"Captain, we have finished testing the samples you told us to test," Altea reported to Ed as he was mulling on how to make Leona confess willingly.
"Give me the detailed report, I want to know what made them special," he instructed.
In the past week he had received various reports on the samples and the metal-eater themselves, he was quite surprised that the metal eater claw and teeth grow back just two days after the first extraction.
"I have sent the report to your datapad, Captain," Altea reported before explaining the content to him. The AI did not need him to command it to do so as it already knew he would ask it to do so.
"According to our test, the samples are made from a precious metal that's common in dark clusters, they behave similarly and their composition is also similar, the difference was that it was already processed into a metal alloy rather than raw ore that could be found in asteroids," it explained.
"That much we already know from the research data we get from Alpha-Charlie. Is there any other thing? How about the new samples?" Ed asked.
Once he knew that the metal eater grew back their claw and teeth, he had told Altea to collect the newly grown claw and teeth as samples.
"We haven't finished our testing, but we could already know that it's made from another processed metal," It replied.
He navigated his datapad to the new sample data. After reading the report and data, he found something strange.
"This material is different from the previous sample, its property differs greatly from the previous one," he mumbled.
"Yes, Captain. From the data, it's made from a cheap metal that could be found almost anywhere," Altea told him.
"That strange," he found them strange, as normally the claw and teeth should be made from something similar.
"According to the research data that is stored in our database, our researcher said that the quality will increase with time, that's why newly grown claws have low quality," it explained.
"That doesn't sound right, metal should not be able to grow in quality once it's made," he thought to himself.
"Altea, send me all the data we have on metals and their property," he commanded the AI.
"I'm sending the data, Captain. How should I short it?" it asked him.
"From the most common should do," he replied.
It took him two hours to compare the data until he found something similar to the new sample data.
"Blue alloy, used for industrial purposes in dark clusters and made from common space metal that could easily be found in a place with a higher concentration of dark matter," he read the description.
"Altea, tell me more about blue alloy, can we make a sample of them?" he asked the AI.
"Blue alloys are one of the most common alloys that could be found in dark clusters. Normally we don't keep such a cheap material in our ship, but luckily we mined some before," Altea answered.
"Huh? Why did we mine them?" He asked in confusion.
"We mined them after capturing the Metal-eater to feed them," the AI answered.
Ed frowned, from hearing that "this is too much of a coincidence!" he thought.
"Altea pulled out the metal-eaters claw and teeth again, then changed their diet to another raw ore," he commanded.
"Are you sure, Captain? The raw ore we have is worth almost fifty times that of their original food," Altea asked for confirmation.
"Yes, do it anyway. Once they regrew the claw and teeth, bring them as our new sample, I want you to give me the report as fast as you can," he ordered.
"It will take us at least a week to test them, Captain," The AI told him.
"That's too long, Just test their similarity to any alloy that can be made of the raw ore we feed them," he instructed again.
"Understood, Captain," it replied.
Ed had his own suspicion on the nature of the metal-eater, if his guess was true then he would be able to make a lot of money with it.
Three days passed before Altea came back to him with the result, "We have finished the test, Captain. According to our test, the claw material has 90% similarity to D-alloy, D-alloy is an alloy made of the same raw ore we fed the Metal eater with."
"Haha! My guess is correct! The metal eater can refine metal ore!" he laughed.
"Now the only problem is what alloy to make," he thought as not every alloy is worth it to use the metal-eater as a refinery.
Most metal could just be made by putting the raw ore into a multi-printer and directly making them into finished products.
"How about their yield? How much efficiency in using them to refine metal?" he asked the AI.
"According to our calculation it has 98% efficiency, we did not know yet where the 2% went to," It answered him.
"2 percent efficiency loss is not that bad," he thought as according to the data he read, normal refineries lost around one to 2 percent as well.
The only problem was the quantity they could produce was limited, according to his estimation they could only produce a meter cube in a week with only three metal-eater.
"Altea, give me the list of the most expensive alloy that is hard to be refined, preferably the raw materials are easy to find in the dark cluster," he commanded.
Soon he got a list of alloys. Each of them was a mixed alloy that combines multiple metal ore, they priced very high because they needed a dedicated refinery to be created.
There are dozens of alloy in the list, some of them have hundreds of material that need to be combined, other have rare material, but the one attract his attention was the Crystalium alloy, it was made of seven common ores but each of them was very hard and their property conflict with each other which made them hard to be combined.
Crystalium alloy is one of the required materials to create a high-grade laser weapon, a meter cubic of the alloy could sell for ten thousand galactic currency.
One Red falcon mecha only sells for seven thousand galactic currency, which means if Ed could produce the alloy, then within a week he could buy one Red Falcon mecha. Even if he deduct the material cost, he could still afford to buy the mecha.
"The current problem is money, I don't have enough money to buy the raw material, I will need to do something about it." he thought.
"Altea, give me detailed data about the Crystalium alloy, I want you to calculate the right diet for the metal eater so they could produce it," he instructed.
"Will do, Captain," it replied as the AI started to run its supercomputer to predict the right composition of raw ores to create the alloy with the help of a metal-eater.
Had Ed made a dedicated refinery to create the metal then he might only get 10% profit, but with the help of a metal-eater, his profit became four times the material cost.
"I just need to make sure that no one knows how I make the alloy," he thought. If more people knew how to make the alloy easily, then the price would drop considerably.
"How about breeding the metal-eater? Can we breed them?" he asked the AI.
"No, Captain. We need experts in space creatures. If we want to breed them, our ship doesn't have the necessary tools and knowledge, If we wait for them to breed naturally then it would take approximately a galactic year," The AI told him.
"A galactic year? That would be two years on earth, that's too long!" he lamented as he thought he could make a lot of money if he could have more metal-eater with him.
"I need to hire a specialist once I get to the Millenium base," he thought.
Ed already planned to hire more people to crew his ship and pilot the mecha, now that he has a business plan in mind, he might as well hire specialized people to take care of it.
"We should reach the base in less than two days, I hope they will welcome us," he thought.
Of course, he did not expect to have a party in his name; he was nobody in this place and no one knew him yet.
A small-time pirate that luck out on finding an alien ship was not important enough for them to welcome.
Moreover, you could not expect a pirate to be civil and welcome their guest, at best they would not show any aggression toward you.
"Aleta, how is our preparation to enter Millenium base?" He asked the AI.
"Everything is ready, captain, we don't need to fear being hijacked by any pirate outfit, they will receive a fake signal that our ship is crewed by hundreds of men and have two dozen mecha," it replied.
"I hope bluffing will work," He thought to himself. Since his last encounter with Leona, Ed became even more cautious in planning his move.