The Mech Touch Chapter 433 Rotten Core
"It's as if two stubborn kids wanted to play with the same doll and stretched it out between them as they tried to claim sole ownership over the toy."
The consequences to this could be imagined. The Hellcat, with its incongruous tiger head and substantially armored build looked like a cross between two very different mechs. The addition of the nail drivers and the missile launchers seemed more like gimmicks tacked on as an afterthought rather than a mainstay that the mech could rely on to save the day.
"At least the Caesar Augustus can rely on its miniature laser cannons to take out targets just out of range of its sword."
The Caesar Augustus was a much more inferior mech in terms of specs and scope, but the mere fact that it had been designed by a single mech designer who knew what he wanted made it a more coherent design.
Compared to the first work of an Apprentice Mech Designer, the Hellcat incorporated many advanced techniques and applications. Even after studying the additional documents made available to him, Ves hardly understood how the original designers managed to stuff so much capabilities in so little space.
Nevertheless, the current foibles with the Hellcat design underscored that technical prowess couldn't compensate for a lack of vision.
"It's not that it can't be done, but this is just a case where the original designers didn't leave any leeway for the future."
Ves found it sad that such a promising design had been born with what effectively amounted to a deformity. It didn't became very evident at birth, but as it grew older, the design started to crack and show its weaknesses.
Therefore, the responsibilities piled up on the shoulders of the Hellcat design team was too much for them to cope. Even Ves couldn't steer away a ship that was determined to travel right into a sun.
Sadly, even if Alloc and Professor Velten were aware of this critical fault, they couldn't convince the Vandals to replace their prestige mechs with a different design. Organizational inertia meant that the design team needed to stick with this creaking product no matter how much it fell apart.
This important realization put his role into perspective. He shouldn't attempt to do anything too ambitious. With his current level of skill, he had no chance in revamping the design to a healthy state.
The best he could describe its situation was that the longevity of the design was running out. Rather than extending its useful lifetime, Ves could only improve some minor performance parameters in order to let the Hellcat make the most out of its final years of active use.
Ves had no doubt that the Vandals would eventually be forced to drop the Hellcat design during this war. The Vesian mech designers faced a lot of pressure in improving their own designs, and if the Hellcat failed to keep up, its end would come sooner or later.
"That's something that will happen at least a year from now on. For now, the Hellcat is still a viable mech."
He returned to the list of problems and decided to tackle an issue that was challenging but one he could also complete within a month. It concerned a very persistent problem regarding the energy efficiency of the mech.
The Hellcat's high performance metrics and ability to make an immediate impact on the battlefield came at a cost. The power draw was enormous and the heat that it built up was very problematic for a mech in space.
When the design originally came into being, the original designers already mitigated these issues. However, as the years passed and the design kept being tweaked to keep up with the current times, the old optimisations in terms of power draw and heat dispersal ceased to work as effectively. The design had strayed too much from its old lines, and the introduction of new components complicated the internal architecture in ways that made it much less efficient.
It all sounded boring to a bystander, but the veteran mech pilots that have piloted the Hellcat for years became increasingly frustrated at this downward trend.
The report on the problem came with a quote from a very pissed off mech pilot.
"Why is it that the Hellcat keeps getting worse? I don't care about faster flight systems and more lethal nail drivers! I just want a mech that can last an entire fight! Hell, it won't even last a short skirmish sometimes. Fix this issue immediately or roll back the design to an older version!"
The problem had obviously brewed for an extended period of time. The Hellcat design team should have been more responsive on this issue, but for some reason they kept on holding to the same course.
In all honesty, solving this issue required a multi-disciplinary approach. Ves wasn't sure if he possessed the right breadth and depth of skills to be able to provide a solution to this problem. After all, neither Alloc nor Professor Velten had done anything about it, though that might be because they had bigger things in mind.
"In any case, this is a useful starting point to prove my worth. It's a very legitimate problem that needs solving anyhow."
Ves began to dive into his work by investigation the evolution of the design in recent years. He wanted to trace back the changes to specific changes in the design so he could come up with localized solutions.
All of this was boring and tedious, but Ves never lost his motivation. Several weeks went by in a fog as Ves single-mindedly focused on this sole issue alone. He made a substantial amount of progress, but the sheer amount of changes left him a little fatigued. It was too much work to establish the consequences of every single change to the design.
To be honest, he was being stymied by the sheer level of interconnectedness of the design. His inability to understand the Hellcat down to its roots also didn't help. There was a level of depth and complexity to each of its shapes.
Ves felt like he was toddler looking at a painting and ruining it by dabbling his fingers through paint and raking them across the canvas. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, his solutions only made things worse.
Still, at least he made some progress, however sluggish it turned out to be. Any progress was better than no progress at all, but it defied the high hopes he had started with. Ves grossly underestimated the actual challenge of reshaping an already completed design at the Senior level.
"My progress is too slow." Ves muttered as he furrowed his brows. Several weeks into his task, and he only completed a fourth of what he should have accomplished.
A lack of understanding lay at the heart of his inability to progress. He couldn't do much to advance his understanding of the higher-level concepts that made Journeyman and Senior Mech Designers unique. Short of breaking through himself, Ves would have to accept that his perspective would be limited for the time being.
He could still advance his understanding in a different direction, something which he already did quite well.
Therefore, one day, Ves put down his work and marched up to Alloc. "Sir?"
"What is it, Ves?"
"I'd like to request an opportunity to witness the Hellcat in action. I've spent a substantial amount of time with its design, but I still only have a vague idea of how this mech is supposed to perform in action."
Alloc frowned and turned away from his work. "A mech designer is supposed to be content with the design schematics alone. There shouldn't be any need to see a real Hellcat."
"Respectfully, that's not the way I work. The best I can describe it is that I design my mechs from feeling. Without a feel for a design, I can't work with it as well as I ought to. The Hellcat is at least ten times more complex than anything I've ever worked on before, so it is even more vital for me to get a handle on the mech action."
"I'm not inclined to grant your request. I'm under orders to keep temps like you in one place. It's going to take a lot of effort to convince Professor Velten to grant an exception for you."
Ves already expected something like this, so he provided an immediate response to that argument. Ves waved his hand, causing his comm to transfer his work up to now. "Look at what I've accomplished. This is only a fraction of what I am able to do."
Curious, Alloc turned to his terminal and studied some of the solutions that Ves came up with. They weren't anything groundbreaking, nor did they improve the performance of the Hellcat by a substantial amount. Nevertheless, it was already impressive for an Apprentice Mech Designer to lessen the problem of excessive power draw by a fraction of a percentage point without negatively affecting anything else.
"Hm." The Journeyman quickly processed the solutions Ves came up with. "These solutions don't seem half-bad. We'll need to perform a lot more simulations in order to verify their soundness, but you have made a substantial contribution to our design team."
Ves sensed a caveat there.
"This does not mean that I can allow you to run off to the mech pilots and pester them to show off their Hellcats to you. You have to realize that there is a time and place for things. We do not allow anyone to come into contact with a Vandal."
In the end, Ves did not receive approval and had to go back empty-handed. Why didn't Alloc grant his seemingly reasonable request?
One possible explanation stood out.
"There must be something going on that can't be leaked."
Ves thought back on what the recent announcements were about. The Colonel Lowenfield intended to sneak the 6th Flagrant Vandals all the way to the Imodris Duchy from the border.
This was a daunting task for any mech regiment that hailed from the Kingdom's mortal enemy. The only way the Vandals could get this far without detection was if they enlisted the help of the local rebels.
"Have the Vesian rebels already rendezvoused with the fleet?"
The idea was frightening, but sounded very real. Perhaps the Vesian Revolutionary Front hadn't come with a handful of emissaries, but brought a couple of carriers and mechs along for the ride as well.
This basically meant that a mech regiment of the Republic willingly joined hands with an element of the Vesia Kingdom!
It did not matter if the Vandals struck a deal with the rebels, the mere fact that they owed their allegiance to Vesia, if not for the Kingdom, was a huge affront if news ever leaked!
"Why would the Vesian rebels accompany the Vandals with their own war assets?"
It didn't make any sense. The 6th Flagrant Vandals might not be very impressive compared to the rest of the Mech Corps, but it was a proper mech regiment at its core.
Ves tried to wrack his brains but couldn't come up with any satisfactory explanation except for one.
"What if they lied to us?"
This was a very serious accusation to make, and a tenuous one as well since Ves based this conclusion off a series of very wild conjectures. Still, it reinforced his impression that something shady was going on with the Vandals right now. Perhaps their presumed mission of penetrating deep into Vesian space in order to raid their industrial planet wasn't so simple after all.
"All of this is wild talk without evidence."
Without confirmations, his ideas remained ideas. Although he had a very overactive imagination, sometimes the truth often turned out to be simpler than he suspected.
Still, Ves wasn't comfortable with staying put. If nothing else, he had a duty to follow the leads and see where he ended up. "There's too much at stake. I can't afford to be negligent."