The Mech Touch Chapter 663
662 Negotiating Power
"I'm honored that you have considered me worthy enough to value my work to the extent of adding it in your catalog." He began carefully. "But.. I cannot afford to associate my name with yours."
The Skull Architect dismissively waved his hand. "A name is a name. I do not even need to mention you in the first place when putting your variant on the market. Many mech designs that are published each day claim to have been designed by a single designer, but have secretly benefited from assistance from other mech designers. The only reason their credit is absent is because they are paid extra to keep quiet or because they've been coerced in some way. In any case, it is no issue for us to leave the market guessing."
"Even so, there are other hindrances plaguing such a collaboration effort. The Leiner Grey design you've handed over to me is a lower-level version that doesn't properly convey the majesty of your design. If my contribution is to be ready for sale, I will have to work on the purest version of your designs. This.."
Ves didn't need to continue. Apprentices were generally kept away from those high-level designs for a good reason. They couldn't handle the profoundness hidden within. Even if he possessed a much higher tolerance due to his Spirituality, it was still a highly unpleasant experience for him to work on something that carried the touch of a Senior.
"These are trivial issues to overcome." The Skull Architect dismissed his protestations. It was in his interest to do so in this negotiation. "Many mech designers dream of contributing to designs of a higher level! Don't think I haven't noticed your eyes light up when I mentioned it. Not only will you be able to experience advanced design concepts that will give you a head-start in designing higher-ranked mechs, you will also be able to hammer your design philosophy into shape!"
"While I admit those benefits sound attractive, the practical limitations remain. I don't dare to study your designs too closely."
"As I said, this problem isn't impossible to solve. Otherwise, collaboration between mech designers of different ranks aren't as prevalent as today."
The Senior Mech Designer patiently explained the methods that would allow them to work on the same design without repercussions. The Skull Architect was responsible for the main design as the lead designer. As the contributing designer, Ves merely had to tweak some aspects to his style. As long as he kept the changes marginal, say, five percent or less, Ves would not have to expose himself too much to the new design.
"You can pace your work over a longer stretch of time. A typical Apprentice can easily perform thirty minutes to an hour's worth of work before requiring rest and recuperation. This can be repeated multiple times in a day. You can also wait until the next day to fully recover your mind and work for a slightly longer stretch of time."
"If I can only work an hour or so a day on a higher-level design, I won't be able to finish it promptly." Ves replied.
"With your proficiency, you don't require too much hours to develop a variant with a divergence rate of less than five percent. I am handing complete designs with nearly complete documentation and logs to you! You will hardly be expected to do your own research and experimentation."
"I will have to experience it for myself, but from my experience with working with another Senior's mech designs, I will not be able to make too much progress every day."
The two quibbled over this issue for a bit before moving on to the Skull Architect's demand.
"The price that I can offer for a concise and modern textbook on stealth technology will not be low. Its market price at the very least amounts to billions, if not trillions of coalition credits. The only way a small mech designer can you can make up for that price is if you collaborate with me on thirty of my mech designs! As for the design specifications of an ultracompact battery, its value and rarity is even higher, so my price for that is fifty of my mech designs!"
Ves practically had a heart attack upon hearing the ridiculous cost for the two pieces of knowledge. He might as well sign over his entire life to the Skull Architect and become his slave!
"T-T-That's preposterous! It's inhuman! It will take decades to work my way through so many designs! Do you even have that many mechs in your catalog?"
"Years. Decades. Centuries. It matters little to me." The Skull Architect brushed off his outrage. "If you can pay me in K-coins or coalition credits, then I am happy to accept them. I haven't offered these two valued pieces of knowledge to more than a handful of mech designers, so you should feel honored that I'm opening up my knowledge bank to you."
The opportunity to work on a Senior's design definitely benefited Ves, but it was not as if he could find other ways to refine his design philosophy. The best way to improve his design ability was to design his own mechs from scratch.
"Please, sir, let's be real here." Ves shook his head. "You value my input because of their research and input value. Also, the mech market of the frontier is very different from the Friday Coalition's mech market. The material quality is mixed, but is generally of a far lower standard, something which I am very proficient with. Also, the vast majority of mech pilots are vastly less skilled than can be found in the Coalition. Your pure designs are geared towards elites, not trash. Catering to lower-skilled pilots is something which I am very adept at already."
Ves put forth a position which stated that his held much higher value to the Skull Architect than the man had initially priced in. Though he may be just an Apprentice, if his suspicions were right, the Skull Architect might have gotten a glimpse of the greater depth within his work.
If that were so, it basically meant that Ves possessed something which the older mech designer badly wanted to experience. This gave Ves the grounds to negotiate better terms.
The Skull Architect grudgingly nodded. "Your words have merit, but remember that I have several alternatives. Many mech designers in the frontier look up to me, and I can pick any of them to perform the same of what I ask of you. I have my students to count on as well."
"They are they. I am I. Each mech designer is unique. If those other mech designers and students of yours possessed a valuable quality, then you wouldn't be asking me. As you have mentioned earlier, our design philosophies are diametrically opposite to each other. With how obsessed most mech designers are regarding the pursuit of maximum performance, I don't think you can find a single other mech designer in the frontier with a design philosophy that resembles mine. Let alone that, but their skills and talent likely leaves much to be desired. This is the frontier after all."
The reason why the Skull Architect acted disdainfully against most mech designers who approached him was because they weren't worth his time.
There weren't many mech designers in the frontier. Those that were exiled to this uncivilized region of space usually consisted of losers, eccentrics or indigenous mech designers, each of which came with a different set of problems. An indigenous with talent like Mayra was very hard to come by.
Ves didn't know this for certain, but he could make an educated guess. He was thankful that he took the time to discuss the awful situation of mech designers in the frontier with Ketis and Mayra.
The lack of schools, security, MTA supervision, a readily-available supply of materials and a stable mech market all hampered the growth and proliferation of mech designers. It was at least ten times harder for mech designers to operate a business here, especially without any backing from the established pirate organizations.
Pirates weren't exactly the best employers either.
The Skull Architect scowled. His face began to take on a frightening aspect. "Do not presume to ask too much. Greed is responsible for the downfall of countless mech designers."
Ves steeled his mind and remained calm. He held his ground and did not show any sign of being intimidated. "I merely wish for fair compensation. My work is of far greater value to you than what the sales of your mechs can bring in. Considering the immense difficulty for me to work on a higher-level design, perhaps working on five designs is suitable."
"Ridiculous! A contribution on merely five of my designs isn't enough to cover the bribes I have to pay! Seventy-five designs, no less!"
A long round of bargaining subsequently took place. Though the Skull Architect possessed an advantage in status, experience, and business acumen, Ves figured out that the older man really wanted to close this deal.
It couldn't be helped! Even though countless mech designers existed in the galaxy right now, only a miniscule fraction arrived at the Faris Star Region. Of this portion, none of them possessed his unique qualities.
His exclusive specialty alone might be unique in this galaxy! With a virtual monopoly on his hands, Ves represented the only hope of solving the fatal flaw of the Skull Architect's high-performing mechs. The Senior Mech Designer practically hungered for his
"Twenty-five designs." An incredibly haggard and angry pirate mech designer said. "This is my last ultimatum. It is a burdensome amount of mechs to work with, and it will still require some decades to work through them all, but this is an extremely generous price considering what you are able to obtain in return."
Ves paused for a moment, weighing the offer in his mind. He really wanted to bargain down the Skull Architect further, but it appeared that contributing to twenty-five designs had reached the bottom line. Anything less might provoke a violent reaction from this unstable mech pilot. Ves still possessed some scruples about the Skull Architect.
He was negotiating with a mass-murdering criminal after all! It felt like dining with a serial killing cannibal. If Ves attempted to suggest they eat all-vegetarian meals, perhaps his chopped-up body would be served up as the next course!
However, Ves sensed it hadn't reached that point yet. His sense of preservation urged him to accept this figure, but his risk-taking instincts urged him to make one more attempt.
Just do it!
"FIFTEEN DESIGNS! NOT ONE LESS, YOU LITTLE BRAT! OTHERWISE, I'LL PUT A BOUNTY ON YOUR HEAD AND SIC MY PERSONAL RETINUE ON YOUR TRAIL AND DRAG YOUR BROKEN BODY BACK TO MY LAB SO I CAN CUT OFF YOUR BONES WHILE YOU'RE STILL ALIVE AND INCORPORATE THEM INTO A COMMEMORATIVE LEINER GREY!"
Ves did not ask whether the Leiner Grey his bones would be incorporated in was the high performing base model or the simplified variant that Ves had put forth. The Skull Architect might go through with his threat if Ves kept egging the man on! This was one of the most frightening negotiations of his life!
"Ptah!" The awful-looking Skull Architect spat. "You little punk! It seems you finally know your limits! Don't forget your agreement! Collaborate with me on fifteen separate mech designs, and I will wipe out the debt you owe for obtaining knowledge that you came for. Are you happy?"
Objectively speaking, it was a generous offer. Subjectively speaking, Ves was underselling his own uniqueness. To a bystander's perspective, the deal heavily favored Ves. In fact, it could be argued that collaborating with a Senior Mech Designer for fifteen times wasn't a price at all, but actually a benefit that could vastly propel Ves to a higher level!
However, Ves truly believed his specialty should be enough to repay the debt he owed to the Skull Architect after collaborating two or three times at most.
Neither side regained their cheer. Both of them felt as if the other secured the upper hand in the negotiation. The fact that neither side ended up satisfied spoke of a decent compromise.