The Mech Touch Chapter 988
Back at his quarters at the military base, Ves explained his misgivings to his case officer.
Leland Toll listened calmly. "It is not so easy to peer through the accounts of a large mech manufacturer of this scale. The KNG is involved with thousands of stakeholders. From individual suppliers to massive conglomerates, each of them either obtain payment from the KNG or pays them to render a large volume of goods and services. While I'm not an expert in running a business, even I know it is impossible for any single person to get a complete grip on such a large company's financial state."
"I'm not asking for a complete record. It'd be swamped if I attempted to study all of their transactions. What I really want to obtain is their recent financial statement. As long as I can obtain their balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement, we'll know if their business strategy works as intended and if not, where they are really getting their money."
"Are you asking me to supply you with all of that financial data?"
"You're a Flashlight intelligence officer, right? Isn't it trivial for your agency to obtain those records?"
"As a private corporation, the Kadar-Neyvis Group indeed has to disclose some records to the state." Leland said with a wry smile. "However, it's a bit more delicate than you think. The KNG submits all of the necessary financial statements to the Ministry of Economic Development."
"Yes. MinEcDev is a particularly powerful ministry of the Republic, and they guard their territory extremely well. Even if we have planted agents in that ministry, they cannot casually rip out the relevant data from their databases."
This revelation emphasized how Kadar and Neyvis leveraged their connections to the point where their company was highly dependent on them. Ves already heard that the KNG maintained a close relationship with MinEcDev. The powerful ministry ostensibly offered a lot of financial assistance to the KNG to keep it alive during the current adverse economic climate.
"Does Flashlight has any clue where they get their money at all?"
Leland shook his head. "We aren't aware of any major inbound cash flows besides the company's own earnings and the financial assistance they received from the ministry. Even so, the financial statements they've submitted to MinEcDev might not even present the complete picture."
"It's pretty daring to lie to the ministry."
"As far as we are aware of, every mech company makes use of creative accounting to some extent. Right now, we don't have an accurate picture of the KNG's true financial state. Spotlight is supposed to keep tabs on the company, but the company's powerful connections to Rittersberg has left our colleagues leery of stepping on the KNG's toes."
Ves could hear the disdain in Leland's voice towards Spotlight. "How come that agency is so timid? I thought it's Spotlight's job to keep tabs on our own citizens and organizations. Shouldn't they be fearless in discharging their duties?"
A sneer appeared on Leland's face. "It's exactly because they're charged with watching our own people and organizations for treasonous behavior that they're so inconsistent. Many of the policymakers at Rittersberg have considerable economic interests throughout the Republic. How would they feel if Spotlight exposed all of their improper dealings by shining a light on them? The Bright Senate has constantly passed laws restricting the powers and privileges of our sister agency. In addition, political appointees have taken up a much more substantial role in the running of the agency at the top."
"In other words, you believe Spotlight's integrity and independence are both compromised."
"I wouldn't put it that strongly. Many of the people that work for Spotlight are genuine servants of the Republic. However, it's undeniable that Flashlight has taken on more and more cases that Spotlight used to handle."
Even though this was Leland's personal opinion, Ves became struck by how much rot had set in.
MinEcDev supposedly regulated the Republic's domestic industries. Instead, it morphed into a greedy entity that pursued its own profits above its stated goal as a regulator.
Spotlight should have kept tabs on its own citizens and organizations. Instead it turned into a toothless entity under the influence of the very same people it ought to keep an eye on the most!
"How can the Bright Republic tolerate such meddling?"
"Who in power can oppose these developments?" Leland asked back. "When it comes down to it, the Bright Senate that proposes and passes various laws and the cabinet that sets various policies are the ones responsible."
Basically, a conflict of interest from those in power caused various institutions to diverge from their intended role. Instead of serving the Republic as a whole, they instead benefited their masters that held the reins of power.
"So what does this have to do with our current mission?"
Leland sighed. "Flashlight is very concerned about these developments. The gutting of Spotlight particularly upsets us as the weakening of our main domestic intelligence agency exposes our state to various misdeeds of our own citizens. Therefore, your investigation is of vital importance. We MUST find evidence of impropriety at the KNG in order to shock the cozy, lacksadaisal establishment into action."
The fire of conviction burned within Leland's eyes. Ves found it to be very uncomfortable. "I'm working on it. While my tours at their various manufacturing and support complexes hasn't allowed me to detect anything egregiously amiss, there are several sketchy points about how they are run."
"Good. We don't have much time, so make sure to deliver a result to Flashlight within a couple of weeks."
"That's not enough time. I don't think I'll be able to dig up any dirty laundry in that short amount of time."
"You're a resourceful mech designer, Ves. I'm sure you can manage to come up with something. What Flashlight needs is evidence that the KNG is substantially involved with the BLM."
The way Leland phrased those words took on an oddly ominous tone. Ves narrowed his eyes in suspicion.
"What if I don't find any after two weeks?"
"Regardless of your findings, I expect you to submit a report that isn't empty."
"Even if all I've managed to ascertain is that the KNG is squeaky clean?"
"No company is completely spotless, Ves. I thought you of all people knew that. The KNG should have plenty of skeletons in their closet. As long as we have probable cause, we can move into action and thereby warn Spotlight and their political masters that they really ought to be doing a better job safeguarding the Republic. We can also kick the Ansel University of Mech Design down a notch while we're at it. Maybe they'll finally temper some of the arrogance they instill in their graduates."
It took longer than he ought to, but Ves understood now what Leland tried to imply to him. The conclusion shocked him! "You want me to lie in my report even if I haven't found anything wrong at the KNG! Investigating the KNG has never truly been about rooting any possible BLM involvement to Flashlight. Instead, you want to surprise the current establishment by crucifying one of their pet companies!"
"Well done, Ves! You've figured it out." Leland grinned at him while leaning closer. "Consider it a backup plan in case your investigation is going nowhere. It's best if we can make an example out of the KNG based on the truth, but we can still manage if you can only come up with fabricated evidence at the end of your investigation."
A creeping sense of horror swept through Ves' body as he realized how Flashlight already condemned the KNG even before they obtained any evidence of wrongdoing. This sort of action went way beyond Flashlight's mandate!
The worst case was that Leland expected Ves to be complicit in this radical scheme! After some thought, he finally understood why Flashlight wanted Ves to undertake the investigation instead of any other mech designer.
"I see now." He said in a hollow voice. "The true reason why Flashlight wants me on this mission is because I'm much more credible than any of the spooks that work for your organization. As a Larkinson and as a war hero who earned three distinguished awards, it's a lot harder for our political masters to dismiss the 'evidence' that I bring up. Do you really expect me to fabricate evidence that the KNG is involved with the BLM?"
"We do. We need this in order to further our aims." Leland stated simply but with force. He softened up a bit after a few seconds. "Just know that you'll be doing a huge service to Flashlight. We know it's a heavy burden to drag down your fellow mech designers on fabricated charges, but if you do this Flashlight will seriously owe you. We'll fulfill anything we've promised to you when you agreed to perform this mission."
After that, Leland left shortly after, giving Ves even more food for thought.
In fact, Ves hadn't shook off his utter shock at Flashlight's audacious intentions as of yet. It wasn't enough to look for any evidence of impropriety at the KNG! If Ves really found nothing substantial, would he really be forced to cook up false evidence that Flashlight could use as an excuse to crack down on the KNG?
"This is way too perverse. How can I condemn an innocent company to this kind of heavy treatment?"
Even if Flashlight couldn't shut down the company outright or deal with them openly, the damage to the KNG and their owners would still be incalculable!
"So this is the true face of Flashlight." Ves muttered with a short, unhinged laugh.
Major Verle warned him several times that Flashlight played hardball. Yet up to now, Ves hardly noticed anything extreme. Only now did Leland expose some of the military intelligence agency's murky depths.
By all rights, Flashlight planned to pull off an outright conspiracy if they didn't get the evidence that they wanted!
The shady intentions of Flashlight along with Ves' possible involvement in their scheme made him feel profoundly conflicted.
Right now, the KNG happened to fall in the crosshairs. Who could say that his LMC would be targeted next? Who could stop anyone from coming up with trumped-up charges to bring down his company?
The search of BLM collusion was a sideshow at best to Flashlight. What really mattered to them was their political rivalry against against the government who they perceived to be too corrupt to police their own misbehaving magnates and companies!
Ves somewhat regretted accepting the mission, but he had already cast his lot with Flashlight. Succeeding in the mission, whether through finding or 'fabricating' evidence of separatist involvement, served his own interests.
"I'm not part of the exclusive club of politicians and officials that run the Bright Republic. Their policies don't benefit me and most of the government institutions won't favor me. I can't even make use of the connections of the Larkinson Family to help me out because we simply aren't that influential compared to the bigger and more prosperous families."
Since Ves had no hope of aligning himself to the ranks of the established elite, his best bet was still to cast his lot with Flashlight. Unlike Spotlight, Flashlight still held plenty of teeth because they were vital to the Republic's war effort against the Vesians.
Therefore, becoming one of their allies or external collaborators as they called it allowed his company and himself to enjoy solid backing from the state. The murkier portion of the state, to be sure, but one that comfortably stood on its own.
Even so, Ves decided to push aside his decision on the matter. There was still time left for him to uncover real evidence during his cover role as a liaison mech designer. He just needed to intensify his efforts in the coming days.
"I should be getting some dirt on the company from Raella soon enough."