Ves faced the daunting prospect of trying to fulfill 56 orders in perfect order. He not only had to arrange the logistics in a way that kept his production line running as much as possible, he also had to be personally involved in each step of the way.
All of his customers ordered the equivalent of gold label mechs. If Ves decided to be lazy and left the fabrication to his employees, then the mechs would never reach their full potential in the X-Factor.
Once his customers got their hands on the diminished products, they'd look at their mechs and wonder if Ves bamboozled them. As the actual product's qualities couldn't match the show models, they'd be justified in their outrage.
"I can't cut any corners with these orders." Ves murmured as he drew up a rough plan on how to fulfill the orders as fast as possible. "The amount of stuff I have to take into account is growing by the day. I should probably beef up my administrative workforce soon."
At the very least, Ves required someone to take care of the administrative side of things. He also needed a financial wizard to manage his growing pile of cash. Relying too much on automated software to do his administration left him prone to overlooking too many things
After the Vintage Festival ended in a spectacular fashion, he immediately returned to the Barracuda with his followers and lifted off from Bentheim. He couldn't wait to return to his workshop and get his hands dirty.
Right now, time was of the essence. He had to fulfill his orders fast if he wanted to release an original design before the end of the year. While no one knew when the Vesians planned to invade the Republic, the pundits on the news portals all predict it wouldn't be too long. Both sides already started mobilizing some of their reserves.
In the meantime, the Mech Corps fought back against the rebels and the pirates preying on the shipping lines. The anti-piracy operations progressed decently as the Republic hunted down the smaller pirate outfits, though they failed to nail down their elusive leadership.
Closer to home, several famous divisions achieved great success at crippling the BLM's off-planet assets. Their influence in the greater Bentheim region shrank drastically as a result, leaving the separatists with too little assets to pose a threat on other planets.
Once the Barracuda arrived at Cloudy Curtain, Ves returned to his workshop under an even tighter guard.
Word of his success at the festival had spread to his home. While his stature and influence had grown, so did the risks. Sanyal-Ablin already informed him the amount of probes and hacking attempts on his workshop had increased by over a thousand percent!
His long-awaited help waited for him at the entrance to his workshop. "It's great to finally meet you! I'm Ves."
A stodgy man with greying hair clasped his hand in a strong grip. "Cyril Hockett, chief mech technician. Your grandfather offered me some new scenery, and I figured you could use the help."
"Your help is sorely needed. Right now, I've got a barebones operation going on. That was fine when I just started my business, but now I've got to fulfill a large quantity of orders."
Ves proceeded to explain the layout of his workshop. He introduced his incoming chief to his shiny new machines and explained their extensive capabilities. He also showed him around the storerooms and other areas to make sure where he could find what he needed.
When Cyril saw that Ves had no other workers in his workshop except for Carlos, he almost spat on the floor.
"This is a piss-poor workshop for a company that just received billions worth of credits in orders! When you've grown to the point where you aim to deliver more than fifty mechs in less than half a year, then you should stop thinking you can do everything by yourself. As far as I'm concerned, you should have started training up some mech technicians from the moment you incorporated your business."
"To be honest, the reason why I didn't hire any technicians sooner is because it's difficult to insure their loyalty." Ves sheepishly admitted. "If you've heard about the dangers I've been through, then you should know there's a very real threat of infiltration."
When his grandfather promised to send out a chief, Ves had briefly read his profile. Unlike some random technician he could hire off the street, Cyril had been orphan who lost his parents in one of the past Bright-Vesia Wars. He'd been picked up by the Larkinsons who took care of his upbringing so that he formed a strong loyalty to the family.
Many wealthy families engaged in such practices to form a cadre of loyal retainers. The lives of these men and women could have been much worse without the nurturing they received from their backers.
Due to his simple history and impeccable service, Ves trust Cyril almost as much as his father and grandfather.
His new chief already made some bold plans. "It's a little cramped here, but I like it. You've got some real quality equipment here. It's a shame you don't have enough hands to make full use of them. Let me take care of the hiring. I'll be sure to watch out if they're up to anything. With me around, they won't even get the chance to harm you."
Cyril's confidence provided some reassurance to Ves. He nodded at his chief and keyed him into the various systems that ran his workshop. In particular, Ves granted Cyril the authority to hire and train new personnel on his behalf. The chief didn't need to check in with Ves for every little decision he made.
Naturally, his security systems still kept track of everyone's movements. Ves occasionally skimmed the logs to make sure that Carlos hadn't been slacking off. He simply had some extra reading to do with Cyril's addition to his workforce.
"Delegate when you can." Cyril nodded approvingly. "The key to transitioning from a scrappy startup to an established company is to increase its scope but maintain control. You'll shackle your company if you insist on micromanaging every aspect. Focus on your strengths as a mech designer and leave all of the details to your underlings."
Cyril made some broad recommendations to his operations. Besides urging him to staff his administrative department, he also recommended moving his workshop within half a year.
"Why so soon?" Ves asked with a puzzled tone. "I don't expect I'll need to expand my workshop any further before I develop my first original design."
The chief shook his head. "That's a short-sighted perspective. With only a fixed set of orders to fulfill, right now is the best time to plan a relocation. If you haven't looked outside, your workshop is sitting at the edge of a suburban neighborhood. I'm fairly certain that the local zoning laws is prohibiting a further expansion of your workshop."
"Yes, but why is it necessary to move to an open area as fast as possible?"
"You need a bigger inventory! Not only for raw materials, but also for your products! Right now, you're shipping in materials and shipping out mechs with hardly any margin for error."
"I see. Until recently, I lacked the cash to worry about building up my inventory. Now I've got a large amount of mechs to deliver."
A larger inventory allowed his workshop to fabricate without interruption or delays. It also helped provide a buffer if war or piracy cut off the shipping lines between Bentheim and its major suppliers.
Cyril provided even more reasons to move. Ves could plan ahead and use a much more efficient layout of his work site with plenty of room for expansion. He could also consult Sanyal-Ablin on how to make his workshop safe and secure from the very start.
"Money can make a lot of people go crazy. It's unfortunate your recent sales have attracted so much scrutiny. You can expect a lot of important visitors to knock at your door in the next couple of days."
His words came true the next day. While Cyril went out to the local branch of the MTA to put up a recruiting notice, a familiar face turned up to his doorstep. Dietrich sat down on a sofa in his lounge with a serious expression.
He sighed. "I hate to be doing this, but my father insisted. You know how we've got your back, right? A lot of scum started snooping around our turf. We've been cleaning them up as soon as they show up, but it's tiresome work. You've become a big boy now under our protection. I even let you take advantage of my connections."
"I see." Ves said flatly. He already knew what Dietrich had in mind. "Nothing comes for free."
"Hah! Wouldn't it be nice to eat cloud rice every day! Sadly, you're right. You only get to enjoy something if you're willing to pay for it. That goes for both the trans-galactic corporations and the local liquor store where I've been buying my best drinks. Seeing as you're running a business yourself, it's time to pay your debts."
Before Ves made it big, Walter's Whalers treated him like kid. They indulged him to build up good relations and to insure they established a relationship before he rose up. Even if he never amounted to anything, it didn't cost the Whalers anything to make the effort.
Now they realized they were sitting on a gold mine. While they still wanted to be friends, they also wanted a piece of the very juicy pie that Ves had just brought back from Bentheim.
They negotiated for a couple of minutes. Unlike the domineering gangs in Bentheim, the Whalers presented reasonable demands to Ves and the LMC. They asked for a modest contribution of five percent of gross profits.
Ves expected worse, like a demand to cough up 500 million credits immediately.
"We're not stupid, you know?" Dietrich remarked when he noted that Ves doubted his words. "We run our own businesses, so of course we know a thing or two about liquidity. All those stories you've heard about the gangs in Bentheim are exceptions rather than the norm. There's a whole bunch of chuckleheads in that cesspit who have more greed than sense. They rarely last very long."
In fact, the Whalers made a shrewd decision by betting on the future. Demanding a five percent cut in gross profits sounded small while the LMC remained in its beginning stages of its growth. Once it expanded to the point where it sold tens of thousands of mechs a year, that five percent accumulated into a frightening amount of money.
Despite being taken advantage of, Ves knew he couldn't refuse the offer. He nodded wordlessly, and after exchanging a bit of pleasantries, his guest left the workshop.
"At least I only have to start paying for the next fiscal year."
Ves set the fiscal year to the date he first embarked on his career as a mech designer, which came up very soon. Not only did he have to file for taxes for his earnings up to now, he also had to make another interest payment on the debt his father accrued.
"It's interesting what a difference a year can make."
A year ago, Ves faced an existential threat because he started penniless with 330 million credits in debt. This unimaginably huge sum loomed over him like mountain that threatened to collapse on his shoulders.
The debt still existed to this day, only this time Ves had grown into a giant. Before he knew it, he became capable of tipping over the mountain anytime he wanted. Only his reluctance to spend his cash before he finished investing in a couple more licenses withheld him from doing so.
An alarm interrupted his musings. Someone else arrived at his doorstep. When Ves went up to see who came, he met a familiar face from the Pioneers.
"Mr. Larkinson." Linden Royce tipped his hat to Ves. "Can I come in?"
"Certainly. Come right in." Ves replied after his security cleared him of any bugs and threats. "I'm sorry to say I didn't expect your presence, deputy director."
"Recent developments changed our outlook on your case. And it's director now. My superior has been reassigned. There's been a lot of shakeups at the Pioneers. Certain factions lost support while others rose with the tide."
"And I suppose I'm to blame."
Linden smiled at Ves, confirming the jest. The recent revival of the mech scene on Cloudy Curtain had benefited the Pioneers the most. They grew from a marginal position with little influence to a formidable source of opposition to the Greens and the White Doves.
No matter how much they disliked each other, they had to rely on each other in order to resist the status quo.