The Vandals moved on quickly after the two seperate burial ceremonies. Ves noticed that the Vandals had become much more honest and subdued after witnessing Chief Elin's gruesome fate.
Before he took the shuttle back to the Shield of Hispania, Ves stayed behind on the Finmoth Regal for a few hours to take a brief round of inspection. As the head designer, Ves had access to all of the hangar bays, mech stables and mech workshops.
Vedette walked behind Ves in a subdued fashion as they took in the state of the maintenance department aboard the Finmoth Regal.
Ves took in the lethargic expressions of the mech technicians. All of them suffered badly from the revelation that Chief Elin and some of their colleagues dabbled in treachery. To the Vandals, betraying their fellow brothers and sisters in arms was the worst crime imaginable.
Even if the entire galaxy turned against the Flagrant Vandals, their bonds would never break!
"Take a look at these mech technicians at work, Mr. Vedette. What do you see?"
"Uhmm.. they're not working as hard as before. Chief Elin used to be our ultimate boss. Without his presence, no one knows what to do."
"This is the consequence of your missteps." Ves bluntly said. "What is this section supposed to do?"
"They're tasked with dismantling a partially-damaged the Inheritor."
"Why are they slacking off?"
The junior mech designer's mouth gaped like a fish. Ves really wanted to smack the young man's face for his indecisiveness.
"Remember who you are! You're a mech designer, not a mech technician! These men and women should listen to you, especially now that they are devoid of a chief!"
"B-B-But I'm too new at this!"
"Your brains are ten times larger than all of theirs put together. Go out there and get those mech technicians back to work!"
Ves gently pushed Vedette's back. Due to his enhanced body, this turned out to be a hefty push that caused the junior to stumble straight into the mech technicians.
"Eh? Watch where you are going!"
"Hey, it's Vedette!"
The mech designer regained his balance and tried to speak at the mech technicians. "Guys, please go back to work. We're way behind schedule, so please disassemble this mech."
The mech technicians laughed as if a little boy told them to scram.
"It's our break time right now! We need our rest. Do you expect us to work around the clock? We'll fall apart if we can't enjoy some peace!"
"Get lost Vedette! Chief Elin isn't here anymore, so go grovel to someone else!"
"This ain't a place for you to hang around. Go back to your office and let us grease monkeys stew in the muck!"
Just around the corner, Ves palmed his face. Vedette's lack of spine reminded Ves of that Vesian mech designer he met back in the outskirts of Neron City. Ves already forgot the name of that Novice, but the sheer lack of courage both men shared meant that neither of them had much of a future in the mech industry.
Normally, Ves didn't care too much whether another mech designer possessed the grit needed to make something out of their mech design careers, but Vedette happened to be one of his subordinates. Even if he lacked any promise, Ves had a duty to do something about this sad state of affairs. The Finmoth Regal's maintenance department couldn't afford to proceed without any direction.
Ves stepped around the corner and slowly strode forward. He carefully composed his face and unconsciously channeled some of his inner steel.
The entire compartment experienced a drastic change in atmosphere. It wasn't anything a sensor could measure, but when Ves stepped into view, the mech technicians instantly lost their jovialness.
"Ah, Head Designer Larkinson! Fancy seeing you here!"
All eight mech technicians stood at attention as if they faced Major Verle himself. In truth, Ves merely imitated the air of command that the mech officer projected so well during his speeches.
Inwardly, he nodded in satisfaction. Learning from the best may not always be the most appropriate course of action, but it always guaranteed a measure of success. He was satisfied enough with what he achieved.
"You mentioned your former chief back then. As I recall, we just chucked him out into the wrong direction of space. Do you know why we sent him out?"
"Uhhh.. because he was a traitor?"
"WRONG!" Ves barked, which instantly caused the mech technicians to shrink back. Unfortunately, Vedette reacted the strongest against his eruption. "Chief Elin was a piece of work, alright, and he was charged with many crimes. However, his most principle failure was his enormous negligence on the job! To put it into terms your tiny brains can understand, he failed to do his job!"
Everyone's eyes widened. Though they understood the gravity of Chief Elin's failings, they only treated it as something that had nothing to do with them. Certainly, they missed their former chief who acted as a firm but reliable supervisor to them, but they did not connect his failings to their own.
Ves shook them from that idea. "The entire reason Major Verle reserved the punishment of the Lonely Trek to your former chief is because his tolerance for such failings is at an end. Now, look at yourselves. Disassembling this damaged mech will take at least an entire shift if you don't want to aggravate the damage. Looking at the time, and a third of your shift has already gone by. Do you think you can afford to slack off with two-thirds of your shift left to go?"
"No, sir! Sorry, sir, we'll get right back to work!"
"Then do so! I'll be keeping an eye on your work. If I don't see this mech disassembled at the end of the shift, I'll make sure you'll regret it!"
The mech technicians picked up their tools and scampered around the damaged Inheritors as if hyperactive demons possessed their bodies.
Vedette witnessed the entire exchange with wide eyes and a gaping mouth. The man trudged after Ves like a zombie after the latter gestured him forward and moved out of earshot from the mech technicians.
"Did you see how it's done?"
"You're the head designer, sir." Vedette whined. "I can't hope to match your authority!"
This time, Ves couldn't resist his urges. He lightly smacked Vedette's cheek, causing the man to yelp in an annoyingly girly fashion.
"Authority or not, you're a mech designer! Have some pride in our profession!"
In the natural order of the galaxy, a mech technician stood in the lowest rung and followed the instructions of a chief technician. In turn, these chiefs received their instructions from a mech designer.
Even with the temporary absence of a chief, a mech designer should still be able to command a bunch of mech technicians.
Ves had been in the trenches himself a few times during the Groening Mission and the Glowing Planet campaign. Taking charge of mech technicians should have been an essential skill to every mech designer.
A bit helplessly, Ves had to spoonfeed some methods for Vedette to command authority and force the mech technicians to listen to his orders.
"The Vandals will need some time to sort out the hierarchy. Last I heard, Major Verle isn't too happy with Chief Elin's deputies. All but one turned out to be his accomplices, and the remaining chump lacks the qualities we expect from a chief. Therefore, it's likely that a trustworthy deputy from another ship will be transferred to the Finmoth Regal to assume his duties as your new chief technicians."
Vedette appeared relieved at the news, which was exactly the wrong response to make in front of Ves.
"Don't think you can slack off as well once the new chief takes charge! Your responsibilities are still the same whether a chief is present or not! Keep watch over the mech technicians and help them solve any complicated problems that might come up, but don't forget to maintain their productivity at the highest level possible!"
"Ah, I'll try my best, sir!"
"Trying is not enough. Confidence comes from belief in yourself. Every mech designer ought to be confident in the superiority of their knowledge. If there is any crutch you need to lean on, then lean on that if nothing else."
"I'll take that under advisement, sir!"
After performing his deed for the day, Ves left Vedette to figure things out on his own and boarded a shuttle that brought him back to the Shield of Hispania.
In truth, while Ves could have propped up the junior, he wasn't strictly obligated to provide so much guidance. Still, Ves took up some of his valuable time to guide Vedette to the right path because he wanted to practice his ability to teach.
"It also helps to make a connection with Mr. Vedette."
Ves didn't have much hope that Vedette would amount to anything, but he never ruled out the possibility. If Mr. Vedette turned out to be a gem in the rough, then Ves would be glad to have the foresight to lay down a connection at a premature stage.
He wanted to build more bridges like this with other mech designers, but it was impossible for him to waste so much time by interacting with so many subordinates.
Another reason why he interacted with people this way was to borrow position as head designer to temper his leadership abilities. Back when he founded and expanded the Living Mech Company, he relied too much on readily-available retainers from the Larkinson Family to do all of the heavy lifting.
Their competence satisfied the needs of his company, so Ves had nothing to complain with the help provided by the Family. The presence of Jake and Chief Cyril lifted a load off his shoulders and freed him from the trifles of managing the company and his subordinates. This left him free to pursue his primary passion, which was to work on designing better mechs.
Thinking back on that period of rapid growth, Ves recently started to doubt whether he made the right decision. "It's hard to hire competent and trustworthy help."
Sometimes, he believed these qualities to be mutually exclusive. Either he could hire someone trustworthy like Carlos that wasn't very good at his job, or he could hire a seasoned veteran like Chief Cyril who was highly capable and practical but also deferential to Ves. Yet the chief's lingering ties to the Family made Ves question sometimes whether he would ultimately listen to those who had nurtured him for decades.
There were even times when his paranoia spiked to the point where he became disillusioned to the company that he founded on his own. Much of what the LMC did was seemingly out of his grasp. He could hardly wrap his mind around the scope of their strategies and activities.
His temporary promotion to head designer shone a light through the fog that had slowly accumulated in his mind. His doubts about leadership began to fade as he tackled his new responsibilities with a motivation to learn as much as possible.
It was like a second start to Ves. Already, he learned an important lesson. "Nurturing subordinates who are both competent and trustworthy takes time. There aren't any shortcuts to growing my own following. Not if I want to do it properly."
He already resolved to invest in any promising seeds he could find. Ves owed the Flagrant Vandals his gratitude for pushing him into a leadership position, however brief it might last. As head designer, Ves believed he could start to learn how to exert leadership properly instead of outsourcing it to someone else.
"Some responsibilities shouldn't be shifted to others. It's best if I learn how to perform them on my own. Otherwise, who is actually the one in charge?"
Ves had plenty of items on the agenda to flex his leadership muscles. From dealing with the fallout of the skirmish to reprimanding Mercator for dropping the ball on Vedette, Ves faced an endless tide of problems that require the Vandals to do their best if they wanted to escape from being engulfed.