The Mech Touch Chapter 743 Next Frontier
Yet neither of them brought up the topic of leaving. At her current state, Ketis wouldn't be of much help to Mayra back at Lydia's Swordmaidens. She played no substantial role at the Flagrant Vandals either, but she continued to pick up little lessons here and there simply from osmosis by staying in his presence.
Ves found that he liked the companionship of another mech designer regardless of their skill level. While he benefited quite a lot from bouncing off the ideas of someone more skilled like Iris Jupiter from the Vesian Revolutionary Front, he also gained a surprising amount by rehashing basic concepts to his student.
Besides, designing mechs could be rather lonely, and without someone poking him every now and then he had a tendency to get caught up in a particular design project.
He should really have a mech designer by his side all the time when he returned home.
In any case, even if Ketis finished all of her courses, she still had a lot to learn.
"Have you ever thought about designing your first original mech?" He asked out of the blue.
"What?! I haven't even designed too many variants yet! I still need more practice!"
"Ah, that's right." He smiled. Having already transitioned to designing original mechs, he forgot how hard this hurdle could be. "Designing original mechs is the true path of a mech designer. As a new mech designer, you should aim to reach that point as fast as possible. It's easier to design variants because the designers of the base model already took care of the difficult stuff, but there's not a lot of skill involved with shifting a component a few millimeters to the left or right and such. Develop variants for practice and for money, but don't look at it as an end in itself."
"So it's just a transition thing to you."
"Yup. However, many Novices and Apprentices get stuck at this phase. The gap is intimidating and the more you put it off, the harder it is to take that leap. I myself only designed two or three variants as my production models and perhaps half-a-dozen or so virtual variants for Iron Spirit before I made the jump. This is a bit too little practice for someone like you, though, so I suggest you hold off designing an original mech until you have at least twenty fully-fledged variants under our belt."
"Twenty? That will take me years!"
Ves tutted at her. "Do you think those years are wasted? They are anything but! Those precious formative years will be spent in applying your skills and becoming more familiar with the structures of different swordsman mechs. Right now, you know nothing about swordsman mechs."
"That's not true!" She burst out, indignant at his insult. Steam practically ran out of her ears!
"I mean it. Even if you like them, that doesn't mean you know how they are built and what makes them tick. Have you studied the underlying structure and layout of swordsman mechs? Have you interviewed mech pilots that favor this type of mech? Have you immersed yourself in a couple of designs and learned how they maximized their performance in certain criteria? Right now, I bet that an enthusiastic fan of swordsman mech athletes from the dueling scene know more about this type of mechs than you!"
Those fans and supporters sometimes reached hardcore levels of fanaticsm. Though they didn't understand a thing about the underlying science behind mechs, they possessed an extremely sharp and intuitive grasp of the holistic performance of their favorite types of mechs.
In other words, they grasped the essence and soul of certain types of mechs.
Naturally, this phenomenon also had a tendency to turn them into armchair critics that loudly berate any perceived mistake by the mech pilot or mech designers.
While Ketis grew up alongside mechs for much of her life, her exposure to different kinds of mechs left a lot to be desired. The frontier didn't offer too many opportunities to approach other mechs without pissing off their owners.
She calmed down a bit after some thought. By now, she knew better than to argue with Ves when he criticised her. That was also because Ves had indoctrinated her to believe everything he said no matter how much it hurt.
As her teacher, he could do no wrong and everything he said was the absolute truth!
"What do you suggest, then?" She sighed. "I don't have access to the galactic net here."
"I think you should start by talking with the mech pilot of that spaceborn swordsman mech you visited earlier. You gained inspiration from it and managed to find your design philosophy, right? Maybe you should start digging into that mech and get to know it better. It's not a particularly excellent model, but among spaceborn mechs it's a good first design for anyone to really sink their teeth into if they want to design a variant."
"I can do that?"
"Sure. It's just a copy of an old Vesian mech model. Unlike our core mech models such as the Inheritors and the Hellcats, there's nothing classified about it. I'll even pass you the design schematics and some of my notes for you to play around with on your own time."
Once Ves sent her the details as well as the name of the mech pilot he plucked out from the personnel rolls, Ketis went off to explore her newly invigorated passion for swordsman mechs.
He smiled as she skipped off like a little kid visiting a candy store.
The difference between the old Ketis and the new Ketis was like the difference between night and day.
The key lay in their passion. The old Ketis followed no direction in her life and it showed. She became easily distracted and lacked focus in her studies and pursuit for mech design.
The new Ketis on the other hand acted like she had been lit on fire. Passion suffused her very body and Ves only needed to give her a minor encouragement for her to set off in pursuit of advancing her craft.
He predicted that she would take her studies more seriously from now on and press through the boring parts about mech design in hopes of a payoff in the future. Everything became easier to an artist or a designer once they found their passion. Having an ideal to strive for always got them moving forward without too much conscious thought.
Ves considered her recent evolution and reflected back on his own abnormal progression. Certainly, the System allowed him to skip ahead of some of the more tedious parts such as years-worth of studies compressed in a single moment of time.
Now that he spent some time away from the addictive properties of the System, he felt as if his time with the Vandals had cleansed some of the repercussions of his overly hasty progress. Interacting with Iris and teaching Ketis especially helped him rehash some of his previously learned concepts and internalize them properly rather than having them all dumped to the back of his mind.
"Mech design is eventually a craft." He summed up to himself. He didn't care if his hidden stalker listened in. Perhaps she might learn a thing or two. "The meaning of a craft is to make something out of it. Too much passive learning only increases my theoretical knowledge without advancing my own distinct style of designing mechs."
He felt like doing something with his hands right now, but he had nothing on his plate. Since the Flagrant Swordmaidens estimated that they came very close to reaching the Starlight Megalodon, all of the heavy work had long come to an end. Each active mech in the Vandal mech roster received extensive upgrades and tweaks to prepare them up for a rough slog in space or on the surface of a heavy gravity planet.
Right now, most mech technicians whittled away their time by tuning up some of the mechs, which only provided small and temporary boost to their performance. Ves considered it a waste of his time to engage in such a marginal activity.
Having finished his two side projects, Ves was left with a gaping hole in his schedule. With the fleet immersed in FTL travel, Ves didn't have a way to check up on the work of his subordinates either. He had no concerns at all about the mechs aboard the Shield of Hispania, as all the mech technicians knew better than to slack off under Ves and Chief Haine.
"The only problem case are the specialists at the Gorgon's Gaze."
Thinking about the reports that emerged from that combat carrier informed him that Lisbeth Eta-Denmersken attempted to return to her old tricks. She tried to halt the shipping of the Parallax Star's spare parts to the logistics ships for recycling and attempted to influence Venerable Xie to back up her demands.
Strangely enough, while Xie behaved rather deferentially for an expert pilot, he showed no hesitation when he rejected the bulk of her suggestions.
An abundance of spare parts opened up new options, but that only benefited a mech pilot that really mastered their own mechs. Xie barely had weeks to practice with the Parallax Star, a powerful beast of an expert mech originally tailored for a much stronger pilot.
In spite of his intensive practice sessions, so far Venerable Xie only managed to express thirty percent of the old Parallax Star's performance. Both the charges and the energy shield looked anemic compared to what Venerable O'Callahan managed to conjure up. Truly, the fabled lancer mech had fallen to a new low.
Ves sighed when he recalled all the modifications he made at the former bodyguard's request. "It's really a waste of a good machine to turn it from a pure lancer mech into a hybrid lancer/spearman mech."
It reminded him again that the fit between a mech pilot and a mech mattered more than the absolute performance of a mech on a spec sheet.
"The fit doesn't exactly come into play when it comes to basic and advanced mech pilots. Once they become an expert, the mech becomes a key component of their strength. Their skills, their piloting style as well as their resonance profiles are too distinctive to ever fully come into play with a standard mech."
It was like upgrading from eating nutrient packs to eating meals made out of natural and organic ingredients. A poor eater who couldn't afford fancy meals would be satisfied with whatever nutrient pack he managed to obtain. Two decades old, five decades old, chicken flavor, vegetable pizza flavor, it mattered little as long as they filled up the stomach and provided the essential nutrients to keep on living.
When a mech pilot became an expert, they transformed from a normal eater to a picky eater. They'd vomit if they got served with a nutrient pack. They could only eat their meals if a good chef listened to their taste preferences and cooked them up with quality ingredients.
As the chef in this analogy, Ves did not have any quality meals in his repertoire as of yet. Still, it would only be a matter of time before he designed his first expert mech. As soon as he advanced to Journeyman, he became qualified to design expert mechs customized for one specific expert pilot.
"How will my expert designs look like?" He idly mused. "It's too much for me to create an entirely new design from scratch. I'll probably design a highly-upgraded variant of my existing mech models. That's how most lower-end custom designers work."
Though experts usually turned to Senior Mech Designers to obtain a mech that fit them like a glove, Journeymen still had a chance of entering this highly exclusive market by offering budget options for alternate uses.
Experts treated their primary mechs as their trade secrets. If they showed off their main mechs too often, their enemies would be able to decipher their strengths and weaknesses.
This opened up the opportunity for Journeymen to offer cheaper expert mechs designed for practice, parade or other purposes.
Even though it wasn't quite the real thing, designing expert mechs for this purpose appealed to him in a way. He had a new itch to scratch.