After listing out and contemplating all of his options, Ves came up with a short-term list of objectives.

”The more objectives I complete, the closer I get towards overtaking Gloriana! ”

For the duration of his tour through the Komodo Star Sector, he wanted to fulfill both Upgrade Missions from the System.
The sooner he upgraded his main Skills, the sooner he could apply his gains in his subsequent mech designs, thereby achieving a significant jump in performance!

”Increasing the overall performance of my designs will also help me progress in other ways.
Better mechs will enable me to earn more money, which I can spend on acquiring more exotics. ”

Everything was interconnected to a degree.

Improving his design abilities improved his ability to earn money.

Improving his earnings increased his access to beneficial goods and services, which subsequently improved his ability to design mechs.

Aside from upgrading his Mechanics and Metallurgy Skills to Senior-level, Ves also wanted to pursue two other objectives.

”First, I want to befriend other Journeymen with interesting design philosophies.
I might not be able to collaborate with them now, but who knows if an opportunity presents itself in the future. ”

Traveling to parts of the Komodo Star Sector that was out of the way allowed him to get in touch with foreign mech designers who he might never come across.

Spending time in Centerpoint allowed him to do the same, but Ves was very leery about returning to the MTA-controlled system.

”Gloriana might still be there! ”

Traveling through the hinterlands of the Komodo Star Sector was a much safer prospect in his eyes.

Naturally, he also wouldn ’t forget about coming into touch with the local variations of bestial mechs and smart metal mechs along the way.

Aside from those goals, Ves also wanted to browse the local exotic marketplaces.
Plenty of discoveries made it to Centerpoint, but not all.
Some materials which did not seem promising were mostly sold in the state they were discovered.
The prices for them were much lower as well as the vendors didn ’t have the leverage to rip off their customers too much.

”Centerpoint is a very expensive place to do business, but in turn it attracts a lot of wealthy buyers.
The same can ’t be said for poorer places. ”

As the Barracuda transitioned into FTL, thereby leaving the Leemar System, Ves began to spend his days on researching his potential destinations.

There were dozens of states in the Komodo Star Sector.
Each of them offered something remarkable to Ves, but he could not afford to spend too much time away from the LMC.
He only planned to properly visit a handful of them by following a looping route around the Hegemony side of the star sector.

In every standard two-dimensional map of the Komodo Star Sector, the frontier was pointed upwards.
In the middle of the star sector, the Friday Coalition occupied the left side while the Hexadric Hegemony occupied the right side.

Considering his deteriorating relationship with the Coalition, Ves chose against passing through the states on the left side of the map.

While he did not feel comfortable at the thought of entering Hegemony space directly, it would be fine for him to pass through states that maintained friendly relations with the Hexers.

Based on the various criteria that Ves had set, he chose out six interesting destinations.
Visiting each of them might yield some important gains for him that would help him stay ahead of Gloriana ’s growth.

”After departing from the Kamon Republic, I ’ll pay a visit to the Kinner Tribe, the Chuko Republic, the Sentinel Kingdom, the Hertog Dominion and the Tomaris Federation.
By then, it ’s just a short trip back to the Bright Republic. ”

He still needed to work out his itinerary and determine what he would do in each specific state, but overall he was very satisfied with the diversity of his selection.

”Entering Kinner Tribe space will be very interesting. ” He grinned.

It was a relatively small state even compared to other third-rate states.
It possessed a strong and distinctive culture and had gained a lot of fame for its distinctive mercenary corps.

”Kinner mercenary corps are different from other outfits. ”

The Kinner Tribe was a poor state and did not offer as many specialties compared to its neighboring states.

What it did have was a very strong martial culture and a very vigorous population.
Many mercenary corps consisted of entire families or a very cohesive group of companions.

Every Kinner mech pilot could be relied upon to fulfill their contracts even beyond reasonable circumstances.
Although the employer would have to pay a hefty sum to cover the damages on top of higher-than-average fees, a Kinner mercenary corps could be counted upon to fight to the death to fulfill their mission!

This made them very attractive to people who were willing to pay extra to ensure near-complete loyalty and dedication from their hired help.

Naturally, the missions the Kinners tended to perform occasionally demanded high sacrifices, which eventually resulted in the deaths of many Kinner mercenaries.

”It ’s basically trading blood for money. ” Ves commented.

The Kinner Tribe encouraged high birth rates in order to supply enough bodies to sustain this radical practice.
They also made a lot more use of artificial wombs to replenish battle losses.

Many young Kinners, either born artificially or turned into orphans after the deaths of their parents, grew up in military training camps or other state institutions.
Many of them, especially the mech pilots, grew up into warriors who embodied the Kinner warrior culture.

Each of them subsequently joined an existing Kinner mercenary corps or started a new one under the lead of an experienced and more worldly leader.

Compared to a regular mercenary corps, a Kinner mercenary corps was much more dependable.
While they were not always well-equipped, the qualities of their mech pilots more than made up for that.

In some cases, clients could even outright buy a Kinner mercenary corps.
Their loyalty would never be in question as long as the client did not pit them against the Kinner Tribe.

In essence, it allowed wealthy people or organizations to instantly acquire a ready-made, extremely loyal fighting force!

The bought Kinners only demanded a couple of conditions in exchange for their permanent loyalty.

The Kinners should have the freedom to start their own families and have children who grew up under their distinctive style of parenting.
Kinners highly prized procreation, so anyone who attempted to limit that would quickly find themselves crossing one of the few lines the Kinners prized!

These children born after the acquisition of the mercenary corps did not belong to the client.
They were free Kinners who had the freedom to choose whether to work for the clients like their parents or leave for the Kinner Tribe for other prospects.

In this way, the Kinners incentivized their buyers to take good care of them.
Clients who did so continued to enjoy their services over several generations.

As for clients who neglected or abused their Kinners, they would quickly run out of bodies after a generation had passed.

This along with some other reasonable conditions basically ensured the continued existence of the Kinner Tribe despite its weak geographical foundation.

Ves contemplating turning to this solution as a way to quickly augment the Avatars of Myth.
Raising his own mech force keenly made him realize that it took a lot of time and effort to do so properly.

”Buying a Kinner mercenary corps is a convenient shortcut. ” He muttered.
”The only problem is that the price is likely too high for me to afford a decent one. ”

After centuries of operating in this fashion, the Kinner Tribe developed a very sophisticated market for their mercenaries.
Each Kinner mercenary corps volunteered accurate data about their fighting prowess to the Tribe and received a certified valuation of their actual worth.

Therefore, even if a client paid a lot of money, they at least received the assurance that they got what they paid for.
In fact, the Mercenary Association established a very strong presence in the state as well to add an extra layer of certainty!

With his current wealth, he could easily buy the poorer and smaller Kinner mercenary corps, but they did not bring too much to the table.
He might as well wait for the Avatars of Myth to grow up instead.

The better Kinner outfits were worth billions of credits, and Ves did not easily wish to spend such a huge sum at the start of his tour.
He still needed to reserve his money for potential calamities, interesting exotics, access to notable mech designers and so on.

”It ’s better for my bank accounts if I hire a good mercenary corps first.
I can always decide to buy them at the end of my tour if I like them and accumulate the necessary money somehow. ”

Ves intended this trip to be a working vacation instead of just a sightseeing tour.
Not only did he want to experience different cultures, he also wanted to be productive, though he didn ’t wish to spend too much time in every state.

”I ’ll just keep a lookout on any jobs and commissions I can fulfill in a short amount of time. ”

Once he determined his plan, he summoned Gavin and Captain Silvestra to his office and laid out his choices.

Gavin looked intrigued.
”I haven ’t heard much about those places aside from the obvious.
They are certainly distinctive in their own ways.
It ’s a great choice if you want to experience something completely different than the Bright Republic.
It ’s just… ”

”Not all of those states are safe for travelers. ” Captain Silvestra grimly noted.
”The Kinner Tribe is small and surrounded by aggressive neighbors.
The Chuko Republic is close to Komodo ’s border with Vicious Mountain.
The Sentinel Kingdom is a very orderly state, but they have to since they are in close proximity to the chaotic Nyxian Gap.
The Hertog Dominion is highly controlled, but only by virtue of their tyrannical rulers.
There is widespread discontent beneath the surface.
As for the Tomaris Federation, it is an institutionally weak state because it is situated very closely to the border with the frontier. ”

Ves already read up on the problems the captain mentioned.
No state was perfect, let alone one in the Komodo Star Sector.
He had already discarded numerous alternative stops due to the unacceptable risks they posed to his safety and freedom.

Still, he did not intend to change his current selection.
He shook his head.
”I ’ve already contemplated safer destinations, but they tend to be the more boring ones.
Hardly any conflict occurs there, which means that their mech culture is not as prominent or accessible to me.
I want to experience mech cultures which have withstood numerous tests.
There is little point in visiting a soft state akin to the Reinald Republic. ”

For these reasons, Ves rejected any suggestions to adjust his selection.
The five states he listed would be his primary destinations for his trip.

”How long do you want this journey to last? ” Gavin asked.
”It ’s all well and good to go on vacation, but the LMC is still waiting for you to return. ”

Ves shrugged.
”Let ’s say a year.
Will that be possible, Captain Silvestra? ”

The female captain mentally calculated the estimated travel time.
”I ’ll have to work with navigation to chart the safest and most optimal route, but you ’ll have to spend a minimum of half a year in FTL travel by my estimate. ”

That meant that Ves would spend six months in FTL transit and six months on a foreign planet, space station or other locations.

”That sounds fine. ”

Even in transit, he could still make good use of his time by studying or designing a mech.

Ves clapped.
”Alright! Since there are no acute problems about my selection, let ’s make our preparations.
Benny, please research each of the states and see if there are any notable sights see and mech designers to visit.
Captain, please work on the route and present it for my approval! ”

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