Professor Norman Pendleton was a respectable-looking Senior Mech Designer who was roughly as old as Professor Ventag. They were very close rivals to each other for that reason. Each of them tried to outdo the other for many decades now. Even when they successfully advanced to the rank of Senior, they never let up on each other!
Alongside their personal rivalry, the competition between the AUMD and the DCTI played a role as well. Senior Mech Designers never deigned to attend the press conferences of Apprentices unless they were their mentors or involved in the design project in some fashion.
This made Professor Pendleton's abrupt decision to attend this product reveal so noteworthy. As his image was being projected on the stage for everyone to hear and see, Ves knew that the fight had finally started in earnest.
"Let us not go into the many shortcomings of your design that makes it unfit for sale, let alone a passing grade in any mech design class. What in the galaxy did you injected into your bloodstream to charge a mech by almost twice its actual worth?! Young man, a little greed is fine, as everyone wants to be rewarded for their work, but the insane margins you are demanding from your customers is downright price gouging!"
"The Aurora Titan is more than worth its price, no matter the edition." Ves calmly replied. He repeated one of his earlier points. "In the right circumstances, its performance can equal that of two or three medium space knights."
The professor smiled sardonically at those words. "Two second-hand economy space knights, maybe. Yet just because you preface your claim with 'the right circumstances', doesn't mean you can get away with your deceptive statement. Battles are always messy. The right circumstances that you describe don't happen as nearly as often as you want your potential suckers to think. Mechs in space use all kinds of weapons other than lasers! Tell me honestly, how does the Aurora Titan fare against physical rounds? How well does the Aurora Titan fight against melee mechs?"
Ves had only vaguely stated that the Aurora Titan did not perform optimally under these conditions. The truth was that the mech performed downright awful in some of those scenarios!
He could never disparage his mech in public outright. That would be giving his critics ammunition to clip his admission and use it as the basis of attacks in the media!
There was hardly any argument against a mech that was more convincing than the disparaging words of their own designers!
Therefore, answering this question presented a tricky problem to Ves. Yet one point in favor to him was that there wasn't any rule that stated that he needed to respond to a question directly. There were no arbitrators or moderators like there was in a formal debate to call him out if he engaged in tricks.
This gave Ves license to resort to his favored means of resolving difficult arguments, which was to lie, cheat, misdirect and distract and misrepresent the truth!
Part and parcel of his arsenal of tools was to make use of his considerably flexible Spirituality. Even though a Senior Mech Designer possessed an incomparably strong design philosophy that formed the basis of mentality and their beliefs, they were not like mech pilots who had the ability to employ their force of will on other people.
While Ves hadn't mastered this application of spirituality, he knew some of the theory behind it. He even managed to imitate the effect.
Right now, the main reason why Ves stood so close to the front edge of the stage was because he could stand as close to Professor Pendleton as possible.
It wasn't a coincidence that Ves specifically instructed the staff to seat Professor Pendleton right at the center of the front row of seats. The actual distance between the two was close enough for them to stare each other in the eyes.
This was a close enough distance for Ves to employ his weakly-imitated force of will in a direct confrontation against Professor Pendleton's mind!
Ves did not ask for much. He just wanted to make Professor Pendleton appear a little more discomfited and less sure of his arguments. This was why he emulated Venerable Foster's domineering force of will in an unrelenting aggressive pressure!
Unfortunately, it didn't appear that Pendleton noticed much of what Ves tried to do. Professor Pendleton was an old man who had seen a lot in his day. He even interacted with expert pilots a lot due to his involvement in several expert mech design projects!
Even if this spiritual attack failed to take hold on the professor, it nonetheless affected Ves as well!
Venerable Foster always seemed absolutely confident and strong. Her uniformly domineering force of will played a huge role in making her larger than life!
The same effect played out on Ves as well. He voluntarily subjected himself to a form of self-brainwashing as he let the imitated force of will suffuse his entire judgement and take root in his mind. This action not only imparting him with an aura of righteous conviction, but also fired up his fighting spirit to the maximum!
Up close and on the projection, Ves was practically on fire as he started to hit back at the Professor!
"Why are heavy mechs so bad against light mechs? Why are melee mechs constantly outgunned by ranged mechs? Why do aerial mechs always get the drop on landbound melee mechs? The guiding paradigm of the mech industry is specialization! An outfit that fields mechs that are average at everything will never be able to beat an outfit that combines several specialized mech models in a synergistic fashion!"
"I am not talking about your Aurora Titan's ability to hit back against a ranged mech. That's a completely unnecessary gimmick of your mech design that only serves to jack up its prices, by the way." Professor Pendleton quickly adjusted.
"The alien crystal technology is not a gimmick but a core addition to the Aurora Titan. A skilled mech pilot will be able to employ their strategic placement and retaliate at unexpected moments. My Crystal Lord design has already proven the viability of this tactic!"
"I'll talk about the gimmicks later." Pendleton shook his head. "First, I want to address the core function of a space knight. You seem to have the mistaken impression that their only use is to be slightly mobile barriers against massed firepower. That is only a small part of what they do! The true purpose of a defensive space knight is to frustrate the enemy! They not only need to block enemy firepower, but also fend off aggressive mechs that are trying to run down vulnerable friendly mechs!"
"The Aurora Titan is not designed to serve those roles." Ves stated. "It is designed to do one job and do it well. Even fielding just a single Aurora Titan is enough to expand the tactical possibilities of any outfit! Sometimes, a spaceborn mech force can benefit from adding what amounts to a mobile barrier against massed firepower in their mech lineup. My new design serves as an excellent solution to this problem! Even for its price range, the value that our customers can get in return will more than makeup for the initial investment!"
The professor smiled patronizingly at Ves. "You are doing your customers, what few you have, an enormous disservice. As I've said, your grossly overpriced mech model resembles a student design project that breaks far too many rules than I could count! While its defensive prowess can exceed that of orthodox medium space knights, the tradeoffs to its mobility must be immense! Even a space snail accelerates faster this ungainly lump of alloy matched with a flight system that is far too weak for its mass!"
"Professor Pendleton, with respect, if you can design a space knight that is as agile as a light skirmisher, then you would immediately win an award from the MTA!"
Some in the audience laughed a bit at this joke, to Professor Pendleton's surprise. He had not expected them to laugh at the expense of a respected Senior!
"We are comparing space knights to space knights. Within this single classification of mechs, your Aurora Titan is merely a pretty shell compared to true space knight designs! Your Aurora Titan's agility and mobility is so slow that even the shabbiest pirate pilot inside a 3 million credit light skirmisher can quickly turn your 100 million credit mech into scrap! I don't even know why you even bothered to pair your design with a sword seeing how ineptly it can swing the weapon!"
That argument took hold on the audience a lot better this time!
Certainly, the Aurora Titan looked like an extraordinarily capable defense mech. It had to be if it cost 100 million credits to obtain the cheapest model.
Yet to hear a Senior say that a mech that cost thirty times cheaper could quickly make short work of this expensive boondoggle was quite a serious claim! The professor's high status lent more credence to his statement!
Ves knew that his response might end up very poorly for the Aurora Titan if he botched it. He could only offer a somewhat baseless reply.
"The Aurora Titan is fundamentally a melee mech. Its fighting capabilities up close are not negligible! A skilled pilot will be able to fend off a light skirmisher, but that is not the Aurora Titan's primary job!"
The heckling professor released a disdainful snort. "A skilled pilot of your ungainly mech will only be able to fend off a light skirmisher if the latter is piloted by an autistic mech pilot who is drunk and jacked up with stimulants."
"That is besides the point." Ves quickly continued. "The scenario that you painted will never happen outside of grossly contrived mech duels! Space knights always act in unison with other mechs, some of which can't block a hundredth of the damage the Aurora Titan can tank but are deadly against light skirmishers! To compare the battle performance of different mech types against each other is a flawed comparison because most mechs are never meant to be employed in duels! There are mech models for sale that are specifically designed to compete in mech duels! Perhaps you are getting on in your years and visited the wrong exhibition hall by mistake, professor!"
Some in the crowd erupted in laughter yet again, humiliating the professor even further. When was the last time Professor Pendleton was ever subjected to ridicule?! Even though the status of high-ranking mech designers in society did not equal that of high-ranking mech pilots, a Senior was still accorded supreme status due to the benefits they brought to their states!
That did not matter as much in this particular instance. Half the crowd didn't even recognize Professor Pendleton. Those that did somehow didn't consider the Senior to be particularly impressive at the moment.
With the mighty show models of the Aurora Titan standing just behind Ves, it was as if the presence of the mechs enhanced his stature and made him a lot more credible than an average apprentice!
Ves felt that his personal attacks seemed to take hold a lot better than purely factual arguments about the performance of his mech design. The aggressive mood that took over in his mind pushed him to keep attacking!
Since he already achieved some success in turning away uncomfortable arguments by ridiculing the Senior, why not go for broke?!
"Let me ask you one thing, Professor Pendleton. Have you lived through the war like I did? Have you spent moments where you are in the thick of the fighting where your comrades in the Mech Corps are all that stands in the way of death or captivity by the Vesians?!"
The professor was momentarily caught by surprise by this off-tangent remark. "Every mech designer of the Bright Republic has done their duty. In my youth, I put my already considerable design ability at their disposal. As a Senior Mech Designer, I have aided in the design of many military mech models as well as numerous expert mechs used by famed Brighter expert pilots!"
Ves brashly laughed. "Hahaha! It doesn't sound like your wartime experiences amount to much! I don't think you've never been caught by the explosion of a missile screaming down from the air, or been spaced out of an exploding carrier and be forced to crash land on a planet in nothing but a shabby escape pod! If you've never witnessed war so close that your very life is on the line, how can you stand there and lecture me, a true survivor of the recently-ended war, how mechs are supposed to work?! All the books you've read and theories you've developed in the comfort in your ivory tower is nothing compared to living through the most harrowing parts of the war!"
"Wartime experiences are not relevant to a mech designer's ability to design a good mech."
While this was a factual statement, it sounded extraordinary weak!
Ves smirked. "Which mech designer did the Mech Corps award the Darkness Eater? The Torchbearer? The Golden Mech? Distinguished Service Medal? The War Saint? The Frontier Service Medal? The Mech Corps Commendation? The Vermillion Heart?"
All of them were famed medals of the Mech Corps. While favors and political influence played a considerable part on who was awarded with them, they were never bestowed without basis!
For Ves to earn such a rich lineup of prestigious awards during a very short war sounded extremely impressive! Even though his bountiful recognition from the Mech Corps was already old news, repeating his distinctions at this time served as a powerful attack against the Senior!
Especially since Ves followed up with a poignant question.
"I think we all know which mech designer present here won those awards. Let me ask you, then. What about you, Professor Pendleton? What medals have you been awarded with by the Mech Corps for your valiant service in the past wars?"
A fatal silence ensued for Professor Pendleton.