The oldest among them, Florissa, recovered the quickest. "The Vesian Revolutionary Front has been planning the downfall of the nobles for decades. Unlike other movements which attempt to enact an immediate change, we have been much more deliberate in our approach. As much as we think the nobles are detestable, without convincing the rest of the commoners who are ignorant of the abuses, our rebellion doesn't stand a chance."
In other words, the VRF talked big but didn't do much to back up their words. Ves understood their position somewhat, but these Vesian rebel movements all sounded like they enjoyed their current position a little too much.
Well, it was none of his business, so he simply shrugged and moved on. "Will the three of you be helping us out?"
"That is why we have been sent. I have already corresponded with Professor Velten for the last couple of weeks, so we know what to expect. We have a lot of work ahead of us."
Perhaps Ves could make use of their presence.
"All three of our designs could use a lot of help. If I may say so, I think it's best you start with the Inheritor design. The light skirmisher is our most stagnant project and could dearly use a firm push."
"Ah, your famous Inheritor mechs. Well, we can't make any promises, but we will see what we can do. Perhaps our specialties will provide the breakthrough you are hoping for. We make no promises, though. We are restricted in the advances we can extend to the Vandals. Trading some of our prized secrets will demand an equivalent trade."
"We expect nothing less." Alloc answered for Ves. "We can compensate you for any assistance you can provide or technologies you can introduce to us through your shell companies."
As Alloc discussed the issue with Florissa, Ves learned that the VRF established a concrete presence in the Republic space. In fact, they owned a whole string of shell companies that performed various services on their behalf!
The main issue for the Vandals was that as a legitimate mech regiment, it couldn't resort to pirating designs and exclusive technologies. To make such a transaction seem proper and above board, the VRF made use of its shell companies to provide some of their transactions with the veneer legitimacy.
It all sounded very shady to Ves, but apparently that was the way the Vandals and the rebels always did business.
As the two older mech designers engaged in their own conversation, Ves had been left with the two younger ladies. Both Iris and Lucille looked charmingly at Ves with big, blinking eyes. Ever since they associated him with Master Olson, they inched a little closer to him, though that was difficult since they sat across the dining table.
Of the two, Ves hadn't heard much from Lucille, so he decided to ask about her background. "So, are the Hornbachs a family of mech designers like the Jupiters?"
"No, nothing like that." She shook her head. "I started studying material sciences and transitioned into mech design halfway. No one in my family has ever been involved with designing mechs before. It turns out that designing mechs is a lot more enjoyable to me. After I graduated, I already had a job lined up at a major mech manufacturer."
"So did you already specialize in designing heat sinks?"
Lucille nodded. "I became famous for that immediately. I studied long hours into the night after work to increase my knowledge on heat sinks. I worked hard in the company to assist in designing the best heat sinks for their products. All of this went well until..."
"Until the patron of the mech manufacturer fell. I thought that the company that I worked for was an independent business. Only later did I find out that it's actually owned by a small count who fell out of favor. Once his enemies got rid of him, they took over all of his assets, including his company. That's when all the trouble began."
"Did they harass you?"
"Nothing of the sort. They simply raided the money the company had set aside to invest in new licenses and research. We needed that money to develop new mech designs. Without it, our future was bleak. Eventually the company let me go because they couldn't afford to retain so many mech designers."
That didn't sound so bad. "So how did getting fired end up with you joining the rebels? That's quite a leap, you know."
Lucille smiled a little ruefully at him. "I joined on my own volition."
Ves wanted to rub his fingers in his ears. Did he hear that correctly? "Isn't that a little premature. Not that I have anything against the VRF. It just sounds a bit impulsive to me."
The young woman sighed and brushed back her lustrous black hair. "I put my heart and soul in that company. They truly made me feel at home. Having been ripped away from them, only to see them deteriorate from lack of investment pained me more than anything. I pity those who are still left in the company trying to plug a ship that is leaking air from over a thousand different holes.
Ves somewhat believed her, even if he thought she was being a little hasty with her decision. Many companies tried to foster loyalty and commitment among their workforce. Ideally, each person who worked for the company would develop a cult-like attachment to them. It was the best formula to retain talented employees and it had worked for humanity for thousands of years.
Miss Lucille sounded like a typical dupe who had bought in to the whole corporate culture.
"Are you happy with the VRF?"
"I am, though there are too many mech designers in their ranks I think. That makes it a little more difficult for me to stand out."
"I imagine it helps that you specialize in designing heat sinks. Not a lot of people pay attention to them, despite relying heavily on them to keep their mechs running."
"If you think about it, every mech is a giant heat generator." Lucille said. "Energy is converted into various movements and attacks. Large amounts of waste heat emerge from these transformations. Despite the progress that our race has made since they emerged from Old Earth, we still haven't been able to achieve perfect efficiency. Waste heat is a fact of life, no matter the race. Whether it's humans or aliens, we are all facing the same constraints."
Many mech designers treated heat sinks as an annoying necessity that hey begrudgingly include in their designs because it wouldn't function without them. That was the wrong mentality to adopt. Heat sinks formed a vital function that wasn't any less important than a power reactor.
One part generated usable energy, while the other part handled the waste heat.
Ves had in fact gained a new appreciation of heat sinks ever since he won the Amastendira. The wondrous weapon that utilized some of the most advanced technologies from the galactic center utilized something which the weapon referred to as a dimensional heat sink.
It basically absorbed any waste heat within its body and shunted it into another dimension, thereby solving the problem in the easiest but also most extravagant manner possible.
Although the dimensional heat sink only worked up to a point, it was still an amazing picture of what the end point of heat sink technology looked like. Ves hoped that he could incorporate them into his own design one day.
Ves entered a brief discussion about heat sinks with Lucille. Despite his broad base of knowledge, Lucille knew quite a bit about materials science, while her insights into thermodynamics veered into a completely unknown territory to him.
It became clear that with regards to heat sinks, she was truly a specialist who was leagues ahead compared to a generalist like Ves.
Someone with her specialty was in high demand to any design team that worked on spaceborn mechs or mechs that predominantly relied on energy-intensive weapons such as lasers.
The banquet ran on for several hours until it came at an end. During this time, Ves spent most of his time learning more about what they brought to the table as mech designers. As Iris and Lucille both possessed specialties that pertained to specific components, they could potentially provide a substantial boost to the three designs that the Vandals still kept developing.
As the guests retired to their own compartment aboard the Wolf Mother, Ves and Alloc walked back to their own section of the massive ship. The corridors had dimmed down a little, signifying that it was standard night time.
Once they fell well out of earshot from the Vesians who attended the banquet, Alloc began to speak.
"Did you enjoy your time with the girls?"
"Uhm, they're very competent, sir."
"Rrrright. Competent. Interesting choice of words." The Journeyman curled up his lips before bringing them down to a frown. "Don't fall for their tricks. The VRF always sends out a couple of vixens to us. They're always easy to talk to and pleasing to the eye, but that still can't change the fact that they're Vesians."
Ves grasped the implied meaning and stopped smiling as well. "I understand. I think. If that's the case, what is the VRF after?"
"It's one of the many games they play. The VRF may not look impressive as an insurgency movement, but their influence reaches well beyond the borders of the kingdom. They have their fingers in a lot of different pies. Don't underestimate their skill in trade and diplomacy. They're always out to make a deal with you, couched in terms that sound great at first, but turn out to come with several inconvenient caveats."
"If they're so inconvenient, then why do the Vandals accept this kind of behavior, sir?"
"Don't ask me." Alloc shrugged helplessly. "I once asked the same thing to Professor Velten. She told me that it's one of the concessions the Vandals have made to the VRF. The slick-talking diplomats of the rebels have even gotten us to agree that any mech designer that wants to defect to the VRF is allowed to do so without restrictions."
That really got Ves to halt. What a ridiculous concession! "Has anyone ever taken up this offer?"
"Pff. Look at how few designers are on our design team and you have your answer."
That was impossible. There was no way the Vandals would tolerate the VRF stealing over eighty mech designers from them. Ves looked at Alloc with a suspicious eye.
"Okay, maybe I exaggerated." Alloc held up his hands. "Only five mech designers that I know of has defected to the VRF over the past decade. Those mech designers haven't been content in their current postings anyhow, so good riddance to them. The only regret that we have is that they are all rather good at what they do. The VRF mainly targets Journeyman Mech Designers. That's what Florissa is here for. She's mainly targeting me and the two other Journeymen in our department."
Though age gaps didn't count for much in this day and age, people would still from at couples whose ages visibly diverged. It would be unseemly for Ves to hook up someone like Florissa.
Instead, he could look forward to the advances of Iris and Lucille. Great.
"Well, the cat's out of the bag. Now that I know, I won't fall for their tricks." Ves declared with some conviction.
"That's what they all say, Ves, but when it comes to the matters of the heart, we turn into some of the dimwitted sentient beings in the galaxy. Love makes you stupid."
Despite Alloc's warnings, Ves did not think much of the threat posed by the three women. He was a Larkinson, and a Larkinson never abandoned the Republic. He also thought of himself as a rational thinker. Though he acted on a couple of reckless impulses from time to time, at his core he believed himself to be an enlightened thinker.
There was no way Ves would turn silly because of a silly face.