The Mech Touch Chapter 1044
1042 Narrow Use Cases
A week went by as the peace talks made glacial progress. The cultural differences as well as the acrimonious dislike for each other prevented the Brighters and Vesians from getting along.
Both of them knew that they needed to forge some sort of bond at Kester Hills, but it was easier said than done to make friends with your worst enemies.
The tense, silence-prone meetings that Ves held with Venerable Foster went no better.
While Ves was rational enough to acknowledge his dislike for the Vesians but set it aside, Venerable Foster was remarkably stubborn in her animosity towards Brighters. It didn't help that she disliked Ves in particular for his involvement in the Aeon Corona Mission.
She held grievances. A lot of grievances. From her scattered remarks, Ves inferred that just like the Flagrant Vandals, the Hostland Warriors and the Meandering Monkeys suffered huge losses in their landbound and spaceborn ranks.
The abrupt shutdown of the Starlight Megalodon's FTL drives, Sigrund's unshackling and the mobbing of all the errant sandman motherships stranded in the star system all caught the Vesians off-guard.
If the Vandals already lost a huge amount of mechs and ships, then how could the Vesians be any different?
While Ves conceded that he might be partially responsible for the losses incurred by the Vandals and Vesians, it was a hectic and confusing time back then. He couldn't have achieved a better outcome unless he knew about Sigrund's threat beforehand, which he didn't. The hybrid sandman AI fooled everyone who took the bait, and now this rampant entity was loose in the galaxy.
Sigrund should have earned Venerable Foster's ire, but her lack of awareness about him led her to turn her attention to Ves instead.
He couldn't say he enjoyed the attention even if it let him remain within her company.
On her end, Venerable Foster likely couldn't get used to how Ves easily ignored her force of will and presence. She wasn't the first expert pilot he met and wouldn't be the last. His time with the Larkinsons already disabused him of his hero worship for expert pilots, and her considerable spiritual pressure only splashed uselessly against his concentrated mind.
It became evident that Venerable Foster became increasingly puzzled by how inscrutable Ves behaved in her presence. She had never met a young mech designer who resisted her presence so nonchalantly.
Half of the time, Ves allocated his thoughts to something other than the current gridlock. He constantly refined the vision of his space knight in his mind. He considered several different possibilities, but he couldn't get away from designing a super-medium mech if he wanted to fit in a bulky and heavy polarizing module.
When Ves managed to catch up with Professor Ventag, he finally described the radical idea that formented in his mind.
To his credit, Ventag didn't laugh at him in his face. Even so, he did not look favorable on the idea.
"Mr. Larkinson, you are not the only person who toyed with designing a super-medium mech. Let's take a step back and consider this unusual class. Do you know why mech designers avoid designing super-medium mechs?"
Ves nodded and gave the standard answer. "Mechs that exceed the mediumweight class but don't match the heavyweight class are too weakly-armored to withstand an extended bombardment and don't have enough mobility to dodge it either."
"So what makes your super-medium mech concept special that it can ignore these rules?"
"The custom against designing a super-medium mech is just a guideline. In the past, mech designers didn't worry about categorizing their mechs in three weight classes. While there is a good reason to adhere to the three weight classes, there are limitations to this paradigm. They constrain our thinking and prevents us from accepting the most appropriate solutions even if they stare at us in the face."
Professor Ventag smiled and crossed his arms as he leaned back in his chair in the courtyard. "You have a critical mind. I like it. Questioning assumptions and established theory is the mark of a mech designer with an aptitude for research. Those are very necessary traits for higher-ranking mech designers, but it is rather unusual for me to see them in an Apprentice. You are ahead of your peers in that regard."
"Thank you, sir."
"That said, inquisitive Apprentices sometimes question assumptions too early in their career. Before you break the rules, make sure you understand their necessity. Now tell me what your super-medium space knight concept offers that regular medium space knights lack."
"Well, you see, sir, I made some calculations"
Ves activated his comm and showed off his scribblings, his loose calculations and his sketches. While he hadn't drafted a complete design as of yet, he toyed with various sketches of super-medium mechs that somehow incorporated the large polarizing module.
"This sketch shows the most feasible approach so far." Ves described as he showed off his latest sketch. It kind of looked like an obese mech. "The thick girth of this mech may look unwieldy, but the design is only roughly twenty-five percent larger than a typical medium defensive space knight. It features strong limbs, a large and sturdy torso and a tall tower shield."
"What is the use of such a mech?"
"It's purely allocated for defense. In exchange for giving up the ability to move fast in space, it offers much higher defense. While its mobility is severely constrained compared to regular medium space knights, some outfits never make full use of the mobility of this mech type anyway. Think about security companies or mercenary corps that are contracted to escort trade convoys. When pirates attempt to raid the convoy despite the presence of guards, possessing a super-medium mech that can take a substantially greater beating than regular space knights will help shield the vulnerable trade ships from collateral damage."
"I don't hear anything that a cheaper, more normal-sized medium space knight can do as well. You will have to offer more in order to convince the market and I of the merits of your concept, Mr. Larkinson."
"It's more cost-effective." Ves pushed another angle. "Even though my mech will be twenty-five percent larger and thus at least twenty-five percent more expensive, the defensive prowess it gains in turn would be increased as well. Its larger size and power means it has more surface area for its armor plating. This allows it to perform its core function for quite a bit longer."
"A mech that is twenty-five percent larger won't be twenty-five percent more durable." Professor Ventag said as he shook his head. "Concentrated fire on a single section of your mech will allow enemies to punch through its armor and cripple it without wasting their firepower on the rest of the mech. Its low mobility will only increase the effectiveness of this tactic."
"Ah, but this is where the polarizing module comes in. Once it comes online and charges the sections of the armor plating with the effect, it can temporarily shield the targeted section on its exterior against enemy fire! It's particularly effective against laser beams which boasts the highest degree of accuracy in space battles! As for slower ballistic projectiles, their travel time is just long enough that my super-medium mech will still be able to move and cause them to miss their mark."
This time, Professor Ventag furrowed his brows as he simulated Ves' arguments in his on mind. At first, he was dismissive of the radical idea of employing a super-medium mech. Yet the uses envisioned by Ves made a lot more sense!
The Senior looked increasingly more intrigued as he contemplated the intended use. "I admit, your idea sounds more plausible than the minute. However, are you aware of how difficult it is to implement such localized polarization into your design?"
The polarizing module ordinarily polarized the exterior of the entire mech against damage. However, this wasn't very efficient as the polarizing field wasted lots of energy just by remaining active. The larger the field, the more energy the mech expended.
Therefore, more advanced use of polarizing technology sought to reinforce smaller portions of a mech. However, this demanded a lot out of a mech designer. The polarizing field needed support from the internal architecture to sustain its effects, and therefore required space to integrate special channels leading up to various sections of the mech.
The smaller and more granular the polarizing effect, the more channels required, taking up valuable space and increasing the complexity of the mech's internal architecture!
However, Ves was nothing if not confident in his own abilities. "I believe in my mech concept. Let me at least try before we rule it out. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the results."
"I'm not quite convinced by the appeal of your mech just yet." Professor Ventag frowned again. "The polarizing module itself expends a lot of energy. Even if you are able to add more energy cells into your enlarged design, I can't see your mech sustaining the effect more than ten minutes. Is that truly sufficient to be worth purchasing?"
Ves nodded gravely. "My space knight won't earn any endurance awards. Most battles don't last that long, I think. In most cases, the armor of a space knight will get worn away long before their energy cells are drained. Also, think of it this way. The mech pilot of my space knight isn't just limited to polarizing its armor reactively against precision fire. It can also spread the effect over its shield or its armor and absorb enemy fire without sustaining material damage."
"Why does that matter?"
"It's more cost-effective in shorter engagements. Any battle that space knights are involved in results in material damage to their shields or exterior armor plating at the very least. It not only takes money to replace or repair the armor plating, it also consumes a decent amount of manpower and time to do so. Think of treasure hunting fleets venturing out in the frontier. When pirates learn of their whereabouts, they'll trickle in and harass the treasure hunters frequently in order to wear them out. In such an instance, rather than taking armor damage, wouldn't it be better to let the polarizing field absorb much of the damage instead in these low-intensity engagements? The only damage my space knight will sustain is a couple of depleted energy cells."
Ves came up with such a use due to his own personal experiences with the Flagrant Vandals. His stint as head designer made him intimately familiar with all of the headaches that emerged whenever the Vandals survived a battle. Even when they won, it was a huge hassle and drain on resources to repair the damaged mechs.
"I think these cases sound plausible." Professor Ventag conceded, before playing devil's advocate again. "Still, these scenarios are very narrow and specific. A normal space knight may not offer any advantages in those specific scenarios, but it offers a lot better performance outside them. Your space knight is very inflexible. Its lack of versatility in other types of engagements will heavily impact its appeal."
"That's a tradeoff that I'm willing to take." Ves smiled. He made peace with this consequence. "Frankly, I don't believe the demand for my super-medium space knight will be so low. How many convoys are there these days? How many space knights are anchored to space stations and other fixed facilities in space? This is a substantial niche market in my eyes! I don't think there are many mechs at all that fills this niche as well as my super-medium space knight!"
Ventag wasn't taken in by his optimistic projection. "That's a very bold assumption of you. Yet how will the market really respond to such a deviant mech type? Have you ever thought of the possibility that the market will be prejudiced against your design solely due to its aberrant weight class? Have you ever factored in the backlash that both our companies will incur if we publish such a controversial mech design?"
"Backlash?" Ves puzzled.