Chapter 35: Main Stage
quot;My apologies, my department is not in a hurry to procure a new mech.quot;
quot;Our budget is tight. We donapos;t make a lot of profit per operation. We can barely keep our mechs afloat. Iapos;ll look into your products a couple of years later when our current fleet of mechs needs replacements.quot;
quot;The crew Iapos;m running already trained in a specific configuration of mechs. Introducing a different type of mech will disrupt the balance.quot;
quot;Iapos;m not specialized in melee combat. A mech that uses a mace and shield is not suitable to an unskilled pilot like me.quot;
The excuses sounded the same no matter where Ves tried to find a customer. As the people left the venue in order to grab a bite or visit the main event in the central stadium, Ves was left with empty hands.
quot;Hello there Ves.quot;
He turned around to see an unexpected sight. Hans came up and addressed him personally. quot;Hans! What brings you here?quot;
quot;I just want to let you know that out of all the mechs Iapos;ve piloted today, yours is one of the few who took the comfort of the pilot into account.quot;
Ves raised his eyebrow. This was definitely the X-Factor at work! quot;I design my mechs with the user in mind. My products are more than the sum of its parts. I put my heart into each of my designs. Iapos;ve refined my craft by designing and producing many mechs for Iron Spirit, where Iapos;ve enjoyed a substantial amount of sales. Iapos;m currently trying to branch out my real world business.quot;
That sounded professional enough, right?
The pilot nodded, and looked interested. quot;Iapos;d like to see more of your work.quot;
quot;Ah.quot; Ves quickly activated his comm to swipe his virtual sales page to Hans. quot;My digital storefront is here. Please feel free to browse my wares, though I advise you to look at my Marc Antony variant first. Itapos;s based off the Caesar Augustus, but Iapos;ve reworked it extensively with more affordable armor. This is also the design that Iapos;m offering for sale from my real universe workshop.quot;
quot;You are able to produce a variant of the Augustus?quot; Hans sharpened his eyes a bit at that news. quot;I donapos;t know much about the business, but I do know that the production license alone must cost an incredible sum of money. How could you get a hold of such a premium license?quot;
quot;Iapos;ve been fortunate to attract the attention of some people who took note of my talent in mech design.quot; Ves said as he shamelessly weaved a tale of bullshit in order to cover up the existence of the System. quot;A renowned Rubarthan grant institution even granted me a couple of production licenses to give my startup a push.quot;
quot;That is impressive. It is not easy to attract the attention of the Rubarthans.quot;
quot;Ah, donapos;t misunderstand me. The institution is only based in the New Rubarthan Empire, probably for financial and privacy reasons. The real owners probably have a more modest origin. As for their exact identities, Iapos;m not sure, but with such deep pockets they certainly have clout.quot;
From Carlosapos; words, there was still a small a chance Ves could push his product on them, but it had to be worth spilling their savings. quot;So I have the best chance if I approached retirees or those close to retirement?quot;
quot;Thatapos;s a decent angle to take. The old guys who retire from active duty canapos;t scratch their itches unless they hop into a real cockpit. The popular simulations such as Iron Spirit is too casual and fake to satisfy their needs. Donapos;t underestimate the pensions they earned in their years of service.quot;
As a native of Cloudy Curtain, Ves had no stake in the match. Even though he studied at Rittersberg, he possessed no sense of belonging of that beautiful but ultimately elitist planet. As for Carlos, he felt a bit torn between rooting for his home planet or the planet where he spent much of his time partying.
quot;Shit, whoapos;s going to win?quot; Carlos bit his lips.
Neither of them were pilots, nor did they possess the aptitude to become one. Their knowledge on mech fights largely came from entertainment and the occasional classwork in college. Ves only possessed a slight advantage over Carlos due to his Larkinson military family background.
quot;The Bentheimer is a bit too impatient.quot; Ves judged as he took in the tempo of the match. Both sides looked evenly matched, but his eyes discerned a little bit more due to his studies of the X-Factor. It left him more sensitive to the emotions of the pilots running the mechs. quot;He thinks heapos;s running out of time. The longer the wait, the more the Rittersburger is accumulating strength. The Bentheimer is trying to find an opening before his opponent erupts.quot;
The blue mech sporting Bentheimapos;s planetary symbol darted forward and poked with his sword. The Rittersberger refused to take the bait, slipping back just out of range. The two mechs continued to circle around as they let the anticipation among the crowd grow.
The purple mech took the blue mech by surprise as it jumped forward. The mech from Bentheim hastily parried the sword slash, only to receive a punch on the mechapos;s face when it tried to retreat. The disruption of the mechapos;s main sensors gave the Rittersberger enough of an opening to stab his sword past its defenses.
As the tip of the sword touched the armor plate just in front of the cockpit, both mechs immediately immobilized. The safeties had engaged, bringing the match to an end in favor of the purple mech.
quot;That was a good show.quot; Ves commented with appreciation. quot;The Rittersburger had a great grasp of timing. He struck when the Bentheimer thought he was in for the long haul.quot;
Carlos shook his head as he looked perplexed. quot;Dunno. The guy from Bentheim should slap himself for letting his opponent get close enough to deliver that punch.quot;
They took the time to spectate the other matches, enjoying the visceral feel of real mechs clashing against each other with the naked eye. Experiencing such mech battles personally was a treat, and Ves improved his understanding of mechs every time he watched the pilots exert their mechs to the utmost.
After having his fill of mech battles, Ves parted with Carlos and reached the backstage area. After a stern search by security, an attendant guided him to a waiting room where the seven other finalists of the mech design competition waited. None of them smiled or took any note of Ves. Only Patricia gave him a second look, and it was more of the likes of recognizing a tiny mouse that scurried underneath her feet now and then. The group hadnapos;t acknowledged him, which suited him fine.
A lull appeared as the sounds of weapons fire and crashing mechs ceased. A couple of attendants exhorted the mech designers to get ready to step onto the main stage.
An announcer introduced the upcoming event. quot;Citizens of the Republic. I hope you have enjoyed the clashes happening so far. I certainly have! Well, if you think weapos;re holding the quarterfinals next, then be prepared because we have something special to introduce to you this year!quot;
The projectors behind the announcer lighted up in a collage of mech designers and fabricators working diligently on their mechs.
quot;A good pilot canapos;t do without a good mech. For every pilot on the field, there are at least ten to twenty people supporting him from behind. It is at the hands of mech designers that a new mech comes to life. We here at the Young Tigers Exhibition wish to do our part in honoring this important profession. Now, let me introduce the eight brightest mech designers of the year!quot;
The eight of them stepped forward onto the stage. The audience gave them a polite applause. There was modest interest in their appearance, but theyapos;d rather go back to seeing mechs bash their heads against each other.
After a brief bow, the announcer detailed the upcoming contest. quot;Iapos;m sure itapos;s fascinating to see our budding engineers tinker with machinery, but it can get a little tedious if they go on for days. Weapos;ve taken your comments to heart about last yearapos;s event, and decided to put a new spin on the format this year!quot;
Uh oh, that didnapos;t sound so good, Ves thought.
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