The Mech Touch Chapter 1324
1322 Human Products
With two new members on his staff, Ves finally had someone other than Gavin to talk to on a daily basis.
After comprehensively upgrading everyone's gear at Crindon's advice, they retired to the hotel.
They upgraded to a larger hotel suite to accommodate the extra additions. Though Ves could have rented another room for his two Kinner bondsmen, they both suggested they room together in a larger suite.
"If anything happens to you, we'd be able to react in an instant."
Ves still had to get used to the Kinners he bought. Different from Gavin, the latest two members of his staff didn't have a choice in their employment!
Despite their similar births as Kinner vatters, Fe Nitaa and Michael Crindon both diverged from each other in many aspects.
The Kinner Tribe had been in this business for so long that they became very good at differentiating their human products.
Yet despite their differences, their addition to his staff significantly improved his security situation.
Though Ves would never be able to defend himself against every possible attack, he shouldn't make it easy for his enemies either. Both Kinner bondsmen added valuable expertise to the table that he desperately needed but always held back because of his lack of trust in others.
It said something about him that he only gave in when he had the opportunity to buy some slaves.
Oh, the Kinners weren't technically slaves. Yet despite all the rules, customs and traditions surrounding their job markets, they were pretty much engaging in a polite form of slave trade.
Instead of shackling their own tribesmen with physical shackles, they instead bound their minds from birth. The Kinners spent a lot of effort in instilling their distinctive culture into the minds of their childrens. By the time they grew up, their beliefs in the values of the tribe was so strong that they would rather die than betray the tribe!
Still, Ves found it rather odd that the Kinners managed to succeed so well in keeping every Kinner loyal. Instances of betrayal happened very little.
This made him suspect that the Kinners might have perverted the genes or bodies of the Kinners.
Since the Order of Fl'xix was tied to the Five Scrolls Compact, who could say that the rest of the tribe had been left off?
Ves shook his head. Such a suspicion was a bit spurious, since the MTA and CFA would have found out by now if an entire state was tied to their mutual enemy.
In any case, everyone believed that once a Kinner swore their oaths to someone, their loyalty was virtually assured. Barring obvious abuse or neglect, Ves should be assured that Nitaa and Crindon would never stop serving him for the rest of their lives.
"That still sounds like slavery." He sighed.
In truth, the practices of the Kinner Tribe did not meet with universal approval in the star sector. The notion of buying and selling humans, even if done willingly, reduced them to commodities rather than unique individuals.
One of the few collective values that the overwhelming majority of humanity agreed upon was that they were special!
As a whole, their race was the strongest in the galaxy! Although their individual might and prowess may be negligible compared to the Seven Apex Races, their quantity and birth of exceptional people more than evened out the score!
The huge accomplishments humanity had secured during the Age of Stars and Age of Conquest made every human proud.
This individual pride manifested in a belief that every human, even the most lowliest of space peasants, was worth more than the most exceptional alien leader!
In practice, few people took human supremacy to such extremes. Instead, they took the middle ground and elevated the value of humans slightly above a typical alien race.
Essentially, the prevailing belief was that while humans and aliens were mostly equals, the latter were just a tad bit inferior.
"Humans are still proud of themselves, though." He muttered. "Slave trade is still a taboo, hence why it only takes place outside human space or in a disguised form."
The pirates in the frontier not only found slavery to be acceptable, but they depended upon it to keep their ships, mechs, space stations and other facilities running!
Compared to the open and undisguised form of slavery practiced in the frontier, the Kinner Tribe managed to do the same without incurring public outrage.
How can Kinners be slaves if they willingly sold themselves to clients for eternity? They got paid! They retained their rights! They were never coerced!
None of this screamed slavery, so most people simply shrugged it off as a weird Kinner quirk.
The people that did take offense at the resemblance to slavery did not enjoy strong support. They were mostly idealists, and mostly came from the middle classes of their states.
The upper echelons never expressed a lot of objection to the Kinner Tribe's practices, because a significant portion of them happened to be their customers!
"The Kinner Tribe is quite ruthless." Ves quietly snorted. "By selling its own people, they keep their state secure and free from political opposition!"
The practice of bonding Kinners to foreigners for substantial sums went on for so long that Ves began to doubt whether it was even necessary. Surely the Kinners must have earned enough money to diversify their economy and develop new means of creating wealth, right?
Yet throughout all the centuries since the Kinner Tribe first turned to desperation, they never scaled back their Kinner trade. In fact, the opposite happened. Industrial birthing factories became more prevalent, and more and more vatters came into the galaxy only to be told throughout their entire youth that they were nothing but products in the making!
Was this what humanity was supposed to be like? Raising children en masse in conditions that were barely acceptable enough to stave off criticism, only to sell them to other humans in order to 'protect the tribe' and 'provide a future for the next generation' went way beyond a desperation strategy!
How much money were the Kinners at the top earning these days? How much did they spend on developing the tribe, and how much did they siphon the sums into their own pockets?
The worst thing about it was that the 'slaves' themselves fully supported the practice, as evidenced by Nitaa and Crindon's attitudes!
"Your sympathy is appreciated, but unneeded." Crindon said back at their hotel suite. "We can tell you have misgivings about 'buying' us, but we are very pleased to work with you, Mr. Larkinson."
Nitaa nodded in agreement. She didn't even bother to suppress the glee on her face. "That goes double for me! Working for a.. mech designer.. as exceptional as you is my greatest honor! I earnestly believe that you will go far!"
Both of them expressed their devotion towards Ves in different ways. While Nitaa was almost fanatical in her service to him, Crindon maintained a calmer and more professional demeanor.
At least Ves could pretend that Crindon was just a normal employee.
Now that they were by themselves, Ves could finally have a moment alone with Nitaa.
"Mr. Crindon, please work with Benny to see if the Barracuda, my personal ship, requires any upgrades."
"Who is Benny?"
"It's me." Gavin sighed. "Let's go in the other room and let Ves have his fun with his new 'bodyguard'."
Gavin and Crindon snuck away, leaving Ves and Lucky alone with Nitaa.
"Lucky, activate your ECM field. Also, make sure no one is snooping in on us, including the two who have just left."
An ECM field came alone, giving them some measure of security. Ves had also dimmed the windows of the room, turning them completely dark.
Yet Ves did not feel completely assured. Considering that he was in the company of someone related to the Compact, he felt a bit more willing to reveal some of his tricks.
His bodyguard would likely be accompanying him for a long time, after all. Though Ves did not dare to guess whether Nitaa would still be around after a century, he needed to at least show some trust in order to maintain a good working relationship.
Her adoration towards the so-called Holy Son might fade one day when she realized how weak he truly was. By then, Ves hoped he appealed to her in a different way.
With a single mental command, his System comm materialized on his wrist. It rested above his new premium comm that Crindon assured was one of the most secure models on the market.
Mainly because it was fairly basic and limited. It offered as little vulnerabilities as possible while still offering the basic functionality that everyone expected from their comms.
Only when Ves activated his Privacy Shield did Ves feel assured. Perhaps it was a little overblown on his part since Lucky hadn't detected anything amiss, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
"Alright, it's safe to talk now." Ves began. "Tell me what you know about the Five Scrolls Compact. First, do you know where they are based in the star sector?"
His new bodyguard grimaced. "I can't tell you much. The Order of Fl'xix barely knows anything to begin with. A failed trainee like I know even less. Still, I did hear rumors. We trainees talk a lot to each other. I'm not sure whether they are true."
"Just tell me. I'll keep your words in mind."
"The Five Scrolls Compact maintains a very small presence in this region. It can never match up against the local CFA and MTA garrisons in a head-to-head fight, so they are holing themselves in the only region of space that even the Big Two are reluctant to enter."
"The Nyxian Gap."
"Exactly. While it's already difficult for the warships of the CFA to penetrate the Gap, the Compact makes it even harder by employing various spatial warp machines or something that destabilizes the surrounding space. Not a single ship that enters this region can maintain integrity."
It made sense. The Komodo Star Sector and its surroundings did not offer a lot of hiding spots that could block the Big Two's pursuit. Only in dangerous, anomalous regions of space did the notorious cultists have a realistic chance of staying a step ahead.
He nonetheless grew concerned. If the Five Scrolls Compact maintained a hideout in the depths of the Nyxian Gap, how did his father fare?
His choice of hiding out in the Nyxian Gap was an extremely daring choice! While hiding in the close proximity of the Compact was extremely risky, the same conditions that made it hard for the Big Two to hunt them down also applied to his father!
"Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer."
"Nothing." Ves waved his hand. "How sure are you about this rumor?"
She shrugged. "I can't say. Some of the older trainees are closely in touch with the senior members of the order."
"Are there any other places in the star sector where the Compact has a presence?"
Nitaa thought long and hard and managed to dredge up a couple of scraps from her mind.
"The Compact is very reluctant to maintain a permanent presence in civilized space. From what I hear, they prefer to rotate a small number of their brothers and sisters from their bolthole in the Nyxian Gap."
This meant that a number of Compact cultists were definitely roaming around the star sector, likely in disguise or in very deep hiding.
"Maybe ten?" She guessed. "Not that many, but each of them are extremely formidable. They're mostly scientists who extensively modified their bodies."
That did not sound like much to Ves. The chances of stumbling upon a cultist member among the trillions of people that lived in the star sector was extremely improbable!
Just as Ves started to relax, Nitaa dropped a bombshell.
"However, I did hear some news about a dignitary from the galactic center making a personal visit to the Nyx branch of the Compact! He's been on his way here for decades, and word is that he's about a decade away from arriving in our star cluster! Word is the dignitary is a representative of the Ruined Temple, which is the core of the entire Compact!"
Ves immediately became concerned! For what reason would someone from the central headquarters of the Compact travel all the way to the periphery of the galaxy?
Seeing that Ves did not realize the significance of this news, Nitaa offered some clarification.
"They say that every dignitary who is stationed directly at the Ruined Temple is a direct subordinate of the Holy Sons and Daughters of the Compact!"
If Ves already became distressed, now he erupted into full-blown panic!
There was only one reason for the Compact to dispatch such a major figure to this star sector!