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Chapter 1951 At A Crossroads

The Mech Touch
     Chapter 1951 At A Crossroads

    Part of the success of his previous commercial mechs was because Ves often identified some unmet demand.

    With so many different products on the market, it was hard for Ves to stand out. Yet because of his unique design philosophy, he somehow succeeded where others would have failed.

    Ves fully recognized that while designing a well-functioning mech with superior performance was still important, it could still be lost in the sea of product offerings if thousands of competitors already realized the same mech concept!

    Differentiation was vitally important. He did not wish to invest months in designing a commercial mech, only for his end product to be regarded as a generic entry into an oversaturated market category!

    Do you have any bright ideas, Benny?

    Our marketers have analyzed plenty of opportunities, but most of them are fairly localized or specific to certain states. At the scope the LMC operates, it's important to offer products that possess more universal appeal.

    Send me the reports. I'll go over them later. Ves told his assistant. Let's move on. Aside from the lack of new products, is there anything else I need to address?

    There are plenty of problems that could use your attention, boss. Most of them are fairly minor, though, so you can address them at your leisure. There is one issue that is rather urgent. Do you remember the Tovars that comprise our first design team?

    Oh.

    Ves overlooked their situation. Miles Tovar, Cherie Tovar, Vela Tovar, Pachtold Tovar and Gilbert Tovar were all citizens of the Bright Republic!

    That wasn't very special in itself. Ves was technically still a Brighter, and so were many other Larkinsons!

    The issue was that half of his subordinate mech designers belonged to one of the most dominant families of a state that recently stabbed the Larkinson Family in the back!

    The identities of Miles Tovar and the rest were far more complicated than that of Joshua King or any other random Brighter citizen in his employ.

    They didn't just represent themselves. By virtue of their last names, they also represented the Tovar Family!

    Have they left the company and returned home to the Bright Republic?

    Not exactly… Gavin trailed. Their situation is a bit more complicated. You should hear them out directly.

    Oh. I have some time before I'm scheduled to talk to Raymond and the other leaders of the clan.

    The two continued to go over some issues related to the company. Overall, Ves didn't really find them to be particularly pertinent. Leaders such as Raymond already did a great job in managing the LMC through this current crisis.

    It was only issues like the one concerning the Tovars that was way above Raymond's head. This was something Ves had to confront in person.

    Connect me to the Tovars. Where are they, by the way?

    All of your mech designers are aboard the Scarlet Rose. They're needed there in order to assist in performing repairs on the Bright Warriors and fabricate new ones.

    That made sense. The Scarlet Rose was a former CRC mobile supply frigate and possessed one of the most impressive ship-based mech workshops of his current fleet.

    Only Gloriana's Scarlet Chaser offered better facilities!

    However, Ves was not entirely comfortable about putting too many people on his latest prize ship. The Scarlet Rose was the source of all of the Breyer alloy that now comprised much of the metallic content of his Bright Warrior mechs! The ultimate source of this strategically-important material had to be kept secret at all cost!

    I need to talk to the Tovars right away.

    It didn't take long for Gavin to pull the Tovars off their current duties. Because the fleet was currently travelling through FTL, they could only meet each other through projections.

    Ves wanted to face his First Design Team in person. He'd be able to use his spiritual senses to glean some hints of their emotions and be able to influence them in turn.

    Mr. Larkinson. Miles Tovar's projection bowed and greeted him respectfully.

    The others soon followed suit.

    Their behavior was very peculiar. As the descendants of a powerful political family, Ves did not believe that Miles and the rest were nerds who were completely oblivious on how to conduct themselves!

    From all of the time he spent with them, he discovered that they were always deliberate in their conduct.

    Right now, the Tovar Family's ties with Ves were very problematic. The Friday Coalition probably took a very dim view on Senator Tovar's strategy to hedge his bets and foster relations with both sides.

    Under these conditions, the Tovar mech designers still chose to greet Ves with respect. In fact, they displayed even more reverence towards him than before!

    In fact, if the Tovars wanted to leave, they could have just tended their resignations and departed home in the last month. No one would blame them for returning to their family instead of continuing to consort with the 'enemy'!

    Ves crossed his arms. Benny has already brought me up to speed on what is going on between the Bright Republic and the Friday Coalition. What I want to know is your stance on the matter.

    The Tovars each glanced at each other before their leader spoke on their behalf.

    We want to stay.

    Ves blinked.

    Pardon?

    We want to continue to work for the LMC. Miles expanded. My fellow cousins and I have been thinking long and hard on what we want. We.. kind of like it here. While we no longer enjoy as much regard or privilege as before, there is something very satisfying about being a part of your team. The situation back home is much more complicated. We are often forced to work for our family as opposed to our vocation. I feel I have made a lot more progress in a single year of working under you as opposed to five years of trying to run my own company!

    The other Tovars expressed similar sentiments or simply nodded in agreement.

    While Ves knew that every Tovar was also a politician, he could hear nothing but honesty in their words. Mech designers always understood each other the best. He readily believed that they truly wished to continue their current arrangement!

    However, the current situation made that very difficult. As much as Ves wanted to keep them, their divided loyalties made it very difficult for him to continue to extend his trust to them. Who could say they wouldn't become the next Dr. Guernica someday?

    What about the Tovar Family? Ves directly addressed the elephant in the room. The Friday Coalition no longer allows the Bright Republic to remain uninvolved. The government has chosen a side.

    It's not as bad as you think, Mr. Larkinson. While our Tovar Family is still a part of the ruling class of the Bright Republic, we have continued to support you and the Larkinsons as we have promised. While the current political climate has made it difficult for our family, we possess a very deep foundation in the fabric of our state. We are confident that our family will be able to weather the storm. We have even undertaken many risky measures to help your Larkinson Family in various ways.

    That was true. Calabast did mention that the Tovar Family and a bunch of other supporters assisted the Larkinson Family in the dark. They dared to defy the prevailing trend and incurred a considerable amount of risk in doing so! Their decision to march out of lockstep with their peers was either very shrewd or very stupid!

    Ves couldn't ignore the goodwill offered by the Tovar Family. His opinion of them improved considerably. Unlike last time, the Tovars had firmly stuck to his side!

    Naturally, they weren't doing it out of the good of their heart. Senator Tovar clearly wanted to form a backup plan in the event the Hexadric Hegemony won the Komodo War.

    I acknowledge the help your family has provided. However, that makes your continued presence in my employ even more sensitive.

    We know. Miles responded. We still want to continue to work for you. If you will have us, Senator Tovar is prepared to make the situation less awkward for us by exiling us from the family.

    What?!

    Are you serious?

    None of the Tovars showed any doubt. We are. Our relatives have already given us their blessings to part ways with the family in order to offer our primary loyalty to you and the LMC. To be honest, we don't miss the Tovar Family very much. Ever since we started travelling with you, we are looking forward to seeing the galaxy and beyond. If we chose to leave the LMC and go back to the Bright Republic, then chances are we'll never be able to amount to anything more than a handful of forgettable Apprentice Mech Designers.

    Miles Tovar certainly didn't mince any words when it came to his own future prospect. Working under superstars like Ves and Gloriana made it very difficult for them to hold on to any self-esteem.

    While Ves was a little disappointed in their lack of confidence in themselves, he applauded their willingness to confront reality without resorting to excuses. It was easy to resort to lies and rationalizations in order to avoid hurting their precious egos.

    He actually expected the Tovars to possess an inflated sense of confidence, but it appeared the Tovars were more astute than he credited them for.

    Ves felt as if he reached a crossroads. The decision he made here would be indicative of how he treated his other workers.

    In the context of Calabast's proposal, this decision took on additional significance because Ves was in effect contemplating whether the Tovar mech designers should be allowed to join the Larkinson Clan!

    On the surface, he wasn't a fan of divided loyalties. He wanted to trust his fellow clansmen to put the interests of the clan before the interests of another faction!

    Ves doubted whether Miles Tovar would be able to act against the interests of the Tovar Family in order to advance the interests of the Larkinson Clan.

    Then again, such a situation was unlikely to occur for the time being. The Tovars still sided with the Larkinsons. As long as this was the case, Ves might be able to accept the Tovar Mech Designers as clansmen!

    The only issue was how he could be sure that Miles, Cherie and the rest were truly invested in the Larkinson Clan. If they lacked sincerity, then Ves would only be inviting disaster!

    As Ves thought about this implacable problem, he suddenly turned his gaze away from the projection and towards Nitaa.

    He held out his hand. Can you pass me the Larkinson Mandate?

    Though his silent bodyguard didn't understand why he made this random request, she dutifully handed over the book that had been braced onto her armor.

    As soon as Ves held the book, he basked in its glow. Goldie's strong and lively presence greeted Ves with a cute yawn.

    Nyaaa.

    Ves spiritually issued a request.

    Can you check these people out and see whether they would make for good additions to the clan?

    Nyaaa?

    Just check whether they are sincere. Can you do that from this distance?

    Nyaaa!

    Goldie seemed to be more versatile than he thought. The fact that they were on different ships travelling through FTL didn't seem to stop her from inspecting the Tovars.

    After a dozen seconds, the Golden Cat turned away from the projection.

    Nyaa.

    Really?

    Nyaa nyaa.

    Okay. Thank you, Goldie. I'll play with you later.

    Nyaaaaaaa!

    The answer she provided was simple, but carried immense implications. According to the Golden Cat, the Tovar mech designers were truly willing to dedicate themselves to their current jobs!

    Even though they were still Tovars and would always remember their roots, they primarily saw themselves as mech designers.

    The Tovar Family, for all of their support they provided to Miles, Cherie, Vela, Pachtold and Gilbert, none of them had been able to achieve genuine success in their careers!

    A rich and powerful family could only provide them with some conveniences. The Tovars didn't possess a notable mech designer tradition, so they were pretty much clueless when it came to raising mech designers!

    Only a mech designer could guide other mech designers! This was true since the beginning of the Age of Mechs, where the nascent Mech Trade Association already established a strong tradition of compelling established mech designers to teach the next generation of professionals!

    In that context, the willingness of the Tovar mech designers to part ways with their own family made sense.

    The question was whether Ves should accept them at all. While he appreciated the help they offered, they weren't particularly talented or notable. Only Miles possessed spiritual potential, and he still had a long way to go before he was worthy enough to become a Journeyman.

    This is a complicated issue. Ves eventually said. Let me think about it. Don't be in a hurry to decide.

    Though they looked a little disappointed, the Tovars tried to maintain their smiles.

    We shall await your decision.