The Mech Touch


The Mech Touch Chapter 254 Competitor


Ves first became exposed to other promising talents at the Young Tigers Exhibition held more than a year ago. Mech designers around his age showcased their talents in order to achieve fame and recognition in the state they called home.

It mostly ended up as a comparison between who had the better foreign backer. Ves performed well at the event, only to be beaten by Edwin McKinney, who for some reason deigned to participate in such a low-class event.

Afterwards, Ves slowly realized that the geniuses who participated in the YTE likely didn't do very well abroad. They were mostly the equivalent to Squires in the Clifford Society, marginal figures that could never compete against the native mech designers of those second-rate states.

"Michael Dumont. It's been a long time since I last saw your name."

After being beaten by Ves, Dumont disappeared from the face of the Republic. Ves assumed that Dumont must have tucked his tail between his legs and fled back to the Coalition or wherever he called his second home.

Evidently, he returned, and just so coincidentally introduced an offensive knight design in his debut as an original mech designer. Ves played a recording of the clip.

"After months of intensive development and extensive testing, I am now ready to announce the release of my first original design, the Havalax!"

A medium mech slowly stepped into view. The reporters gathered at the press conference murmured with excitement as the ground under their feet thundered as Dumont's creation stopped in front of them. With its stylish white coating with triangular blue and orange patterns, it made for a vividly noble sight.

"The Havalax is a knight mech geared for offensive and defensive purposes. It's greatest strength is its speed, which is even able to match the sprinting speed of light mechs. As a fast and mobile knight mech, the Havalax excels in chaotic skirmishes and smaller engagements where battlelines often shift on a whim."

A projection appeared that showed the Havalax's performance in a number of realistic simulations, interspersed with clips of the first production model going through an obstacle course.

What stood out from Ves was that the Havalax showcased an impressive level of performance. So much so that he suspected the pilot must have overheated the mech soon after he completed his acrobatics.

"If you are worried about the Havalax's ability to function as a knight, then let me reassure you that it can take the hits as well as it can dish out. The armor system I am using is an exclusive development from a lab associated with my university in the Coalition. Its multifaceted composition employs a semi-modular arrangement where expended plates will fall after they degrade, facilitating even higher levels of mobility at the tail-end of a fight."

The rest of Dumont's speech detailed his design's strengths while glossing over its weaknesses. Some of the reporters did a good job asking about its endurance, which should have been quite awful for a pure knight design.

"The Havalax is a mech that is designed to make an immediate impact on the battlefield." He repeated. "There are hardly any mechs on the market that can compete with mine in these terms. Not at the price level of my initial models."

"How much will it cost?"

"Production has already started. You can reserve the first hundred copies by moving quickly and pre-ordering it at my company's portal for the generous price of 50 million credits. After that, you can purchase a standard model starting at 55 million credits. We offer many additional options and customizations at additional fees. Please consult the portal for the details."

Ves flipped the data pad and slammed it to the ground. Then he stepped on it with his foot, though he failed to make any cracks. Pads these days served as reliable information carriers under extreme conditions like battlefields and hostile alien planets.

"I don't believe this is a coincidence!"

Just when Ves prepared to debut the Blackbeak, an old rival released an offensive knight on his own. The Havalax differed distinctly from the Blackbeak by specializing in delivering peak performance, but that design choice would also enable it to inflate its spec sheet.

Frankly speaking, the Blackbeak's specs looked like crap compared to the performance that the Havalax was capable of pumping out. Sure, the knight designed by Dumont might only be able to keep running its systems at maximum capacity for a couple of minutes, but most laymen wouldn't know the difference.

In actual fact, the Blackbeak and the Havalax shouldn't even be direct competitors. Despite sharing the same roles, they excelled in different circumstances, so there should be very little overlap

Except Ves knew that many customers didn't think about less flashy criteria like endurance and longevity. They cared more about exciting stuff like top speed or arm strength.

Jake arrived quickly after Carlos. "It's fairly bad news. Early adopters already got their hands on the Havalax and they've been giving them rave reviews. Even some of the more reputable mech portals are giving it a thumbs up."

"How is Dumont able to produce so fast?"

"His backers bought out a failing medium mech manufacturer and repurposed it as Dumont's personal property in the Republic. There's rumors that the Ricklin Corporation has a stake in the company as well."

Figures. Both of them had a beef with Ves. Dumont's entry in the YTE had been cut short by Ves while the Ricklin Corporation suffered a devastating terrorist attack with the help of a mech that he designed and built.

Ves suspected that the Ricklin Corporation had been behind the various attacks on his person. Such threats had ceased to materialize in the last half year, which led Ves to believe the Ricklin Corporation quietly gave up on its attempt to hit back at Ves.

Evidently, they chose to retaliate by a different means. He admired the elegance of their plan. It wasn't illegal to give a helping hand to one of his competitors. Even if everyone in the Republic knew of their conflict, so what?

Right now, Ves was in big trouble. He could already sense an undercurrent of worry and despair among the employees in the office. They all thought that Ves would debut his Blackbeak too late. Even if it offered some redeeming features over the Havalax, demand for offensive knights had already been met by that time.

"Emergency meeting. Two hours from now." Ves said crisply as he stormed back into his office. "Bring everyone that matters."

Jake and Carlos watched the door slide shut. They both looked at each other. "Do you think he's resigned?"

"Not at all." Carlos replied. "That's his serious mode. Ves almost never makes an outburst. He's the type who lets his rage boil inside his mind. Don't let his flat face fool you."

Two hours later, the entire management team of the LMC poured into the conference room. The executives and pillars of the company like Jake, Primrose, Carlos, Calsie and Gavin sat alongside the oval table.

The rest seated themselves upon floating synthetic foldable chairs stored underneath the table. The 'planks' as people called them provided basic seating for everyone without taking up a lot of space when they returned to their storage compartments.

Ves stomped into the conference room a few minutes later. He slowly paced towards the front of the room and turned on the main projector. A full-throated projection of his first complete iteration of the Blackbeak appeared in front of everyone's eyes.

"This is the Blackbeak. It's a premium offensive knight that excels in endurance, longevity and energy efficiency."

He summarized its various attributes and emphasized its differences compared to a model like the Havalax. Still, half the crowd stopped paying attention to his words, because the mere sight of the Blackbeak consumed all of their attention.

Its sheer presence and artistic appearance dwarfed anything Ves designed before except for his most impressive limited edition designs. The sinister flavor underpinning the Blackbeak's X-Factor evoked both fear and admiration from the gawking crowd.

As Ves had been tinkering with his design for months, he'd grown used to its aura. He didn't expect it to have such a pronounced effect on his employees.

"Wow, Ves! Wow!" Carlos exclaimed. "If this is what you've been working on, then Dumont stands no chance!"

Several people agreed, but those who read through the Blackbeak's spec sheet quietly shook their heads.

"I have confidence in my design." Ves declared simply. It was important to emphasize his belief in his own capabilities. "However, that doesn't mean that it's a given that the Havalax can be dethroned. The first-mover advantage is a very powerful thing to have. The main issue is that over target segments overlap too much. The longer we wait, the steeper the hill we have to climb."

"Then what are we waiting for? You've already completed your design, so let's release it immediately while the Havalax is at its infancy!"

Ves shook his head. "I won't rush my design. I've thought it through, and the risk of missing out a critical flaw or two is too great. I can tell that the Havalax is a fairly rushed design as well. Dumont must have designed it when he received word that I had been planning to design an offensive knight myself."

Some people looked at each other with suspicion. "This was supposed to be kept under wraps. Someone leaked the news."

A brief argument broke out, but Ves forestalled any further shouting.

"Shut up! I haven't exactly done my best to keep my intentions secret. It's my own fault for letting too many people know. The important thing is that it's already done, so let's move on. As I was saying, the Blackbeak's development will stay on track. I will not rush its development just because a competitor is taunting me to hurry up."

"Why not?"

"Because the LMC stands for quality. It's in our mission statement. It will be a direct betrayal of the founding principles of this company if I set them aside at the first sign of trouble."

That said, in corporate warfare, expediency usually triumphed over principle. Ves merely believed he didn't have to go that far in order to turn the tables against Michael Dumont.

"Do you believe in our company?" He asked his employees.

"Yes!"

"We believe!"

"Do you believe in the Blackbeak?"

Everyone resoundly cheered.

"Then what's with all of the panic? We are better than Dumont!"

He succeeded in lifting up their moods. It felt good to inspire confidence in his workers. He needed them to work at their best in order to stand a chance against Dumont's well-funded vendetta against Ves.

As long as he could persuade his men, Ves also had a chance of winning over the market. They just had to remain rational and lay out the facts.

"It's important to note that offensive knight designs already exist on the market. Hundreds of thousands of designs already exists throughout the galaxy, though only a fraction is available for purchase within the Republic's borders. Likewise, demand for offensive knights is not a shallow pool that will drain quickly the moment someone cobbles up a decent design."

The threat the Havalax posed to their company distorted everyone's perspective on the market.

"I see now! We've been stuck in a tunnel vision!"

"The Havalax is still a competitor though. As long as it remains on sale, it will directly affect our own profits."

"We can still fight back when there's still time."

How much time did they still have? Ves wanted to take his time, but would all of that extra time pay off in the end? It all depended on their hard work and ability to succeed under adverse circumstances.

Ves clapped his hands to draw everyone's attention. "I've gathered you all here not to admit defeat, but to form a plan of action. We will not let Dumont have his satisfaction! We shouldn't fear his competition. He should fear us instead!"

He had unquestioning faith in the superiority of his own design. Ves hardly believed that Dumont progressed as fast as him since the last time they dueled against each other.

Along with the added advantage of a pronounced X-Factor, Ves possessed a final contingency should his design fail to match up to the Havalax. He tapped his fingers against his unassuming comm, which hid the option to super-publish any design once a year.



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