Chapter 3816: Clean
"Looks like you made a good pick, Calabast." Ves smirked as he observed the live footage.
Seeing how Legion Commander Sendra of the Swordmaidens overwhelmed the Glory Seeker expert pilot and took him on a spontaneous 'date' to the most exciting s.h.i.+p in the expeditionary fleet almost made his day.
"Why did you think that Commander Sendra is a good choice for Venerable Brutus?" Ves asked his spymaster. "I mean, the two are completely different people. Though both of them are mech pilots, Commander Sendra does not appear to be the sort of woman that Brutus has in mind when he is looking for a potential wife."
"I don't disagree with you, Ves, but I am certain that Sendra thinks differently. She may be a Swordmaiden, but don't underestimate her shrewdness. She harbors a lot of ambitions, you know. She is keen enough to recognize the political benefits of marrying someone as important as Venerable Brutus and also unscrupulous enough to do her best to convince her 'prey' that he should look no further."
Perhaps a more a.s.sertive man might be able to muster up the courage to reject Commander Sendra's advances, but Venerable Brutus was still too inexperienced in this regard.
From what Ves knew of his hapless brother-in-law, there was no way that he could shake off a female shark once she had sunk her teeth in his fles.h.!.+
Still, this might be exactly what Brutus needed in a partner. A more normal woman probably wouldn't be able to tolerate the consequences of his Hexer upbringing.
"Keep track of their relations.h.i.+p and make sure that Brutus doesn't end up miserable." He instructed. "As much as I think it would be funny if Brutus learns how to stand up for himself by a Swordmaiden of all people, I don't want to deal with Gloriana's constant complaints if anything goes wrong."
"I'm already on it, Ves. Do you think I am that careless? I never leave a job half-finished. My Black Cats are constantly in the vicinity. I am also paying personal attention to this matter. Nothing will go wrong. I can guarantee at least that much."
The Black Cats possessed a wide lat.i.tude to take action in the expeditionary fleet. While handing over a lot of permissions to a spy group could easily backfire in many circ.u.mstances, Ves wasn't particularly worried.
Calabast was one of the few people he trusted with his greatest secrets. Sure, she had inserted herself forcefully in his life, but as long as she depended on his success to fuel her own rise, there was no way that she would abuse her power to her own ends!
As for the Black Cats serving under her, their connection to the Larkinson Network should keep them straight for the most part. The Golden Cat was not an illusionary existence and her constant influence over the clan kept everyone united to a degree.
With this affair over with, Ves turned back to his main preoccupation. After several days of brainstorming, experimentation and preparation, the Larkinsons and allies tasked with developing an action plan were finally ready to present their progress.
Ves entered a conference room inside a building located in the temporary base on the surface of the moon.
A couple of expert pilots, officers, scientists and other staff were already present.
"Everyone here has worked hard, and I am grateful for that. You all know what is at stake. While we could have settled for our current gains and left this phase whale enclave to the MTA who are undoubtedly better equipped to take advantage of it, this is our discovery. It is not the turn of the mechers to profit from this amazing find. I hope to hear enough good news to start our upcoming operation with confidence. Director Ranya, let us begin with you. What can you tell us about the properties of the phase whale skeleton?"
Gloriana's cousin stood up and activated a projection that showed the known parts of the enormous skeleton.
"The exobiologists under my command have performed extensive studies and consulted tens of thousands of different books and articles on the phase whale race. While humanity's direct interactions with them are rather scarce, the Big Two as well as numerous pioneers have already fought and studied them enough times to get a good understanding of their direct properties. The Big Two has also plundered a lot of alien libraries which contain knowledge of what the native alien races know about the phase whale race. We finally have an understanding of what kind of an existence this deceased specimen may be. There are only a few phase whales that have ever grown this large and heavy."
Director Ranya activated a second projection that showed an image of a phase whale that matched the proportions of the partially-obscured skeleton that the Larkinsons had found!
"There is still much about the phase whale race that humanity does not know, so there are only scant sources that directly mention an existence such as the one depicted in this composed image."
The image of the intact phase whale looked odd and even disconcerting.
Everyone in the conference room knew what normal phase whales looked like. Though the powerful alien race did not think like humans at all, they possessed a remarkably elegant and beautiful aesthetic. They took great care of their bodies and made sure they were as smooth, uniform and graceful as possible.
No healthy phase whale looked ugly in people's eyes!
Even if phase whales suffered injuries and incurred scars, they were so adept at augmenting and modifying their own bodies that they could easily work away these temporary imperfections.
The phase whale in the image was completely different. The creature looked more cruel than normal as it snarled and revealed giant, pointed teeth.
The gigantic phase whale's hide was rough and irregular. It was marked by wounds, irregular growths and other horrible-looking scars.
"Is this creature diseased or something?" Ves puzzlingly guessed. "Is the phase whale suffering from a form of incurable cancer maybe?"
"No." Ranya shook her head. "A phase whale that looks like this did this all to itself. You see, when normal phase whales reach maturity and leave the gas giants that they grew up in, they give in to their curiosity and explore different star systems and phase whale enclaves. Over the course of their travels, they gain inspiration from what they witness and develop their own plans for self-improvement. Once they have made enough gains, they will settle onto a gas giant or other site and slowly begin to research methods to strengthen and augment their own bodies."
"We know that already. What makes this abnormal phase whale different, then?"
"I was getting to that, sir. This process is a slow and repeating cycle. Phase whales continually explore new curiosities, perform new research on self-augmentations before enacting their upgrades. A single cycle can take decades if not hundreds of years. There are even examples where phase whales have shut themselves in their biolabs for millenia just to get everything right."
That sounded remarkably similar to how mech designers like Ves approached their work.
Of course, the time frame for human mech designers was a lot more compressed. Ves would turn into a skeleton long ago if he dared to spend millenia on developing a new innovation!
"One of the disadvantages of the phase whales is that they do not easily pa.s.s on their own research and accomplishments to others. The only exception is their direct offspring, but even then not everything gets pa.s.sed on. This has led to a pattern of long-term stagnation as the phase whales have only marginally grown stronger over many eons."
The phase whales must have been extremely a.s.sured of their superiority. Such a pattern of behavior was only fine if stronger external threats did not show up. Their presence across the Red Ocean allowed them to keep an eye on every alien race. Ves wouldn't be surprised if the phase whales secretly inhibited the progress of the stronger alien races over the years so that the status quo would never be broken.
"Still, the advantage of this custom is that the phase whales have grown to become quite diverse from each other." Ranya continued. "Every phase whale is a fundamentally different subspecies. They had taken an active hand at their own evolution and attained power and abilities that are never completely identical to that of others. For a long time, this has been the state of the phase whale civilization. There are many different individual talents that each developed their own advantages."
The director of the Larkinson Biotech Inst.i.tute stared deeply at the two projections.
"No intelligent race is monolithic, however. There are bad apples in every alien civilization. Though the vast majority of phase whales are avid researchers who are constantly engaged in deepening their understanding of reality, there are also 'delinquents' among them who lack the patience or mental fort.i.tude to spend hundreds of years on developing minor biological enhancements."
"So what do they do, director?"
"Isn't it obvious? Rather than working hard for many years, they hunt down another phase whale and take their victim's best enhancements for themselves!"
That sounded remarkably human. These phase whales might not be as alien as Ves had initially thought.
"The delinquent phase whales are able to plunder the hard work of others by one of the simplest and crudest methods possible. They defeat their targets in combat and eat the biological parts and organs that they value the most. Through an unexplained process, the winner can forcefully a.s.similate the stolen biological augments and gain strength in a fraction of the time it takes to develop these improvements the proper way!"
A lot of people in the meeting reacted with disgust at this story. Even though they did not necessarily care about the phase whale race, cannibalism was one of the universal taboos that never failed to arouse the disgust of humans!
Ranya gestured towards the scary mutated phase whale image. "The cannibal phase whales do not end up like this straight away. In the beginning, the changes to their bodies are relatively modest. It takes multiple hunts and a.s.similation attempts for them to slowly lose control over their own bodies. The reason for that is that the a.s.similation process is never completely flawless. There are always faults and unintended side effects that disrupt their bodies. One biological error does not make a difference, but what about a thousand? Each of these faults can interact with each other in unpredictable ways, thereby forming mutations that significantly impair the bodies of the cannibal phase whales."
"I understand." Ves looked enlightened. "The cannibals only know how to steal. They have never put in the hundreds or thousands of years or research into fully understanding every biological augment. Another problem is that the ones they plundered from their fellow phase whales aren't adjusted to a different physique. The mismatch between biological parts will only grow more severe as the predation continues, thereby causing their bodies to grow progressively more painful and weak!"
Ranya nodded. "This is why these criminals are referred to as 'unclean whales' by the phase whale race. Once the unclean whales set upon this taboo path, they fall into a vicious cycle. They need to consume more phase whales in order to become stronger and stave off their biological time bombs. That leads to further conflict and mutation in their bodies that spurs the unclean whales to go on another hunt. This can go on and on until their heavily-degenerated bodies turn into such a biological horror that they explode by themselves."
Everyone looked at the projections of the simulated whole unclean whale and the actual skeleton found in the Royal Tomb.
"Is this the skeleton of one of those self-destructing whales?" Ves curiously asked.
"Not quite." Ranya shook her head. "If our theories are correct, you are looking at a whale that has overcome all of those malignant mutations. Such an existence is a myth that is so obscure in phase whale society that we are still not certain whether our preliminary conclusion is correct. This is a so-called clean whale. It is a cannibal whale that has devoured many fellow phase whales yet achieved perfect a.s.similation. It is one of the most fearsome tyrants that the Red Ocean has ever birthed!"