The Mech Touch Chapter 999
997 Control Problems
As long as the right people were in on it, any kind of fraudulent scheme could take place at a mech production site. Security and monitoring systems ordinarily caught anything that took place on company property, but they possessed deliberate holes.
Ves half suspected that the monitoring and security systems had already been hacked or compromised in some way. If the humans in control of those systems had been bribed, coerced or deceived into shutting down the monitoring, anything could take place.
The Kadar-Neyvis Group already selectively compromised those very same systems in order to do their shady business with the Peace Association.
However, smuggling out parts of military mechs was a much more egregious offense. Anyone with a bit of common sense would know that anything involved with military mechs needed to be treated with the strictest care!
This was why Ves guessed that the BLM had definitely placed some men on the inside, particularly one of the controllers of the monitoring system. He figured that Chief Nyquist only needed eight to ten accomplices at minimum to be able to subvert enough security and prevention procedures to be able to maintain the scheme while keeping everyone else in the dark.
As he made his various inspections, he drew a lot of attention from the workers in the vicinity due to Jeff's noisy company. The relations manager seemed to do his best to stop Ves from observing the work in peace and without alerting anyone close of the presence of a guest.
Nonetheless, even with the distraction Ves managed to note several questionable points. He witnessed parts with heavy damaged exteriors but functional internal components marked for scrap.
Ves knew his mechs, so even at a distance he could already observe that those handful of parts were anything but unrecoverable!
Certainly, while the Mech Corps deserved to receive the best, and it wouldn't be getting that if they received mechs made out of refurbished parts. No matter how well a crew tried to repair a part, prior battle damage always left some marks.
Yet to fabricate new parts to replace lightly-damaged parts was a substantial waste of time, resources and production capacity. If a repair crew replaced every single scratched part with freshly-fabricated ones, then they would quickly incur a substantial amount of expenses!
Therefore, most repair operations found it much more efficient to restore salvageable parts whenever they could.
That the repair crews at the KNG's Mosville Complex sometimes violated that rule practically aroused Ves' suspicion. He hadn't paid any attention to it before, but now that he looked out for it, he realized that for every hundred cases, perhaps two or three would be fraudulently marked unsalvageable without good cause!
As Ves spent more time flitting around the shop floors, he noted that only a single crew responsible for assessment and disassembly was responsible for the fraudulent evaluations.
It happened to be one that contained several of Chief Nyquist's friends.
"That's one link." Ves muttered to himself before he resumed his seemingly random inspection.
Jeff saw no rhyme or reason for Ves' random inspections. They had walked throughout the entire complex more than once in the past few hours but never stuck around long enough.
"Is there anything you are looking for, Ves?"
"I am just doing my job." He said. "So far, I'm very impressed by the efficiency of your operations and the productivity of your workers."
Indeed, the KNG truly did its best when it came to working on their commercial mechs. Ves did not find that the workers pulled off any significant shenanigans when it came to the company's core products.
It should have been the same case for the military mechs entrusted in the KNG's care. Yet Ves found to his befuddlement that the suspect teams of mech technicians actually included some enlisted mech technicians who should have known better!
Either the mech technicians dispatched by the Mech Corps had been bought or influenced into participating in the scheme, or Ves misjudged the situation. This was because Ves determined that it didn't involve around a dozen people or so, but at least double that amount!
For a moment, Ves doubted whether he saw correctly. The more people involved in a scheme, the higher the chance of getting caught. Could the BLM really be so daring to involve that many people?
Evidently, they did.
The more Ves looked, the more his doubts cleared away. He definitely detected signs of fudging and it didn't concern a few bolts or plates here and there.
This wasn't the kind of fraud to overcharge the Mech Corps for costs that the company hadn't actually incurred. This was straight-up theft of military property!
As Ves left the first work crew and tried to observe the work being done by the third work crew, he saw more signs of fudging, though only once or twice among hundreds of legitimate procedures.
This was also how they kept their secret scheme so well hidden. The sophistication of their methods and the practiced way they blended sketchy moves among a ubiquitous amount of legitimate procedures made Ves suspect they had years of practice.
Ves turned to Jeff. "How often does Mr. Stoddard make the rounds like I am doing now?"
"Oh, I'm told he personally makes an inspection each and every day! Sometimes he completes a round in the morning and another one at the end of the day."
"That's very diligent of a mech designer."
"Mr. Stoddard takes his responsibilities very seriously." Jeff spoke with utmost confidence. "Mrs. Kadar and Mr. Neyvis often has high expectations for their top subordinate mech designers. Carl Stoddard is one of our rising talents and we have high hopes that he will be able to advance to Journeyman in the next two decades. In order to facilitate his affinity with mechs, our bosses have sent him to supervise the Mosville Complex."
"Ah. So he doesn't have much practical shop floor experience?"
Jeff laughed awkwardly. "Mr. Stoddard is a practiced mech designer who has assisted Mrs. Kadar and Mr. Neyvis in many design projects. His work on our latest designs have been pivotal in streamlining and optimizing them for the market."
In other words, Carl Stoddard seemed to be the typical out-of-touch mech designer who never got his hands dirty. Ves could understand why Kadar and Neyvis assigned him to supervise the Mosville Complex, where a lot of mechs got taken apart and put back together. With that much activity, Stoddard would eventually be able to understand the practical side of working with mechs.
Yet to Ves, it sounded as if Stoddard, for all of his diligence, was still learning on the job. With such an inexperienced mech designer as the highest authority at the Mosville Complex, was it any surprise that Chief Nyquist and his accomplices could run a scheme unchecked?
What an enormous misjudgement! Kadar and Neyvis should have assigned someone they trusted with a lot workshop and factory experience to supervise the dizzyingly complex amount of operations that took place here. To send a mech designer with great design ability but nonexisting workshop experience to supervise an entire complex completely missed the mark!
It would be like asking a very good mech pilot to design a mech. Just because a mech pilot was related to mechs didn't mean he possessed the qualifications to design a mech!
The same logic applied to assigning virgin mech designers to a major manufacturing complex where thousands of people worked and an even greater amount of mechs, parts and supplies got shipped in and out every day!
Ves subtly shook his head. He felt enormously disappointed at the lacking supervision of this facility. For all its importance to the company and sensitivity in working with military hardware, the KNG placed the wrong people in the wrong positions!
As for the people who were supposed to back Stoddard up if he dropped the ball, one of their core chief technicians turned out to be one of the ringleaders of this scheme!
Ves became more and more aware that Chief Nyquist played a vital role in keeping everything out of sight. Without the indispensable help of such a core figure at the Mosville Complex, a scheme of this scale could never happen!
The total failure in safeguarding military parts and equipment served as a cautionary tale to Ves. He knew that one day, something similar might happen one day at his own company.
Right now, the LMC only erected a single manufacturing complex, and ordinarily Ves worked right on top of the manufacturing floor where most of the work was being done.
However, what if the LMC expanded in the future? What if they set up a brand new manufacturing complex on Bentheim or in a foreign state? It would be impossible for Ves to visit those premises in person in order to inspect if any of his employees tried to fudge the numbers or pull off some kind of scheme!
Resort to technology? As Ves personally witnessed here at the Mosville Complex, technology was anything but omnipotent as long as they remained susceptible to human manipulation!
Control and supervision problems always existed in any large-scale endeavor. Neither the LMC or KNG would ever be able to prevent such instances completely.
Even so, the KNG's four major manufacturing and servicing complexes were all situated on Bentheim. Could it hurt Mrs. Kadar or Mr. Neyvis a bit if they branched out some time to check up the operations at every site?
"Of course, that is why they placed Mr. Stoddard here."
The presiding mech designer's job was to be an extension of Kadar and Neyvis's will. Certainly, Ves had no reason to question Stoddard's actual loyalties anymore, but just because he represented the will of his bosses didn't mean he possessed their skill and discernment!
This was the critical flaw that left a huge opening in the repair and replacement operations at the Mosville Complex. Stoddard's loyalty and devotion could not make up for his lack of competence in this area.
The more Ves observed the abject failures of those who were supposed to be in charge, the more he felt as if he witnessed ongoing shuttle crash.
Something like this could never be sustained forever. Eventually, those responsible would slip up and get caught.
Ves wondered what would happen at that moment and how the BLM planned to respond.
In his introspection, he may have gotten too close to some of the shiftier operations, because Chief Nyquist himself suddenly appeared.
"Mr. Larkinson! What brings you to these parts?"
"Ah, I'm just checking how your workers are handling our military mechs." Ves quickly replied. "I have a personal interest in how you are treating the spaceborn mechs for the 1st Volari Starhawks. One of my cousins Ghanso is a rising mech pilot at that mech regiment, so I want to do my part behind the frontlines to insure he and his comrades receive the best mechs that Bentheim can provide."
Chief Nyquist gave a reassuring smile to Ves. "Ah, family. I understand your concerns. I'm personally on top of many of the mechs we receive from the Volari Starhawks. Let me show you around how thoroughly we inspect and restore the functionality of their damages."
Through his insistence, Nyquist casually guided Ves away from the areas where sketchy activities probably took place.
Inwardly, Ves applauded the chief technician's smooth way in diverting him away. However, this only strengthened his belief that Chief Nyquist definitely played a pivotal role in this scheme.
As Ves got shown around the safer areas of the complex, Ves couldn't help but wonder if he had been a little too inquisitive for his own good. While he observed a good number of improprieties, had he been to blatant about his searches?
Even as a liaison mech designer, Ves had been way too nosy compared to others who held the same job. Yet Chief Nyquist showed no particular interest in him once they walked away from the more sensitive places.
Ves resolved to complete this investigation as fast as possible.