Once the Flagrant Swordmaidens finished sweeping the debris field of survivors and incidental loot, they traveled to the outer edge of the system and immediately transitioned into FTL.

The longer they stayed in realspace, the more they became susceptible to attacks.

Even though FTL travel introduced a slight, unsettling feeling in the back of everyone ’s minds, they vastly preferred it to being out in open space for anyone and anything to jump at their fleet.

As more stories from the bedraggled and recovering survivors of Chopra Interstellar Security proliferated among the crew, everyone grew more conscious of the dangers that could befall them.
Who knew if the Swordmaidens suddenly changed their mind? The idea that they might turn their coats rarely crossed their minds after a few weeks of perfect cooperation, but now the Vandals received an awful shock that woke them up.

What stopped their allies from turning into their enemies?

Paranoia rang rife throughout the ship, and it only subsided after the shock wore off.
Still, the Vandals never regained their prior confidence.

Seeing the effects on the crew made Ves think that Major Verle deliberately leaked the contents of the discussions.
The Vandals had indeed been a little too comfortable in their skin lately.
While they exhibited the right amount of caution against outside threats, they developed a blind spot against the Swordmaidens, who didn ’t really act like the stereotypical pirates.

Properly speaking, Ves would rather call the Swordmaidens outlaws.
While they engaged in piracy here and there, they weren ’t as feral and undisciplined as the NIN.
In fact, they were actually the opposite.

The MTA and CFA mainly drove the use and popularization of the word ’pirates ’ in order to paint every deviant force not under their purview under a single brush.
’Pirates ’ became a lot scarier to normal folk whether they raided and pillaged every second day or only wandered in uncontrolled space because they hid from powerful enemies.

”Everyone learns that it ’s a bad idea to engage in any business with pirates.
Hell, it ’s even dangerous to be in the same room as them! All of this demonization is artificially creating a division between lawful and unlawful people. ”

Ves found it funny because outlaws existed in civilized space as well.
Gangs, rebel movements, dark mercenaries and more ruled the underbelly of civilized space.
Some of them committed many more crimes than pirates, but they usually escaped the notice of the authorities.

Instead, only pirates specifically received the distinction of becoming everyone ’s bogeymen.

”Granted, it ’s probably a good idea to remain prudent against anyone calling themselves pirates.
They ’re still capable of killing you or robbing you blind. ”

Perhaps the most fault that could be laid at the feet of the Swordmaidens was that they practiced slavery to an extent.
They had no qualms in kidnapping technically adept men and send them off to a processing facility to brainwash them into permanent obedience.

The CFA used to send out warfleets to squash these egregious violations of one of humanity ’s core values.
The spread and normalization of slavery among humans shouldn ’t be tolerated because aliens might pick up the habit as well.

In any case, the Vandals quickly turned to normal after a few days.
As Ketis had mentioned earlier in her outburst, the Swordmaidens primarily utilized sword-wielding mechs.
In addition, their spaceborn mech contingent paled in comparison to their landbound roster.
The power disparity between the two forces tilted heavily towards the Vandals, at least when it came to spaceborn combat.

The Vandals realized they possessed sufficient strength to disregard many threats.
This was the benefit of fielding a strong force!

”Besides, Commander Lydia would never double-cross you all. ” Ketis explained in the office after Ves conducted another lecture on designing mechs for the market.
”We built up a reputation for making friends and sticking to our deals.
We ’d ruin our reputation if we turn against you all of a sudden.
All of our friends will no longer be friends and no one will dare to do business with us.
We ’ll be grouped in the same category of scum as the NIN! ”

”Keeping up a good diplomatic front must be exhausting for your Swordmaidens.
I would have thought there is a lot of infighting among pirates. ” Ves remarked as he leaned back in his chair.

”There is! We get into fights all the time! But there ’s a difference between annihilating a rival gang and having a tussle or two.
A lot of fights between pirates begin with a lot of smack talk and boasting.
Then we come to blows and someone gets knocked out or some mechs become crippled.
After that the losers acknowledge that the others are better and get to leave. ”

Ves furrowed his brows.
”That doesn ’t really sound like a battle.
That ’s more akin to posturing.
The only thing at stake is reputation, right? ”

”Reputation is our lifeline.
Crowds part when we approach.
Random pirates will choose to go elsewhere rather than provoke us.
We ’ve built quite a rep among the independent pirates! It ’s not very helpful when we go against pirates from the pirate blocs, but that ’s the frontier for you! ”

Ves eagerly listened to her tales on how Lydia ’s Swordmaidens managed to survive and thrive in the dangerous frontier.
The more he heard about their conduct, the more he realized that Commander Lydia may be one of the shrewdest leaders in the Faris Star Region.

Her decisions and her strategies became food for his thoughts as Ves contemplated his own future plans.

The more he became familiar with the frontier, the more he became enamored by it.
If he ever came back home, he wanted to set up his Shadow Force as an element that swam in the currents of the frontier like a shark that belonged.

He wasn ’t content with setting up the Shadow Force as a hidden knife only to be employed when Ves needed to get rid of someone.
He wanted them to be a force to be reckoned with, and become so rooted in the web of connections of the frontier that no one would tie their existence back to him.
Going for the diplomatic route beat acting like a hooligan in his books.

Once he finished his usual routine of rushing through his duties and spending some time to guide Ketis on formulating her design philosophy, he devoted most of his efforts to completing the abomination that was the Six-Sided Dice.

Chief Avanaeon knew ships like the back of his hand, so he did most of the hard lifting in terms of fabricating and assembling the internal ship components.

The cube-shaped shuttle called for custom designs of every essential shuttle part such as the power reactor or sub-light propulsion.
Avanaeon took standard shuttle designs but heavily tweaked them in order to take up the least amount of space even if it cost them in terms of performance.

The chief engineer also became responsible for reproducing some of the internal stealth components that blocked indirect means of detection such as detecting their mass.

Ves on the other hand became responsible for only one important task, by far the most important one.
His duty was to take the salvaged stealth plating fragments, cut off the non-working bits and restore the portions that did work but only partially.

It was difficult, tedious and incredibly time-consuming work.
The job needed to be done by someone with a good grip on precision machinery and so couldn ’t be done by anyone else but Ves.

The first day of performing this task made Ves wanted to tear his hair out!

”This is so frustratingly finicky! ” He shouted.
”It ’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but once I found one, I have to find ninety-nine more needles before I ’m done for the day! ”

Restoring the functioning of the stealth plating pretty much entailed restoring the functioning of the alloys and systems integrated within and between the individual layers.
Stealth plating differed from regular alloy plating in that the latter usually consisted of sandwiches of solid alloy while the former consisted of a mosaic of geometric materials.Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.

Kind of like a chameleon ’s skin, but shrunken down to an extremely small scale.

Nonetheless, while Ves felt bored to tears at performing such repetitive work, doing the same thing over and over enabled him to learn some tricks to speed up his progress.
He became increasingly proficient in the procedure to the point he completed one ’side ’ of the cube in two days.

It took a bit less time to complete the second side.
Even less for the third side.
By the time he completed the last side, he managed to become so productive he only needed a little more than a single day to complete the last side.

After restoring and reshaping the long-neglected fragments six vaguely-uniform sheets stealth plating in the form of nearly identical squares, Ves began to test and adjust their workings while he waited for Avanaeon to finish his part of the construction.

”Why are you taking so long, chief? ”

”Hah! You don ’t know anything, Ves! A regular shuttle might be as simple to make as a chair to us, but when it comes to our Six-Sided Dice, almost every aspect of it is custom-designed! We ’re practically building the equivalent of a custom mech! ”

Ves understood the analogy.
”You have a point.
I keep thinking that this is a rather simple shuttle aside from the inclusion of the stealth systems, but it ’s really more than that.
The Six-Sided Dice is a unique creation! ”

It was something lesser than an assault shuttle but greater than an aircar.
Its spec sheet looked rather dismal, but the fact that it stuffed enough systems to activate a pretty good form of stealth immediately redeemed all of its inadequacies.

As the Flagrant Swordmaidens slowly progressed deeper into sandmen space, Ves and Avanaeon rushed to complete the Six-Sided Cube.
The project had become something of a labor of love for them, as this unique creation definitely boggled the mind in a fashion.

If they possessed the proper licenses for all the parts they utilized, then they could have made a fortune by selling it! Yet the design was destined to remain obscure.
Ves didn ’t even dare to sell the design or an actual copy of the cube-shaped stealth shuttle because of how many feathers it ruffled.

As Ves assisted Avanaeon in the fabrication and assembly of the less complicated shuttle parts, they quickly managed to complete the rest of the fabrication jobs within a few days.
After inspecting each part for their soundness, they carefully assembled them together.
Starting with the basic frame, they filled up the skeleton with parts such as the power reactor, the processing bank, the control modules and more.

Then came the time where they needed to affix the stealth plating on their naked shuttle.
This demanded a bit more delicacy on their part because misaligning the plates by even a tiny bit could result in opening up a gap from which emissions could escape!

They could not afford such a mistake! A stealth effect was only as strong as its weakest link.
Even if ninety-nine percent of a stealthed object ’s surface enjoyed total coverage, a small gap which leaked tiny amounts of heat or reflected a little bit of light became an instant curiosity in the eyes of electronic sensors.

They might as well be lighthouses in the dark!

Fortunately, neither Ves nor Avanaeon were rookies in their craft.
Their steady experience and expert handling of the tools enabled them to affix the stealth plating in a calm, steady and stable fashion.

Before they knew it, the ugly cube-shaped stealth shuttle came into being.

”It ’s assembled! ”

Though it still required a lot of testing and debugging in order to verify they hadn ’t screwed anything up, the pair had had finished the culmination of their work!

The Six-Sided Dice rested on the flight deck like a stubby container someone left strewn around.
A system of retractable plates that Ves had adapted to the shuttle ’s use covered up the sensors, the hatch and the thruster nacelles.
In its fully retracted form, nothing about its appearance hinted at a shuttle.

Two questions lingered in Ves and Avanaeon ’s minds.

”Will it fly? ”

”Does its stealth system work? ”

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