The Bright Republic governed a suburban planet like Cloudy Curtain with a light touch. The planet lacked any form of large-scale industry and their system had no asteroids worth mining. In such a dirtball of a planet, the Republic generally took a hands off approach. As long as nobody entertained traitors, foreigners or aliens, the government could care less what you did.
That was the theory at least. Ves stormed past the construction site and entered his workshop with stomping steps.
His visit to Freslin's city hall accomplished nothing. With a little digging, he found out the Director of Planning handled the city's permit applications. Ves wanted to meet with Director Balcai, but after an hour of fruitless arguing he couldn't even get past the secretary!
"I don't need this problem." Ves muttered as he sank down on his couch. A sated-looking Lucky sauntered over to his lap and sank down in a cute little slump. Ves absently stroked the cat's smooth bronze-colored back. "If you were facing a stuffy director, what would you do?"
Lucky merely continued to swish his tail in utter bliss.
"Okay, I get it. You're too lazy to address the problem."
Sadly for Ves, he couldn't bury his head in the sand. If he let Director Barker have his way, who knew if he came the next morning with a notice that forbid commercial activity? He had to draw a line in the sand.
"I can't do anything alone, but I've got friends who can help."
He came up with three different parties who might lend a hand.
First, he could contact Horatio for assistance. The current situation reeked of Coalition influence. If he involved Master Olson's faction early, the other party might back off.
The only problem with this option was that he might be calling in the big guns to address a trivial issue. Horatio might lend a hand anyway, but then Ves cemented his reputation as a useless designer who couldn't take care of his own messes.
"Best leave Horatio as a final option. My current situation hasn't gone so far to warrant his intervention."
Next, he could turn to the Larkinsons. His uncle Ark commanded a lot of respect in the Mech Corps while his grandfather Benjamin worked in the Ministry of Defense. Both of them wielded a substantial amount of influence in the military affairs of the Bright Republic.
These connections also became a shackle to the family. Ves knew that his family members always tried to stay away from overt politicking. They might have strong opinions when it came to the disposition of the Mech Corps, but outside of that they kept their mouth shut.
If Ves called in his family, he might inadvertently throw them into a political minefield. "I'm sure they can help, but I'm not sure whether my opponents already prepared a nasty surprise for us."
That left Walter's Whalers. The local mercenary gang recently returned to Cloudy Curtain in a triumphant mood. Mr. Walter himself led the expedition himself and salvaged every nut and bolt from the abandoned base that Ves and Dietrich stumbled upon. The Whalers beat off several curious mercenary corps who wanted in on the action.
The Whalers returned home a little battered but with very few casualties. All of the scrap had already been sold to a few interested parties from Bentheim. Mr. Walter currently sat on a mountain of credits worth roughly half a billion credits.
As the person responsible for making their enormous haul possible, Ves could easily ask a favor from Dietrich and the Whalers. As the locals, the Whalers were best suited to liaise with the local government. That was if Ves ignored the contentious relationship between the two. The Whalers also had a tendency to act unbridled and without tact.
"They might even punch the living daylights out of Director Balcai!"
None of these options sounded good. Ves belatedly realized that if he wanted to grow his business, he had to secure his political flank. If he continued to ignore the bureaucrats and politicians in charge of administering the planet, his company remained vulnerable to their predations.
"I need a political advisor."
Ves never really paid much attention to the local politics. Cloudy Curtain always seemed to be governed by the same set of parties. The coalitions that ruled the local city councils and the planetary government changed every few years.
He didn't have much more of an understanding than that, so he rather wanted to dump this mess into someone else's lap. Ves knew his limitations.
Since he had to solve this problem quickly, Ves did not bother posting his job offer on the galactic net. Instead, he first studied the affiliations of Freslin's City Council.
"Looks simple enough." Ves remarked as he read through the brief biographies of the mayor and the directors. "Mayor Davidovich is a member of the White Doves while Director Balcai represents the Greens."
The White Doves advocate for keeping Cloudy Curtain as boring and static as possible. They drew most of their support from elderly migrants from Bentheim who hated the hustle and bustle of the busy port system.
The Greens on the other hand formed a core interest group of the deeply rooted locals. They wanted to preserve the unique and tranquil environment of Cloudy Curtain and detested any form of heavy development.
Of all the groups who could stand up to them, Ves favored the Pioneers. They advocated for a prosperous and well-developed Cloudy Curtain where everyone's living standards reached the level of the Republic's upper-tier planets.
The Pioneers also fought a generations-long battle against the stodgy two parties who wanted to keep Cloudy Curtain impoverished. Despite their support for growth, they primarily stood up for the poorest who still lived in crumbling apartments and second-hand shuttles converted to mobile homes.
As a backwater, Cloudy Curtain lacked the economic development to ensure everyone enjoyed the services they were entitled to. The only reason why the Pioneers hadn't taken control of the government was that the Greens and the White Doves enjoyed entrenched support from the wealthiest segment of the population.
It all sounded stupid to him. He only gathered enough information to know that he had to find someone who could help him establish a relationship with the Pioneers. Fortunately, as a local, Ves was familiar with the local hangouts. He knew just the place to go.
The Heritage Cafe pretended to bring a slice of Rittersberg to downtown Freslin. Placed conveniently next to Freslin University's campus, they drew a regular crowd of up-and-coming youths who dreamed of making it big.
When Ves opened the old-fashioned wooden door and walked inside, half of the patrons turned to look at him. Despite his common-looking face, his business suit gave off an aura of understated elegance. He specifically configured his antigrav clothes to come across as a young but successful entrepreneur.
He looked around but couldn't spot any obvious member of the Pioneers. Shrugging, Ves took a seat next to the window and ordered a cup of locally cultivated coffee.
Agriculture comprised of Cloudy Curtain's largest sector. Its stable, temperate climate and unpolluted air allowed for the cultivation of many authentic crops in natural conditions. The huge amount of produce harvested every year kept the upper class of Bentheim fed with natural food.
As Ves calmly sipped his beverage, he kept his ears open. He distinguished multiple conversations, most of them concerning their schoolwork or the latest mech duels. He eventually honed in on a specific conversation between a girl and her boyfriend. He grabbed his cup and walked over to the pair.
"Hello, I couldn't help but overhear your conversation. Are the two of you related to the Pioneers?"
"I'm a committee member of the youth division." The woman proudly said. "Don't mind my man here. He's a political illiterate."
"Hey! Just because I don't pay attention to such nonsense doesn't mean I'm stupid!"
"Shush now, Remon."
The young woman turned out to be Calsie Doornbos, a law school student. When Ves introduced himself, they looked dumbstruck.
"You're that mech designer who showed up in every broadcast a few months ago!"
It took some time for them to calm down. Once Ves explained his problems and why he sought the woman out, Calsie frowned a bit.
"If there's evidence that Director Balcai is taking his marching orders from the Coalition, then he could be charged for treason. In practice, stuff like that is notoriously difficult to prove. You have to be aware that Freslin's City Council is not in favor of increased industrialisation. They can truthfully say that they are enacting their existing policies."
"They aren't rejecting my application outright. They are delaying it endlessly."
"That means that they still have scruples. If they deny you a permit, then they'll be leaving a record that others can use to whack them over the head. You're one of our planet's most prominent new citizens. It doesn't look good for them if they appear to be picking a fight with you."
Calsie possessed a good awareness of what went on in these circles. Ves wanted to make use of such an astute and knowledgeable person.
"Are you willing to work for me?"
Both Calsie and Remon were stunned that Ves offered the woman a job out of the blue.
"I'm honored, Mr. Larkinson, but I'm not sure it's a good idea. I'm still a student. I still have some years left before I graduate."
"I'm not looking for a lawyer, not yet at least." Ves quickly reassured her. "I'm merely looking for a political advisor or fixer who can help liaise with the local government and the Pioneers on my behalf. It will largely be an informal, part-time job that only requires a couple of hours per week to fulfill."
"What if there's nothing going on, and everyone else is staying quiet?"
"Staying quiet doesn't mean that I'm safe. I'd like you to receive a weekly report from you that details whatever is going on in Freslin and Orinoco that's relevant to my mech business. Is that something you'd like to do?"
"What's the pay?"
"How about two-thousand credits a month?"
For the amount of work Calsie expected to do for Ves, the salary completely satisfied her. She already followed the local politics like a junkie. Getting paid to continue her hobby sounded like a great deal.
"Alright. Let's exchange contact details and I'll send you an employment contract later. Right now, I'm kind of in a hurry, so I'd like you to take care of something for me."
"You want me to handle your stalled permit problem?"
"Right." Ves nodded. He activated his comm and selected some documents in its storage. He then waved his hand at her, initiating a transfer of files to her own comm. "Please read them over so you can formulate an approach. Remember, I don't want you to act like a wrecking ball. Just smooth over the problem without sparking a feud."
"You do know that I'm a known member of the Pioneers. I doubt the Greens and White Doves who are ruling in the City Council will appreciate my presence."
"They could have left me alone, but they deliberately pushed me away from them. Who else can I turn to?" Ves sighed and crossed his arms. "Mind you, I'm not joining your camp, but I think there are plenty of ways we can cooperate. One of the reasons why I decided to hire you is because I want to establish a channel with the Pioneers."
They discussed a bit more of what Ves expected Calsie to do. Everything had to be legal and aboveboard, though Ves did not mind if she used her own connections to get something done.
Once they gained a thorough understanding with each other, Ves left the cafe and returned home to take care of the paperwork. He sent over a contract an hour later, which she quickly signed and sent back. With that done, Ves sat back on his chair and looked at the ceiling.
"Hopefully I picked the right person as my second employee."
Ves might have been a little hasty hiring a random student off the street, but he did not want this matter to stretch out. If Calsie turned to be all bark and no bite then he'd simply fire her and call Dietrich.