The Mech Touch Chapter 1334
1332 Conditional Mechs
The advantage of resorting to nanomachines rather than uncontrollable atoms and molecules was that they could be ordered around to change shapes. This was the principal advantage of smart metal.
Yet for this single property, smart metal gave up a lot.
"The limitations of smart metal tech are many." He reminded himself.
Instead of consisting of solid slabs of metal, they could better be described as a collection of tiny little machines that hold themselves together on the microscopic level.
As Ves had already witnessed beforehand, applying brute force could easily overwhelm those 'active' defenses.
In addition, the forces the nanomachines exert on each other in order to hold themselves together needed to be powered. Once they ran out of juice, they were held together by very weak physical bonds which could easily be snapped after suffering some light hits.
The third limitation of smart metal was that they were more expensive and provided less significantly less performance than an equivalent solid material. The effective strength of smart metal vastly improved when they incorporated exotics, but this rapidly increased the cost.
"A smart metal mech can easily cost twice or thrice as much as a regular alloy mech despite sharing comparable specs!"
In essence, a smart metal mech at least doubled the price in exchange for gaining the option to transform!
Whether this function was worth the cost or not depended on the needs of the customer.
However, the general consensus in much of the Komodo Star Sector was that smart metal mechs were gimmicks at best and a trap at worst.
"It's easy to see why everyone considers them to be traps with the amount of money they consume."
A state that converted its mech military entirely to smart metal mechs would basically be committing suicide. They were only able to field half as many mechs as before, but those machines weren't necessarily twice as good to compensate for their reduced numbers.
For this reason, fielding smart metal mechs simply didn't make any sense from a macro perspective. They only truly showcased their value during exceptional circumstances where a flexible mech might survive where a rigid mech may not. They also might be able to achieve surprising results in the mech games.
Yet for most parts of human space, smart metal mechs firmly acquired an awful reputation in the mech community.
"It's going to be a real challenge trying to design a smart metal tiger mech. While I'm known to design some whacky mechs, this will be pushing it too far."
Unless he designed a compelling mech design that achieved a level of performance far above the industry standard, he might as well forget about aiming to bring his work to the market.
The market simply expressed no demand for mechs that were twice as expensive, required constant power to maintain integrity and would falter easily against heavy impacts.
His solution? Aim to minimize the inclusion of smart metal. By applying it only to the parts which benefited from the additional flexibility, Ves could avoid weakening its essential structural support.
Yet as much as he wanted to, the System limited how far he could go. He recalled the wording of the upgrade mission and it stated that he had to design a 'smart metal mech'.
While the definition of a smart metal mech was not entirely precise, the nerds over at the MTA literally debated for decades on this very topic.
No smart metal mech completely consisted of smart metal. It required at least some solid components to perform essential functions. For example, the power reactor and the cockpit really did not fare very well when they were made out of smart metal.
It didn't help that the average proportion of smart metal in this mech classification varied greatly. Some only possessed as low as fifteen percent while others incorporated eighty percent.
Eventually, the MTA set down its foot and came to the consensus. A proper smart metal mech incorporated at least twenty-five percent of this remarkable material.
"Twenty-five percent is a good threshold." Ves noted. "That's the point where smart metal significantly shifts the mech concept of the design in question."
A floor of twenty-five percent was a lot more than Ves was comfortable with. If he had to replace twenty-five percent of a conventional tiger mech frame with smart metal, it would definitely perform like a cripple on the battlefield!
For this reason, Ves saw the need to abandon the standard convention of tiger mechs. Instead of blindly adopting this bestial mech type, he instead went back to the drawing board.
"It feels as if I'm reinventing the wheel again. In an age where solid wooden or metal wheels are common, can I invent an inflatable tire?"
Many mech designers tried and failed to develop a mech type that did justice to smart metal tech. Even Masters ran aground when they tried to square the circle.
"The most successful attempts are actually partial failures." He muttered.
Lucky floated down on his desk and curiously poked the projection of various smart metal mechs in action.
Ves chuckled. "No, Lucky. Eating smart metal is a bad idea. You'll just grow weaker in exchange for some mild transformation abilities. Do you really want to become more vulnerable?"
"Even if you have all of your stealth tricks at your disposal, you're too precious to risk it. Be content with what you have!"
As Lucky grumpily jumped away, Ves gloomingly crossed his arms. His reluctance to see Lucky turn into a smart metal cat exemplified his own misgivings on this matter.
"If I don't want Lucky to incorporate smart metal, then how can I ever impose this indignity on a mech pilot?"
As Ves puzzled over this issue, he simply found it too difficult to come up with an altered mech concept that added real value.
"Perhaps it can't be done."
Ves possessed a lot of confidence in his abilities, but that didn't necessarily mean he disrespected every rule in the book. When he initially came up with a vision for his Aurora Titan design, he spotted a flaw in common convention.
This time, he lacked an obvious direction he could pursue to design a smart metal mech that at least maintained parity with regular mechs.
The immense difficulties he faced right now made him rein back his ambition. Reinventing the wheel was all well and good, but he didn't think it was possible for him to invent an inflatable tire with his current skills.
If Ves wanted to complete both of his Upgrade Missions with a single design, then he needed to to be more creative and see what was actually permissible. He recalled one of the Upgrade Mission in order to see where he could find a loophole to exploit.
[Upgrade Mission - Metallurgy]
Mission: Design and Fabricate a smart metal mech
Study the use and applications of smart metal without aid and employ them into a viable mech design that meets the Mech Designer System's standards. Then fabricate it and sell it to a worthy customer.
"Hmm. Now that I recall the wording, there's quite a lot open to interpretation."
Ves focused his attention on the demands set by the System. He listed out the key words.
"Smart metal mech. Viable mech design. Meeting standards. Fabricate a copy. Sell the copy to a 'worthy' customer."
That was quite a lot to go through, but Ves broke it down into pieces. First, the demand to design a viable smart metal mech that met the System's standards meant he could not make a half-hearted effort.
He recalled he once cheated the System by designing an absolute abomination of a mech design just so he could fulfill the letter though not the spirit of its requirements.
He snorted. "I guess I can't outright design another piece of junk this time."
The mech at least had to be attractive enough to appeal to an actual customer.
The definition of worthy customer varied from person to person. Ves probably guessed that the buyer needed to be at least a conventional mech buyer.
"Are collectors included in this definition?"
He was inclined to say no. The mech community generally did not regard collectors as worthy customers because they bought mechs for purposes other than deploying them in battle.
"Buying a mech only to squirrel them away in a depot or putting them up for display is a perversion of their actual purpose."
A lot of purists hated people treating mechs like a fancy statue or accessory. Mechs were machines of war! Their true home was on the battlefield!
Considering what he knew about the System, Ves guessed that it wouldn't let him get away with designing an ornamental mech only to sell it so a gullible collector that liked to gather shiny mechs.
Ves had to design a smart metal mech that was actually viable in battle.
Yet the definition of viable did not mean viable in every situation. "There are mechs that are tailored to many specific circumstances! Even a smart metal mech may perform exceptionally well in the right conditions!"
Instead of trying to do the impossible and design a mech that performed well in general circumstances, why not focus on one specific circumstance instead?
He already did it before. His Enduring Protector which he designed back on Aeon Corona VII could also be called a conditional mech. This was because he expressly designed it to counteract the pervasive breakdown effect that caused regular mechs to malfunction exceptionally frequently.
Ves just needed to find the right circumstances where a smart metal tiger mech performed much better than usual due to the presence of anomalous effects or weird planetary conditions.
"When it comes to anomalies, nothing can beat the Nyxian Gap on this front!"
The vast weirdness of the Nyxian Gap was in itself a huge anomaly! Inside this enormous stretch of asteroid-filled space, numerous large satellites consisting of strange materials threw up all kinds of whacky hazards to outfits wanting to exploit their rare resources.
"There's probably at least one strange place out there where a smart metal tiger mech can be of actual use."
Having decided to design a conditional mech, the next step would be to determine his budget. How much money should he invest in this project?
Ves was inclined to invest as minimum as possible. While he still possessed an ample amount of money, his current spending pattern was unsustainable.
"I should really stop throwing my credits around so much."
The cost to design a single mech was immense. It wasn't that much expensive to design a mech with an eye towards mass production.
The problem was that Ves did not possess a lot of suitable component licenses. Not only did he need to acquire a whole new set of component licenses that were specifically tailored for bestial mechs, he also had to acquire a rather expensive smart metal license.
Even if he cheaped out, he could easily imagine facing a total bill of two billion credits or more for all the licenses!
An ugly grimace appeared on his face. "It might be worth it if I design at least one commercial mech with those licenses. It's definitely not worth it if all I intend to produce is a single copy."
Although Ves sometimes had the illusion that money came easily to him these days, 2 billion credits was still a significant amount of capital.
Faced with this unpleasant reality, Ves opted to take a more crooked alternative.
He decided to pirate some licenses and make use of their component specifications without paying the requisite license fees.
Although such practices rapidly earned the ire of the MTA, Ves just had to make sure no one found out about it. Plenty of pirate designers made use of licenses without paying a single K-coin and always got away with it! Why shouldn't Ves be able to do the same?
"It's fine as long as I don't mass produce my work. No one will care." He determined self-confidently.