The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 442 Calculus of War


Lieutenant Chandis had a complaint for practically every aspect of the Inheritor model. Much of the reason why was because its design had been tailored for what the higher ups thought what was best for the entire mech regiment.

The wishes of the individual mech pilots who would have to rely on these death traps to survive in space hardly registered in comparison. Every improvement needed to be weighed against more practical concerns such as cost and ease of fabrication. If either of these two factors became negatively impacted, then Professor Velten wouldn't approve of the changes.

Therefore, much of the complaints he heard from Chandis had already been echoed by the reports he read from the database.

Still, there was a huge difference between reading about the problems from a dry and succinct document compared to hearing it from a mech pilot who had to deal with the consequences on a day-to-day basis.

Chandis probably knew about some of the concerns that played in the background, but he made a persuasive case anyway, largely by employing his emotions.

"Too many comrades have died from this inadequate piece of dung!" Chandis kicked at the plating of the mech. Despite being relatively thin in the scale of mechs, a human foot could never leave a mark on its surface. "Look, just tell your bosses to invest some more money into quality mechs. These Inheritors aren't worth the materials they're built from!"

"It's actually the opposite." Chief Carmon remarked from the side. She maintained her jaded expression throughout the lieutenant's tirade. "The Inheritor is doing a great job in maximizing the strengths of its materials. The only problem with this approach is that there's a limit on how much we can optimize their strengths and create more synergies."

In other words, it was as as if the Vandals sculpted a miniature mech out of sand. No matter how exquisite they carved the model of a mech, one good kick could effortlessly blow it away.

Fiddling with the shape and dimensions of the sand model only affected its structural integrity by a minor degree. Such changes would never be able to provide a comprehensive boost in survivability.

The only way to do so was to carve the miniature mech model out of a stronger material such as stone or wood.

However, doing so demanded more money and effort from the Vandals. Ves had read the internal documents on the Inheritor, and in one of them Professor Velten brutally calculated the cost efficiency of switching the Inheritor's material composition to a stronger mix.

She concluded that increasing the costs by fifty percent would only raise the overall longevity of any random Inheritor mech by twenty-nine percent or so.

To Ves, that sounded very normal. Only at the lowest end of the mech design spectrum would the level of improvement be proportional to the increase in material costs. After that, the law of diminishing returns came into effect. Improvements became increasingly harder to achieve without spending a fortune.


In practical terms, an absolutely trashy mech that cost 3 million credits in raw materials to produce could be twice as good if the cost of materials was 6 million credits instead.

However, if a mech that cost 45 million credits got overhauled with materials that cost 90 million credits, the actual rate of improvement might only be around 10-35 percent. The range was rather large because it heavily depended on the skill and vision of the mech designer.

However, the point was clear. Every mech outfit or mech regiment needed to find a balance between their income and expenditures. Spending lots of money and resources on expensive mechs might sound good, as they often lasted longer on the battlefield, it might not be able to make up for the huge upfront costs.

The calculus that Professor Velten performed had led the 6th Flagrant Vandals maintain the current design of the Inheritor in its current state. Regardless of its performance, it was easy to fabricate from cheap exotics that were abundantly available from the market and lots of mundane materials that could be mined from practically any asteroid in any desolate star system.

Ves estimated the market price for the Inheritor at around twenty million credits. This didn't sound so bad. The Vandals basically substituted the role of frontline mechs to the Inheritor.

Yet no one ever complained about frontline mechs. In exchange for chopping offs some limbs or even the heads of these mechs, they piled up on lots of cheap armor and slapped some gun barrels on it to make them effective at range. Although the abundance of armor didn't protect the mech all that well and slowed it down for quite a bit, as long as they stayed at range, the mechs would not be exposed to too much risk.

It was different for the Inheritor. The only thing it had going for was speed and acceleration. Besides that, it possessed no range at all, forcing the mech to close in to knife fighting distance in each engagement. The Vandals needed to commit the Inheritors in a single go, which was very risky as complications constantly happened on the battlefield.

All of these concerns passed through his mind in an instant. While Ves sympathised with Lieutenant Chandis and his men, Ves too needed to think about the big picture. The big shots evidently decided that they would rather sustain more losses in mechs and lives than to invest in upgrading the much-maligned design.

"I will see what I can do, lieutenant." Ves answered vaguely when Chandis expected a response from him. "Your concerns are being noted."

He felt like this liaison gig wasn't as important as he hoped. Sure, he got to see more of the Vandals, but if he constantly ended up in situations like this where he wouldn't be able to make people's problems go away, then it was difficult for him to feel happy about it. The Inheritor design was a light skirmisher that was built to be cheap. Ves could find no leeway in meeting any of the demands set by Chandis.

Nevertheless, he dutifully toured around the hangar while Chief Carmon showed him around the place. Ves spoke with a few other mech pilots and heard the same complaints. This time, he changed up the conversation a little. He heard more than enough bad things about the Inheritor. He wanted to know what made this design so important to the Vandals.

"Well, I gotta admit one thing about this mech." The mech pilot explained as he stood in a straight posture in front of his mech. "It teaches you how to pilot a melee mech in space. There's no substitute to actual battle experience. No matter how much we trained in the academy and during boot camp, there's always the realization that whatever simulations we are in is fake. Only with our backs against the wall will we be able to see if we measure up as a Vandal."

Ves thought that these words carried a lot of weight in the Vandals. Even though he hadn't spent too much time with the mech pilots, he spotted a subtle but pervasive division between mech pilots who used the Inheritor to those who used the other models.

The were rookies.

They mostly consisted of inexperienced mech pilots who had been banished to the Vandals for some reason or another. Piloting this death trap of a mech seemed like a reckless and wasteful decision as it played fast and loose with their lives, but the incredible amount of pressure they endured also seemed to polish off their rough edges.

Those that had spent a longer time with the Inheritor behaved more mature in front of Ves, while those who only transferred in a couple of months ago still exhibited problematic behavior.

One guy happened to be extremely aggressive.

"Piss off!" A man younger than Ves snarled when they approached. "I don't want to talk to stupid techies like you!"

Ves frowned. "I'm here to ask some questions. What is your problem?"

That really riled the mech pilot up. He jumped to his feet and approached them with his fists. "My problem is that I don't like your face!"

Before Ves could do anything, Chief Carmon moved with confident ease and thunked the man onto his butt with the swing of her multitool.

"Knock it off, brat! We don't tolerate roughhousing like this around here!"

The casual way in which Chief Harmon dealt with the aggressive mech pilot spoke volumes to Ves. He got the sense that outbreaks like this happened plenty of times as mech pilots unwillingly transferred into the Vandals.

While Ves wasn't in the mood to talk to a mech pilot who wanted to punch him in the face, he had a duty to fulfill. He put down his animosity and asked his perfunctory questions.

"What do you think about the Inheritor design?"

"It's dangerous. Spaceborn mech battles may revolve around speed, but there are many instances where you can't dodge everything that comes in your way. This stupid mech completely ignores that possibility. Do you know how this model got its name?"

"No. Do tell, please."

"Word around here is they're called that way because their designers hope the mechs last long enough to be inherited by my children. Hahaha! As if they will last more than a year during wartime!"

Ves didn't know if this was true, but he doubted it. Up close to several Inheritor mechs, Ves could feel the intangible echoes embedded into the frames. These mechs had been designed from the onset to be disposable products.

Of course, they should last long enough to provide enough of a return on investment to the Vandals, but beyond that nobody cared if they got wrecked.

The Vandals would mourn if a single Hellcat got destroyed. Partially due to the enormous cost in fabricating a copy, but also due to its symbolic value.

In comparison, the Vandals wouldn't blink at all if they lost ten Inheritor mechs in a single fight. That was just the cost of doing business. As long as the Vandals got more in return, the damage was negligible.

Evidently, this newcomer knew this and vented out his frustrations. "They sent me out to die here! I'm a medium mech pilot. There's no way I can master a light mech so quickly! They purposely put me here to kill me."

Chief Carmon couldn't restrain from whacking the mech pilot over the head with a light tap of her tool. "Nonsense! Larkinson, don't listen to this lad. He's just angry at himself for screwing up at his old posting. There's no way we would drive our own mech pilots into a corner."

That was true, in general. A mech pilot that loosened his restraints could be a very dangerous person. The amount of damage he could inflict when he stepped inside a mech was gigantic.

Ves actually expected the Vandals to deal with this problem already, but they let the crew and mech pilots talk smack all day. It was as if they didn't care.

Maybe the young man's words hid a kernel of truth. Did the Vandals accept every type of person the Mech Corps threw at them with open arms? With the wild personalities these troublemakers possessed, not everyone would mellow out during their stay here.

Ves felt obliged to speak some words of defense. "This isn't the best mech model that came into existence, but let's not exaggerate things here. As long as you aren't too unlucky, you'll be able to survive inside the cockpit of an Inheritor."

Talking with the mech pilots left him with a whole bunch of negative opinions to sort through. Ves didn't leave it at that and also began to question the various mech technicians in charge of defending the factory ship.

One of them was an older man, and he used to be a mech designer in his early years of adulthood. He hadn't been able to make it on his own, so he tried to find some meaning in his life by serving in the Mech Corps.

Someone with a background in mech design possessed a lot more insights on the nuances of a design than outsiders. "The Inheritor is not a difficult design to maintain. It's actually very ease. There's one downside to this mech that I'm a little more dubious about."

"What is that?" Ves said as he leaned in.

"The Inheritor seems like a derivative of a better design. A greater design. Perhaps even an elite one."

 
 


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