Chapter 1986 Do As The Rubarthans Do
The Sentinel Kingdom offered a lot of work. The turmoil emerging from the Nyxian Gap combined with the ripple effects of the Sand War and the Komodo War meant that mechs came back in high demand.
Combined with the increased need to replace obsolete mechs with new generation mechs, the market for commercial mechs and custom-tailored commission mechs had risen to a point where the mech market was booming!
Both low-end mechs and high-end mechs sold like hotcakes. When Gavin showed him the charts showing the sales trends of mechs throughout the star sector, Ves noted that there was an especially high demand for mechs that either utilized laser weapons or countered them in some fashion.
This is the laser generation, so it stands to reason that laser weapons are more popular than ballistic and kinetic weapons. Gavin told him. We gained a rather distorted perspective on these wider trends because the Sand War revolved entirely around physical weapons. What this means is that our Desolate Soldiers may be selling well, but many of our buyers have decided to eschew the ballistic rifles that come with them in favor of laser rifles!
Ves grimaced. My Desolate Soldiers aren't optimized for laser weapons. Their targeting systems won't work as well, so the accuracy and target acquisition capabilities won't be as good as dedicated laser mechs. Their energy reserves are also rather paltry and their heat management systems aren't designed to cope with too much heat generated by the weapon, so the mechs will quickly reach their limits in combat.
Most of your customers don't care. They just slap on some extra energy cells and heat sinks onto your mech and call it a day. This is what the market wants, Ves. I think it would do your company a lot of good if you divert some time to design an official laser rifle variant for the Desolate Soldier. Call it the Energy Soldier or something.
To be honest, Ves wasn't really sure he wanted to continue to work with the Soldier product line. He was very much aware that a lot of states had already adopted it for its supportive glow.
His intention for creating the Solemn Guardian was to bolster the morale of the mech pilots on the field and encourage everyone to work for the greater good by appealing to their sense of duty.
In that, his mech had succeeded. The entire Soldier product line had become the most iconic mech of the Sand War, and he would have probably been in line to earn a lot of awards from the various states if he didn't piss off the Friday Coalition!
Still, his mech outlived its original purpose and had become an increasingly more ubiquitous sight throughout the star sector.
Ves was sure that he would be seeing plenty of Desolate Soldiers in the Sentinel Kingdom! Despite the budget model's limited application against human opponents, many customers were buying it purely due to its glow!
From a commercial perspective, you're right. He rubbed his smooth-shaven chin. The Desolate Soldier is not that good of a mech against non-sandmen opponents, but that can change if I realise a variant that specializes in wielding laser rifles.
Gavin threw a suspicious glance at Ves. I know that tone of yours, boss. I sense a 'but' coming.
You know me too well. Ves smirked. From a designer and creator's standpoint, I don't feel like doing it. First, I think the Desolate Soldier's glow is currently being abused for purposes that aren't in line with the mech's original visio. I designed it to facilitate the defense of the Bright Republic and other beleaguered states during the Sand War. I crossed a couple of lines that I wasn't comfortable about because the necessity of the situation required something drastic. Now that the war has come to a conclusion, I don't intend to revisit this product line unless another crisis occurs.
Desolate Soldier sales are pretty much propping up the entire LMC and by extension the Larkinson Clan at this moment. Gavin pointed out.
I know. I don't intend to stop that. However, remember that the Desolate Soldier is a lastgen design that came out right as the MTA announced the new mech generation. If you set aside its fantastic glow, it's a really mediocre mech even if you compare it to other mechs in its price range. What's its current price now?
Around 500,000 to 600,000 hex credits. Gavin immediately replied. That's roughly the equivalent to 20 million pre-inflation bright credits. The exact prices vary considerably between markets due to differences in taxes, regulation, cost of doing business and market demand. Surprisingly, unlike other lastgen mechs, we haven't been forced to lower its price, thereby keeping its product margin at healthy levels.
Uhum. I get it. I still won't expand the Soldier product line, though. I don't want the brand identity of the LMC to revolve around this singular mech design. I'm not a Class VII mech designer who spends his entire life perfecting a single product. I have a lot of ideas that I want to bring to reality and I want to make a name for myself as a mech designer who can design anything that is in demand!
It was a matter of principle and philosophy to Ves. He was very much aware of how dangerous it was for mech designers to tunnel vision around a single megahit. If Ves kept running back to his old wonder and continued to retread the same solutions, he would eventually lose the ability to solve new problems.
The mech industry was rife with one-hit wonders who turned from decent mech designers into lazy, washed-up losers who constantly tried to recreate the same success, with mixed results.
Though Ves definitely intended to refresh some of his older mech designs, it had to make sense both from a business perspective and a design perspective.
By the way, you haven't accepted any of the proposals I mentioned to you, boss. Are you really sure you don't want to do anything to make your stay in Sentinel a bit easier? Gaining a patron is very convenient in states where authority is strong.
Ves shook his head. None of the commissions sound particularly worthwhile. Now that I've become a masterwork mech designer, my value has shot up. While that isn't entirely reflected in the proposals we've received, I think it's best to move on from accepting regular commissions from random people.
I.. understand. I'll be sure to filter them out from now on. What will you do, then?
There is always work for me. I'll revisit my options when I finish the projects that are currently in the pipeline. The two projects that I'm working on are more than enough to occupy me for months.
While he was technically capable of working on more than two projects at a time, his design teams couldn't quite keep up with all of the work. He would have to double his roster of subordinate mech designers if he wanted to handle multiple projects in a more efficient manner.
So far, Ves was holding off on expanding his design teams, but that might change once he reached the Sentinel Kingdom and settled down from the recent crises.
Eventually, Ves ended his meeting with Gavin without accepting any new commissions.
Later that day, he returned to the design lab of the Scarlet Rose to resume work on the striker mech design and to handle his other responsibilities.
Ever since he settled the future education of the four Larkinson seeds, the teenagers showed up to the design lab every day.
Most of the time, the seeds received basic tutoring from the members of the design teams. It wasn't necessary for Ves or Gloriana to devote their valuable time to teach basic knowledge and concepts to them. It was as overkill as using a Star Designer to teach a third grader how to multiply sums!
However, the two Journeymen made sure to devote at least half an hour to instill them with the proper mindset and principles of a mech designer. This was something that they both insisted upon because they wanted to set up the four kids up for success.
Since Maisie Ann Larkinson and Rennie Larkinson both decided to attend a Hexer university, Gloriana practically took them under her wing.
When Ves entered the design lab, he just caught a portion of her lecture.
...Now, girls, when you arrive in the Hegemony, you must forget everything you know about 'men'. In fact, don't even use that word. 'Man' or 'men' is a taboo word in the Hegemony. If you get caught using it once, your Hexer classmates will begin to regard you as ignorant foreigners. You don't want that. From now on, start looking at every male as if they are boys. Please repeat this word to me with as much feeling as possible.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH! Gloriana thundered! Don't treat the word as a joke. Treat is as if it is the literal truth! If you find it difficult to think of males as boys, just pretend that they are six to eight years old. As long as you can adopt this mindset, you are essentially half-way towards becoming a Hexer! Ah, look, Ves has just arrived! Tell me, is he a boy or a man?
He's the patriarch! Rennie gasped. I would never call him that! That's disrespectful.
He's a boy. When in Rubarth, do as the Rubarthans do. Maisie flatly said.
Their teacher clapped her hands. Good job, Maisie! That's exactly the attitude I'm looking for! If you truly want to ensure your studies proceed smoothly, then it's essential to play nice with my fellow Hexers! The ability to completely disregard the status, respect and accomplishments of any male is an essential skill in the Hegemony! I won't allow you to attend a Hexer university until you are completely indistinguishable from genuine Hexers in this regard!
As Gloriana gleefully tried to turn Maisie and Rennie into Hexers, Ves wanted to step in and stop this farce.
He didn't. The two had already divvied up the Larkinson seeds. Ves wasn't allowed to interfere with the curriculum of the female seeds. Gloriana claimed it was necessary in order to prevent Maisie and Rennie from getting bullied or ostracized by their teachers and classmates when they finally began their studies.
With the girls in Gloriana's hands, Ves could only console himself by setting the curriculum Maikel and Zanthar Larkinson.
The two boys, ahem, adolescent men chose the very risky option to forgo orthodox education entirely in favor of learning directly under Ves. Whether this was a stupid decision or not remained to be seen.
As far as Ves was concerned, he took his responsibilities very seriously. When the two men finished their studies, he wouldn't be able to provide them with MTA-accredited diplomas. This would severely hamper their future job opportunities, as possessing a valid diploma was one of the most basic but most essential requirements to gain employment in mech companies!
Certainly, Ves could hand them off to any virtual university to address this shortcoming, but a diploma from a virtual degree mill was worth as much as a nutrient pack.
Ves only hoped that his growing name and reputation would be able to make up for the lack of credentials in Maikel and Zanthar's records. Once he advanced to Senior, there shouldn't be any doubts about his teaching ability anymore!
He approached the two young men who were listening with disturbed fascination to Gloriana's lecture a few tables away.
Why did you hit us, uncle?!
First lesson, don't listen to Gloriana's nonsense! What she is teaching is only reserved for women, got it?! No man under my watch will start treating himself as a boy! Ves placed his hands on his hips. Now, since you have decided to enroll in my exclusive mech design class, I'm going to teach you how to become mech designers MY way. By the time I'm done with you, I hope you'll be able to at least do a bit of what I can do! Let's start with the history of mechs!
Ves did not intend to take a neutral approach to the education of these two Larkinson seeds. Unlike with Ketis where he allowed her to find her own passion, Ves decided to take a more proactive approach and turn the two seeds into his pseudo-disciples!