He finished it. While it took some time, he completed an entire plan for the task force's mech roster that took every major factor into account.
He took into account the skills and capabilities of every mech company, the inclinations of their commanding officers, the available resources that logistics agreed to release for repair work, the likely opposition they faced at various points of time and a projection of what kind of resources they would be able to obtain.
The latter two variables introduced an incredible amount of complexity to his work. Ves had been forced to make assumptions and use his own judgement to fill in the gaps. His increasingly more intricate plan became more flexible as Ves added options in case his assumptions turned out to be wrong.
The dynamic planning took up a lot of time to read and understand, but the basic point of it was to deploy the best possible Vandals mechs at any time within their limitations. Ves minimized as much intervals as possible where they could be caught with their pants down, for example by transitioning hundreds of mechs from one configuration to another. Most of the mass overhauls could take place within the safety of FTL travel.
Ves smiled as he deactivated the privacy screen around his desk and leaned back on his chair. The work was demanding, and he frequently felt as if his brain overheated, but once he finished his work, he experienced a rare moment of fulfillment.
"Did you finish it, boss?"
"I did! It's too bad I'm not allowed to show it off to you. It would be fatal for us if this plan gets leaked out."
He meticulously cleaned up his terminal of any traces of his work. Fortunately, the Vandals like every mech regiment of the Mech Corps utilized highly-developed routines that did most of the heavy lifting.
Once he ported his data over to a secure data chip, he stood up and left his office, and navigated the Shield of Hispania until he reached Major Verle's door.
After a brief security check and wait, the major commanded him to enter his stateroom. Ves took a seat behind the desk and passed over the data chip.
"Took you long enough, Mr. Larkinson." The Major grunted as he immediately inserted the chip into his terminal.
"I had to do all of the planning alone. I don't quite trust my subordinates to keep their mouths shut."
"That's not a good sign. Even if you're the head designer and the best of the bunch, you need to get a grip on your direct subordinates. The point of a hierarchy is to distribute the workload. You can't do that if you don't trust your own underlings."
Ves shrugged at that. It wasn't as if he could tell Verle that he wouldn't be able to command Mercator and Trozin's loyalty unless he became a Journeyman. Mech designers of their level acquired an innate arrogance that became hard to tame unless they faced a higher-ranking mech designers.
Even if Ves displayed more ability than them, he couldn't suppress them by virtue of that alone. While most Apprentice Mech Designers could never match his extensive knowledge and skills, they still subconsciously thought they were on the same level.
He waited quietly while Major Verle perused the expansive plan. While Ves provided summaries, it took at least half an hour of reading to get the gist of his decisions.
"I see you've provided three different options for me." Verle said and looked up from his terminal. "What are the differences?"
"They differ mainly depending on which kind of mechs you want to retain when we reach the Hafner Duchy. I anticipate we'll need to be at our strongest at that point, sir."
Verle nodded in agreement. "Venidse and Hafner will be our toughest opponents. The former because it will be difficult to disentangle ourselves from their forces and the latter because they're good at sniffing us out."
The older man palmed his stubby chin after mentioning those two powers. The Vandal commander did not relish facing both of them in battle, but their current circumstances compelled them into a possible collision course.
Ves proceeded to spend the next hour guiding Major Verle through a broad outline of his plan.
"Right now, we're on our way out of Imodris and still have to carry out essential repairs..."
"When we reach Venidse, I've heard there will be a possible raid on the horizon. My men will direct the mech technicians to make some essential repairs on these landbound mechs..."
"I don't project we'll face a lot of challenges in the Klein Duchy, but their long-ranged firepower focus can be devastating if they wish to harass us. We're going to have to lean on the Inheritor mechs to teach them a lesson..."
"I don't think we can avoid a pitched battle against Hafner. They'll track us down and force us into battle eventually, so I've planned for the worst. We'll to bring up the heavy stuff and modify our spaceborn mechs to withstand their initial charge..."
Ves justified each of his decisions with evidence, and if he lacked enough backing from that, he supplemented it with reasonable assumptions. The plan also possessed a lot of branches that provided alternatives to Major Verle. The three major options that Major Verle took note of could be described as three different flavors that put more emphasis on a particular strategy.
Personally, Ves favored the option that elevated the Inheritor light skirmishers into their mainstay mechs. He always felt a bias for this poor underdog of a mech model and wished that the Vandals took them seriously for once. Out of all of their spaceborn mechs, the Inheritor was one of their most prevalent model. It was well worth investing them in his eyes.
Sadly, Major Verle had other ideas. "I like this option. The Hellcat hybrid knights provides me with the most tactical flexibility. They're excellent whether they are spread out among the mech companies or gathered into specialized squads."
"Sir, I think you should take a serious look at the Inheritor option. It's our most numerous mech, after all, and their speed is their best asset."
"They are useful, but they only serve a narrow role." Verle shook his head. "Their biggest demerit is that they do not excel at defense and that they're countered by Hafner's mech doctrine. There is no little use in trying to maintain their strength for the final stretch. It is better to use them up beforehand."
And with those heartless words, his suggestion died a silent grave. Ves bowed his head in apology for the Inheritor mech pilots that would soon be running the gauntlet. There was no way they'd be able to take it easy.
"There are a number of points that seem dubious to me. I'd like you to change some of these aspects."
Major Verle provided a small number of key changes. Most of it concerned the modifications that Ves suggested to be made in order to gear the mechs against specific opponents. For example, to counter against Venidse stealth attacks, he planned to turn the Inheritor mechs into mobile sentries that meticulously scanned their vicinity for any anomalies with upgraded sensors.
"This upgrade is too demanding in terms of resources. Instead of incorporating the sensor upgrades on half of the Inheritors, it's sufficient if only twenty percent of our complement carry this sensor system. We should have just enough Inheritors to provide full spherical coverage around our fleet."
"That will be cutting it close, sir. The coverage wouldn't have as much depth. It's easier for Venidse to sneak their stealth mechs past our patrols if we only put up a single detection layer around our ships."
"We won't be relying solely on the Inheritors to do their jobs. Don't forget our combat carriers. They can provide us with a second detection layer."
"By the time the combat carriers detect something wrong, it's already too late, sir."
Ves had a good point, but Major Verle wanted to allocate more resources elsewhere. Since the major was in command, Ves had no choice but to yield and adjust his plans.
They talked over other many issues, and while Ves had to change many details, he was able to convince the major to stick to the plan. Overall, they refined the plan in a way that made more sense to a true Vandal. Ves had only stuck to them for less than half a year. It was natural that his knowledge of the Vandal fighting style contained a lot of holes.
"I'm satisfied with the work you've done, Mr. Larkinson. I'll provisionally approve of this plan for now so we can start pouring our resources where they are necessary. I want you to attend the next meeting that I'm holding with my staff so that we can benefit from their input."
"I'll be there, sir."
Ves was satisfied that Major Verle largely accepted his plan. His hard work hadn't gone to waste, and the mech officer didn't fault too many of his assumptions. Ves felt as if he made a genuine contribution to the survival of the task force.
Major Verle kicked Ves out of his wardroom shortly after. The meeting ate up a lot of their time, and they needed to fulfill their other obligations. Ves neglected many of his other responsibilities while he became consumed with planning out their mech roster.
"Planning our mech roster is a head designer's most important responsibility, but that doesn't mean I can sit back and relax once I've finished planning."
His second major responsibility as a head designer was to lead the other mech designers and make sure they weren't up to no good. Even if mech designers were smart, it wasn't a good idea to loosen their reins.
He paused to consider his most pressing issue. Major Verle already issued a warning to him, and he didn't intend to neglect it any longer.
"I have no way to command my subordinates except to invoke my official authority. While it works in a pinch, it won't work in the longer term. I've got to work on cultivating some trustworthy subordinates."
Ves cast his eyes to the future when he made this decision. Even after the task force completed their mission, Iris was right in that the Vandals might appoint Ves to another leadership position in the future. The Vandals were awfully short-handed and they didn't have enough Senior and Journeyman Mech Designers to supervise every important project.
While Ves didn't necessary dream of a career within the Vandals. If possible, he didn't wish to clash against other careerist mech designers who wanted to climb up the ladder like Mercator. Yet their relative lack of competence compelled Ves to compete against them, if only so that he would be spared from following the orders of someone who didn't know what he was doing.
"At the heart of it, the only reason why the mech designers attached to the Vandals are in such an awful shape is because there aren't enough of us!"
It wasn't too hard for the Flagrant Vandals to recruit low-ranking mech designers through their own recruiting channels. Yet these people didn't really bring too much to the table. In order to obtain mech designers with several successes to their name, the Vandals needed to rely on the generosity of the Mech Corps.
"Heh, even if we've pulled off a daring raid in the Detemen System, I don't think they'll change their mind."
Many other Vandals expressed the same cynical sentiment. Their disdain for the Republic and the Mech Corps made it hard for them to hope for a helping hand.
In other words, Ves needed to work with the mech designers they already had. No matter if they were conscripted like Ves or volunteered like Mercator, both of these types possessed their own competencies.
Still, thinking about their low numbers, Ves thought back on his observation that all of the Apprentice Mech Designers had only entered into the mech regiment's service for less than five years. Except for the Journeymen and Professor Velten, every other mech designer transferred away for one reason or another.
When Ves returned to his office, he turned on his terminal and entered the personnel files. Ves used his head designer privileges to investigate the reason for the transfers, but it turned out that this matter was not as simple as he thought.
"Insufficient clearance? What? I'm the head designer!"
This obstacle reminded him that he only scratched the surface of the Flagrant Vandals. Ves always felt as if something ominous hid behind their simplistic nature.