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 There were limits to collaboration. How could a mech design accommodate an endless number of specialties and abstruse effects?

It was impossible for hundreds of mech designers to contribute their distinctive strengths to a single mech design.

Even if their specialties miraculously didn't overlap, a mech or mech design simply couldn't contain so many exceptional elements!

In part, this was because a mech design could only accommodate a finite amount of design philosophies. Adding more than a mech design could handle would only dilute the strength of existing abstruse effects.

The general rule when it came to collaborations was that the total capacity of a mech design largely depended on the size of the mech and the capabilities of the lead designer.

The bigger the mech, the more specialties it could accommodate.

The better the lead designer, the more room he or she could open up in the design.

This was why the identity of the lead designer mattered so much.

The exact capacity a design philosophy occupied depended on many factors, such as the degree of contribution of its mech designer, the strength of the mech designer, the exact nature of the design philosophy and how extensively it affects a mech design.

It was difficult to come up with exact figures for that reason.

In the case of Journeymen and Seniors, the MTA issued a general guideline that no more than five peers should collaborate on a single mech design.

Adding any more to the mix would only reduce the strength of every specialty and increase the amount of interference. Stuffing too many design philosophies inevitably led to friction and other negative side effects.

Ves heard that it was a different case for Masters, but that wasn't something he should consider at his current stage.

"If I assume that the Ansel mech designers will adhere to this guideline, they'll only pool the specialties of five Seniors at most."

It was relatively rare for five Seniors to collaborate on a single mech design. Every Senior was an esteemed mech designer, especially in a third-rate state like the Bright Republic.

Even if they were part of the same network, they still competed against each other without too much reserve!

For five of them to come together to work on a single killer mech design signalled how serious the Ansel alumni network intended to dethrone his wildly successful Desolate Soldier model.

"Isn't this bullying?" Ves frowned.

Sadly, the mech market was never fair. Seniors and foreign megacompanies dominated the Bright Republic's mech market for very good reasons.

An upstart like Ves who managed to capture so much market share was a clear anomaly.

Anomalies never lasted long.

Did this mean that Ves hated his competitors?

Not really. Even if a bunch of Seniors with nothing better to do wanted to knock down his Desolate Soldier by developing a better alternative, Ves already earned enough profit.

Even if his Desolate Soldiers faded in popularity a few months later, it didn't change the fact that hundreds of thousands of mechs were already being put to use against the sandmen!

Ves considered it a supreme honor for one of his products to achieve this unprecedented level of market penetration!

"No mech can reign supreme forever."

Even if his Desolate Soldier got upstaged by a better model, it still offered something indispensable to many forces. Ves highly doubted that any of the Ansel Seniors could come up with a substitute for the auras of his mechs.

This was the true reason why he remained confident.

Naturally, Ves also acknowledged that his current connections played a huge role in covering his back. If not for the government's favor towards him, he would have encountered numerous hindrances.

For now, he needed to make sure he remained on the good side of the Bright Republic. At the very least, he should keep his allies happy.

"Hmm. Maybe I should talk to someone."

He decided to call a former collaborator. After placing a call, his comm soon projected Professor Ventag's face.

"Ves. It's been some time. You're doing quite well, it seems."

"Extremely well." Ves answered. "I hope I haven't given you a lot of trouble."

The professor casually waved his hand. "It's fine. When it comes to competition, every mech designer ought to do their best. You should never hold back even when trampling over your own friends. This is the only way the mech industry can remain strong."

Ves knew that Professor Ventag had already published a mech that occupied a similar role to the Desolate Soldier.

Unfortunately, much like any other budget-priced spaceborn ballistic rifleman mech, their unique strengths paled in comparison to what Ves had to offer.

"Are you truly doing okay?"

"I've already pivoted to other projects. I'm personally designing a defensive mech that can give full play to my design philosophy and I'm also involved in several military projects."

Ves recalled that Professor Ventag specialized in damage control. Such a specialty was normally useful in every case, but the sandmen ruined this dynamic. Mechs either returned from battle whole or with a giant melted hole running through their frame.

A specialty like damage control was of little use in these circumstances!

He still tried to console the Senior. "I think your product might merit a second look in the future, professor. Now that several experienced sandman admirals have shown up, mechs like yours will definitely become more useful."

"You underestimate the power of inertia." The professor shook his head. "Even if another mech becomes more useful due to changing circumstances, it costs a lot of time, money and effort for mech forces to replace an older mech model with a newer mech model. This is why the first-mover advantage is so powerful."

The two chatted for a bit about their respective works. Aside from talking about their published mech designs, they also started to talk about their ongoing projects, though they made sure not to mention anything confidential.

Ves did not consider his current projects to be anything secret, as the Ministry of Defense hadn't classified anything.

This meant he was free to talk about them with a fellow mech designer on a relatively unsecure comm channel.

What did it matter if others were eavesdropping on their conversation?

Ves did not fear any competition. MinDef didn't care either. In fact, they welcomed competition if that meant they gained more choice!

As Ves described the criteria and requirements for the Militant Soldier and the Peaceful Soldier designs, Ventag started to frown.

"These projects aren't light."

"I know. I've already taken that into account."

"Good." The professor smiled. "I can give you some tips on how to approach the two projects. First, let me ask you, did MinDef pose any requirements to you with regards to collaborations?"

Ves recalled the lengthy documents that MinDef sent. "I don't think so."

"That's fairly unusual, Ves. The Mech Corps and the Planetary Guard are normally very meticulous about this. Mechs designed by multiple mech designers tend to be more rounded and less prone to extremes. The requirements they posed to you also sounds remarkably less rigorous than those issued to others."

"Why is that?"

"It could be that an ally within MinDef has lobbied on your behalf. It could also be that MinDef prioritizes speed and doesn't want to add to your burden."

"I think both might be true. My relationship with the government is pretty good, and my grandfather is a senior advisor in the ministry."

"Whatever the case, you've been granted with a lot of leeway. Be sure to make use of that to spread your ideals in the Mech Corps and the Planetary Guard. Ordinarily, a young Journeyman such as you isn't qualified to supply mechs to those organizations. After all, they already employ their own Seniors. This is your chance to get a head-start from your peers and catch up to the older generation."

Ves nodded in understanding. "That's what I intend as well."

"Let's address the variants individually. First, don't expect your Militant Soldier to become a mainstay in the Mech Corps. As I've mentioned earlier, the Mech Corps does not lack for mech designers, many of which have earned the trust of their respective mech regiments."

"Then why encourage me to develop a variant for the military in the first place?"

"Because the military wants to offer every mech regiment a backup option. If the resident mech designers aren't able to design a mech that fares well against the sandmen, then they can always decide to adopt your Militant Soldier design instead."

"That.. sounds unlikely. There are definitely Seniors in charge, right? Would they be willing to admit defeat to a Journeyman-level design?"

The professor sneered. "If the Seniors aren't willing to recognize reality, then the brass will force them to. A military variant of your Desolate Soldier design is exceptionally threatening because of your unique strengths. The Mech Corps doesn't actually need any mech regiment to adopt your Militant Soldier. Just the threat of its existence in its internal database is enough to light a fire underneath the mech designers employed by the military!"

"I see! No wonder that MinDef hasn't made any excessive demands!"

Just as the Desolate Soldier forced the Ansel mech designers to work harder, now the military wanted to obtain their own version to threaten its own mech designers!

Though Ves felt dirty for being used like this, he didn't object too much. He was certain that several mech regiments might embrace his Militant Soldier design for the same reasons the private sector appreciated his mech so highly.

After giving his thoughts on the Militant Soldier, the professor turned to the Peaceful Soldier.

"The Planetary Guard is normally involved in peacekeeping operations, so it's no surprise that they have asked for a landbound variant for your Desolate Soldier design. What you need to keep in mind is to design it as a flexible platform."

"Why so, professor?"

"To give the Planetary Guard organizations some choice on how to employ them. I believe that many units will come to favor this product due to its strange effect on people. For the duration of the Sand War, it's most appropriate for the Peaceful Soldiers to wield ballistic rifles. When it's over, the Planetary Guard will have to withdraw at least some of their lethal armament and switch to non-lethal armament. If your Peaceful Soldier can be made compatible with the fluid projectors the Planetary Guard favors, then that will save them a lot of inconvenience."

This was a very valuable piece of advice. Ves bowed his head in thanks. "I'll be sure to keep that in mind, professor."

"No problem, Ves. We are both friends. I'm very satisfied with how our Aurora Titan model turned out. Even now, sales hasn't stopped since it's apparently capable of blocking a single heavy laser strike. Perhaps I might approach you for another collaboration once the Sand War is over."

"I welcome any opportunity for cooperation as long as I can make a significant contribution." Ves smiled back.

"Oh, I'm sure you'll become a very popular collaboration partner after this war is over!" The professor laughed.

Once the comm call ended, Ves closed his eyes and sunk into his chair.

He couldn't help but notice that Professor Ventag was exceptionally friendly towards him. This affirmed his belief that his value was beginning to get recognized.

In fact, the professor plainly admitted his hope for future collaboration.

Ves did not object to working together on another project with Ventag. He benefited a lot from the professor's guidance.

In addition, he wanted to make sure he could continue to enjoy the backing of an established Senior.

"Why do I feel like I've become a politician?" He sighed.

Though Ves disliked depending on connections, his current level of prominence was too dazzling to exist by itself. Ves alone wasn't strong enough to keep up with his incredible success.

Only by borrowing the strengths of Professor Ventag, Flashlight, Senator Tovar, Gloriana and etc. would he be able to exploit his design philosophy openly while remaining secure!

"Speaking of borrowing the strengths of others, I should check in on how William is doing..."

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