The Mech Touch Chapter 1032
1030 Tempting Offer
Ves strolled down the corridors and rode the elevators to the lower decks of the Lormant Carnival. Having taken passage on many different ships in the past few years, he evaluated the commercial light carrier against the other ships.
"The Lormant Carnival is a decent light carrier."
Decent. Not exceptional nor terrible. All Ves could really say about the Carnival was that she served her intended role and nothing more.
The Carnival featured a standard capacity of forty mechs, a full mech company, and offered some room for additional cargo and spare mechs.
However, compared to a combat carrier like the Shield of Hispania or the monstrous Princely Jackal of the Flagrant Vandals, the Carnival lacked the armor and durability of those military carriers.
Armoring starships could get incredibly expensive. Their huge volume and surface area meant that a ten percent increase in size could practically double the final cost of building such a vessel because of the additional armor plating needed to provide good coverage!
Military mech regiments used combat carriers for a good reason despite their higher expense. They simply lasted longer in combat. In larger battles, the chances of carriers getting targeted increased as a large number of enemy ranged mechs might decide to pummel on a ship at long range if they could get away with it. A hundred or more laser rifleman mechs targeting any single ship in unison could quickly deal billions of credits worth of damage!
This especially happened a lot in space battles where ships couldn't hide behind a convenient mountain or terrain feature.
Combat carriers stacked large amounts of relatively cheap armor plating. While ship armor was actually worse than mech armor when compared by volume or mass, a ship possessed much more powerful propulsion so could bear being burdened by lots of cost-efficient bulk armor plating.
This allowed them to perform their core functions. In space, they offered valuable shelter and cover for their vulnerable mechs and logistics ships. On land, they possessed the confidence to make landfall while withstanding a decent amount of anti-air fire.
Light carriers lacked those two vital capabilities. Instead of acting like a movable miniature fortress on the battlefield, they were more like sturdy houses that nonetheless needed the protection of their mechs.
Ves noted that this vulnerability annoyed the Spiral Shockers. They weren't too used to missions that tasked them with taking on another identity. The downgrades to the mechs and ships at their disposal rendered half of their advanced tactics and formations useless because their assets would fall apart or get shot to pieces before they finished their maneuvers.
"The strength that mech pilots can bring to bear is limited by their gear."
Ves found it to be a substantial waste of potential. The Spiral Shockers could do better, yet their budget and mid-range mechs only allowed them to go so far. The few premium mechs piloted by their mech officers only offered a minimal amount of respite from these limitations.
Even so, the skilled mech pilots of the Spiral Shockers still performed leagues above the Flagrant Vandals if they both piloted the same mechs. No matter how many hindrances the Shockers endured, they could still rely on their excellent combat strength to pull them through to an extent.
Pairing the elite Spiral Shockers with mediocre mechs therefore still paid off, though it was very wasteful and not very cost-effective.
"Wasteful spending is par for the course for Senator Tovar."
That old man had way too much money to spend. Ves could have come up with a thousand better ideas on how to allocate the budget for this peace delegation. A huge amount of money had already been sunk due to the premature fall of the Felicitous Remembrance.
Ves estimated that this single luxury passenger ship cost as much if not more than a perfectly serviceable combat carrier!
After a while, he finally reached a small mech workshop where Professor Ventag requested to meet with him. Ves quickly became impressed with the mech technicians at work. Even with the substandard facilities of a light carriers, the mech technicians of the Spiral Shockers all performed their duties diligently.
The prior battle where the Spiral Shockers repelled a pirate ambush did not lead to many wrecked mechs. However, the Shockers still suffered from a large spread of moderate damage. All of those heavily-chipped and damaged armor plating needed to be replaced if the Shockers did not wish to look pathetic upon their entry into the Harkensen System.
And yes, that was the main reason why the mech technicians worked so hard and hurriedly. Apparently, Senator Tovar passed on the orders personally!
Ves just wanted to shake his head at this sight.
"Mr. Larkinson." A ship rating greeted him with respect. "The professor is awaiting your presence in the office. Please come this way, sir."
"Very well, lead the way."
They passed by the mech technicians who mostly ignored Ves even if they heard he did something amazing a few days ago. The Shockers possessed their own pride and wouldn't easily show their admiration to someone else, unlike the Vandals.
"Come in, Ves." Professor Ventag said in a warmer tone. Ves entered an office configured into a small design studio. The professor sat in the center of a small bank of terminals.
"Why have you called me here, professor?" Ves asked boldly.
"I have been thinking about how to reward you for your aid. Strictly speaking, Senator Tovar must have already arranged a suitable bonus for you once the peace talks are over and return home. However, that only covers his gratitude, not mine. I wanted to show my appreciation to you for saving me from captivity. You may not be fully aware of this, but there are many uses for Senior Mech Designers as long as you can get one under your thumb. If I am fortunate, I would be able to buy my freedom with an enormous sum of money. If I am less fortunate, I'd be treated as a slave for the rest of my life."
Ves already witnessed a taste for that in the frontier. Even Lydia's Swordmaidens relied on slaves to fulfill their shortage in technical personnel!
An enslaved mech technician already held a decent amount of value, but an enslaved mech designer, especially a high-ranked one, was easily worth hundreds of billions of credits if not more!
"I was merely doing my duty." Ves replied modestly, unsure whether he even wanted to accept Professor Ventag's gratitude. "No matter my current role in the peace delegation, I am still a serving mech designer of the Mech Corps."
"You don't have to be so modest, young man. You possess a lot of depth, far more than any normal mech designer ought to have. Yet both Senator Tovar and I have only received pleasant surprises from you for that reason. I took the liberty of asking the senator to access your complete classified record. When I read the accounts of your mission to the frontier, I admit my opinion of you has completely changed! You are even more exceptional than I thought! You deserve every medal awarded to you by the Mech Corps!"
While Ves felt the urge to pat himself on the chest, he restrained the urge to boast about himself. Even though he felt fantastic for being praised by Professor Ventag, his general experience at being praised by senior figures was that they usually wanted something else from him. Showering him with compliments only served as a prelude for a request or a demand.
"Tell me, did you really enjoy the CFA's renowned gene optimization treatments?" Ventag asked with hungry eyes.
"How extremely fortunate of you! This is much better than the life-prolonging treatment I've secured after decades of hard work!"
Did Professor Ventag become a fan of him now? Ves did not feel comfortable that Tovar just gave another mech designer access to everything the Bright Republic knew about him. Shouldn't there be laws against disseminating private and classified information?
Heh. Senator Tovar either drafted the laws or executed them. How could they ever restrain someone who partially ruled the Bright Republic?
Perhaps aware that he was acting inappropriately, the professor quickly regained his calm. "Ahem, let us get back to the topic I wish to address. I studied your record and your exploits because I wished to grant you a reward that is in my power to give you. We are both mech designers. We are both businessmen. Having studied your business exploits, I've learned you are doing quite well for an independent entrepreneur. However, I have noticed that you have not been involved in any collaborative projects as of yet. Would you be interested in starting one with my company?"
"A joint design project between you and me, or the LMC and NORA Consolidated if you wish to be precise." Professor Ventag described with a benevolent smile. "When I studied your circumstances, I made two important observations. First, you appear to be very close to advancing to Journeyman. However, you are stalled at the threshold for the moment because you have very few opportunities to practice your craft during the war. I want to express my gratitude to you by helping you advance. While there are no guarantees that you will be able to advance after completing a joint project, it will at least offer some very valuable design experience that will be fruitful for your career."
"That.. that's very generous of you, sir." Ves said lamely, not having gone over his shock as of yet. This was an amazing chance!
Many mech designers fantasized about working together with Seniors, but usually they were so busy and had their noses stuck so high up in the air that they didn't even acknowledge the existence of Apprentices!
"The joint project I have in mind will take the form of a mech designed for the market." The professor continued. "That is what you have the most experience in and where you ought to spend your attention on. This will by necessity involve both our mech companies. My company, NORA Consolidated, possesses a very strong brand presence in the Bright Republic and is prominent in several other markets in the rest of the Komodo Star Sector. If it becomes known that our two companies have jointly developed a new mech, the brand and reputation of your LMC will be able to ride on the coattails of NORA Consolidated. While your company may incur some negative repercussions with this association, in general I believe the positives far outweigh the negatives."
Ves nodded in agreement. "I believe so as well."
Simply put, NORA Consolidated was a household name in the Bright Republic. It was one of the premier mech companies in the state simply due to the fact that a renowned Senior led the company! The company's decades-long history and its relentless growth in market share and brand recognition made it into one of the biggest names in the mech industry!
Despite the recent publicity, the LMC always remained somewhat obscure. It simply hadn't existed long enough to be on top of people's minds whenever they recalled a list of mech companies. It didn't help that it only offered two product lines in its mech catalog.
Therefore, connecting the LMC and NORA through a single collaborative project came with major implications! The simple fact that NORA was willing to collaborate with the LMC on a design project showcased Ventag and his company's confidence in Ves and the LMC.
Such an important boost was already incredibly useful!
However, the flipside to this association was that the LMC also drew the attention of NORA's rivals and enemies. In this case, most of those rivals consisted Ansel-aligned companies.
Ves sobered up a little once he made that realization. The Ansel University of Mech Design wielded a huge amount of influence in Bentheim's mech industry. No mech designer would enjoy entering into their crosshairs!
Even if he subsequently enjoyed the backing of the rivalling Dorum Center of Technology and Innovation, was that worth giving up his neutrality in their dominance games?
This seemingly generous offer by Professor Ventag to give Ves a hand in helping him on his way to advance to Journeyman and give the LMC a reputational boost was not a purely altruistic offer. It was actually a ploy to draw him closer to Professor Ventag and the DCTI's camp!
Even when Professor Ventag wanted to be generous, he couldn't help but weave his own political ambitions in his offered reward!
Professor Ventag patiently waited for Ves to make up his mind. "Well, Ves? What is your response? Are you willing to work together to design a great mech with my help? As this project is meant to assist your development, I'll let you be the lead designer and be the final arbiter of what should be included in our collaborative design. I'll even allow you full access to NORA's extensive library of component licenses."
What an incredibly tempting offer! Ves struggled intensively within his mind. Should he accept or not?