Reading up on how the MTA classified and evaluated different design philosophies gave Ves a greater sense of his own worth.
"On one hand, I'm a Class IX mech designer."
Compared to the vast majority of more conventional mech designers, Ves was like the class clown. There was a large chance that he wouldn't amount to anything in the future, but there was always a tiny chance that he would accomplish something extremely remarkable!
"Sort of like what happens when the class clown starts a new company that becomes so successful that they've become a billionaire!"
Naturally, the odds of that happening was quite small that Class IX mech designers rightly deserved to be treated as clowns.
Even so, many Class IX mech designers still managed to advance to Senior. At that height, they were capable of providing a lot of modest enhancements to any mech design they contributed to. Class IX Seniors therefore gained a reputation as the 'best' assistants to Master Mech Designer looking to add some extra 'oomph' to their own work.
"Is that how Master Olson sees me? A future assistant with a very convenient design philosophy?"
Ves had mixed feelings about that. While he was fine with collaborating with other mech designers, he did not see much value in it if he was being relegated to the sides.
Only by being the lead designer of a design project would he be able to harvest the most gains! Not only would the finished design carry his vision and his design choices, he would also make a much greater impact on the lives of his customers!
Therefore, Ves did not accept this stereotype of Class IX mech designers! It completely went against his ambitions! Senior was not the end of the road for him! He was absolutely confident that he could make his design philosophy bloom and reach even greater heights!
Charlotte mentioned something very important during his birthday celebration.
She informed him that the MTA's resident mech designers in the Bright Republic paid a lot more attention to him than normal. The reason was because he expressed his design philosophy a lot stronger than others.
It was rather strange that the expression of his design philosophy fluctuated so strongly between different mechs and mech designs!
Ves knew that this was because he focused on the X-Factor, which was inherently volatile. However, a bigger factor was that he relied on external sources of strength to enhance his mech designs.
"The MTA will probably have a lot of questions in store for me when I arrive at Centerpoint. Questions that I really don't want to answer."
Yet would the MTA accept no for an answer? Likely not! They were one of the two most powerful organizations in human space! They wielded so much power that they could easily crush Ves like a bug! You didn't just say no to their requests!
Ves began to sweat a little as he began to see his upcoming visit to Centerpoint in another light.
Instead of seeing it as a supreme honor to get into closer contact with one of the core powers of the galaxy, he was actually entering the belly of a very dangerous beast!
He had various secrets that he really didn't want the MTA to find out. From possessing the Mech Designer System, his insights and applications of spirituality and the secret behind the X-Factor, each of them could land him in hot water if exposed!
Although it sounded nice to become a galactic citizen and obtain recognition of his recent advancement, Ves preferred to pass over them entirely if it meant that he had an interrogation in store!
"There's no way the MTA is clueless! They have a copy of all of my design files and logs! Surely they've recognized something fishy about my designs!"
If Ves suddenly ordered the Barracuda and the Greenfeather to turn around and return to the Bright Republic, the MTA would certainly grow impatient with him. While the Association didn't set a firm time limit to their invitation, they nonetheless expected mech designers to answer their summons as promptly as possible!
For an intriguing case like Ves, that meant the MTA would definitely be willing to drag Ves to Centerpoint if he was being too tardy!
"Damnit! I can't delay this visit!" He cursed.
What did the MTA know? What did they suspect? Some of the smartest and most ingenious people in the galaxy work for them! With all of the tech and augmentations at their disposal, they were much sharper than the average baseline human.
To Ves, entering the sector headquarters was the same as entering a den filled with Calabasts!
Paranoia and worry began to plague his imagination as he envisioned himself being dragged into a high-tech interrogation chamber before being prodded to spill every little secret!
Even though it should have been unlikely for the MTA to treat a Journeyman so badly, Ves nonetheless couldn't rule out the possibility of this happening! He only needed to slip up a single time before the MTA brought out the manacles!
"I can't let this happen!"
What could he do?
As soon as he calmed down a bit, he realized that he wasn't as hopeless as he thought. His earlier experiences in the Ylvaine Protectorate gave him several ideas on how to tackle this potential problem.
He grinned. If Class IX mech designers were seen as clowns, then he should do his best to reinforce this stereotype!
As the Barracuda and Greenfeather crossed through territories on their way to Centerpoint, Ves slowly refined his strategy towards any possible inquiries he might face upon arrival.
Perhaps Ves was being too paranoid. Perhaps he was worrying too much. Yet the prospect of facing difficult questions haunted him so much that he wasn't content unless he accounted for every possibility!
The MTA may be the holy land for mech designers, but as far as Ves was concerned, it was a pit of darkness that could swallow him up as long as he took a single wrong step!
Still, as long as he managed to make it out of their sector headquarters, he should be in the clear. Depending on how well the MTA received him, he might even be able to spare some time to explore the many sights of the Centerpoint System.
"I might even be able to find a girlfriend there." He shrugged.
A Journeyman was supposed to broaden their vision and experience new sights. While the Centerpoint System was still part of the Komodo Star Sector, it was so different that it pretty much qualified as a de facto first-rate state!
Lucky floated down on the desk next to his terminal and leisurely flitted his tail.
When Ves attempted to pet his cat, Lucky jerked back with a wary expression.
"Fine. I'll prepare your meal."
Ves stood up and walked over to a vault in his stateroom. He grabbed a small box and opened it up before serving it to Lucky.
The cat immediately dove in, eagerly crunching the expensive exotics between its rock-hard teeth.
Although Lucky could have phased through the vault with his abilities, he insisted that Ves serve him in person!
It was as if Lucky enjoyed treating Ves as his butler!
"You spoiled cat! It's not enough that you're forcing me to spend a fortune for your meals! You haven't even pooped out any gems lately!"
Lucky kept on munching at his meal while completely ignoring Ves. It was as if his role no longer mattered at this stage!
Since he couldn't find any companionship with his pet, Ves opted to talk to Gavin instead.
"Have you noted any remarkable destinations and activities on Centerpoint?" He asked.
"I have. In fact, there's simply too much to do. You could spend decades on Centerpoint and still not run out of stuff to do. While a lot of planets and habitats are closed to anyone who isn't an internal member, there are still way too many settlements that cater to visitors. The treatment and level of access that you receive depends on your wealth and your rank. Apparently, a lot of venues are closed if you aren't a galactic citizen. Space peasants like me aren't allowed to mingle with your kind."
"Knock it off, Benny." Ves gently slapped his assistant. "Even if I'm about to become a galactic citizen, I'm still a space peasant at heart."
"I've read up a bit on what it means to be a galactic citizen. It means you are essentially equal to an average citizen of a first-rate superstate. The Big Two and all the other huge organizations actually take your rights seriously. As for those like me, we're considered completely expendable!"
The implication was that space peasants didn't matter. They were numbers in a database. What individuality and inherent value they possessed was so trivial that the major powers in human space found it much more convenient to group them up under the simple if derogatory label of space peasant!
The worst part about it was that Ves couldn't entirely dispute this approach. The Big Two and the first-rate superstates were right. The vast majority of humans living outside of their jurisdiction really didn't matter in the grander scheme of things.
To the MTA, the only exceptions to the rule were mech pilots, mech designers and academics pushing the forefront of science. These people received a chance to shed their space peasant beginnings and enter the ranks of true humanity!
"Do you think it's impossible for you to become a galactic citizen?" Ves asked.
"How could I?" Gavin looked morose. "I'm not a mech designer or mech pilot. I don't have any ties to the spaceborn. There's nothing about me that merits the attention of the the Big Two and the first-rate superstates."
"If you really care about it so much, I could probably elevate you to this height one day. Perhaps I'll grow powerful enough to turn everyone I know into a galactic citizen!"
Gavin looked at him oddly. "You'd have to be a Master or a Star Designer to wield that much clout."
"Heh. Sounds doable." Ves grinned while casually stretching his arms. "Seriously though, don't obsess too much about what it means to be a galactic citizen. It's mostly a way to make those elites feel smug in front of the rest of humanity."
While it sounded like galactic citizens received a lot more rights and privileges in human space, that didn't mean that space peasants were deprived.
You couldn't miss what you didn't know you lost out on. Most space peasants ignorantly lived their lives as if there was nothing wrong. Galactic citizenship was so far out of their reach that they didn't bother pining over what they could never have.
"It's largely superfluous anyway." Ves pointed out. "The only reason I'm eligible to become one is because I've become remarkable. Even without this label, I would still be someone worthy of notice."
"Yeah, but there are plenty of citizens in the first-rate superstates who don't deserve all the benefits they get to enjoy for being born in the right state."
Ves sighed. "Benny, it's pointless to envy the Terrans and the Rubarthans. Sure, it's nice to be born in the most prosperous places in human space, but will anything change just because of your complaints? Instead of moping about the unfairness of it all, just accept it exists and work hard to close the gap. You're right that a lot of galactic citizens don't deserve the benefits they've been given. That just means that space peasants like you have a chance to catch up and exceed them in the future."
That put Gavin in a thoughtful mood. Ves was happy that he managed to pull his assistant away from his nihility.
"Okay, I get it, boss. I really hate being called a space peasant, but complaining about it won't get me anyway."
A small fiery passion lit up in Gavin's mind. While he might not be able to earn galactic citizenship himself, he could still do his utmost to assist Ves in his career!
Only then would space peasants like Gavin be able to climb above their station!