Home ->The Mech Touch ->1002 Burn

 A couple of days went by as Ves spent his time in his hospital room in isolation. He knew that a pair of heavily-armed security guards stood outside the door. A whole host of other security measures protected this wing of the military hospital as well, so absolutely nothing should pose a threat to his life.

He chuckled at that naive notion. "I thought I was safe inside the perimeter of a military base. Turns out I was wrong."

What really got to him was that his own side decided to gamble with his life in order to agitate the Mech Corps and shoved them into action!

Their heightened state of alert and the alarm they felt after hearing what Ves had to say on the KNG indeed achieve the drastic effects that Flashlight sought. Certainly, their hasty raids at the Ansel and Mosville Complex resulted in a lot of casualties that could have been prevented if the military police moved slower and planned out their raids in advance.

The blood of the workers and the military policemen that died from those partially-botched raids stained Ves and Flashlight's hands. Yet Ves figured that this mission had definitely ended in success in their books.

So what if a couple of hundred people died? Those deaths only magnified the blame being put on the feet of the KNG. None of the backers who formerly supported the company behind the scenes dared to share in the blame by protecting the company from the storm of criticism from the public!

As Ves stayed on top of recent events through his connection to the galactic net, he felt a little regret at being one of the principal instigators responsible for dragging down this once-promising company.

"Estelle and Antoine doesn't deserve most of the blame." He sighed. "They ran their company to the best of their abilities. Nothing they've done in person can be faulted."

As mech designer and a business owner himself, Ves really sympathised with the tough times they must be going through right now. They didn't make any mistakes by themselves. They just trusted the wrong people too much and failed to put the right people in the right positions.

In short, Kadar and Neyvis failed in delegating responsibilities to others.

Overall, the KNG's current fate served as an object lesson to Ves in the dangers of delegating incorrectly. It was very difficult to screen out bad apples when they did their best to blend in with the good apples.

As the example of theKNG amply showed, technology and other sophisticated means of control only worked up to an extent. It was more important to keep the workplaces staffed with loyal employees that wouldn't let any shenanigans that damaged the company take place.

"So in short, I have to indoctrinate my employees." He concluded.

By aligning the values and beliefs of the workers to the LMC's corporate culture and identity, they would become so attached that they would mindlessly defend the company whenever possible.

It wasn't easy to accomplish such a feat. The workers needed to be treated well and feel valued by the company in order to reciprocate.

Ves believed that the KNG attempted to do such a thing. "It explains why they are paid so well. All the KNG employees I've talked to all professed their devotion to the company."

Still, their enthusiasm for the company was primarily back by benefits. The workers all stood up for the KNG, but only to show their gratitude for all the pay they received.

"In the end, the KNG's attempt to secure the loyalty of their workers missed the mark."

Shared identity could only get you so far. A shared identity based on greed and avarice encouraged workers to look the other way whenever they saw something shady. Ves bet that many workers not involved in the scheme at the Mosville Complex probably received some bribes to ignore some shady activity if they came too close.

"If I want to prevent the same thing from happening at the LMC, I will have to redefine its corporate culture and incorporate some aspirational values and beliefs.

His employees needed to feel pride for their work and share in the dream that Ves wanted to fulfill. They needed to feel as if they were part of a great mission, just like how most of the servicemen of the Mech Corps took pride in their service.

"It's not going to be easy to emulate such a level of devotion in my workforce."

Ves had more than enough time to figure out his approach to this huge and complex issue. Lying around in bed only to browse the news or watching some drama broadcasts only distracted him to an extent.

"I'm a man of action. I'm no longer someone who passively reads the news. I'm influential enough to make the news. As for those silly action dramas, the events I've lived through are a thousand times more exciting than seeing some actors flail around in a simulated studio!"

He used to be a big watcher of galactic drama broadcasts when he was young. Yet once the inexperience of his youth faded away, he lost his interest in fake adventures and contrived storylines.

In truth, Ves wanted nothing more than to design a mech to lift up his miserable mood. Though he didn't have any particular mech design in mind, he just wanted to do his job instead of staying stuck in this tightly-guarded hospital room.

At some point, Ves received a familiar guest.

"How is it going, Ves?"

"Leland! You're my least favorite person from the organization, you know! How dare you return in my presence! I ought to shoot you so you can feel how bad it hurts when you get shot through the heart!"

"If you never want to see me again, you'll get your wish. This is the final time we'll meet." Leland smiled.

"It's done, then?"

"Your mission is a success. Even though events haven't completely spiraled into our preferred direction, the damage the KNG suffered and he backlash that is dragging down the company is more than ample enough to satisfy our superiors. They're pleased. Very pleased. There is no doubt that if you haven't suffered an attack, the Mech Corps would have never acted so decisively. Again, thanks for that. We highly appreciate your initiative and cooperation."

Can you tell me something? What happened to Chief Nyquist?"

Leland frowned. "Unfortunately, Chief Nyquist appeared to have detected something amiss. He didn't show up for work the day after the attempt on your life. He's a careful sort. The only consolation we have is that we managed to nab most of his accomplices, at least those that didn't pull out weapons or detonated bombs in order to go out in a blaze of fury."

"Carl Stoddard, the presiding mech designer at the Mosville Complex?"

"Mr. Stoddard has been taken into immediate custody by the military police. From what they've uncovered so far, even if he didn't have a clue of what went on, he'll still be spending at least forty years behind bars for his monumental mistakes. Right now, the Mech Corps has already confirmed that the BLM obtained valuable military mech parts. The total numbers and the true scope of the scheme is still unclear, but their estimates of missing mechs keep trending upwards."

That practically sealed Stoddard's fate. Even if he only got forty years or so and got free by the end of his lengthy prison term, there was no way he would ever be able to pick up on his life. He would be old and senile once he regained his freedom and would be in no shape to resume his career, especially if he missed out on four decades of advancements in the industry.

Did Stoddard deserve the punishment the Mech Corps had in store for him? Probably not. The man was incompetent, not a traitor. Yet the military police probably already set him out to be some traitor due in part to Ves' allegations.

Even if Stoddard cleared his name on that, he still held plenty of blame, though strictly speaking the blame also extended to the people who assigned him to the Mosville Complex.

"What will happen to Estella Kadar and Antoine Neyvis?"

"I'm not sure yet." Leland shrugged. "They are under an intense amount of scrutiny. Everything sketchy about them is being uncovered right now. You of all people know that business leaders always have a skeleton or three in their closets. Depending on what the investigating authorities find out, prison sentences are not out of the question."

Ves didn't think the two parents deserved such a fate. "Surely they won't land in jail, right?"

"I'm not sure the public can accept letting them go, especially after the explosive news of yesterday. It's clear though that all of their connections feel burned. The KNG's long-standing allies have all cut ties in order to halt the damage to their reputation. There are already some rumblings going on at the Ansel University of Mech Design and the Ministry of Economic Development. Both institutions were closely involved with the KNG, so both of them also got burned the most."

A bit of schadenfreude suffused Leland's voice. He, and by extension Flashlight, clearly took pleasure at their misfortune.

"What about my mission? Now that I've completed it, what's in store for me, Leland?"

"Right now, we don't plan to assign you anywhere near our organization. For some reason, the Mech Corps decided to use you as a propaganda tool to fire up the public. You're way too high profile now that we won't be able to move you without attracting a lot of unwelcome attention from the Mech Corps. They'll make their own arrangements for you, I suspect, but it shouldn't be anything arduous or risky."

With all the dangers Ves went through, the Mech Corps better not put him back in danger again. "What about my rewards? You guys better pay me back extra for going the extra mile!"

Leland slightly shook his head. "That's not how it works. We reward our people based on their merit and accomplishments. That's slightly different from the amount of effort you put into accomplishing your objectives. We don't care about the process, only the result. For example, there's no difference to us between killing an important individual by firing a laser pistol at him, stomping him flat with a mech or to bombard his entire location with an artificial asteroid. We only care if that person is dead without exposing who is behind the attempt."

"Ah. I see." Ves understood the message. "Even so, the KNG is practically doomed and all of their backers have suffered varying amounts of backlash. MinEcDev, Spotlight, the AUMD and all the organizations you seem to have a beef with are probably looking at themselves in a mirror wondering if they made some wrong decisions. This is what you really set out to do, right?"

"Correct. With your help, we've managed to issue a severe wakeup call to those complacent organizations. They have all took the war for granted to the point of pursuing their own interests to the detriment of the state."

Ves at least didn't think that Leland lied to him about this. Even if Flashlight only sought to slap the faces of those arrogant institutions, the events set in motion would genuinely strengthen the Bright Republic in the long term. If all went well, they should be a little bit more careful in the companies they backed.

"My reward, then?"

"It will take some time for the entire incident to blow over. We'll tally your results and contributions and pay you what we owe to you. I've already received word that we are already in the process of changing the ownership of the shares in your company that's held by the Ministry of Economic Development. Moving too quickly will attract too much attention, though, so you'll have to wait until after the end of the war for the transfer to be completed."

"That's better than nothing." Ves muttered.

"I should go now. Remember to keep your mouth shut and you'll have a splendid time with us. By the way, you have other guests waiting outside. I've taken the liberty to arrange their entry into this guarded section of the hospital for you. Remember, even if we can't transfer you as we wish, we're constantly keeping an eye on you! Don't say anything you're not supposed to say!"

As Leland disappeared from sight, the door quickly open to allow two women to enter. Ves perked up from their arrival.

"Calsie! Ketis! Why are you here?!"

He then noticed the mechanical pet bundled up in Ketis' arms. His eyes practically bulged when he spotted the comm that held the vitally important Mech Designer System around Lucky's collar!

Why did they bring along Lucky as well?! Who knew how many eyeballs stared at them at this moment!