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 After he processed the unpleasantness surrounding his Gavin, Ves did his best to move on from what he learned.

His daily interactions with Gavin hadn't changed at all. While he guarded his words a little more carefully around him, he still leaned heavily on his gatekeeper's advice and suggestions.

The reason why Ves trusted Gavin to do his job faithfully was because Crindon constantly kept an eye on communications. If Gavin ever twisted his orders, acted on his own accord or performed anything detrimental, Ves would know.

As for trying to screw around with Flashlight, Ves instantly threw away this childish notion.

Just because they riddled the LMC with spies and informers didn't mean that they held any hostile intentions towards him. For now, the intelligence agency probably just wanted to keep an eye on his activities.

Ves smirked. "Let them look. Everything I really care about is beyond their reach."

With Nitaa and Crindon by his side, Ves could rely on at least two absolutely loyal pillars. Even so, he knew better than to rely on Kinners for everything.

Everytime he felt tempted to return to the Kinner Tribe to buy out hundreds of absolutely loyal staffers, he thought back on the other leaders he encountered over the course of his career.

People such as Senator Tovar, Major Verle and Commander Lydia all exuded authority in such a fashion that their subordinates unquestionably obeyed their commands. Ves looked upon them as role models as their force of leadership constantly inspired loyalty and obedience.

"What they each have in common is their emphasis on shared values and common identity."

He envied their leadership style and had tried to model himself after them, though he didn't have many opportunities to exercise his authority these days. Ves heavily preferred to delegate his non-mech design responsibilities to others, so he rarely issued orders directly to the thousands of people on the LMC's payroll.

"It doesn't matter though. The true secret behind authority is that it works best if people don't question it. They just need to be conditioned to obey."

This was the most important lesson he drew from observing the Flagrant Vandals and Lydia's Swordmaidens over a lengthy period of time. While they were probably not the best role models around, Ves truly admired how strongly they aligned with each other.

He tried to instill the same kind of camaraderie and brotherhood within the LMC and the Avatars of Myth as best as possible. Ever since he instituted reforms within the LMC to build up a strong corporate culture, he believed he could indoctrinate his employees into becoming unflinchingly loyal to him and his company.

Of course, building up a common identity could not be done in a single day. Ves looked forward to returning to the Bright Republic in order to see how the LMC had progressed on this end. Enough time had passed for his initial efforts to sink into the mentalities of every worker of the LMC.

This was why Ves didn't care too much about spies and troublemakers within his company. Not only were they unable to do any serious damage to his core interests, but there were enough people around who would guard against any mischief.

He wanted to make sure that the LMC did not make the same mistakes as the former Kadar-Neyvis Group. Due to the actions of a couple of saboteurs aligned with the Bentheim Liberation Movement within that company, the hard work of two successful Journeymen had gone up in smoke!

"Shenanigans like that won't fly in my company!"

This was why Ves also prioritized rigorous control, though he didn't go overboard on this end. He knew very well that every monitoring and security system was fallible and could be circumvented in many different ways.

To Ves, the best security system was to insure that there were plenty of loyal people in place. As long as they identified themselves with the LMC, they wouldn't allow anything bad to happen to the company!

"It's like a tribe!"

That was the best way for him to describe his aspiration. He wanted his workers to be so loyal to his company that they valued it more than the Bright Republic.

Perhaps secretly within his heart, Ves hoped that he could make Gavin care more about him than his other master. While Flashlight still needed to be appeased, Gavin could still choose to withhold more damaging information.

In any case, life went on and Gavin kept in touch with the company.

"The LMC has already licensed a ballistic rifleman mech design and started fabricating it en masse." He reported. "The quality of our copies is higher than most of the competition, so we aren't having trouble in selling them. It's just..."

"Our margins are low." Ves guessed.

"Right. The mech design we've licensed is a budget mech, so the money we can make is already limited. Add the licensing fees on top of all of our expenses, the profit we make is not as impressive as before."

"We're still above water, right?"

"Yes, but that's not necessarily good news. While we're earning just enough money to pay the bills, we don't have much left over to spend on upgrades, expansions and other activities that foster growth. We've had to stall a lot of plans, including the construction of a second manufacturing complex in the outskirts of Haston on Bentheim."

Ves paid a lot of attention to the latter.

Despite his reluctance towards expanding the LMC's footprint, they couldn't avoid the biggest nexus of mech production in the local area, especially if they wanted to start producing cheaper mechs. It simply made too much sense from a logistical and distribution standpoint.

"How much money does the LMC need to finish the manufacturing complex, Benny?"

"Even if we cut back on the planned production lines of the second complex, we still need at least twelve billion bright credits to cover the basics."

Ves winced. Though he could still cover this amount with his personal fortune, he wasn't stupid enough to reinvest his own money back into the company.

"For now, let's pause the construction." He ordered. "Since our sales of the Blackbeak, Crystal Lord and Aurora Titan models have cratered, we aren't short of production lines. Adding a dozen more production lines on top of what we have at the Mech Nursery is too excessive at the moment."

Gavin mentioned a recent development. "About that, the LMC recently received some orders from the government. We're about to utilize some of our available production lines on military commissions."

That was new. "What do they want?"

"The LMC and a lot of other mech companies with underutilized production capacity are being tasked with producing military hardware. I've already got in touch with a couple of other mech companies and they've all been ordered to produce the same kinds of war materiel. Specifically, we are being forced to produce lots of parts for turrets, tanks, aircraft and spacecraft!"

Ves widened his eyes. "That means the Bright Republic is planning to mobilize civilians! All of those turrets and vehicles aren't related to mechs, so the military won't be restricted in how many people they can hire!"

One of the biggest bottlenecks to expanding a mech military was that they could only field as many mechs as they had mech pilots. That wasn't the case with auxiliary regiments.

From the hardware that Gavin listed out, Ves immediately understood the government's intention. The Bright Republic wasn't intending to stake its existence on the Mech Corps alone. They wanted to bring as much firepower they could bear in the span of a couple of months!

While the newly-raised auxiliary regiments would probably be badly trained and completely inadequate when deployed against mechs, these detriments didn't apply to the sandmen.

Most sandmen fleets merely charged at their targets in a straight line without resorting to any clever maneuvering or stratagems. They mainly relied on brute force and overwhelming numbers to overrun a state!

The most convenient answer against such a strong but stupid threat was to put more bodies in the frontlines! It didn't have to be mechs, as most of the advantages they brought to the table were not very relevant against an opponent like the sandmen!

The main reason why auxiliary regiments fell out of favor in much of human space was that they weren't very effective against mechs. Static defenses would simply get bombarded from a distance while other vehicles crewed by norms couldn't match the responsiveness and flexibility of mechs.

In most cases, money spent on raising auxiliary regiments was better spent on raising mech regiments.

The circumstances were different now. The former turned out to be effective against their current alien threat while the previous war already exhausted the Mech Corps!

The new generation of mech pilots still needed to grow for the Mech Corps to expand their ranks.

Ves suddenly realized something important. If the Bright Republic wanted to mobilize its civilian population, then a draft was inevitable!

"Has the drafting already begun?"

Gavin nodded. "A lot of notices have been sent. Not a lot of Brighters are pleased, but most of them will grudgingly report to the nearest military base. Hardly anyone wants to run."

"Because we're Brighters."

"Because we're Brighters." Gavin echoed with determination. "We don't buckle from a threat. We endure. We defend. Standing up for the Bright Republic is baked into our blood. The Vesians haven't broken us, and we won't let a bunch of sand-like aliens break us like they did to the border states."

Both of them never thought about running. No one grew up in the Bright Republic wanting to abandon it when times got rough.

Doubtlessly, a small number of Brighters would probably pack their bags and flee to the inner regions of the Komodo Star Sector.

However, they would likely have to leave a good amount of their assets behind or sell them at a heavy discount. They might not be able to rebuild their lives in a foreign state, especially considering that they would be no different from the flood of refugees who mindlessly fled as far as their ships could reach!

"I heard that the Bright Republic is also settling a lot of refugees on Cloudy Curtain." Ves raised.

"Yeah." Gavin nodded. "A lot of refugee ships end up in port systems like the Bentheim System before breaking down or running out of energy. The government can't afford to relocate the refugees too far away or help send them on their way, because that would take too much valuable transportation capacity."

"So the bureaucrats just dump them at the nearest available mudballs, is that right?"

"Hey. If there is one thing Cloudy Curtain doesn't lack, it's space!" Gavin sarcastically responded. "Seriously though, the government wants to settle the refugees with as little hassle as possible. Rather than stuff them onto the overcrowded surface of Bentheim, a rural planet like Cloudy Curtain is perfect! There's lots of empty space for prefab settlements and the demand for agriculture has ballooned. All of those farms need workers, and it doesn't matter if they don't have any skills. Millions of refugees are pouring into Cloudy Curtain as we speak!"

Cloudy Curtain only boasted around 15 million inhabitants to begin with! When Gavin mentioned the amount of refugees that the government planned to settle on their home planet, Ves practically jumped out of his seat.

"Is the government crazy?! The foreigners will outnumber the locals! Dumping so many desperate people onto our quiet little planet will lead to chaos!"

Gavin shrugged. "Tell that to the bureaucrats, boss. All they see is a planet that is cheap to settle and with enough fertile land to feed countless people. As for the unrest that might ensue, they're already on top of it. Most of the refugees are going to be housed in isolated settlements erected overnight in very distant areas. Entry and exit to these settlements will be restricted by the fact that most vehicle traffic will be restricted to essential supply runs. If the refugees want to reach a city like Freslin, they'd have to walk hundreds or thousands of kilometers on land!"

"Sounds like a prison. A cheap prison." Ves curled his lips in distance.

"That's essentially the case. The Bright Republic can't afford to spare the manpower and resources to process the refugees properly. They just plan to set them aside in newly-founded farming settlements and deal with the imminent crisis first. After all, everything they do might be moot if they haven't sufficiently prepared against the sandman threat."

All in all, the star sector-wide threat had forced not only the Bright Republic, but every other state in the firing line to adapt!

Ves knew that if the Bright Republic ever survived the coming chaos, then Cloudy Curtain would never be the same!

"A lot of those refugees probably lost everything." He whispered. "They don't have any homes to go back to. Cloudy Curtain will become their new home."

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