Ves faced an important impediment to fulfilling the System's mission. Walter's Whalers would never be able to breach to the core with their low-tech mining equipment.
They simply didn't possess the infrastructure to dig more than a couple of kilometers underground, and neither did they held the inclination to do so.
Why bother digging so deep when they harvested enough riches at their current depths?
He'd have to resort to other outfits to bring him to the core. Ves doubted the Blood Claws possessed much more ambition than the Whalers. Even if they brought more sophisticated gear, they'd only focus on the immediate fruits instead of the richer treasures buried deep.
"It's got to be the Mech Corps. Only they have the ambition to exploit this planet completely."
The Mech Corps already revealed their ambitions by claiming one of the red zones of the planet. Despite its many dangers, the red zone also offered some of the richest deposits of exotics.
Furthermore, it was likely that the Mech Corps must be holding some suspicions of this wondrous planet. They would definitely attempt to explore the unknown as much as they could before the seventy-day deadline had passed.
"I've got to find a way to slip into the Mech Corps."
That was a very tall order. The 4th Bentheim Division that presided over the base in the red zone didn't allow any entry to outsiders. Ves couldn't find a good excuse to convince the guards to let him roam around sensitive military regions either, let alone join a deep core mining expedition to the center of the Glowing Planet.
"Let's take this one step at a time. Every lofty goal is insurmountable if you stay at the beginning."
His first task would be to find a way for the Mech Corps to allow him to enter the red zone. It would be better if they invited him on their own initiative, which should only happen if he offered something vital that only he could do.
What was the biggest problem facing the Mech Corps on this planet?
"It's got to be the overcharge phenomenon."
As long as the energy cells kept receiving an overcharge, every mech that ran on these type of cells turned into portable bombs.
Ironically, cheap low-tier mechs like the ones procured by the Whalers didn't pose much of a risk. Sure, even a light mech's catastrophic discharge had been capable of throwing nearby mechs off their feet, but that was the extent of the damage.
Heavier and more advanced mechs carried as much as ten times more energy than Hoyler's pitiful light mech. They had to in order to deliver the kind of performance their designers had in mind.
The kind of energy cells used in an advanced mech like the Havalax compressed a lot more energy in a much smaller package. This enabled Dumont to stuff the rear of his Havalax with double or triple the amount of energy cells, each of which carried an extremely potent amount of power.
"Only one of them has to fail."
If one cell blew up, the adjacent cells quickly followed. This would continue to cascade until the entire advanced blew up in a titanic discharge that would swallow any other mech in the vicinity.
This was the scariest part. Any mech in range of this violent explosion risked setting off their own energy cells. Again, only a single failure sufficed to set off another sudden blast.
As long as enough mechs had gathered in the same place, this could lead to an increasingly devastating chain reaction that would swallow both the Mech Corps and whoever they fought. Nothing could survive these runaway explosions.
"While the Mech Corps can rely on their fuel cell mechs to do the heavy lifting, it won't be possible to furlough over eighty percent of their mechs."
Mechs that ran on pure energy cells remained the norm in the Mech Corps. The convenience of working with a single, universal resource that could be replenished in a million different ways outweighed the higher amount of energy density that processed fuel provided.
If an energy-driven mech somehow got stranded, its pilot could whip out the energy solar chargers and let the local sun replenish the spent cells. While it would take years to charge up a single cell this way, at least it offered hope.
The only problem was that Ves didn't have a clue how to go about the problem. The Mech Corps undoubtedly put a lot of researchers together to fix the problem themselves. If Ves wanted to upstage those scientists, he'd have to find a way to cheat.
"That's where the System should come in."
He still saved up a decent amount of DP. The last time he checked his reserve, he accumulated more than 50,000 DP, all of which he'd earned from selling his Blackbeak models.
Strangely enough, the System included the bronze-label mechs fabricated by EME to his credit as well. Ves estimated that EME must have earned a fortune by selling over four-hundred mechs so far. Since the System based its DP rewards by revenue instead of profits, Ves received a lot more DP from EME than from the LMC's own in-house production.
"There's a benefit to a larger scale of production."
The System's remuneration system prioritized the spread of his designs over how he could maximize the profits of each mech. In a way, their goals diverged, as Ves wanted to focus on selling a limited quality of high quality mechs while the System wanted to spread his mechs regardless of their merits.
In any case, that was a problem for another day. First, he had to consider how to spend his DP. 50,000 DP sounded a lot, but it could easily be wasted if he invested in the wrong skills and items.
"I've got to learn more about the overcharge phenomenon first. Until I can narrow down the list of possible solutions, I have no clue where I can best spend my DP."
Ves turned off his comm and went back to work. Even if he wanted to spend some time on researching the overcharge phenomenon, he still had to meet his obligations to the Whalers. He made a promise, after all.
Through his work, Ves became exposed to a variety of different mechs, almost all of which had been cheap, second-hand or modified to the point where he couldn't figure out their original design.
Getting his hands dirty with each of these mechs had broadened his vision concerning the many ways in which a mech designer chose to reduce the cost of their designs. Ves had never thought up such extreme measures, and getting a detailed glimpse of other people's works enlightened him to a different style of designing mechs.
"I've always been straight and narrow with my designs. Quality comes first."
Both the Marc Antony and the Blackbeak carried his philosophy of squeezing as much quality as possible out of the limitations set by his budget.
For example, the Mark II had been designed to deliver the most amount of value for its recommended price tag of 30 million credits, while the Blackbeak tried to do the same for a base price of 60 million credits. Ves always set a budget and tried to exceed the average level of performance of other designs that cost the same.
Through these cheap designs, Ves figured out a different philosophy. It was a philosophy that revolved around cost, and cost alone.
Quality and performance didn't matter too much, not as this price range. Mechs that cost less than 10 million credits performed so badly that it didn't matter if you dropped a little lower. As long as you could shave off a couple of hundred thousand credits here and there, any compromise in performance could be justified.
All of this had to do with the inherent cost efficiency of numbers versus quality.
The Bright Republic's mech industry maintained a very rough rule of thumb on this issue.
Two mechs that cost 5 million credits each could beat a single mech worth 15 million credits.
Two mechs that cost 10 million credits each could beat a single mech worth 30 million credits.
Two mechs that cost 20 million credits each could beat a single mech worth 60 million credits.
Two mechs that cost 50 million credits each could beat a single mech worth 120 million credits.
Four mechs that cost 150 million credits each could beat a single mech worth 1 billion credits.
These figures stated that it was always better to field more mechs than to invest in a smaller amount of more expensive mechs. Even that single mech worth 1 billion credits would be forced to run like a dog if it faced a swarm of mechs that each cost only 5 million credits.
Smaller outfits like the Whalers didn't lack for low-quality mech pilots. They often worried about coming up with the money to buy more mechs. This led to the decision to invest in lots of cheap mechs.
The elite portion of the Mech Corps and the better-off outfits faced the opposite situation. They often enjoyed abundant funding, but they faced an insurmountable bottleneck in terms of recruiting talented mech pilots. Each advanced pilot and higher was a treasure, and it would be a waste if they paired them with a worthless mech.
These kind of buyers had to maximize the value they could squeeze out of their pilots. They didn't care as much about how much money they had to spend, so long as their pilots could fully exploit their talents.
Ves had always focused on the latter clientele and completely neglected the segment of the market with the highest volume of sales. He thought that such cheap mechs lacked sophistication, and that they derived the majority of their cost savings by cutting corners.
"It's true, but there's more to it."
His opinion turned out to be prejudiced. After multiple detailed studies of their designs, Ves gained a new appreciation of budget mechs.
"It's true that they cut a lot of corners, but they're always very inventive about it. They cut out anything that's superfluous and treat the parts that absolutely essential with reverence."
The key to keeping down the costs lay in specializing the designs.
An expensive design like the Blackbeak could fulfill multiple roles. While Ves designed it as an offensive knight, it possessed enough traits from other types to act like a skirmisher of defensive knight if the situation called for it. Any buyer would easily be able to accentuate these roles by applying some aftermarket modifications to the frame.
Ves had already done so for Fadah's Blackbeak.
The cheap mechs in the hands of the rest of the Whalers lacked this fluidity in roles. Their designers only kept one rigid vision in mind when they came up with their designs.
A light skirmisher always functioned as a decent skirmisher, but it lacked the advanced sensors to act as a scout. It also couldn't be employed as a light rifleman due to the lack of optimization in its arms.
He learned that this wasn't a bad thing. A mech specialized for one single style of combat delivered so much cost savings that they'd been able to depress the production cost to an enviably low sum.
"A hyper-specialized design is probably twenty-five percent cheaper than a standard design."
To gangs and mercenary corps with little funds at their disposal, the demerits of these designs didn't scare them off too much. Anything that couldn't be solved with quality could be compensated by numbers.
For the first time since the start of his career, Ves felt the urge to design a cheap but effective frontline mech.
"Walter's Whalers can do better. They're getting stiffed by their suppliers."
Ves had casually inquired how much they spent on these mechs, and in his eyes they'd been scammed. The Whalers spent five million credits on pieces of junk that shouldn't be worth more than three million credits.
"I can do better."
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