Ves let Ketis stew for a time after he set her straight about her lack of drive and ambition. How could a mech designer ever achieve greater heights if their fires weren't lit?
A passionless mech designer was as useful as a bot and possessed the imagination of a rock. Ves encountered many of these zombie-like mech designers from the lower ranks of the profession. These men and women had become jaded to their careers and had given up their hopes. They barely made ends meet and worked dead-end jobs as mech repairers or mech appraisers.
A mech designer that exclusively dealt with other people's mech designs couldn't be called a mech designer anymore. The core tenet of their shared profession centered around designing mechs. Once they stopped designing mechs, they cut themselves off from any hopes of advancing.
"And that's fine. Not everyone is cut out to be a mech designer."
Too many people wanted to be mech pilots first and mech designers second. They couldn't help it was it was the Age of Mechs. Genes put a hard limit on the former profession, but the second one came with no such restrictions. Anyone with a degree in mech design or equivalent could call themselves a mech designer.
"There are way too many mech designers. If you count them all up, they are enough to meet humanity's market demand at least a million times over."
What did that mean? It meant if the total number of mech designers in the galaxy was a million times left, enough survivors would be left to meet the current market demand!
A lot of mech designers simply gave up on their primary careers and shifted over to become a cog in the vast machine that represented the mech industry. Plenty of functions required in-depth knowledge of mechs. Coupled with a decent education and a good technical background, they wouldn't be lacking for jobs.
"Still, whoever thought it was a good idea to open the floodgates? Schools are accepting way too many students who want to pursue a career in mech design."
Ves had already formulated some guesses why every school was so liberal about teaching mech design. "It's like playing the lottery. Most mech designers are garbage, but if you keep churning out enough of them, eventually you'll find a gem in the rough. The MTA is looking for something, and it hasn't found it yet after so much time."
The root to this policy lay with the Mech Trade Association. The MTA pushed hard to popularize mechs for reasons unknown to pretty much everyone. The Age of Mechs did not come about naturally. It was forced down the throats of humanity after they almost went extinct at the tail end of the Age of Conquest.
In short, the MTA really liked mechs, and they wanted to spread the love. They wanted to raise lot of mech designers quickly, so they initially subsidized mech design courses at many universities.
After four-hundred years, these subsidies should have long turned into dust.
Instead, the opposite happened. The MTA doubled down and increased their support for mech design classes. A standardized mech design degree quickly came about, which at its barebones required at least four years of study to achieve.
Even with an enormous supply glut due to the abundance of mech designers, the MTA still thought there wasn't enough mech designers!
"Is the secret cabal that's in charge of the MTA smoking stimulants all day?"
As a lowly Apprentice Mech Designer, Ves understood little of what went on at the higher levels. They could have been senile brains in jars making incomprehensible decisions in their galactic ivory tower, but they were impregnable in that position. Even if trillions of people complained about how easy it was to become a mech designer, the MTA had never budged even once in over four-hundred years.
Ves encountered the damage of such an outdated policy many times, most recently in Harkensen III where so many mech designers lacked opportunity and gave up their chance at advancement.
Some mech designers had been born to this profession. Ves counted every Master and Senior among them. Someone like Mayra also fell into this category because she managed to climb all the way up to Journeyman from a poor, frontier background.
Each of them overflowed with varying amounts of genius and passion. Though being naturally intelligent or talented in mech design helped out a lot, it was passion that formed the key. Every mech designer he knew who achieved greatness either loved to work with mechs or based their ambitions around them. Ves had never met a single high-ranking mech designer who hated their job.
"The Skull Architect is the most obvious example of this category of mech designer. Even if he faced many setbacks, he is still an indomitable mech designer who has made ends meet in the frontier."
Intelligence combined with motivation often led to dramatic results, for good or ill. No matter how many deaths the Skull Architect was responsible for, Ves still respected him for his achievements and for his unwavering devotion to his design philosophy.
Ves actually felt a lot of sympathy for the poor chap. Having worked on his Leiner Grey intensively for almost a week, Ves never truly realized what a titanic struggle each Senior had to go through. His inhuman drive nonetheless gave the ruined man a chance to pick himself up and return where he left off.
"Between the losers who have given up and the passionate mech designers without fear, there is a middle category as well."
The naive and the normal people fell under this category. These people hadn't been ground down to dust by the mech industry yet. Some eked out a respectable living as a marginally successful small-time mech designer, or became a peripheral member of a larger design team.
A lot of mech designers fell into this category, but Ves noticed that none of them ended up very far. "Their ambition and passion are restrained. Even if they harbor dreams, they are shackled by their own limitations. Most will eventually slide into the loser category, while the rare few are lucky to find a star to guide them to the passionate crowd."
Right now, Ketis fell under this category. She had actually been slowly sliding towards a darker future without being aware about it. What Ves had done was to pull open the veil and showed her the unvarnished reality of what would happen if she went in either direction. Ves hoped by making the case clear to her that she would pick the right direction to work towards.
"All I can do is give her a little nudge. True passion can only be ignited from within."
He already formed a game plan to guide her into seeking out a greater goal. Mayra must have figured that Ketis could start her soul-searching when she was separated from the Swordmaidens. By bringing her out of her comfort zone, she encountered a lot of new stimuli and a different way of working with mechs. The contrast between the familiar and unfamiliar should lead to a lot of soul-searching in the girl.
"This is why relying solely on apprenticeships and mentorships is a faulty, outdated education model. If mech designers are wizards, locking them up in a single tower and inundating them with only their teacher's perspective will lead to a warped student who doesn't know how to survive once they are kicked out of the tower."
The task placed before Ves basically amounted to solving the issues that festered when Ketis studied mech design under a single person instead of attending a proper school. It had long been known that schools were the best environment to raise a proper, rounded mech designer. Even if Ves himself went to a rather crappy school for mech design, the many teachers at least brought him up with all the correct values, customs and principles.
"In the end, if you want to make it further in mech design, you have to work for it. The advantages of money and connections can only give you a head-start and elevate you up to a point. Not a single Journeyman Mech Designer got to their height by being lazy and entitled."
This was also why the mech industry wasn't dominated by mech designers who were born with silver spoons in their mouths. A quality like passion couldn't be bought. It needed to be developed from within.
"It will be difficult to get Ketis up to the right standard. From what I saw from her unfinished variant, she's too far behind in many aspects."
Still, he looked forward to this challenge. It allowed him to exercise his teaching abilities and gain some experience in that aspect.
He enjoyed the act of teaching. His rare tutoring sessions became a pleasure to him. The perspective of his students provided him with fresh and unconventional perspectives on existing theory.
Inwardly, he felt he himself studied too quickly. He absorbed way too much knowledge in a span of less than three years. Through the System and through abusing his transhuman Intelligence attribute, Ves bulldozed through almost every barrier without sweating for it. He felt somewhat guilty at the ease in which he gained most of his knowledge.
"Maybe that's why I am so enthusiastic about knocking on the Skull Architect's door. He treats his knowledge with the reverence they deserve. Not just anyone can come and grab a copy of his knowledge base."
Ves suddenly realized his motivation had some issues as well. Though he was definitely passionate about mech design, the rapid success he enjoyed so far had distorted his priorities.
"What is my dream? What is my goal? What is my aspiration?"
Just like how Ketis used her closeness with the Swordmaidens as a crutch, so did Ves use the various advantages such as the System as a substitute for a proper aspiration.
"So far, I have several goals. I want to grow powerful enough to help my father. I want to reach the pinnacle of mech design and design the best mech in the galaxy. I want to grow my company into a trans-galactic enterprise whose products are sold in every star sector."
Yet these reasons sounded rather hollow to Ves. Certainly, they were decent goals to strive for, but where was the fire? Where was the passion? Just saying that he wanted to help people out, that he wanted to become the best in the galaxy or that he wanted to be the richest human alive sounded like something a six-year old would say.
"It's just like with the river. I'm making too much light of the challenges in my way. I've grown a bit too conceited at my chances of achieving success."
That wasn't good. The moment he grew too arrogant, he would stop struggling for something greater. He previously used the analogy of swimming against the current or floating downstream a river. If he grew too complacent about his development, then he would certainly lose the drive to swim upstream.
"I've got set a real goal. One that is located at the mouth of the river. It has to be a destination that I want to reach at all costs. What do I truly want? What shall be my lifelong dream as a mech designer?"
Thinking about the motivations that drove the likes of the Skull Architect, Mayra and Ketis stimulated him in a way he had never felt before. Out of all of the goals he set throughout his journey, he realized he already formulated a dream he could work towards.
His Spirituality sang within his mind. It was as if his surroundings fell into darkness. Nothing else existed except for himself and his ultimate goal. This was not a selfish goal, nor a limited one. This was a goal set forth by himself but upon achieving it would comprehensively strengthen humanity as a whole.
Achieving this goal would earn him the recognition of his race and immortalize him forever among the greatest scientists and inventors mankind had ever produced.
A torch lit up in his mind, dispelling the darkness around him and giving him an unprecedented amount of mental clarity.
The dream that he wanted to achieve had always been with him from his early days. He wanted to make mechs come alive. Truly alive, in a way that gave people no doubt that the lives of their mechs were worth as much as their own lives.
"Now this is a goal that is worthy for me to pursue."
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