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 Developing an entire product family asked a lot out of a mech designer. They needed to be skilled and creative enough to adapt the same set of component licenses to vastly different mech types.

In one perspective, the Blackbeak and the Crystal Lord could partially be considered to be part of the same product family. Ves recycled many of the component licenses used in the Blackbeak design such as the Veltrex Armor System and the Trailblazer mech engine in his Crystal Lord design.

However, Ves never set out to make their designs share many aspects in common. Overall, they still diverged substantially with regards to their internal architecture, power usage and more.

"The only reason why I reused the same component licenses is because I'm not rich enough to afford better another set of licenses of the same quality."

Many mech designers ended up designing mechs in that fashion, sharing similar design traits out of helpless necessity instead of a predetermined plan to design an entire product family.

"It's still too soon for me to think on embarking on such an ambitious project."

Besides the incredibly stringent demands on his design ability, starting up an entire product family also required him to select versatile component licenses that worked well in many different mech types.

While Ves thought he had the skills necessary to do so, he was still short on money and manpower. Also, it took an extremely long time to finish designing all of those mechs, enough for him to give up any notions of doing so when the current generation of mechs soon came to an end.

"There's no point starting a major design project when new technologies and standards will turn my efforts into cheap, lastgen goods."

In the mech industry, only Journeyman Mech Designers embarked on the path of starting up a product family.

Once the shuttle returned to the military base, Ves met up with Leland in his quarters again. The Flashlight intelligence officer seemed to have a way to sneak into his sleeping place without letting any guard or security system pick up his presence!

The thought frightened him for a moment, but he quickly suppressed it. Flashlight had no reason to sneak up on him in the middle of the night.

"Ves. How was your day today?"

"I visited their design complex. It was a very informative visit to me as a mech designer and a businessman. However, it has nothing to do with my job as a liaison. There's nothing going on there that is relevant to the investigation."

"Everything is relevant as long as you ask the right questions." Leland retorted.

"Oh? Did I miss something today?"

Ves sat down at his bed while Leland took up the seat next to the desk terminal.

"Where do you think most of the mech designers who work at the KNG come from, Ves?"

Now that he thought about it, many of the design teams he visited shared the same vibe he had seen many times at Frozen Point.

"They are all graduates of Ansel!"

"Exactly. The Ansel University of Mech Design prides itself on being the most premier institute for mech designers in the Republic. While the AUMD is not as good as the prestigious institutions of the Friday Coalition, anyone who graduates from Ansel expects to be a mech designer of note."

"Yet the mech market can't accommodate that many mech designers." Ves replied, seeing the point that Leland tried to make. "Ansel is famous for their high selection criteria. Those that manage to get in and study diligently are always above every other mech designer from the Republic. Even so, too many of them graduate each year. There simply isn't room for all of them to start their own businesses."

"Therefore, unless they are truly excellent, wealthy or connected enough to start up their own companies and propel them to success, most of their careers aren't very distinguished. Their outcomes are better than the graduates of other institutions such as your very own alma mater, but if nothing changes, they will still be nobodies by the time they retire."

A mech designer hungered for success and acknowledgement. The best mech designers always dreamt of founding their own mech companies and grow them step by step towards a dominant market position.

Yet the mech market was cruel and vicious! The intense competition and finite amount of buyers left no room for every graduate of the AUMD to find carve out their own places in the market!

For some reason, even if the AUMD restricted their intake of students somewhat, they were just like every other institution and pumped out way too many mech designers, much more than the mech industry could take in fact!

"At the very least these Ansel alumni are better off than their peers who mostly have to abandon their design careers." Ves concluded. "I've seen many mech designers forced to give up their primary vocation in order to become a mech appraiser or mech repairer."

Leland sneered. "I'm not so sure the elite Ansel mech designers will be content with what you said. Ansel's way of bringing up their mech designers is meant to prepare them for success. That serves the winners just fine, but what about the losers? How would it feel to be treated as design royalty during your studies at Ansel, only to be begging for a design job once you are back on the streets?"

"It sounds like you take this problem is a lot more seriously than anyone else."

"Flashlight has a reason to be concerned. We admire Ansel for raising loyal and patriotic mech designers, some of whom are just as good as those who return after graduating from the famed institutions of the Friday Coalition. Yet we are also concerned what the disaffected among them will try to do when their dream careers fail to materialize."

"You think... they'll join the BLM?"

"We don't think. We know. A fair number of mech designers from Ansel that are collaborating or outright working for the Bentheim Liberation Movement is very substantial!"

This sounded completely incongruent to Ves! Even if many of the graduates from Ansel might not be able to succeed in their startups, they should still be able to work for the Mech Corps or the various mech companies like the KNG. How could they even contemplate working for the most notorious terrorist organization in the Republic?

"I see the question in your mind, Ves. You wonder how those proud Ansel alumni would even deign to work with the separatists. It is exactly because they are so proud that they can't accept becoming anyone's lackey! Working for the BLM is a form of rebellion for them. If they can't join the mech industry as a successful mech designer, then they would rather burn it all it down!"

"What twisted logic is that!" Ves exclaimed!

"It is not a logical response, but rather an emotional one. Ansel's hyperintense focus on producing winners who can compete with the best has a very significant downside. The AUMD is very poor at raising mech designers who can cope with setbacks and losses. These aggrieved mech designers are too proud to lower themselves to working on those alternative careers, and the BLM is shrewd enough to offer them a substantial amount of power and influence in their cells!"

This sounded incredibly concerning to Ves. However, while it surprised him a lot that the BLM employed many disaffected graduates from Ansel, he still question what all of this had to do with his current mission.

"You mentioned this for a reason, right? What does this have to do with the situation at the KNG?"

"If there is anything amiss at the KNG, their collaboration with the BLM may not be limited to providing material support. There is a possibility that some of the mech designers working at the KNG's design complex are in cahoots with the BLM." Leland revealed.

This sounded paranoid even to Ves. In addition, even if something like this really went on, it was very hard to catch the colluding mech designers in the act. The help that these mech designers provided to the BLM could merely be confined to leaking some data on the KNG's mechs.

"It sounds like Flashlight is not very comfortable with the AUMD."

"We have a reason to be concerned. Ansel's influence in Bentheim's mech industry is substantial and pervasive. While most of our Senior Mech Designers have emerged from that school, a lot of bad apples have come from there as well."

Unfortunately, even if some of those bad apples ended up at the KNG, Ves didn't have the opportunity to investigate them all. While a couple of mech designers did in fact got sent to the manufacturing complexes from time to time in order to supervise the complex production operations, most of them just spent their times in the secretive design labs deep inside the KNG's design complex.

"So what do I have to do?"

"While Kadar and Neyvis are two very capable mech designers, it's impossible for them to extend their awareness everywhere. They spent much of their time either at their headquarters or their design complex. As for the manufacturing complexes, the only times they visit there is when they need to ready the production lines for a major shift in production. Other times, they leave it to other mech designers to keep an eye there."

Ves learned from Leland that Kadar and Neyvis entrusted the overall functioning of each manufacturing complex to trusted subordinate mech designers.

Subsequently, if anything dubious happened at these sites, then those trusted mech designers would very likely be at the heart of those schemes.

"All of them are Ansel alumni with a lot of weight within the KNG." Leland mentioned. "While they don't have much influence in the design work, when it comes to production they are absolutely side bosses."

"Even so, being in charge of production is not as fulfilling as being able to design mechs." Ves observed. "Does the KNG really not allow any of their other mech designers to publish mech designs they developed themselves?"

"Nope. Publishing inferior products not only complicates their production efforts, but it will also tarnish their brand name. The KNG is very much a two-man show. Besides Kadar and Neyvis, no other mech designer is allowed to influence their product offerings."

At the end of the briefing, Leland left Ves alone to write his report for the Mech Corps. As he summarized his visit to the design complex, he couldn't help but think back on how a mech company ought to treat their mech designers.

"Sending mech designers to supervise the production or relegating them to grunt work in numerous design teams is not in their best interests."

The KNG basically treated their non-lead mech designers like commodities. For all of the company's claims of treating their employees well, they insidiously exploited them behind their polite facade.

It made Ves reflect on how he should shape his own company's policies regarding any mech designers he intended to hire.

From what he already observed at the KNG, he knew that any major mech company couldn't do without a design team. Ves already tasted the limits of operating solo and he simply couldn't dedicate that much time on designing individual mechs.

However, even if the LMC made use of design teams in the future, Ves needed to be very thoughtful about the treatment of his mech designers.

The central premise of both his design philosophy and his company was to elevate the dignity of mechs. Ves wanted his products to be treated with the respect afforded to living human beings.

However, for him to care so much about mechs, he should not neglect his own people. If Ves wanted to be consistent in his convictions, then he needed to find some way to allow his subordinate mech designers to express their design ability without compromising the best interests of the LMC.

"I'll have to think on this problem. There's no easy way to solve this conundrum."

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