It seemed that every time Ves visited Bentheim, he inevitably got shot at, had his ride hijacked, got hunted by a mech, or faced some other threat to his life.
Ves didn't treat his safety lightly this time. "Now that someone put a substantial bounty on my head, the best way for killers to go after me is by pulling something off in Bentheim."
"Meow!" Lucky bumped his paw against Ves in protest.
"Yes, I know that you've become quite deadly after all the meals you've enjoyed, but you're just a single cat. What if someone drops an artificial meteorite over my head? Can you claim to single-handedly intercept such a huge mass as it crashes down to the surface?"
"I know that it's far too ludicrous that someone can pull something like that off in a star system as heavily guarded as the Bentheim System. It's just an extreme example. That doesn't detract from the danger I'll face from determined assassins."
Ves was so worried about his safety that he ordered Melkor to arrange the Avatars of Myth to accompany him as his security detail.
"It will be difficult to muster enough mechs and mech pilots for your security detail." Melkor frowned. "A third of our Avatars are still deployed in various missions. The remainder are exempted from off-world missions at this time or have to guard the Mech Nursery."
"Tell it to me straight. How many mechs can you afford to send?"
"Only four. The good news is that they'll consist of two Blackbeaks and two Crystal Lords."
Ves nodded. "That will do."
He had absolute faith in his own designs. While traveling on Bentheim with landbound mech escorts was a rather slow affair compared to flying high in the skies, they at least formed a very powerful form of deterrence.
Unless the assassins employed their own mechs, they could forget about harming the armored shuttle he rode on!
For fifty million credits, it didn't make any sense to employ mechs in the assassination attempt. Cheap bargain bin mechs didn't stand a chance against the Blackbeaks and the Crystal Lords, but to employ an even greater force than that assuredly meant that the Planetary Guard would stomp on them even if the assassination attempt succeeded!
In effect, it simply wasn't cost-effective to kill Ves while he was surrounded by such a strong mech guard detail!
Unfortunately, Ves still had to rely on a real security company to round out his other security arrangements. So far, the Avatars of Myth didn't employ a shuttle or infantry-based guard force, which was a glaring hole in its ability to provide all round protection to their owner.
Ves placed a call to the local branch office of SASS and informed them to make the appropriate preparations at Bentheim.
While Ves would still be traveling comfortably aboard the Barracuda, the luxurious corvette would not travel alone this time. One of the two light carriers he commissioned previously would be joining them to transport the four mechs that made up his mech guard detail.
"The Greenfeather will be accompanying the Barracuda to Bentheim and back." Melkor informed him half a day later. "Before you ask, the Greenfeather is the name I've settled upon for one of your light carriers."
Ves frowned at that. "What did you call the other carrier, then?"
What charming names. Obviously, Melkor did not excel in this aspect. His creativity must be sorely lacking.
Since Ves owned the two light carriers, he could name them however he wanted. If he wanted to change their names, it was as simple as snapping his fingers. Melkor and his subordinates would take care of the actual paperwork involved with officially changing the name of a starship.
Ves just couldn't be bothered to do so. While Melkor did a poor job in naming his light carriers, the Avatars already got used to them. Ves would be undermining Melkor's authority unnecessarily if he insisted on a name change.
With his security matters taken care of, Ves felt relieved that no one would be able to spoil his latest visit to Bentheim.
"Yep. Absolutely nothing will happen to me this time. I'm sure. Totally."
Before he left, he took stock of his company. At this time, Phase 2 had run its course. The Living Mech Corporation completed its transformation into a more cohesive corporation. While the company couldn't claim to understand his design philosophy entirely, it took on enough traits to understand the general direction where he wanted to take his mech designs.
Even if the company stopped holding company events so frequently, Ves made sure they held enough activities to keep the employees engaged. It was important to refresh the indoctrination they previously went through from time to time lest the company's influence stopped taking hold.
The changing mood affected the company from top to bottom. Not only did every employee gain a clearer awareness of the LMC's mission, they also revered Ves even more.
In fact, it disturbed him quite a bit to be seen as a figurative god among his workers. No matter where he went, he always aroused some sort of fanfare as worshipful employees gathered to gawk at him or bow respectfully in his presence.
While such attention did wonders to his ego, Ves was careful not to get swept by the sensation.
"I should finish the Aurora Titan design first before I bask in my own glory."
Without publishing a new mech design, the LMC would never be able to regain its previous growth trend. This was why his current joint project played such a pivotal role.
After finishing his brief inspection of the company, he found everything to be in order. The LMC ran a tight ship in the Mech Nursery, and Ves was glad to see that nobody tried to pull a fast one on the company.
The next day, Ves boarded the Barracuda which had landed directly in the Mech Nursery's landing zone. The corvette picked up Ves, Ketis, Lucky and their luggage before lifting off into space.
Accompanied by the Greenfeather, the two ships leisurely traveled to the nearest Lagrange point and transitioned into FTL.
Several days later, the two ships arrived in the Bentheim System. With the privileges Ves received, the security patrols quickly cleared the Barracuda and the Greenfeather for entry into the inner system.
After arriving close to Bentheim, it took a bit more time to ship the mechs of the Avatars of Myth to the surface.
Ever since the peace treaty took effect, the BLM had remained completely silent. The Bright Republic didn't hold any illusions that the BLM quietly faded away into the background. Those crazy separatists might be preparing an even more desperate attack with the forces they accumulated all this time!
With or without the Vesians, the Bentheim Liberation Movement was determined to wrest Bentheim from the grasp of the Republic!
The threat that the BLM hung over Bentheim continued to put a dampener on the recovering economy. Nobody expected the BLM to let Bentheim off.
It wass in this depressing atmosphere that Ves finally landed at the spaceport in Dorum and boarded an armored shuttle prepared by SASS.
The shuttle lifted upwards, but only a little bit, and traveled slowly in order to keep up with the pace of the four imposing mechs guarding it from each direct.
The sight of the Blackbeaks and the Crystal Lords instantly caught the attention of bystanders in the vicinity. Even though they were merely silver label mechs, their auras were so remarkable that they never failed to stand out from the crowd.
The Blackbeaks and Crystal Lords weren't the only mechs deployed by a private force in Bentheim. Dorum was the capital of Bentheim and so hosted a high number of businessmen, government officials and other important dignitaries that needed guarding.
Fortunately, the main streets of Dorum were wide enough to accommodate entire ranks of mechs. There was more than enough space for guard details to pass each other by without bumping into each other.
When Ves activated a projection that showed him an outside view of the shuttle, he studied the mechs that made up the other guard forces. In general, they employed more mechs but of lesser quality. Seeing twelve budget mechs surround a couple of shuttles was not an unusual sight in Dorum.
In his estimation, those budget twelve mechs costs as much as his four-mech guard detail. Ves saw the merits in relying quantity. It would be very hard for four mechs to repel a massed attack. At least with cheaper mechs they could cover more ground.
Ves turned to Ketis. "Did you visit Bentheim before?"
"No." Ketis shook her head while stroking Lucky who was treating her lap as a bed.
"Really? I would have thought you couldn't resist the urge. This is the most exciting planet in the Bright Republic, and it's right next door to Cloudy Curtain."
"From what I've learned, Bentheim is a pretty great place, but I wouldn't know where to go without you. It's kind of scary to visit such a busy planet by myself, you know."
"I'll make sure you'll see some of the sights." Ves promised.
They eventually reached a classy hotel fit for people like Ves. Even though he wanted to visit NORA Consolidated's headquarters straight away, Professor Ventag held many obligations. As a professor of the Dorum Center of Technology and Innovation, he needed to spend a significant portion of his time on his teaching duties.
Right now, Professor Ventag was at the DCTI conducting some sort of exams to prospective mech designers.
As someone who studied mech design himself, he knew how serious those exams could be. Ves was not surprised that Professor Ventag needed to be present in person.
"What do you think about Bentheim so far, Ketis?"
"A lot of people live here. It's kind of intimidating if you think about it." She said. "The frontier is mostly empty. What settlements exist only house thousands of people at most. A settlement that holds more than a hundred-thousand people is a major city in our eyes. Yet here? A settlement of that size wouldn't even register to this planet!"
Ves noted that Ketis wasn't saying this out of the blue. She truly felt a bit apprehensive at the thought of walking among so many people. It was a completely different experience from the places she visited in the frontier! Sparsely populated settlements and scrappy space station simply didn't host that many people.
Perhaps more people lived on Bentheim alone than the entire human population of the Faris Star Region!
Ves leaned over and patted her back. "It's okay, Ketis. You'll get used to it. Bentheim is not even the most populated planet in the Komodo Star Sector. Perhaps someday I'll bring you to the Friday Coalition. Some of the planets there are covered with so many structures that there isn't any free space left!"
Even though Ketis hadn't lost her apprehensiveness towards the unknown, she at least got a grip on it. To a daughter of the frontier like Ketis, unknown people signified threats. The more people gathered at a single place, the greater the chance of trouble. There was no way to predict whether a pirate in the frontier would burst out into violence.
Such stupid incidents almost never took place in Bentheim. Civilized space was governed by law and order, though not always to the same extent.
Still, with all of the forces stationed on Bentheim right now, the chance of trouble popping up was very low. Ves already noticed various mech patrols from the Mech Corps and the Planetary Guard passing by their guard detail. Even with the recent peace, the local forces maintained a high level of alertness against any shenanigans the BLM might pull off.
In fact, both the Mech Corps and the Planetary Guard appeared to be standing on a hair-trigger. Did they suspect that a threat might be imminent?
"Did I come at a bad time?"