The Dogged One was no saint. He pursued the scum of the world for selfish reasons instead of contributing to society. He wanted revenge, plain and simple. Exacting justice was only a side effect of his endless pursuit to kill every murderer.
Ves put it this way. “Even victims are marked by the darkness in their hearts. Some find a healthy means of coping with their trauma. The Dogged One can only sate his thirst by inflicting the same torment to those who resembled his tormentors.”
In a dog-eat-dog world, refined notions of justice had no place.
In fact, Ves mirrored the Dogged One’s tendency to seek revenge to Dr. Kawasaki’s urge to see others suffer from his inventions.
Such was human nature, no matter much others liked to argue otherwise. In fact, many aliens exhibited the same tendency, but that was another story.
“Am I going astray?”
He originally planned to design a training mech. Coloring his design with an intensive myth like the Dogged One might be counterproductive.
“It’s a strong image, for good or ill.” Under the influence of a special mood, Ves came up with it spontaneously. It carried an authentic spark of life, unlike many of his other figments of imagination. Ves was loathe to abandon such a valuable gem.
He still feared the consequences of employing the image. Will he be twisting their morals and worldview? “There’s a limit to the X-Factor in virtual mechs. I doubt much will bleed over if it’s possible in the first place.”
To be honest, Ves had no proof either way. He never tested most of his assumptions involving the X-Factor. Perhaps the lack of formal study prevented the System from granting him the appropriate skills and sub-skills regarding this nebulous field.
“What may come will come.” Ves decided. “It’s not entirely bad if students gain some perspective in their lives. With the onset of war, there’s a chance they’ll be fighting in the frontlines.”
The Bright-Vesia Wars generally lasted around five to seven years. Historically, there had been cases where certain groundside conflicts grew to such an extent that the defenders conscripted barely trained teenagers to fill up their spare mechs.
Such an act of borrowing from the future to quench a crisis in the present never really worked out for the planet in question. Veteran mech pilots often tore them apart.
After the war had ended, the entire planet suffered the consequences. Every planet and star system had to contribute to the defense of the Bright Republic. A generational gap of qualified mech pilots reduced their clout and gave them less of a voice in matters of policy and national security.
The future of the Bright Republic lay in its youth!
For a moment, Ves imagined what it would be like to influence Cloudy Curtain’s young potentates. Anyone from the age of ten to eighteen had to learn how to operate mechs. Even those who never wished to set their foot on the battlefield learned how to kill.
What was it like to possess the power to influence these impressionable youths? Ves could potentially make them smarter, bolder and more confident by incorporating these virtues in his work.
Ves shook his head. “It doesn’t feel right to start over with a different inspiration.”
Despite its problematic elements, Ves continued to flesh out the Dogged One’s backstory. He carefully envisioned his troubled youth as a persecuted thief and slave, his growth period as a crossbowman in a conscripted army, to his eventual desertion from a military disaster.
Throughout all of these events, the Dogged One’s capacity for stubborn survival allowed him to pick up the skills that set him on the path of a bounty hunter and executioner.
The details of the story mattered a lot, as Ves wanted his design to emphasize the conscious layer over the primal layer of the X-Factor.
Great instincts helped experienced pilots more than trainees due to their ability to respond to a crisis faster.
On the other hand, the low-level battles the trainees often engaged in were less intensive. Sound judgement and measured decision making mattered more. If the pilots of a mech influenced by the myth of the Dogged One adopted some of his habits, that might not be an entirely bad thing.
Ves deliberately chose to make the Dogged One a specialist in the crossbow. A mundane non-repeating crossbow could only fire one bolt at a time. It took a lot of time to pull back the string in order to arm another bolt.
The Dogged One couldn’t afford to miss. His sword-fighting skills paled in comparison to his marksmanship, so any enemy that came close could easily butcher him. Thus, the Dogged One unceasingly practiced with his crossbows until his marksmanship became unparalleled.
“Now that I have this image, should I add another?”
This led to the larger question whether every design benefited from multiple images. His Marc Antony Mark II used three images at once, and it hadn’t suffered for it. Yet Ves instinctively rejected the notion for several reasons.
First, maintaining too many images strained his concentration. Second, his Young Blood design performed well enough without a multifaceted construction. Certainly, it rated a little lower in terms of X-Factor, but did it make any difference?
Finally, Ves also had to take his own circumstances in mind. He only reserved three weeks at most to design his training mech. If he tried to maintain multiple images at once, he’d be taking frequent breaks. If he only focused on a single intent, then he’d easily be able to accomplish a lot of work in a single stretch.
He decided to keep it simple. “Let’s move on and select a base model.”
With an appropriate image in mind, he headed to his terminal and visited Iron Spirit’s market section. After opening the catalog, he turned to the list of 2-star medium rifleman mechs and leisurely browsed the list.
Rifleman mechs came in many different shapes and sizes even in the mediumweight classification.
Generally, they could be classified as all-rounders or specialists. The former featured stronger artificial musculature in order to leverage more strength when wielding melee weapons. The latter gave up on melee combat and optimized their designs for precision and coordination.
Since Ves aimed for a training mech, he did not not have to consider any alternatives and chose to go for specialist designs. He quickly found out that these rifleman mechs could be further divided into mobile and precision mechs.
Mobile riflemen mechs basically functioned like skirmishers. They optimized their legs for speed and mobility. They’re designed to battle in complex conditions where battle lines may be fluid. They specialized in taking down fast-moving targets such as light mechs and their targeting systems reflected this role.
Precision mechs focused on medium to long-ranged fire from a static position. People often considered these rifleman as snipers, though the moniker did not apply to every mech of this type.
They differed from mobile rifleman mechs in several ways. Their arms were smaller and more fragile, but gained the ability to wield a rifle with extreme precision if the pilot possessed the skill. Their targeting systems might have problems tracking fast-moving targets, but they aided considerably in increasing the odds of a hit at longer ranges.
Ves narrowed his choice to this sub-type of mechs. The Dogged One pursuit the path of delivering death with a single shot. A commando-like run-and-gun battle did not suit the image.
He let his mind sway a bit when he scrolled over the designs. He suddenly stopped when he faintly imagined a resonance between the Dogged One and the projected design.
[Rickshaft Conglomerate TOC-1 Tryops]: 500,000 bright credits
He never heard of the Rickshaft Conglomerate. Ves quickly browsed the galactic net and it turned out the company used to be a fairly big deal in several non-mech related industries such as real estate and fuel refining.
One day, the company decided to jump in on then-developing mech craze and released the TOC-1 Tryops.
The concept of the mech sounded simple. The Tryops drew its name for its unique but glitchy main optical sensors. Basically, it had three eyes, and every eye saw the world in a different way. Specialized processors took in the sensory data and fed an enhanced image to the mech pilot.
Though it sounded daunting, the designers employed by the Rickshaft Conglomerate made sure to simplify the composite footage. The few mech pilots who experienced the Tryops in person praised its highly developed sensory feed, which was very advanced for its time.
The rest of the mech performed fairly poorly. Besides the sensors, the Tryops played it fairly extreme. The designers envisioned their product to be employed as base defenders. They increased the Tryops accuracy at the cost of armor, mobility and endurance.
The only other redeeming feature of the design was that it came with a pretty good laser rifle. The Rickshaft Conglomerate obviously splurged quite a bit of money to license a premium model from a specialist designer or manufacturer.
Fortunately for Ves, the rifle suited his purposes. Its default settings caused the weapon to fire a powerful sustained beam capable of melting through thin layers of armor in a single shot. Afterwards, the rifle required a fairly long cycle time in order to vent its immense heat.
Overall, the entire Tryops design presented an extreme in mech design that later proved to be a waste of money. While the concept of the design had some good points, the market decided otherwise.
In the chaotic advent of the Age of Mechs, conventional doctrines weren’t fully established. Few mech pilots appreciated piloting what was essentially a sitting duck. The whole concept of mechs at the time focused on its superior mobility in any kind of terrain over other alternatives such as tanks.
“If a mech can’t move fast enough, it should at least be able to take some hits. If a mech can’t even do that, who would want to pilot it in the first place?”
The war mongers at the time expected every mech to come under fire. The Tryops performed admirably in its offensive aspects but came up short when considering its paper-thin defenses.
Might as well install a cheap turret!
The entire Rickshaft Conglomerate ultimately went bankrupt.
Despite its checkered history, Ves did not turn away from the Tryops. Its strengths and weaknesses already meshed fairly well with the Dogged One. He could save quite a bit of time if he didn’t need to redesign too much.
Ves also looked forward to the challenge of coming up with a successful variant of this failed design. Its first incarnation failed miserably, and that affected its current embodiment in Iron Spirit.
Hardly anyone bought the virtual mech. Many mech designers also eschewed the unpopular design. Few of them dared to gamble with half a million credits. This suited Ves fine as he wouldn’t be dealing with excessive competition.
By now, Ves built up a fairly strong brand in Cloudy Curtain. Even if he wasn’t a big deal in the rest of the Republic, he could still rely on his nucleus of loyal fans to try out his virtual mechs no matter the quality.
He bought the virtual license and imported its design into the System. Using the System’s own Designer module, Ves started to envision his variant.
Besides updating its outdated methods and implementation, Ves wanted to make the model viable in a wider variety of terrain. When he thought of the Dogged One, he envisioned a patient hunter who ambushed his targets from the bushes.
“I should focus on stealth and firepower.”
The Tryops variant should never be the vanguard. Like the Dogged One, his design should choose a good position beforehand and wait for its prey to come into view. Once its target was in its crosshairs, he should be able to deliver crippling damage in a single strike.
“I’ll also have to beef up the laser rifle.”
His recent foray into gamma lasers taught Ves a lot of tricks on how to handle high-powered lasers.