The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 337 Intensive Competition


Ves hardly blinked when he allocated 180 million credits to Melkor. He used to be like his cousin.

Now, he easily spent millions of credits like he was drinking water. As his career progressed and his company grew, he set his sights beyond the Bright Republic.

Once his personal fortune and company funds both surpassed a billion credits, Ves stopped equivocating about his bank balances. He could obtain practically anything for sale in the Bright Republic.

This was also why he thoughtlessly delegated the matter of procuring new production equipment and mechs to his subordinates.

"Purchases of this level hardly excites me anymore. Even the selection of a new 3D printer worth several billion credits is a chore in my eyes."

Ves used to agonize over spending tens of thousands of credits, but in less than two years he grew to a height immeasurable to his previous self.

"This is progress. This is growth."

His wealth extended not only to his credit balance, but also to his other so-called currencies. Due to the strong momentum behind the Blackbeak, his Design Points broke through 200.000!

"I can't forget about my merits from the Clifford Society either."

He currently possessed around 300 merits, which was a handsome sum for a Knight of the Society. For now, he hung on to those merits until he needed to purchase something exclusive from the Coalition, such as a high-tech license or a supremely advanced production machine.

"I'm sitting on a lot of credits, DP and merits."

For now, Ves did not feel any sense of urgency to spend all of this wealth. Three major priorities occupied his mind right now.

"First, I have to come up with a rifleman mech design within three months."

"Second, I need to get the Avatars of Myth up and running."

"Third, I have to ingest my Transcendence Pill as soon as possible, preferably before the Mech Corps comes calling."

That last point proved to be the thorniest. According to the item's description, the pill could knock out Ves for up to 88 days. This was far too long!

"I can easily design another original mech in that time!"

Ves did not doubt the pill's abilities. Going under for three months or less in exchange for breaking the limits that humans back was a no brainer to everyone else.

"The problem with me is that I'm too indispensable."

After a long absence, the LMC required a steady presence. Ves intended to be present in his company as he worked to design a rifleman mech. Disappearing for several weeks or months again would destabilize the company again and erode everyone's loyalties.

Ves summed it up in a single sentence. "An absent boss is not worth putting forth your passion in your work."

Besides, Ves couldn't afford to go under unless Lucky finished his level-up process. His gem cat still hadn't roused himself from his egg. Occasionally, the bony egg emitted strange signals.

The first couple of times it happened, SASS thought that someone tried to spy on the old workshop. Once they traced it back to Lucky's Egg, Ves had been forced to move the egg to a makeshift vault. The signals his cat kept emitting constantly tripped the alarms.

"I really miss you, Lucky."

He hoped his cat finished his evolution soon. Until then, Ves did not dare have any designs on his pill.

Ves got back to work. Once he finished his paperwork for the day, he turned his thoughts to designing a rifleman mech.

"I can recycle most of the components used in the Blackbeak design, but I'll definitely have to supplement my licenses."

At the very least, he had to obtain licences for a laser rifle, a ranged targeting system and a collection of minor auxiliary components designed to boost the accuracy of a mech.

Ves considered spending merits to obtain premium versions of these licences, but he reconsidered after some time.

"The difference between laser rifles isn't so big."

Laser rifles formed the single most abundant category of mech arms. Practically every mech squad featured at least a single mech with a laser weapon. This ubiquity led to a lot of progress in the field of laser weaponry. Humanity had pretty much exhausted all of their latent potential. Making any further progress was excruciatingly hard.

The market only got to taste a big jump in performance once they reached the next generation of mechs. The top designers and weapon manufacturers in the galaxy had managed to overhaul the conventional design of laser weapons and increased their power by twenty percent across the board.

This was significant progress!

The comprehensiveness of the new design meant that not only first-class mechs wielding laser rifles worth as much as an entire planet got to benefit from the power boost. Much of the innovations being released at the next generation could also be applied to the lowliest mech-sized laser rifles.

Unfortunately, the Mech Corps kept the advancements to themselves and a handful of powerful developers for now. Ves had no way of getting his hands on a nextgen weapon design.

He would have to make do with currentgen offerings.

"An expensive laser rifle will drive up costs. If it's too advanced, then nobody on the field will be able to service such a weapon."

Ves had already familiarized himself with the mainstream second-class laser rifles developed by the Coalition for their own use. All of them took advantage of the properties of exotics abundant in Coalition space but scarce everywhere else.

In order to fabricate a second-class laser rifle, Ves had to get his hands on a reliable supply channel for these exotics.

Even though third-class laser rifles couldn't hold a candle to the power of second-class weapons, Ves still decided to go for a more basic weapon for this reason.

He spent a couple of hours browsing the MTA's catalog for interesting component licenses. He bookmarked a couple of laser rifles and other components for later.

Before he bought the licenses, he first had to set his vision and draw up a draft design. The components had to fit his vision, not the other way around.

In order to develop a perfect Vision, Ves prepared to enlighten himself with this archetype with two different methods.

The conventional method consisted of interviewing rifleman mech pilots. He planned to consult a number of people, including Melkor and any mech pilots he managed to rope into the Avatars of Myth.

The other method consisted of spending 40.000 DP on [Rifleman Mech Mastery I].

A chill ran through his body as Ves thought about acquiring another Mastery. For the span of a couple of days, the System would whisk his mind from his body and send it back in time and space and stuff it into someone else's body.

What would it be like to occupy another body alongside the original mind? Would Ves be able to come to an accord with the original occupant?

"I don't believe the System will lead me astray when I cough up 40.000 DP."

Still, Ves had to wait until Lucky came out of his shell before he cast his mind into the mind of another mech pilot. Last time, he didn't know a single thing about how the System conveyed a Mastery to this mind, but now he knew that his actual body would be comatose and in stasis for several days.

It was imperative that no one found out about his infirm condition during this time.

If the Avatars of Myth had been ready to go, then Ves could reluctantly hand over the responsibility of guarding his body to his group.

As of now, the Avatars didn't even have a second mech or mech pilot to its name. Melkor warned Ves that it would take at least a couple of weeks for him to interview possible candidates in Bentheim.

"I should go ask some people about their thoughts on laser rifleman mechs."

While Ves could call Melkor, he preferred to leave him to his duties for the time being. Instead, he left his office and stepped into the workshop hall.

Everything looked the same, though Ves could vaguely sense some differences. The bots organized the gear and supplies a little tidier, and the mech technicians no longer appeared so green. A palpable sense of duty radiated in the air as everyone worked around the primary production line.

"Chief Cyril!" Ves called as he approached the chief technician. "How's the workshop?"

The man grinned at Ves. "It's better than last time. As you can see, everything is shaping up."

The LMC continued to produce its silver label Blackbeaks in this workshop. Under the Cyril's solid leadership and Carlos' insights learned from EME, they managed to optimize the fabrication process and cut down the time needed to assemble a model a little bit.

"That sounds impressive."

Compared to the hell he experienced with the Whalers, his own company followed the opposite trend. Soon enough, the LMC's technical workforce would be able to rival those from EME and other comparable mech manufacturers.

Ves was very thankful that the Larkinson Estate sent Cyril to his company.

"Anyway, the reason why I paid a visit is because I want to hear your perspective on laser rifleman mechs."

"Riflemen, huh? That's the most prevalent mech type out there." The chief took a deep breath and guided Ves away from the busy workshop floor. "So you're finally ready to dip your company into the business of selling these mechs?"

"I am."

"Follow me, then."

They arrived at Cyril's office. Once he closed the door, he turned to Ves. "Do you know how many rifleman mech models are for sale in the Republic?"

"Thousands?"

"Tens of thousands, maybe even a hundred-thousand. Even if most designs remain unsold, and the vast majority only sell a single digit's worth of mechs, it still means you're going to face the stiffest competition imaginable."

"I see. You're right about that." Ves frowned as he tried to recall all of the great designs in the market. "Offensive knights are rare, so my Blackbeak is easily able to squeeze its way into the market. I can't expect the same treatment for my next design."

This was a very major problem. The amount of competition surrounding laser rifleman mechs led to brutal struggles among mech designers. Many designers went bankrupt because they failed to offer anything compelling.

It was impossible to design a mech that surpassed the mainstream mech models sold by foreign trans-galactic corporations.

"The amount of thought and optimization that goes into rifleman mechs has reached an insane height. It's not even possible for a mech designer from the Friday Coalition to come up with a better design from the same materials, so you should better give up on that ambition."

Cyril basically told him that Ves couldn't compete against the mainstream models by designing a comprehensively better mech. It just couldn't be done.

"What about the domestic supply?"

"There's a substantial split between original designs and variants of mainstream designs. Right now, variants are more popular."

Ves had an inkling why this happened. "Let me guess. The mainstream models are a little too expensive or burdensome to produce, so mech designers develop a local variant made out of materials that are easier to source."

"That's exactly right. The single most important reason why mainstream models isn't monopolizing the entire mech market is that their design incorporates materials that can't easily be obtained in our star sector. Their designers are thousands of light-years away, and they have to design a mech that can accommodate as many star sectors as possible. Incompatibilities are inevitable."

"That's where the variant designers come in. They license the mainstream models and they put their local spin on them so they can be produced and sold by their own companies."

Ves had to admit that it sounded like a foolproof avenue for success. As long as a mech designer bought the right production licence, he would be able to sell an astounding amount of mechs in no time.

Cyril pointed his finger at Ves. "It's a good thing there aren't too many variant designers in the Republic. It's too expensive to licence a mainstream mech design. Every variant designer who currently owns such licenses obtained them through connections or special circumstances. Not a single one of them paid credits for their licenses. Even the government can't afford such extravagance."

Rumors floated around in the galactic net that the upfront cost of a single mainstream mech licence cost as much as 10,000 billion credits. And that was only for an older design!

How could Ves compete against variants derived from these ultra-expensive designs?

 
 


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