Though the other mech designer looked a little uncomfortable at voicing his thoughts, as a mech designer he had his own way of doing things. "Well, from what I've learned from my father's admittedly brief tutelage, your method is best suited for beginners who aren't always able to control their impulses. Sticking to a well-defined concept formed at the start is very helpful preventing the project from going out of control. Yet it's not the way an ambitious mech can be designed."
Ves thought about it a bit. Pierce had a point. "If you are designing something experimental, then I can see why you would want to keep your options open, but it sounds too much as if you are starting your design with no idea what will happen as a result."
"The people I worked with think that designs that can be imagined from the start of a project aren't good enough to be developed. A great design is a product that is only revealed at the end of a lengthy journey of exploration."
"Is that how it goes in the design team of a large mech manufacturer?"
Pierce nodded. "The mindset among the older, more experienced designers is that they need to be more unconstrained in their design process. The best designs they came up with are often the result of long periods of experimentation. The fewer the limitations, the higher the odds of creating something remarkable."
This was a completely different perspective from what Ves had learned. "How can mech designers keep control? It sounds really chaotic to me if nobody on the design team have a common vision on what their end product should look like."
"That's exactly the merit of this approach. Because everyone has a different picture in mind for the design, everyone has the opportunity to test out their insights. This way, you get the most options possible and allows the lead designer to pick from a wide range of possibilities."
"So the key here is the lead designer."
"Yes. The lead designer is the only person on the team who needs to retain some semblance of control. In some design teams, he acts as a herder that guides the mech designers under him in the right direction. In other teams, the lead designer takes the role of the composers, and imposes a bit more order in the process. THe most important factor however is that the design team should be setup in a way that takes advantage of each member's creativity."
Ves understood the point of such an organizational structure when Pierce mentioned creativity. It allowed every member to contribute, thereby effectively making the most out of the design team's creativity.
In other words, it compensated for the lead designer's lack of imagination.
"I can see the advantages in such an approach." Ves replied. "Yet it sounds awfully wasteful and inefficient. Many ideas will be tried without any chance of ever getting incorporated in the main design. An incoherent vision will also do the design no good when it ends up with a lack of harmony."
That last point was difficult to explain. Ves really wanted to say that his method of fostering the growth of the X-Factor in his designs wouldn't work if he didn't hold on to a strong and predetermined vision.
All three mech designers argued about the merits of both approaches. Ves was a strong proponent of previsualisation, while Pierce thought that such an approach was only suitable for inexperienced mech designers.
"What do you think, Laida?"
"It depends on your goal. Although it sounds simple and limiting, the approach from Ves sounds the best if you are designing an original mech on your own. As for exploring many different ideas at once, it's only suitable if there are lots of mech designers working on the same project."
In the context of a design team, the two methods determined whether the lead designer wanted to take a top-down or bottom-up approach to mech design.
"The latter approach only makes sense if the design team consists of a gathering of equals." Ves stated. "In nearly every other case, the design team will be better served if the lead designer exerts control."
After a bit more back-and-forth, they couldn't come to an agreement on this topic. To Ves who valued mechs for their intrinsic identities, he knew the importance of defining a mech's existence from the start. However, he couldn't convoy this argument because it touched upon his trade secrets.
Ves prized his secrets above everything else, so he willingly let the argument end with a tie. Laida still looked a little confused, but she appeared to be getting around the idea of developing a vision for her design.
Throughout the rest of the journey, they discussed other matters related to mech design, and each designer came away with learning something new.
From Laida, Ves learned what he needed to pay attention to when he designed an aerial mech. From Pierce, Ves became enlightened to the different methods used by mech designers in the Gauge Dynasty. From both, he also learned how to work in different design team environments.
This was essential knowledge to him because he desperately lacked experience in this area.
As Ves happily soaked up knowledge and gave out some of his own in return, the transport ship finally reached the end of the convoy route. The weathered transport transitioned out of FTL at the edge of the Tarry System.
For the first time in weeks, the outer hatch opened up. A crewman popped his head inside. "We've reached the Tarry System. A shuttle is on its way to take you to another ship."
Ves looked up at the news. "This isn't our end destination?"
"Not from what I heard."
Perhaps the Vandals maintained their bases elsewhere. The mech designers shrugged at the news and waited to be picked up.
With their arrival to the Tarry System, some of the restrictions to their comms had been lifted for some reason. They gained access to a highly limited network that nevertheless proved to be a treasure trove of information.
"A number of battles have already occurred in the Tarry System."
The reports made available to them didn't specify the number of mechs involved or how many of them got wrecked. They didn't even mention the units involved either.
The only special thing about the reports was that they detailed the designs of the mechs involved and analyzed their strengths and weaknesses after the fact. This granted Ves and the others a pretty good picture of what kind of mechs saw use on this part of the frontlines.
Ves quickly came to a conclusion after skimming through the reports. "When it comes to both ground and space warfare, the mechs here are smaller and lighter. Pitched battles are rare, but skirmishes and raids are the order of the day."
The others agreed, though they stayed silent. Their reading and comprehension speeds couldn't keep up with Ves.
"Have the Vesians ever committed to an invasion?"
"They overwhelmed some border systems at the outbreak of the war, but hadn't moved forward since. They are still consolidating their gains and haven't made a major move since."
The Vesians took the slow approach in the Tarry region. With much less mechs and resources allocated to this front, the Vesians moved at a snail's pace. Yet despite their languid pace, they proved impossible for the Tarry divisions to dislodge.
As they read the reports, the transport ship quietly reached a midpoint in the System, whereupon the mech designers suddenly had to leave the passenger compartment. Without much ado, they entered an airlock which extended out an enclosed ramp onto the hatch of another ship.
Once they walked across and entered the airlock of the other ship, they entered a metallic grey corridor of a small and cramped corvette.
"Mr. Larkinson, Mr. Yuvalis and Miss Nnvist, right?" An easy-going spacer greeted them as they entered the ship. The man looked like he could use a good shave, and his red-colored uniform could use another wash. "Your cabins are already prepared. It's a little tight here, so you're going to have to bunk with the crew. Apologies for that."
Ves and the others looked at each other. Nobody had a clue what went on. "Lead the way."
The spacer guided them to their cabins as he casually chewed a stimulant, something which the Mech Corps strictly forbid. "You guys came at a swell time. Professor Velten has been ringing the Mech Corps for extra manpower for years now. It finally took the outbreak of the war for those stingy bastards to send some of you out to the Vandals."
"Who is Professor Velton?"
"That's the boss man of the research base you're about to go to. I can't tell you where it's located, it's all hush hush and such. All I can say is that the Vesians will never be able to pin it down."
They reached the cabins where their bots dropped off some of their luggage. Ves continued to ask some questions from the crewman. "Is this ship part of the Vandals fleet?"
"She sure is! She's called the Bloodless Dagger, born and bred as a Vesian but taken as a prize by us a couple of years ago. We sure taught those bastards a bloody lesson back then!"
The three mech designers looked shocked at the spacer. "The war didn't even start until more than half a year ago!"
"Hah! It's not like we need a declaration of war to stir up some trouble. We Vandals are all about taking opportunities. The Vesians have always been our enemy. Peace with the Vesians is a big fat lie. We've raided their systems and trade routes plenty of times and they have done the same to us. The only difference now is that we don't have to go through the trouble of camouflaging ourselves as pirates."
The more the spacer blabbed on about the previous actions of the Vandals, the more they sounded like pirates!
"Why all the raids?" Ves couldn't help but ask.
"Because we're the 6th! Those fancy ponces over at Rittersberg and Bentheim never send out adequate supplies to us! Our division is at the end of a long supply chain, and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th regiments get their turn first before leaving the leftovers to us! Hah! By the time we receive our supplies, everything has been siphoned away."
This happened a lot in the Mech Corps, but Ves never realized that the 6th Flagrant Vandals had it so bad.
"So the Vandals have resorted to stealing from the Vesians to gather their supplies?"
"How do you get away with it?"
The spacer grinned. "It's all thanks to Colonel Lowenfield. Ever since she took charge of the Vandals, we're no longer begging the others for fuel, parts and other supplies."
This colonel must be a remarkable leader if she was able to control this bunch of ruffians.
The Bloodless Dagger didn't stick around the Tarry System for long. She headed towards a nearby gas giant's Lagrange point and smoothly transitioned into FTL.
As the three mech designers spent their time aboard the corvette, they quickly learned that the crew didn't make any attempts at keeping them under control. Besides restricting their comms, they allowed Ves to go outside their cabins and explore the tiny ship, not that they saw all that much. It was still a corvette.
Though the crew acted a little casual around the mech designers, they still showed some discipline in their normal operations. They at least still showed signs of being a part of the Mech Corps in the things that mattered. The Bloodless Dagger was well-maintained for a captured ship and none of the spacers appeared incompetent. It showed that the corvette had definitely taken a lot of risks.
"You know, maybe it's not so bad to be assigned to the Vandals."