Ves already possessed enough skills and experience to fabricate a flawless mech in six days. In order to compress the fabrication time to four days, he had to drop his excessive caution. He stopped double-checking and triple-checking most of his routine work and only slowed down when he reached a difficult phase.
His previous experience along with his ample preparations smoothed out his efforts to speed up his work. He already formulated standard set of responses to any problems he'd likely be facing.
"Watch carefully now." Ves instructed his attentive employee. "The fabrication of mech components is usually the most challenging portion of the fabrication process. The Mark Antony Mark II and the Caesar Augustus it's based upon are anomalies because their assembly phases are hellishly difficult. That does not reduce the difficulty of printing the parts."
Carlos raised his hand. "I can't help but notice that you haven't stockpiled a lot of spare materials. Are you that confident you won't slip up?"
"I am. As my own design, I'm perfectly aware of my limits. It's not too challenging for me to fabricate my design without any faults. I hope you can reach this point in the future."
Actually, Ves intended to build a stockpile of commonly-used resources once he finished the current production run. While he still had millions of credits to spare, he preferred to leave his savings alone unless an emergency came up.
"Alright, I'll be starting now. I have devote my complete attention to my work, so don't bump into me or anything."
Working with an audience took some time for Ves to get used to. He behaved a bit more self-consciously, which led to a couple of slip-ups. Fortunately, he managed to recover quickly and limit the damage.
Every hour, Ves took a break to relax his mind. This was where Carlos finally came into being by asking a lot of questions. His employee brimmed with questions that overflowed as soon as Ves took a break.
"Why do you slow down at that part..."
"What is the purpose of..."
"Can you tell me why you..."
Answering the questions was oddly beneficial to Ves. Before, he always worked alone, so he always internalized his approach. Now that Carlos kept digging into his methods, Ves had to package them into an existing theoretical framework and explain them using logic instead of intuition.
It provided Ves with the opportunity to revise his own choices. It also allowed him to address his shortcomings when he came up short. He couldn't simply say that he chose to apply a solution because of his gut feeling. He also declined to mention that he drew a lot of his knowledge from the skills that the System directly implanted into his brain.
Thus, when Ves answered the questions in a seriously, he gained a lot of insights into his own habits. He gained a new appreciation for teaching now that he benefited from it as much as his pupil.
The fabrication of components went without a hitch, though he took half a day extra to complete the process. He didn't expect to devote so much time explaining his methods.
Another variable that extended his breaks was that Lucky started to nag for attention. He constant shop talk and focused work left Ves with little time to play with his gem cat. The little bugger started to feel neglected, so he often dropped by when Ves put down his work.
"That's a really smart AI." Carlos complimented him when he noticed that Lucky never disrupted Ves when he was operating the machines. "I wish I had one. Where did you buy this model?"
"I didn't buy him. He's a present from my dad. I think he got it from the New Rubarth Empire, but I'm not sure. He's fairly unique I think so don't expect to get a pet as good as this one."
The cat cheekily yowled at Carlos before he went back to hugging Ves. It was as if the cat showed off its intelligence before it went back to claiming his owner's lap.
Lucky also regularly patrolled the grounds. Even if SASS already did a great job in securing the premises of his workshop, the cat still sniffed around as if he owned the place.
In the meantime, work continued. Once he finished fabricating all of the parts, Ves started assembling them into a single machine. The start of it went easy. Even Carlos could put together the internal frame and the core components without a single slip-up.
The problem began when Ves reached the stage where he had to build up the internals. Even if he completely revised the architecture, the complexity of using three different weapon systems as well as large-sized components left little space for anything else. It required a delicate touch in order to squeeze some parts in the right places.
Nonetheless, Ves managed to thread the needle again and again. It helped that he already removed the most problematic needles, leaving only those with wide enough openings.
Even Carlos appeared impressed. "The way you work the controls are so smooth. You're not only precise, but you're fast as well. I can watch you repeat that phase a hundred times and I still won't get bored."
"That's the benefit to designing your own mech. You can build it up in a way that suits your skills. The goal of designing your mech should be to maximize the performance while minimizing its complexity. Often times, you have to make a decision between the two. The more capable mech designers are still able to cope with the complexity that's necessary to elevate their designs."
"So an inexperienced mech designer like me could still design a variant like yours, right?"
"Yes, but you'll need a really good fabricator to turn your design into a reality." Ves shook his head. "It's best not to go beyond your means. A design that is too complex for you to fabricate will likely include a lot of design flaws that aren't obvious at first glance."
Ves worked a little more briskly this time but failed to keep up with his schedule. He completed the assembly another half day late, which meant that it took about five days to fabricate his second gold-label mech.
"This really won't do. I need to work faster."
Hence, Ves forced his employee to curb his curiosity and only ask a single question per break. This helped a lot by the time he started fabricating the second mech. He worked more briskly now that Carlos spent most of his time observing. Most of the pertinent questions had been answered already anyway.
Time flowed like water down the stream. Ves fell into a routine where he discarded almost all of his distractions and focused solely on completing his mechs.
Even his interactions with Carlos changed into something of a routine. He gained so much practice in splitting his mind that he could actually hold a conversation with a third of his mind. The realization didn't sink in to Ves at the time.
While the first model still incorporated a couple of minor flaws, the second one looked much better. By the time he fabricated the third mech, Ves managed to suppress all of the recurring flaws. Anomalies continued to happen, but Ves was able to address them as they occurred. His mastery of the Mark II improved by leaps and bounds.
"Something has to be said for repetition." Ves noted one day after he completed the fifth model. "It doesn't matter how smart you are or how many books you've read. Getting your hands dirty is the best way to round up your ability."
Some mech designers believed that they should specialize in drafting up designs. They never bothered to fabricate a mech in person. Perhaps they were forced to do so during their studies, but as soon as they got loose they never touched a fabrication machine for the rest of their lives.
Mostly affluent designers subscribed to that philosophy. They considered the fabrication process to be beneath their status. They cheerfully left the job to their minions while they already started cooking up their next designs.
In contrast, poor blokes like Carlos had to work beneath their station in order to make a living. While he certainly benefited from mastering the fabrication process, it only offered a single perspective. If Carlos ever wanted to advance his career, he had to supplement his learning on his own.
Many tried and failed to excel because they lacked the resources and opportunities to compete against those who enjoyed a head-start. That was something Carlos also knew deep down in his heart.
As Ves tackled the remaining orders, he started getting headaches again. The pain slowly escalated, causing him to hurry up and rush his production.
Fortunately, Carlos satisfied his curiosity by the time Ves built up his seventh mech. He stopped asking questions and merely watched on as Ves worked his magic.
The last three mechs rolled off the assembler without a hitch. Ves fulfilled all eight orders with only one day behind schedule. He easily managed to hit his goal of taking four days to fulfill an order. If not for the headaches, he might have only taken three days to complete a mech.
"Ugh. A human isn't supposed to split his mind all day." He muttered as he sunk down on his couch, unaware that he almost bumped into a dozing Lucky. "Oops, sorry about that buddy."
The cat hissed at him and slinked away to find a safer spot to settle down. Ves scratched his head and thought it was almost time for Lucky to deposit another gem in his litterbox.
"Remember, don't do your bathroom business without me!"
He always made sure to erect the privacy shield when Lucky excreted another gem. Perhaps the security monitors from SASS thought he had a weird fetish for accompanying his gem cat's bathroom breaks, but Ves didn't care. He eagerly intended to elevate his mechs with Lucky's special gems.
That reminded Ves of an unpleasant fact. It cost at least 100 DP to mark a gem with his anonymizing stamp. If he only had to stamp once, then he could easily bear the cost. If he had to stamp eight mechs at a time, then his stagnant DP suddenly received a stagnant reduction.
He could choose not to use his gems, but that did not sit well with Ves. It was a waste to ignore Lucky's utility. The cat might also start to grow grumpy if he thought that Ves treated his gems like garbage.
Eight mechs stood in a row. All of them gleamed in the lights with their shiny coating and intimidating bulk. Every Mark II also sported the distinctive logo of a stylized cat lounging upon a rainbow cloud enclosed by a V. Seeing all of them together side-by-side hammered home to Ves that he had finally become a true mech manufacturer.
"Gosh. You're incredible, you know that?" Carlos complimented as he became entranced by the sight. "It's too bad these mechs are destined to split up. I can't imagine how awesome it would be if all eight of these mechs are deployed as a single squad."
This was the first time Ves put eight identical mechs together. The X-Factor that emanated from each of them melded together in a single entity that almost came alive. The amplified waves affected Carlos even if he couldn't put his feelings into words.
"It's a shame indeed." Ves replied. He wished he could keep the mechs in place and study the effects in greater detail. "In the end, we don't own these mechs. As much as we'd like to treat our creations as our own, we have to keep in mind that others have already paid for it. Mechs can only be treated right if they fulfill their purpose."
With that in mind, Ves calmly initiated the hand-off procedure for all eight mechs. He first sent them to the MTA for certification. Since he personally fabricated each of the models with sufficient care, they should be able to pass the inspections. He therefore scheduled enough slots for eight packaged mechs in the next convoy to Bentheim.
"Five days later, the mechs should arrive at Bentheim. Marcella can take over from there."
He immediately booked a first-class ticket on a reputable passenger liner to the capital system of the Republic. Though Ves wanted to wait and receive his payment for delivering the mechs, he had to leave immediately if he wanted to attend the annual Larkinson gathering in Rittersberg.
Before he departed for his trip, Ves made some arrangements for his absence. He first instructed Carlos to continue to practice his fabrication skills. Ves expected his employee to start earning his keep by the time the new year dawned.
"Don't worry Ves. You've given me a lot of answers. I've got a solid direction on how to improve."
Even Carlos felt bad for spending his first months under Ves as a freeloader. He eagerly wished to prove his worth and start earning his paycheck.
As for Calsie, she still worked on a plan. Ves merely informed her to keep him updated as he left for Rittersberg. He wanted to know the instant the ruling coalition wanted to take advantage of his absence by pulling a stunt.
"You don't have to worry about that, boss. The Planetary Assembly and the City Council are both in recess. Even politicians have to go home to accompany their families."
"Huh. You could have fooled me. Am I wrong to assume that most of them are bastards?"
"Well..." Calsie trailed off. "A lot of influential people are hosting parties at this time of year. It's the perfect opportunity to mingle with the rich and powerful."
"Figures. Just keep an eye on the Big Three and track who they are talking to. I'm curious to know who among the locals are supporting their shenanigans."
After tidying up his workshop, he sent a brief message to Marcella that he was taking a break. While Ves liked to meet with her face to face, his flight schedule was already tight.
"Hopefully she'll be placated by the plans I have in store."