Ves had to arrange a lot of stuff before his impending departure. Over the next week, he accomplished a lot of things.
He held a board meeting where he introduced Calsie and rammed through a couple of changes in the corporate chapter.
He kept himself up to date with the Marketing Department's plan to roll out of the Crystal Lord models.
On some moments, Ves squeezed out the time to visit Lucky. His gem cat meowed weakly at him whenever he visited. It seemed that Lucky still needed a couple of months to get back into shape.
"I'll be going away soon. According to the regulations of the Mech Corps, I can't bring any possession along with me. You'll have to stay behind."
"Just keep an eye on the Mech Nursery, alright? Hang around Calsie and Melkor if you can, and scare away anyone who issues threats to them. They're my two most influential agents and I can't have them succumb to any outside coercion while I'm away.
"I'll be sure to arrange for a steady supply of choice minerals and exotics. You'll never starve as long as the LMC exists."
He hugged and played with Lucky for a couple of times, but he regretfully kept these tender moments brief.
"There's one more thing I need you to take care of." Ves said and slowly detached his trusty comm from his wrist. He subsequently bound it to Lucky's neck. The comm's advanced construction quickly shifted into a locked configuration. "Keep my comm on you at all times, and never let it anyone grab a hold of it. Got it?"
"Yes, it contains the System."
"I know, but I don't have any other choice! The Mech Corps take security very seriously. I heard that any incoming mech designer will be stripped of his possessions and be issued new ones instead. I can't have this comm falling out of my sight and into someone else's hands."
This not only applied to his comm, but also his shield generator and all of his anti-grav clothes, which he planned to stash in the vault.
Spending a long time without the System daunted him a little. Ves admitted to himself that he became dependent on having the possibility to spend DP at any time to get out of a fix. Being forced to forgo his safety rope unsettled him more than he thought.
"I couldn't have made it this far without the System."
On the flipside, this would be a rare moment in time where he could prove that he could make do without the System's many conveniences. True mech designers built up their careers by themselves. Though many of the successful ones benefited from a lot of outside help, Ves figured that no one enjoyed a leg-up as much as him over the same period of time.
From a talentless hack to a rising young star, Ves owed the System more than he could ever repay. The thought constantly lingered in the back of his mind. One day, a reckoning might come where he may have to pay an awful price.
For now, it was not as if Ves lost a lot of capabilities. It would be impossible for him to earn a lot of DP while he worked for the Mech Corps.
"Added to that, the Crystal Lord is a Superpublished design. In exchange for elevating its quality, I lost the opportunity to earn any DP from its sales."
That would affect him a lot, he knew. The handsome trickle of DP he earned from the Blackbeak alone was very substantial. Once the LMC allocated some of its production capacity to the Crystal Lord, his DP income would be cut in half at the very least.
Therefore, losing access to the System for a time wouldn't affect him too much. This made it a little easier for Ves to stomach going without this aid.
For now, he made do with a generic comm that contained nothing important.
As he went through his to-do list, he also spoke with Captain Silvestra. She thought highly of the Trieste TRLC-343 light carriers. However, his suggestion to put her in charge of the starship contingent of the Avatars of Myth met a surprising objection from the female captain.
"Thank you for thinking so highly of me, sir, but I'm not qualified to hold a multi-ship command." She replied over the comm. "In both the mercantile and mercenary navies, it's something of a taboo to thrust a junior captain like me in a position of leadership over multiple fully-fledged ships. It takes decades of training and experience to become a senior captain or fleet commander. They are the only ones competent enough to keep track of multiple vessels and effectively command them in battle."
This posed a problem for Ves. "I don't know any senior captains and I don't know a thing about running a fleet. Can you assist Melkor in finding a good and trustworthy senior captain that can crew and run the two Trieste-class light carriers that I'll be ordering soon?"
"That won't be a problem." The captain of the Barracuda smiled. "I know a handful of former mentors who may be interested in commanding over a fleet of state-of-the-art light carriers."
The price tags attached to the Trieste-class vessels drained the majority of his personal fortune. In return, the Avatars of Myth gained an incredible amount of capability with regards to interstellar mobility and spaceborn battles.
The two purpose-built ships could not be compared to the deluge of cheap, clunky converted carriers which always risked coming apart at the slightest touch. These consisted of improvised rust buckets converted from outdated cargo haulers that had reached the end of their service. The only reason they had been made space worthy again was because the shipyards replaced the FTL drive and a handful of other essential parts during the conversion process.
Naturally, in the race to offer the cheapest converted carriers, the more dubious shipyards often cut a lot of corners. The amount of accidents these converted carriers suffered each year in the Bright Republic alone could fill up a book.
According to Captain Silvestra, fleet commanders with the right qualifications rarely accepted the invitation of a random mercenary corps to command their ramshackle ships. Attracting the services of these venerable spacers who enjoyed a supreme status in the mercantile and mercenary navies required a lot of effort.
"Hmm." Ves mused. "So will it be difficult for us to attract a qualified commander?"
"There's no problem at all. They all salivate at the possibility of commanding over two proper light carriers. In addition, working under a mech designer is a cushy job. Unlike working for a mercenary corps, you always seem to have a lot of money to spend, and you don't go out to dangerous regions nearly as often."
Many mech pilots thought the same. Ves understood her point after he made that connection. "While I'm gone, I'll be sure to set aside a lot of funds in order to crew and maintain the ships. Just to be sure, every major spending decision needs to be cleared by Melkor. He'll be having the ultimate say over everything that happens in the Avatars of Myth. Will that be okay?"
She nodded. "Sir, this is nothing unusual. The outfit commander's words are law. It's up to us ship drivers to bring his mechs to the right planet at the right time."
It used to be the other way around. Admirals, fleet commanders and ship captains with the power to scorch entire planets used to reign supreme. The so-called ground pounders that formed the landbound contingent of the armed forces often endured mockery and abuse by the elites that ran the warships.
Nowadays, the Age of Mechs placed mech pilots in a position of primacy. Outfits always pushed their mech commanders in a position of leadership. It was unheard of to let a ship captain be a figurehead, even if that person commanded over a starship that was ten times as expensive as all the mechs in the outfit put together.
After his talk with the captain, Ves looked at his schedule and saw that he addressed every pressing issue. The only item on the agenda of importance was the upcoming press conference.
"For now, I should fabricate as much gold label Crystal Lords as possible."
In order to spice up the press conference, Ves planned to bring along a handful of gold label Crystal Lords and auction them after the grand reveal. Just the hint of it would attract a horde of collectors, thereby boosting his new product line's exposure.
His hard work in elevating the status of his gold label offerings allowed him to cash in on it at this crucial moment. A fair number of mech insiders knew that any product that carried this label would have an extraordinary amount of value. The X-Factor alone helped a lot in reinforcing their emotional impression of his mechs.
"I can always count on collectors being suckers." Ves smirked before he furrowed his brows. "Yet I can't base my business model around serving their demands."
Milking the cash cows known as collectors required a fertile field for them to feed on. Without building up the status of his regular production models, he had no leg to stand on if he wanted to charge a huge premium for his top-tier mechs.
Therefore, Ves and the Marketing Department did not count on collectors alone to hype the Crystal Lord. They needed to reach their intended market segment which would be responsible for the bulk of their sales.
"We've got to find a way to make our value proposition relevant to the private sector."
This was not a matter of delivering a certain amount of performance or including an innovative new gimmick. At the heart of it, mech designers like Ves produced machines of war that aimed to meet the needs of those who relied on them to do their jobs.
What kind of mech pilots did his mech appeal to the most?
The elites. The commanders. The talents. The Crystal Lord wasn't called a Lord for nothing. Both its price and performance elevated the model past most of its peers. Potential customers ranged from outfits that nurtured promising talents, or mech commanders that wanted to make a bigger impact on the battlefield.
The LMC's Marketing Department worked with this premise and started priming the local media environment with teaser ads of the new model. With the help of Marcella who knew the market inside and out, they found the best ways to spark some interest in the upcoming press conference.
All of this cost a lot of money, of course. The LMC already lost some cash by issuing dividends, and now it spent even more to fund an advertising campaign for a product that hadn't even been sold yet.
The increased spending delayed the acquisition of more production lines, but Ves believed his company would be better off in the long run by investing so early in marketing the Crystal Lord.
In the meantime, Ves slaved away his time by churning out mechs after mechs from the Dortmund production line. A constant rotation of mech technicians stood at a distance and observed his every move. They needed to learn how to fabricate a copy of the Crystal Lord on their own after Ves was gone.
Though the Crystal Lord used up less materials than the Blackbeak, its fabrication process was a lot more complex. From the HRF armor to highly intricate mechanisms, this mech required a lot of finesse.
At best, he could complete one Crystal Lord in a little more than two days. Perhaps over time, he and his mech technicians would become more familiar with the process, but the time savings wouldn't be too much.
"This is a mech that's difficult to mass produce."
Ves did not consciously design the Crystal Lord to be so troublesome to fabricate. The cramped volume and lack of space reminded him of his troubles with the Caesar Augustus and the Mark II. His vast experience with those two outdated designs taught him how to handle situations like this, but that did not mean his employees could go over these bumps as well.
"Being difficult to produce isn't necessarily a bad thing. At least it will cut down on the imitations."