The Mech Touch Chapter 410

Chapter 410: Moment of Truth
Ves left Marella's office and boarded an armored shuttle that conveyed him towards the convention hall. Along the way, he tried but couldn't quite get Marcella's words to disappear from his mind.On a whim, he activated his comm and performed a few casual searches on the galactic net.The cursory search revealed a statistic that Ves had always overlooked. "Casualties as a result of collateral damage?"He knew what collateral damage meant. Backlash against it arguably ended the Age of Conquest, which some people referred to as the Age of Warships. With the onset of the Age of Mechs, mass extinction and widespread slaughter ceased to happen, but that didn't mean it stopped happening entirely.Missile barrages notoriously inflicted wide swathes of devastation. With the effectiveness of ECM these days, over eighty or ninety percent of missiles never hit their targets. Instead, they veered away and flew a bit further before exploding upon the first obstacle they came across.Many cities hollowed out and collapsed this way.Cannons also frequently pled guilty to this, but surprisingly the humbler laser rifle took the crown. Their ubiquity, availability and low cost per discharge meant that mech pilots who piloted laser rifleman mechs frequently showered their opponents with laser beams.Ballistic rifleman and railgunner mechs exercised much stricter trigger discipline because they couldn't afford to waste their ammunition.Therefore, Vs got a completely different conception of laser rifleman mechs. Who knew that the humble straight and narrow laser beams actually resulted in more deaths and collateral damage than more explosive weapons?"This is mainly the fault of the mech pilot."If these laser-happy mech pilots exercised the same trigger discipline as their ballistic and kinetic counterparts, they wouldn't let this statistic balloon."This isn't my responsibility."By now, over a thousand Blackbeak mechs circulated throughout the Bright Republic and elsewhere. Ves did not keep tabs on what their pilots did. Someone could have crashed their mech through a school full of children and Ves wouldn't know. Even if he did, what did it have to do with him?"People don't blame a shuttle manufacturer if some madman took their shuttle, hacked all the safeties, and crashed it into office building."The only reason he would check up on his products was to see whether their X-Factor aged and developed unique flavors. Right now, it would be too early to tell, so Ves planned to wait a couple of years before performing an in-depth study of the effects.Once the shuttle arrived at the convention hall, Ves went inside and oversaw the final preparations of the product reveal. This time, the LMC went for a more elaborate concept that transformed the entire hall into a projected battlefield. It all looked impressive and lifelike as Marcella's brokerage supplied the advanced equipment to turn illusion into a hyper-realistic simulations.The experience went beyond spectacular visuals. Ves felt the vibrations from the footsteps of a Crystal Lord as it walked by. He could heard the sharp tang of a laser rifle discharge as another projected mech fired its weapon at a distant enemy mech.For the battlefield, they picked out a sprawling ruined urban landscape. Rubble and debris littered much of the abandoned city, as months of fighting turned every street into an unlivable mess."This is what happens after every battle."Seeing the awful state of the buildings and the remains of abandoned vehicles strewn about put everyone present in a somber mood. In light of the recent attack on the Coscos System, Ves opted to color his presentation in a serious tone. He nixed the original plan which involved excessive cheer and exuberance.Not everyone supported this last-minute style change, but Ves knew that they needed to be tactful in order to avoid public condemnation."Are all the props and projectors in place?""We installed and tested every prop yesterday. Everything works as planned, boss." Gavin answered as he studied a data pad that contained all of their planning. "All nine mechs are shipped in place as well, with the first production model standing in the place of honor.""How about the permits? Did we receive permission from the convention hall and the authorities to activate all nine mechs?""We only managed to do so after Marcella's brokerage greased the wheels. It's harder than usual for the LMC to do business in Bentheim because we aren't based here. We only have a branch office that's in charge of marketing and after-sales support, and it's too small for us to cultivate important relationships with the people in power. If not for Marcella's deep connections, we wouldn't have been able to get away with this plan."Ves nodded as if he expected the outcome. As the LMC grew up from a one-man operation into a medium mech manufacturer, he gradually realized that many rules could be overcome with a sufficient amount of power and influence. Nothing was impossible, and only very few rules turned out to be absolute.While the prohibition on activating mechs was a very sensible one to limit the chances of disaster in the middle of a densely-populated city, too many people flouted these rules and got away with it. "It's like an unofficial tax."A few hours went by as Ves prepared and rehearsed his presentation. He couldn't delegate the responsibility of introducing the Crystal Lord design to anyone else. Mech designers needed to show their pride at their own products. Therefore, even if he wasn't the best public speaker in the company, he readily accepted the responsibility.In the meantime, the entrance to the hall opened up and let in the first attendees. The journalists and representatives of various publications and organizations arrived first. They blinked past the omnipresent projections of the ruined urban landscapes and the silhouettes of the new design skulking in the shadows and claimed their preferred spots to record the upcoming press conference.Batches of collectors arrived next. Some of them previously showed up to the Blackbeak's reveal event as well, but for many of them, this would be the first time they got to see Ves up close.The mech industry as a whole started to take note of the LMC due to the spread of the Blackbeaks. While the poorest mercenary corps eschewed the expensive models entirely, many of the better-off outfits started to take a shine on the models.It came in three slightly different flavors with varying levels of pricing and availability, so everyone with money could take their pick. As these influential forces started using the Blackbeaks, their benefits became evident as well.Besides their performance, the Blackbeaks also became renowned for their ability to accommodate mech pilots particularly well. Whether in terms of ergonomics or the elusive 'feel', the Blackbeaks stood out for their excellence in making pilots feel as comfortable as if they returned to their mother's wombs.Now, with the rumored introduction of a second model which inherited most of the traits of the Blackbeak, some of the industry insiders wanted to see what the fuss was all about. As they milled forward and took their seats, they started guessing what the LMC had in store for them. This time, news of their development hadn't leaked out, which was a minor accomplishment in itself."You're up in five minutes." Gavin reminded Ves as the hall became increasingly packed."I know. I'm ready to go at any moment.""Be careful of the hecklers in the crowd. Since we opened our doors to bystanders, you can bet on getting challenged on the spot."The massive convention hall would appear to be too empty if they held the press conference in front of a modest gaggle of invited guests. In order to make the reveal event appear more successful, they advertised the event to the people walking past the convention hall. Anyone could enter for free once they registered their identities.Despite the gloom on the streets, they managed to fill up the hall just enough to make the place seem packed. Naturally, it also led to a bit of chaos as bored teenagers and crying babies added to the noise.They quieted down once a massive projection appeared that introduced the LMC and its recent history. The introduction was meant to build up some hype before the actual event.Moments later, someone sent a signal to Ves. "That's my cue."As Ves appeared on the podium, a modest round of applause rang out. He confidently strolled to the front and beheld his audience. "Welcome to the Living Mech Corporation's second product reveal. As the founder and chief designer of the LMC, it is my mission to offer people like you the option to purchase a mech that's different."He extended his hands which caused a life-like silhouette of the Crystal Lord to loom behind him. The mech was no projection this time, but an actual physical copy piloted by a real mech pilot. Clever use of lighting caused the mech to be obscured to the point where the audience couldn't spot its laser rifle.The mech hadn't even revealed its visage, but already the crowd became subjected to a formless pressure that originated from its X-Factor."Our new design is an extension of the philosophy that underpins the Blackbeak. Much like the knight design, our latest offering is a tough, enduring and well-balanced machine. After months of development, we have managed to succeed in designing a mech that translates all of these strengths into a different archetype.""Is it another knight mech?" Someone from the press suddenly asked out loud.Ves smiled at the reporter. "It is not. While the LMC is known for its history of publishing knight designs, we are not exclusively focusing on a single type of mech. Instead, our latest design adopts a very different role on the battlefield. I am sure that you will be astounded by the features we've packed into our latest design."Ves meandered a little with his speech as he talked around his new design without revealing it. Anticipation built up in the crowd as they got entranced by his words. It didn't help that their surroundings grew increasingly busy as the simulations took to life by depicting a lifelike battle."We at the LMC are committed to offer our customers an alternative to the dominant models of the market. We pride ourselves to delivering quality and uniqueness. Rather than tread the path of my colleagues, our next design is sufficiently distinct that we can say with some confidence that nothing like it has ever been released in the Komodo Star Sector!"Everyone's anticipation had reached the peak. Ves quickly watched for cues from Gavin who stood unobtrusively at the side. His assistant passed on a signal that indicated that he already spent more than enough time on sidestepping around the main event.Ves bowed and moved on with the revelation of his new design. "Introducing our first range of rifleman mechs, the Crystal Lord!" Lights banished the darkness obscuring the frame. For the first time in history, the Crystal Lord entered into the view of the public.Gasps sounded out as everyone beheld the unusual-looking design."It's a rifleman mech! Medium weight class, armed with a laser rifle, carrying an external backpack module.""What a small and compact laser rifle! It's as small as the rifles wielded by light mechs!""Look at those sleek curves. This is a mech that's optimised for speed. How fast can it run?""It's not only fast, but tough as well. Look at the texture of that mottled brown exterior. That's the same compressed armor utilized in the Blackbeak design.""What? The LMC put knight armor onto a rifleman mech design? How crazy is that!""I don't know what this mech does, but I absolutely want a copy no matter the cost!""Me too!"The guessing game started immediately upon the reveal. Everyone's first impressions was tinged with shock. They felt shocked not only because of its unusual traits, but also because the X-Factor continued to influence their impression of the mech.It was as if they admired the statue of a god. The Crystal Lord somehow inspired a lot more awe and worship than other mechs.Ves discretely smiled as he watched the effect play out in front of his eyes.