Chapter 50: Hunter
Incorporating such an unusual armor scheme came with a major disadvantage. By stacking the armor plates at an angle, Ves needed to incorporate more armor in the same surface area than if he stacked the plates at a flat angle.
It was like using a pack of cards to make a house of cards instead of just placing them side by side. One method maximized the surface area, while the other method increased the density. In order to keep down the Octagonapos;s weight, Ves was required to shave off the amount of SquarePlate armor layers and skimp down on the FlexiPlate.
quot;After all this work, I donapos;t think the mechapos;s armor has improved very much.quot; Ves sighed. The dramatic improvements he anticipated hadnapos;t come true. Physical limitations simply couldnapos;t be bypassed no matter how many tricks he employed.
quot;Still, itapos;s impressive enough that its ability to absorb damage is improved by 5% or so without impacting its agility.quot;
It came at a significant cost. The SquarePlate armor that he liberally used was more expensive than the Octagonapos;s stock armor while actually providing a slightly lesser amount of protection. If Ves wasnapos;t insistent on using a modular armor system, he could have made much higher gains with alternative armoring.
Through his work, Ves felt he was missing an ingredient to make his ideas work. An invisible wall stopped his efforts in completely harmonizing the armor with improved protection while avoiding too many speed reductions.
quot;This is a more complex problem than I thought.quot; He concluded, and admitted that he underestimated the difficulties in conjuring up a magical solution that no one had ever thought about. quot;Iapos;m too burned out to work any further on this design.quot;
He noticed a difference when he worked on the Octagon. When he worked on his two best products, the Fantasia 2R Seraphim and the CA-C1 Marc Anthony, he worked on them with a great amount of passion to the point of ignoring difficult-to-solve defects in their design.
That was especially the case concerning the Seraphim, which he whipped up in record time very early in his career. If Ves revisited the Seraphim, he might just die from embarrassment from all the faults he left in the design. Yet Ves felt none of his pride for the design diminishing. The Seraphim was a successful product, and a handful of young Bronze League players enjoyed their time with it. The design possessed a spark of life.
Could he say the same for his latest project? Ves estimated if he forcefully grinded out a new variant off the Octagon, heapos;d end up with a pile of junk. He learned something new today. No matter how much you focus your mind on a single intent, it didnapos;t replace real capability. His skills needed to keep up with the image in his mind.
He revisited the image he kept in his mind. He wanted to design a hunter, a predator of the streets, one that could match the range of motion of apes while being able to fight like a human. He eluded all pursuit and instead chose to pursue his enemies. None could survive a blow they couldnapos;t see coming.
The last type of stealth measure was the use of specialized coating or armor. By cladding the mech with an outer layer that suppressed signals from bouncing back to the opponentapos;s sensors, it could quietly sneak around without getting detected by the enemy.
However, same as the other options, such a trick was unable to suppress other signals such as sound and vibration. Opting for stealth coating or armor also meant missing out on more damage resistant options. For example, a popular add-on mech pilots like to buy was a special reflective coating that slightly negated incoming damage from lasers.
The three options of chaff, ECM and stealth coating represented the limited progress of stealth technology at the time. More sophisticated solutions started to pop up in the following decades, but Ves had no access to them due to their higher star ratings.
quot;The Octagon isnapos;t a saboteur, even though it can work as one.quot;
There was an important distinction in role. Saboteurs generally avoided seeking out conflicts and operated mainly behind enemy lines to attack critical infrastructure nodes. The Octagon on the other hand specialized in pure combat in dense, complex environments. What it needed was an aid to help it kill its enemies better, not a way to elude detection entirely.
quot;Seems like the particle ejector is the most appropriate out of the bunch.quot;
The particle ejector might be limited in the amount of particles a single mech could carry, but the ejector was relatively low-tech and could be mounted pretty much anywhere. Besides the payload canisters, it weighed very little and drew very little energy as well, allowing for minimal disruption to the performance of the mech. Much like missile launchers, the real technology was in its payload and not its launching method. The particles one could launch varied in their density, longevity, wind sensitivity and more.
Out of all the choices Ves had available, he picked a module that didnapos;t last very long but was highly effective in a larger area. His spending account shrank by 300,000 credits once he acquired the famed Relix Systems Valhalla Particle Ejection Module 1st Edition. Many other virtual mechs who sought out battlefield disruption methods chose the same particle ejectors. Its features were taylor-made for short duration but high intensity arena matches.
With a new goodie in hand, Ves read the manual and familiarized himself as best he could with the new technology. The main issue he faced was to decide where to mount it and how many canisters he added to the mech.
There was nothing stopping him from improvising an external shell around the module. The component drew little power and only required a single data cable to communicate with the mechapos;s processors.
Using the Designer, Ves rapidly constructed a cage that held the projector and four additional canisters. He then added a couple of fixtures that attached the cage to the back of the mech who carried the contraption.
He then turned back to his unfinished mech and modified the back to accommodate these fixtures. It was a little tricky designing slots that allowed mechs to attach and detach something from behind, but the Octagonapos;s impressive range of motion for its arm helped make it viable. It actually took a day of tweaking to refine the design.
After accomplishing all that work, Ves smiled at his work. The variantapos;s capabilities had increased without negatively impacting its mobility. If the mech was on the hunt, it could engage its particle ejector beforehand and detach it from its back once it did its job. After stowing it in a corner, the mech could fight to its heartapos;s content. It could return to re-attach the particle ejector if it successfully survived the battle.
quot;The only problem emerges if the mech is attacked from behind.quot;
In order to accommodate the attaching system, Ves was forced to poke some holes in the rear armor. While not very large, these gaps provided enemy sharpshooters a small chance to disable the modified Octagon in one shot depending on its damage type and caliber.
Everything had its tradeoffs. Ves chose to go down this path because it fit his variantapos;s hunter mentality. quot;Letapos;s add to the flair.quot;
As Ves had incorporated the Festive Cloud Generator in pretty much all his mechs, the new Octagon was no exception. He added a high capacity version of the module to the particle ejector cage. Ves set its color profile to be a psychedelic mish mash of bright colors, though he also added in the usual white, grey or black presets to its settings so that pilots could pick whatever they preferred.
Ves programmed the Cloud Generator to go off just as the particle ejector launched its own payload. The colorful mist and the disruptive particles would then mix together and drown the local area with both sensor dampening particles and disorienting rainbow mist.
Naturally, mechs possessed alternative sensor modes to make the latter useless, but it was a nice psychological trick to force enemies to switch anyway. He even tweaked the Octagonapos;s viewing mode to switch automatically once it activated the particle ejector.
quot;Hm, the Octagonapos;s sensors arenapos;t very exceptional either.quot;
The main problem with throwing crap in the air was that it affected everyone indiscriminately, including the Octagon. With the level of technology back then, Ves had no good solutions to mitigate this problem. Incorporating high-powered sensors not only drew more energy than he was comfortable with, they also acted as a lighthouse in the middle of the dark, practically exposing the mechapos;s location.
quot;Itapos;s up to the pilot to make the best out of the equipment. I canapos;t do anything else to help.quot;
Ves refined the mechapos;s armor scheme once again in order to properly accommodate the cage on its back. With its spear and knives, the mech looked more menacing than the base model. He spent two more days on refining its angles and perfecting its balance so that the mech wouldnapos;t lean too forward or backwards whether it carried the cage or not. After a final polishment, the variant came near to its final form.
The last step involved adding the coating. Ves chose to mimic the base model and gave the mech in a highly reflective chrome exterior. Such a choice made the mech difficult to hide from optical sensors, but it might provide an interesting appearance when it fought in the middle of its particle cloud.
Once he fully completed his design, Ves gave the mech a name. quot;Letapos;s call you the Mist Prowler. Well System, how did I do?quot;
[Design Evaluation: Mist Prowler.]
Variant name: O-225CM Mist Prowler
Base model: Octagon O-225C
Original Manufacturer: Globe-Elstar Corporation
Weight Classification: Medium-Light
Recommended Role: Guerilla Fighter
Carrying Capacity: E-
Energy Efficiency: A
Performance improvement: 14%
Cost efficiency: -50%
Overall evaluation: The Mist Prowler is a reimagining of the base model that performs slightly better at a much higher cost. The mech features a redesigned armor scheme that has marginally improved its damage absorption capacity but provides increased mobility in battles of attrition. The added particle ejection system gives the mech an advantage in shorter battles if the pilot is skilled enough to make the best out of the opportunity.
[You have received 75 Design Points for completing an original design with a performance improvement of over 10%.]
[You have received 100 Design Points for designing a mech with a trace of X-Factor.]
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