The Mech Touch


The Mech Touch Chapter 382 Laser Rifle


If Ves had to describe his second original mech's appearance, then he would describe it as fast. Every curve and line evoked a sense of impatience and flightiness, as if it hated to stand still.

The permanently hunched posture made the mech look like it was permanently on the prowl. Everyone who looked at its appearance would have the misconception that it hunted for a living. Even though Ves had not yet designed a customized laser rifle for the mech, everyone could easily imagine the threat it kept contained within its speedy frame.

This was a mech that hunted other mechs for a living.

His artistic sense prompted him to coat his design with a mottled brown pattern. Although camouflage was pretty much useless in this age, the darker tones and subdued coloration brought a sense of understated class to the premium-priced mech.

Ves added a slightly brighter yellow starburst pattern around the center crystal embedded in the chest. This would draw enemy fire towards the crystal laser propagator, which was very resilient against lasers and most types of thermal weaponry.

The chest also boasted the thickest application of Veltrex armor plating, so even if the enemy missed, his mech would still be fine. Mostly.

The double armor systems contrasted strongly even if Ves tried his best to obscure the different materials. The areas around the joints, neck and anywhere with minimal armor looked noticeably thinner, and adopted a slightly different texture that Ves couldn't remove without using special and expensive coating.

"I can't do anything about the weaknesses inherent with the HRF armor plating. At the very least, I've got most of my design clad in compressed armor. It's going to be very hard for its opponents to aim for those weak points as long as it keeps moving."

The main reason why he couldn't apply thicker armor to the joints was because adding more would cripple his design's mobility. By prioritizing mobility over armor, Ves ensured his mech retained a decent amount of agility and a fair amount of top speed. It also accelerated swiftly as well, which would help with abrupt changes in direction.

After subjecting the design to various simulations, the design met most of its promised performance levels. The only areas of concern seemed to be armor coverage, power supply and heat management.

Every mech design constantly juggled the latter two concerns. Compared to other rifleman mech designs, his current work did not seem so cumbersome.

Power supply formed the most complex issue. Ves planned to employ a laser rifle that drew its power from external battery packs instead of the mech's internal armor. Most often, mechs of the Republic carried spare battery packs inside a small, well-armored backpack module. These widely available backpacks slotted into the Bright Republic's Modular Fitting Standard which Ves had installed on the back of his design.

This separated the weapon's power usage from the power usage of his mech. Some saw it as an advantage, as rifleman mechs could happily drain their external batteries without worrying about draining their mechs dry. Mechs could also carry a lot more energy in total, leading to longer deployments in the field without worrying about resupply.

"On the other hand, bringing along a backpack module adds to the weight and makes the mech vulnerable to attacks from the rear. It's not a pleasant thing if the backpack module explodes along with all of those energetic batteries."

The explosions wouldn't be as violent as the overcharged energy cells on the Glowing Planet, but the force of it could still cripple a mech.

In effect, his choice of relying on external battery packs introduced a vulnerability in his design that contrasted sharply with his design's durable exterior. It was like building an impenetrable fort but leaving the front gates exposed.

Still, those battery packs contained numerous safeguards to prevent such a disaster. Packs rarely exploded these days. Many other rifleman mechs utilized external batteries as well, as many mech pilots hated the limits imposed by relying solely on internal energy cells.

With regards to the mech itself, its power supply should last it a very long while. Due to using the same components as the Blackbeak, his rifleman mech design could go on for ages before needing to resupply its internal energy cells.

"This capability comes at the cost of peak performance, although rifleman mechs don't particularly need it unless they want a quick burst of speed."

In this regard, the weapon type determined the staying power of a rifleman mech. Ballistic rifleman mechs and railgunner mechs generally lasted as long as they still possessed ammunition. In a pitched battle, it would take less than an hour to run dry.

Due to these limitations, mechs that relied on projectiles generally focused on maximizing their performance in the limited time they remained combat effective. Their peak performance could reach very high levels, although these mechs tend to wear out quickly as well.

"Still, laser rifleman mechs are the kings of attrition."

The ease at which forces could replenish energy cells and batteries made laser rifleman mechs the favored type of mechs in larger battles and longer campaigns. Lasers dealt a lot of damage, but they took time to really take effect. This made them less deadly in short bursts of combat.

Laser rifles also tended to grow hot really fast, so mech pilots had to pace their shots over an extended period of time.

These traits tended to push mechs that used laser weapons into high endurance configurations that lasted for a long time.

Mercenaries tended to prefer the burst lethality offered by ballistic weapons, while armies and larger outfits leaned towards laser weapons for their ease of supply and their staying power.

Naturally, this would only be possible if the weapon did not draw on the mech's internal power. Those mechs ran out of power faster, but offered even higher levels of mobility as they weighed the least out of all rifleman mechs.

"Still, all of these tendencies are merely guidelines. It's not set in stone that all armies only use laser weapons and all mercenaries stick to ballistic weapons."

Ves opted to design a laser rifleman mech in order to provide Melkor with a mech that allowed him to bring out his full strength. The private market still hungered for rifleman mechs of all kinds, including those designed to wield laser weapons, so Ves did not worry about a lack of demand.

He only needed to convince the market that his mech was worth purchasing over the competition.

"That's what the gimmicks are for. I've already integrated an untested laser crystal in the chest. All that's left is designing the rifle."

He already bought a standard 10-year license for a basic but proven laser rifle design. Its robust and durable qualities along with the lack of frills made it an excellent base for modifications despite its generic and forgettable nature.

One-and-a-half months already went by. Ves planned to finish the laser rifle in two weeks before devoting another month for testing and iteration.

"A lot of time has already gone by. Anything can happen at this point. The sooner I finish this design, the better off the LMC will be once I'm called for other duties."

"Meow."

Floating above his head, Lucky materialized and landed atop his head. The mechanical cat's bone-like exterior made it uncomfortable for Ves to offer his head as a perch.

"Get off my head!"

Ves tried to grab hold of Lucky in order to move him from the top of his head, but Lucky quickly turned intangible once his hands went up.

"Meow."

Lucky excitedly meowed as he avoided the hands and hovered back and forth in the isolated design room.

"I'm sorry for not spending enough time with you, but I really need to get this work done."

"Meow!"

"I know. I'll make it up to you later."

"Meow."

"Yeah, I'll order another batch of yummy minerals soon, however, don't think of getting anything better than junk exotics!"

"Meow meow!"

"You'll bankrupt me if you insist on dining on the best stuff! I don't have a Glowing Planet hiding in my pockets, you know!"

Times like these reminded him that he shouldered an excessive burden. His entire company and hundreds of workers relied on the functioning of a single lead designer. When mech manufacturers grew past the point where they would be called small, they rightly expanded from a single designer to a team of designers.

This wasn't the first time Ves thought about expanding the LMC's retinue of designers. The only problem he faced was one of trust. Ves carried too many secrets, any of which could ruin his life and career if others found them out.

The problem was that if he kept those secrets to himself, others wouldn't be able to understand his design philosophy. Subsequently, their work would never match his exacting standards.

Either Ves had to keep loosen his standard, or he had to resign himself to working by himself.

"After I finish this project, assuming I don't have any other obligations, I should try to cultivate Carlos as the LMC's second designer."

Even though Carlos fell short of what the LMC demanded, Ves still trusted his friend over any other mech designer who would wish to apply to work in his company. His average background and relatively poor talent meant that no one else got to him yet. As his first benefactor, Carlos would trust Ves unconditionally.

"Hm, this is for later. I still have a rifle to finish."

Ves took the existing design of a laser rifle and separated its components. After categorizing each component, Ves designed a laser crystal that would fit inside a rifle before determining which components could be left out.

He puzzled over the issue for several days. He tried to strip out as many components as possible to slim down the rifle. Ves subsequently filled up he void by shrinking the rifle or allocated the extra capacity for larger battery packs and heat sinks.

When Ves previously designed the weapon for the Tainted Sun, he added heat rods to the graser rifle. His current weapon project did not call for the same, as conventional lasers used up much less energy compared to a highly energetic gamma laser.

While Ves had always channeled the spirit of the crystal golem during his design work, it was only once he started work on the laser rifle that it emerged from dormancy.

"You probably know a lot more about these laser crystals than me. If you have anything to suggest, I'm willing to listen."

The crystal golem's second opinion provied to be highly useful in tring to integrate the alien technology in a conventional human weapon design. It helped a lot with integrating the crystal with the remaining weapon components left inside the rifle design.

In the end, Ves cut about forty to fifty percent of the components utilized in the laser rifle design. Ves could have squeezed more performance savings out of the weapon if he went even further, but he was loathe to do so.

Once he started taking out the really essential stuff, the rifle would suffer a large degradation in performance. It was not worth it to take these essential components out.

Actually getting the entire monstrosity to work according to spec was a lot harder than creating a proof-of-concept. Ves needed to maintain the laser rifle's level of performance compared to the base. Even though he possessed some experience in designing a laser rifle, he still lacked in comprehensive experience.

"In the end, I'm not a weapon designer."

While he found it interesting to work on a laser rifle, it only became possible for him to do so due to all of the extra Skills and Sub-Skills he picked up along the way. It would be cumbersome to branch out much further.

If not for the necessity of trying to stand out from the competition, Ves would never waste his time with designing a custom laser rifle.

It took a little longer to finalize the laser rifle. The extra time allowed him to work away the imperfections and increase the efficiency of his weapon until it matched the performance of the original weapon license, but only taking up half the weight and a lot less space.

At this point, Ves was almost ready to fabricate his prototype. He only needed to polish the appearance of his mech and optimize its design for a couple of weeks.

"That reminds me. I still haven't integrated the festive cloud generator in my mech."



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