The Mech Touch


The Mech Touch Chapter 417 Theory


By the time Ves biometrically signed the twenty-odd documents, his fingers almost cramped up. Some organizations were content with scanning the DNA or the pupils of a person, but the Mech Corps adhered to a much more rigorous standard.

The sheer amount of actions Ves needed to do to sign each document was a struggle in itself. The Mech Corps was determined to prevent any mech designers from committing fraud or misrepresenting the truth.

Ves understood why, of course. Mech designers primarily designed mechs, but were capable engineers as well. They used to pull off all kinds of tricks, from hacking the devices that held the virtual documents and changing their clauses, to putting forth a remote-controlled android to serve in their stead.

The most extreme example actually consisted of a spoiled brat who ordered the kidnapping of another mech designer. Gruesome surgery turned the victim's body into a clone of the spoiled brat, while extremely brutal brainwashing slowly turned his personality into a passable imitation of the mastermind.

The entire scheme actually stood a good chance of working because the Mech Corps didn't perform invasive inspections back then. The doppelganger dutifully pretended to be someone else and while some may have held some suspicions, no one realized the truth.

The only reason why it fell through was because the spoiled brat showed himself in public when one of his parties went out of control. People quickly started to scratch their heads why this good-for-nothing mech designer could be in two places at once. Wasn't he working on debugging mechs in some isolated research base?

"Go on ahead and wait for inspection."

Ves moved on and followed the guide to a closed-off modular clinic. Throughout the rest of the day, he went through an extensive amount of tests. Due to his abnormal body, he enjoyed increased scrutiny and had to endure a lot more tests despite the existence of records that told the exact same story.

"We just want to be sure we got the right person." A doctor muttered when Ves asked why.

The Mech Corps wasn't interested in the potentially miraculous effects of his Jutland organ. Instead, they held a lot of concern about its unknown functioning and the intentions of its creator. Who knew what kind of biological programming it contained.

Ves came across the first obstacle then and there.

"You'll have to stay back, Mr. Larkinson." The doctor said as he furrowed at the inconclusive results in the reports. "We can let you go through the next steps of your initiation until we have received some assurances that you aren't carrying anything that might prove to be a detriment."

Ves expected that something like this might happen. "I can refer you to Master Olson's representative. He can vouch for me."

"That will help a lot!"

In cases like this where the Mech Corps lacked the means to resolve the issue, they would normally hold back the mech designer in question and dither on their assignments. Ves wanted to avoid such an awful fate, so he already prepared something beforehand.


He raised his comm and sent out the contact details for Horatio. "This is the contact for Master Olson's steward. He takes care of all her administrative issues and knows about my situation."

The doctor retreated and corresponded with Horatio. Ves couldn't eavesdrop on their conversation, but he had no doubt that the most contentious issues would be waved away.

After all, Ves was not the only mech designer here with connections to a foreign state. The Friday Coalition was a behemoth compared to the Republic, so the latter had no choice but to swallow every pill served in its mouth.

Some time later, the doctor returned and wordlessly nodded his head at Ves to move onwards.

"Thanks."

Although the experience was a little awkward, and the Mech Corps would never fully trust him, Ves knew that he had cleared the most essential hurdle.

He went through a final inspection where some bots stripped all of his clothes and belongings and issued him a bland, grey replacement outfit along with the most primitive comm he had ever seen.

"This thing doesn't even have a single app installed besides a clock."

After that, Ves reached a dormitory area where a handful of mech designers bunked inside small modular rooms erected for the purpose. He entered a room only to meet three unfamiliar faces.

"Look at what we have here! The latecomer has arrived!"

"Took you long enough!"

"You missed dinner, but we saved some for you."

Ves smiled and went inside and took a seat at the square table in the middle. "Thank you, I'm starving."

Dinner in this case consisted of nothing more than a bland, stale nutrient pack along with lots of water to hydrate his stomach.

"Is this it?" Ves frowned. "It looks rather… bare."

Even prisoners got to enjoy reconstituted food that used nutrient packs as raw materials. Serving the dry bars of unidentifiable biological matter without any processing was jokingly considered as a borderline war crime. He introduced himself as Morgan Hollenfield.

One of the three mech designers sighed. He was a middle-aged man with dark brown hair and looked a lot older than the other two.

"The Mech Corps wants to show who's boss around here. We only get to enjoy the nutrient packs as breakfast, lunch and dinner until we go through what they call their lightest version of boot camp."

Everyone frowned at that. As a rule, mech designers were nerds and geeks. What did physical fitness have to do with how well they designed their mechs?

"It's another way to put us down!" A younger man burst out. "Those jumped-up mech pilots always think they are in charge, and want to drive in the point that we are their slaves!"

Morgan quickly pressed the young man's shoulder. "Calm down, Jim! The Mech Corps is always listening in! You can land yourself in a lot of trouble if you talk like that!"

"As if I care! I had a good career lined up and several designs in the works. I wasn't supposed to be called up!"

Morgan awkwardly laughed at Ves and the other mech designer. "Don't mind Jim too much. He's a scion of the Ronan Family."

That caused Ves to widen his eyes a bit. The Ronan Family owned a lot of asteroid mining operations. They weren't a big player in the resource market, but carved out a niche spot for themselves.

Jim probably enjoyed a lot of benefits if he was related to that Ronan Family. His company would be able to incur much less costs to produce a mech if it took advantage of raw materials being sold to it at cost price.

However, to Ves, Jim didn't look as if he enjoyed that much success. He looked a bit pathetic compared to the final mech designer.

The young man noticed the inquisitive stare and held out his hand to Ves. "Bartholomew Yi. Apprentice Mech Designer. Just call me Bart for short."

The man's appearance only showed a hint of asian characteristics, so that side of his bloodline must have thinned out a bit through the generations.

"Ves Larkinson, also an Apprentice Mech Designer."

All four were obviously Apprentices with their own pride and accomplishments, so nobody treat each other as anything but equals. Ves may have designed some great mechs and enjoyed the backing of an influential Master from the Coalition, but the others didn't lose out too much in their own careers.

As Ves gradually consumed the nutrient packs, he got to know his three new roommates.

"I've designed fifteen original designs in my career." Morgan proudly boasted. "Though they haven't won any awards, all of them turned out a handsome profit."

"What type of mechs did you design?" Ves asked as he tried to swallow another bite of dry nutrients.

"Oh, they run the gamut from light mechs to medium mechs, skirmishers to knights, landbound mechs to aerial mechs. The only kind of mechs I can't design are spaceborn, aquatic and heavy mechs."

"That's… a really wide range of mechs." Ves said, a little stunned.

It wasn't unheard of for mech designers to design a broad sweep of mech types. However, Ves always learned that mech designers needed to apply some focus, especially in the formative stages of Novice and Apprentice.

Scattering too much at such an early phase risked stalling a mech designer's development in developing his own style and design philosophy.

From the askance looks that Jim and Bart directed to Morgan, they must have thought the same.

"I know what you're thinking." Morgan replied, demonstrating his self-awareness. "Your reactions are just like everyone else who hears about my record, but hear me out. What if, I'm on the right track, and you guys are dead wrong?"

"That's impossible!" Jim erupted after smacking his palm against the tabletop. "Who's ever heard of an Apprentice advancing to Journeyman by designing every type of mech in the galaxy? Even if you have the lifespan to complete all of those designs, your focus is so diluted that there's hardly any style to speak of!"

Ves nodded in agreement. He held the same opinions as Jim, blunt as he might be.

"That's where the entire mech designer community is wrong." Morgan grinned and crossed his arms while leaning back. "Admittedly, some of you may advance to Journeyman in the next decade or two. That's okay. Mech design is not a race. Just keep in mind that you'll regret it for the rest of your lives if you move on so fast without rounding out your experience."

"Why so?"

"Because mech design is all about reaching the pinnacle in mech design! Think about it. How can you reach the top when you skimped out in your foundational stages? The moment you advance to Journeyman after designing only five to ten or so mechs, you are progressing on top of an unstable foundation."

"What constitutes an unstable foundation?" Bart furrowed his brows. Unlike Jim, he appeared to be more interested in Morgan's theory. "My mentor has taught me that a good foundation consists of a comprehensive understanding of the sciences related to mech design."

Morgan raised a finger. "That's only one part of the equation! Don't forget that to become a Journeyman, you need to be more than a good learner. The other two requirements are to design several original mechs and to develop your own design philosophy. In truth, the design philosophy is connected to the other two criteria. It's the goal that every Apprentice is aiming for, and it happens to be the part which everyone is trying to rush through!"

"That's nonsense." Jim retorted. "Most of the Master Mech Designers today are geniuses who advanced rapidly through the ranks. The faster they reach Master, the brighter their future! Anyone who took more than a hundred years to reach that exalted rank has no future at all."

"You're wrong! Rushing through the Apprentice stage is as if you are building a starship with no FTL drive! Sure, you can still build a decent ship without it with fully functional power reactors and thrusters. This is enough to drive the starship from planet to planet within a single star system. However, the moment you want to jump into FTL in order to reach a better star system, you will suddenly find yourself coming up short, because you forgot to install the FTL drive at the construction phase!"

The analogy sounded really compelling, but none of the other three designers looked convinced.

"Mech design isn't anything like building a starship." Ves calmly replied. "As Jim has said, many Master Mech Designers seem fine even if they only spent a couple of years as Apprentices."

Enough hard proof existed on the galactic net to prove his assertions.

"Oh sure, those Masters all seem impressive trying to outrace each other." Morgan waved their accomplishments away as if they were nothing. "To me, they're like toddlers running around in the sandbox. Is Master Mech Designer the end point of our careers? No! Above Masters, there are Star Designers!"

Star Designers! These were the true pinnacles of mech design in the galaxy. Legendary figures like the Armorer and the Polymath worked with the most cutting-edge technologies available to humankind in order to push the envelope of what mechs became capable of achieving.

"What do Star Designers have to do with your theory?"

"If you've read their biographies, then you should know that none of them started out as geniuses. Except for the Polymath, but she's a weird one. Aside from her, everyone else started off like you and me. Average. They were dullards even. They lingered in the Apprentice phase for decades before they advanced to Journeymen. Instead of regarding those periods as their lowest point, perhaps they are actually the secrets to their success!"

Jim and Bart looked stunned at Morgan. However, Ves did not appear to be convinced. "There's a very big hole in your theory. The other Star Designers might have stalled in the Apprentice stage, but they haven't branched out in their design work."



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