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Chapter 1950 Market Access

The Mech Touch
     Chapter 1950 Market Access

    Calabast sure gave Ves plenty to think about.

    After he finally left her office, he continued to walk in a daze.

    Her proposal completely knocked his expectations out of the water! He never anticipated that she wanted to become a Larkinson!

    Not only that, but Ves simply couldn't conceive of a Larkinson Clan that was ten times more numerous than today!

    Yet.. as he thought back on the footage that Calabast displayed, he had to admit that the employees who followed him and the clan through thick and thin deserved to be recognized.

    They left the Bright Republic or the Ylvaine Protectorate in order to take part in my venture.

    Not only did they bid farewell to their familiar and steady lives, they also willingly accepted the risks associated with following an adventurous mech designer like Ves. Even in battle, his mech pilots fought as bravely as the soldiers of the Mech Corps!

    He agreed with Calabast. The earnest efforts shown by the likes of Joshua and the Swordmaidens proved they were comrades that he could trust.

    Yet did that mean they would make for good Larkinsons?

    The fundamental problem with Calabast's proposal was that the groups eligible for absorption already possessed their own distinct cultures.

    Ves had no problem accepting a Brighter like Joshua King into the Larkinson Clan. Aside from his blood and different upbringing, he shared many values with the Larkinsons.

    Yet what about the Ylvainans?

    The Larkinsons were secular and refused to engage in superstition.

    The Ylvainans were uniformly believers in the Ylvainan Faith.

    That was already bad enough. The problem was that Ves was dealing with the True Ylvaine Dynasty! The True Believers were so fanatical that they were considered too extreme by the Protectorate!

    Merging these cultists, because that was pretty much what they were, with his sober and secularist Larkinson relatives was a disaster in the making!

    The numbers disparity just made it worse. With just a few hundred trueblood Larkinson clansmen, how could they ever insist on keeping religion out of the lcan when they were being outnumbered by thousands of Ylvainans?

    It was not realistic!

    The only way the Larkinsons would be able to maintain the lead was if the Larkinson Clan adopted some sort of caste system.

    The rules would have to be set up in a way to empower a minority by taking it from the majority.

    Calabast hinted at this solution. Ves recalled.

    She stated that outsiders who wanted to join the clan would definitely seek to conform to the Larkinsons.

    However, that did not preclude the possibility that the Ylvainans and Swordmaidens wanted to impose their own values onto the clan.

    This is why additional rules are needed.

    Ves did not wish to dilute the current identity of the Larkinson Clan. The emphasis on fellowship, bravery, duty and ambition needed to be preserved in order to foster a strong and thriving family organization.

    That said, inserting some diversity within the clan was not necessarily an adverse development!

    Even if Ves insisted on keeping the clan pure, as long as it grew to thousands or tens of thousands trueblood members, some factions would eventually emerge and grow more distinctive.

    He had seen it plenty of times in other family organizations. The three leading dynasties of the Ylvaine Protectorate were perhaps the most extreme examples.

    The Kronons, Curtains and Poxcos adopted so many outsiders into their dynasties that their trueblood members were heavily outnumbered.

    Yet most of these honored individuals still dominated the upper ranks of their respective dynasties. They also continued to dictate the overall trends of their respective dynasties.

    If the Larkinson Clan turned into something similar to the Kronon Dynasty, would Ves and the Larkinsons be better off, or would they be subsumed by the tyranny of the masses?

    Ves couldn't answer this question straight away. His gut feeling told him that opening the door to outside members would either lead to greatness or to ruin!

    There was no road in between! Success and failure hinged on how the clan managed the integration of all of those outsiders!

    While Ves liked to gamble every now and then, this was a massive risk! He was so afraid of ruining his clan than he quivered before this choice!

    It's not just my life at risk. He whispered. All of my other relatives are at risks as well! A part of the storied Larkinson heritage might end because of a wrong decision!

    He dazed out so much that he almost didn't realize he reached a conference room. Gavin was waiting for him inside.

    Hey boss! His assistant cheerily greeted him for the first time in a month! Congratulations for waking up! None of us were really sure how soon you would wake.

    Ves snapped out of his thoughts. Heh. You wouldn't be the Benny I know if you aren't so eager to serve. I hope you didn't run off and sign up with the Friday Coalition while I was gone!

    I would never! My communications are constantly checked! I think he's even peeking at me while I'm in the bathroom!

    As he should. Ves nodded in satisfaction. It's when people are doing their business in the bathroom when they are most prone to acting sneaky.

    Gavin did not laugh at his joke.

    Bathroom business aside, there are a lot of developments you need to catch up upon. Both the LMC and the Larkinson Clan urgently require your direction.

    I've heard a bit of what is going on from others. Let's begin with something easier. How is the LMC faring?

    The company is losing market access and partners as we speak. Gavin didn't mince any words. In the past thirty days, our sales and market coverage has dropped by over sixty percent, and it's continuing to decline every day! Every single state that is aligned with the Friday Coalition has made both official and unofficial moves to suppress our business activities and end our sales channels.

    Ves grimaced. Though he didn't care too much about the Komodo Star Sector, he had plans for the income his company had been raking in. To lose all of that money would certainly hinder his medium-term plans!

    What about the company itself?

    Well, your previous decision to cut the company off from the Bright Republic turned out to be very prudent. When we adopted a virtual headquarters model, our company has fallen under a different jurisdiction.

    Now that I've become an associate of the Rim Guardians, my company doesn't have to rely on the backing of any state.

    Even though Ves hadn't exchanged anything on the Rim Exchange, the Rim Guardians did offer some basic services to its associates.

    The actual legalities regarding the LMC's charter was a bit complicated, but in a nutshell the company basically paid its taxes to the MTA rather than the Bright Republic of the Ylvaine Protectorate.

    Ves did contemplate incorporating the LMC in the Hexadric Hegemony, but he quickly rejected this option.

    In order to obtain a charter from the Hegemony, the LMC would have to abide by all of its laws! This meant that Ves would have to fire or demote most of his male workforce while handing over an unreasonable amount of power to women!

    In fact, Ves wouldn't even be able to continue to hold a majority stake in his company in some cases!

    He was quite happy with the current arrangement. Incorporating the LMC at the MTA not only prevented his company from falling into the hands of the Friday Coalition, it also ensured that every actor would continue to respect the LMC's ownership rights!

    For now, the Friday Coalition hasn't touched the shares in the possession of the Ylvaine Protectorate and the Bright Republic. Gavin continued. The CRC has already touched upon the limits of how much meddling they can get away with in the lesser states. I think those shares are definitely up for grabs at some point in the future, but for now they aren't very important. It's not like the Friday Coalition can do anything with those shares except earning a trivial amount of dividends.

    Even with all of the shuffling that occurred in the past few months, Ves still owned 59 percent of the LMC's outstanding shares.

    This was not necessarily sufficient for him to maintain control of his company. After all, he himself once browbeat the Bright Republic in forcing the original Larkinson Family to give up most of their shares!

    Yet because the LMC now conducted business under the auspices of the MTA, there was nothing a state could do to force his shares from his hands!

    Of course, the MTA did not shelter the LMC for free.

    Gavin sighed. Our upcoming taxes will bleed our cash reserves immensely. The MTA's standard corporate tax rate is 38 percent, and unlike other states the Association doesn't offer many deductions!

    The MTA was one of the greediest organizations in the galaxy. In Ves' eyes, they were consummate profiteers. They were just being smart about it by exercising patience and pursuing long-term prosperity over short-term gains.

    There was no way the MTA would be like certain other states, where they were so beholden to corporations that they offered enough loopholes to drive an entire battleship through them! There was no way the LMC could take advantage of creative accounting to reduce their tax bill to just 750 hex credits or something.

    As Gavin finished describing the all of the suppression the LMC endured in every Coalition-aligned state, Ves noticed something missing.

    I understand that we can no longer sell our products on these markets, but what about our existing customer base? Are they still allowed to use our mechs?

    His assistant chuckled. Our customers are quite adamant about using our products. The Desolate Soldier alone provides an immense amount of value in many situations, and the Peaceful Soldier is particularly important to the Bright Republic now that the sandmen have launched their final offensive.

    Ves didn't care at all about his former state. It could die in a ditch as far as he was concerned.

    So what does that mean to the LMC?

    We're no longer making any money in those states, but our brand will continue to remain strong. That might not sound very relevant at first, but the glows of our products are so useful that their growing scarcity will likely turn them into cult classics.

    That doesn't sound very useful considering most of those customers won't be able to buy our mechs anymore. Ves pointed out.

    I don't think so, boss. I think the buzz generated from our deprived customer base will definitely affect our other customers! When there is constant talk on the galactic net or elsewhere of how our former customers miss our products, that will increase the value and desirability of our mechs for sale in the Sentinel Kingdom and every other state where we maintain an active sales channel!

    The boost in sales in Hegemony-aligned states partially took the edge off losing market access to so many Coalition-aligned states, but only partially.

    However, the damage done by the Friday Coalition was very considerable.

    I think the LMC has lost a lot of direction. Gavin spoke frankly. It's been months since you have last added the Deliverer to the catalog, and this mech model has completely lost its relevance. The Desolate Soldier is pretty much the only product propping up our company for the moment, but that is not enough to restore confidence after we have suffered all of these setbacks. You need to do something big in order to remind everyone that the LMC is still alive.

    Ves recognized the implied criticism in his assistant's words. Lately, he had been so distracted by other priorities that he risked losing what made his company great.

    He spent years building up its distinctive brand, its reputation for quality, its illustrious mech catalog and its unique company culture. He could not allow these accumulations to degrade until they rotted away!

    I suppose it's time for me to design a new commercial mech. He sighed. It will have to be a product that invigorates the LMC and strengthen its market presence in Hegemony-aligned states.

    The question was, what kind of mech should he design?