Patricia set down her data pad that displayed the Herald's interview with Ves. She sat back on her perch overlooking a peaceful garden at a private island on Leemar. The woman glanced at the projection of a familiar mech as it endured a ferocious missile bombardment.
"Now that you have studied the Young Blood, what are your thoughts, Patricia?" A female voice asked from the side.
Lyri Reywind, a foreign Journeyman Mech Designer under the employ of Master Null, popped a cultured grape-like fruit in her mouth. Since Patricia acknowledged the famed mech designer as her master, Lyri brought her up to speed. Patricia improved remarkably as she supplemented her solid foundation with a couple of intermediate skills.
"The construction of the Young Blood is not remarkable, though it is well-built." Patricia answered after organizing her thoughts. "The overall complexity of the knight type is fairly low, so it is not a large accomplishment for an Apprentice Mech Designer to achieve this result. I can only say that Ves has a strong foundation."
"Is that all you can perceive from his mech? If it is merely a good construction, then it shouldn't be generating the modest amount of buzz in the news."
"The weapon is solid but nothing special. The augments have been improved, but only marginally. The armor's contours have changed and the internal structure is a lot more flexible. Any pilot who steps into the Young Blood's cockpit will appreciate the vastly improved handling."
"These are factual statements that any decent mech designer can make when they compare spec sheets." Lyri admonished her junior while she shook her head in disappointment. "You are a talented mech designer, but you are still too sheltered. Don't look at the design with your brain. Instead, look at it with your heart."
Patricia looked befuddled. Her elegant eyebrows furrowed as she set aside all the numbers and statistics and focused solely on the projection of the virtual mech in battle. She did not know the mech pilot on display, but thought that he or she performed like a natural on the battlefield. Was she looking at a professional?
No. The pilot's skill fell short. Instead, the mech moved fluently and decisively. Patricia did not spot the characteristic pauses and second-guessing of a pilot of this caliber. Now that she thought about it, many of the replays she reviewed had shown that every pilot performed close to their optimum without being burdened by various mental distractions.
"Is there something funny going on with the neural interface?"
"No." Lyri responded. "I've checked the design myself. The neural interface is a bog-standard model that hasn't changed a bit from the original Hoplite design. Think. What can affect a design's performance that does not show up in the schematics or spec sheets?"
"Design philosophy? That's impossible! He's only an apprentice, far from the level where a design philosophy should manifest!"
"The human race is endlessly varied. There are many exceptions to the rule. We lump in everything unexplainable into a concept called design philosophy because only few of us are able to exhibit phenomena beyond our understanding. Master Olson has a good eye for her to spot such a gem in the wild."
Normally, novices and apprentices have only vaguely heard about design philosophy. From their basic textbooks, design philosophy embodied a mech designer's understanding of mech design and signified their unique insights that no one else could imitate.
In truth, design philosophy embodied much more than simple understanding. Patricia knew a little more about the concept. Only those who developed their design philosophy past a certain point broke through to Senior and Master Mech Designers. All others stopped their advancement once they reached the limits of Journeyman.
"Don't be discouraged, Patricia. Design philosophy comes with experience and learning. One must first learn to crawl before they can learn to walk."
"At what stage is Ves right now?"
"I'd say he's actually running the hundred meter sprint right now. There's no way he can keep this up without damaging his foundations."
"Then we should warn him!" Patricia yelled and brought up her comm.
Lyri cut the air with the palm, shutting off all signal traffic on the island. "Stop!"
"Do you think his Master is unaware? A lesson only hits home when it hurts. When little Ves inevitably falls and trips, Master Olson will be there to pick up the pieces."
Despite her concern, Patricia had no right to interfere. Every mech designer had to seek their own truths and find their own path to greatness.
Back in Cloudy Curtain, Ves prepared to resume his efforts to revamp his outdated production design.
"This next step is going to be a pain."
The second phase of his redesign project consisted of revamping the internal structure or architecture of the Marc Antony. Ves did not intend to replace any of the existing components stuffed inside the mechs, though they were also the source of the problem. The Caesar Augustus used some of the best currentgen componente available for licensing.
The engine, power reactor, weapons and more performed quite well compared to the competition. However, performance often correlated with size, so they all took up more space than average. For a medium mech trying to stay within its weight class, this created an awful situation.
What Ves learned from his newly gained Structural Pathway Configuration sub-skill helped him understand the issue at hand. He got a sense of what the base model tried to accomplish.
Mech designers learned fairly early in their studies that they were brought up to design war machines. These mechs not only had to perform at their optimum when fully maintained, they also had to endure various debilitating conditions.
If a mech got its arm cut off, its systems adjusted by enacting some form of damage control. For example, the mech adjusted its balance and cut off any feeds and systems designed to interact with the missing arm.
If a shot snapped an important power feed to the arms, then the mech adjusted by routing power through an alternate path. These backup lines may not be able to bear the full load, but it at least insured the limb maintained a basic amount of functionality.
Both mech pilots and mech designers consider redundancy important. An easy but misleading way to determine a mech's overall redundancy was to look at their redundancy factor. Expressed in percentages, the RF summarized how much damage a mech could take before it started to lose performance.
Any mech certified by the Mech Trade Association had to meet a minimum standard of redundancy.
Heavy mechs always reached a minimum of 100% RF. This proved that all of its basic systems could be run on a parallel internal structure with no loss of functionality. This took up a lot of a heavy mech's internal space, but since they often acted as punching bags, pilots always wanted more.
Medium mechs only had to meet a 50% RF. The mech's critical systems such as its basic feeds between the power reactor, cockpit, engines had fully functional backups that could take over the transfer of power and data. Less essential systems had to make due without these redundancies.
Light mechs always had to do more with less, so a 25% RF already strained an average light mech. These kinds of paperweight mechs relied entirely on speed and evasion, so it did not have much use for redundancy in the first place. A single heavy hit could easily wipe out the main feed and all of its backup feeds at the same time.
Other factors also mattered when it came to mitigating damage, the most important of which was compartmentalization. When a particular section of a mech sustained a hit, ideally the damage only affected that portion. A well-designed internal structure contained the spillovers from both the source of the damage and any cascading faults such as follow-up explosions.
Same as redundancy, an MTA-certified mech also had to meet a minimum standard of compartmentalization, expressed in CF.
Unlike RF that for some heavy mechs reached as high as 300%, CF only had reached a theoretical maximum of 100%. The MTA mandated a CF of 10% for light mechs, 15% for medium mechs and 50% for heavy mechs.
Regardless of CF and RF, the MTA-mandated minimum only barely met the needs of mech pilots. Those who wished to purchase a more secure mech always sought out mechs with significantly higher margins of safety.
What Jason Kozlowki decided to do when he ran out of internal space astounded Ves. Instead of addressing the root of the problem by replacing his core components with more compact versions, he started cutting into his CF and RF.
Between the two, Jason evidently valued redundancy more. He tried to keep as much redundancy intact as possible by optimizing his design's internal architecture for space.
He basically removed a lot of internal dividers and active suppression systems that localized the damage. He also filled up the buffer space with more junk, causing many cables and feeds to squeeze together.
"What a self-obsessed idiot." Ves quietly cursed. "If Mr. Kozlowski's design team only had one fellow mech designer with a spine, then this travesty might never have come into being."
He had to make due with what he got. With the same core components already taking up a substantial chunk of space, Ves had to puzzle out an entirely new architecture that could somewhat raise the base model's dismal 17% CF while maintaining its 85% RF.
"A medium knight is considered decent if its redundancy factor is 100%. A hybrid knight is also expected to draw the enemy fire, so it a 50% RF is wholly insufficient."
Ves allocated three full weeks to come up with a cleaner internal structure. He got to work by drafting the basic pathways around the mech's internal frame and core components. Cables, feeds, artificial musculature and support structures slowly filled in the contours of his design.
Even this simple chore turned strenuous due to his need to maintain three images at once in order to nurture the X-Factor. He shortened his sessions to forty-five minutes in order to prevent his mind from slipping into an abyss each time he overdrafted his focus.
The changes in the routine succeeded in lowering his stress. Ves tentatively added more details to the schematic when he overlaid the primary channels with additional ones. He only started straining his mind once the gaps started filling in. Ves had to be a little more inventive and a lot more patient to figure out his solutions.
Most of the work at this stage involved a lot of trial and error. Every time he came across a bump, he had to try out 999 different solutions before obtaining one that didn't suck.
It also happened to be the ideal whetstone for Ves to get used to holding three images at once. As two weeks slowly went by, Ves became more proficient in flexing his mind.
He did not increase his Intelligence or Concentration attribute in any measurable way. Instead he learned to utilize his existing strengths closer to their full potential.
In the final week, Ves finished over 98% of his desired end state. Sadly, the final two percent seemed incredibly tough to complete. His completely revamped internal architecture looked neat, clean and incorporated a lot more buffer space. Along with employing some other tricks, his design used up about five percent less space while raising its overall endurance.
Ves managed to raise its compartmentalization to 29% while maintaining a redundancy of 81%. The vastly increased CF ensured that any damage his mechs sustained remained limited to the affected portion.
The original Caesar Augustus did not have to worry so much about this issue due to its excellent compressed armor. Since the Marc Antony incorporated the cheap and disposable HRF armor system, Ves had to ensure it kept running if the mech sustained severe damage.
"After hundreds of thousands of simulations, I'm finally done with this matter." He sighed as he released his concentrated state. By now, had become accustomed to holding three thoughts at once, though it always remained somewhat challenging.
He already invested much of himself in this project. The Marc Antony Mark II had to exceed everyone's expectations in order to generate sufficient sales. Only through selling physical mechs could he earn enough money! No matter how many virtual mechs he designed, they never earned him more than a million credits.