After shooing away the random Shadow Courier who popped out of nowhere, Ves turned his attention back to the grey rock. He opened up the box and reached out with his hand.
"What? I was sure there was something here!"
Ves puzzled over the rock he bought, refusing to believe his senses had foiled him. Yet as he continually probed the rock with his hands and his spiritual senses, he actually failed to uncover anything remarkable.
Had he misjudged? Had he been scammed?
He refused to believe so. There must be something special about this rock!
"Many mech designers require years of research in order to decipher some of the secrets behind exotics. It's nothing unusual for me to obtain no results upon a cursory examination."
After several minutes of fruitless examination, Ves closed the box and left the mystery for later. This was not the time and place to perform serious material research.
Instead, he decided to go to Astralis Nightclub.
"Come on, Lucky. Let's go see what Charlotte had in mind when she suggested that I should pay a visit there."
He hailed an aircar that swiftly brought Ves and Lucky to a fairly upscale district on Centerpoint V. Certain areas of the planet favored space peasants, while other areas favored galactic citizens.
This was definitely a city district that favored galactic citizens. Not only was security higher here, but the structures looked fancier as well.
Just like in the Friday Coalition, a lot of structures floated in the air. The architecture of many of the floating buildings incorporated radical three-dimensional designs.
For example, one floating park was shaped like a cube. Whereas old folk leisurely sat on the benches admiring the fading golden horizon, teenagers gleefully partied in a swimming pool on the bottom side of the floating park. The antigrav modules integrated in the park made sure to prevent the water and all the people from falling to their deaths!
Ves still shuddered at the sight. As long as something went wrong, either through disaster, sabotage or faulty maintenance, all of those people standing upside down hundreds of meters above the ground would certainly die!
"Well, maybe it won't come to that." He shook his head. "All of them are doubtlessly wearing smart clothing or other safeguards that can mitigate some of the risks."
The rich possessed numerous means to protect their lives. They had to because they faced equally capable enemies armed with much better weapons.
Therefore, while it seemed that CFA admirals and MTA councilors protected themselves with an array of shielding, teleporters, guards and other safeguards, the threats they protected against were equally as sophisticated!
"It's an arms race." He muttered. "There's never a point where someone is completely safe or completely dominant."
Perhaps the only time in humanity's history where this balance was skewed was during the latter days of the Age of Conquest. The infamous warfleets weren't capable of defending against the superweapons they themselves were armed with. No defensive shielding could withstand against a force that could crack a planet!
For this reason, warfare primarily devolved in a race to strike first and strike the hardest. Attacks against planets and wiping out whole industries and population centers became acceptable practice because the armchair admirals believed it was the only way to shake the foundation of a warfleet!
Yet the only outcome all of this slaughter had accomplished was to completely unmoor the warfleets of the losing side! Having lost the foundation of their support, they went completely bonkers and retaliated with a vengeance!
Ves shook his head. "That's old history. Such a thing won't happen today."
Humanity had made a lot of advancements in technology since then, particularly in the area of planetary shielding. The planetary shielding systems that protected every planet in the Centerpoint System weren't only there to protect the surface from the overlapping heat and radiation of multiple suns.
The planetary shielding systems could actually dial up their strength and withstand direct attacks!
Naturally, the amount of energy the shields expended in this mode was immense. Even with the Dyson spheres harvesting a significant portion of energy pumped out by the local suns, the shields would only be able to last a short time due to their incredible degree of inefficiency.
"In the end, it's much easier to destroy than to protect." He sighed.
Something else he noticed in this district was that a lot less people were on the streets. Ves could already tell that almost everyone here was a galactic citizen, and of a higher tier than that of Ves!
"Everyone here is either an internal member of the MTA or a dependent."
In truth, Ves felt somewhat out of place here. As a tier 12 galactic citizen, he still couldn't enter any of the shops and other venues in this district. Encountering this situation really hit home that receiving galactic citizenship had done little to close the gap between himself and most of the people who worked for the Big Two.
"It's as if tier 12 is only a galactic citizen in name."
Now that he thought about it, all of the expert pilots in the Larkinson Family should be galactic citizens as well. Yet none of them had mentioned a single thing about galactic citizens to their family members.
"It's probably because it doesn't really mean anything to the Larkinsons." He guessed.
There was no point giving other Larkinsons delusions of grandeur when the actual benefit to becoming a tier 12 galactic citizen really wasn't all that much. If galactic citizens were actually people of importance, then the Bright Republic and the other third-rate states would have been ruled by high-ranking mech pilots and mech designers.
Instead, people like Professor Ventag, Professor Velten, Professor Pendleton and so on voluntarily allowed themselves to be governed by an administration that consisted primarily of space peasants.
Ves came to an important conclusion. "Bottom tier galactic citizenship doesn't mean anything."
That was reflected from the attitudes of others in the vicinity.
When other galactic citizens saw him and realized his tier somehow, they didn't regard him as a galactic citizen. Instead, they viewed him as a jumped-up space peasant! Even if he came closer to matching the status of proper galactic citizens, a noticeable gap still existed!
"These people have a way to determine my citizenship tier."
Ves guessed that they had been fed with the information through implants or internal augmentations. Whereas most space peasants rightly eschewed implants due to their propensity to being hacked or tampered with, galactic citizens didn't share the same worry because their faction's security precautions were already some of the best.
That reminded him that he obtained a sophisticated cranial implant himself. Ves still hadn't dared to implant it into his head due to its age and its origin.
"I should really do something about that. I can't let it rot in my vault forever."
He made a mental note to address it when he came back to Cloudy Curtain. Perhaps he could even ask for help from Calabast to find out where he could find a reliable expert that could check over the Archimedes Rubal.
"None of these galactic citizens have to worry about these concerns."
Even if the MTA installed backdoors in their implants, they both belonged to the same side. As long as their own people didn't betray the organization, there was very little harm in letting the Association follow their entire lives.
Ves wouldn't mind it either if he was just an average person. But he was not. He was a mech designer, and one that squirreled away a lot of secrets.
"In that regard, it's better if I wasn't a galactic citizen. At least no one pays attention to space peasants."
At his current state, Ves received the worst of both worlds. Not only did he face increased scrutiny, he also hadn't gained any important benefits that made his life easier.
As he thought over all of this, he flew into the air using his smart clothing and at the entrance of a large, classy three-dimensional palace. The place didn't seem to be highly-frequented, but numerous young and trendy-looking galactic citizens eagerly entered the club after passing a cursory security check.
When it was his time to enter, a distinct beep came from the scanning machine. The nearest guard approached him and reached out with his hand.
"Please present your invitation card, Mr. Larkinson."
Ves did so. The guard dutifully checked the authenticity of the invitation card before handing it back.
"Your card is valid. Please keep hold of it as you will need it to enter the Pit."
The guard already dismissed him, leaving Ves clueless of what he meant.
What was this Pit?
Once Ves entered the darkened interior of the club, modern music immediately blanketed his ears. While it was a bit too early before the real party started, plenty of young galactic citizens were already having a good time.
Ves ignored these kids and their mundane activities. Ever since he became a mech designer, he stopped chasing after simpler pleasures. The music, the merriment and the fun activities the club goers engaged in no longer tickled his interest.
How could they ever compete against the sublime pleasure of designing a good mech? Not only was his work a lot more profound, it also contributed to society.
If there was one lesson that Ves had learned from meeting with various Seniors, it was that their time was far too precious to waste on hedonism! Rather than drinking yourself stupid every night, he should instead endeavor to deepen his design philosophy.
Therefore, Ves ignored the sight of college-aged men and women having a good time and walked deeper into the club. A few signs directed him right towards the heart of the building. Eventually, he reached a gate surrounded by several guards.
"Please present your invitation card."
Ves did so quietly.
"Everything checks out. Please enter the Pit."
The gate opened up, revealing an interior so dark that Ves couldn't sense a single thing inside. As Ves curiously stepped inside, Lucky suddenly squirmed in his grasp.
"What do you mean? There's an anomaly in front of us? But I don't sense anythIIING!"
As Ves plunged into the darkness, he suddenly felt a very weird suction! Both Ves and Lucky lost control of themselves as they plunged straight through a weird bubble, only to fall onto the floor of a very strange environment!
His floating box that followed behind him almost hit the ground as well, but stabilized in time to prevent a crash.
"Urgh. Why is the air different here?"
Ves quickly gathered his wits. Meanwhile, Lucky shook himself out of his lingering bliss at having eaten the scarlet rock and entered into a high alert.
Both of them immediately noticed that they had entered a huge hall! It was so huge that the entire Astralis Nightclub could comfortably fit inside this empty space!
"What is this place?!"
"Meow meow meow!"
"What? We just entered through a space portal and ended up somewhere underground?!"
A new voice suddenly sounded from behind Ves. "What a very clever pet."
Ves immediately turned around to see someone dressed in a similar uniform to Charlotte when she visited Cloudy Curtain. The newcomer was an officer of the MTA's Compliance Department!
"Welcome to the Pit, Mr Larkinson." The female officer smirked. "From your expression, I take it that you don't realize what that means. Did the mech pilot who issued your invitation card even tell you what's in store for you?"
The mech officer grinned. "This is going to be good. Well, come with me. Let's prep you up as best as possible."
Ves reluctantly followed after the woman, uncertain of what was going on here. Now that he thought about it, blindly entering a place referred to as the Pit wasn't exactly wise.
What had Charlotte gotten him into this time?