Chapter 240: Reflection
For his upcoming original design, Ves already chose the Phoenix as its totem animal. He envisioned designing a durable knight that should be resilient enough to last a lengthy war.
However, a great design should accomplish more than mere survival. Ves forgot about the drive to succeed. No one wanted to lose. Planning for the worst was fine and all, but sometimes you’ve gotta risk it all in order to achieve a win.
“Avoiding a loss is not a sufficient goal. A mech should be designed to accomplish a specific objective.”
He sketched out a possible character he could utilize as the human myth component of his Triple Division Technique. While he hadn’t fixed a specific image in mind, he felt determined to include some ambition and the need to win in the list of possible traits.
As the Sea Crown Tournament wound down, Ves guided his floating room away from the morbid arena dome and the restless crowd. A lot of security bots appeared to keep the defiant supporters of the Velton Myrmidons in line. They were one step away from rioting over the heartless killing of Jackknife Jake.
Even though the competition came to an unfortunate end, Ves did not regret attending it. The collective emotions of the spectators and the dramatic turn of events in the ring had revitalized his drive to design an original mech.
In a sense, he reacquainted himself with the raison d’tre of mechs.
For all their higher ideals, humanity ceaselessly sought to expand their rule over the galaxy. They began their conquest of the stars with the advent of interstellar warships. They consolidated their gains by establishing a flourishing mech culture.
Ves, Raella and Lucky stayed at an exclusive hotel next to the arena and spent the night there.
As he slumbered, Ves dreamt of the fantasies had in his youth and blended them with the harsh realities he learned in his adulthood. Designing an original mech was tough, but Ves never thought he would have an easy ride.
As he woke up the next morning, Ves left the arena domes behind and visited the cultural districts of Cava City. He toured the museums and art galleries for ancient monuments of fallen alien species and contemporary art alike.
Each individual piece carried a message. The best works of art came with rich flavours of X-Factor that had been imbued by their creators.
“What do you see in this piece of junk?” Raella complained as she crossed her arms. “It’s just a barstool, Ves! You call this art?”
“I can tell the artists here are sincere. Can’t you feel the emotions in the pieces?”
“My tummy is feeling hungry. When are we eating lunch?”
“Soon. Let me take in the sights first.”
The art gallery put this particular ensemble in a notable position. The room they stood in had been converted into a metallic interior reminiscent of the insides of a spaceship. Rents and molten marks on the walls evoked the image of a desperate battle.
Devastation formed the theme of this exhibition. An artist collective called the Epitaph Among The Stars recovered several mundane pieces of space wreckage and turned them into display pieces.
Even though the artworks didn’t look too remarkable, they resonated very strongly with his sixth sense. The emotions put in their compositions spoke of the dedication of the artists that made it their mission to remember the fallen from the void of space.
The other exhibitions never came close to matching their exquisiteness. Half of the art pieces he encountered in the gallery came with an empty void that spoke of two possibilities. Either they were fake, or the artists left the composition to a bot.
Either way, Ves found it rather disappointing that the curators valued such pieces. What would happen if materialization became mainstream in the art world? Would every piece of art become husks that were too detached from their creators?
From the way the museums and art galleries couldn’t distinguish between real or fake, Ves held low expectations of the future.
Besides witnessing how other people unconsciously imparted the X-Factor in their works, Ves also received a lot of inspiration for his upcoming project. After the brutality he witnessed last night, the distraction pulled him back from the brink.
“Violence and civilization goes hand-in-hand, but it’s not a good idea to lean too far in a single direction.”
The industry generally abhorred mechs that catered to the darker nature of humanity. Designs that emphasized their ability to evoke terror and inflict mass casualties even received censure from the MTA.
Mechs should never be employed as a weapon of terror. While plenty of people outright made a mockery out of that rule, normally the market favored noble mechs.
Even a heavy striker armed with heavy-duty flamethrowers could be considered heroic as long as its design emphasized its role as a defender. Perception and reality didn’t always have to match.
Ves absorbed this lesson slowly as he visited many different art galleries in the next two days. The way the artists played at the perception of their audience really inspired his creativity.
Some of the most impressive works of contemporary art consisted of four-dimensional displays that changed their form over time in a dynamic fashion. The artists accomplished these effects through the use of modern technology and a small amount of exotics.
One remarkable artwork consisted of a mirror that purportedly showed an alternate reality version of whoever stared into its reflective surface. People could only see their own reflections. No matter where anyone else positioned themselves, they would never be able to glimpse another person’s alternate reflection.
Most visitors treated it as a fake curiosity as they saw themselves in a vastly different state of appearance. Perhaps a sophisticated computer pulled up various data from the galactic net and extrapolated a somewhat realistic image of what they might have been if some details of their past had taken another turn.
No one really believed the artist’s claims that he had breached the barriers between the universes and opened up a window.
The reflections appeared to be completely random. Some looked thinner, as if they couldn’t even afford to eat the most basic nutrient packs. Others wore resplendently brilliant dresses, as if their income had been inflated by over a hundred times.
Raella claimed she saw herself as a successful mech athlete who had gone pro. She wore a piloting suit emblazoned with the name of her old team, the Wailing Witches. Her suit even carried sponsorship symbols from several notable household brands.
Ves felt apprehensive when he got his own turn to look at the mirror. What would the clever computer system behind the illusions come up with as his reflection? Once the latest person moved away from the reflection, Ves stepped up to the full-length mirror.
“Is that me?” He sounded disappointed.
The Ves that looked back from the mirror looked decidedly average. He wore poor clothes that could be obtained with a couple of dozen credits. His body looked thin but not malnourished, showing that he barely made a living in this supposed alternate universe.
Much of the confidence and success that he enjoyed as a mech designer was absent from the reflection. Ves supposed that the reflection indicated his most likely fate as an individual if he never received the System from his father.
Crushed by debt and lacking both talent and connections, Ves would never be able to come up with a product in time to pay off the first interest payment that came due. Coming up with five million credits on his own proved wholly impossible to a mech designer without the right foundation to survive in the mech industry.
The Larkinson family must have refrained from bailing him out as well. With their modest net worth, they’d be ruining the foundation of their estate if they threw good money after bad in his hopeless venture to become an established mech designer. The most his grandfather could do was to secure his rights after the inevitable bankruptcy.
Obviously, he didn’t take his failure very well. One year after the presumed closure of his nascent workshop, Ves must have probably turned back into a useless bum. Deprived of a promising career in the mech industry, he fell off in the deep end and lived from day to day in a wallow of self-pity and recrimination.
The next visitor in line started to get impatient as Ves stared at his own alternate reflection with melancholy. His self-esteem took a substantial hit in that moment. He only regained his composure after left and took a break by eating a meal at a nearby restaurant.
As Raella munched on a fat piece of aeliotonoc whale steak, she gently bonked his head with her knuckles. “Cheer up, Ves. Whatever you saw in that stupid mirror isn’t you. Look at what you made of yourself in these last couple of years. You’re a big shot now!”
“You’re right.” He sighed as he cut a piece of his own steak. Ves found the whale meat to be a little chewier than he liked. “It’s a depressing reflection, but it’s only one of many possible realities. What matters most is that I’ve avoided that fate.”
Ves spent the rest of his allotted time in Cava City by attending a silly play. The performance centered around a setting where humanity and aliens struck a friendly accord. The play made fun of the diverse aliens humanity had befriended.
The performance made use of advanced projection technology to capture the speech and movements of an isolated actor and project them into a life-like alien characters. From upright horses with twelve limbs to a floating brain that manipulated its surroundings with tentacles, their antics roiled the audience in a flood of laughter.
“Why are you speaking to my waste channel? My nostrils are down here!”
“My apologies. My exhaustive lessons in human culture and etiquette has taught me that I should always start undressing myself after exchanging a couple of words!”
“By the Seven Three-Horned Gods! Humans are disgusting! They douse themselves in the foul and smelly liquid known as water for up to two times a day! Imagine the horror known as hygiene! We must declare war against this race to teach them the value of going without a bath for years at a time!”
What Ves enjoyed the most was how the play obliquely parodied aspects of society that they all took for granted. For example, while humanity universally maintained hostile relationships with aliens, why should they be locked in a constant struggle for dominance in the galaxy?
Space was vast, with billions of stars in the Milky Way alone. Not even the most prolific races had grown to the point where they ran out of space. Even if most star systems lacked deposits of exotic minerals, that didn’t mean they were useless.
Humanity constantly hungered for exotics to fuel their ceaseless struggle for territory against the aliens and themselves. The play Ves and Raella attended presented a scenario where humans never resorted to war as the first option. While they maintained a decent amount of war assets, they mainly served as a deterrent rather than a prelude to a full-fledged invasion.
In this possible setting, the playwright envisioned that the lack of constant warring diminished the hunger for exotics, thereby placing less importance on securing star systems with deposits of these valuable resources.
With peace as the prevailing condition, human society occupied a smaller but more densely populated slice of the galaxy. The lack of competition even allowed their race to unite in a single common union that maintained the same set of laws and customs throughout their entire territory.
Such a silly future could never exist. Ves had a good laugh along with the rest of the crowd when the play made a mockery of this presumptuous vision.
“Humans are a greedy, jealous race that always takes away what other races possess.” He reminded to himself. He spoke those words with prime.
At the end, Ves left the theater in a tired but satiated mood. All the ups and downs he experienced in the last couple of days had refreshed his mind even as it took a toll on it. In any case, he experienced a lot on this planet and gained a lot of inspiration on his upcoming project.
His holiday on Moira’s Paradise had given him a lot of food for thought. While he didn’t get to relax all that often, the mental stimulation he received should be sufficient to flesh out a draft design for the mech of his dreams.