Ves exited the comm center with Ketis and his four hulking security escort in a contemplative mood. The others waited far longer for Ves to hold his call than anticipated. Nolsen and the other security officers didn't blink an eye at this delay. Their entire job consisted of standing guard for hours on end when absolutely nothing happened.
"You dolt! If I knew you were taking your sweet time talking with Mayra's mentor, I could have spent my time in the arenas!" Ketis growled as she kicked aside another faulty cleaning bot brushing against her armored feet.
The cleaning bots somehow became drawn to her feet. Ves himself only needed to kick aside a single bot so far. Were they being directed?
"So what did you talk about with the Skull Architect that left you stuck there for two hours?" She asked.
"Lots of important matters, none of it your business." Ves replied absently. "Let's drop by the bank. I need some K-coins myself to do some shopping."
Right now, Ves needed to purchase the exotics and other materials required to tinker together an ultracompact battery or three.
While he didn't possess any device right now that could read out his secure data chip, he had already skimmed the shopping list of which exotics and rare materials he definitely needed.
To be honest, Ves didn't even recognize half of the names on the list. They were so rare and short in supply that Ves never had the opportunity of obtaining them. These must be strategic materials that were either under the strict control of the states or only found in the most inhospitable parts of the Faris Star Region.
No matter what, he at least gained a starting point.
"So what's it like to talk with the Skull Architect?" She pestered him from the side grabbing his arm as if she didn't care for her appearance. Were it not for their intimidating suits of armor, they might have resembled a quarrelsome pair of brothers and sisters. "I heard he's really moody sometimes. Did he blow up on you? Did he threaten to sicc his goons on you and bring your body back to his lab so he could slice it up and use your bones as parts for his next mech?"
"How did you know?"
"Hah! Mayra introduced me to her once and I didn't meet his approval." She sighed at that. "The Skull Architect never really did explain to me why, though Mayra made some good guesses. I still fall short compared to my older sister."
Ves put his gauntlet against her armored back, trying his best to avoid her scabbard. "There's no point in comparing yourself to Mayra. The two of you are completely different mech designers. Agonizing over who is better will only make you stuck in the past. It's better if you focus your attention to the future. That's the only way to close to gap."
A mech designer always had to accept the fact that better mech designers existed over their heads. Even Masters faced the same prospect when they thought about Star Designers.
As for that last, exclusive group of mech designers, Ves had no clue whether even the Star Designers needed to bow down in the presence of an even greater mech designer.
The two navigated through the busier sections of the space station. The open streets inside a vast cavernous artificial hollow gave out the flavor of a compact city center. The tallest structures started from the deck and extended all the way to the ceiling, giving the interior of Mancroft the strange illusion that they were underground.
The solidity this illusion imparted upon the visitors and residents of Mancroft caused many of them to feel grounded. This was an extremely valuable effect because it distracted everyone from the fact that they were spinning around in space. They were only one or two hull breaches away from explosive decompression.
Most humans couldn't handle long-term living in space. Even Ves yearned to walk on solid ground. Stepping aboard this space station somehow suppressed this hidden fear inside him. For that alone, this visit already paid off.
The space station was a melting pot of pirates, suspected pirates, treasure hunters, those looking to get a job with them, errant traders looking for a bargain and more. An abundance of people frequented the busy stalls and shops, showing that business was booming right now. The unexpected increase of visitors since last time Ves arrived in Mancroft must have added to the station's current prosperity.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click for visiting.
"There are a lot more visitors on this space station than normal." He said as they waited for a small crowd to disperse after noticing Ves, Ketis and their escort. Their combined image intimidated many bystanders into backing off. "Did someone come across a treasure mine in the frontier or something?"
"As far as I know, some pirate group inadvertently leaked the coordinates of a newly discovered star system." Ketis explained, though her tone revealed she wasn't too sure about these rumors either. "Supposedly, the coordinates leads to a desolate star system with its planets baked in extreme heat due to their proximity to the sun. That has given off an intense reaction on the exotics exposed to the surface, baking them in the heat of the full sun for many millennia. Now, they're some of the most heat-resistant exotics available in the Faris Star Region."
Heat-resistant exotics sat high on his shopping list. If he could get his hands on whatever made these treasure hunters mad with greed, then Ves could design a much better ultracompact battery.
"Have the pirates or treasure hunters already returned with a haul?"
"Not here, apparently. The ones who made it back with a haul dropped it off at the nearest pirate stations before going back for another try. The fighting there is becoming increasingly chaotic."
It sounded like the Glowing Planet Campaign all over again, but this time no state-backed military force came in to claim the best ore deposits.
The immediate repercussions of the boom meant that the outfits chasings after the Starlight Megalodon wouldn't face as much harassment from errant pirates. With everyone distracted by the shiny heat-resistant exotic bounty, who wanted to go back to their old life of terrorizing the shipping lines or raiding a hollowed-out settlement?
The only issue right now was that so many shady outfits had congregated at Mancroft right now to load up on supplies and partner up with others before departing for the treasure planet. This not only crowded the space station, but also ratched up the prices for the most commonly-sought goods.
"Why are there so many outfits in Mancroft?" Ves asked.
"It's because this is the most decent place I've seen in a while." Ketis exclaimed with a curious eye towards all the pirates and treasure hunters walking past each other without more than exchanging firm glares. "Shopkeepers are more honest than dishonest here and the Boseys are some of the least ruthless station owners of this region of space."
"How worse off are the other pirate stations?"
"It depends on the owners, but none of them are completely safe. Either the structural integrity is full of holes, or the owners don't hesitate to brainwash you into their loyal minions in the case of the Dragons of the Void. The vendors there all charge ten times more for the same products that you can find in civilized space. Mancroft is actually a great destination to stop over for the Swordmaidens as we're some of the few pirates allowed to cross the border."
Ves suddenly understood why the CFA patrols didn't lay a finger on the shady outfits that visited the station orbiting the next planet over. Mancroft was a reward! It served as a safer, cheaper and more convenient stopping point for pirates that had not yet crossed the line into complete depravity.
Compared to squashing down the pirates en masse, only to see them shoot up in the same numbers a couple years later resulted in little change. However, by letting the Mancroft Independent Harbor operate like now, the CFA could at least provide an incentive for shady outfits to toe the line and keep their excesses to a minimum.
He still found it strange that the pirates boldly dared to visit a star system that is patrolled by actual CFA warships! That was like placing a police station next to a villain's den!
"Why doesn't the CFA do anything to pirates? So far as I'm aware of, the CFA garrisons haven't been doing anything than guarding their bases and going on sporadic patrols."
Ketis shrugged. "That's what all the pirates are thinking. Commander Lydia once told us that the CFA is in the midst of a major policy shift. To what, I don't know, but they're being less heavy-handed about stomping the pirates and have focused more on suppressing the aliens. According to Mayra, the CFA is busy with the MTA trying to keep the Terrans and Rubarthans under their thumbs."
"That's new. Why haven't I heard of that?"
"Why would I know?" She said in an exasperated tone. "I barely know the difference between the Terrans and Rubarthans. All I know is that this slice of space is in the Rubarthan sphere of influence, but if that's so, I hardly notice anything."
This rumor sounded more plausible than anything else Ves had heard so far to explain the CFA and MTA's decreasing presence in society. They used to enforce their laws aggressively at the start of the Age of Mechs, but after a long period of relative peace and stability, they started to fade in the background. This retreat accelerated in recent decades, with Ves questioning many times why the MTA and CFA possessed all that power but refused to bring their fangs to bear.
A simmering disagreement between the Big Two and the two first-rate superstates had the potential to blow up the entire interior of human space! If fighting truly erupted in the open, then both the Greater Terran Confederation and the New Rubarth Empire stood to lose badly!
The only way these two mammoth human states could fend off the Common Fleet Alliance was by building up their own warships in secret! Yet Ves could not fathom how they could succeed given the CFA and MTA's omnipotence.
Building enough warships to take on a galactic force required an immense amount of resources, manpower and space. How could they ever keep this industry hidden from the Big Two?
A shudder ran through his back. What if after more than four-hundred years of enduring peace, humanity had started to slide back into their own habits? What if a civil war was brewing underneath everyone's notice?
Nothing of the sort had ever been mentioned on the galactic net or any of the major news portals, but Ves knew better than to turn to them to find out the truth. What he did know was that he only heard a single third or fourth-hand rumor from a young Swordmaiden who wasn't exactly the most reliable source herself!
At some point, they happened to reach a street lined with shops selling mechs. Ves slowed down a bit and stared at the storefronts.
He immediately noticed the difference in quality and emphasis of mechs aimed towards proper outfits.
"Not all of them are good mechs."
The shops catering to the visitors that frequented Mancroft largely consisted of budget and bargain bin mechs. Ves spotted hardly any mech that cost the equivalent of over twenty million bright credits. The few high-quality mech models on display seemed more like vanity projects that were meant to awe the opposition instead of defeating them through battle.
While this was merely a single street, Ves figured that the other areas that sold mechs offered similar product ranges. "Demand and supply. The sellers only bother with the products that sell the best."
"What was that?" Ketis asked.
Ves shook his head. "Nothing. I'm just noting the differences between different mech markets."