The Big Two possessed a mixed relationship with religion.
A huge chunk of humanity earnestly believed in something greater.

The Mech Trade Association frequently grappled with religion due to their recruitment policies.
If they wanted to recruit promising mech pilots, mech designers and other capable people, they couldn ’t afford to snub the religious side of humanity.

As the self-proclaimed protectors of humanity, they derived their legitimacy from how their internal members partially reflected the people they protected.
If they completely eschewed believers in their ranks, religious states across human space would rebel at being ruled by overbearing secularists!

While the Common Fleet Alliance suffered less from this problem, they too had to take religion into account as many powerful spaceborn clans believed in space gods and the like!

However, even though the Big Two accommodated the beliefs of their internal personnel to an extent, their default stance was that they shouldn ’t be expressed when on duty.

Countless different faiths existed.
Many of them imposed idiosyncratic rules on their adherents.

Some proscribed that men should not be in the same room with women.
Others forced their believers to spit on the face of men with facial hair.
One religion even stated that those with lighter skin tones unquestionably needed to obey the commands of those with darker skin tones!

The big problem with religion in modern humanity was that many of them started off as insincere attempts to control people.
These cults advanced the personal and political interests of their founders.

Because human space was big enough to offer room to countless cults and religions, many of them still existed even though they really shouldn ’t! Some even evolved from a personal cult solely into a huge movement that became rock solid.

The Big Two couldn ’t do anything about them.
The only stance they could realistically adopt was to impose neutrality among their own ranks.

Beliefs needed to be respected, but beliefs should not supercede the rules and regulations of the organization.

This essentially meant that while the MTA lightly accommodated the beliefs of their internal members, it really didn ’t want to deal with the headache of juggling with billions if not trillions of beliefs at once!

Therefore, an internal bias against religion still ran rife within the organization.
Secularists ran much of the Association, and those who were openly devout received much less opportunities.

While many religious members objected to this discrimination, they tolerated each other even less.
Many beliefs clashed against each other, which meant that they could never form a united power bloc to stand up for their collective interests.

While secularists formed their own rivaling power blocs, they all joined hands against the constant encroachment of religion in the workplace.

When Ves met with Professor Kastel Oodiv, he could immediately tell that the Senior was a secularist.
The professor enjoyed an esteemed position within Halcyon Citadel, which meant that at the very least he played by the MTA rules.

Even if Professor Oodiv was a believer, Ves could still work with that as faiths often clashed!

Time went on as Ves became increasingly more unhinged as he continued to ramble about his design philosophy.

”…The power of belief transcends the power of technology! With all the strange metaphysical phenomena that is taking place in the galaxy, I ’m convinced that there is a greater power out there that humanity has sorely neglected! As mech designers, we have the unique opportunity to harness this strange power and to bend them to our will in order to create a new form of life, something that is greater than a man or machine!… ”

In order to annoy the MTA even more, Ves even injected some generous praise towards the CFA! There was nothing worse to the MTA than witnessing mech designers praise the CFA!

”…I ’m sure the MTA knows what has transpired on Aeon Corona VII.
The existence of Sacred Gods firmly proves that my assumptions have merit! The CFA researchers who were stranded on the heavy gravity planet are geniuses for coming up with these species! They went a step ahead of me and turned wild exobeasts into god-like entities! The CFA is such an innovative organization that I couldn ’t help but study their work and take some notes! By following their example, I can pick up where they left off and turn their dreams into reality someday!… ”

Naturally, Ves also made sure not to present himself as a threat to mankind.

”…Mark my words, professor.
A day will come when mechs come alive and demand the same rights as humans in my society! It scares me a bit when I think that living mechs wielding the power of gods might subvert humanity one day, but I don ’t believe that will come true! Whenever mechs become more powerful than the mech pilot, the latter will be able to grow through the man-machine connection, thereby equalizing their power balance! As one side grows, the other one grows as well! That is the meaning behind symbiosis!… ”

Design philosophies were deeply personal to mech designers.
They encapsulated the core of their beliefs, attitudes, assumptions and perspectives on how mechs should be designed!

As Ves spewed his mouth with all the nonsense that he prepared beforehand, he always expressed his full sincerity!

No matter how well the monitoring systems in Professor Oodiv ’s office were able to read his subconscious ticks and body language, Ves did not appear to be telling any lies!

The professor looked increasingly more dazed as Ves rambled on and on about his supposed design philosophy.

So far, Ves hardly invoked any scientific principles or assumptions grounded by reality.
It all leaned heavily towards fantasy and wishful thinking, exactly matching the stereotype associated with Class IX design philosophies!

In fact, the stigma against Class IX design philosophies was so pervasive that some secularists outright referred to the entire lot as superstition!

The Senior finally held up his hand.
”Enough, Mr.
Larkinson! I ’ve heard more than enough to annotate your record in our database.
We firmly understand what you mean now with metaphysical man-machine symbiosis! ”

”Ah, my apologies, professor.
I got caught up for a little bit. ” Ves reined himself in and offered the professor a modest smile.
”It ’s liberating to express my design philosophy without reserve to an open-minded organization like the MTA. ”

”Ah, yes.
Your design philosophy is certainly bold and forward-thinking.
I wish you all the luck in trying to realize your vision! ”

Ves could practically feel the skepticism oozing out of the professor.
The Senior probably made up his mind about the odd and eccentric Journeyman.

The impression that Ves left today would definitely help mark his record with descriptors such as ’superstitious ’, ’irrational ’ and ’CFA sympathiser ’.

Perhaps if Ves was lucky, the professor would even include the phrase ’religious nut ’ in his record, which was the most ideal outcome!

Each additional descriptor worsened the MTA ’s regards towards Ves! Even though he would doubtlessly receive much less care and attention from the Association, Ves didn ’t need their help anyway!

After Ves extensively described his supposed design philosophy, the professor quickly moved on.
After asking a few other questions, the man quickly wrapped up the meeting.

”Congratulations, Mr.
We ’re very satisfied with how forthcoming you ’ve been with us.
We ’ve heard enough to fill out the missing gaps in your record.
You are now cleared to be inducted as a Journeyman Mech Designer and a galactic citizen.
Please follow your assigned android as it will guide you to the Master Hall to conduct the ceremony. ”

While Ves was all smiles as he followed Delta-Gina out of the design center, he strongly suspected that this wasn ’t part of his original treatment.
Due to the awful impression that he left behind, the professor couldn ’t wait to shoo Ves away from his office!

From what Ves had guessed, the induction ritual should have been a solemn occasion where newly-advanced Journeymen developed the beginnings of an intimate bond with the MTA.

For the professor to skip his involvement in this ceremony and let a worthless android take it over was the strongest sign that Ves had succeeded in his plan!

This was why he freely smiled as he obediently followed after Delta-Gina as they stepped on a floater platform and traveled deeper into the bowels of Halcyon Citadel.

The space fortification ’s monitoring systems may believe that Ves was happy because he was about to be confirmed as a Journeyman and a galactic citizen.
In truth, he felt relieved that the MTA regarded him with the same fondness as a spoiled nutrient pack!

”The smellier, the better. ” He muttered, probably making himself appear more unhinged in Delta-Gina ’s company.

Ves quite enjoyed this experience, actually.
Even though he did not express his true thoughts, this was the first time he described the essence of his design philosophy to someone else.

Regardless if he distorted his explanation by dialing up the crazy, Ves truly felt sublime by releasing some of his repressed thoughts.

This must be what the new living prophet meant.
He did indeed feel cleansed by coming clean!

Of course, part of this was because he still wore the mask of a superstitious mech designer.
Ves did not plan to shed his mask until he left Halcyon Citadel!

Only until he left the inner sanctum of the MTA would Ves feel relieved to drop his act.
Until then, Ves needed to make sure to exhibit as little loopholes as possible!

After around twenty minutes of travel, the floater platform departed from the stream of traffic and descended next to a highly-secured section that was close to the core of Halcyon Citadel.

They waited a short moment in front of the huge double doors before a pair of mech designers and an android exited the hall.

The internal Journeyman guiding the newly-ascended mech designer looked oddly at Ves and his sole company before turning away dismissively.

[Please enter the Master Hall, Mr.
Larkinson.] Delta-Gina beckoned.
[The induction ritual will begin when you reach the end of the hall.]

Ves stepped inside, followed demurredly by his android.
He dropped his smile as soon as the double doors closed.

The Master Hall exhibited a number of mechs.
Each stood to either side of Ves as he slowly walked forward.
Ves instantly recognized that all of the mechs had been designed by Masters.

While they encompassed a wide variety of mech types and production dates, the mechs each exhibited a strong sense of power.
All of them were first-class mechs that showcased the pinnacle of what mech design could offer at their respective mech generations.

The oldest mechs were placed at the front of the hall.
As Ves walked further and further, he encountered newer mechs.
Each new pair of mechs to his left and right seemed to showcase the advancements that mech designers achieved over their predecessors.

Ves felt touched by this experience.
These mechs had been placed here to inspire the Journeymen who were about to undergo the induction ritual.
Perhaps one day their own mechs would grace the Master Halls of the MTA!

As Ves stepped to the other end of the hall, he was flanked by modern mechs that could definitely put Axelar ’s Ouroboros to shame.

At the end of the hall was a well-like pit that plunged through the floor and led to a seemingly bottomless abyss.

Floating in the middle was a contained ball of antimatter.

This was a highly potent amount of mass and energy! If handled improperly, the entire Master Hall would probably blow up, with him inside!

The android that accompanied him took no notice of this highly-energetic mass that hovered a stone ’s throw away from the pair.

Larkinson, the induction ritual will now begin.
In order to be inducted as a Journeyman Mech Designer and a galactic citizen, you must repeat the Mech Designer ’s Oath.
Only by abiding by the principles of the Mech Trade Association will you be able to practice your profession responsibly and earn the trust of your clients.]

”Understood. ” Ves nodded.

He was familiar with the MTA ’s principles and he agreed with them.

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