The Mech Touch Chapter 977
975 Preparing A Role
"I have a question." Ves said. "My job is to leverage the identity of a liaison mech designer of the Mech Corps to investigate the Kadar-Neyvis Group for any subversive activities. Where exactly does the danger come from? Why does Flashlight frame this mission in a way that implies the potential for extreme danger to any mech designer that investigates the company?"
Professor Enoch closed his eyes for a moment. "Good question. This isn't stated in your mission briefing, but we are aware that the Bentheim Liberation Movement has a habit of placing their own men in the mech companies that have caught their interest. If the KNG is secretly collaborating with the separatists, then you will be sure that the both of them will be extremely hostile against those that nose around too much."
"In the worst case, the BLM has not only planted their combatants in the KNG's production facilities, but also rigged them up to blow in the event of exposure."
"However, if everything goes well, it won't come down to that, right?"
"Correct. We are merely talking about the worse case scenario. If you do your job well and avoid attracting the attention of the pair or any possible BLM spies, it is sufficient for you to return to your handler once you have gathered sufficient hard proof of any suspect activities."
Sounded simple. Probably wasn't. Oh well. Ves had already signed on to this mission, so it was far too late to turn around.
"I have another question. I'm supposed to investigate for any signs the KNG is collaborating with the BLM, but that's not all, right? It states here that if I found definite proof of such a connection, I'm also responsible for following up on who at the KNG is responsible."
"Indeed." Enoch said and gestured with his hand. "There are many possible explanations why the KNG might possibly be involved with the BLM. It could be a disgruntled manager turning to the BLM out of a perceived grievance. It could be a chief technician that always sympathised with the separatists who is the main insider responsible."
"It could also be someone from the top that is the main driver to the KNG's activities, someone like Antoine Neyvis who is a native from Bentheim." Ves bluntly pointed out the most painful possibility.
"Even so, there are various levels of involvement with the BLM. The extent of KNG's collaboration might merely be a minor incident where they smuggle some parts fabricated off the books in exchange for cash. It could also be a more thorough cooperation where the KNG supplies the BLM with entire mechs. The reason for doing so may rest on a voluntary or involuntary basis. If someone like Mr. Neyvis is in fact involved with the matter, it is important to find out whether he is a genuine sympathiser or an unwilling collaborator who has been blackmailed into working with the BLM."
All of this sounded like a murky swamp, and Ves was about to dive head-first into the dirty water.
"While I'm confident I can ascertain whether there are any irregularities at the KNG's production facilities, I'm less confident about investigating the people responsible. I know mechs and I'm very familiar with their production environment, but if you expect me to be some kind of charmer like in all the spy dramas, then I'm afraid you barked up the wrong tree."
Professor Enoch smiled at Ves in a way that disregarded what he just said. "Don't worry, Mr. Larkinson. A handler and support team will be backing you up during the mission. If you encounter any difficulties during your investigation, just tell your handler. While liaisons are usually sent in alone, know that you are not alone in your endeavors. The entirety of Flashlight is backing you up."
"The documents I signed earlier stated that only holds as long as my true relationship with Flashlight remains a secret. If my connection with you ever comes to light, it will be as if I never existed in your eyes!"
"That's how the game is played, Mr. Larkinson. You shouldn't get in bed with Flashlight if you can't keep a secret. My advice? Don't let yourself be exposed! If Kadar or Neyvis ever has cause to suspect your identity, you should admit to being an agent of the Mech Corps. At no point are you ever allowed to reveal that you have been sent by Flashlight, is that clear?"
"Understood, professor." Ves replied in a resigned tone.
After his agreement and initial briefing, Ves quietly put down his responsibilities as the supervisor of the Second Analysis Team without saying farewell to his subordinates.
Even if he found the job to be very tedious, he would miss the safety it afforded him. While being sent to Bentheim wasn't equivalent to being sent to the frontlines, Flashlight possessed a high degree of confidence that the Vesians would be coming!
With the Vesians breaking through from the outside and the Bentheim Liberation Movement wreaking havoc from the inside, it would be like the chaos and anarchy at Detemen IV all over again!
After a few days of hasty instruction and preparation, Ves boarded a shuttle that brought him out of Frozen Point. The shuttle left Robach VI and spent a fair amount of time to slip him back to the military space station on Robach III whereupon Ves 'returned to the system', as it were.
It was as if the Mech Corps never let go of Ves in the first place.
Wearing his unremarkable work uniform devoid of any glaring ribbons and medals, he quietly boarded a generic-looking military supply ship that joined a convoy that cut its way through the Green Nebula region with Bentheim as the end destination.
A large amount of military convoys made their way to Bentheim every day, so this one didn't attract any attention at all. To those who investigated his movements, it would simply appear that Ves spent some in a hidden base of the Mech Corps before popping back into public to take up his new duties as a military liaison to the Kadar-Neyvis Group.
However, there was something different about the ship that Ves was on right now. While she was a legitimate supply ship, Flashlight actually fudged her internal structure in order to sneak in a hidden compartment.
It was there that Ves met the intelligence officer responsible for supervising his infiltration attempt.
A young but impeccably-groomed man stood up from his terminal and approached Ves for a brief handshake. "I am Leland Toll. I'll be your case officer for this mission. I'm aware of your identity and some of your capabilities, and I know that you aren't familiar with our tradecraft. That's okay. It's my responsibility to worry about the spy matters so you don't have to. For now, you are primarily needed for your competence in mech design."
"Is Leland Toll even your real name?"
The man smiled at Ves in a familiar mocking fashion. "Names are merely labels. While it is wise of you to doubt every scrap of information you get your hands on, that is not what is asked of you for this mission. If you want to grow close to Mrs. Kadar and Mr. Neyvis, you will have to restrain your suspicious impulses."
That was easier said than done, Ves inwardly muttered. "So what's in store for me here?"
"During the remainder of our journey to Bentheim, you'll visit this secret compartment every day for a couple of hours in order to prepare you for your role. You will assume your role immediately upon arrival at Bentheim."
"That's not a lot of time."
"As I've said, Ves, we don't want you to be a spy." Leland repeated. "We want to convince everyone that you are just a mech designer, and what better way to sell this story by presenting a version of you that's the truth? Even so, you will need to be brought up to speed with some of the tools and protocols that we'll be using on your mission. In addition, I want you to read through and memorize the names and pertinent facts on not only the two mech designers presiding over the KNG, but every other mech designer, manager, chief technician and so on. Any of them may be the principal culprit that has subverted the KNG."
Ves nodded in understanding. While Flashlight hoped that the collusion within the Kadar-Neyvis Group only extended to a middle manager type, Ves had a suspicion that the rot extended a lot higher than that.
While he did not possess any solid proof that told him so, his own experience as the founder and CEO of the LMC told him that mech designers cared a lot about their production facilities. While not every mech designer deigned to fabricate a mech by hand like Ves regularly did, they were nonetheless control freaks when it came to running a smooth fabrication operation!
Kadar and Neyvis both appeared to be very competent mech designers. No one incompetent ever advanced to Journeymen. This led Ves to believe that they wouldn't be so sloppy and neglectful when it came to supervising the production aspect of their company.
In the next week or so, the military convoy slowly meandered its way through the Green Nebula region. This time, the convoy didn't take the long way but made a fairly direct passage to the Bentheim System.
Evidently, this critical port system urgently required a lot of supplies.
During this time, Ves got up to speed on various aspects that Leland wanted to instill in him, though time was far too short to teach him everything.
He familiarized with the names, faces and backgrounds of the key personnel within the KNG.
He received some instructions on how to use the small spy gadgets that Flashlight sometimes employed.
He learned some methods and protocol that seemed trivial but was at least easy for Ves to pick up.
"A badly trained spy is worse than an untrained spy like you." Leland remarked. "Right now, you are still pure in this regard so you have that authentic quality that makes it hard for others to pick up your connection to Flashlight. If we attempted to instill you with some of our actual methods, you simply don't have the training and experience to hide the signs."
While Ves understood this logic, he still felt as if he was being dumped right in the middle of potentially hostile terrain with barely any precautions!
"Will I at least be entitled to carry a weapon to defend myself?"
Leland nodded and pulled out a drawer holding a fairly boring-looking holstered pistol. "Even a liaison mech designer of the Mech Corps carries a sidearm as a rule. We've prepared a modified high-performance laser pistol for you that is disguised as a stand-issue model of the Mech Corps. It can help you in a pinch, but don't mistake it for a fully-fledged assault weapon."
"Can I get anything else? A shield generator perhaps?"
That caused the intelligence officer to chuckle. "I wish. We aren't that flush for funding. Your role as a liaison for the Mech Corps is intended to reinforce the impression that you are exempted from any hazardous duties closer to the war theater. When you are on Bentheim, you should show the appropriate amount of apprehension towards the uncertainties about the war in the news, but no more. Above all else, Bentheim is friendly territory, and your behavior should reflect that belief."
Ves was indeed somewhat familiar with Bentheim. That reminded him of something. "Am I allowed to make use of my own connections on Bentheim while I'm there?"
"Officially, a mech designer in the service of the Mech Corps is strictly expected to dedicate themselves to their primary responsibilities. Even if you have friends on Bentheim or own a company that has a presence there, you shouldn't mix official duties with private interests."
The way Leland said those words seemed to invite an opening. "I think there's a caveat there."
"Very perceptive of you. In practice, many mech designers in the same position are regularly found to be… lax regarding this regulation. Your supposed 'cushy' job at Bentheim also affords you more allowances than normal. How you choose to conduct yourself in light of this is up to you. Just remember that you need to sell your role to the KNG."