Home ->The Mech Touch ->615 Veiled Negotiation

 It shouldn't have been possible for someone to obtain the contact details of a military-issued comm. By default, they blocked all incoming contacts from unknown sources. This prevented the comm from being influenced by malicious code and annoying ads.

Not even most of the Vandals possessed the privileges to send a message to his comm. The only ones who possessed the necessary qualifications would either have to be a chief technician, a mech designer or a senior officer. As for the rank-and-file, Ves wasn't interested in hearing them out.

For Calabast to obtain his contact details, she either retained the services of an extremely skilled hacker, or she accessed the comm of one of those people mentioned above.

Ves grimaced even further. Calabast not only had the ability to contact him willy-nilly, she also knew about their escape plan. "The thing is, even if there's an issue with the Big Breakout, why are you approaching me of all people?"

"Don't overvalue yourself. You're not the only one who we've approached." Calabast replied with a calm smirk. "Even without your assistance, my goals can still be met. Contacting you is just an afterthought."

Though it was hard to determine Calabast's intentions, his intuition told him she was mixing truth with lies. His business sense told him that Calabast attempted to gain the upper hand in an upcoming negotiation.

A negotiation meant a bargaining process. Each side wanted something from the other side, but neither side was aware of each other's limits. The best negotiations resulted in a win-win situation for both sides. However, if one side bargained too well while the other side let themselves get ripped off, a win-lose situation could easily occur.

An important weapon in any bargaining process was information. If one side possessed more information about the limits and intentions of the other side, they gained an inestimable advantage. They could use their superior information to extract the maximum amount of value out of the other side while minimizing the price they needed to pay in return.

Right now, Ves knew that he possessed a very distinct disadvantage in this area. Even as the temporary head designer of the Vandal task force, Major Verle had never initiated Ves into his inner circle.

The Vandals of the outer circle usually played fast and loose with the rules. However, it was a very different matter when it came to the inner circle. Each member of the inner circle kept their lips sealed on the secrets they learned. If not for being more perceptive than others, Ves would have never been aware of this undercurrent hiding underneath the mech regiment's facade.

"Miss Calabast, let's not be too obtuse here. You contacting me definitely means you're out to get something from me. I'm not too keen on interacting with a suspected terrorist such as you. The blood on your hands must be enough to fill Harkensen I's oceans."

The woman carefully maintained her expression. She did not exhibit a single micro-expression on her face, a sign of extremely diligent training. "There are no permanent enemies, only permanent interests. Whatever you think about me, it won't benefit you at all if you keep up your hostility to me. Let me remind you that the Big Breakout that your allies are brewing in the dark can only succeed in a single shot. Once you fail, the Reinaldans won't let those spacecraft linger at Tecev City's spaceport."

She had a good point. The most important requirement to the plan was to use misdirection to draw the attention of the Reinaldans away from the spaceport. Though they would never let up their patrols around the strategic location, for now they believed that the mechs they had already stationed there possessed enough strength to deter anyone with greedy intentions.

Ves already knew that at this moment, the masterminds incited other groups to stir up trouble at various points in Tecev City. For a short time, the garrison mechs stationed in the city would be drawn away from the spaceport.

"If you're so concerned about the viability of the Big Breakout, you should be talking to Captain Orfan, not me. I don't possess a lot of decision-making power among the Vandals."

Calabast snorted contemptuously at the mention of the mech captain. "I like to engage with someone rational. A neanderthal like Captain Orfan won't be able to get around my identity."

"That's because she's able to recognize you're a snake."

"Why, I take that as a compliment." Calabast grinned at Ves. "Blunt objects such as Captain Orfan are good if you want to employ a hammer at your problems. Yet they aren't so handy when it comes to complex issues. The Reinaldan blockade is absolutely not so simple. From my perspective, the Big Breakout at its current form is doomed from the start. Without our help, you will not be able to depart from this planet with your freedom intact."

Ves still maintained some skepticism. "The Reinald Republic isn't hostile to the Bright Republic. Even if they throw us in jail, we'll only be stuck for a couple of months at most. Maybe if I'm lucky, I can ride out the rest of the war in a comfortable cell."

"How shortsighted!" Calabast humphed. "You really don't know anything, do you? Perhaps you don't see the harm in being held back in Reinaldan custody, but let me tell you, everything the Flagrant Vandals have been working towards will be in vain! All those battles and all those sacrifices, and for what? To give the Vesians a bloody nose? Ask yourself if those casualties are worth the price for the gains the Vandals have accomplished so far."

Up to now, the Vandals won several battles and skirmishes over the Vesians. However, their impact in the greater war was much less significant. The biggest gain had been to pierce the Vesia Kingdom's belief in their own infallibility. The Vandals had shown them in a brutal fashion that their interior wasn't as safe as they thought.

The victories also affected the morale of both sides. The confidence of the Bright Republic had received a much-needed boost at the right time.

In many ways, determining whether the sacrifices had been worth it was very difficult to judge. To Ves, it seemed the Vandals had suffered a lot on behalf of the Bright Republic, but only obtained some scraps in return.

To the selfish Flagrant Vandals, they would never work to the death for the benefit of others.

"I'm still reserving my judgement, but I'm willing to hear you out." Ves cautiously said. "What is it that you want?"

Calabast paused for a moment. Instead the comm suddenly broke connection.

Ves scratched his head. Why did she cut off the comm call all of a sudden?

A familiar voice suddenly spoke from behind. "That is because I can only discuss this matter in person."

Ves immediately jumped and turned around. "Calabast! How did you manage to sneak all the way here?! We've set up an entire scanning perimeter!"

The smirking intelligence operative jerked her head at the handheld scanners placed on top of poles. "Those toys? We've long cracked their code. To them, we're completely invisible and inaudible. The same goes for your comm right now."

Looking carefully at Calabast, this time she wore a suit that looked very similar to the ones worn by the infiltrators that had infiltrated the hotel previously. While this did not connect her to those infiltrators directly, it was a strong sign that Ves was facing an enemy instead of an ally.

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A strange device pulsed on her toolbelt. To Ves, his eyes and ears seemed to buzz as he concentrated on the little gadget. That must have been the device responsible for blocking every means of recording. The power coming out of the object very overbearing for such a small package.

Ves couldn't help but flex his fingers. If anything went wrong, he would instantly call up the Amastendira and blast this woman into ash.

"Don't be so nervous." She spoke. This time, her proximity to Ves made her voice sound much more lifelike than over the comm. "I am not here to hurt you. I come in good faith."

As if Ves believed those words.

"Get to the point. I don't feel comfortable meeting you like this. What is it that you really want?"

"Alright, I can see you don't require any more finessing." Calabast nodded as if she was satisfied with his performance. "We want some spots on your ship when make your escape."

"Absolutely not!"

The Flagrant Vandals would never tolerate any outsiders in their group. It was impossible for Ves to convince Captain Orfan and the rest to bring in a couple of random strangers. If the Vandals found out that the strangers Ves wished to bring along belonged to the terrorists that had engulfed Harkensen I in turmoil, then there would certainly be hell to pay.

"I don't suggest you take it up with the Vandals." Calabast shook her head after seeing his response. "You're a mech designer, are you not? There are many ways you can smuggle people along your group. You Vandals are intending to bring along some loot, are you not? My men can easily hide inside your containers. As long as your ships can break the blockade, my men can quietly leave the containers and step into space without alarming any Vandals."

This... Ves furrowed his brows. Accepting Calabast's trade wouldn't harm the Vandals any further at this point. However, he could not forget the Vandals killed by the infiltrators and the casualties they suffered when their hotel got shelled by the True Sons of Vesia.

Though it sounded contradictory, the Vandals valued brotherhood and loyalty. They hated their enemies and would never stoop to betray their principles in order to obtain more benefits.

This was one of their redeeming factors that distinguished them from pirates. No matter what awful stunt they performed, all the time they fought on behalf of the Bright Republic.

If Ves entertained Calabast's request, then he would be breaking one of the core tenets of the Vandals. It would tarnish his honor if his actions became known.

Still.. what was honor worth? Everything had a price, and while Ves had his bottom lines, he was not beyond taking some advantages as long as nobody got harmed.

He came to a decision. "If you wish me to facilitate this smuggling attempt, you need to show me some sincerity. Solving the disaster of that is facing the Big Breakout is not enough for me. That's basically helping yourself now that we are on the same ship."

Calabast crossed her arms. "We are already doing you a great favor. Let me remind you that you are not the only ones we've approached. If your demands are too outrageous, then I don't mind approaching someone else instead of you."

"I'm not asking for much. I mainly want information this time. That shouldn't cost you anything."

"Information is valuable, you know. I might not answer if you ask the wrong questions. If you want to know our background, then don't bother."

Ves fell silent as he formulated his question. Of all the things he wanted to know, one question constantly nagged him ever since the Vandals left the Detemen System.

"I'm tired of running in the dark. There's so much going on in the background that it's driving me crazy. All I want to know is what is actually going on. All this time, I've been reacting to danger without knowing why I'm involved. My patience has run out. I want to know what is driving all of you to this conflict. This shouldn't be a difficult question to answer."

There, he said it. He spoke his question, and therefore revealed what he wanted to Calabast. He could have traded this opportunity for other favors, but they would never be as valuable as finding out the truth. Considering that so many players were already aware of what was going on, this shouldn't have been a big request.