His talk with Felicity Linzif yielded few insights related to his design philosophy.
The Chukan Journeyman expressed a lot more interest in talking about her gloomy predictions of the future of the mech market and the Komodo Star Sector.

Ves still found the visit to be worth it.
Linzif ’s words served as a warning for Ves that he should not take the current golden age for granted.

One day, the Age of Mechs would enter its twilight.
One day, the galactic rim would come under assault.

This realization only made him place even less emphasis on building up his presence in the Komodo Star Sector.

He equated the situation to the Bright Republic ’s border systems with the Vesia Kingdom.

Because war constantly broke out at those borders, the public and private sectors stopped giving a damn about them.
They consistently withheld vital investments from these poor and forgotten star systems because it would all get appropriated or destroyed by the Vesia anyway.

Ves had a very frightening realization as just as he dismissed the border systems of the Bright Republic, the Big Two might feel the same way about the frontier star sectors!

”It ’s already obvious when you look at how frontier star sectors are so lacking compared to more inward star sectors! ”

The star systems at the very edge of human space were so sparse and insufficiently protected that aliens would basically encounter only minor challenges when they invaded en masse!

From the perspective of a higher-up of the Big Two, the frontier star sectors served as a convenient buffer for any external invasions!

Ves looked depressed as he idly held Lucky to his chest.
He didn ’t blame the MTA and CFA for taking the bigger picture into account.
Their primary responsibility was to protect the human race.
Nobody said anything about protecting every star sector, let alone the most far-flung ones with the least amount of value.

Perhaps even the Rim Guardians agreed with that sentiment.

While Ves already held the pieces, it took an oddball mech designer with an obsession of laser weapons of all people to show him how to fit the clues together.
The resulting conclusions made him so alarmed that he began to see his grand expedition as something more than a temporary escape.

”I can also take up the spaceborn life if necessary. ”

A strain of humanity believed that their race should no longer be bound by planets.
Rather than see them as precious living space and paradises, the true spaceborn clans saw them as nothing more than resource sites.
Aside from extracting useful raw materials, they weren ’t good for anything else!

And that included living on their surface!

Much of humanity disagreed with their extreme views.
Humans in general grew up happier on planets.
Space was cheap and plentiful and they never had to worry about ships malfunctioning and killing every occupant because a technician forgot to perform routine maintenance on a critical ship component!

Yet despite all of the flaws of nomadic spaceborn life, the radicals always touted how living on the move ensured maximum safety.

In their view, anyone who decided to settle on a planet was asking to get bombed from orbit!

”To their credit, they were right in a way. ” Ves muttered.
”Very few spaceborn clans got annihilated during the latter days of the Age of Conquest. ”

By far, most of the killing and slaughtering occurred when human battlefleets wiped out entire planets or scoured their surfaces with weapons of mass destruction.

Even if the citizens saw the existential threat coming, it was impossible to evacuate an entire planet in a matter of weeks! Far too few shuttles and ships existed to take an entire population away!

Even if the lucky ones did manage to get away, housing and settling the refugees became a huge problem! Most evacuation ships had been repurposed for the emergency and didn ’t hold the facilities necessary to support long-term residency in space.

A huge amount of refugees starved or suffocated to death when countless evacuation ships failed to find any safe harbor within their fuel range!

Though Ves still regarded the spaceborn life as unnatural, considering the latent threats looming over the horizon, it might be prudent to prepare a backup option!

The expeditionary fleet that Ves and Gloriana attempted to form represented a huge investment.
What would happen to it after they completed their expedition? Selling them all or scrapping them for parts and materials sounded like an incredible waste.

Rather than get rid of the vessels, why not keep the expensive factory ship and other vessels around?

As long as Ves and Gloriana invested in maintaining the ships and keeping them up to date, they would always have a fallback option at hand if the Komodo Star Sector really suffered the brunt of an alien invasion one day.

Ves bet that he was one of the few mech designers around who even contemplated this option.
Far too many mech designers who grew up in the same star sector had become so inured with centuries of peace and stability that they no longer paid any attention to the shakiness of their deceptively comfortable positions!

”It ’s rank stupidity! ”

Perhaps it was just his paranoia talking, but Ves felt less and less secure about his life at the very edge of human space!

With the MTA embroiled in an internal struggle over whether they should abandon the galactic rim and the CFA showing open contempt for fixed human settlements, neither of the Big Two would put too much of an effort to protect the frontier star sectors!

Repurposing the expeditionary fleet into a more permanent spaceborn-style caravan fleet sounded more and more prudent.

”Calamity might not strike in this century or the next, but it will certainly eventually. ”

If Ves only lived as long as a baseline human, then he might not even bother.
Yet if he could potentially live up to five-hundred years or more, then it was very possible that he might see the transition to an entirely new age!

With such a long life ahead of him, the last thing he wanted to see was to see most of his hard work go up in smoke due to lack of preparation against a foreseeable calamity!

Speaking of foreseeable calamities, once Ves exited Mrs.
Linzif ’s company headquarters, his armored bodyguard approached.

Fe Nitaa passed on her concerns through her full-face helmet.
”There are observers staring at you from the surrounding buildings. ”

Ves pretended to scratch his cheek, thereby preventing his lips from being read.
”People are staring at me all the time.
Lucky and I are rather eye-catching. ”

”It ’s different, sir.
These aren ’t bystanders who are gawking at you because you look wealthy.
They ’ve been stationed in the vicinity of this area specifically to observe you from a distance.
From their methods, they ’re definitely trained. ”

”Are they spies? ”

”I ’m not certain at this time.
I ’m unable to determine whether they work for the government or for a smaller influence. ”

”How did you find them in the first place? ”

”I always keep my eyes out.
I take nothing for granted.
The excellent gear that you ’ve procured for me is indispensable.
It is evident that they have never fathomed that you would have invested so much money on personal equipment. ”

Ves smirked underneath his hand.
”The local Redwellers have been living under a severe economic depression for a long time.
It ’s no wonder they ’ve overlooked the capabilities of secure equipment. ”

”Regardless, the presence of so many observers is very concerning, sir.
I do not advise you to board your shuttle.
Even with the presence of the Battle Criers and the Dustravens, it only takes one attack to go through to disable your shuttle. ”

The shuttle they used carried a little bit of armor, but that did not give him a lot of comfort.
The planetary government already appropriated every armored shuttle on the planet a few years ago.

Ves and his group lingered at the headquarters a little.
Though the receptionists and guards obviously wanted them gone, they did not dare to shoo away a Journeyman.

Though no one appeared to have moved, one single entity was missing from their midst.

Lucky had quietly wandered as if he grew bored.

Half an hour went by as Ves discreetly discussed his security situation with Nitaa and Commander Cinnabar.

Due to the suspicion that any remote transmission might be intercepted, they did not dare to pass on any important messages to the Dustraven mechs patrolling above.

”Are the Dustravens involved, perhaps? ”

”I can ’t say.
Commander Meivin has changed a lot over the years. ” Cinnabar murmured.
”It won ’t do his mercenary prospects any good if he stabs his employer in the back.
However, if he has thrown in his lot with the Bloodwellers, then he may have decided to sacrifice everything in order to advance their cause. ”

”You ’re prepared against their betrayal, right? ”

”Sure did, boss.
On your orders, we brought down a lot more rifleman mechs than usual.
My men on the ground have also gone through numerous simulation battles against the Dustraven mechs.
All of our ranged mechs have brushed up their techniques targeted towards taking down quick and agile aerial mechs. ”

Ves nodded in satisfaction.
Despite his familiarity with Commander Meivin and the Dustravens, Commander Cinnabar did not take their friendliness for granted.

”Can we count on any reinforcements? ”

”We don ’t even know who to trust.
Every mercenary corps on Paisley I is pledged to one power or another. ”

The lack of options made him consider whether to turn to Mrs.
Linzif for help.
He was sure that she would demand a very big price, though.
She may even be a part of the same faction as the people who targeted him for some reason!

The exchange he just held with Mrs.
Linzif came back to the forefront of his mind.
Now that he thought about it, he found it rather weird that she began to talk about the need for patrons and the difficulty of surviving under adverse conditions.

Was she trying to pass on a warning to Ves?

If she did, then Ves would have preferred a clearer warning instead of the roundabout one he received!

”Damn woman. ” He muttered.

”What was that, sir? ”

”Ah, nothing. ” Ves rubbed his face.
”Can we turn to the government for help? ”

”I ’m not sure. ” Nitaa grumbled behind her helmet.
”If our hidden enemies have stationed an attack force nearby, then they may decide to launch their attack as soon as the planetary guard begins to mobilize. ”

The big variable right now was whether a hidden force of mechs was truly present.
If not, then the Battle Criers could fend off most threats by themselves.

As Ves, Nitaa and Commander Cinnabar continued to speculate, Lucky eventually returned.

”Meow. ”

”Really? ”

Meow meow. ”

”What is your cat saying? ” Nitaa asked, confused at how Ves was able to interpret the meows!

”Lucky managed to sneak up on one of the distant observers.
He then traced the signals the observer transmitted to another site, which housed a single occupant who is in touch with all of the observers.
You ’re right, Nitaa.
We are definitely being targeted right now. ”

Everyone quietly cursed.
Gavin, who had been left to the side, began to wring his hands in worry.
He wasn ’t cut out for this kind of dangerous business!

Meanwhile, Nitaa and Commander Cinnabar looked at Lucky in a very different light.
They misjudged the pretty mechanical cat! The artificial creature functioned more than a plaything to a wealthy mech designer!

”Meow. ”

Lucky did more than that.
He also traced the encrypted messages the coordinator transmitted to an underground parking zone not far away from here.
He encountered a dozen unmarked mechs! ”

”This! ”

Although a dozen mechs would not be enough to overcome the Battle Criers and the Dustravens, they didn ’t have to.
As long as they destroyed the shuttle while in transit, then that was enough for them to declare their mission a success!

The evidence they gathered pointed more and more towards a planned assassination attempt!

”It ’s been awhile since I ’ve landed in someone ’s crosshairs. ” Ves muttered before he slowly began to grin.
”Unfortunately for them, they ’ve lost the element of surprise! ”

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