Back in the underground labs of the newly-christened Mech Nursery, Ves continued to develop new iterations of crystals. He minutely adjusted their composition and patterns, gaining more data by the day.
Most of the time, the crystals turned out to be outright failures. Ves had never eliminated the odds of producing brittle and opaque pieces of crystal. Let alone being embedded into the chest of a mech, they wouldn't even qualify as laser pointers.
"Why is this so difficult?!"
A depressing week marked with constant failures had already gone by. Ves kept trying to discover suitable substitutes to the original composition of the alien crystals with unerring persistence, but even his upgraded Intelligence and Physics hadn't been able to guarantee a quick success.
The unending setbacks taught Ves that he underestimated the enormity of working around exotics. Properly speaking, Ves should have delegated this work to a team of specialists. Lately, he started to consider if it might be a good idea to get some people on board this project.
After weighing the pros and cons, he decided not to do so at this time. "The LMC hasn't grown to the point of justifying a dedicated research team."
Ves could easily hire a horde of average researchers who graduated from regular institutions like the Rittersberg University of Technology. However, average wouldn't cut it. His Senior-level Physics vastly outshone almost every other physicist in the Republic.
An accumulation of the highest mech-related physics knowledge over several decades was nothing to scoff at. Only other older mech designers or true talents in the field of physics could match his intellectual acumen.
"It's useless to take on a bunch of dummies when I can do everything better myself. If I have to form a dedicated research department, then I'll have to find a way to hire the best."
Only true talents and leaders in their fields entered his discernment. However, it was exactly because of their competitive that everyone else already valued them highly.
Major companies, institutes and governments had already hooked their claws in them even before they graduated. As long as any student revealed some talents, they'd be recruited on the spot and received extensive training from their organizations upon graduation.
These talents would quietly disappear from the public and henceforth dedicate their entire being for the organization that coddled them like precious treasures.
Ves wouldn't be able to hire anyone with actual skill from the job market for this reason. "I can't form a design team the conventional way."
The LMC had only just begun to transform into a medium mech manufacturer. It still fell behind a true medium manufacturer in many other ways, from production capacity to research and development. In a way, it hadn't completely shaken off the trappings of a small mech manufacturer.
"Well, I still have one more week to go. I refuse to give up now that I've generated all of this data."
Each failure brought him closer to success. He continued to rule out the wrong directions, leaving only a handful of narrow paths which might bring him to his desired outcome as long as he didn't stumble upon a dead end.
In the meantime, Ves mentally tried to construct an elaborate set of images for his upcoming design.
This time, he planned to incorporate an alien into the 'human' myth. Actually calling this type of image the human myth was just an expedient way for Ves to describe its purpose.
"The base role sets the foundation while the totem animal strengthens the primal instincts. The so-called human myth is needed to insert higher thought into the gestalt that influences the X-Factor."
Ves was no exobiologist, but he believed the crystal builders had developed their own form of civilization. Their ruins provided no evidence that they acted like savages that acted solely on their baser instincts.
Thus, even if he knew almost nothing about the crystal builders, he still wished to draw upon the existence of the deceased crystal leader as an image.
In order to build up an accurate image and take advantage of the crystal leader's immense potential, Ves tried to commune with its remains, in a sense. He constantly attempted to prod and poke the crystal leader's crystalline corpse with his severely underdeveloped spirituality while he continued to work on forming new crystals.
He mainly relied on a set of assumptions to drive his current action. No human in the galaxy knew how spirituality worked, let alone Ves, but believed his original design would gain a lot of strength if he succeeded in roping in the spirit of the crystal builder.
"Whether it's the alien's actual spirit or merely an imprint that he left behind in the fabric of history is still a question."
What happened when someone died? Humanity developed all kinds of fanciful theories, and Ves developed his own idea. If someone's spirituality became detached from their bodies due to death or other reasons, Ves believed that he could reel it in and make use of it in his designs.
Ves tried hard not to refer to the spiritual remnants as souls, because it carried a lot of theological implications. Religions around the galaxy would go nuts if they heard a description of what he planned to do. In their perspective, what was attempting to do might be considered necromancy or an attempt to play god!
He had to stifle his chuckle. "It's not like I'm trying to resurrect the dead. If some spiritual remnants are floating around in the imaginary realms for eons, then I might as well repurpose them for something useful."
Spoken like a true rationalist. He did not consider his actions as desecrating the dead and felt absolutely no guilt about his actions. All that talk about reincarnation, purgatory, redemption had nothing to do with him. Well water didn't interfere with river water.
In general, citizens of non-religious states always held a bias against any form of religion. The Bright Republic valued rationality very highly, so it was the strongest adherent to this unspoken rule.
Ves never stopped giving up his attempt to trace the spiritual remnant of the crystal leader, although his hopes started to dim as a few more days went by.
In contrast, his constant experimentation with the crystals started to bear fruit. They stopped being easy to break and they became capable of projecting a significant amount of power.
"Looks like I finally grasped the right direction. Right now, I need to strengthen the formula."
He only created a nail-sized piece of crystal. This was barely large enough for a toy laser pistol.
A laser crystal suitable enough for a mech-sized rifle should at least be the size of a chair. As for the crystal that Ves planned to embed in the chest or head, it should be at least twice or thrice as large.
Whenever he attempted to synthesize anything larger, cracks and faults started to appear. Ves believed that he would eventually be able to minimize the incidence of faults as long as he became more proficient. Still, the process demanded the utmost of his capabilities and his extensive familiarity with the nature of the crystals.
No one else would be able to replicate his feats even if they got a hold of the blueprints. While Seniors and Masters should be able to crack the secret, they had better things to do than to pay attention to a trivial Apprentice Mech Designer.
At the very least, none of his direct competitors would be able to imitate his gimmick.
While it gratified him to achieve a significant amount of process in this area, his search to grasp the spiritual remnant still remained empty-handed. Eventually, Ves stopped his lab work and took a break.
He entered a small kitchen area and pressed a button on the large automatic cooking machine. The advanced device recombined the stored nutrient packs into a close imitation of sausage and mash.
Ves grabbed his plate and set it down on a nearby table and begun to dig in.
A few minutes later, Lucky floated through the walls and brushed against Ves in a familiar greeting. When Ves attempted to scratch Lucky's face, the mischievous cat quickly turned intangible again.
"Oh come on, little buddy. You can't avoid my touch forever!"
Lucky swirled around Ves in a playful gesture before landing atop the kitchen machine to rest. In the past few weeks, Lucky continued to break inside the highly secured storerooms that secured a precious stock of expensive exotics. Not a single security measure proved capable of hindering Lucky's thieving claws.
At the very least, the cat didn't abuse his powers too much. He only nibbled a few bites before he contently left the storerooms. Ves still had plenty of inventory left to continue his experimentation on the crystals.
As he ate his meal, he looked at his contented cat with a thoughtful expression. "How well can you control your intangible state, Lucky?"
"Meow." Lucky lazily shifted from tangibility and intangibility and back several times over, demonstrating a complete level of control over the strange phenomenon.
Ves looked down on his own hand and willed his mind to turn the limb intangible.
"Damnit, why doesn't it work for me? Is my Spirituality Attribute not high enough?"
Ves experienced a lot of crazy things ever since he embarked on his career as a mech designer. He discovered the X-Factor, ate a strange heavenly flower in Groening IV and met a ghost that looked and acted a lot like his mother on the Glowing Planet.
In his latest adventure, he even peeled back the veil on spirituality and unified a lot of related theories and assumptions. Nevertheless, spirituality remained a marginal buzzword so long he couldn't make use of this knowledge.
"I'm missing something important. Why can't I extend my reach into the imaginary dimensions? Why am I unable to turn my body intangible?"
Perhaps an individual could only specialize in a narrow application of spirituality.
For example, Ves excelled in creating images from nothing and imprinting them onto a design.
Lucky took to intangibility like a fish to water.
Elite mech pilots specialized in drawing out the hidden potential of exotics through resonance.
High-ranked mech designers fitted different configurations of exotics together and bestowed new strengths onto their designs as if they performed magic.
"Can someone only do one of these things at a time?"
Ves did not believe that was the case. Perhaps elite mech pilots were the ones who monopolized the ability to resonate with exotics, but every other ability should be within his fingertips.
If only he had some sort of guide in this endeavor. From the start of his exploration into spirituality, he worked completely by himself. He could trust no one else with his advancements.
He had no qualms in admitting his selfishness. If he discovered something good, would he share it with the rest of the galaxy like a good samaritan?
He wanted to keep his secrets to himself and take advantage of everyone else's ignorance. Why shouldn't he profit from his own work? The rest of humanity fared well enough on its own, and besides, everyone withheld their own secrets.
"The MTA,the CFA, the first-rate superstates and the heretical organizations like the Five Scrolls Compact all hold their own secrets. If they aren't sharing anything, why would I?"
Therefore, as much as Ves wanted to bring in others to help him with his research, he persisted in charting his course alone.
Perhaps the only people he would make an exception for were his parents. "Father, where are you?"
Last he heard, his father still mixed with the dark mercenaries in the lawless region of the Nyxian Gap. Ves hoped his father kept his head down there. He had no doubt his father would be able to avoid his pursuers and eke out an existence among the endless asteroid fields of the Gap.
As for his mother, Ves tried hard not to think about her. He always believed she had died quietly in her bed when he was young, but recent events kept prompting him to reconsider his beliefs.
"Are you still alive?"
As much as he wanted to move on from his mother's death, Ves still couldn't get over his hopes.
Too bad Ves had left the ghost behind on the Glowing Planet. With the Hegemony and the Coalition fighting over the resource-rich planet, it shouldn't last very long. Once the planet broke into pieces, any hopes of meeting the ghost of his mother would fade away.
Just then, a slim, pale hand reached out from behind and placed a juicy apple in front of his empty plate.
"You shouldn't eat those foods assembled from nutrient packs all the time. It's not as healthy as organically grown food."
Ves yelped and jumped from his chair like a scalded cat. He threw aside the table with the plate and apple and rolled forward in panic. He fumbled inside his pockets until he retrieved the Amastendira.
He pointed the laser pistol straight at the floating white specter that had crept up behind him. "Mother!"