The Mech Touch Chapter 285

Chapter 285: Discharge
Lucky could take care of himself. Ves had no doubt about that. The gem cat gifted by the System possessed a keen mind and a lively personality. His bronze-like mechanical body also hid a number of cutting-edge technologies that should have been exclusive to the first-rate superstates.Still, his cat worked like any other animated pet and ran on an extremely compact high-capacity energy source. Ves suspected that his shield generator, which was another source of consternation right now, utilized the same type of energy storage as well.All of that energy pressed into a tiny battery made for a very volatile package. Who knew how much overcharge these super-advanced could actually take."The regular batteries haven't blown up yet so far. That should be a good sign."Ves didn't want to contemplate the sight of scattered bronze-like parts. He quickly activated his comm and activated the tracker, only to come up with an error message that stated that it couldn't find a signal."Damn this interference!"He ran around asking people if they saw his cat. Lucky became a known figure during their stay with the Whalers, so everyone recognized him on sight."Your fancy cat? Oh yeah, he just raced towards the right an hour ago.""Lucky dug up something near the mining drill over there before turning around to go the other way.""That little critter stole my shiny ore! I was holding on to it when he swiped it from my fingers and ran off over the hill over there!"Hearing the stories about Lucky made it clear his cat didn't suffer any ill effects as of yet. In fact, he seemed downright exuberant. That could be good or bad. Good in that Lucky thought he wasn't in danger. Bad in that he continued to take in more energy, thereby ratcheting up his energy density to a catastrophic level."Where are you, Lucky?"After spending more than an hour chasing spurious leads, Ves finally tracked Lucky down in a craggy obsidian valley. Ves found a little mound where Lucky had dug into the rocky ground until he reached a deposit of glowing green chunks.As if he had no care in the world, Lucky lazily munched the pieces he dislodged with his claws. The cat winked his eyes and swished his tails like he enjoyed the best buffet in his entire life."Lucky! There you are!"His cat turned around and gazed at him for a second before turning back to resume his never-ending eating spree. To Lucky, Ves didn't appear to be as important as highly energetic exotic minerals.The lack of air on the Glowing Planet prevented any sounds from being propagated, but Lucky somehow found a way to transmit his voice through the local comm channel."Let me take a look at you. I need to see whether you're about to burst from all of your consumption."Ves carefully took out a portable scanner and tried to look inside Lucky's innards. Unfortunately, Lucky's extraordinary exterior blocked any scans, not that Ves understood how Lucky worked in the first place.He could only judge his cat's exterior for signs of any danger. Last Ves saw him, his cat featured glowing blue lines in the gaps between his outer plates. The stronger the glow, the more energy his cat had accumulated.Right now, the glow had turned into a shade of green, the same shade emitted by the Glowing Planet in fact. Lucky might have acquired some of the traits endemic to the planet."What's going on with you? Why are you glowing green all of a sudden?"Typical for Lucky, the cat ignored him entirely. Ves had already learned he wouldn't be able to get his pet to respond. Lucky also wouldn't appreciate being taken away from this treasure of a planet."Alright, I give up. Just continue to much if you wish. Just don't go too far and stop when you feel bloated.""Meow!"Even though the overcharge phenomenon concerned Ves a lot, he slowly started to suspect that the energy cells might not be as unstable as he thought. He returned to the camp of the Whaler and approached the boss."Ves." Walter gruffed at him over a private comm. "Did you figure out what's going on yet?""Not really. I think the planet or a particular combination of exotics are to blame for the overcharged energy cells. It's able to affect any kind of cell that works on energy, and I don't think it's limited to mech-sized energy cells. The batteries that power our comm and other equipment should be susceptible to the phenomenon as well, although we haven't seen any smaller gear being affected as of yet.""So what does this all mean for us?"Ves paused for a moment. He was about to make a very dangerous suggestion. "I think we should continue to work with the overcharged energy cells. We should test them as well, but we can't wait for the results."The biggest issue right now was that the Vesians, pirates and other opportunistic scum would move in eventually. When that happened, the Mech Corps shifted to phase 2, retracting most of its mining operations around the planet to fortify one single red zone.The Blood Claws and Walter's Whalers would also have to abandon this promising mineral-rich area and move towards the edge of the perimeter set by the military.As expected, Walter gave in to the suggestion. "You're right. This is the best time to be mining exotics. We can't afford to sit around and wait for a miracle to save us."They announced their decision to the Whalers, which stunned them into a stupor."I ain't gonna work with these bombs! It's suicide!""It's not safe to pilot any mech!""SHUT UP!" Walter yelled over the channel, overriding everyone else's complaints. "We came here to make our fortune, and we always knew that we'd be facing danger. Compared to fighting other mechs, what's so scary about a few supercharged energy cells?"While his words made sense, it didn't reassure them at all. Enemies haven't shown up yet so it was easy for them to dismiss those distant threats. In contrast, they sat right next to those overcharged energy cells.Ves left the job of motivating the men to work to Walter, since it directly affected the earnings of his gang. For once, Ves didn't have to kick around the Whalers by himself, leaving him free to investigate the overcharged energy cells. He ordered the technicians to gather a couple of the cells in question."What do you want to do with these cells?" A techie asked as his bot delivered the cell to a pile of other affected cells. None of the technicians went close to those cells."The first thing I want to find out is what happens if we blow it up."To prevent any panic among the men, Ves decided to conduct his experiments far away from the camp. He brought a cell to an open depression behind a mass of jagged hill and moved behind cover. He already affixed an explosive to the cell in question.After setting up some sensors and scanners, Ves detonated the charge.A massive blast engulfed the site. Electric discharge blasted out and reached out over fifty meters away. Nobody up close could have withstood the blast.From the readings Ves had made, he determined that the mining equipment had no chance of making it out unscathed, especially since the energy cells had to be placed inside of them where the manufacturers only included basic safeguards against accidental discharges.Just to be sure, Ves blew up a variety of overcharged cells. Some only carried an overcharge of 150 percent, while the worst ones boasted an overcharge close to 700 percent.The results didn't reassure him at all. The power of the blast was directly proportional to the amount of overcharge contained within the affected cells. By his reckoning, the 700 percent cell could even overpower the Blackbeak's impressive armor system.Ves used his last cells to test whether they had become more volatile. He controlled a couple of bots to heap abuse on the poor cells. From throwing them from above, to dropping increasingly heavier rocks on them, Ves didn't spare any mercy for the devices.Surprisingly enough, the cells held up. Their designs came with many safeguards that prevented them from blowing up, and all of these measures worked as advertised despite their lackluster quality.Walter's Whalers might buy cheap components, but they made sure they selected the most rugged ones in their price range. All of the energy cells they used came from reputable manufacturers whose designs had been tested over and over in the frontier.Once Ves finally pushed an energy cell past its limit, its final safeguards insured that most of the energy discharge harmlessly fried the ground."Strange. Why do the safeguards still work despite dealing with such a massive amount of energy?"Ves ordered the bots to pack up the scanners and bring them back to the pack while he mused about the issue. The entire overcharge phenomenon seemed strange. They blew up with incredibly fanfare if affected by an explosion, but regular physical abuse seemed to treat them like they didn't hold an overcharge at all.The results led him to a strange but compelling conclusion. He immediately sought out Walter and opened up a private channel."The men reported lots of flashes over the hill. Did you find out what's the big deal about these cells?""I think I figured out what's going on. It's not that these energy cells suddenly received an injection of excess energy. In the perspective of the energy cells, they always contained the same amount of charge."Walter couldn't wrap his head around the explanation. "So it's an illusion? It's all fake?""If the overcharge phenomenon is an illusion, then it shouldn't have forced the mining equipment to shut down. You see, the energy cells think they contain a normal charge, but the mining equipment detect they're dealing with an overcharge. This triggers their safeguards and forces them to shut down."That still didn't illuminate the issue to Walter, so Ves dumbed down his explanation even further."Look, imagine a bottle of water. The bottle thinks its filled to the brim. There's nothing unusual about that. However, when someone picks it up and is about to take a couple of swallows, he sees the bottle is under an immense amount of pressure. Somehow, the bottle is carrying thrice the amount of water than it should have fit.""If that's the case, then the bottle shouldn't be able to fit that much liquid at all." Walter replied. "Your example is rubbish."Ves shrugged off the complaint. "Actually, it's possible if you use extreme pressure, but forget about all that. Just assume that the bottle is carrying three times as much water than it ought to. Now, you have a bottle that thinks it contains a normal amount, and an outside observer who sees that it holds an excess amount of water.""Then who is right?""Both of them. Neither of them."That really got Walter lost again. Ves sighed and palmed his head, only to bump his helmet with his hazard suit's gauntlet."It's complicated, I know, but just bear with me. Rather than say one side is right and one side is wrong, it's more apt to say that the Glowing Planet has affected the fabric of reality in such a way that a quantity of water is somehow turned into a larger quantity of liquid, but it still takes up as much space as the smaller quantity.""And this means?""Ultimately, it means the overcharged energy cells won't blow up on their own. It takes a lot of effort to get them to explode, just like what would already happen to a regular energy cell. Basically, you can throw the energy cells around and you won't risk any explosions in this way, but if you place them in front of a laser rifle and fire at them, you'll get a massive blast in return."This changed the rules of engagement in a major way. The mining equipment wouldn't explode from regular use, though the technicians would have disable some of their safeguards to get them to work.The real danger came from combat. Both mechs and mining equipment that contained any overcharged energy cells became extremely susceptible to catastrophic explosions.The worst thing about it was that the problem would only get worse. As time went on, more and more energy cells continued to receive an overcharge. By the end of the week, Ves predicted that pretty much every energy cell based on direct energy turned into a potential bomb.The only cells that remained free of the problem consisted of fuel-based energy cells like the one he incorporated in the Blackbeak."That reminds me, how's much progress has Fadah made in draining his mech's energy reserves."