The Mech Touch is a web novel produced by Exlor.
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The escort fleet made brisk progress in returning to the Bright Republic. It took more direct routes while enjoying heightened protection from the Spiral Shockers.
The highly-alert mech pilots of the elite mech regiment took their previous failures very hard. In order to make up for their abject performance, they intensified their security measures and proactively scared away any s.h.i.+ps or mechs that strayed close.
Most of the attachés began to mingle together on the Lormant Carnival. Each of them maintained connections with the Tovar Family, so all of them belonged to the same side.
Ves didn’t really quite fit into their circles due to his youth and perceived lack of value. In their eyes, he was Senator Tovar and Professor Ventag’s pet. Even owning a multibillion credit business like the LMC failed to qualify him as an equal among their esteemed ranks.
“Well, I’ll reach those heights in time.” He shook his head.
He was still young and had a long and fruitful life ahead of him with the help of his genetic optimizations.
Still, he missed the company of Lord Javier. As part of some under-the-table dealings, the Bright Republic finally surrendered custody over the Vesian n.o.ble. Lord Javier was now a free man once again and would be returning to the Imodris Duchy under Prince Colchester’s protection.
He did not miss Venerable Foster. That acrimonious expert pilot never hid her intense dislike for Ves. She used to hate him because he was a Brighter, but lately she began to develop a personal vendetta against Ves for some reason.
“That woman needs to learn how to relax. She’s way too intense for an expert pilot.”
Most of the Larkinson expert pilots were much more well-adjusted. However, none of them quite ever measured up to Venerable Foster’s rapid growth and future potential. Ves had a notion that Foster’s single-mindedness was the source of much of her strength.
“The purer the mind, the more coherent the spirit.”
Of course, it wasn’t all good. There were downsides a.s.sociated with developing in this direction. Most notably, Venerable Foster’s personality exhibited some extreme traits that reminded Ves of the Skull Architect. They possessed a similar kind dedication towards their own pursuits, to the detriment of everything else.
“It’s too bad she’s isn’t specialized in piloting s.p.a.ce knights. She would have been an interesting test subject to use.” Ves idly chuckled. “Then again, her strong affection for the Hafner Duchy and the Vesia Kingdom might lead to adverse effects.”
This was also why Ves limited his search for a suitable human myth to Brighter expert pilots. He did not wish to introduce a strong discomfort to his domestic customers by saddling them up with lingering animosity towards their own state!
“I’m not that stupid.”
At this point, Ves felt less like a mech designer and more like a wizard. He found it remarkable how he incorporated a spiritual component to what others purely regarded as a technical and artistic profession. The increasing involvement of metaphysical elements in his design philosophy led to a design style that placed more importance on the spirit behind a design than its performance parameters.
It was fine if his mech did not perform at its best on paper. A mech was not a machine that worked in isolation. Instead, it achieved its full potential when paired with a mech pilot.
Properly speaking, his main specialty concerned the combination of man and machine rather than the machine by itself. When he designed a mech, he wasn’t only making design choices with regards to the technical specifications of his mech, but also attempted to influence the performance of the mech pilot!
The former required technical design skills, while the latter demanded more ephemeral intervention on a spiritual level.
It all sounded a bit tenuous to Ves. If not for believing in his own design philosophy and for all of the empirical proof he observed, he would have dismissed all of the hocus-pocus as pseudoscience.
“The more I excel in this area, the more noticeable the effect. At some point, some very observant industry insiders are going to ask some uncomfortable questions.”
Ves didn’t know yet how he would handle the inquiries when they came. He couldn’t lie when it came to his design philosophy, because it was the central belief that underpinned his entire work!
As much as he became increasingly more apprehensive at what the h.e.l.l he was actually doing, he had already decided upon this direction. There was no turning back unless he wanted to break his design philosophy, which at this point would negate everything he worked towards.
“I’m almost a Journeyman. It’s too late for second thoughts.”
Right now, Ves wanted to access the records of expert pilots specialized in piloting s.p.a.ce knights. He only knew a couple of them who occasionally popped up in the news, but there might be more of them in the Mech Corps who emerged recently during the war.
Ves visited Professor Ventag’s stateroom and approached the Senior with his unusual request.
“The records of our expert pilots are extremely sensitive and strictly guarded.” Ventag frowned. “You are asking for a lot. Worse, you haven’t provided me with a good reason for me to give you access. Why do you need to study their records?”
“My upcoming super-medium s.p.a.ce knight design is a mech that is suitable for highly-skilled mech pilots specialized in piloting s.p.a.ce knights.” Ves replied as he came up with an excuse. “I want to study the best and see what they have in common and how they employ their s.p.a.ce knights to their full potential.”
“Even so, I can grant you access to plenty of records and archival footage of advanced pilots. They are the actual target audience for your design, and you should tailor your s.p.a.ce knight to them. Expert pilots operate on an entirely different paradigm and it is a bad idea to copy the traits of expert mechs onto more conventional mechs.”
“I’m not looking to copy an expert mech. I merely want to see how far an expert s.p.a.ce knight pilot can push this mech type to its limits.”
The professor shook his head. “I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t grant you permission on the spot. There are rules and procedures in place to protect our expert pilots.”
“I see. My request does sound rather presumptuous.” Ves looked disappointed.
After conveying his request, they moved on to other topics. One of the more important events concerned what happened next now that the peace treaty was on track of being ratified.
“As far as I’m aware of, while the rest of the Bright Republic is still kept in the dark about the peace treaty, the higher annals of power are already wrangling over whether to accept the treaty. I am not sure how long it will take for them to come to an agreement, but it might happen shortly after we return to the Bright Republic.”
“What will happen to me when the war has ended?” Ves asked.
“The Mech Corps will slowly pull back its war footing and begin to take stock of the damage. They’ll also start releasing their conscripts from their obligations by batches. The reason why they don’t release you all at once is because they’re afraid the Vesians might be faking their own demobilization. In any case,you don’t need to be concerned about remaining shackled to the Mech Corps for long. Our influence is enough to arrange for you to be discharged ahead of most of the pack.”
“Thank you for that.” Ves said with relief. “I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to return to my company soon enough.”
“Even though the war hasn’t been as lengthy and destructive as everyone initially expected, the Bright Republic’s economy has still entered a downturn. Be sure to get your company in order when you take charge.”
They discussed some other matters, of which the most important one was making use of certain raw material suppliers. Part of the benefits of moving into the camp of the Tovar Family was that Ves gained the right to enter into favorable supply contracts with some of the family’s connected industries as long as he met some conditions.
“Scale is very important when you enter into business with some of these suppliers.” The professor mentioned to Ves. “The more you buy, the cheaper the rates. What the suppliers love the most is a stable, high-volume business relations.h.i.+p.”
In other words, the more successful his mech products, the higher his product margins. The combination of high sales and decreased costs due to scale resulted in an insane level of profits.
However, this was easier said than done! Ves knew that he wouldn’t be able to take advantage of this opportunity at this point in time. Both the Blackbeak and the Crystal Lord were premium mechs that only achieved a moderate volume of sales so far. Even if their value depreciated to midrange mechs in the future, they still didn’t possess the ma.s.s appeal of many of NORA Consolidated’s popular mech model.
It was even worse when it came to the expensive boondoggle that was his fourth original mech design. His yet-as-unnamed super-medium s.p.a.ce knight was on track of becoming an extremely niche product.
Even with the considerable support of Professor Ventag and NORA Consolidated behind the new mech model, Ves pessimistically predicted that it would only sell a couple of hundred copies a year at most.
It would be truly too difficult to break through an annual sales figure of more than a thousand copies due to the offbeat design of his s.p.a.ce knight!
That reminded Ves that he should try and figure out a more convenient way to refer to his design. Just calling it the super-medium s.p.a.ce knight in his mind all the time started to become tedious.
“Do you have any suggestions on how to name my mech?” Ves asked out of courtesy.
Professor Ventag idly waved his hand. “A name is very personal to a mech designer. Since you are the lead designer of our joint design project, it falls to you to decide upon its name.”
To be honest, Ves already toyed with names such as the Bulwark or the Barrier. However, naming his mechs with such generic terms would only drag down its prestige. His new design should have an ostentatious name that made it stand out from the rest.
“I’ll think about it.” Ves murmured. “Right now, I’m still deliberating on this matter.”
“Don’t wrack your head over it. A name is just a name. You don’t need to be too poetic about the label you are attaching to your design. Some mech designers forgo names entirely and refer to their designs exclusively with code numbers.”
Ves smiled but shook his head. He rejected such an approach that dehumanized the mechs. If he ever wanted mech pilots to treat his mechs with affection, then giving them a unique name was an important component in the humanization process.
“There is one more thing you should know. Since you are close to advancing to Journeyman, I don’t see the harm in informing you of what will happen at that point. First, you’ll have to visit the Mech Trade a.s.sociation’s sector headquarters in the middle of the Komodo Star Sector. It’s situated at a star system that sits right at the border of the Friday Coalition and the Hexadric Hegemony.”
“Why must I go there?” Ves frowned.
Such a trip sounded like it would take months, even if he took the most direct route.
“You don’t have to depart immediately. However, you’ll only spit in their faces if you take your sweet time to pay a visit to their headquarters. I suggest you make plans and depart immediately. There are several reasons why the MTA demands newly-advanced Journeymen to visit their headquarters. I am restricted from saying them, but know that it isn’t detrimental to your career prospects. Journeymen are valued no matter where you find in the galaxy.”
The professor’s rea.s.surances hardly gave Ves some relief. While he was afraid of entering the belly of one of the biggest beasts in the Komodo Star Sector, it didn’t sound like he had a lot of choice in the matter.
What would happen if they demanded extremely stringent ident.i.ty verification, the kind where they drew his blood? It was impossible for Ves to refuse to hand over his blood.
Hopefully, the headquarters didn’t possess any means to find the obscure markers that connected him to the Five Scrolls Compact…
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