The Mech Touch Chapter 1014

1012 Bargaining Chip

As Ves exited Professor Ventag's stateroom, he nervously wiped his brow. He managed to weasel his way out of the potential offer with a noncommittal answer.

Regardless, Ves received a standing invitation to come teach at the Dorum Center of Technology and Innovation as long as he advanced to Journeyman and became respected among the ranks of other Journeymen.

To be honest, Ves saw a lot of appeal in accepting a teaching position at the DCTI. As the second-best school of mech design in the Republic, it still earned quite some renown. Anyone talented enough to teach at the university instantly stood out from other mech designers.

His stature in the mech industry would increase, and the market responded quite well to mechs designed by professors from renowned universities. In addition, Ves would be able to get in touch with a lot of other Journeymen and Seniors the DCTI employed.

However, the down side to teaching at the DCTI was the political implications of aligning himself to their camp. Professor Ventag made it very clear that the Tovars and perhaps the central government at Rittersberg explicitly supported the DCTI in an attempt to dethrone the Ansel University of Mech Design.

To an outsider to the conflict like Ves, the rivalry seemed way too overblown. While he understood the apprehension towards the collective power of the AUMD, it also did a lot of good for the Republic. It didn't seem to him that Ansel held any nefarious intentions to the state.

Those Ansel brats that Ves corralled for half a year at Frozen Point Research Base showed that while they possessed a greater foundation, it didn't necessarily make them great mech designers. They just graduated at a higher starting point and if they were lucky they could make use of their Ansel association to get access to easy startup funds or good employment opportunities.

"Even so, Ansel has produced so many Senior Mech Designers that they are practically in control of the Bright Republic's mech industry."

If every Ansel Senior came to a decision on something, everyone else had no choice but to obey. This even took on the form of a formal institution called the Bentheim Mech Court which was a gathering of ten of the most renowned and prestigious Seniors in the Republic!

The fear that Rittersberg held towards Ansel was that it firmly held root in Bentheim. Every mech designer that graduated from that school considered themselves a Bentheimer as well as a citizen of the Republic.

Sometimes, the Ansel alumni balanced both loyalties without any difficulties. In extreme cases, however, the former took precedence to disastrous results.

The DCTI, as pathetic as it seemed in comparison, served as Rittersberg's main thrust towards the AUMD. Both schools had been locked into bitter rivalry ever since the central government stoked the conflict.

Right now, Ves mainly stood apart from this conflict due to his low stature within the mech industry. He was able to get away from Professor Ventag without a commitment because of that.

Still, to Ves it seemed that he was merely postponing a necessary decision. Eventually, he would advance to Journeyman and become someone successful enough to attract scrutiny from both camps.

The problem was that Ves stood opposite to Ansel from the very start. Not only did he study at Rittersberg, he also became apprenticed, if only tenuously, to a foreign Master Mech Designer. Both of these traits instantly disqualified him from entering their exclusive circle.

"Therefore, I can either stay neutral or throw my lot with the DCTI."

Staying neutral allowed him to stay above these petty conflicts. It also afforded him no extra privileges in the Bright Republic's mech industry.

From his time at the KNG, Ves knew that as mech companies became bigger and more influential, politics played a greater in keeping them aloft. Having strong allies shielded his company to an extent.

Yet was this protection enough to side with the DCTI? Ves did not follow the normal career trajectory of a mech designer from the Republic. With the help of the System, he possessed much less reliance on the help of others to advance his mech design skills.

As long as he improved, why should he knock on someone else's door and beg for help?

The strongest advantage the System gave him was that it enabled him to be self-sufficient!

Therefore, the most prudent and rational course of action for him was to stay aloof of the rivalry between the two institutions. Certainly, Ves wouldn't be the first mech designer to do so. In fact, he vaguely knew that many other mech designers with ties to the Friday Coalition did so as well.

"In fact, I've already joined a camp. The Clifford Society and Master Olson are both powerful if exceedingly distant backers."

Still, though they both wielded a lot of clout, they were very distant and the help they could provide to Ves was limited.

It might be one thing if Ves began to relocate his business to the Friday Coalition, but as long as he remained in the Bright Republic he still couldn't get away with everything. Therefore, siding with one of the two institutions would still help him pass through various difficulties.

As Ves continued to weigh the merits of associating himself with the DCTI as opposed to staying neutral, he headed towards the Felicitous Remembrance's dining room for a meal.

The dining room befitted the Remembrance's luxurious aesthetic. As Ves saw more of the ship, he got the notion that she was much more than met the eye. As Ves sat down a semi-enclosed table and ordered some plain dishes from the projected menu, he knocked his knuckle against the surface of the ornate dining table.

"This is compressed alloy!"

Who would waste so much money constructing nearly indestructible tables? While the bulkheads and most of the structure of the Remembrance didn't make use of compressed alloys, they did make use of large amounts of very strong alloys that Ves found a bit too extravagant to justify.

Of course, it wasn't any of his business where Senator Tovar chose to spend his money.

As a couple of bots hovered by to drop the dishes, Ves began to dig in. "This is good!"

While Ves didn't mind a nutrient pack to get by for the day, it felt good to indulge once in a while. Still, Ves kept Professor Velten's warning in mind about overindulging in pleasures.

For some reason, Ves thought that Professor Ventag took an excessive amount of interest in his political concerns. His participation in the Tovar Peace Delegation and his intricate involvement with the central government and the Tovar Family put him knee-deep into politics.

"Will he even have enough time left to spend on furthering his own career?" Ves idly wondered. "Ventag didn't even discuss actual mech design topics with me. It's as if he is more of an official than a mech designer."

Certainly, Ves recognized that almost every mech designer needed to be a bit of a politician in order to navigate the higher echelons of power. Government and businesses inevitably began to intermingle considering the huge sums involved.

Yet for a mech designer to strive so much on behalf of someone else weirded Ves a little out. None of the other Seniors he met appeared to hold much regard for politics.

Halfway into his meal, someone abruptly arrived and sat at the other end of the table.

"Yo! Do you mind if I sit here?" A slightly accented voice asked. It sounded vaguely familiar to Ves. "Everyone else aboard this damned ship is too old or stuck up to keep me company! I'm surprised they let someone as young as you in their club!"

Startled, Ves looked up and saw a handsome man around his age or a little older staring back at him. His handsome countenance, his noble bearing, his masculine clothing and his wild blond hair all seemed very familiar to Ves!

"Lord Javier! What are you doing here?!" Ves asked with a startled tone!

Javier frowned for a moment. "You know me?"

"How could I not? We hunted you down with great effort and great sacrifice. Your Loquacious Raphael made a big impression against the Vandals!"

This prompted Javier to study Ves in greater detail. He took in the various awards and began to suspect something. "You were with the Vandals?"

Ves saw no harm in admitting it. "I was."

This caused the Vesian noble to color a bit. Obviously, he hadn't entirely gotten over the way the Vandals defeated him in battle and hunted him down while he tried to escape under stealth.

For the both of them to meet each other aboard the Felicitous Remembrance seemed to be quite the coincidence!

When the Flagrant Vandals finally took Lord Javier into custody, they ostensibly handed him over to the Vesian Revolutionary Front. This allowed the VRF to execute the abusive noble for the many crimes he committed against the citizens of the Detemen System.

Yet secretly, the Vandals kept him alive and in captivity all this time in a hidden compartment deep inside the Shield of Hispania.

Ves never heard what the Vandals did with Lord Javier. He wasn't part of Major Verle's inner circle back then so did not get any opportunity to meet the noble scion in person.

For Lord Javier to avoid being executed and for him to be present here drew Ves' curiosity.

"Are you a prisoner here?" Ves asked simply.

"Nah. I'm a 'guest'." Lord Javier shrugged and slumped in his chair. "Since you know who I really am, I guess it can't hurt to tell you that I'm a bargaining chip in the upcoming negotation."

Ves nodded in understanding. "Your father, the head of House Eneqqin, would love to have you back. Yet would the rest of your House even want you back for all you've done? Not only did you fail to defend the Detemen System against the Vandal raids, you've been missing for what, two years?"

Lord Javier grinned and waved aside those arguments. "My father is powerful enough to dismiss those faults. All the other useless dolts of House Eneqqin aren't a match for me when I'm back inside the cockpit! That alone makes it worth it for father to get me back! Anything else that's inconvenient to me can be scrubbed from the records just like any other stains. No one except the locals will remember the Detemen raid in five years time."

"How wonderfully convenient of you nobles." Ves dryly remarked.

Just as the high officials of the Bright Republics sought to bend the rules in their favor, so did the nobles of the Vesia Kingdom. The only difference was that the Vesian way was a lot more direct due to their greater authority!

"Say, I've seen you in the news." Lord Javier looked at Ves in a speculative way. "You're that combat-tested mech designer, right? From the famous Larkinson line as well. Your family has a bad reputation in my state, you know. If any of our mech pilots can prove they killed one of you bastards, they would earn a lot of merit. It's even better if we kill your expert candidates. Any commoner can instantly become a knight if they killed someone like Ghanso Larkinson!"

Ves felt really weird talking face to face with an unabashed Vesian noble. "I'm glad to hear that the Larkinsons have been thorns in the side of you Vesians."

"Ah, well, it's all fun and games in the war, am I right?" Lord Javier flippantly said. "To be honest, I quite enjoy my vacation among you guys. Spending some time away from my duties and sitting out on the war while other poor sods are fighting and dying for no reason is quite the lucky chance."

"The people who are fighting at the frontlines are doing so for a cause. I don't think you should belittle their sacrifices."

"Pff. They're merely sheep. People live and die all the time. If not in this war, then some other stupid conflict. The Reinald Republic's pirate problem has already proved that people can't sit still."

For some reason, Ves vaguely thought that Lord Javier shared a lot in common with Senator Tovar. They both treated the lives of others like currency. At least the senator had the decency to claim he worked on behalf of the state. In comparison, Lord Javier didn't hide the fact that he was a callous bastard outside a public setting.