The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 313 Boneyard


Ves wanted to bang his head against the tunnel wall. All this time, he assumed that the System desired a piece of high-grade Rorach's Bone. To think he made a big mistake frustrated him to no end. He quickly re-read the mission.

[Mission]
Mission: Obtaining the Core
Difficulty: B-Rank
Prerequisites: Find your way to the Glowing Planet

Description
The rogue planet that has been discovered by humans hides a special ore that originates from its core. Seek out a hand-sized sample of this ore and offer it to the Mech Designer System.

Failure condition: Fail to acquire a substance from the core of the Glowing Planet within ninety days from the issuance of this mission. Your ability to spend Design Points will be curtailed for two years.

Reward:
Special Upgrade Voucher (Machine), 10 golden lottery tickets

The System hadn't named the material by name!

"What are you looking for, System! Just tell me, damnit!"

Naturally, the soft-spoken System almost never replied to his request. It was as if it thought that Ves should figure out stuff on his own. The System never coddled him in any way.

"So it's not Rorach's Bone you're looking for, right?"

Ves didn't know much about Rorach's Bone, but acquiring a better sample than what he held right now shouldn't be possible. This was the best that he could get.

The stupidly obtuse System refused to reveal what kind of substance it demanded. Whatever it was, it should be even rarer than high-grade Rorach's Bone. Perhaps it couldn't even be found at this depth.

Whatever the case, the answer lay deeper into the core.

He stood at a crossroads now. Either he could summon up his courage and brave the dangers, or he could stay at his current depth and hope he struck it rich.

"There's only a day or two left before we have to leave this place."

From what he heard, the repairs for the Gregarious Wrath went well. Replacing the most essential broken components was a straightforward though labor-intensive procedure. Relatively little challenges had popped up that could otherwise delay the repairs.

This meant that Ves had two more days to find what the System sought.

"I really hate you sometimes, you know that?"

Ves had little choice but to bow before the inevitable. He decided to return the shuttle back to the Wrath and plan out his miniature expedition properly.

First, he stocked up his shuttle with additional supplies, including food and water. Returning to the Wrath to eat and sleep took too much time. Ves planned to make the best of the time that remained.

Second, he checked the System whether he could buy anything useful. Even though his DP skyrocketed lately, he still couldn't afford anything useful. He'd have to accumulate millions of DP to acquire a rudimentary device that could protect him from spacetime fluctuations.

"It's not for nothing that the Mech Corps is willing to pay out of their nose to borrow the dimensional smoothers."

Looking at how much DP he earned in recent weeks made Ves suspicious. He knew how many mechs the LMC could produce at a given amount of time. It only possessed one proper production line that could fabricate the Blackbeak.

As for the third-party manufacturer, the EME only possessed four modern production lines. Producing fifty mechs a month shouldn't be too much of a problem for them, but the amount of DP that Ves had earned suggested to him that he sold a lot more Blackbeaks than that.

Then he figured it out. It should be the virtual Blackbeaks that must have set off the current surge of DP. As a modern 5-star virtual mech, it sold in much less numbers than in the lower tiers. Mech designers who competed at this level paid a lot more attention to performance, and his mech didn't specialize in short bursts of combat that characterized arena combat.

"Looks like interest in the Blackbeak is surging."

Ves could only attribute the increased interest to the successful performance of the Blackbeak on the Glowing Planet along with the LMC's relentless marketing campaign. Combined, the demand for the Blackbeak should have spiked, and more people wanted to experience its magic.

He didn't consider that the DP could have come from the production of extra physical mechs.

Currently, Ves considered upgrading his Stealth Augment. Going deeper into the tunnels didn't only mean he would have to brave the spacetime anomalies. He also had to take into account the risk of bumping into a devourer or devourer king.

"It's too expensive. I can hold off the purchase until I actually need to hide myself."

Ves eventually decided to save his points and postpone his spending.

After a short nap, Ves set off with the armored shuttle and brought it many kilometers deeper. Though a lot of dangers lurked in the shadows, Ves studiously ignored the risks. The odds of actually bumping into a spacetime wrinkle shouldn't be too large.

"It's like walking across the street with aircars flying over your head. The chance that one of them crashes isn't very large, and the odds that it will land right on top of you is even smaller."

Even though he comforted himself this way, he still couldn't forget how these improbable accidents happened to destroy a lot of ships.

His slow journey towards the end of the tunnel dug by the Wrath set him to thought. Why did he have to stick out his neck and risk his own life this way?

Why couldn't he do anything to fight back against his thieving mother whenever she dropped by?

Why did he have to rely on Lucky to fend off a devourer king that managed to avoid the best efforts of the Mech Corps to take it down?

All of these incidents shared one common element. "I'm not in control."

The lack of agency was beginning to get at him. Even though his company earned billions of credits, he still ended up at the mercy of others.

Those who organized these kinds of expeditions could afford to throw a lot of manpower and resources into the mix. Why couldn't Ves do something similar?

The idea grew more appealing the more he thought about it. He didn't need to organize a large-scale expedition, but even a modest force under his command could accomplish a lot of things on his behalf. He already owned an excellent corvette to act as a scout or courier.

"It's not that expensive to get my hands on a few transports and converted carriers. However, it's going to take a lot of mechs and reliable pilots to give them some teeth."

He knew that contracting a reliable crew of pilots and spacers was by far the biggest challenge. If he chose the wrong men, they might decide to run off with all of his newly-purchased assets and disappear into the frontier.

"I can think about it later. There shouldn't be any need to go on an expedition right now with the war looming closer."

The armored shuttle successfully reached the bottom of the tunnel without encountering any mishaps. Though he encountered a few close shaves, the anomalies hadn't affected the shuttle in any way.

Once he floated outside, Ves threw Lucky towards the bottom of the tunnel. "Okay Lucky, go dig downwards."

His cat looked back at him as if he lost his mind.

"Just dig and tell me when you detect anything that's more energetic than a medium-grade Rorach's Bone. Make sure to leave enough room for me as well!"

It took a number of times to repeat his intentions to Lucky. His cat set out to dig a wide hole and go further downwards.

Ever since Ves found out that the high-grade Rorach's Bone didn't meet the System's needs, he resolutely fed it to Lucky.

As far as his gem cat was concerned, he might as well have gone to heaven. His cat took three hours to savor the fat piece of high-grade bone. His eyes narrowed blissfully as his body took in more and more of the extremely rare exotic.

Consuming the high-grade piece had definitely given Lucky a major boost. His body's exterior had turned into an even brighter shade of white. It was as if he had turned into a milky white cat. Besides the changes in his appearance, his other capabilities also improved by a major step.

At his current state, Lucky easily dug a wider tunnel. This allowed Ves to float behind him and descend into the depths alongside his pet. The floodlights embedded in his mining suit shed the tunnel in a harsh light.

This went on for a couple of hours. Occasionally, Lucky detected something attractive, and changed the direction of his digging in order to reach what had attracted his attention. It mostly turned out to be medium-grade Rorach's Bone.

"This is looking like a veritable boneyard here." Ves muttered. They encountered more and more bones the deeper they went. "Still, it's a shame I haven't found any high-grade ores."

He eventually had to call off the digging after reaching an estimated depth of two kilometers. Ves had grown extremely uncomfortable after digging so far away from the Gregarious Wrath. He picked up Lucky and floated back out of the tunnel before boarding the armored shuttle that rested nearby.

After a meal and rest, Ves donned his mining suit and floated down the tunnel dug by Lucky.

"Keep digging downwards. Go deeper."

His cat did as he instructed. Though Ves had a lot of misgivings at this point, he couldn't stop halfway. He had to see this journey through in the end.

After half a day of digging, Lucky noticed something strange. His digging speed became twice as fast and the cat practically raced towards a specific destination to the sides.

"What did you find, Lucky?!"

His cat kept digging as if his life depended upon in. After more than fifteen minutes of digging, he surprisingly reached a cavity. Once he dug out an opening, Lucky fearlessly jumped inside.

"Hey, wait for me!"

Ves had to wriggle his way through the opening before he could get through. Spotting his cat, he quickly flew towards the center of the oval chamber, where he came across a remarkable sight.

Lucky stood frozen as he beheld what looked like a neat array of bones. The strangest thing about the skeleton was that they shone in a luster closely related to Rorach's Bone. It was as if the set of bones that lay in front of him had been the source of the Rorach's Bone on this planet!

The reason why he came to that conclusion was that the area directly underneath the skeleton was made up of a mottled mass of medium-grade Rorach's Bone! That much Rorach's Bone in one place should be impossible!

"But why isn't there any high-grade bone?"

He regarded the skeleton with suspicion. Perhaps it needed time to contaminate the surrounding bones, or perhaps it already absorbed the quality materials to enhance its own structure. It would explain all the holes around the skeleton.

"That said, why does it look like a humanoid?"

The most remarkable aspect about the skeleton was that it resembled a huge human. It stood as tall as a light mech and Ves imagined it weighed about the same as well. Although the galaxy spawned a lot of humanoid aliens, they never precisely evolved to adopt a roundish head, hands with five fingers or feet with five toes.

"It's like a giant out of mythology."

Even the bones could be mistaken for a human if it wasn't so large. The uncanny resemblance to the human physique disturbed Ves in the same way when he first found out that the System had the capability to manipulate time.

He felt as if he brushed across a huge secret of the galaxy.

"It's dead now. It should be millions or billions of years since this alien died. There's nothing to be worried about."

Despite his rational words, he still treated the skeleton like a dangerous animal. Its shiny, sparkling bones radiated a certain kind of pressure that constantly tickled his sixth sense. Ves carefully stepped forward, passing by Lucky who still hadn't padded forward.

Once Ves reached the foot of the prone skeleton, he reached out a gauntlet to touch it, but then changed his mind. "Who knows if I'll trigger something bad."

He instead began to inspect the skeleton with his eyes and sensors. He wanted to find out if the remarkable skeleton was made out of homogenous material.

Once he swept over the entire mech-sized skeleton, Ves found one single anomaly that stood out from the rest. He detected strong fluctuations the brain cavity of the human-like skull.

"This… what is in this giant's head?"

He strongly suspected the skull hid an extraordinary treasure. From the energy readings alone, it surpassed a high-grade Rorach's Bone by far. It might even be a legendary piece of extreme-grade Rorach's Bone!

The more he thought about the possibility, the more his breath grew uneven. He flew away from the skull and returned to his immobilized cat.

"Stop being a scaredy cat, Lucky! Come on, I need your help!"

He scooped up his pet and returned to the skull. Even though Lucky squirmed in his arms, Ves didn't let go of him. Once he flew close, he held out Lucky and shook him up and down a few times.

"Can you please open up this skull? There's something yummy inside. Don't you want to take a bite?"

Lucky acted as if Ves was about to drop him into a bath. His pet kept trying to turn his body and claw away from the menacing skull. Ves had to press his cat flat against the skull in order to get him to claw away at the skullcap.

This time, Lucky failed to dig through the skull. No matter how many times he tried to claw at the dome, his paws failed to make a single dent.

Things only changed when Lucky activated his energy claws. He pumped a significant amount of power into his claws before letting loose with a swipe.

This time, the skull finally yielded. A shallow groove emerged, encouraging Lucky to swipe again and again. After expending a fair amount of energy, Lucky finally cracked open a tiny hole in the humongous skull.

A white light flashed out from the hole. The sheer intensity of it blinded his mining suit's sensors and scared Lucky out of his grasp.

More than just the lights, his sixth sense started pinging like crazy. Ves felt as if his entire mindscape had shook.

Fortunately, the light show ended a few seconds later. The glow subsided and his sixth sense calmed down. Ves sighed and carefully approached the hole until his helmet visor bumped against the hole.

What he saw inside caused him to gasp in surprise.

 
 


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