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 Over the past couple of months, Ves still hadn't finalized the draft design of his speculative smart metal tiger mech design.

Normally, he was quite decisive, but this time he frequently doubted his choices.

He couldn't help it as it was truly difficult to incorporate smart metal to a tiger mech in a meaningful way.

He supposed he could have saved himself a lot of trouble by choosing another bestial mech type.

He didn't want to, though. The stubborn part of his mind flared up whenever he thought about giving and switching to something that meshed much better with smart metal technology.

"Sure, I'd have an easier time if I design a spaceborn squid mech with tentacles made entirely out of smart metal, but where is the fun in that?"

One of the reasons why he stuck with the unfortunate combination of properties was because he wanted to challenge himself. Even though he sometimes felt that he bit off more than he could chew, he still persisted with his decision.

Over the past few weeks in between transit, Ves had continued to refine and revise his draft design. He continually tweaked the amounts of smart metal replacing or augmented the conventional subcomponents of his design.

Even as he tinkered with his design, he always felt he was missing something. His initial intention was to design a mech that provided its design spirit with a greater degree of agency.

Handing over control of the smart metal tail of the tiger mech to the design spirit was an inspired choice of his. Yet now that he came up with his new realizations, he intended to upgrade his vision for his unnamed tiger mech!

Ves leaned back in his chair and activated the integrated signal jammer that Crindon recently installed in his stateroom.

"Sorry Gloriana, no free show for you! Sorry MTA, this little design is not for your eyes!"

Only then did he call up his current draft design. As he stared at his current work, he already started to plan the adjustments he wanted to make in light of his new realizations.

"Let's start with the basics. The premise of my tiger mech is that it is a mech that can both think and act for itself to an extent."

Different from his other mech designs where people only indirectly perceived their liveliness, his next mech design marked a very radical change in direction.

He wanted to steer his design philosophy closer to the path of life! He wanted to explore some of the potential this path had to offer! Rather than treat his mech designs as passive, invisible participants in the mech piloting experience, Ves wanted to bring it out to the forefront!

He wanted his mechs to truly live up to his ideals and the name of his mech company!

"How can the products of the Living Mech Corporation still be static and mechanical?" He quietly lamented. "It's time for me to crawl out of my shell and showcase some of the promise of my design philosophy!"

His decision to stop hiding and reveal the tricks he could do extended to more than what he already decided. Letting the design spirit assume a limited degree of direct control over the mech was tame compared to his next design choice!

"Hmph." He smirked. "Since Old Man Terrence calls neural interface technology the devil's technology, then why not embrace this aspect? My next design shall be called the Devil Tiger!"

Devil Tiger!

Ves only envisioned producing a single copy of this mech, yet that did not reduce the impact of its potentially-seminal design. If the innovations that Ves introduced in the mech panned out, then he had no doubt that it had the potential to become another legendary mech like his renowned Transcendent Messengers!

The key property of the mech concept of his Devil Tiger design was to remove some of the safety limitations that ordinary protected both the mech and mech pilot!

"Rather than be afraid of the unknown, let's embrace it! Hahahaha!"

He envisioned his Devil Tiger as a double-edged sword. When wielded properly, it was able to perform fantastically. The potential of his mech might even be greater than that of the Aurora Titan or Transcendent Messenger if everything went right!

However, if the mech pilot of the Devil Tiger clashed with its design spirit, then there were lots of ways for the mech to hamper the individual in question!

"This is the price that must be paid by giving the mech more agency!"

Piloting this mech was like making a deal with the devil. Only by keeping the devil pleased would the mech pilot continue to derive a great amount of benefit from piloting the mech!

"Hehehehe. Hahahaha. Hahahaha!"

Ves occasionally burst out in laughter as he thought of how great and terrible his next mech design would be! He intended to propel it into a unique mech of which had never existed before in the history of mech design! How could he not feel excited?!

His wild and audacious vision of his Devil Tiger stoked his enthusiasm and passion to greater heights! He became fully engaged with his design project and no longer muddled over the choices he needed to make.

"First, let's solve the problem with regards to smart metal!"

Ves wanted to design a mech suited for the environment of Mournshell in the Nyxian Gap. The chaotic but resource-rich planet hosted numerous different outfits, each of them competing over the bounty of exotics that regularly crashed on its tectonically-unstable surface.

He rubbed his chin. "In the Nyxian Gap and in the vicinity of Mournshell, ready access to repair facilities are absent. Just like the scum in the frontier, I doubt the treasure hunters, dark mercenaries and pirates are any good in servicing technologically-advanced machines!"

This served as a very big constraint to Ves. On the other hand, he could also turn it around and see it in a different light.

"Repairability and ease of maintenance is key in the Nyxian Gap!"

For example, a mech like the Aurora Titan might perform great in such an environment at first. Its quality and performance parameters were head and shoulders above the trash mechs the Nyxian pirates predominantly used.

Yet after a few months of occasional battles, the outfit that fielded such an extravagant mech would begin to run out of spare parts and materials.

The expensive alloys that made up its structure couldn't be sourced from some grungy, poorly-supplied pirate station in the middle of the Nyxian Gap.

The armor compressor required to produce new armor plating to replace the broken ones couldn't be operated by any casual mech technician. Only a specialist in alloy compression could operate one without too many errors that resulted in a lot of expensive failures.

"Such specialized personnel is probably hard to find in the Nyxian Gap." He muttered. "Obtaining an armor compressor is also a relatively big burden to an outfit."

In short, any mech designed to perform well in the Nyxian Gap couldn't be too expensive and sophisticated! The 'target audience' for his Devil Tiger were simply too poor and stupid to maintain a high-performance mech!

"However, this is only the case with standard mechs! What if the mech is entirely different? What if it's made out of much more smart metal than I envisioned?"

Ves looked at his draft design and waved his hand, causing all of his previous progress to be wiped away! He didn't intend to develop this early version any further! Instead, he wanted to start anew with a more radical concept for his smart metal tiger mech design!

"My Devil Tiger won't be a conventional mech. Not every performance specification is important. The key is to make my mech durable and sustainable in an environment that features poor logistics and a lack of skilled personnel!"

He made a big mistake with his previous draft design. He sketched a mech design that was far too complex for the Nyxian Gap. While the notorious area featured a handful of outfits and mech pilots who could give elites a run for their money, they were the exception rather than the rule.

"I can't assume that whoever gets to pilot my mech is as skilled as a Larkinson mech pilot and has access to a competent maintenance crew."

Prioritizing speed, power, armor and so on was a mistake. A much higher proportion of mechs in the Nyxian Gap consisted of salvaged rust buckets or third-hand mechs, so why should he aim for a high level of performance?

What mattered more was whether a mech would last. First, their endurance had to be at least decent. Resupplying in the varied environments of the Nyxian Gap was extremely hard, so mechs needed to be able to last for at least a standard day without requiring replenishment.

Second, it had to be easy to service by lower-skilled mech technicians. Ves had to pick relatively simple parts that made use of cheap exotics that were prevalent in the Nyxian Gap.

He also had to find an alternative to using compressed armor plating. As much as its addition enormously increased the durability of a mech, it was still beyond the reach of most pirate outfits.

Third, it had to be easy to pilot. In the mech community, tiger mechs gained a reputation for being fairly easy to learn but hard to master. It shouldn't be too much of a problem for Ves to keep the tiger mech accessible to lower-skilled mech pilots.

At the very least, the active design spirit ought to be able to lend a hand if the mech pilot happened to fall short at times.

"Perhaps even those with a lower grade of genetic aptitude will be able to pilot my mech proficiently!"

Of course, that was an exaggeration. Ves did not think he would be able to solve the problem that Old Man Terrence wasted his entire life trying to resolve.

"The point is my Devil Tiger has to offer great power but without most of the burden!"

That didn't mean he wanted to design a junk mech though. Even if the System let him get away with it, Ves himself disdained developing a crappy mech!

His Devil Tiger had to be strong and awe-inspiring in order to be the legendary mech that he envisioned!

How could he make his mech both easy to work with and powerful at the same time?

"Money! It all comes down to money!"

Ves changed his mind about not investing too much in his Devil Tiger design. He had become too invested in its vision to stop halfway. A great mech deserved to contain some valuable traits.

He raised a finger and began to sketch his new draft design. The tiger mech that took shape looked almost identical to the previous design he discarded.

The most important difference however was that instead of containing a little bit of smart metal here and there, almost its entire insides consisted of the substance!

With the sheer amount of smart metal he included in the mech, reaching the target of thirty percent was a breeze, but Ves did not aim so low this time.

He wanted to design a true smart metal mech!

"It's not enough! At least sixty percent of my mech has to be made out of smart metal! Even the core components such as the power reactor, engine and large parts of the cockpit has to be made out of smart metal!"

The non-smart metal portions of the mech would only be reserved for components that absolutely couldn't be replaced with the smart metal he had access to. As for the armor plating of the mech, Ves had something special in mind.

"The entire surface of Mournshell is littered with junk and various useful exotics. Why not make my mech's exterior adaptable so that it can incorporate some of these materials? It's brilliant! Hahahahaha!"

This was one of the key features of his Devil Tiger! He wanted it to grow with time and continually improve itself!

"Instead of growing weaker, my Devil Tiger has to be a mech that continuously grows stronger over time! It will never become outdated!"

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