The Flagrant Swordmaiden fleet transitioned back into FTL as soon as their drives finished cycling. A period of enforced isolation encroached again. Despite travelling along the same route and at the same speed as the other ships, the Shield of Hispania existed in a completely isolated bubble of higher dimensional spacetime.
No ship ever crashed into another ship during FTL travel.
A subdued mood overcame the crew as they quietly and diligently performed their duties. Ves knew the isolation would only get worse over time. They had barely crossed some lightyears into the frontier at this stage.
A few uneventful days passed by. Ves struggled with his schedule as he had so many activities to do but so little time to devote sufficient time on any of them. He wished he could clone himself by at least three times.
It was too bad that perfect clones of existing people never worked out well. If Ves had a choice, he would have formed his design team entirely out of clones of himself. He'd never have to face trust issues or be wary of betrayal from his own underlings.
"Though if they are exact clones of me, they won't be content with staying under my thumb. I've got to brainwash them as well or otherwise it's guaranteed they'll stab me in the back.
He knew himself too well to rule out such a possibility.
"Pfff. What am I thinking? Cloning myself just to pad my design team? Am I really that desperate for competent mech designers?"
As a temporary head designer, Ves gained a lot of experience in leadership matters. While he may not be as good with people as Chief Haine, he possessed enough confidence to be able to convince a down-on-his-luck mech designer to come work for him in his design team.
Still, mech designers desperate enough to join someone else's design team would never match the ability of an independent mech designer. Ves hungered to assemble a team of true talents, ones who could actually keep up with his progress and drive.
Building such a dream team was a lot harder than it sounded. Just like Ves, who would want to serve under his thumb when they possessed enough ability to start their own business?
It was a paradox. He could easily hire unworthy mech designers, but they wouldn't be able to help him much. As for the worthy designers, their demands were so high that it was impossible for Ves to hire them as a subordinate.
Still, that did not mean nobody came up with a solution to this paradox.
"The only way to rope them in is by treating them as an equal partner. A collaborative project is required, rather than a project led by a design team."
The difference between the two were stark.
A design team explicitly imposed a hierarchy among mech designers. The most capable mech designer became the lead designer, while the much less capable mech designers had to resign themselves to the role of assistant designers.
Those with slightly more ability or brought in just to supplement a specific aspect of the design were normally regarded as contributing designers. They contributed a discrete portion related to their specialty and didn't involve themselves any further in the design.
Throughout it all, the lead designer held the reigns throughout the design process. The mech being shaped by many different hands solely carried his name. The contributing designers only received a brief mention, while the influence of assistant designers was so marginal that they were often left out entirely.
Due to his theories on Spirituality and the X-Factor, Ves favored setting up a design team because the entire team of mech designers had no say in the matter. Only the lead designer's vision counted. This way, Ves would be able to maximize his imprint onto his own design and foster the strongest possible X-Factor.
As for collaborative projects... Ves grimaced at the thought. The lack of control and the need to respect the input of other mech designers as an equal rankled Ves because his design philosophy wouldn't be able to play out to its maximum potential.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click for visiting.
A true collaborative project in the classical sense treated every mech designer involved as co-designers. No one had the right to claim the role as lead designer and boss over the others.
The purpose of a collaborative project was to pool each mech designer's strong points while leaving out their weaker aspects. Therefore, no single mech designer was allowed to become dominant, as the more say he had, the more the jointly-developed design inherited his weaknesses as well as his strengths.
The deal Ves made with the Skull Architect entailed something in between the two. Instead of working jointly on developing a design that shared both their strengths, Ves would instead be tasked with developing fifteen different variants of the Senior Mech Designer's existing designs.
While he'd be able to leave a small mark on the variant he developed, the core of its design still bore the DNA of its original creator. Due to all the restrictions imposed by the Skull Architect, the influence that Ves could leave behind only reached the level of contributing designer, which was hardly a glamorous role.
"Still, proving myself or leaving behind my mark isn't my true goal."
Instead, Ves hoped to tackle the incredibly difficult puzzles any of the Senior Mech Designer's designs represented. The challenge spoke to him. Not only would the difficulty force him to flex his design skills in increasingly inventive ways, thereby raising his utilization of his existing Skills, he would also be able to glean the best practices of how to design different types of mechs.
"That's the true benefit there."
Ves had to be careful to avoid becoming mentally contaminated by the Skull Architect's raw and unfiltered design schematics. If not for this hazard that constantly threatened to subsume his design philosophy, he would have instead bargained to gain access to more of the Senior's designs!
"This is one of the hidden benefits of this collaboration."
In the mech industry, a line existed between imitation and creation. Ves always considered himself on the side of creation. Though his past work with the Caesar Augustus heavily steered his design habits and preferred solutions, he wasn't afraid of developing something new when it suited him, or else he wouldn't have developed a rifleman mech as his second original design.
However, as he planned to fill up his mech catalog with at least a dozen product lines that covered all the essential mech types, he would have to stray increasingly further from familiar ground.
Having an example to draw upon and practising with another fully-fledged mech design would do wonders in preparing him to design his own mech of the same type.
Therefore, despite the inherent risks and difficulties involved in paying back the favor Ves owed to the pirate designer, he didn't flinch away from this duty at all.
The only issue weighing on his consequence was whether the Skull Architect commercialized his variants.
"Will he put up copies of my variant for sale to pirates?"
The Skull Architect gained renown as a high-end mech designer in the Faris Star Region. This made his designs desirable but also extremely expensive and so difficult to pilot that only elites possessed the qualifications to touch them.
Ves anticipated that his variants may be released as more accessible products priced towards the premium or mid-range markets.
If priced competitively enough, which Ves had a feeling the Skull Architect would definitely do so to maximize his profits, the fugitive mech designer stood to sell a large amount of mechs.
"The market for pirate mechs is smaller than the mech markets in civilized space. Then again, there aren't many pirate designers either, so my variants faces much less competition."
A troubling and unsettling thought sank into his mind. What if he achieved a far greater market share and commercial success as a pirate designer than a legitimate mech designer?
With the Skull Architect's stature as a venerable Senior, it was guaranteed his products would sell widely if they became a little cheaper and a lot more easier to pilot.
"By the heavens. Is he planning an aggressive expansion into the local black market for mechs?!"
Ves couldn't fathom the scale of such ambition. How many copies of 'his' variants would get sold? A thousand? Far too little. Ten-thousand? A hundred thousand? If the Skull Architect was able to export his designs to the neighboring Star Regions as well as the black markets of the nearby Star Sectors, then it wasn't impossible for the total sales figure to surpass a million mechs!
"Damnit, by my estimate, my Living Mech Corporation has only sold a couple of thousand mechs so far, and I'm only counting mechs rolled off directly from the production lines of the Mech Nursery. The amount of mechs fabricated by the LMC's third-party manufacturers have probably reached the tens of thousands."
Such a success already elevated his mech company into a mainstay of the Bright Republic, but this achievement paled in comparison to what any Senior Mech Designer could accomplish in their sleep!
Even if the Skull Architect faced a severe amount of limitations due to operating out of the impoverished and underdeveloped frontier, Ves had a suspicion that a Senior wouldn't be slowed down too much by such hindrances.
"This is bad."
The more his products landed in the hands of pirates, the greater the chance their designs might get traced back to Ves.
In addition, Ves hadn't yet addressed the elephant in the room.
Pirates being pirates, they were guaranteed to be up to no good if they piloted the powerful variants. If all of them ended up similar to what he had done with the Leiner Grey, then they would all end up very powerful but also remarkably easy to pilot. Carrying the essence of both the Skull Architect and a small but undeniably impactful influence from Ves, such variants were simply too lethal to comprehend!
"Compared to all of those rust buckets most pirates use, the difference is as wide as heaven and earth!"
In essence, by fulfilling his obligations to collaborate with a criminal mech designer, Ves directly became complicit in empowering a large amount of pirate gangs!
The ethical implications of such a consequence were too dire to comprehend!
All the misery and all the killings perpetrated by 'his' customers indirectly bloodied his hands.
It was different from his legitimate business activities. Ves easily ignored the implications of guilt arising from the actions of the customers of the LMC. Every mech his company sold passed through the MTA for certification, and even the purchase contract contained the trade association's stamp. Anyone too shady would never be able to pass muster in front of the MTA.
Of course, a couple of fish always slipped through the net. Ves did not think too hard about those exceptions. In some way, he already factored in the tragedies perpetrated by scum using his mechs.
Ever since Vincent Ricklin massacred his own family with a rudimentary custom mech from Ves, he tried hard not to become affected by such tragedies.
"It's easy to do so if it's limited to a small number of bad apples. No mech designer can't prevent misuse of their own mechs. It's the nature of our business to factor in this possibility."
It became a different story entirely if the basket predominantly consisted of bad apples. A mech sold in a mech market that comprised almost entirely of pirates and all sorts of other scum would undoubtedly use his products for more nefarious purposes.
The issue of responsibility and attribution always plagued mech designers throughout their careers. Even if mech designers absolve themselves of responsibility as soon as they completed a sale, ethically the issue continued to weigh on their minds.
To what extent did they facilitate the misdeeds of their customers? Every mech manufacturer and weapon manufacturer struggled with this question, to the point where no right answer existed even up to this day!
Ves himself had swung from exhibiting a high level of detachment to a high degree of empathy and care to the mech pilots of the mechs that received his touch.
He became emotionally invested in the mech pilots of the Flagrant Vandals because he became responsible for the well-being of their mechs.
However, he cared very little for the customers of the mechs sold by the LMC. His customers handed over money and in return they received a mech. Once they completed the transaction, his customer might as well attack a nursery and kill a hundred little kids and Ves wouldn't lose any sleep over it at all.
After all, what did some crazy mech pilot have to do with him? If the public started blaming the mech designer for enabling the madman by supplying the mech, the same argument could be made about the company that manufactured his clothes or the venue that sold him his latest meal.
So why did he care so much about his pirate customers in the first place?