The Mech Touch Chapter 992

990 Integrity

Flashlight worked quickly. At the start of the next day, Ves woke up to a data pad placed onto his desk terminal. He quickly picked it up and began to read its contents.

"Chief Nyquist's record!"

It was a fairly complete one at that. It began to describe all of the official events of Nyquist's life, from his birth, to his enrollment into a technical school, his enlistment in the Mech Corps, his service record of his time with the Sparky Nuts and his honorable discharge after the war.

As Ves read through the record, he found a lot of notable points that enriched his understanding of his current subject, but none bore much relevance to his investigation.

"Nowhere in this record states that he has any connections to any other entities."

His extensive but mostly boring record only tied him strongly to the Sparky Nuts and Neyvis Mechs, which eventually transitioned into the Kadar-Neyvis Group.

However, this time Ves' intuition slightly encouraged him to question Chief Nyquist's background. There was something about the chief technician's shifty ways in deflecting yesterday's questions. It felt a bit too practiced and deliberate.

While that wasn't enough reason to mark out Chief Nyquist as a suspicious fellow, Ves thought there might be more to him than his clean record suggested.

Despite the pressure on him to dig up something concrete on the Kadar-Neyvis Group, Ves did not spend all of his time on his investigation.

Besides his side activities in promoting his public profile in the hopes of increasing the public's interest in the LMC, he also got back in touch with another Larkinson.

"Ves! Looks like my favorite cousin is doing well! I'm really impressed with your uniform!"

"Melinda!" Ves smiled and greeted her at an establishment in the Entertainment District. He immediately noticed the new bars on her uniform. "You're a captain of the Planetary Guard now?"

"I have been for more than a year." She wearily replied. "It's not as good as it sounds. My responsibilities have quadrupled, and it's already a hectic job trying to keep the peace on this planet. There are hundreds of major incidents happening all over Bentheim every single day that require the intervention of our mechs."

"Even so, you're one of the few Larkinsons of our generation to make it to the rank of mech captain."

"Pah, compared to your accomplishments, this is nothing." She dismissed his praise and tried to remain sober. "The other Larkinsons serving in the Mech Corps such as you and Ghanso are the real heroes in the family."

Ves smiled. "I'm just a mech designer."

"A filthy rich one, and now a war hero to boot. I bet our aunts and uncles back at the Larkinson Compound have an entirely different view of you now. The money you rake in for the Larkinson Estate has made many of them greedy, but now that you've earned more valor in battle than most of our mech pilots of this generation, they'll probably rein in demands a bit."

"The family's been out for money, have they?"

"Never in their dreams did they realize that one of us could ever be so successful in starting up a business. The mech industry is notoriously difficult to get into. How did you ever manage to excel as a mech designer?"

"Oh, luck and opportunity, mostly. I'm also quite good at studying if I say so myself."

Ves didn't like to talk too much about himself, so he changed the topic by asking a few questions on her various encounters. As a mech officer of the Planetary Guard, she witnessed plenty of unsettling incidents, from a crazy mech pilot rampaging at a mech academy because he failed a class there once to stopping the usual BLM terrorist attacks.

"The Bentheim Liberation Movement is still keeping that up?" Ves asked with a puzzled frown.

He would have expected them to lay low in anticipation of the upcoming Vesian attack on Bentheim.

"They've grown less in scale, but they're just as destructive." The older cousin replied. "Instead of rampaging around with smuggled or unregistered mechs, they've sent squads of expendable foot soldiers to attack important infrastructure such as logistical centers, factories, strategic fuel depots and more. I don't know where they've come up with so many true believers, because almost none of the people they send out ever make it back alive."

"Ah." This sounded much more in line to a future preparation of an invasion. "However, even if the BLM hasn't deployed their mechs lately doesn't mean they discarded them all, right?"

This put Melinda in a foul mood. "Yeah. I'm not sure what the BLM is up to, but the brass thinks they're planning something enormous. Whatever the separatists are up to, it's enough to send the entire Planetary Guard into high alert."

"How goes the effort in rooting out their hidden mechs?"

"Feh." She snorted. "The investigators are pretty useless. The BLM is always good at hiding their mechs, and this time they've dug even deeper. I'm pretty sure they've got men on the inside to warn them of our raids."

This was the sad reality of trying to stamp out a separatist movement that had been around for centuries.

After some time of chatting and reconnecting, Ves got struck by a sudden impulse.

"Say, Melinda, as a Captain of the Planetary Guard, you do a lot of investigative work, right?"

"I'm a mech pilot, Ves. I mostly stop incidents as they happen. Tracking down the bad guys is a job left to others."

"Even so, you've witnessed plenty of shady stuff, so you must know a thing or two about it, right? Currently, I'm working as a liaison mech designer to the Kadar-Neyvis Group. Have you heard of this mech company?"

She nodded. "It's one of the rising mech companies on Bentheim. They're quite clean and proper compared to some of the other mech companies."

"Well, please help me out on this. There's a chief technician on their payroll who I can't quite figure out."

As Ves described Chief Nyquist to her, the mech captain smirked and crossed her arms.

"I know why he trips your suspicions. You've got good instincts, Ves."

"Please enlighten me. From what I've learned, there's nothing too suspicious about his background."

Melinda raised a finger. "There is one point you've neglected in your investigation. Two points, actually. The first one is his youth. Where was he born? Where was he raised? Which friends did he have, and is he still in touch with them? The second point is that these kinds of records only center around a single individual. What about his family? His record might be clean, but what about his father? What about his mother? Maybe he has a sibling who is also a delinquent."

Ves widened his eyes. "I didn't realize all of that!"

"A single record alone isn't useful enough in catching the bad guys. It's only a starting point where you can jump off into other directions. Right now, I don't know the exact reason why this Nyquist trips you to this extent, but in cases like these it's always worth following up on his background."

Ves looked at Melinda with a pleading expression. "I'd like to ask a favor of you. I'm not as experienced in investigating someone's background as the Planetary Guard. Can you look into his life for me? I'll owe you one."

She frowned. "It's highly improper to investigate a random citizen without cause. If you think I can abuse my authority within the Planetary Guard, you're completely mistaken. I'll have to file a report and receive permission from my superiors before I can embark on an action like that. I can't just tell them that I want to investigate an upstanding citizen of the Republic as a favor."

He forgot himself. Not every institution of the Bright Republic was susceptible to bribes and influence. At the very least, Melinda was completely incorruptible!

"Isn't there anything you can do?"

"Not without cause, Ves. That's the law."

He dropped his request as he saw the futility in attempting to convince Melinda to bend the rules for him. He belatedly realized that a straight-laced Larkinson like Melinda adhered to her training as a Larkinson to always serve with honesty and integrity!

Ves happened to miss this kind of training, and so had never been indoctrinated in these values.

That was probably a huge oversight on the part of the Larkinsons.

The problem was that Ves influenced so many people these last few years that he began to develop a cynical view of society. He thought he could get anyone to bend or break the rules as long as he paid a sufficiently attractive bribe!

Vse had trouble adjusting to the current situation. After spending so much time with people who believed the ends justified the means or those who tolerated any kind of misdeeds as long as they got a result, interacting with someone who was actually honest messed him up quite a bit!

It was as if he spent so much time with liars, cheats and low lives that he forgot how normal people functioned!

Ves shook his head. He couldn't deal with this problem right now. He decided to change his tack. "Is there anything else you can do to give me a hand?"

Melinda thought for a moment. "I can give you advice and my opinion on some matters, but that's the extent of the help I can give you. As a member of the Planetary Guard, there are many rules that dictate my behavior. While we are charged with ensuring public safety on Bentheim, we also have to respect the individual rights of our citizens."

"I understand." He replied, though he couldn't quite mask his disappointment.

"What's the matter with you, Ves? How come you care so much about this investigation? From what it sounds like, the Mech Corps just wants you far away from the fighting. There's no need to poke around at the KNG. We've never received any complaints about them or tied them to anything that crosses the line."

How could he open up to Melinda? Besides the inherent insecurity of this venue, he also couldn't let her know about his many sketchy deeds.

"It's hard to describe." He said a little lamely for lack of anything better to say. "The war has been rather hard on me. I can't tell you anything about what I've been through, but sometimes I wonder how many dangers the galaxy still holds."

"If there's anything you want to lay off your chest, just know that I'm here for you, Ves. That's what family is for. Us Larkinsons always have each other's backs."

He couldn't tell her about the secrets he learned at Aeon Corona VII.

The origin of the MTA and CFA. The hidden influence of the Five Scrolls Compact on humanity's history. The existence of Sigrund and the hybrid AI-alien entity's escape into the wider galaxy.

All of this was just a sample of the many revelations that burdened his mind and that he could never reveal without suffering the consequences.

Of all the secrets he just thought about, the continued uncertainty about Sigrund continued loom over his mind. Keeping to their current accord was tenuous at best. It could never last forever. Either the AI would expose Ves as a Holy Son, or Ves would expose Sigrund as an escaped sentient AI.

The moment one grew strong enough to disregard the consequences of exposure was the time the other one's secrets came out. Ves needed to hurry up and grow stronger as a mech designer and a man of influence if he wanted to survive the inevitable storm that followed!

The worst part about this lingering uncertainty that Ves had no clue when Sigrund grew strong enough to bear the consequences of exposing Ves! It could be a year, a decade or maybe even a century.

However, there was no doubt in his mind that a sentient AI possessed an extremely remarkable capacity for growth. The longer Sigrund accumulated his power, the more frightening he became!

So Ves turned to Melinda and gave her a brittle smile. "I'm doing fine. There's nothing for you to be concerned about."