The Mech Touch Chapter 381

Chapter 381: Looming Threats
Time flowed by as Ves fully immersed himself into designing the rifleman mech.The crystal golem in his mind frequently added its own input on the design as well, leading to frequent changes that turned the design's appearance into something unique.The most drastic change entailed hunching over the posture of his design. Ves went short of imitating the extreme angle of the crystal golem's original race, but even then the change looked obvious.Ves even figured that the hunch would make his mech more distinctive, although it also made it harder for the mech to turn its head to the rear.The change in posture shifted the balance of his design and forced him to perform a lot of extra calculations in order to prevent his mech from tipping over.He spent most of the first month into fleshing out his design's internal architecture. While the crystal propagator installed in the center of the chest introduced a lot of complications, Ves possessed enough competence to adapt to the situation at hand.This wasn't his first rodeo, and nothing could top the internal complexity of the Caesar Augustus design. After working extensively with Jason Kozlowski's debut design, Ves ceased to be impressed with mechs that only hosted two different weapon systems."It's not that hard to accommodate another weapon system on a rifleman mech design."Ves merely had to ration his weight and space allowances carefully. The internal architecture that he came up with for his rifleman mech design reflected his earlier priorities. He added as much compartmentalization as possible, but cut short the level of redundancy.In any case, Ves put his faith on the armor to prevent the worst from coming to pass. It would still take a decent amount of effort to get past his design's compressed armor.Since Ves recycled most of the component licenses he acquired for the Blackbeak design, Ves did not have to puzzle over how to integrate them into his second design. He already knew how all of the parts performed and what kind of conditions they demanded.The power reactor, the Trailblazer engine, the cockpit and a lot of other components that Ves previously implemented in the Blackbeak design smoothly integrated in his rifleman mech design. Ves only faced some challenges when he attempted to slim down the components in order to free up a bit more weight and space.Modifying third-party components came with a lot of risks, and almost no Apprentice Mech Designer would attempt such an action. Ves only went through with this move because he possessed enough knowledge to understand some of the inner workings of these components.Still, most of the components already went through countless optimizations, so Ves did not free up that much capacity. Some of his modifications came paired with minor losses in performance.Ves already took into account that a lighter mech had to sacrifice some capability in order to increase its mobility. Even if he used the same components as the Blackbeak, his first and second designs fulfilled different roles, thereby necessitating a lot of adjustments.He finished up the work in three weeks, which was fairly fast by his reckoning. Ves spent the next two weeks on simulating the performance of the internal structure and tweaking it to eliminate any faults.The tests and simulations revealed a lot of sub-standard implementations that unnecessarily lowered the performance of his mech. Ves spent a lot of time to correct these mistakes and smoothed over the performance of his mech's internal design."That should wrap it up." Ves said at the end of the first part of the design phase. "The hardest part is over now."Ves accomplished a lot of work, including getting the central laser propagator to work. Still, Ves only came up with an untested application. It remained to be seen if the gimmick performed as expected.Starting from the second month, Ves worked on the exterior of his mech, including the armor system and the laser rifle.Before he started work on them both, Ves took the time to take a day off and check in with his company. He left his private workshop floor with Lucky in tow and visited the different departments.Everything appeared to go on trock, although the sales of bronze label Blackbeaks had dropped to its lowest level."Demand for the bronze label Blackbeaks are stagnating because the third-party manufacturers have met the immediate demand for this specific design." Gavin answered Ves when he visited the marketing department. "Elemental Mech Engineering is particularly worse off since it primarily serves the domestic market. You have to understand that the Blackbeak, while fairly popular, is a premium offensive knight.""I understand." Ves nodded. "Both its type and price segment limit the popularity of the Blackbeak. It's never meant to take over the market for knights."By now, EME only devoted a single production line to producing the Blackbeak. While they still sold some Blackbeaks every week, the sales volume was a far cry from when the design still enjoyed a lot of hype."What about Vaun? How are they faring trying to push the Blackbeak across the border?""It's the same as EME, but multiplied a couple of times. While they've never been able to conquer a lot of market share in any of the foreign markets, they're making plenty of sales when you add up the modest demands of more than a dozen different states. They're currently exporting the Blackbeak to twelve states and counting. All of that adds up."This benefited the LMC as well, since Vaun Industrial payed 3.5 million credits per mech. Currently, it was difficult to predict how many Blackbeaks Vaun would be able to sell each month, but Gavin spent a lot of time on analyzing the foreign markets."Right now, Vaun is in a good place. They're easily able to export more than a hundred Blackbeaks a month. It will be tough to push more mechs than that. This means that at a minimum, the LMC can expect to receive at least 350 million credits in licensing fees."Naturally, like any income stream, these earnings didn't take into account the various overhead costs and other expenses of the company. In particular, the loan the company took to finance the Benson production lines significantly increased the company's interest burden.Still, the LMC's financials looked good enough to Ves. "We're making far more money than we spend, even with all of our recent expansions.""That's true, but there's still a war going on." Jake replied after he went over the financials with Ves. "There's a recent spate of destructive going on in the Bentheim region. It's only a matter of time before the Bentheim System itself will get hit, and Cloudy Curtain might get swept up in the chaos as well.""What are you saying?""I'm saying we should prepare for the worst."Ves turned serious at those words. "I know there's a possibility the Vesians decide to raid our planet, but we've already made as much preparations as possible. We've upgraded our contract with Sanyal-Ablin Security Services and I've even set up the Avatars of Myth, although they're still in infancy. However, our main source of security is our relationship with Walter's Whalers."If the Vesians decided to raid Cloudy Curtain, the Whalers couldn't sit by and let the Vesians run amok on their home planet. Gangs enjoyed a complicated relationship with states. Any gang that claimed a planet but failed to defend it against foreign aggression would be pushed from their position of power.Even though such a measure would be costly, the Mech Corps had swept up these kinds of cowardly gangs enough times to demonstrate their point. Every citizen of the Bright Republic must defend their homes if able.Still, just because the Whalers possessed the obligation to defend Cloudy Curtain didn't mean it had to defend every location. In practice, gangs mainly held on to their core territories while letting the invaders lay waste to infrastructure that no one except the Republic cared about."The Whalers are our friends, and they know how much benefits the LMC brings to this planet. They'll definitely lend a hand if the Vesians wants to raid the Mech Nursery."Jake looked a bit skeptical at Ves. As a former retainer of the Larkinsons, he was no stranger to partnering up with the less respectable parts of society. Still, the gang culture in Rittersburg was nowhere nearly as intense as the gang culture of the Bentheim region."If you say so, I'll believe you, but it's better to prepare too much than prepare too little.""What is your suggestion?"His COO put forth a bold proposal. "I suggest we hire a mercenary corps for a couple of months. We need a lot more mechs to fend off even a minor Vesian raiding party. I don't know if you haven't heard yet, but there's word that the 3rd Imodris Legion is circling around the Mech Corps in order to reach the Bentheim region. All hell will break loose if they succeed."Ves frowned deeply at that information. Even Ves hadn't heard anything about the Vesians sending an entire legion deep into Republican space. However, if Jake mentioned it to Ves, then the news must be true. The Larkinson Estate must have informed the man."I see. In that case, the risk of hiring a couple of bad apples don't look so bad." He replied after considering the matter. "You have my permission to hire a mercenary corps. Just one. I don't want any complications. Make sure they're trustworthy. I don't mind paying above the market rate in order to ensure their quality. Just don't set a lengthy contract term."A defense contract under these circumstances cost a lot of money, although they charged a lot less than dedicated security companies such as Sanyal-Ablin. The costs still added up to an unreasonable burden after a year.By then, the Avatars of Myth could take over the duties previously performed by the mercenaries. Even though it cost a lot of money to set up his own personal force, the running costs looked a lot more reasonable than paying mercenaries to do the same job.Mercenaries existed and thrived on fulfilling temporary needs for wealthy clients. Ves personally did not think much about them even as he sold his products to them, but he did not dismiss their worth entirely.In these dangerous times, he could use all the help he could get.After taking care of impactful decisions like that, Ves returned to his private workshop floor and resumed his design work."All that's left is the exterior and a round of simulations before I can fabricate the first prototype."The most important part about the exterior was that Ves had to apply the Veltrex armor system without overburdening his mech. As an armor system optimized for knights, it functioned perfectly when the three layers were thick enough to express their unique strengths.Ves knew that he performed a misdemeanor by applying the same system to a skinny medium rifleman mech, but the nature of the compressed armor still ensured the armor remained strong. Although the thin plates of armor did not live up to their potential, they enormously improved the survivability of his second original design."It's not a knight, but it doesn't have to be."Sometimes, Ves had to thin out the armor plating so much that their effective defense barely exceeded the standard of uncompressed armor. In those cases, Ves substituted the expensive materials with the much cheaper HRF armor system that Ves had last applied to the Marc Antony line of mechs.He laughed to himself when he drew on the old license he obtained from the System as a reward for completing an early mission. "I never thought I would go back to using this low-quality formula."If it worked, it worked. Ves ensured that the Veltrex armor system covered most of the essential sections of his design while covering some of the joints and other tricky areas with the much less demanding HRF armor system."It's not what I envisioned, but it mostly gets the job done."The use of two different armor systems led to a slightly unique appearance for his rifleman mech.