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Ves and the living gem implicitly cooperated with each other because they were heading in the same direction. The soldiers in their way impeded both their progress, so Ves did not mind the fact that the gem unleashed the cyclopes on them in order to clear he way.
Yet now that their paths diverged at the final stretch, those giant beasts were no longer on his side!
He had no doubt that if he attempted to screw the living gem over, the humanoid monsters would crush him and his Larkinsons the same way they crushed all of those poor infantrymen!
Ves had no way of fighting back against the might of these terrible experimental monstrosities. He was cut off from his airfleet and didn't have any of his powerful mechs and mech pilots by his side.
Though he thought highly of the combat prowess of his honor guard, they were never meant to fight against mechs or giants who approached the size and combat power of an actual mech!
Fortunately, all was not lost. Gems weren't indestructible and Ves was still confident enough he could shatter the cage that kept the remnant of the Supreme Sage alive before a cyclops could do anything.
"Sir?" Dr. Perris shuddered as she stared into the cruel and hungry gazes of the cyclopes looming over her tiny figure. "The Supreme Sage… is… a great man. His reputation… has always been good. He won't… renege on his promises."
Ves ignored her statement. Everything she knew about the Supreme Sage came from her upbringing as a Lifer. The horrors he witnessed from this lab presented a very different image!
A minute passed by as the air continued to grow more tense. Ves wasn't sure how long a cyclops was able to restrain itself. Ves could sense the violence in their bodies. Their programming may have restrained their bestial instincts, but the annoying part about life was that no organism was completely predictable. They were all unique and could deviate from their programming at any time for any reason.
As Ves continued to wrack his mind on trying to come up with a solution that was acceptable to both sides, Dr. Perris spoke again.
"Patriarch Ves, if both of you don't trust each other, then why not take baby steps?"
Ves briefly turned to her, but did not slack off in keeping the living gem under his control. The only leverage he had right now was his ability to destroy the container that kept the remaining spirit of the Supreme Sage safe.
It was vitally important that he retained his leverage!
Avalon Perris gestured at the gate that the living gem wanted to pass through before waving her arm at the gate that led to the core lab that held the secrets of Special Project 'V'.
Why not just open both entrances first before doing anything else? Once they are both open, you can both get what you want at the same time.
That sounded like a decent compromise to Ves, but the gem didn't agree. It shook from side to side.
"Why won't it work?"
It took more than a minute for Ves to figure out the meaning behind its gestures.
"You need my help to activate the process to revive you? How come? Can't you rely on your current form or your huge helpers to proceed?"
It turned out that it couldn't. The cyclopes might be obedient for the moment, but they were brutes designed to inflict as much violence as their bodies allowed. They were not smart and delicate enough to operate complicated computer systems!
As for the gem, it was the subject of the procedure this time. A patient could hardly operate on himself, and this case was similar to that. Another factor was that the Supreme Sage never anticipated he would end up in this form. Due to security considerations, only a human could operate the vital control panel that could activate the procedure!
Ves thought about the situation. "It sounds like you can't do it without me. If that is the case, how about this. You help me retrieve the serum first, but you can keep your cyclopes close to prevent me from running away. Only when I help you activate the restoration process will my team and I be able to leave. Is that okay?"
They spent some time hammering out the details. Neither of them wanted to get screwed by each other, so it was difficult to form a plan that would make them both satisfied.
Fortunately, while their interests didn't align with each other, they didn't conflict either. Both of them could get what they want without stepping on each other's toes.
In this situation, they didn't have to be enemies towards each other. They were able to forge a tentative compromise that pleased them both.
"Alright, first open this gate. Do you know how to do that?"
The living gem did not have the ability to open the gate itself, but it was not without a solution.
Under its vigorous instructions, Ves activated his comm and prepared to transmit a powerful electronic signal.
Surprisingly, the signal that the gem wanted to transmit was not some elaborate code or pass phrase.
It was just a simple unencrypted message.
Surprisingly, the gate doors began to slide open!
The cyclopes and the exploration team hurriedly stepped back in order to allow for the massive slabs of bone metal to slide outwards. The entire floor seemed to shake as the heavy gate doors moved apart.
Darkness welled inside. Ves wasn't able to peer what was inside because there was a distinct lack of light sources in the enormous lab space. Only a few systems seemed to be active. Their projections lit up a couple of enormous organic machines.
Yet his attention wasn't on the powerful organic lab equipment up ahead. Instead, he looked at the lifeform that was likely responsible for opening the gate from the other side.
A strange fleshy octopus-like creature hovered just inside the open gate. The artificial creature possessed big eyes that showed at least some form of intelligence. Ves felt there were other unusual aspects about this organism.
Was this the Supreme Sage's pet or something?
"Before we proceed inside, help me get what I want first." He spoke.
Under the cooperation of the living gem, Ves transmitted a few simple commands to the floating octopus beast. The creature floated out into the corridor and crossed over to the other side. Once it reached a control panel, it began to press one of its tentacles into a port before exchanging some signals.
The second slowly slid open.
According to the agreement, Ves and his team were allowed to venture inside, but only under the company of a cyclops.
Ves felt deeply uncomfortable stepping inside while a giant humanoid was following his steps. He constantly felt as if a huge eye was looking at him as if he was a snack.
Different from the first core lab, the one that the Larkinsons had entered was more modern and familiar. Not only was the lighting a little brighter, they also spotted an abundance of high-end conventional lab equipment that the Supreme Sage redeemed from the MTA.
Obviously, the production process of the vital serum was so complicated and demanding that the Supreme Sage couldn't rely on his own organic machines to do the job.
Ves studied the extensive pharmaceutical production line. While he was not familiar with most of the machines, he was already able to hone in on his prize. He didn't need any directions to reach the end of the production line. He stopped before a large, shuttle-sized vault.
Dr. Perris had already approached the central terminal. The serum was not as important as the complete research files on Special Project 'V'. Even though she knew that she was dealing with tainted research, her curiosity as a biotech expert finally won over this time. There was no way she could resist the temptation of discovering the secrets of high-grade life-prolonging treatment serum!
"Open this vault."
The octopus creature only had to interface with the vault for a handful of seconds to unlock and open the vault. As it opened up, Ves carefully stepped inside and approached a pedestal which held an illuminated cage.
The sheer amount of life energy that he was feeling right now was making his mind, body and spirit incredibly excited!
He was so close to obtaining his prize!
"One, two, three, four, five! Five vials! Damn! How many expert pilot brains did it take to make so many vials?!"
Though he did not know the exact potency and efficacy of the serum, they shouldn't be too worse off than the vial he originally obtained from the Flagrant Vandals.
With so many samples of serum, Ves could truly supercharge his spiritual engineering projects and create all kinds of powerful spiritual products!
Yet it was not time yet for Ves to grab these precious treasures. The octopus creature opened the illuminated cage and took out each vial with an individual tentacle.
"Hey! Be careful with those! Don't drop any of them! They're worth more than entire planets!"
Of course, Ves was just being fussy at the moment. The containers of the serum were incredibly hard and impervious. There was no way the Supreme Sage would store such an expensive substance in fragile bottles.
He waited for Dr. Perris to load several duplicates of the research data on Special Project 'V' onto multiple data chips. The living gem didn't seem to mind that Ves wanted to steal his valuable research on this core project.
Coming back to life was much more important! Nothing else mattered!
"I'm done." She spoke. She looked excited as she returned to hand Ves and Nitaa a data chip. "I still can't fathom all of the steps required to make the serum that everyone in the galaxy wants to obtain. The amount of expertise I need to make it is too much. It would have been better if I specialized in this field! Did you know that the 'V' stands for vita?"
"That sounds nice, but we need to uphold our end of the deal now. Let's head back to the other lab."
They exited the well-lit lab that was filled with reassuring mechanical lab equipment and instead crossed over into another core lab.
This time, Ves felt a lot less at home. Visibility was down not only due to the lack of illumination, but also the excess moisture in the air. His suit registered elevated temperatures and lots of strange interference.
What was even weirder was that the deck no longer consisted of bare bone metal. Instead, the entire surface was covered by a strange carpet of fleshy biomass. Every step they took caused the flesh carpet to squelch a bit!
He looked at the massive bulbous growths around him. It looked as if he was surrounded by a myriad of strange, giant organic lab equipment. Their purpose and workings completely eluded Ves and not even Perris was able to decipher their role.
"I can only tell you that a lot of power is running through these enormous organic machines." She tentatively said. "They are consuming significantly more power than biomechs."
The octopus that was leading the way forward eventually stopped at a single terminal.
Unlike the organic machines that surrounded them all, the central workstation was entirely mechanical. Ves could see why the living gem needed the help of a human. Unlike the other control interfaces operated by the octopus, the one before him was made by the MTA and did not make any accommodations for other species.
"So what do I do now?"
He didn't need to do anything too complicated to operate the control panel. While some of the instructions were rather complicated, his engineering background along with his familiarity with computer systems quickly allowed him to log in and activate some pre-prepared commands.
The entire lab shook a bit. Just ahead, an enormous invisible energy shield went off-life. Some of the mist parted a bit, allowing Ves to see an enormous pillar in the distance.
"I need to go forward?"
Though Ves felt increasingly more uncomfortable, he became more curious as well. He and his team moved forward. They soon reached some sort of fleshy ramp that caused them to move higher.
Eventually, reached the base of an enormous fleshy pillar that extended so high up that Ves couldn't even see the end. It was as thicker than a biomech and emanated so much power that he almost became dizzy.
"Your body is inside?"
The gem nodded.
"Then… how do I get you inside?"
The gem didn't know the answer. That was strange. It was as if it lost the knowledge on what to do next. The octopus pet didn't know how to proceed either.
Ves frowned as he tried to find the entrance to this organic structure. He curiously approached the enormous pillar until he was able to touch it. He idly pressed the living gem against the meaty surface, not expecting much out of this random action.
A strong suction force took the gem from his armored finger.
That wasn't supposed to happen!
The resilient layer of flesh should have never been able to absorb the living gem so easily!
The entire lab structure began to shake. It was as if Ves had somehow triggered an earthquake!
The only instance where Lucky's gems got absorbed in this fashion was…
His eyes widened in realization. "Oh."
"What is the matter, sir?"
"We need to step back and get out of here!"
He didn't wait for Dr. Perris to acknowledge his command. He turned around and punched the octopus with his armored fist!
The creature let out a painful roar and spasmed as his floating body flew a bit back. Ves quickly approached and pried the vials from its tentacles one by one. Once he collected all five of them, he put them into storage containers built into his Unending Regalia and hastily ran down the ramp!
While the rest of his team didn't know what was going on, they nonetheless trusted Ves and followed behind his heels.
They soon exited the ramp and continued to head for the exit as if their lives were on the line!
Soon, the lab shook so much that Ves and the rest had to activate the antigrav systems of their suit to remain stable.
When Ves briefly turned around to take a look, he noticed that the ramp he had just descended had risen from the surrounding flesh layer.
A lot of hot mist had cleared at this time. Ves could clearly identify the shape of human toes.
The problem was that the scale was too immense! These were by far the largest human toes he had ever seen! Not even the feet of regular biomechs were this big!
It was at this time that he learned that the ramp he just walked over was actually a giant foot.
That meant that the huge fleshy pillar was not some sort of enormous lab machine. It was actually a humongous leg!
When Ves tried to extrapolate the size of the body that this limb was a part of, he finally figured out the truth behind the Supreme Sage's body.
The NuMan he encountered at Prescott Museum was practically child's play in comparison to this enormous creation!
"What… what are we looking at, sir? This… does not seem like a regular biomech."
"That's because it's not." Ves watched on with fear as he noticed that the enormous biological construct was waking to life. "It's a biological juggernaut that is as large as a starship!"
The Supreme Sage was so crazy that he plotted to replace his fragile human body with that of a biological supergiant!
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