The Mech Touch Chapter 1048
1046 Unglamorous Role
When Ves next met up with Venerable Foster at their usual courtyard, an attendant poured some tea for the both of them before drawing back to the sides.
"Why are you still agreeing to meet with me?" Ves asked. His patience was wearing thin after several more fruitless days of trying to get Venerable Foster to open up. "You obviously don't enjoy my presence."
The expert pilot huffed and raised her chin at him. "It has never been about befriending you. I am performing my duty here."
"And what exactly is your duty? Because it doesn't seem like you are trying to act cordially to me at all. Do you even care about the peace talks?"
"You're dangerous, Mr. Larkinson." Venerable Foster's burning eyes bore into his own. Her force of will pressed on his mind like a tsunami washing against a seawall. "Ever since I first met you at the ship, I knew there was something more about you. The events that took place there and your seemingly effortless escape makes me wonder if your current persona is a facade."
Ves smiled ruefully at her. "I'm a mech designer."
"You say that like it's a talisman that absolves you of all suspicion. No. You're more than that. I can feel it. There is a certain vibe about you that raises my hackles. Until I can expose you for who you really are, you'll remain within my sight. I won't allow you to wander off in order to manipulate my fellow Vesians with your duplicitous arguments."
What was her problem? Ves sighed in an exasperated manner and crossed his arms. Even if he partially agreed with her assessment, he was not some devious mastermind who meant any ill during the peace talks. He knew better than to pull off some shenanigans in such a sensitive time and place.
"No matter what you think of me, we are both part of our respective peace delegations. We're here in an attempt to make peace. Why can't you set aside our differences and focus on what we share in common instead?"
"Anyone who befriends a devious two-faced man like you will regret it." Venerable Foster declared with no uncertainty.
How could Ves ever worm his way into her shell when she was as prickly as a hedgehog? Her ostensible aim of keeping an eye on him lest he charmed her fellow Vesians sounded ridiculous.
Surprisingly, Foster asked a question of her own. One which did not include some sort of insult or accusation.
"I heard you are working on a design. I've noticed that you've been distracted lately as well. What are you working on that commands so much of your attention?"
Where she heard that, Ves didn't know, but it signified that the Vesians hadn't stopped in their endeavors to gather intelligence. Nonetheless, he was glad to take advantage of the opening Foster afforded him. Talking about mechs was a lot better than trading snide remarks!
Even so, Ves felt reluctant to reveal the details of his upcoming design. It was so sensitive and controversial that leaking it prematurely might lead to all kinds of negative outcomes. The Vesians would certainly make use of the information and turn it against him in order to sabotage his rise.
"I'm working on a space knight design." He said, sparing little details other than the mech type in question. "It's going to have a number of quirks, but it will essentially be a simple space knight at its core."
"A space knight, huh?" She wondered. "I have practiced with space knights, though I have never felt the inclination to dedicate myself in their use. There are other mech pilots who are able to perform much better than I ever will."
"Why not? Aren't you good at anything with your amazing talent and genetic aptitude? Or is it more about adopting the correct mindset?"
The latter made Venerable Foster surprised. "For a mech designer, you sure know what you are talking about. You are correct. Skill doesn't have anything to do with it. Piloting a knight mech, whether on land or in space, is easy to learn. It is not a coincidence that mech cadets begin their training by learning how to pilot a knight mech. Their slow, deliberate movements and their tolerance for damage and rough treatment makes them ideal platforms to get mech pilots acclimated to humanoid mechs."
"Yet not a lot of people end up specializing in piloting knight mechs."
Foster shook her head. "It is not a mech type which satisfies those who wish to fight proactively. A knight mech's main role is to act as a wall for their allies. However, the few people who stick with knight mechs and adopt the proper mindset of a protector can pull off amazing feats with their sturdy mechs. They are an admirable if melodramatic class of mech pilots."
Having experienced the perspective of a knight mech pilot first-hand, Ves understood her meaning. "Those chivalrous mech pilots can be a handful, but their hearts are in the right place. I would have thought that their mindset would be a good fit for your own."
"Perhaps in an earlier age, that would have made some sense. However, in the Age of Mechs, knight mech pilots are relegated to grunts. Mech pilots do not need to be particularly skilled to make good use of a knight mech, whether on land or in space. It is enough to know how to move and how to orient a shield at certain angles. There is a reason why expert pilots who specialize in piloting knight mechs are the rarest of us all."
There was a tone of admiration in her voice that Ves did not expect to hear. She exhibited genuine respect and admiration towards those who dedicated their lives to protecting their comrades.
Having worked out a super-medium mech concept for his vision for his upcoming design, Ves knew that his work would be beyond the realm of an average mech pilot.
While he predicted that all-rounders would still be able to pilot his Qilanxo-inspired mech with some effectiveness, they needed to endure a lot more burdens compared to piloting a more basic space knight.
In light of these complications, Ves reoriented his target audience away from casual mech pilots. Mech pilots specialized in piloting space knights would be able to appreciate the extra options Ves intended to add in his design.
Their mastery in the basics of operating a space knight insured that they wouldn't be unduly mentally encumbered when they worked with extra features. Making use of the limitless options the polarizing module provided to the mech had the potential to substantially increase the defensive prowess of the mech, but only if the mech pilot made the correct decisions!
If they recklessly activated an omni-directional polarizing field to defend against a volley of laser beams coming from a single direction, they'd be wasting the majority of the mech's limited energy reserves. A skilled space knight pilot would know how narrow they needed to configure the polarizing field to offer the most adequate level of defense while wasting as little energy as possible.
The more efficient the mech pilot made use of the polarizing module, the longer its protective effects lasted, thereby increasing its impact on the battlefield!
Thus, recognizing that his vision for his design would result in an advanced machine with a high skill floor and an astronomically high skill ceiling, Ves gave up on the large audience of all-rounder mech pilots.
Ves spoke again after a short pause. "Do you think knight mech pilots get a bad rap?"
"They are underappreciated." She responded. "It is like a group of children wanting to play hide and seek. Every child wants to hide but none of them wants to take the role of seeking them out. However, a game of hide and seek won't begin until they decide who gets to be the unlucky seeker."
"So the same dynamic goes on in most outfits?"
"Correct. Those who volunteer to pilot knight mechs are usually the least-skilled or least-regarded among them. I think it is a rather deplorable way to decide what is perhaps the most pivotal role in a unit."
"It's not necessarily a good idea to put the worst mech pilot in charge of the vital job shielding friendly mechs." Ves caught her logic. "However, regardless of what you think, it will happen anyway. Piloting a knight mech simply isn't popular enough."
Certainly, this wasn't universally the case. For example, Ves made sure that his Blackbeak mechs were a pleasure to pilot. While they did not perform their defensive roles as well as a defensive knight mech, the Blackbeak's high mobility and endurance opened up many options to enterprising mech pilots.
It helped that he positioned the Blackbeak as a premium mech model. More expensive mechs were always better regarded than more disposable mechs. This would also aid his next design to a certain extent.
"There's a lot of bad knight mech models for sale." Venerable Foster remarked. "Although I don't pay too much attention to the market, I've heard lots of complaints about the space knights that mech designers cook up in their labs."
"What's wrong with the models?"
"Their designers are too narrow-minded. Just because a space knight is meant to serve as a defensive bulwark doesn't mean they should be constrained to that role."
"You may have a point when it comes to offensive space knights, but defensive space knights are too slow to pull off advanced maneuvers."
"Who says you need to employ advanced maneuvers to pose a threat to an enemy?" Venerable Foster prodded back. "They don't need to be particularly fast or agile either. However, what they do need is power. Enough power to dent the hull of a starship. You can't believe how many mech designers neglect that space knights need a good amount of mechanical strength."
Ves admittedly hadn't thought too deeply about this issue. In fact, more than once, he contemplated reducing the space the artificial musculature took up in order to make more room for other features. After all, a slow and fat space knight wouldn't be entering into melee range very often, right?
"How important is it for a space knight to retain its strength in melee combat?"
"Very important." Foster replied. "Having the option to be a threat in close range serves to reassure mech pilots that they aren't impotent. Good space knight pilots and good mech commanders will find a way to position space knights in a position where they can leverage their strengths and defensive capabilities."
Her remarks gave Ves a lot of food for thought. While he had his Mastery of landbound knight mechs to lean upon to help him understand the mindset of his target audience, space knight pilots faced different concerns.
Vess needed to identify these differences and make the appropriate adjustments. Otherwise, he might make some missteps due to his mistaken assumptions!
"Thank you for illuminating me about space knights, Venerable Foster."
"I don't need your thanks." She acerbically replied. "It's not my intention to help you out. I just don't want you to mistreat mech pilots."
"What's it to you? Most of my customers will probably be mech pilots from the Bright Republic."
"I don't fear your mech designs." Venerable Foster grinned with a bloodthirsty glint in her eyes. "In fact, I want to see you succeed. I want you to sell your mechs as much as possible so that whenever I encounter them in battle, I'll do everything in my power to crush them completely and utterly."
"That is quite some reason."
It figured that Venerable Foster only wanted to build him up so that she could personally tear down his works. She took an almost perverse pleasure at the thought of ruining his products in person.
Venerable Foster released a devious laugh before she abruptly wavered on her seat. "This.. something strange is happening.."
"My body.. is not under control.."
A creeping sense of foreboding entered the courtyard. Ves hadn't quite adjusted to the sudden change.
"What is wrong with you?"
To the sides, the attendants present in the courtyard all collapsed and lost consciousness at the same time!
"Poison!" Foster declared and then turned her gaze at Ves. "You! How come you aren't affected! Is this your plot! Are you the culprit?!"
Ves quickly held up his hands. "Hey! I don't have anything to do with it! My body is resistant against poison, that's all! Just look at my face. Do I look like someone who would stab everyone in the back and ruin the peace talks?"
The expert pilot looked skeptical, but eventually made up her mind. "Kill me now if you are responsible. If not, go sound the alarm."
When Ves raised his comm and tried to send out an emergency call, the device failed to light up. It had been sabotaged!
"My comm is not working!"
This attack was more serious than everyone thought!