[You have failed to draw a prize from your golden lottery ticket. Please draw again.]
"Of course. Why not."
Ves shook his head as he received another dud on his next draw. Even a golden lottery ticket couldn't escape from the System's stingy grasp. It reiterated again how much of a bad trade it was to engage with this scam-like lottery business.
"I get the feeling it's a convenient way for the System to limit my actual rewards."
His distaste for the System's Lottery grew when he tried and failed to find a listing of the probabilities of winning any prizes. That was illegal!
Yet no matter how many times he nagged, the System remained inscrutable. He could only give up and draw the last golden ball with an apprehensive arm.
Once he retrieved the final ball, it shone as bright as the one that held the laser pistol. "This must be a big prize!"
Indeed, once the light had faded away, a translucent pill appeared in its midst. The entire lottery interface faded away now that he used up all of his golden tickets, but Ves didn't care as he stared at the compelling little pill.
"What is this?"
[Congratulations! You have received a Transcendence Pill. This object can be ingested to provide a powerful mental boost and break the human limit of any random mental Attribute without any lasting negative consequences. Ingesting the pill comes with considerable risk, and requires considerable mental and physical fortitude to survive the transformation process. It may take 1 to 88 days to complete this process.]
This time, Ves received another major prize. He had always been keeping his eye out on a way to breach past human limits. His endurance once reached past 2.0, but it reached that state in a highly unstable manner. His body slowly broke apart from the constant stress.
This time, the Transcendence Pill offered to do the same, but without any of the unsustainable elements. Even though the description still pointed out some risks, as long as he made the right preparations, there wouldn't be any lasting dangers.
"Still, if it takes up to eighty-eight days to complete the transformation process, then it's not a good idea to use it up at this time."
Right now, he was in the middle of a warzone. Soon, he'd be evacuated into space, but the danger only started from there. He could not afford to put himself under at this crucial time.
The System categorized the Transcendence Pill as a Supreme item, so Ves easily dematerialized it into his Inventory. Both his weapon and his pill would be absolutely safe there as long as his comm remained in his possession.
"It's too bad I don't have any way of upgrading my comm."
The fact that the comm that held his System could be taken away at any moment represented a major weak point in his security arrangement. Ves had been eying some comm upgrades in the Shop that could alleviate these risks, but right now he was loath to spend so much DP.
Overall, leaving aside the Special Upgrade Voucher, Ves received a fair amount of compensation for all of his trouble. The Amastendira met his need for a powerful self-defense option while the Transcendence Pill saved him the trouble of figuring out a way to break the human limit on his own.
As for the sensor production license, Ves reserved his judgement on it. He'd check on it once he returned to Cloudy Curtain.
"It really sucks that I've only scored three prizes out of ten draws."
With a tentative success rate of forty percent, golden lottery tickets sure provided an unsteady amount of value. Even if three out of the four prizes appeared to be exclusive items that provided benefits that couldn't be found in the Shop, it still didn't change the fact that it had been a risky exchange.
He glanced over at Lucky. His cat acted a bit grumpy as Ves fawned over his shiny new toys.
"Are you jealous?"
Lucky flicked his tail and turned around, ignoring Ves entirely.
Ves didn't take his pet's behavior to heart. "Let's go downstairs. It's about time we board our ride."
He walked down the stairs and sought out the beaten-up Happy Jelly. The transport converted into a mech carrier hadn't fared well on the surface. Sporadic long-ranged bombardment had struck the carrier, chipping away at its rusted armor coverage.
The Whalers patched up the craters as best they could, but they obviously hadn't been very proficient in the repairs. Even Ves could do a better job on his own.
Still, he figured it would be better for him to stick with the Whalers as they all came from Cloudy Curtain. It wasn't to the point where he trusted them with his life, but they had more reasons to keep him safe than the Blood Claws or the Mech Corps.
"Ves! You're here!" A suited Whaler waved at him as he supervised the final loading process of the Happy Jelly. "I've been wondering whether you'd come. I thought you hitched a ride with the 4th Division."
"The Mech Corps can be kind of touchy about letting me board their carriers." He responded. "Right now, they're focused on breaking through the pirate blockade in space. Having me around is a security risk."
"Couldn't you have traded some favors to get aboard their ships?"
"It's not worth the price."
Indeed, he already inquired about the possibility. Perhaps because of his shenanigans aboard the Gregarious Wrath, the Mech Corps put up a list of strict demands for Ves to continue his association with them. He rejected them because he didn't wish to start his draft at this time.
"How far is the loading process?"
"Everything essential is loaded up. We're only waiting for the final phase. It's going to be a tough time trying to load up all of the mechs that are fending off the pirates at the walls."
Ves nodded at that. It couldn't be helped, as the pirates continued to pour inside the red zone. They hungrily eyed the transports filled with higher grades of exotics. As long as they could shoot down one of them, they'd be able to salvage more than what they mined from the planet on their own.
"I'll go inside. Don't stay out for too long!"
As he entered the familiar badly-maintained interior of the Happy Jelly, the dirt and rust didn't look so awful anymore. Ves had the sense that he returned home. It was as if the Happy Jelly called out to him and told him he belonged.
Sadly, much of the recent deaths had hollowed out the ship. Many of the mech stables that ordinarily held mechs had been filled with cargo containers. The Jelly expected much fewer mechs to return to their berths this time.
The high level of losses sustained in this campaign had put a definite dampener on the mood of the crew. In his time among the Whalers, Ves found out that much of the members shared family relations with each other.
People recruited their brothers into the gang, and sisters married any man they found dashing. Among the Whalers, the mech pilots represented the apex of the organization, so it was a given that they all left a large number of widowed husbands and wives.
"If so many people die in a single campaign, then I get why my mother is so averse to conflict."
Thinking about his deceased mother ruined his mood as well. He had no idea what to think about the ghost who stole a big prize from underneath his nose. Though it eventually made no difference as the high-grade Rorach's Bone failed to meet the conditions to complete the mission, he still found it to be an awful experience.
At least he could finally say goodbye to this pernicious thieving ghost. The Glowing Planet and all of its secrets would soon become a headache for the Hexadric Hegemony and the Friday Coalition to deal with. They possessed plentiful tools to deal with energy beings like the ghost.
"Not that I'm helpless like before. This time I've got the Amastendira on my side."
One particular benefit of the mastercrafted laser pistol was that it came with a setting specialized in hurting energy beams. Ves actually looked forward for the ghost to appear in his midst again. He had a nasty surprise in store for the sticky-fingered creature.
With the death of many mech pilots, a couple of cabins became ownerless. The Whalers assigned him one of the best and roomiest cabins this time. They even went through the trouble of cleaning up the place and removing all of the effects of the previous occupants.
Lucky roamed around the roomy cabin, meowing in satisfaction. Ves stowed away his luggage before stepping out of the cabin. He knew the Whalers lacked a solid team of mech technicians and could use a solid kick in the butt.
Once he entered the Jelly's workshop, all of the mech technicians looked towards Ves. Almost everyone had worked under him at some point at the start of the campaign so they instinctively lowered their heads at his presence.
Inventing the undercharged energy cells also added to his prestige. Ves didn't even have to say a word to take over the entire workshop deck.
"Give me an overview. How many landbound mechs are we expecting and how many spaceborn mechs does the Jelly carry?"
The oldest-looking tech stepped forward. "We're expecting five landbound mechs, which includes the Urmech, the Blackbeak and the Stanislaw. As for spaceborn mechs, we only carry two of them. Would you like to see them?"
"Yes. They're vital to the defense of this carrier. Before we lift off from the Glowing Planet, I want to make sure they're in fighting shape."
While the technicians led the way towards the two spaceborn mechs, over at the perimeter of the base, the open field had turned into a torn and broken landscape.
An abundance of wrecks littered the site. While a fair amount of mechs looked reasonably intact save for a hole in the cockpit or a cut to their limbs, an even larger amount of debris looked like they had gone through a storm.
Many pirate outfits lacked the connections or fabrication capabilities to supply their mechs with undercharged energy cells. This led to a judicious amount of explosions that hurt their side more than their opponents.
"I think it's about time we pull back." Raella muttered as she cast some of her sensors to the ranged mechs firing from the wall. "Some of the rifles have run out of ammo."
"There's still another wave of pirates heading in our direction." Fadah noted as he beheld the loose arrangement of pirate mechs coming up to the debris field. "Hah! They sent so many mechs at us that they have to watch their footing!"
The sheer amount of wrecks inadvertedly blunted much of the later pirate waves. In addition, the Dragons of the Void had exhausted much of its cannon fodder. They had to prod the other pirate alliances to pick up the slack, with mixed results.
"This latest bunch look dangerous, though. They've brought multiple heavy knights to the fore. I thought pirates shouldn't be able to produce these kinds of mechs!"
"That doesn't stop them from stealing them." Fadah explained. "In fact, it looks a lot like this outfit raided a military supply depot. These mechs are sporting serious hardware."
Fortunately, the Mech Corps finally sent the recall signal. The ships had finished loading the final cargo. Now, they only awaited the final batch of mechs that defended the perimeter.
"Let's go! This is the end run!" The commanding officer of the Blood Claws transmitted to the mechs defending this corner of the base. "Don't panic and don't run ahead. Stick to the plan and pull back in an orderly fashion!"
Thousands of mechs across the entire base collectively shrunk back. They pulled away from the walls and briskly headed towards the mass of carriers that awaited their arrival.
The pirate mechs noticed the retreat and hastened their way through the debris field. Both sides tried to reach the center and fight the final battle on the surface of the Glowing Planet.
This was the end run.
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