“Perhaps I’m going at it the wrong way.”
Ves tried to kill the image embedded into a copy of the DarkSpear’s design in various ways. No matter what kind of weapon he materialized in his mind, the stubborn manifestation of the Last Spear always parried his attempts.
Each time he got rebuffed, his mental stability took another hit. His brain became so disarrayed that he had to halt his attempts to kill the image.
“Maybe that’s the problem. I’m not treating it with respect.”
Ves realized he fell into the trap he often accused others of falling for all the time. His design was not some commodity to be used and discarded at will. It possessed its own determination to live, at least in his conception of how the multiverse worked.
Despite his strong visualization, Ves could never really rule out that everything that happened earlier was just a figment of his imagination. The further he delved into the X-Factor, the more he relied on intuition instead of theory backed by solid science.
Still, the image was so strong that it couldn’t be imaginary. His headaches felt very real.
After trying and failing to take the forceful approach, Ves tried to use a gentler means to coax the image.
“I need you to be able to wield a pair of daggers. Will you let me change your fighting style?”
The manifestation objected strongly to this change. He wielded the spear like it was his sacred duty. Even if he shifted his profession from a royal guard to a slinking assassin, he never got rid of his determination to slay his enemies with the weapon of his choice. Taking up a pair of daggers made the manifestation feel dirty.
Ves only had himself to blame for these personality traits. In his original vision, the DarkSpear focused completely on wielding its spear to its maximum effect. He threw no consideration to any alternatives due to a lack of carrying capacity. Even adding in a backup knife ruined its balance.
Against the intractable Last Spear, Ves made no headway in achieving any sort of compromise. The manifestation did not even leave the door open to negotiation. He didn’t even blame the stubborn creation for refusing his overtures.
Even if Ves expressed his sincerity, his patience had a limit.
Perhaps he could make another attempt by starting over, but Ves did not wish to leave this problem unfulfilled. There might be a time in the future where he had to make some changes on the fly. If he still didn’t possess a solution to this problem, he’d be facing constant setbacks and delays.
He took a step back and tried to parse the situation. The manifestation inhabiting the copy of the DarkSpear design never showed any signs of tiring. Where did it get its energy? Was it inexhaustible or could Ves slowly chip away at its reserves?
If he could figure out this puzzle, he may be able to come up with a means to wear down this stubborn image.
Then he thought about how the X-Factor centered around the unity of the mech designer, mech and mech pilot. Leaving the pilot out of consideration, what if Ves forcibly tried to change the design with an overriding image? Could he impose his own vision over the original design and therefore change the fundamental makeup of the X-Factor?
As much as Ves treated the images like living beings, they exhibited many traits that left them open to exploitation. “They exist in the imaginary realm and have to obey the rules that govern their existence. They aren’t solid in a way that makes them unassailable. If I can chip away at their foundation, I can open a crack in their defenses.”
Ves took a break in order to get his mind back in order. He played around with Lucky and cataloged the gems he excreted lately. The cat lately complained about an insufficiency of high quality minerals, so Ves had to order a new shipment of premium ores to stop Lucky’s badgering.
“What’s another million or so credits?” He ruefully told himself. “Compared to my cat’s wellbeing, money is no objection.”
His cat ate so much minerals and only produced a couple of gems in the end. The disparity between input and output was so huge that Ves wondered how his mechanical cat’s digestion actually worked.
Did Lucky convert low-quality minerals to high quality alloys within its digestive system or did he turn it into pure energy?
Both possibilities seem outlandish considering Lucky’s size. Only the most advanced labs could accomplish such a feat.
Other than cutting him open, Ves had no way to be sure. He left the problem aside and decided to catch up on the news.
He visited the galactic net and saw much of the same doom and gloom. Rising costs started to trickle down to the consumers and everyone felt the pinch. Their willingness to spend more on luxury goods declined, which caused several businesses catering to these markets to decline in turn.
The Republic’s economy slowly transitioned into war footing Production of mechs, turrets, carriers and a vast amount of supplies ramped up in preparation of half a decade of war. Naturally, the bulk of these extra orders went to the big established companies. Small fry like his Living Mech Corporation barely benefited from this upsurge of demand. In fact, the rising cost of production negated most of his gains.
“How is House Kaine doing these days?”
With the expedition over, House Kaine and Ves went their separate ways. By now, the Ark Horizon should have made the journey back to the Grey Willow Star Sector.
Ves searched the news and found that Lord Kaine had made some waves upon his return. House Kaine had actually been in bad shape for a while and even stood to lose its most valuable planets. However, the successful expedition turned the tables on the vultures that preyed for their fall.
With a new champion in the form of Felicity Kaine, House Kaine successfully gained prominence through a number of duels against rival houses. The major reason why she won the duel was because her Cathrec received an overhaul that vastly increased its power generation.
Finally, House Kaine announced a number of partnerships with the CFA, which also contributed to their ascendancy. With the tacit backing of a behemoth in the form of the Common Fleet Alliance, House Kaine didn’t have to worry about rivals trying to undermine them in secret for a couple of years.
“The CFA must have gotten a great haul out of the Groening System.”
Much of the frontier remained untouched by human greed. The galaxy was simply too large to be explored in its entirety. Treasure and danger coexisted alongside each other in this vast sea of stars. House Kaine happened to have gambled and won in their last ditch effort to make a big score.
Still, Ves knew how fraught it had been at certain times. The news only celebrated the success stories. For every successful expedition, ten more crashed and burned. Out here in the frontier, people regarded treasure hunting as delayed form of suicide.
After Ves finished his recovery, he summoned up the copy of the design and prepared for round two. This time, he opted to go for an indirect approach, seeing as he could never beat the vigilant manifestation in a head-on clash.
First, Ves adjusted his vision for the DarkSpear. He visualized his custom mech’s performance if Ves adopted Jarle’s suggestions. The frame took on a slightly different shape that enhanced its flexibility. Its prominent spear made way for a pair of blackened curved daggers. The mech’s overall paint scheme took on a Mosville blue shade, with the team logo prominently replacing the royal emblem on its chest.
Now that he had his vision, Ves turned his attention to constructing the right accompanying image. He had to be careful with this step because he didn’t wish to ruin his custom mech’s X-Factor by destroying its original identity.
“I have to supplement the image somehow.”
Ves had a good idea on how to go about it. First, he constructed a simple image centered around Jarle Brenthill. He summoned another projector and let it display some highlights of the mech athlete’s career. A vague entity emerged in his mind that carried the essence of Jarle’s piloting style.
“This should be close enough.”
Then he slowly started tweaking the actual design. He already prepared his plans beforehand, so he worked swiftly in dismantling his design’s original arrangements. Ves avoided bumping into the manifestation. Instead, he solely focused on his new vision and image and tried to embed it into his current work.
This time, he encountered no obstruction. The manifestation of his design’s X-Factor started to take on different traits as Ves slowly changed the fundamental nature of his design. The schematic and its accompanying X-Factor turned from a pure spear wielder into a transitional form that made it better at wielding daggers.
It was as if a drop of black paint had fallen onto a bucket of water. The previously clear water became murkier as it took on a grey shade. The longer Ves worked, the more drops of paint fell down into the bucket.
In the meantime, the manifestation didn’t even realize its own contradictory nature. The image flickered a lot as it couldn’t decide whether to wield a spear or a pair of daggers.
The dichotomy became more pronounced as Ves continued to work on the design for the next couple of days. The design steadily reached a tipping point where its original identity of a spear wielder became lost.
“Now should be a good time.”
Ves switched the swear for a pair or daggers he already prepared beforehand. The curved weapons fit the new design like a glove. For a moment, he expected explosions, but nothing drastic resulted from this action. The manifestation slowly warped and solidified into a dagger wielder. Its appearance even resembled Jarle.
He learned something new with attempt. His images drew their strength from their source. Affecting the source allowed Ves to affect the original X-Factor in a form that fit his modifications better. He felt relieved that he didn’t have to go back to the drawing board each time he wanted to update his design or derive a custom mech out of one of his models.
The ramifications of this experiment affected more than just his own models. Ves wondered if he could apply the same method to other designs or mechs. He could even use it as a subtle form of sabotage.
“If I ever happen to be working on a mech for someone I hate, I can subsume its X-Factor with a malevolent spirit. Even if every inspection checks out, the mech will still perform worse than normal.”
He quickly discarded the idea. Something like that would never happen. Mech pilots wanted people he could trust to work on their mechs. Putting an enemy in charge of your own war materiel was just asking for trouble.
Now that he solved the biggest issue, Ves resumed his design work and finalized his modifications. Most of the changes required a decent amount of testing that ate up a lot of time, but Ves wanted to insure he delivered a flawless product. The fate of the sponsorship deal and Jarle’s enthusiasm for his endorsement mattered a lot.
“This is going to be my first proper entry into the Bentheim market. Once the DarkSpear catches on, my other models will see a surge in popularity.”
Once that happened, Ves gained a foothold in the notoriously crowded Bentheim mech scene. He expected to boost both is virtual and real business activities from that point.
According to the latest shipping update, his new equipment should arrive at his workshop in the coming week. Once he unpacked his goodies and installed them on the workshop floor, he’d be ready for the next phase in his business plan.
“I’m still short on money, though.”
With only a couple of component licenses under his belt, Ves needed at least a dozen more to round out his collection. With his company’s current war chest, he’d be hard pressed to license a set of decent components that could fit his minimum standards.
He intended to design a premium mech, after all. He should invest at least a billion credits in this area to avoid inconsistencies in his original design.
“Where can I find some money!”
Short of exchanging his valuable merits or finding an opportunity to make a quick buck, Ves considered whether he should take another loan.