In the past couple of days, Ves fulfilled as many duties as possible. He discussed and approved the expansion plans with the officers of the company.
In particular, he approved the procurement of two brand new production lines for the LMC's new manufacturing complex. Due to a lack of cash on hand, the company would have to go into debt to the tune of 4 billion credits, but this was easily bearable since the Blackbeak models still sold like hotcakes for now.
He also conducted his interview with Mercenary Central in his office. The interview was a lot more relaxed than the one he had with the Rimward Star herald. Ves mainly spoke some platitudes and constantly highlighted the benefits of the Blackbeak model. He tried his best not to trip over himself by uttering a gaffe.
Overall, the interview with Mercenary Central had largely been forgettable. The LMC and its partners only received a minor bump in orders for the Blackbeak models. Ves mainly treated the public exposure as a way to plant some seeds in the subscribers of the publication.
Not every mercenary was short on mechs at the moment. Once the war heated up, their losses would begin to pile up. Ves hoped that they remembered his words and took a closer look at the Blackbeak.
"It's difficult to raise more interest in my product at this time. The hype has died down."
The Blackbeak ceased to be a news item among the the public. The market had moved on to shinier toys that came out in the last month or so. Still, many professionals knew about the Blackbeak and what it could offer to its owners. Even if its sales started to slide, it hadn't cratered to single digits as of yet.
After the interview, Ves got in touch with Melkor who travelled to Bentheim and instructed him to manage the Avatars of Myth by himself for the time being.
"Are you having any trouble recruiting promising pilots?"
Melkor grimaced over the projection. "To be honest, I've come way too late. The Mech Corps and the mercenary corps have snapped up almost every competent mech pilot available for hire in the preceding months. The only ones who are left are failures or carry a black mark on their record."
"Take your time, then. I don't mind if you have to wait a few months to gather seven or eight good mech pilots. This first batch of mech pilots will form the core of the Avatars of Myths. It's vitally important to know that we can rely on them to lead our future recruits."
"I understand, Ves. I'm actually reaching out beyond the Republic at this point. There are still some promising foreign mech pilots who expressed some interest in working for a mech designer."
Mech pilots generally liked to work with successful mech designers. Unlike mercenaries, they didn't have to go around from job to job but instead mostly spent their time in one place. They only had to go out for a few errands once every few years.
Unlike company forces, mech pilots directly in the employ of a mech designer often received favored treatment with regards to the mechs they got to pilot. Mech designers always lavished their most loyal protectors with their best works.
Ves was no exception in this regard. In time, he planned to pair the entire roster of the Avatars of Mechs with his own designs.
"Have you also made a selection of mechs?"
"Not yet. I'm eyeing a handful of models, but It's hard for me to decide which ones I should settle on. It will help if you can tell me how you plan to use the Avatars of Myth."
"The Avatars will first and foremost act as my bodyguards. They should have the ability to act as my defenders and repel any Tom, Dick and Harry that wants to take a shot at me with their mechs. The second priority is to be able to go on an expedition in hazardous environments far away from civilization. Think of the Glowing Planet or Groening IV. The mech pilots of the Avatars of Myth should be mentally prepared to go on these kinds of arduous trips."
Melkor sighed. "I can easy gather up some mech pilots who are eager to take up guard duty, but the latter is a lot more difficult to deal with. Not a lot of talented mech pilots are eager to gamble with their lives. Everyone knows of the danger that's inherent with every expedition into the unknown."
"I'll make it worth their while. You can offer as much salary and benefits as you want, though I hope you don't stray too far from the predominant market rates."
Everyone had a price. As long as they threw enough money around, Ves and Melkor would surely be able to attract some poor but greedy mech pilots with some abilities.
Ves hung up on Melkor after discussing some further details. The issue of the Avatars of Myth could not be rushed. It was not as if he had any need for them at this time, especially since he was about to embark on a solo trip to the middle of nowhere.
Alongside his duties, Lucky often followed him as he went back and forth. Ever since he reached level 3, Lucky tested out his new abilities with the curiosity of a child.
The most drastic enhancement had to be his gravity manipulation. With it, Lucky finally gained the ability to fly.
In the first days, Lucky often raced around in the air like a dolphin in the water. Sadly, his control hadn't caught up with his enthusiasm and he often flattened his body against a wall or some furniture.
Everyone laughed when that happened, including Ves. Lucky hadn't been hurt, of course. Even if he flew fast enough to hurt a living cat, his Rorach's Bone-based body could endure a lot of punishment.
"Lucky, stop flying around so much! You're damaging the furniture!"
His cat ignored him and continued to swim in the air. While Lucky started to get a hang of controlling his movements by manipulating his gravity, Ves arranged some plans the LMC should follow in his absence.
"I'm not certain we're ready to move into the new manufacturing complex. It's still a month away from finishing." Jake responded after he received the latest plan.
"We can't delay our move for long." Ves replied. "The war has already broke out. In the previous Bright-Vesia Wars, the Vesians always sent out raiding fleets to strike at vulnerable Republican infrastructure. For better or worse, we're part of the Republic's war industry and a valid target."
The thought of an attack had always lingered at the backs of everyone's mind, but no one truly considered the Vesians would spare a fleet to attack their meager workshop.
Jake couldn't believe the Vesians would resort to such a thing. "We only have a single production line after you dismantled the old printer. There are many other mech manufacturers that contribute a lot more to the defense of the Republic."
"All those companies with four or more production lines aren't stupid. They already bolstered their company forces in order to deter any raids. The Vesians won't send out too many mechs in their raiding fleets, so they have to pick their targets with care. Our old workshop is a soft target in their eyes. Even if we don't amount to much for now, it might be different in the future."
"I see. They might want to divert some resources at us in order to strangle us in our cradle."
The mech industry regarded the LMC as a promising mech manufacturer. As long as Ves didn't screw up and continued to publish quality design, its rise was already a given.
Naturally, the Vesians wouldn't like that.
"I'll put my support behind the move. I'll make certain the manufacturing complex will be up and running within two months."
Time would be tight, and mishaps were bound to happen, but Ves truly prioritized everyone's safety. The sooner they moved into their fortified complex, the safer they would all be.
Ves didn't have to arrange many major instructions after that. Besides the development of new designs, the company ran by itself, exactly the way he liked it. He only spent some time to issue some reminders to the board of directors. They better not be making any major decisions without his presence.
"Getting Vaun on board was bad enough. I won't accept any more dissention, even from my grandfather."
Although he resented his grandfather for supporting that move, Ves didn't have the guts to call him out on it. He avoided his grandfather and seemingly forgot about him during his brief stay on Cloudy Curtain.
On the day of his departure, he shuttled over to the spaceport and boarded the Barracuda with only Lucky as his companion. As he reached the hatch, he turned around and beheld his planet.
"It's too soon for me to leave again, but I don't have any choice. I need to do this mission alone."
Once he stowed away his luggage, he entered the bridge. Captain Silvestra already instructed the Barracuda to lift off into space. The corvette hardly rumbled as it escaped Cloudy Curtain's gravity well, which was a testament to her well-trained crew.
"I see you are all making your recent training to good use."
"Mr. Larkinson, welcome aboard." Silvestra nodded to him from the captain's seat. "You haven't told us yet where you want us to fly. Where do you want to go?"
"Set a course for NCVEFG-3438 for now. I'll feed you the next jump once we reach the next star system."
NCVEFG-3438 was actually a lifeless red dwarf with hardly any planet to note. The galaxy contained countless of red dwarfs, and most of them held nothing of value at all. They only formed a somewhat convenient transition point for ships looking to evade the public eye.
"Aye aye, boss. I'll set our next destination to NCVEFG-3438. Our estimated arrival time is two days."
Ves had already planned his route over four different stops, each of which consisted of four abandoned or empty star systems. There were too many of these star systems to count, even in a desolate place like the Komodo Star Sector.
Although he knew that the Republic and other forces hid some observation equipment in these star systems, as long as his crew put their vaunted skills to use, they could easily obfuscate their readings and mislead them into thinking they had transitioned towards another star system. Any trained crew could pull off such a trick.
Once Ves became satisfied with Silvestra's arrangement, he returned to his stateroom and sat behind his desk. He pulled up a secure data pad that contained a book he recently ordered from the Clifford Society.
With several hundreds of merits to his account, he figured that he should brush up on his knowledge on laser weapons while he travelled to his final destination. Ves planned to acquire some Sub-Skills from the System as well, but he wouldn't be able to enlighten himself with the personal perspective of past experts.
The books on his reading list consisted of textbooks and musings of various experts that had once made contributions in the field of directed energy weapons. Reading their thoughts and understanding their paradigms helped him digest the knowledge he learned from the forbidden research data on gamma lasers he unearthed a long time ago.
"Hopefully I can upgrade my Skills or gain a new Sub-Skill at the end."
Of all the things he enjoyed about his career, he loved to learn new things. His ability to design a mech had come a long way since the start of his career.
Before, he had to rely on designing virtual mechs and variants of existing designs.
Now, he became accustomed to designing his own original mechs. Even though he only had the Blackbeak to his name, he maintained full confidence that he could repeat the magic of his first original design.
"My rifleman mech should be even better than the Blackbeak, now that I'm about to work on upgrading my Physics to Senior-level. I'll have to design a groundbreaking machine in order to attract a lot of sales."
Though the challenge seemed daunting, Ves never lost his fighting spirit. He believed he could succeed.