ves. He’s ruthless. I’m sure he’s willing to stab his own mother in the back to get ahead.”
The Flashlight agent chuckled. “People are inherently contradictory, and those who are exceptional are even more so. Mech designers, especially those who have advanced far in their careers, are all abnormal. It comes with the profession. Normal mech designers never have what it takes to get very far. Those who want to become Journeymen must balance between genius and madness.”
“That sounds just like Ves.”
“This is also why he’s so successful. His design philosophy has received much attention from many factions and groups these days. Many of them are rather irritated that Ves indiscriminately fired all of their spies and moles within the LMC.”
“They wouldn’t have been able to find much, anyway. Everyone knows the true secrets of the company are locked within Ves’ mind.”
“They know that, but they still hoped that their agents would have picked up some clues.”
“So what now, Leland? My cover is blown. My time with Ves has become increasingly more awkward. Lately, he’s been consumed by his latest projects. I don’t have much work to do now that Raymond Billingsley-Larkinson has taken the helm of the company.”
“Oh, just because you’re being put aside for a while doesn’t mean your role has ended. Ves will travel once more, and hopefully you will be able to accompany him as his dutiful assistant. Tell me, has he told you anything about participating in the invasion of the Red Ocean?”
“Not really, but from what I’ve observed, he’s definitely thinking about it.” Gavin answered after a moment. “The Red Ocean is the perfect destination for his grand expedition. I think he’s a lot more excited to mix in an entirely new dwarf galaxy rather than touring the settled star sectors of the Milky Way.”
“That’s what we think as well. The question is whether he has the qualifications to pass through a beyonder gate. Earning the astronomical amount of merits required to exchange a beyonder ticket is beyond most people, including most of the respected Seniors of our state. A Journeyman should be even less capable!”
“He has Gloriana though.”
“That’s a good point.” Leland replied. “While we don’t think his chances of obtaining passage are very high, he can’t be judged with common sense. In case he somehow manages to accomplish something that is out of reach to most of his colleagues, we need you to be in place to participate in his grand venture. Whether he remembers it or not, Ves is still a Brighter. Do you understand?”
Gavin reluctantly nodded. “I understand. I’m not sure if I’ll be with the LMC at the time, but I’ll make sure that Ves doesn’t forget his roots.”