Ves didn't dare be too greedy in his demands. He started with the most critical and important request. "I'd like to be a part of the mining expedition that seeks to extract the resources buried close to the core of the planet."
As soon as he mentioned the core, Colonel Ilos turned sharp. She completely shed her friendly expression. "Where did you hear about our deep mining operations?"
"I've been assigned to retrieve something valuable from the core." Ves quickly responded. "As you know, I'm apprenticed to Master Carmin Olson, who's currently a guest professor of the Leemar Institute of Technology. As her subordinate, I'm sometimes called to take care of business on her organization's behalf."
What he said was all true, but Ves deliberately mixed his actual meaning. His first sentence about being assigned to retrieve an ore from the core of the planet had been true, but he didn't explicitly state that he received this mission from the System.
What he said after that had no relations with what he said earlier, but by stringing these two sentences together, he weaved the illusion that Master Olson had actually given him this assignment.
Ves had become increasingly more adept to cover for the System and lie in a way that wouldn't trip any lie detectors hidden in the colonel's office.
"If it's behalf of an eminent Master Mech Designer, then I'm sure we can accommodate our request." The woman nodded with some reluctance. "As you know, the Glowing Planet is an exceedingly rare product of the galaxy. According to past records that none but the most highly placed individuals have access to, the core of such planets often hide great wonders."
"I'm aware of the value buried deep underneath." Ves nodded sagely, though he actually didn't have a clue. He just ran with his speculations in order to appear more authoritative on the subject and deflect any suspicions. "My master has only requested for me to retrieve a hand-sized sample of the only ore that matters. I hope that isn't too much to ask."
The colonel looked fairly troubled. "It might take some time as we'll probably encounter grains at first. It's a shame we don't have the time to excavate the entire treasure before the Coalition and the Hegemony descends on this planet. We might have to accelerate our digging operations to fulfill your master's demand."
It sounded like Ves demanded something really big. Some exotics held a lot of value if they came in a larger chunk. It seemed this mineral from the core of the planet must hold an exceptional amount of value as a result.
Ves relayed some other favors, though he certainly restrained his greed this time. He mainly requested free passage through the non-restricted areas of the base and gain permission for Lucky to roam around independently in these same regions as well.
"There's no reason for your mechanical pet to depart from your side." Ilos responded to the last point. "Your pet is already a security risk when you brought it here. I can tell it's an advanced machine, so I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and allow it to stay by your side. I will not grant it permission to roam the base without your supervision."
"That's fair. Thank you for allowing my pet to stay with me. He's something of my bodyguard as well."
He couldn't hide Lucky's deadly armament from the Mech Corps. Not only did Lucky possess a record of killing pirates, his cat didn't appear too different from the deadly bodyguard pets assigned to little boys and girls. Though these pets always risked being hacked, it wasn't a big concern in a hugely advanced first-rate superstate.
Ilos even showed signs of envy that Ves owned a pet that looked like it had been shipped straight from the New Rubarth Empire.
Ves didn't retain enough leverage to demand more concessions from the base. Colonel Ilos had already indulged him enough and he didn't wish to waste his remaining goodwill. He only asked for a slightly higher security clearance and to be kept informed about the development of better energy cells.
"I think that's enough for today." The colonel wrapped up the meeting. "My men will show you to your bunk where you can stow your luggage. You're free to roam the non-restricted areas of the base such as the mess hall, but you're not allowed to enter the workshops or mech stables and disturb the technicians at work."
"I understand." Ves hadn't been drafted yet. As a civilian, Ves had no right to butt in and tell the mech technicians how to do their work. He wasn't even allowed to study the predominant designs the 4th Bentheim Division currently employed. "Do I have permission to enter the labs where the new energy cells are being developed?"
"Only if you receive permission from the lab."
In other words, not likely. Ves had upstaged all of those research departments, after all. They must be cursing his name under their breaths right now.
Ves left the base commander's office after that. After retrieving Lucky, another officer led him upwards to a less restricted part of the underground complex.
"We've sent a partial map of this base to your comm. You should be able to find your bunk on your own. Do you have any more questions?"
"Yeah. Am I allowed to step outside?"
"No. For security reasons, you are only permitted to remain underground. The only personnel allowed above ground are mechs."
Ves nodded and left for his bunk. After reaching it, he dropped off his luggage before dropping to his bed. All the while, he continued to hold on to Lucky, though his cat appeared rather grumpy at this moment.
"Hey, don't blame me. The Mech Corps can be rather high strung about security risks. Tell you what. When I visit the deep mining expedition tomorrow, I'll see if I can get you something yummy. The mining operation must be yielding a lot of ores if it's aiming to reach the core of the planet."
"Meow." Lucky brushed his head against his chin.
Even with the technology the Mech Corps had at their disposal, it wasn't easy to bore down towards the center of a planet. That didn't even take into account the complications of burrowing through layers and layers of exotics, each of which could set off a deadly accident.
The base still needed to process his permissions, so he couldn't visit the mining operations right now. Ves left his bunk and roamed around the corridors, trying to get a first-hand impression of the famed and renowned Mech Corps.
As the premier mech force of the Bright Republic, the Mech Corps had been held up as the standard bearer of their state. Billions of citizens worshipped the Mech Corps and millions more pilots wished to join their ranks.
Looking at the people and mechs walking back and forth, Ves found that each of them held a distinctive pride. They felt proud to be a part of the Mech Corps. They also moved with much more enthusiasm than usual. Ves eavesdropped on some of the conversation and knew that his invention had made a splash.
"Hey, did you hear? Someone came up with a fix for the overcharge problem! Every workshop has been tasked with producing as much of these cells as possible!"
"What? Really? We finally don't have to tempt fate every time we enter our mechs? That's amazing!"
"You know what's even more weird is that some outsider came up with the new designs. From what the geeks have told me, the designs came from a mech designer who worked for a gang!"
"No way, a frickin' scumbag came up with the new designs? What are our eggheads doing?! How can they be so slow that some random criminal can figure out a solution first?"
"Hey, don't raise your tone so much. I heard the inventor isn't some random thug. He's actually a mech designer, and he's a Larkinson as well!"
That particular revelation landed like a bomb to the group of gossipers.
"Didn't that guy came up in the news recently?"
"Have you already forgotten about the duel where Captain Vicar got his butt kicked by a girl from the Planetary Guard?"
"Oh yeah, that duel! So the Larkinson who came up with the new energy cells designed that black mech as well?"
"Yup, and he'll be sticking around the base, though I don't know why. It's going to get really dangerous here soon."
Talk like that had spread throughout the base. Even though no one recognized Ves, most people had been able to figure out his identity because he wore civilian clothes. Most of the other consultants consisted of scientists and experts who specialized in discovering the properties of unknown exotics. Only Ves looked young enough to be a mech designer at the start of his career.
This didn't affect the base personnel very much. The soldiers had a lot of other things on their plate to divert some time to fawn over Ves. After reading everyone's mood, he decided he should visit a doctor.
Ves followed the map to the nearest medical center. Upon entering it, he reported his issues and had to wait half an hour before a doctor came up to receive him. The jolly-looking man invited him to his office.
"I've consulted your records and I must say it's an usual case." The doctor said. "We are not very versed with the functioning of your extra organs."
"I'm aware how hard it is to figure out my body. I'm not asking for an explanation. I just want something that can mitigate the negative side effects of all of the energy fields in the red zone."
The doctor's expression turned pensive. "That will be difficult. Any medicine we give you can have the opposite effect. The side effects may be worse than the affliction."
"Just do the best you can."
Ves had to undergo a series of elaborate scans, much of it didn't reveal anything new, though Ves found his strength had decreased. Ever since the ghost that wore his mother's face drained him of his excess energy, Ves had started to feel less energetic. The difference didn't amount to much, but it pointed out that any further energy drains could lead to more severe effects.
The doctor in charge of his case found the changes to be puzzling. "You are still in fine health, Mr. Larkinson. I will prescribe you with some medicine that will ease your internal discomfort, but without a deeper understanding of your alien genes, it's unwise to add anything else."
That meant that Ves would have to deal with whatever happened on his own. This was the burden all human-alien hybrids had to go through.
He'd also have to endure anything the Glowing Planet decided to throw at him. From his limited understanding, Ves believed that he'd face much more active exotics the deeper he went underground.
Even so, Ves refused to stay near the surface and twiddle his thumb. The System gave him a mission, and he had to accomplish it at all costs. Even if he had to suffer through torture, Ves was determined to be among the first to breach the core of the planet and secure a valuable ore from within.
"There's no telling if the miners will withhold such a valuable chunk of ore. It'll be harder for the Mech Corps to refuse to hand any of it over when I'll be there on the spot."
Ves thanked the doctor and left the medical center. He thought about visiting the workshops before he reminded himself that he'd been prohibited to enter them. He felt a little regretful for not being able to place his hands on the mechs used by the Mech Corps. Ves had been drooling at their designs for many years now.
"Well, it's only a matter of time before I get drafted. I'll have plenty of opportunity to play with these mechs once the war finally starts."