The Mech Touch Chapter 1108
1106 Corporate Espionage
Ves, Ketis and Lucky departed from the surface of Bentheim without any major incidents.
To be honest, Ves half expected to encounter an assassination attempt or a terrorist attack along the way. Yet neither assassins or rebels showed any hide or hair in presence.
For some reason, Ves felt distinctly odd to be able to spend his time on Bentheim in peace. It was as if not getting shot at was an extremely unusual experience to him. It wasn't until he finally stepped aboard the Barracuda that he no longer felt exposed.
"Strange." Ves muttered.
The close shaves he experienced in the past still haunted his psyche in a way.
In any case, with the Aurora Titan shipped to the testing facility, the Barracuda traveled to the Green Nebula region alone. Since NORA Consolidated's space testing facility was situated in an asteroid belt in a lightly-populated star system, there was no use in bringing along the landbound mechs of the Avatars of Myth.
Therefore, Ves ordered the Greenfeather carrying the four Avatar mechs to return to Cloudy Curtain.
"In cases like these, it would have been handy to have a number of spaceborn mechs at my disposal."
Ves wasn't too worried about getting caught up in any attacks. The Barracuda was a very mobile little starship that could evade or outrun any threats. The Green Nebula region was situated in the center of the Bright Republic, so was exceptionally devoid of pirates.
The space testing facility itself hosted its own guard force. NORA Consolidated tested a wide range of finished and unfinished mech designs at the facility, so the company would never neglect its security.
After more than a week of travel, the Barracuda quietly arrived at the star system in question. The ship navigated to a certain section of an expansive asteroid belt and reached the security envelope of the space testing facility.
Since the guards already expected guests, it didn't take long before the Barracuda passed their inspection and gained permission to move on. Once the ship docked at a space station built out of an asteroid, Ves, Ketis and Lucky stepped out and greeted the station manager.
"Mr. Larkinson. It is an honor to meet you." The station manager greeted. The man was garbed in a standard vacsuit uniform. "Your ship has arrived faster than the transport bearing your prototype. It will take a number of days before the mech reaches our facility. Would you like to take a tour and familiarize with our testing methods in the meantime?"
When it came to testing mechs, Ves still lacked a substantial amount of experience and knowledge in this area. Even though the LMC set up its own testing ground in order to verify the performance of each finished mech, Ves had not involved himself too much in its development and expansion.
He already lacked in experience when it came to testing landbound mechs. He knew even less about testing spaceborn mechs.
Fortunately, Ves did not have to be responsible for anything except to provide some direction every now and then. The testing facility tested so many mechs that nothing confounded them anymore.
"We are used to testing some of Professor Ventag's new spaceborn designs without his input." The manager explained. "Sometimes, one of his subordinate mech designers will accompany a particularly valuable prototype to supervise the testing process, but in most cases the professor is content with leaving this responsibility in our hands."
Ves looked impressed. "He's putting a lot of trust in you. A prototype of an unfinished design is very valuable."
"We have proven our competence over many decades. If the professor still needs to hold our hand, how can we possibly earn our jobs?"
Throughout the tour, Ves noted that the testing facility possessed very stringent security measures.
The station manager described their greatest concern. "Testing mechs is in our nature. The testing process is guaranteed to go smoothly. The only variable that we can never fully account for are the actions of third parties. Corporate espionage is a very large concern for NORA Consolidated."
"That's why the company set up this testing facility in this rural star system, right?"
"Correct. Anything that goes in and out is meticulously monitored. The local population has also come under our company's influence. While I can't tell you the exact details of our security arrangements, I can freely tell you that we've caught hundreds of spies and nosy observers over the last decade."
That was a lot! "What happens to the spies once they're caught?"
"We aren't killing them, if that's what you think." The station manager smiled. "Usually we just hand them over to the authorities and be charged with the relevant crimes."
"Do they actually get convicted?"
"Why yes, Mr. Larkinson. Why would you ever doubt that? Corporate espionage is a serious crime and the Bright Republic takes any instance of foul play very seriously. However, in our experience, every major company engages in some form of corporate espionage. Mech companies are constantly on the lookout for any new mech designs that can displace the market shares of their existing mech models."
As long as a company obtained advanced warning of the exciting new design their competitor developed, they could prepare for it in advance.
There was nothing worse to a mech designer than to publish an exciting new mech design, only for a competitor to publish a similar product the very next day!
Even worse, their competitors might even opt to publish a direct counter for the design the very next day!
As Ves chatted a bit more with the station manager, he asked why so many spies still attempted to infiltrate the testing facility when the punishment for corporate espionage was so harsh.
"Their families are always taken care of. Even if the spies don't have anyone they care about, they will still receive a fortune up to the tune of millions of credits if they keep their mouths shut throughout the trial process."
In other words, the spies could look forward to receiving a big bag of money as long as they did not point their fingers towards their employers.
"Doesn't that defeat the purpose of their punishment?" Ves asked.
The station manager smiled and shook his head. "That's the way the game is played. You can see it as an intricate dance between competing mech designers. Every company employs spies who are often put to work in keeping tabs on their most important competitors."
"There are a lot of mech companies in the Republic and even more in the galaxy. It's impossible to keep tabs on them all."
"That is true, but there are always a number of mech designers who form a more direct threat to the market shares of your products. For example, right now you are in the process of designing a super-medium space knight with the professor. What if right after you publish the design, the entire mech community immediately turns against it? You can't rule out the possibility that a competitor got wind of your design and laid the groundwork for an overwhelmingly negative reaction from the public."
Such a possibility would be ruinous for the prospects of his design. Ves widened his eyes as he started to consider if spies had somehow managed to worm their way into the LMC and caught wind of the joint design project.
While SASS did a decent job in providing allround security, Ves wasn't reassured that they were equipped to stop the most determined spies.
Hearing about the many ways in which his enemies and competitors could ruin the success of his mech design, Ves began to consider his response in the event of a coordinated action.
In times like these, Ves could sorely use a spy by his side. He recalled his plan to set up a shadow force under his control. He just needed to recruit a reliable spy to take charge, which was nearly impossible in his eyes.
To Ves, there was no such thing as a trustworthy spy!
Interacting with intelligence operatives such as Calabast or Leland made that abundantly clear. The rules they abide by was so far removed from the norm that they wouldn't hesitate to stab their mothers in the back if they could get ahead in some way!
Ves tired of talking about spies. Instead of worrying about something which he had little means to deal with other than to intensify his security arrangements, he would rather focus on his original purpose.
A few days passed by until the transport vessel bearing the prototype finally arrived at the testing facility. Ves personally supervised the inspections on the mech to make sure it hadn't incurred any damage of tampering during the transportation process.
Fortunately, aside from coming under the influence of cosmic radiation, everything appeared to be in order.
The first prototype of the Aurora Titan design was ready for testing!
The testing facility employed their own test pilots, and the one responsible for testing defensive mechs had already studied the documentation on the Aurora Titan.
Ves in fact wrote most of the documentation himself. He provided a fairly detailed instruction manual which elaborated extensively on the uses of the Aurora Titan's two gimmicks.
Even so, Ves did not expect any mech pilot to get the hang of the polarizing module and the alien crystals instantly. This was why he decided to meet the test pilot just before she was about to enter the cockpit of the mech for the very first time.
"So you're the test pilot, right?"
The short woman garbed in a piloting suit nodded. "Correct, Mr. Larkinson. I have fifteen years of experience in test piloting various space knights and striker mechs. I'm also proficient in test piloting heavy mechs."
Ves felt relieved that the test pilot already possessed an abundant amount of experience in testing different mechs.
"Do you understand the features of the Aurora Titan?"
"Somewhat. While I have never worked with a polarizing module before, I know the theory. I have already tried out mechs that makes use of a polarizing module in the simulators. I think I can get the hang of its use in a couple of days."
Ves quizzed the test pilot some more and found to his satisfaction that she was well prepared to put the prototype to its paces.
The test pilot also took the opportunity to ask her own questions.
"The documentation states that the Aurora Titan is oriented towards defense. How much does offense play a role?"
"Not that much. Don't strain the mech over its limits when you perform offensive maneuvers."
"It's my job to push the mech to its limits, sir. Even if your mech isn't designed to launch attacks, we'll be testing its offensive capabilities if only to see how bad it is at offense."
Ves did not expect good results from those tests. The Aurora Titan was way too heavy and immobile to launch any attacks on its own.
After Ves and the test pilot finished speaking to each other, the station manager invited Ves and Ketis to a monitor center.
A large row of terminals and projections greeted them as they entered the monitoring center. Various specialists and technicians manned the terminals in preparation for the latest test.
Once the test pilot settled into the brand-new cockpit of the prototype, she activated the mech for the first time. With the press of a button, the entire cockpit lit up in radiant splendor.
All the systems that came online caused a small hum to emanate from the Aurora Titan. Several lights lit up and its compacted wings already started to unfold a little.
The Aurora Titan activated successfully!
"It's a success! The prototype is online and operating according to normal parameters!"
Ves already knew that the prototype wouldn't stutter upon activation. He possessed way too much confidence in his own work to fear any setbacks.
Instead, he turned his attention to the telemetry related to the test pilot. What he wanted to know was what the test pilot experienced when she interfaced with the prototype. Had she already come under the influence of the prototype's X-Factor?
Eventually, Ves decided to patch into the communication channel and ask the pilot directly.
"What do you feel?"
"It's.. big." She uttered. "The mech is very expansive. I am feeling some urges that I have never felt when I test piloted other mechs."
That sounded interesting.
"Can you describe your urges?"
"It's faint, but I feel as if I'm piloting the embodiment of an exobeast instead of a mech!"