After an odd question-and-answer, Ves waved his subordinates forward in order to conduct an examination.

Though Ves was pretty convinced that Dr.
Lupo was a genuine exobiologist, he still wanted to be sure.

”This guy is a real piece of work. ” Gavin quietly muttered.
”Didn ’t you notice that he talked more about cooking than actual science? ”

”It ’s actually mixed. ” Ves corrected.
Lupo appears to base his research on developing recipes.
I ’m actually intrigued with what he attempts to achieve. ”

”He ’s crazy! How can he possibly develop a recipe that can improve someone ’s genetic aptitude? I ’ve never heard of such a thing! ”

Ves agreed with Gavin ’s assessment.
No one had ever succeeded in altering someone ’s genetic aptitude for mech piloting.
If the best researchers of the MTA failed to make any breakthroughs, then how could a mere exobiologist from the galactic rim do any better?

Nonetheless, Ves did not look down on Dr.
Lupo for that reason.
Having an impossible ambition was very admirable in his eyes.

Just like many mech designers, Lupo wanted to change the galaxy with his dream.
His was just a lot more difficult to achieve than other ambitions.

As Ves watched Lupo undergo various tests, he thought back on his meeting with Old Man Terrence.

Both of them wanted to unlock humanity ’s potential in similar ways.
They both focused their research on finding a way to make genetic aptitude less restrictive.

Old Man Terrence wanted to make genetic aptitude irrelevant by developing a neural interface that worked with norms.

Lupo wanted to give norms the opportunity to become mech pilots by improving their genetic aptitude through a special diet.

No matter how unrealistic these dreams sounded, Ves regarded them as noble callings.

Even if it was almost certain that they would fail, there was always a chance of success.
Just one ambitious dreamer had to succeed in order to make an incalculable contribution to humanity.

Enabling norms to pilot mechs would definitely transform human society by giving everyone access to mechs.

While some people might argue that allowing more people to pilot mechs was a very bad thing, Ves did not think so.
As a mech designer, he welcomed any attempt at expanding the market for mechs.

The more people became capable of piloting mechs, the more mechs he ’d be able to sell!

As for what all of these enthusiastic norms would do with their destructive toys, that wasn ’t his problem.

”It seems like Dr.
Lupo is doing fairly well in the tests. ” Ves remarked.

From how deftly the exobiologist completed the tests and how satisfied the examiners behaved, Lupo must be a real talent for his age.

That was good.
This trip wouldn ’t have been for nothing.

Of course, there were still some issues.

”I don ’t know, Ves.
Lupo ’s attitude isn ’t very stable.
He kind of reminds me of you sometimes. ”

Ves smiled sardonically.
”That ’s not necessarily a bad thing, Benny.
I think he ’s merely..
eccentric. ”

To be honest, Ves held some of the same misgivings.
He could see the touch of crazy in Dr.
Lupo ’s words and expressions.
The refugee scientist was clearly passionate in his research to the point of obsessing over it night and day.

To Ves, it was akin to encountering a shadow of Dr.
The mere thought of it sent a shudder through his body.

However, as someone who was very passionate about his own work, Ves knew that these types of people were often brilliant.
Perhaps they might not be able to fulfill their dreams, but they were definitely capable enough to make other great accomplishments.

Ves would not easily let such a person go.

The only issue that really worried him was loyalty.
Their brief meeting did not allow Ves to get a good grip on Lupo ’s commitment to working for him.
It sounded as if the refugee just saw Ves as a source of funding.

That could be good or bad.

If Dr.
Lupo only cared about his research, then he wouldn ’t have any other needs other than sufficient funding.

Since Ves happened to be good at making money, he could easily keep this talented exobiologist in line.

The downside was that other people could easily poach Lupo away by offering even more money.

Other than that, there might be more to Dr.
Lupo than what he appeared on the surface.
Ves would not entrust his life to the man until he thoroughly vetted the exobiologist ’s loyalties.

For now, Ves just wanted to secure this man quickly and bring him over to the LMC before others cast their eyes to the doctor.

”What do you think, Lucky? ” Ves asked the cat perched on his shoulder.

”Meow. ”

”Is that supposed to be a compliment or an insult? ”

”Meow. ”

”Did Gloriana spoil you rotten with her exotics or something? ”

”Meow! ”

Ves regretted asking for Lucky ’s opinion.

Time passed by as Lupo demonstrated his breadth and depth of knowledge through various means.
Two hours later, Ves received the results.
He quickly perused them and nodded in satisfaction.

”While he ’s not capable of performing implant surgery, his foundation and intellect is quite good for an exobiologist. ”

Though Ves wasn ’t versed in the biotech sciences, he inferred that with Lupo ’s broad knowledge, it wouldn ’t be much of a stretch for him to get his foot in the door.

Unfortunately, it would probably take years of focused study before Lupo became a qualified implant surgeon.
Ves couldn ’t wait that long.

The sooner he installed the Archimedes Rubal in his mind, the sooner he could go back to acquiring new Sub-Skills.

Lupo isn ’t quite what I sought for. ” Ves concluded with a touch of disappointment.
”He ’s still useful in many other ways, though.
I think I can already make an early start in forming my exobeast reserve. ”

Since his adventure on Felixia, Ves had soured at the thought of tracking down exobeasts with spiritual potential in person.

Rather than getting involved in a life-and-death battle against a powerful exobeast, Ves would rather buy them from the market or hire others to capture them in the wild.

With an exobiologist like Lupo in charge, Ves would be assured the creatures wouldn ’t die before it was time for him to harvest their spiritualities.

Of course, all of this required a lot of setup.
Lupo would have to hire caretakers and exobeast handlers to keep the dangerous lifeforms under control.

Once the doctor returned from the test, Ves made his offer.

”Interesting. ” Lupo fell into thought.
”What is the purpose of this nature reserve? Why do you keep these animals around? ”

”For research and inspiration. ” Ves blandly replied.
”Due to my specialty, I can gain a lot if I observe various powerful organic lifeforms.
I can gain even more inspiration if I witness their final moment.
The mechs I design are partially inspired by these magnificent creatures. ”

”So… you don ’t need their meat? ”

Ves blinked.
”Not really.. ”

”Let me process their meat, then! ” Lupo erupted into a grin.
”I ’ll cook some of the greatest meals in your life if you allow me to use their meat! ”

Both Ves and Gavin were taken aback at the exobiologist ’s fervent response.

is acceptable. ” Ves reluctantly answered.

They began to negotiate the terms of Lupo ’s employment.

Strangely enough, Lupo hardly cared about all of the clauses that Ves insisted to be put in the contract.
Aside from the standard ones that relate to leaking proprietary research data and sabotaging assets, Ves also managed to squeeze in other favorable terms.

Though Ves could not prevent Lupo from quitting and leaving at any time, the exobiologist would have to pay a very heavy price if he wanted to depart before his contract was up for renewal.

Ves couldn ’t help but smirk when he turned around.
Snatching these obsessive scientist types was trivially easy as long as he could provide them what he needed.

”I think we ’re done here, Benny.
Let ’s return. ”

With Lupo in tow, they slowly exited the depot and exited the fields as fast as possible.
As soon as they reached the houses, the odor instantly disappeared.
The government installed some kind of equipment that kept the awful smells away.

”Ah, we ’re finally back to civilization! ” Gavin breathed the filtered air in relief.

They took the same route back to the landing zone where their shuttle awaited.
As they crossed the village, Ves began to frown before slowing down his pace.
His entourage all slowed down as well.

”What ’s wrong, boss? ”

”There ’s something odd here. ” He murmured before turning to Nitaa.
”Have you sensed anything odd? ”

Nitaa shook her head.
”I ’m not smelling anything notable at the moment. ”

Ves turned to Lucky and began to whisper some instructions to his cat.

”Meow. ”

The cat jumped down from his shoulder and began to sprint into a street.

The refugee kids that had been following them from a distance began to yell and chase after the fancy-looking mechanical cat!

”What ’s the matter? ” Gavin repeated.

”Shh. ” Ves raised his palm.
”Since we ’re already here, let ’s not leave so soon.
I think I ’m in the mood to pick up another recruit. ”

”What about Dr.
Lupo? ”

”Just send him and some people back to the shuttle. ”

As Dr.
Lupo and a portion of his people returned to the shuttle, Ves and the rest remained in the village.

Ves pretended to act casual while casting his senses outwards.
After catching a very subtle sensation, he smoothly turned towards the street where Lucky had run after before strolling forward.

They spent ten minutes of meandering through the streets before Lucky returned.
The cat halted a few steps before Ves.

”Meow meow meow! ”

”Good job.
Lead the way! ”

Ves and the others continued to stroll forward as Lucky padded forward with a raised tail.
Though they looked incredibly silly, Ves didn ’t care.
The more he walked, the stronger the sensation.

Eventually, they reached one of the many identical pastel houses.
This one happened to be a smaller unit meant to provide space for a single occupant.

Ves carefully knocked the door.

Nobody answered.

Ves knocked the door again.

Nobody answered.

”Maybe nobody ’s home. ” Gavin suggested.

”I ’m pretty certain someone is home. ” Ves muttered.
Instead of knocking a third time, he activated his comm and sent a brief message to the mayor of the settlement.

Half a minute later, Ves received a reply.

Shortly after that, a click and a chime sounded from the front door.

Ves stepped forward and the door automatically slid open.
The mayor had unlocked the door upon his request.

Before he went any further, he turned around and looked at his entourage.
His guards alone amounted to a dozen men.

Entering a refugee ’s household with so many intimidating people wouldn ’t send the right idea.

”I ’ll only take Lucky and Nitaa inside.
As for the rest of you, please wait outside. ”

Though Gavin looked rather cross for being excluded, Ves had no need for a Benny this time.

Once Ves, Lucky and Nitaa entered the home, the door automatically slid shut.

Soft footsteps sounded out from the stairs.
A haggard-looking middle-aged woman descended from the upper floor.

Her dull eyes swept over them with hardly any emotion.
I did not invite you here.
Leave. ”

Ves stepped forward.
”Please hear me out, madame.
Can we sit and talk? ”

”No. ” The woman flatly replied.

Despite her objection, Ves pretended not to hear it.
He picked up Lucky and calmly stepped over to the cheap set of couches in the living room.

Seeing that she could not get rid of this well-dressed intruder so easily, the resident of the home reluctantly followed suit.

As both of them sat down, Ves tried to offer a reassuring smile to the woman.
”You have a good physique.
I can tell you ’re a mech pilot. ”

”I ’m far from my prime. ”

”Even so, you are still a warrior, are you not? ”

The woman turned away from Ves, as if ashamed of her past.

Even though the mech pilot looked no different from any other refugee in the settlement, Ves treated her with the utmost respect.

This was because his spiritual senses detected something remarkable inside her head!

This bedraggled, defeated-looking woman turned out to be a bona-fide expert pilot!

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