”Ah, Ves Larkinson.
You ’ve arrived. ” Senator Tovar abruptly said as he turned his gaze away from the detailed star map.
The projection instantly winked out at a single gesture of his hand.
”I must say, you have proven to be a pleasant surprise to me.
I never expected you to be able to set off the KNG Affair as it has become known.
Perhaps I misjudged a bit.
You seem to be a better fit for Flashlight than I realized. ”

”Ah, you know about my association with Flashlight, sir? ” Ves widened his eyes.

Tovar smirked at him.
”I know many things.
As far as Flashlight goes, their goals partially align with mine.
The ripple effects of the KNG Affair serves as a shot across the bow to the rent seekers and profiteers within the Republic that they should serve the state more sincerely. ”

Ves suddenly realized that Flashlight might be more intricately connected to Camden Tovar than he initially thought.
Could he be in charge? That didn ’t seem likely.
The other founder families would never let a single rival take charge of the powerful and largely unchecked military intelligence agency.

Even if Senator Tovar might not call the shots at Flashlights, his informal ties to the infamous agency alone gave him a sufficient amount of influence and access!

All the rules about keeping Flashlight confidential didn ’t apply to the powerful senator! Compared to the nobles of the Vesia Kingdom, Senator Tovar possessed influence comparable to a duke that ruled over an entire territory in an almost autonomous fashion!

The Tovar Family was pretty much a noble house in all but name, one that held a lot of the levers of powers within the Republic.

Ves saw an opportunity there.
Since he was already meeting face-to-face with one of the most powerful politicians of the Republic, why not take advantage of that and express some of his opinions? Since Senator Tovar looked at him favorably, he didn ’t see the harm in trying.

”The KNG Affair is just the tip of the iceberg, sir. ” Ves stated bolded.
”What happened at the KNG is probably happening in many other mech companies as well.
I understand the military depends on their production capacity to supply them with mechs, but not every company is as diligent in safeguarding their military production. ”

Senator Tovar raised an eyebrow at him, as if he was amused at Ves ’ transparent lobbying attempt.
”A panel has already been convened to entertain suggestions on how to improve the current processes to prevent a repeat. ”

”I ’ve heard about that, sir, but most of the people who joined the panel are business owners and high-ranking mech officers.
I ’m not questioning their competence, but they are similar to Mrs.
Kadar and Mr.
Neyvis who let something happen right underneath their noses for several years! ”

”What are you suggesting then, Ves? ”

”It ’s strange that the previous liaison mech designers assigned to oversee the KNG ’s military production hadn ’t spotted a clue.
They ’ve grown far too comfortable with their jobs. ”

Senator Tovar frowned.
”I have little say over how the Mech Corps assign and instruct their liaison mech designers. ”

In other words, certain powerful people wanted the position of liaison to continue to be used to place well-connected mech designers far away from the frontlines.
By allowing them to supervise the military production of a company based in Bentheim, they could spend most of their time visiting coffee shops during the day and partying at various nightclubs during the night.

Since Tovar implied that he wouldn ’t be able to change this corrupt mechanism, Ves took a step back and provided an alternative suggestion.
”Oh I ’m sure that most liaison mech designers are already..
Considering the large amount of responsibilities that liaisons need to fulfill, why not provide them with an aide or two? Involving more people ensures that all of the work that needs to be done will be addressed in a timely fashion. ”

”I don ’t think adding more mech designers will solve the problem. ”

”Then don ’t assign mech designers to the liaisons.
Instead, why not draw upon professionals with plenty of technical expertise? They don ’t need to be chief technicians.
Any mech technician with an abundant amount of experience working in large mech workshops or manufacturing complexes will do, sir. ”

The senator took his words seriously.
”That is a remarkably insightful suggestion.
I can see the merit in this proposal, even if the Mech Corps will abhor having to make new procedures to implement it.
I ’ll take it up with a member of the panel later. ”

”Thank you, sir.
I ’m just doing my part for the Republic. ”

”Hahaha! ” Tovar laughed.
”This is the kind of drive I like to see! You are a credit to your family.
You Larkinsons have always remained loyal to the Republic, and although it is a pity that your predecessors have never entered the political arena, perhaps you might be the first to step inside the ring. ”

Ves smiled nervously at that.
”I appreciate your compliments, sir, but I am firmly committed to running business. ”

”Prudent choice.
Well, you can ’t have everything. ” Tovar shook his head.
”Let us move on to business.
Has my assistant brought you up to speed? ”

He informed me that you are appointed by the government to head a delegation to meet with the Vesians to negotiate a possible end to the war. ”

”You are correct, but not entirely. ” Tovar said.
”While I do carry official sanction, only a small portion of the government is aware of my mission.
We cannot allow the skeptics, naysayers and warmongers to find out about this attempt because they will do their best to stop us from succeeding. ”

”Pardon me for my skepticism, but can it actually be done, sir? ”

Senator Tovar crossed his arms.
”You won ’t be so skeptical once you obtain the full picture.
Both the Republic and the Kingdom has better things to do than to let the current war run its course.
It ’s incredibly destructive and it will take far too long for us to regain our strength.
Even if I can convince my Vesian counterpart of the necessity to end the war, too many institutions are opposed to a premature peace.
It is the role of our delegation to find common ground with the Vesians. ”

”What is my role in this? I ’ve heard from Mr.
Cordwraith that my presence would be helpful somehow, but I ’m not sure if I ’ll be able to fit in this kind of setting. ”

”The diplomats and I will take care of the formal diplomacy.
The attachés we are bringing along will sometimes be called to lend their expertise to us, but they are also charged with bonding with the Vesian attachés.
Due to your peculiar status, you are very well suited for the latter duty. ”

Ves wanted to sigh.
”I ’ll do my best, but could you give me some advice? I don ’t have a good picture of what I ’m supposed to be doing.
It would help me a lot to hear what you expect from me, sir. ”

Although Senator Tovar looked a little bit irritated, he nonetheless took the time to answer.

”You are expected to interact with the members of the Vesian delegation on a regular basis.
Most of them will consist of Vesians aligned to the royal family, so they are not as clannish as the Vesians who have pledged their loyalty to the dukes.
Try and see if you can ’t befriend their mech designers.
We will also welcome any other friendships.
The more, the merrier.
Once you build up a rapport with the Vesians, report back to us and we ’ll make use of your personal ties to suggest some collaborative projects. ”

”I see, sir. ”

Ves did not look very hopeful that any sort of collaboration could take place between the two bitterly hostile states.
In fact, he heard quite enough.
He just wanted to get out of the same compartment as this old fossil and get this entire mission over with as soon as possible.

As for making friends with Vesians? He ’ll see.

Unfortunately, the old man did not dismiss him just yet.
”Let us take a seat. ”

They both moved over to his desk.
As the senator took a seat behind the desk, he began to sink his chair and lose himself in the sensation.

I have never felt so comfortable in my long life.
I really have to thank you again for helping me rejuvenate my life and regain some of my physical prime. ”

”I was merely doing my duty, sir. ”

”Tell me, what do you think of the current state of the Bright Republic ’s mech industry? ”

Oh boy.
Ves had a lot of opinions about that, but he wasn ’t sure it would be wise to voice them all to Senator Tovar.
Besides, why did the old man bring this up?

”I think the Bright Republic has a strong market. ” Ves said.
”Our mech designers are sensible and while many of us fail in our businesses, those who succeed are able to compete against some of the best commercial mech models for sale in the entire star sector. ”

Tovar nodded in agreement.
”Business is a battlefield.
It is no less bloody than the actual fighting at the frontlines.
We are not in the habit of raising flowers in a greenhouse.
I am sure that an entrepreneur such as you experienced difficulties in trying to compete against all the high-quality foreign mechs for sale in our domestic market, but it is only through opening the gates that we are able to develop strong mechs. ”

”The proportion of mech sales that originate from domestic producers is a bit low, in my opinion. ” Ves said carefully.
”Even the companies headed by our Senior Mech Designers do not always enjoy great success in competing against the mainstream mech models peddled by the enormous trans-galactic enterprises. ”

”That is a valid criticism, but a little hardship does them a lot of good.
We can ’t make our Seniors feel too comfortable.
They already enjoy a lot of renown in the Republic.
Do you know that many of them have graduated from Ansel? ”

”The Ansel University of Mech Design is the best institution to study mech design in the Republic. ” Ves stated.

”Yet a talented mech designer like you emerged from the Rittersberg University of Technology. ” Tovar suddenly poked, striding into dangerous territory for Ves.
”Strange, that.
Your academic records doesn ’t suggest that you possess the ability that you have shown shortly after your graduation.
Yet inexplicably you ’ve managed to rise like a rocket, to the point of gaining the acknowledgement of a young Master Mech Designer of the Friday Coalition. ”

Ves knew that the early parts of his career always served as a huge anomaly to anyone reading his record.
He couldn ’t provide a good explanation for his rapid improvement.
It wasn ’t as if he could mention the System as the reason for his sudden rise!

”Rittersberg may not enjoy the best reputation, but the professors there are all proper mech designers who have instilled the right mindset and values to their students.
I ’m eminently grateful for them to have shaped my perspective on mech design in a sober fashion.
As for my later achievements, the financial difficulties my father ’s absence imposed upon me has forced me to work hard and study harder than I have ever done so before. ”

That was pretty much a nonsense answer, and Ves figured Senator Tovar wouldn ’t be fooled at all by his words.

The senator indeed gave him a sharp glance, but didn ’t go into it further.
”Very strange, yes, but the success you ’ve achieved in your business career has paved the way for your subsequent achievements in your service to the Republic! I am very grateful for that.
Mech designers like you prove that Ansel does not hold a monopoly on producing the best mech designers of the Republic. ”

”Any school can produce a talented mech designer. ” Ves stated.
”I think that most lack opportunities after they graduate.
The mech industry are all too willing to invest in the business ventures of Ansel graduates even if they are average while they completely neglect graduates from my own alma mater despite their excellent academic results. ”

Even an abberrantly competent mech designer like Patricia moved to the Friday Coalition for some reason.

”Your words have merit.
Ansel is too powerful.
Worse, this school is intricately tied to Bentheim. ”

The senator shook his head.
”Alas, breaking a school where most of our Senior Mech Designers have come from is an impossible dream.
This is also the greater problem with mech designers, you see.
Too many of our influential mech designers are rooted in Bentheim.
You ’re a rare exception to the rule.
Not only did you study at Rittersberg, your extended family is also based there.
And while your mech company is highly involved with Bentheim, you ’ve cleverly set the foundation of your company a star system away. ”

Ves figured that Senator Tovar was attempting to drive at something by these remarks.
”You think too highly of me, sir.
I was just making the best business choices at the time. ”

Tovar smiled speculatively at Ves.

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