”How ’s it looking, doc? ”

”Some of your cells are wearing out faster than when you had your previous checkup.
Your body is undergoing a subtle transformation.
Towards what, we can ’t determine, but whether it is beneficial or not is hard to say. ”

In other words, the doctor knew as much as anyone.
Ves exited the scanning chamber and dressed himself in his green uniform.

”Have you made any progress in your research? ”

”I ’m afraid not.
There is much we don ’t understand about your so-called Jutland organ.
All we can determine is that it contains an incredible amount of biological programming in an encrypted form.
The good news is that it is largely dormant.
The bad news is that anything can trigger some of the programming. ”

Nothing changed in that regard.
Ves thanked the doctor for his work and left the Shield of Hispania ’s medical bay.

Ves remained compromised due to his biological gifts from Dr.
He only hoped the doctor hadn ’t put anything unpleasant in the programming.
”He likely didn ’t anticipate that I would be able to call for rescue. ”

The doctor wanted him to live on the hostile underground environment of Groening IV, so the Jutland organ probably wasn ’t out to kill him.
At least he hoped so.
The madman might have included a failsafe in the energy organ ’s programming that only its originator could resolve.

”I ’ve got to get rid of this organ or at least decypher its programming. ”

This wouldn ’t be easy.
While the CFA took samples and cloned his body, Ves didn ’t expect to hear from them again.
He needed to solve this problem on his own initiative.

”I ’ll need to enlist the help of a biomedical institution from the Friday Coalition at a minimum. ”

Not just anyone could knock on the doors of these prestigious institutions.
Perhaps he could ask Master Olson for an introduction, but Ves preferred to solve his problems through his own means.
As long as he progressed to Journeyman, a lot of doors would open for him in the Friday Coalition and in the Clifford Society.

”My best ticket to solve this problem is to earn lots of merits in the Society.
As long as I have merits, I can spend them on exclusive services that aren ’t open to regular people. ”

The more he saw of the galaxy, the more he understood the importance of relationships and networks.
For example, the Flagrant Vandals could have never pulled off the Detemen Operation without cultivating an alliance with the Vesian Revolutionary Front.

Each of them excelled at something that the opposite party wanted to make use of.
Recognizing this fact opened up an opportunity for mutual cooperation.

Ves needed to do the same with regards to puzzling out the secrets locked inside his body.
The energy cycle quietly circulated within his chest without fail.
Though his questionable ghost of a mother alleviated some of the pressure early on, it had already returned to its old level, and actually began to compress more energy in the cycle.

He was worried that the pressure would be too much one day and blow his entire body up.

While he didn ’t know how much time he had left, he figured that he still had a good decade to go before some serious side effects cropped up.

”How did Dr.
Jutland deal with this problem? ”

The internal energy cycle must have been a deliberate design choice.
Ves had the feeling he was missing something important.
His body was basically an incomplete product.

To compare his current state to a mech, Ves imagined himself as a strengthened mech with a supercharged power reactor that constantly ran at full capacity.
He didn ’t possess any weapons or systems where he could drain all of his excess energy.

”Still, it ’s dangerous to make too many assumptions about something I have no idea about. ”

For now, he pushed the issue to the back of his mind and turned back to the problems that fell within his area of expertise.
After meeting the team that maintained Venerable O ’Callahan ’s Parallax Star, Ves mentally wrote them off as potential allies.

”Miss Lisbeth is a total cook and Chief Leo is a firm believer. ”

Ves heard about how people would go crazy around expert pilots from his family.
In the Age of Mechs, the popularity of mechs was at an all-time high.
The norms worshipped the mech pilots, and the mech pilots worshipped the expert pilots.

It was almost impossible for an advanced mech pilot to succeed in breaking through an expert pilot.
Their rarity and miraculous circumstances turned every expert pilot in an object of envy.
Some people equated them to demigods for their amazing skill and mythical abilities.

When Ves returned to his office, he greeted Iris and looked at her with appreciation.
He found her presence to be remarkably helpful.
She stopped being annoying once she saw that her attempts to get him to waver in his loyalties only made him more suspicious.

Now that she became the perfect assistant to him, Ves truly appreciated the benefit of having a second mech designer at his beck and call.
He could tell her to relay his instructions to others and take care of all manner of trivial tasks.
He could talk advantage of her connections and friendships within the Vandals and the VRF.

Most importantly, she was a pretty decent mech designer as well, so Ves often used her as a sounding board for some of his ideas.

”I ’m at my wits end with the Venerable ’s design team. ” Ves sighed.
”Do you have any suggestions on how to restore their sanity? If I can just adjust their budget, I can allocate a lot more resources to where they are needed, such as strengthening the fragile Inheritor mechs.
I ’ve estimated that I can strengthen every Inheritor mech by five percent if I halve the Parallax Star ’s budget! ”

That five percent didn ’t sound so much, but the Inheritor light skirmisher was the most prevalent spaceborn mech in the mech roster.
A comprehensive strengthening of five percent could mean the difference between a narrow escape or a devastating loss.

”I ’m not a miracle worker, boss. ” She responded with a flat expression.
”You ’re not the first head designer who ’s been cracking their head over this issue.
Alloc hasn ’t been able to do anything and neither will you.
Just face it, the Venerable knows we are desperate and don ’t have any other expert pilot to turn to.
As long as Venerable O ’Callahan can maintain his monopoly on expert-tier mech deterrence, he ’ll milk his advantage for all it ’s worth. ”

Ves let out a grunt in frustration.
”It ’s wasteful! That selfish old man is squandering our resources! The worst thing about it is that the resources are literally going to waste! He ’s got so many spare parts that his design team can assemble at least two complete copies of the Parallax Star! The rationale for fabricating all of these different parts is impractical as well! The enemy won ’t stop their attacks wait for them to assemble the right configuration of parts. ”

”Efficiency seems to be one of your pet peeves.
You can ’t stand it when someone is making suboptimal choices. ”

”I guess you ’re right. ” He sighed.
”I feel incredibly frustrated to see something so wrong be allowed to continue without change.
My mind just itches when I think about it.
I constantly feel I have to do something about it.
I ’d do anything to make it stop! ”

Normally, Ves was never a stickler for perfect efficiency.
He fostered a slow and meticulous work culture at the LMC ’s Mech Nursery.
He could have opted for more speed in order to increase their efficiency, but he wanted to maintain the best possible quality.

Too much efficiency wasn ’t always a good thing.
The production methods he witnessed at Vaun Industrial pursued an extreme of efficiency that was endemic to large, well-run mech manufacturers.

There wasn ’t anything wrong with their pursuit, as it obviously allowed them to mass produce the largest amount of mechs at the lowest cost possible at very high speeds.
These all sounded like ideal qualities to an industrialists who pursuit the maximum amount of profit.

A consummate craftsman like Ves couldn ’t accept the pursuit of profit above all else.
A mech was a wonderful machine and deserved some consideration.
It took time and effort to build a quality product, and a naked pursuit for efficiency neglected many subtle and indefinable attributes that separated a masterpiece from a mass produced commodity.

In this paradigm, expert mechs always measured at the other end of the extreme.
Each and every expert mech was a highly customized machine designed to interface with only one unique customer.
It was a mech that was designed, fabricated, modified and maintained for the use of one expert pilot.

It wasn ’t worth it to go through all of that trouble for a single regular mech pilot.
It only became cost-effective to do so for expert pilots because their amazing capabilities more than made up for the investment.

The only problem here was that O ’Callahan is pushing it way past common sense.
The Parallax Star didn ’t get any stronger.
At most, it had a few more tools at its disposal, but it would take too much time to swap the parts.

”I hate to say it to you, boss, but you ’re going to have to deal with it. ” Iris said when she saw that Ves was still struggling to come up with a solution.
”The multiverse isn ’t perfect.
You don ’t always get what you want, and perfection is never easy to obtain.
Maintaining the status quo is the least-bad option.
Every other option would weaken the task for or see you fired. ”

She was right.
Ves didn ’t want to admit it.
He felt he should have been clever enough to come up with a golden solution that would have addressed the problem without making things worse.

In the end, he shrugged.
”I don ’t have any options right now.
I ’ll leave the issue be, but I ’ll definitely return on it once the situation changes. ”

Ves proceeded to distract himself by throwing himself to the complicated task of planning out the task force ’s mech composition.
He already had a good idea what he wanted to adjust.

The scarcity of certain critical resources limited much of his options.
Though the Vandals looted a huge amount of valuable exotics and other materials from the Detemen System, they prioritized exotics known with a high volume to price ratio.
Most of these materials weren ’t suitable to be the main ingredients to repair or enhance their existing stock of mechs.

If Ves planned his mech composition around the meager strategic stockpiles in the cargo holds, he found out that the task force would quickly run dry within a week.

He remembered that the Vandals arrived in the Detemen System with largely empty cargo holds in order to carry away as much loot as possible.
This didn ’t leave much room for critical supplies that could keep the Vandals going.

The task force would never be able to reach the Reinald Republic without obtaining more supplies.

”Iris, please schedule a meeting with Lieutenant Commander Soapstone.
I ’m going to need her help and advice.
Make it a longer appointment if possible. ”

”On it, boss. ”

A few minutes later, she confirmed the appointment.
”You can meet with her after the fleet jumps back into FTL.
Right now, she ’s busy with allocating the resources we ’ve mined from this system ’s asteroid belt. ”

”Understood. ”

The Vandals couldn ’t do anything outside their ship as long as they travelled through FTL.
Thus, the fleet cherished any moment they popped out of the higher dimensions in order to cycle down their FTL drives and mine some extra resources from the local star system.

”We won ’t always get lucky and emerge in an empty or rebel-controlled star system. ” He whispered.
”Iris, do you know how many transitions we have to go through before we ’re out of Imodris? ”

”One or two more jumps, no more. ” She said.
Since she was also a representative of the VRF, she knew a little more about Major Verle ’s intentions.
”I think we ’ll only do a larger jump rather than two smaller ones because Major Verle really wants to shake off any pursuers from Imodris.
They ’re mad as hell. ”

”Alright. ”

A larger jump enabled them to cover more distance, but made it easier for the enemies to track and anticipate their destination.
It was a decision that traded security for speed.

”Hopefully we won ’t get caught by Imodris at our next destination. ”

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