The Mech Touch Chapter 1096
1094 A Changed Gang
On an impulse, Ves decided to take Ketis along with this trip. Unlike some of his cousins, the daughter of the frontier was a lot more accustomed to dealing with thugs and lowlives.
"Bring your sword along." He even told her before they left. "The big one. Not the small one that makes you look like a duelist."
Ketis looked puzzled. Did Ves actually told her to bring along her sword? After so many times of trying to get her to leave it behind?
"Why the sudden change of heart?"
"The people we are about to meet are similar to the pirates you've dealt with in the frontier. If you want to earn their respect, you have to show you mean business. I've already proven myself to the Whalers with my money and abilities. You're completely new to them so it's best if you make the right impression."
Ketis grinned. "Okay. I'll go get my greatsword."
She returned a moment later with a floating scabbard following from behind. Ves noticed that she was actually carrying her CFA sword!
"Do you still have your CFA gear, Ketis?"
"No." She shook her head in resentment. She sent a glare at Lucky, who decided to tag along as well by clinging to Ves' shoulder. "I stored by CFA armor and comm in the same vault as your other CFA gear. You cat ate it all. The only reason why I still have my sword is because I carried it around constantly. I even hug it to sleep, you know."
Ves furrowed his brows. How did the CFA miss her sword when they scanned the entire planet of CFA gear?
Then again, the greatsword did not exactly look very sophisticated. Although it incorporated a small amount of electronics, it was essentially a piece of alloy forged into the shape of a sword. It was hardly the best example of high technology in the eyes of the CFA.
Perhaps to them, a sword was as worthless as a bunch of nutrient packs.
"Well, I'm happy that you still retain your CFA greatsword. It's really sharp."
"Thanks. I already taught Lucky a lesson for messing with my gear. You aren't going to eat my sword, are you, little fellow?"
"Meow!" Lucky let out in an aggrieved yowl and buried his face in Ves' shoulder.
Ves squeezed his pet a little tighter. "Pff. Serves you right, you gluttonous little cat. You shouldn't eat other people's possessions, you know."
They moved into an armored shuttle provided by SASS which departed from the Mech Nursery and flew towards Freslin alongside a small escort of shuttles carrying armed men.
Although Ves disliked the escort, as a prominent mech designer, business leader and friend of the Tovars, he couldn't rule out that someone might have designs on his life. He was certainly no stranger to assassination attempts!
As soon as they touched down in a guarded landing zone owned by the LMC and reserved for their use, Ves and Ketis stepped out of the shuttle and descended upon the streets.
While Ketis made sure to wear a poofy beret over her head to hide her most unusual visual trait, Ves made no attempts to hide his identity. The armed guards around him made sure that any attempts to remain incognito would fail.
"It's him! Ves Larkinson!"
The public quickly recognized him and called out attention to his presence. Although the presence of guards made them think better of approaching Ves, they still gawked at him like he was a god who descended from heaven!
"How wealthy do you think he is? He's a billionaire right?"
"Ves Larkinson is a hero of the war! He's the only mech designer who received the Golden Mech in the last war!"
"Marry me! Please marry me!"
The overall reaction of the public even took Ves a little aback. Freslin had changed, and the people who lived in it had changed as well.
The influx of highly-paid managers and workers in the region practically led to a renaissance in Freslin. A lot of new construction took place as the workers of the LMC spent much of their salaries in the city. Everyone needed a place to live and somewhere to unwind. The nightlife of Freslin had received a particularly notable boost in recent times!
As Ves, Ketis and Lucky slowly made their way towards the bar where they agreed to meet with Dietrich, they also encountered more blatant examples of the influence the LMC exerted over the city.
Sprinkled along these new commercial ventures, Ves saw a brand new police station, hospital and even a park that bore the logo of the LMC! All of these public services received some form of sponsorship from the company over the years. The blatant injection of the LMC into the lives of the people of Freslin served to make the company an indispensable part of the city!
Whatever Ves thought of this engagement by the company, the citizens of Freslin loved it! Cloudy Curtain had never been a prosperous planet, and the farming consortiums would rather invest their money in Orinoco. For Freslin to finally enjoy the same treatment as the capital city came as a pleasant surprise to most citizens who saw their quality of life improve.
"With the way your company plays such a big role in the lives of the locals, you're practically their ruler." Ketis joked.
"It's not the responsibility of the LMC to provide public services. That's the government's job."
"Well, the government obviously didn't care before you came along. Shouldn't that be enough to put you in charge?"
"I doubt the politicians would like that, Ketis. Maybe it doesn't matter who gets to rule in the frontier, but in civilized space there's a strong separation between government and business."
"You sound like you don't entirely believe that." She said, throwing him a critical eye. She was a lot more perceptive than she appeared sometimes. This tendency increased after she binged on candy. "Look at the people here. They all worship you and your company. If you told them to jump, even the babies would do so! In my eyes, that makes you in charge of this city."
In some way, Ves had to admit that Ketis made sense. Freslin's city council could only flex their budget so much. Although the taxes they levied on the LMC helped expand their spending power in recent times, they were no match to earnings of a major mech manufacturer!
Slowly but surely, Freslin transitioned into a company city.
Ves wasn't sure if he liked this development. The LMC mainly concerned itself with selling mechs. Tacking on the responsibility of governing Freslin and other settlements under its influence went far beyond its mandate.
"We're here." He said after they crossed over into the bad side of the city and reached a vaguely familiar bar.
With the guards clearing the way, they entered the premises and stepped onto the second floor. The local thugs who frequented the drinking establishment all paused in their revelry to let the newcomers pass.
Each of them bore the marks of the Whalers and knew better than to stir up trouble at this time.
Eventually, Ves and Ketis left their guards outside and sat down in front of Dietrich at a private chamber set up for the purpose of entertaining important guests. The Whalers spent their newfound wealth after the Glowing Planet campaign far and wide, and it showed by how much more sophisticated Dietrich dressed himself these days.
"Who's your lady friend?"
"This is Ketis. She is.. a fellow mech designer."
"I'm more than that." Ketis grinned sharply at Dietrich. The floating scabbard hovering behind her seat already made that clear. "Ves told me quite a bit about you. He says you're big boy around these parts."
Dietrich turned to Ves. "Where did you find her?"
"Well that's obvious. I don't think a normal woman would carry such a big sword around. A pistol can do the job a thousand times better."
"You'd be surprised how many times a sharp sword can come in handy." Ketis retorted.
The two glowered at each other. They obviously adhered to different weapon philosophies.
"Alright, enough." Ves clapped his hands, interrupting the dominance game. "I didn't bring Ketis here so you can get into a pissing match with her. Ketis here is one of the people I've met during my military service, and she has agreed to come work for me for a time. Anyway, enough about her. How are you these days, Dietrich?"
"It's been great, Ves." Dietrich said, though he didn't smile as much. "If you can see the current state of the Whalers, I bet you'll find it difficult to recognize us! Not only have we grown larger, we've also become more professional!"
The Whalers expanded enormously lately, forcing Dietrich to take on a lot more responsibilities. Just like Ves, Dietrich looked a lot more mature these days. As the son of Walter and the heir apparent to the Whalers, its explosive growth forced him to become a lot more accustomed to exercising leadership!
And it showed! Even now, Dietrich radiated a confident demeanor that Ves found in most good leaders. There was no question that Dietrich could command the Whalers in Walter's absence.
"You've received billions of credits in compensation by the Bright Republic for all of the Rorach's Bone you've mind at the Glowing Planet. Where have you been spending all of that cash?"
"We expanded our forces enormously. Even with the war going on, there's always a bunch of mech pilots who aren't suitable for the Mech Corps or the more disciplined outfits. We've took on a lot of new mech pilots and drilled them over and over until they got rid of some of their bad habits. We them assigned them to our new mechs, some of which we actually ordered from the LMC!"
"Oh? How have you found our products?"
"We're very satisfied with the Blackbeaks and Crystal Lords in our ranks. Even I like to spend my time in the cockpit of a Crystal Lord now and then, even if aerial mechs are more to my liking. I don't know how you do it, but I always feel as if your mechs welcome their mech pilots. All the other mechs I've piloted feel so flat in comparison."
Ves smiled proudly. "That's part of the charm of my products. Have you heard our new motto yet? Living Mechs. Partners for Life. It means that my mechs are designed to be more than tools in the hands of mech pilots. They're meant to be partners who you can depend upon. The Blackbeak and the Crystal Lord is just the start of this trend that I'm pioneering."
"You don't have to recite your marketing spiel to me, Ves. Most of the landbound mech pilots that have joined our ranks are jealous of the ones assigned to pilot your mechs. Not only are they some of our best and most expensive machines, they are also a joy to pilot. If not for my father's concerns about blowing our entire fortune too quickly, we would have ordered more mechs from your company."
This story illustrated the undeniable draw of the LMC's products. Ves didn't expect his products to be so desirable that it could even inspire envy in the same ranks!
He figured that similar incidents happened in other outfits as well. As the lucky mech pilots of the Blackbeak and Crystal Lord boasted about their positive experiences to their colleagues, their desire to pilot such amazing themselves grew stronger!
Most of the LMC's repeat business likely resulted from these kinds of incidents!
"So how strong are the Whalers right now."
"Oh, we like to keep that rather close to our chest for now." Dietrich grinned. "It's safe to say that we are able to field well over several hundred mechs, both on land and in space."
Ves looked awfully impressed with those numbers. However, he knew it wasn't cheap to sustain so many mechs from Cloudy Curtain alone.
"How are you able to keep up with the expenses of fielding so many mechs?"
"The Whalers are nothing like we were before. We've taken over three planets aside from Cloudy Curtain! We've become a regional power in the underbelly of the Bentheim region!"
Ves widened his eyes. If Dietrich wasn't lying, then the Whalers exerted their influence over four entire planets! Even though the other planets would likely be rural planets as well, it meant that the Whalers had stepped up from a minor planetary gang and had become a real regional influence under the umbrella of the Blood Claws!
"Is that all what the Whalers have been up to these days?" Ves asked.
Dietrich shiftily gazed around the room. "It's kind of a secret, but if you really want to know, I'll tell you. The old man and the rest of the old guard wants us to move back to Bentheim! They've never been resigned by their exile from their old home planet!"
In short, Walter's Whalers wanted to regain a foothold on Bentheim!