Once Ves set his mind on his destination, he moved quickly. He browsed the galactic net for holiday options and selected a vacation package catered to the rich.
Ves booked a ticket aboard an advanced aquatic cruise ship that provided guided tours around Moira’s Paradise. He paid 300,000 credits for the lowest-level package, which provided him with a basic cabin that nevertheless exceeded the standard of any 5-star hotel on Cloudy Curtain.
The tier above that offered him a roomier berth, a higher priority on visiting the various sights and premium service aboard the cruise ship. That sounded nice and all, but anyone who wanted to take advantage of these luxuries had to cough up 5 million credits a pop.
“That’s not even considering the upper tiers.”
Moira’s Paradise attracted a decent amount of tourists from the neighboring states. The ocean planet worked hard to diversify its ecosystem to the point where it became a regional attraction. It offered a handful of unique exotic creatures that couldn’t be found elsewhere in the Komodo Star Sector.
“There’s also the aquatic mechs to consider. I’ve never been exposed to that scene.”
An entire subculture developed around aquatic mechs. Any settled planet with oceans of water or other liquids required a whole different paradigm if you wanted to invade or defend it. Any regular mechs that fell into a boundless ocean quickly sank to the bottom until the increasing pressure crushed it like a can.
Aquatic mechs had to comply with two essential demands. First, it had to be able to handle the crushing pressure. Second, it had to be waterproof. This led to the adoption heavily armored fish or mermen-shaped mechs propelled by powerful jets as the norm in aquatic combat.
Weight formed less of a concern than elsewhere, allowing aquatic mech designers to stuff their mechs full of goodies that would have slowed a mech on land to a crawl.
In addition, aquatic warfare often occurred within knife-fighting range. The only viable form of long-range combat consisted of flinging torpedoes at each other. At close ranges, railguns, harpoons and ballistic rifles became viable, but not ideal. In third-rate states, melee combat dominated the oceans.
Having booked his ticket, Ves packed up his bags and brought along Lucky and Raella for the ride. When she heard he wanted to take her along for the ride, she looked a little put off.
“It’s great that you’re finally bringing me away from this boring as hell planet, but why aren’t you going somewhere exciting? Moira’s Paradise is a tourist trap! Hardly anything happens over there! Even the BLM doesn’t bother with the place.”
“It’s either you or Melkor, and he’s already had his turn. Besides, don’t you want to see the aquatic mechs up close?”
“Who cares about those fish mechs? Besides, my Vektrix is absolutely useless without solid beneath her feet. I won’t be of any use to you.”
“Just come with me. I need someone I trust at my side.”
With some reluctance, Raella eventually relented. She exacted a promise from Ves to bring her along if he went on another adventure. Ves privately thought she might have to wait for years, as he didn’t plan to risk his life anytime soon.
They boarded the Barracuda and made their way to Moira’s Paradise on a direct FTL transition. As a binary star system, it possessed a powerful pair of suns that made it relatively easy for the Barracuda to hone in on its coordinates. The corvette traversed the distance in a matter of days before reaching the edge of the star system.
Another day went past as they corvette made its way to the inner system and descended onto one of the few artificial islands dotting the surface of Moira’s Paradise. They made it well in time before their cruise ship debarked from the island’s port.
The massive submersible cruise ship looked like a starship with a streamlined shape. When Ves first caught sight of the Nautilus of the Deep, he found its scale to be as impressive as the luxury passenger ships plying the stars.
Ves, Raella and Lucky joined an orderly line of well-dressed passengers before the ramp. Considering the ticket price, none of the people possessed average backgrounds. The line moved quickly as an army of attendants processed their tickets and checked over their belongings.
Raella had to leave her pistol and her knife behind. The crew of the Nautilus took responsibility for their security for the most part, though Ves heard of tales where passengers resorted to fists.
“Mr. Larkinson?” A uniformed attendant called once he boarded the ship. “My name is Georgina Black. I’ll be your first point of contact for your stay aboard the Nautilus of the Deep. If you have any concerns or requests, feel free to contact me in person or through my comm!”
They exchanged comm contacts before Georgina led him to his cabin in the lower decks. For 300,000 credits, the room he appeared sufficiently lavish. It’s blue-gold embellishments added a deep-sea ambiance to the place. Ves and Raella handed their floating coffers to the cabin bots, which automatically sorted out their clothes and other belongings.
“The Nautilus will depart in two hours. Please make your way to the middle observation deck at that time. We’ll be commencing the first part of our tour at that time.”
After mentioning a few other points of notice, Georgina left the guests to their devices. Raella already started to yawn. “It’s dull in here. Let’s visit the shopping boulevard!”
The pair proceeded to enter the shopping boulevard set in the upper decks of the Nautilus. A transparent, retractable dome allowed strong sunlight to fall upon the boulevard. Plenty of guests have already set their sights on the luxury products in the displays. Raella pretty much raced towards the clothing stores.
Meanwhile, Ves strolled through the electronics and gadget stores. All kinds of conveniences could be bought for a pretty sum. A couple of products had even been imported from the Coalition, such as comm modules that sold for 500,000 credits.
The boulevards offered plenty of space for those who didn’t feel inclined to spend so much money. Kids ran around the open park areas while older boys tried to woo the girls they came across. Couples sat together admiring the statues and other artwork that enlivened the interior.
Ves picked up a variety of accents from their conversations. He even caught a few Coalition speech patterns, most notably from the Carnegie Group. They possessed the most open culture within the Friday Coalition. It made sense that the more adventurous among them spent their holidays abroad where their purchasing power turned them into royals.
“What would someone like Oleg think when he visits the Republic?”
He’d probably be astounded by the lack of development of his state. The Bright Republic offered few prospects to elites like him. He deserved to perform on a greater stage.
Ves milled around for a while but refrained from purchasing anything. Even if his company’s accounts strained with cash, the money should be spent on investments rather than useless consumer goods.
Besides, sitting in the park watching people go about their lives relaxed him in a soothing way. Here, he could let down his worries and forget about the concerns that weighed him down.
For the next ten days, Ves resolved to lay down his job as a mech designer and enjoy the sights like a normal tourist. Already he could feel the benefits of his decision to spend his time on Moira’s Paradise. The harmonious environment cleansed his mind and soothed away the stresses that had been accumulating without his notice.
A tranquil mood settled in as Ves waited until Raella returned with a few bags of clothes. Ves had provided her with a generous allowance this time. After handing the bags off to a service bot that brought them back to their cabin, the pair followed the directions towards the middle observation deck.
The Nautilus featured an extendable hump at the upper part of her hull that provided a commanding view of the artificial island and the boundless ocean. Ves and Raella arrived in time and met up with Georgina, who gathered up around thirty other passengers.
“Alright, everyone is here!” The attendant clapped. “Welcome aboard the Nautilus of the Deep. As the most premier cruise ship on Moira’s Paradise, the Nautilus offers the highest level of comfort and protection to our guests. Again, if you have any concerns, please feel free to inform me. Now, without further ado, let us set off!”
A low shudder ran throughout the massive ship. The Nautilus groaned before slowly edging away from her berth at the island’s port. With deceptive slowness, the massive cruise ship flung herself forward and built up a considerable amount of speed and momentum.
As the island began to recede, a handful of aquatic mechs swam around the Nautilus. Their powerful jet engines easily kept up with the cruise ship’s massive starship-sized propulsion.
After the excitement died down, Georgina detailed their schedule for the next ten days. “The Nautilus will be bringing you along some of the best sights our planet has to offer. In the first leg of our journey, we’ll be submerging ourselves into the Vermillion Sea. You’ll be able to see some of our many exotic creatures up close and learn why they are treasured by the galaxy!”
A projection came into being that showed off some of these alien creatures. None of them appeared monstrous, which was likely a deliberate decision by the rulers of Moira’s Paradise. No need to scare the kids away.
“Next, we’ll be visiting Fort MacLellan, a neutral, sovereign bulwark built to resist an alien invasion. Built and maintained by the MTA, this mobile, floating fortress features many advancements prevalent in the center of the galaxy. Much of its areas remains off-limits, but they offer limited access to vetted visitors. Not to worry, anyone who’s currently aboard our ship is already cleared.”
The projection showed an intimidating mass of construction the size of downtown Freslin. It was shaped like an oval and moved through the water with unknown means. Squads of aquatic mechs emerged from various launching points around the floating fortress.
Its smooth, thick hull gave the illusion that MacLellan functioned like a turtle. Ves wasn’t fooled. Even as he recognized the precious exotic alloys used in its construction, he also spotted the outlines of giant, retractable hatches that undoubtedly covered enormous weapon emplacements.
“Fort MacLellan also offers distinguished guests a tour of their first-class aquatic mechs. VIPs and those who pay a fee are granted greater privileges in this tour. Please check the details in the virtual guide that’s been sent to your comm.”
First-class mechs was an informal term that people used to refer to mechs built to the standards of a first-rate superstate. The vast majority of the mechs that Ves encountered in the Republic consisted of only third-class mechs, while the Coalition had it better with their second-class mechs.
In truth, the designs utilized by Fort MacLellan consisted of bottom-tier first-class mechs. If any mech pilot showed up to a duel with a bottom-tier mech, they’d be laughed away before they get a chance to fight.
Still, a pauper mech from a first-rate state turned into a kingly steed the moment it entered the galactic rim. Even Ves looked forward to seeing first-class mechs in the flesh.
“After experiencing the majesty of the MTA, we’ll be descending to the deepest depths of the Vermillion Sea and arrive at Cava City, the entertainment capital of Moira’s Paradise. Cava city offers great opportunities for art enthusiasts in its sector-renowned museums. Fancy some shows from Cava City’s renowned theaters? Refer to the virtual guide and let us book your tickets on your behalf.”
Cava City offered much more than museum and plays. The place had become notorious for its freewheeling gambling and competitive aquatic mech scene. While Bentheim held the crown for landbound and aerial mechs, Moira’s Paradise was a mecca for amphibian and aquatic mechs.