Chapter 189: Ingenuity
With around seventeen-thousand DP in his name, Ves had to consider his purchases carefully. The greedy System charged an arm and a leg for a high-powered transceiver or high-density energy cell, the latter of which also came without a charge.
“It’ll be a waste to purchase an item from the Shop except for attribute candies.” He concluded.
A side effect of his decreased Dexterity strangely reset the prices for the equivalent candies. It seemed like such a great deal that Ves instantly bought three of them in order to regain his former level of coordination.
[Dexterity Attribute Candy]: 500 Design Points
[Dexterity Attribute Candy]: 600 Design Points
[Dexterity Attribute Candy]: 700 Design Points
After swallowing the candies one after another, his body merely tingled for a couple of minutes before it finished its transformation. When he flexed his fingers, he nodded in satisfaction. His body hadn’t changed much, but he regained his coordination, which helped him a lot when he worked with his tools.
He retained fifteen-thousand DP after his minor purchase. This sum wouldn’t be enough to purchase a powerful item, but he had plenty to spare for handy Skills and Sub-Skills.
When he initially obtained the System, Ves spent a lot of DP on Skills. Only later did he wake up to the fact that he needed to upgrade his Attributes and his equipment as well, so he spent vast sums on the latter two categories to make up for his deficiencies.
“That doesn’t mean I can neglect my Skills.”
A mech designer relied on his his knowledge and expertise to make a living. A powerful mind assisted him in advancing up the ranks, but what mattered now was what he could do with the resources and tools at hand.
Their awful state made them very difficult to work with at his current level. Ves had only ever really worked with gear in their optimal or at least well-maintained state. Now that he had to work in dismal circumstances, he urgently required an upgrade in his capabilities.
“Otherwise, it will take too long to get a transceiver up and running.”
Ves didn’t expect Jutland to return for a couple of days, but he’d be hard-pressed to complete his project by then without the convenience of a working 3D printer. The autoforge worked great with large, uniform components but couldn’t really fabricate any micro-components such as processors or chipboards.
[Signals and Communications – Incompetent]: 200 DP
[Signals and Communications – Novice]: 400 DP
[Signals and Communications – Apprentice]: 800 DP
[Jury Rigging III]: 600 DP
Ves added two major Skills to his repertoire. The Salvaging Skill encompassed everything related to recovering parts from derelict mechs. Purchasing the Skill in succession dumped a large amount of knowledge into his head.
While the cost of getting it up to Apprentice-level halved his available DP, his increase in capabilities made it up in spades. It urgently filled the gap in his knowledge on how to fully exploit the heaps of wrecks piled up in Jutland’s cave.
“At least I won’t be ruining anything I dig out now that I know how to recover them safely.”
Different from fundamental skills like Physics or Mechanics, Ves learned a large amount of practical knowledge instead of highly abstruse theories. Seasoned salvagers mostly learned on-the-job, and the System-granted Skill offered him years worth of experience in an instant.
His entire perspective changed. Where once Ves saw a wreck, now he saw a hidden treasure ready to be unearthed. Even with all of the damage and corrosion, Ves could still recover millions of credits worth of materials and components. Even if he failed in his mech designer career, he could still earn a decent living among the rough-and-tumble world of salvaging.
“Heh. They earn a lot but they’re also exposed to a lot of danger.” After all, not everyone appreciates a grave robber.
The other Skills spoke for themselves. Ves always gained a lot of use out of his Jury Rigging skill, which allowed him to apply unconventional solutions in case he lacked the ideal part for the job. Enhancing it brought him a wealth of insight that, among other things, increased his understanding of damaged parts and how to employ them despite their deficiencies.
He also picked out some primers on signals and communications technology in order to avoid fumbling like a caveman when he tried to repair a transceiver. As a bonus, the Skill also provided him with a good foundation on how to reduce a mech’s emissions and enhance their stealth. Naturally, this benefit would only help him out later once he returned home.
Name: Ves Larkinson
Profession: Apprentice Mech Designer
Design Points: 6,843
Neural Aptitude: F
[Assembly]: Apprentice – [3D Printer Proficiency III] [Assembler Proficiency III]
[Electrical Engineering]: Apprentice – [Structural Pathway Configuration II]
[Mechanics]: Journeyman – [Jury Rigging III] [Speed Tuning III]
[Metallurgy]: Journeyman – [Alloy Compression II]
[Physics]: Apprentice – [Directed Energy Weapon Optimization II] [Lightweight Armor Optimization I] [Mediumweight Armor Optimization III] [Melee Weapon Optimization II]
[Superpublish]: Available. Can be activated once a year.
Evaluation: A post-human mech designer capable of surviving harsh environments without protection.
Right now, Ves figured he gained the minimum amount of proficiency for his current project. His Status page looked much better equipped to face his current crisis.
“A low-end transceiver isn’t complicated in its functions. I should be able to salvage most of what I need from these wrecks. What else should I spend my 6,800 points on?”
Too bad the Mech Designer System only conveyed Skills related to his primary profession. Ves could sorely use an upgrade in his ability to survive in an alien wilderness.
He shifted his priority to the Kaius. As long as the giant chimera mech remained operational, the expeditionary forces had to treat Doctor Jutland with kid’s gloves. Taking out this asset would prove immeasurably useful to his safety.
“I need a quick fix.”
Ves estimated the expedition was already halfway through their forty-day window. This left precious little time for everyone to complete their goals. He didn’t believe Jutland intended to let the expedition rob his entire territory blind. It didn’t fit in with his erratic and vindictive behavior.
How could he sabotage a monster like the Kaius without tipping Jutland off?
He considered the issue carefully. The mech withstood a head-on clash from the entire hunting platoon without a sweat. Its vulnerable head which contained the chimera mech’s most vulnerable components enjoyed an almost perfect level of protection by employing integrated shield generator.
Then he remembered the pool of water in the middle of the cave.
“The Kaius will certainly rest in the pool once it returns.”
If Ves discretely messed with the water, he’d be able to deliver a crippling blow to the Kaius. Best of all, Doctor Jutland wouldn’t be aware of the danger until it was too late.
Yet, to do so without getting caught required a lot of thought. “Doctor Jutland won’t be easy to hoodwink.”
As much as Ves improved in most of his physical capabilities, he had no doubt that Jutland reserved the best for himself. Who knew how much work he had done on his smell, hearing and sight. Once he spotted something fishy in the water, the game was up and the Kaius remained fully functional.
“I”ll just have to pick carefully and risk a try.”
To do nothing at all left the expedition open to retaliation from Jutland. While he didn’t care too much about House Kaine, their failure affected his own rewards from the Clifford Society.
Ves had very limited options with his remaining budget. If he skimped on upgrading his Skills, he’d be able to do more, but he didn’t regret his earlier purchases. After all, without a working transceiver, he’d still be on his own.
“That reminds me, I still haven’t figured out a way to convert my internal energy into a stable current.”
A powerful transceiver required a corresponding amount of power. The last few days, Ves frequently tried to manipulate his internal energy, but he came back with absolutely nothing.
He found no way to exert any influence on the mysterious cycle of energy. No matter the method, be it physical or mental, the energy cycle behaved as it was aloof to the mortal plane.
That didn’t mean he became stuck. His Salvaging Skill conveniently provided him a lifeline by giving him the option to recover and perform basic repairs on a reasonably intact energy cell or power reactor.
And if one reactor didn’t suffice, then he could always string up a bunch of them with the help of his Jury Rigging Sub-Skill.
He left the issue of poisoning the water for later, as he still needed to consider his options carefully. Instead, he started working on salvaging what he needed from the pile of wrecks.
Unlike before, Ves didn’t opt for the crude option of cutting straight through a damaged mech’s frame. Instead, he approached the wreck like a salvager wishing to preserve as much of its value as possible by using various tricks to peel off the layers of armor and components in the way.
He had to exert a lot of effort this way. Working without bots or a decent assembly system slowed him down a bit. However, the upside to his slow and methodical work was that he succeeded in removing a couple of decent-looking transceivers after a couple of hours. He also conveniently removed a couple of energy cells along the way, though he had less luck with the power reactor.
“These things are too heavy!” He wiped his brow and stood back. Even his increase of strength meant nothing when it came to several tons of weight. He didn’t even dare to attempt to bring it online.
The absence of a power reactor as a moderating force meant that Ves had to pass another hurdle before he completed his setup.
First things first, he worked on the transceiver. Having scavenged the same model over four different mechs, he dismantled them all and reassembled a single copy from the best parts.
Unlike a sophisticated industrial 3D printer, a low-end transceiver like this one didn’t bother with employing restrictions. This saved him a lot of time and effort.
“Still, I’m not sure it will be able to handle the amount of power required to reach the base camp.”
Ves estimated that this cave should not be too far away from base camp, so he set an upper limit of five-hundred kilometers. That still exceeded the base parameters of his stock transceiver.
Fortunately, he had a solution to this shortcoming. His newly Signals and Communications and upgraded Jury Rigging Skills enabled him to upgrade his transceiver’s range while also boosting its ability to cope with a large influx of power. While his work had no chance of passing certification, it would work in a pinch.
He worked through the night to tackle the power problem. If there was one thing his newly enhanced body improved, it was his ability to work through his night cycle without losing too much focus.
In order to prevent the energy cells from short-circuiting his transceiver, he salvaged various components off the available power reactors. He combined these parts into a makeshift power converter. Ves even jury rigged a rudimentary control panel that allowed him to adjust the amount of power he pumped into the transceiver.
The moment of truth had come. Ves selected a widely used distress frequency and began to transmit his voice.
“This is Ves Larkinson, the mech designer assigned to the expedition! Is anyone listening to me? Please come in base camp! I say again, this is Ves Larkinson the mech designer. Come in base camp!”
The transceiver only returned a large amount of static even after he kept his message up for five whole minutes. Ves frowned and appraised his current setup.
“Looks like I’ll have to put my work to the test.”
Ves gradually cranked up the power.