When Ves was about to fire the rune monuments in the sequence displayed by the key, he suddenly removed his finger from the trigger.
"Wait a minute. Am I missing an opportunity here?"
He looked back on his recent experiences and realized he only fixated on the danger. The fearful environment, dangerous organisms and incomprehensible alien ruins had pushed him out of his comfort zone. He became so sensitive to danger that he only thought about getting back as soon as possible.
"There's no question that it's dangerous here, but am I really at risk right now?"
His semi-corporeal form had already saved him from being electrocuted by the storm trees and being eaten by a giant clawed worm. It might be able to save him from every other threat on this planet.
He hadn't considered taking advantage of his unusual state up to this point. Now that he calmed down, he thought that it would be a waste to miss the opportunity in front of him. How could he forget that the crystal city was a product of a highly-developed alien civilization?
It was chock full of advanced technology!
"Danger and fortune goes hand in hand!"
The Komodo Star Sector fostered a lively community of treasure hunters and fortune seekers. They constantly plowed the unclaimed space beyond the star sector for the opportunity to encounter rich exotic deposits or the remains of alien races.
Ves had practically hit the jackpot! If he didn't reminded himself of that, he might have left without picking up the prize!
"This is a marvel of alien engineering." He exclaimed. His eyes gazed hungrily at the dormant crystal city scaled for an alien species that he could easily pinch with his hands.
Diminutive they might be, their mastery of materials, electromagnetic radiation and spacetime surpassed the standard of the Komodo Star Sector by a very wide margin. If Ves took some time to study these ruins, he might be able to decipher some of the principles that underpinned the crystal city!
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!"
Ves understood that humans actually didn't invent most of the technologies they used to this day. Although their race possessed a formidable capacity for research, they derived most of their advancements from reverse engineering the efforts of other advanced races.
There was nothing wrong with this approach. Many of these ancient alien species used to be formidable, but almost none of them survived to the present. Rather than reinvent the wheel, humanity might as well take a shortcut by stealing the homework of their seniors.
The Age of Conquest had only been a smashing success due to the theft of many alien technologies, such as the FTL drives.
By now, most alien technologies had already been fully explained by the top researchers of the galaxy, but that didn't mean the knowledge was available to everyone. The MTA, CFA and the first-rate superstates monopolized the most groundbreaking technologies, leaving everyone else with an insurmountable disparity.
Hence the need to explore other ruins. The big players provided lavish rewards for anyone who discovered wholly new technologies.
Sadly, humanity had already seen practically everything the galaxy could produce, so realistically it wasn't possible to surprise them anyone. The big boys only provided a modest reward to those who handed over alien technology that they could already reproduce themselves.
Still, even if the MTA and CFA already understood the principles, they still held a lot of value to the smaller players such as the Friday Coalition or the Bright Republic.
Something as strange as teleportation and portal generation should be of prime interest to these states.
Ves didn't plan on revealing this treasure to anyone.
"First, I don't even know what triggered the decahedron. It's unlikely I can replicate the phenomenon again and return to this virgin planet."
He had to make the most out of this accidental trip. He wasn't a professional treasure hunter, after all. He still had to design a new mech and grow his company.
"Second, I won't gain much of an advantage if I share these technologies."
Many stories circulated from the frontier on how treasure hunters got stiffed by their clients. The disparity in power between a bunch of nobodies and the apparatus of a state meant that anyone who offered technology had to swallow their ambitions.
Most of the time, the technology in question wasn't remarkable enough to foster mutual competition between states. It was nice to get to know it, but they wouldn't go the extra mile to attain it. Established states already possessed sufficient confidence in their technology base.
Unless he could explain and reproduce the ability to generate a portal, Ves figured that the Bright Republic wouldn't attach any importance to his discoveries.
"It's better to keep my advancements to myself."
Many older mech designers often kept their specialties to themselves. The technologies they grasped might not be unique in the perspective of the galaxy, but they likely wouldn't have to face a direct competitor that mastered the same advancements.
"This is a way for me to step ahead of the competition."
In light of his intentions to design a rifleman mech, what would be better than to enhance his laser rifles with a new mode of laser propagation?
Not only that, by studying the way in which these crystal builders utilized light, he might be able to enhance his gamma laser rifle and thereby exceed the grading standards of the System's upgrade mission.
"The System always gives me something good whenever I go the extra mile."
From his long interactions with the System, he knew that this ice-cold machine couldn't be cheated. On the other hand, it also wouldn't hold back if Ves aligned with its ideals.
"Let's start grasping the inner workings of these ruins."
Ves approached the crystal city. Even though his state protected him from physical damage, he hadn't ruled out the possibility that the crystal builders mastered a way to harm energy beings.
Nothing happened, thankfully.
He pulled out a portable multiscanner from the toolbelt attached to his hazard suit and began to sample the crystals.
The dinky little thing beeped in alarm.
ERROR. UNIDENTIFIABLE SUBSTANCE DETECTED.
Ves waited and waited, but the scanner only managed to measure some basic properties such as the dimensions and the opacity of the crystal. The machine lacked the capability to accomplish anything more, such as telling him what the crystals actually consisted of.
This wasn't any regular old multiscanner! He took it from the Barracuda's lab! This multiscanner had been built according to the standard of a second-rate state.
He frowned at the scanner. "These ruins are too advanced for this scanner. The only way for me to get results is if I get something bigger or something higher tech."
Not every treasure hunter possessed the funds to afford a fancy multiscanner. They often compensated by buying a large, shuttle-sized multiscanner. Their larger size afforded these devica lot more power and capabilities, and essentially brute-forced their way towards understanding the things they measured.
Ves hadn't expected to go on a treasure hunting expedition when he travelled to the Joe System. If he knew something like this would happen, he wouldn't have left behind the large-scale multiscanner back at Cloudy Curtain.
As for a portable multiscanner that offered more strength than the one he currently held, Ves had no chance of obtaining anything better. The Friday Coalition definitely developed better models, but they never sold them to foreigners.
"Wait a second. I still have another source."
He couldn't forget about the System! The convenience it brought to Ves couldn't be understated. Even if he was cut off from civilization and taken away to a completely unknown planet, he could still buy his way out of a problem.
Perhaps Ves could even return to the Joe System if he bought the correct item!
"Now is not the time to be too anxious. I can think about returning home later. I should first find a way to increase my benefits."
He activated the System and went to the Store page. Since he already destroyed all the spy bugs, he didn't bother activating his Privacy Shield. Ves quickly browsed the multiscanner section of the Store and came across a variety models. His face quickly turned a little black.
"A hundred-million DP?! Really? Why show something like that to me?!"
Many of the multiscanners offered by the Store made him drool, but their exorbitant price tag scared him off. He had no choice but to consider something cheaper.
"I currently have over 130,000 DP, so I can still buy something that's reasonably capable."
He checked out both the large-scale scanners and the portable versions. The large-scale scanners promised much better performance, but Ves wasn't inclined to buy them due to their bulk.
"This won't be the last time I'll come across something strange. A portable multiscanner is an essential tool for treasure hunters and mech designers alike. It's best to start investing early in this kind of gear."
After half an hour of browsing, Ves had made his choice.
[Vulcaneye - Multiscanner - Level 1]
Price - 100,000 DP
This multi-functional scanner is able to scan and determine the parameters of a large number of substances. It contains over a thousand different measuring modes and it is extremely sensitive up to the nanometer scale.
The level 1 Eye of Vulcan contains a database of over a hundred-thousand different exotic materials. If the Vulcaneye encounters any unknown material, it will update its database and slightly improve its scanning capabilities.
The Vulcaneye caught his attention due to its upgradability. Not every item offered by the Store possessed this trait. From his understanding of the Store, the items that provided this option usually started weak, but became incredibly formidable when it reached its tenth or higher upgrade tier.
The only downside was that their costs exceeded every other item in the same tier. They weren't really cost effective in terms of DP. The only reason why Ves hung on the Vulcaneye was the possibility of fostering its growth if he bought it early.
"It's much like Lucky. Any piece of technology can be improved along the way."
He could even use his Special Upgrade Voucher (Machine) on the Vulcaneye if it came down to it. Ves had been saving the ticket due to a lack of viable options. Most of the important machines he owned were either too large or too advanced for the voucher to display its full value.
"If this scanner isn't advanced enough to resolve the crystals, I can always use up my voucher."
This would be his safety net. It decreased the risk of making a 100,000 DP mistake. After all, a non-upgradeable scanner only cost him half as much. Ves essentially gambled that the extra 50,000 DP paid off handsomely in the future.
"This is an investment. I shouldn't be too sparing with my DP at this point."
He gritted his teeth and confirmed the purchase. He put aside his old scanner and grabbed hold of the newer one. It appeared a lot slimmer and the scanner module affixed to its front looked like a burning eye.
"Vulcaneye indeed. Let's see if the gaze of a god can make sense of these crystals."
When Ves pointed the Vulcaneye at the nearest crystal spiral, the gadget instantly projected a whole laundry list of data. The raw data confused him for a bit, but he quickly became ecstatic once he realized that the Vulcaneye easily smashed through the crystal substance's mysterious defenses.
Ves began to pour over the wealth of data projected by the scanner. He also saved a copy of the readouts to his comm for later study.
While he obsessively scanned different crystals from different angles, Lucky began to grow bored and wandered around the inert crystal ruins. The cat yawned and began to rest his body in the middle of the temple at the center of the city.
Ves had no time to play with his pet. The scans excited him beyond measure and pushed beyond the limits of his existing base of knowledge. While he couldn't make sense of most of the readings right now, he still retained a modest reserve of DP.
"Should I still save up the rest of my points?"