The problem on how to design a space knight that offered very strong means of defense haunted Ves a bit. It became an obstacle in his design process that he couldn't overcome unless he formed a good solution to address the problem.
"This is a hardware issue. I'll have to ask for a list of component licenses from Professor Ventag. Since he's a Senior, he must have hundreds of good mech parts at his disposal at the very least."
Unlike some other Seniors, Professor Ventag didn't design any core components in-house. If he did design something, it would be purely something small and for internal use only. Ves never heard of NORA Consolidated publishing any notable component designs such as power reactors of mech engines.
This reflected a difference in style and ideology. Some mech designers believed the correct way forward was to take an increasing amount of control over what was being put into the design of a mech. They wouldn't rest until every part of a mech was designed in-house!
Other mech designers believed that diverting their attention to designing individual components missed the point about their profession. It wasn't their job to develop individual parts. Specialist developers already concentrated on that job.
To these design purists, the core role of a mech designer was to take a collection of individual mech parts and put them together in a single cohesive design that maximized their synergies and minimized their incompatibilities.
The fight between the so-called pure design and single origin ideologies raged on ever since mech designers first emerged. The single origin ideology was the predominant belief in the early days of the Age of Mechs.
After all, not a lot of specialists published good components designs back then. The infrastructure surrounding the core mech industry was still in its infancy. Therefore, mech designers often resorted to designing their own components for their mechs by necessity.
It was a given that the results were rather mixed.
A mech designer excelled in designing mechs. As for designing individual components, they only became good enough at this job when they put in the effort. However, this was not always a bad idea as they spent far too much time on distractions and not enough on their core function, which was designing mechs!
The only instance where developing individual component designs was appropriate was when these specific components formed a core part of their design philosophy. For example, Ves did not criticize Master Olson and Oleg's preoccupation with designing mech engines because they formed such a critical aspect to their overall design philosophies geared towards longevity and endurance.
After a few hundred years of continued evolution within the mech industry, the pure design ideology gained strength. It advocated for an increased emphasis on division of roles. Why should a mech designer be bothered to design their own components and thereby slow down their own advancement when they could just as well leave the job to others?
As the Age of Mechs gained steam and mechs became ever more ubiquitous, so did the demand for good mech components increased. An industry that revolved around designing mech components for licensing emerged ever since the MTA implemented the current licensing system.
The competition in the market for component licenses was just as brutal as the competition in the mech market! This competition forced developers to continue to improve and innovate on the components they offered to mech designers, thereby ensuring they delivered better results than any mech designer who dabbled in this area.
These days, which mech designer adhered to which ideology depended heavily on their education, upbringing, chosen design philosophy and their learning ability. Some schools advocated for the single origin ideology, while others propagated the pure design ideology.
It was much more rewarding for mech designers to design their own components. Yet if they weren't any good at it or derived too little benefit from this distraction, they shouldn't bother.
Ves did not possess a strong inclination for one ideology over another. They both had their good points. As far as he was aware of, a lot of higher-ranking mech designers did just fine by focusing on developing one or two components that played a strong role in their designs while making use of component licenses to fill up the rest.
When Ves approached Professor Ventag just before the fleet's arrival to the Harkensen System, he received a skeptical response.
"A defensive space knight is as standard as it gets when it comes to that archetype." Professor Ventag frowned. "Are you not aware that you are making it difficult on yourself to develop a good unique selling proposition for your design?"
"I shouldn't be the first mech designer who came up with the idea in the Bright Republic."
"You just described the lack of feasibility with trying to implement modern energy screen technology into mechs. Not only would they be forced to carry around a bulky module responsible for generating the energy screens, but they don't offer enough protection against damage to make your space knight practical."
"There ought to be better shielding tech available, right?"
"There are, Ves." Professor Ventag nodded. "However, all of them come with various limitations and restrictions. They sometimes pop up in custom second-class mechs in the Friday Coalition, but you can forget about it if you want to design a third-class mech for third-rate states. It's too unaffordable."
Ves encountered his first major setback. It seemed his dream of squaring the circle by somehow incorporating some form of shielding tech into his design fell through. His space knight wouldn't be able to emulate Qilanxo's space barrier functionality anytime soon.
The professor suddenly smiled at the younger mech designer. "All hope is not lost. There are other alternatives at our disposal. They just aren't as good as genuine shields and energy screens. For example, the most practical suggestion I can offer is polarizing technology. Are you familiar with this tech?"
"I've heard of it." Ves said with a hopeful tone. "It's not exactly accessible to ordinary mech designers, though."
"Not to worry. I do possess a license for a mech part that can polarize certain sections of a mech. However, a polarizing generator comes with severe drawbacks. Not only are they energy hungry, they're also relatively bulky. They don't take up as much volume as an energy screen generator, but you'll have to make many compromises if you wish to fit the possibility to polarize a portion of the mech frame in your design."
"Please afford me access to the design specifications of your polarizing generator license." Ves requested.
Professor Ventag activated his comm and transferred some files to Ves' comm. In the meantime, he described the underlying technology in further detail.
"Polarizing tech is a catch-all term for methods run armor plating or any solid surface for that matter with an electromagnetic field. This field offers a layer of protection to the surface against certain types of damage. It's most effective against energy damage such as lasers, but some applications of polarizing technology also makes them fairly decent against physical damage."
"It's fairly prevalent in second-class mechs, right?"
"Correct." Professor Ventag nodded. "Not all mechs from the Friday Coalition makes use of polarizing tech. They have the same considerations for this tech as we do with the decision to implement compressed armor in our third-class mechs. It's not cost-effective to employ them in cheaper mechs."
The professor indirectly informed Ves of a major flaw in his plan to make use of polarizing tech.
"If the Friday Coalition finds it inefficient, then it's even more of a pipedream for me to apply this tech to my space knight!"
The Senior shook his head. "All hope is not lost, Ves. I'm not deliberately leading you into a pit. The component specifications I just sent you described a polarizing generator that is cheaper and weaker than the ones employed by second-class mechs. While the effect is subsequently weaker to the point of being ignored by the mech designers of the Friday Coalition, it might play a useful role as long as its applied correct. What most mech designers consider inefficient can nonetheless be a valuable addition to mechs that operate on a different paradigm."
That was easier said than done. Ves already received the professor's message that he shouldn't expect too much from the component license for a polarizing generator.
Ves left the mech workshop and left the professor to his own work.
Seeing that Professor Ventag failed to offer him a good solution to this problem, Ves considered whether he should draw on his other connections to find an answer. Perhaps it was time for him to return to the Clifford Society and see if he could exchange his merits for something good.
"Even so, I don't think it's going to be that easy." He shook his head. "Polarizing tech would have been a lot more prevalent in the Bright Republic if it is practical enough for use in regular mechs."
RIght now, Ves was prepared to mull over this issue. While adding some form of active defenses wasn't critical to his space knight design, he felt he would do Qilanxo a disservice by omitting this function.
How could his space knight embody Qilanxo's excellent in defense without a representation of her nigh-invincible space barrier?
Ves encountered an unfortunate problem plaguing many mech designers throughout the galaxy! Practicality failed to keep up with his ambitions!
A lot of people wanted to own a CFA battleship and shoot everything in their way to pieces. That didn't mean that all of those people actually got to realize their dreams. Unless they managed to get accepted into the CFA and promote their way up the hierarchy, they could forget about captaining their own battleship.
Even then, the captains and admirals of the CFA couldn't employ their battleships willy-nilly and shoot whoever they wanted to without an enormous pile of rules and regulations standing in their way.
Right now, Ves became enamored with the idea of offering some form of active defenses on his mech, but all of the possibilities mentioned so far turned it into a very bad idea.
As Ves studied the details of Professor Ventag's component license, he immediately realized its main limitation.
"This license describes a polarizing generator for a heavy mech!"
The design for the generator did its best to minimize its mass and volume, but even then it took up as much space if not more than the heavy-duty antigrav backpacks procured by the Vandals to keep their mechs running on Aeon Corona VII.
That might not sound so bad, but the main issue was that existing spaceborn mechs all carried an integrated backpack module in the form of their flight systems!
"Maybe I should just layer them after another." Ves considered.
It wasn't unheard of to stack two backpack module-like components together. However, this led to unwieldy mechs with a very deep torso that bulged backwards, affecting the center of gravity and increasing their propensity to fall.
This was a bit less of a concern for spaceborn mechs, but even so it massively amplified the weak points of a space knight. Any enemy that managed to reach the rear would be able to inflict crippling damage to the mech! Such an easy vulnerability defeated the purpose of offering a defensive space knight.
"There shouldn't be too many compromises involved with the defensive capabilities of my design." He declared.
This problem haunted him for so long that the fleet finally transitioned into the Harkensen System before he knew it. The Tovar Peace Delegation successfully reached their destination, though not without suffering some losses!
As Ves accessed a local plot of the system, he found it to be as boisterous as his first visit to this Reinaldan star system.
Many shady outfits and outright pirate gangs frequented Harkensen III to unload their ill-gotten gains. They subsequently used the proceeds to procure new mechs, ships and supplies.
The outfits also deposited their crews on Harkensen I for some much-needed shore leave. The large-scale attacks the resort planet suffered a couple of years ago had already faded after the Reinald Republic made a concerted effort to repair the damage and promote it as an excellent vacation destination.
Ves smiled cynically at the high amount of traffic running through Harkensen I's orbit. To someone who lived through the devastation that wracked Harkensen I's surface, he found the sight to be surreal.
"People have such short memories."