By the time Councilor Dorothea Veyron finished her second announcement, almost every human in the galaxy was left shocked, stunned or excited!

Most members of the MTA and CFA reacted just as surprised! The Big Two always kept this secret tight until the right moment to unveil it had arrived!

From one end to the other end of human space, everyone became interested in this wondrous substance called phasewater and the dwarf galaxy that supposedly offered it in abundance!

Conversation about these topics broke out everywhere! Even mech designers temporarily forgot about all of the innovations introduced in the latest generation aside from the minidrive!

Many of them always dreamt of designing an FTL-capable mech! If humanity was locked in the Milky Way Galaxy, then most of them would never be able to fulfill this dream.

Yet it was different if they managed to achieve passage to the Red Ocean Dwarf Galaxy!

In the early stages of humanity ’s conquest of Red Ocean, phasewater was probably ripe for the picking! As long as prospectors reached a star system unclaimed by existing powers, they could quickly harvest some phasewater before a colonization fleet or larger force arrived to claim it as their own!

This provided many opportunities for average mech designers to gain the privilege of building and selling FTL-capable mechs!

Designing and profiting from such fantastic machines not only provided endless riches, but also invigorated the progression of any mech designer!

No matter what, a mech with FTL capabilities would always be vastly more powerful and sophisticated than a mech that was dependent on a mothership to move around!

The design seeds of Ves and Gloriana seethed with excitement as they envisioned designing and building such fantastic mechs!

”We should take a look at the MTA ’s portal to see what it takes to obtain passage through the beyonder gate! ”

A seemingly endless amount of humans simultaneously accessed the galactic net and visited the portals of the CFA and MTA!

If the Comm Consortium hadn ’t made some rapid adjustments to spread the load, the galactic net would have been crushed by the sheer amount of humans flooding its network!

As Ves visited a series of pages set up specifically to handle inquiries about the latest announcement, his eyes immediately ballooned when he viewed the price.

”At full price, a group needed to pay 1 trillion mech credits to secure passage for a single ship! ”

The price was the same for any vessel up to a capital ship, so it didn ’t matter if someone wanted to travel to the Red Ocean in a tiny corvette or a massive ark ship!

Obviously, Ves figured that the Big Two did not wish to waste their energy in conveying smaller ships.
The bigger, the better!

This humongous price made both Ves and Gloriana sick!

This was a ridiculous amount of money! Ves recalled that the typical monthly salary for a CFA captain amounted to just 100 mech credits a month!

Who could pay such an enormous amount of money? Only the wealthiest individuals and organizations of the first-rate states could afford to pay this money upfront!

As for anyone else, forget about it! Even Ves believed he wouldn ’t be able to accumulate so much money in a hundred years!

By the time he scrounged up so many mech credits, the conquest of the Red Ocean would have been well underway by then! He would have missed all of the easy opportunities to harvest phasewater and design lots of FTL-capable mechs!

While Ves still remained in shock, Gloriana recovered first and read further.

”The full price for a so-called ’individual beyonder ticket ’ is only directed to the top organizations of human space! We don ’t have to consider this option! There are other options available! ”

He read further and saw that a different beyonder ticket could also be obtained by redeeming MTA merits or exchanging it for something exceptional!

”It costs 1 trillion MTA merits to obtain a fleet beyonder ticket. ” Ves relaxed a bit.
”However, this ticket is valid for an entire fleet of up to 20 ships! ”

Was 1 trillion MTA merits a lot? Certainly!

However, it was a lot more generous than paying with mech credits.
The ticket encompassed multiple ships, which was clearly a better deal!

The only issue was that MTA merits could not be exchanged with money! It could only be earned by completing their missions, earning their favor, making contributions or submitting valuable mech-related methods or techniques!

The MTA obviously encouraged mech designers to cough up their deepest and most valuable trade secrets!

As long mech designers submitted innovative new theories, methods and techniques, they could earn a decent amount of merits.

Still, 1 trillion merits was still far out of reach to most individual mech designers! Not even a Master would be able to accumulate so many contributions!

Fortunately, the MTA made several accommodations to make the exchange more bearable.

”Multiple people can pool their merits together. ” Gloriana pointed out.
”Although the limit is set at ten people at a time, at the very least we don ’t have to bear the burden by ourselves! ”

This accommodation basically encouraged cooperation between multiple powerful people, thereby forcing them to share power or make other arrangements.

”The MTA also offers cheaper fleet beyonder tickets! ”

A second-class fleet beyonder ticket cost only 100 million merits, while a third-class fleet beyonder ticket corresponded to a measly 10 million merits!

The downside of these lower ticket grades was that the fleet and all of its crew and passengers had to fit the same class or lower.

For example, if Ves and Gloriana wanted to reach the Red Ocean, they had to redeem enough merits to obtain a second-class fleet beyonder ticket.
This was because of the presence of ships and citizens originating from a second-rates state.

Naturally, the MTA also published a slew of terms and conditions that closed any conceivable loophole.

For example, if Ves decided to form a fleet that consisted entirely of ships built in the Bright Republic and crewed them with Brighters, he still had to pay for a second-class fleet beyonder ticket if he wanted to bring Gloriana along!

The presence of just a single second-class citizen in a third-class fleet completely made it ineligible to redeem the cheapest ticket!

In that case, Ves might as well aim for a second-class fleet beyonder ticket to begin with.
He knew that the Red Ocean Dwarf Galaxy was probably extremely dangerous.

Not only did he have to worry about unrestricted alien fleets that did not have any scruples about fielding mighty warships, he also had to worry about human competition!

In the Milky Way Galaxy, much of human space was regulated! Though piracy existed on a moderate scale, this cancer only survived in the dark.

In contrast, the initial invasion of the Red Ocean would doubtlessly turn much of its space into an enormous frontier! With hardly any law and order in effect, every group and fleet had to fend for themselves!

Under such difficult conditions, third-class fleets could only eke out an existence in the most remote and least-profitable parts of space.

Just like in the Milky Way, the division of power was very unfair!

While a second-class fleet was not able to intrude into the most lucrative regions of the Red Ocean, at the very least Ves did not have to worry about getting bullied by everyone!

”The difference in price between a first-class fleet beyonder ticket and a second-class fleet beyonder ticket is very huge. ” Ves observed.
”It ’s very hard for ten mech designers or notable individuals to pool so many merits together! ”

”In other words, the MTA and CFA probably don ’t want too many first-class citizens to settle the Red Ocean. ”

Both of them figured out that the Big Two specifically intended to handicap the first-rate states and especially the first-rate superstates!

The Terrans and the Rubarthans were already extremely powerful! If they managed to conquer large swathes of the Red Ocean, then they would be able to harvest a scary amount of phasewater and threaten the Big Two ’s grip over human space!

Instead, the CFA and MTA much favored giving most of the territories of the Red Ocean up to a large number of weaker interest groups.
Flooding the Red Ocean with so many different groups inevitably led to the splintering of territories, thereby preventing any newly-founded state from becoming powerful enough to challenge the Big Two!

As a consequence, most citizens from the less developed parts of the galaxy rejoiced at this generosity!

Gloriana pointed at an important term.
”There ’s an additional caveat, though.
A fleet beyonder ticket also comes with an obligation.
We have to accept a variety of conditions. ”

Basically, everyone who redeemed a fleet beyonder ticket with merits accepted a debt to the MTA.
Those with debts would have to pay them off by completing special missions or submitting a large quantity of phasewater!

As long as someone was still in debt, they could never obtain passage back to the Milky Way! In addition, those in debt would not be able to take advantage of the many goods and services offered by the MTA at their fortified star systems!

”Basically, the MTA wants anyone who enters the Red Ocean to excavate a considerable amount of phasewater to them! What a vicious deal! ”

Of course, most people would be willing to accept this condition! With how abundant phasewater appeared to be, it shouldn ’t take an excessive amount of effort to gather enough phasewater to get rid of the debt.

A second-class fleet beyonder ticket came with a debt that could be paid off by submitting 100 kilograms of phasewater to the MTA.

With the earliest generation of minidrives, this was enough phasewater to build 20,000 FTL-capable mechs!

That was two entire mech divisions, enough to scour any typical star system of a second-rate state!

”This is such a ridiculous debt! ”

Of course, it was a thousand times worse for a first-class fleet beyonder ticket!

The only way to obtain passage to the Red Ocean without any restrictive conditions was by paying the upfront price of 1 trillion mech credits for an individual beyonder ticket!

Ves gradually figured out the greater purpose behind this price discrimination.

”The individual beyonder ticket is just a concession to the Terrans and the Rubarthans who don ’t want to owe anything to the Big Two.
The CFA and MTA much prefer to bring people to the Red Ocean who are weaker and more beholden to them.
The ultimate goal is to establish the same kind of human order that exists in the Milky Way! ”

In other words, the Big Two wanted to establish lots of squabbling, divided little states with no unified voice!

Only in such circumstances would the MTA and CFA maintain complete control over the Red Ocean.

They were like nobles who exploited the lower classes by keeping them deprived of wealth and power.

Ves and Gloriana did not concern themselves with the power plays between the Big Two and the first-rate superstates.
At this point, they were too small and weak to come into consideration of the big boys at the top.

All they cared about was that it was a lot easier for second-class and third-class citizens to obtain passage to the Red Ocean Dwarf Galaxy!

Naturally, the biggest question that followed in most people ’s minds was how they could earn enough merits to redeem a beyonder ticket.

Accumulating a handful of merits was doable for most mech designers, but Ves needed to gather many millions of merits!

Worse, Ves needed to earn this many merits as early as possible!

”If we reach the Red Ocean too late, we ’ll be several steps behind the first movers! ” Ves warned.
”Ideally, we should obtain a beyonder ticket by the time our expeditionary fleet is ready to depart! ”

If they failed to earn enough merits, then they had to continue making contributions as their fleet made their way to the closest star sector with a beyonder gate.

The longer they lingered in their native galaxy, the less favorable their conditions by the time they finally reached the new galaxy!

This was unacceptable to Ves, who deeply believed that this might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to embark on a great adventure and discover the secrets behind phasewater!

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