Chapter 2984: The Chimera Project
Gloriana made their goals clear. The mech designers had to design expert mechs that were entirely geared towards defeating other expert mechs.
Even if the Larkinson expert mechs lacked the power to finish off a powerful opponent, then they at least had to pose enough of a threat to entangle powerful enemy elements.
With the considerable advantages built up by the Larkinson Clan's mech forces, they did not fear a fight against any second-class opponents. Even if the Friday Coalition launched another ambush by dispatching a couple of mech divisions, the Avatars, Penitent Sisters, Swordmaidens and so on possessed more than enough confidence to fend off elite military mech units!
Yet this scenario became a lot trickier if those enemy mech divisions also brought their resident expert pilots. The inclusion of these powerful elements introduced a lot of variables on the battlefield and made it much harder for the Larkinsons to limit the damage they incurred.
What was most concerning about facing enemy expert mechs was that their extremely high individual power granted them a lot of possibilities to swing the battle in their favor!
From assassinating officer mechs to charging into the fray to disrupt a solid formation, expert mechs were able to act as powerful force multipliers. They could even form a commando team and fly all the way to an enemy flagship or headquarters in order to execute a decapitation strike!
The disproportionate power possessed by these great machines meant that no one could ignore their presence. Even if the Larkinson Clan was able to field ten times the amount of mechs, this situation still wouldn't change all that much!
"Expert mechs are best handled by other expert mechs." Gloriana stated. "While it is possible for us to design additional configurations that allow our expert mechs more flexibility, we cannot compromise on their main purpose. We have many different solutions to defeat weaker opponents, but we don't have many answers against powerful foes. We can either sacrifice a lot of lives or design the strongest expert mechs we can. I think we all prefer to settle on the latter."
Their work had real and profound consequences. Each powerful expert mech was a game changer to the Larkinsons. Ves had long admired the powerful expert mechs of the Cross Clan. Though the martial culture of the Crossers caused them to place a lot more emphasis on them, there was no denying that Lord Reginald Cross and his fellow expert pilots were utterly domineering in battle!
Ves wanted the Larkinson Clan to acquire the same kind of strength. As long as he could solve this final shortcoming of his mech forces, he was confident that his clan would become a lot more prepared to face the perils of the Red Ocean!
After Gloriana explained her thoughts on this subject, she moved to the final common element.
"Each of our expert mechs will also become prime mechs." She stated. "I've already discussed the feasibility of this with my husband. According to him, it is possible to transfer the same powers of a prime mech to an expert mech as long as we incorporate Unending alloy in their designs. Considering that it is not possible for us to apply better armor systems to our projects, I do not see a reason to refuse. Our prime mechs have already showcased the superior defensive properties of their armor plating."
This didn't mean that Ves and the rest were about to tear down the prime mechs that had served the Larkinsons well. The expert pilots would still be able to pilot them for quite some time until the Design Department was finally ready to fabricate their real battle machines.
Aside from the Shield of Samar, Ves did not plan to retain any other prime mech. The Valkyrie Prime, the Piranha Prime, Bright Sword Prime, the Bright Spear Prime and the Bright Beam Prime did not deserve to end their service so soon, but Ves didn't really have another choice.
To make the expert mechs of his dreams, he had to kill the mechs that he sometimes regarded as his own children. This was the woe of every mech designer and something that was never an easy decision to make.
Gloriana did not spend too much time on explaining the more esoteric properties of their upcoming expert mech designs. This was not her specialty and the assistants wouldn't understand the finer details anyway.
Before she moved on to explain her projects on an individual basis, she made a final announcement.
"It is no secret that we have managed to secure the services of Master Moira Willix of the Mech Trade Association as an external contributor and consultant to our projects." Gloriana beamed with happiness. "Think about what that means. A Master Mech Designer that is superior to any other Master that we know of will be spending her precious time to observe our work and provide guidance to us. I hope you do not waste her time and shame us all by slacking off and putting anything less than your best efforts in your assignments. If you cannot fulfill this demand, then I will kick you out of the Design Department myself!"
Every assistant winced. Joining the Design Department was a dream opportunity for many of these individuals, and getting fired was one of the worst outcomes that could happen to them! The mech designs they got in touch with became progressively better and more impressive. They even reached the point where they received the honor of being able to work on expert mech design projects, so who would ever be stupid enough to screw this precious chance?
Though Gloriana's warning sounded a bit ominous, it had the desired effect on the assistants. From the way they were vigilantly looking at others, it became clear that they intended to step in and intervene themselves if anyone in their ranks did not do their part.
"Hmph." Gloriana nodded in satisfaction at the diligence shown by the Apprentices. "Now that I have made all of that clear, let us dive into the individual projects. Let us begin by examining the project outline for Venerable Joshua's expert mech."
Prior to this moment, Gloriana already performed extensive prep work. This included quizzing the expert pilots of what they sought in their expert mechs and making many observations and measurements in order to ensure that their future machines fit them like a glove.
When all but one projection faded, the expert mech outline that remained grew larger until it dominated the main lab compartment.
The sketch did not display too many distinctive characteristics, but there were a number of elements that stood out. The most obvious one was that the medium mech frame carried both a rifle and a sword.
"Venerable Joshua Larkinson is a rare multi-disciplinary and multi-talented expert pilot who is comfortable with fighting both at range and up close. While he has primarily piloted melee mechs in recent battles, that is primarily because we are unable to meet all of his demands. This is a suboptimal situation and one that we must urgently address in order to enable Venerable Joshua to make use of his full strength and capabilities."
The outline of Joshua's expert mech did not seem to possess any pronounced strengths. It actually shared a number of similarities to the Bright Warrior product line.
"This expert mech design project is characterized by one codeword. Chimera." Gloriana stated. "This is a mech that is designed with flexibility, versatility and adaptation in mind. Just like Venerable Joshua himself, his first expert mech should be able to perform well from afar, at midrange or in the thick of a clash. It should be able to snipe priority targets at range and outduel enemy mechs up close. It must have enough mobility to catch up to every other medium expert mech but boast enough toughness to survive destructive charges."
It went without saying that these were very ambitious aspirations. It was extremely difficult to design a mech that could perform well in many different situations and still make sure that all of their specs remained high.
Some of the assistants already began to look doubtful, but Gloriana did not take their doubts seriously.
"The Chimera Project is not about designing the fastest mech, the toughest mech or the strongest mech. It is about designing a mech that can perform well no matter the circumstances and would always remain useful. In the expert mech lineup of our Larkinson Clan, we need this stable anchor. To that end, Ves has also agreed to implement a variable glow to this design!"
Ves had already demonstrated the capability to swap the design spirits of his products during his last design duel. Since it made sense to apply it to Venerable Joshua's expert mech, it became a core feature from the ground up. The Chimera Project was an attempt to make the most out of this unusual feature!
Once Gloriana finished her brief presentation on this project, Miles Tovar cautiously raised his hand.
"You have been quite clear on the overall design direction of the Chimera Project, ma'am, but we have yet to hear about the most distinctive feature of this expert mech. What are its planned resonance abilities?"
"It is too soon to talk about this. I am still discussing this issue with Master Willix. In the last two months, we have already researched and collected a number of resonating exotics that are compatible with our expert pilots. Our clan are still experiencing some difficulties in procuring usable quantities of rarer resonating exotics. We have identified some very juicy ones, but they are so rare that not even Master Willix can readily supply them. If we are unable to buy them soon enough, then we will have to cut back our options."
Gloriana sounded rather helpless towards this reality. Humanity discovered many different resonating exotics, but their supply was very scattered and inconsistent. States that were able to mine them usually didn't dump them in the open market. Instead, they treated these goods as strategic materials and hoarded them for their own expert mechs.
While it was still possible to buy lower grades of resonating exotics in one market or another, the more potent ones were too difficult to obtain for the Larkinsons. The main reason for this was because they got used within months after they were excavated!
This was one of the fundamental reasons why the power of a state was necessary to accumulate a lineup of quality expert mechs. Without the advantages of territory and all of the powers that it bestowed, it was too hard to obtain many necessary goods.
Fortunately, Master Willix was willing to lend a hand according to their prior agreement, but even she couldn't completely ignore the rules established by the MTA.
As long as the Larkinson Clan was able to acquire enough quality resonating exotics, the Design Department did not have to start off with developing low-tier expert mechs but could start with designing mid-tier expert mechs straight away!
Even though they were much harder for beginner expert pilots to control, this was not a big deal as there were several ways to temporarily suppress the more powerful functions.
The only relief they had was that Master Willix was willing to provide a little assistance, but she still expected the Larkinsons to source the bulk of the resonating exotics they intended to use. Collecting these valuable materials was a challenge that everyone who intended to develop an expert mech had to solve!
Ves already had some ideas in mind that might help. Though he was not willing to exchange his MTA merits to procure these rare exotics, he was confident he could trade something else in order to acquire higher-quality resonating exotics.
"Will this hero mech come in multiple configurations like the Bright Warrior?"
"It shouldn't be necessary, at least at first." Gloriana shook her head. "Let us not get ahead of ourselves. I have worked on expert mech designs in the past. The scope and difficulty of these projects are far greater. We must set simple goals at first and do our best to meet them. It is not necessarily the case that we will put down our work once we complete a project. Expert mechs traditionally remain in active development for a long time. We can slowly implement changes and upgrades to our proudest work so that they can become better over time."
This was the advantage to working on custom mechs as opposed to mass market models. It was very important for the production-ready version of a mech design to remain consistent and up to date for a long span of time. This is not necessarily the case for expert mechs. The importance of making them as strong as possible meant that their developers should frequently go back to their finished works and examine their prior performance. If actual battles showcased a new shortcoming, then the developers would definitely do their best to plug the gap before it turned into a fatal vulnerability!