The Mech Touch Chapter 662
661 A Simple Transaction
Ves had no idea how an attempt to acquire knowledge of stealth tech and how to fabricate an ultracompact battery spiralled into a full blown lecture and tutoring session.
If he ignored the fact he was wearing a heavily embellished suit of light combat armor that could have been torn straight from a modern day pirate drama, he might have thought he travelled back in time to his student days.
Of course, with a professor like Reno Jimenez instructing him on how to do better, in a pirate admiral's uniform no less, the situation turned into a completely unbelievable event.
Though the Skull Architect may not be the most pleasant individual to converse with, he took a surprisingly patient attitude with Ves when the topic shifted to the technical aspects of their Leiner Grey design.
They did not have to converse that much, since both of them had tasted each other's design philosophies. They also read through each other's design choices and characteristics.
Reading a mech design was a fundamental ability of any mech designer. Ves knew of most of the secrets of the Leiner Grey, and could say with confidence he could reproduce an identical light skirmisher with a seventy percent similarity! The only aspects he failed to get a grasp on were those that concerned higher concepts, areas in which Ves could only begin to touch upon when he advanced to the rank of Journeyman.
As for his counterpart, the Skull Architect might have grasped up to ninety-nine percent of his design style! The two stood at different stages in a mech designer's career. Practically nothing Ves had implemented in his own version of the Leiner Grey could be hidden from an elder mech designer's sight.
Considering the vast experience gap between them, Ves had made several notable errors in his design.
The Skull Architect highlighted the joint sections near the waist. "One of the more egregious loss in performance is the way you handled the leg joints. I can understand why you've thickened these sections, but this size increase leads to a whole cascade of changes…"
The man brutally pointed out several of these major errors, each one illuminating Ves even more. It couldn't be helped, as Ves had been handed over the Leiner Grey design without any manuals or instructions. He inevitably misunderstood some minor details which turned out to have an enormous effect!
As the Senior found nothing else worth noting on, he waved his hand, causing the projections of the designs to fade. "Learn from this experience. Seek out active collaborations. There is no rule in mech design that states that a mech designer ought to work alone. Some of the best mechs come about through combining the strengths of several mech designers. While each contributing mech designer adds another complicating element, the reward is often worth the effort. Tell me, boy, what is your evaluation of your version of the Leiner Grey if it were to be published on the market?"
Ves frowned at this question. "The Leiner Grey is one of the best put-together designs I've had the pleasure of working with, but it makes use of outdated alloys and techniques. It won't gain any traction on the market except for a possible role as training mech, but even then its premium material costs makes it unsuitable for that task. My apologies, it is hard for me to make accurate estimates of the market performance of a second-class mech design."
"The market for second-class mechs is more diverse than the market for third-class mechs. An abundance of wealth and vastly higher budgets allow for greater combinations of exotics to be used. Other than that, the market for more mundane mech types is more similar than you think. Let me put the question in a different context. What if I decided to publish your variant of the Leiner Grey instead of my original creation as its original design all those years ago?"
"That… I have not performed any detailed market research about how the Friday Coalition's mech market worked like. I'm missing too much information to make a confident judgement about is market performance. That said, even if the simplified version of the Leiner Grey performs fifteen percent worse than the purer version, the design's base specs have always been higher than the average. Therefore, the decrease in performance should still put the Leiner Grey in an acceptable range."
"Yet the cost of the Leiner Grey is too high." The Skull Architect jabbed. "The market may be filled with fools, but if the disparity between your Leiner Grey and its direct competitors is too big, introducing this model on the market will result in more losses than gains."
That unfortunately rang more true for Ves than he'd like. What he did was to take a high-performing mech built with high-quality performance and simplified its operation so that it became more suitable for the mass market.
Yet one of the defining traits of a mass market mech was that its price had to be within a reasonable range! This demand directly contradicted with the high-quality components of the Leiner Grey!
Ves had to admit defeat in this aspect. "The Leiner Grey that I've designed won't do so well because it utilizes expensive, high-performing parts that I'm not using to their full potential. If I had more control over the design, then I would have swapped those unnecessarily expensive parts with cheaper ones that can do the job just as well. The impact on performance will be small, but the costs can easily be reduced by a third!"
"A mech that is modified to such an extent can no longer be called the Leiner Grey." The Senior shook his head, as if disappointed at the solution Ves had come up with. "No matter. This is merely an exercise with an outdated mech design. I have no interest in putting the Leiner Grey for sale again. Let us move to a different matter."
Ves already had an inkling of what Jimenez had to say.
From Mayra, he gained the impression that the Skull Architect valued his time highly. He wouldn't waste a single second on Ves if the possible gains from the conversation didn't surpass the opportunity cost of spending time to improve his designs.
Almost mech designer from the older generation that came in touch with Ves gained a good impression of him. Ves didn't fit the mold of an average mech designer, and that tickled their interest.
However, being different didn't matter if Ves couldn't gain any concrete benefits from the contact. He worked carefully to incorporate subtle elements in his Leiner Grey design that may have been picked up by its original designer.
That the Skull Architect already cleared out this much time from his schedule to talk with Ves was a hopeful sign. However, Ves knew very well that he himself did not merit this treatment solely because he put an interesting spin on the Leiner Grey.
The man Ves was talking to was anything but an altruistic teacher. The Skull Architect wanted something from Ves, and the price may be steep.
"The demonstration of your design abilities have caught my interest. It is very strange to sample your work, boy. I sense a small element of Carmin's influence in your design choices, yet you treat her teachings as a supplement to your own style of designing mechs. While your design philosophy is on the opposite spectrum of mine, I can respect the direction have decided to take."
"Thank you, sir."
"I wasn't finished yet. Your design philosophy is woefully immature and just a seed compared to the blooming flower that represents my own. However, strength and maturity aside, the intrinsic qualities of both our design philosophies are incredibly suitable to be combined in uneven collaborative projects! The work you have done with the Leiner Grey has already proved that! Out of every test I've issued, yours is one of the few that brings out different facets to my design while adding value to the product!"
Ves treated the Leiner Grey as a serious design project. The mech had to be usable and marketable. While he hadn't quite succeeded with the latter, that was mainly because he lacked the permission to implement wider changes in the design.
"Mayra brought to me because you have need of something of mine, correct?"
"Yes, sir. I'd like to obtain two pieces of knowledge, if you have them. My first demand is to obtain the design specifications of an ultracompact battery, preferably one that I can fabricate with materials available for sale in Mancroft or in the frontier. My second demand is to obtain practical knowledge of reasonably up-to-date stealth technology. I am in the possession of many fragments of stealth shuttles, but reconstructing them into a working vehicle requires theoretical backing that I currently lack."
He decided to be fairly open in his demands. He doubted that the Skull Architect appreciated any obtuse word games on this matter. Besides, the Senior must have already heard what he wanted from Mayra. The only element that was new was his demand for the design specs of an ultracompact battery.
That must have tripped up the Skull Architect's expectations, because the deadly man began to frown in a severe manner. "Stealth tech is already restricted knowledge. It is unthinkable to pass it along like a piece of cabbage on the street. As for ultracompact batteries.. It is technology that is that is ruinously costly to acquire and even more demanding in its application! Are you certain of your demands? Don't ask for what you won't be able to use yourself!"
"I'm certain, sir. If you can help me acquire them at a reasonable price that is within my means, then I would be very grateful."
The Skull Architect chuckled. "Besides mech designers, we are both businessmen. It comes with the territory. I am not in the habit of giving out favors for free, let alone two extremely valuable pieces of knowledge. I like you, boy, but not to the extent to waive their prices, as there are troublesome repercussions I allow them to be spread."
"What.. are your prices?"
"A simple business transaction." The Skull Architect smirked as the discussion finally reached the most interesting part. "You have already demonstrated the result of what our work can do when we combine our strengths. Our design philosophies are opposite and have little overlap with each other, but this creates the condition for some of the best kind of collaborate end results! The biggest issue that is hampering us is our differences in maturity, so for now the only practical collaborate mech designs that we can produce together is for my design to take the lead and for you to develop a variant!"
Ves widened his eyes. He had never thought that the Skull Architect valued his work so highly that his work might actually become for sale! What the Skull Architect suggested was to do the same he had done with the Leiner Grey but do it with an up-to-date mech design that was part of the man's current mech catalog!
In essence, merely had to accept the offer to become the contributing designer of a pirate mech design!
Many Apprentices and Journeymen dreamed of becoming a contributing designer to a mech design that came from the hand of a Senior. Ves already had a taste of the benefits from working on small but key sections of the Leiner Grey.
If his autonomy extended throughout the entire mech frame, then he would be able to test his own nascent design philosophy against a much more developed one in a controlled environment. This alone had the potential of polishing his design principles and strengthen them in a way that made them more cohesive and competitive!
"This.." He felt really mixed about this offer. It was both an opportunity and a really bad idea. If word got out that Ves not only sought out the Skull Architect, but voluntarily helped the man improve his pirate designs, then Ves was no different from a pirate mech designer himself!
Let alone ruining his reputation, Ves might also suffer the same fate as the Skull Architect and get booted out from civilized space! The cost was too high!