Chapter 136: Convoy Service
When Ves finally heard back from Marcella, he turned to Lucky who rested on the couch.
“Am I hearing this right?”
Lucky batted his paw at him for disturbing his naptime. The lazy cat hadn’t bothered to give his opinion. As long as the minerals kept coming, the animal was content.
His bank sent him a notification a few minutes later. Ves truly had to admit his broker kept her promises. His first production mech auctioned for an incredible sum of 42 million credits. This amounted to a gross profits of 15.6 million credits. Such a profit from a single sale was truly perverse.
He quickly received confirmation from the System as well by depositing 42 DP into his stagnant pool. It was a drop in the ocean compared to the earnings of his latest virtual mech, but every little bit helped.
What amazed Ves even more was that Marcella managed to draw out eight subsequent orders at the same event. Due to a lack of capital, he demanded his clients to pay a deposit up front in order to afford the resources required to fabricate the mechs. With such an onerous requirement, Marcella still managed to open the wallets of eight different people.
Ves glanced at the list of customers. Six of them were registered as mercenaries while only two appeared to be collectors. This meant that his mechs would certainly be employed in battle. A solid track record helped much to enhance the value of his Mark II.
After he finally came down from his excitement, Ves prepared his largest set of orders to date. First, he had to procure around 144 million credits worth of raw materials. If anything happened to this huge batch of resources, he might as well declare bankruptcy.
“I’ll have to start looking for insurance.” He quickly decided.
A quick search revealed that Sanyal-Ablin happened to be one of the major insurance vendors on the planet. They not only insured bulk transport shipments, they also offered an armed convoy service for especially valuable shipments. Anyone who contracted the convoy service naturally received a generous insurance quote.
Since he already contracted SASS to secure his workshop, he might as well inquire about their insurance policies. Ves called Robyn’s comm. She picked up after two minutes of waiting.
“Sorry about that Mr. Larkinson, I had to finalize a business deal. How may I help you?”
“I’m about to receive a huge shipment of materials.” He started, then explained his upcoming schedule.
Miss Robyn quickly got the picture. “I see. You have come to the right place to secure your shipments. Let me explain our products.”
SASS offered various insurance policies. The cheapest policy only insured a fixed number of shipments, which was great for short-term business ventures. It also added up to a significant amount of money if renewed.
Those who wanted to insure their interstellar shipments for the long haul contracted their annual policies. Ves favored this kind of service because Ves only had to pay a fixed amount per year for a certain amount of shipments. If the amount or value of his shipment exceeded a certain threshold, the insurance policy automatically adjusted its annual rate. It made for a convenient and predictable expense.
“We highly recommend you combine our annual insurance with our convoy service.” The woman added. “Shipments throughout the Republic has suffered from a marked increase in pirate attacks. Major mech shipments have become their prime targets.”
He furrowed his brows. That sounded really bad news to Ves, especially since he frequently shipped his goods back and forth.
“How does it look like and what will it cost?”
“Our security company runs a network of armed convoys throughout the entire Republic. Combined with an annual insurance policy, Your business will be able to benefit from our convoy service at a preferential rate of ten million credits a year. This rate will only apply as long as the total market value of your shipments is lower than a billion credits a year.”
Ves did a quick search on the galactic net. Prices for convoy services diverged quite a bit, but SASS enjoyed a good reputation. They charged twice as much and the costs ramped up faster if the trade volume increased, but their impeccable safety record was a testament on how they took their shipments seriously.
“Our regular convoy service from Cloudy Curtain to Bentheim and back runs a fixed schedule of eight days per circuit. Among our customers are the famous Raleigh and Luvon Consortiums. They entrust their valuable shipments of Cloud Rice and other luxury crops to our secure convoys. We have never let any of their shipments go astray.”
“My shipments will join their convoy if I sign up?”
“That will likely be the case.” Robyn nodded. “Considering the nature of your business, it will be sufficient to tack on an extra transport to the existing convoy whenever you send or receive a large number of goods. Smaller shipments such as a single mech can be squeezed in the cargo hold of a regular grain transport.”
After a round of discussion, Ves decided to sign up for their combined insurance and convoy service package. He had to cough up another 10 million credits in exchange for some piece of mind. Robyn actually complimented him for signing on before the company raised its prices due to the increasing frequency of pirate attacks.
To be honest, Ves did not fear any pirate attacks. Cloudy Curtain was just a small hop away from Bentheim and thus somewhat fell under the port system’s sphere of influence. Any pirate captain that decided to hijack a transport in this area might as well commit suicide.
Instead, he wanted to guard against sabotage. The recent troubles with the local politicians as well as the Gauge Dynasty warned him that it was best to take precautions. Even though the convoy service deducted twice as much as his annual interest payment, Ves deemed it worth the cost if he could push all responsibility onto Sanyal-Ablin.
“A ruined shipment won’t hurt me very much. SASS will reimburse me for any losses their convoy incurs.”
His overhead costs had increased again, but Ves considered all of them a necessary price for doing business in this day and age.
Once he signed the contract and supplied the necessary paperwork, SASS granted him access to a virtual site that allowed him to register his shipments.
Ves immediately made use of the service by ordering 144 million credits worth of raw materials and routed it all through Sanyal-Ablin’s fixed convoy schedule. The next wave of convoys departed about two days later, giving Ves about five days of preparation.
“Carlos!” He called after finishing his arrangements.
“What’s your current success rate for the Mark II?”
“I’m still getting stuck on a couple of tight spots. I’ve been making strides, but I won’t be able to master the fabrication process until the end of the month.”
As the designer of the Mark II, Ves knew where Carlos struggled with thee process. His employee had tentatively mastered the printing process, which impressed him quite a bit.
Ves even considered letting Carlos take charge of the 3D printer, but quickly pushed the notion aside. A gold label mech deserved his full attention in order to strengthen its X-Factor as much as possible.
“Tell you what. I’ve received a substantial amount of orders for the Mark II. Five days later, I’ll start fabricating eight of them in sequence. You can accompany me when I start to work, but you can only watch and ask questions. Is that alright with you?”
The chance to see Ves in action should be a golden opportunity for Carlos. His employee eagerly nodded. “Thank you! That’s just what I need! I’ll be sure not to bother you!”
In the meantime, Ves prepared his workshop for the upcoming fabrication run. He preconfigured his assembly machines with optimizations that sped up their processes and reduced the risk factors.
He also corresponded with Calsie about the tax reform bill and any other possible threats. According to the student, the Greens retracted their support for its immediate passage. The White Doves were forced to follow suit. For now, the Planetary Assembly bounced the bill back to a committee that intended to submit a modified version of the bill at the start of the next standard year.
“Looks like the abrupt departure of the Gauge Dynasty has thrown the ruling coalition into disarray.” Ves noted with glee. He turned back to Calsie. “Have you made any headway in your plan to sink this bill?”
“I’m pursuing a couple of potential prospects. I’m currently in talks with a handful of interested parties. Once I’ve received their assent, I’ll unveil my plan to you.”
It sounded kind of vague, but Ves gave the woman a chance. “Alright, you can take your time as long as you have something solid.”
Once he ended the call, he called up his agenda. If Ves wanted to attend the annual new year celebration with the Larkinsons, he had to speed up his fabrication run.
“I can only afford to spend four days to complete each mech.” He calculated after running the numbers. “I also have to take the travel time into account.”
He could save a lot of time if he repaired the Barracuda. However, Ves already blew a large portion of his savings. His remaining liquid funds still fell short of covering the cost of repairs. He shrugged went back to his preparations.
Five days later, the convoy from SASS touched down on Cloudy Curtain’s spaceport. A swarm of smaller cargo shuttles transferred over two-thousand tons of goods to his workshop. Ves patted himself on his back for expanding the perimeter of his workshop. If not for his foresight, he might have run out of room.
Unfortunately, his secure storage room lacked the space to accommodate the entire shipment. Ves only stored the most valuable exotics while he left the bulk materials in their original containers.
Once his hauler bots brought the first set of materials to his 3D printer, Ves summoned Carlos to his side. “This is it, Carlos. I’ll be demonstrating the fabrication process to you. If you can’t figure out the methods to tackle those tight spots you mentioned, then you can go back to Bentheim.”
“Don’t worry boss, I’ll be paying a lot of attention. Can I record your work?”
“I’d rather not.” Ves immediately replied. Though SASS constantly monitored him through their security systems, he wished to minimize the risk of exposing the X-Factor. “Watch with your mind, not with your eyes. Don’t try to memorize my routines through route learning. You’re going to have an awful time if you don’t understand the underlying thoughts of my actions.”
Carlos nodded as he appeared to understand the point. “So I should be asking questions instead?”
“That’s right, but don’t disturb me while I’m at work. I’d hate to ruin a batch worth millions of credits if you happen to pull me out of my zone.”
As Ves intended to go back to focusing on three different images at once, he quickly came up with an excuse. “Whenever I fabricate, I easily get sucked into my work. It’s fine as long as you don’t bump into me. I’ll be taking regular breaks between my hour-long fabrication sessions. Feel free to ask your questions during my pauses.”
“Understood. Before you start, can you tell me if you intend to fabricate the mechs one by one or by batch?”
“Each gold label mech is an individual creation. They deserve to be treated as a single entity instead of an assembly line product.” Ves quickly made up in order to cover the fact that he needed to fabricate them one-by-one in order to maximize their X-Factor. “While it’s not as efficient, the method ensures that each mech is a good fit for my customers.”
“Will I be obliged to do the same if I start doing my job?”
“It’s not necessary for you to take the same approach.” Ves answered after considering the amount of mechs Carlos might fabricate one day. “That said, in the long run, I think it will greatly benefit your results if you learn to adopt the same mindset.”
Once Carlos finished asking his questions, Ves began to focus his mind. He summoned the three inspirations and sharpened them into a combined intent. He successfully formed the unique mental imprint that was intrinsic to his Mark II design.