Building the new model of Geth platform wasn't hard. The actual manufacturing and construction of the prototype I'd designed, anyway. Really, it wasn't so completely different from a Geth platform that I'd needed a from-scratch redesign of the entire chassis, I'd just needed to tweak things in the design itself to match what I wanted for the aesthetic. For example, the average Quarian was about one point seven meters tall, or thereabouts. I'd reduced the height of the unit by about thirty centimeters, making the new platform quite a bit shorter than the Quarian norm- by almost a foot, in Imperial terms. On top of that, I'd added an extra finger for a total of four digits, giving the unit a little extra versatility and dexterity. Thankfully, the Geth platform legs didn't need much redesign before matching what I'd want, being already digitigrade before I'd even gotten to them.
The true issue was a part that I wanted primarily for bonding and sympathy purposes: hardlight fur. See, a lot of sapient beings can bond with basically any physical object that they can anthropomorphize, which you'd generally see when people fondly referred to their devices or vehicles by a name or referred to their quirks and moods, but the process was far easier when the thing they were bonding with had a face and appeared at least in part organic. You see a lot of kids with stuffed animals, not many with wrenches, that sort of thing.
Omnitools... weren't really what I'd thought they were. I'd assumed hardlight holographic projections based on what I'd seen from the games and such, but that wasn't really what they were. In truth, they were a hologram layered over a tiny mass effect field generator that produced haptic feedback when the user interacted with the hologram itself. And while that was nice and perfectly functional for a straight interactive display, it didn't work so well when simulating a large number of fur follicles bunched together in a tight group. Back to the drawing board on that one.
Could I do it with mass effect? Most likely, but there would be a lot of costs involved- research, development, testing, and it would all end with a unit that was one hundred and fifty to two hundred percent the price of a normal consumer-grade Geth platform, not to mention the cheaper plastic and aluminum models, which made the idea more or less dead on arrival. Sure, it would be a great toy for rich kids with too much money and executives that wanted to show off, but that's not really what I intended for these units. They were supposed to be endearing and easy to form some sort of emotional bond with, not status symbols. So, I'd have to find a better way of doing it.
And that led me right back to omnigel.
See, omnigel was... amazing. The stuff was freaking magic. The inventors of the 3D printer back home DREAMED of stuff like this. You could shape it into form, get it to make just about anything if you could hold it right, get almost any sort of stuff out of it because of what it was made of. Now, shaping fur out of omnigel in real time would be just about as expensive as using the mass effect field option, though it actually produced better results: fur made of semi-molten omnigel actually felt more like the real stuff, warm and soft and any colour I desired. However, it did give me another way of going about this: 3D silicone printing.
It turned out that, thanks to omnigel's makeup and how it functioned, I could actually use it to print fur 'plates' at a high rate, which I could then fit to units. The stuff would hang onto water to a limited degree, but washed and dried pretty damn well, and while it wasn't quite as soft as realtime omnigel simulations or actual fur, it worked well enough for my purposes. Mainly, making the new line of Geth look as friendly as possible.
So, I'd had some research labs get on it. Well, it was more like I'd handed down the orders to the site directors of various laboratories for this or that part of the development of the new Geth platform to my specifications. Non-existent research grunts dug up old things from ancient Quarian internet archives dating back thousands of years, non-existent management liked the ideas, marketing made a few suggestions and the final design was handed down to the labs- make it happen, design the tech it would need, that sort of stuff. Thankfully, I had "research assets" my companies had purchased from independent inventors that ALSO didn't exist, namely what I'd done so far on the units themselves. Within the day, I had the gears and cogs moving for a big step for me. Made me a little nervous, but what can you do?
Namely, you can begin the process of constructing a shipyard out in space to begin commercial construction on larger-scale ships for civilian usage, while beginning the design process on a launch ship that would provide foray into a new system.
Manufacturing on Rannoch was good. I could make anything up to frigate class vessels without drawing any sort of attention, and I could manufacture Geth platforms by the tens of thousands, as many as I wanted. Unfortunately, there were real, hard limits to what I could produce domestically without running into a lot of unwanted attention, everything from organized crime to independents to the Quarian government. While I could handle and divert this attention, there was only so much I could do of that before it caused real suspicion: I'd already been doing too much to block and sidetrack the STG agents I was keeping track of, and they'd started to pick up that it was a concerted effort and had begun going to ground in response, probably with the intention of losing whoever was tracking them. Not that it worked against me. However, the bigger entities that operated within the system? There really was nothing I could do about their attention beyond a certain level.
This meant that I had to take all of my major manufacturing elsewhere. I needed guns, big guns, I needed places to test them and ships to mount them on, even if I'd still be limited by mass effect in terms of size. This meant that I needed two things: first, I needed a big enough ship that a copy of me could go off somewhere off the map and construct the facilities and resource gathering that I'd need to pull off what I wanted to do. And second... I needed a better FTL drive.
Mass effect FTL wasn't fast. It wasn't convenient. For more than very local destinations, it wasn't even really viable, as the ship and crew would need to spend months to years away from any sort of port that could service their ship if they had mechanical or electronic issues. If your drive broke down in the middle of the transition between two star systems, you were dead, and there was nothing you could do. Seriously, nothing. The terrifying reality of the ME universe was the fact that a ship breaking down in the deep black meant that they were most likely lost forever, barring some extraordinary circumstances that were so infinitesimal in their likelihood that they weren't even mentioning.
This meant that, in order to have a manufacturing hub that was viable and accessible, I needed to make a completely new FTL drive. Sure, I could definitely put it a couple years away in a system that was entirely inaccessible via the Relay network, but that was only viable for a contingency plan. With no FTL communications beyond the buoy system, which would just leave the Reapers a fantastic trail of breadcrumbs right to my house, and with the FLT drive far too slow to really be useful in this regard, it meant that the only way I'd be able to contact this other me would be a courier ship traveling at normal FTL speeds. Now, this was all fine and dandy for short hops via the Relay system, but for any star system that would work for my intended goals, it would be a two year round trip, or more. This didn't even mention the fact that any star system beyond a certain distance wouldn't be reachable with anything but regular sublight speed, which sucks even more.
This meant that, if I suddenly had to go guns blazing and completely break stealth for any reason, help would be two years away, if there were even star system that I could plant my flag in. And I don't think that I could hold against anything that would make me do that for two years. That would be suicide.
So. I had to fix a technological problem that was essentially integral to the entire basis of the existing universe in such a way that it wouldn't explode so violently that people on the Citadel would be enjoying the fireworks. A problem that had apparently gone entirely unsolved for thousands of years, though I would tentatively say that might entirely be thanks to the Relays and their highly consistent, relatively safe and very effective FTL. And I'd have to do it all but alone. Fantastic.
Really, I was hoping that the Reaper archives from Dis, if Dis-me managed to dig up the corpse, would shed some light on the problem. If I was lucky, maybe a species the Reapers encountered had developed primitive warp-based FTL or something to the like that I could extrapolate from. In the meantime, all I could do was pick a few physics and astronautics labs, and put them to work on the problem under the excuse that it was some rich person's interest project or something to the effect.
In the meantime, I'd finish the manufacturing of the orbital shipyard, then employ a large number of locals in the process of producing larger cargo ships and civilian-grad escorts. There was always a market for those, and anything that made my corporate empire look just a tad more legitimate was a good thing in my book.
Far out, towards the edge of the star system, the tiny sensor blip that comprised my most well-built ship yet finally blinked out- which meant that it'd left a while ago, and the information was just now reaching my sensor arrays. A four hundred year round trip into the deep black, only FTLing for about a month before going as quiet as it could and just drifting in the depths of space. I'd promised, one way or another. Now I just had to find a way to make sure that I was here to greet my sleeping copy in four hundred years, with a relatively intact Rannoch beneath my artificial feet.
There had been a time that Shoto had been stuck in a tiny office, with a beat-up chair and a mid-grade corporate Geth platform, with the best possession he owned being a desk that he'd found by chance. Now, no more. There had been a flood of commissions recently, after the large series of criminal busts carried through by a hacker whose name he couldn't quite recall... had to do with some mythological creature. He'd remember eventually. In any case, a huge flood of commissions from a large number of companies suddenly moving into the explosion of newly safe areas thanks to a lot of criminal assets going down hard and leaving gaps in the industry meant credits in his pockets! New chair, new office, new Geth platform that he'd purchased himself!
He kept the desk. He was still fond of it, and it was worth quite a lot.
In fact, the sudden rise had lead (quite suddenly) to another company offering him a quite lucrative deal if he left Shansi A&L and came to work directly for them, using his numerous contacts from years and years of working the trade to benefit them and their corporate efforts. They'd told him they were branching out, creating new series of labs and manufacturing centers- even an orbital shipyard! And HE would be the one to pick and choose who would be directing and managing the project!
He'd calmly told the representative that he'd think about it, and have an answer for them in the morning. He then ended his work day, went all the way home, and screamed in delight into a pillow until his throat was sore. And then he'd handed in a notice of employment change and accepted the offer the next morning.
Ingen had treated him extremely well. For a new company, they were busy making waves in a number of research and science fields. To do that, they needed the best of the best in construction, research, lab equipment... you name it. And here he was, him, Shoto'Ner Rett, with everything they could possibly ask for or need! It'd been a match made in heaven, with him pulling in person after person after small company, Ingen's officials making sure that he knew that they were after quality over anything else. Sure, they'd muttered about wastefulness and the cutting of costs being necessary to business sometimes, but Shoto was a bit too busy signing on quality professionals and enjoying his much-increased paycheck to care about that.
And then, they'd actually made him the head of Ingen's own acquisitions and labour department! And that was about when he discovered that Ingen didn't just offer a company car to its corporate officers, it gave them a ship of their own, a civilian corvette class equivalent, hot off their drydocks! The logic was the that best tools given to the best people produced the best results. Shoto didn't really care about that, because he had a starship of his own. And it was, in fact, his own: along with a hefty salary, they'd handed him the ownership of the thing straight out, and made it clear that the only thing he wasn't allowed to do with it was sell it. Not that he'd ever want to, he had all the money he thought he'd ever need, but whatever.
He'd taken his family out for a little tour of the star system, visiting relatives here and there among the various local colonies that they couldn't afford to visit often. He'd shown it off to his friends. And he'd... realized that perhaps he was getting a little bit of a big head, and that perhaps he should slow down and pace himself before he did something really crazy, like buying shuttles and ramming them into eachother in space for funsies. He'd heard that rich people did that, and he couldn't fathom it before, but now he thought he could.
So, Shoto merrily hired someone who specialized in assisting those who have sudden windfalls, enjoyed some more moderate luxuries, and worked at his job, all under the watchful eye of the Geth platform that he'd purchased, and the AI behind it who was equal parts amused by and a little proud of him. Not that Shoto was aware, but... maybe one day. The Geth certainly had to have those that they trusted, right? After all... they'd asked about souls before.
I just had to be a lot more careful about who I popped the question to.
- Man in the Van with a Plan
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