The chief engineer arranged a souped-up armored shuttle for Ves. Compared to a regular shuttle, it held a lot less storage space, but the armor and increased structural integrity made up for it in spades.
The first time Ves stepped inside the shuttle with Lucky hanging over his shoulders, he became a little bit intimidated by its complex control scheme.
Forces employed armored shuttles in many different ways, from stealthily dropping commandos behind enemy lines to pursuing a rampaging mech. The Mech Corps employed even more advanced shuttles that came with many additional features that bore unwieldy acronyms like GURED or NEFFI-Fast.
"Don't worry." A shuttle technician said as he accompanied Ves inside. "Let me activate the dummy mode for you. It'll disable most of the advanced features and automate the rest. As far as the controls go, it'll turn into something similar to the games you can play from your comm."
"Ah, thank you for the trouble. Please do so."
Ves sat down the chair and watched the technician navigate the projected control panel. Overall, the menus looked similar to those employed by mechs, so Ves quickly got the hang of it himself. Still, as he hadn't trained in piloting shuttles at all, it was best to leave the controls to dummy mode.
In the wide-ranging galaxy, humanity became increasingly dependent on machines to rule their lives. Humanity was a quintessential tool-using race that had ascended into dominance due to their ever-voracious appetite for deadlier and more capable machines.
Naturally, this also presented problems as many machines required extreme amounts of training to master their use. Mechs alone not only demanded potentates with the right genetic aptitude, they also required at least ten years of training to gain the most basic qualification to pilot them these days.
At the start of the Age of Mechs, mech pilots only needed four years to effectively wield their mechs. This stark difference showcased the relentless advance to developing better but more complex machines, which meant it applied to anything that fell under this category, including mechs, shuttles and starships.
A human could only master a couple of skills in a given amount of time. To provide against contingencies and to make their products more appealing, developers and manufacturers of these machines standardized the implementation of dummy modes to their products.
The basic standard of an effective dummy mode would be that even a ten-year old kid could figure out the basic controls. The moment the dummy mode began to proliferate, life became much easier. Even though most of the advanced capabilities would be wasted, sometimes a person only needed to accomplish a simple job, like going from A to B.
Ves fell into the same situation. He had no intentions of performing any advanced maneuvers. He just wanted to go out into the tunnel and sniff out a high-grade Rorach's Bone.
"C'mon Lucky, you better get your mineral senses ready. I'll be relying on you to get me another fat piece of bone." Ves petted the lazy cat on his shoulder.
Using the dummy mode, Ves easily drifted his armored shuttle out of the hangar, to the collective relief of the crew. At least he didn't veer off and crash against the deck or something.
"It really is like a game."
Through making some delicate hand gestures, Ves got the hang of the controls. He maintained a slow speed and slowly inched the shuttle away from the Gregarious Wrath. The tunneler loomed large in the shuttle's augmented sensors.
Currently, tons of shuttles and mech technicians crawled over her exterior. Ves knew that even more repair crews worked inside the tunneler. To get the Wrath moving again required all hands on deck.
"I should be there too."
Someone like Ves might not understand any of the larger systems, but he could still lend a hand with routine repairs. Still, acquiring another high-grade Rorach's Bone ranked much higher than earning a bit more kudos from the crew.
"Now then, let's start my search."
Due to the high amount of interference and other weird effects, the Mech Corps possessed very few means of locating high-grade Rorach's Bone. They could only vaguely detect that they had entered a more promising area. Even if a valuable piece of ore rested a meter away from the tunnel wall, the sensors couldn't detect its presence.
This prompted the mining vehicles around the Wrath to go blind and hope they picked the right direction. The odds of Ves encountering a high-grade specimen in a couple of days was extremely rare.
Fortunately, he wasn't alone. He still had Lucky, who's insatiable appetite for quality exotics always drew him to the most promising deposits. His senses was a lot more keener than the mineral scanners aboard the Gregarious Wrath.
"Alright Lucky, point me to the right direction."
"Don't meow at me like you don't understand what I've said. Go on. Find something!"
It took a bit of coaxing to get Lucky to point at a promising direction. Ves carefully flew his shuttle further away from the Wrath and towards an unremarkable tunnel wall section.
"Is this the place you detected something promising?"
"Alright, let's head out."
Ves exited the pilot's chair and moved to the main compartment where a bulky mining suit awaited him. The suit was twice as thick as a hazard suit and required powered assistance to move, which technically turned it into an exoskeleton. This variant came with a couple of optimizations that made it suitable to roam close to the center of the Glowing Planet.
As Ves drifted out from the hatch, his suit's antigrav modules came online, which held the entire thing aloft. Meanwhile, Lucky had climbed on top of his helmet and kept a firm grip.
Small thrusters on the backpack module of the suit flared to life. The force propelled him forward and he reached the wall in no time. In fact, he almost crashed against it if he hadn't managed to figure out how to turn around and thrust in the opposite direction.
"I should learn how to maneuver in zero-G sometime."
Spaceborn humans learned how to move in zero gravity conditions as soon as they learned how to walk. A landbound human like Ves would never be able to catch up to their level of skill, but acquiring the basics shouldn't be too difficult.
Once Ves stabilized his position, he experimentally knocked on the smooth and compacted tunnel wall. The first meters should be extremely tough to dig through, and no man-sized mining machine could put a dent in it. Ves didn't even bother to bring any tools for that reason.
He didn't need to when he already had a cat that could do the work in his stead.
"Alright Lucky, go ahead and dig." He transmitted over the channel he maintained with his pet. His gauntlets grabbed Lucky's body and held it out against the wall. "C'mon, use your magic."
Lucky seemed put off at being treated like a slave, but he eventually began to dig a small tunnel for himself. Somehow, Lucky parted the solid compacted materials as easily as digging through sand. He didn't even have to resort to his energy claws to dig deeper.
Twenty minutes went by as Lucky dug an eight meter tunnel. He stopped once the tunnel began to glow. His senses hadn't deceived him. The cat managed to find an energetic piece of ore!
"Don't eat it yet! Bring it back to me first!"
It took quite a bit of effort for Lucky yo dislodge the ore and bring it back to the lip of the tunnel he dug out. It turned out to be a quail-egg sized exotic that he'd seen before in the vault.
"This isn't Rorach's Bone. Lucky, you found the wrong mineral. I want Rorach's Bone, not this junk."
Even though Ves was certain the piece held a lot of value, he threw it back to Lucky, who eagerly munched it down. Ves did not have any delusions that he would be able to sneak an extremely valuable hoard of exotics past the Mech Corps. A big find would also cast more suspicion on Ves.
For the next twelve hours, Ves kept moving his shuttle from place to place, taking care not to stray too far from the Wrath. At this distance, Ves figured he didn't run any risk of encountering a dangerous spacetime anomaly.
Sadly, his conservative efforts amounted to nothing. Each time Lucky dug something up, it turned out to be a medium-grade Rorach's Bone or worse. Even Lucky's vaunted mineral senses couldn't pinpoint any pieces of high-grade ores.
"This isn't getting me anywhere." He sighed as he returned the armored shuttle back to the hangar. "This session is a bust."
There was nothing wrong with his methods, but trying to find a piece of high-grade ore revolved around luck. If he had as much manpower as the Mech Corps, he'd be bound to stumble upon it sooner or later.
The next day, Ves ventured out into the same armored shuttle and ventured further away from the Gregarious Wrath. While this exposed him to greater risk, he figured that moving away from the Wrath should allow Lucky to be more accurate in his search.
Nothing changed from yesterday. Lucky kept finding decent traces of low to medium-grade exotics, but they didn't fulfill the criteria set out by Ves. Halfway throughout the session, Ves groaned and palmed his helmet with his gauntlet.
"Do I need to move even further away?"
He already extended his range further down where the concentration of Rorach's Bone steadily increased. The deeper he went, the higher the chance of locating a high-grade specimen, though he also had to brave the risk of suffering a spacetime mishap.
After some serious consideration, he hardened his eyes. "Fortune and danger go hand-in-hand. I can't afford to play it safe."
Despite the risks, Ves resolutely pushed his shuttle a little deeper into the tunnel. The shuttle stopped three kilometers away from the Wrath.
With Lucky acting like a hunting dog, the two continued to prospect for minerals. The extra distance yielded significantly larger samples of Rorach's Bone, but they still fell within the medium-grade category.
Hungry for something better, Ves slowly inched his shuttler further and further away from the Gregarious Wrath. Somehow, he could feel the increasing instability in the local space. The omnipresent fields emitted by the dimensional smoothers had weakened enormously by now.
Further down the tunnel, Ves even saw flashes that disrupted the tunnel walls. The danger was very real at this point. He even thought about pulling back sometimes.
"I can't give up. Not when I'm this close."
Lucky had grown a lot more enthusiastic by now. He continued to stuff himself endlessly with the minerals he dug up. His stomach had literally turned into a bottomless hole as he kept eating Rorach's Bone after Rorach's Bone. Even his exterior plating began to take a milky-white sheen from its former silvery luster.
The change indicated that Lucky had definitely incorporated Rorach's Bone on a deeper level.
Ves was happy to see his pet grow stronger, but he still hadn't found what he was looking for. At the end of his second jaunt, Ves was just about to return to the Wrath when Lucky suddenly struck paydirt.
His cat's activity level spiked. Lucky had to expand the tunnel he dug in order to retrieve a large piece of glowing white ore.
"High-grade Rorach Bone!"
Lucky had done it! Ves laughed and brought his cat to his helmet and nuzzled him. The cat kept turning his head back to the piece of high-grade ore. Despite his obedience to Ves, Lucky kept mooning over the priceless piece of Rorach's Bone.
"I'm sorry, Lucky, but I need it more than you."
Once he put down Lucky on his shoulder, Ves looked around to see no one nearby. He activated his Privacy Shield to disable the shuttle from recording him on its sensors before he held out one of his gauntlets, which interfaced with his comm.
Ves activated the System and went to the Missions page. He held out the ball of high-grade Rorach's Bone and presented it to his comm. "Here you go, System."
Uh, hello? This is prime quality Rorach's Bone! Why aren't you accepting it yet?!"
[The material that you present does not fulfill the criteria of the mission. Please present the correct substance to pass the mission.]
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