However, skeletons, unique as they were, did not come in a consistent form, and processing them was difficult; one can imagine how hard it would be to mold them into the various parts of a mech. Even if they could be shaped into appropriate parts, the ingrained surface of the bones often led to uneven force distribution among the parts, thus reducing their resilience and introducing a random factor to the quality of the parts.
The sky high costs and low probability of creating satisfactory products were the reasons for the lack of interest in skeletons as building or manufacturing materials.
Nan Nan’s grandfather was a skeleton carver, and lived a poor life. One day, a client brought a set of giant wart frog’s bones and a schematics, requesting to use the frog’s bones to be processed based on the schematics. The client also promised a higher reward based on the sturdiness of the final product.
Nan Nan’s grandfather had tried his hands on skeleton workmanship since young, his years of experience allowed him to be deeply familiar with the pattern of skeletal surfaces. He made short work of the final product based on the client’s specifications. The product was determined to have excellent mechanical properties through examination using a professional device, and the client was much overjoyed. That was how Nan Nan’s grandfather earned a sizable sum!
From then on, more people came to him for his services, and he did not stop studying intensively to improve his skills. He grew more competent, and began to have a reputation in selected circles! However, while he was always making parts for skeleton mech, his unfamiliarity with mechs meant that clients would have to bring their own schematics for him to create the final product as desired.
Those who knew him called him the Skeleton Artisan.
As his life became easier, and his reputation became more widespread, more organizations began to attempt to win him over to their side. They used all sorts of tricks, but he was unmoved by sweet words or threats, and none could convince him otherwise. Soon, he was targeted by an organization whose methods were far, far more ruthless and brutal than the gentler persuasions he had experienced before! Nan Nan’s parents had perished in that incident, while Nan Nan was rescued and escaped with her grandfather, finally landing in the Orbits.
In this violent society, he quickly found a new home, and his skills won him great respect. No one would offend the Skeleton Artisan, and none of the local organizations dared to meddle with people who possessed such unique skills, since they were under the protection of the sanctuary. Even the mentalists from the sanctuary were very courteous to them.
Of course, this did not mean that all was safe and well, like the time when that group of people Ye Chong met had threatened Doctor Lu. When your life was in danger, you tend to be reckless. Besides, who here on the Orbits was not a desperate person?
That was why Nan Nan’s grandfather had installed a top-of-the-line security system!
Skeleton carving was a branch of carving skills that received little attention, and there were probably no education institution that would list it as one of their offered courses. It was only a traditional craft passed on from one carver to another, slowly losing its place in history!
Hei Zi was a student accepted by Nan Nan’s grandfather after they came to the Orbits. He was hardworking, practical, and eager to learn, winning the old man’s approval. The only regret was that Hei Zi was a little too old to begin learning the craft and limited in talent, thus he could only improve slowly over time.
Hei Zi saw that Ye Chong fully absorbed in his words, and could not help but feel excited as he continued on, "Look at this, this is the shell of a mantic locust. It looks like metal, but when I examined it, it does not have a scrap of metal in it. The thing’s strong, and very resilient, suitable for making a mech’s shield. Most importantly, it is light, try it!"
The shell spread across the size of 2 or 3 tabletops with a slight concave bend, and its surface shone with a metallic luster. The entire shell was in a greenish black, overlaid with wavy stripes of brilliant yellow, a dazzling piece. Ye Chong gave it few knocks, and heard the crisp echo from the material - it was solid hard. He reached for the edges of the shell and lightly lifted it , which came up with ease.
It was truly lightweight. If this shell could be made into a shield, it would definitely reduce the burden on the mech’s engines significantly, besides minimizing the reaction time of the arm that wielded the shield. However, his only concern was that the shell was strong enough to be a shield, as Hei Zi claimed.
"This is the mech’s mechanical arm. You see these 5 fingers? They’re all made from the femur of a scented salamander. Besides being tough, the scented salamander’s femur has a natural rough surface, good for anti-slipping. The scented salamander’s femur is also easier to work on." Hei Zi spoke knowledgeably.
If a mech’s parts were all made of skeleton, like Hei Zi’s mech, an average engine would be enough for an outstanding speed performance. After all, speed is a critical weapon for victory! With a proper engine, a full-skeleton mech would be able to fly everywhere at warp speed. The thought was enough to make Ye Chong nervous.
"How many of these can you make in a day?" Ye Chong asked carefully.
"How many can I make in a day?" Hei Zi shook his head and said, "You should be asking, how many days do I need to make one! Every time someone sent over their skeletons, they’re always different, and before any work could begin, Master would have to examine them carefully and devise some reasonable way of approach. This usually takes days! It we come across an unfamiliar skeleton, it will take even longer! The next step is the crude processing of the skeletons. After that, we soak the skeletons in a special liquid, like a hardening liquid that makes the bones stronger. Master calls it the strengthening chemical.
"These strengthening chemicals were prepared by Aunt Guan. She’s the best chemist around here. Soaking time depends on the skeletons, usually it takes 7 to 21 days.
"Next is the fine processing. Fine processing is the most complicated part of the craft. It’s almost entirely done by hand. Any mistakes, and it’s over, all previous efforts gone down the drain. That’s why Master usually asks for at least two sets of skeletons. He’ll make two products, just to be safe.
"You see these mech parts on the floor, they’re all done by Master. Every time he passed one set of goods to his clients, there will be another set left here with us. These parts here were accumulated since Master began working here. Sigh, we nearly lost them due to the incident last time, but fortunately for Master, they were all returned to us by the sanctuary!
"Making a normal part usually takes at least half a month. If we’re talking about something like a mech’s main body, that’ll take even longer. I remember the longest Master had ever worked on a part was close to 3 months!"
"That long?" Ye Chong was surprised. In this technologically advanced society, where efficiency was worshipped, a normal mech could be manufactured in less than 10 minutes. If a single part would take half a month, one can only imagine the amount of time required to churn out the entire mech. However, Ye Chong quickly felt secretly relieved, since this meant that it was impossible to have a massive production of full-skeleton mechs. This was good news to Ye Chong. If these skeleton-only mechs could be manufactured in bulk, then the first to equip themselves with these skeleton mechs would be the Orbits’ Mentalist Sanctuary. Since he had just raised havoc, it was only reasonable that they had begun searching for him. The stronger the Sanctuary was, the riskier it was for him! Ye Chong realized this!
"Full-skeleton mechs, how do they perform?" Ye Chong asked Hei Zi, thinking that since he owned a full-skeleton mech himself, he should be familiar with their pros and cons.
Hei Zi pondered for a moment before replying, "It’s hard to say. Usually full-skeleton mechs are much lighter than mechs made of metal, and can fly longer! However, while the strength of the skeletons were greatly improved with the strengthening chemical, it was still slightly worse off compared to the mature workmanship with metals. So, skeleton mechs were usually not suitable for brute force combat, but more for fluid combat styles.
"Of course, that’s what it usually is like. A skeleton mech’s performance depends on the types of skeletons it’s made of. As for the skeletons, they’re usually quite different from one another. Some top quality skeletons can even be stronger than high-strength metals. However, these skeletons are usually much harder to process! Moreover, they’re quite rare!
"But there’s one important thing you should know. The price for a skeleton mech is on a whole different level than for average mechs. Besides, resupply and servicing would be very inconvenient. If any of the skeleton parts were damaged, it’s virtually impossible to repair it, the only way is to get a new one! So, unless you’re a skeleton carver yourself, it’ll be foolish to use a skeleton mech for usual business!"
Ye Chong could not help but nod in agreement - the man had a point! The advantages and disadvantages were clear, but Ye Chong could not afford to be choosy then - if he was offered a Blackbird right then, Ye Chong would probably accept it without hesitation, much less a skeleton mech that he had never even heard of!
Mu spoke in timely fashion, "Scanning is complete, there is a total of 372 parts. There are 3 recommendations for you. Ye, would you like to hear the details?"