The Six-Sided Dice's stealth plating gave the cubular shuttle a pitch-black surface that hardly reflected any light even in its unpowered state. After all, if the stealth systems suffered a malfunction of some sort, it wouldn't do to reveal a bright pink cube in space that anyone could pick up with their naked eyes.
Though coating the Dice with black didn't actually help too much since most detection systems didn't solely rely on optical sensors, you never knew if it might save the lives of its occupants some day.
Besides, it became a custom in every industry to coat every stealth vehicle with black. Consumers expected it due to all of the action dramas they've seen.
While neither Ves nor Avanaeon ever intended to put the Six-Sided Dice up for sale, it beat coating it in any other color or pattern.
"All that work, just to build a shuttle that only has enough room to squeeze in four passengers. That's the same capacity as a small aircar!"
"If you hadn't insisted on including the air cycler module, then we could have added enough room for two more passengers." Avanaeon said. He never really agreed with that decision.
"Look, we've already gone over this discussion. The air cycler allows us to recycle the oxygen in the air which will not only work as long as we can power it, but it will also spare us from filling up our shuttle with oxygen tanks."
"That only benefits us if we are lingering in space for more than a month, Ves. I don't think we'd be able to survive if we are still roaming around in space for that long. Most statistics on rescue incidents point out that ninety-five percent of the time, someone that is stranded will be rescued within the week."
"That study is outdated and no entirely applicable to our situation." Ves immediately replied. "A newer study refuted that result. The sample of rescue incidents the researchers took applies to all of human-occupied space. Everyone knows that there are a lot more ships and a lot less space the closer you get to the center of the galaxy. Out here on the galactic rim, it can take months or years before a human vessel drops by at a desolate star system. That doesn't even count in the complication that we're currently knee-deep inside the deep frontier. Therefore, expecting us to be rescued within the week is extremely optimistic."
"If someone picks us up, it may not be for rescue, you know that?" Avanaeon pointed out. "With all the pirates roaming around here, it's much more likely that they'll capture us."
"I'll take my chances with the pirates rather than accept death by suffocation or starvation."
The conversation turned a bit too morbid to his tastes. Ves quickly changed the topic.
"Even if this shuttle looks complete, it's not finished yet by far. Everything we've designed is pure theory so far. We still need to see whether its stealth will hold up in reality."
The two eager engineers eagerly put the cube into action. They first moved it down to a special section of the mech workshop. Vandals eyed the bizarre black cube with a mixture of doubt and confusion.
"What's this machine? Is it a new 3D printer?"Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
"Maybe it's one of those battle drones that fold up in a cube when inactive."
"Why is it black?"
Ves had no doubt that a couple of people among the Vandals knew exactly what they built, but as long as Ves didn't neglect his duties too much they probably turned a blind eye to it. In any case, adding a stealth shuttle to their arsenal added a bit of extra versatility to the Vandals, not that Ves actually planned to let anyone else use his creation.
This was one machine that he intended to reserve for his own use.
He felt rather strange about that. He felt the same way when he crafted his high-powered gadgets. He spent so much time and effort into becoming good at designing products for others that he hardly thought about using his abilities for his own needs.
He designed mechs for a living. He felt passionate about his craft. Yet despite his love for mechs, he would never have the opportunity to pilot them in person. Such a tragedy was as horrible as a musician who composed a song he would never be able to hear.
Ves hadn't realized it, but he constantly bore the suffering of this unfulfilled need. He wanted so badly to make use of his products, to be able to play with his own creations, yet his insufficient aptitude prevented him from satisfying one of his greatest desires.
"I thought I got over this." He shook his head.
He did, actually. He found a way to cope with his loss. The career of a mech pilot didn't necessarily outshine the career of a mech designer. After several years of study, progress and experience, advancing to Journeyman came within his sight!
Journeyman Mech Designers emerged as infrequently as expert pilots, and enjoyed roughly the same status. Even the worst Journeymen enjoyed better careers than the most hard-working Apprentices.
Ves looked forward at the moment where his design philosophy became something substantial instead of ephemeral. While the process was irreversible, Ves held an untold amount of confidence in the correctness of his path!
"We're here. Let's put the Dice in its place."
They hitched the cube on a specialized cradle that allowed them to rotate the cube and subject it under a variety of signals while under the full observation of scanners and sensors. It served as the perfect testbed to perform live testing on their new invention without sending it out into space.
As they prepared to test its optical stealth capabilities, Ves suddenly received an alert from his comm.
"Ah, sorry chief, I have to answer this call."
"Go ahead, Ves. I can manage the testing process without you."
"Be sure to save some bugs for me!"
Ves walked over to a quiet corner of the workshop and activated the comm. The device immediately projected the familiar visage of Major Verle.
"Mr. Larkinson, a serious incident has occurred. Meet me at the brig."
The projection winked out before Ves could even acknowledge the order. "What the?"
Whatever happened down the brig must have been extremely serious if the commanding officer couldn't even maintain his veneer of civility.
"Did something happen to our guests?"
He did not refer to their uninvited guests, of which one of them continued to stalk behind his back. Ves hadn't forgotten about the invisible presence of Acolyte Villis, but he couldn't do anything to her without tipping off her fellow cultists.
The Vandals picked up two different groups of guests.
The prince and expert pilot hailing from the Royal House of Talk became major boons and headaches for the Vandals.
As for the handful of survivors from Chopra Interstellar Security, they didn't have anywhere to stash them except for the brig.
The latter group should have been safe and secure. Who could sneak into the brig and stir up trouble?
A few minutes later, Ves arrived at the bridge. Four security officers garbed in combat armor of the heavier variety stood guard next to the reinforced hatch with their rifles in easy reach.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen." He nodded at the security officers. "Major Verle is expecting me. Can I enter?"
"Please allow us to search you."
Ves went through a fairly thorough search. To his dismay, he had to leave behind his comm as well as his entire toolbelt and his gadgets.
"Hey, treat them carefully! They're expensive! I better get them back when I come out!"
After he finished his grumbling, Ves stepped inside the brig. The white paneling and the bright interior made his eyes feel as if someone directly pointed a laser at them. Ves blearily adjusted his eyes before he walked over to some kind of desk where a bunch of security officers stood behind a console. They appeared to be reviewing footage.
"Mr. Larkinson." One of them turned around. "Major Verle is expecting you at the cell down the corridor to the left. Go straight ahead."
Ves walked down the corridor. Cells surrounded him from both sides. Most of them appeared empty, with the bed, toilet and other furniture completely retracted into the bulkheads. A couple of other cells held occupants. Besides a few drunkard Vandals, they mostly held Choprans who have settled into their accommodations.
When he arrived at the end of the corridor, he finally met up with Major Verle along with a security officer.
"Major Verle. You called?"
"It's about time you showed up." The mech officer replied with a clipped tone. "Even if you are content with spending your time and effort on toys, I still expect you to show up promptly when called."
"Ah, my sincere apologies, sir. I shall endeavor to respond more promptly."
"Can it. Go look inside that cell. Tell me what you see."
Ves finally turned around and looked through the clear composite material that separated the cell from the corridor.
What he saw was very gruesome.
Splotches of blood adorned the pristine white surfaces of the cell. A pool of it gathered in the center where a gap automatically closed up in order to prevent the evidence from going down the drain.
The source of all the blood came from a body lying dead against the thin bed construction. The man lay across it with his blasted, cratered head hanging in the open like a macabre flower about to wilt.
Ves immediately recognized the individual from his uniform, body structure and whatever intact facial features he could still observe. "This.. isn't this the mech designer that I had a talk with more than a week ago?!"
Major Verle stepped forward until he reached Ves' side. "This is indeed Eric Kichiro, the only mech designer employed by the Choprans. It's curious, is it not? This individual died in his cell from what our security officers can gather is a ballistic round."
"Have you caught the culprit?"
"You wouldn't be here if we managed to snag the bastard that did this." Major Verle scowled. "This cell is supposed to be capable of withstanding an entire mob. However, according to the logs, no one has entered or exited this cell in the last eight hours, when we let him out for socialization. The monitoring system hadn't been able to catch anything either. All the footage is doctored to show nothing has happened. The culprit.. the murderer, whoever he is, managed to hack our best security system and made a fool out of mastery of our own ship!"
The Major sounded really furious, and he had a right to be. If anyone could hack the monitoring system of the brig, who could say if more sensitive compartments wouldn't be next?
If someone decides to sabotage the engineering bay, the command center or the bridge, the consequences for everyone aboard the Shield of Hispania became extremely dire!
"Have we found any clues who might be responsible for this?"
"No." Verle shook his head. "According to our monitoring system, all of our crew is accounted for, and so are the prisoners. Of course, we just learned we can't trust our monitoring system, so we're forced to do things the old fashioned way. I've called you here to see if you have anything to do with it and get your insight on what has happened here if you're not."
"Am I a possible suspect to you?" Ves frowned. "I've been down at the workshop all day! All the mech technicians have seen me at work there, and I've been working side-by-side with Avanaeon on an extremely technical project."
"We know. And from what we've observed from you so far, we're fairly certain you're not involved." Major Verle softened up his expression. "Look, we have a murderer on our ship and they might not even be alone. We have no idea who they are or what their motives might be. Can you tell us anything about who or why someone might kill Mr. Kichiro?"
Ves recalled the end of his little talk with the mech designer. For some reason, that moment always returned at the forefront of his mind, particularly when he was thinking about the possible uses involving his stealth shuttle.
"I think I have an idea or two, yeah." He slowly said as he tried hard not to channel his spirituality into his eyes. He knew that the most likely culprits were standing right behind their backs!