The Mech Touch - Chapter 3173: Rungs of a Ladder
Chapter 3173: Rungs of a Ladder
None of the four Larkinson mech designers understood why Master Willix disparaged the proud works of her fellow colleagues!
In the interests of self-preservation, neither Ves nor any other of the guests voiced anything negative about the mechs. Perhaps one of the designers of these powerful machines was among the Masters that were currently studying the Amaranto.
Master Willix didn’t seem to mind the lackluster reaction. She gave them another smile before leading them away from the massive hangar bay.
“Come, let me show you around the other parts of our fine vessel.”
They flew above the heads of other mechers as they headed to another section. They briefly toured various departments such as those responsible for mech fabrication, mech pilot training and more.
They even paid a brief visit to the control center of a massive main gun turret. The sheer amount of firepower that this gun could unleash at a decent rate of fire was absolutely astounding and completely overwhelmed the guests.
“This weapon is powerful enough to crack a moon, if not a planet!” Gloriana exclaimed!
The Amaranto’s full-powered shot was like a needle prick compared to this humongous beast!
“It is merely the dumbest application of weapon technology.” Master Willix said in a distinctly unimpressed tone. “As I am sure you know well, building big is the easy way out. From the moment humanity stepped into the stars, we constantly pursued greater and greater strength. The best way that our race can attain this goal is by building larger and larger warships. Hence why the size of battleships has continued to balloon over time. Newer advancements, better materials and increasing pressure has constantly pushed us to upsize our battleships even further.”
“How long is the Hesserian Bardine?”
“She is just over 8 kilometers. She’s a middling battleship by our standards.”
Despite the Hessarian Bardine’s shorter length in comparison to the Starlight Megalodon, the MTA battleship was a lot more modern and a lot more powerful!
It was too bad that they weren’t able to see much of that in their tour. The interiors of many compartments were distressingly clean and free of any clutter that could give away some helpful clues. The mechers didn’t talk out loud that much and instead relied on their sophisticated implants to communicate through their private ship network.
They continued the brief tour. After briefly looking at some basic ship systems, they finally visited a more interesting department. They entered a large hall that contained a lot of huge machines that were immense in a way that Ves could hardly describe.
The machines were as large as corvettes and were shaped like rectangular cubes covered with a grey metal material.
“What are they?” Gloriana widened her eyes as she tried to make sense of the metallic monstrosities.
“These are one of the vital systems that define the role of the Hessserian Bardine. While I will not explain them in detail, I can tell you that they are responsible for tracking and interdicting starships traveling through FTL. They are essential to waging war in FTL space.”
Ves tried his best not to shudder. The concept of warfare in the higher dimensions was a frightening idea. To most of humanity, FTL travel was merely a means to get from point A to point B a lot faster than relying on conventional propulsion.
The tech in the hands of most people only enabled them to travel through the higher dimensions, and only reluctantly. They lacked the sensors and advanced theories to perceive what was beyond them and to find and target other vessels that might be traveling nearby.
Evidently, that was not a problem for the Big Two. Their advancements in FTL technology were so much further ahead that the rules didn’t apply to them anymore!
“Does the MTA make use of this interdiction function often?”
Willix simply responded with a stare.
“Ehm, never mind.”
They proceeded with the tour. For several hours, Willix led them from one advanced compartment to another. The rather utilitarian metal interior of the Hesserian Bardine along with the mostly silent and professional-looking mechers occupying the vessel made it seem as if they were in a secret military base.
Given the clues that Master Willix had provided to the guests, it appeared quite likely that the Hesserian Bardine was mainly used to perform clandestine missions!
The implicit threat caused Ves to shudder inwardly. From tracking systems that could precisely sniff out ships traveling in the deeper reaches of the higher dimensions to teleporters that could seamlessly replace a human being with a biologically identical clone, the interdiction battleship could employ an endless amount of methods to infiltrate, sabotage and destroy anyone and anything traveling through FTL!
Ves had a small suspicion that one of the reasons why the Big Two favored portal jumping was to prevent shenanigans like these from happening to themselves.
In the end, the tour had been both revealing and non-revealing. Master Williix placed a considerable emphasis on specific examples of high technology that she felt the Larkinsons should know about, but she cleverly avoided many other properties that were best left hidden.
Ves had the feeling that the areas she brought him to had already been deliberately cleaned up so that they did not give out any clues the MTA would rather stay hidden. It was what he would do if he was in a position of power and needed to impress some yokels.
Eventually, they entered a lab area where a lot of mech designers were developing mechs or performing research related to them behind closed doors. Master Willix led them to a spacious, high-tech lab that was currently rather barren but could easily summon lots of tools and materials on demand if needed.
Upon entry, a table and several leg-less chairs emerged from the deck like it was made of ooze and took on a clean white coloration. The design of the furniture was both clean but possessed a touch of elegance as well.
The comfort level of the chair was a lot more pleasant than Ves expected!
He couldn’t help but want to take one of these floating chairs back to his own ship so he could luxuriate in it all day.
Once everyone settled down, Master Willix began to ask a basic-sounding question.
“What is a masterwork?”
None of the Larkinsons knew how to begin. Ves looked at everyone for a moment before making an attempt.
“A masterwork is.. a creation that matches but also exceeds a given design.”
Willix followed up with a slight smirk. “Can masterworks be made without a design in mind?”
He never thought about that, and neither did the other Larkinson mech designers. They knew far too little about what a masterwork even meant. While they had successfully made at least one masterwork creation, they lacked far too much knowledge about it. This was why it was so difficult for any of them to reproduce their earlier success.
“It would have been nice if we had access to a textbook or a manual on masterworks.” Ketis spoke up. “Everyone is being so damn vague about it that it’s impossible for us to know exactly what we’re dealing with. I thought the MTA was all about sharing knowledge.”
Oh, Ketis. Ves inwardly sighed. Though he shared the same thoughts, he wouldn’t have brought them up in such a blunt manner.
Willix didn’t seem to mind, though.
“We have found that there is little point in sharing what we know and how we think about masterworks.” She said in a matter-of-fact tone. “However, since you have come to our attention because of your unlikely success in creating a masterwork expert mech, I am authorized to enlighten you to some of our theories.”
“Theories?” Ves questioned.
“Yes, theories. Very few of us possess a deeper understanding of what a masterwork constitutes.”
It was rare for the MTA to admit that there were fields of research that even they didn’t know a lot about.
The Master Mech Designer stretched out a hand, causing a rather simple mug to materialize in existence. Soon enough, the cup was filled with a warm and steaming liquid.
“Would you call this cup a good work of craftsmanship?” She asked before she took a casual sip of coffee.
“I would say.. not.” Gloriana took the initiative to answer this time. “It is an efficient design that is devoid of any extraneous elements, but it does no more than that. The cup itself was produced by an automated production method that literally prints products in the air. It is a precise way to create a copy, but… it’s not something that inspires anything.”
Ves quietly nodded. He agreed with those words. The cup lacked a personal touch that his products lacked.
“It’s a product that does the job and doesn’t have to accomplish anything else. There is no need to go out of our way to craft a handmade mug when our tech makes it much more convenient to print it out of a template.”
“That is also a good point, Mr. Larkinson. What about you, Miss Stameros?”
The Penitent Sister shrugged. “I agree with my patriarch. We are strong because we can surround ourselves with many useful products. If we try to handcraft each of them, then too much of our population will be stuck with performing menial jobs that can easily be automated.”
“And you, Miss Ketis?”
“There is great value in a sword or any other stuff that is made with love and an attention to detail.” The swordmaster replied. “It’s not what most humans want, though. They just want the best possible things at the cheapest possible prices. Oh, and they don’t want any flaws or deviations either.”
Willix nodded in approval. “These are all valid points. It is true that our civilization and many other ones have pursued greater efficiency and greater consistency. The materialization technology that is responsible for making this cup in my hand can be considered as the apex of this school of thought. There is no conceivably better way to produce items en masse with the best possible adherence to existing designs while maintaining near-complete consistency.”
Ves frowned and so did the others. There was a very big flaw with this tech.
“It doesn’t produce anything greater, though.” He said. “The lack of.. personal attention leads to an inability to create masterworks like the Amaranto. It also divorces mech designers from the practical side of mech design.”
Master Willix took another sip of coffee. “Let me share with you a theory. Senfovon’s Ladder of Craftsmanship is a hierarchical model that suggests that the concept of craftsmanship has multiple layers. The most basic version of this theory claims that these layers or tiers can be stacked on top of each other like the rungs of a ladder. Now, how far up is the method of producing this cup?”
No one really knew, so the Master answered the question herself.
“It is the first rung.”
What?! That was barely above ground level!
“It is easy for you to become impressed with what our production technology can do.” She said. “Yet those who ascribe to the ladder theory do not consider it to be a fundamental improvement or evolution from more primitive production methods such as refining ores into steel or throwing random ingredients into a big pot to make soup.”
In order to illustrate this point, she waved her arm to the side.
Within seconds, a huge space lit up as a gigantic object was being materialized into existence!
The mech in question took less than a minute to reach completion, but already the Larkinson mech designers recognized the design of the machine.
It was a nearly identical copy of the Amaranto design!
Yet… compared to the copy that Ves and his peers created by hand, the copy produced through the fastest, most consistent and most efficient method mastered by the MTA was.. hollow.
Part of it was technical. Ves could clearly see from the makeup of the luminar crystal rifle that the materializer had trouble reproducing its more esoteric aspects.
Another part of it was the lack of a human touch that so wonderfully characterized the real Amaranto.
Master Willix’s expression turned grim. “If our best production tech cannot yield a better version than this copy, then it does not deserve to be placed at a higher rung of the ladder.”
What she essentially implied was that Ves and his people were capable of making far better mechs in their shabby second-class workshop than a mecher pressing a button on a first-class materializer!
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