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A dwarven star sector. Ves almost couldn't believe it at first. How the hell did these repressed variants of humans succeed in toppling many third and second-class states in the span of just a couple decades?
It was too fast and too unreal!
The story made more sense when Ves thought about who actually benefited from this abnormal development. If Ves ignored the dwarves, then it became clear that the Big Two and more specifically the MTA definitely benefited!
This implied that the Smiling Samuel Star Sector was under greater observation. That was bad news to Ves as he would be stepping into the territory of someone else's experimental grounds.
Scientists hated it when external factors affected their experiments!
Ves should know as he was one of them. Though he wasn't sure how much he could do in Smiling Samuel, he doubted that the MTA or at least someone in the organization would be pleased if he disrupted the normal order of the Vulcan Empire.
This meant that Ves had to maintain a low profile if he wanted to enter this dwarven star sector. Perhaps he might have to leave his entire fleet behind in order to enter Smiling Samuel as a guest.
All of these restrictions made him feel more ambivalent about his goal of taking out the Timpala Steel he buried in the star sector.
Though Ves liked to take a gamble every now and then, he did not relish the prospect of entering a region filled with hostile supremacist dwarves!
"What's even worse is that they're dwarves of my own making!"
Ves never expected Smiling Samuel to spiral out of control to this extent! He fully realized the horror of being able to change the past!
After he finished his discussion with Major Verle, he returned to the Scarlet Rose and began to read up on Smiling Samuel, the Vulcan Empire and the Vulcan Faith.
According to the galactic net, there were no functional differences between the three. The Star Sector was dominated by a single second-rate state. The state was highly intertwined with its main religion.
The Vulcan Faith originated out of the former mining slaves of Desala X. It seemed that after Ves had helped the rebels escape, the MTA took in their complaints and heavily sanctioned House Kantis.
The noble house actually had to hand over its assets to the dwarves!
This gave the freed mining slaves a territory of their own which couldn't be taken back. It was there where the Desala Resistance Movement transformed into the Dwarven Justice Movement, which aimed to liberate dwarves beyond the Desala System.
It was also at this period in history where the original rebels began to propagate their belief in Vulcan!
"These dwarves are too gullible."
Belief in Vulcan spread rapidly. The former mining slaves didn't know anything and easily got hoodwinked into worshipping a non-existent god.
Much of the foundation of the modern Vulcan Empire originated from this period. By attracting a lot of outside help, the freed slaves developed vigorously.
The more Ves read about the Vulcanites, as the dwarven citizens of the Empire called themselves, the more he became abhorred at the monster he created.
Phrases such as 'death to the tall folk' and 'the galaxy belongs to dwarvenkind' were uttered with distressing regularity. Any notion of peaceful coexistence with humans instantly drew widespread condemnation from the dwarven supremacists.
Every dwarf hated normal humans! The only difference was to what extent they wished death and ruin to the tall folk. Some wanted to turn the tables against the humans and enslave them. Others wanted to wipe them out wholesale!
Fortunately, despite their big talk, the dwarves never spread beyond Smiling Samuel. The surrounding states and star sectors were highly on guard against the heavy gravity variant humans. Each of them signed a treaty that called for forming a blockade that kept the dwarves bottled up in their own star sector!
This was the current status quo. The Vulcan Empire had the power of life and death in Smiling Samuel, but the Vulcanites instantly lost all of their deterrence power once they stepped outside.
The lack of mutual respect and understanding between humans and dwarves caused the two groups to intensify their hatreds towards each other.
If Ves rashly entered the Smiling Samuel Star Sector, he would likely attract a lot of dwarven hostility!
"This is impossible!"
Sneaking in was possible, but difficult. The Vulcanites intensely patrolled their own space and ruthlessly rallied as many nearby elements as possible in order to crush any intruders!
Obtaining an exemption was difficult. Even if he had one, there were plenty of radicalists who were willing to disregard the consequences in order to kill a human encroaching on their space.
"There is another alternative…"
The mere thought of transforming his body into that of dwarf repulsed him. He did not want to change his body! It would be one thing if he was born a dwarf, but he was not. He grew up into a human with normal proportions. His current body was a part of his identity, and he was largely happy with it. He would be betraying himself if he changed into a different form!
"That's not all. I haven't even considered Gloriana's reaction yet." He muttered.
There was no way his wife wanted her perfect husband to turn into a dwarf! She would kill him if he walked up to their bed with a shorter and stockier form!
While Ves had heard the body morphing procedure was reversible, it was not a trivial matter. Otherwise, a lot of dwarves would have been able to turn themselves into tall folk.
No matter how Ves looked at it, the difficulty of entering Smiling Samuel, retrieving the hidden batch of Timpala Steel and making it out alive was immense!
The threat posed by the Vulcanites surpassed that of the Nyxian pirates.
While the Allidus Alliance had grown to the point of being able to field warships, its lack of legitimacy, its limited resources and its barren population base meant that its actual strength was quite manageable.
The pirates only managed to fend off the Big Two by taking advantage of the tricky environment and by borrowing the strength of the dark gods.
As for the Vulcanites, they weren't a bunch of scummy pirates. They formed a proper state that ruled over thousands of star systems and trillions of dwarves.
The Vulcan Empire was at least equal to the Friday Coalition and the Hexadric Hegemony, if not greater!
"Well, at least I have time to come up with a plan. I don't have to solve this problem right away."
His fleet first had to leave the Yeina Star Cluster, pass through the Bardo Star Cluster, enter the Fermi Star Cluster before coming within reach of Smiling Samuel.
Depending on how many stops he made, it would probably take around two years to reach the dwarven star sector. He should address more immediate priorities first while calmly plotting how he wanted to retrieve his great prize.
To be honest, if Ves had a choice, he would rather skip this goal. The Vulcan Empire was way too dangerous for him to mess around. Retrieving his precious stash was bound to be tough.
This shouldn't be the only source of Timpala Steel. Perhaps he might be able to stumble upon another sample in the Red Ocean. Even if the dwarf galaxy lacked this ultra-rare exotic, as long as he grew powerful enough, there were other ways of obtaining what he wanted.
Yet… Ves feared the System might not take kindly to this course of action. He might be patient enough to wait, but the System might not. It was impossible to tell how urgently the System needed the materials stipulated by the Supply Missions, but they had to be at least somewhat vital.
What would the System do if its current user ignored an opportunity to replenish some of its lost strength?
If Ves was in its place, he might decide to change to another user!
He was unsure whether the System was willing to do so. The more Ves learned about the System and the Five Scrolls Compact, the more he understood his own value. Mech designers like him were hard to come by. The System also shared an unknown relationship with his mother.
That said, the uncertainty surrounding the System's motives left Ves in the dark. He did not dare to act too presumptuously. The risk of provoking a backlash from the System loomed over his head like the sword of Damocles.
Though Ves was very proud of himself, he knew he wouldn't have been able to make it this far without its help. The System helped him rise to prominence. It could easily tear him down.
"Ugh. Let's get to Smiling Samuel first. For now, I should get back to designing my mechs."
While the Larkinson Clan became preoccupied with integrating the incoming shipments of mechs and starships, the Design Department finally completed its initial preparations.
Ves, Gloriana and Juliet stood in front of the design lab. The three Journeymen faced the Braves and Erudites.
Due to the bad blood between Gloriana and Juliet, the two women stood far apart from each other. The two didn't even speak together, let alone collaborate at the same time.
Their problematic relationship continued to give Ves a lot of headaches. While it wasn't impossible for the two of them to collaborate on a mech design, they had to work sequentially instead of concurrently. This did not facilitate cooperation and would definitely affect the quality of the end product.
He had no choice. Ves should be happy that the two women were willing to compromise to this extent. It would have been a lot worse if the two refused to work on a mech design that their adversary had touched!
"In the past several weeks, we have fleshed our six projects." Ves addressed the crowd. "With the data gathered by the Design, Marketing and Product Research Departments, we know where we stand on our proposed mech designs. Each of them are viable according to the data, and that is enough to go on. Today, we shall officially commence all six design projects!"
Every mech designer who listened to him immediately became hopeful. While second-class mech designs were far more complicated to design, they also represented the future of the Larkinson Clan. It was essential for every assistant mech designer to become proficient in working with them if they wanted to keep up with the lead designers.
Gloriana took over from Ves. "Different from before, we shall assign two design teams to every design project. Your workload is higher, but the overall impact you can make is smaller. Don't be disappointed by that. The work you will engage in will push you until you become more accustomed to working with second-class mechs. As long as you prove you are able to handle this level of work, you will be entrusted with more important work. Becoming a second-class mech designer on par with us is just around the corner if you reach this point!"
"We have six months of time to complete our projects." Ves crossed his arms. "Regardless of the state of the mech design in question, we will finalize it once the deadline looms closer. Your help is crucial. You will receive additional Larkinson merits if we meet our goal."
Everyone's eyes lit up. The prospect of being able to work on second-class design projects was not as attractive as earning more merits. The Braves had already been bragging about how many merits they received from participating in the Nyxian Gap Campaign.
Ves quickly explained some other matters of importance. Tackling six second-class mech designs was very strenuous for the Design Department, but it was fine as long as everyone did their jobs.
The only problem for Ves was that the Erudites were better equipped for the challenge than the Braves. The former may have missed out on experiencing battles up close in the Nyxian Gap, but they didn't waste their time in Cinach. The Erudites were definitely further ahead when it came to absorbing knowledge!
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