Chapter 1921 Gion Greybeard
So far, Ves was wholly unimpressed by his current Mastery experience.
Compared to the splendor of the Terran Confederation he witnessed while he rode in Axelar's mind, the shabby conditions on Desala X were completely opposite!
Was this the System's attempt to express its perverse need for balance? Since Ves learned a lot from how some of the most powerful humans lived in one of the most prosperous territories in human space, perhaps it was only fair for him to be dumped in one of the poorest star sectors of the galactic rim!
What am I even supposed to gain this time? Ves mentally scratched his head. Rion is even worse than an academy cadet when it comes to his expertise in piloting mechs! He is hardly representative of the huge group of properly-trained light skirmisher specialists who will become my next customers!
There was little Ves could gain from observing a mech pilot operating a virtual mech. There were various aspects that were simplified or outright absent from a real piloting experience.
Rion didn't even possess his own mech!
What was Ves supposed to do in Rion's head? Was the System attempting to screw him by abiding by the letter but not the spirit of the transaction?
I'd like to contact customer service to file a complaint!
As Ves inwardly vented his ire at the System for sticking him in the head of one of the worst 'light skirmisher specialists' in the history of the Age of Mechs, Rion finally entered a tent where a number of solemn-looking dwarves garbed in various scrap-covered suits had gathered around a makeshift conference table.
The dwarves all looked the same. Genetic diversity seemed to have been a low concern to House Kantis. Each dark-skinned dwarf looked uglier than the rest.
It was very hard for Ves to muster up any sympathy for these rebels!
While he found the ill treatment of the dwarves to be repugnant, enslavement and exploitation happened in many places.
Ves was not a politician, visionary or liberator. He was no saint who made it his life's mission to better the lives of the oppressed.
He was a mech designer. His job was to sell mechs to paying customers like House Kantis!
Certainly, Ves didn't like being confronted with how his customers abused his products, but strictly speaking it wasn't his responsibility to act as the galactic police!
When Rion stepped up to his seat, the dwarves around him all greeted him with respect.
How many mechs have you defeated in the simulations?
Haha, with your 'genetic aptitude', defeating a hundred mechs is trivially easy!
Instead of telling the truth, Rion conceitedly thrust out his barrel chest and slowly slapped his meaty hand against his belly!
I can crush a mech in my sleep! Piloting a light mech is as easy as operating a mining vehicle to me! The guard mechs that keep up trapped inside Outpost 35 are as good as dead as long as I can pilot a mech!
A voice that was deeper and older than the rest of the dwarves suddenly interrupted the banter.
Good. You will have your chance to prove your skills against the tall folk very soon.
Master Gion Greybeard. Someone uttered with utmost respect.
Every dwarf bowed as an old, robed dwarf entered the tent. Though his dignity was marred by his dirty clothes and the scars of age, Ves noted that Gion seemed to be a rare individual who possessed a talent for command!
No wonder the shabby Desala Resistance Movement managed to survive so long without a single rebel dwarf selling the organization out! With a leader like Gion presiding over the poor but motivated rebels, the dwarves were much better organized than he expected!
Then, Gion opened his mouth.
Rion, our ace pilot, are you ready to crush the machines of the tall folk?
I am! The enthusiastic but equally-ignorant dwarf answered in reply!
The old dwarf leader's eyes began to cloud as he recalled a memory. Long ago, I have eavesdropped a conversation between the tall folk about the mythical ace pilots. They are able to defeat a thousand mechs with just a single machine! One of the traits that turns a mech pilot into an ace pilot is their high genetic aptitude. According to the machine we used on you, your genetic aptitude is B+, which is one of the highest scores you can receive!
I have not wasted my talent! Rion incredulously boasted! While I am not ready to defeat a thousand mechs piloted by the tall folk, I am confident I can liberate Outpost 35 as long as I have a mech!
NONSENSE! Ves inwardly screamed.
If Rion was an ace pilot, then Ves was a Star Designer!
These dwarves were basing almost all of their understanding of mechs and pilots from scattered hearsay and blind observation!
Due to their lack of understanding, the dwarves completely misinterpreted the information they gathered from the tall folk!
Ves even suspected that the guards and overseers were deliberately exaggerating what they said in the presence of the dwarves! It was a good way to instill more fear in the slaves!
I really can't believe that these dwarves believe that Rion is an actual ace pilot. Ves mentally shook his head.
You will have your chance very soon, my hero. Gion declared, causing the surrounding dwarves to look surprised!
We.. we aren't ready! Someone protested. Our mighty tanks are not fully under our control! We have been studying its programming for years, but we barely managed to identify some of the secrets that make the battle wagons surrender control to the tall folk!
Gion grimly shook his head. We must do what we must, because our time is running short. Have you heard about the recent mining tunnel collapse?
Everyone nodded, including Rion.
It is not an accident. The large mining vehicle responsible for collapsing the tunnel was driven by one of our brothers!
That caused every dwarf to sit up straighter on their short and stubby seats.
What has happened?
I am not aware of the full details. However, before our brother drove the vehicle to collapse the mining tunnel, he passed on something remarkable to one of our other brothers. That heroic dwarf managed to take the excavated mineral away and hide it in one of our dead drops where we have stashed it somewhere safe.
What did our miners excavate?
Gion answered by activating a rickety projector that displayed the mineral in question.
Everyone fell silent as they stared at a projection of a shimmering chunk of ore the size of a dwarf head.
The dwarves were genetically engineered to possess a greater understanding of materials, but even Rion didn't have to rely on his half-baked schooling to realize that the chunk of ore was different from the junk exotics they extracted from the planet on a regular basis!
There was something about extraordinary valuable exotics that always seemed to reveal how much potency they possessed. Almost no one was able to mistake a low-grade exotic for a high-grade exotic because the latter always seemed more impressive!
This.. this is nothing like Xantur iron. A dwarf stated the obvious. What is it? Does anyone know?
Ves tried to study the lustrous exotic ore, delving deep within his Metallurgy and other knowledge in order to identify its name and properties!
He came up with nothing!
Whatever it was, the ore was definitely at least a high-grade exotic. Even through a projection, Ves could clearly observe that it was too exceptional to be put in the ranks of anything lesser.
In fact, there was even a possibility that the exotic transcended the quality of a high-grade exotic! All of the money House Kantis spent on setting up and operating mines on Desala X was probably less than how much money this exceptional ore was worth on the open market!
The overseer who was present at the mining tunnel called for an immediate halt of the excavation once this ore became visible. Gion recounted. After consulting the database on his 'comm', the overseer failed to identify this new exotic.
A few dwarves looked dismayed. Then do we know anything at all, Master Gion?
Ves inwardly cringed at the rebel leader's title. In much of civilized space, the title of Master had gradually become exclusive to mech designers who broke through the shackles of Senior-rank and realized their mech design!
These exceptional mech designers were truly worthy to be regarded as Masters of their profession!
As for a dwarf like Gion, no matter how commanding he looked, there was no way Ves would ever call him a Master! His appropriation of this sacred title was a profound insult to the mech designing profession!
While the overseer and our brothers at the dig site have failed to identify this exotic, once it fell into our hands, we employed our own ways to identify it. This wasn't easy. Gion lowered his head. We had to sacrifice several of our brothers and sisters in order to access the 'internal network' of the tall folk for just an instant. After cross-referencing the descriptions of high-value exotics to the ore we have secured, we have managed to learn the name of this material.
Every dwarf, including Rion, leaned forward to capture every word that escaped their leader's mouth.
The rebel leader smiled and stroked his scraggly grey beard. The wonder material that we have obtained from our mother planet is one of the greatest treasures on this planet! When this ore is processed, it will yield a supreme material called 'Timpala Steel'!
Though none of the dwarves had any clue what Timpala Steel could actually do, they all reacted as if a million MTA credits had fallen into their laps!
While the dwarves went wild, inside Rion's mind, a mental earthquake struck Ves!
Why does that sound familiar?!
Ves did some mental digging. His existing knowledge base did not contain any mention of this simple-sounding name for what was clearly an exceptional exotic.
It wasn't until he dug through the dusty memories he stuffed in some forgotten hole that he suddenly realized why Timpala Steel evoked so much attention from his consciousness.
Timpala steel is one of the materials demanded by the System!
Now that he dug out one of his neglected memories, he quickly recalled the relevant mission details.
Mission: Material Supply 3
Prerequisites: Advance to Journeyman Mech Designer
The Mech Designer System needs to be supplied with several rare materials to facilitate future upgrades.
This Supply Mission can be completed by offering 49.53 kilograms of Timpala Steel.
Reward: 1 use of the Inventorize ability, 10 golden lottery tickets.
I didn't remember wrong! The System truly asked for 49.53 kilograms of Timpala Steel!
How much Timpala Steel can this ore yield? Someone who worked at an ore processing plant asked.
At least fifty kilograms. Gion answered with certainty. From what little the database entry has taught us, even a single gram is enough to buy all of our lives! With fifty kilograms, the escape plan that we have been preparing all these years is finally complete!
Everyone nodded in understanding.
Our plan has always been to defeat the guards, overthrow the overseers, and hijack one of their 'transport ships' while it is parked on the other side of Outpost 35 and escape from this 'star system'!
We will definitely succeed with an ace pilot by our side! A dwarf jubilantly boasted.
Gion shook his head. That is true, but that is not the end of our enslavement. In my long service to the tall folk, I have overheard many conversations. There is a fabled organization called the 'MTA' that is purportedly a guardian of all humans. The guards and overseers are clearly afraid at this righteous organization. Each time one of our brothers has mentioned this name, the guards always beat them up until they die!
The MTA will save us fellow humans from captivity!
We are dwarves! Gion slammed his powerful fist against the metal table! This was very impressive considering the gravity amplifying the impact! After much investigation, I have discovered to my dismay that the MTA consists almost entirely of tall folk!
What?! This cannot be? Surely they must have dwarves among their numbers? The MTA stands for all of humanity!
This is where our Timpala Steel comes in. Gion grinned, making his ugly face look exceptionally terrifying! We may not know much of the ways of tall folk, but the transactions they conduct amongst themselves is something that is known to us. Timpala Steel is the key of our salvation, because as long as some of our brothers manage to take control of a ship and leave this cursed planet, I hope that they will be able to take this treasure and offer it to the MTA as tribute in exchange for freeing those who are left behind!
Ves' consciousness reacted with shock! He was impressed by Gion's astuteness. He was also abhorred at the thought of giving this valuable exotic!
This cannot stand!