Chapter 145: Escorts
The Larkinson Compound’s tranquility enamored Ves. Many times, he wondered if he could put down his work and spend the rest of his life in idle bliss. He already knew of a handful of relatives who ended up as a good-for-nothings that never amounted to anything in their lives.
Ves shook his head. “The galaxy is too dangerous to let my fate be entrusted in the hands of others.”
Even the Larkinsons started scrambling for a safety net. In such dangerous times, Ves would be a fool to assume that business would be as usual.
The next day, Ves prepared to depart. He already packed his luggage and ate some breakfast with the early risers. After saying his farewells, he exited the dining hall and brought his luggage and Lucky to the front.
His new escorts awaited him there. They were both a little older than him and carried themselves with an air of overwhelming confidence.
“Hey. Are you the geek my grandpa assigned to be your guard?” A woman asked. She looked at him with a disdainful expression, no doubt filing him away as a twig she could snap in two at any time. “This duty is a gigantic waste of time. Why do I have to babysit this stupid pig? I’d rather go back to the arena!”
They already got off to a wonderful start. His niece obviously aspired to be a mech duelist. Generally, the Larkinsons disdained fighting for sport. They treated the art of piloting as a sacred duty only to be employed for righteous purposes.
To abandon some of your morals to fight for fame and fortune was to turn your back on your heritage. No wonder the family packed her off to Ves. A rural planet like Cloudy Curtain offered very little amenities in the area of mech sports. Let alone a team, it didn’t even have a mech arena at all!
Ves ignored her glare and introduced himself. “My name is Ves Larkinson, and I’m a mech designer. You’ll be accompanying me to Cloudy Curtain and hopefully keep me out of trouble. I hope we can work together for the betterment of the family.”
The woman twirled her purple bangs and sneered at him. “You sound like grandpa Ovrin. Are you on meds or something? That’s no way to talk to big sister Raella here!”
He could already feel a headache coming. Ves decided to tackle Raella later and turned to his second escort. The man stood quietly and watched their interaction with bemusement.
Unlike Raella who dressed like a punk out for a party, his male cousin dressed like an officer of the Mech Corps. From his straight-backed posture to his crew-cut hair, the man looked straight out of a military recruitment poster. Though he was taller than Raella, his muscles were wiry and compact. He also wore an electronic visor shaded in blue.
“Melkor Larkinson. Mech Pilot.” The man answered when Ves kept staring at him. “I’m just here to fulfill my duty.”
The visored Larkinson offered little else. Ves gave up on trying to be friendly and boarded the aircar reserved for all three. The vehicle zipped towards Kelnar’s outskirts and reached the gigantic spaceport shaped like a crane after a quiet flight.
Many travellers had already arrived at the busy spaceport. The tourists and visitors finished celebrating the new year and had to go back to work. Ves, Raella and Melkor had to keep their floating luggage close in order to avoid bumping into the crowd.
After pushing their way forward, they reached their platform in the nick of time. The feather-shaped platform lifted off from the ground, carrying its passengers up to the air, whereupon a space-capable shuttle landed onto its surface.
The shuttle ascended into the sky and reached a familiar space station. The trio got to enjoy its elegant interior for a couple of hours until a passenger liner called the Greenwind arrived at the station. After the incoming passengers left the spacecraft, the trio boarded the ship along with the other outgoing passengers.
The Greenwind was the sister ship of the Vision of Asteria, which Ves previously rode to Rittersberg. He quickly settled into his room as the vessel slowly accelerated towards the system’s nearest Lagrange point.
After waiting her turn, the Greenwind finally transitioned into FTL. Her long journey to Bentheim had just begun. The family already arranged a three bedroom suite. While his cousins settled into their rooms and brooded on their exile from Rittersberg, Ves wanted to spend his time more productively.
“Fun time is over. It’s time to get back to work.”
Ves wanted to accelerate his company’s growth. The family already promised half a billion credits as soon as he registered his business as a corporation. Since all of his assets were back at Cloudy Curtain, he first had to return home before he could start the process.
In the meantime, the corporate lawyers employed by the Larkinsons already began to draft the paperwork. Ves knew little about the complexities involved with writing up the formal articles of incorporation. He gladly handed off the responsibility, though he also reminded himself to read over their work once the lawyers hammered out the details.
He already relayed his demands to the lawyers. For now, Ves wanted to keep it simple. He didn’t wish to deal with a convoluted stock structure where one type of stock has ten times the voting rights of another stock.
He also didn’t want to implement a bloated board of directors. For now, he settled with the absolute minimum. Since his company only had two shareholders, Ves could simply appoint himself as the chairman and his grandfather Benjamin as the only other director of the board.
It sounded a little sketchy, but his company didn’t require any oversight. Despite the incredible sums involved with each transaction, Ves operated a very simple business. He only had one full-time employee so far. For now, Ves didn’t trust anyone else to help run his company.
Since he couldn’t do much about his matter, Ves turned to another matter he left by the wayside. “It’s about time I do something with the scavenged Dortmund parts. Carlos should be able to fabricate a silver label Mark II by now.”
Once his fabricator began to fulfill Marcella’s orders, Ves could devote his complete attention on the reconstruction project. He already made good progress on drafting up a plan to restore the missing and broken parts.
He left the issue of hacking the salvaged processors for later. The matter required delicate handling at it wasn’t exactly legal to mess around with the programming of an expensive industrial printer.
Ves pulled up a blueprint of the industrial printer and started to study it in detail.
Time flew by. Everyone settled in a routine. His two cousins slowly loosened up as the distance to Rittersberg increased. Perhaps it finally dawned on the pair that there was no turning back.
One day, Raella spontaneously approached Ves. “Can I hold him?”
She gestured to Lucky. The cat lounged on his desk next to his work terminal.
Even as Ves nodded his head, Lucky already jumped in her arms and started acting cute. Even a bitter woman like Raella got charmed by the gem cat’s wiles. Ves and Melkor both scratched their heads when Raella acted identical to their little cousin Lanie. Did girls spontaneously lose half of their intelligence when faced with the cat?
“Huh. I never imagined fake pets like these could be so fun.” She smiled. “It’s a lot better than the stupid parrot my former team leader always paraded.”
Her remark provided Ves with an opening. “So you already competed in the mech games?”
“Yup. Me and five of my BFFs formed a team ever since we graduated from the mech academy. We called ourselves the Wailing Witches. It’s an awful name, now that I think about it. We must have been getting our rocks off with the good stuff when we registered the stupid name.”
“How did you do in the arena?”
“Oh, we did okay.” His niece responded as she sat down on a sofa and rested Lucky on her lap. “We frequently fought in the amateur circuit and slowly made a name for ourselves. The frequent battles took a toll on our allowances, but we improved by leaps and bounds. Going professional was just around the corner as far as our team was concerned.”
“Obviously that didn’t happen.” Ves noted. “What went wrong?”
Raella’s fury returned. “Our bitch of a team leader stabbed us in the back, that’s what happened. Virma McCullen used to be the lynchpin of our circle of friends. She’s actually something of a prodigy at the academy and one of the few who got sent to Rittersberg on a scholarship. She could have made it big in the Mech Corps, you know? But she befriended us instead and helped us climb up the ranks.”
Ves had a good idea what went on now. “I take it that Virma couldn’t cover the costs of maintaining a competition mech on her own.”
“Right. The scholarship girl couldn’t even pay the rent to her apartment in Kelsor. The rest of us had to beg our families in order to increase our allowance in order to cover her expenses.”
“Didn’t you earn enough from the amateur circuit?”
“Don’t you know anything about mech sports?” Raella rolled her eyes. “The only way to break even or make a slight profit is if you pilot a cheap second-hand rust bucket. Unlike those losers who wallow in the bottom of the rankings, my friends and I wanted to compete in front of a crowd of billions. The only way to attract a sponsor and go professional is if you win.”
“And the best way you can increase your win rate is if you pilot a good mech.” Ves concluded. “I never knew the amateur circuit worked like that. How good were your mechs?”
“Oh, they’re pretty decent for currentgen mechs. In fact, I’m bringing my competition mech along. It’s a tough little light skirmisher. It doesn’t pack a lot of punch, but in my hands I can sever the joints of any mech once I get close.”
His niece actually licking her lips as if she still hungered for the taste of blood. “I’m one of the finishers, you see. Without me, our team would have a hard time finishing off the wounded mechs. I’ve gotten pretty good at my job.”
“There were times when you almost totalled your mech.” Melkor suddenly spoke up from the other side of the suite. The visored man smirked.
“Shut up, cuz!” Raella screeched, which scared the cat resting on her lap. “Oh, don’t go baby! Shush now.”
Melkor supplement the story. “Dear Raella and her little posse dreamed big. In actual fact, the Witches only performed above average. That’s not to say she’s bad. The competition in the amateur circuit at Rittersberg is very intense.”
Raella obviously disagreed, but she didn’t bother quibbling. “We were on the up and up! Everyone thought we’d be able to win over a sponsor in three years or less. We only needed to show we were still growing as a team. Everything went fine! I thought that nothing could stop our rise until Virma signed up with the Silver Chancellors!”
Even Ves had heard of the Silver Chancellors. As one of Rittersberg’s premier mech teams, the Chancellors often showed off their prowess in the various leagues throughout the entire Republic. Bentheim often turned into a gigantic circus whenever the Chancellors played a match in one of their arenas.
“Did your team fall apart once your prodigy pilot left?” He asked with a puzzled expression. “Even though you’re amateurs, you shouldn’t be too far behind, right?”
Melkor suddenly laughed. “Raella never got the chance to prove she could make it without Virma. You see, she only found out about Virma’s transfer after finishing their final match of the season. Our fiery little cousin got so worked up about it that she decided that she threw a fist into Virma’s face. The arena even broadcasted it live!”
The former mech athlete adopted a sour face. “If I knew they’d tumble me out, I should have added in some kicks. That two-faced bitch could have never made it big without us!”
Obviously, Raella hadn’t gotten over her forced retirement from the mech games. Ves couldn’t do much to placate her anger. He could only hope that time could heal her wounds. After all, if he wanted to employ her as a guard, she better set her priorities straight.
There was more to life than the mech games. Perhaps a real life conflict might be able to kick her out of her slump. Ves didn’t lack for enemies, after all.