The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 428 Prestige Mech


Ves only needed to witness a single battle to understand the characteristics of the Hellcat design.

Even though its design appeared to be a little scattered, in actual fact it prioritized one capability above all others.

"The entire frame is built to deliver a devastating collision attack."

The schematics and material composition prioritized sturdiness and shock resistance. It insured that even if the hybrid knight built up a lot of speed, it wouldn't fall apart as soon as it collided with another mech. Even the shield that looked a little small for a knight hid a surprising amount of resilience.

The additional weapon systems facilitated this mode of combat. They were meant to soften up the enemy and disrupt them from meeting the Hellcats in a prepared formation.

"That's why these Hellcats don't carry much ammunition around. They're only designed to deliver one big whallop before they close in with their shields and sabers."

Still, for a highly advanced mech that incorporated many ingenuities, its design was also surprisingly one-dimensional. Its strengths were evident, but that only magnified its weaknesses.

The biggest and most egregious fault spoke for itself. "The Hellcat is too heavy."

Spaceborn mechs relied on speed and acceleration to move around in the vast void of space and to dodge most of the attacks fired in their direction. An exception existed for knights, but usually mech designers exerted their utmost to minimizing their weight.

The less they weighed, the easier it was to change their direction on the fly.

Right now, the Hellcat resembled a transport ship in its movement characteristics. It weighed a lot and though it possessed a larger flight system compared to other medium mechs, the increase in propulsion force couldn't keep up.

"This mech is as heavy as a Caesar Augustus."

The same weight on a landbound mech like the Caesar Augustus played to its advantages. Locomotion on land demanded much less of a mech. The weight might slow it down, but it also added weight to its movements and allow it to anchor itself into place whenever it received a mighty impact.

In space, this weight came with much more downsides. The amount of time needed to adjust the Hellcat's inertia was at least twice as long as a conventional space knight. This difference was quite massive when it came to fast-paced battles such as smaller skirmishes in space.

Essentially, this meant that the Hellcat excelled in larger battles where they faced company-sized forces and more. "It's not a duelist mech, that's for sure."

The second major downside to the Hellcat design was its lack of staying power. Every part in its design cranked up as much power as they could possibly unleash without degrading their longevity by too much. Even with light and careful use of this mech, it would eventually by itself within a decade.

The Hellcat simply demanded too much out of itself.


Naturally, the upside to this was that the mech pilots could be assured of the best performance possible whenever they committed to the battle. Before that, they needed to carefully conserve their Hellcats in order to prevent them from running out of steam before the decisive moment came.

Mechs designed to stay in reserve and exert their full power in a single maneuver had always existed, but they never went to such extremes. The mech industry had a moniker for mechs like that.

"A prestige mech. It's the parade horse of the regiment."

What Ves meant by that was that the Hellcat served a dual purpose. It broke through stalemates and reversed unfavorable situations not only through its objective performance characteristics, but also through shaping everyone's perceptions.

The Hellcat was a standard bearer and the trump card of the Flagrant Vandals. Every mech pilot that fought alongside a Hellcat would receive a boost in morale. On the opposite end, enemies that recognized the Hellcat and everything it represented must be feeling a little suppressed.

In truth, the Hellcat's ability to boost to friendly morale and damage enemy morale was much more important than the material damage it could unleash.

By delivering an overwhelming impact in a single moment, it exceeded the limit of how much enemy pilots could deal with.

If the Hellcat exhibited a more gradual performance curve, while it would be able to last much longer in a battle, the shock to the enemy wouldn't be as potent.

Ves understood the challenges faced by the Hellcat design team. With only five Apprentices and one Journeyman working full-time on this design, hardly any progress could be made. The Hellcat's design was simply too complex.

After returning to his team, Ves began to integrate himself with the team. Over the course of several days, Alloc taught him his responsibilities and what kind of expectations the design team shouldered.

"The Hellcat is not a fixed design like you see with private sector mechs." The Journeyman patiently explained. "Mechs in the military can come in many different variants. You can see it as a cross between updating an old design and modifying an existing design. For minor changes, we don't bother fabricating new mechs, but apply them to existing mechs. This way, we can be sure that they possess the right configuration to deal with their upcoming missions."

"How many brand-new mechs are fabricated in a year?"

"Not as much as you think. The Flagrant Vandals have learned how to be frugal. You'll have to take that into account when you do your work. You need to incorporate some tolerances and account for the most common cases of wear and tear. This is because our mech technicians reuse as much old components as they can get away with it. Professor Velten is watching out for this so you don't have to be too concerned."

Alloc also explained the nature of the work being sent in his way. Predictably, the Journeyman didn't think much of Ves and his abilities. After hearing that Ves excelled in physics and was passable in a couple of other areas, the seasoned mech designer dumped some trivial assignments onto his lap.

"Our design team is short-handed and the Hellcat needs tons of tweaks. Whenever Professor Velten and I introduce a major change in the Hellcat's design, the knock-on effects are numerous. Many components are affected, some for the better and some for the worse. Your responsibility as an Apprentice is to record and quantify these effects, and whenever possible provide a suggestion on how we can mitigate the detrimental side effects."

While Alloc sounded solemn and made his task sound important, Ves knew he was being pushed aside to the kids table.

Still, Ves had only just arrived. He wasn't arrogant enough to believe he could outmatch an actual Journeyman who was deeply familiar with the design in question.

He adopted a humble posture and did his best to reign in his arrogance. "Understood, sir. I'll get right on the job."

Ves spent the next couple of weeks keeping his head down and doing what he was told. To be frank, the makework he received required hardly any thought at all. Most of the time, he inputted some settings in a mathematical model and let a portion of the Wolf Mother's immense processors simulate the outcome.

Someone less knowledgeable than him might need hours to come up with the right settings and determine which models to use, but to Ves that was as easy as breathing air. He even showed some initiative by adjusting some of the math behind the models to best suit the exact conditions of where the Hellcat would be deployed.

The nature of his work meant that Ves mostly waited around for the processors to spit out their data. He idled around and looked at the others who worked with utmost concentration on their own assignments.

As the new kid on the block, the other Apprentices didn't know what to make of him yet. In their off-time, they were usually too tired to socialize a lot. A complex design like the Hellcat required at least twenty mech designers to achieve stable amount of progress. All of that work that should have been carried out by twenty Apprentices was actually being shouldered by only five Apprentices.

Ves did not downplay his abilities, but neither did he call out too much attention. He merely accepted every task sent in his way and completed it a little bit faster than anyone else could manage. The only reason why he couldn't solve the problems instantly was because he couldn't do anything to speed up the simulations.

The processors only provided so much processing power to him. The massive factory ship needed to reserve the bulk of her calculations to her other operations.

Still, Ves believed his performance exceeded expectations. He hoped that Alloc would notice and entrust him with more meaty tasks, but he was all out of luck in that regard. Alloc was fully preoccupied in his own responsibilities for the moment, and until he finished his current assignments, he wouldn't pay attention to anything else.

All of the other Apprentices in his design team was too self-absorbed in their own work, so the only people Ves could really talk to were the other Apprentices from Bentheim.

One day, Laida, Pierce and Ves gathered in a canteen adjacent to the labs. As they filled up their stomachs, they talked about their work.

"The permanent mech designers don't take us temps very seriously." Pierce complained. "It's not our fault we haven't spent years obsessing over a single mech model line!"

Laida agreed with the sentiment. "They don't expect very much from us. The mech designers who arrived a little earlier from the Rittersberg region are in the same boat. They're even keeping secrets from us!"

That was the most annoying fact about their work. The design teams expected them to understand the designs they worked with and become familiar with their characteristics. However, while they had access to the top-level schematics, they couldn't access the details to the proprietary systems.

For example, Ves couldn't find out the exact material composition of the armor and the internal support structure. Neither would he be able to study the designs of key components such as the engine and power reactor in great detail.

The software he worked with treated these elements as black boxes. Ves was allowed to work with them as a whole as part of modelling their performance, but he wasn't allowed to tinker their internal makeup.

"It's understandable why they chose to compartmentalize their proprietary knowledge." Ves responded neutrally. "We're newcomers and we won't be sticking around for long. Compared to careerists like them who have volunteered to serve the Mech Corps for decades, conscripted mech designers like us are unreliable."

That depressed the mood in the table. None of them like to waste their time here. Working in a design team of the Mech Corps was both an obligation and an opportunity. They could not only access a lot of textbooks and teaching materials depending on their merits, they could also play around with the immense amount of proprietary technology developed in-house.

Many of the implementations used by the Mech Corps would not show up in the MTA's catalog of licenses because the Mech Corps didn't license any of their advancements. Sure, much of what they developed could be replicated with a similar enough license, but a standard solution from the market would not be tailored to the exact situation at hand.

"We should try to make the best of things." Ves said. He spoke the same words to Carlos a few months ago. "At the end of our service period, what did we get out of this unique time in our lives? I don't want to look back and conclude that we missed out on treasures that we can only obtain in our time here."

While Laida and Pierce both expressed their frustrations, they didn't possess the spine to assert themselves. Not that Ves was anything different at this point, but his ambitions would eventually drive him to greater things.

His words served as a reminder to them to not be content with their current status and miss out on the benefits that they could grasp. Certainly, every temporary mech designer needed to play the long game here and work themselves into the system without stepping on everyone else's toes.

"Did you hear? The Wolf Mother is almost done with harvesting the asteroids in this system. It's about to rendez-vous with the main fleet of the Vandals."

 
 


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