Ves had seen a lot of knight designs in his mech career. Besides studying the classics, he also had hands-on experience with a couple of different models.
The Caesar Augustus bore no introduction. The overstuffed hybrid knight tried to to everything at once and made a decent attempt at it by virtue of its excellent armor system. Ves captured some of the majesty of this ambitious design with the Marc Antony, but the cheap HRF armor plating hobbled the core purpose of a knight, which was to be a defensive bulwark.
“It’s rather decent design for its price range.”
For a design that utilized uncompressed armor, the Marc Antony Mark II functioned well enough to those who couldn’t afford anything better. Its cheap composition meant that replacing broken armor plating should be cheap and easy.
“The greatest strength of the Mark II is its cost-effectiveness.”
That wasn’t always a good thing. It basically meant that the Mark II had no other distinguishing features that allowed Ves to set a premium on his product. He had keep his prices low in order to sustain the handful of sales he made each month.
Competing on price always ended up as a race to the bottom.
The current circumstances in which he had to gradually decrease the price on his mech reflected this reality. Though some of the blame also lay on the generational gap, it couldn’t be concealed that the Marc Antony series lacked a distinguishing feature that it excelled at. A jack of all trades was a master of none.
The second knight he had an intimate relationship with was the Hoplite and the Young Blood he derived from the classic model. The spear-wielding knight possessed a number of interesting innovations that he partially incorporated in his sword-wielding variant.
Both models emphasized the offensive nature of a knight. While they fulfilled the defensive role well, they excelled at keeping up with an offensive push as they possessed a bit more mobility than usual.
“An offensive knight is harder to design than a defensive knight.”
Both had their own strengths, but an offensive knight had to fulfill multiple criteria. It had to maintain a high level of defense while simultaneously possess a higher level of mobility. Since mech designers usually had to decide between speed and armor, striking the right balance could be challenging.
“It’s an interesting one, and one that fits my interests.”
Ves had never aimed to design the fastest mech, nor the sturdiest one. He knew of mech designers who dedicated their entire lives to pursuing one extreme.
Raul Mendoza, known as ‘The Armorer’, had become an inspiration to every mech designer for relentlessly developing the best-protected mechs in the galaxy. Ves read his biography when he studied at Rittersberg and knew that while he faced many temptations to branch out in other paths, he stuck to his creed and continued to focus on armor and armor alone.
Another model that struck him deeply was the Ajax Olympian. The massive heavy knights possessed a boundless amount of strength and sturdiness that allowed them to resist the monstrous Kaius.
His intimate work on studying its design and tweaking it for greater performance gave him an inside look in the mind of a knight designer. Though he couldn’t apply all the lessons he learned from a heavy knight to a medium knight design, some aspects remained common to every weight class.
However, there was one more knight that struck a very profound image to Ves. His ancestor’s customized mech the Valiant had been through a lot and outlived the death of its pilot. Whenever Ves thought back on the ancient knight, he could practically taste the history radiating off its frame.
Of all the mechs he had seen in his life, only the Valiant showed him a possible way forward. Beyond its exquisite design and rugged durability, the knight developed an extremely potent X-Factor by virtue of its hallowed history.
“I want to design a mech like that.”
He wanted to design a mech that became increasingly more compatible with its pilot. Those who bonded with such machines gained increasingly more substantial benefits the longer they used it. Ves hoped to embody the ideals of the Living Mech Corporation with such products.
“It’s not going to be easy bringing this dream to life.”
Ves activated his terminal and wrote a quick list of demands.
First, it had to be durable. Its internal architecture should be robust enough to keep going even under the most hellish circumstances.
More importantly, Ves had to invest in a good quality armor system composed of compressed alloys. A lot of different formulas and armor systems existed on the market, but only a few would be appropriate for his purposes. The resources required to form the armor plating should be abundantly available in the Bright Republic.
Secondly, his mech had to possess a decent amount of mobility. Ves did not plan to experiment with gimmicks this time. Overcomplicated gadgets often introduced vulnerabilities in the core design, and with his skills he couldn’t guarantee he’d catch them all.
No, Ves simply planned to balance the weight of the frame with a strong engine and efficient artificial musculature. Master Olson happened to be an expert in this field, so he hoped to pick up something good in Leemar.
“Offensive knights are characterized by their ability to leverage their aggression into shock attacks.”
In that regard, his intended design should barely be able to meet that standard if Ves managed to get his hands on the right components. Besides getting his hands on a powerful engine model, he also had to trim the armor scheme to keep down its bulk.
“It’s going to be hard to accomplish all of these wishes without breaking the bank.”
Cheaper components generally performed worse than more expensive ones. However, the market only cared about how well the final design fulfilled its purpose at a given price level.
A good mech designer could take a crappy set of component licenses and easily cobble up a cheap but practical mech design.
A bad mech designer would always publish a deeply flawed mech design, even if he had access to the best components in the galaxy.
In fact, more expensive components always introduced a lot of complexity in the design. In addition, they required a higher proportion of rare and expensive exotics to deliver such extreme performance.
Still, Ves hoped to design a knight for the premium segment of the mech market. At the very least, it should be a knight that was able to compete in the same price class as the current Caesar Augustus.
Ves set his price target at 60 million credits for the most basic silver label variant. Such a price corresponded nicely with other premium knight models on the market. In order to insure a stable profit, Ves should aim to keep the cost of production at around 30 to 40 million credits.
All of these criteria sounded fine and dandy, but they amounted to nothing as long as Ves failed to form a coherent vision of his future product.
Over the past few months, Ves mulled over how to elevate his design with a powerful vision.
“My mech isn’t the fastest, nor the most indestructible one. It simply endures. It will keep going when you least expect it to. Even if it has suffered grievous injuries, it will grow stronger with every rebirth.”
Ves named his first Mark I the Phoenix Cry. He did so because he already formed a hint of his ideal mech.
Central to the legend of the phoenix was its ability to be reborn after experiencing a nirvana. Similar to the phoenix, his first original mech design should become more powerful or at least more potent in its X-Factor each time it receives an overhaul.
If Ves could put this vision into reality, then he may be able to emulate the Valiant on a larger scale.
Such a bold ambition demanded not only a good design, but also a correspondingly powerful X-Factor.
“I’ll have to test the limits of the X-Factor if I want it to acquire the properties I want. The X-Factor not only has to have room for growth, it also has to be tenacious enough so that others won’t be able to wipe it away.”
Until now, Ves formed a tentative theory that the X-Factor came into being if the mech, the mech designer and the mech pilot shared a common mindset.
He always feared that once other people such as Carlos or a mech technician started performing repairs, the mech would lose its X-Factor’s potency.
Now those fears were gone. After he completed the Groening mission, Ves came away with more than an enhanced body. His mind also experienced a subtle transformation that Ves tentatively attributed to Jutland’s heavenly flower. Though he hadn’t tested his new strengths in an actual design process, he somehow knew that his ability to impart images had improved.
“Now that my mind is stronger, anything that I work on should have a more tenacious X-Factor. A random mech technician shouldn’t be able to ruin my products if they replace a faulty screw or something.”
Ves envisioned a hopeful future for his design where each of his mechs grew from infancy into unique machines. Each experience added to the history of the mech in question. In addition, the longer a mech pilot stuck with the same machine, the more the mech took on the mech pilot’s traits.
He felt as if he became the architect of something new and unknown. Though the risks were great, if he succeeded in this project, Ves expected he’d be able to take this concept and use it as the core of his nascent design philosophy.
Of course, the System also played a part in this process. While the System never taught him how work with the X-Factor directly, it was undeniable that it had put him onto this path.
His high mental attributes formed the key to empowering the X-Factor. Ves even suspected the reason why most mech designers still remained clueless about it was because their level of concentration hadn’t reached the minimum threshold for it to become noticeable.
Even if they got their hands on the right theories and the correct techniques, without a correspondingly powerful mind, they’d simply be playing make-belief instead of accomplishing something real.
“My current concentration is higher than almost every other mech designer, but it’s not enough for my purposes.”
With an attribute score of 1.7, his concentration sufficiently enabled him to maintain three images at once, though they couldn’t be too complex. Ves estimated that he required a much higher level of concentration in order to work with dynamic images that allowed for growth.
“I’ll have to break the natural limit of the human mind in order to get to that point.”
Ves already had a idea on what it meant to break the natural limit. Before the doctors of the CFA stabilized his body, he felt immensely powerful and healthy. Though he lost some of that potency, his body had already cracked open a slit into the realm of the superhuman.
He knew that if he wanted to raise his concentration to an even higher level, he had to accumulate a lot of design points. In between his busy schedule of acquiring all of the elements to form an original design, he also had to test out some of his ideas by designing a couple of virtual mechs.
“I can practice my design skills as well, so it won’t be wasted time.”
After a couple of hours of quiet musing, Captain Silvestra sent him an alert. “We’re about to transition into the Leemar System. Your orders, sir?”
“Head towards the inner system. Leemar II is our final destination. Once the local authorities know of my purpose, I’m sure they’ll ready an appropriate berth for the Barracuda.”
Ves had contacted Horatio to let him know he’d be coming. Master Olson’s assistant gave Ves a knowing look when he requested the help of a doctor. In any case, Horatio offered his sympathies and promised to inform their master.
“Hopefully, we won’t stay for too long. Once I’m done with my shopping, it’s time to go home.”
He looked forward to turning his Phoenix project into reality.