Chapter 1939 Undeserved
Days after Gion Greybeard's attempted betrayal, TR-3851 emerged in a quiet red dwarf system.
According to the transport ship's database, there was practically nothing of value in this worthless, lifeless star system.
Though it was a bit too close to the Desala System for his liking, Ves was running out of time. This Mastery experience lasted far too long already. He really didn't have the time to leave the territory of the Paramount Kingdom and bury his treasure in an even more obscure star system!
As a result, Ves had to make do with the Trion Enze System.
After making sure there wasn't any ships or signs of human life, Ves instructed the ship to travel to the inner asteroid belt.
While the ship made way, Ves continued to move his possessed around the ship in order to tweak the transport ship's systems.
While TR-3851 wasn't the most sophisticated ship he had ever seen, Ves wanted to make sure to erase every single log or record of her route.
No one was allowed to find out that TR-3851 visited the Trion Enze System!
It was easy to keep the dwarves in the dark. Most of them were confined in the cargo hold where they did nothing but sit on their thumbs while trying to adjust to the reduced gravity.
While Gion Greybeard and his most trusted men had died, Ves decided to withhold the news from the rest for the time being.
While the dwarves in the dark were already starting to ask questions, their trust in Vulcan was still strong! After Ves instructed the rest of the rebel cadre to keep their people in line, the dwarves no longer posed any trouble for the time being.
No one else had access to the ship's systems except Ves and his host. For the time being, Ves did not give Rion any chance of respite except for sleep.
Every waking moment, Ves continued to scour through every section of the ship. He tampered with the sensor system, the navigation system, the communication system and more in order to ensure the ship was as untrackable as possible.
In fact, one of the first steps he did was to manually dismantle the quantum entanglement node that connected the ship to the galactic net.
He didn't just isolate this crucial component or switched off its control system. He ripped the entire component out of its place and wrecked it until it was nothing but a pile of broken scrap!
This was just one of the many extreme measures that Ves resorted to in order to ensure the ship would not leave any clues behind. He just needed to retain enough functionality to reach a couple destinations while keeping his passengers alive. Everything else was completely redundant!
Once TR-3851 reached the asteroid belt, Ves observed the sensor input closely until he identified a large and distinctive-looking hook-shaped asteroid floating in the belt.
He memorized the mineral composition and other characteristics of this specific asteroid.
Though no asteroid remained completely the same after many years of floating alongside countless other rocks, Ves had no other choice but to draw the equivalent of a treasure map in his mind in this fashion.
There was no way Ves entrusted his Timpala Steel to anyone else.
He considered several alternatives.
For example, he thought about mailing the ore to the Komodo Star Sector, but how could a dwarf ever pay for it? How could he trust a courier company to faithfully keep his parcel secure for several decades?
He also ruled out stashing the ore in a bank. If Timpala Steel was just a regular chunk of high-grade exotic, then Ves didn't have much to fear that a bank would stoop to robbing its own customers.
It was a difficult case for a substance that was worthy enough to earn the System's notice!
Ves wouldn't put it past the MTA or the Paramount Kingdom to swoop in and serve an official document to the bank that allowed them to commandeer the Timpala Steel!
He was so paranoid that he even ruled out the Shadow Couriers, who even in this time period already fostered a reputation of reliability in the underground community!
I won't be there to 'get my money back' if the Shadow Couriers fumble my parcel. Ves dryly noted.
Ves possessed no identity, money or reputation in this time period. It was seventy years in the past, so he wasn't even born yet. His grandfather Benjamin was likely still a young but prominent expert pilot in the Mech Corps.
For some time, Ves felt tempted to take advantage of his future knowledge to affect the course of history.
He could have sent a message to his grandfather that would warn him of the battle that led to his crippling.
Even if his grandfather didn't take the message from a random stranger seriously, he might still keep some of Ves' words in mind and avoid permanent damage to his brain!
Yet Ves resolutely refused to resort to this option in the end. He instinctively felt that interfering with the course of history might lead to very severe consequences, both to the timeline and to himself!
What if his grandfather died in battle? What if his grandfather never met the wife that would birth Ark and Ryncol?
What if his grandfather raised his children in a different way?
What if Ryncol was born as a girl rather than a boy?
What if Ves never had a chance to be born because his father never came into existence?
All of these what-ifs continued to frighten Ves so much that he resolutely swore off any attempts to affect the Larkinsons!
Even if he had good intentions, Ves truly did not want to return to a future where the Larkinsons no longer existed or where his mother had never met his father!
While he didn't exactly like his current life, Ves didn't want to exchange it for anything else. All of the good and bad he experienced throughout his lifetime turned him into a successful and exceptional mech designer.
Of course, even if Ves did not wish to affect the course of history, his actions during his Mastery experiences had already altered the original timeline.
Whether the present time he lived in was already affected by his actions in the past before he underwent his Mastery experience was a question that Ves did not bother entertaining.
He doubted the System would allow Ves to do anything that affected its own interests. Confining his actions to the Smiling Samuel Star Sector was the most Ves could get away with. Even if the changes in this star sector rippled out to the rest of the galaxy, it was doubtful that his actions resulted in a major upheaval elsewhere.
Once TR-3851 maneuvered close to the hook-shaped asteroid, a hatch opened up. A small floating mining vehicle emerged from the hatch. Ves piloted the vehicle to the surface of the asteroid and landed it into the deepest pit on the immense rock.
Soon enough, the mining vehicle began to drill into the rock at a steady pace. Ves continued to dig until he reached the center.
After that, the vehicle planted a heavily-reinforced crate in the asteroid before retreating back to the surface, collapsing the tunnel and fusing the drilled rock back together as it gradually emerged in the open.
Once the vehicle reached the transport ship, the ship slowly withdrew from the asteroid belt and moved to translate out of the system.
Just to be sure, Ves also commanded the ship to approach the orbit of one of Trion Enze's gas giant in order to dump the mining vehicle and some other potentially-incriminating objects.
By now, large portions of the transport ship were already crippled, but Ves didn't care. The TR-3851 just had to make it far enough to reach a star system with a substantial MTA presence.
After the transport ship transitioned into FTL, Ves planted some improvised explosions and programmed some timed instructions into the ship's systems.
Time was running out. As soon as Ves dug the wonder ore into the asteroid, his consciousness faintly started to feel some attraction.
The System was calling him back. Now that he secured the Timpala Steel, there was no point to prolonging this Mastery experience any longer!
Ves hurried up with his final preparations before surrendering control of Rion's body to its original owner.
Rion looked numbed at the incomprehensible consoles of the bridge.
He hadn't gotten over Gion Greybeard's death.
Though his grief had settled, the memories of his own body stabbing his leader's neck would always haunt him in his dreams!
Are you leaving, my lord?
I am. Ves mentally replied. I am no longer needed here. There are countless dwarves in human space who still need my help.
Whatever you may think, once you made your bed, you need to lie in it. Gion Greybeard acted against my intentions on his own accord and suffered the consequences of his own decision.
He didn't have to die!
You're still too naive. If you ever have a chance to grow up, you'll learn that the galaxy is a hundred times crueler than Desala X. The indignities you've suffered at your former home are trivial compared to the tragedies that take place on the galactic scale!
While Rion wasn't the brightest tool in the shed, he couldn't help but shudder in fear.
You.. are you going to kill me?
Ves didn't answer.
Why? I never thought about violating your dignity! I devoted myself to you! I surrendered my body to you! I had nothing to do with Gion's betrayal!
You know too much. I don't need to kill you after you have betrayed my trust. I just have to end your life before the MTA has a chance of extracting all of your memories and secrets from your body. You can't imagine how powerful they are and how much their technology is capable of. Even if you are determined to keep your mouth shut, the MTA has countless ways of extracting information out of you. In order to prevent you from leaking my divine secrets, you'll need to make the ultimate sacrifice.
This.. this isn't fair..
Life isn't fair, kid. Ves mentally shook his head. I don't like this anymore than you do, but it is the only solution that minimizes the risk that someone manages to dig my treasure.
Rion practically collapsed onto his seat. The dwarven mech pilot fought so hard to achieve his promised freedom. Now that he finally liberated himself from the oppression of the tall folk, his god wanted to kill him because he couldn't be trusted!
He wanted to live!
He wanted to see the galaxy!
He wanted to lead his dwarves to freedom!
Why did his god force him on the road of death?
What could he do to save his life so that he could fulfill all of his ambitions?
Please! I'll keep your secrets! I promise!
Promises aren't enough.
You're a god, aren't you?! Can't you scour my memories from my mind?
This suggestion actually didn't sound that bad. Ves seriously considered this question. The problem was that even if Ves messed with Rion's mind and spirit, his flesh would still hold a copy of the memories that Ves wanted to wipe.
If Ves was a doctor or had access to Ranya Wodin, then he probably would have been able fulfill the dwarf's wish.
Sadly, Ves lacked this vital expertise, so he had to resort to a more direction solution to silence this potential vulnerability.
All the while, the pull to his consciousness increased. The System really wanted to end this Mastery experience!
Ves mentally sighed.
I'm sorry, Rion, but time is running out. I'm sorry I can't give you the time to bid farewell to your comrades or make peace with your end. However, I have already made sure to include a record of your life and accomplishments in the database of this ship. Your physical body may die, but your memory will always live on through the memories of your fellow dwarves. You are a hero to your people, Rion. You will be honored as such for times to come.
I.. thank you, my lord. Rion looked downcast.
Are you ready?
Ves ruefully smiled. No one looks forward to their death. I don't blame you for feeling this way. Again, I'm sorry, Rion. In a different time and circumstance, I would have been able to preserve your life.
He no longer let Rion speak. Instead, he hijacked the dwarf's body once again and slowly withdrew a ballistic pistol from a belt holster.
Ves had looted the weapon from the former crew of the transport ship. He personally serviced it in order to make sure it functioned properly.
He lifted the pistol and pressed its muzzle against Rion's temple.
This is goodbye, dwarf. Even if your fellow dwarves forget your name, I will always honor your contributions!
A loud boom echoed in the bridge as a dwarven finger pulled the trigger!