The Mech Touch Chapter 1353


1351 Safe Harbor


An exchange between two equal mech designers was a time-honored tradition in the mech industry.

Mech designers were more than capable of innovating by themselves. Yet they did not work in a vacuum, but were part of an immense community of fellow peers.

All of those mech designers shared a lot in common as they each studied many of the same scientific subjects. Yet these mech designers also diverged heavily when it came to their specialties.

Most of the time, mech designers weren't able or willing to share their exclusive insights with other mech designers. Why should they help out a competitor design better mechs by imparting them with their valuable insights?

Information was power.

Power had a price.

Therefore, information possessed intrinsic value.

The problem was that it was hard to set a price on the insights that mech designers accumulated over the course of their careers. The MTA made a decent attempt at it, but information held different values to every different mech designer.

Nonetheless, mech designers still hankered for insights from other mech designers who specialized in related fields.

This need led to the emergence of informal exchanges between mech designers.

While not something formalized in rules, the mech industry adhered to a number of informal customs.

First, exchanges between mech designers should take place between peers or equals.

If a Journeyman exchanged with other Journeymen, then that was completely fine.

If a Journeyman exchanged with a Senior, then that was not okay. The latter was so much more powerful and insightful that the former was at a heavy disadvantage. An unscrupulous Senior might be able to forcibly alter the research direction of the younger mech designer!

Aside from this custom that was meant to protect and benefit both sides, exchanges also had to be fair.

One mech designer couldn't keep demanding for insights without paying something in return.

Most often, the repayment came in the form of other insights. A mech designer who was interested in the related research of another mech designer could usually contribute a lot of useful insights in return!

For example, in this instance, Old Man Terrence's specialty lay in neural interfaces. This was highly relevant to Ves because his own specialty relied heavily on neural interfaces to express its effects.

As for Ves, his unique understanding of the man-machine connection could potentially revolutionize Old Man Terrence's use of neural interfaces!

The only problem right now was that Ves did not like to share his secrets. While he was willing to reveal some lesser insights, that didn't leave him with a lot of choice.

Nonetheless, Ves had an obligation to reciprocate Old Man Terrence's earlier generosity. The Chukan mech designer could have simply uttered some vague words for a few minutes, but he freely revealed much more.


Ves believed in the principle that mech designers ought to treat each other fairly if they behaved properly. Mech design was a noble profession and those who dedicated their lives to it should at least respect each other's contributions.

For example, this underlying principle was the reason why Ves and Professor Ventag allowed the heckling Professor Pendleton to attend their product reveal for the Aurora Titan.

Not everyone believed in respecting other mech designers. It wasn't unheard of for mech designers to violate the custom of equal exchange.

However, doing so was generally not a good idea. If word went out that a mech designer failed to reciprocate in an exchange, no one else would be stupid enough to enter into other exchanges with the offender.

Ves knew that if he tried to weasel himself out of this exchange with Terrence Reedan, the cantankerous old bastard would probably spread the news over his entire network!

Other outcomes such as Old Man Terrence dying just after Ves exited the headquarters also wouldn't work.

If Ves wanted to stick to his principles and avoid becoming a toxic pariah within the mech industry, he had to reveal some of the extremely valuable lessons he learned.

While Ves thought about telling lies, something he did as easily as breathing, his heart hitched up. His sense of self as a mech designer strongly discouraged cheating in this instance!

He gave up on trying to act in a dishonest fashion. Instead, he wracked his mind for something to say that wouldn't give too much away.

Even if Old Man Terrence only had a few years left to live, who knew what he might do with the insights imparted by Ves. His own interests had to be preserved at all costs!

After a bit of thinking while Ves continually petted Lucky's back, he eventually came up with a suitable topic.

"Alright." He began. "I"m sure you've studied my public record, since you are aware of how my design philosophy is defined. While we are both interested in the man-machine connection in relation to mechs, we focus on different aspects of it. You specialize more in the hardware and the measurable interactions between man and machine, while I focus on the unmeasurable aspects that take place through this exchange."

"I presume this is the reason why your design philosophy mentions metaphysics." The older mech designer noted. "By any chance, does this have to do with a certain secret known to Journeymen?"

Ves smiled as if in confirmation. "I'm not too clear about the mechanics behind the interactions that arouses my interest. All I can say is that mech pilots are much more intertwined with their mechs than everyone realizes. The results I've accomplished so far is proof that I'm on the right track."

"According to the articles and records I've studied, your mechs exert a very real influence on the mood and emotions of both their mech pilots and any bystanders in the vicinity. This effect is even present in your virtual mechs, although in a much more diminished form!"

None of that was a secret by now. Ves readily nodded in admission. "I have been developing and refining my application of my design philosophy."

"It sounds like you've been doing more than that. Metaphysical man-machine symbiosis implies that your advantages only apply to the mech pilots of your products, but it goes beyond that. The ability of your mechs to dazzle and astound both bystanders and opponents has become increasingly more notable! I'm told that your latest mechs, the Transcendent Messengers, have even changed the direction of an entire state by their appearances alone!"

"That is.. true."

"How do you do it? How are you able to influence the minds of mech pilots and the people in the vicinity without resorting to mind-alerting tech?"

"Belief."

"..Belief?"

"I hate to say it to you, but part of what makes my design philosophy work is belief. I know I sound crazy, but what if mechs are alive?"

Old Man Terrance sent a glowering glance towards Ves. "Are you pulling my leg?!"

"Please don't judge this premise. It's no more unrealistic than trying to flatten the performance differences between different genetic aptitude grades."

That caused the older mech designer to subside a bit. "You're right. I've been too inflexible lately. The most brilliant mech designers often pursue unthinkable ideas."

"Exactly. What I just said doesn't necessarily make sense on the surface from what the general mech community knows about mechs. I had a different idea, and I was confident enough to base my entire design philosophy around this premise. The result is as you've seen."

"You did rise up remarkably quickly for someone with an oddball design philosophy."

"Mechs are alive. At least, they are capable of living. Rather than see the man-machine connection as a channel between a living human being and a lifeless, logic-based machine entity, think of it as an interaction between two living entities."

This time, it was Old Man Terrence's turn to experience shock! This insight, if true, blew up a major assumption that he had always held about mechs!

Perhaps he had been working on mechs in a very flawed fashion over his career! If Terrence Reedan didn't carelessly treat mechs as unliving machines, how far could he have gone? He might have been able to advance to Senior if he looked at mechs in a different light!

Regret poured out of Old Man Terrence's body as he hunkered down over his desk. This single revelation, though not definitely proven, was enough to put him into much greater turmoil than Ves himself experienced earlier!

On his part, Ves felt a little guilty about what he was doing, but this was what a professional exchange was all about. A fruitful exchange occurred when both mech designers could improve their mech designs in light of the insights they've received!

Ves already looked at neural interfaces in a completely different manner after hearing the old man's stories.

As for Terrence Reedan, the man looked like he obtained an insight so crucial that his core paradigms were in the process of shifting!

Minutes stretched on as the Chukan mech designer quietly submerged himself in his own train of thought. The single piece of information that Ves threw out was enough for the older Journeyman to make hundreds of valuable deductions!

As someone who frequently deliberated in his mind, Ves knew what it was like to enter into a thinking fugue. He remained silent as he let the old man process his new thoughts at his own pace.

Around fifteen minutes later, Terrence finally regained his wits. "My apologies, Mr. Larkinson. Your insight has caused me to revisit my past works and see if what I've just learned is relevant to them. I've designed a lot of mechs over the years, so it took quite some time to go through them all."

"You don't have to apologise. We are mech designers. Even if we are stuck here for weeks, it's worth it as long as we both come away with a broader outlook on mechs."

Besides, Ves comfortably passed the intervening time by playing with Lucky. The cat was so content that he was already dozing off on his lap!

"Let's return to what you've imparted to me. Telling someone that mechs are alive is a bold statement to make. But just as with the MTA, I believe that interpretation here is key. How do you define life in this instance?"

"That's a question that I'm still trying to answer myself, to be honest. Life can come in many forms, and this is what makes it so difficult to define it in exact terms. Some people claim the sandmen race isn't alive. Instead, they see the sandmen as something akin to sand-like processors gone rogue."

"I see." Terrence's eyes lit up. "If sandmen can be alive, why not mechs? Life does not necessarily need to come in organic, fleshy forms. The galaxy is so broad and diverse that life has taken surprisingly different shapes! From sentient clouds of gas to lifeforms that purely exist in energy form, it is not that big of a leap to say that mechs can also be alive!"

"To me, life means chaos. Life means spontaneity. Life means that mechs might behave in a way contrary to their designer's intention. A mech that can express its liveliness can both enhance or detract from a mech pilot's performance. It all depends on whether they like each other or not! If they do, then I believe that mechs and mech pilots can achieve amazing feats when they fully combine their forces! That is the meaning behind the symbiosis aspect of my design philosophy!"

Old Man Terrance practically looked dazzled at this revelation! His entire view on mechs shattered yet again, and he needed to do a lot of thinking in order to rebuild!

"Symbiosis. How strange. As a neural interface specialist, I'm well aware that the act of interfacing with a mech fundamentally alters the mind of a mech pilot. If your implications are correct, then this may be a two-way street! The mech alters the mind and brain structure of the mech pilot, but in turn the mech pilot alters something deeply hidden inside the mech!"

Ves smiled. It somehow gave him a lot of pleasure in converting another mech designer to his eccentric beliefs on mechs. "That has been my understanding for years. Perhaps the most crucial addition that I've derived from your insights is that this relationship may not be purely beneficial for both sides. If mech pilots can suffer from negative side effects, then it may be possible for the mech to suffer as well!"

This was the most practical insight that Ves had formed during this exchange! Symbiosis may not be present in every relationship between a mech and mech pilot!

What would happen if the mech hated their mech pilot and vica versa?