The Mech Touch


The Mech Touch Chapter 400 Pairing


Unforeseen problems always popped up during a design process. Ves previously did his best to minimize inexplicable conundrums by never working with technology beyond his means.

For his first original design, he deliberately chose to start with a knight mech because it was one of the most mechanically simple type of mechs available. Stepping up to a rifleman mech which featured a lot more systems interacting with each other meant that the chances of something going wrong went up.

"I'm not going to draw back because of a single setback." Ves responded to Carlos. "Sure, I can make do without the gimmicks and publish the as is with a couple of touch-ups. But what does that say about me and my approach to designing mechs?"

"That you're safe?"

"Safe is boring! Safe doesn't drive any sales! The strongest maxim in the mech industry is that it's better to publish a mech with flaws but is extremely good at some aspect than to publish an all-round mech with nothing that stands out!"

"This is different than that, Ves! You're not talking about a flaw that can be worked around, but an outright failure of a core feature! What are you going to do with a crystal that's a dud?"

Ves faced a lot of pressure to discard the gimmick, but he believed it would be a mistake to do so. It was better not to publish his design at all than to leave it out. The crystal formed a core part of its identity since Ves initially set out his vision for his design.

Certainly, the huge amount of time he spent on incorporating this feature also played a factor. He spent so much time on it already that it would be an awful shame to discard his previous work.

Just like gamblers who threw away good money after bad, Ves maintained his confidence that he could overcome this setback in time. He was honest enough to know that he might be digging a deeper hole for himself, but he just couldn't stop at this point.

Ves waited for the prototype to return to be shipped to the private workshop, upon which he scoured its entire frame. Almost every part held in place and performed within expectations. Even the control module appeared to be in working order.

It just didn't work.

"Why not?" Ves scratched his head while furrowing his brows.

In order to test out his suspicions, he removed the control module from the prototype and began to connect it to some of the smaller crystals he hosted in his labs. After adjusting some of the settings in the control module, the connected crystal responded perfectly according to the commands that Ves sent out.

"That's strange."

The control module worked with smaller crystals but not the bigger one. From what he determined so far, the problem didn't lie in the control module, but instead the bigger crystal.

"Maybe it's defective as well?"

Ves brought in the second large crystal that his homebrew synthesizer produced without flaws and tested out the same connection.


Again, it didn't work.

"Both of these crystals are flawless. They shouldn't differ from the crystals in the simulations at all?"

So what went wrong with these crystals? He started to perform numerous tests, and found a clue when he observed what happened to the signal being sent out by the control module. The signal seemed to disappear into nowhere once it entered the big crystals.

"I see what's going on."

These alien crystals reacted strangely to certain input, and it must have treated the incoming signal as an energy source. The crystal subsequently absorbed the signal, preventing it from issuing commands.

"Still, how can I solve this problem?"

Ves didn't understand why the smaller crystals properly recognized the signal while the bigger ones treated it as an energy source. He must have overlooked something very substantial when he initially scaled up the crystals through extrapolation.

"Maybe I need to scale up the properties of the signal as well."

He proceeded to tinker with the control module and set it to send out a variety of different signals. He increased and decreased its frequency, amplitude, duration and etcetera, only to come up with the same fruitless result.

"There's something about this supersized crystal that turns it into something completely different than its smaller varieties."

Experimenting with signals hadn't brought him any closer to a solution, so Ves took a step back and tried to approach the problem from a different angle. Right now, a major discrepancy existed between simulation and reality.

A mathematical model that tried to approach reality could never imitate all of its facets. Ves knew that. He suspected that some obscure effect not baked in the models played a key role in the inability for the crystal to process the signals.

Ves proceeded to compare the data from reality and simulation and tried to spot all of the differences.

"There's too many differences."

The datasets differed too drastically for him to make any sense where the problem lied. Ves had to manually comb through each discrepancy. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

The work bored him a lot, and Ves hadn't been able to pin down the reasons why these differences appeared. He knew too little about how reality worked. Not even a Master Mech Designer dared to claim something similar.

"This might not be the right approach."

Maybe he should turn to help. There wasn't anything preventing him from calling someone knowledgeable to help him out of this fix. Ves considered sending a message to Master Olson or Horatio, her assistant.

"What will that do for their impression of me if I walk up to them like a child who lost his toy?"

Ves felt very reluctant to call for help for something he should be capable of solving on his own. To do otherwise was to admit that he had overreached.

He turned to the crystal golem whose spirit lingered in his mind. The crystal golem largely stayed quiet these last few days.

"Can you help me out? What does your understanding of crystals tell you?"

The crystal golem responded lethargically, as if it didn't have much of a clue either. However, it did take the initiative to send out an impression of a crystal cube to Ves.

"The crystal cube?" Ves remembered that the crystal golem had taken over his body and used its control over it to synthesize a strange crystal cube. He couldn't figure out its purpose, so he put it in the vault. "What is that cube supposed to do?"

The crystal golem released the mental equivalent of a shrug. Its spotty memory didn't cover that area. All the spirit knew was that the crystal cube was a very important device to the crystal builders.

Curious, Ves decided to retrieve the strange object. He left the labs and entered a highly secure elevator that brought him down to the vault floor. After going through an extensive round of checks, he entered the vault and opened up the safe that held the cube.

As he pulled it out, he stared at its transparent shape under the light. "Is this a weapon? A processor? Or something else?"

The crystal golem built it for a reason, and Ves believed that it played a very important role somehow. He spent the next couple of hours trying to get it to reveal its secrets. He connected it to all kinds of devices and sent all kinds of signals at it, only to come up with nothing.

Even knocking at it with physical force failed to elicit a response. The cube behaved similar to the bigger crystal but it proved to be even more inscrutable.

After trying every trick in the book, Ves placed the cube against the surface of the big crystal on a whim.

Things suddenly started happening. Both crystals started lightning up from the inside. Ves almost dropped the cube, but he kept his hold on it as it interacted with the other crystal. From the sensor readouts, Ves quickly figured out that the circuits embedded into the structure of the crystals had become active for some reason.

The entire process took about three minutes to fizzle out. Both crystals turned inert and nothing Ves tried out could replicate the process.

"Maybe it works with other crystals as well?"

When Ves pressed the cube against the other big crystal, the pair started lightning up as well. They remained active for the exact amount of time before turning back to an inert state.

"Curious."

Ves proceeded to push the crystal cube against the smaller crystals as well. This caused the pair to light up, but for a much briefer amount of time. When Ves plotted the data, the formula was relatively straight forward. The larger the volume, the more time the process dragged on.

"This is all very interesting, but what has happened?"

He noticed an immediate difference when he resumed his basic tests. The big crystal no longer ate up incoming signals, but began to process them properly. Its internal circuits appeared to be following different instructions this time that made them compatible to this control method.

More than that, many other parameters improved as well, though not more than ten percent in any single area. This held true for each crystal no matter the size.

By now, Ves slowly understood the purpose of the crystal cube, if only one of them. "This is a key. It's a catalysts that unlocks the true potential of the crystals.

It had to do with the circuits embedded in the structure. From the scans he made, Ves noticed that the crystals hadn't changed, but the energy running through the circuits followed different paths.

In truth, there was much about the circuits that Ves did not understand. Even now, only a fraction of the total circuits ever did anything.

"I think I solved my problem now."

Ves set out to resolve the problem with the chest crystals and succeeded in coming up with a solution. While Ves did not prefer to become dependent on a single object, he had no other alternatives for the time being.

The crystal cube was unique and formed the key in getting the most important gimmick to work. From another perspective, its uniqueness was a good thing. It meant that others wouldn't be able to replicate his gimmicks without creating something similar to the unique cube.

Good luck with that.

The advantages became more clear to Ves, and he grinned when he realized he possessed a monopoly on something. "Only my gold label rifleman mechs will enjoy these extravagantly-sized crystals. Every other variant will have to make do without this capability."

The bronze and silver label versions would only hold crystals only half as large or smaller. Ves hadn't determined the threshold where the control module's signals ceased to work on a crystal.

With a clear direction in front of him, Ves wrapped up his experiments and embedded the big crystal back in its socket on the chest of the prototype. He also took aside the laser rifle and partially disassembled it in order to activate it with the crystal cube as well.

After that, he spent a couple of days making minor adjustments to the rest of the frame. Ves hadn't let the problems with the gimmicks distract him from the other shortcomings.

In order to save some time, Ves decided not to fabricate a second prototype, but make his modifications on the design on the spot. While it was a bit more troublesome to change the shape and configuration of an existing mech, he still managed to accomplish most of what he wanted to do.

As for the rest, Ves went back to the Dortmund production line to fabricate the remaining replacement parts. After a brief assembly, the minutely-improved prototype was ready to be sent to the testing grounds again.

Chief Cyril and Carlos looked perplexed when Ves informed them that he solved the problem with the chest crystal.

"You still don't understand anything about these crystals. Is it really safe to go through with using them?" Carlos asked.

"I think the risks are manageable." Ves confidently replied. "I've tried almost everything to get those inactive circuits to work, but nothing happened. While there's a risk they'll activate in the middle of a battle and do something strange, I don't think it will happen very often."

Although it sounded as if he was content to include a ticking time bomb in his design, Ves believed it would take an extraordinary impulse to elicit a strange reaction. In those conditions, the rest of the mech might already be trashed before the crystal could do something strange.

"Let's get through the tests as fast as possible so I can make my final tweaks on my design!"



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