es attracted much more attention than before.
He couldn ’t even go the the toilet or take a shower without being spied on by a dozen different parties.

Every public figure had to deal with such an intense level of scrutiny, including Ves.

Once he finished combing over every device including his hazard suit, he finally became comfortable enough to embark on his actual purpose for traveling to the middle of nowhere.

”Let ’s start designing. ”

According to the mission, Ves would pass its requirements if he successfully came up with a practical graser rifle design.
Implicit in the description was that he wouldn ’t be able to pass the mission if he plagiarized the existing designs from the research notes that set him on this path.

”The spirit of the mission appears to be driving me towards pushing my Physics Skill and related Sub-Skills to the limit. ”

Ves had never designed a laser rifle before.
His only practical experience with laser weapons was when he repaired them during the Glowing Planet campaign and when he modified an existing model for the 2-star Old Soul virtual mech.

Anyone could tweak an existing design.
At the simplest level, a modification could be as simple as replacing one material for another or to shift a couple of components by several millimeters.

By working from the safety of a proven design, the person who performed the modification could be as sloppy as he wanted as long as his work remained within certain boundaries.

In contrast, designing a weapon from scratch entailed a lot more work.
Ves had to take into account a thousand different aspects when he made his design choices.

”It ’s actually a lot like designing a mech. ”

Designing a weapon fell a bit out of his expertise, but Ves managed to stay on track by borrowing from his experiences with designing his first original mech.

”First, I ’ll have to set a vision for my graser rifle. ”

Distasteful as it appeared, Ves had to force himself into imagining the use of his weapon.
He envisioned a frigid duel in space.
Two spaceborn rifleman mechs circled around each other as they traded potshots at each other.

One rifleman mech utilized a conventional laser rifle adapted to space.
It fired infrared beams from a bulky rifle that featured a much larger heatsink.
Due to the lack of gravity in space, the rifleman mech wasn ’t overly hindered by its weapon ’s increased mass.

In comparison to the moderately bulky laser rifle, the gamma laser weapon wielded by its opponent resembled a miniature cannon.
It featured a much bigger weapon frame in order to accommodate its jumbo-sized battery, heat rod and internal mechanisms.

”With my skills, I won ’t be able to design a rifle that ’s as compact as the one developed by the research team. ” Ves quietly judged.

The graser rifle ’s firing rate was a lot lower than a conventional laser rifle, but each energetic beam traced by a small amount of waves from the visible spectrum.
Each time it hit the enemy mech, its armor hardly buckled, but an extremely large amount of energy got absorbed or passed through the layers of armor.

Whenever the gamma rays passed through an electronic system, they got fried.
Once it reached the cockpit and passed through the pilot, the outcome of the battle became clear.

The stricken and irradiated mech turned into a lifeless entity after getting hit by only five high-powered gamma laser beams.

Ves pulled his mind back from his construction vision.
”A graser rifle kills the pilot before the machine. ”

As long as the weapon pumped enough power into the beam, it could pass through any amount of armor and irradiate the enemy pilot.

”What a horrible way to die. ”

He knew very well how the human body fared against the might of a graser beam.
Kawasaki who originally compiled the research notes had cruelly experimented on live subjects to satisfy his sadistic power trip.

The thought of following in Dr.
Kawasaki ’s footsteps put Ves in a difficult position.

Should he even proceed with this mission? What was the System ’s intention by setting him on this potentially ruinous course of action?

”Laws and rules of convention constrain a mech designer.
By purposefully incentivizing me to break a taboo, the System seems to be telling me that I shouldn ’t take the rules for granted. ”

The System set itself above the rules that governed human society from the onset of the Age of Mechs.

Would the System push him to breaking another rule in the future?

Ves mentally shrank from the idea.
Even though the System acted deviously, Ves had no choice but to play along its tune in order to harvest some benefits out of it.
For better or worse, he became an accomplice of the inscrutable System and its unknown goals.

”As long as I get to reach the pinnacle of mech design, I ’ll commit any number of war crimes if I have to. ”

Ves had already stepped aboard the ship.
If he stepped out now before it had reached its destination, he ’d end up choking to death in interstellar space.

He turned his attention back to his design.
Now that he formed a vision of his weapon, he began to draft a design for his laser rifle.

Unlike with mechs, Ves did not employ his Triple Division or any other technique related to X-Factor.

”A graser weapon doesn ’t deserve the X-Factor. ”

Even he had his limits.
If the System set him on the path to committing a war crime, he wouldn ’t do so with a smile.

Ves treated his design like a chore to be performed as soon as possible.
He decided not to take any excessive care with his design choices and instead stick to a basic, workhorse design with plenty of tolerances for failure.

”The bigger the weapon, the more leeway I ’ll carve out for myself. ”

Ves spent two days on his draft design.
After that, he spent five more days refining its schematic into a precise and functional product.
In theory.

In the meantime, the Joe System was as quiet as a mouse.
Not a single ship transitioned out of FTL during this time.
Just the red dwarf, the asteroids and the Barracuda kept Ves company in the unremarkable star system.

The only excitement happened when Lucky decided to pass his boredom by boring straight towards the center of the asteroid.
Once there, the gem cat encountered a peculiar rectangular substance.

Lucky curiously pawed what looked like a crystal window.

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