Some much-needed clarity injected into his mind for a moment. Ves had been put out of his comfort zone after being on the receiving end of a passionate rant.
"Economists of all stripes can write entire virtual libraries on the subject of the mech industry and the mech market. I know what I am. I'm a mech designer. I know what I am not. I have not dived too deeply into questioning the model of the mech market in my mind."
"Is that your answer?" The Skull Architect scoffed in a disdainful manner. "You throw your hands in the air because matters of economy is beyond your scope of expertise? While I have a low opinion of the mech market, they set the rules that mech designers such as you must follow! For better or worse, every independent mech designer that has the power to publish their own designs must conform to market standard, however stifling they turn out to be! Doesn't that rankle you?!"
The man's response gave Ves some much-needed time to formulate a response. While he could have bopped his head and agreed with whatever the wise and mighty Senior said, Ves wanted to preserve his own ideas.
If he let the Skull Architect roll over him, Ves might as well convert to the gospel of the Skull Architect!
Ves calmed his mood and disregarded the other mech designer's high-strung mood. "Let me turn this argument around, if I may. You say that the mech market is made up of conservative copycat mech designers and buyers that are anything but rational. Does that not make the two of us fallible as well? Who are we to tell that we know what is best for mech pilots?"
"That argument may hold some weight if the number of suppliers of mechs is only limited to a handful of mech manufacturers. That is the EXACT opposite of the current market supply! There are so many mech designers attempting to make their mark on the mech market that it is straining the MTA's practically unlimited resources! Hahaha! Serves them right! Those control freaks are being brought down by the weight of their own success!"
The Skull Architect's grievances against the Mech Trade Association must run very deep. Hardly any mech designer dared to say anything ill about one of the two most powerful organizations in human space. Though the MTA presented a friendly and accessible face to the public, Ves heard they were rather firm in keeping the industry under their 'benevolent' supervision.
"My experiences with the Mech Trade Association have been shallow so far." Ves cautiously said. "I cannot say my experiences with them have ended on a bad note."
"You're still a cub in their eyes, Mr. Larkinson. You still need to jump out of the spawning pond before the MTA will start to take you seriously. When you reach Journeyman, their scrutiny on you will intensify by a thousand fold. While the stereotype describes them watching over every mech designer through spy bugs and other high tech means, the real snake is hidden among your employees and associates. Do not trust a single of your man no matter how well you've secured their guarantees. ESPECIALLY do not trust the supposed ironclad contracts of the MTA to enforce non-disclosure agreements!"
"This.." Ves turned speechless for a moment. The idea sounded absurd, yet awfully plausible! "The MTA.. actively violates the confidentiality agreements they are supposed to uphold? This.. they are their own judge! There's nobody in the galaxy that is accountable to the MTA!"
The Skull Architect cackled as if he achieved a victory. "Haha! That's it! There's the rub! Too many mech designers have fallen into their trap of placing total confidence in their integrity and impartiality! The MTA is anything but a sober and united institution. It suffers from the same infighting, nepotism, corruption, incompetence and bias as every other organization ran by humans! As long as humans are involved, the WORST CASE SCENARIO will ALWAYS take place without fail! IT IS IN OUR NATURE TO SCREW UP!"
Ves read the underlying argument. The Skull Architect evidently held a deeper grievance against humans in general. In particular, their irrational and emotional behavior hampered his own research ventures many times.
Still, Ves did not agree with that sentiment. "Humans are fallible, yes. But we are also the race that have managed to conquer half the galaxy during the Age of Conquests. Our many screwups aside, our breadth of life and our wealth of emotions has driven us to greater heights than almost any alien before us has achieved! Although I respect your opinions, I really can't agree with your pessimism with regards to the imperfections of human behavior! Life is inherently dynamic, and while that makes our society imperfect, it's at least better than living like bots!"
His words expressed his beliefs that human diversity of thought and preferences could be a boon for mech designers. After all, if humans always chose to purchase the 'best' mechs on the market, wouldn't they exclusively purchase the optimized-to-death mass market models? Small-time craftsmen and up-and-coming mech designers such as Ves stood no chance of entering the market with his creative but suboptimal mech models.
His words had a measurable impact on the Skull Architect. The pirate mech designer scowled even more, but Ves knew the man's anger wasn't directed at him. The Senior couldn't refute Ves, not without sounding as if humans would be better off if they all turned into emotionless bots.
"Be that as it may, boy, the Mech Trade Association should have been held to a higher standard." Jimenez calmed down. "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchers? The MTA and CFA were initially conceived to split their powers and keep each other in check. Instead, they have decided to treat their area of interests as their exclusive domain in exchange for not bothering each other. The MTA is a tyrant within the borders of human space, while the CFA gets to terrorize the frontier on a regular basis. The original balance of powers envisioned at the start of the Age of Mechs is broken, and the cracks have already started to show in this last century."
"I.. I wouldn't know, sir."
"Of course not, you're just a small Apprentice Mech Designer. In our perspective, you are still a child. No matter. You will be apprised of the true state of human civilization when you reach my rank. Let me impart you with a free tip. Once you advance to Journeyman, which you inevitably will, DO NOT participate in any of their initiatives. They are all TRAPS designed to pull you into their .
The way the Senior spoke started to grate on Ves. While he sensed that the Skull Architect genuinely wanted to help him out, the older mech designer actually tried to pursue his own interests.
The Skull Architect was a huge hypocrite. He was guilty of the same kind of political maneuvering and backbiting that hey laid at the feet of the MTA. Ves grimaced a bit at the realization, but he felt no need to confront the very dangerous mech designer of his faults.
"I will take your warning into consideration." He spoke.
If the Skull Architect wanted to plant some doubt into Ves' mind, then he certainly succeeded. Ves could never look at the MTA in the same way again.
With that minor victory in his belt, the Skull Architect grinned and leaned back from the projection. He didn't appear so menacing now, though his garments reminded Ves that the man was more than just a mech designer. He was speaking to a powerful influence among the pirates.
"I misspoke." The man surprisingly admitted a fault. "At the beginning, I stated that we were kindred mech designers. It is clear now that our differences are larger than I have anticipated. Nonetheless, despite our divergent beliefs, we are of one mind when it comes to making progress in mech design. How far are you willing to go to climb up to the next level?"
That was a complicated question that might lead to the question whether Ves had the guts to kill in order to achieve his goals.
"I prefer to keep the damage to the minimum. I am perfectly willing to be flexible if that gets me closer to my goals, but the most important priority is for me to stay alive. I can't do that very easily if I challenge the MTA."
The Senior smiled at him. "I don't expect you to. Not when you haven't experienced how stifling the MTA can be with regards to your research interests. Follow my earlier advice and keep the MTA as out of the loop as possible. The less of a grasp they have on you, the longer you can advance your research without getting caught."
"Hmm.. enough about the MTA. You are still too indoctrinated into worshipping the ground it walks on. If will be difficult for you to recognize the ugly truth when you have not yet touched upon its rotten core."
The man turned around for a moment and rummaged through his pirate admiral's outfit. He drew out a data chip and inserted it into his interface. The low-quality projector split up, showing both the Skull Architect's face and a pair of identical designs.
"Let's discuss your test, shall we?" He began, and pressed a button that highlighted the differences between the mechs. "It is interesting that our Leiner Greys differ remarkably in performance and piloting ease. Where my design excels in the former, yours focuses on the latter. From a technical perspective, the divergence rate between our designs is less than two percent. Yet the impact these differences have on performance is more than fifteen percent! As for the jumps in piloting ease, since this is a subjective criteria, it can't be measured in exact terms, but I estimate that the difference in that aspect alone is over two-hundred percent!"
Ves did not look too surprised at those dramatic figures. As he designed the Leiner Grey Simplified Edition, he always compared it to the Leiner Grey Original Edition in his mind, or at least what these dumbed-down set of designs could achieve.
"The drop in performance is regrettable, but if the piloting experience is at least three times better than before, then I believe this trade-off is more than worth it. My design philosophy cares more about accommodating mech pilots than squeezing the last drops of performance."
The Skull Architect tutted at Ves in disapproval. The man had switched back to teaching mode. "Your casual disregard on the priority to maximize the performance of your mech is one of the most egregious flaws in your mech design. How naive! The notion that you can coast through your career designing artful, ergonomic but ultimately useless trinkets is a reckless one. Wake up! If you had to present your variant of the Leiner Grey before a council of Senior Mech Designers, they would laugh at you in the face before booting you from the hall and from their minds!"
"Performance is relative, sir. The Leiner Grey performs fifteen percent weaker than yours, that can't be argued with, but the potential mech pilots that can actual make use of it is multiplied by at least a thousand times! Usability and practicality are important qualities on their own, and should be taken into consideration as well when deciding what constitutes 'good performance'!"
The older man scoffed for the umpteenth time. Much of what Ves espoused seemed to rub him the wrong way. "Ah, the old 'everything is relevant' argument. Well, I when you bring your 'relatively good performing' mech models to the market, we shall see whether the mech market you place so much affection on possesses any appetite for your products when there are thousands of competing mech models that perform significantly better."
"I'd like to remind you that I am still at the early stages of my career. My mech designs can never match the performance of mainstream mech models and those designed by talented Seniors and Masters. Struggling to compete on them in terms of hard performance numbers is an exercise in folly."
"It is never too early to start chasing after the best! Back when I was your age, I was already dreaming of beating those seemingly perfect mainstream mech models that you so dread competing against. Certainly, many of my early products were failures! But I persisted, and persisted, until I finally broke through to Journeyman and published a respectable mech design that has closed the gap by an enormous margin! These experiences have shaped my design philosophy into a long and sharp spear that I can use to drive directly into my impregnable competitors!"
The Skull Architect confirmed the speculation once a Journeyman formulated a design philosophy, it affected the remainder of that mech designer's career!
"As an Apprentice, your philosophy is still malleable and can be shaped into a different form. Think very hard before you decide on its final shape. The progress you make today will save you years of stagnation in the future!"