1853 External Stimuli
The days continued to pass one after another as Ves and Gloriana kept the project going. The pair invested an increasing amount of attention to the project, to the point where they began to lose track of what was happening in the rest of the galaxy!
Even though the two liked to pretend they put the galaxy on pause, current events were still progressing at their own pace.
The sandmen fleets that halted their mindless charge into human-occupied planets still converged to a location within the territory of the former Coman Federation. It was difficult for the Bright Republic and other forces to know for sure because the density of sandmen constantly increased the closer they tried to sneak their scout ships into this exceedingly perilous space!
Due to the extensive amount of time needed for the sandmen to complete their mass convergence, the MTA had plenty of time to form a response.
The MTA's Compliance Department finally dispatched a small warfleet to Bentheim. There, the fleet would either wait for the sandman planet to arrive at the port system, or move out to intercept the cataclysmically powerful sandman amalgamation before it came any close to crowded population centers!
The arrival of the warfleet finally pressed down much of the panic that had formed in the Bright Republic in recent weeks. If not for their presence, Bentheim would have probably been engulfed by chaos and rioting!
The only issue of concern was that the Compliance Department dispatched less assets than everyone thought.
Unlike the CFA's formidable Archangel Battle Group, the small fleet anchored in the Bentheim System mostly consisted of a couple of warships and carriers.
In the space warfare doctrine adopted by the Compliance Department, mechs played a much greater role. Even though deploying spaceborn mechs in a battle between warships was like taking a knife to a gunfight, the MTA never gave up the practice. Its mech designers worked hard to turn mechs into a serious contender against warships!
In any case, the mechs fielded by the MTA were a far cry from the Desolate Soldiers and Dawnbreakers that flooded the Bentheim System. The MTA utilized the same kind of first-class multipurpose mechs adopted by the first-rate states!
Naturally, their mechs were even better! Designed to pose a serious threat to warships and the worst weapons employed by the most advanced alien empires known to humanity, the mechs of the MTA were true engines of destruction!
Many of them were able to output so much damage that they could devastate several major cities on Bentheim! Some could even unleash ordnance that could wipe out a small continent!
With so many powerful mechs brought by the Compliance Department, many optimism began to believe the Sand War was as good as over! As long as the sandmen bumped into the impressive mechs of the MTA, even an entire planet couldn't stand a chance!
The movements of the MTA also provided some reassurance to the Larkinsons residing in the Bright Republic. The evacuation of Larkinson family members slowed down. Those who were bound by duty never contemplated leaving in the first place. They only sent out some of their spouses and children to the Larkinson Clan as a precaution.
The influx of Larkinsons just started to arrive. Some of the groups of evacuees even turned around and traveled back to their homes! The prospect of living in the Ylvaine Protectorate was too scary or fraught with uncertainty.
In addition, residing with the Larkinson Clan as guests rather than clan members was rather awkward. Those who never had any intentions of joining the clan weren't interested in spending time with those they regarded as traitors in their hearts.
Fortunately, those who arrived and settled down in the Friedhold Estate soon began to fall under the charm of the upbeat clan. The Larkinson Clan, despite being only a month old, already exhibited the cohesion of a tight-knight family organization!
In fact, compared to the old family, the clan featured so many new opportunities and improvements that it was hard for anyone to resist the allure!
Unlike the old family that strongly emphasized the collective over the individual, the Larkinson Clan explicitly directed some care to individual Larkinsons!
Those who wanted an easy, well-paying job could accept one of the many cozy job offers from the LMC.
The Larkinsons who wanted to have a say in how the clan was being run could apply to join the Larkinson Assembly or the Executive Council.
The Larkinson mech pilots who wanted to put their skills to use could apply to join several different forces.
Those with ambition and wanted to become the best opted to apply for the Avatars of Myth. This was an especially attractive choice for those who missed the military life and wanted to be part of an elite outfit. They always felt right at home with the strict regime of the Avatars!
The ones who wanted to take a step back and spend more time with their families opted to join the Living Sentinels. Though they weren't as prestigious as the Avatars, the Sentinels weren't weak or complacent by any means.
Each of these organizations provided favorable employment terms to Larkinson clansmen. They not only received much more pay, but also a bit more consideration for promotions and other opportunities.
Though Ves disliked nepotism, he didn't really have a choice. The Larkinson clan members expected better treatment compared to retainers and ordinary employees. Since all of those organizations belonged to the Larkinson Clan, why shouldn't they serve its interests?
In addition, in the perspective of Ves, nepotism was not universally bad. The family members placed into important positions due to their bloodline rather than their competence might not do a good job, but at least their loyalty was not in question!
To someone who was tired of getting betrayed, Ves gladly sacrificed efficiency and productivity in order to secure his control over his enterprise. The Larkinson Clan was highly unlikely to betray him! Not only were they dependent on his ability as a mech designer, they had also formed a bond with the Larkinson Mandate!
Though Ves wasn't sure of what these spiritual connections actually did, he had a vague idea that it was already acting as a pseudo-spiritual network.
While the network did not facilitate peer-to-peer connections and two-way communication, it already served as a subliminal broadcast and feedback network.
Each Larkinson connected to the network fed their thoughts and emotions to the Golden Cat. This made the young ancestral spirit embody the collective will of the Larkinson Clan even more!
In return, the Golden Cat fed back her impression of what it meant to be a Larkinson to the clansmen who formed a bond with her. Each of the Larkinsons, including the members of the old family to a lesser degree, all became exposed to the influence of their ancestral spirit!
Someone people might consider this influencing cycle to be nefarious. Some people might accuse Ves for creating a means to brainwash the Larkinsons.
"That's not true at all!" Ves yelled at Lucky while he held his cat with his hands.
"I'm not evil! I only have good intentions in mind!"
"Just think about it! With the Larkinson Mandate, our clan will become more united in will and purpose! The chance of betrayal decreases as those who are thinking about acting against the interests of the clan will certainly suffer!"
"Meow meow meow!"
"Not only that, the Golden Cat will definitely warn me if a Larkinson is up to no good! With my control over the Larkinson Mandate, I can track down each and every traitor who thought they could get away and make an example out of them. Treachery will be a thing of the past in my clan!"
A gem suddenly shot against his forehead!
"Ouch! Lucky! What the hell was that?! Did you just relieve yourself?!"
Lucky took advantage of his owner's distraction and turned intangible before diving headfirst through the floor!
Ves nursed his forehead and wiped it with the sleeve of his business suit. He then bent down in order to pick up a purple gem that looked very familiar to him for some reason.
The love of a mother towards her offspring resides within this royal gem. Increases the allure of a mech by 100 percent to females.
What the heck? After gorging on exotics for months and eating enough Breyer alloy to fabricate the toughest shuttle in his possession, all his cat managed to produce was a gem with a property that was just as useless as the one he received before?
Even though the Mother's Love was stronger than the Maiden's Affection, both of them were completely useless in battle!
His cat was nowhere to be found, of course. Lucky knew better than to be around Ves at this time!
Ves grumbled a bit more before tossing the purple gem in his pouch of other gems. No matter how useless it seemed, each of them could still be used as a cheat by elevating a high-quality mech to the level of a masterwork.
In that regard, receiving one gem was better than receiving no gem!
"Why did Lucky develop this weak and pointless attribute anyway?" Ves frowned.
He thought the properties of Lucky's gems were determined by the nature of his diet sprinkled with a dose of random chance.
Perhaps that was the case for Lucky's earlier gems, but now Ves started to develop another suspicion.
"Could it be.. that the properties are determined by another variable?"
According to this theory in his mind, the quality of the gems was still related to the quality of the materials that Lucky ingested.
More potent exotics resulted in more powerful gems!
Ves was already familiar with this rule. This was the main reason why he never seriously stopped Lucky from eating a fortune's worth of exotics.
"There's a second rule maybe."
The properties of a gem might not be set by the distinctive attributes of the exotics eaten by Lucky. Instead, the deciding factor might be external stimuli!
For example, if Lucky had to sneak around all the time, he would probably create a gem that decreased a mech's energy signature or increased the effectiveness of active stealth systems.
If Lucky got kicked around by Ves all the time, he would probably produce gems that increased the damage resistance of a mech or amplified the strength of its armor.
If Lucky killed a lot of people with his claws, then he might develop some sort of gem that made bladed weapons sharper or increased the output of a laser rifle!
"Then.. if Lucky is getting pampered by Hexers every day, does that mean he'll keep producing gems like the Maiden's Affection and the Mother's Love?"
An awkward silence ensued.
"LUCKYYYY! STOP HANGING OUT WITH WOMEN!"
Elsewhere at the Austen Estate, Lucky appeared in Gloriana's room. He leisurely passed by the guards of the Glory Battalion and booped his nose against Clixie.
"Lucky? Why are you here again?" Gloriana asked as she turned from a mirror projection.
A beauty bot was brushing her hair and applying makeup on her face.
The mechanical cat floated in front of her. Gloriana couldn't resist and held Lucky as if she was holding a baby.
"You poor boy. Is Ves treating you wrong? I'll tell him to be nicer to you. I really don't understand why he bullies you sometimes. You're too cute!"
Lucky squinted his eyes and started to purr as Gloriana scratched his head and stroked his back. His tail swished left and right in complete relaxation.
"Are you hungry?"
Gloriana giggled and approached a table where she stashed some raw exotic minerals. She always kept a stash at hand to feed one of her favorite cats!
"Here you go!"
Lucky nibbled on the exotic while radiating pure bliss. Now this was how a cat ought to live!