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 Since he recognized that Major Verle desired for his earnest cooperation and effort, he did not hesitate to leverage his negotiating power. What did it matter to the mech officer and operative of the Firestarters? He only acquiesced to concessions that either cost his organization nothing or became someone else's problem to fulfill.

Besides, for the steep service of scheming to brainwash and subsequently kill an expert pilot, the Firestarters better pay a commensurate price!

"I want full access to the technical library on the local database."

"I can't do that. The local database is hard-locked to only draw out snippets of its contents at any time. I can promise you to open up the library section on one narrowly-defined topic."

"Two." Ves pushed.

"That is rather difficult to arrange, but possible. Two and only two."

"I want the right to wear better gear. This standard-issue suit of light combat armor looks nice, but its plating is predominantly made out of titanium and trace amounts of junk exotics. Surely the Vandals have something better in stock?"

"Most of our higher-quality suits of armor consists of at least medium and heavy combat armor, which require special training to be proficient in their use. Smart or not, the skill is not something you can pick up in a couple of weeks. We don't have any better-quality light armor available because most of our officers and chiefs possess the requisite training to wear at least medium combat armor."

"Then provide me with a good blueprint from the local database and the right to draw out the resources required to fabricate it. In fact, I prefer this option because I get to customize my primary form of protection."

"Fine." Major Verle waved his hand dismissively. "You have access to anything you need from the cargo holds, but don't think about borrowing something from the vault. The higher-quality exotics and materials are too precious to be spent on a single suit of armor."

"I want a better comm as well."

"I'm sure we have a couple of officer-grade comms in the armory."

Ves started to feel that Major Verle's patience and limits came within sight. He decided to drop the most crucialFind authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.

"I want the LMC, my mech company, to enjoy Flashlight's implicit support, sir. It's rumored that you guys are propping up certain companies, or at least favoring when it comes to procurement and contracting. I want my company to be associated in Flashlight's orbit, if that is possible."

This caused Major Verle to send Ves and appreciative smile. "Interesting demand. Clever, as well. Are you aware that any company that reaches a certain size has to be intertwined with the government?"

"No, but I can guess."

"Companies are like children. The state fosters their birth and raises them under their protection against unlawful conduct. Once the children become adults, they are expected to pay back the care they received when they were weak. Now, the best I can do is nominate your company into the list of possible associates, but the final decision is out of my hands. Continue to perform merits and you may see your wish come true. I do have to warn you that associating with Flashlight will put you and your company into their camp."

"What does that entail, sir?"

"You'll gain both allies and enemies. Unfortunately, allies within Flashlight's sphere have a tendency to mistrust each other, so don't count on them to lend any actual help. As for your enemies, they fall into two categories. First you will earn the ire of our governmental allies. The Ministry of Economic Development is possessive of the companies and industries it grasps, and they won't be happy with you for pulling your company out of their orbit. They are powerful, Mr. Larkinson, but more importantly they are well-connected."

"If it's a choice between Flashlight or the Ministry of Economic Development, I'd rather go with you guys. There's no connection between the ministry and I, while I've performed huge favors for Flashlight. If you guys aren't completely ungrateful with what I'm about to do, then I hope you remember my contribution and take me under your wing."

Major Verle shook his head. "I can't decide whether you are a fool or a prophet. What you say is true, yet I think you are sorely underestimating consequences if Flashlight decides to pull your company into their orbit. Once you get in, Flashlight expects you to continue to perform some favors if needed."

"That's a given." Ves conceded. "However, it's not as if the Ministry of Economic Development has no pushback either if they are so eager to hog all of the companies for themselves. If there's anything I know about the Bright Republic, they don't want to put all of their eggs in a single basket. Rather than letting my company be forgotten in a huge basket with much larger eggs, I'd rather take my egg to the smaller basket where it will actually gain some appreciation."

Major Verle chuckled. "Interesting analogy. However, you'll have to take into account that the bigger basket is safer. While the smaller basket allows your egg to gain more prominence, it's also expected to pitch in so that the basket stays strong enough to protect its precious cargo."

Even if Ves had to work for Flashlight every now and then even after the war, as long as he continued to remain useful to the military intelligence agency, they would continue to value him and his company. A continuous relationship benefited both sides of the arrangement. The hardest part was getting his foot in the door.

In a way, Ves also paved the way for his Shadow Force to potentially receive official sanction or at least become a tolerated existence if they discovered its ties to him. If Flashlight or the Firestarters adopted the same 'the end justifies the means' mentality as the Flagrant Vandals, then he'd fit right in with their band of misfits!

They finalized their agreement on a handshake and a verbal promise. This sort of agreement could never be put into a contract to be signed and notarized by others. Ves just had to trust Major Verle and his back organization to uphold their end of the deal.

Still, that reminded him of a potentially awful outcome. "What will happen if you encounter a mishap, sir? Who will know that I've performed this service?"

"You don't have to worry about that." Major Verle assured, content now that he secured Ves' cooperation. "We are still in the possession of at least one working quantum entanglement node. I've been sending sporadic reports to the Mech Corps and the Firestarters. While the details of this agreement can never be committed into a record and be sent through a channel effectively controlled by the Comm Consortium, it's sufficient for me to transmit a few obscure codes associated with your name."

Ves couldn't obtain a better assurance than this, but at least he received a promise that even if the Vandal fleet fell apart, his contribution would still be recognized, if only in an abstract fashion.

After they closed the deal, Ves was just about to turn to the exit when the pod that held the prince's body came into his view.

With his jamming device still active, every electronic device should have been blinded and deafened, but that did not apply to organic bodies and constructs.

"Sir, the prince..."

"I'll take care of it." Major Verle replied.

Ves imagined the prince's body would be dissolved and turned into elementary particles to be thrown out of the airlock during FTL travel. It would be the perfect way to dispose of it without getting traced back to the Vandals.

It was an awful way to treat the deceased. Even the criminals who received a cold burial at least held out hope that his remains would return to the cycle of life.

As he deactivated his signal jammer and got his gear back, he sent out a quick message to Ketis while he contemplated how to go about his job.

If he returned to his office and sat behind his terminal to research neural interface technology and use that knowledge to compromise a neural interface, then he'd definitely leave traces behind. Even with the major's cooperation, they couldn't guarantee complete privacy. Even his military-issued comm came with many hidden functions that Ves couldn't entirely trust.

"I'll have to fabricate a basic comm that leaves no traces."

He stopped walking towards the office and turned around to head towards the workshops at the lower decks. Ideas began to flit in his mind. Verle already promised him a better comm among other concessions, but it suffered the same problem as his current comm.

"I don't need to make anything fancy. In fact, the simpler the better, though I'll have to make sure it's sufficiently secure against remote hacking."

Ves arrived at the workshop and claimed a free precision-oriented 3D printer for himself. He pulled out a basic comm blueprint from the local database.

He opted to go for a basic one because that left the device with fewer openings and backdoors. In order to maximize its security, he upgraded the parameters of some of its processors and other functions, as well as adding high-quality shielding that naturally shielded the device from weaker scans and remote intrusion.

Sadly, it didn't work as effectively as Captain Murtadon's alloy shielding which effectively hid his bioimplants from the strongest mundane scans. Ves just had to make do with an inferior comm built with inferior materials in his haste to complete a secure device upon which he could do his dastardly deeds without getting found out.

In fact, the device wouldn't be secure on its own. Ves intended to rely on his signal jammer to insure complete privacy while he worked.

"I'll only have to make sure this secure comm doesn't frizzle out while my high-powered signal jammer is active."

Perhaps other engineers wouldn't be able to design a comm that resisted the extremely penetrating electrical interference of his signal jammer at the higher strengths, but as the person who adapted the tech in the first place, he knew of a few ways.

Ves incorporated a specific alloy shell that shielded the hardened comm against the exact kind of interference thrown up by the signal jammer. It amounted to taking advantage of the loopholes in his imperfect implementation so that the shielded comm continued to function normally.

Naturally, he left out every type of remote connection. The only way for Ves to transfer data into the comm was through inputting a chip into a special socket that usually remained sealed. He even incorporated a hardware break from the socket and the data chips of the comm in order to prevent advanced remote intrusions from making intermittent connection with the socket and thereby access the comm through this fashion.

He bet that Flashlight and all the other intelligence agencies developed means to stealthily access hardware sockets from a distance in this fashion. Just because a comm lacked a transceiver didn't mean it couldn't be hacked. Any device with connections or interfaces remained vulnerable to the many esoteric means that hackers developed over the ages.

"I hope the precautions I built into this comm is enough." Ves shook his head. He couldn't outsmart every hacker in the galaxy, but the best ones tended to be in the galactic center. "I can't anticipate every intrusion method."

Ves worked quickly to design and fabricate his modifications. Because it consisted of a tiny device, it didn't take all that long to fabricate a working copy. Once he finished it, he grabbed it and stored it in his toolbelt.

He could play with it later. Right now, the Flagrant Swordmaidens still needed to process the current crisis.

When he hopped back into his observer's seat, he turned to Ketis. "What did I miss?"

"A lot. A big fleet arrived."

"Is it the Temple of Haatumak and her pirate escorts?"

"Surprisingly, no. We Swordmaidens aren't too familiar with them, but apparantly the fleet comes from one of your old enemies."

Ves logged into the console of his seat and summoned up a local plot of the star system. A large, intimidating fleet arrived just over two light-hours away from another emergence zone.

The incoming fleet had taken a different route to this star system, and they evidently arrived a few hours later tha the Flagrant Swordmaidens. The delay in detecting the new presence was because the light of their arrival had only just reached their sensors.

Analysis of the faint light reflected from the dim brown dwarf led towards an alarming conclusion. The AIs tentatively identified the incoming ships as military combat carriers from the Mech Legion!

"The Vesians have come!"