The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 56: Streak of Red


Speed changed a lot of things when applied differently to mechs.

A heavy mech that weighed many tons treated speed like rare animals. Even if their engines doubled in size, the effective increase in speed only amounted to just a dozen percent. Most heavy mechs didn't bother with increasing their speed.

On the other hand, a light mech normally lived for speed. Designers often clenched their teeth when they traded off little bits of speed for additional weapons and armor. They often considered this exercise the most painful one imagine, akin to pulling out one's teeth.

Ves felt as if his entire jaw ached as he firmly cut off portions that made the Octagon strong in the first place. He carefully removed bits of armor here and there while thinning other portions. By the time five days had passed, Ves looked bloodshot at a mech that appeared about 30% thinner than usual.

"I can't do this anymore. I've practically skinned this Octagon to the bone. I can hardly call it a medium mech now."

The new variant's armor took a substantial hit. Though it gained a generous boost in speed and agility in return, it ceased to be a frontline unit. It lacked both the endurance and armor to compete against regular frontline mechs.

The only thing about the armor scheme he left adopted from the Mist Prowler was incorporating a bit of FlexiPlate around the joints and fittings. The flexible armor weighed relatively little, and the joints only required a handful of armor to cover up against most incidental damage. While it wouldn't survive a direct blast, it was better than nothing.

"Now, for the boosters."

As Ves wanted his light mech hunter to close the distance to their prey in one giant dash, he opted to utilize six boosters instead of less. Though it consumed a lot of fuel, all but the lightest armed mechs were in the variant's grasp.

The exact placement of the boosters was kind of tricky. As mechs emulated the human running form, they varied the alignment of their backs when doing different activities. While keeping the back upright was the most efficient way to move in simple runs, most mechs often had to move under enemy fire. The very human tendency to bend forward and keep your head down was a very natural reaction, but one that also stood in the way of good booster management.

Though the nozzles came with a limited range of movement, they could only do so much work. What Ves intended to do was to embed his six boosters in a simple rectangular pattern onto the back. While he could have used more complicated shapes such as a pentagon with a middle booster or a hexagon without one, such designs fared poorly when damaged.

He put the placement of the boosters around the center of gravity, with a slight downward shift. This subtle effect caused the mech to tilt a little upwards when the boosters burned at full force. Ves aimed to achieve such an effect so that the mech could traverse forwards with lighter footsteps, making it easier to go over uneven terrain.

If he went the opposite direction and allow the boosters to push the mech downwards, then they gave it a much better grip. This let the mech take sharper turns at the cost of a reduced speed and increased stresses on the frame.

"While better control over the direction is nice, it's not worth it if my mech loses too much speed. Since the priority is to close the distance from point A to point B as fast as possible, then it's better to go for straight-line acceleration."

In essence, Ves turned his variant into a rocket. One that was really good for flying in a somewhat straight line and nothing else. He figured the mech should have enough grip to make last second turns in case its target abruptly dodged.

Once he finished working on the boosters, he took a step back and looked at his light mech killer. While it should largely function as envisioned, Ves thought it lacked a certain punch.

"The Octagon's default spear looks kind of skinny."

The spear was meant for opportunistic stabbings when the Octagon moved wildly from side to side. In order to facilitate penetration, the shape of the spear was as thick and pointy as possible. Overall, it looked like an oversized toothpick.

Such a slim design did not fit with his current design. If his mech engaged its boosters and caught up with a light mech, the incredible momentum behind its spear thrust could easily lose control over its weapon by over penetrating the opening blow. Not only would the spear sink in too deep, the damage was also limited as most of the damage was concentrated in a small area instead of being spread out from the point of impact.

Letting the spear keep its current shape wasted a perfectly good opportunity to deal a hammering blow. He edited the spear's design to make the shaft sturdier and the spearpoint a little broader. Now that Ves applied these quick changes, the spear was able to transfer kinetic energy better at the moment of impact.

The variant design now neared its completion. Still, Ves thought it lacked a certain amount of presence. Right now, it merely looked like an overly-slimmed down medium mech. He did not want to give his variant a wimpy appearance.

Aesthetics mattered. Plenty of mechs with mediocre specifications got sold everyday due to looking good.

"I forgot to include the Festive Cloud Generator as well."

Ves really liked the effect of the cloud generator. Not only did it add a little flair, it also acted as a badge for his home planet. Other pilots from Cloudy Curtain should instantly recognize what he had done, and were hopefully more inclined to buy his virtual mechs as a result.

In his view, he had two choices to place his cloud generator. The most distinct features of his variant was its boosters and its spear.

"If I place the cloud generator on the back, it'd be kind of boring. It also draws needless attention to the rear. The last thing I want to do is place a psychological suggestion that enemies should focus on attacking its back."

Instead, he turned to the rather interesting challenge of incorporating the cloud generator in a spear. Ves made some estimates and found that it was possible if he chose the slimmest cloud generator. He could incorporate the main generator in the handle of the spear without affecting the spear's front integrity. However, the spear wouldn't look very cool if the butt end of the spear released vapor.

So Ves edited the spear's design again and led a small and narrow line from the back of the spear all the way to the front. The integrity of the spear wasn't affected too much if the tunnel was carved in the middle of the shaft. He added a number of small exhausts right behind the spearhead.

Inspired by the unique look of a certain style of ancient spears, Ves dyed the vapor in a bright red color. Backdropped by the black spear and silver chrome mech, the red should make for a powerful contrast when the machine charged forward.

"Kind of like a knight, though a poorly armored one at that."

When Ves inputted his mech in a couple of simulation, he found himself impressed. The mere addition of that streak of red dramatically enhanced the presence of the mech. When the machine charged forward with its boosters employed to their maximum, the mech resembled an unstoppable meteor. It was a much more flattering look than the unstable rocket-like appearance the action previously resembled.

In order to enhance this illusion, Ves coated the mech's frame with a couple of colorful red streaks. The additional touch also distinguished his new variant from the base model, so people wouldn't confuse it with a regular Octagon.

"I think that's it. Well System, what do you think?"

[Design Evaluation: Speed Demon.]

Variant name: O-225CS Speed Demon

Base model: Octagon O-225C

Original Manufacturer: Globe-Elstar Corporation

Weight Classification: Extreme Medium-Light

Recommended Role: Anti-Light Mech

Armor: D+

Carrying Capacity: F

Aesthetics: B

Endurance: C-

Energy Efficiency: C

Flexibility: A-

Firepower: E-

Integrity: C-

Mobility: A-

Spotting: D+

X-Factor: E-

Deviance: 30%

Performance improvement: 7%

Cost efficiency: -14%

Overall evaluation: The Speed Demon provides an alternative piloting style that does not fully live up to its concept. Too much performance has been sacrificed in order to achieve the desired speed and impact damage.

[You have received 5 Design Points for completing an original design.]

[You have received 100 Design Points for designing a mech with a trace of X-Factor.]

"Shit."

The Speed Demon as he named it did not perform as well as he envisioned. While it differed drastically from the base model, it did not offer a superior performance if comparing their respective performances in the battlefield. In other words, the speed demon was different, not better. Having come off from designing the Mist Prowler with a small but clear improvement in performance, Ves thought he let himself down.

"I shaved off too much armor. In hindsight, I should have picked a more appropriate armor system that performs better when applied thinly."

Ves wanted to avoid spending more of his dwindling credits than he already had, so he declined to purchase yet another system. The boosters were bad enough. If he kept spending his credits like a garden hose, he'd quickly end up broke to the point where he needed to draw some cash from his piggy bank to make up for the shortfall.

"Even the X-Factor is a little weaker than in my last mech."

He already felt as if this aspect wasn't as good as his last one. Ves clearly enjoyed designing the formidable and unique-looking Mist Prowler. The challenges he faced in forming and optimizing its modular armor scheme were fulfilling.

In comparison, the Speed Demon was more of an exercise in frustration. He gnawed his teeth many times trying to find a way to shed weight without paying too much for the loss. The negative emotions must have influenced the intent he put into his design.

All in all, Ves learned a lesson with his latest design. He shouldn't bite off more than he could chew if he wanted to earn lots of DP.

"Still, I learned quite a bit from this experience. I've gained a much better appreciation of the difficulties involved in forcibly increasing the speed of a mech."

Despite the disappointing performance of the mech, it worked well enough to be put on the

virtual market. Like all his designs, Ves priced the Speed Demon as low as possible without making a loss. As he wanted to maximize his DP gains, he gave up on making any credits from the sales of his mechs in Iron Spirit.

"My second commission should be coming soon. I wonder how long Marcella plans to wait before passing me another order."

He could only be patient and trust his broker to pull through with her search for clients. So far, from what he heard, the Phoenix Cry acquitted itself well in its first real combat operation. At the very least, Captain Caruthers hadn't called back and hollared his ears off. The mech was technically sound.

A week had passed during the time Ves designed the Speed Demon. That was enough time for Ves to receive his scheduled security upgrades. A number of heavily armed shuttles shuttles bearing the markings of Sanyal-Ablin Security Services arrived from Freslin to his workshop. Technicians, security experts and many loading bots debarked from the vehicles and started unloading their gear. Robyn greeted Ves at his doorstep.

"Your Cyber-Robo package has arrived. We'll be taking around a day to set it all up. Do we have permission to scan your workshop and dive into your software? If you wish to keep some files confidential, I can give you time to make backups."

"I've already done so. Feel free to take apart my computers. Just put them back together when you're done."

In truth, Ves kept pretty much all of his sensitive design files in his Mech Designer System. While he was pretty much putting all of his eggs in one basket, at least he had full control over it at all times.

Under the watchful eye of Ves, the experts of the SASS went to work with care. While the loader bots started to place sensors, electric fencing and other nifty gadgets, the human personnel scoured the workshop for any nefarious devices.

"Our team reports nothing untoward has been detected so far, Mr Larkinson."

That lifted a weight off his back. "That's reassuring."

He was not in the clear yet. When the experts finished scanning the rooms and hallways, they started to inspect his gear. His computer terminal where he did most of his virtual work was taken apart. The computer expert carefully scanned each and every chip, cable and even the screws. Then he put it back together and started the terminal up. Using his own specialized software, he man carefully dug deep within the terminal's data.

"I've detected a couple of dormant vulnerabilities." The expert said. "I've taken care of them all."

Ves wasn't too worried about that. He only used his terminal to perform research and access Iron Spirit's market interface. Any hacker who got into his computer system could only read his browsing history. As for using his account to login to Iron Spirit, the game didn't allow anyone to login without a second process of verification, such as a neural pattern scan.

Ves left the computer nerd to his work and instead visited the main work hall. Most of the security experts were present here.

With the help of their own disassembly bots, they took the 3D printer and assembler apart. They tediously went over each part and noted any abnormalities. So far, the only deviations from the standard that they found could be chalked to wear and tear. A pair of other computer experts scoured the software of the systems for any irregularities.

Fortunately, they found nothing serious. The only problems they found were non-standard repairs for broken parts and a few odd software tweaks that raised performance at the risk of more malfunctions. These modifications were left from the previous owner of the machines. As they didn't intentionally sabotage the complex machines, Ves opted to keep them as they were. He only planned to keep them for a decade at most.


 
 


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