The Barracuda quietly traversed the asteroid cloud and reached Ves after a couple of hours. The corvette turned around and positioned her rear cargo hatch next to the cave. A number of bots began to retrieve everything from the cave, including the thickly-wrapped Tainted Sun.
Ves kept an eye on his freshly fabricated graser rifle. He was unwilling to let it out of his sight for a single second. Even though he trusted the women he hired to crew the Barracuda, he couldn't account for their curiosity. It was better to forestall any problems by maintaining his vigilance.
A handful of crew members such as Jenn and Ushra helped with securing the cargo. While they locked the containers, they noticed Lucky flying straight through solid matter as if it didn't exist.
"Hold on, false alarm girls!" Ves quickly interposed when they attempted to draw their pistols. "That's still Lucky. He's just a little special now."
He quickly came up with a sloppy excuse for Lucky's current state. He spun a tall tale about obtaining a special exotic during the Glowing Planet campaign. Since he was already lying about it, he conveniently added that the whole reason for this trip was to figure out a way to incorporate this mysterious material into Lucky.
"So you turned your mechanical pet into an energy being this way?" Ushra replied in a baffled tone. As the ship's engineer, she possessed a lot more expertise in technical matters, so she wouldn't be fooled so easily. "This is amazing. How did you do it?"
"Trade secret." Ves simply replied.
He figured that Ushra still held some reservations, but he didn't need to say anything more. What mattered was that Ves could use the same excuse to anyone else and they wouldn't be able to refute it to his face. After all, the Glowing Planet yielded a bewildering variety of exotics.
Once the crew finished storing all of the goods, the Barracuda turned to head to the edge of the system. Just before she could fire up her thrusters, Ves called a halt.
"What is it you want, sir?" Captain Silvestra asked as she appeared in the cargo bay as a projection.
"Don't leave the Joe System yet. Head towards the red dwarf in the center of the system. Get close to it as possible without damaging the ship. I want to dump a bunch of cargo into the sun."
The woman looked oddly at Ves before she acknowledged his order. Her projection winked out, leaving Ves alone in the cargo bay. Lucky had already passed through the upper deck and played elsewhere.
Since the asteroid with the cave already orbited fairly close to the sun, it didn't take too long to approach the red dwarf. The corvette still took more than half a day to navigate between the asteroids, though the asteroid cloud had become increasingly sparse the closer they neared the sun.
Nowadays, suns served as the ultimate garbage dumps. It only took a brief trip close to the scorching sun at the center of any star system to dump all manner of garbage that needed to disappear.
However, with the current advances in recycling used materials, only low value bulk materials got dumped this way. The cost of transforming worthless junk into usable materials exceeded the cost of shipping them straight into a sun.
The only reason why someone went through the trouble of dumping valuable materials in the sun was if they had something to hide. Ves did not hide his intention to the crew, but he misdirected them by hinting that Ves had employed a very unique procedure on his cat instead of violating a taboo.
As the Barracuda neared the sun, she started encountering some issues. Even though red dwarfs was one of the weakest suns in the galaxy, it still radiated enough energy to scorch a planet as long as it received all of the energy it pumped out in a single second. Proximity to any star entailed a lot of risks.
Captain Silvestra's projection returned to the cargo bay. "Sir, we've almost reached the threshold. Do you wish to begin the dumping process?"
Even Ves could feel the heat creeping into the cargo bay. He nodded. "Let's proceed as soon as soon as we ready the cargo."
Ves waited for the Barracuda to turn around. She still continued her approach towards the center of the star system with the momentum she had built up, but this time she pointed the stern towards the sun.
Once she finished her maneuver, Ves began to remove the collars and safeties preventing the cargo from being shaken around in the event of a change in momentum. After that, he quickly left the cargo bay and climbed the decks until he reached the bridge.
"Sir." Silvestra tipped her hat at him when he sat in the observer's seat. "Shall we begin the dumping process?"
"Go ahead." Then Ves remembered something crucial. "Ah, wait a bit. Can you check where Lucky is hanging out right now? I don't want him to get sucked out of the cargo bay."
A projection appeared which displayed Lucky's current location. Right now, his lazy cat had broke into the lab and raided some of the spare materials he locked up in the cabinets. Bits and pieces of minerals lay strewn over deck next to his dozing form.
Ves palmed his face. "Urgh. Even my pet is taking up after my thieving mother."
"What was that, sir?"
"Oh nothing. Please check one more time that nothing is out of place in the cargo bay. After that, you may proceed with dumping the entire cargo bay."
"The entire cargo bay? Including the 3D printer?"
"Including the printer."
He'd been ready to say goodbye to his first 3D printer ever since he reconstructed the Dortmund. The capabilities of this generic second-hand model couldn't catch up with his ambitions anymore. Even as a spare device that could be used to fabricate replacement parts, its imprecise mechanisms and terrible output prevented it from remaining relevant to the LMC.
He might as well throw it away in that case.
Ordinarily, Ves would have sought to sell it a desperate mech designer who wasn't too picky about buying third-hand goods, but now that he used it to fabricate the Tainted Sun, he couldn't risk letting someone else get their hands on it. Even if Ves had removed every possible bug and recording routine, he wasn't confident enough he caught everything.
Thus, Ves would rather miss out on the fifty to hundred million credits that he could have earned if he sold it on.
"Goodbye, old companion."
The printer deserved better. It had accompanied him in his first steps on his road to becoming a mech designer. He fabricated the Marc Antony Mark I and II's with this machine. It was a piece of company history that would certainly become a priceless artifact if he become someone influential a couple of decades from now.
Yet his paranoia forced him to put aside his sentiments and prioritize his safety. The rest of the galaxy couldn't find out about the Tainted Sun. It would destroy his career and ruin the Larkinson name in the process.
The Barracuda used its reverse thrusters to continue accelerating towards the sun. Then, the captain ordered the cargo bay hatch to be opened. A bit of air had been left inside the bay, which leaked out into space in an instant. The decompression caused some of the cargo begin moving towards the edge.
Simultaneously, the antigrav modules in the cargo bay removed the artificial gravity that kept the cargo in place. They then exerted a horizontal repelling force on the cargo, pushing them away from the ship at a moderate speed.
Once everything inside left through the hatch, the Barracuda ceased to power her reverse thrusters and began to fire up her main thrusters again. This slowly halted the Barracuda's descent into the sun and pushed her back from the threshold.
Even though the antigrav modules in the cargo bay hadn't exerted that much pushing force onto the cargo, the ship had been accelerating towards the sun at a brisk pace. The ejected cargo had inherited this momentum which sent them soaring towards the embrace of the sun. They'd be burning up within the hour.
Ves lamented the waste, but hardly felt pained by the loss. As the Barracuda turned to leave the Joe System, Ves remained at his seat and kept watching the spinning cargo as they slowly neared the furnace of the red dwarf. He only left the bridge once he personally saw them burning up.
"Alright, you can head back to Cloudy Curtain now. Make sure that no one finds out we've been here."
They might have to skulk through the asteroid cloud and make some detours in their route, but Ves could never take enough precautions.
He left the crew to their jobs and left for his stateroom. Once he entered it, he sat behind his terminal but didn't activate it yet. Instead, he held up his comm and activated his Privacy Shield before running the System.
[Congratulations for completing the Upgrade Mission! A mech designer must strive forth and use any means to improve his designs. A mech designer reveres their own abilities and nothing else. Possessing the means to design a special mech but lacking the will to make it into fruition is a sign of weakness. The ultimate mech designer must be free and unrestrained!]
"That's easy for you to say." Ves snorted.
He was glad he finished the mission to the System's satisfaction. Even if it carried a moderate difficulty, Ves was still afraid he had fallen short of the System's standards. Good thing he passed.
[Please stand by.]
"Stand by for what?"
A mass of knowledge suddenly thrust into his mind. His calm and serene mindscape instantly fell into disorder as an incredibly dense amount of knowledge poured into its midst. Ves held back his screams as more knowledge than he could ever imagine assimilated within his mind in the most straightforward method possible.
Ves thought his mind had improved to a point where he wouldn't feel any pain from acquiring a new Skill. He was wrong. The Senior-level Physics he waited so long to acquire was so much more significant than he thought. It carried much of humanity's recent advancements in the field of theoretical physics, with a bias in areas directly related to mechs.
Many of the theories directly or indirectly touched upon the wonders made possible by exotics. Their ability to bend the laws of reality allowed for much more extensive observation and experimentation. This led to many conclusions that shook his conception of reality.
Hundreds, thousands of different changes opinions happened within seconds of each other.
"The higher dimensions are countless, and they're not as unreachable as I thought!"
"I made so many fundamental mistakes in designing the Tainted Sun. Stupid, stupid, stupid!"
"So that is why the crystal builders are proficient in manipulating light and portals. It's their unique crystals that are at the heart of their technology!"
"I see! This is why those materials are prohibited! They're too dangerous to be circulated. They can annihilate an entire star!"
"So this is how a modern battery works! I understand why they use these materials!"
What was a Senior Mech Designer? As someone who surpassed the level of Journeyman, such a person would have an august status everywhere he went. Even the first-rate superstates respected Seniors due to the wealth of knowledge they earnestly accumulated over many decades.
Ves had to compress all that lifetime of knowledge in a single sitting. It took over twelve hours before the System stopped pouring in a transport's worth of knowledge into his mind. It took a lot more time to digest these gains. Ves only fully mastered one percent of what he gained, and those merely consisted of the easier parts.
"It's going to take a bit longer for me to master this knowledge." He frowned. His face revealed his fatigue. Unlike the last times, his mind simply couldn't handle the profoundness of what he gained. The System did as much as it could to help him digest the materials, but it wasn't a god. "I'm being limited by my mental capacity."
Ves thought about hurrying up the process by ingesting a Transcendence Pill. Without enhancing his Intelligence, it might take months before he could fully utilize his Senior-level Physics.
He thought about how the war went so far and calculated whether he could delay his upcoming design project. He had no doubt the war would heat up in the next couple of months. By then, the MTA would certainly call him up to contribute to the Republic.
Did he have enough time to ingest the Transcendence Pill and complete another original design?
"It's going to be another gamble."