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The Grand Skyward Exhibition Hall lit up in splendor yet again, signifying the impending announcement of a new mech design. Mech designers announced their new designs on Bentheim all the time, and it was something of a fun attraction to both locals and visitors attend these shows.
Who didn't love to witness a new mech? Especially one announced at the renowned Grand Skyward, a premier venue to showcase amazing new spaceborn mechs.
The LMC and NORA Consolidated both extended numerous invitations. Friends, acquaintances, business partners, customers, the press and numerous other figures arrived first. Each of them enjoyed the frontmost seats.
The Grand Skyward opened up its doors to the public as well. Many people on Bentheim considered themselves to be mech afficiados, so plenty of people paid the modest fee to enter the venue.
It helped a lot that the mech to be announced involved NORA Consolidated, one of the largest and prominent mech companies in the Bright Republic!
In comparison, the involvement of the young and upcoming Living Mech Corporation attracted much less attention. Perhaps in the eyes of most people, the upcoming design had been designed by Professor Corus Ventag with Ves contributing some small and important elements.
Ves would abuse the audience of that notion very soon.
Tens of thousands of seats quickly started to fill up. The journalists already set up their live recording bots and began to speculate on the nature of the soon-to-be-announced mech design. A lot of mech insiders in the Bright Republic avidly followed the exploits of their favored Seniors. They rooted for them much in the same way fans supported their favored mech athletes!
In a backstage prep room, Ves studied the text of his speech for one last time. He already knew what to say, but it helped to review the points he needed to raise. In the meantime, various bots neatly groomed his appearance and his clothes.
"The opening speech isn't important." Gavin said. "The real challenge is when Professor Heckler stands up and forces you to enter into a debate with him. You need to be quick on your feet while maintaining your composure. Are you sure you are up to the task?"
"I don't fear Professor Pendleton. Even if he's a renowned Senior from Ansel, he will have to stick to the facts if he wants to tear down the Aurora Titan."
"Even Seniors aren't above resorting to misdirection and distortion to win an argument." Professor Ventag warned. "The competition between mech designers can get very ugly sometimes. The only saving grace is that Professor Pendleton should still maintain some reserve when he heckles our mech. It is unseemly for a Senior to go all-out to put down an Apprentice's mech design."
"He'll probably approach it with a patronizing mindset, like an elder correcting a wayward child."
That would make Professor Pendleton appear as the wise man and Ves as a stupid and misguided kid. If all the mech publications portrayed the upcoming debate in such a light, then the Aurora Titan would inevitably be branded as a whimsical mech design!
Gavin emphasized the most important priority. "Regardless of whether you win or lose, you need to look good in front of the live recordings and archival footage. If you break down for some reason, you'll completely destroy your credibility as well as the credibility of your new mech. As long as you look confident and composed, our marketing campaigns can still use the footage to paint the Aurora Titan in a good light."
In other words, even if Ves failed to sound convincing in his attempts to refute Professor Pendleton's arguments, the Aurora Titan's prospects could still be salvaged. Many mech designs that had been torched by rival mech designers had always managed to climb back from their purgatory.
However, their damaged reputation meant that their designers were forced to discount them and cut their prices.
Since the Aurora Titan's viability as a product depended heavily on its high product margin, it could not afford to be discounted! If Ves had to cut its price by 20 million credits, then he would inevitably have to cut it by another 20 million credits after the new mech generation arrived.
This would essentially wipe out any profits that could be made from selling the Aurora Titan!
Professor Pendleton doubtlessly aimed to achieve this result and more. Anything that gave the mech designers associated with the DCTI some difficulties was a win in Ansel's book!
"It's almost time." Gavin reminded Ves. "Even Professor Heckler arrived. He's sitting in the center in the front row."
Senior Mech Designers deserved the best seats. That was basic courtesy, but even if that custom didn't exist, Ves still wanted Professor Pendleton to be as close as possible to Ves who would be standing on the stage in a couple of minutes.
"Are the show models in place?" Ves asked.
"Yup. All of them have been checked and we found nothing amiss. They're ready to be shown off at any time."
The mech pilots of the show models had already geared up and entered the cockpits of the mechs. Janni Larkinson and the four mech pilots sent by NORA Consolidated had all trained with the Aurora Titan in the simulators and with their actual mechs for a considerable amount of time.
All five of them became very familiar with the more advanced functions of the Aurora Titan. As a mech with a high learning curve, it was essential for the mech pilots to demonstrate the best uses of the mechs.
"It's time now."
Ves took a deep breath. "Wish me luck."
While Professor Ventag exited the backstage in order to take a seat close to Professor Pendleton, Ves walked up to the stage in a confident gait. Lucky followed him as well, this time held in his grasp.
The noise and conversation in the entire exhibition hall slowly died down, partially helped by the sound-dampening measures built into the enormous chamber. Gavin and a team of professional technicians manned the Grand Skyward's many controls, allowing them to manipulate the senses of the audience to their liking.
Right now, the lights in the main hall had dimmed down. Aside from lighting the emergency exits and Ves himself, hardly any details could be seen. Curtains currently blocked their sight of what lay behind.
Ves "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Grand Skyward. My name is Ves Larkinson, and you may have heard of me. Over the last couple of months, I have worked together with the esteemed Professor Corus Ventag on a joint design project that incorporates features that are rarely seen in mechs currently on offer. Today, the LMC and NORA Consolidated is proud to present to you an innovative new mech design!"
The curtains behind his back slowly drew back, revealing the outlines of five huge objects. The relative darkness in the chamber prevented the audience from seeing the mechs in their full glory. However, even the faint backlight that outlined their contours was enough to suggest that they were considerably large mechs!
As soon as the curtains parted, the audience already sensed something remarkable about the mechs! A strong, formless aura emanated from the mechs. All of the gold label mechs possessed an identical X-Factor, with the mech at the center exerting the strongest effect.
All five of their auras blended together, amplifying their effects on the minds and spirit of the audience members.
Even Professor Pendleton at the front row looked discomfited for a short moment before he wiped the confusion off his face.
Ves smiled as he noticed that the auras accomplished their intended effect. These machines were the closest things to living mechs that he had ever designed and fabricated! With the Aurora Titan's potent A-grade X-Factor, how could its effect on average, spiritually weak humans be negligible?
From the start, Ves intended to take advantage of this property to manipulate the audience to his side. The threat of Professor Pendleton standing up to badmouth the Aurora Titan only increased the importance of this measure!
Even if Professor Pendleton won the upcoming argument on facts and logic, how could the audience ever be convinced by them when their mood and emotions overwhelmingly became impressed by the mechs?
The upcoming verbal battle was not meant to force either Ves or Professor Pendleton to admit their wrongs. Mech designers could be rather stubborn people especially if it came to their own work.
No, their actual goal was to get the audience on their side. As long as Professor Pendleton managed to work the entire crowd against the Aurora Titan, then the live broadcasts and subsequent footage could be used to hammer the Aurora Titan over and over again until practically nobody would dare to buy the mech for fear of inviting ridicule!
Yet even without revealing the full appearances of the five show models, Ves already gained an inestimable advantage. Tens of thousands of attendees already became mesmerized by the strong compelling aura emanating from the five mechs looming at the rear of the stage!
"What is a mech?" Ves rhetorically asked while stroking Lucky's back. The cat had garnered some attention as well. "A mech is a fighting machine. We all know that. Yet I believe that they can be something more. My company and I believe that mechs carry an intrinsic quality that goes beyond their technical performance on the battlefield. Don't believe me? Then what about the mechs you see behind me? Can you really call them lifeless machines that are only meant to be used as tools?"
The audience went completely still. Even if someone farted loudly or something, the systems running in the background would make sure to not only suppress that sound, but suck away the awful odor before it went on to disturb the people sitting next to the offending farter!
The silence seemed to magnify the unusual pressure in the air. To Ves, it appeared that his remarkable mechs responded to his meaning!
The Aurora Titan wanted to become a success as much as Ves! No mech design wanted to remain forgotten and unused!
Ves grinned as the dramatic pauses and the other little tricks continued to sway the crowd to his words. Even though he was cheating by taking advantage of the strong auras of his best mechs to date, he nonetheless gained a lot of confidence, and it showed.
He leisurely petted his cat while he continued his opening statement. "As the lead designer of the mech design that I'm about to reveal to you, I am proud to say that it is an innovative product with no equal in the mech market. In coming up with the mech concept, I questioned every assumption that many mech designers take for granted and reevaluated them according to their individual merits. This has led to a radical vision for a new mech that is incredibly suitable in both the current mech generation and the next mech generation!"
Anticipating music began to play in the massive chamber. Vibrations emanating from the air and from the seats helped build up everyone's expectations!
"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the LMC and NORA Consolidated's latest mech design, the Aurora Titan AT-A-01!"
A huge glow of bright light washed over the five Aurora Titans from above right at the climax of the music!
As people's vision adjusted to the sudden brightness, they beheld the splendor of the Aurora Titans in full!
At least half of the crowd gasped in surprise. Others showed milder reactions that nevertheless hinted at their amazement of the mechs!
The tantalizing hints that Ves fed the crowd had not prepared them to the full sight of the mechs! The Shield of Samar and its four sibling mechs of the same model finally showed themselves to the crowd, to the Bright Republic and to anyone else who was watching the live broadcast!
After more than seven months of development and design work, the Aurora Titan design finally made its debut to the mech market!
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