His brief blunder with Iris aside, the rest of the installation proceeded without issue. Once the cockpit's interior became whole again, they invited the mech pilot assigned to this Inheritor to test it out.
"Will anything really change?" Chief Carmon asked with a healthy dose of skepticism.
"I know it doesn't seem very impactful, but it's been proved that the surroundings of a mech pilot can drastically influence the way he pilots his mech. A pilot who is uncomfortable in his own mech will only be able to exert eighty percent of his full potential."
Ves quoted an old study that actually tested this premise out. Put a mech pilot in a rotting old rusted cockpit, and his performance fell off a cliff.
Nevertheless, adding excessive comforts in the cockpit risked a backfire as mech pilots tended to become more complacent while they piloted. They lost their edge and became less alert.
After decades of experimentation, the mech industry came to a consensus that the best cockpit was a clean and sterile environment. Any comfort provided to the pilot should be understated and invisible. It should facilitate the mech pilot for long stretches of time without inducing too much physical discomfort. It should also be uncomfortable enough to keep the mech pilots on his toes.
All of this sounded simple at first glance, but in practice it was very hard to apply. Every mech designer held their own ideas on how far they needed to go in terms of inducing comfort and tension.
Ves had always leaned towards the camp that stated that the best way to go was to go with comfort. It fit well with the Blackbeak and the Crystal Lord designs, as they had both been designed to operate for long stretches of time. The X-Factor was also strongly associated with comfort, though not everyone bought this line of thinking.
Many mech designers found excessive attention to this area to be a massive waste of time. Ves remembered his last visit to Leemar, where he got entangled in a design duel with Oleg. Master Olson's genius disciple strongly believed that designing a stronger mech mattered the most.
"Would you rather sit in a comfy chair as your mech falls short and explodes, or sit in a neutral chair and ride your mech to victory?"
In any case, Chief Carmon and Lieutenant Chandis shared the same skepticism as they watched the mech pilot clamber into the completely renewed cockpit.
"Everything is shifted!" The mech pilot broadcasted from the cockpit. "Give me a couple of minutes! I have to relearn where everything is positioned!"
They waited and waited until the Inheritor finally booted up. The slim mech came to live and started to stretch its hands and fingers.
"How is it going so far?" Ves asked while he glanced at the control panel that showed the Inheritor's parameters. Everything looked green so far. "Are you feeling okay?"
"Okay? This is more than okay! I feel great!"
The mech pilot displayed the usual exuberance of someone who got dosed in the X-Factor for the first time of their life. Ves was highly familiar to such reactions, so as soon as he heard the jubilation in the voice, he knew he succeeded.
The mech he worked on radiated a faint pressure. It was very weak, and were it not for his highly tuned senses and his knowledge on what to look out for, Ves wouldn't have been able to spot it. He was afraid that his work on the cockpit was too inconsequential to count, but evidently his fears could be put to rest.
Back at the professor's office, Ves and Iris waited in their seats as Velten finished parsing the readings.
"I see that your test pilot has performed up to twenty-eight percent better than usual at the start, but diminished as the simulated combat tests dragged on. How can you prove it's not the placebo effect at work?"
Professor Velten doubted the effectiveness of his changes. She insinuated that the only reason the mech pilot delivered a better performance than the norm was because he was motivated to do so and he mistakenly believed the rearranged cockpit would measurably improve his piloting ability.
Many times, the performance of a mech pilot hinged on his beliefs. If he believed a battle could be won, his morale would be high. If he believed he was being sent into a hopeless battle, his morale would be rock-bottom and he would be constantly be thinking about escaping rather than winning the battle.
If Ves had access to more mechs, he could have setup a rigorous experiment to prove that it wasn't just a delusion at work. Unfortunately, he was only allowed to work on a single mech, so he couldn't provide any hard data to prove otherwise.
He instead turned to another argument he prepared beforehand. "I can't rule out the influence of the placebo effect, but suppose that this may be true, what does it matter? Any chance we can increase the performance of the mech pilots of the Inheritor is one we should grasp. Even if the mech pilots find out the truth and the placebo effect loses its strength, we've already reaped the benefits by then. Truth or false, the twenty-eight percent performance boost is very real."
Velten looked very severe at Ves. "You are playing a dangerous game here. You are playing with the fundamental trust that mech pilots have bestowed on mech designers such as you and me. They entrust us with the design of their war steeds. What you have just suggested is a violation of the responsibilities we hold as mech designers."
The accusation bit deep into Ves. The professor wasn't wrong. Ves essentially tried to pass of snake oil as medicine to their gullible mech pilots. Once they found out the truth, every mech designer aboard the Wolf Mother would suffer a collective loss of trust and intimacy.
"The consequences are heavy, but what's a little scorn compared to a failed operation and the defeat and dissolution of the 6th Flagrant Vandals? We need to pull out all the stops for the upcoming system assault. In my opinion, we shouldn't be afraid of resorting to short-term gains that come with a price. As long as we delay the payment, anything is justified."
If his ethics professor back at the Rittersberg University of Technology could hear his words, the old man would smack his face until his cheeks turned red.
Professor Velten shook in her seat, and it seemed as if she contemplated doing the same, despite the risk of breaking her fragile hands. A few seconds later, she subsided for some reason.
"Do you know that the MTA routinely investigate egregious violations to the code of conduct of mech designers? You do not have to break the law to run afoul of their Compliance Department."
Mentioning the Compliance Department sent a chill through the backs of Ves and Iris. The relatively boring administrative name belied the enormous amount of power they wielded over human space. They enforced the rules set by the MTA and more famously cracked down on any organization that violated the fundamental taboos set at the start of the Age of Mechs.
One of those taboos happened to be a prohibition on the development and propagation of weapons of mass destruction, something which Ves had deliberately stepped upon a while ago. If the MTA ever found out that he worked on a gamma laser rifle, the Compliance Department would hunt for him to the ends of the galaxy.
In short, Ves did not wish to be investigated by the Compliance Department.
Yet on the matter of the cockpit, Ves believed that the MTA had better things to do. They wouldn't move out their Compliance Department over a small violation of ethics.
"The ends justify the means, especially since the means don't come with a heavy price." He retorted calmly. "Trust can be regain and bridges can be rebuilt, but the dead can never be brought back to life. What's the harm of telling a couple of white lies?"
This argument weakened the Senior's resolve, but it hadn't been able to tear down her adherence to the rules. "Beneficial or not, it is wrong to deceive the mech pilots. I won't accept any deception in my department."
This old hag! Ves wanted to curse this stubborn Senior, but held his emotions in check. He absolutely couldn't afford to reveal his true emotions. His face slipped into an impassive expression as he extended another argument.
"Ma'am, too much is at stake for you to make this decision on your own. Compared to a short-term performance boost of up to thirty percent, it's a lot better than any other proposal. Why not take it up to Colonel Lowenfield and let her decide? As the commander of this regiment, she should have the ultimate say on what is best for herr mech pilots."
This seemed to resonate with Professor Velten. She mentioned the code of conduct to illustrate why he shouldn't propose his plans, so Ves threw it back in her face.
The code of conduct stated that mech designers who worked on behalf of a client should be responsive to their demands. Mech designers also needed to be open and transparent about their work, and be ready to flip their designs in a completely new direction if their clients demanded any major shifts.
Ves basically maneuvered the professor into kicking the issue upstairs. If Velten refused to bring the issue up to Colonel Lowenfield, then she would prove that she was a hypocrite who didn't live by the rules she espoused.
Eventually, the professor came to a decision. "Wait a moment."
A screen that shielded most sounds and transmissions from leaking out sprang up around the professor. Ves patiently waited as Velten rang up the colonel and presumably discussed his proposal.
Several minutes later, the screen disappeared and Velten came back into clear view. Her wrinkled lips pursed with discontent. "The colonel, in her eminent wisdom, has decided that the stakes are too high. She has weighed the extra work your proposal demands and the downsides to lying to our own mech pilots against the benefits that it might bring."
And? Ves wanted to ask, but he kept his eagerness from bursting out his words.
"She approved your proposal. In fact, she gave us broad discretion on how to reschedule the planning so that we can deliver the finished mechs to the mech pilots at the right time. Too soon, and the placebo effect will wear off before we launch the assault. Too late, and the mech pilots won't be accustomed to the buckethead interface and the other changes."
Ves and Iris grinned. Were it not for sitting in front of a Senior, they would have whooped and cheered.
The most important thing was that Ves finally got something solid past the professor's walls. Sure, he might have pissed her off, but he didn't take it too hard. His goals were pure.
The professor spoke again. "You shall be held responsible for coming up with this proposal and implementing it to as many Inheritors as possible. Work with the planners at logistics to get this done. I don't want my hands to be stained with this project."
"Will do, professor." Ves bowed his head in thankfulness.
Though he hadn't expected to be held responsible for the broad implementation of his design changes, it was an unexpected boost for him. For as long as Ves stayed aboard the Wolf Mother, he had never gotten exposed to any other major assets of the Vandals. He didn't know how many ships they owned and how many mechs they could field.
He could finally fill in some of the gaps in his knowledge if he was given the right access. Anyone else might think this job was a bother, but Ves saw it as a prime opportunity to learn more about the Vandals.
Please go to https://www.qzxyzy.com/The-Mech-Touch/
to read the latest chapters for free