The first step Ves needed to take in his new role as supervisor was to obtain everyone's acknowledgement.
While there were several ways he could earn the respect and obedience of his subordinates, Ves liked to be a little more direct. Why pussyfoot around when he could prove his ability to the other mech designers in the fastest and most efficient way possible?
Just like how he once took over the position of head designer at the Flagrant Vandals, this time Ves intended to prove he was the most qualified mech designer to become their supervisor by defeating them in a mass design duel!
"Many of you are probably skeptical of my qualifications. That's a fair question to ask." Ves began as they all filed into the virtual workshop.
This was an area where mech designers could experiment with designing virtual mechs or analyzing reconstructed models at a lifelike scale.
"Since we don't know each other, let us introduce ourselves and get to know each other better here. Let's start with names. As you all know, I am Ves Larkinson. I graduated from the Rittersberg University of Technology and I am currently apprenticed to Master Carmin Olson from the Friday Coalition."
His introduction did not elicit the reaction that Ves was hoping for. While a number of mech designers out of the forty gathered here looked impressed that he possessed a connection to a Master Mech Designer, two-thirds of them reacted differently.
First, they showed disdain at the mention of his alma mater. Admittedly, the Rittersberg University of Technology didn't particularly excel in bringing up notable mech designers.
However, many of them reacted quite negatively when he mentioned his apprenticeship.
Ves already had a creeping suspicion why most of the mech designers here felt that way.
"Please introduce yourselves to me. Let's start from left to right."
The leftmost mech designer proudly stepped forward. "Reginald Van Buren, Apprentice mech Designer, Ansel University of Mech Design. I am also the founder and former CEO of VBO Mechs."
The other thirty-nine mech designers stepped forward and announced themselves in turn. An overwhelming number of them graduated from the Ansel University of Mech Design on Bentheim, to the point where many of them were former classmates of each other!
Many of them proudly showed off some of their accomplishments. Some of them were mentored by notable Seniors of the Republic, while others founded successful mech manufacturing companies, often with the help of their rich and powerful families or backers.
Each of them were already used to success with the help of their advantages. Ves predicted that in time, many of them would grow up and mature to become the backbone of the Bright Republic's mech industry.
"Ansel, huh?" Ves muttered.
This institute had a tendency to shape their mech designers into loyal patriots of the Republic. This was generally a good thing because those mech designers wouldn't be tempted to run off for greener pastures at the Friday Coalition or elsewhere.
Unfortunately, they also tended to look down on graduates from the other universities of the Bright Republic. On top of that, they exhibited a deep suspicion against mech designers associated with foreign institutes or mech designers, of which the Friday Coalition wasn't excluded!
Therefore, Ves already saw that he had an uphill battle in store to gain the acknowledgement of his subordinates. He narrowed his eyes as he recognized he needed to act even harsher than he originally intended.
To stuck-up, entitled, elitist mech designers like these, only with a sufficient amount of shock would he be able to beat their prejudices out of their systems!
"Alright, I can see you are all doubting my qualifications to lead the Second Analysis Team. Very well. Today, I'll give you the opportunity to prove your point. Let's compete on designs. I'll give each of you as well as myself eight hours to design a mech according to a randomized set of parameters. At the end of the time limit, we'll pit all of our designs in simulated combat against each other. If my design loses against any of yours, I'll acknowledge that I'm not qualified. Is that okay?"
A couple of mech designers looked suspicious, but many of the Ansel graduates expressed supreme confidence in their ability. There was no way this upstart transfer could upstage all forty of them, right?
Ves smirked like a shark. These little brats had no idea who they were messing with. Spending all of their time in this isolated bubble in the Robach System may have kept them safe from any threats to their lives, but it also prevented from acquiring some essential survival skills!
"Let us begin. I'll set the randomizer up so that we'll be on a completely even playing field for this massed design duel."
For the rest of the day, the members of the Second Analysis Team continued to hole up in the virtual workshop. The time extended way beyond eight hours as Ves wanted to hammer the differences between him and the rest!
At the end of the extended session, all forty mech designers slumped their way out of the virtual workshop, looking utterly exhausted and defeated.
"I'm finally out! Thank heavens!"
"What a monster!"
"How is this freak not a Journeyman yet?!"
Ves walked out afterwards with a smile and a jaunt in his step. Just like with the Vandal mech designers, he showcased his superior knowledge and design ability in the fairest method possible by pitting them in combat against each other.
The only difference this time was that Ves competed against somewhat competent mech designers this time. All of them possessed sufficient chops to compete directly in the mech market.
Nonetheless, unlike Ves, even if they were close to becoming Journeyman, they still possessed some gaps in several critical areas.
Even after his design won handedly in all forty simulated duels against the other designs, Ves kept the defeated mech designers back. Many of them still looked unconvinced, so Ves needed to chip away at their confidence a bit more.
How better to do so than to pick apart the weaknesses of their hasty and sloppy designs? This was the main job of Professor Enoch's Mech Analysis Research Group, so he began to prove his qualifications to be their supervisor by brutally criticizing all of the faults and shortcomings of their designs.
No one even had a chance to defend their designs in front of his verbal onslaught.
Only then did he release his subordinates from the virtual workshop, because only now did he truly defeat their rebellious spirits.
"Tomorrow, let's get to work." He announced, causing many of them to groan or dread the next day.
Over the next couple of days, Ves began to ease into his role as supervisor. His main job consisted of herding all forty mech designers in analyzing the deluge of data of Vesian mechs sent from the frontlines.
The main challenge in this job was that there were truly hundreds, if not thousands of different mech models to go through. An additional complication was that many of their designs were updated over time or came in new and slightly different variants, thereby necessitating another evaluation to figure out what changed.
The amount of work never ended, and mech designers needed to work all day in order to have a chance at reducing the stockpile.
Still, Ves started to question the effectiveness of the method adopted by the Mech Analysis Research Group. Wouldn't Professor Enoch alone be able to pick out all of the weaknesses by himself? Ves knocked on the door of his office and sat down to ask this very question.
"It's too much." Professor Enoch replied simply. "Since you have done a decent job at acclimatizing to your new responsibilities, you must have surely found out that we are receiving data from hundreds of different Vesian mechs every day. If I do all the work all day, I won't just go crazy, I'll also grow tired and weary to the point where I misjudge the data at hand. Therefore, we are leaving much of the simpler and more obvious observations to groups of Apprentices. Only after they are done with their analyses will I check up on their work and add any details they have left out."
"Ah, so you are only responsible for analyzing and noting down the details that the other Apprentices has missed." Ves concluded.
"Correct, and it should be a responsibility for you as well. We aren't employing you just to manage the Second Analysis Team. You also need to start noting down your observations and analyses before you pass on the files to my desk, do you understand?"
Ves nodded. "I understand. The more traits we manage to pick out, the less work is left to you."
Therefore, to keep Professor Enoch happy, Ves needed to make sure that he and everyone else in the Second Analysis Team caught as many details as possible.
Days passed into weeks, and weeks passed into months. The initial tension between Ves and his subordinates started to smooth out, although a palpable distance still existed. The relation between Ansel alumni and non-Ansel mech designers would always stay frosty regardless how much Ves had proved himself.
Nonetheless, under his strict reign, none of the Apprentices dared to pull off any tricks. Those who tried received a fierce verbal beating from Ves.
As routine settled in, Ves found the work to be rather tedious if anything. Analyzing hundreds and thousands of unique iterations of mechs fielded by the Vesians quickly got old. There were too many of them, and while most of them were excellent designs, he had already seen more than enough to last a lifetime.
Professor Enoch became more and more pleased by his performance. The Second Analysis Team caught more details, saving the professor a significant amount of time and effort, allowing him to spend his time more fruitfully on another project at Frozen Point. Naturally, the professor's other activities were classified and Ves had no business poking around there.
Having stayed in the base for a couple of months, Ves realized that a lot more went on at Frozen Point than just keeping a couple of important brats busy by having them stare at mechs all day.
Ves knew that his current assignment was already vitally important. Mech designers in the field didn't always have the time or ability to analyze all the different kinds of mechs the Vesians fielded next. Just like the Mech Corps, the Mech Legion constantly iterated on their designs, evolving them or adapting them to different circumstances after every battle.
"Our work makes a huge difference, even if we never get to see the effects in person." Professor Enoch mentioned one day during their daily morning briefings. "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. A thorough analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of a particular mech model will wipe away the doubt in the minds of our mech pilots. Studies have shown that we can increase the odds of winning by as much as ten percent!"
Even so, Ves started to miss the exciting days with the Vandals. Somehow, everything he did there felt much more meaningful than holing up in this secret research base far away from the action.
None of the mech designers never felt any effects from the war at Frozen Point.
What little Ves knew about how the war progressed came in the form of gossip and scattered clues from all of the data they received. He learned how to read the raw data they received to build a vague picture of the war.
Perhaps one day, a certain mech model fielded by a certain Vesian mech regiment showed up at the border. Perhaps a few weeks later that same mech model showed up much deeper into the Republic's territory, almost encroaching upon Bentheim. Perhaps a month after that a slightly updated version of that mech model appeared again closer to the border again.
Many of such designs see-sawed back and forth. Star Systems were constantly fought over, and many of them exchanged hands several times as defenders and attackers switched places.
To Ves, it seemed the war wasn't going anywhere for both sides. The Vesians couldn't manage to break through to Bentheim, but the Brighters failed to dislodge the invaders from their territory.
If it was anything like the past, the two sides would eventually exhaust themselves against each other and broker a peace at some point. Ves wondered if this time would be any different.
The only point of concern was that this time, the Vesians managed to penetrate dangerously close to Bentheim. Vesian mech regiments already sporadically raided the Bentheim System, disrupting some of the trade that went through the critical port system.
Would the Vesians be able to break through in earnest this time?
One day, Professor Enoch finally called him up for an office for a special meeting. Evidently, Ves showcased enough ability and leadership to be entrusted with greater responsibilities.