The Mech Touch - Chapter 3174: The True Role of Masterworks

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Chapter 3174: The True Role of Masterworks

Ves grew a bit sceptical about this ladder theory. Though Master Willix made a compelling point, materialization technology had its own merits.

“As some of us have stated earlier, not every mech or product has to be made with personal attention. Sometimes, you just want something that works and don’t want to deal with all of the hassle that comes with handmade products. The Amaranto we fabricated turned out to be great, but it could have easily ended up in a disaster if we were in a bad mood or something.”

More labor-intensive production methods were always associated with greater variance. The chance of creating a masterwork was small, but the risk of botching the process was significantly greater!

“The odds of creating a masterwork is virtually zero for the vast majority of people in our society.” She said. “Many believe it is not worth the effort to focus on it when quantity can easily trump quality. Senfovon’s Ladder of Craftsmanship is not universally accepted within our Association. One of the great differences between us and the Common Fleet Alliance is that the latter completely believes in mass production, mass standardization and maximum efficiency at every possible level.”

That.. sounded just like the fleeters.

“I can’t argue with that.” Ves shrugged. “The CFA has to build and maintain hundreds of thousands of huge and extremely demanding battleships and who knows how many more sub-capital ships. It is a logistical nightmare to produce all of them with more labor-intensive methods. The number of accidents, screw ups and deviations that can occur during production will certainly lead to vessels with so little integrity that they will be plagued with flaws from the moment they slide out of the shipyards!”

Gloriana added her own remark. “It’s also impossible to create a masterwork version of a battleship under such circumstances. We managed to luck out because all four of us were in a good mood when we made the Amaranto, but I don’t believe it is realistic for a crew of thousands, tens of thousands or even more workers to get inspired at the same time for several continuous months or years.”

Battleships were so big and immense that making them like how the Larkinsons made their first production copies of their mech designs was physically impossible and unfeasible!

Master Willix smiled at Gloriana. “That is an excellent observation, Madame Wodin. Bigger is not always better. The smaller the product, the less materials are used up to make it. The galaxy may be filled with exotics but the supply of them is not endless. Material constraints are one of the main reasons why our friends over at the Common Fleet Alliance have not maintained a high rate of production of their battleships. They are not able to source the large quantities of high-grade exotics that are required to produce huge modules such as the interdiction modules and main cannon turrets that you have witnessed earlier. Think of how much less materials we have to consume if we can accomplish the same function in a mech-sized package.”

There was a considerable complication to this argument, though.

Ves crossed his arms. “Miniaturized components may use up less tons of raw materials, but the quality of what is left has to be a lot higher to make all of those fancy first-class multipurpose mechs.”

“You are not wrong, Mr. Larkinson, but what is the purpose of our profession?”

“We serve mech pilots.” He responded with the standard MTA-approved answer.

“And how do we perform this objective?”

“We… design mechs that aim to do more with the budget, tech, materials and other means we have on hand.”

Master Willix finally nodded at him. “Good mech designers can make use of the same resources to create superior works compared to those that are not as skilled. This is the central premise of our approach to mech design. While the engineers and shipwrights of the CFA also aim to minimize waste, that is difficult to accomplish when their warships keep expanding in size. The fleeters are hungry for power, and that is pressuring them to commit to the most efficient production approaches that enable them to construct immense battleships.”

“Don’t we also do this to a large degree?” Ves asked. “I mean, to most people, mechs are just mechs. They just need to work for them. While it would be nice to deliver more, the cost and effort required to gain an improvement is too excessive.”

“It depends on the need.” Master Willix agreed. “For ordinary mechs sold to customers looking for bargains, the rationale to make a great effort is not that strong. Yet what about the people you care about such as your clansmen? What about exceptional individuals such as your expert pilots? Are they not worthy of greater craftsmanship?”

Ves immediately nodded. “The costs aren’t so great as long as better and more powerful mechs will help them achieve success and stay alive.”

“Every mech pilot deserves to be treated like a king. That is the purest interpretation of our creed and a goal that some mech designers aim to realize. The ultimate ambition is to elevate craftsmanship to such a level that every mech pilot has access to a masterwork mech.”

The four Larkinson mech designers all looked astonished. They already knew that the MTA had great ambitions, but to create a condition where an endless amount of mech pilots had access to an endless amount of masterwork mechs was so ludicrous that they couldn’t even begin to point out all of the challenges that had to be overcome!

The silence that stretched on grew a little awkward, so Ves attempted to voice his own opinion.

“The biggest constraint to the CFA’s build big approach is that it is limited by material scarcity. The biggest constraint to this ambition is the huge shortage of masterwork mech designers. I know from personal experience that it is incredibly difficult for anyone to succeed even once. Only the most accomplished mech designers can pump out masterworks at a more stable and frequent pace, but they can’t spend all of their time in their workshops.”

“Indeed. In fact, the less time they spend on designing new mechs or researching related technologies, the less they are able to succeed. At our core, we design mechs. Making them is a secondary purpose that should only be reserved for special occasions.”

Gloriana looked intrigued. “I think.. it would be great if it was easier for professional fabricators to make masterworks. That would solve our manpower problem and leave this job to specialists.”

“That is one area of research that we are engaged in, but centuries of studies have borne little fruit so far.” Master Willix said. “The shortage in skilled manpower is not a problem that can be solved in the short term. Nevertheless, our Association will never cease exploring. This is also one of the reasons why we show great interest in studying masterworks, particularly those made by younger and… less qualified professionals. The more data we gather, the more we can detect and analyse patterns.”

Ves blinked. This explanation sounded counter-intuitive at first. Shouldn’t the MTA value masterworks made by Masters and Star Designers more?

Then again, the MTA’s research was obviously oriented towards enabling common people to make masterworks. Journeymen who were young were much closer to the average space peasant than some elite MTA Master!

Gloriana and the rest also looked enlightened. They finally understood a portion of the greater context behind the MTA’s obsession for masterworks.

Was it realistic for them to attain this absurd-sounding goal? Hell no! Yet Ves blessed them on their impossible venture anyway. At least the MTA wasn’t focusing all of their resources on conquering human space in its entirety!

There was just one little gap in the story that Ves was missing.

“Master, if I may ask, what is the point of all of this?” He asked. “I mean, sure, masterwork mechs are better than ordinary products, but… is it really necessary?”

The MTA Master tapped her finger against the metal table.

“There are many reasons why enabling the creation of more Masterworks is desirable. I cannot share all of them with you, but as an extra reward for your impressive feat of craftsmanship, I am allowed to reveal the most relevant implication to the four of you. It goes without saying that you should not divulge this information further.”

This sounded big. Ves and everyone raised their attention and awaited the revelation.

“Masterwork mechs… increase the probability of pilots breaking through. I am not talking about a mild increase, but orders of magnitude greater. The difference is minimal at the ordinary level. This is why the public has not been able to perceive the difference. The real difference starts at the expert mech level. The amount of variables that inreases the chances of a breakthrough from expert pilot to ace pilot are too many to count, so I can not exactly tell you a precise figure. Loosely speaking, the chances increase by as much as 1000 percent.”

If all of the earlier revelations haven’t floored the Larkinson mech designers already, then this bombshell pretty much blew them into pieces!

Only Ketis of all people looked slightly less shocked. “A good swordsmaster requires a good sword.”

Master Willix nodded in acknowldegement. “Aptly said. A different way to put it is that a low-quality weapon cannot accommodate the needs of a high-quality soldier. The greater the disparity between the two, the more the weaker partner of this relationship drags down the stronger partner. In order to further develop the potential of a superhuman, he or she must be matched with a superweapon, a product that has exceeded the conceptual limits of its kind. We call that a masterwork.”

A deep silence followed as everyone contemplated the massive implications of these assertions. Though there was a chance that the information provided by Master Willix was wrong or inaccurate, he knew in his heart that it should be true.

It made too much sense!

The logic behind these assertions were sound. Just as Ketis had said, a good swordsman needed better swords as they grew stronger and more skilled.

While there was nothing wrong with letting a powerful swordsmaster like Ketis wield a butter knife against armored infantrymen, she could do a much better job if she wielded a more impressive weapon like her Bloodsinger!

This theory explained why Venerable Tusa but especially Venerable Stark experienced so much growth after obtaining their expert mechs.

In fact, Venerable Stark already grew by a significant margin after piloting the Amaranto just once!

Ves narrowed his eyes as another thought came to mind.

Was Patriarch Reginald Cross hoping to achieve a breakthrough to ace pilot by obtaining a masterwork expert mech of his own?

What did he feel when he saw the Amaranto for the first time?

The Bolvar Rage was a potent high-tier expert mech, but in terms of craftsmanship it did not stand out too much. All Ves could say about Patriarch Reginald’s expert mech was that its mech designers did their jobs.

“I have a question, ma’am.” Gloriana softly asked. “Do expert pilots benefit from piloting well-crafted expert mechs even if they fall short of masterwork level?”

“They most certainly do, Madame Wodin. The better the weapon, the less it will hinder a strong soldier’s progression. What you must take note though is that an expert mech that remains on the first rung or level of craftsmanship can only provide a limited amount of assistance to the development of an expert pilot. The ladder is called that way because there is a strong and clear difference between the first rung and second rung. Masterwork expert mechs truly stand at a much taller height.”

Ves turned his head and glanced at the materialized version of the Amaranto. Compared to the version that was the culmination of all of the Design Department’s hard work in the last few months, the hollow copy in front of him was completely devoid of any element that only masterwork products possessed.

It was a product, not a partner.

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