Ves leisurely explored a number of shopping streets, many of which catered to the wealthy, at least by the standards of the Komodo Star Sector.
Each store quoted their prices in mech credits, coalition credits and hex credits. A pitiful currency like the bright credit didn't even merit any mention.
Even so, many of the prices privately caused Ves to feel some distress!
[URRSLURF ICE CREAM]: 6.5 million coalition credits
[MTA Mech Souvenir]: 33.7 million coalition credits
[Odon Altis B-315 Mark III Authentic Mech Miniature]: 7.5 billion bright credits
Just a single luxury ice cream cone would already set him back by a fortune!
And this was on Centerpoint V, one of the few planets open to space peasants!
Even though these prices sounded like scams, plenty of people ordered this weirdly-named ice cream without blinking!
Ves wanted to puke. "How can people casually waste so much money?"
He felt more and more disturbed by the profligance of the people who frequented these kinds of shops. While there weren't actually that many of them, they still spent more than what an average citizen of the Bright Republic earned in a thousand years!
Part of the sticker shock he experienced came from his humble background. Even after he became a successful mech designer, he still thought of everything in bright credits.
It was only after he exited the luxury shopping streets and entered the more frequented ones that he started to see more saner prices. While the stores still catered to the citizens of second-rate states, at the very least Ves wouldn't go bankrupt if he ordered a few ice cream cones.
Of course, aside from visiting shops that sold consumer goods, Ves also took a look at stores that sold mechs.
All of the stores offered mechs imported from other star sectors or designed and produced by the MTA themselves. Many of the mechs being sold consisted of high-quality second-class mechs, the cheapest of which were premium mechs.
It cost a lot of money to import a mech to the Komodo Star Sector, so it made sense that the mech stores on Centerpoint V didn't offer anything cheap. Most mech buyers in the star sector would easily be able to find what they needed from locally-produced mechs.
Therefore, the local mech stores all opted to sell distinctive and unique mechs from different locales at very high markup prices.
Ves saw a potential opportunity here.
"My mechs are pretty distinctive as well. What would it be like if I was able to sell a mech in these kinds of stores in other star systems?"
He was pretty sure that no other mech designer possessed a design philosophy like his own. That meant he faced very little direct competition. Perhaps other mech designers may have found a way to make their mechs compelling by employing a different method, but when it came to charming mech pilots and observers with the X-Factor, only Ves could offer such a product!
"It won't be easy to convince these shops to sell my mechs." He judged. "A lot of profits mean there's a lot of competition. Every mech designer wants to enter their distribution network!"
Ves saw that every mech for sale in Centerpoint V consisted of second-class mechs. Third-class mechs weren't valuable or profitable enough for Centerpoint.
If Ves wanted a piece of the action that was taking place in these kinds of shops, then he had to design a second-class mech!
"I've never designed such an advanced and expensive mech before." He muttered and shook his head.
Each mech class was subject to different paradigms. Ves already had a taste of first-class mechs. The Terrans eschewed specialized mechs entirely because they could easily stuff all the toys they wanted on a single mech frame.
The Bright Republic on the other hand religiously adhered to specialized mechs. They needed to, because they could only design and manufacture a mech that was good in only a single area.
Second-class mechs sat somewhere in the middle, though they leaned closer towards specialized mechs. From what Ves knew of the Friday Coalition, they mostly employed specialized mechs but with different enhancements and augmentations.
For example, a swordsman mech could incorporate an energy shield in order to improve its defensive capabilities. The mech designer could also opt to improve its offensive capabilities instead by incorporating the design with an integrated laser weapon hardpoint.
Overall, second-class mechs were still based on distinctive mech archetypes. Their designers just added some extra in order to enhance their strengths, mitigate their weaknesses or add more versatility to their kits.
Could Ves design such a mech? He could, but not without some familiarization. He needed to study the prevailing customs, the higher performance standards, the most commonly deployed materials, the acceptable price ranges and the expectations of customers who buy such mechs.
Since Ves grew up in the Bright Republic, he was very familiar with the sensibilities of the third-class mech market.
While he paid some attention to the second-class mech market over the years, his market judgement with regards to this higher tier of mechs was still very lacking. Ves did not dare to act on his assumptions with regards to second-class mechs.
"I'll have to study the market more in depth or rely on a marketing expert native to the Friday Coalition." He judged.
For now, Ves had no plans to expand the LMC to the second-class mech market. Even though it was a lot more lucrative than selling third-class mechs, Ves did not possess a proper foundation to achieve genuine success.
Why did many Journeymen and Seniors choose to remain in the Bright Republic instead of migrating to the Friday Coalition? There were many reasons to do so, but the most important one was competition!
The Friday Coalition already brought up a huge amount of mech designers every year! Plenty of Journeymen, Seniors and even Masters dominated the existing mech market!
While it wasn't impossible for a mech designer from the Bright Republic to achieve success in the Friday Coalition, the native competition was simply too formidable. The graduates from the Leemar Institute of Technology and other prestigious universities were of a much higher caliber than those who graduated from a place like the Ansel University of Mech Design!
Thinking of how difficult it was to enter the second-class mech market spoiled his mood a bit. He didn't feel like visiting any further mech stores on Centerpoint V. He could hardly afford more than a single mech, and he could forget about offering up his own mechs here!
Instead, he decided to spend the rest of his afternoon visiting a huge indoor marketplace that was only accessible to galactic citizens.
This was because the marketplace only offered exotics for sale!
A significant amount of visitors consisted of Journeymen like Ves. He even spotted a few older people who clearly emenated the air of a Senior!
All of these mech designers gathered here to browse the wide variety of exotics and other extraordinary materials for sale. While the marketplace gathered specialty materials from all over the star sector and the frontier, the bulk of the supply originated from other star sectors!
Ves understood why so many high-ranking mech designers were so eager to shop at this venue. In order to progress their careers, they needed to find materials that were compatible with or reacted to their design philosophies.
Shopping for exotics on the galactic net didn't work. A projection of an exotic would never be able to convey their remarkable qualities to a mech designers.
No. Mech designers needed to be in close proximity to the samples. It was best if they could touch the samples, although that wasn't always possible if the materials were toxic or radioactive.
For this reason, many mech designers inside this exclusive marketplace dropped most of their airs and acted like normal people who were shopping for groceries. The only difference was that they were very picky about the vegetables they bought!
"Naturally, the prices here are high as well."
Some exotics were more expensive than others, but their rarity in the Komodo Star Sector meant that the shops and stalls charged very high markups!
Even if a certain material was a hundred times more expensive than normal, the shoppers had no choice but to grit their teeth and buy them if they believed that their purchase would help them improve!
"How extravagant, Lucky!" Ves said as he gaped at the prices of some of the more extravagant samples. "Not even the Reinald Republic is this greedy!"
His cat had entered into a daze ever since he entered the marketplace alongside Ves. The cat's senses had been tingling constantly as its mineral sensors went haywire from all the valuable goods within reach!
"Don't think about it, Lucky!" Ves hissed to his pet. "There's no way you can get away with it! This facility is under the direct control of a company related to the MTA!"
From what Ves could tell from the various signs and other clues, the operator of the marketplace was a company owned by an internal member of the MTA. Only such an owner would be able to operate such a lucrative venue that concentrated an incredible variety of high-grade exotics without fear!
If even Seniors bowed their heads when they entered, then Ves would definitely not think about starting any trouble!
"Don't wander off, Lucky. Security is too high here!"
Since Lucky was still drooling over all of the exotics on sale here, Ves saw an opportunity and picked up his cat.
This time Lucky didn't resist!
"Let's go see if we can find anything interesting to buy." He said as he petted Lucky's head.
The two spent the next couple of hours browsing all the different stores and stalls selling exotics to well-heeled customers.
Ves quickly noticed a difference between the two. Most of the stores were owned by major companies and conglomerates doing business in multiple star sectors at once.
In contrast, those who rented the stalls were mostly prospectors, treasure hunters, independent trade companies and smaller companies.
The goods for sale in the stores were always categorized. Each customer could request an information sheet that explained all there was to know about a particular product. Most of the exotics for sale here were already known to humanity for hundreds if not thousands of years.
This was different for the exotics for sale at the various stalls. Most of them originated from the surrounding regions, and many of them were only recently discovered. Not a lot of data was available about them aside from some vague possibilities.
This always made buying these freshly-prospected exotics something of a gamble. Neither the buyer or seller were able to judge their true worth.
The best the seller could do was to use various clues to come to an estimated price and multiply it by a hundred and hope there was a sucker who was gullible enough to buy them. Since many of their goods were relatively new, they were also very rare, which meant that mech designers wouldn't easily be able to obtain another sample!
Because most of the goods sold in respectable stores far exceeded his budget, Ves decided to try his luck with the stalls instead. While Lucky kept his mineral sensors peeled for something extremely yummy, Ves discreetly extended his spiritual senses in order to detect whether they reacted to his Spirituality.
No dice. While Lucky found several exorbitantly-priced exotics that he really wanted to eat, Ves inspected thousands of samples, only to find nothing that reacted to his senses!
Ves frowned. "Is there really no exotic out there that compliments my specialty?"
After two hours of searching, Ves was just beginning to give up when his weary senses lightly tingled when he brushed past an ugly lump of rock.
"There's something unusual!"
He slowly halted and tried his best not to show his astonishment. The only reason why he didn't stop and turn around in an instant was because he didn't want the stall owner to rip him off!