uch valuable points.

”Should I call Melinda? ” Ves wondered out loud.

Family stuck together.
If Ves took the time to explain his plans and difficulties to his cousin, he was sure she ’d lend him the credits.

”It ’s not right.
It ’s due to my own poor planning that I ’m facing a shortage on credits. ”

If he cried and went to his family to bail him out, then sure, they might lend him a hand.
It would also prove that he ’d been in over his head.
His aunts and uncles already disapproved of his career path.
He wanted to avoid giving them ammunition.

Perhaps sell Lucky ’s gems? Ves had dug out half-a-dozen of these little shinies, and they all provided minor benefits when installed onto any mech.
Any expert would love them if they realized they could improve their mechs by just installing a single jewel.

Shaking his head, Ves discarded the idea.
”Nah, that ’s a last resort. ”

If he introduced these gems to the universe, a lot of powerful players would want to know their source.
Ves lacked the strength to isolate himself from the connected universe he lived in.
It was child ’s play to track him down once he revealed any oddities.

”Forget about it.
I need to figure out something else.
What do I have that ’s valuable but not so much that it can be sold for some quick cash? ”

The workshop? Out of the question.
The building, 3d printer and assembler constituted the most basic requirements of a mech manufacturer.
Ves couldn ’t part with any of it.
He might as well make a deal with the bank about the loan if he gave up on the workshop.

What else did he have? The licenses, for one.
Since he had just read through the terms of the Caesar Augustus ’ production license, he became well aware of what he could do with it.
National Aeromotives didn ’t allow any shenanigans nor did they accept any refunds of a license Ves acquired through a charity grant.

”I still have a number of 1-star virtual licenses.
At this stage they ’re helpful, but not necessary to my plans.
I wonder if I ’m allowed to refund them.
I bought them I bought out of my own pocket after all.
Perhaps their terms aren ’t as restrictive. ”

Ves searched the galactic net to see whether he could get some money out of the licenses.
To his relief, the BSBH Corporation indeed set down a standard policy for returns.

A virtual license could be relinquished within the week at no cost if the purchaser hadn ’t used it in any of his current models.
If the owner possessed the license for more than a year, then the game wouldn ’t give one credit back.

Ves fell in the situation in between, having bought the licenses for more than a week but much less than a year.
Iron Spirit allowed purchasers to get back 75% of their money if the licenses were not in use, and only 50% if they were.
These terms only applied to licenses bought personally at normal prices.

Licenses bought at a discount or granted by other institutions didn ’t count, and unfortunately for Ves, the virtual licenses gifted by the System fell under this category.

Ves ’ head spun after he combed through all the license agreements, but his work paid off.
He knew what he could return and how much money he could claw back from the game.
He visited Iron Spirit ’s support site and submitted a refund application.

[Astoria Experimental Flight System]: 12,500 bright credits

[Fayette ECM Mk.
I]: 3,500 bright credits

[Red Eye Assisted Aim Module]: 4,999.50 bright credits

[MTTR Removable Battery Pack]: 1,500 bright credits

[Harconix Light DMR Version 3]: 9,999.50 bright credits

[Mirin-21 Ultralight Armor Plating]: 5,000 bright credits

The total amount of credits Ves expected to get back was 37,499 credits.
He left out the Festive Cloud Generator in his refund application because he grew rather fond of it.
He intended to incorporate the small, innocuous in his other designs whenever it fit.

As the support staff already received Ves ’ personal information when he made his previous licensing request, they worked quickly in processing the refund.
An hour later, Ves received a mail and a credit transfer that indicated his refund application met with success.

With about 45,000 credits in spendable cash, Ves was more than ready to start producing the Caesar Augustus, at least in Iron Spirit.
Yet before he did so, he hesitated.

The Caesar Augustus was a monstrously complex mech.
While many processes had been streamlined in Iron Spirit ’s virtual crafting environment, it still remained a lifelike simulation.
If Ves failed to produce a mech that matched the stock model ’s specifications, at the very worst he ’d end up with an unsellable mech.

A mech that remained stuck in place meant no new cash flow.
Without another source of credits, he wouldn ’t be able to produce another virtual mech to advance his understanding of the model and earn more cash.

All of this meant he couldn ’t fail at the first step.

”I ’m not alone in this. ” Ves realized as he slapped his forehead.
”Just because I can ’t beg for money from Melinda doesn ’t mean I can ask for advice. ”

He activated his comm and made a call to Bentheim.

Melinda ’s face popped up.
Instead of the casual clothes she wore in her recent visit, this time she appeared in a formal uniform.
”Hey Vessie, what ’s up? ”

”I ’m good, but I ’ve got a little trouble. ”

”Okay, tell it to me briefly.
I ’m technically on shift so I need to get back to work soon. ”

Ves nodded and described how he received a grant license of the infamous Caesar Augustus.
Naturally the charity the System setup looked squeaky clean on paper, so Ves wasn ’t worried Melinda would dig into it and find anything improper.
He emphasized his determination to tackle the challenge of mastering its design.

Frowning, Melinda tutted her disapproval.
”They ’ve sure thrown you off the deep end.
The CA-1 is a beast of a machine, not something a fresh college graduate should come into contact with.
This sounds pretty shady. ”

”Nevermind that Melinda.
Just tell me if you can pry something loose from the Mech Corps or the Bentheim Planetary Guard.
Without getting you into trouble, of course. ”

Melinda furrowed her brow.
”I can ask the mechanics for some tips.
I ’ll also see if I can dig something up from the archives.
I ’ll pass anything I can find along to you as long as it ’s not classified or proprietary knowledge. ”

”Thanks a lot.
I ’m sorry for troubling you that much. ”

”Hey, you ’re family, Vessie.
I ’d do anything to help.
I gotta go back to work now, so see ya later! ”

”Bye! ”

With that done, Ves turned to a different issue.
With his DP steadily accumulating, he should make a tentative shopping list of sub-skills he needed to rework the CA-1.
He opened his Skill Tree and started to comb over the available skills.

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