Chapter 29: Bentheim
quot;I havenapos;t seen you around in class.quot; One of the men stated as he looked at Vesapos; collar. quot;Are you sure youapos;ve boarded the right shuttle?quot;
Every potentate wore a small pin on their collar, chest or arm that denoted their status. It was an exclusive privilege to the 3.5% that marked them special. With it, they enjoyed priority services, had access to VIP sections, and had their safety taken care of first before the rest could take their turn. The entire scheme originated from the New Rubarth Empire, but pretty much every human state other than the Terrans copied the treatment. They also took over the rule that stated that any fraudulent use of such pins invited severe punishment.
quot;Security already screened me before letting me in. Iapos;m a participant of the YTE mech design competition.quot;
quot;Mech design?quot; A young fresh-faced woman dubiously said. quot;So youapos;re not a pilot.quot;
That pretty much killed the conversation. The pilots all turned around and went back to their own discussions.
The blatant disregard hurt Ves a little, but he had grown used to such behavior ever since he turned ten. Before his genetic aptitude was tested, he behaved just as arrogantly as the other potentates. It took a brutal fall from heaven to realize how conceited he actually behaved.
quot;I was a stupid punk back then. I got what I deserved, but the rest ingrained this dismissive behavior.quot;
It couldnapos;t be helped. Modern society worshiped martial prowess, and a disproportionate attention was placed on mechs. Sometimes it appeared that society revolved around pleasing potentates.
Certainly, placating pilots was important, but the soldiers who bravely enlisted in the other service branches also deserved some honor. Spaceships guarded their borders against capricious aliens while infantrymen occupied territory and cleaned after the messes mechs usually caused when throwing around ordnance.
Nothing could be done about it, though, so Ves took the dismissal without complaint. It wasnapos;t as if he achieved anything of note that justified anything more than an absent glance. Only Lucky attracted some attention, but the mostly female pilots were too preoccupied to get distracted by his cuteness.
The departure time arrived. The shuttle lifted off after everyone was accounted for. The inter-system shuttle ample power to lift off and escape Cloudy Curtainapos;s atmosphere. Like a sparrow taking flight, the shuttle fluently broke the confines of the planetapos;s gravity and followed a pre-programmed flight out to the nearest Lagrange point in the local star system.
Lagrange points provided fast and convenient launch points for FTL. Any shuttle or spaceship capable of travelling faster than light departed from a Lagrange point whenever possible, but were only capable of reaching the edge of a solar system as their destination.
While the possibility exists for highly advanced spaceships to arrive at their destinationapos;s Lagrange point, the act was considered near suicidal. It was like threading a needle, except one single mistake could cause the ship to smash itself apart in weird gravitational stresses, leaving the debris to fall into the local sun.
Everyone played it safe, including the transport shuttle. It took only a moment for the shuttle to reach the nearest Lagrange point. It waited in line as other vessels departed first. Once the shuttle came forward, its sleek and narrow form visibly warped into an elongated form before launching into FTL.
quot;Third, do NOT get into an altercation with your rivals from other pilots. Weapos;re all Brighters here, so donapos;t lower your standing in front of the foreigners. We have guests from all over the star sector here, so keep your roles in mind.quot;
After several minutes of appreciating the other mechs on display, he finally reached one of Bosworthapos;s prized possession. Ves squeezed through a crowd of hundreds as they admired and took pictures of the tall, majestic mech.
Seeing it in person made the trip worth it to Ves. He built the mech and several of his personally developed variants many times by hand, but eventually he had to admit his only real experience was in a virtual workshop. How could working with digital code compare to working with real metals and real components?
Even from a healthy distance, Ves felt the Caesar Augustus emanate an air of majesty. It was as if the model was an emperor of mechs, and that it was natural for all other mechs to bow before his presence.
quot;This craftsmanship is good. Itapos;s not a standard model by National Aeromotives, thatapos;s for sure.quot;
With his deep knowledge of the Caesar Augustus, he noticed a few minute traces that spoke of a different fabrication philosophy than what NA or Jason Kozlowski adhered to. These personal touches brought the base model along a different path to its peak.
quot;I wonder if the craftsman who worked on this particular model is aware of how he meshed his own thoughts into the model.quot;
With his extensive research on the X-Factor, Ves started to get a rudimentary sixth sense for the phenomenon. He spent plenty of time watching replays of TheSeventhSnake and Melinda in action, so he knew vaguely how the X-Factor was expressed. He tried to identify the vague sensations of emotions the model emanated, however faintly.
quot;It feels.. the fabricator is old. Experienced. He treated the Augustus as his magnum opus, his best work. He must not have licensed the model himself, but got the opportunity to fabricate it once somehow, perhaps because he got hired for a single job. He relished the chance of being involved with building up an advanced mech, so he treated the work reverently.quot;
The unconscious feeling of worship the old fabricator felt towards the model unintentionally enhanced the end productapos;s awe. Perhaps that was why Bosworth acquired this particular specimen and showed it off in public. It certainly enhanced the chainapos;s prestige.
quot;This was a worthwhile visit. I see now that thereapos;s a slightly different way of regarding the Caesar Augustus.quot;
Ves naturally refused to adopt such a servile philosophy. He believed that men were masters over the machine. No matter how sophisticated the mech, itapos;s still created as a vehicle for a pilot to protect or destroy. Naturally, with his recent studies of the X-Factor, his views had adjusted slightly, but only in the sense that mechs performed best when they were created as similar-minded partners to their pilots. There was no need to go overboard and act as if humans were the slaves in this relationship.
After the fruitful visit, Ves left Bosworthapos;s and walked down a couple of blocks and visited another companyapos;s show room. Though smaller, the seller mainly sold premium mechs, so it received even more attention from the public. A long line of visitors waited in front of the store and Ves had to cough up a much higher fee to finally enter the premises. Seeing the magnificent mechs all around him made him feel he was in mech heaven. But since he was short on time, he only threw a glance before reaching his destination.
The Caesar Augustus Ves saw was virtually identical to the first one. Nevertheless, compared to the previous mech which managed to look imperial, this example seemed.. diminished. Perhaps it was due to the different lighting, or the fact that other expensive mechs surrounded it, but the mech that Ves seemed diminished.
quot;Many people were involved in its construction. The contours and components rigidly adhere to the standards demanded by its design, but thatapos;s the only advantage this model has. Itapos;s like this model is built by an assembly line.quot;
It was a manner of fabricating that spoke of scale, precision and efficiency. Instead of letting one fabricator make all the components by hand, a factory employed many people who all specialize in fabricating one single component. There would be one guy who makes only sensors, another person whoapos;s in charge of armor plating, and so on. This specialization insured they maintained quality while keeping up a decent production pace. One of the worst things that could happen to a large scale manufacturer is the occurrence of faults, so employing specialists or AIs that could take over such a role was key in maintaining consistency.
quot;It works if all you care about is the technical performance of the mech.quot; Ves commented, feeling regretful that the manufacturer had not brought this mech to its full potential. quot;I canapos;t say I blame them. You canapos;t measure X-Factor. Even though I learned so much, even the most renowned experts must still not have any means of quantifying the X-Factor.quot;
You couldnapos;t put any value in an attribute that couldnapos;t be seen or heard. Plenty of mechs with a high potential of X-Factor were treated like disposable trash. That was because industry standards favored mass production over individual craftsmanship. Even the mech designers that start a business by themselves let their employees take over the tedious work of fabricating his models when the designer achieved success. They only bothered crafting hand-made versions of their mech to familiarize themselves with the model and fix any production issues that might occur.
After leaving the show room, Ves intended to visit the show room with the customized version of the Augustus. However, after his comm beeped an alert, he knew he had to return to the hotel. The qualifiers for the YTE started tomorrow morning and he had to wake up early in order to make it in time.
quot;The time for me to prove myself is about to come.quot; He grinned, relishing the chance to showcase his newly acquired abilities in front of a stage.
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