The Mech Touch Chapter 993
991 Overly Competen
When Ves came back to Leland to ask for additional investigation and monitoring of Chief Nyquist, the intelligence officer did not exactly acquiesce.
"The point of the mission is to find evidence of separatist collaboration in one of our domestic mech companies." Leland reminded Ves. "With the important requirements that it has to be done fast and discreet. Drawing upon too much Flashlight assets will increase the chance of exposure, which will be the end of us and investigation."
Ves frowned. "Is there anything you can do?"
"I can put a tail on him to observe what he does in his off hours. I can also assign an analyst to investigate his background. That's all the assistance I can provide. Can you make do with this help, Ves?"
"It's better than nothing."
Flashlight probably employed hundreds if not thousands of people on Bentheim alone. Yet all Leland could do to help him in this potentially critical mission was to assign two low-level people to investigate Chief Nyquist!
After Leland left, Ves laid down on his bed with a pensive expression. He felt he couldn't complete his mission in the short time remaining. With one-and-a-half weeks to go until he arrived at the deadline, he faced so many constraints that he could hardly move where he wanted to and ask the questions that he wanted answered.
"Fast and discreet. That's impossible."
If they could take their time to investigate the Kadar-Neyvis Group's suspicious activities, then they'd be bound to find a skeleton or two in the company's closet.
If they could perform abrupt raids on their properties and interrogate some of their key personnel, then they could also uncover the company's skeletons through those means.
Yet with neither of those options available to Ves, he felt as if he was bound in place with no way to make any moves.
Ves eventually came to a conclusion.
"If I can't succeed through conventional methods, then I'll just have to cheat."
In fact, Leland already intimated to Ves that he could be more 'creative' about the evidence of enemy collaboration in his report to Flashlight.
While Ves already resolved to do what was best for his career and his company, he still held some misgivings on this course of action.
He would much prefer to avoid this option unless he had no other choice.
Therefore, Ves reluctantly put it aside and tried to figure out other ways to solve the problem.
Perhaps… he might be able to find a way if he reunited with the System!
While Ves didn't dare to carry around the System while he served with the Flagrant Vandals, now that he returned to Bentheim, what stopped him from summoning Lucky and the comm that held the System wrapped around his neck like a collar?
Yet Ves quickly shook his head. "The risks are too great."
Bentheim possessed too many eyes and ears. Leland also indirectly told him that he was under constant surveillance whenever he stayed in public and in areas friendly to Flashlight.
In effect, that meant that he constantly risked exposure no matter where he went if he ever used the System, especially to achieve eye-catching effects. He couldn't even rule out that even now, some agent of Flashlight was monitoring him right now under stealth!
Struck with paranoia, Ves quietly concentrated his mind and began to engage his sixth sense. Finding nothing amiss, he became a little bolder and swept his quarters with tentacles extending from the ephemeral cloud of Spirituality in his mind.
That did not entirely reassure Ves. Normal people did not possess strong spirits that could interact with reality, and Ves did not know whether his Spirituality was sensitive enough to pick up their presence.
Suffused with paranoia, Ves couldn't find it in himself to relax and rest. After a while, he raised himself from his bed and sat behind his terminal.
In any case, he could easily go without sleep for a week, especially after his additional physiological enhancements. Since time was running short, Ves found it pointless to waste valuable hours to maintain a normal human rhythm.
He idly browsed the galactic net, checking up on the war but finding surprisingly little reliable information. The sentiment among the citizens of the Bright Republic grew more pessimistic due to the mounting casualties and the lack of success in dislodging the Vesians from their newly conquered star systems.
As he read back on some of the major battles of the current war, he couldn't help but grow a little cynical. He never did get a solid answer on whether the Bright-Vesia Wars was a sham.
What was the point of this war? To settle grievances that began during the founding of these two states? To avenge the fallen of the previous wars? To settle geopolitical tensions?
All of those reasons seemed distant and pale. To the average Brighter, they just fought against the Vesians because they tried to invade them every generation. As for the Vesians, both their lower and upper classes always hungered for territory and military exploits to further their careers and domestic ambitions.
"To most of us, the wars are real enough. Just the deepening hatred between our two states has grown too heated."
After a largely fruitless trawl through the galactic net, Ves resumed his investigation for the next few days. He revisited the Ansel and Haston Complexes in order to uncover anything amiss. While he found several points that he wished to study further, his cover role didn't allow him to do so without drawing suspicion.
Everywhere he went, either Jeff or some other goon from the KNG followed him around. Nothing Ved did ever escaped their eyes.
Many times, Ves just wanted to shed all pretences and turn over every rock the company placed to hide their shady activities.
As a mech designer well-versed in the production of mechs, his knowledge and experience both helped him map out where unregistered mechs and parts were being built and sent. Yet even if he knew or strongly suspected such activities, what could he do? As a liaison, it wasn't in his power to call these kinds of activities out. Preparing tribute to the Peace Association wasn't suspicious in itself.
Ves needed to uncover more concrete proof.
While a couple of people continued to look into Chief Nyquist, Ves deliberately cut short his visits to the Mosville Complex. Instead, he began to spend more time at the Ansel Complex.
Not only was this the site where the KNG produced its vital spaceborn mech designs, Ves also had a feeling that something significant went on here. Though it was only his intuition that warned him of something out of sight, as he spent more time here he slowly figured why he felt uneasy here.
Some of the Ansel mech technicians were too competent.
It sounded strange. The technical schools brought up some of the best mech technicians in the Bright Republic. Their proximity and partnership with the Ansel University of Mech Design insured that any mech technician that graduated from Ansel would be the perfect worker for any mech designer.
Therefore, the Ansel mech technicians were clearly a cut above.
However, no matter how talented a mech technician became, they could never match the depth of knowledge and theoretical know-how of a mech designer.
Having worked alongside many different kinds of mech technicians with the Whalers, the Blood Claws, the Mech Corps prooper and a deviant mech regiment such as the Flagrant Vandals, Ves witnessed almost every variety of mech technician that the Bright Republic had to offer.
Certainly, the high-quality mech technicians from Ansel was still somewhat new to Ves, but even so, their competence should have limits!
"People who are too good to be mech technicians can easily opt to study mech design instead."
The barrier to entry to study mech design didn't pose too much hindrance to those determined to become a mech designer. As long as any decent student was good in math and science, they didn't need to go through much to get accepted.
Many people including Ves actually thought that the barrier to entry was far too low. Too many institutions pumped out too many mech designers each year, far more than the market could accommodate.
Yet despite how overcrowded the mech industry became, people always dreamed of making it big.
Therefore, the competence of mech technicians always came up to a hard limit. The career of a mech designer was far more glamorous than a mech technician. Even if they failed, their starting point as a mech designer allowed them to get much better jjobs than any mech technician.
Therefore, Ves found it slightly weird that some of the mech technicians employed by the KNG in their Ansel Complex showed skill above the realm of their profession.
It didn't make any sense. Where did they come from, and how come they were content to work as average mech technicians in a boring place like this?
Ves only caught the discrepancies due to his familiarity with mech technicians of many different stripes. The average person or mech designer who mostly spent their time at work in a design lab wouldn't be able to sense the subtle differences.
The more time he spent here, the more these differences became apparent. While not a lot of mech technicians showed extra ability, they nonetheless held vital responsibilities within the plant.
However, the KNG openly treated them as normal mech technicians, not even elevating them to chief technicians which they ought to have become.
All of these questions in his mind continued to build up, but he couldn't voice them to Jeff or any of the managers at the Ansel Complex without drawing suspicion.
He needed to find their origin in another way.
Yet every other way demanded too much time or drew too much suspicion.
Ves felt as if every possible direction had been blocked off by some reason or another.
He began to hate this mission.
With time beginning to grow short, Ves felt more and more pressure to begin writing up a report where he creatively included some controversial claims. No matter how shocking and unlikely his fabrications sounded, the fact that they came from him, a member of the reputable Larkinson family and a decorated mech designer, already furthered Flashlight's political aims.
He realized why he felt so deeply uncomfortable about the act of fabricating evidence.
He would let his family down.
More than that, by abusing the credibility that the Larkinsons built up for so long, he would inflict untold damage to their reputation.
His recent meeting with Melinda only emphasized the current differences between a crooked mech designer like him and a straight-laced mech officer like her. Rather than regarding Melinda as an aberration, it was actually him that had deviated from the Larkinsons!
While Ves hadn't spent much time among the adults of the Larkinson Family, he knew that they were mostly simple mech pilots or norms pursuing boring civilian jobs. Even the highest ranking Larkinsons such as uncle Ark or grandfather Benjamin never showed an impropriety during their long careers.
Now that he thought about it, Ves found it rather strange. Why did the Larkinsons insist on staying honest in a society where nobody played fair?
"This is why the Larkinson Family never became big despite how much we've contributed to the Mech Corps."
Yet being a Larkinson himself, Ves also kind of understood why none of the Larkinsons ever reached beyond their means. They were perfectly content with their current role. Trying to hog for more power wasn't always a good thing, because the games people played at that level was incredibly risky.
"Families rise and fall all the time. It's admirable for the Larkinson Family to maintain the same height since the founding of the Bright Republic."
Integrity wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It gave the Larkinsons a trustworthy reputation, and while they would never climb up the upper reins of power, it provided valuable long-term stability to the family as a whole.
No matter what Ves thought of himself, he was still a Larkinson. Everything he did reflected back on his family in some way. Sure, he didn't feel much of a burden when he exploited some advantages through crooked means, but it was a different story if he implicated the rest of his family.
Therefore, Ves really didn't want to fabricate evidence. It wouldn't necessarily hurt him, but it would be stabbing the Larkinsons in the back.
"I need to find another solution."