At first glance, his rough draft evoked more grace than grit.

The relatively sturdy profile of the knight took on a concave shape at the waist to save as much weight as possible.
Most knight designs opted to beef up this area in order to protect the fragile engine and other related components.
Unfortunately, all of the extra bulk tended to slow down the frame in a very major fashion.

”It ’s a good thing I ’ve licensed a decent armor system. ”

The Keltrex armor system he licensed in exchange for merits allowed him to get away with more for less.
It took up less weight for a comparable amount of protection to other armor systems, so Ves liberally took advantage of this trait.

While some people might consider that he went a little bit too far in trimming down the weight, Ves hoped that some would appreciate the upsides of his design choice.
His draft design currently hovered in the middle of the mediumweight mech classification.
Such mechs offered substantially more mobility than other medium knights that often strained against the limits of their weight class without sacrificing too much protection.

Besides trimming down the waist, Ves gently beefed up the areas that his mech couldn ’t cover with its shield.
Most notably, he bulked up the shoulders to the point where it appeared his mech possessed pauldrons.

Knight designs sometimes included oversized shoulder pauldrons with the aim of employing them as disposable half-shields.

Any incoming attacks could be absorbed by the pauldrons instead of the mech ’s more sensitive parts.
Mech technicians would be able to replace the pauldrons fairly easily if they got damaged.
While it risked damaging the underlying arm mechanisms, it still beat risking the integrity of the highly vital power reactor.

”My power reactor runs on medium-density mech-grade fuel.
It can ’t handle battle damage like a power reactor that runs on electric current. ”

Another license he obtained from the Clifford Society, his power reactor focused mainly on endurance and durability.
As a tradeoff, it plateaued fairly quickly, delivering a low level of peak performance.
Still, paired with Oleg ’s efficient Trailblazer engine, his mech possessed an enviable level of endurance.

”My design should be able to operate for weeks without requiring resupply. ”

The only downside to this amazing feature was that his design relied on the supply of medium-density mech-grade fuel.

Generally, most mechs in the Republic that incorporated fuel cells ran on low-density fuel.
Refiners produced them by the bulk with hardly any effort at all.
In contrast, high-density fuel was strictly regarded as a strategic asset and could only be synthesized at specialized refineries owned by the state.

Medium-density fuel sat in between these two extremes.
While refineries in the private sector possessed the capability to synthesize this kind of fuel, they often left it at the wayside due to limited demand.
It cost several times more to run a mech on medium-density fuel, which was reason enough for most mech outfits to balk at the expense.

”Still, the tradeoff is worth it.
It ’s not like the mech outfits can stock up on the fuel beforehand. ”

Incorporating the use of medium-density fuel in his design did not come without risk.
While refiners managed to develop formulas that did not combust very easily, if exposed to sufficient heat, they might catch on fire.
Ves had to draw up an array of fuel cells that could be emptied or ejected rapidly in the event it became exposed to something like a laser or a flamethrower.

”As long as its armor holds up, my knight shouldn ’t worry too much about getting caught on fire. ”

Ves trusted in the Keltrex armor system to endure lasers without transferring all of that energy to the mech ’s internals.
As far as he was concerned, he got his merits worth and more when he obtained this license.

”Too bad my licenses are only valid for ten years. ”

The value of the licenses would probably decline by more than half after the start of the new mech generation, but it still presented an unwelcome circumstance.
Merits did not come cheap, even for the more established mech designers.
Ves did not relish the prospect of running another life-threatening mission for the Clifford Society.

Hopefully, he made enough progress in the next ten years that he ’d easily be able to afford the expense of renewing the licenses.

”Maybe I don ’t even need to bother with this hassle.
Everything that ’s currentgen will soon turn into lastgen.
There ’s not going to be much of a market for lastgen mechs. ”

The newer licenses introduced at the start of a new generation always cost a massive fortune to procure.
This gave the larger mech manufacturers a head-start in the race to design a new generation mech.
If Ves wanted to take part in the upcoming rat race, he ’d have to grow the LMC to the point it could afford the investment.

”It all depends on how well this design will sell. ”

His draft design incorporated several other premium aspects by taking advantage of his remaining licenses he obtained from Leemar.

The fuel cells he mentioned earlier came in a configuration that minimized the chance of setting off its contents.

The ECM he included in his design came with advanced active countermeasures that spoiled the locks of any targeting systems.
The Coalition-developed system did not possess a large margin of superiority over local ECM variants, but it should be sufficient enough to handle anything the Vesians threw at his mechs.

Finally, the cockpit deserved a special mention.
The reason why he went out of his way to obtain a cockpit license in Leemar was because it insured the pilot ’s safety without taking up too much space.
It incorporated a powerful set of one-time boosters that lifted off quickly and traveled far enough to escape capture.

As an added bonus, Ves also cladded it with a thin layer of Keltrex armor.
While the cladding added to its bulk, the extra protection offered his customers a lot of added reassurance.

Put together, his draft already possessed the right elements to compete against the prevailing models in its target segment.
While the market offered a lot of better designs that approached the performance of a second-class mech, they also cost a fortune to buy.

Like Ves, their designers incorporated several second-class aspects to their design.
This resulted in wildly varying prices in the upper segment of the local mech market.

”There ’s more. ”

His vision for his knight and the images he used to guide his design work led to a couple of distinctive design choices.

First, Ves included a couple of optimizations that enhanced his design ’s ability to dig.
He strengthened the internal frame and the spine so that it could exert more force into hardy soil without causing any internal stresses.

Ves even incorporated a free spade with his design.
If his knight didn ’t need to dig, it could slide the spade into a specially-designed slot at the base of the spine.
The blade of the spade also happened to offer some extra rear protection to the Trailblazer engine that rested inside the lower torso.

Secondly, he flourished up his draft with a couple of phoenix motifs.
This started with the head, which Ves formed into an avine shape.
He even added in a protruding beak that the pilot could use as a weapon of last resort.

Besides the bird-like head, Ves modified the shoulder pauldrons to look less like slabs and more like overlapping feathers.
While it looked rather gimmicky, this enhanced their ability to absorb wide-area impacts at the cost of slightly worse performance against piercing attacks.

It also made maintenance a little easier since the mech technicians only had to replace a few damaged feathers rather than a large slab of armor plating.

As an added touch, Ves also planned to add the Festive Cloud Generator underneath the shoulders.
If the mech pilot wished to make his mech stand out, he could choose to pump out fire-colored vapor from the feathers, giving allies and enemies alike the illusion that they faced a phoenix.

Perhaps this extra feature looked a little gawky, but it resulted in a very distinctive appearance for his design.
”It looks really cool, that ’s for sure. ”

The sword and shield rounded out the phoenix theme that Ves was running.
His upgraded creativity sprang into full as he figured out ways to embellish the armaments without taking it too far.

The sword incorporated a standard one-handed longsword design, but Ves styled its crossguard in the shape of a phoenix in flight.
With its sweeping wings extending out of the sword and the beak that transitioned into the actual blade, it looked rather fetching in his eyes.

The shield on the other hand took an asymmetrical design.
It was shaped like a phoenix turning in flight, leading to a crescent shape that covered one side more than the other.
The sharpened edge of the moon-shaped shield provided his knight with an extra offensive option.

Ves had to admit that he spent a lot more time on detailing the surface of the shield than he should.
While the sculptured surface looked fantastic, Ves envisioned a lot of added work should he push it into fabrication.

”It ’s worth it. ”

For a draft, the phoenix-themed knight already appeared unique.
Ves was pretty certain that very few mechs looked identical to his own.
At the very least, the Bright Republic ’s mech market had never seen anything like it.
Its distinctive appearance alone distinguished his product from the rest.

”Let ’s iterate on this draft. ”

The first draft merely represented the starting point of his journey to publish an original design.
Ves constantly tweaked the general shape of his design, adding in refinements and fixing some of the more obvious flaws.
He only put down his weary finger once the Barracuda arrived at Cloudy Curtain.

Once the passengers returned to the workshop, Ves decided to seek some input from his circle.
He gathered up Calsie, Gavin, Carlos and Chief Cyril and brought them to his enclosed office.
He secretly activated his Privacy Shield before he turned on a projector of his draft.

”This is a preliminary draft of the original design I ’ve been working on.
It ’s an endurance-focused medium knight that excels in long, drawn-out conflicts.
It ’s a premium design that incorporates several exclusive licenses from the Coalition, but I think I can manage to keep its price tag to around 60 million credits. ”

Besides the schematic, Ves also included his estimates on its specs.
The guesswork shouldn ’t deviate too much from the actual numbers should he turn his draft into an actual design.

Carlos immediately raised his hands.
”Okay, forget about its performance.
What ’s up with the bird stuff? ”

”I ’ve been wondering about that as well.
It looks tacky as hell. ”

Ves expected their feedback to start with this point.
”I ’m running a phoenix theme for my mech because I want to convey the message that it ’s not the end if it sustains a lot of damage.
The core of my mech is very strong.
In the event it suffers a lot of damage, as long as the owners are able to recover the mech, they should be able to repair it close to mint condition. ”

”That ’s a pipe dream. ” Chief Cyril shook his head.
”You ’re selling a lie if you boast about infinite repairability for your mechs.
Unless you ’re using smart metals or self-repairing alloys or some expensive stuff like that, a battleworn mech will always degrade over time and use. ”

The chief suggested Ves to take care of the kind of language he used to boast about his design.
Hyperbole might be fine if he used it sparingly, but he should not make promises he could never deliver.

”What do you think about the phoenix theme? ” Ves probed the oldest man in the room.

”I agree with the others it looks needlessly like a bird.
You ’re laying it on a little thick.
I suggest you cut back on the length of the beak and the feather covering of the shoulder pauldrons.
The shield looks really good, although I ’m not too certain about its asymmetrical shape. ”

All of his core personnel provided sensible remarks.
Calsie pointed out that his design incorporated both feminine and masculine traits.
”It ’s not the point where you can call it a typical ’girl mech ’ or ’boy mech ’, but I thought you should know.
Knight pilots tend to be guys, right? ”

”It ’s about the same as the total ratio of male and female mech pilots. ” Cyril noted.
”There ’s always going to be a bit more men than women in the field. ”

”Well, your design isn ’t offputting to men or women in particular, so that should be a boon. ”

Ves turned to the final person in the room.
Gavin hadn ’t spoken out a lot, which is strange as he possessed the strongest marketing background among the gathering.
He appeared to be mulling over the draft with his chin resting on his fingers.

”What ’s your take on my draft? ”

”That depends. ” Gavin uttered in a pretentiously serious fashion.
”Do you want to make a lot of money or do you want to sell a lot of mechs? ”

”Isn ’t that the same thing? ” Ves frowned.
Mech manufacturers made their money by selling mechs.

Gavin shook his head.
”Not exactly.
Let ’s take a step back and define your goal.
What do you hope to accomplish with your initial original design? ”

His related to the business rationale of releasing a new design.

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