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Chapter 1967 Rim Tour

The Mech Touch
     Chapter 1967 Rim Tour

    Ves entered one of the main instances of the Rim Exchange for the very first time.

    He emerged in the middle of a plaza. Once the bronze-like robotic form of his Apollo Radiant finished its entry into this virtual setting, he looked around in wonder through his simulated artificial sensors.

    Impressive.

    The Rim Exchange simulated a city from a first-rate state. The hypermodern architecture vaguely resembled the sights he had seen when he entered the mind of Axelar Streon during a past Mastery experience.

    Perhaps this cityscape wasn't anything special to the Terrans or the Rubarthans, but to the hicks from the galactic rim, this was more than enough to steal anyone's breath away at first sight!

    As Ves admired the vista, he eventually noted some incongruities. Certain floating structures or structures on land looked out of place from the rest of the city. Their appearances exhibited a different style and different construction.

    They ranged from ancient wooden temples, starships, alien forests and other settings!

    When he concentrated on what looked like a church, a pop-up box appeared in his view.

    [New Apostolicic Church of Granada Prime

    Total value: 64,035,245 MTA merits

    Accessibility: open to the public at all times

    Message: Christ is a mech designer! Find out why by stepping inside!]

    Ves had to make sure his optical sensors were working correctly. A church was allowed to exist in the Rim Exchange?

    It seemed as if anyone could buy some real estate in this instance as long as they had enough merits on hands!

    After he was done admiring the virtual setting, he directed to himself.

    Unlike his previous visit to the MTA's public library, he didn't appear in his own body this time.

    Instead, his current 'body' comprised of his Rim Avatar!

    The experimentally flexed his fingers and moved his robotic limbs. His bronze-like shell held up well as he had leveraged most of his mech design expertise into fashioning himself a good artificial body.

    More importantly than that, his Apollo Radiant avatar also exuded a glow that was already turning the heads of nearby Rim Avatars!

    One avatar shaped like a fat, robotic walrus in a formal suit was openly gawking at Ves' much slimmer form like he was the only alien among a crowd of humans!

    In fact, dozens of others who had just beamed into the same plaza were attracted to his glow as well!

    Apollo Radiant, how come you're only level 2?

    Ves' robotic face scrunched in a frown. How do you know that?

    You.. don't know?

    I'm new here. This is my first time entering the Rim Exchange.

    That's impossible! The Walrus bellowed! You're level 2!

    I don't need to explain myself to you. How do you know I'm a level 2 associate?

    The Walrus finally started to look unsure of his guess. You're really new?

    Yes. Ves said with an exasperated sigh.

    Oh. Well, you can study our details by activating one of the settings of this virtual immersion.

    How can I access the settings?

    Your virtual concierge should tell you this, but he is probably waiting outside. Just call up an interface from your comm.

    Ves did so, and saw that he had access to a lot of functions. Once he browsed the settings, he activated an overlay option.

    Pseudonyms instantly appeared above everyone's head. Like a game, Ves started seeing names like 'Brozard Lakeman' or 'Master of Spears'.

    In addition, as long as Ves concentrated a little, he could call up the level of the associate, and depending on the privacy setting of the Rim Avatar, the name of the associate, their location, their mech designer rank if applicable and a brief summary of their record!

    Ves quickly browsed his own privacy settings and saw that it was set to the highest privacy setting by default.

    Though he wasn't afraid of announcing his identity and showing off his impressive accomplishments for a Journeyman, he decided to be a bit more reserved than planned and left his privacy settings alone.

    After he became more accustomed to moving his Apollo Radiant avatar, Ves began to head to the exit of the plaza.

    A large amount of virtual concierges awaited outside. Gamma-Gamma-Hogan soon walked up to him. [Apollo Radiant, please accompany me so that I introduce you to the Rim Exchange. There are several essential rules and customs you need to be aware of before you proceed to make use of our platform.]

    Very well.

    The two walked away from the crowded plaza while the AI began to show him ropes. He began to instruct him on how to change his settings on his comm, which he already knew.

    [The instance you see here is one of many instances which may look different.] Hogan robotically explained. [Some instances are set on lunar surfaces, while others are set in the interior of an ark ship. No matter the specific setting, the structures here are divided into two categories. The majority of them are operated by the Rim Guardians. The merit hall is one of the most important structures which we will reach at the end of the tour.]

    The two walked forward until they stopped in front of one of the structures with foreign architecture.

    [The Rim Exchange offers certain parcels for sale to associates interested in establishing a permanent virtual presence in a particular instance. It is generally not recommended for new and low-level associates to purchase the right to build a virtual structure in the Rim Exchange due to the prohibitive cost of MTA merits.]

    That was for sure! Even this small structure that was close to one of the plazas already cost more than 20,000,000 MTA merits!

    A centuries-old geezer could gain an extra century of life with that amount of merits!

    I'm not interested. Let's move on, Hogan.

    [Very well.]

    The instance resembled a city for a very good reason. There were so many Associates here that a lot of city districts were needed to accommodate them all in the same virtual setting!

    Most of the buildings were actually used for something.

    The city offered virtual workplaces for associates to get some work done.

    The city also offered virtual workshops where associates could collaborate or compete against each other as they designed and fabricated virtual mechs with a very high degree of realism factor.

    However, Ves soon discovered that most of the buildings weren't very relevant to his interests. He just wanted to use the Rim Exchange to earn a lot of merits. He wasn't interested in hanging out here all day in order to socialize or expand his network.

    Still, he did maintain some interests towards the other associates. Everywhere he went, he could see Rim Avatars walking the streets or chatting with each other.

    Most Rim Avatars seemed to be traveling alone. A few had their virtual concierges by their side.

    Almost everyone walked on foot. There were no vehicles available and the only way that someone like Ves could access a floating building was to enter one of the 'invisible' elevators that lifted his body off the ground at a slow and agonizing pace.

    A few Rim Avatars didn't seem constrained by gravity, though. A handful of very impressive-looking artificial bodies zipped past his head with no concern for the people below!

    How come those Rim Avatars can fly?

    [Associates who are level 6 and up receive the privilege to fly in any branch of the Rim Exchange. Please be respectful to these individuals. The ability to fly is only granted to associates who have contributed significantly to the Rim Guardians.]

    I understand.

    These higher-leveled people were probably Master Mech Designers or something!

    What he found the most interesting about watching other associates was the way they presented themselves in the form of their Rim Avatars.

    Though plenty of associates choose to hide their strengths and traits, there were still a lot of Rim Avatars who openly displayed their design talents!

    His eyes were certainly opened at that moment. He encountered a diverse varieties of design philosophies, ranging from the conventional to the extreme, just by studying the way their owners designed their Rim Avatars!

    One lady for example seemed to specialize in designing heavy artillery mechs. Her Rim Avatar probably reached the maximum-allowable dimensions and mass as her gun-infested Avatar had to squeeze through the extra-large doors in order to enter a building!

    Another associate seemed to specialize in bestial mechs as he trotted down the street at a quick pace in centaur form!

    All in all, there was a lot of gawking going around. Everyone watched everyone. Whether they only directed a brief glance or stared at someone else's Rim Avatar as if it was the most beautiful robot in the galaxy, no one seemed to be very shy about checking each other out!

    Sometimes, associates interested in someone else's specialty or design style began to approach them in order to chat.

    Just like the MTA's public library, this entire Rim Exchange tried to foster a lot of exchanges, friendships and cooperation!

    Evidently, the MTA heavily encouraged its associates to socialize with each other. Was the Association afraid that every mech designer would turn into nerds if they weren't maintaining enough human contact?

    Even Ves started to receive some interest! A couple had already approached him, mostly due to Apollo Radiant's glow!

    I'm sorry, but as you can see and hear, I'm in the middle of my introductory tour.

    Rejection was fairly common at the Rim Exchange, so no one took his rejection personally. It wasn't as if there was any way to insist on a conversation. The Rim Guardians were watching them so closely that any improper or untoward behavior would immediately result in a temporary ban!

    The tour took more than an hour.

    Hogan first guided him to the district where the business network resided.

    [For the business-minded associate, this district offers many ways to grow your business. You can sign special contracts enforced by the MTA here. You can find business partners from different parts of the galactic rim to make business deals. You can also obtain a referral if you desire a specific good or service.]

    I already know that. Ves waved his robotic hand. Lieutenant Ferct already gave me the description on the basic services available at the Rim Exchange. What I want to know is how much merits it costs for services related to expanding my business to a different star sector.

    [Without applying discounts, it costs 10,000 MTA merits to guarantee a business contract in your native star sector. It costs 50,000 MTA merits to guarantee a contract in a different star sector. It costs 100,000 MTA merits to gain access to the distribution network of the RG Logistics. It costs 10,000,000 MTA merits to gain access to the distribution network of the entire galactic rim. Please keep in mind that every contract abides by a standard structure and must be subject to approval by the Rim Guardians.]

    Those were some very significant prices! MTA merits were notoriously hard to obtain in great amounts.

    While access to a distribution network that spanned the entire galactic rim for just 10,000,000 MTA merits sounded like a bargain, it was in effect a lot more complicated than that. Hogan informed Ves that he would still have to pay a lot of transportation costs in order to ship his products to different star sectors and star clusters!

    The greater the distance, the higher the price!

    No matter what, the Rim Guardians still made sure they earned a profit from any of the business activities of their associates!

    Though the merit prices for most of these services sounded reasonable, Ves was in no hurry to make use of them. Ves already learned it was far too easy to spend his MTA merits than to earn them! Before he built up his savings, he should refrain from squandering this precious resource!

    One thing was for sure. These services were very popular among associates as a lot of Rim Avatars constantly entered the buildings that offered them! Obtaining the backing of the Rim Guardians was a powerful way to make sure that a foreign business partner from another star sector wouldn't renege on a deal!