The Mech Touch Chapter 397

Chapter 397: Recovery
"An eighteen percent success rate doesn't sound so bad." Carlos remarked from behind. "How much does it cost to grow one of these crystals?"Ves quickly estimated the costs. "A couple of million credits due to all of the exotics. This specific composition is meant to be cheaper than the original substance.""Can we recycle the failed products?"They quickly investigated the failures and it turned out that salvagers could recover much of the value. It required special processes only available to professionals, so the LMC would lose a fair bit of money in the exchange.However, at least they wouldn't lose tens of millions of credits on this entire endeavor.To Ves, that was good enough. "I don't have the time to perfect the synthesizer. We'll just have to make due with what we have."Right now, he wanted to move past this obstacle and finish assembling the prototype. The importance of finishing his rifleman mech design trumped any other considerations. He could always work on the synthesizer later.He set one of the flawless crystals into the only remaining cavity inside the mostly-assembled prototype. After making all of the connections, the crystal appeared to be functional, but whether it truly worked remained to be soon.With the installation of the central crystal, Ves only needed to wrap up a couple of matters to finish the prototype. When Ves stepped back from his completed work, he began to admire the vision he brought to life, if only partially.Its hunched humanoid form and mottled green-brown coating gave it a sense that it thrived out of the spotlight. It functioned great on its own, but it showed its true value when employed alongside other mechs.The entire frame looked sleek and slim for a medium mech, and the smaller-than-average laser rifle only reinforced that impression. The only sacrifice to this form factor was its backpack module which Ves had included by default. Without it, his rifleman mech wouldn't be able to change its external battie.The entire Production Department drooled over the prototype. They knew what a monumental work it represented, and what kind of effort Ves had put into its design. Although the final design might look a bit different from this early copy, they already started imagining this mech on the field.How would it perform? What kind of mech pilots did this mech appeal to? Will it sell any hotter than the Blackbeak?"It looks like an alien.""That's because it's based on a dead race."The thing that creeped the mech technicians out the most was the weird head. It was basically a ball with holes spread evenly onto its surface. While that didn't do any favors to its structural integrity, its unsettling appearance emanated a faint psychological pressure.Combined with the incomplete X-Factor, and anyone who gazed upon the mech would be taken aback.Some time later, Chief Cyril asked Ves where he wanted to put the prototype to its paces."We recently worked on setting up our own testing grounds. The recent raid has pushed its completion back, but we imported enough equipment to perform at least basic tests. I think it's best if we do the testing in-house rather than send it to the APMTG like last time."Sending it to a dedicated testing grounds would make sure that Ves gathered the most extensive amount of data. However, the same data might also get leaked."I'm not sure the prototype even works as expected." Ves said with a sigh. "Before we proceed to the most demanding tests, we should first find out if the mech works at all. Basic testing will do for now. There's no need to put it on a ship to Bentheim."Designing a rifleman mech differed a lot from designing a knight. When Ves designed the Blackbeak, he benefited from the fact that the type was one of the most mechanically simplistic mech types in existence. It featured relatively few complex systems and did not demand too much precision.A knight only needed to be tough and durable in order to work.Rifleman mechs made use of a lot more systems, all of which needed to mesh well with each other. A fault in one system might result in a knock-on effect on adjacent systems and so on. In the worst case scenario, a catastrophic fault might even lock up the entire mech in the middle of a battle.Therefore, Ves already readied himself for a more extensive testing phase. He planned to fabricate at least one more prototype in order to make sure his changes hadn't proven detrimental to the design."Alright, let's bring out out to the testing grounds."Ves did not personally plan to attend the entire test this time. He off-loaded the work to the LMC and only made sure they measured the things he wanted to know, such as the performance of the two crystals."Who shall be its test pilot?"Ves was tempted to call up Melkor, but figured that it might be a bit too premature for him to get familiar with his latest design. Instead, he ordered someone else from the Avatars of Myth to take up that duty instead.A professional testing ground employed specially trained test pilots who knew how to push their mechs to the limit without breaking them. The LMC's testing grounds enjoyed no such luxury, but everyone made due with what they got.In the meantime, Ves took a rare break from his work and tried to locate Lucky. His cat hadn't shown up at all since the raid, causing him to fret over the health of his feline companion many times.He figured that Lucky hadn't gone very far from the Mech Nursery, so walked the entire perimeter with his Vulcaneye pointing down at the ground. Although it didn't specialize in it, the multiscanner offered him the ability to sweep a wide area for specific signals.Ves programmed in the attributes of Rorach's Bone and began to walk back and forth along the grounds. Although the scanner wouldn't be able to penetrate more than a couple of kilometers underground, its current reach was much better than every other scanner in his possession.After half a day of searching the area close to the former gap in the walls, the Vulcaneye let out a loud beep."Found you!"The scanner's readout revealed a very strong signal that matched the profile of high-grade Rorach's Bone more than one kilometer underground. Ves marked the spot and called up a digging team from the security garrison.The people of Sanyal-Ablin came equipped with a person-sized digger module. It started to drill through the ground by itself under the supervision of a security tech. Twenty minutes later, the digger module reached Lucky's presumed location.Once the digger module climbed back up to the tunnel, it carried a very sad-looking Lucky."Meow"The cat had seen better days. His formerly milky-white body took on a grey and lifeless shade. His back had a nasty hole that only just started closing up with the help of the self-repairing properties of Rorach's Bone."Lucky!" Ves picked up Lucky and hugged him against his chest. "You don't have to repair your body by yourself. Let me help!"Ves quickly brought Lucky's damaged body back and tried several ways to hurry up the repair process. He fed Lucky with a bunch of exotics and attempted to transfer energy directly to his body.It didn't work as well as he hoped. Somehow, Lucky couldn't take on energy directly. He ran on something different than normal, and the only way to get it was by digesting high-value minerals.Feeding Lucky worked better, but the cat didn't display much of an appetite this time. It was as if his stomach could only digest so much in his damaged state."Rest well, Lucky. I hope you get back up.""Meow.."Lucky risked his life to save the Mech Nursery from destruction. Though the price was heavy, they eventually came out on top. Lucky would recover, which was more than he could say for his shield generator. With less than fifty percent charge left, Ves could ill afford another risky move.Thinking about the money piled up in his bank account, Ves finally decided to expand the Avatars of Myth. He tracked down Melkor at the mech stables of the Avatars. Melkor had just wrapped up a training session with his subordinates and was about to turn in for the day until he spotted Ves."It's time.""Time for what?""Time to turn the Avatars into a full-blown fighting force. Is your cadre ready?"Melkor had been waiting for this day. "We still need to work on our team tactics, but we got the basic coordination down. It's a good thing we haven't lost any pilots from the previous battle. Fighting the Vesians head-to-head has instead boosted our esprit-de-corps. The men and women under my command already developed a sense of purpose and belonging.""That sounds great!" Ves replied. The more his mech pilots felt like they belonged, the more they were willing to risk their lives for him. Loyalty always took a lot of effort to foster. "In the next half year, I want the Avatars to scale up to a company-sized force. I want at least forty mechs and a matching amount of ships.""It's not that easy to get our hands on some ships, and we need a no-nonsense captain to keep them under our thumb.""I already have a captain in mind. Don't worry about that. I'd like to hear your opinions on what kind of ships we need to buy. Although I'm flush with cash right now, I can't afford to splurge on a combat carrier."Melkor looked disappointed at that. It was the dream of every mech force to be brought from star to star with a purpose-built combat vessel. Naturally, both of them would never dream of acquiring a fleet carrier. Only entire states could afford to procure or construct such massive ships.Let alone the construction costs, Ves couldn't even bear the running costs of owning a capital ship. The amount money spent on fuel, supplies, salaries and more would bankrupt him within a couple of years.Even the more modestly sized combat carriers fell out of consideration. At this stage, Ves relucantly let go of trying to own a well-armored ship and started to consider more modest ships."With our current budget, we can consider two possible options." Melkor spoke up after some thought. "We can either go cheap and snap up a couple of old cargo haulers that have been converted to mech carriers, or we can spend a lot more to buy carriers that have been built for this purpose from the start."A step down from combat carriers would be the so-called light carriers. This used to be an informal designation for any private sector vessel that had been designed to convey mechs for mercenaries and the like.They largely featured the same civilian-grade armor as the cargo haulers, but with thicker layers. They also featured much more reinforced structure and more hardened ship components.All in all, light carriers formed the best choice of conveyance among the stars for a personal force like the Avatars of Myth.The only problem was price."Those ships don't come cheap. Even a basic one can cost a billion credits." Ves replied. He already did his research beforehand. "Compared to a beat-up cargo hauler that some shipyard rearranged into a carrier, the costs are much more generous. A fully functional one can be bought for 200 million credits, while a less reliable one can be had for fifty million credits or less."Prices varied wildly in terms of age, quality, model, size and more. The smallest mercenary corps often couldn't be picky, and chose to traverse the stars with dubious-looking rust buckets akin to the Happy Jelly owned by the Whalers.Thinking about that old and decaying ship prompted Ves to wince. He did not wish his Avatars to ride on such awful carriers."Let's go for the light carriers. I can afford the expense, if only barely. It's worth the investment."After making their choice, they started picking the right model of ships.