Ves and Gavin held a very fruitful discussion about maintaining the stability and continuity of the LMC if the grand expedition ever took place.
Obviously, the LMC likely wouldn't be as it once were, but perhaps that was for the better. By slowly implementing multiple policies over the following years, Ves might be able to minimize the shock of the sudden departure of the lead designer.
"Right now, the LMC is very much centered around you." Gavin noted. "That's not inherently bad because it simply reflects the truth that mech companies are all about their mech designers."
The lack of mech designers under the LMC's employ had been a consistent weak point for Ves. When he left the Komodo Star Sector in order to go on his grand expedition, he would not only deprive the LMC of the personal presence of its founder and CEO, but also its sole lead designer!
Naturally, Ves could still remain in touch via comm calls and remote conferencing and the like.
However, time and time again it has been proved that running a company completely by remote was not a healthy development for the long term. This made it all the more important that he placed competent surrogates in the positions he left behind.
In essence, this not only meant he had to prioritize the director, but also the presiding mech designer at the Mech Nursery!
Right now, Ves could at least resort to promoting a proven Larkinson as the director of his company. Yet who could fill the huge void he left behind in his paltry design team?
Ketis would have been perfect for the position. Bright, resourceful and loyal, she was the perfect candidate to head all mech design-related matters that needed to be addressed back home.
Yet she had made her opinion about returning to the Swordmaidens abundantly clear. Her attachment to Ves and the LMC could never overcome her devotion to her fellow sisters.
It would have been great if the Swordmaidens moved to Cloudy Curtain...
The idea suddenly interrupted his train of thought. What if it was possible to take the Swordmaidens out of the frontier and place them in civilized space?
Such an operation would not be easy. Civilized space repelled pirates for a very good reason. Smuggling in Ketis might have been okay as she was just a single person with a very good counterfeit identity. Smuggling in hundreds of slaving, robbing pirates was another thing altogether!
Even if Ves somehow found a way to forge the identities of so many women who popped up out of nowhere, would they even agree? The Swordmaidens explicitly fought for the daughters of the frontier who lived much worse lives than the women in civilized space. Their central mission was incompatible to moving to civilized space.
The only way the Swordmaidens might willingly decide to accept the offer to move to civilized space was if they were no longer able to survive in the frontier.
Whether this would happen or not depended on how well Commander Dise managed her outfit's relations with the local pirate powers of the Faris Star Region.
Ves mentally put this unrealistic option aside. He couldn't rely on lucky breaks to retain Ketis in his company. He would have to find someone else who could take his place and address any acute design-related problems at the Mech Nursery.
After swapping a few ideas with Gavin, the executive assistant came with another surprising idea.
"Why not resort to your family again, boss? Aren't your relatives in the process of raising a few bright seeds to potentially inherit your mantle?"
The suggestion had some merit, but Ves quickly shook his head. "The young Larkinsons being nurtured as mech designers are way too juvenile. Even if they can graduate from a good mech university in time, they'll be way too green to handle most of the problems that might pop up from time to time."
"They can always call you if they need your help."
"That's true, but I'm not always available. What if I end up in an anomalous zone? What if the expeditionary fleet is being pursued by pirates? A lot can happen when I'm away from the Mech Nursery. The mech designers that I've left behind will have to be adaptable and resourceful enough to handle all kinds of difficult technical problems."
Perhaps one way to solve this problem was to feed some candies to the young seeds. With brighter minds, they could breeze through their mech design courses and maybe even receive additional nurturing.
Yet the lack of struggle in learning might breed arrogance and complacency in the seeds. Ves encountered plenty of spoiled brats in his profession to realize that it was better if mech designers were tested beforehand than if they were thrown head-first in a situation where mistakes could plunge the LMC into ruin!
Someone like his old friend Carlos would have been a great choice. Hardened by his wartime experience, his friend possessed a much greater practical grasp on mech design than any fresh graduate.
Yet that was not an option in this case.
Ves sighed. He still had a decade to address this problem, so his current lack of choices did not reflect the future.
"Let's shelve this issue for later. We might not have a dearth of candidates when the time comes to make a decision. Is there anything else you believe we need to address?"
"Hmm..." Gavin thought for a moment. In truth, he still worried about many issues, but most of those problems could be solved by others. Only a few required special attention. "You've already thought about most of the critical issues, but what about your destination?"
"I've already selected some options, but I haven't made up my mind yet." Ves admitted. "There are too many choices, to be honest. Many star sectors in the galactic rim have their own distinct inclinations. It's too difficult to make a choice right now."
Star clusters usually consisted of multiple varied star sectors. It was quite rare to see a homogenous star cluster unless a powerful first-rate state gobbled everything up and turned it into their own playground.
Most star sectors developed rather independently from each other. While the Komodo Star Sector lacked a distinguishing trait due to its relative youth, other star sectors may be different.
With a lot more history under their belt, older star sectors already developed a lot of distinctive characteristics.
Each of them offered very interesting circumstances for him to focus his exploration towards.
For example, one star sector might be filled with religious states, while another had fully converted to the bestial supremacy movement.
The mechs designed from these eclectic states all inherited some of the characteristics of these distinct cultures. Ves mentally salivated at the thought of witnessing a huge variety of strange and unusual mechs.
Just as he began to mention some of his favorite options, a knock sounded at the door. Ves ordered Lucky to deactivate his ECM field before commanding the door to slide open.
Fe Nitaa entered the room with a somewhat troubling expression. "My apologies, sir. Miss Gloriana Wodin called. She is quite insistent on speaking with you this instant."
"Is it urgent?"
His bodyguard shook her head but merely repeated her words. "She is quite insistent."
That must be quite an understatement if Ves gauged Gloriana correctly. He helplessly waved his hand. "Let's resume this discussion later, Gavin. Go ahead and inform Calsie of my plan. She will have to prepare the LMC for the upcoming transition as well."
"Will do, boss. You're really putting us in a difficult spot, though. The LMC would be much better off if you stayed behind."
"A mech company's strength is determined by the strength of their lead designers, Benny. If there is an opportunity for me to progress faster in a sustainable fashion, I won't hesitate to take it. The next few decades may be challenging, but the payoff will be more than worth it for myself and the company."
"By that time, many of the workers who joined the LMC at the start will have retired by then." Gavin morosely muttered.
His remark reflected the lack of understanding between normal people and mech designers. As a Journeyman, Ves had already crossed the extraordinary threshold and therefore became increasingly more inscrutable. Even his assistant, who had spent a long time by his side, couldn't figure him out sometimes!
This problem would only exacerbate as Ves continued to progress and distance himself from his normal human roots.
Once Gavin and Nitaa left the room, he accepted Gloriana's thirty-seventh call attempt.
The woman that appeared looked grumpy. And gorgeous. Dressed in a body-hugging white sweater that accentuated her slenderness and a skirt that showed off her delicate legs, his 'girlfriend' immediately appealed to him in a very primal way.
"Gloriana." He began. "You look.. pretty."
"Oh? Just pretty?" Glorian twirled a lustrous lock of her raven hair. "Is that the extent of what I deserve?"
"You're gorgeous! If you weren't in front of me as a projection, I would have embraced you by now!"
"Hihihi! That's better!"
After a bit of small talk, they settled down. The reason why Gloriana called was because she finally received some news about the promises she made.
"I've been looking into how to obtain a factory ship with the specifications we need." She began with a serious tone. "The Wodin Dynasty owns stock in many different businesses spread through the Hegemony. We have close ties to a number of shipbuilding companies and have commissioned them to build many of my dynasty's starships. The only problem is..."
"Factory ships are expensive. And complicated."
Gloriana nodded. "Exactly. As much as I want to commission the best, I don't have the money to afford one. Even if I contribute to numerous mech design projects in the next ten years, I still won't be able to pay off more than a tenth of the cost!"
"We don't need the best. As long as they are properly built, we can always upgrade them later. Also, we don't have to commission a second-class factory ship from your home state. It's a lot more affordable to commission a third-class factory ship so that-"
"-NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! I WILL NOT TRAVEL AROUND WITH YOU IN A SHABBY RUST BUCKET!"
Ves was afraid of this. Gloriana's perfectionist tendencies had cropped up in the worst time!
"Gloriana... unless your Wodin Dynasty helps with the financing, there's no way we can obtain a good ship. I've seen the prices the shipbuilding companies charge for this class of vessels. Why not look for cheaper alternatives such as buying a second-hand factory ship?"
"No! Don't speak nonsense, Ves! I will not have our time together be ruined by inadequate facilities and equipment breakdowns! Our factory ship will be our flagship and our home for the next couple of decades! Our children will grow up running through the halls!"
"Err.. kids?" Ves became stumped.
Wasn't this too fast?!
"We owe it to our cute little children to provide the best nurturing environment!"
As Ves still puzzled over the mention of kids, Gloriana already moved on as if this issue wasn't in question!
"Don't worry, Ves. I don't expect you to be able to help me in the financing. I can manage on my own, I think. I've been sounding out my parents and the rest of the Wodin Dynasty for a potential deal. With my potential, I'm sure I can get them to agree to an accommodation. The only concern I have is that they might make some problematic demands."
Factory ships were expensive, so even the Wodin Dynasty wouldn't be able to shrug off their cost. Even if Gloriana was a part of the family, there were rules she needed to abide by. No one was allowed to squander the dynasty's fortunes!
"Please don't make too many promises." Ves pleaded. "We don't need all the latest toys and whistles!"
His girlfriend completely ignored his words! "You don't have to worry about anything, Ves! If everything goes well, the shipbuilding company will begin construction of our fantastic new factory ship in a couple of years! Our new vessel will put all the other privately-owned factory ships in the Hegemony to shame!"