”We had it under control, Ves.
The risks were manageable and we easily achieved our objectives. ” Leland soothed the recovering mech designer lying limp on his bed inside a military hospital.

”Getting shot in exchange for alarming the Mech Corps doesn ’t sound like a good deal when I was only one step away from death! Is this how Flashlight treats their own people?! ”

”It ’s not easy to join our ranks, Ves. ” Leland shook his head.
”It ’s not that easy to join our ranks.
You have to show you are willing to do whatever it takes to further our goals.
I ’m happy to say that your dedication to the agency so has been more than satisfactory.
As long as you do your part in feeding the investigators from the Mech Corps the information we want them to obtain, I ’m sure they ’ll move on it with the highest priority. ”

”It all comes down to the mission, does it? ” Ves sighed.
I ’ll play along, but Flashlight better compensate me for what you ’ve put me through! ”

”Relax, Ves.
We aren ’t in the habit of treating our own people poorly.
I ’ll be sure to write a glowing evaluation of your performance and cooperation as soon as this mission comes to an end. ”

While Ves was inordinately pissed at Leland and Flashlight for being so cavalier with his life, there was no point in falling out with the powerful agency.
The simple rational calculus was that it benefited him more if he remained in their camp than if he decided to cut ties with them out an emotional fit.

As Ves should be under strict guard, Leland couldn ’t stick around for long.
He left the hospital room in the VIP section shortly afterwards.

Minutes later, a military police captain followed by some aides entered the room.
Larkinson, I hope you have recovered sufficiently to answer some questions.
Right now, it ’s eighteen hours since you ’ve been shot, but our investigations are still very much ongoing.
You help and insight may be crucial to figuring out why you ’ve been targeted. ”

Ves smiled sardonically at the clueless people sent by the Mech Corps to question him.
They had no idea of Flashlight ’s involvement.

While he could have spilled the beans on their plans and their attempt at his life, what would that get him? Not only would he become a persona-non-grata to the powerful intelligence agency, the Mech Corps might not even be able to protect him from their inevitable reprisal!

If there was one thing Flashlight hated the most, it was becoming exposes!

Therefore, Ves kept Leland ’s intentions and mind and planned to spin a tale that aligned with Flashlight ’s goals.
”You ’re in luck, captain, because I have a pretty good idea who wants me dead. ”

Ves proceeded to reveal his mostly truthful observations of an alarming scheme to smuggle out military hardware from the KNG ’s Mosville Complex!

In order to push the Mech Corps into taking a harder stand against the Kadar-Neyvis Group, Ves also sprinkled some exaggerations in his tale.
He painted the Mosville Complex as a rotten place where a lot of improprieties happened beneath the surface.

”This is very unsettling news, Mr.
Larkinson. ” The military police captain said with a severe frown.
”It is especially alarming to hear that a veteran chief technician is at the heart of this scheme. ”

”It ’s not just Chief Errel Nyquist who ’s conspiring against the Mech Corps for the BLM.
I ’m certain that Carl Stoddard, the mech designer sent by the higher-ups of the company to supervise the Mosville Complex is a part of this scheme as well.
I ’m just a liaison mech designer, but I immediately managed to uncover this criminal conspiracy after a week of visits! It ’s impossible that a mech designer who ’s been stationed at the complex for a year is blind to the misdeeds that happen there! ”

Hearing that immediately made the expression on the captain more severe.
”Are you certain of your allegations? ”

”Unless he ’s the most incompetent mech designer in the Republic, which is extremely unlikely given that the KNG spent a lot of effort in raising him, he is sure to be involved! ”

No one except other mech designers and those in the technical profession could call him out on his exaggerations.
Even if Ves hyped up the threat, he could still be forgiven considering that Stoddard really ought to be on top of the happenings at the complex.

Right now, the investigators sent to hear Ves out all took in the damning accusations with utmost seriousness.

”Although almost a day has passed, we ’ll act quickly on the information you provided to us.
WIth any hope, the BLM moles working at the Mosville Complex haven ’t cleaned up the evidence as of yet.
We ’ll immediately take Chief Nyquist and Mr.
Stoddard into custody.
With any hope, the ringleaders haven ’t gone to ground for long. ”

Ves nodded.
”Be careful of boobytraps and sabotage.
I can ’t tell whether the Mosville Complex is rigged to blow, but I also found some other irregularities at their Ansel Complex.
You should take every mech technician into custody and test them out whether they ’re under the influence of a performance-enhancing substance supplied by the BLM.
I ’ve seen many of my classmates back on Rittersberg being ruined by the same stuff, so I know what I ’m talking about. ”

”Thank you for informing us, Mr.
Rest assured, we will inform the highest authorities on top of this case of your testimony.
For now, your duties as a liaison mech designer are suspended for the time being.
Just focus on recuperating for now.
You have done us a great service for surviving this heinous assassination attempt on your life.
Further merit will surely be in store for you once we follow up on your allegations. ”

After answering a few more questions, the military police captain quickly left to act on the explosive information.
Ves waved them off from his bed and wished them good luck in their follow-up investigation.

Considering that the BLM wasn ’t responsible for the hit on him, there was a good chance that Chief Nyquist and his accomplices hadn ’t wiped out the evidence or gone to ground yet.
Eighteen hours was a long time for them to erase their tracks, so Ves hoped that the Mech Corps truly took his words seriously as Flashlight hoped to achieve with their outrageous stunt.

”Goddamn Leland. ” He cursed again.

Ves idly patted his chest and pulled against the collar of his hospital gown to see the damage with his own eyes.

It looked better than he expected.

From what he heard, the burned, vaporized and damaged portions of his skin and flesh had been removed and replaced with flash-cloned tissue.

Ordinarily, this was a difficult and intensive procedure that also took a lot of time, but evidently the military hospital prioritized his emergency treatment and pulled out all the stops to bring him back into a condition where he could talk.

Perhaps Flashlight also pushed the Mech Corps into prioritizing his treatment in the background.
After all, the intel he gathered would only be actionable for a short time.
The longer it took for him to wake up, the greater the chance the moles at the KNG cleaned up their acts.

Even so, flash-cloning tissue was purely an emergency stopgap procedure as they usually came with a very short and accelerated lifespan.
Ves would likely have to undergo several follow-up operations to replace the flash-cloned tissue with properly cultivated cloned tissue.

He ’d probably be bedridden for a month or longer depending on the difficulty of the cloning process.

A day went by as he quickly recovered from his weakened state.
As nurses occasionally entered to see to his needs, he asked for access to the galactic net.

”I ’m pretty bored here.
Please give me something to do. ”

”Let me ask for permission. ” The nurse replied.
”Not every guest in the VIP section is allowed to access the galactic net. ”

Fortunately, whoever was in charge of this decision threw Ves a bone and allowed him limited read-only access to the galactic net.
Unspoken was the fact that the connection would constantly be monitored, but Ves didn ’t mind that detail.

As soon as he browsed a news portal, he almost vomited out blood when he read the leading headlines!




Ves knew that if the Mech Corps really wanted to, they could have kept everything under wraps.
Instead, they decided to publicise the sympathetic tale of a distinguished mech designer and war hero almost getting killed by the BLM to foster support and tarnish the separatists!

At the very least, the drastic story caused his public profile to be raised even further.
An assassination attempt on a decorated mech designer was incredibl sensational news! So much so that Ves already encountered ads for the LMC when he skimmed through the articles on the news portals.

”It ’s worth getting shot as long as the LMC doubles their sales. ” He jokingly muttered.

Hell, he might even consider staging another assassination attempt on him if he could triple the company ’s sales.

Of course, that was just an idle fancy.
There was no way the public wouldn ’t grow suspicious when the same thing happened again.

Besides the explosive news on the assassination attempt on Ves, he also read a couple of explosive articles on the KNG.




It turned out that the Mech Corps moved out pretty much instantly after Ves provided his exaggerated testimony.
The news portals managed to connect the unsettling events that happened to the KNG with his publicly-known assignment as liaison mech designer to the company.

They also tied the assassination attempt and the chaos that ensued at the KNG ’s Ansel and Mosville Complexes to the notorious Bentheim Liberation Movement.
They detonated planted explosives at each of the facilities, killing many people and forcing every operation to a shutdown.

Ves knew that such a forced halt would hurt the KNG enormously! The company was so dependent on continued mass production that the months needed to repair the damage and hire new emergency workers to replace the dead and resigning workers would be too late to save the company!

”The KNG is financially doomed! ”

Even if the detonations hadn ’t sown as much chaos at the two facilities, the investigations alone posed an incredible burden to the company.
The investigators dispatched by the Mech Corps would surely turn every stone around and interrogate every employee of the company.
The disruption this caused would slow down the company ’s recovery even further.

As news of BLM involvement at the KNG continued to proliferate on the galactic net, the company ’s reputation would sustain irreparable damage as well.
The company ’s reputation would quickly turn so toxic that Ves predicted that Mrs.
Kadar and Mr.
Neyvis could no longer count on their numerous connections to lend them a hand.

Their political connections from Rittersberg? If there was one thing the capital hated the most, it was the separatists that fought to wrestle Bentheim away from the Bright Republic!

Their military connections to the various mech regiments of the Mech Corps? The KNG leaked out their exclusive military mechs and design specifications to the BLM! The Volari Starkhawks and the Sparky Nuts probably hated the KNG and already cut their ties to the tarnished company.

Their local connections to the Neyvis Family? Their influence only stretched so far, and owning a bank wouldn ’t help much considering one of its biggest investments was already starting to go into a freefall in valuation! The Industrial and Commercial Bank of Bentheim would suffer financial problems of their own soon enough!

As for their underground connections, the Peace Association didn ’t dare to get involved now that the military moved with full force.
The gangs that ruled Bentheim also abided by an unofficial agreement with the Bright Republic to never offer any support to the Bentheim Liberation Movement.
Right now, the last thing the Peace Association wanted was to be painted with the same brush as the separatists!

Ves shook his head as he reasoned out how every single connection the KNG previously relied upon for their backing would bail out.
”In the end, they are only fair-weather friends.
They ’re willing to stick around when times are good, but the moment something awful happens, they are nowhere to be found. ”

This incident showed him that relying on backers couldn ’t solve every problem.

”Even some pirates are more loyal than that. ” He snorted.
”Good friends are hard to find. ”

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