Home ->The Mech Touch ->368 Shaping

 The draft design took shape in a short amount of time. Even though this was the first time he put his conception of his second original mech into shape, he had always imagined its design beforehand.

In his rich imagination, Ves constantly tinkered with the design elements of his rifleman mech. Every available moment, such as when he fell to sleep or took a bath, his thoughts always flitted back to the design of his mech.

A mech designer never stopped designing mechs. Even without a design program, a mech designer would use his own imagination to define its shape.

Therefore, the design process right now actually consisted of constructing the second draft rather than the first. Ves had already pinned down most of the major design choices he thought about beforehand.

"My mech has to be fast, accurate, enduring and tough. In that order."

Juggling those priorities took a lot of finesse. Over the course of a single day, Ves drew up a three-dimensional wireframe model of what his intended design should look like. He only drew up the broad strokes of his design, but it already set a couple of factors in stone.

First, the new design looked nothing like the Blackbeak. Besides using the same type of armor system, engine and other components, the two designs had nothing in common.

"The Blackbeak's role is to attract attention. As a knight, it's inevitable that it's going to be put to use in attracting enemy firepower."

In contrast, a rifleman mech would never volunteer itself as a target dummy. Only stupid and desperate mech pilots would call out attention to their lightly armored mechs.

A rifleman mech armor carried at least half as less armor than a knight mech. It was not as if rifleman mechs couldn't pile up the armor if it wished to do so, but the costs outweighed the benefits.

One of the most important reasons why was that all of that armor impacted the accuracy and precision of a ranged mech. This problem became much worse with higher classes of mechs, because the exotics incorporated in armor plating often interfered with the precision of the limbs.

Either a mech can be light or precise, or heavy and strong.

Only heavy mechs circumvented this unspoken rule. They possessed enough space and weight for mech designers to separate the interference and implement all kinds of compensation systems.

"Heavy mechs are mostly designed and produced by states. I won't be able to get in touch with heavy mechs in a long time."

Right now, Ves had to play by the rules, so he adopted a slimmer medium mech form optimized for speed and accuracy. If he wanted to design a skirmisher mech, he would probably strengthen the arms to make it capable of fighting up close. However, a rifleman mech didn't need that much power, so he kept them fairly slim.

"It's not going to take too much strength to lift up a rifle. It's more important to make sure they're stable and precise."

The heavier the arms, the harder it became to ensure they operated precisely according to the will of the mech pilot. More mass meant more complications. Therefore, mech designers sought to cut them down to the absolute minimum, with perhaps a small allowance for armor plating.

This was why rifleman mechs made for very poor melee mechs. They wouldn't be able to wield heavier weapons such as swords and spears effectively, and they made for a pathetic sight if they had to resort to their backup knives.

This was why rifleman mechs needed mobility. An immobile mech was a sitting duck to any skirmisher, swordsman mech or knight that ran up to its face.

"As long as they can run away, they can maintain their combat effectiveness."

Modern mech combat centered around the strategic positioning of rifleman mechs. The goal of both forces would be to smash apart the rifleman mechs of their opponents. As long as one side lost its rifleman mechs, its fate would be sealed.

Ves spent more time than he thought trying to draft up a good pair of legs. Different from skirmisher mechs, they didn't need to excel in top speed. Rather, they needed to accelerate quickly and be able to halt a mech's forward momentum in an instant.

This took a fair bit of thought. Stronger legs required larger legs, but larger legs also added to weight, which in turn slowed down the mech again.

Fortunately, Ves already owned a number of high-quality component licenses, most of which he exchanged from the Clifford Society with merits. Those component licenses enabled him to make more generous tradeoffs, thereby allowing him to achieve a decent balance between speed and weight.

With a pair of fairly capable legs, the mech looked a bit unbalanced with the skinny pair of arms. Almost every medium rifleman mech looked this way, so Ves wasn't worried about the negative consequences.

The rest of the mech looked fairly slim as well. Compared to the Blackbeak, it possessed a much slimmer weight, as Ves had left out most of the excess armor. He only left a fair bit on the front torso, as rifleman mechs would often be employed against enemy rifleman mechs. Ves figured that the amount of armor he had already added should be sufficient to win an even firefight against a regular rifleman mech.

"The armor largely plays the role of a buffer. It gives the mech pilot another chance after he screws up. His mech isn't supposed to get hit in the first place."

His mech's high mobility ensured the rifleman mech wouldn't get hit nearly as often as the Blackbeak. Thus Ves didn't worry too much about the deficiency in armor.

The rest of his design followed the standard convention for rifleman mechs. Ves did not try to introduce any radical departures from the common standard for rifleman mechs. He needed a lot more skill and experience to attempt such a thing.

Ves decided to adhere to best practices in that regard. This prevented him from introducing potentially fatal flaws, but it also left out any major jumps in performance.

It was not that Ves rejected risk-taking, but he felt he wasn't ready to take that step. "I'll have to become a full-fledged Journeyman Mech Designer before I attempt such a thing."

While he designed his mech, he also continuously channeled his focus. Working with the crystal golem was a lot different than working with images he created from his own imagination.

While the crystal golem largely possesed simple thoughts due to its unusual method of birth, it possessed a much stronger mentality than anything that Ves had hosted in his mind. The crystal golem was alive, and keenly watched on as Ves drafted the mech that it would eventually inhabit.

Naturally, the crystal golem knew nothing about mechs, so it hadn't been able to offer any technical assistance besides the implementation of the crystals. Ves embedded a smaller one in the laser rifle design and a larger one in the chest.

The latter crystal was a bit special, because Ves wanted it to be charged through multiple ways. First, any energy weapon that struck the crystal or around it would have some of its energy siphoned by it. Achieving such a phenomenon wasn't easy, and Ves required a lot of help from the crystal golem to turn the idea into a feasible implementation.

Fortunately, the crystal golem might have forgotten much of its original life, but it still held a wealth of expertise concerning crystal technology. It even amazingly taught him some of its race's simplest circuits, which facilitated the process of energy siphoning.

"This is amazing!"

The torso crystal would certainly make a big impact when it would be unveiled. Perhaps initially the market would dismiss it as another overhyped gimmick that could never deliver on its promise. When the new design finally demonstrated its capabilities, those skeptics and naysayers would certainly be stunned.

Three days later, Ves finally finished his draft design. It incorporated most of what he wanted out of his second original design. The only thing he regretted was not being able to supply the rifleman mech with enough batteries. Its slimmed-down volume left a bit less space for batteries than he anticipated. Even if he utilized the same high-quality batteries as the Blackbeak, it still wouldn't last very long if it continuously shot its weapon.

"I've got no choice but to utilize a laser rifle design with external battery packs."

Laser rifleman mechs distinguished themselves from ballistic rifleman mechs by their ease of supply. Laser rifles utilized standardized formats of batteries. As long as a large force brought enough copies of a handful of battery formats, it would easily be able to supply a motly crew of rifleman mechs.

However, the use of an external battery pack came with a lot of hassle. Laser rifles that drew power directly from its wielder always provided more convenience to the mech pilot. It significantly reduced the supply burden and saved the mech pilot from fumbling around when they replaced a spent battery pack with a fresh one.

Naturally, relying on internal energy cells came with its own downsides, one of which was that the entire mech would be drained much faster. At least with external battery packs, the worst a mech pilot could do was run out of packs. As long as his mech still possessed enough energy, he could always retreat.

This was not so with a complete dependence on internal energy cells. The convenience was actually a double-edged sword. Even if Ves was willing to accept the price, he still couldn't get around to the fact that his energy cells wouldn't be able to supply his laser rifle for long.

He hadn't only been drafting his mech. He also spent at least half a day on his laser rifle. In fact, it didn't look too different from the Tainted Sun which he designed before. Much of the principles used in the design of the gamma laser rifle could also be applied to a regular laser rifle.

Ves made sure to spice up its design in order to obscure the fact that he derived it from a forbidden weapon. This wasn't very hard to do. Gamma lasers demanded an insane amount of integrity and safeguards in order to handle its extremely high output.

Once Ves stripped most of the redundant features, he ended up with something that looked nothing like it could be used for anything illegal.

"Well, I think some smart people might be able to spot some clues."

They could only hold their suspicions, though. At best, someone would suspect that Ves studied under a weapons developer or mech designer who previously worked with gamma laser rifles.

Such news might be able to land Ves in hot water, but he knew very well that no such teacher existed. Who would his skeptics point at as proof that Ves had crossed a taboo?

Therefore, Ves didn't take the threat too seriously.

"Besides, the crystal integrated in the rifle mechanism will certainly attract everyone's attention."

The crystal acted as a laser propagator that substituted for a whole host of internal components. This might sound like a convenience, but in fact it added significantly to its cost. It also made the rifle harder to produce.

That last point would prove to be a major demerit. External weapons such as rifles often wore out quickly. Their lack of armor also meant they easily sustained crippling damage.

This wasn't anything to be concerned about in normal cases, as outfits often brought a bunch of spare laser rifles. Rifleman mechs also often exchanged their native weapon models with other others. Some mech pilots even regarded it as natural as wearing a different set of clothes each day.

The reason why such a custom came about was because laser rifles ordinarily didn't cost a lot of credits. However, Ves would have a lot of trouble trying to get his customers to accept purchasing his more expensive laser rifle, given that it would cost at least twice as much as a normal rifle.

It was very much possible that his customers would only use the crystal laser rifle that came with his product at the start. When it inevitably broke down, they'll just grab the nearest generic laser rifle instead of purchasing a branded one from the LMC.

"If I want to make my customers stick to my brand of weapons, I'll have to add more benefits to using them in conjunction with my mech."

This wasn't an old problem. Plenty of mech designers faced the same issue, and they developed a set of standard solutions to make the pairing between mech and weapon more attractive.

At the draft stage, it wasn't necessary for Ves to work on that aspect. He decided to leave the issue for later while he finalized the draft and made sure he hadn't missed any major design choices.

He nodded in satisfaction. "This is enough to give others a good impression of my mech. Let's see what others have to say about my work."