"I think you are mistaken about something, Calsie." Benjamin gently lectured. The old Larkinson wanted to be kind, but sometimes people needed to learn a harsh lesson. "For all the Bright Republic's claims about upholding the standard of freedom, the government isn't about to let an uncontrolled element have their way within their borders. The economy is always within their grip."
This really came as a surprise to Calsie. Previously, she was just a law graduate who turned into a temporary caretaker of a multibillion credit company. Though the responsibility initially overwhelmed her, she grew in the position with the help of capable friends within the LMC.
Now though, she found out that her vision was much too narrow. Like a frog within a well, she never became exposed to the truth about the Republic up until she hopped out of hole.
"What are my options?"
"As Ves' agent, you'll have to bend the knee in the face of authority. If the Ministry of Economic Development has their eyes on a stake in the LMC, then it's best to accept the fact that Ves and you won't enjoy an absolute majority anymore. How many shares are they demanding from Ves?"
"They're asking for twenty-one percent, though it will be a different proportion if I choose to issue new stock."
"That's their way of saying that no matter what kind of financial wizardry you pull off, they want to achieve an outcome where Ves no longer run his company like a tyrant."
"So they want to diminish Ves' ownership in his own company until it dips into 49 percent?"
"That's correct. You can decide to sell his shares or issue new stock. The former will swell his bank account while the latter will infuse new funds into the company. I don't advise you to do the latter, and that's not just because our Larkinson Estate will stand to lose. The Ministry of Economic Development often likes to meddle in how mech manufacturers are run, and they'll demand you spend the influx of money into their pet projects."
This was valuable advice from an insider who walked the halls of power in Rittersberg. Calsie frowned at the old man's words. She recognized their import, but Ves had insisted in the strongest terms to never sell away his shares.
"Ves will not be happy."
"Ves is not here. He appointed you as his agent for a reason. Even if it breaks one of his commands, you do not want to stand against the Bright Republic's industrial policy. This is the way that almost every state works. The government doesn't care about the small fries, but the moment a company grows to the point of being able to affect their prosperity, they will definitely take action. This is the reality of running a large corporation."
Calsie knew that this was no joke. Whenever the Bright Republic, they almost always knew what they were doing. They wouldn't back off from this demand now that they issued it. The only thing she could do was to mitigate the damage.
"So how do I have to treat the negotiation between the LMC and the Ministry?"
"Fill in the Financial Department and the Legal Department and let them handle the details. Some of our retainers will know what to do. Whatever you do, don't let the MoED run over you with their demands. Everything is negotiable, and their negotiators won't push too hard if you demonstrate some spine."
"Why is that so?" Calsie frowned. "From what I've witnessed so far, they're never satisfied with what's on offer!"
"That's because the Ministry is wary about chasing Ves from the Republic if they push him to the brink. It's counterproductive for them to chase away a promising mech designer within their midst."
"Can we negotiate an alternative to giving up his majority stake?"
"That's not possible. You should thank yourself that we live in the Republic. Many other states demand a much higher proportion of outstanding shares."
"So even if Ves decides to move the company's assets and settle in another state, he'll face the same thing over again, is that right?"
"It's worse in that case, because a foreign entrant will always attract more scrutiny. It's best for Ves to start anew in that case and found a new company from the ground up."
All of this largely neutralized the threat of moving their industries elsewhere. Calsie vaguely recognized a common understanding between the states. They kept their grasp on their domestic industries so long as everyone else played along.
"So how will the company be run from now on?"
"Well, the board of directors will have some actual teeth. The MoED will appoint some of their people to the board who will aim to steer the LMC in a way that benefits the Republic as a whole. This won't always be good for Ves or the company, but they aren't out to ruin your business either, so you don't have to worry about that part."
"And if Ves or I disagree with their representatives?"
"Then it comes down to a vote. The main reason why the MoED wants to strip Ves' majority is because they believe it is detrimental for a large company to be controlled by a single person. Even if Ves is the founder and lead designer, there are many companies that have ruined themselves in a single day due to missteps from the majority shareholder. The Republic doesn't want its economy to turn into a commercialised version of the Vesia Kingdom. Power must be shared, and no one should have the ultimate say."
"Splitting up power comes with their own downsides. Ves has told me all about that when he prepared me for this job."
"And all of that is true, but in general the risks are minimized if the LMC transitions away from being under the reigns of someone who holds an absolute majority. With a controlling stake of 49 percent, you will need to think twice on every proposal you put forward, because you need to convince at least one of the other shareholders to go ahead with your ideas."
"That also means that the Larkinson Estate can collaborate with Mrs. Bollinger and the Ministry to vote through your own plans." Calsie incisively pointed out.
"That's a distinct possibility. This is how actual corporations are run, you know. Even if the LMC went public, the MoED would still find a way to obtain at least ten percent of the shares."
"This is really unfair to Ves."
Benjamin smiled and shook his head. "Welcome to the big leagues."
As Calsie grappled with the fact that the LMC prematurely came to the MoED's attention, Ves himself was oblivious to the possibility. He never studied the Republic's laws to a great extent, and the lessons he learned when he attended school neglected to mention any of the sort.
It couldn't be helped, since most graduates from the Rittersberg University of Technology never amounted to anything. Ves was in fact one of their most prominent alumni in the last decade.
If Ves attended the much more prestigious Ansel University of Mech Design on Bentheim, then he would have received some forewarnings about the Bright Republic's economic and industrial policies.
Mech manufacturers played an extremely important role to a state. The fact that they mass produced machines of war only made the matter more important. No state wanted to have a rogue mech manufacturer within their borders selling dangerous mechs to pirates and every other type of scum.
It was no wonder states wanted to bring them to heel in some fashion.
Ves strode exited the shuttle and arrived at a special combat carrier called the Gorgon's Gaze. As far as combat carriers went, she was as old as any other carrier owned by the Vandals. She possessed a balanced mix of attributes, though her designers put a light emphasis on speed over armor.
The Gorgon's Gaze would have been an unremarkable combat carrier were it not for the fact that she hosted the task force's only expert pilot.
Ves read up a bit on Rixt O'Callahan during the shuttle ride. The man was around a hundred years, but failed to prove himself worthy to anyone who would pay for any age-prolonging treatment.
While mech designers had easier access to these exclusive treatments, mech pilots needed to work much harder to obtain the same privilege. Their brains simply worked differently from normal humans and posed additional challenges to those who provided such treatments.
As Ves read through the expert pilot's record, he found out the reason why nobody picked him up. At his prime, O'Callahan managed to resonate up to a strength of forty-four laveres. If he was able to maintain this level of resonance or continued to grow, then he might have been eligible to extend his biological lifespan.
Unfortunately, he only maintained his peak for a short amount of time. His mental faculties and his piloting ability started to slide. This was a cardinal sin among expert mech pilots because it signified that they exhausted their potential.
After bouncing around the Komodo Star Sector trying to convince others to invest in him, he finally returned to the Republic and accepted an invitation from the Vandals.
"This guy is pretty much a washed-up geezer among expert pilots."
That said, Venerable O'Callahan still possessed a formidable amount of strength, measuring up to thirty laveres on average. This meant his resonance was stronger than rookie expert pilots.
"The strength of resonance is only one factor in an expert pilot's toolbox."
Other factors also played a role, from the quality of their mechs to the reflexes of the expert. A crude description of resonance was that it was responsible for giving an expert mech their superpowers. Even without this awesome power, an expert mech was still a dreadful machine to behold. The disparity only became a bit narrower if resonance was left out of the equation.
Though Ves had heard about Venerable O'Callahan's irascable temper, he couldn't ignore the massive drain on resources his presence demanded. For better or worse, Ves needed to talk to the expert pilot or someone from his entourage.
Some expert pilots cultivated their own team of mech technicians and mech designers, but O'Callahan lacked this luxury. Instead, the Vandals assigned their own people to serve the expert pilot.
Ves had scheduled a meeting with the head of his design team. Before he spoke with her, he first wanted to get a glimpse on the mech itself. He followed the route projected by his comm and entered into one of the hangar bays of the Gorgon's Gaze. It was smaller than the other hangars, and was obviously arranged to service a single elite mech.
The thing that struck him the most was the mech itself. Ves finally got a glimpse of O'Callahan's famed lancer mech, the Parallax Star. Venerable O'Callahan's mech was basically a cavalry mech on steroids. It amplified the speed and impact damage of the mech. It could build up an incredible amount of speed and was able to pierce through heavy armor with ease with its foldable lance.
If the Parallax Star ever got caught up in a close-ranged duel, then it could retract the length of its lance or abandon it in favor of the backup spear attached to its back.
The mech possessed no ranged weapons of any kind, but this was less of a priority in spaceborn combat. That said, when Ves read up on the customized expert mech, he learnt that the Parallax Star could be converted into a capable aerial mech with some extensive modifications. This allowed the mech to remain relevant when it operated alongside landbound mechs.
As impressive as the Parallax Star sounded, Ves somehow felt that reality fell short. The magnificent burgundy-and-black expert mech looked worn and disjointed. To a layman, its outward appearance seemed fine, but to a skilled mech designer like Ves, the mech appeared to scream in pain.
"There's something wrong here. This mech isn't in a healthy state!"
When Ves extended his meager Spirituality at the mech, he encountered a morass of confusing portions. The mech's intangible spirit wasn't a morass of blended chaos like other mechs that had been worked on by many people. It contained portions of strong focus, but it was cut up in macabre pieces somehow.
Thus, both technically and spiritually, the Parallax Star exhibited a lot of flaws.
"What has its design team been doing?!"