The Mech Touch


The Mech Touch Chapter 334 Breathtaking


To think that he came so far. The expansive works covering a massive area in the middle of nowhere took away his breath. The great undertaking before him finally solidified the LMC's ascension from a small-time player into a serious medium-sized mech manufacturer.

"Even with billions of credits sloshing around in my bank accounts, it's only a bunch of numbers." Ves remarked to Melkor who accompanied him and acted as a guard. "Only by spending them can we make something of ourselves."

If Ves had been taken aback, then Melkor was practically speechless. It was as if he couldn't believe his cousin earned more money than the Larkinson Estate made in a decade.

Melkor couldn't be blamed. He spent a lot of time keeping an eye on his charge, and all he saw of Ves was holing up in his office all the time and coming up with a magical new design after a few months.

A design that became so successful that fueled an expansive manufacturing complex on a sleepy rural planet.

"How much does this all cost?" The mech pilot asked.

"Well, the plan started at half a billion credits, but this looks a lot more elaborate than that."

This must be another decision the board made in his absence. The changes hadn't affected the aboveground portion of the complex too much. It mainly featured more robust turrets and a few more beautifully designed office buildings. Construction bots also worked on planting an elegant courtyard in the center of the complex leading up to the entrance of the headquarters building.

They stepped on a floater platform and slowly hovered over the dirt and incomplete paths before they arrived at the headquarters building.

Ves looked up at the thirty-story tall building. The building had been completed early on, and looked empty but clean from the outside. The structure looked decorative, but hid a lot defences underneath its wide-windowed and white-walled facade.

When Ves commissioned the original plans to build a manufacturing complex, he wanted the architects to design a headquarters that reflected the company's values. It had look in a way that inspired his employees to value mechs and treat them like assets at the very least.

The architects clearly succeeded. As he passed through the tall double doors that loomed like gates, he entered an expansive atrium lighted from above. The colorful screens on the roof filtered the gloomy grey clouds in a subtle gradation of lights.

Shortly after they entered, an older man arrived at the entrance. Jake Altern had finally tracked him down.

"Ves! You've returned!"

Ves walked back and met with Jake. "It takes more than a freaky planet to kill me."

"I heard you fought directly against the Vesians!"

"Hah, don't worry, Melkor took care of them in my stead. I had some close shaves, but we made it out okay."

They made some small talk as they exited the empty HQ. Jake showed genuine concern about his safety, and admonished him not to go harrying off anytime soon.

"The relations between the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom has hit rock-bottom. The Battle of the Two Fleets caused both sides to suffer a significant amount of casualties. Both are eager to avenge their losses. A declaration of war is imminent."

"I know. I was in that very battle, though only in the outskirts."

He personally experienced the depth to which the two sides hated each other. The bad blood between the two states would never end until one side wiped out the other side.

After Ves assured Jake of his safety, the conversation took an unpleasant turn. Jake noted that Ves was still bottling up his resentment, so he took the initiative to come clean.

"Look Ves, about the licensing contract to Vaun, everyone from the Larkinson Estate was in favor of this move. Your grandfather had actually been the driving force of this decision. The Larkinsons are in need of money."

There was much for Ves to criticize. First, did his grandfather really demand this initiative, or had the old fogies from the steering committee pushed him to support this move? Second, why would the Larkinson Estate be lacking money? They'd gone by since the founding of the Republic without any hiccups.

Still, despite his many questions, Ves felt no need to hash it out with Jake. "I admit I'm very discontented about this partnership with Vaun. I made it very clear that Vaun is not a fit for the LMC. Their manufacturing methods are a disservice to a design like the Blackbeak."

Jake didn't understand what Ves was saying. To a businessman and administrator like him, all mechs were tools to be used and discarded at a whim.

"Ves, can you at least admit that the contract with Vaun has provided us with immediate short-term benefits? The licensing fees they are paying will easily be able to pay for the expansions the LMC desperately needs. We will be able to add two new production lines by the end of the fiscal year!"

Ves really couldn't stand to hear any further rationalizations. "You still crossed the line! This is my company, and my say matters the most. I can understand how much it hurts to miss all of those potential profits due to a lack of capacity, but you should have at least found another manufacturer that is similar to EME. Instead, the entire board and you treated my opinions with contempt and went ahead with Vaun anyway!"

He rarely got angry, but when he did, everyone took notice. Jake halted in his tracks but refused to admit any fault. "Disagree with me if you will, but I stand by our decision. In your sudden absence, the LMC still needs direction. Every member of the board agrees it makes a lot of sense to go to bed with a professional and capable mech manufacturer. The results speak for themselves. We are richer than ever before!"

"That's the only reason why I haven't fired you!"

"Maybe you should!"

After some time, Ves calmed down. He didn't want to harp on this issue because the milk had already been spilled. Instead of continuing to ruin his relationship with his Chief Operating Officer, he'd rather move on and adjust the course of the LMC from this point onwards.

"Jake, you're a good administrator, but you're not irreplaceable. I asked the Larkinson Estate to send some capable people, and I can do it again if needed. Your only value in my eyes is to act as a caretaker of the business side of the LMC. It is not your job to come up with your own initiatives and act outside your boundaries."

"Understood." The man replied with resignation. Jake appeared man enough to shoulder the responsibility of his decision. "I suggest you remain within reach if you don't want something like this to happen again. It's easy to act like you're the boss, but decisions still have to be made even when you're absent."

"I'm not so sure I can follow your suggestion. When war breaks out, everything will change."

Both of them fell silent at the grim possibility. Even Melkor took notice. He'd been leaning to the side and stayed as inconspicuous as possible. All of the business talk hardly roused his interests.

The war was a different matter, however.
They smelled the gunpowder in the air. The first shots had already been fired. Now, they awaited the formal declaration of war which should be very imminent now. Once the Bright Republic entered war footing, many things would change.

"Can brief me on the changes the company will go through once the Republic is at war?"

Jake filled him in on the drastic changes the LMC would go through. "First and foremost, our ability to import materials will be somewhat curtailed. It's good that we are only producing a single model. Our resource needs aren't that elaborate or extensive, and we can source most of them from domestic suppliers. Prices will rise and quotas may be imposed, but other than that we can still do business."

"What about our sales? I've heard that the Republic will impose a lot of restrictions in this area."

"That's true." Jake nodded as they stepped on a lifter platform that brought them to a massive reinforced gate that led underground. "Depending on the level of war mobilization, we'll be obliged to follow every instruction sent government. Failure to comply comes with severe penalties. They can even confiscate our assets if we flout their authority."

That sounded very serious to Ves. The last thing he wanted was for the government to take away his life's work. "How often does that happen?"

"More often than you think, but it's always the smaller players who fall victim to this scheme. The ministry in charge of supervising mech manufacturers analyze their capabilities and issue work orders such as manufacturing a certain amount of replacement parts of a vital mech design from the Mech Corps."

"Do we get paid for it?"

"Just enough to cover our costs plus depreciation. It's not a profitable venture, but at least we won't be bankrupting ourselves. The only problem is that inflation and resource shortages can run out of control if the war swings against our favor."

Something like this had happened a few times throughout the Bright Republic's history. A lot of previously stable mech manufacturers went bankrupt once their business climate turned sour.

"What about conscription?"

"We don't expect too much of our employees to be conscripted. The Bright Republic doesn't care about the ordinary mech technicians either, but they'll definitely consider snapping up a talented mech designer."

"I'm aware of that. I hope the LMC can continue to operate in line with my interests once I'm gone. I don't want a repeat of what happened before."

"I can't make any promises on that, Ves. You should talk to your grandfather to set some ground rules."

Ves shook his head. "Let's not retread this conversation."

"Agreed."

"Back to the topic at hand, if war erupts, what kind of limits will we face for our sales?"

"We can still sell our mechs to private parties, but they have to be vouched by the government before we can deliver our mechs. If the customer in question is a loyal citizen of the Republic, then they won't face too many restrictions. Even gangs aren't exempt from this as long as they pledge to defend their territory against the Vesians."

Even though the Bright Republic maintained a love-hate relationship with the gangs that plagued their planets, they still recognized their use as an auxiliary force against the greater threat.

Different from the Republic, the Vesians ruled their territory with an iron fist. While this has led to a significant amount of economic stagnation, it also ensured that gangs had no chance of rooting themselves in the underworld of the Kingdom.

Some people argue that the nobles secretly fill in the void left by the gangs. In essence, the nobility simultaneously occupied the light and grey areas of Vesian society.

In any case, the gangs knew that the Vesians would wipe them out in time once they took control over a planet. This forced the gangs to flee or fight. Most chose the latter due to various reasons, chief among them was that they'd be exiled from the Republic if they shirked their moral duty.

"So how will this affect our earnings?" Ves asked.

"It can be volatile. On one hand, the mercenary corps that agreed to work for the Republic receive allowances in case they lose their mechs. Depending on their performance, they'll be shopping around a lot. On the other hand, not every mercenary corps is eager to perform errands in hostile territory. These cowards will try to flee the Republic in substantial numbers."

"So there's going to be fewer customers?"

"Correct, and those who remain will spend a little more."

Overall, that sounded like a net loss to the LMC. Even if the mercenary corps decided to stay and fight the good fight, they'll only get the equivalent of pocket money from the government.

That would be good enough to buy a couple of cheap frontline mechs, but it would take a lot more remuneration to buy an expensive Blackbeak.

"Which market segment will be the most active one, then?"

"If you're able to design a sub-20 million credit mech, then you're well-placed to take advantage of the surge in sales in this segment."

Unfortunately, Ves did not have the time. He first had to design his premium rifleman mech before he considered anything else. Arming Melkor with a quality mech was more important to him than trying to earn an extra buck from mercenaries that had fallen out of luck.



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