The Mech Touch Chapter 1005
1003 Brief Reunion
Ves always yearned to take possession of the Mech Designer System again despite its complex origin and hidden dangers. His time with the Mech Corps and Flashlight exposed him to so many dangers that he felt horribly inadequate at the challenges facing him. Improving his Attributes, acquiring new Skills and purchasing some life-saving talismans would go a long way in improving his odds for survival.
Yet now that it was just meters away from him, he did not even dare to glance at it even once!
It was too dangerous at the moment!
Even if he could make use of his personal comm's Privacy Shield and Stealth Augment to hide his form from electronic and biological monitoring, it would still raise too many alarms. In the worst case, the security guards stationed outside might barge in and inspect everyone's possessions!
Ves could not risk exposing the System, even indirectly!
Perhaps he could fool some standard monitoring systems and some normal security guards, but Leland had only just disappeared from the room! Considering how crafty and devious the Flashlight intelligence officer turned out to be, Ves could not rule out that he remained in this room under stealth or that dozens of analysts observed a live feed of the room at this very moment!
As the fake assassination attempt on him already proved, Ves should know better than to underestimate Flashlight!
Therefore, even though the temptation called out to him, Ves already resolved to leave the System alone for a while longer. While improving himself could make him stronger and increase his chances of survival, the opposite would happen if he carelessly showed off the System in front of Flashlight.
"Ves, Mr. Larkinson, I'm sorry." Calsie apologetically bowed. "I haven't managed to take good care of the Living Mech Corporation. Our debt burden has grown so large that we've had to take on new loans to pay off the old loans."
That sounded very bad. It meant the company hadn't been earning enough money to cover their short-term debt obligations. Rolling over debt like this only made the debt burden snowball into an even greater burden in the future.
Without an increase in earnings or a significant outside investment, the LMC would never be able to escape such a huge debt trap!
"You don't have to apologise." He replied gently. "I've already heard some of the details from Marcella Bollinger. You did the best you could under the circumstances and kept the company afloat. The debt that's piling up is just a sum of money. When I get back, I'll find a way to reduce the burden. For now, you should keep doing what you can to keep the company afloat."
He didn't tell her about how the Ministry of Economic Development would soon divest themselves from his business. The transfer of ownership would only take place after the war.
"Tell me a bit more about the business. Have sales recently spiked?"
Calsie smiled. "That's some very welcome news. I don't know what you and Marcella did, but all the media exposure has revitalized our sales. When word about your near-death and the scandals at the KNG became hot news recently, I made sure to pull out all the stops to advertise your connection to the LMC. Interest in our products have spiked and our sales volume has doubled! We're doing so well for the moment that we've increased our prices and stopped incurring more debts."
"That's good to hear."
"It's hard for a mech company to stand out in the market." She smiled bitterly. "We're really lucky that you stood out in the news, especially in such a good light. The veteran demographic has become some of our most important customers now, and I think their loyalty to our brand will endure the most."
Publicity raised interest, and interest led to increased sales. Yet playing around with publicity was a double-edged sword. Right now, with the help of the Bright Republic's propaganda machine, public opinion firmly stood on his side, but how long would that last? The next time Ves might show up on the news, it might cast him in a negative light instead!
Even though any publicity no matter how bad it sounded led to increased sales due to allowing his company to stand out from the crowd, Ves knew it would be difficult to keep the public interested.
Right now, Ves didn't believe he had the charisma necessary to form a cult of personality for the benefit of his company. Certain 'celebrity' mech designers easily drew attention from the media with their antics, thereby raising sales of their mechs like other celebrities raised the sales of the products they sponsored.
Even though Ves tasted the benefits of celebrity recently, he felt it would be a better idea to keep his head out of the clouds. In the end, the most reliable way to sell mechs was to keep designing good products. So long as his core business was sound, buyers would continue to purchase his mechs.
He said as much to Calsie. "Don't go too far with wild promotions, and don't try and rush production at the expense of quality. While it's important to make enough money to keep the company afloat for the next five years, it's very hard to regain our reputation for quality once we slip up. Focus on running a steady business instead of profiteering from the moment."
"Got it." She nodded.
The two discussed some more business decisions, but Ves only made an idle comment every now and then. He already resolved to overhaul the company's entire structure in the future once he returned. Therefore, while the current situation didn't sound very great, it at least ensured the company's stability in the short and medium term.
"How are the Avatars of Myth doing?" He asked.
"Melkor couldn't come as he is still needed to hold down the fort at the Mech Nursery." Calsie replied. "He's managed to raise a full company of mech pilots based around a core force of Blackbeaks and Crystal Lords. He's especially ecstatic about the latter."
"How about the spaceborn mech contingent? If I recall, the Avatars should have received the two light carriers that I've previously ordered."
Calsie's smile grew strained. "About that.. As money is rather tight lately, Melkor and I have decided it would be unwise to expand our mech roster. Right now, we've already hired more than forty mech pilots, but Melkor thinks it's better to hire and train some spares as private sector mech pilots can't be expected to be available for duty all the time like servicemen."
This was an important difference. Just because the Avatars of Myth hired forty mech pilots didn't mean that they could deploy all of them at the same time. They all received the same rights as every other mech pilot working in a private capacity, and that meant giving them plenty of off-time to spend with their families or on something else.
"That's a prudent decision. I approve." Ves nodded. "What about our ships, though?"
"Well, Fleet Commander Rofane who you've hired to take charge of our light carriers is quite pissed off that they're relegated to taxis for landbound mechs. He threatened to quit several times because he feels his abilities are going to waste."
Ves waved an indifferent hand. "Let him go if he wants to. You don't have to bend over backwards to retain him. We can always find someone else to lead the fleet."
They talked a little bit further before Ves became satisfied with the existing arrangements. The Avatars of Myth had already undergone a few scuffles since the war broke out as the Mech Nursery was an attractive, isolated war target to the BLM and the Vesians.
Yet the strength the Avatars showed surpassed the previous desperate defense effort against Lady Amalia's small raiding force.
Even though they numbered fewer mechs in total, the Avatars consisted entirely of either midrange or premium mechs. On top of that, all of the mech pilots that Melkor hired all possessed prior battle experience, with many of them even consisting of veterans.
While it was very expensive to retain so many well-trained mech pilots, their worth immediately became clear as the Avatars of Myth could easily leverage the fixed defenses of the Mech Nursery to repel twice the number of attacking mechs!
The cost of raiding the LMC's Mech Nursery thereby grew to such an extent that it formed a significant barrier against any plots to attack the manufacturing facility!
Once he finished talking to Calsie, Ves turned his attention to Ketis. "How have you been holding up all this time?"
"Pff." She snorted. "Civilized space is such a boring place. There's hardly anywhere to go for a good fight. Your spoilsport of a cousin Melkor even forbid me from bringing my greatsword outside! Says I threatened to chop up too many people! How else would I let others know I mean business?"
Ves smiled haplessly at her. "That's life in the Republic. Don't underestimate the amount of trouble you can get into if you get into a fight with someone. How is your mech design work going?"
"I'm bored. There's nothing to do at the LMC except to study your books. Nobody there wants me to design mechs for the company. They say I'm not good enough."
Ketis threw a stink eye at Calsie, probably resenting her for being one of the critics.
"They're all right." He said. "You still have a ways to go before you can become a qualified mech designer for the LMC. For now, why don't you practice with designing virtual mechs? That's how I used to practice my design skills. The LMC may not accept your designs, but it's different for virtual mechs."
She looked thoughtful at that suggestion. "I've heard of it but I never bothered with it before. Back in the frontier, it wasn't exactly easy to open a design account for those virtual mech simulator games."
"That won't be problem here. Did the Mech Trade Association add you to their membership rolls?"
"Then that means you're already eligible."
Mayra didn't invest a significant amount of her fortune for nothing. While any crook could forge an identity on the fly, it took a lot more effort to construct one tight enough to endure a casual scrutiny from the MTA!
"Do yourself a favor, Ketis, and start getting some practice in. While designing virtual mechs is simplified in many ways from designing a real mech, you'll still be able to get the hang of the latter. Start with purchasing an existing virtual license of a good mech and play around from there. Right now, it's too much for you to design a mech from scratch."
Even though Ves disparaged mech designers that continued to stick to designing variants, it nonetheless offered an easy path to greater proficiency for starting mech designers. Right now Ketis desperately needed to flex her design skills while she was still young and malleable.
"By the way, Ves, Lucky here missed you too. Go give him a smooch!" Ketis said and threw the mechanical cat at Ves!
Though Lucky landed on his healing chest with some force, causing him to utter out a cry.
However, his irritation quickly faded as Lucky rubbed his cheek against his body. Ves truly missed his pet's company. He idly rubbed his companion's back with a smile, though he also did his best to avoid staring at the comm dangling around the neck.
"You didn't get into trouble lately, did you Lucky?"
"Meow." Lucky replied ambiguously while he continued to act cute.
Ves had a feeling that Lucky wasn't entirely being truthful in his answer, but it probably wasn't a big deal. Surely he couldn't have stirred up any major trouble on a quiet planet like Cloudy Curtain, could he?
"Did Lucky get up to any mischief while I wasn't there?"
"Not as far as I know, boss." Calsie shook her head. "He's been a great companion to me so far."
With Lucky's combat and observational abilities, he formed the best bodyguard to Calsie while she continued to lead the company. Seeing as his cat faithfully follow his instructions on this matter made him feel relieved.
"Good. Make sure to keep a handle on him and don't let him wander around."