The Mech Touch Chapter 501 Aged
"A new beginning."
Those words echoed throughout everyone's minds. Ves never imagined that Major Verle could be so eloquent. A speechwriter among his staff must have composed those uplifting and inspiring words.
After Ves took a mental step back, he realized the eulogy aimed to invigorate the Vandals. The last thing they needed was people getting hung up about the losses they sustained.
As a soldier of the Republic, they weren't soft-hearted to the extent that the death of a comrade plunged them into despair.
Yet human emotion was a complex beast, and all manner of negative thoughts might bloom in the darkness.
Verle's speech served as a light that banished that darkness and guided the thoughts of his subordinates to a more beneficial direction. The underlying message instructed them to cast away the shackles of the past and look towards a new beginning,
The act of plunging the caskets into space during the space burial could therefore be seen as a dividing line between the past and the present.
Right now, it was more important for the Verle Task Force to shake off Vesian pursuit and escape the Kingdom's borders. The Vesians must be incredibly furious at the daring act of striking at the heart of their territory. Only by butchering the guilty party would they be able to cleanse their shame!
This hounding threat provided the motivation while the space burial gave the Vandals the impetus to pick up their work. Their productivity soared as they pushed all thoughts of mourning the dead aside in order to deal with the present crisis.
Ves arrived at his furnished office the next day. The cabin received a clean but luxurious makeover that wouldn't look out of place from a cruise ship. Stylish metal furniture marked with green and brass motifs gave the entire cabin a sense that only the most distinguished gentlemen worked in this office.
"This is a bit too much." He spoke after he took in the sight.
"You're the boss now. You have to show that off. A barebones office won't do." Iris spoke from the side.
The cabin was kind of cramped, as was typical to ships where space came at a premium. Despite that limitation, Iris somehow managed to divide the interior in a way that squeezed in a desk and terminal for her as well.
Evidently, she wanted to work in the same room as Ves.
"I'll go fabricate some terminals." He said. "For now, please make contact with the staff aboard the Shield of Hispania. I can probably pull up some official reports from the terminal once its up, but it helps if you can tell me their impressions and overall opinions."
"I can do that, but be aware that I'm a guest aboard this ship. They won't tell me anything critical."
"That's okay. If I need to know about something, they'll pay me a visit or send me some classified documents on their own initiative."
After packing Iris off, Ves went down to the nearest workshop to fabricate some terminals and other high-tech gadgets to make his office complete. This was something he needed to do by himself in order to insure that nobody tampered with his equipment. It was a lot harder to detect irregularities if someone tampered with it during the fabrication process.
Ves didn't go for anything fancy when he arrived at a 3D printer. He selected the most reliable and impenetrable models available in its database and made some minor tweaks before letting the device do all the work. He didn't even need to intervene in the production process due to the limited amount of variables at play.
Once the 3D printer spat out all of the gear he needed, he ordered a bot to bring them to his office. Ves accompanied the bot as they climbed the deck and supervised the installation process to insure nothing fudged the equipment.
After realizing that he'd been way too sloppy with regards to information security back at Detemen IV, Ves became way more paranoid about this matter. While he couldn't match Alloc's prowess in this area, his rapid study session back then boosted his Computer Science Skill to a respectable level, so he wasn't as clueless as before.
Once the bots left the office, Ves withdrew a multiscanner attached to his toolbelt and carefully scanned every nook and cranny of his office. He paid special attention to the furniture, but the device detected no anomalies.
Though the cabin did include some very covert monitoring devices, Ves quickly figured out that they were connected to the core systems of the Hispania. In other words, they formed part of the combat carrier's integrated security systems.
To be certain, Ves sent a quick message to the security department of the ship. They immediately confirmed guess, so Ves had to leave the bugs alone.
Obviously, no part of the ships escaped monitoring. Everyone was subjected to observation, but just because they came under scrutiny, didn't mean that someone would act on what the bugs recorded.
Ves keenly remembered treasonous talk among the spacers of the Wolf Mother. That they could get away with that talk meant that the Vandals didn't care too much about small offenses. Even talk of gambling, drinking and fraternization was met with silence.
This absence of action obviously meant that the Vandals couldn't be bothered with trivialities. As long as the spacers did their job, who cared if they broke over a dozen regulations of the Mech Corps.
"I could probably get away with many things." He figured.
That didn't mean it was wise to test the boundaries of what was possible. When you walked close to the river, your shoes would eventually get wet.
Still, Ves hadn't even formally started his job, but his mind already swirled with temptation. The job of head designer sounded very impressive, and Ves guessed he could turn a lot of things to his advantage if he wished.
"That's probably a bad idea right now."
His goal for the time being was fairly simple right now. He merely wanted to survive the current peril and make it through the war alive. Any benefits beyond this came as an extra.
Thus, after settling his momentary greed, he calmed down and became sober. Even the enviable amount of power that came with the position of head designer didn't excite him anymore. To him, the job was just another burden.
A few minutes later, Ves locked down the office and contacted Professor Velten. Unlike Ves and Iris, most of the other high-ranking mech designers stayed with Colonel Lowenfield's fleet. The distance separating Lowenfield's fleet and Major Verle's task force ranged at least a dozen light-years.
To put that into perspective, it took at least twelve years for a conventional signal sent from one end to the other end.
Nonetheless, communicating with the other fleet happened instantly and seamlessly as long as both sides had access to quantum entanglement nodes.
One of the most basic privileges of a head designer was that they enjoyed expanded privileges when it came to accessing the galactic net and contacting others among the Vandals.
His terminal lit up as a projection of Professor Velten's face came into being. Though she looked dour most of the time, Ves immediately spotted something different.
The Professor's eyes were red, and her skin gained a lot of extra wrinkles. Already senile, the Senior Mech Designer had obviously aged substantially in a matter of weeks!
"Ah, professor, I, uh, am I calling at a bad time?"
"No." She replied hoarsely but with inner strength. Despite her outward appearance, she sounded as firm as a rock. "Our duties must go on. We cannot afford to rest while thousands are depending on us."
The professor obviously mourned for Alloc. Ves learned from his that he was actually the professor's legacy disciple. Alloc was her final protégé, and one who would inherit most of her knowledge and possessions after she passed away.
In the mech industry, the bond between a mentor and a mentee came in many forms. Most of the times, the relationship was shallow and transactional. The mentor taught their student some of their knowledge, while the student toiled for the mentor or paid them something of value.
Naturally, more intimate relationships existed as well. To someone like Velten who benefited from a round of life-prolonging treatment, familial bonds often faded away. Mechs became her family, and the mech designers she nurtured substituted for her own offspring.
Like any parent, a mentor with a deep affection for their student never wished for them to perish before their time was up. The pain that came with this loss was heart-wrenching torture.
Ves suspected that if Velten's lifespan had just been cut in half at the very least. She wasn't very long for this universe. Once she died, the Flagrant Vandals lost their last remaining Senior Mech Designer. The consequences would certainly be very dire if the Vandals failed to get a replacement.
He minutely shook his head. That was for Colonel Lowenfield to worry about. Ves needed to focus on the problems that fell within his scope as a head designer of the task force.
Ves patiently waited for Velten to get a grip on her emotions. After she regained some clarity in her mind, she turned her attention to him. "Mr. Larkinson, why are you calling me? You don't possess the privilege to make an intersystem call!"
"Ah, don't you remember? With Alloc's absence, I've become the temporary head designer of Major Verle's task force."
He waited for several seconds as the professor's foggy mind processed his words. Frankly, that she forgot about his field promotion was inexcusable. Ves tactfully refrained from recommending that Velten should visit the infirmary and get her head checked.
A light finally switched on in her head. "Ah! I recall now. This is a highly irregular course of action, but the position of head designer cannot remain empty. Even if you lack the qualifications and experience to take up this position, I trust you will not be too inept at your new job."
"I'm still uncertain what my temporary job entails, ma'am. I've only heard vague descriptions so far and nobody sent me any instructions."
"Oh, I forgot to send you the relevant documents. Let me transfer them to you now. I highly recommend you peruse them all, but make sure you do not leak out the contents of the classified documents. I don't have to tell you what the consequences are if you are caught with spilling sensitive information."
His terminal beeped upon receipt of a whole pile of virtual documents. Ves skimmed over the files and saw that it included a large assortment of lists, budgets, manuals and schedules. This probably served as his foundation for his new job.
"Let me explain the role of head designer to you in the simplest terms." She began. "A head designer is a mech designer that is the foremost expert among the fleet or task force. This is the most essential criteria, and for this job to land on an Apprentice Mech Designer is highly unusual. In fact, it is unprecedented in the Mech Corps."
In other words, Ves needed to fill some very big shoes.
"I have one question, ma'am. Why not let one of your Journeymen act as your head designer in remote? Even if they aren't physically present in the task force, they can still perform just as well."
The professor shook her head. "This has been done many times, to mixed success. We do not have the right policies and training in place to accomplish such a thing. Physical presence is important. This is why the galaxy hasn't turned into a giant virtual playground where every human is immersed in a permanent tank and interacts with the outside universe through a robot avatar. Humans are very social creatures. A close presence is essential in controlling an expansive organization."
Ves wouldn't be able to fob off the job to someone else, then. The professor was right that Ves probably held the most qualifications to wear this hat, even if it was too big to fit snugly on his head right now.