The Mech Touch Chapter 646
645 Mirror To The Future
"A test, huh?"
After his conversation with Mayra, Ves wasted little time. He dove into the design documents and identified five different mech designs. All of them appeared to come from the Skull Architect's hand.
"Compared to the test I've given to Ketis, this one is a lot harder."
Because Ves only needed to fill in the gaps, he didn't have to spend too much time on this test. Yet the missing areas all happened to represent the key structures in the design schematic. Filling them in directly tested his understanding and his style on the functioning of key components such as the engine, the power reactor, the internal architecture and more.
Every mech designer formed their own brand of solutions to the problems. Even though the exact parameters of their proposals might vary a little depending on what time they took the test or what their mood was like, in essence any single attempt would serve as a decent snapshot of their ability. The details might vary, but the broad strokes would always be the same.
Even if a pair of mech designers attended the exact same classes and studied the same textbooks, their design outcomes definitely differed drastically due to differences in their background, attitude and preferences.
"A mech designer's imagination isn't limitless. But it's enough to design billions of mechs, if not trillions."
To design a mech was to make a choice out of those nearly limitless possibilities. Knowledge expanded the range of possible design outcomes, but it took skill and experience to pick the better ones from a crowd of bad ones.
Before he tackled the test, he considered the nature of the test. Ves didn't forget about his primary objective. "I need to impress the Skull Architect in order to gain his favor. I can't go too far, otherwise he'll develop an unhealthy interest in my specialty. However, if I want to pry off his research on stealth tech from his grasp, I have to stand out from the crowd."
He grew a headache at the thought of balancing these opposing concerns. If he held too much back, then the Skull Architect wouldn't waste his time with Ves. If he revealed too much, then the next thing his brains might be cut from his body and be put in a jar for the Skull Architect to interrogate at his leisure!
It sounded like hyperbole, but Ves knew that the Skull Architect was truly capable and willing to resort to such extremes!
"This is the problem with obsessive researchers. You can't predict when they'll tip over from obsession into madness."
Ves regarded himself as a minor authority on this matter. Not only did he escape from Doctor Jutland's care, he also developed an early onset of obsessive behavior. So far, it was harmless to Ves, but it might grow to a serious compulsion in the future.
He had a theory that all the mental attribute changes was to blame.
In any case, his familiarity with this issue gave him a good insight on the Skull Architect's perspective.
"The Skull Architect cares more about his projects than his relationships with others. He's even impatient to one of his former students."
This spoke of a personality that emphasized efficiency and utility. This wasn't unusual among mech designers. They needed to be fast and meticulous in their work.
Usually, balancing the two was impossible. One could either be fast but sloppy, or slow but meticulous. It took pure skill and dedication to elevate both at the same time. Someone who reached the rank of Senior was definitely a hard worker.
"Still, it sounds like the Skull Architect is severely affected by this condition. He sounds much more unreasonable than some of the others Seniors that I know of. Not that I met many of them, but the contrast is stark."
Two Senior Mech Designers stood out in his recent memory. The first one he had a conversation with was Horatio. The man should have enjoyed a lot of renown with his rank and ability, but for some reason he was content to play butler to Master Olson. Unlike the Skull Architect, Horatio always acted friendly and patient.
The second Senior he came into touch with was the old and faded Professor Velten. As the only Senior Mech Designer of the Flagrant Vandals, she was long past her prime and she had no business of leading the mech designers of an entire mech regiment by herself. Still, she was better than nothing, as hardly any Seniors wanted to work with the Vandals.
While Professor Velten treated her time as if it was a precious commodity, she wasn't too stingy about spending it. Ves frequently got in touch with her to report on routine matters and to obtain some assistance on how to service certain complicated mechs.
Comparing their personalities to the Skull Architect only accentuated his eccentricities. This was a man who cared a lot about efficiency. If Ves incorporated anything unnecessary flashy, costly or time-consuming, he would likely fail the test.
"I've got to be efficient and economical in my design choices."
He moved on to the incomplete designs at his disposal. All of them seemed to be lastgen designs, and represented the Skull Architect's older works that have lost relevance in this day and age. Exposing them to those he wished to test wouldn't harm his current business activities.
Nonetheless, back then he was still a Senior, so the complexity and abstruse concepts that suffused the designs exceeded the upper bounds that Ves could cope. Strangely though, he didn't feel too pained when he studied the designs.
It wasn't due to the gaps.
"These designs are derivatives of more sophisticated versions. They're dumbed down to Journeyman-level!"
The changes the Skull Architect made for these test designs shouldn't have been dramatic. It was hard to achieve perfection, but easy to mess it up. The deliberate disorder broke up the inexplicable harmony of the designs, causing them to fall within the range of understanding to Apprentices and Journeymen.
This thoroughness spoke of the Skull Architect's dedication to detail. He already took every detail into account, and probably expected the same from those who wished to approach him. This wasn't anything radical, but it told Ves that it wasn't enough to make a good attempt. He had to do it right without falling flat.
"Hmm, if I want to impress the Skull Architect, I shouldn't be messing about with things I don't understand."
Before he became known as the Skull Architect, he was known as Reno Jimenez, a versatile mech designer with a broad range of mech designs in his catalog. His specialty lay in the field of energy transmission.
What did this mean? It basically meant he cast his gaze on every aspect related to energy and how to convert it into actual power with as little waste as possible. Machines designed by mech designers who specialized in this field lasted longer on the same charge of energy cells and generated less waste heat.
This made them exceptionally suitable to design a variety of mechs that interacted heavily with energy and heat. The obvious mech archetypes that fell into this category were laser rifleman mechs and laser cannoneers.
However, a mech designer with a broad repertoire could easily put their strengths to use in other types of mechs. For example, aerial and spaceborn mechs generated drained a lot more energy and dealt with heat a lot more poorly than landbound mechs by virtue of their flight systems.
A specialist in energy transmission had a dramatic impact on the energy efficiency and heat management of a mech that utilized a flight system. What impressed Ves the most about Reno Jimenez was that he wasn't afraid of expanding his range. His specialty afforded him the luxury of choice, but many of his colleagues opted to remain within their comfort zones.
There wasn't anything wrong with sticking to the familiar. The competitive market environment forced mech designers to become really good at one type of mechs. Some barely held on to their core competences while others branched out without suffering any consequences.
"Mr. Jimenez is one of the latter, it seems."
Ves considered his options.
"A landbound light skirmisher, a landbound heavy cannoneer, an aerial medium knight mech, a spaceborn light frontline mech, a spaceborn medium striker mech."
This range encompassed a wide variety of mechs without offering too many options. It wasn't a disaster to him if none of the options matched his earlier work. "The Skull Architect probably appreciates mech designers that can be flexible in terms of mech types."
The man's own mech catalog showed that he embodied this notion. If Ves ruled out his virtual mechs and his competition mechs, then his catalog of designs was woefully small. "So far, I've only designed four mechs, of which only two of them are original designs."
Though his recent ride with the Flagrant Vandals exposed him to an extensive amount of mechs, that was completely different as Ves was never involved in their initial design.
This was why he ruled out aerial and spaceborn mechs from his consideration. Out of five options, Ves was only left with two.
"It's a painful choice, but a necessary one. Even if I've studied up and received some tutoring on flight systems, that doesn't mean I'm an authority on this field."
Out of the two landbound designs remaining, Ves could either pick between a light skirmisher or a heavy cannoneer. The first choice appeared deceptively simple while the latter one inspired dread in its sheer internal complexity. In fact, out of every design that the Skull Architect dumbed down, the heavy cannoneer had practically been butchered into a pale shadow of its former self. It looked kind of sad in its current state.
That also meant it was easier to correct. Ves already formulated a dozen possible solutions to fill up the gaps.
"Still.. Is it wise for me to touch upon a heavy mech?"
Heavy mechs formed a different class on their own in the mech industry. On average, they massed at least four times as much as a medium mech, and ran through so much energy that they could melt through an entire city district.
Such might and devastation exceeded the range which Ves could control. His virtual and realspace experience with heavy mechs was practically nil.
"Let's run with a landbound light skirmisher then. What are you called? The Leiner Grey."
Ves had never designed this exact mech type in reality before, but Ves could draw on many related experiences. From designing a virtual light skirmisher, to his extensive work on attempting to improve Inheritor spaceborn light skirmisher, to his broad range of experience in designing his original mechs, Ves could sample all of them and keep the ones that were relevant to this challenge.
He closed his eyes, letting his memories and prior experiences flit past his mind at the speed of thought. Picking out the useful portions and piecing them together provided him with an overarching framework that could guide his design work.
He happened to find the most similarities between Professor Velten's Inheritor design and the Leiner Grey. Though they operated in very different environments, they both shared the same level of internal complexity.
"The Leiner Grey's lack of flight system frees up a lot of internal space, but that is partially counterbalanced by the fact that its engine needs to be stronger. Overall, they aren't much different in that both mechs constantly struggle to squeeze out more performance out of a very limited budget of parts."
The higher the performance, the greater the mass and performance. This rule applied to almost every aspect of mech design. The Leiner Grey that was shaped from the hands of Reno Jimenez attempted to subvert this rule as much as possible.
"He was chasing after a paradox when he designed this light skirmisher."
Jimenez wanted to have his cake and eat it too. He attempted to create a powerful light skirmisher while keeping cost, weight and power draw to a minimum. Naturally, the design never lived up to his hopes, but the partial failure performed well enough to be a good seller in the Coalition market.
"The Skull Architect's standards are absurdly high. If this is what he considers a partial failure, what does success look like in his eyes?"
The man demanded perfection to an unrealistic degree, and worked hard to achieve this dream.
The more Ves became exposed to the Skull Architect's track record, the more he found himself echoing the Senior's past development path. It was as if the Skull Architect was what Ves might turn into if he followed the same steps.
A chill went down his spine. Was Ves destined to become a lunatic in the future as well?