Finishing the design only meant that Ves fleshed out a plan. It didn’t mean anything if his client denied him the opportunity to implement his changes.
Ves believed his redesign had a lot of merit. The reworked Ajax Olympian lasted a bit longer under heavy pressure and could exert a lot more force through its limbs. This helped the heavy knight contend against the hexapod kings in terms of brute force.
Still, nothing came for free. Maintaining a constant level of peak performance severely degraded the longevity of the frame. Running all of that excess power through systems that hadn’t been rated to handle them meant that the mechs would slowly burn themselves out.
Its pristine layers of armor could still be salvaged, but the internals would have to be torn apart entirely.
“The cost is worth it.” Ves tried to convince himself as he prepared to meet Lord Kaine in person again. “As long as the expedition can recover the heavy knights, they’ll only end up with a temporary loss.”
Melkor, who always accompanied him by his side, shook his head. “The hunting platoon won’t see it that way. You don’t know mech pilots like I do. The pilots assigned to the heavy knights have trained with their individual frames for years. They’re practically lovers at this point.”
What Melkor said momentarily worried Ves. Mech pilots indeed developed a bond with their mechs. This was natural human instinct. Right now, he pushed out a proposal that basically kidnapped their lovers and injected them with highly lethal stimulants. Such a naked violation of their partners would deal a heavy blow to their psyches.
“Tough luck then.” Ves eventually replied, his eyes as cold as steel. “The expedition doesn’t revolve around their interests. All of the mechs serve at the pleasure of Lord Kaine. If they have to be used up in order to increase the odds of success, then so be it. It’s a fair tradeoff.”
House Kaine invested an incredible fortune to put this expedition together. Even then, they could only nurture a small number of hand-raised elites to tackle the awesome hexapod kings. Everyone of those mechs played a critical role, but that didn’t mean they should be treated as heirlooms.
With the way Lord Kaine obsessed over the expedition, Ves expected him to make the smart decision.
“Pissing off the pilots of the Olympians is the least you’ve done. You completely disregarded the hunting platoon’s leadership. Captain Kaine will only think worse of you.”
“There’s no way I can negotiate with her in the first place. Not with so little time.”
If Captain Kaine and the hunting platoon approached him with a genuine desire to cooperate, then he might be able to make some compromises. Too bad they hadn’t recovered from the betrayal of the previous mech designer.
In any event, Ves didn’t come here to build up a relationship with these foreigners. After finishing his mission, he’d return to Cloudy Curtain while the Ark Horizon went on her merry way back to the Grey Willow Star Sector.
Like a lawyer making a case before a judge, Ves stood before Lord Kaine behind his imposing desk. “If I’m allowed to implement my design, the Ajax Olympians will be able to perform beyond their regular parameters by around twenty percent.”
“Downsides?” Lord Kaine asked idly while he browsed through the extensive notes that Ves had written up.
“Besides the obvious degradation that won’t really matter, the mechs will drastically increase their energy consumption by around fifty percent or so. I’ve already tried my best to preserve as much efficiency as I can, but you always have to pay a huge price to squeeze out a little bit more performance.”
“Hm, we’ll have to increase the supply of spare energy cells.”
An experienced leader like Lord Kaine always knew the right questions to ask. Even if he held some animosity to Ves, he was capable of putting it aside in favor of advancing his cherished expedition.
However, just as the meeting drew to a favorable conclusion, the main hatch slid open and an angry wildcat entered the stateroom.
“Grandpa!” Felicity growled and stomped over to Ves. She abruptly grasped his collar and used her prodigious strength to lift him up. “I just heard what this bastard intends to do. He wants to butcher the Ajaxes!”
“Sit down Miss Kaine!” The older gentlemen roared, forcing Felicity to halt her impending tirade. “Remember your duties. We are not playing games right now!”
Felicity let go of Ves, allowing him to breathe. She slowly calmed down and squeezed her fists. “Sir! I respectfully wish to issue an objection to Mr. Larkinson’s stupid idea. The men assigned to pilot the Olympians have trained with the heavy knights for years. Abruptly implementing major changes will throw away their familiarity with their mechs. I can’t guarantee they will be able to perform up to standard when everyone is counting on them!”
She certainly adjusted quickly. Ves admired her excuse. It sounded quite plausible. “Captain Kaine has a point, but the redesign will not offer a vastly different piloting experience. The new Olympian is still the same, it just has higher limits now.”
“We don’t have the time to indulge in your flights of fancies! You spent so little time on this design. I don’t believe you eliminated all of the flaws! Besides that, it also takes an incredibly long time to reconfigure a heavy mech, let alone two. There’s no way you can finish converting the Olympians to your new design!”
“I think you underestimate my assembly skills.” Ves shook his head. “Under my supervision, I’ll be able to direct the mech technicians in your department to take the best paths. I can guarantee you that I’ll be able to get it done in ten days.”
“Ten days? This is not a flimsy light mech you’re talking about. These are heavy mechs!”
Just as it seemed the argument would go on, an alarm suddenly blared. A brief but complex tone sounded out that caused the faces of both Kaines to pale.
Lord Kaine immediately activated his intercomm. “All hands prepare for action! Set condition yellow!”
Felicity already left the room in order to lead her hunting platoon. As for Lord Kaine, he frowned as he studied the incoming data sent to his terminal. He gritted his teeth.
Then, he suddenly remembered that Ves hadn’t left. “Mr. Larkinson, you have my permission to implement your design. Begin your work immediately and don’t report back until you have finished the overhaul.”
“You want me to convert the Olympians right now?”
“A naval battle can drag on for days. The expedition can’t afford to keep you idle. Corral the mech technicians assigned to the hunting platoon to assist your efforts as long as it doesn’t interfere with the defense of my fleet.”
Ves acknowledged the order and promptly got kicked out of the office. The entire fleet carrier transitioned into condition yellow, which was better than condition red but worse than condition green. Basically, the Ark Horizon raised her guard and prepared for battle, even if there might not be an imminent threat.
“What’s going on?!” He asked.
Ensign D’Amato studied his comm for a moment. “A large fleet has arrived in our current star system. Considering the remoteness of our current location, the new arrivals are likely targeting our expedition. While they can’t match our numbers, they possess enough ships and mechs to pose a threat to Ark Horizon.”
“Is the Ark in danger?”
“I’m not quite sure. Our force is bigger so it will be strange if they decide to commit their forces. We still don’t know what they’re hoping for that’s giving them so much confidence.” The ensign turned to Melkor. “Do you wish to contribute to our defense?”
The fleet carrier offered a large amount of reinforced bunkers that allowed mechs to shoot against approaching enemies. Melkor’s Stanislaw might prove useful.
He shook his head. “I’ll only be in the way. It’s better if I keep an eye on Ves.”
Melkor didn’t fit in their chain of command and never trained to take up a defensive position aboard a fleet carrier. In this unfamiliar environment, the last thing he wanted to do was to attract suspicion.
“We’ll hole up in the workshop.” Ves declared. He wanted to be out of the way in case something dangerous happened. “Lord Kaine has given me his orders, so I best get to work.”
The hangar bay where the hunting platoon holed up turned into a hive of activity. Ves, Melkor and D’Amato had to make way for important people going on important business. Their imposing stances revealed that they expected the worst.
Even the hunting platoon had begun to mobilize. Captain Kaine corralled her subordinates to ready every mech. Mech technicians hurriedly cancelled their routine maintenance tasks in order to free up the mechs.
The Empyreans readied themselves to be employed in one of the Ark Horizon’s bunkers where they could employ their railguns to the fullest.
The Volmars stayed in their stables. Their mech pilots sat close, ready to hop in if they were needed to repel any boarding parties. Their relatively relaxed faces showed that they didn’t think it would come to that. The Ark Horizon possessed a lot of teeth.
As for the Ajax Olympians, no one prepared them for deployment. Felicity Kaine had already been notified that they’d be modified and she had no time to waste on the matter now that the fleet had been set to condition yellow.
This provided Ves with an unexpected boon. Many mech technicians assigned to the hunting platoon had nothing to do for the moment. The story might be different once a battle erupted, but from what everyone surmised, the fleets were out of range and stayed that way for at least several hours.
“Has the Ark Horizon ever been tested in battle?” Ves curiously asked Chief Ramirez.
“Not since House Kaine got their hands on her. We’ve received excellent training, but we’ve never been tested in actual battle.”
That didn’t sound encouraging. Hopefully, the Ark Horizon’s impressive capabilities and her abundance of mechs deterred the pirates from testing the expedition’s readiness.
In order to prevent any leaks, the entire ship locked down on any form of communication. When Ves activated his comm, he found he couldn’t view the current disposition of the fleet. For all he knew, the fleet was flying straight into a star.
The lack of information caused him to feel slightly claustrophobic. It was as if he was trapped in a space elevator that suddenly descended uncontrollably.
Ensign D’Amato patted his back. “It’s nothing unusual to feel uneasy about what’s going on outside. Trust in our crew. They’ve got our backs. It’s better if you focus on your own duties.”
Indeed. One good thing that came out of this course of events was that Ves received permission to go ahead with his plans without coming to blows with Captain Kaine. Even though she probably hated his guts, her feelings on the matter didn’t matter. The entire ordeal proved that the young scion of the Kaines possessed little actual power.
Together with D’Amato and Ramirez, Ves delegated the difficult assignment of converting the Ajax Olympians to a new design. This was his first time working with a large number of subordinates, but through the help of his two liaisons, they came up with a workable schedule.
“Jobs like these are split up in two. First, you’ve got to fabricate the new parts. As far as I see it, there’s nothing challenging in fabricating these extra parts. I’m not familiar with half of them, but they’re not too complex.”
“Just because they’re simple doesn’t mean you can slack off.” Ves quickly warned. “In order to make sure they’re able to withstand the shocks they’re likely to face, they have to be reproduced exactly according to specs. We absolutely can’t afford to cut corners in this matter. The tolerances have to be extremely tight.”
“I’ll make sure my men won’t slip.” Ramirez promised with fiery eyes. “We all know what’s at stake. I won’t forgive anyone if he thinks he can get away with sloppy work.”
The chief’s supervision lifted a weight off Ves. “That’s good. If you can insure the parts are fabricated without faults, I’ll make sure the technicians know how to go about and reassemble the Olympians. They have to open up the entire frames and carefully remove the right parts. Then, they have to install the freshly fabricated parts in the right order. I expect this won’t go so smooth.”
Ves didn’t trust the low-class mech technicians to know the correct order. He directly took charge of the most difficult aspect of this conversion project.
“I’ll tell the men to listen to your orders. If they give you some lip, just smack them around.”
Everyone nodded. Ves felt relieved that Chief Ramirez didn’t put up any roadblocks. He knew when to follow orders. Since the current project had been authorized by the big man directly, Ramirez certainly knew he couldn’t fob off his responsibilities.