The Living Mech Corporation stood at a precipice.
The implications of the sandman invasion transformed the mech markets overnight.
States in the vicinity to the border with the frontier no longer wanted any mechs except those that were effective against the sandmen.

While the LMC currently didn ’t offer any mech that met this requirement, Ves believed he could remedy this problem very soon.

”If I put my full effort into designing a ranged mech that can beat the sandmen black and blue, whip something up in a couple of months. ” He stated.
”It depends on the complexity of the design. ”

Pacing back and forth, Gavin mulled over the kind of mech that could help the LMC climb out of its hole and set a foundation for future growth.

”I think the first question that needs to be asked is whether you should design a landbound, aerial or spaceborn mech. ”

”Spaceborn. ”

”That ’s fast. ”

”I ’ve faced the sandmen before.
They ’re manageable to fight against in space, but incredibly difficult to resist on land. ”

”Why is that? ”

”They move too fast on land.
While landbound mechs are limited by gravity and terrain constraints, the sandmen don ’t face as many hindrances because the speed in which they traverse terrain and engulf everything in the way is faster than the sprinting speed of a light mech! ”

”So if a sandman fleet lands on the surface, they become a lot more dangerous, is that right? ”

It ’s much preferable to fight the sandmen in space because the immense distances involved means that mechs have more time to whittle them down.
While ballistic and kinetic weaponry aren ’t very accurate at longer ranges in space due to the travel time of their projectiles, it ’s not as risky.
The most a spaceborn mech force has to deal with is to maintain their distance against the sandmen and to withstand the occasional laser beams fired by the sandman vessels. ”

Though the sandmen were famous for their close-ranged engulfing attacks, they still possessed some teeth at a distance.
The powerful lasers they fired from their sandman vessels were very powerful, especially when fired in a salvo!

I understand.
Spaceborn it is.
What price range are we targeting? ”

”It can ’t be as expensive as the Blackbeak or the Crystal Lord. ” Ves immediately determined.
”However, I don ’t want to design anything that ’s too cheap.
When the next mech generation arrives, I don ’t want my mech to be devalued to the point where its nonexistent profit margin dips straight into negative territory.
This is much more likely to happen with bottom-tier mechs. ”

Though Gavin understood this argument, he brought up a counterpoint.

”Under these circumstances, a lot of mech pilots who used to pilot melee mechs and such are freed up.
Though not all of them are proficient in piloting spaceborn rifleman mechs, I bet they ’re all taking crash courses right now.
Quantity matters more than quality, though the latter won ’t dry up due to this crisis. ”

”I see.
You ’re right, Benny.
Premium mechs are very expensive.
It hurts a lot when one is lost during a battle.
They ’re also more challenging to pilot.
To a specialist in ballistic rifleman mechs, that doesn ’t matter, but to the impending waves of retrained mech pilots, they can ’t handle too much at once. ”

The two swapped ideas and eventually narrowed their choice.

”I think it ’s best to design a budget or an economy mech. ” Gavin suggested and swayed around his arm in emphasis.
”We can sell a lot of copies for a budget mech that retails for about 20 million bright credits in the current generation.
We can sell even more if we draw it down a notch to 10 to 15 million credits. ”

Ves winced at the latter idea.
”A mech valued at 10 to 15 million credits won ’t be very good.
Its performance will be very basic, in particular when it comes to armor. ”

”Then design a frontline mech.
In emergencies like these, who cares if a spaceborn mech has legs? Leaving it out of your design will make your mech more cost-effective. ”

”It will also make my mech more uncomfortable to mech pilots. ” Ves replied.
”Frontline mechs are for mech pilots that are expendable and have little practice or low genetic aptitudes. ”

”No one really liked piloting frontline mechs.
If a mech pilot had a choice, they would always pick a standard mech for the added flexibility, range of motion and other reasons.

Though Gavin presented several arguments in favor of frontline mechs, Ves dismissed them all.
He did not wish to design a frontline mech despite its distinct advantages in this situation.

”I get what you ’re trying to get at, Benny.
Frontline mechs are simpler in design, so I don ’t have to spend a lot of time to design one.
They ’re also easy to fabricate so we can pump out a large number of copies without tackling a steep learning curve.
They ’ll also sell a lot because they ’re so cheap.
But this is not a mech design that will last when the next mech generation begins. ”

”The competition for spaceborn rifleman mechs at the budget mech price range will be immense, Ves.
All the Seniors and Journeymen you are competing against will probably be in a hurry to publish their own designs that can tackle this crisis effectively any time soon. ”

”That ’s not a problem.
I ’m not afraid of the competition. ” Ves confidently replied.
”I ’ve improved a lot over these last few years.
Now that I ’ve settled as a Journeyman, I ’m able to design a mech that is better while taking much less time! In fact, I intend to design a winning product during our trip home.
By the time we ’ve arrived at the Bright Republic, I plan to introduce and begin production of my new spaceborn mech immediately! ”

How ambitious! Gavin could scarcely fathom if Ves was capable of backing up his boasts!

It had to be mentioned that it took at least seven months for Ves to design the Aurora Titan! Of course, the mech was a lot more complicated than any other mech that he designed, but even half of that was still an incredibly long timeframe during a fast-moving period.

However, Ves possessed an abundant confidence that he ’d be able to design a good budget mech that stood out in the market within two or three months!

Along with the advantages that he enjoyed as a Journeyman, he recently finished digesting Senior-level Mechanics and Metallurgy, bringing his knowledge base to an entirely new level!

On top of that, he also managed to increase his affinity for mechs due to fabricating his first masterwork mech.
While the benefits of this change mostly affected his fabrication and assembly abilities, some of it over bled over to his design abilities.

With a greater ’feel ’ for mechs, he was able to rely more on his intuition and judgement to make the right design choices.
He also became more confident in his ability to detect flaws and suboptimal configurations in his mech designs, thereby lessening the demand for testing and optimizing his works.

Of course, some form of testing should still be necessary.
Even if other Journeymen were able to design a mech as fast as Ves, they didn ’t necessarily choose to rush them into the market.
A couple of months worth of testing and iterating helped refine a mech design, allowing it to attract a lot more popularity and market demand from customers who appreciated its quality.

Ordinarily, Ves was inclined towards this camp, but now that a crisis swept up the border states, he couldn ’t afford to dilly-dally around.

”What is impossible for others is not necessarily impossible for me. ” He spoke with force.
”I ’m more than capable of tackling this challenge! As long as I can succeed, I won ’t just be able to keep the LMC afloat.
I can cause its star to ascend until it reaches the very skies! ”

The sandman invasion and all of the pressure it exerted did not make Ves despair.
Instead, the difficulties that plagued him only increased his drive to prove his abilities and design a mech that would become one of the favorites to resist the sandmen!

His increased drive to design a distinctive LMC mech that contributed greatly to the war effort also stoked his passion.

A lot was at stake! Ves couldn ’t afford to falter in his next design project.
If his next mech design turned out to be a dud, then he would have wasted valuable months that he could have spent on bringing the LMC out of its slump and increasing its prominence.

Nonetheless, Ves always enjoyed it when the stakes were high.
When his back was to the wall, he found it easier to draw out his full potential.

”Are you sure about this, boss? Once you go down this road, you have to see it through the end. ”

Ves grinned.
”I ’m sure of my decision.
You can inform Calsie and the others at the LMC so they can make the necessary preparations.
I want to obtain market analyses of how the mech market for spaceborn rifleman mechs armed with ballistic or kinetic weapons will shape up in the next few months.
Contact Marcella Bollinger for assistance. ”

”Got it.
I ’ll try and get those reports to your terminal within two or three days. ”

They discussed some other measures before Gavin left to make the arrangements.
As Ves watched his assistant go, he went back to scratching Lucky ’s cheeks.

”I really appreciate Gavin ’s input.
I think he deserves a promotion or a reward, don ’t you think? ”

”Meow. ”

”I don ’t like your suggestion.
He doesn ’t need to know my secrets.
It ’s fine if I boost his paycheck.
Perhaps I can change his job description to something more prestigious-sounding than executive assistant. ”

”Meow meow! ”

”I know I ’m not treating Gavin right for the loyalty he ’s shown me, but I ’m really scared of making the wrong choice.
I only have to slip up once in order to ruin my entire life and career.
I think Gloriana deserves to hear the truth about my design philosophy a lot sooner than Gavin. ”

If it wasn ’t necessary, Ves preferred to keep his secrets to himself.
Gavin already served as a great assistant to him while in the dark about how his mechs actually worked.

There was no reason to remedy a problem that hardly existed when the solution introduced a lot of needless risks.

Ves looked down on Lucky and reached over to scratch his belly.
The cat instantly protested the move!

”You finished eating my P-stone, right? When can I expect you to crap out a new gem? ”

Meow! ”

”You better not lie! Do you know how expensive they are and how hard it is to get a hold of them? I only have five P-stones left! ”

”Meow! ”

Lucky squirmed from his lap and floated above his head and out of reach.

Ves paid no mind to the actions of his pet and stretched his arms.
After several years, Ves finally decided to end his hiatus on designing a new commercial mech.

”My next project won ’t involve a custom mech.
Now, I ’m back to designing a mech intended for the market. ”

Even during these difficult times, Ves knew he had to exert himself to the utmost in order to design a successful mass-market mech.
It had to offer performance that was at least on par with the competing mech models in the same price range.
It also had to offer distinct advantages that gave customers a compelling reason to purchase his product over those designed by his competitors.

”My upcoming mech design will be the first of an entirely new wave of budget mechs! It will be a herald of what is to come! ”

One of the reasons why he decided to design a spaceborn rifleman mech in the budget price category was because he always intended to dip into the low-end mech market at some point.

Though the LMC initially rose due to selling some fantastic premium mechs, Ves wanted to reach a wider audience.

With his current level of strength, Ves finally believed he had what it took to compete over a significant amount of market share! He was no longer satisfied with capturing a small and neglected niche.

He wanted to play with the big boys in the mech market!

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