After every mech designer examined the pile of parts and shared their observations, they came up with several conclusions.
None of the people present in this simulated chamber were stupid. Each of them were Journeymen with their own distinctive specialties.
"Many of the parts can be lifted by three or four people, but some are just too difficult. At least all six of us need to work together to move some of the heavier parts."
"The technological principles behind this stone tech are completely alien. They don't conform to any orthodox human tech."
"If we can enter the cockpit of these mechs and find a way to activate a system, we might be able to decipher some of the workings and principles behind these broken mechs."
"We don't have any tools on hand. However, the junk pile does contain some extra parts. Maybe we can improvise in order to turn them into something useful."
"I don't think I can reconstruct an alien mech alone. My specialty doesn't cover every aspect that we need to address to piece together a working mech from all of this junk."
This was a very serious problem. After some hesitation, every mech designer shared their specialties with each other.
Tristan began first. "As you know, my specialty is exotic material substitution. Although I'm not used to seeing lithic materials used in mech components, I'm confident I can figure them out to the point where I can repair them and restore some of their functionality."
That immediately turned him into the most vital mech designer in their company. When it came to materials science, there was hardly anyone who could match his prowess in this field!
Not even Ves believed he could outmatch Tristan in this regard even if he knew a thing or two about crystallography. The only way he could outmatch Tristan in some areas was if he upgraded his Skills.
Of course, he would never do such a thing during a trial where everything was under observation!
The hexer spoke next. "My focus lies in miniaturization, particularly when it comes to the internal architecture of a mech. I'm very confident I can figure out the nature of the internal parts and how they can be repaired."
"My specialty is software-hardware integration. Whatever programming these alien mechs run on, I doubt it will take me long to figure them out."
"I'm specialized in laser weapons. Some of the weapons in this junk pile share the same principles as laser cannons. I can fix them up to turn them into usable weapons."
"My specialty is related to mechanics. The parts here are quite different and not a single mech we can build is coherent. I can help adjust the parts so that they can work together in a single frame despite their differences."
Everyone turned to Ves. "What's your specialty?"
"..Metaphysical man-machine symbiosis."
Predictably, everyone looked stumped. Even the Hexer showed some mild incomprehension.
"Does that mean your specialty lies in neural interfaces?"
"Not really. The one way to describe my specialty is that I try to increase the compatibility between the mech and mech pilot through non-technological methods."
Out of the six mech designers still remaining in the trial, only Ves possessed a specialty that sounded useless! Everyone else possessed valuable expertise that they would doubtlessly have to rely on to turn the stone mech parts into working mechs!
Someone made a very pertinent observation. "There are six of us but only enough parts for four complete mechs."
Did that mean that only four mech designers would pass this trial?
"I think this is a test of our ability to cooperate." One of the women murmured. "There are five useful mech designers and only four potential mechs we can build. We still need the strength of all six of us in order to lift the heaviest parts, even if we make use of levers."
Everyone grimaced, Ves most of all. Compared to the other mech designers, his specialty didn't sound very relevant at all! While he was sure he was good enough to manage regardless, the others didn't believe so! They expressed little confidence in his usefulness! Even Tristan appeared a bit doubtful!
A subtle tension descended in the chamber. Aside from turning everyone dismissive towards Ves, they also eyed each other, trying to determine who should be the other mech designer to miss out on a completed mech.
Ves abruptly clapped his hands, interrupting the staring contest. "Ladies, gentlemen, we're mech designers, are we not? The mechs aren't going to fix themselves anytime soon. Instead of risking a falling out right at the start, why not pool our efforts and put the mechs together first? We can have our pissing match after we complete the mechs. For now, I think giving everyone hope of passing this trial is better to ensure that everyone will do their best."
"I agree." Tristan nodded. "All of us are still needed. Until the mechs are complete, I don't want to see any discord."
The hexer wordlessly nodded. The others had no choice but to go along with this arrangement. It helped that this solution still gave the weaker ones some hope of passing the trials.
All of them spread out and went to work on examining the strange mech parts. The hexer approached a torn-open torso in order to study its internal parts, while Tristan approached a shorn-off arm to examine the stone and crystal materials.
One of the two women entered the cockpit in order to see whether she could summon an interface.
As for Ves? While he was sure he could contribute to the salvaging and repair effort in his own way, no one trusted his competence in areas outside his expertise.
Perhaps they wouldn't mind as much if they were working with normal human mech parts, but that wasn't the case! These lithic mech parts were very weird and operated on completely different technological paradigms!
It was better to leave the unknown to experts who were deeply knowledgeable in their chosen fields.
Since no one trusted him to work on his own, he instead approached each mech designer and see if they could use some help.
At the very least, serving as a sounding board for their ideas enabled mech designers like Tristan to process their thoughts more efficiently.
Ves even approached the hexer after some hesitation. Fortunately, the man seemed awfully engrossed in studying the insides of the alien mech.
"Your caution is amusing." The hexer said with a smile as he studied what appeared to be a stone version of a power reactor. "Are citizens of the Hexadric Hegemony that frightening to outsiders?"
Ves frowned a bit. "You don't know?"
"To be honest, this is the first time I have traveled outside Hegemony space."
The Hexer traveled to Centerpoint for the same reason as Ves. If not for the MTA's summons, the man would have probably remained in his own state.
"What's your name, if I may ask?"
"Goz Zoza. Before you ask, I'm an independent mech designer. I'm not connected to any of the six dynasties."
"We don't hear a lot from the Hegemony. Most of us only know that your state is strong and ruled by matriarchs. It's also the biggest rival to the Friday Coalition."
"Ah. Is the last one a major concern to you because your state and many other states are aligned with the Friday Coalition?"
"I do have to admit I have that inclination."
Goz smirked at Ves. "Perhaps you are right to be wary. We are no friends with the Friday Coalition, and we do not have the best impression of states that suck up to our rivals."
"The Hegemony isn't very approachable."
"True. Regardless, the Coalition and all of its dependents are still our enemies. For now though, hostilities haven't broken out, so I will reluctantly tolerate your presence."
"I'm very grateful." Ves dryly replied.
What a friendly mech designer. He already regretted approaching the hexer.
"Are you surprised that I'm a man? You outsiders all seem to think that I should be a woman."
"Well, the thought has crossed my mind."
"Just because our people believe in the primacy of women doesn't mean we believe that men can be just as good in some areas."
Ves wanted to scratch his head. "Then why do women get to be in charge of your state? For as long as I heard, it's always the matriarchs who are in charge."
"That's because there is a long line of historical proof that male leaders are no good. Men are too prone to making impulsive decisions and listening to their pride rather than their reason. Throughout much of humanity's history, we've been overwhelmingly led by men, and look where that has taken us! We were on the brink of exterminating our own race at the end of the Age of Conquest!"
"Many infamous admirals were female, you know." Ves retorted.
"That's due to their runaway genetic modification! Even so, if you look at the proportion of male and female admirals who have gone rogue or committed major crimes against humanity, you'll find that the women among their ranks were much more restrained!"
"Is that so? I haven't studied that."
"It's true. This is a matter of public record. In any case, we believe that human society can't remain under the thumb of men. Our gender is prone to making decisions that we later regret. It's baked into our very DNA. Since the earlier days of our race, men were hunters and warriors while women took care of the household. While humanity has advanced far beyond our primitive roots, many of its vestiges still remain in our genes! Men are more suitable to fight while women are more suitable to lead!"
The slight fervor in Goz Zoza's voice made it clear that he wasn't parroting what he learned by rote. The hexer truly believed in what he said!
"I don't think most people agree. Haven't we moved beyond gender difference?"
Goz shook his head. "Technology and other societal advancements has narrowed the gap, but that still doesn't resolve the differences at the top. I'd rather answer to a woman than a man! At least the former is much more capable of making wise decisions!"
"Women can be just as irrational as men."
"Yes, but they manifest in different ways. Men can be prideful, greedy and lustful. Women are motherly, protective and empathic! Us men are incapable of caring for ourselves, Brighter. It is better to leave the actual decision-making to women!"
That sounded incredibly biased to Ves! How could Goz be smart enough to advance to Journeyman but be completely off-kilter when it came to gender differences? The opinions he spouted sounded like outright pseudoscience!
"If you believe that women are superior, why hasn't the Hegemony done away with men entirely?" Ves asked.
The other mech designer smiled sardonically. "And leave women alone to shoulder the burden themselves? I think not. All-female societies are even worse than male-dominated societies. For better or worse, humanity functions best when there are multiple genders living in harmony. The same holds true for quite a few alien races as well. Men are still fine in many areas of society. Women are simply better, especially when they are in charge."
Ves didn't know what to say about Goz's strange belief. The Hegemony did a good job in brainwashing their men! If a male Hexer was already this bad, then Ves didn't want to see what their women were like!
A few minutes passed by as Goz quietly kept examining all the internal components. Occasionally, he would describe something, prompting Ves to add his own thoughts.
"You're quite knowledgeable about internal architecture." Goz complimented Ves.
"However, you're of no use to me here. Why don't you go somewhere else and lend a hand to someone who actually needs help?"
"Okay. I'll go then."
Ves had enough of the hexer anyway. No wonder the Friday Coalition couldn't stand the Hexadric Hegemony!