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 Ves raised his office privacy shield so that Ketis couldn't listen in. He then called the Swordmaiden Journeyman Mech Designer, who was currently stationed aboard the Jaded Sword. A tired-looking Mayra appeared over the comm.

"Mr. Larkinson! I've heard what happened down on the station from Ketis! I'm glad to see you safe and alive. Thanks for shepherding her out of there. I know she can be a wildcat sometimes."

"No problem, Mayra. I've promised to take her under her wing, so protecting her is par for the course."

She looked hopeful at that. "Did you manage to succeed in getting into my mentor's good graces?"

"Good graces? Maybe... sort of." Ves smiled ruefully at her projection. "I'm not sure he's entirely pleased with me, we're both a little too strong-willed to get along with each other. However, we were both professional enough to set aside our feelings and come to a deal that is mutually beneficial to us. So yes, I've managed to secure what I set out to obtain. My deal with you has become valid as well. On my honor as a mech designer, I will instruct your protege Ketis to the best of my abilities."

"That's fantastic!" Mayra exclaimed. "The old pervert has been in a rather bad mood lately, so it's surprising to hear you managed to worm your way in your heart. Are you willing to share the details of your deal with my mentor?"

Ves could hardly imagine the angry curmudgeon as a jolly old perverted grandfather. The image simply didn't register in his mind.

"I'm sorry, Mayra, but the details are classified. It's in our best interests to let as little people know of what we agreed to as possible. Suffice to say, I think we will both be the better out at the end of the ride."

The Skull Architect warned him in the sternest terms what would happen if they leaked out the deal. Ves had more to lose in this regard, because he really didn't wish to publicize the fact he became a co-designer to a wanted pirate mech designer!

Still, if Mayra paid any attention to her mentor's activities, then the new designs that he published would probably provoke her interest. Since she already studied the work he had performed on the Leiner Grey, she must surely be able to recognize his own work.

Mayra would surely be able to guess what was going on, but that was a matter for later.

She tactfully shifted the topic. "You've already spent a week with Ketis. You even went through a couple of battles with her. What's your impression of her?"

Well, that was a sensitive matter. Ves paused for a moment to gather his thoughts and figure out the best way to describe his analysis without offending the Journeyman.

"Ketis is.. a handful, to say the least. If I may be honest, her education is rather incomplete. She's decent in her theory at her level, but she lacks both practical experience and a wider perspective on what it means to be a mech designer, as you already know. The most important trait I'm missing from her is the raw passion for mech design. She doesn't actually enjoy it enough to make it her life's calling."

This was an old refrain to Mayra. "The fame of a Swordmaiden warrior is much stronger among us than the respect afforded to a mech designer. It's my fault, I think. I didn't make the job attractive enough. I only focused on cramming as much textbook contents in her head as possible. She fought back hard against me sometimes, which may have led to the current situation where she's lukewarm towards mechs."

"She also lacks the institutional upbringing that is common in schools. Every graduate from a university or institution is a rounded mech designer. Not all of them live up to the job, but those that do are able to keep their head on straight without getting distracted by other priorities. Ketis is far from dedicated to a career in mech design. She still performs her daily sword practice routines for several hours spread out over the day. That's something that I'm trying to get her to tone down."

It would be a struggle, he knew. The values the Swordmaiden instilled when she was in her impressionable teens would always mark her personality. What Ves sought to do was to find a better balance. Anything was better than spending half of her day on sword practice when she could have spent it on improving her mech designs.

"I'm satisfied with what you've observed. I think we both know that motivating her to develop her mech design career is the key to her transformation into a proper mech designer. I've tried years to foster interest in her, but the silly girl is still dreaming to become a warrior. I can only hope a different environment away from her sisters who are constantly encouraging her to join in on sword practice will show her how the rest of the galaxy works."

"It's a sound theory, and I think it has a good chance to succeed." He nodded absently. "Don't worry, Mayra, I'll try my best to win her over to the splendor of mech design. By the time our partnership is at an end, I hope I'll be able to return her to you as a mech designer who can genuinely contribute to the prosperity of your outfit."

They discussed a few other matters, not just about how to educate Ketis, but also their upcoming operation. Mayra definitely knew more about it than Ves, considering she was part of Commander Lydia's inner circle. She passed on some vague hints to Ves for that reason.

"It's uncertain how far we have to travel in order to reach our intended destination." She explained in a light tone. "It could be weeks, it could be months, we might even be driven beyond the outer borders of the Faris Star Region. We'd be entering true uncharted space at that point."

That alarmed Ves a bit. "Is that realistically possible?"

"That's the thing. None of us knows. We are sailing blind in the abyss and only have a single lighthouse to go on for directions. This is uncharted territory for both of our forces. Why do you think it's necessary for your Vandals to work together with my Swordmaidens? Alone, we don't stand a single chance against the perils we might encounter on our journey."

"That sounds... as if our leaders have no idea what they are doing."

"That is more correct than you believe. Yet despite our fears, we have no choice but to advance into the unknown. You'll find out soon enough."

Ves nodded. "After our fleet enters FTL, we'll quickly cross the border demarcating the Komodo Star Sector from the Faris Star Region. Major Verle promised us that we'd hear the full truth by then. Heh, it's easy for them to do so after they cut of all but one of our communication lines to the rest of the galaxy."

Restricting the quantum entanglement nodes meant that the Vandal fleet would also lose access to the central database of the Mech Corps. Only a lesser internal database remained, but it didn't store as much designs, intelligence and other precious data that Ves occasionally referenced.

They would be isolated for real in an area of space where the law of the jungle prevailed. Even a reckless mech designer like Ves shook in his boots at the thought.

The call soon ended after running out of topics to discuss. Even as allies, the Swordmaidens and the Vandals operated their own fleets. Their relationship hadn't grown close enough to share resources, personnel or technology with each other.

Ves soon stared at the lockbox containing his promised goodies. It had been difficult to bring it out of the space station intact, but he succeeded in bringing the expensive exotics back to his ship, where he could employ them in any way he could. The Vandal workshops were at his disposal.

"First, I need to figure out how to build it. That's not going to be easy."

Just because he got his hands on the key materials didn't mean they comprised of the entire battery. He still needed to go over the research material and figure out a way to turn theories and diagrams into a complete blueprint of an ultracompact battery. One that worked with the materials he had on hand aboard the Shield of Hispania.

Besides that, he also had to spend some time on tinkering with the long-disused stealth shuttle fragments. Letting them rot in some storage box down in the cargo hold was a waste of their potential. Ves figured that the barebones stealth tech primer that the Skull Architect had passed on would be difficult to understand without something practical in his hands.

Lastly, he hadn't forgotten about Ketis nor his regular mech designer duties. Even though it seemed the maintenance department of the fleet pretty much ran on autopilot at this stage, the system that held it together was exceedingly fragile and could easily topple over if they came across a problem that they couldn't solve.

Such situations allowed Ves to show Ketis the value of a mech designer in solving these matters for any outfit.

If Ves couldn't find any problems, then he would instruct her in a more traditional way. He could always tip something over and have Ketis fix the issue if needed, though that would be mean to the mech technicians that worked hard to get everything right.

The feeling of manipulating Ketis and molding her into shape as his ideal form of mech designer enticed him like nothing else. Only designing his original mech designs felt better than this!

"It truly feels as if I am designing a mech designer."

The absurd thought had gained traction in his mind. It sounded weird but oddly fitting for a mech designer in a leading position like him. Ves owned his own mech company, but he failed to expand his design team beyond himself. Sooner or later, he would establish a team of mech designers that could help lighten the design burden for him. Perhaps they might also lend their own brand of expertise to his design!

"The good ones are already hired out even before they graduate. I'll have to settle on the dregs."

Besides attempting to win over his colleagues in the design teams of the Flagrant Vandals, Ves would likely have to pick up some failed mech designers from the street as well.

Metaphorically, of course. A mech designer was still an overqualified mech technician, so it wasn't as if they ever starved on the streets.

Still, these mech designers who had gone bankrupt or who failed to start their own businesses would come with a host of issues. Ves needed to learn how to deal with different personalities, attitudes and aptitude for mech design.

Ketis served as the perfect prototype in his attempt to find out if he had what it took to be a master manipulator.

"That sounds way too nefarious. It's an inaccurate description as well to boot. What can I call myself instead? Mech designer designer? Designer of mech designers?"

Designing mech designers sounded like a paradox to Ves. Humans weren't designed. They were nurtured. Yet his design philosophy centered around the premise that mechs possessed life equivalent to humans.

Therefore, if Ves could design mechs, then it should have been possible to design humans as well.

"That sounds dumb."

A human grew over time, while a mech was static. A human birthed from an embryo in an organic fashion, while mechs needed to be fabricated by assembling mechanical parts.

Just because Ves drew them on the same height in terms of intrinsic value didn't mean that humans should literally be treated like mechs.

A better analogy would be to equate the teaching and nurturing of a mech designer to the modification of an existing mech. No matter if it was a cheap mech, an expensive mech, a tall mech, or a short mech, as long as the mech designer possessed some skill, he could reshape it in any other form he wanted, to a certain degree.Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click for visiting.

"Hm, maybe calling myself a teacher will do."