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Genius Mechanic

Genius Mechanic: Chapter 25

Tianyu Star Contaminated Zone

25. Gale

Proofread by An Zheee and Cloud Chip Cake

The communication channel went oddly silent for a moment.

Lin Yao exclaimed, “Are you hallucinating?!”

Ji Qingfeng retorted angrily, “You think I wouldn’t notice if someone touched my foot?!”

The sensations from his limbs were conveyed through his mental connection to the cockpit. When a mecha pilot controlled their mecha, they shared a sense of empathy. The neural empathy could accurately transmit the five senses. The deeper the level of empathy, the more the changes to the mecha could be felt, including the pain from attacks and changes in the surrounding environment.

Moreover, whatever was pulling him had quite some force behind it, and its influence on him was becoming even more pronounced.

Ying Chenlin monitored the radar and noticed a faint signal overlapping with Ji Qingfeng’s mech coordinates below. “Wait, there’s something.”

At this moment, a request to establish communication from an unfamiliar mecha popped up in front of them.

Ying Chenlin immediately saw the incoming request’s message on the nearby channel.

[Gale Mecha, Zhao: anyone alive, bro!?]

Generally, each mecha has its own unique identification number assigned at the factory, serving as a distinct identifier. This particular type of special code represented a Competition-level mecha affiliated with a mecha base or the ID of a mecha pilot.

Meaning, the message came from a mecha with the ID “Zhao” from the Gale mecha base.

“Isn’t that Zhao Lejie from Gale!?” Ji Qingfeng was taken aback. “I remember the mecha pilots from Gale arrived before us, right?”

The mecha pilots from Gale joined the support mission later; there were no initial missing pilots from Gale.

You Su switched to the nearby communication channel, and a voice suddenly emerged from the communication’s audio interface.

“Finally, someone alive! I knew something was up above. Which team are you guys from?” Zhao Lejie’s voice sounded through the communication channel. “Bro, I’m holding onto you. Help me get out. I’m stuck down here.”

Ji Qingfeng was speechless.

So, the one pulling him from below was this strange thing.

Lin Yao exclaimed in surprise, “How did you end up stuck below?”

“That ID… You guys are from KID, huh!” Zhao Lejie noticed the mecha codes that appeared in the system and quickly connected the dots.

Ying Chenlin switched to the nearby public channel and heard Zhao Lejie’s voice, “Were you separated from the rest of Gale?”

Zhao Lejie couldn’t quite distinguish KID’s mecha pilots, but when he saw the appearance of four mechas on the nearby channel, he paused for a moment. “We encountered a strong wind current when we arrived at this location. After that, the five mechas from our base got separated. By the time I realized it, I was already in the sand. I tried various methods, but none worked. The pollutant source pulled me in directly.”

Pulled in…? Ji Qingfeng and Lin Yao were momentarily baffled. After all, they hadn’t been pulled down.

Ji Qingfeng questioned, “Isn’t this just sand? How could it pull people in!?”

“We sank downward as well. It seems like we weren’t pulled,” Lin Yao added.

Zhao Lejie, not understanding, wondered if this thing had a preference for certain individuals. Why was he the unlucky one?

“Your energy, first turn off your external energy,” Ying Chenlin explained. “The contamination level here is clearly abnormal. Normal quicksand usually has limited depth and wouldn’t cause a mecha to sink so deep.”

“Oh! So that’s why you asked us to shut down our external energy at the beginning,” Lin Yao suddenly realized.

Ying Chenlin knew this phenomenon couldn’t be explained by conventional logic. They were dealing with multiple sand vortexes enhanced by high-intensity pollutants. These vortexes exhibited some characteristics of quicksand but couldn’t be completely understood through the principles of normal quicksand.

However, these peculiar sand vortexes, influenced by the Contaminated Zone, acted more like whirlpools beneath the surface, appearing calm but capable of swallowing mechas underground.

With a contamination level as high as 6800, it was clear that the aim of these pollutants was to pull them down. And their target was obvious—the energy carried by the mechas.

Mecha themselves were amalgamations refined from various high-pollution substances. With the influence of energy and mental power, they were essentially walking prey.

If this sand beneath them was a pollution source, then devouring them was akin to feeding. Naturally, encountering them, it wouldn’t spare them.

After Zhao Lejie deactivated his external energy, he indeed felt some of the pressure on his body lighten.

However, this reduction was just that—a reduction. He still couldn’t get out. The sand had practically infiltrated every crevice of his mecha.

At this moment, the Binding Chain, burdened with a weight it shouldn’t have borne, tightened further, emitting sounds of strain.

Ji Qingfeng said with a heavy heart, “Brother, it’s not that I’m unwilling to save you, but if you keep pulling me, we’ll all meet our end here.”

“What do you mean?” Zhao Lejie asked.

The Binding Chain pulled even tighter, and Ji Qingfeng’s heart ached. “You’re pulling on my most vital part. Could you be a bit gentler?”

Embarrassed, Zhao Lejie eased up on the pressure. “Huh?”

Ying Chenlin kept a close eye on his surroundings, trying to figure out a solution. Suddenly, the nearby mecha moved. Without a word, You Su moved from the sand to Ying Chenlin’s side, taking hold of the Binding Chain. The pressure on his arm lessened instantly.

Ji Qingfeng and Lin Yao, who were floating on the surface, were easily rescued. But Zhao Lejie, from Gale, had almost sunk completely. While they could still manage to get him out, it would be time-consuming.

However, since Zhao Lejie had deactivated his external energy, the intense interest of the S-Level pollutant source seemed to wane. The pressure from the surrounding quicksand also lessened. Gradually, a portion of the sand around them turned into ordinary sand, and the overwhelming weight started to disappear.

Taking advantage of this moment, both Ying Chenlin and Lin Yao managed to escape the quicksand. Only Zhao Lejie and Ji Qingfeng, whom Zhao Lejie was pulling, remained. As the Binding Chain was pushed to its limits, Ji Qingfeng took it back when the damage warning appeared. Fortunately, the distance was shortened. In the end, Lin Yao pulled out his melee weapon—a Long Blade—attached to his mecha to serve as a pulling device.

Zhao Lejie was observing the KID’s team or rather, KID’s lineup.

Most importantly, he was observing the two A-Class mechas. Ji Qingfeng and Lin Yao’s mechas were easy to identify since most S-Class mechas had unique insignias. When the other party communicated with him on the nearby public channel, Zhao Lejie pretty much confirmed the identities of these two.

But their identities were a settled fact. He was curious about the other two mechas.

Since he started communicating with KID, these two mechas had been the ones engaged in the rescue effort. Analyzing their external appearance, it was clear that one was an Artillery mecha, and the other was a Guardian mecha.

The footage from the Banute Contaminated Zone had been reviewed countless times by their captain, Qi Sicheng. The strength of those two irregular mechas that had appeared back then was quite formidable. The window for mecha pilots to transfer among different bases was now closed, and KID remained silent.

Due to the influence of the high pollution level, the conditions in this quicksand environment were uncertain. When he was first blown to this area, he was caught by an unknown pollutant source beneath the sand and ultimately dragged to the bottom. However, KID hadn’t panicked, or if they had, they’d swiftly found a solution.

Before entering the Tianyu Star Contaminated Zone, he had learned from the staff of the Management Bureau that the first batch of mecha pilots to arrive included KID’s Huo Yan and Lu Xi. These two obviously weren’t Huo Yan and Lu Xi, which meant they were other mecha pilots from KID… Yet the information available on StarNet indicated that there were no other active mecha pilots in KID’s base.

The mecha pilots behind these two mechas were far from ordinary.

Who were these two…?

Ying Chenlin didn’t focus on Zhao Lejie. The task of rescuing fell on the enthusiastic Lin Yao. Ying Chenlin took the opportunity to observe the surroundings.

According to the information provided by the Tianyu Star’s administration in advance, Base Station C should be a city ruin. The base station was established on a base tower in the middle of the ruins. The entire base station was protected by the strongest defense system, capable of withstanding attacks from S-Level pollutants. Therefore, there was currently no need to worry about the base station’s damage.

The location of the base station should be nearby… The critical issue, however, was that the city was now buried under the yellow sand. Quicksand vortexes were everywhere, with occasional sandstorms and dust tornadoes.

Inside the cockpit, the mecha’s intelligence, Theo, said, “The quicksand appearing on the Tianyu Star is somewhat reminiscent of the swamps we encountered before! Is there a high concentration of pollutants here? Can we find the anomalous crystals we’re looking for?”

Environmental mutations caused by pollutants were the most challenging to deal with. The objectives became elusive, unlike trying to focus on a single target to deal with an enemy. Dealing with environmental mutations required tracing back to the source to find the root cause.

You Su turned off the data and looked at the distant mecha.

Ying Chenlin had somehow left the team and moved to a farther part of the ruins, seemingly observing something.

Theo followed his mecha’s gaze and looked outside. Seeing the distant mecha, it said, “Why do you keep staring at him? This is the Tianyu Star Contaminated Zone! There’s definitely an S-Level pollutant here. Who knows, we might even encounter an S-Grade anomalous crystal.”

“Quiet,” You Su said.

Theo closed its mouth in a somewhat aggrieved manner, thinking that the others were much noisier.

The time taken for the rescue was longer than expected. After disengaging their mental power, pulling and rescuing became easier.

Lin Yao and Ji Qingfeng, who had been making a racket, finally emerged from the quicksand, and they also managed to pull Zhao Lejie out from the bottom.

When Zhao Lejie was being pulled out, he felt a bit uncomfortable around his neck. Sitting on the ruins, he didn’t dare to activate his energy. “Thank you, I owe all of you.”

Lin Yao said, “The pressure from below seems to have lessened significantly.”

“Because he turned off his external energy,” Ying Chenlin added, while observing the surroundings. He continued, “He was originally beneath us. If he hadn’t turned off his energy, he would have been prey. The quicksand was fixated on him.”

Beside them, Ji Qingfeng stared at his own Binding Chain, his face ashen. He was now absolutely certain that his 500,000 was down the drain.

It took Zhao Lejie some time to figure out the situation. “Isn’t that just a Binding Chain?”

Ji Qingfeng exclaimed, “Just a Binding Chain? Do you know how much money I spent on it?”

“How much? Considering you saved me this time, I should be covering the repair cost for your mecha,” Zhao Lejie said. He then asked, “3,000,000 star coins?”

Ji Qingfeng remained silent.

Zhao Lejie continued, “How about 3.5 million?”

The members of KID stayed silent, making Zhao Lejie feel a bit anxious. Did he underestimate the cost…?

Within KID’s private channel, Ji Qingfeng took a deep breath and said, “Their base charges a whopping 3 million for weapon repairs! The boss has never spent so much money on repairing my weapons in her entire life.”

Lin Yao, who hadn’t seen much of the world, asked, “Is this what Dawn Galaxy’s number one Base is like?”

Upon hearing 3.5 million, Ying Chenlin pondered for a moment and commented, “With 3.5 million, you could repair seven weapons.”

You Su stayed silent.

While Zhao Lejie was still contemplating the implications of 3.5 million, the situation escalated in the public channel. The now more apprehensive Zhao Lejie asked, “What’s the verdict?”

Ji Qingfeng was calculating how many discounted materials he could acquire with that sum. “Let me think.”

Zhao Lejie tried again, “Was it too low? How about 4 million?”

KID’s side reacted with confusion.

Zhao Lejie cautiously ventured, “4.5…?”

KID’s side was thoroughly perplexed.

Ying Chenlin drew a conclusion, “He’s wealthy.”

Ji Qingfeng chimed in, “Is he a benefactor?”

Lin Yao added, “Even the ATMs at our base entrance don’t hold that much money.”

Finally, KID accepted the high offer of 4.5 million star coins, sacrificing Ji Qingfeng’s beloved Binding Chain and happily welcoming Zhao Lejie’s friendly support.

After making some repairs, Zhao Lejie was still unable to reach anyone else from Gale. The magnetic field in this area was peculiar, allowing close-range communication but preventing signals from being transmitted beyond a certain range.

For now, he had to follow KID’s lead to understand the situation better. “What are your plans now… what are you all doing?”

He was about to ask about KID group’s intentions when he turned his head and saw the other members of KID prying rocks nearby.

“After finally entering the Tianyu Star Contaminated Zone,” Lin Yao stored the extracted A-Class materials in the mecha’s storage compartment, “seeing is believing. We need to recoup our investment.”

Zhao Lejie turned his head and saw Ji Qingfeng also busy digging. “…”

Has KID really fallen on such hard times?

While KID was busy gathering materials, it didn’t hinder their progress. Lin Yao, puzzled, asked, “Given the current situation, what’s the plan? Isn’t this Base Station C? Are other mechas submerged as well? Are we actually going to dig up mechas to rescue the others?”

“Those who entered must be skilled mecha pilots. Both Gale and YDS are here. Maybe they’ve already escaped this place,” Ying Chenlin said.

“Of course, if they were truly weak, just consider I never said that,” Ji Qingfeng added.

For some reason, after being bombarded by these two, Zhao Lejie suddenly felt inadequate.

“It’s not even feasible to rescue them,” You Su’s gaze fell into the distance, where there were whirlpools of quicksand and ruins. “How long did it take you to pull up a single mecha? If there are indeed mechas buried below, with just a few of us, searching and rescuing would be too late.”

The oxygen inside the mechas could support mecha pilots for about 7 days of activity or roughly 78 days of survival in a scenario where energy was not consumed at all. However, this was a high-risk Contaminated Zone, and the possibility of energy being depleted could not be ruled out. In an underground environment without any oxygen replenishment, a mecha pilot with generally superior physical condition could survive a maximum of 5 days.

Ying Chenlin stored the pried up sandstone in the mecha and explained, “Moreover, I just scouted the area nearby and didn’t detect any other mecha signals. This leaves two possibilities: either they can’t respond to us anymore, or they’re not here.”

Before he could finish speaking, a sudden gust of wind swept up around them.

The mecha pilots quickly reacted. Ji Qingfeng and Lin Yao immediately stood in front of Ying Chenlin. “What’s going on? Wind again!?”

The wind didn’t leave them time for conversation. Almost as soon as Ji Qingfeng asked, the wind arose from the ground and came sweeping toward them, unmistakably targeting them.

“Find cover!” Zhao Lejie yelled.

However, this wind wasn’t something ordinary cover could protect against. Ying Chenlin made a quick decision and used his weapon. He was piloting a Guardian mecha, equipped with his commonly used Light Blade. The blade pierced the ground, passing through the ruins and firmly anchoring the mecha to the ground.

After enduring the first wave of wind, the following gusts grew even stronger.

With such wind, let alone advancing to find the location of Base Station C, simply moving forward had become a problem.

Ji Qingfeng exclaimed, “At this rate, we won’t be able to move at all! Let alone Base Station C, if this continues, our energy will be depleted, and we’ll all be stranded here.”

“We, from Gale, came in with five mechas. My team, led by our boss, had already surveyed the area before coming here. The vicinity of Base Station C is covered in this type of quicksand and strong gusts. Before getting separated from the team, we had reached the base tower at point C. The ruins of the city are already buried in sand. The defense measures of the base station tower are intact.”.

Zhao Lejie also realized the gravity of the situation. The Contaminated Zone’s onslaught was relentless. Without any external support, their mechas were like sitting ducks. “Our Gale team got scattered, and we don’t know our current positions. We’re probably still near the tower. YDS’s team also seems to have Ke Lin and Hu Luobu.”

Ke Lin and Hu Luobu, prominent mecha pilots from YDS, were formidable in strength.

Gale had Zhao Lejie and Qi Sicheng, while YDS had Ke Lin and Hu Luobu.

Ji Qingfeng pondered for a moment. “That lineup is quite strong. How did you end up being blown here alone?”

Zhao Lejie didn’t really want to bring up this matter but continued, “Perhaps if we can restore the detection equipment at Base Station C, we might be able to establish contact with the outside world.”

“You won’t be able to leave that way either,” Lin Yao looked at the distant quicksand, “Flying in this wind is uncontrollable. It’s easy to be blown into the sand and swallowed up again.”

The present problem was in front of everyone. The only solution was to reach the base tower at Base Station C, restore the systems, and establish contact with the outside world. However, the journey to Base Station C was fraught with difficulties. The wind could blow them into the quicksand at any time, making flying too risky. They had no choice but to crawl forward.

However, there might not be cover along the way, and they might not even make it far.

The wind had already blown away into the distance, but it might return at any moment.

As the group contemplated how to solve this issue, Ying Chenlin pulled his Light Blade out of the rubble and casually remarked, “This is an easy one.”

You Su tilted his head slightly, looking at the mecha beside him.

Zhao Lejie was astonished. “Do you have a solution!?”

“If the threat is significant, then we might just have to eliminate the quicksand,” Ying Chenlin looked at the data on the Contaminated Zone in the mission details and said simply, “Without the quicksand, it becomes straightforward, doesn’t it?”

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