Vincent Ricklin unbelievably went on for about ten minutes on the importance of manhood in mechs. He really believed almost all mechs were gender neutral. As a bona fide man, Vincent hated the thought of mentally castrating himself whenever he piloted a mech.
Naturally, someone immersed in mechs such as Ves had no problem with the lack of gender indications. Mechs were only designed to emulate the human form in order to perform better as a war machine. Adding unnecessary extensions such as hair, skin or gender expressions did not add anything to a mech's battle performance.
Frankly, only an extremely vain pilot who cared more for his looks than his battle record could demand something like this. Ves had the misfortune of making a mech for this kind of person.
"This is an extremely complicated addition. Let me think about it for a day or two. It's not easy to add mass in the front part of the waist."
Actually, Ves wanted to ditch Vincent and go back to Marcella and demand they drop him as a client. Vinnie was only up to his third request and already the envisioned mech turned impractical.
His comm beeped with a priority message.
Ves halted Vincent's rant with a raised palm. "Ah sorry Vincent, I set my comm to notify me if there's something extremely urgent going on. Can I take this call?"
"Sure. I'll just mix another drink." Vinnie said casually as he turned his back and grabbed a couple of random bottles on the shelves.
His mail did not receive a message from Marcella, Melinda or any other acquaintance. Instead, he received a plain text message from an account named The System.
Mission: Gender Change Operation
A mech designer never cowers before a challenge. To be a successful designer is to be adventurous in testing new concepts. To complete this mission, you must satisfy your client's wishes and deliver a mech he can cherish as his personal war steed.
Reward: Random attribute candy worth 0.5 attribute points, 3000 Design Points
The mech designer's eyes bulged when he read through the message. The capricious System proactively gave him another mission. While that might not always be bad due to the generous rewards it always offered, but this time it meant continuing to work with the Ricklin boy.
He really needed the rewards. he'd regret it for the rest of his life if he passed them by in his haste to avoid a troublesome client. That 3000 DP looked very tasty considering Ves would need to spend months just to accumulate that much.
Ves slowly relaxed his body. He couldn't always run away from his customers no matter how unseemly they behaved. It was better to take on the challenge as best he could and treat it as another training exercise.
He took a deep breath and faced Vincent again. "Did you suggest this idea to any other mech designer?"
"Pfff." Vincent spat out disgruntledly, spilling out a few drops of alcohol in the process. "I got a hold of Patricia Schneider. When I tried to impress her of my genius plan, she straight up shut her comm! Now, she won't even answer me back after a million calls!"
No wonder she rejected Vincent to the point of ignoring him. Besides the obvious, the mere suggestion that a mech designer add some mass to a mech's front waist was an idiotic idea with no possible merit.
Yet Ves started to consider it seriously. In fact, he changed his entire mindset and suppressed his skeptical viewpoint. He had to throw away pretty much all rational thoughts in order to entertain Vincent's outlandish ideas.
"While it's difficult to, ahem, enhance a mech's endowment, it would be easier if it's made of flexible material. Are you amenable to using fluids or a sponge-like material? It will be much easier to realize, and you will have the flexibility to... vary the size while you're piloting your mech."
"Fuck yes! That's a fantastic suggestion! Just don't make it too soft or fragile. The last thing I want to happen is letting my manhood deflate like a balloon."
"Alright, let's settle for these points." Ves hastily said, trying to push this little session to a close before Vincent mentioned something even more outlandish. "After all, you don't want your customized mech to be too burdened with bling."
Vinnie blinked a little as he finished his latest drink. He burped loudly, allowing the raw alcoholic smell to waft over Ves.
"Uhm, whatever you say man. Adding all of what I've mentioned so far is pretty good enough. It'll surely pump up my personal mech up there at the top of the cool chart."
The increasingly drunk playboy started to drift off as he grew increasingly drunk. Ves tried to disengage himself from the conversation several times, only to be pulled back as Vinnie vented his frustrations about what he thought were uncool mechs.
It took well over an hour before Ves hurriedly stepped out of Vincent's mansion. He heard more than enough opinions about how mechs should really look like according to the Ricklin scion. At least he came out of the lengthy exchange with had a very good picture of Vincent's aesthetic tastes.
He wished he could get on the next passenger shuttle back to Cloudy Curtain, but he reconsidered after a moment. If he wanted to complete the System's mission as best as possible, then it was crucial that he frequently consult with his client in order to avoid taking a wrong turn.
Thus, he called up Marcella on his comm and asked her for a secure workplace where he could customize his design in peace.
"Absolute security doesn't exist, you know, but I can tell you that Dorum's MTA branch rents out the most trustworthy design studios. It'll cost you a bit, but I'll call ahead and cover the cost for you as a favor. Just don't let Vincent down. It won't do your reputation any good if you dropped the ball with your second produced mech."
"I know. Despite Vincent's many eccentricities, I'm determined to make it work. Just make sure you charge him enough to make it worthwhile."
"Oh, don't worry about that Ves. As long as he's happy, he'll bleed his credits until he's dry."
They both chuckled at each other. Ves and Marcella were of one mind when it concerned earning as much credits as possible.
Ves rerouted his shuttle to go on a straight path towards the MTA. It only took a couple of minutes to reach a sprawling complex an entire neighborhood wide. Security was extremely stringent here. The shuttle automatically descended and landed on a security pad. Bots led by a human inspector meticulously searched the shuttle and him for any dangers. It was a bit unpleasant, but necessary.
"You're clear to go."
Ves resumed his trip as he looked around. This was his first time visiting the MTA's main branch in the Bright Republic. The tiny outpost in Cloudy Curtain paled in comparison to the might and resources of the Bentheim branch.
A great number of mech stables dotted the area. He imagined the MTA likely possessed the second most numerous mechs of any single power. Only the Republic's Mech Corps had stationed more mechs on this planet.
When he finally reached the reception hall, he hopped out the shuttle and took a constantly curious Lucky with him into the structure. The entire building was built to impress. Built in a refracting glass and crystal style, it seemingly emanated that the MTA was an open place where knowledge was shared freely.
However, some might interpret it more nefariously and suggest that no one could hide anything from their watchful eyes.
In any case, besides the System, Ves had nothing to hide. Though the System still nested deep inside his comm, he wasn't too worried about keeping it a security. No casual security sweep could ever detect it and its remarkable properties.
"Ah, good evening mister Larkinson. I see you are registered in Cloudy Curtain. How can I help?"
"I'm here on business customizing a design for a client. I'd like to rent a secure design studio. I'm sure an associate of mine has already booked one for my use. Can you check it out?"
"Hmmm. Ah, I see. Mrs. Bollinger has just registered a secure suite for you." The secretary swiped her hand, allowing a small green projection to emerge from the reception desk. "Please follow the virtual guide to reach your assigned destination. Have a good evening."
The ball slowly hovered away from the desk and out the hall. Ves followed leisurely after the green ball as it led deeper into the MTA's periphery. The core areas were all closed to outsiders, but the outer areas of the complex was already sufficiently large that it took fifteen minutes of walking before he reached his destination.
He clearly reached a section specialized in providing services to mech designers. He saw plenty of interesting structures such as a library, a financial services consultancy, a junkyard filled with spare parts and more. The structure that held the design studios on the other hand looked fairly plain in comparison.
After another security scan, Ves finally entered the enclosed hallways and entered his assigned studio. The electronically isolated room was fairly spartan in appearance. Besides a seat, a desk and a terminal, it held little else. Ves could only barely spot the high-fidelity projectors in the walls and ceilings that allowed him to look at his designs in utmost detail. These systems were leagues ahead of the cheap consumer projectors in his own workshop.
He turned on the terminal and swiped the design of the Marc Antony into its temporary storage. The professional projectors turned alive. A grand mech came into existence in the middle of the room. The resolution and fidelity of the projection astounded Ves. He even touched it experimentally, and could feel a soft resistance from his fingers. The degree of this simulation exceeded his expectations.
A small smirk appeared on his lips. "The MTA sure is extravagant in everything they do."
Witnessing this small wonder helped Ves adjust his mood. After learning an important lesson from designing the Speed Demon, Ves knew he could not keep dwelling on what he couldn't do.
Designing a mech was a labor of love. If he didn't love it as he built up its design, then it wouldn't be brought to life as a happy mech.
He considered the design process to be akin to raising a child. The so-called child in this case was just a mech, but it was still somewhat capable of inheriting the mental disposition of the designer. If he hated the design process and constantly cursed in frustration, then his mech wouldn't have a good future, just like a child who grew up to be a troublemaker.
"Alright, enough adjusting. Let's get to work."
Ves wanted to address the easiest points first, so he started with the cape. In essence, Ves could finish the job in a minute by just picking a random fabric, dye it red, and affix it onto a mech's shoulders.
Merely, the cape was too fragile to last more than a few minutes of intensive mech piloting. As multi-ton monstrosities, mechs were often subjected to high-powered stresses. If the mech ever stepped on the fabric, it would tear apart as easily as a child ripping a piece of paper into half.
"It's got to be a short cape, with supports added to its length to make sure it doesn't get entangled in the mech's frame."
By stiffening and straightening the cape's lining, he could prevent the fabric from flapping into anything dangerous. While it might make the adornment lose some of its organic liveliness, Ves thought it was a worthwhile sacrifice.
"I need to search for a suitable material."
The terminal had a direct connection to the MTA's internal market. As Ves searched for advanced fabrics, he only received a couple of dozen results. Naturally, none of them were used in making stupid capes for mechs. Instead, they served other purposes such as enhancing a cockpit's upholstery.
He straight up filtered out all the delicate materials from his search results. The list was left with more robust materials, all of which different from each other in many ways. Ves went over the products one by one, but found very little that satisfied his needs.
Though some fabrics were designed to withstand rough use, that only applied to human use. Scale the forces applied to the materials up to a mech and they'd part as easy as a spider web.
"Hm, this is a fruitless search. No matter how strong these advanced fabrics are, they were never designed to handle the stresses from mechs."
His search for a suitable material required a different approach. Instead of getting hooked on the traditional meaning of capes, he should instead consider whether Vincent even cared if his cape was made out of real fabric.
"Hm, a technically illiterate meathead like him won't even be able to tell the difference."
With that in mind, he searched for a different kind of material. It had to somewhat resemble the thinness and malleability of a sheet of fabric, but it should be much more resilient.
The list that the terminal spat out was a lot more extensive. From thin sheets of flexible armor to reinforced padding for delicate cabling, Ves found the selection to be a lot more extensive. He carefully refined his results and combed out the unacceptable choices.
Thicker materials such as flexible armor did not flap at all when a wind blew through them. On the other hand, the thinnest materials could withstand some damage but not too much. It took Ves a bit of time to whittle down the extremes and end up with a small selection of products that possessed the right characteristics.
"Hm, instead of making the choice on my own, I can send it to Vincent and have him take care of the procurement."
After all, the products left on his screen all shared many similarities. Their toughness was derived out of a clever weaving of specialized synthetics and thinly threaded metals. A tough matrix support kept the fabric from getting torn too easily, though they did cut back on the material's fluidity. Nevertheless they met almost all other requirements, so Ves hoped Vincent would find them acceptable.
He composed a short message to Vincent and added the links to the materials for him to see. After sending off that mail, Ves turned to his next task. His face already took on an exasperated expression.
Somehow, he had to turn his mech into a lightshow.