His grandfather didn’t look surprised when Ves made his request. “Any good mech workshop needs a crew of human hands. It’s good of you to realize that. Too many manufacturers are seduced by the total control they have over their bots that they don’t realize that their perfect arrangement falls apart once it bumps into an obstacle.”
“I already know about the whole automation debate, grandfather. I won’t follow in the footsteps of the Terrans.”
Pretty much everyone in the galaxy knew about the dangers of relying too much on bots. A few hundred years ago, the Greater Terran United Confederation once thought to replace all menial labor with bots, and reached a remarkable degree robotization in their society.
All of this went dandy and fine, until some groups of undisciplined dissidents hacked several widespread models of bots, causing widespread destruction and mayhem. Bots went rogue as they attack the humans they served or caused deliberate fires and explosions.
The unprepared Terrans found to their horror that they depended so much on bots for their everyday life that they could hardly muster a response to the rogue bots.
Even worse was when their battle bots became compromised as well. While they possessed much tighter cybersecurity, rampaging bots had forcefully invaded the headquarters of the companies who made them. The rebels made off with libraries filled with source code and other critical files, which they used to devastating effect.
The so-called Bot Rebellion as it became known had fractured the largely unified humans into disparate islands of calm, as some bulwarks managed to eliminate the bots early. By the time the Terrans managed to get a grip on their own territory, the dream of uniting the human race under a single political entity had been shattered.
“I’ll send you one of my chiefs. It will take a lot of persuasion to relocate from Rittersberg to Cloudy Curtain, so you better offer him some good conditions. I suggest you look somewhere closer to fill up the rest of your roster.”
“Thank you for that, grandfather. I’ll be sure to treat him well.”
Ves realized that Benjamin must have made a great sacrifice by parting with one of his chiefs. The Larkinsons always cultivated their own crop of technicians in order to be assured of their loyalty and qualifications. As long as he had a trusted chief watching over his technicians, Ves didn’t have to worry about their conduct.
They closed the call after his grandfather estimated that the chief should arrive in a month. Ves figured he’d wait on hiring more mech technicians until then, as he wanted his new chief to make his own selection from the local workforce.
Ves spent the next day preparing his workshop for the new additions. He moved over the existing machines so that it offered enough space for two distinct production lines.
The old production line consisted of his second-hand printer and his second-hand assembly system. While a little slow, the old line sufficed in fabricating unmechs like the Marc Antony Mark II.
The new production line took up a lot more space. The basic production process started with inputting raw materials in the Dortmund printer. Bots brought over the parts it spat out to his new assembly system which should rapidly construct a new frame.
Any parts that required compressed armor went through a few more steps. The Dortmund printer fabricated an embryo which would then be submerged in a special solution in the chemical treatment machine.
Once the formula did its job, the altered embryo would then be put in an alloy compressor which will subject the unfinished piece of alloy to enormous forces. After that, a proper piece of compressed armor should come out of it, which would then be taking to his new assembly system to be put on a mech frame.
Despite the additional steps, Ves envisioned that the new production line should be able to work much faster than the old one. At the start, it might take a couple of days to fabricate a comech. The second one should be finished a little faster, while the third one took even less time.
This went on and on until the learning curve finally flattened. By that time, Ves boldly predicted that the new production line should be able to finish a comech within a single day.
“The most time consuming portion are the chemical treatment and the alloy compression phases. While it’s not possible to automate them completely, if I can hire or train a specialist to take charge of these machines, he will be able to optimize their processes.”
Perhaps Ves obsessed a little too much on arranging his production lines, but establishing a good flow saved a lot of money and time. It was better to plan his arrangements beforehand than to do it while he had a ton of orders to fulfill.
The next day, a small fleet of transports arrived at his workshop. After his security checked over the goods, Ves finally received the new additions to his workshop.
In order to save time, Ves tasked Carlos with setting up the machines. “While they look sophisticated, they’re mostly self-contained so they should work right out of the box. Just run some diagnostics and start a few test projects to make sure they work according to specs.”
“Are you sure you want me setting up these expensive machines?” Carlos asked apprehensively. After all, while he didn’t know their exact models, they all looked extremely expensive and far beyond what a typical mech boutique should own.
“It’s still within the range of your capabilities. Just don’t drop anything and you’re good to go.”
“If you say so, boss.”
Ves predicted that Carlos should take a couple of days to insure the machines had been installed correctly. Even if the bots sped up the installation, his fabricator still needed some time to check all of their functions.
In the meantime, Ves decided to start on designing the three models he’d present at the Vintage Festival. Gavin and Marcella sent him different reports that gave him some insight into his target audience.
“They’re not simple lastgen fanboys.”
Many visitors of the Vintage Festival merely wished to relive the past, but the ones with money had more discerning tastes. They should be his actual target segment. After skimming through the reports, Ves got a sense of what kind of product should appeal to their desires.
“Lastgen mechs will soon be used and discarded en masse in the upcoming war. This is the eventual fate for most outdated mechs, but it’s a sad outcome nonetheless.”
Those in charge intended to send out the lastgen mechs to the forefront of the battle because they were expendable. While this was the most logical and efficient decision to make, it nonetheless rested on the assumption that lastgen mechs could no longer contribute to society.
This was profoundly disrespectful to the people who developed an affection for this generation.
It was akin to putting a rifle in the hands of their grandparents and shoving them onto the battlefield to die. Now that they’ve grown old and inform, they served no other use. Rather than allow them to continue to take up valuable resources, it was better to let them go out with a bang.
Even Ves felt ambivalent about this cold but rational decision. The alternative would be breaking down the mechs and forge new machines out of them, but that required way too much effort.
“Every model only has a limited shelf life. The moment a mech designer finalized a design, its clock had already started ticking.”
Mechs generally lasted around twenty years. The visitors of the Vintage Festival disliked the ephemeral nature of their generation.
Ves had thought a lot about their desires. He finally touched upon one of their deepest desires.
“What they truly want is an immortal mech.”
Enduring, eternal, immutable. If Ves could design a mech that embodied these ideals, he’d have a bestseller on his hands. His design should intrinsically grow in value as it got older.
“That’s going to be a challenge.”
Since mechs generally possessed a limited life span, their value always decreased over time. Even if his customers never piloted his models and intended to put them on display, Ves had to ensure its components never decayed in this state.
This should be easy to do, but entailed a lot of small modifications. Ves had to replace the more delicate components in his design for durable versions that demanded very little maintenance.
He started with the easiest and most familiar design, the Marc Antony Mark II. Ves recalled the images he used to form its X-Factor and reused them in their original conditions except for one small addition. He added an underlying tone of continuity and perpetuity to their flavors.
After composing the altered images, Ves went to work on modifying his design. He already knew which components needed replacing, so he hardly wasted any time. It took only two days to rip out all of the disposable components and replace them with hardier versions.
The work hardly required a lot of thought, but Ves spent some time on testing his altered design to make sure it retained its functionality. While the mech still possessed elements that degraded over time, it should be manageable if their owners performed sporadic maintenance.
“I can’t go too far in this direction.” Ves carefully reminded himself. “Mechs that focus so much on longevity tend to turn into empty shells that fall apart once they enter the battlefield.”
Even if the customers at the Vintage Festival bought the mechs to serve as collectables, they should still be able to fulfill their primary function. Mechs that lost their fighting capability lacked the authenticity that the festival goers demanded.
“Let’s call this the Eternal Edition.”
The Mark II Eternal Edition cost a bit more to build as Ves replaced some of its cheaper materials with more expensive ones. Other than that, the mech should still match the specs of the regular design. Only its X-Factor should be different. Ves couldn’t wait to fabricate a show model to experience its aura.
He had to order a new batch of raw materials to fabricate the Eternal Edition. While his order would be sent on the next convoy shipment to Cloudy Curtain, Ves turned his attention to his second project, the original Caesar Augustus.
A complex mood settled into his body as he called up a projection of the original design. “Just a year ago, I merely dreamed of being able to work with this design directly.”
Carlos already made good progress with setting up his new production line. Soon, the Living Mech Corporation would be able to fabricate comech designs like the Caesar Augustus at a decent scale.
It represented a step up for his company and added to its prestige.
That said, Ves didn’t plan on doing any business with the regular design outside the Festival. The demand for every lastgen model had declined so it made little sense to add yet another soon-to-be-obsolete design to his product catalog.
Working with the Caesar Augustus required a bit more effort from Ves. From a technical standpoint, Ves already knew what to tweak or replace. He mainly placed his concerns on its X-Factor.
“How can I shape the X-Factor of a design that’s not my own?”
Perhaps the original design never carried any meaningful X-Factor at all. Nevertheless, the design still carried a touch of Jason Kozlowski in his younger years.
Ves had to respect the intentions of the original designer while simultaneously putting his own spin on its classic design.
Fortunately, his familiarity with his design allowed him to come up with an suitable vision for his Eternal Edition. Since it served as the centerpiece of his display, it should carry forth the original model’s aspirations to serve as a leader and a rallying cry on the battlefield.
Since he only planned to do some minor modifications, Ves thought it was inappropriate to use the Triple Division technique. The design belonged to Jason Kozlowski and Ves didn’t wish to tarnish the touch he left behind.
Instead, he intended to amplify its core concepts of hope and authority while adding a touch of eternity to the mixture. With his mental strength, Ves expected to achieve a remarkable result once he finished the modified design.
“Let’s get to work.”