578 Second-hand Mech
The reason why Ves put on a weird face right now was because of the presence of the supposed gold label Crystal Lord. The LMC's gold label products held a great amount of prestige that Ves had painstakingly built up step by step.
Ves sold relatively few gold label mechs ever since he went into business. He only sold around ten or twenty of them at a time because each gold label came with a guarantee of quality. Each customer who purchased a gold label mech would have absolute confidence of getting their hands on a mech that had personally been hand-crafted by the founder and lead designer of the LMC.
In other words, such a collectible luxury product shouldn't show up in some random mech plaza.
"250 million marks for this ultra-rare second-hand mech! It's an absolute steal to get a mech of this quality at this price!"
The seller was right on one thing. The mech represented a steal. The only questionable point was the customer might not be the beneficiary of the transaction.
This was because Ves immediately sensed that the mech was dead to his spiritual sense. "This is impossible."
His Crystal Lord design came with an unprecedented B-grade X-Factor. Even the stupidest third-party manufacturer would be able to fabricate one of the Crystal Lord variants with a wisp of X-Factor.
However, this only applied when the third-party manufacturer reproduced the Crystal Lord according to an authentic design.
Ves knew that the different labels of the Crystal Lord mainly distinguished themselves by the quality of their center crystal. The gold label version not only hosted a crystal that was twice as large as the lesser labels, it had also undergone an exclusive activation process from a one-of-a-kind crystal cube.
The mech in front of him happened to possess all of the right contours and dimensions of a gold label Crystal Lord. Even the oversized center crystal appeared to be cut into the right dimensions.
"This is impossible!"
The mech had been polished up until its coating gleamed in the local sun. Visually, the Crystal Lord mech looked like the real deal. That characteristic frame with a keen emphasis on mobility while benefiting from a modest amount of compressed armor gave the mech a sense of agile threat.
The alien head devoid of humanoid features that instead contained lots of mysterious starry holes made the mech look strange and exotic.
The slimmed-down rifle locked with seals and placed in its arms looked exactly like the rifles he designed in person.
The only problem was that it was all counterfeit.
This mech was an unauthorized copy of the real deal. Due to the complete lack of spirituality, the mech was not only an illegal copy, it wasn't even an accurate reproduction.
Ves stared at the center crystal and noticed that it lacked the spark that signified that it had gone through the activation process. That alone signified that the mech that the seller claimed to be a gold label Crystal Lord was lying out of his teeth.
"Designed by Ves Larkinson, a genius from the Bright Republic, this is your only opportunity to get your hands on his best mech model to date! Come, take a close look at the majesty of this super scarce gold label mech! 250 million marks and it's yours!"
When the seller mentioned his name, Ves received a lot of stares by the group members. Intellectually, they knew his name and knew that he was a mech designer. However, they never came across any of his products. Even if they were curious, most Vandals lacked the permission to browse the galactic net.
"Is that yours, Ves?" Ensign Tiss asked with admiration in her eyes. "What a huge amount of money! 250 million marks is like 125 million bright credits!"
None of the Vandals remained calm when they thought about how much money the sums represented. It was as if it had never occurred to any of the Vandals that their head designer was a billionaire in civilian life.
Ves pressed his lips into a very thin smile. "That seller is a fraud."
He didn't say anything about his wealth or identity. Instead, he stepped towards the seller's stall.
"Uh, don't start any trouble here! This is Harkensen, not Bentheim!"
Ves nodded to show he understood and walked up right in front of the extravagantly dressed Reinaldan. The hefty man looked like he couldn't stuff enough gold ornaments on his body.
"Welcome, customer! Are you interested in my Hayfly?"
"Tell me about the Crystal Lord you're selling." Ves spoke calmly. "Where did you get it from?"
"Ah, the Crystal Lord! Its tale is long and winding. You see, this mech is fabricated in secret by Mr. Larkinson to his homosexual paramore…"
"...who went ill from an alien sexually transmitted disease…"
"...had to sell his precious Crystal Lord which represents his secret engagement gift to fund his treatment…"
"...some pirates intercepted the convoy that shipped the Crystal Lord…"
"...the alien sandmen ambushed the pirates that got a hold of the Crystal Lord…"
"...a small fleet of treasure hunters beat the sandmen back and coincidentally salvaged some shipping containers, one of which contains this Crystal Lord…"
Ves held up his hand. "Alright alright, enough!"
"Oh, I was only half-way in my story, dear customer! The best part had yet to come!" The seller boasted with a grin.
Some of the group members giggled and laughed behind Ves, which only lowered his mood even further.
"Do you have any proof of authenticity for this mech?"
"Ah, sadly, if you listened to the rest of my story, you would have realized that all of the documentation has been lost. Alien insects infested the ships of the treasure hunters and tragically ate the data pad that contained the certificate of authenticity! I wouldn't sell this precious mech for such a low price in the plaza if that was the case! The market price for any gold label Crystal Lord is undoubtedly than 500 million marks! I'm giving you half-price here! This is absolutely a great deal!"
"I don't know." Ves crossed his arms. "Without any proof of authenticity, how would I know I'm buying the real deal?"
"Ah, if you are doubting its performance, you can easily test it out in one of the simulators I have at hand if you are a potentate. For a small deposit of 100,000 marks, I can also let you bring my Crystal Lord to the nearest practice yard and let you or a potentate friend try out my product. You'll be able to see that it is absolutely authentic!"
Really now. Ves knew that the seller wouldn't expose any loopholes in this fashion. The simulator likely made use of the official virtual version of the Crystal Lord. As for bringing the Crystal Lord to a practice yard, such locations only allowed mechs to perform a limited amount of actions. They couldn't even move at a running pace according to the rules, let alone have another mech shoot a laser weapon at the Crystal Lord's center crystal to test out its trump card.
All in all, even if a prospective customer trailed the Crystal Lord, they would only experience the mech's performance on the surface, which likely didn't deviate very much from the real deal.
"I think I better look elsewhere, then. Thank you for answering my questions."
"Hey, if there are any problems, I can give you a discount! What about one percent off? Our prices are negotiable!"
Ves walked away while his group members gawked at him or regarded him with mixed expressions. Once Ves led them out of earshot from the Reinaldan stall owner, he slumped a bit.
"Give me a moment, please."
Ves opened up his military comm. He still retained the loosened restrictions from his field promotion to head designer. This enabled a couple of various handy functions, one of which was to record some footage of what happened around him. In addition, the block on interacting with the galactic net had temporarily been lifted.
After all, a communications blockade wouldn't be very useful if Ves could borrow the comm from any bystander to utilize the galactic net.
Ves selected a file and saw that it had recorded the entire conversation and more. He composed a quick message to Calsie back in Cloudy Curtain and attached the file before he sent the entire package.
"Let's go, Nolsen."
The Vandals eventually shrugged and resumed their window shopping. The only thing that changed was that some of them asked for his analysis on certain mechs.
During their stroll through the plaza, Ves encountered many different second-hand mechs. Many of them looked like they had been salvaged from the battlefield and fixed up to look better than their actual condition. He guessed that most of their internals might not be as pristine.
This was one of the areas in which the customers needed to make their own judgement. People in need of mechs might be able to pick up a good bargain if they had good eyes, but most likely they would get ripped off in the end. It all depended on their skill and luck.
"There's a thrill out of shopping for a second-hand mech." A Vandal group member remarked. "Maybe some of them used to be piloted by heroes. Maybe they killed a lot of people. Who knows. Every mech has their own story."
Ves silently agreed with that. When he brushed his spiritual senses towards the mechs that looked worse off, he tasted echoes of what the mech experienced in the past. Though the recollections he sensed was too indistinguishable for him to make sense of them, it was undeniable that some of these mechs had gone through a lot.
It was too bad that their physical condition leaned towards the lower end. This made sense, as older mechs invariably sustained a lot of damage. The mechs that looked like they only entered the battlefield once or twice felt like dummies in comparison.
Everyone enjoyed looking at the second-hand mechs and made a game out of guessing why it ended up in the mech plaza. Their former owners must have certainly met an unfortunate end for their mechs to be displayed and sold in Harkensen.
One thing that Ves took note that sales appeared to be rather slow. Maybe ninety-nine percent out of every visitor were like the Vandals, who merely wanted to see the sights. Those that looked like they might be serious buyers tended to focus their attention on the cheaper mechs priced at 10 million marks or lower.
This highlighted the low status of the second-hand market. The people or outfits that had the funds to buy a mech would almost always opt to buy a new one. There were mechs for almost every possible price segment. With all the shenanigans that went on in the second-hand market, only the most desperate customers and special cases considered them seriously.
"Alright, we've gone through the whole plaza. Let's move on to the main shopping streets."
The group left the mech plaza and its eclectic collection of second-hand mechs and moved over to the main streets which hosted various mech shops. Different from the chaotic plaza, the main streets appeared far more classier and orderly. The clean white streets and luxurious storefronts made it clear that only those with money would have a chance of spending it in one of the shops here.
Various strange but fancy looking shop brands adorned the storefront. Some of them only sold one brand of mechs, while others sold a variety of models from all over the galactic rim.
Ves looked at a storefront that sold spaceborn mechs. Projections of elegant mechs with hawk wings soared through space as they battled generic opponents in a simulated battle. He wondered if the LMC set up a franchise in one of these streets.
"Probably not. I haven't seen any plans to that end when I was still helming the LMC."
While shopping for a mech on the galactic net was convenient, the problem was that customers had too much choice. Investing in a physical storefront to profile your own brand of mechs allowed a company to stand out from the crowd. Considering that the LMC mostly spent its energies on selling premium mechs, operating a couple of physical stores in high end shopping streets might be worth the effort.