The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 277 Get Rich Or Die Trying


Over the next two weeks, Ves quickly finished off the remainder of the orders. Twenty-four gold label Blackbeaks had been forged from his hands. The only one that remained unsold was the first production model which still awaited repairs.

He didn't even know whether he should restore it to its original condition. It might hold more value in its damaged state as a piece of mech history.

With each delivery they made, the money started rolling in. The LMC finally reached a state where they possessed a steady amount of liquidity, though much of the funds would soon be drained after they received approval to construct a new manufacturing complex.

"How much did the mech technicians progress in their studies?"

"They achieved a fair bit while you worked. Everyone has seen you do the same thing over and over." Chief Cyril reported as he supervised the preparation to shift over the production lines to fabricating the silver label Blackbeaks.

As for the Mark II? The LMC already retired the model from the catalog. Its cheap price and outdated components didn't fit in the company anymore.

"What's their success rate?"

"The average results hover around ninety-three percent in the simulations. Most of them stumble when they have to fabricate those finicky armor pieces. The margin of error is too slim, but it helps that you don't hide your methods. Lots of mech designers can be rather secretive. With the ample amount of recordings we've made, I don't think they'll have any excuses if they botch those parts."

The real secret that distinguished his gold label mechs from the cheaper labels was the X-Factor. The interaction between Ves and any of his mechs and designed occurred entirely within the mental planes. Unless someone stuck him in a neural interface, no one would be able to figure out what went on in his mind when he worked on a mech.

The gold label Blackbeaks in the hands of his customers already led to rave reviews. Even if few if any of his mechs had been tested in an actual battle, the piloting experience was almost unsurpassed. Both the X-Factor and the insights he applied from his Mastery led to a small but decisive advantage.

"Last I heard, your design is even up for nomination for some awards at the end of the standard year. The only problem is that most copies in the wild consists of bronze label Blackbeaks."

Ves pressed his lips. "I truly hope they don't take the bronze label version as the standard. Has the EME shored up its quality by now?"

"Carlos tells me that some of his lessons have penetrated through Mr. Neverland's thick skull. The quality of EME's latest output has reached the bare minimum, more or less."

"More or less?"

"It's good enough for the buyers, but you'll probably claw your eyes out if you take a deep look at the mechs."

"Then you'd better not let me see one in the flesh."

His obsession over quality and craftsmanship had grown more severe over time. It had been a conscious decision of Ves to fan the flames in this area because it had a measurable impact on his work.

He started to understand why design philosophy held the key to advancing to a higher grade of mech designer.

Ves hung around the workshop and kept an eye on the mech technicians, who started putting their learning into practice. Even if they did the simulations a hundred times, working with the real thing always went wrong one way or another.

The absence of Carlos had a significant effect on the productivity of his workers. Ves frequently mentored him, and he also continued to study on his free time. All of that added knowledge turned him into a qualified, if junior fabricator.

Perhaps Cyril could do a better job, but he had to supervise the entire workshop floor, so he couldn't do the work himself. The general lack of experience exhibited by the mech technicians disheartened Ves somewhat. It would take years to get them to the level of a trained technician of a major power.

His comm suddenly chirped. Ves bent down and saw it came from Dietrich of all people. Ves quickly left the workshop and entered his office before accepting the call.

Dietrich looked awfully tired from the projection that appeared over his comm. "Ves, I've got bad news for you."

"Is something wrong with Raella?"

"You could say that." The Little Boss said, and began to explain what happened at the arena yesterday.

Ordinarily, Ves would get angry if he heard that Raella ran off to engage in a series of highly dangerous underground duels. Yet what Dietrich said about the Glowing Planet turned all of that into something trivial.

"This Glowing Planet… you're saying it's valuable to the point where the Coalition and the Hegemony will come to duke it out?"

"Not immediately. It takes a lot of time to gather their forces and prepare them for a lengthy occupation. I reckon that the route where the Glowing Planet is zipping past will turn into a no man's land when they arrive."

That sounded very serious. A long occupation by the Friday Coalition or the Hexadric Hegemony or both meant that the war between the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom could become collateral damage.

Complicating the matter was that both the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom maintained some ties with the Coalition. That might be enough of an excuse for the Hexadric Kingdom to steamroll over both third-rate states if they believed the Coalition benefited from their continued existence.

"This is turning into a storm of epic proportions." Ves remarked while he rubbed his head. His brain threatened to overheat from all of the predictions he made. "Okay, have you tried to get Raella to change her mind?"

"That's the problem. She can't back off. She personally went up to a big shot and demanded to take part in the Blood Claw's expedition. In our line of work, once you do something like that, you always have to keep your word."

Ves closed his eyes. He didn't grow angry. He was already past that point. A sense of fatalistic helplessness emanated from his body as he thought about the huge numbers of mechs the Glowing Planet would host.

Each and every one of them would very likely fight to the death for riches and honor. Ves understood what it was like to fight over a portion of an untamed planet's vast mineral wealth. He already went through a harrowing ordeal at Groening IV.

"What will the Whalers do?"

"My father's been called up as well. Monty wants to bolster his numbers and our gang recently came into possession of a lot of carriers."

"That sounds dangerous."

"It is, but Monty's always been good to those who answer his call. We'll get rich, or die trying."

Ves had the sense those latter words applied to everyone else who set their sights on the Glowing Planet. Truly, the allure of an entire planet of exotics was sufficient to throw any star sector in the galactic rim into a tizzy.

"What should we do, Ves? I'm sure if you run up to your family, they can get something done."

"No. That won't work." He shook his head. "Raella always held dreams about going on an adventure in the stars. She won't agree to back out on embarking to one of the most hotly contested planets in this star sector."

A small part inside Ves faintly hoped that Raella would see for herself how awful actual war looked like. Once she disabused her romantic notions of what a treasure-hunting expedition should be, she'd surely return to her guard assignment without complaint.

Dietrich and Ves bandied about a few possible course of actions, but nothing seemed remotely helpful.

"I'll go with you guys."

"Say what?"

"Family should stick together." He said. Even though Ves hadn't been very close to his extended family, he still felt it was his duty as Raella's cousin to see her through the fighting that would continue until the end of the seventy-day grace period. "Besides, I'm sure the Whalers could use a mech designer. Planets with high concentration of exotics usually exert a destructive influence on machinery. Let me join up with you guys and I'll make sure your mech remain in tip-top shape."

The offer sounded very attractive, and Dietrich didn't hesitate to accept. "You're right. We could sure use your help. I figure my father planned to take up guard duty in space, but if we have you with us, then we can help the Blood Claws capture more territory. That will really increase our share of the profits."

The main issue with Raella was that she pledged to fight alongside the inner core of the Blood Claws. She basically turned into an honorary Blood Claw herself, which let her pilot a Blood Claw mech maintained by their own logistics.

Meanwhile, Ves lacked the familiarity to help out the Blood Claws directly. He hadn't proven himself in front of one of their leaders like Raella did. Therefore, Ves could only hitch a ride with Walter's Whalers.

"Tell your dad I'm joining their fleet with my Barracuda."

"I'll do that. He'll surely welcome you with open arms. In the meantime, I'll send you some files about the people we can expect to meet at the Glowing Planet."

They cut off the call after Ves received the files. He skimmed them over, but quickly became overwhelmed when the amount of local powers surpassed a hundred. "And that's not even factoring small fries like Walter's Whalers!"

The Glowing Planet attracted so much greed that the local states wouldn't be able to hold back their citizens from having any ideas. At the very least, both the Republic and the Kingdom didn't even attempt to rein in their gangs and mercenary corps.

"There must be over a thousand different outfits looking to fight over a bunch of rocks."

Ves predicted that the smaller outfits would seek refuge under the umbrella of a major power, such as the Bright Republic's Mech Corps or the Vesia Kindom's Mech Legion.

Larger outfits like the Blood Claws possessed enough strength to stand on their own. While they wouldn't fight directly against the military of another state, they'd surely attempt to occupy a less attractive piece of land.

Too bad that there were too many mechs and not enough land to go around. Conflict was bound to happen.

Before Ves prepared for his impromptu journey, he gathered his closest circle of friends and workers. Melkor, Cyril, Jake, Primrose, Gavin and Calsie all streamed into the conference room, which already projected the busts of Marcella and his grandfather.

"I've got something to announce." Ves began his meeting while holding onto Lucky. He proceeded to explain what happened and how Raella ended up in the thick of it. Once he reached the part where he said he'd participate as well, the entire room exploded.

"You're crazy, Ves!" Jake yelled. "You're a mech designer! You have no place on the battlefield!"

"I might not even be touching down on the planet. I can do most of my work aboard a carrier ship."

"Even then, there's going to be so many different fleets in orbit that your ship won't be any safer!"

The administrative types like Jake and Primrose simply didn't understand his decision to throw himself head-long into danger.

However, he received a surprising word of support from Marcella. "It's up to him whether he wants to participate or not. All I can say is that a mech designer can be a lot of help to the Whalers. His presence will save a lot of lives."

"They're just a bunch of half-criminals. It's not worth the risk!"

Ves turned to his grandfather. "What about you. You haven't spoken a word yet. What do you think?"

"I don't like to be put on the spot." Benjamin replied. As a retired expert pilot, he had gone through a lot of battles over the years. "As a man, and as a Larkinson, I applaud your decision. I would have done the same. Yet I also believe that your COO has a point. It's not fitting for you to volunteer yourself to an extremely treacherous free-for-all. I wish I can tell you more, but I'm not allowed to tell you anything."

His grandfather worked at the Ministry of Defense, so he knew best what might happen at the Glowing Planet. Ves didn't begrudge his grandfather for holding back the details. He guessed that the Republic must be monitoring this conference call right now.

"Do I have your blessing to take part?"

"You can have it, for what it's worth. Go forth and be a man, but remember that you don't have to hold yourself to the same standard as a mech pilot."

His grandfather's words reflected the conflicting set of values running through his mind. Every Larkinson had been raised with tales of daring, heroism and sacrifice. With every Larkinson able to pilot a mech being sent off to war, the family suffered a lot of casualties over the generations. That was why Benjamin didn't discourage his own grandson for taking part, even if he didn't really belong on the battlefield in the first place.

"Melkor, will you come with me?"

"Of course. What will the family think if I let you go without my protection?"

That settled it. At least three of the Larkinsons would set off for the Glowing Planet. Ves faintly predicted that even more of their family might end up at the battlefield. The Mech Corps was all but certain to play the main role in the coming campaign. Perhaps he might meet some of his other relatives who served in the divisions.

 
 


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