The Mech Touch Chapter 996
994 Toxic Expectations
Substance abuse existed for a long time. It still happened at an alarming frequency even during the Age of Mechs despite many, many measures in trying to stamp it out.
These days, the focus on the use of stimulants and drugs mainly fell into two categories: recreational substances and performance-enhancing substances.
Leaving aside the strong demand for recreational substances, many humans constantly made use of performance-enhancing stimulants in their daily lives.
From cramming for an upcoming exam, to performing more vigorously at work, performance-enhancing stimulants filled a very desperate need to humans who ordinarily lacked confidence.
To Ves, it sounded like a sad occurrence, but it wasn't necessarily a bad tradeoff for their users. By absorbing a potent stimulant, they could temporarily boost their performance in their studies or their work for a critical event.
As for the cost and side effects? As long as someone only used it for a short time when they really needed it, then they were acceptable prices to pay.
In exchange for credits and and some negative impacts on someone's health, they could achieve a critical chance to elevate their lives! From students trying to pass an entrance exam for a prestigious university to employees trying to pass through crunch time where work piled up for days, as long as they made use of a quick boost, they would all be able to further their careers!
"Substance abuse, huh?" Ves muttered after his surprise faded away.
He personally witnessed several instances of someone growing too reliant on performance-enhancing stimulants. Back when he studied mech design at Rittersberg, there were many students who failed to keep up with their courses.
To these marginal cases who were at the cusp of failure, just a simple stimulant gave them a lifeline that allowed them to pass their exams and continue their studies.
Yet a stimulant only lasted a few hours to a day at most. What then? Those who managed to pass an exam only passed a single hurdle at a single instant of time.
In order for anyone to obtain a degree in mech design, they needed to study for at least five years while and pass dozens of exams! That also didn't include the constant assignments and practical work that every aspiring mech designer needed to perform continuously!
Therefore, one stimulant was never enough.
Ten stimulants was never enough.
A hundred stimulants was never enough.
Someone who depended solely on performance-enhancing stimulants to perform adequately in their studies should not be qualified at all!
His university never bothered to screen out these edge cases. That was because after months or years of increasing use of these kinds of stimulants eventually led to self-destruction.
Usually, the substance abusers built up some sort of tolerance that made these drugs less effective. This pushed them into increasing their dose. When that didn't help, they resorted to more potent substances, which usually came with much heavier adverse side effects! This pattern repeated over and over until finally their bodies and minds became too damaged for them to function normally!
Ves thanked his luck that he was intelligent and motivated enough to study mech design at Rittersberg without having to resort to such desperate means.
Yet many people who faced a difficult choice might have made a different decision. It appeared that Sebastian Rohill happened to be one of them. Yet why did this mech technician feel the need to resort to this option in the first place?
"You don't understand!" Stan said with a desperate voice. "I have to work hard for the KNG! The company is going through tougher times! Anyone who slacks off or is too slow at their jobs get fired! Do you know how much the company pays us? We need to show that we deserve to work there!"
"Ah." Ves uttered. The other shoe finally dropped. It seemed the KNG's employment policy finally showed another crack. "Strange. I haven't seen any of that during my time at the KNG."
"We'd never throw any shade at the KNG! The company has been good to us! We all wanted to pay them back! If we aren't working hard enough, they'd fire us and replace us with one of the many others waiting in line to join the company! Lately, it's not enough to put in a hundred percent of my effort! I have to put in at least half as more to help the company go through these hard times!"
Ves crossed his arms. "There's more to that, I believe. The private market may be having a glut of mech technicians now due to all of the companies that have shuttered, but the Mech Corps is always eager to replenish their losses. You're afraid they'll draft unemployed mech technicians like you, aren't you?"
A pulsing shock ran through Stan. "I-I-I-I don't want to go to war! I'm just a mech technician! I don't belong on the frontlines!"
Someone like Stan was young enough to have missed the previous war. Therefore, he was eligible for the draft. The only reason why the Mech Corps hadn't snapped him up was because he already worked at the KNG.
The Mech Corps generally left mech technicians alone if they already worked for a company, especially one as large and productive as the KNG that already contributed to military production.
That afforded the mech technicians who worked there shelter against being sent to war. While the Bright Republic constantly encouraged its citizens to answer the call of battles, the horrendous casualties suffered in each generation scared many of them away.
Ves unconsciously looked down on Stan even more. "I get it. The KNG is bleeding money so they're pushing their workforce harder. You weren't originally a very good mech technician, so in order to keep up with the higher expectations of the company, you turned to help. My question is, how long have you been using?"
The mech technician didn't want to answer, so Ves slammed his fist against the metal table.
"Damnit, I started using since I got hired, okay!? I wasn't confident I could keep up!"
"Stan here is a heavy user for sure." Leland spoke from the side. "You can tell from his nervous ticks and how he's always restless that he's been using performance-enhancing stimulants for years."
"I've been starting off with the lighter stuff." Stan said hopelessly. "Just a little bit, okay? Helped me learn stuff and keep up with the work at the same time. I kept trying to lay it off once I studied enough, but there's always more to learn. Then the war happened."
"The company suddenly demanded more from their workers at that point, right?"
"Yeah. It didn't happen immediately. Our workload got a little tighter and there was less time for me to study at the company library. Then we spent pretty much all of our time at the production lines, yet even then it wasn't enough! People started getting fired when they were just a bit too slow to keep up and that's when we all got spooked!"
At the start, Stan only injected himself with stimulants he obtained from the local gang in Mosville. Selling performance-enhancing substances was big business in Bentheim and pretty much every gang offered them, so it was trivial for Stan to get his hands on something.
Yet for Stan, the lighter stuff wasn't enough for him anymore. He needed more potent stimulants. The gang hooked him up with more expensive stimulants, and for a time the mech technician managed to keep up with his job.
Until even that failed to give him the boost he needed to hang on to the expectations set upon him. The downside of his excellent performance resulted in greater pay but also greater responsibilities. If he stopped taking stimulants one day, not only would he drop down to a standard below his previous track record, but he would outright crash to the bottom due to the severe withdrawal symptoms that inevitably followed.
Even so, Leland had something to say about the particular stimulant that Stan admitted to using.
"Enoncolantis-3 is a difficult drug to obtain. It's synthesized in the frontier because the core ingredients can only be harvested from exoplants that is found there. Not every sells it and when they do, the prices are inevitably high."
Ves frowned. "What's the use of this stimulant?"
"There are two major advantages. First, it boosts a human's cognitive functions more effectively with comparatively less side effects. Second, it's very hard to detect in ordinary circumstances. Most detectors installed in workplaces like the KNG's Ansel Complex is capable of screening out many ordinary drugs, but Enocolantis-3 is definitely not one of them. It's too rare and difficult to detect."
"The demand for this product is high but the supply is rather difficult." Ves summed up. "How much does it cost to take a single dose?"
"In pill form, I'd reckon no less than a thousand credits per brain pill!"
Ves turned around in shock. "That much?!"
Even though Ves earned enough money to fill a swimming pool with pills, he was still very much aware of the salaries of average mech technicians. Even the well-paid mech technicians of the KNG could never afford to take the drug continuously!
Considering that Stan looked as if he swallowed a brain pill every day, there was no way he could ever be able to afford his addiction through his own salary!
"Where do you get the money to pay for your daily fix?" He asked the man.
Stan didn't want to answer. He kept his mouth shut while his body was going through continuous shudders. Ves looked at Leland, who shrugged.
"I did not anticipate that Stan here is a substance abuser. The sedatives and other drugs we pumped in his bloodstream are clashing against his withdrawal symptoms. We picked him up from his apartment while he still slept, so he didn't have any time to take a brain pill."
That explained the exaggerated neurotic movements from the man. Back at the Ansel Complex, Stan didn't behave too different from a well-motivated employee. The slight oddities in his demeanor didn't necessarily point to any substance abuse, especially considering that each employee coming to work needed to pass through a scanner.
Yet those scanners only looked out for known substances. The massive underground pharmaceutical industry constantly cooked up new drugs and stimulants that creatively gave their users the fix they craved without running afoul of a detector.
Ves hadn't heard of Enoncolantis-3, so it must have been developed recently. However, he was very much aware of what kind of drugs that brain pills encompassed.
These kinds of upscale performance-enhancing stimulants sold very well among professionals. Their high prices offered no hindrance to promising talents who wanted to gain some sort of edge over their colleagues in order to obtain a promotion.
In fact, mech designers ought to be one of the most prevalent users of brain pills!
For a mech technician to be able to sustain the daily usage of such an upscale product was weird because no mech technician could afford its use for long. Therefore, no matter if Stan was already starting to go through withdrawal, Ves really wanted to know how the mech technician paid for it all.
"Tell me." Ves repeated, putting his strong Spirituality to bear.
Stan simply shook his head in a neurotic manner.
"TELL ME!" Ves slammed both of his fists against the table.
The abrupt impact caused Stan to jump, though his restraints kept him tied to his seat. The pressure bearing down on him from Ves and his own body was too much for him to endure!
"I passed on information, alright! They kept asking me questions and I had to answer them if I wanted to get my next brain pill!"
Both Leland and Ves lit up. This was what they wanted to hear!
"Who did you report to?" Ves pressed on. "Who supplied you with brain pills in exchange for intel on the KNG?"
"I.. I don't know! They never told me who they were! When you deal with stuff like this, you always try to find out as little as possible!"
At this, Leland sighed. "Useless. An indirect connection like this takes too much time to follow up."
"It depends on the information that Stan has provided." Ves replied before turning back to the mech technician. "What did you pass on?"
"All kinds of information I could get my hands on. Technical specifications. Production schedules. Personnel lists. Security arrangements. Maps. Stuff like that."
That didn't necessarily led to the BLM. It could have been one of KNG's competitors trying to keep tabs on the Ansel Complex.
As Stan answered more questions, Ves did not find the smoking gun he was looking for. A loyal employee turned informant to some unknown party was not the major offense that Flashlight sought to indict the KNG!