’am? ”

”That is not an unfair description of this mech regiment. ” Lowenfield replied in a slightly formal tone.
”The 6th Flagrant Vandals are not treated fairly, and perhaps you share in their indignation.
However, the truth is that it is set up to be expendable from the start.
A certain amount of flexibility and resourcefulness is required to survive the tasks the Flagrant Vandals are meant to fulfill.
From all reports, you have proven to be abundantly capable in both aspects.
It ’s strange. ”

”Strange in what aspect, ma ’am? ”

She smiled at Ves.
”You are so very different from the straight-laced Larkinson mech pilots.
Compared to Colonel Ark Larkinson who is always as straight as a rod, Major Verle has described you as the most crooked mech designer he ever had the pleasure of working with.
Do you agree with that assessment? ”

How the hell should Ves even respond to that remark? ”It has been a trying time for all of us.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Isn ’t that the Vandal way? ”

Colonel Lowenfield actually chuckled.
”You are very different from Ark.
It is a wonder the two of you are part of the same family.
Ah, but I digress.
Your family lineage isn ’t on the agenda today.
Instead, I ’ve called you here is to ask for clarification on a few points of your report and to tell you what is in store for you on our return trip to the Republic. ”

The colonel then proceeded to put Ves into yet another interrogation.
Though she asked a lot of uncomfortable questions about certain matters that Ves really didn ’t want to elaborate upon such as Miss Calabast or the reason why the Starlight Megalodon met her end so abruptly, she didn ’t press him too hard.

”I really can ’t elaborate on these points, ma ’am. ” Ves said.
He couldn ’t hide the fact that he deliberately left a lot of pertinent information out of his reports.
”Some secrets of the CFA are best left in their hands. ”

”That ’s a decent excuse. ” Colonel Lowenfield gave him a mental thumbs up.
”Be sure to mention that whenever the Mech Corps or Flashlight press you on those topics.
There is much about the CFA that we find unfathomable, so there is a tendency for them to subconsciously cross out any further inquiries that may appear to be encroaching on their territory. ”

The meeting lasted for an hour but mostly progressed in an amicable manner.
Despite his stiffness in front of Lowenfield, the colonel never did anything to make him feel uncomfortable.

Obviously, Colonel Lowenfield inherited Major Verle ’s trust and favor in him despite only meeting in person for the first time.

This also signified that the two were pretty much in cahoots and could be considered part of the same clique.

This was good.
No matter what he thought about Colonel Lowenfield, at least he enjoyed her favor.

At the end of the meeting, Lowenfield finally dismissed him.
”You have an appointment with Professor Velten aboard the Wolf Mother.
For now, you are reassigned to serve directly under her at the factory ship.
Don ’t keep her waiting. ”

After filing out of Colonel Lowenfield ’s stateroom, a security officer guided him all the way back to the shuttle bay whereupon he shuttled over to the massive factory ship that dwarfed anything the Beggar ’s Bounty and the Linever Swan could produce.

As Ves stepped out of the shuttle, he felt as if he returned back in time to the point where he first arrived at the factory ship.
Back then, he was just another Apprentice Mech Designer who performed low-level duties in the development of several internally-developed mech designs of the Vandals at the design department.

It made for an extremely stark contrast compared to the hefty responsibilities he carried as the temporary head designer of the Verle Task Force.
He shouldered an immense burden as he sometimes literally ensured that the Vandals kept their mechs functional enough to fight!

”I ’d hate it if I have to go back to grunt duty after all I ’ve done. ” He muttered.

Ves did not need an escort to navigate to the design department, nor did he need someone to knock at the hatch leading into Professor Velten ’s office.
After passing by a handful of vaguely familiar faces, Ves finally entered the office of the only Senior Mech Designer presiding over the mechs of the Flagrant Vandals.

This old woman who seemed to have aged even further than before carried the real burden of the mech regiment! Having shared much of her responsibilities though at a smaller and more limited scale, Ves sympathised 

Even though she looked as close to death as Venerable O ’Callahan, Professor Velten still possessed enough lucidity to read his expression.
She threw him a sharp glance.

”I don ’t need your pity, Mr.
Now, sit and let ’s get this over with.
I ’m sure you are tired with all of the inquiries you ’ve been through, but I ’m not a security officer or a mech officer.
I ’m a mech designer, and so are you, so we will only discuss matters concerning mechs in this office.
Let us begin with the very unique expert mech the Vesians has fielded at Aeon Corona VII, the Belisarius if I recall. ”

Ves mostly answered questions about the Belisarius, the breakdown effect and his methods of coping with it, the Enduring Protector design that never really saw an opportunity to fulfill its purpose, his stint as a ’Senior Mech Designer ’ in the hierarchy of the Starlight Megalodon, and more.

He generally satisfied Professor Velten ’s curiosity as none of these topics touched his bottom line.
Of course, he still fudged a few details here and there, and he couldn ’t help but puff himself up just like he used to kiss up to Virtual Commander Cosit.

Unfortunately, the professor ’s senility acted up several times during the inquiry.
She wasn ’t long for this galaxy, Ves privately concluded.
He found it to be a shame that the life-prolonging treatment serum that so many Vandals had sacrificed their lives for wouldn ’t be used to give her a new lease on life.

A Senior Mech Designer such as Professor Velten simply wasn ’t worth the investment.

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