The Mech Touch

Chapter 125: Massive Spending

Emstar's higher than average performance when piloting his gold label mech propelled his sales past the ten thousand mark. Ves owed a lot of DP to her free advertising. Her influence in the Republic's gaming circles might not be the best, but her endorsement was worth a lot more than a hundred ineffectual commercials to an ad-weary society.

Ves even sent her a thank you note, though he doubted she could dig it out from her fanmail.

During the first week of the Young Blood's release, Ves made the rounds in the Clifford Society. He talked with a few of the knights who hung around the Moon Library. He found out that the Society was split up into numerous factions led by different Masters.

As an apprentice aligned to the Vermeer Group, Ves respectfully declined when he received invitations to attend their meetings. The factions open to cooperation with outsiders persisted with their attempts to draw Ves in but he kept his mouth shut.

Instead, he found some kinship with some of the neutral Knights who admittedly had little prospects of advancing. One older gentleman called Lavrey gave him some perspective.

"Master Olson walks with a particular crowd of people called Unionists. She represents a set of interests that seeks to integrate the Friday Coalition into a single, cohesive state. As you can imagine, not everyone seeks to have their culture and way of life subsumed in a tide of conformity."

"For all the effort I spent on staying out of politics, it turns out I've inadvertently joined one of their camps." Ves lamented. He didn't regret the apprenticeship even if he hadn't benefited from his master's personal guidance yet. "So are you suggesting that I should be more proactive?"

"No. You're still too young. Nobody is interested in an Apprentice Mech Designer. You still have a long way before you turn into a Journeyman Mech Designer. That's when the industry considers you mature enough to exert some influence."

None of this was his business anyway. He instead asked him how he could earn a lot of merits.

"Besides the Mission Hall? There's no other source than trading something valuable with your fellow Society members. You can also donate knowledge and research that our library lacks, though don't get your hopes up on that."

Ves already lost faith in getting an easy mission from the Mission Hall. Emergency missions were too scarce to come by, and it seemed that the most prominent Knights received a warning beforehand should any such mission crop up soon.

"So, there's no other way than to trade something valuable."

"Why do you think there's so many stores down in the city? Those Knights who opened storefronts have all found a way to earn what they need through leveraging their own assets."

He already had a backup plan. If he still couldn't find a mission, he'd open a store and try to peddle some of the exclusive items from the System's Store or Lottery.

The DP the System charged for most of its goodies was high, but anything became less of a problem when you had enough wealth. Ever since his Young Blood became a regional hit, Ves held on to his DP and started scouring the Store for anything rare and unique he could trade for lots of merits.

He could even buy entire machines like an alloy compressor or a CTM, though he had to pay millions of DP to afford the cheapest systems. The System was a downright snob and refused to sell any products that fell short to its expectations.

Even if he bought something precious, Ves had no doubt people would start asking questions if he tried to exchange them for cash or merits. Something as unique as Lucky's gems could spark a galaxy-wide manhunt for him due to their impossible effects.

Due to his increasing paranoia and his need to protect the System, Ves bought an upgrade to his comm that could help him keep his secrets.

[Comm upgrade - Privacy Shield - Level 1]

Price: 10.000 Design Points

Insert this datachip into any comm to upgrade its ability to block all manner of electronic surveillance, such as sensors, recorders, implants and other devices. This function will only work upon activation, and can only be sustained as long as the comm supplies sufficient energy.

The first level of the Privacy Shield emits an obscuring field of interference that blocks out any emissions from a 2-meter radius from the comm.

"Ten thousand DP. I can upgrade four skills from Apprentice to Journeyman with that much points." Ves regretted a bit, but he reminded himself that the Privacy Shield was essential going forward.

Even his workshop ceased to be a bastion to him. With Sanyal-Ablin's upcoming upgrades to his security suite, he could pretty much say goodbye to whatever remained of his privacy.

It also didn't help that Ves found out that the Konsu Clan hosted the security company's headquarters. It explained why SASS enjoyed a good reputation for honesty and adhering to the rules. The people living under the rule of the Konsu Clan always kept their promises, so Ves did not tear up his contract yet.

Ves stretched his arms after logging out of the Society's virtual portal. He stood up and briefly checked on Carlos, who seemed to have progressed halfway into mastering the Marc Antony. After patting his employee's back, he sauntered over to his bathroom and sat down on the toilet.

He activated his Privacy Shield, which caused a hazy electromagnetic storm to buzz from his comm. It no doubt scrambled any micro-cameras that might have been sneaked into his bathroom stall.

Once SASS brought their security suite online, he had no doubt that they'd catch bugs like these. For now, Ves could only rely on the System.

"Finally, some peace and quiet. Okay System, show me the money. Status."


Name: Ves Larkinson

Profession: Apprentice Mech Designer

Specializations: None

Design Points: 40.210


Strength: 0.8

Dexterity: 0.7

Endurance: 0.8

Intelligence: 1.3

Creativity: 1

Concentration: 1.7

Neural Aptitude: F


[Assembly]: Apprentice - [3D Printer Proficiency II] [Assembler Proficiency II]

[Business]: Apprentice

[Computer Science]: Incompetent

[Electrical Engineering]: Apprentice

[Mathematics]: Apprentice

[Mechanics]: Journeyman - [Jury Rigging II] [Speed Tuning III]

[Metallurgy]: Journeyman - [Alloy Compression I]

[Metaphysics]: Incompetent

[Physics]: Apprentice - [Lightweight Armor Optimization I] [Mediumweight Armor Optimization III]


[Superpublish]: Available. Can be activated once a year.

Evaluation: An apprentice at the start of his true journey to greatness.

Every time he sold a copy of the Young Blood, he earned five DP from the System. With his current sales, he should have earned more than 150.000 DP. Instead, his DP stopped growing when it reached 50.000 DP.

"You cheapskate System. You didn't mention anything about a limit."

The System capped his point earnings for every single virtual design. For a 1-star mech design, that roof was set at 10.000 DP, while a 5-star design reached the limit at 250.000 DP.

If he received all of the DP he rightfully earned, then he could have strengthened himself enormously. It cost 100.000 DP to upgrade a Journeyman skill to Senior-level, though he also had to fulfill some other demands such as completing a special quest.

Still, leaving aside his previous purchase, Ves already raked in a fortune by accumulating 40.000 DP. He didn't expect to earn so much points again. Only a combination of factors such as the interview, the trending market page and the endorsement from a streamer allowed his product to gain such prominence.

"I'll have to make the most of my current points."

Ves had a tendency to go crazy whenever he earned a windfall of DP. Having learned his lesson, this time he waited for an entire week before he began to spend his precious points. He extensively studied the Skill Tree and Store and constantly weighed his options without committing to any purchase. It took a will of steel to keep his shopping cart empty.

First, he resolved to maintain a minimum balance of 10.000 DP. He could purchase a lot of gadgets with this much DP that could get him out of trouble. Having endured two pirate attacks already, Ves no longer thought that only others suffered accidents.

Ves previously skewed most of his spending towards skills, and while they remained essential, it was too unbalanced. He had other needs as well, and with the recent upgrade to his System upon his advancement, the Store sold a lot more useful products.

He therefore split the remaining points into three separate pools. He reserved 10.000 DP for upgrading his skills, 10.000 DP for upgrading his attributes, and the remaining 10.000 DP for purchasing other goodies.

First, he went for the easiest purchases. There wasn't much choice in upgrading his attributes, so he mainly bought intelligence candies.

[Intelligence Attribute Candy]: 1.300 Design Points

[Intelligence Attribute Candy]: 1.400 Design Points

[Intelligence Attribute Candy]: 1.500 Design Points

[Intelligence Attribute Candy]: 1.600 Design Points

[Intelligence Attribute Candy]: 1.700 Design Points

[Intelligence Attribute Candy]: 1.800 Design Points

[Dexterity Attribute Candy]: 700 Design Points

He needed to upgrade his intelligence the most. Despite the escalating price for each additional candy, Ves decisively snapped them up until he almost drained his budget. He rounded out his spending by buying a marginally useful Dexterity upgrade.

"It's not that the other attributes are useless. Concentration helps me maintain my intent when designing or fabricating a mech. I'm almost convinced a higher concentration is needed to score better on the X-Factor."

Creativity also helped with forming a strong source of inspiration for the X-Factor.

Despite these advantages, Ves could not allocate too much resources on a strong but ultimately supplementary benefit. Intelligence formed the foundation of his ability to solve problems and absorb new knowledge. He specifically chose to upgrade his intelligence first before he stuffed his brain with lots of new skills.

Ves stared apprehensively at the colorful candies that materialized in his palm. "Hey System, can I ingest all of the candies at once?"

[It is recommended that you limit your ingestion to one category at once, and only up to a cumulative growth of 1.0 a day.]

"Right. Let's start with the lone Dexterity candy to be sure."

Ingesting a candy caused his body to feel hot as his muscles experienced a strange sensation. The phenomenon quickly faded. He figured his body had already been primed to upgrades ever since he injected his body with Master Olson's gene boost.

After flexing his arms, Ves noted that his movements became more precise, but only barely. He still scored below average, so the overall benefits were still too insignificant.

As for intelligence, he underestimated the power of the candies. Despite his gene boost, he still lost consciousness when he popped the candies into his mouth. The six life-changing pills dissolved into his body and guided an enormous amount of energy to his brain.

When he woke up hours later, he had to reassure both Carlos and his security detail that he merely fell asleep on the toilet. It quickly turned into a joke, which hopefully deflected any other suspicions.

He still suffered from a headache, though. "It's like there's a thousand elephants pounding inside my head."

Most of the aches subsided after a good night's sleep. Only then he realized how a score of 1.8 made a difference to the way he saw the universe.

The increased Intelligence did not improve his wisdom or his decision-making. It left his personality alone, but enhanced his cognitive skills. He could solve complex equations in his head, recall a text he read a day ago and puzzle out the meaning of a difficult textbook page.

Ves also suspected the massive boost to improve his ability to design a mech. It sped up his application of theory and allowed him to solve his problems with a lot less brain churning.

"Is this how those geniuses felt when they designed their mechs? I feel so powerful."

He doubted that most of the designers he competed against could match his current level of intelligence. Only few individuals still made him pause, such as Edwin McKinney, Patricia Schneider and Master Carmin Olson. Will he ever reach their heights someday?

[Please do not celebrate so quickly. A human body can only sustain an attribute up to a height of 2.0. You will not be able to increase your attributes beyond this score with attribute candies.]

He cursed a little. The System ruined another of his devious plans. "What about gene boosts? You haven't mentioned anything about them. Will I be able to increase my attributes past 2.0 if I'm not a pure human anymore?"

The System predictably declined to answer, but Ves was convinced he was on the right track.

With nothing more to go on, Ves turned to acquiring new skills. After entering the toilet again, he turned on the Privacy Shield and entered the Skill Tree. He already assembled a laundry list of priority skills. It still left him with over fifty highly regarded choices.

He first defined his goal. "I want to obtain the skills needed to improve my Marc Antony design and reconstruct a working Dortmund printer."

After a moment's consideration, he chose to branch out his specialties instead of shoring his foundation. With his improved intelligence, he could easily upgrade his lowest ranked skills as long as had access to the right textbooks.

In contrast, it was a lot harder for him to get ahold of the more obscure pieces of knowledge. The Clifford Society locked those kinds of books behind a wall of merits.

[Melee Weapon Optimization I]: 500 DP

[Melee Weapon Optimization II]: 1000 DP

[Directed Energy Weapon Optimization I]: 500 DP

[Directed Energy Weapon Optimization II]: 1000 DP

The weapon optimization sub-skills acted similarly to the armor optimization ones. They did not enable Ves to design his own weapons and armor, but granted him a large amount of handy insights on how to improve existing ones. It taught him what to watch out for and how to avoid the usual pitfalls.

Mech designers usually acquired these skills through experience due to their lack of unifying theories. Ves found it worthwhile to spend DP to acquire them instantly.

Due to his recent increase in intelligence, he hardly felt any pain this time when he acquired and absorbed the skills. "Intelligence also acts as a load-bearer for all of my knowledge. My mind is a lot roomier now. I'm able to process a large amount of information at a time."

Acquiring these set of optimization skills opened his eyes. His new knowledge already pointed out numerous subtle mistakes he made in his designs that degraded the performance of their weapons. He resisted the urge to reopen the Young Blood design and optimize its ability to wield a sword.

"Instances like these makes me feel like an idiot. I'll have to boost my Mathematics and Physics to Journeyman before I start my next project." He reminded himself, having opted not to spend any DP on those essential skills when he could easily leverage his enhanced intelligence to make up for it in other ways.

[3D Printer Proficiency III]: 800 DP

[Assembler Proficiency III]: 800 DP

Ves intended to upgrade his main Assembly skill after the redesign, but for now he found it prudent to upgrade his proficiency sub-skills. Like the optimization skills, they worked by granting Ves the combined experience of a veteran fabricator.

The many things he had to keep in mind also indirectly improved his ability to design a mech by making it a little easier to fabricate, which should no doubt make Carlos happy.

[Alloy Compression II]: 2000 DP

[Structural Pathway Configuration I]: 1000 DP

[Structural Pathway Configuration II]: 2000 DP

Upgrading his Alloy Compression sub-skill seemed wise even as his Marc Antony still lacked the capability to make use of it. Ves still lacked a compressor and CTM. Even if he had them, alloy compression only worked with a limited number of rare and expensive exotics.

Only the mechs piloted by elites made use of this technique. The regular frontline models of a third-rate state did not make use of compression due to a lack of resources.

He had a lot more use for Structural Pathway Configuration, which was an expanded version of cable management for mechs. The internals of the Marc Antony still remained a mess. The only way to alleviate the congestion was to tear it all apart and start from scratch.

The sub-skill also played a role in his upcoming reconstruction project. The Dortmund printer was a massive, complex web of sub-systems intricately bound by various connections. These cables, feeds and pipes required extensive care, as they were relatively fragile.

After digesting all of his gains, he summoned up his Status again to admire his accelerated growth.


Name: Ves Larkinson

Profession: Apprentice Mech Designer

Specializations: None

Design Points: 20.610


Strength: 0.8

Dexterity: 0.8

Endurance: 0.8

Intelligence: 1.8

Creativity: 1

Concentration: 1.7

Neural Aptitude: F


[Assembly]: Apprentice - [3D Printer Proficiency III] [Assembler Proficiency III]

[Business]: Apprentice

[Computer Science]: Incompetent

[Electrical Engineering]: Apprentice - [Structural Pathway Configuration II]

[Mathematics]: Apprentice

[Mechanics]: Journeyman - [Jury Rigging II] [Speed Tuning III]

[Metallurgy]: Journeyman - [Alloy Compression II]

[Metaphysics]: Incompetent

[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: An apprentice at the start of his true journey.

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