Once they arrived at Bentheim, Ves and the people he brought along went to work. They booked one of the better convention halls in the center of Dorum to hold their second product this time.
It took a lot of effort to secure a booking on short notice. Coincidentally, a mech manufacturer that previously booked in the same period had shuttered its doors due to recent events.
"The ongoing war is making a lot of people concerned." Marcella explained as she met with Ves at the entrance of the enormous hall. "Business is going well for now, but a lot of influential people have started moving away from Bentheim."
That meant less customers and less demand. Ves hummed at the news. "Hm. Will it affect our opening?"
"You'll be seeing a lot less movers and shakers in the crowd. Instead, they're sending out their representatives. Therefore, take note in your presentation to who you are talking to. To reach the people holding all the money, you have to appeal to them through their reps."
The recent raids by the 3rd Imodris Legion terrified the entire Bentheim region. Magnates and wealthy families that contemplated moving out all pulled the trigger and left the volatile planet behind. This reordered the local power structure and disordered the local economy even further.
Still, despite all the doom and gloom pervading throughout the streets, life went on, and so did the mech industry. Press conferences continued to be held all the time for the mech designers that remained to introduce their new designs.
Not every mech designer got called up to serve. The Bright Republic knew that they would cripple their entire domestic mech industry if they did so. In general, they left aside those who contributed enormously on their own and those who already served in the previous wars.
Thus, even if most of the younger generation of mech designers disappeared from the market, the mech industry as a whole would still be able to stay aloft.
As they toured the empty hall, Marcella began to explain the recent situation. "This is a time of war. Though most of the news is kept from the public, the Republic is extremely concerned about Lady Amalia's legion. She hasn't shown up since the raids and that's a huge concern. The threat she poses is a lot more damaging to our confidence than actually showing up to attack a star system."
"In other words, she's hanging the 3rd Imodris Legion over our heads like a sword of Damocles?"
"Exactly so. Some mech manufacturers are thinking of winding down, while others are starting to stockpile rare resources. Prices have gone up by ten percent since the raids."
This was only the start. As the war progressed, prices would continue to skyrocket, bankrupting over half of the mech manufacturers based in the Bright Republic. This happened in the previous war and the wars before that. Ves knew that his company was in better shape than most. He deliberately set a high profit margin on his products in order to absorb a substantial spike in costs.
He could afford to do so because the LMC exclusively produced premium mechs. Though Ves recently developed an ambition to enter into the ultra-cheap bulk mech market, he wouldn't be able to keep up with the razor-thin margins as of yet. His company wasn't geared to compete on that level yet.
They finished touring the hall and Ves nodded in satisfaction at the open spaces. A high-end convention hall like this not only provided ample space to show off multiple mechs, it even offered a small-scale arena space to show off the live combat capabilities of their mechs.
Gavin met the pair near the arena. "Boss! This arena doesn't offer a lot of space, but the security screens are powerful enough to endure a full-powered blast from the Crystal Lord's chest laser! Why don't we hold a live duel?"
"A duel isn't the best way to showcase the Crystal Lord's strengths." Marcella retorted. "Just like the Blackbeak, the Crystal Lord is a mech that excels in battles of attrition. Let's not repeat the near-disastrous design duel that happened last time. The stakes are higher now."
The mech broker had a point. Laser rifleman mechs and the Crystal Lord in particular only showed their true value if they had time to wear down their opponents. Besides that, the arena barely provided a ranged mech like the Crystal Lord enough space to show off its mobility.
"This is the downside to booking a convention hall in the middle of the city. There are other halls in the outskirts that offer much more room to maneuver."
"Hm, what's done is done. We'll have a lot more trouble trying to attract people to attend our product reveal if we held it in the outskirts."
They decided not to display the prowess of their mechs in a duel. Instead, they planned to show off some of the features of the Crystal Lord through target practice and live demonstrations. The arena offered just enough space to do so safely.
Throughout the rest of the planning sessions, they also formulated how to conduct the rest of their product reveal. They needed to awe the crowd in more ways than one in order to justify the sticker price of their mechs.
Marcella laid out their priorities. "Our main job is to convince the crowd that the Crystal Lord brings enough value to the table to make the prices seem reasonable. Forget about the pricing schemes for the silver and gold label mechs, the 65 million base price for the bronze label Crystal Lords will definitely be met with ridicule."
Getting laughed at would be the worst thing that Ves could face in the upcoming press conference. He worked hard to earn some credibility in the business. Botching this presentation would ruin all that he worked for and land the LMC in a difficult position.
As they drew up some concepts and brainstormed some ideas to illustrate the Crystal Lord's appeal, a siren started to ring outside the streets. Their comms quickly started beeping in unison.
"It's an alert!"
"Are we under attack?!" Ves quickly asked.
"No." Marcella quickly shook her head. She was much more familiar with the local sirens than Gavin and Ves. "This is the secondary alert. It means that a star system nearby is being attacked at this very moment. The sirens are meant to bring us up to readiness in case the attack spills over to the Bentheim System."
Everyone turned grim at the news. "Is it the 3rd Imodris Legion?"
They all checked the news on their comms. "Information is scarce. The Republic is keeping a tight lid on the news. All they are saying is that the Coscos System is facing the combined might of two spaceborn mech regiments."
"The Coscos System!" Ves uttered in shock. "Isn't that the place where most of the high-grade fuels are refined?"
Marcella nodded. "It hosts a vital strategic fuel refinery works that processes the rare materials from several rich gas giants. It's essential to the Mech Corps and they are usually guarding it tightly."
"Perhaps. But will it be enough to repel two Vesian spaceborn mech regiments at once? And what is the rest of the 3rd Imodris Legion doing?"
The worst possible news could be that this might all be a distraction for a larger move. This was why Bentheim sounded out those sirens. The authorities tasked with guarding them didn't have a clue where the Vesians struck next.
"Don't fret too much, Ves. The Vesians don't have the numbers to threaten Bentheim. The odds of an attack here is rather minimal. Without spaceborn mechs, the remainder of the legion can only strike lightly-defended planets with only a basic garrison of spaceborn mechs."
Ves already knew that. He fretted not because he thought that Cloudy Curtain happened to form one of those lightly defended systems. If Lady Amalia chose to do so, she could easily send out an entire regiment to overwhelm the rural planet's feeble mechs and turn all of its industries into ash and smoke.
The only reason why he hadn't fallen into a full-blown panic was because he knew that Cloudy Curtain was too small-time for the Vesians to bother to commit to such an attack. It didn't make too much sense to risk an attack on a planet that hosted only a single medium mech manufacturer.
They spent a couple of hours in relative silence. Ves and the rest of the workers continued to plan out their press conference, but they toned down some of the fanfare. It would be in poor taste to hold an upbeat press conference right after a major attack.
News began to trickle out after more than half a day of silence. The Vesians had been repelled, but some of the refinery complexes that orbited the gas giant suffered grievous damage.
The Mech Corps muffled everything else. No one knew how many refineries sustained damage and whether the Republic could salvage them in a short amount of time.
Though the Bright Republic sourced its fuels from many sources, the Coscos System happened to be one of the biggest and most developed site due to its proximity to the Bentheim System. Crippling it would certainly disrupt the supply of fuels to mechs and ships.
This was bad news for Ves and the LMC, as both of their product lines ran on fuel instead of energy cells.
"The demand for fuel-based mechs won't collapse overnight." Marcella consoled Ves. "It might be a little more difficult than usual to convince buyers to opt for your mechs, but this is a temporary condition."
The Bright Republic wasn't stupid. Even though it invested heavily in the refineries at the Coscos System, they established many smaller refineries in other star systems. Furthermore, they also spent a substantial sum to import them from states blessed with an abundance of fuels.
Ves kept up with the news even after they finished the planning session. At night, he stayed up late browsing the news portals for any scrap of information they could squeeze out.
The news sounded pretty bad, but at least it hadn't gone worse. The Bright Republic estimated it could bring back its refineries to full capacity within half a year. Of course, this only held up if the Vesians didn't attempt to strike them again.
In order to guard against another attack, the Mech Corps quietly considered whether they should allocate some of their forces to the Coscos System.
Through news like this, Ves understood what the 3rd Imodris Legion was really after. "They weren't serious in destroying the fuel refineries at Coscos. They want to exploit the current shortcomings in the defensive strategy opted by the Mech Corps."
This wasn't anything complicated. The Mech Corps could never spare the mechs and manpower to defend every desolate star system that fell within the Republic's borders. Instead, they chose to concentrate their mech regiments in a handful strategic star system, and deployed some of their forces to reinforce a nearby star system that fell under attack.
There was much to be criticized about this lackluster strategy. Though well-defending systems like Bentheim enjoyed an abundance of protection, many other star systems like Cloudy Curtain needed to rely on gangs or a handful of volunteer militia to keep out the troublemakers.
Reinforcements often came late or not at all. In the previous wars, many star systems burned due to the lacking response of the Mech Corps.
Still, as bad as it sounded, adopting other strategies would inevitably lead to worse outcomes. The danger of spreading out forces increased the odds of letting them be defeated in detail. It would be trivially easy for the Vesians to concentrate their invasion fleets and stomp the inadequately defended star systems one by one.
The Mech Corps constantly grappled with this recurring dilemma, and even though they sustained a lot of criticism over the years, they never budged from their stance.
It was not as if they resigned themselves to be a punching bag. During the previous wars, they sometimes raided the Vesian star systems in return, thereby exploiting the same gaps in their defenses.
Still, that had nothing to do with him. All Ves should be concerned about at this moment was to find a way to push his product onto the market.
"In two days, the market will get to know of my new product."