The Mech Touch Chapter 998
996 A Daring Scheme
"I'm not a detective." Ves began to explain to Leland how he came to his conclusion. "But I'm a mech designer. More than that, I'm a business owner during my civilian career and spent a long time holding the position of head designer. I'm quite familiar with production and repair operations, both of which happen on a very large scale at the KNG's Mosville Complex."
Leland grew increasingly intrigued. "Have you managed to come across any hard evidence to back up your statements?"
"Not yet, but I've inferred it by combining the clues we've found with my own observations of the site. You have to be aware that the Mosville Complex stands out among the KNG's properties because it is their main service and repair center. Both the company's commercial and military clients send their damaged mechs to Mosville for servicing. Do you know how many parts get restored instead of replaced?"
"What's the difference?" The intelligence officer asked.
"Damaged and faulty mechs can be fixed up in two ways. Either you hammer its broken parts back together, or you take it out and replace it with a functional spare part fabricated on the spot or taken out of an inventory. The mech technicians at the Mosville Complex does both. In fact, most of the time they have a crew that is dedicated to identifying and ripping out broken and malfunctioning parts, another crew that is responsible for taking parts from the site's abundant inventory and assembling them onto the frame of the damaged mech, and finally a third crew which is solely tasked with processing the damaged parts."
Leland began to see which aspect about the operations at the Mosville Complex drew the most suspicion. "If I wanted to siphon away mechs from that site, I'd take control of the third crew."
"Exactly." Ves grinned. "In fact, it works best if the first crew is in collusion with the third crew. The first crew would pick out damaged but mostly functional parts for replacement and pull them out of the damaged mech. The third crew receives those valuable parts and assigns some of them for recycling or disposal despite the fact that they can still be used after some refurbishment."
"Even so, it sounds as if the third crew needs to be in on the entire scheme for it to work."
This also threw Ves for a loop for a while. "That's true. It's not easy to fudge the numbers of what can be recovered from 'recycling' or 'scrapping' the supposedly damaged parts. However, if the activity is small enough, it's possible to get away with it under everyone's noses. Chief Nyquist happens to be working for the third crew. Not only that, he's assigned to an important position in supervising the repairs for the military mechs that are sent back by the Bentheim mech regiments!"
This immediately alarmed Leland. "Do you mean that if Chief Nyquist is in a position to supply military mechs to the BLM?!"
Such an occurrence would be a huge scandal! Whether or not Kadar or Neyvis truly collaborated with the BLM in person didn't matter at that stage! Just the fact that the BLM got their hands on exclusive military hardware and in substantial numbers would be enough to tarnish the KNG's reputation and damage their relations with their backers!
If the separatists only got their hands on crappy bargain bin mech models, then the threat they posed could easily be dealt with by the authorities.
If they got their hands on more expensive budget and midrange mech models, then it would be a major crime for any company to supply them with these kinds of mechs. However, the damage wouldn't be too big of a deal if only a single mid-level manager or chief technician was responsible for smuggling commercial mechs to the BLM.
Once it became known that the KNG actually smuggled out mechs that belonged to the military, the crime was much more severe!
From his experiences with the internally developed mech models of the Flagrant Vandals, he knew that while they may not be the most expensive mechs in use. The true value of military mechs lay in how thoroughly they were designed. Almost always involving a Senior Mech Designer, they not only incorporated their specialties, but also made use of several exclusive military component licenses based on more advanced tech.
Mech regiments also wanted to avoid their military mechs falling into the hands of their enemies. If the Vesians scavenged an intact or functional mech, they could study its performance, quantify their parameters and identify their weak points.
This would be an absolute disaster for the mech regiment in question! The next time they fought against the Vesians, their military mechs might suddenly become ten or even twenty percent less effective!
Therefore, the KNG absolutely violated the trust extended by the Volari Starhawks and the other mech regiments that decided to entrust the production and servicing of their military mechs to the company!
"Just think about it." Ves said grimly. "Since the current war broke out, the five partnering military mech regiments sent back thousands of their mechs for repairs or replacements. If Chief Nyquist smuggled out enough functional parts to the BLM to reconstruct, say, a hundred military mechs, then the discrepancy won't grow large enough to alert the people around him. This is a scheme that slowly took place over the past several years!"
"It shouldn't be so easy." Leland retorted with some skepticism. "The KNG and the military mech technicians that are sent to assist in the work should have prevented such a major scheme."
Ves already interviewed people like Darryl Roland, a disabled mech technician sent back from the frontlines by the Mech Corps. The man's hero worship for a veteran like Nyquist was very evident!
"The way the repair crews are put together makes it easy to obscure the details. Chief Nyquist is a very popular chief technician among his colleagues and his former military service makes him very trustworthy among the workers sent by the Mech Corps. He won't be able to pull of this scheme alone, but remember that the KNG recently hired more personnel as well pressured them to work harder. The existing workers are either too new and inexperienced to know any better, too eager to suck up to a popular and powerful chief technician or too exhausted by their current workload to figure out if anything is wrong!"
"If I recall, Chief Nyquist holds a high position on the work floor, right?" Leland remembered.
Ves nodded. "Yes. That's an important point. He enjoys considerable authority within the Mosville Complex. Officially, he should also be in a position to pull some strings to allocate the right mech technicians to his work crew. Unofficially, he appears to be influential enough among his fellow chiefs to be able to influence the site's specific policies and procedures."
Both of them paused for a time after Ves explained his reasoning. Leland appeared to have bought the story, but then his skepticism took force.
"All of this sounds plausible enough, but you don't have the evidence to back it up. Mere speculation along with drawing upon indirect clues and observation is not enough to prove your case."
"We have a direction we can work with." Ves defended himself. "Look, I didn't really pay any particular attention to the third crew up to now, but now that I know what they might be cooking up I can look specifically for signs that point to such activities. In addition, your men can follow up on the company that processes the 'supposed' scrap. The workers at the Mosville Complex is supposed to pull apart and crush any damaged parts that are marked for disposal, but I believe this step might have been skipped occasionally."
The BLM needed to subvert several steps in the chain to put this scheme to work, but Ves didn't think it was impossible to do so. Chief Nyquist's vital leadership role as well as the overall negligence and distraction of the managers there due to the recent difficulties left a lot of openings for the BLM to exploit.
For example, Ves was pretty sure that plenty of recent hires assigned to work with Chief Nyquist might be moles sent by the BLM. As a chief technician, it wasn't too difficult for Nyquist to assign specific individuals to his work crews.
However, the key requirement to back up his assertions was to find real proof!
Leland promised to look into the recycling and waste processing companies responsible for processing the Mosville Complex's waste output. Perhaps it would be possible for his men to tie the recently-identified people holed up in one of the BLM's safehouses to one of those suspect companies.
However, he also questioned whether it would still be necessary to drag in Carl Stoddard, the mech designer appointed by Kadar and Neyvis to supervise the Mosville Complex.
"Is Mr. Stoddard even involved?"
"I'm forty percent certain." Ves replied. "As the man in charge of supervising the processes that go on in the complex, he's responsible for what is happening there. While I'm sure he's also distracted by the recent setbacks and difficulties the KNG is experiencing, as long as he's a semi-competent mech designer, he should have picked up some signs."
"And if he's innocent?"
Ves shook his head. "He's not innocent. If he's not sympathiser or a mole for the BLM, he's at least criminally negligent for allowing some of the workers under his charge to smuggle out a substantial amount of military assets. Only the severity of Mr. Stoddard's crimes is in question, and I don't mind pushing him deeper into the pit he dug for himself to strengthen our case."
To Ves, there was a substantial difference between accusing an innocent mech designer for treason as opposed to exaggering the blame on a criminally negligent mech designer. Since Mr. Stoddard was already doomed, why not make use of his fall to Flashlight's advantage?
Leland saw the merit in Ves' suggestion. "As the mech designer in charge, Carl Stoddard's implication in this scheme will definitely blow up the controversy even further by tying Mrs. Kadar and Mr. Neyvis more directly to the accusations. I would have preferred to implicate the two Journeyman Mech Designers directly, but I can live with tarnishing one of their most trusted subordinate mech designers."
That was when Ves smiled in satisfaction. If everything went well and he found the proof he needed, perhaps he could avoid an outcome where he dragged down Kadar and Neyvis directly.
As long as they could prove they weren't involved in this scheme, they could avoid being taken into custody. The company might be able to survive as well, though in a much-diminished form and without much of the backing it previously enjoyed.
Even if the company was forced to close its doors, Kadar and Neyvis could always start a new company on a clean slate. As Journeyman Mech Designers, neither of them lacked in competence. Even if they completely lacked any funding or assets, they could still attract plenty of outside investment willing to make a quick credit on proven winners.
To Ves, he felt better if the happy family would be able to stay together. Neither Liefe or Aislin Kadar-Neyvis would see their father or mother taken into custody and be locked behind bars for a couple decades.
Of course, Ves reminded himself that he actually needed to prove his assertions. With time continuing to grow short, he returned to the Mosville Complex the next day and paid particular attention to the work performed by the first and third crews.
He first paid a visit to the workers of the first crew, the ones responsible for identifying and ripping off broken parts from military mechs. It was difficult to observe whether they did their jobs properly as Ves couldn't come too close.
Another problem was Jeff, the relations manager sent by the KNG's headquarters. The man continued to annoy Ves by distracting him with his talk.
Like an annoying fly that buzzed around his head, Ves couldn't swat the representative of the company away.
"I must say, Ves, the Mosville Complex takes good care of the mechs shipped back from the frontlines. Everyone here works hard to meet the needs of the military! We here at the KNG pride ourselves on helping the war effort by saving valuable mechs that still have some life left in them! Not only do we work fast, but we work with utmost care! None of the mechs we have sent back has ever received any complaints about their soundness!"
Could this annoying fly please shut up?!