In the end, Ves took a few hours to draft his logo. While his artwork might not satisfy any critics, it looked sufficiently distinct. It looked like a curling bronze cat resting atop a cartoonish rainbow cloud. Ves had to admit the design lacked the traditional kind of maturity that most serious arms manufacturers favored.
"I hope you don't mind lending your likeness to my brand."
Lucky continued to paw at the projection of his finished work.
He uploaded the design to the assembler system and allowed it to paint over his newly designed logo to the mech's left chest. Ves took a major step in his career now that he implemented a logo.
As the coating finally set, Ves stepped on a platform that hovered up to the cockpit. He entered its luxurious interior and sat down on the seat. He studied the reliefs he carved to the sides and at the top. If anyone paid close attention, then they'd realize that they told three separate stories.
Ves took a deep breath. "It smells good here. Nothing beats the smell of a newborn mech."
Once he got over his infatuation, Ves installed the final parts of his design. He first attached the golden plate to the underside of the central console.
CA-1C2 MARC ANTONY MARK II
DESIGNED SOLELY BY VES LARKINSON
HAND-FABRICATED SOLELY BY VES LARKINSON
MADE IN THE BRIGHT REPUBLIC
The plate looked nearly identical to the one inside Captain Caruther's mech. This was his first do-over of a design after fabricating only two copies. Ves found it a sad state of affairs to update a design after achieving so few sales.
"The Mark I is officially history now. How times fly."
He installed one of Lucky's gem before he exited the cockpit. Before he set it in its place, he first retrieved his System-bought Anonymizer Stamp. After applying the exclusive ink, he carefully stamped a brilliant piece of honey-like citrine.
In order to make sure the stamp actually did what the System claimed, he took out his handheld multiscanner. After carefully subjecting the gem to a host of scans, the machine stubbornly insisted that Ves held nothing but a shiny rock.
"Huh. It works. As expected of the System."
The Mech Designer System might be greedy and capricious, but it never lied. Ves focused on the citrine, and after a few seconds of focusing, the description showed up in his view.
[Citrine of Warmth]
Increases the safe heat capacity of a mech by 2% when installed.
Ves retrieved the gem a couple of weeks ago. The yellow gem was part of Lucky's post-transformation droppings. His recent upgrade and the premium minerals he enjoyed both caused the quality of his gems to quadruple.
After scanning his mech to make sure he hadn't missed any faults, Ves arranged it to be shipped. First, he sent it to the MTA to be certified. Once they confirmed that Ves hadn't screwed up, the mech would be sent to a heavy-duty transport ship to be brought to Bentheim.
As Ves watched a heavy shuttle take off from his workshop, he let out a breath. "Five days is a little long to fabricate a single mech. If I want to be efficient, I should be able to complete a mech in three days."
Due to the learning curve, the production process always started off slow and unsteady. Once Ves got used to the design and prepared responses to the most common problems, he could easily fabricate the Mark II as fast as he had done in the game.
He hoped to reach that point by the time he publically announced the design. For now, Ves intended to make inroads into another project. He entered his secure storage and approached the boxes of salvaged Dortmund printer parts.
Lucky followed him inside and curiously pawed at the content of the boxes. Ves wasn't worried the cat would do something naughty. An open container of minerals rested on the other side of the room. Once the cat sated his curiosity, he'd sprint over to his favorite box of food and start to nibble on some chunks.
"I've been very hasty in collecting all of parts. I should sort them out and check for lingering damage."
Previously, Ves only scanned the broken Dortmund and the strewn out parts in a superficial manner. Now that he had access to his entire workshop, he intended to use a full-sized scanner from his assembly system. A small host of lifting bots opened up the boxes and spread out the parts onto the floor of the spacious storage room.
After cataloging every piece of alloy or composite, the bots brought the parts to the assembly system. There, the inbuilt scanning system thoroughly mapped the objects as they went by and alerted Ves to any imperfections.
Only 1 in 500 parts showed signs of irregularities. Ves wrote off the suspicious parts without hesitation. He put them into a mid-sized container and send them to a recycling facility to be broken down to their base components.
Since he had to remake the components, he might as well use the materials he had on hand. Some of the exotics incorporated in the sophisticated machine could not even be found in the open market.
Still, Ves did not entirely trust his scanners. They worked fine when measuring the exterior but some materials were so dense that the scanners failed to penetrate past a couple of millimeters.
Besides borrowing the MTA's state-of-the-art machines, Ves decided to use something else. He carefully retrieved an archaic looking lantern from a locked compartment. He received the mystical object from some random draw rewarded by the System. He inspected it carefully.
[Lantern of Imperfection]
Light the lantern and shine it against a mech or component to reveal structural flaws. The revealed flaws are only visible to the holder of the lantern. The lamp contains enough oil to burn for five hours.
"System, will the lantern work if I shine it on something other than a mech?"
[The Lantern of Imperfection is meant to uncover flaws that hinder the performance of mechs. Any component that is not directly related to a mech will not be illuminated by the lantern's light.]
"How does the lantern judge whether a component is 'directly related' to mechs? A 3D printer is responsible for fabricating models. Is that direct enough?"
[Only components that are part of an existing design are eligible in the perspective of the Lantern of Imperfection.]
Ves did not let the System's stubbornness sway him from using the lantern. He noted that the system phrased the lantern's rule in a fairly broad manner. Engineers like him often learned to bend seemingly immutable rules to their advantage.
"As long as I incorporate the printer parts into a mech design, the lantern will consider them eligible, right?"
"Hahahaha! I'm right!" He laughed. "If it's merely programmed to treat components in this fashion, then I'll just slap something together."
The lantern's distinction didn't make any sense in the first place. An artificial distinction between mech and non-mech components could only have been imposed from an external force. Since the lantern was not a living object, Ves easily figured out a way to exploit its lack of cunning.
Once the assembler system finished scanning and sorting all of the parts, Ves imported the detailed data into his designer software.
"Time to design the ugliest mech in the galaxy."
He suspected that only viable design played a role when deciding to illuminate a component. This meant that Ves had to put some effort into making sure his Frankenstein monster could actually walk and shoot.
"The Dortmund weighs as much as two heavy mechs. It will take a lot of effort keeping such a massive monstrosity on its feet."
Replacing the feet with wheels or treads didn't work, as Ves had to stick to the definition of a mech. Since he didn't have to actually fabricate the mech, Ves choose to start from the default Caesar Augustus frame since it used the best materials.
First, he stripped the limbs and expanded the torso. He added a crude hollow section to the underside and filled it up with redundant power reactors and engines. He then duplicated the default legs by about a dozen times before adding them to the expanded portion. It took a few hours to rig the artificial muscles that transferred motive power from the engines to the legs.
The mech so far looked like an oversized centaur/spider hybrid with a wheelbarrow-like hollow at its rear. He started to build an elaborate lattice around the mech and gradually started to attach the lighter Dortmund parts to them. They hung from the lattices like leaves on a tree.
Once Ves used up all of the small-scale parts, he started to using up the heavier components. He welded them together and stacked them up inside the hollow he left out. It made the monster mech look like an old-fashioned truck with legs.
To top off his mech, he added a single laser cannon to a random surface. He quickly finalized the design and handed it over to the System.
"Here's my latest design. I call it the Piece of Junk on Twelve Legs."
[Design Evaluation: Piece of Junk on Twelve Legs]
Model name: Piece of Junk on Twelve Legs
Original Manufacturer: Ves Larkinson
Weight Classification: Ultra-heavy
Recommended Role: Target Practice
Carrying Capacity: A
Energy Efficiency: F-
Cost efficiency: F-
Project involvement: 100%
Original component composition: 3%
Overall evaluation: The Piece of Junk on Twelve Legs barely meets the definition of a mech. This walking disaster fails in every possible role except for holding up its own prodigious weight.
[You have received no Design Points for failing to design a practical mech.]
The System must have been having a seizure when it marked his design. Ves had to suppress his grin. The Piece of Junk could barely move, let alone stand in place without collapsing in on itself. Still, as long as it held up for a minute, he succeeded in making a viable mech.
Ves returned to the sorted pile of printer parts and brought out the lantern. After carefully igniting the wick, the lantern released a brilliant golden glow that nearly blinded him for a moment.
The brightness dimmed into a gentle glow. Whenever the orange light encountered one of the components laying on the ground, it flared and sought to sink in deep. Ves merely held up the lantern and waited for something to happen.
He spotted a couple of signs ten minutes later. Part of a large alloy sheet started glowing red. They looked like tiny hairline fractures. Their presence proved that he successfully fooled the lantern's programming.
"This is great!"
With the help of the lantern, Ves took out any remaining parts that glowed suspiciously. If he neglected the lantern, he might have gone ahead and pieced together a Dortmund that could one day collapse in a heap of junk. He practically saved his own hide with this precautionary move.
In the end, Ves had to recycle around 1 in 200 parts. This was much more than he expected. The prevalence of microfractures and other faults forced him to halt his current schedule. He wanted to make some headway in the reconstruction project before he started fulfilling orders for the Marc II, but now it appeared he underestimated the required steps.
"I can replace most of the parts at home, but these high-grade processors are a different matter. Luckily, I picked up plenty of spares."
Out of the many sets of chips, Ves found only a couple of them still remained pristine. While he gathered an entire set of functional chips, their security measures probably blocked them from establishing a connection with each other. Their serial numbers and individual settings didn't match.
"I'll have to find someone who can hack these chips." He concluded. Due to the questionable legality of his current project, he couldn't just walk into the MTA or something. Besides resorting to the black market, Ves could only think of the Clifford Society to ask for help.
"I don't have a lot of merits left." He winced. "I might need to complete a short mission before I can afford a hacker."
Before that, he also needed to clean house. The latest shenanigans from the Greens and the White Doves prompted Ves to request a meeting with the Pioneers. Calsie recently sent him a message that she successfully arranged a meeting with an important member of the Pioneers.
"Looks like I'll be heading to downtown Freslin tomorrow. Do you want to come with me Lucky?"
The gem cat continued to munch on his crunchy dinner.