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 When a new mech generation commenced, a raft of component licenses and updated technological specifications became available to mech designers.

These additions to the mech industry fired off an explosive race to design the first mechs that made use of the new specifications and components!

Yet this was just the start. The first wave of mech designs in the new generations possessed a relatively short shelf life. In a couple of years, the second wave would emerge that made use of components derived from the ones published by the MTA but improved and tweaked in many different ways.

The MTA employed some of the best mech designers and researchers in the galaxy, but they did not encompass the full creativity and ingenuity of the entire mech industry! Individual geniuses or those who possessed unique advantages were occasionally able to design better components than the ones published by the Association!

Nonetheless, by the time the second wave already arrived, the mech designers who moved early enough to capitalize on the first wave achieved an abundant amount of sales.

The advantages they accrued by selling a lot of mechs of the first wave would be able to utilize their momentum to take the lead during the second wave as well!

In other words, it was critical for mech designers to accrue an advantage at the beginning. If they slipped up or delayed their mech designs, their competitors would have already captured the bulk of the sales they would have gained if they moved faster!

Most importantly, first wave mechs did not lose relevance just because of the advent of second wave mechs. The differences usually weren't large enough to warrant a full renewal, especially in the span of a couple of years.

As long as a first wave mech model performed well, its vast number of customers would ensure a good reputation that turned it into an enduring seller for a long time!

The mech company only had to tweak their prices downward for a little bit to retain their attractiveness in the face of newer mech models entering the market.

Mech designers like Ves were well aware of these dynamics and planned ahead. Designing a laser rifleman mech as one of his first mech designs for the new generation had definitely been on the cards.

As one of the most popular machines on land, in the air and in space, laser rifleman mechs represented the biggest and most lucrative mech types by sales volume!

That made the nugget of intel provided by Mrs. Linzif all the more important. If her claims were true that the second wave of laser rifleman mech designs would significantly surpass the first wave, then starting early with designing these mech types would be a grave mistake!

Because the first wave would practically experience a more severe devaluation than usual, putting them on par with last-gen mechs!

"Laser weapon development sure is incredible." He said as he tried to flatter his exchange partner. "It's amazing to hear that the specialists in laser technology have managed to achieve so much progress even if it is already a mature and highly-developed field."

The Redweller mech designer scoffed at his words. "Maturity is a false concept. I've never put too much stock in its predictions anyway. Our civilization is so vast and powerful that we've managed to overcome most plateaus. Laser weapons may have been in use for millenia, but there is always something to improve!"

"Can you tell me about the nature of the improvements that will likely be introduced in the next generation?"

She shrugged. "Oh, the usual, mostly. Updated technical specifications along with new applications using exotics that haven't been utilized before are responsible for most of the performance improvements. They're mostly aimed towards improving efficiency, I hear. More energy is being directed towards the laser beam and less energy is turned into waste heat. This means the next generation will feature more powerful lasers without cooking the weapon or mech too quickly."

This was another valuable piece of intel! Knowing how the next generation of laser weapons improved upon the previous generation would help him lay the groundwork for his future designs.

The information was not only relevant when he designed a laser-armed mech, but also the defensive mechs designed to withstand their improved armament!

"What do you think about laser weapons?" She abruptly asked. "Tell me your honest opinion."

"My answer to that question is similar to the answer I've given to your first question. It's a powerful, versatile and adaptable weapon system, but it is not the only weapon at a mech designer's disposal. I still believe there is a role for other weapon types."

"So do you think that I'm wrong when I state that laser weapons will one day reign supreme?"

Ves shook his head. He had to be very careful about expressing an opinion contrary to the deeply-held beliefs of his host!

"I'm just a simple mech designer. I am not a specialist in any particular weapon system. If laser weapons happen to become the premier weapon type, then I'll gladly embrace them when the time comes. The same goes if melee weapons or kinetic weapons experience a revolutionary leap in progress."

"I'm disappointed by your lack of faith, though I appreciate your honesty." Mrs. Linzif said with a frown. "There are so few mech designers who are willing to commit to a singular weapon system, even though we are responsible for most of the advancements."

Every mech designer was different. Talking to so many fellow Journeymen exposed him to the incredible diversity of people who broke through the extraordinary threshold.

Though Journeymen may be fundamentally different from expert pilots in many ways, Ves realized that both developed very strong beliefs.

Mech designers were perfectly capable of engaging in rational science. They were very inquisitive, did not take every assumption for granted and were perfectly capable of revising their understanding if proven wrong.

Yet as soon as the discussion turned to their specialty or area of interest, they instantly turned into fanatics!

Ves found them to be no different from the religious nuts of the Ylvaine Protectorate or the Five Scrolls Compact when they talked about their specialty!

Perhaps he was no different from the likes of Felicity Linzif.

This was nothing to be concerned about. Every mech designer possessed their own unassailable beliefs. Some were just better at hiding their inclinations, while others gleefully expressed their enthusiasm regardless how unhinged they came across!

After a considerable amount of discussion on laser weapons, they finally moved to another topic.

"Chuko's mech industry is in shambles. This is no secret." Mrs. Linzif spoke. "Yet there is a reason why I have stayed where many of my fellow compatriots ran when the government still allowed them to go. Do you know why?"

"Because of family?"

"I do have a family here, but that's not the primary reason why I decided to stay. Don't you realize, Mr. Larkinson? The current conditions in the Chuko Republic's mech market is a test! Those who manage to keep their company aloft and continue to sell their mechs under these circumstances are the best of the best! As long as you can endure these adverse circumstances, you can do business in practically every other market!"

She had a good point. As tragic as the Chuko Republic fell backwards, the difficult market environment separated the wheat from the chaff.

Many mech designers failed to adapt to the circumstances. The bountiful black markets selling second-hand goods and junk made a profound impression on Ves. Yet out of ninety-nine mech designers who failed, at least one still endured!

"Many mech designers who still managed to stay aloft owe their survival to their patrons." Ves retorted. "I've met mech designers who haven't sold a single mech in the last couple of yours but instead resort to bartering with various local powers. Plenty of your colleagues have also shuttered their commercial activities in order to work for the provincial and central governments."

"That's true, but that doesn't detract from my point." Mrs. Linzif smirked. "Sucking up to others in order to attain their protection is also a skill. There is nothing shameful about submitting to others for protections. The mech designers who are too proud to stoop to begging would have died if a real catastrophe has engulfed the Komodo Star Sector!"

This was a fundamental truth for mech designers. Each of them possessed a lot of valuable expertise. They were only allowed to earn a lot of money because the states that hosted them benefited as well.

If a mech designer did not have the protection of a state, then who prevented them from getting robbed or kidnapped?

Each of them were as vulnerable as the technicians and engineers who ended up in the hands of the pirates in the frontier!

"I see your point." Ves thoughtfully spoke. "But this also means that the conditions in the Chuko Republic is not the worst-case scenario. Mech designers can at least rely on some powers for protection. That's not always possible in worse places such as the frontier or the Nyxian gap."

In those places, who stopped anyone from enslaving mech designers outright?

Only those cultivated a ferocious reputation like the Skull Architect retained their freedom! Mech designers had to stoop to savagery in order to deter the numerous bad actors mingling in these lawless areas from appropriating their wealth and capabilities for their own use!

The female mech designers cast her eyes "Our human civilization has experienced many ups and downs. Right now, I believe the last three centuries stability and prosperity can rightfully be called a golden age for mechs. We've firmly turned our backs to the depravity and destruction of the latter days of Age of Conquest. Yet do you really think this unprecedented period of stability and prosperity will last forever? Humanity is still surrounded by countless alien races. How long will they abide by the truce of the previous age?"

"Either we attack, or they attack. Peace won't last forever." Ves readily agreed. Too many people forgot how much humanity had fought and struggled to come out on top. "That said, the MTA and CFA aren't pushovers. Surely they're prepared against the inevitable resurgence of the hostile alien races. They may even be contemplating a preemptive attack!"

"All of that may be true, but do you really believe that human space will remain unaffected if this inevitable war breaks out?" Mrs. Linzif pounded her fist against her desk. "Wake up, Mr. Larkinson! If a war against the rest of the galaxy does happen to break out, frontier star sectors will likely be the first to croak! Our own will not be exempted!"

Ves had to admit that her wakeup call affected him quite a lot. He, like many humans, had been far too complacent!

The threat of alien resurgence had always been a distant and abstract threat. Even if everyone with brains knew that the Komodo Star Sector was situated right in the frontlines, no one had taken the threat seriously anymore!

What would happen if a war between civilizations finally started anew?

Even if the CFA and MTA fought back with all of their might, the frontier star sectors still faced the brunt of alien incursions!

"Just look at our reaction at the recent sandmen attacks! Aside from the states situated close to the border, no one else has paid them any mind! The Chuko Republic and all the other states that are furthest away from the frontier are completely ignorant about the dangers! The local leaders haven't made any moves to raise our readiness against the sandmen. If we aren't able to take our minds off our political machinations, how can we possibly resist a real alien invasion?"

Her verdict on the local powers made it clear that she had no faith that humanity would be able to unite against the aliens!

Though her predictions sounded extreme, Ves knew in his heart that she was probably right!

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