Due to his elevated status and his inordinate amount of wealth, Ves did not frequent any casual store. Bentheim featured a large amount of stores that sold weapons and armor, but most of these products were aimed towards the average consumer.
Ves was anything but an average consumer. Whereas someone might struggle over the decision whether to fork over a thousand credits for a basic laser pistol, Ves could easily purchase a million pistols in bulk!
No, as a more refined customer who was willing to spend big money, he instead decided to visit a more upscale outfitter store. Bentheim hosted a decent amount of stores geared towards millionaires or billionaires. Those with more discerning tastes expected much greater service.
After sending a message to Professor Ventag, he received a short message in return that recommended him to a particular business in downtown Dorum.
The armored shuttle touched down on a landing pad next to a range of exclusive shops catered to the rich and wealthy. The Blackbeaks and Crystal Lords escorting the shuttle could no longer proceed forward from this point. Security within this shopping street was very high, and the guests who frequented it would not feel comfortable being around mechs controlled by other people.
"You are only allowed four guards for a party of this size." A Planetary Guard lieutenant stated at the entrance to the shopping district. "Your SASS security guards are already vetted, so they are free to accompany the two of you. Please have a nice day, sir."
Retaining the services of Sanyal-Ablin proved to be quite a boon in this instance. The security company maintained a significant presence in Bentheim. Whereas unknown security guards would have been blocked from entering the high-class shopping street due to the risks they posed to everyone's security, SASS did not have to deal with this problem due to the reputation they built up over the years.
With four armored guards in tow, Ves entered the shopping district and passed by various wealthy visitors or locals on his way to his intended destination.
Due to the exclusive nature of the shopping street, only a modest amount of people were about. All of them inevitably brought along their own guard escorts, ruining the tranquil nature of their visits.
Eventually, Ves and Ketis walked up to an understated but very classy store called Renny's Outfitters. Lucky also came along, of course. The gluttonous cat was comfortably nuzzling in Ketis' arms.
"Mr. Ves Larkinson!" A store attendant called inside the foyer of the upscale, multi-leveled store. "Welcome to Renny's Outfitters. Professor Ventag has sent us word that you might be stopping by. It is an honor for us to meet the needs of an esteemed war hero and mech designer such as yourself. You can call me Dias. I have been assigned to personally tend to your needs, so if you have any requests, feel free to voice them. Here at Renny's Outfitters, we offer a wide range of personal gear, and if we don't have something that you need, our extensive network of suppliers will be able to ship them personally to your doorstep."
Ves brushed past the marketing spiel and went straight to the point. "Well, Dias, I would like to outfit myself and Ketis here with some personal gear. To be more specific, we want to acquire high-quality weapons, armor and and various handheld tools."
Dias presented him with a gleaming smile. "We offer some of the finest weapons, armor and tools in our extensive product catalog! In order to offer you the most suitable selection of products, it would help if you list out some criteria. What is your budget? Do you wish to buy locally-produced gear, or would you rather take a fancy for some of our imported products from the Friday Coalition?"
"I'm looking for products that esteemed craftsmen have made by hand." Ves stated immediately. While he did not expect to obtain something as fantastic as the original Amastendira, he wanted to obtain something better than mass produced gear. "Preferably, I'd like to obtain custom products, but I'm kind of in need of gear right now."
"Hmm. It is indeed difficult to obtain customized gear on short notice." Dias frowned. "Many craftsmen that produce the best weapons and armor have waiting lists that stretch for months or even years. Those that are more immediately available won't offer the quality that a discerning customer such as yourself will be satisfied with. However, we offer a wide range of high-quality ready-made products that are just as good as custom pieces. Please follow me while I guide you to a showroom."
They moved up a few levels and entered a largely empty showroom. Dias activated a command on his comm which caused a table to arise from the floor. A projection appeared in front of the table which gave the user access to the product catalog of the store.
Dias then began to manipulate the interface, causing a few weapons to appear on the table from below. "We know that each piece of craftsmanship is a unique work that differs from every other product even by the same maker. Looking at a finely crafted product through a projection is as senseless as admiring jewelry from afar. Here at Renny's Outfitters, we offer you the opportunity to touch and study all of our readily-available products up close."
Ves and Ketis approached the table and studied the wide range of pistols on display. They encompassed most of the types and subtypes of pistols in use in the Bright Republic.
"Ketis, you need a new sidearm, right? Do you prefer a laser weapon or a ballistic weapon?"
"Laser. It's easier to work with when paired with a good targeting system." She replied.
Dias immediately latched on to that. "While a fair number of our laser pistols are geared towards expert marksmen who distrust targeting systems, we offer hundreds of laser pistol models that are highly compatible with all of the targeting systems integrated into our other products. Even if you pair a pistol imported from the Friday Coalition with a suit of combat armor from the Reinald Republic, our software engineers have already made sure that they will be able to work together without any of the usual incompatibility issues."
Ves nodded in satisfaction. This was indeed a legitimate concern to most people who sourced their gear from different sources, but an all-service store like Renny's Outfitters saved their customers a lot of eeffort.
With a few commands, the other types of pistols disappeared from the table. Instead, more laser pistols emerged in their places.
Like a kid visiting a candy store, Ketis immediately leaned forward and grabbed the shiniest pistols on offer. She weighed them in her hands and admired their exquisite craftsmanship.
As a mech designer, she possessed enough awareness to know that these were genuine expressions of craftsmanship. They were literally individual pieces of art with a useful function thrown in for good measure. These pistols were the kind of weapons that Ves could hang up on the wall of his penthouse office to impress the visitors.
Ves only found it regretful that he hadn't spotted any mastercrafted products. Even a store as renowned as Renny's Outfitters wouldn't easily display any mastercrafted gear. Such products usually came about by chance. The craftsmen who were lucky enough to produce a work of mastercraft quality would almost certainly sell them to their friends or favored customers.
If someone like Ves wanted to obtain a genuine mastercrafted piece of gear, he would have to either make friends with a craftsman or obtain one at a sky-high price in an auction.
Ves did not have the time to wait for either of those possibilities. Besides, his expectations may be high, but they were not excessive.Ves was not willing to fork out billions of credits just for a single piece of exquisite gear.
"Ves! Come take a look! I think this laser pistol is the right one for me! I have a good feel for this gun!"
To his surprise, Ketis favored a large, masculine looking laser pistol. Its visual design incorporated a brutal element that looked very macho when used by tough guys. In the hands of Ketis, however, all of her dormant pirate traits began to rouse themselves. It was as if a sleeping dragon started to wake!
After holding out his hand, Ketis passed over the hefty weapon. The weapon bore its name on its side.
"The Udor is not an elegant pistol, but what it lacks in grace, it more than makes up for it with its punch." Dias explained. "The Udor is a large laser pistol with a high capacity and offers a wide variety of firing modes. Whether you want to burn through a hatch or stop a mob of hundreds of madmen, the Udor is capable of saving you from a variety of threats with the right configuration."
Ketis practically fell in love with the Udor already. She bobbed her head so vigorously that her poofy beret threatened to fall off!
All of the capabilities mentioned by Dias sounded somewhat similar to what the Amastendira offered, though not as powerful. Perhaps that was part of the reason why she opted to go for a large pistol rather than a smaller and more concealable sidearm.
Ves recognized the Udor as a true piece of craftsmanship. Not that Renny's Outfitters would ever stoop to passing off mass-produced goods as artisanal pieces, but it helped that Ves could feel the care and attention its maker put into the gun. A weak but very present form of spirituality suffused the weapon.
There must be a story behind the Udor. Perhaps something related to pirates for its maker to incorporate so many visual motifs related to frontier pirates into the design.
"39 million credits. This price encompasses both the product and the services we offer. The Udor requires periodic maintenance in order to retain its peak condition, and we have many experts on hand if you desire some adjustments."
Ves already made his own evaluation of the weapon. The Udor, despite its brutish appearance, was a very high-quality pistol that incorporated a lot of expensive exotics in a very tiny package.
"We'll take it. Please inspect the Udor thoroughly."
Dias understood Ves' concerns. "We work with various independent appraisers and inspectors to make sure that the hardware and software of our products are free from defects and malicious elements. It will take a few hours for them to inspect the Udor, but you will eventually be able to receive it in a sealed state along with certificates that verify its integrity upon the moment of delivery."
With the Udor sinking back down the floor to be sent for inspections, Ves moved on to picking his own sidearm.
Since he already possessed the Amastendira, Ves sought out a weapon that inflicted physical damage. He didn't wish to buy a gun as big and excessive as the Udor. Instead, he wanted something that was much less ostentatious, yet still exuded a lot of class.
When Ves presented his criteria to Dias, the man manipulated the interface and caused every laser pistol to sink away. Moments later, dozens of ballistic pistols and a few more unusual weapon types rose up. Each of them called for his attention.
"I want a pistol with a high magazine capacity." Ves added. "It should be capable of firing rounds with decent armor-piercing capability, but I don't want the gun to run empty after firing only six or seven rounds."
If Ves ever lacked aim-assist, he would probably need more chances than that to actually hit a target at a distance!
Dias wordlessly retracted over half of the pistols, only to cause new ones to take their place.
Most of the pistols still consisted of regular ballistic pistols, but a few looked decidedly odder. Ves lacked the training to use these more advanced weapons proficiently, so he didn't study them for long.
"Let's see what I can use."