The Barracuda, overhauled to become more secure than ever, joined up with the Battle Criers before transitioning into FTL.

Their visit to the Sentinel Kingdom came at an end.
Departing the Sentinel Kingdom and travelling all the way to the Hertog Dominion took a bit less than two months of travel.

The Barracuda could manage faster, but the slowest ships of the Battle Criers wouldn ’t be able to catch up in that case.

Ves didn ’t mind.
He obtained an incredible amount of valuable materials, and needed time to study them and process them into useful applications.

First, he obtained four additional P-stones, thereby bringing his total collection to six.
With so many P-stones, he could begin to perform comparisons and study what they had in common.
If he was lucky, he might gather enough clues to deduce the reason why they gained their spiritual attraction properties!

Second, he obtained a second F-stone.
Ves had high hopes for it, because the first F-stone possessed the remarkable property of charging his spirituality with an additional offensive attribute.

Third, he won Item #613 from the Circle of Mota ’s auction.
The rose-gold rock was a completely new type of spiritually-reactive exotic.
Ves couldn ’t wait to figure out its effects!

Fourth, he obtained a sample of unprocessed Synthra Umbra after completing Finlay ’s commission.
Since Ves valued his privacy and secrets very highly, processing this high-grade exotic into a cloth before weaving it in a variety of useful articles of clothing was vitally important!

Fifth, the grandest prize of all was Item #1255, otherwise known as the Ancient Sarcophagus.
It ’s value was undeniable! Finlay coughed out the equivalent of 20 billion bright credits to win this red crystal-like growth that enveloped the body of an unknown humanoid alien from the same auction!

”Too expensive! That ’s enough to fund the development and fabrication of an expert mech! It ’s enough to cover the cost of founding a large mercenary corps! ”

Ves could have put that sum of money to a lot of good uses.
If he truly spent this much money on a single strange object, he would have beat himself up for days!

Fortunately, someone else paid for it all.
Finlay and his mysterious noble faction bankrolled the entire sum, thereby saving Ves the trouble.

The only payment he had to make was to form a modification plan that turned regular doom crawlers into engines of mass destruction.
Though Ves frequently worried about how his work would be used, he couldn ’t do anything about it anyway.

”I ’ve already made my decision and done the deed.
It ’s too late to soothe my conscience. ” He muttered.

Ves decided to keep his eye on the news in the region regardless.
He wanted to know if the Spyre Helix Annihilators ever showed up.
If Finlay spoke the truth, the Annihilators would only be put to use in the Nyxian Gap, and only once.
There should be no reason for them to be put to use in civilized space.

For some reason, Ves was rather skeptical of Finlay ’s claims.
Now that he thought about it, going through so much trouble to upgrade eighty doom crawlers, only to employ them in a single attack did not make sense!

Even if Sentinel nobles were wealthier than usual, Finlay ’s hesitance in spending so much firthals during the auction showed his hesitation at throwing around these kinds of sums.

A normal person or organization would never invest upwards of 50 or 60 billion bright credits just to form a bunch of single-use weapons!

Ves grimaced even deeper.
”It ’s out of my hands. ”

One of the realities of being a mech designer was that he had no control over how his customers used or misused his products.

His mechs could be used for noble purposes, such as fighting pirates or guarding vital trade convoys.

They could also be used for abominable ends, such as massacring civilians or engaging in piracy.

Though Ves tried his best to ignore the latter, it still happened from time to time.

”It ’s not my fault! ”

This was the stance he leaned towards! Ves was just a mech designer.
Why should he be responsible in the first place? No mech was inherently sinful upon creation! Even a mech armed with nuclear weapons could be put to good use by exterminating pirates and hostile aliens!

Ves took a deep breath and cleared his mind.
He refused to let the potential misuses of his Spyre Helix Annihilator design stop him from improving himself.
The rewards he earned from his commission was more than enough to shut up his conscience!

Instead of imagining all of the awful ways his doom crawler variant could be put to use, he instead diverted his attention to something more pleasant.

He had a lot of new materials to study and process!

”I can do a lot of work in two months! ”

In fact, Ves doubted he ’d be able to complete all of the work he could do on his ship by the time the fleet reached the Hertog Dominion.
He had to set priorities and tackle the tasks that provided him with immediate boosts.

Anything that required longer-term study or work to draw out their benefits could be left for later.

”I can ’t forget about fabricating a new ultracompact battery to replenish my second shield generator. ” He muttered while scratching his chin.
”I ’ve already gathered the materials, but I ’ve never set aside enough time. ”

He couldn ’t help it.
He only had so much time at his disposal.
The warnings given by his fellow mech designers came to the fore.

Just because he could do almost anything as a mech designer, didn ’t mean it was a good idea for him to spread his time so much.
He should focus first and foremost on his core profession.

From this perspective, Ves shouldn ’t necessarily be wasting his time on fabricating personal equipment such as another ultracompact battery.
The only reason why he didn ’t object to doing so in this case was because scaled-up ultracompact batteries also appeared in high-end mechs.

As much as Ves wanted to dive into studying the Ancient Sarcophagus, he believed it wouldn ’t be so easy to make some gains in this instance.

Though he hadn ’t been subject to any danger lately, he still prioritized enhancing his own safety whenever it was convenient.
He ’d already been subject to a few assassinations in his life, and he did not wish to be underprepared when someone else decided to throw a bunch of men to end his life.

”Goddammit, I still haven ’t gotten to the bottom of that last assassination attempt back in the Chuko Republic. ” He grumbled.

Though he tasked Gavin to investigate the incident and keep an eye on the Chuko Republic, so far they never found a clue why someone wanted to dispatch some rifleman mechs to shoot down his shuttle.

”Speaking of the Chuko Republic, the state is pretty much done for by now. ”

Despite the great efforts of its president, the latest news that came out all painted a bleak picture.
Its three major provinces had already started to succumb to external pressure.
The Redwell Province in particular tried its best to retain its sovereignty, but too many Whitewellers wanted the Hinson Protectorate to annex the province and turn a new leaf.

Of course, none of this mattered to Ves.
He had no stake in the ultimate fate of Chuko.

The Komodo Star Sector never sat still.
New states frequently emerged while others succumbed to the aggression of their neighbors.
No matter where humanity had settled, conflict constantly took place.

”This makes it all the more important for me to empower myself. ”

Though Ves deeply wanted to start spending his available time by studying Item #613 and Item #1255, he only spent enough time to determine that they weren ’t leaking energy or decaying in any way.
As long as they remained inert, he was in no hurry to study them immediately.

”This is good.
I can take care of more immediate business. ”

Ves started to spend an entire week in the Barracuda ’s workshop and lab compartment.

He made good use of the high-quality, miniaturized equipment there to process his materials and fabricate the sub-components of his new ultracompact battery.

Since he already did it once, he spent remarkably little time in cobbling up a new battery.
He only slightly revised the battery design he dredged up from his memory in order to incorporate several new insights and innovations.

However, the low-quality materials heavily restrained the parameters of his new ultracompact battery.
As he finally put the last pieces into place, he studied his new creation carefully.

”It works, but that ’s it. ” He sighed.
”There ’s nothing new other than a bit more energy capacity. ”

One of his regrets was that his new ultracompact battery was non rechargeable.
If he wanted to make a rechargeable version, then he needed to get his hands on higher-quality materials.

”Meow. ”

Lucky, who had been napping comfortably atop a lab machine, suddenly woke up and floated down to the workbench where the new ultracompact battery rested.

The cat curiously pawed the battery before eying it like a potential snack.

Ves quickly swiped the battery.
”Don ’t get any ideas, Lucky! ”

”Meow! ”

After batting aside his cat ’s attempt to eat his battery, Ves retrieved his second shield generator from the vault and replaced its spent battery with the one he just fabricated.

”Here! If you want to munch on something, eat this instead! ”

Though Lucky did not act particularly enthused when Ves threw the almost-spent battery to him, the cat did not refuse the offering.
After licking the surface of the worn battery a few times, the cat meowed contently and began to nibble at his new prize like it was a delicacy.

”Careful! There ’s still some charge left inside! ”

”Meow. ”

Lucky threw a disdainful look at Ves before resuming his eating.
He ’d eaten plenty of batteries before! He ate an entire CFA shuttle, which possessed much more powerful batteries!

Though Ves still remained a bit disturbed, he wasn ’t willing to halt his work.
He only badgered Lucky into moving into a shielded chamber in the lab while he ate.
If some unfortunate discharge occurred, at least it wouldn ’t strike his sensitive lab equipment!

Ves briefly tested his second shield generator and ascertained that it had no problems in drawing power from its new battery.

He now possessed two working shield generators! He felt inordinately well-protected as he wore it under his clothes like another belt!

”What do you think, Nitaa? ” He asked his silent but trustworthy bodyguard.
She had been the only person he allowed inside his workshop while he worked.
”Do you think it ’s a good idea for me to wear two shield generators at once? ”

”I don ’t require one, sir.
Your life matters more than mine. ” She spoke.

”That ’s..
true. ”

”They can buy valuable time for you if a mech ever targets you.
Carrying two shield generators instead of one effectively doubles your window of protection.
Even if you can buy just ten more seconds, that ’s enough time for you to run for cover and engage your stealth measures. ”

”That ’s also true. ”

He felt better about his selfish decision to wear both shield generators on his body at once.
Since his bodyguard approved, he shouldn ’t feel guilty about depriving Nitaa or Gavin of the protection of his spare shield generator!

”If I get my hands on a third shield generator, I ’ll assign it to you. ” He promised.
”You ’ve been very helpful for me so far.
Keeping you alive directly increases my chances of survival. ”

Nitaa frowned in disapproval.
”Sir, don ’t spend too much on my account.
I ’m replaceable.
You ’re not.
If I am unable to discharge my duties anymore, you can easily buy a replacement from the Kinner Tribe. ”

Her words astounded Ves.
The Kinners indoctrinated their tribesmen far too well! No matter how much Ves encouraged Nitaa to think of herself as a person, she continually treated herself as a commodity, no different from a slave!

It would take a lot more effort for him to disabuse his bodyguard of the notion that she was a human product.

In truth, a part of Ves actually liked it.
No matter how perverse the Kinners raised their own kind, they were undeniably useful!

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