The Mech Touch Chapter 976
After thorough consideration, Ves eventually signed the documents. Some of them dealt with disclaimers about how Ves would be on his own if his relationship with Flashlight became exposed. They also bound him under some very strict terms of secrecy.
All of these obligations sounded par for the course for an intelligence agency, so Ves did not feel too uncomfortable with signing them in his name. From now on, Ves became a part of the Flashlight family, albit only as a distant cousin instead of a son from the main line.
"Excellent!" Professor Enoch said as he put away the data pad. "I'll make sure those documents are processed as quickly as possible. While we don't expect a collaborator like you to act as a spy for us, it would do you good if you could read some manuals on how to keep your connection to us a secret. You can read them later from your comm. Right now, let us move on to the mission that is in store for a mech designer of your talents."
The man retrieved another data pad and unlocked its encryption before passing it on to Ves.
"Let me give you some background. As a mech designer who founded your company close to Bentheim, I'm sure you are familiar with the complexities of the port system. A small but significant proportion of trade in the Komodo Star Sector flows through the Bentheim System. The main inhabited planet that is simply referred to as Bentheim is additionally home to high density industry. Both of these endowments has led to Bentheim becoming a huge source of revenue for the state."
As Ves began to read the introductory documents, he began to get an inkling of what went on. "Not everyone on Bentheim is pleased that their hard work is used to subsidize the poorer regions of the Bright Republic."
"Indeed. Simpletons." Enoch threw out a contemptuous smile. "Many Bentheimers share this sentiment, but they have always been fairly manageable. The true problem lies with those with harder convictions. The separatists of the Bentheim Liberation Movement has been a thorn in our side for centuries. While rooting out the vermin in our state is ordinarily the responsibility of Spotlight, the Republic's domestic intelligence agency, they do not have the best track record."
"The Bentheim Liberation Movement has never been stamped out. Each time one of their hideouts get destroyed, another one pops up right after." Ves remarked.
"Very much so. While we here at Flashlight are inclined to let Spotlight handle this headache, the imminent Vesian invasion attempt on Bentheim has brought this issue under our mandate. That is because we have obtained evidence that the separatists are prepared to act in coordination with the Vesians!"
Ves did not show much surprise at this revelation. After all, hadn't the Vandals banded together with the Vesian Revolutionary Front to facilitate their raid on the Detemen System? It could only be said that the Vesians chose well in adopting the same methods!
"The separatists has to now that they are inviting a tiger to deal with the wolf." He said, expressing his own opinion. "Even if the BLM succeeds in dislodging the Bright Republic from Bentheim, the Vesians will probably be worse."
"Well, logic hasn't always been their strong suit." Professor Enoch huffed. "If they are actually clever, then they would have never embarked on this impossible crusade to fight for an independent Bentheim state. In any case, one of the reasons why the BLM is always able to bounce back with a new crop of rebel-owned mechs is because a small number of domestic companies secretly support them by supplying a considerable amount of funding, supplies and war materiel to their cells!"
While Ves already knew that something like this must be happening, Professor Enoch made it sound as if the scale was a lot larger than he thought!
"Why would these mech companies do such a thing? Most mech designers aren't stupid. They should know that throwing off the Bright Republic won't favor them. Once the Vesians come and take over, they'll displace all of the old companies with Brighter roots for newer companies that are unquestionably loyal to the various powers within the Vesia Kingdom."
"As I said earlier, logic is never the BLM's strong suit, and the same goes for the backers who enable them. With regards to the mech companies, some mech designers are native Bentheimers who are naive and misguided enough to be sympathetic to the cause. Other mech designers are loyal Brighters, but are being incentivized, blackmailed or coerced by the BLM to provide material aid."
The BLM mostly consisted of locals. It was no surprise to Ves that they became very adept at manipulating the mech companies that operated on Bentheim to their advantage.
As Ves read the mission briefing, he understood that his primary job would be to investigate a major mech manufacturer that came to prominence quite recently.
"You suspect this Kadar-Neyvis Group of collaborating with the separatists? Why don't you just send in the Planetary Guard to raid their offices and take their mech designers into custody?"
Professor Enoch's smile grew a little stringent. "That is because the KNG is not to be trifled with despite its relatively short existence. One of their founders is… politically connected."
"Ah." Ves gained some understanding of the sensitive nature of this mission. "Spotlight probably doesn't want to touch the KNG at all, is that right? So they shoved the responsibility of dealing with this potentially dirty laundry to Flashlight instead."
"The KNG came about as a merger between two mech companies founded by two Journeymen. Mrs. Estella Kadar originates from Rittersberg and provides the political connections from the capital to further the company's interests. Mr. Antoine Neyvis is a local Bentheimer from a well-off family and provides the local connections to allow their company thrive on Bentheim. Both of them are alumni of the AUMD and are also married with children."
The union of two Journeyman Mech Designers and their companies sounded like a match made in heaven! It was no wonder that the KNG rose quickly ever since their founders married and their companies merged.
In addition, as graduates of the powerful Ansel University of Mech Design, they were also a part of the school's very cohesive and interconnected alumni network.
All in all, their connections meant that no one wanted to touch them if they could help it! Likely, one of the reasons Ves came into consideration for this mission was that he never attended Ansel in his life.
"Okay, I get it. Somewhat. You've obtained scattered proof that the KNG is involved with the BLM, but you don't have confirmation." Ves summed up. "Therefore, they need to be investigated but not in a way that makes it obvious that the Republic has cause to suspect their loyalty. It states here that the KNG is currently producing a lot of mechs and replacement parts for several Bentheim mech regiments. So they have the support of several Bentheim mech regiments as well!"
What a nightmare to the authorities! With both political, local and military connections, the KNG covered their backs extremely thoroughly!
"While Flashlight is not afraid of exposing any misdeeds at any company no matter how well-connected they are, that does not mean it is wise to barge into their facilities without solid proof. Not only would that unnecessarily draw the ire of their backers, but it would also destabilize Bentheim if it became known that a powerful company like the KNG was in cahoots with the BLM."
"So the important aspect about the mission is that everything has to be done quietly?"
"Indeed." The professor nodded. "Flashlight prefers to operate with tact and discretion. The more our activities are exposed, the harder it is for us to get anything done. We would like to handle this matter without drawing anyone's attention."
"So how does Flashlight intends to slip me into the KNG to investigate their factories for any signs of misdeeds? Do I need to put on a disguise and pretend to be someone else?"
"Not as such. You are not trained as a spy, so it would be very unwise to employ you in that fashion. No, you will go in with your own identity. The KNG excels at designing and producing both spaceborn mechs and frontline mechs, so much so that they have several standing contracts with a couple of Bentheim mech regiments. Due to the KNG's association with the Mech Corps, it is not unusual for the military to send a liaison to supervise the production of their military mechs."
Ves nodded. Mech regiments all possessed some form of mech production capabilities in their bases. The Flagrant Vandals for example invested a considerable amount of funding and resources into acquiring the Wolf Mother, a gigantic factory ship which was capable of fabricating mechs and other heavy machinery on the move.
However, the military was the military. They didn't particularly excel at mass producing mechs. Domestic companies could do the same job cheaper, faster and at a much greater scale.
In the spirit of specialization, many mech regiments and mech divisions tended to source their mechs from trusted companies. With the KNG's abundant amount of connections, they must have been a great company to entrust with the production of mechs for the military.
That such a company actually maintained dealings with both the Mech Corps and the Bentheim Liberation Movement was exceedingly alarming!
He read through the mission briefing on the data pad and finally came to the section which described the nature of his role. "I see that Flashlight is putting my exploits to good use."
"Indeed. Even if your exact accomplishments are classified, there is no doubt that you have excelled in your duties." The professor said with a touch of mocking. "It wouldn't be out of place for the Mech Corps to take you away from the frontlines and reward you with a cushy job in Bentheim. Your skill in mech design along with the distinctions you've earned both allow us to convince the married pair of Journeymen that you are a legitimate liaison mech designer assigned to the KNG."
"Even so, won't Kadar or Neyvis or anyone else at the company be a bit suspicious about me poking around at their production facilities?"
"The Mech Corps already assigned a liaison at the KNG. That mech designer is already transferring out, so you will merely be filling in someone else's shoes. Besides, that previous liaison happened to be fellow Ansel alumnus, so he was rather overly chummy with the pair."
It sounded stupid for a graduate of the AUMD to supervise the activities of other graduates of that school. Ves had no doubt that someone pulled some strings to arrange such a circumstance.
"Even so, I haven't studied at Ansel so the pair is bound to be vigilant against me, right?"
The professor laughed. "Hahaha! Ah, but that's the beauty of it! We predict they won't put up their guard in your presence at all! First, you are a Larkinson and a war hero who has earned three very distinguished medals. The Golden Mech alone will make them more inclined to build a relationship with you regardless of your lack of connections to Ansel."
Ves understood that. It would be very impolitic for Kadar and Neyvis to disparage the holder of all those awards. The brats at the Second Analysis Team didn't know any better but the two middle-aged Journeymen knew better.
"Secondly, you are as good as a Journeyman but you are still officially an Apprentice. Kadar and Neyvis will still look down on you for that and won't suspect that you are knowledgeable and perceptive enough to pick up minute irregularities that would have tripped a Journeyman."
He agreed with that as well. Ves was very confident of his abilities, and his extensive experience in his own company and with the Vandals made him quite adept at navigating various workshops and production facilities.
"Third, you've spent half a year supervising numerous younger Ansel alumni. Your daily interactions with them haven't gone unnoticed, and while I am aware you do not have the best relationship with them, you have become familiar with their shared traits and identity. The familiarity that you have acquired with interacting with Ansel alumni will serve you well in keeping on the good side of Kadar and Neyvis."
All of these points sounded compelling. While Ves did not feel very enthusiastic about being sent alone into a possibly murky den by himself and with very little assistance.
It made him feel as if he volunteered to become a rat.