Bentheim. This pivotal planet served as a hotbed of activity for the Bright Republic, for both good and ill.
It attracted a fair amount of money as the goods that flowed through the Bentheim System shipped to almost every star system in the surrounding regions.
The Bright Republic took advantage of the Bentheim System's propensity to attract trade by setting up numerous industries in and around the star system.
The overall idea around their trade policy was simple.
Rather than let various raw materials used in the production of mechs, starships or structures flow through its star system after taking a small cut or a minor tax, why not work with it to transform them into mechs or starships themselves?
"This is the main reason why Bentheim is as prosperous and highly populated as today." Ves explained to Ketis. "Bentheim is in itself a planet-sized manufacturing complex that takes in raw materials shipped from neighboring star systems or the frontier and converts them into finished goods which can be twice as valuable!"
"For such a wealthy planet, I don't think the people are all that happy."
Ves shrugged. "You have a point. People here lead busy lives. While Bentheim is not as tranquil as Cloudy Curtain, the quality of life is still fantastic compared to the conditions in the frontier. Whatever you may think of the Bright Republic, Bentheim is an intricate part of its identity."
"It is also a hotbed for trouble."
As someone who lived on the edge of danger many times, Ketis couldn't help but notice the pervasive fear and uncertainty on the streets. Even though the average citizens tried their best to celebrate the recent peace and return to their old routines, the complete lack of response from the BLM was an ominous sign.
However, Ves did not wish to believe the BLM would be so irrational as to launch a wildly suicidal attack just so it could vent its fury. Having seen the way the Vesian rebels operated, Ves knew that a rebel movement thrived on local support. A heavy-handed attack that would very likely inflict massive casualties and disrupt many people's jobs and livelihoods would serve no purpose except to turn the population against them. There was no rational reason to launch an attack that no one on the planet supported.
At least, if the commanders of the BLM abided by logic. Ves could not completely rule out the idea that they would do something stupid that wasted a lot of their men and mechs just so they could have their temper tantrum.
"If the streets aren't so unsafe, I would have wanted to bring you out for a tour." Ves said.
"Oh well. I can see the sights later. It doesn't have to be now." She shrugged. "Besides, we didn't come here for a vacation, right? We're about to build the first prototype of your new design!"
Both of them looked forward to the moment the first copy of the Aurora Titan design rolled off the production line. Although the design and mech required a lot of testing before Ves would even think of publishing it, the mech would certainly be a good representation of the final product!
Ves worked on the Aurora Titan for months. The amount of work and effort he put into it exceeded that of his prior projects. Although the work on the Blackbeak and the Crystal Lord designs came close, the Aurora Titan encompassed many of his latest techniques.
The Aurora Titan served as the precursor of his future designs. As long as the innovations he employed resulted in substantial gains, Ves would be able to incorporate them in his core design style.
Two days passed quietly as Ves and Ketis continued to remain in the safe confines of their hotel. After that, Ves finally gained an opportunity to visit the headquarters of NORA Consolidated at Mech Designer's Row.
Ves visited this famed street once before. A lot of important mech companies stationed their headquarters right next to each other here, each building exuding a more exotic architecture than others.
NORA Consolidated on the other hand maintained a plain facade. Ves had already noticed that Corus Ventag's design philosophy emphasized function over form. The shape and form of Ventag's mech design always tended to lean towards simplicity and utility.
This was the charm of NORA Consolidated's mechs. They didn't offer the flashiest mechs, but their mechs were very functional, quite cost-effective and dependable machines even during the most arduous battles.
The reputation the company acquired over the years won a lot of fans in the Bright Republic and did wonders for its sales. The company definitely deserved to station their headquarters on Mech Designer's Row.
After going through numerous security checks, Ves and Ketis met the professor in his main office.
"Ves. It's good to see you again. And this lady here is Ketis, right?"
"Yup! I helped design the sword for the Aurora Titan." Ketis stated proudly.
Although her contribution to the project was not as large as she thought, both Ves and the professor couldn't be bothered to burst her bubble. They moved on to business.
"My company has a lot of production sites for you to produce your prototype. The production lines and fabrication equipment are all incredibly capable. What kind of environment do you wish to produce the first test version of the Aurora Titan?"
Ves had already noticed from his time at the KNG that large mech companies maintained certain production sites for mass production and other sites for more meticulous production.
"You wouldn't have a small and preferably quiet site that is geared towards artisanal production?"
"I do. I have already expected you to make such a request. My company currently maintains a high-class workshop on the outskirts of Dorum. It is where I develop most of my custom mechs. The fabrication equipment at the workshop is some of the best I have, but they can be difficult to work with compared to an average 3D printer. Make sure to study their specifications and explore their options before you work with them. Their enhanced precision comes at the expensive for a lower tolerance for errors."
"Understood. I will make sure to keep the waste to a minimum."
Most of the costs associated with the testing phase would be borne by NORA Consolidated. The Senior's company took a seventy-five percent cut of the profits, so it stood to reason that they would also be bearing at least seventy-five percent of the costs.
"By the way, professor, can you tell me if there are any threats on Bentheim I need to be worried about? When we passed through the streets, we noticed a lot of discomforting expressions."
The professor smiled. "The masses are too haunted by the BLM. They fear ghosts where there are none and assume that the presence of smoke always signifies the presence of fire. The so-called threat posed by the BLM is much less dire than you think. The Mech Corps has mostly maintained their wartime garrison of Bentheim, so even if the BLM wants to act out, they'll quickly be suppressed by the military or the Planetary Guard."
"That is.. Quite the confident outlook you have there, professor. Are you really sure the BLM won't pull something off anyway?"
"I know what you are thinking. The BLM have always been crazy. Who's to say they won't launch an attack despite knowing that they wouldn't have the cover of a Vesian invasion as a distraction? However, the actions of some isolated cells led by dimwits and incompetents doesn't change the fact that the heads of the BLM bear a great responsibility. They would never sacrifice the lives of so many rebels just for the satisfaction of giving the Bright Republic a bloody nose."
"The BLM has surprised us before."
"The rebels have existed for centuries. They didn't make it this far by chasing after short-term gains at the expense of their long-term viability. In fact, some of us in the Bright Republic don't entirely believe the BLM even want to liberate Bentheim."
That threw Ves into confusion. "How could they not attempt to fulfill their greatest mission?"
"It's because the BLM is an organization that enjoys a lot of grassroots support. Through the generosity of sympathisers, the BLM is able to obtain manpower, resources, mechs and other goods far below market price. Think about it for a moment, Ves. If you are a rebel leader who directly commands all of these assets, would you want to give it up for the vain hope of liberating Bentheim from the Bright Republic?"
"Agency problem." Ves summed up the concept that Ventag alluded to. "If I was in their position, I would probably try to ensure that I can continue to enrich myself."
The people at the head of an organization generally tended to pursue their own benefits over the interests of the organization. In the case of the BLM, the status quo afforded them a lot of wealth but very little oversight. A rebel movement wasn't the most accountable organization, after all.
It wouldn't take too much trouble for the leaders to abuse their position of authority. As long as they managed to mislead the rank-and-file, they could essentially run the rebel movement like a criminal gang and reap the benefits from their shadowy chambers.
In that light, Ves had to admit that the professor's argument made a lot more sense. The BLM prepared a lot of assets in preparation for a coordinated attack with a possible invasion force. Just because the Vesians pulled out of the plan didn't mean the leaders of the BLM couldn't employ their considerable amount of war materiel in other ways.
Over the course of his career, Ves learned two important lessons.
First, people tended to make decisions that satisfied their greed.
Second, people were irrational and did not always follow the best course of action.
If Ves applied these two statements to the BLM, then a contradiction occurred. Logically speaking, the leaders of the BLM should indeed do what Professor Ventag described and hold back in order to maintain their assets.
Yet since when did the BLM shy away from making sacrifices? Even if the leaders of the BLM were more interested in lining their own pockets than fighting the good fight, the middle and lower ranks of thee rebel movement might not think the same. Those fanatics might just try to pull off something on their own even if their leadership tried to rein them in. The indoctrination they went through to make them loyal fighters of the BLM could definitely backfire in this fashion!
Therefore, even as Ves and Ketis left Professor Ventag's office after a short discussion, a cloud continued to hang over their heads.
Having experienced a lot of the depravities that went on in the frontier, neither Ves or Ketis held much faith towards the idea that the BLM would show restraint.
The ordinary folk who lived in Bentheim all smelled trouble. Even though Professor Ventag regarded the masses as mindless sheep, Ves would rather put his faith in the judgement of the people who lived on the streets than in an ivory tower alongside many other towers on Mech Designer's Row.
Ves even contemplated cutting this visit short and returning to Cloudy Curtain immediately. Just because trouble might break out during his stay on Bentheim didn't mean he had to suffer through it personally. Now that he was out of the Mech Corps, he wasn't obligated to take part in the coming fight.
Unfortunately, Ves didn't think he could fabricate the best prototype of the Aurora Titan at the Mech Nursery. Although the Dortmund production line was quite good for artisanal production, the Aurora Titan deserved better.
Even though Ves was only thinking of making a single prototype, it needed to be as perfect as possible in order to prove its design concept in its future trials.
"When we return to the hotel, make sure to bring out your sword and take it along wherever you go. Although I don't think something will happen during our visit, I can't rule out trouble."
"I didn't bring along any combat armor."
"Where do you think we are?" Ves grinned. "This is Bentheim! Even though this planet is famed for producing mechs, there is a lot more to it than that. Let's go visit an outfitter along the way."
Since he was already here, Ves might as well do something about his deficiency in gear. With Lucky devouring his extremely capable CFA-issued Squalon, Ves lacked a quality suit of armor.
With all the billions of credits in his bank account, Ves could afford to splurge for a bit.