The Mech Touch Chapter 512

514 The Parallax Star
A woman in her late thirties and a significantly older man wearing the coveralls of a chief technician arrived next to Ves, who still stared at the Parallax Star in fascinated horror.

The woman who wore the standard green uniform of a mech designer smiled and stepped forward. "Head Designer Larkinson, welcome aboard the Gorgon's Gaze, home to Venerable O'Callahan and his Parallax Star. My name is Lisbeth Eta-Denmersken, and I'm the leader of the design team. This old man here is Chief Leo Keys."

Ves snapped out of his attempt to make sense of the mechanical butchery at the end of the hangar bay. "Chief Keys. Miss Eta-Denmersken. I'm.. glad to meet you."

"You can call us by our first names."

"Alright then. I've seen enough. Lead me to a compartment where we can discuss things in private."

As the pair guided Ves towards an unoccupied compartment meant for briefings, he considered how to approach their discussion. He already held some misgivings about the Parallax Star's budget, and what he had just laid eyes on only furthered the sense of wrongness about the entire arrangement.

Once they seated themselves in the briefing room, Ves decided to ask the questions that needed to be asked. One way or another, Ves needed to determine if O'Callahan was squandering the precious resources given to him by the Vandals.

"Let me begin by saying as the new head designer, I expect you two to help me tide us all over until we complete our mission and return to Republic space. We're deep into enemy space and cut off from easy access to supplies. We need to get used to leaner times for the next couple of months."

Lisbeth kept smiling at Ves as if she understood his pains. "We are understanding of the difficulties facing the fleet. However, Venerable O'Callahan will pull us through no matter how many Vesians stand in our way. You have nothing to worry about under his care."

This was not the direction that Ves was going for. "Miss Lisbeth, it is admirable for you to place so much faith in our resident expert pilot, but he is but one man among many. The main combatants will always be the regular mech pilots in our midst. The Venerable needs to save his strength and deploy only when necessary."

"That is exactly our thoughts." Lisbeth nodded, all the while she maintained that strange and incessant smile. "The Parallax Star is always ready to deploy. While it takes some time to rouse our Venerable into readiness, you can be assured that the mech under our care will always be in tip-top shape."

Ves awkwardly coughed. "I believe we should speak about the state of the Parallax Star, but first I'd like to address its budget."

"Oh?" Lisbeth smiled wider. "Have my requests for additional funding finally been accepted?"

"Sadly not. In fact, I am thinking about dialing your generous resource allowances."

Both Lisbeth and Chief Leo blinked at that. It was as if they never thought to hear something like that. The female mech designer's eyes appeared completely befuddled, though she maintained her smile.

"Mr. Larkinson, that's impossible!" Chief Leo uttered.

"Head Designer, you are new in your position." Lisbeth said in a gentle tone. "You might not have been briefed with the full scope of our activities yet, so let me explain to you what we do here."

She stood up and beckoned Chief Leo and Ves to follow her. They walked out of the briefing room and headed over to the Parallax Star. Once they reached the bottom of its feet, she put her hand over its surface.

"Look at this mech." She began. "Feel its heartbeat. Can you not tell how much care we put in its construction and maintenance? We polish it every day by hand to the point where it has become one of our rituals. The Parallax Star is designed by Professor Velten herself, and we are the executors of her will. This mech showcases the full potential of a Senior Mech Designer at work."

"That's not all we put our work in." Chief Leo interjected. He walked away from the Parallax Star and headed over a partitioned section in the hangar bay. Come and see what we've prepared.

When Ves looked inside the partition, he became shocked at what he saw. "Are these.. spare parts?"

"Indeed!" Lisbeth clapped. "So far, we've prepared six lances, four short spears, three pairs of legs, seven pairs of arms, five flight systems and three heads. These only concern the outer parts. We have another space that's devoted to storing internal parts such as engines or power reactors. All of these parts are of a different configuration, but all of them are compatible with the Parallax Star."

"It's a semi-modular system that Venerable O'Callahan insisted that we implement." Chief Leo explained. "He wants to have the right tools available at the right time. For example, if O'Callahan needs to fight against an expert ranged mech, he'll order us to configure the Parallax Star with parts that emphasize speed. If he needs to duel against a space knight, then the Parallax Star needs to focus less on speed and more on power and armor."

"How fast can you transition in a different configuration?" Ves asked.

"A simple switch will only take an hour or two at most. A more complex exchange of parts will take up to two days. We're very proficient in this switch because we've trained on it endlessly."

"That's too slow."


Both Chief Leo and Lisbeth couldn't process his comment.

"I said, it's too slow." Ves repeated bluntly. "The exact type of expert mech our enemies will deploy is often unknown until their combat carriers are close enough to launch their mechs to fight. Do you really think you have hours or days of preparation time to make your leisurely switch? Impossible! This exercise is horribly redundant and wasteful in terms of resources."

Chief Leo stopped smiling, but Lisbeth didn't appear to be affected. She smiled at him in a different light, however. Before, she looked cordial and friendly. Now, her smiling expression took on a nefarious shade.

"Mr. Larkinson, as we said, you are new to your position. I am sure that if you study our methodology, it will begin to make sense. In any case, I will not allow you to make unilateral decisions without Venerable O'Callahan's approval. In no way will he accept a cut in our budget."

His worst fears came true. Lisbeth Eta-Denmersken joined the cult of O'Callahan and became their head priestess. Ves turned to Chief Leo, but the old man silently shook his head and stood in a deferential manner behind Lisbeth. He had turned into a cultist as well it appeared.

"I don't understand the need for more resources." Ves said, trying to approach this issue from another tack. "You've already fabricated loads of spare parts. It's more than enough to handle any situation. Why do you insist on maintaining the same level of resource allocation?"

"Because it's never enough." Lisbeth answered without any doubt. "Venerable O'Callahan wishes to expand his flexibility to the utmost. We must be ready to address any possible crisis. The more parts we prepare, the better we will be able to address a crisis in the future. It is like adding more tools in the toolbox. We may not need to make use of every tool, but the option is there when we need one of the rarer tools."

Ves shook his head. "That's not how I see it. As far as I'm concerned, the Parallax Star only needs two or three tools to perform most of its jobs. Right now, you are reproducing multiple copies of nearly identical tools that solve the same problems! The toolbox is practically bursting apart!"

"We disagree. No matter what analogy you use, the only thing that matters is this is the will of Venerable O'Callahan."

"Okay then. Let me speak to him. Maybe I have better luck convincing the pilot."

"We refuse." Lisbeth responded with an irritated smile. "Venerable O'Callahan is far in his age and needs his precious rest. The longer he sleeps, the more his aging process slows down. Every minute awake is eating at his limited lifespan. I cannot in good faith allow you to rouse him from his slumber to make a request that we know for certain he will refuse. A budget cut is not in contention."

"What if I force this change over your protest?"

"Then the Verle Task Force will lose its only expert pilot."

"Maybe we're better off that way. As far as I know, O'Callahan only deployed into combat a couple of times over the past five years. That's an abysmally low deployment rate even for an expert pilot that needs to stay in reserve. There were several battles where our resident expert pilot's intervention would have saved the Vandals a lot of pain."

The woman calmly retorted while maintaining her smile. "Expert pilots aren't meant to hold our hands. They are the ultimate weapons to be used in the most dire threats to the Vandals. Intensive combat only accelerates his aging. His personal doctor has warned us that highly stressful moments may even accelerate the degeneration of his cognition and motor functions. Unless it is absolutely necessary, we will not allow Venerable O'Callahan to squander his life."

While the explanation made Ves more sympathetic to the expert pilot, he had grown under the auspices of several other expert pilots. He long outgrew the instinctual need to worship a strong pilot.

"Besides," Chief Leo spoke up. "The Venerable has long came to an arrangement with Professor Velten. She agreed to the existing terms in order to retain our expert pilot. This is not a deal you meddle with on your own."

Ves was afraid of that. O'Callahan obviously extorted an enormous amount of privileges from the Vandals, all the while he spent the majority of his time in sleep. The Venerable shamelessly squandered billions worth of high-quality exotics into fabricating endless spare parts, most of which would likely never even see any use!

Now he knew why the Parallax Star appeared to scream in pain. The mech was made out of disjointed parts, and had switched into a multitude of different configurations over and over again. Any mech would go mad with such senseless treatment.

Ves lamented the craftsmanship and expensive materials that went into their fabrication. Professor Velten demonstrated the prowess of a Senior Mech Designer in the Parallax Star's design. It was too bad that most of it had gone to waste.

After half an hour of touring and fruitless pleading, Ves departed from the Gorgon's Gaze with a drained expression.

"Crazy bint! And that old chief, why is he such a doormat?!"

Lisbeth Eta-Denmersken was obviously a lost cause. It was actually within his power to relieve the Apprentice Mech Designer from her current post. Ves toyed with the idea of pulling the trigger, but held off because he knew he would face a storm of protest from the design team and the Venerable himself.

Between Ves and O'Callahan, Major Verle would certainly choose to appease the latter. He needed the expert pilot's protection, and that meant appeasing the senile mech pilot's insane demands was a small price to pay for the mech officer.

As for Chief Leo, the easy-going old man was unlike every other chief technician he had seen. A chief needed to be authoritative and assertive in order to keep their mech technicians in line. Chief Leo demonstrated none of those qualities in front of Ves.

Both of them were problems to Ves. Perhaps no one aboard the Gorgon's Gaze had the guts to stand up to Venerable O'Callahan. This bred a situation where his cult had firmly taken root on that combat carrier.

"This is an impossible situation."

While Ves was not resigned to give up, he had no choice but to address the matter at a later date. Right now, he lacked a silver bullet that could resolve the problem in his favor.