Chapter 48: 2-star Designs
The only problem with hiring someone was that keeping the System secret might be difficult. As much as the System appeared harmless, it was actually a miraculous invention that straight-up defied the laws of reality as Ves knew it. Such a precious treasure attracted covetous intentions, many of whom had the power to squash him like a bug. Letting the Systemapos;s existence leak to anyone else was just asking for trouble.
Another problem which concerned Ves was that hiring someone else to do his fabrication would lead to sub-standard products. A full-time fabricator might be a wizard when it came to working with the 3D printer and assembler, but if he was ignorant of the X-Factor then the mechs he made would be devoid of life. Selling cheap products under his name only dragged him down just when he wanted to build up his brand.
As Ves couldnapos;t figure out the solution to this dilemma, he called up Marcella.
quot;Heya Ves, Iapos;m kind of busy right now, so keep it short.quot;
quot;Iapos;m having a bit of an issue here.quot; Ves said, then explained his thoughts regarding his potential hire.
Marcella smiled at him as if the problem was trivial. quot;Well, itapos;s too early to hire a mech technician, so you have plenty of time to think it over. If you want my opinion, why not do both? You can sell the mechs produced by your personnel at the standard price and charge a premium if the client wants a mech handmade by the designer. Just set the price point high enough so you donapos;t get too burdened.quot;
That was actually a great idea. It kept Ves busy without leaving the fabricator with nothing to do. Heapos;d essentially leave the grunt work to his employee and only come out and fabricate in person if the money was worth it. Still, it depended on whether the clients were willing to fork out the extra cash.
quot;Donapos;t worry about generating sales for your premium variant. Iapos;ll take care to pace you with such requests so you donapos;t spend too much time on it. There are always at least some clients who make some requests to modify the design a bit. Sometimes they want the mech to be flashier. Other times they want the mech to bear a customized emblem in its armor pattern. I think the going rate for such customizations is 2 million credits.quot;
Earning an additional two million credits per sale was a generous amount. Naturally heapos;d charge more if the client requested more drastic changes.
Marcella hung up in order to get back to her work. Before she left, she warned him to expect another prospective sale in about four weeks or so. That was enough time for their first client to provide feedback on the Phoenix Cryapos;s performance in the field.
Ves considered the issue of hiring a fabricator later when he got a good idea of how many sales Marcella achieved. Instead, he turned to a much more interesting activity.
He was ready to go back to designing virtual mechs. He recalled the experience of designing different variants of the Fantasia and the Caesar Augustus and how much experience he gained in applying his growing skills. If Ves wanted to grow to the point of designing a viable original mech, then heapos;d have to become as good as the seasoned mech producers with a couple of successful designs under their belt.
He considered getting his hands on an animal-shaped mechs. The bird and mammal-shaped mechs that started to feature in the 2-star generations incorporated design philosophies that largely extended to today. If he wanted to branch out his mech range to something other than bipedal mechs, then right now was the perfect opportunity to do so.
quot;Hm, animal mechs are much less popular than their humanoid counterparts. While I donapos;t face as much competition, my clientele also wonapos;t be as diverse.quot;
Going by the potential sales he could generate, then Ves was not optimistic in excelling at designing animal mechs. The mech designers who worked with such abnormal mechs usually put their whole careers into optimizing such designs. As someone who only intended to dabble with the unusual designs, he could never make a living out of it by half-assing his efforts.
Thus, Ves filtered out anything other than humanoid mechs, leaving him with plenty of choices but without any distractions.
Perhaps aware of this tendency, the original designer of the mech focused on making the mech as agile as possible. Though he cut down on a lot of armor near the joints and other weak points, it made the mech exceptionally limber and could even perform some acrobatic stunts pilots would never even dare on a regular medium mech.
quot;Interesting. Itapos;s going to be fairly tough to upgrade this mechapos;s armor without negatively influencing its range of motion.quot;
The challenge of designing an improved variant of this base model intrigued Ves. While he always focused a bit on speed in his other models, he applied it mainly on movement speed. How fast a mech could get from point A to point B.
Agility was a different concept entirely. It involved combining wide range of motion with fast-moving limb reactions to turn a mech into a dodging champion.
Thinly armored simian mechs often specialized in these kinds of designs. The hunched-over posture and their strengthened arms afforded these ape-like mechs exceptional stability even when they jumped and crawled around forests and complex urban environments.
As for agility-focused humanoid mechs, they relied on sophisticated internals instead of mechanical design in order to stay upright. The Octagon featured the most advanced gyroscope of its generation to maintain its balance even as it dodged left and right. That was the main reason the mech got such a high price tag.
As for its other specs, the mech performed fairly average. Its speed was respectable, but not as good as dedicated sprinters. The armor was nothing to get excited for, but it did the job except when it came to the joints. The Octagon came with a standard loadout of two heated knives and a spear that could also be thrown in an emergency. Most pilots who bought this mech also added in a pistol or a submachine gun in order to turn the mech into a good close-ranged skirmisher.
All in all, the Octagon possessed plenty of character. Ves liked whoever designed this mech, as he was not afraid to break some rules in order to achieve a unique result.
He added the virtual license of this mech to his shopping cart. quot;Thatapos;s 650,000 credits down the rain. Now I should add some components to complement this design.quot;
The shiny chrome job defined this base model. While it did not entirely fit with modern aesthetics, Ves preferred to keep its shiny exterior. That didnapos;t mean his choice of replacement armor was restricted. He merely had to add an extra step to his production process by painting his mechs with a reflective coating.
His choice of armor had to meet certain criteria. First, it had to offer more protection at the same amount of weight. Second, it should be effective without stacking too many layers. Some armor systems only worked properly if they surpassed a minimum amount of thickness. The Octagonapos;s main feature was its agility and putting on too much weight negated that advantage.
His search turned up some intriguing results. First up was the Grayson Inc. Flexiplate Alpha Mark III. He found one experimental armor composite that featured a certain amount of flexibility in its plating. It was as bendable as a thick piece of rubber and excelled in absorbing shocks from kinetic impacts. It sounded perfect for developing better armor around vulnerable joints, and was in fact often employed in such a manner.
To complement the other portions of armor, he looked up the Grayson Inc. SquarePlate Mark I, a modular armor system of the same company. These types of armors were often employed on lighter mechs, but the system he looked at was specifically designed for medium mechs. It was a pain to mold such such an armor system on a mech due to the demands it imposed on the positioning of its plating. However, it gave a significant advantage to a mech if well-designed.
Conventional armor plating used form-fitting plates to cover up a mechapos;s internal frame. If implemented well, they offered close to the maximum theoretical amount of protection to that section for its weight and thickness. However, if a piece of plating suffered damage, it may still be adhered to the mech while turning out to be functionally useless. If a mech suffered moderate damage throughout its entire frame, such deadweight only slowed the mech down while leaving its internals vulnerable.
Modular armor systems aimed to counteract this situation by designing their plating around uniform shapes of squares or hexagons. It made the mech look a little angular or bumpy, but offered a great amount of freedom in shedding its damaged layers. The more damage a mech sustained, the more plates it shed thus the less weight it had to haul everywhere. This provided mechs with modular armor a distinct advantage in the later stages of a battle.
Naturally, such a system came with its own tradeoffs, or else it would have been much more popular today. The fixed shapes of its plating were only partially variable in size. The SquarePlate only featured three different sizes. One big plate for chest armor and the like, one medium plate for arms and limbs, and one smaller plate for tricky angles and fingers. Working with these three shapes made any mech variant lose their most optimal armor scheme. That and other factors caused modular armor systems to be able to absorb less damage than their conventional equivalent.
quot;It has a pretty good performance anyway despite that point.quot; Ves concluded. He hadnapos;t worked with modular armor before, but was highly intrigued by its possibilities. Modular armor was one of the best solutions out today that attempted to marry together armor with speed. If Ves was serious about developing his specialization in this area, then he couldnapos;t avoid working with this nifty invention.
Adding both the FlexiPlate and the SquarePlate to his shopping list increased his bill by 150,000 credits. Ves had enough for one session now. He wanted to exercise is mind right away and was unwilling to consider replacing other components before he learned more about the Octagon mech.
A total of 800,000 credits disappeared from his bank account by the time Ves acquired the three virtual licenses. The difference in costs compared to 1-star mechs daunted any novice mech designer. He was working in a whole other stage now, and the consequences of screwups rose by a significant fraction. Luckily he already possessed real experience working with the equivalent of a 5-star mech, so Ves maintained his confidence.
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