Chapter 38: Tough
The sword knocked a couple of rockets aside. Due to the safeties built into the warheads, they failed to detonate early due to their close proximity to the launcher. Instead, they flew or fell to the floor largely inert. As for the other rockets, the upper portion harmlessly flew past the crouching mech while the lower portion exploded harshly against the shield. Due to the decrease in lethality among all projectiles, the rockets failed to penetrate the shield, though they did cause quite a few layers to peel off. The force of the explosions also rocked Mirandaapos;s mech backwards.
quot;Hah, Iapos;ve got more where that came from!quot; Charlotte taunted as her heavy mech turned another 45 degrees so that her Kirbyapos;s back faced her opponent at a straight angle.
quot;Shi-quot; Miranda got cut off as another volley of missiles came in her direction.
She tried to do a roll while keeping her shield forward. This successfully let her avoid most of the rocket barrage, though the lower corner of her shield finally fell apart from the few projectiles that managed to hit it with sufficient force.
Before Miranda could celebrate her survival, Charlotteapos;s final launcher disgorged its payload.
The feminine mech finally escaped the last wave with the skin of its teeth. The few rockets that detonated against its armor managed to crater a portion of the chest.
quot;Itapos;s checkmate for you.quot; Charlotte gloatingly said as she kept turning slowly, allowing her to present her outstretched cannon and laser mount. The weapons at that side spat out a furious salvo that further damaged the bedraggled Miranda and her mech.
quot;Damnit, if it wasnapos;t for those stupid rockets, Iapos;d have peeled your limbs off by now!quot;
Ever since Miranda dodged further away in order to escape the rockets, she lost the initiative. Her mech needed time to build up speed, and before she built up her momentum, Charlotte got a prime opportunity to sneak in a lot of damage.
The Kirby sinisterly aimed at the legs, hoping to impair Mirandaapos;s mobility. A lucky high explosive cannon shell managed to detonate close to the legs, which stripped off the rest of the armor of the female mechapos;s feet. The force of the small explosion also unbalanced Mirandaapos;s gait, causing her to lose crucial speed.
quot;Alright, I wanted to save this for the finals, but you leave me no choice now! Let me show you what Patricia gifted my mech!quot;
Uh oh. Ves bit his lip as Miranda finally took the match seriously. He knew that Miranda always kept something in reserve, as a mech designer as renowned as Patricia wouldnapos;t just let her partner go out in a boring stock mech.
The female mechapos;s back armor opened up to reveal a stubby flight system. Ves almost couldnapos;t believe what he was seeing.
quot;That fucking Patricia stole my design!quot;
Patricia not only stole his idea, she improved upon it. She expanded and sloped the back armor in a way that freed up space while not making it obvious a miniature flight system was attached in that location. The amount of engineering it took to create such a hidden surprise boggled Vesapos; mind. He had to admit that Patricia possessed terrifying competence.
The two babbled a bit about the design choices they made for their respective mechs. What actually Ves had in mind was trying to facilitate the X-Factor, but that was something of a secret weapon to him. He instead diverted Patriciaapos;s attention by pointing out he had a hard time convincing Charlotte of making any changes. She only approved the rockets due to agreeing with her affinity for more weapons.
After carefully attaching the laser mount, Ves spent some time making sure the mechapos;s processors correctly adjusted its targeting system to the new mount. Different models required different parameters in order to fire accurately. It didnapos;t perform as well as the original model, but for a quick fix it did the job.
Ves swept the moisture from his forehead as he finished the essential repairs. Barring the damage the mech previously suffered before its entry in the Fusion Cup, the Kirby recovered its highest combat state.
In the meantime, a couple of other matches took place in the arena. Mechs sporting different amounts of damage and variation entered the stage and duked it out with their counterparts. What Ves paid the most attention to was the match that decided his next opponent.
The match progressed in a one-sided fashion. A hapless knight who ranked eighth in the previous tournament was forced to use his backup pistol against a skirmisher-type mech. The skirmisher wielded two submachine guns and ran circles around the mech with ruthless patience.
quot;Looks like that SMG fellow will be my next opponent.quot; Charlotte remarked as she already sized up her next likely opponent. quot;I hope my armor will be up to the task.quot;
The skirmisher fell under the medium weight class but moved almost like a light mech. Ves checked the names of the participants and learned the skirmisherapos;s pilot was called Alexander Steel. His mech designer was a fellow named Michael Dumont, who studied at a private institution based in a second-rate state.
quot;This guy looks tricky. Unlike Patricia who merely mastered the basics to the utmost level, Michael is more familiar with new advancements and better techniques. I think Alexander is holding back the full potential of his mech. His current opponent isnapos;t worth exposing his trump card.quot;
Charlotteapos;s easy smile turned into a serious frown. She had reason to worry if Alexanderapos;s skirmisher possessed a hidden card. Normally, heavy gunners easily shredded skirmishers solely due to the difference in firepower and armor, but what if the skirmisher changed his weapon loadout?
quot;The submachine guns work great against knights because they canapos;t catch up to you and donapos;t possess enough firepower to compete at range. But thatapos;s obviously not going to work for you, Charlotte.quot;
She nodded at that realization. Unlike her own mech whose weapons were pretty much fixed, Alexander could just put down the SMGs and take a more appropriate weapon into battle, such as a heavy shield or an armor-piercing rifle. This flexibility was an intrinsic advantage all humanoid mechs with functional arms enjoyed.
Ves paid attention to Alexanderapos;s mech. With his previous experience in optimizing the armor for the Caesar Augustus and Marc Antony, he recognized the mech battling it out in the arena followed a completely different design philosophy. It looked lean, sleek and aerodynamic, as if it wanted to pursue speed much harder than a light mech. And in a major sense it mostly achieved such a result at the cost of limiting its onboard loadout of weapons. The mech lacked any indications of possessing wrist, shoulder or back-mounted weapon platforms.
By the time Alexander achieved victory over his humiliated opponent, Ves knew he had very little time left to make some last minute changes. Should he improve the Kirbyapos;s targeting system? Perhaps add a couple more armor plates to increase its bulk?
He disliked falling into this guessing game. Every decision was plagued with an indeterminate fog. Did a choice lead to riches or ruin?
quot;Stop procrastinating, Ves. Youapos;re not even going on stage, yet youapos;re sweating bullets.quot;
After taking a deep breath, Ves regained much of his composure. quot;Youapos;re right. With the time we have left, I doubt I can make any substantial changes to your loadout. Iapos;m going to work on refining the Kirby.quot;
quot;I didnapos;t say anything about keeping my Kirby barebones. Youapos;ve done right by Kirby, and I appreciate it. You mech designer types arenapos;t as stuffy and close-minded as everyone says you guys are. Youapos;re cool.quot;
quot;Uh, thanks. So whatapos;s your idea?quot;
Charlotte recovered her cheer and grinned deviously at him. quot;Seeing as Iapos;m going to face another speedy type, Iapos;d like you to make the following tweaks x2026;quot;
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