The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 380 Crystal Cube


When the Firerunner blew up, some force grabbed Ves' consciousness and pulled him back to his present time and space.

His mind came back online in his own body, but he felt an enormous amount of fatigue. The brief but intense ordeal on Rilrod severely taxed his spirit.

As he took a brief rest, he looked around and found to his alarm that his body hadn't woken up in his bed. Instead, his body somehow ended up in the lab!

Ves jumped off the chair and looked around for anyone who could have moved his body here. "Who's there! What did you do to me?"

The only thing that greeted him was a bemused Lucky. The gem cat meowed at him as if he was relieved that Ves had returned to his senses.

Ves looked back at the lab machine and found to his surprise that it looked a lot different from when he previously left it. The most important change was that a strange cube the size of his palm rested in the lab machine.

Last he recalled, he only left a tiny crystal the size of a thumb in the machine!

The clues painted a rather unsettling picture. Ves turned his attention inward and regarded the crystal golem that temporarily resided in his mind.

"Did you take over my body?"

The reconstructed spirit flashed some sort of emotion. Ves thought he sensed satisfaction from the imaginary entity.

"You did, didn't you?!"

Even if he knew, it was not as if Ves could do anything about it. Despite the crystal golem's unorthodox birth, its strength of spirit was still incomparably pure. Ves wasn't sure he could overpower the spirit in a mental battle.

He left the crystal golem alone and beheld the strange crystal cube. He tentatively picked it up and studied it from all sides. He detected nothing unique about the crystal, but the matter probably wasn't so simple. He whipped out his Vulcaneye and made a quick scan.

The multiscanner spat out a bunch of dense readings. Ves only took a second to interpret the data. An enormous amount of miniature circuits had been packed inside the crystal cube!

That almost caused Ves to drop the scanner. What had the crystal golem been up to? Why did he create this cube? What did the circuits do?

He recalled the crystal city's ability to harness light and briefly suspected the cube to be some sort of weapons interface. However, the circuits in the crystal cube did not match the circuits of the crystal spires.

Seeing as the crystal cube was inert, Ves felt disinclined to study it further. "I'm severely behind schedule in designing my rifleman mech. I can't afford to waste any time on fanciful alien technology."

His most recent Mastery still stayed fresh on his memory. Ves wanted to leverage his experiences into elevating his second original design as fast as possible before the details became vague.

Thus, after making a brief decision, Ves entered the elevator and went down to the restricted vault. He deposited the strange crystal cube in one of the lockboxes and left it there for later.

After that, he returned to his private workshop floor and freshened up before putting himself in his best condition. He thought back on his experience with Alven and found that it was a shame the experience ended too soon.

"I don't know why the System chose to partner me up with an obstinate fellow like him. Even if he wasn't a religious nut, he was already doomed to die that day."

He couldn't help but add a mental complaint to the System. Why put him in a hopeless situation where defeat was imminent? Couldn't it have given Ves more time to absorb some experiences?

Fortunately for Ves, he already went through a Mastery before. His time with Barley taught him a lot of general knowledge around piloting that was applicable to any kind of mech.

Armed with this foreknowledge, Ves skipped much of the things he learned before and could devote his full effort into deciphering and understanding the experiences that specifically pertained to rifleman mechs.

"It's barely enough."

To be honest, Ves truly felt he got the short end of the stick this time. Even leaving out the common elements, his harvest disappointed him somewhat. Still, he had to work with what he got.

"No matter what, I'm still a better mech designer than before."

Just to make sure he hadn't hallucinated the entire trip, Ves looked up the Rolling Wind Star Sector on the galactic net.

"It actually exists! It also has the Holy Dominion of Apellix!"

He quickly browsed its recent history and found that the dominant religion had indeed undergone a schism some time ago. To his astonishment, the loyalists who served the founding Sunstar Dynasty actually made a comeback late in the war.

Long after Alven perished on Rilrod, the loyalists obtained a lot of outside help that repelled the rebels from deposing the Sunstar Dynasty and erect another holy leader to helm the third-rate state.

In the end, Alven got his wish, and the Sunstar Dynasty still stood standing, although they paid a heavy price to hang on to their current position of power.

Ves failed to uncover any traces of Alven. He'd been an average pilot before Ves entered the mech pilot's mind, and did not live long enough to make a lasting impact.

"Well, enough dilly-dallying around. No matter what I think of Alven, he's long-dead now. I don't have to worry about his vengeful ghost coming to haunt me in the coming days."

The System's selection of Alven Callisto prompted Ves to believe it definitely intended to pick only those marked for death as his Mastery partners.

Before, he considered the decision to be a detriment that deprived him of helpers. After finding out that he might be hitchhiking in the minds of uncooperative people, he drastically changed his opinion.

"It's better if my partners can't do any damage to me in the future. Unless they're as friendly as Barley, I should attempt to kill off my partners the next time I redeem another Mastery."

With no further barriers to designing his next mech, Ves proceeded to pick up his work again. Before he could do the actual designing, he first had to purchase a couple more licenses.

He already set aside a handful of licenses and only held off on acquiring them if his newly acquired Mastery offered no protest.

"Hm, these licenses still look good. There's no problem in snapping them all up."

Ves proceeded to buy a number of small components meant to improve a mech's ability to wield a laser rifle. They consisted of components that improved precision, various targeting aids and an advanced processor specialized in parsing all of the data.

Ves remembered that he drew a sensor system from a golden lottery ticket a while ago. He briefly inspected it and found out that it was a long-ranged mech sensor primarily used by light mechs. Although he could implement it in his current design, it wouldn't be able to reach its maximum theoretical range due to all the interference from his mech's other systems.

"It's also too expensive to mass produce right now." He frowned when he checked the raw materials needed to build the sensor module.

Despite taking up a small amount of space, the module alone might cost up to twenty million credits to fabricate. That was way too much for a single secondary component. The main reason why the price jacked up so much was because the license made use of exotics that Ves had to import from another star sector.

Ves decided to purchase a native sensor system instead, one that seamlessly integrated with the targeting system he recently acquired. After finishing his purchases, the company account decreased by about 800 million credits, which was a hefty amount, but a necessary investment nonetheless.

Different from last time, it took a lot of effort for the LMC's financial department to release the funds. Along with the company's growth, its financial controls had tightened up as well. Ves could no longer draw on the account directly, but had to submit a lot of forms in order to obtain the necessary funds.

Even though it took a couple of hours for the financial department to release the funds, Ves didn't begrudge the accountants for taking their time.

"It's good that they're checking where the money flows. We can't have a scammer trying to pretend he's me and swindle my company out of all of our liquid funds."

After all of the paperwork went through, the LMC gained a couple more licenses for Ves to use in his designs. At this point, Ves met all of the conditions to complete his next design. He breathed deeply and began to channel the crystal golem. He connected with its spirit and invited it to share his senses and take part in the design process.

The crystal golem eagerly accepted the invitation and melded closer to Ves. Unlike his own attempts at smothering Alven's spirit, the crystal golem faced a willing human.

Both of them mutually intertwined themselves, causing Ves to enter a supremely elevated state where two minds instead of one was at work.

A small part inside him believed that this state would engender a much stronger X-Factor for his design. It might even be possible to breach past his bottleneck this time!

"Let's get to work!"

Ves called up a design program and loaded in his draft design before fleshing it out. Ves already set a vision for his rifleman mech to be a consummate run-and-gunner. Borrowing from Alven's experiences, he tweaked the draft design to enable it to reach a slightly higher top speed in exchange for a bit less agility.

He also planned in other deviations from the original draft. These mostly consisted of minor tweaks and changes in configuration that rifleman mech pilots appreciated.

Once he finished modifying his draft, he went on to design the actual mech.

As usual, he started from the interior of his mech and worked his way outwards. He defined the internal frame of the mech and planned the placement of the various core components of the mech such as the engine, cockpit and power reactor.

The rifleman mech envisioned by Ves would be a fairly slimmed down medium mech, so he wouldn't have a lot of room to work with. This presented a lot of challenges to Ves, as he had to stuff all kinds of components inside his mech without any of it spilling out.

He had to make some sacrifices in order to obtain sufficient room. After a few minutes of contemplation, he made his choice.

"I can cut back on the redundancy since it's not supposed to be a damage sponge. I still need to implement sufficient compartmentalization considering that this mech remaining space will be stuffed with energy cells."

Many rifleman mech models often skipped out on redundancy. This weakened the mech in the event of sustaining crippling damage. The loss of a vital component would severely impact the battle readiness of the mech.

Ves accepted the trade-off because it was the least bad choice available to him. He considered expanding the bulk of the mech to be unacceptable as it would severely impact his design's mobility.

His experience with Alven taught him that rifleman mechs needed as much mobility as possible. While Ves faced a lot of limits on speed and agility with his decision to stick to the medium weight class, his design could at least withstand a decent amount of enemy fire.

While it sounded as if Ves made a lot of compromises, Ves strongly believed the end product would still perform to a decent standard. The nature of designing anything involved making a lot of trade-offs.

The key factor that distinguished good designers from the bad was the ability to make the most favorable exchanges possible. This minimized the loss in performance and kept the overall specs of their designs close to their most optimal ideal state.

His current vision for his mech hinged on providing a lot of mobility, a decent amount of firepower and just enough armor to grant it a couple of extra lives.

Of course, Ves also hoped his gimmick would play a role in increasing the value of his design.

"I'll have to arrange an entirely different internal structure to accommodate the center crystal."

Just because Ves intended to make use of large laser propagator based on alien technology did not mean he could slot it in the chest of his design like any other component.

 
 


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