with wide eyes and a gaping mouth.
The man trudged after Ves like a zombie after the latter gestured him forward and moved out of earshot from the mech technicians.

”Did you see how it ’s done? ”

”You ’re the head designer, sir. ” Vedette whined.
”I can ’t hope to match your authority! ”

This time, Ves couldn ’t resist his urges.
He lightly smacked Vedette ’s cheek, causing the man to yelp in an annoyingly girly fashion.

”Authority or not, you ’re a mech designer! Have some pride in our profession! ”

In the natural order of the galaxy, a mech technician stood in the lowest rung and followed the instructions of a chief technician.
In turn, these chiefs received their instructions from a mech designer.

Even with the temporary absence of a chief, a mech designer should still be able to command a bunch of mech technicians.

Ves had been in the trenches himself a few times during the Groening Mission and the Glowing Planet campaign.
Taking charge of mech technicians should have been an essential skill to every mech designer.

A bit helplessly, Ves had to spoonfeed some methods for Vedette to command authority and force the mech technicians to listen to his orders.

”The Vandals will need some time to sort out the hierarchy.
Last I heard, Major Verle isn ’t too happy with Chief Elin ’s deputies.
All but one turned out to be his accomplices, and the remaining chump lacks the qualities we expect from a chief.
Therefore, it ’s likely that a trustworthy deputy from another ship will be transferred to the Finmoth Regal to assume his duties as your new chief technicians. ”

Vedette appeared relieved at the news, which was exactly the wrong response to make in front of Ves.

”Don ’t think you can slack off as well once the new chief takes charge! Your responsibilities are still the same whether a chief is present or not! Keep watch over the mech technicians and help them solve any complicated problems that might come up, but don ’t forget to maintain their productivity at the highest level possible! ”

”Ah, I ’ll try my best, sir! ”

”Trying is not enough.
Confidence comes from belief in yourself.
Every mech designer ought to be confident in the superiority of their knowledge.
If there is any crutch you need to lean on, then lean on that if nothing else. ”

”I ’ll take that under advisement, sir! ”

After performing his deed for the day, Ves left Vedette to figure things out on his own and boarded a shuttle that brought him back to the Shield of Hispania.
In truth, while Ves could have propped up the junior, he wasn ’t strictly obligated to provide so much guidance.
Still, Ves took up some of his valuable time to guide Vedette to the right path because he wanted to practice his ability to teach.

”It also helps to make a connection with Mr.
Vedette. ”

Ves didn ’t have much hope that Vedette would amount to anything, but he never ruled out the possibility.
If Mr.
Vedette turned out to be a gem in the rough, then Ves would be glad to have the foresight to lay down a connection at a premature stage.

He wanted to build more bridges like this with other mech designers, but it was impossible for him to waste so much time by interacting with so many subordinates.

Another reason why he interacted with people this way was to borrow position as head designer to temper his leadership abilities.
Back when he founded and expanded the Living Mech Company, he relied too much on readily-available retainers from the Larkinson Family to do all of the heavy lifting.

Their competence satisfied the needs of his company, so Ves had nothing to complain with the help provided by the Family.
The presence of Jake and Chief Cyril lifted a load off his shoulders and freed him from the trifles of managing the company and his subordinates.
This left him free to pursue his primary passion, which was to work on designing better mechs.

Thinking back on that period of rapid growth, Ves recently started to doubt whether he made the right decision.
”It ’s hard to hire competent and trustworthy help. ”

Sometimes, he believed these qualities to be mutually exclusive.
Either he could hire someone trustworthy like Carlos that wasn ’t very good at his job, or he could hire a seasoned veteran like Chief Cyril who was highly capable and practical but also deferential to Ves.
Yet the chief ’s lingering ties to the Family made Ves question sometimes whether he would ultimately listen to those who had nurtured him for decades.

There were even times when his paranoia spiked to the point where he became disillusioned to the company that he founded on his own.
Much of what the LMC did was seemingly out of his grasp.
He could hardly wrap his mind around the scope of their strategies and activities.

His temporary promotion to head designer shone a light through the fog that had slowly accumulated in his mind.
His doubts about leadership began to fade as he tackled his new responsibilities with a motivation to learn as much as possible.

It was like a second start to Ves.
Already, he learned an important lesson.
”Nurturing subordinates who are both competent and trustworthy takes time.
There aren ’t any shortcuts to growing my own following.
Not if I want to do it properly. ”

He already resolved to invest in any promising seeds he could find.
Ves owed the Flagrant Vandals his gratitude for pushing him into a leadership position, however brief it might last.
As head designer, Ves believed he could start to learn how to exert leadership properly instead of outsourcing it to someone else.

”Some responsibilities shouldn ’t be shifted to others.
It ’s best if I learn how to perform them on my own.
Otherwise, who is actually the one in charge? ”

Ves had plenty of items on the agenda to flex his leadership muscles.
From dealing with the fallout of the skirmish to reprimanding Mercator for dropping the ball on Vedette, Ves faced an endless tide of problems that require the Vandals to do their best if they wanted to escape from being engulfed.

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