The Mech Touch Chapter 418 Eternal Sorrow
Only a fraction of them reached the Apprentice-level, but anyone could advance to this stage as long as they studied hard and received some opportunities.
Reaching Journeyman Mech Designer was a watershed. Many tried but failed to reach this rank despite all the effort they put in their development.
Ves did not have a good clue what it took to reach Senior and Master-level, but it must have been accompanied by extremely stringent demands, because less than one per mille of mech designers in the preceding ranks managed to break through.
As for reaching the rank that went beyond Master, most people didn't dare to dream about it. Even though enough Masters existed in the galaxy to fill up an entire planet, only the MTA only recognized seventy-or-so Star Designers.
Perhaps a few more Star Designers existed who hadn't made themselves known, but by and large there shouldn't be more than a hundred of them across all of humanity.
Their power and influence transcended states. At that stage, even the first-rate superstates treaded lightly around them. Many Star Designers renounced their former loyalties and became independent entities that worked for the common good of mankind.
It could be said that Star Designers transcended their former bonds and shackles and have reached a level of existence on par with god pilots. Both types of humans formed the absolute best of what humanity had to offer and were worshipped by trillions of humans.
Low-ranked mech designers like Ves, Bart and Jim constantly thought about how to reach Journeyman-level. It was way too soon to even think about advancing to Star Designer, but Morgan amazingly already thought about a strategy to reach this supreme existence.
Although Morgan's theory sounded logical, Ves read the same biographies as well. They were mandatory reading in school. Every mech designer should have read at least a dozen different biographies.
"Star Designers emerged through chance, opportunity and coincidence." Ves explained the common understanding on Star Designers. "Many geniuses who have quickly reached the Master stage have never been able to touch upon the threshold to the next rank. Although we don't know why that is so, no one has ever told us it's due to a supposedly 'bad' foundation. Besides, if the only way to get a good foundation is to linger in the Apprentice stage for hundreds of years, then the galaxy would be flooded with Masters right now."
Morgan instantly shook his head. "Ves, my friend, I thought you looked smart, but you fell into this trap as well. Just think for one second about the biographies you've read. Is all of it true?"
That caused everyone at the table to blink. Certainly they told the truth, right?
"Why would they lie?"
"Why won't they lie? Those biographies read like fairy tales or adventure novels! Do you really think those Star Designers went through all that nonsense and transformed into strange existences that has turned them into something special? It's all drivel fed to the masses in order to keep the upper echelon in power!"
Morgan continued to rant about his assertions for a couple minutes. Ves, Jim and Bart all looked at each other with perplexed smiles.
Ves couldn't take it any longer. "It's all well and good to state that the biographies are fictional, but what are their true stories? Just because the early days of those Star Designers don't conform to what is being told in the books, that doesn't mean they adhered to your theories either. You have no proof."
"That's because they're keeping it all a secret! It's a conspiracy against nobodies like us!"
The man could claim all he wanted, but nobody else bought his shtick. After finishing his bland dinner, the rest of them tried to move on from this topic. Ves got to know about his other two bunkmates.
"I've never gone to any universities or institutions." Bartholomew Yi began. "My father is a mech designer as well and he believes he can teach me a lot better than any school in the Republic."
"Correct. I even joined his design team and assisted in developing a couple of his models. They all worked out well. The experience gave me enough confidence to design my mechs."
"Did you start your own company or are you working for dad?"
"The latter. There's no point in starting up a seperate company if I'll eventually inherit my dad's existing company."
Bart's story sounded fairly typical. A small but substantial portion of mech designers learned the craft from their parents. Such a teaching method was even more intimate than apprenticing to a Master, because one's father or mother always taught their descendents with utmost care and attention.
That said, the mech industry as a whole looked down on homeschooling. Mech designers who learned from their parents and no one else often ended up as pale imitations of their parents. They knew the theories and could replicate a past work, but when it came to applying their knowledge to develop new designs, that was where most of them fell short.
Ves didn't say anything about that to Bart. He didn't want to piss the homeschooled mech designer off.
"How many mechs have you designed?"
"Not much, only four. Like my father, I specialize in spaceborn mechs."
"That's more than than me. I only have two original designs under my belt, and my second design only came out recently. What about you, Jim?"
"Hm, I only designed one original mech, a nice little light mech. I'm still taking it slow."
It turned out Jim's design hadn't caught on in the market. The disappointing sales figures burdened his company with losses, which forced him to crawl back to the Ronan Family for some money to tide his company over.
Naturally, Jim didn't sound so pathetic when he meandered through his story, but Ves was sharp enough to pick out the truth.
"What were you working on as your second design?"
"It doesn't matter anymore." Jim sighed. "This war has made everything moot. My company will certainly be shuttered without my presence. I'll have to figure something out once the Mech Corps releases me."
Out of everyone in this room, Jim appeared to be the least successful mech designer. Ves got the sense that he had barely made any progress since reaching Apprentice.
Even Morgan possessed a better track record, though that could also be accounted to his age. The older man truly designed a substantial amount of mechs, each one better than the last one, though none of them ever sold more than a couple of thousand copies each.
As they got to know each other, they realized that besides their rank, they had very little in common.
Morgan possessed the most experience by far, but his insane theories caused him to stall in his progression.
Jim achieved the least success, but he could draw on a lot of help from the Ronan Family, either through paying less for raw materials or through direct cash infusions.
Bart grew up in a comfortable environment, having everything handed to him with a silver spoon.
As for Ves, though he only published two designs, he built up everything on his own, though he conveniently left out the role the System played in his rapid ascension.
This caused the group's dynamics to shift. Jim's perpetual resentfulness made him a hard person to befriend, while Bart's easygoing ways reflected his lack of struggle.
Morgan shifted to become their unofficial leader in a way. No matter what they thought about his beliefs, it couldn't be denied that he really designed over a dozen different original designs. Such an accomplishment deserved recognition.
As for Ves, he fell somewhere in the middle. He was actually the youngest of the group and possessed very little practical experience compared to the others. Yet even Bart spend years to advance from Novice to Apprentice whereas Ves only took a couple of months.
Out of the three young men in the room, Ves burned the brightest and held the most potential. The only reason why the others didn't regard him higher was the fact that he possessed a complicated backing.
In truth, Ves got the sense that everyone felt envious at him for catching the attention of a Master Mech Designer. It made them regard him as a competitor more than a possible friend.
The distance suited him fine. Ves held many secrets, and he wasn't eager to let anyone get too close. Not when he couldn't protect himself in the event he slipped up.
"What's it like to apprentice under a Master?" Morgan asked with some curiosity in his face. "My mentor is only a local Senior Mech Designer, so I've never seen a Master in the flesh. Are they truly magical?"
Ves thought back on the Leemar Open Competition that took place so long ago and refreshed his impressions of the Masters that sat on those tall pedestals.
"They are every bit as impressive as you think. They look human, but inside they are biological weapons dedicated solely to designing some of the best mechs in the galaxy. You simply can't relax around any of them at close proximity."
When Ves personally met with Master Olson, he felt as if he entered a zone in which his judgement became a little fuddled. Back then, he hadn't noticed any discrepancies, but looking back on it made him suspect that being in the presence of a Master affected him in many subtle ways.
He couldn't really tell what kind of influence Master Olson exerted around her, so Ves somewhat doubted whether it was simply a combination of apprehension and admiration at seeing a Master up close.
Morgan sighed. "I wouldn't have the guts to try my luck in Leemar. The Friday Coalition looks down on mech designers that arrived from the boonies. It's truly unfair for us."
"That's the way the galaxy works." Jim added with a bit of sageness in his voice. "People who are born in the galactic center have it best. Anyone else are country bumpkins in their eyes. Even the rulers of the Friday Coalition are nothing more than a bunch of ants in front of a lowly security officer from the galactic center."
This was the eternal sorrow for those born in the galactic rim. The circumstances of their birth sealed their fate before they could even learn their first words. The galactic center was unimaginably dense and wealthy, but it couldn't afford to subsidize the development of the outer galaxy.
Ves found this turn of conversation to be too depressing. "Our starting points are different from the mech designer who enjoy an abundance of privileges that they take for granted. However, the galactic rim isn't too far behind in pumping out Masters. It takes more than wealth to improve."
That gave them a ray of hope again, though Morgan looked about to repeat his theories on maximizing the chances of reaching Star Designer. Everyone else quickly raised another to forestall his story, thereby avoiding another crisis.
After a couple of hours of relaxing and occasional chitchat, they retired for the night. As Ves tried to lie comfortably on his stiff, cold bed, Ves thought back on Morgan's explanation.
Despite clashing with most of the contents of the biographies of Star Designer, his theory looked like it made a lot of sense.
"Am I walking down the wrong road right now?"
The mech industry placed a lot of attention on talent and potential. Those who advanced faster than others would be considered talents, while those who muddled through and reached Journeyman-level in their fifties were regarded as people who would soon reach a dead end.
The reason why the mech industry placed so much importance on speed was because it indicated that this person had a lot more in store. It was extremely expensive for influences to nurture a Master, and it might not even work!
"Should I change my plans?"
Previously, Ves thought about doing the bare minimum in his Apprentice stage. Once he designed three more mechs, he'd be able to tick another box.
No matter how many times Ves tried to dismiss Morgan's ranting, he mind constantly drifted back at some of his assertions. The older mech designer's belief that you need to design more mechs than five to develop a proper foundation sounded very attractive to Ves.
Well, it wasn't as if he'd be able to design a mech while he served in the Mech Corps. "I'll think about it later."