The Blood Claws and their subordinate forces lost too many mechs from a single engagement. Even though the pirates put up a decent fight, the battle shouldn't have been so deadly to their mechs and pilots.
Ordinarily, mechs could soak a lot of damage. Even uncompressed mechs outperformed conventional tanks due to their mobility which allowed them to dodge or mitigate a lot of incoming attacks.
"It's this overcharge nonsense." Kanaan uttered as he saw the devastation in front of him. A field of craters and broken parts had been strewn before the pirate base that his men heaped their vengeance upon right now. "Any battle besides an ambush will result in a pyrrhic victory for whoever's left."
A few of the senior Blood Claws by his side nodded. "Our steeds have become our worst enemies."
"It's too difficult to guard your energy cells in a larger battle."
"We'll be turning our pilots into cowards if we allow them to eject too early."
"Mechs have turned into fragile scrap. Even the Mech Corps will run out of mechs by the end of the month at this rate."
Their first actual battle had taught them a lot of lessons on the devastating consequences of the overcharge phenomenon. A single change to the functioning of an energy cell had resulted in far-reaching effects for any force that fielded mechs.
The Blood Claws completely lost their appetite for further battles. None of the men found any glory to be had in the grueling fight they had just concluded. If they hadn't been compelled to attack the base by the 4th Bentheim Division, they would have never ranged this far from their walls.
"Alright, let's wrap it up here. Rescue any mech pilots that are trapped and finish off any pirates that are still alive except for the leaders. Have you gotten a hold of Takeru and the rest of the Dragons of the Void?"
"They ran away. They still hid a small corvette in between their carriers which lifted off out of sight behind that hill over there."
Even if they stomped a dangerous forward outpost, thus reducing the threat to their base, Kanaan still felt sore about the losses.
Over the next days, the news trickled back to the Mech Corps and their affiliate powers. The Whalers especially took the news with a gut punch, because they lost six mechs and four pilots. Proportionally, they suffered the worst casualties out of the outfits that took part in the assault.
This time, the Whalers hadn't been able to drink their gloom away.
Ves quietly shook his head as he finished modifying the umpteenth mech. He developed an efficient routine that allowed him to come up with some basic modifications on the fly and implement them into the cheap mechs in three hours or less.
He had to cut a lot of corners in order to achieve this speed, but Ves succeeded in overhauling every mech in the hands of the Whalers within a week.
"I can't waste too much time in this base. The Whalers will be fine without me once I find a solution to the overcharge phenomenon."
Ves had devoted some of his off-time to researching what the Glowing Planet did to achieve this bizarre phenomenon. His current hypothesis was that some energetic exotic mineral emitted an all-pervasive energy field that changed the properties of stored energy.
The worst trait about the energy field was that it couldn't be blocked by anything. To test this out, Ves repurposed some tons of scrap and built a thick enclosure around a freshly drained and recharged energy cell.
The cell still gained an overcharge after a day.
If Ves couldn't prevent the field from affecting an energy cell surrounded by meters of alloys, then nothing else but some other exotic alloy would be able to block the energy field. The problem was that Ves had no clue what kind of exotics would qualify.
Walter's Whalers accumulated more than fifty different minerals from their mining activities over two locations.
The old site contained more active and more valuable minerals, but none seemed to possess any special interaction with energy.
As for the new site, it contained an entirely different mix of exotics, but again nothing seemed to stand out to Ves.
Perhaps some of these exotics held the key to solving the problem, but it would take too much time to probe each type of mineral. Ves needed a faster, surer solution than a gamble with exotics.
Through his casual studies and experimentation, Ves developed a number of approaches on how to tackle the problem.
He could invest in his Physics Sub-Skills and become more knowledgeable in the abstract fields of energy.
He could invest in Metallurgy and reinvigorate his research on exotics in order to come up with a new exotic alloy that might be able to influence the mysterious energy field.
He could also throw a Hail Mary and acquire some eclectic Sub-Skills from the Metaphysics tree. Perhaps a deeper understanding into the imaginary would be needed to fight against the unknown.
After lengthy contemplation, he rejected these approaches. All of them strayed too far from his core competence as a mech designer.
"I'm a mech designer, not a scientist. There's a difference between the two."
The former took the tools at hand and combined them in a way that solved the problem at hand. The latter wasn't content with the tools already available, and sought to explore new methods.
Neither approach was wrong. Both had the potential to come up with an effective solution to the overcharge phenomenon, and Ves had to take the approach that fit him best.
"Let's try it from an mech designer and engineering standpoint."
Ves called up a design for a typical energy cell.
Their design didn't differ too much from brand to brand. Protective materials and safeguards took up around twenty percent of its volume.
The most important part of an energy cell lay in the patterns and arrays that stored the actual energy. The cheaper cells used mundane alloys while the more expensive ones incorporated exotic resources that drastically increased their maximum capacity.
As far as Ves was aware, the overcharge phenomenon didn't discriminate between materials. Both cheap and expensive cells suffered from the same problem, though with slight differences in magnitude.
Another correlation he found was that certain structures resulted in a less drastic overcharge than other structures.
Ves focused on the latter for a possible solution. "If I can play with this structure, I might be able to achieve a drastic difference."
He figured that most scientists and mech designers that had tagged along with the forces here would focus on the materials instead. With the abundant amount of exotics dug from the ground, they may be able to figure out an effective new alloy that could mitigate the phenomenon.
From the moment they heard about the Glowing Planet, the Mech Corps would have certainly brought along a lot of specialists who dedicated their lives to understanding exotics.
In contrast, they probably didn't think of bringing any mech designers or engineers who specialized in energy cells. In truth, much of the innovation with regards to energy cells had been kept in the hands of the large trans-galactic corporations.
Hardly any mech designers decided to specialize in something as boring as energy cells. They'd rather license an affordable ready-made design. After all, specializing in other components yielded easier performance gains and saved them a lot of money in licensing costs.
"What kind of Skills and Sub-Skills do I need to specialize in designing energy cells?"
The worst part about working on the Glowing Planet was that the Whalers didn't set up a quantum entanglement node. Neither did the Blood Claws do so for that matter. The Mech Corps forbid any communication with the rest of the galaxy and strictly prohibited the activation of any nodes on the ground.
Only the Mech Corps themselves enjoyed that privilege.
"I don't have the right to access the galactic net from their access points."
Ves shook his head and decided to explore another way. He returned to his barracks and entered his private bunk. After sealing it up, he activated his Privacy Shield and activated the Mech Designer System before navigating to the Skill Tree.
"Let's see what you've got."
With over 50,000 DP to spend, Ves had plenty of points to spend on various Skills and Sub-Skills. The basic ones didn't take too much DP to unlock.
"I'm already a Journeyman in Electrical Engineering, but I don't have a lot of Sub-Skills related to this field."
To be honest, he hadn't found a use for that Skill outside of coming up with new internal architectures for his designs. Ves made very little gains in this field ever since he forcibly upgraded it by spending his DP.
"It's time to make better use of you."
He found a couple of related Sub-Skills that sounded relevant to the issue at hand.
[Energy Storage I]: 400 DP
[Energy Storage II]: 800 DP
[Energy Storage III]: 1600 DP
[Energy Storage IV]: 3200 DP
Learning these Sub-Skills all at once gave Ves a much deeper understanding on the physical makeup of energy cells.
Ves understood what each safeguard did and how they prevented any shorting or accidental discharge. He knew why mech designers came up with a single size and format of an energy cell.
He learned the basics of how an cell could pack more energy by using different materials or incorporating them in different structures, alternating between conductors, superconductors, exotic conductors and nonconductive materials.
"This is a lot."
He turned from a novice to an amateur expert with regards to energy cells. Previously, Ves treated them like black boxes, something that was independent from his designs and should not be tinkered with. Now that he gained all of this new knowledge, he finally gained the basic confidence to tweak an existing energy cell.
"It's not enough to design a new one, however."
Ves lacked too much of the underlying science and engineering to develop a new energy cell from scratch. Fortunately, that had never been his goal from the start. He didn't need to reinvent the wheel. He just had to modify an existing one to the point where it stopped acquiring an overcharge.
New knowledge brought new understanding. Combined with his previous experimentation, be realized how impossible it was for energy cells to hold more charge than they had been designed to store.
"It's impossible. It simply doesn't work that way."
Yet somehow, it did.
He shook his head. Ves would get a headache if he kept obsessing about the impossible nature of an overcharged energy cell.
Now that he received a crash course about energy cells, Ves figured out the kind of Sub-Skills he needed to design or modify different structures.
[Conductors I]: 1000 DP
[Conductors II]: 2000 DP
[Conductors III]: 4000 DP
Ves gained a much better insight into conductors, superconductors and exotic conductors with this cross-discipline Sub-Skill. It elaborated on the Energy Storage IV by going into detail about the properties of different conductors and how modern energy cell designers squeezed more energy density out of the materials they had at hand.
"It doesn't help me too much with finding a solution."
As far as he knew, regardless of the material, as long as they conducted energy, they all became susceptible to the overcharge phenomenon. It would take a deeper dive into Metallurgy to come up with a conductive material that might be immune to the energy field.
"That's not the focus of my research."
Learning about conductors didn't just help him design better energy cells. It also benefited his insights on how to design a more efficient internal architecture for mechs. In that regard, he didn't waste his DP.
"It's not that relevant, though."
Still, he needed it to understand the actual energy storage portion of an energy cell. Combined with his other knowledge, Ves began to see the light.