After his sumptuous and extravagant dinner with the Kadar-Neyvis Family, Ves separated from them after receiving a schedule for his upcoming tour.
He hailed a military shuttle from his comm, which picked him up and brought him back to a military base which housed his assigned accommodation.
As Ves entered his private quarters, Leland Toll already waited for him there.
I trust you made a good impression on Mrs.
Kadar and Mr.
You tell me, Leland.
Surely Flashlight managed to hook into the monitoring system of the Lyrical Kitchen, right
His case officer smirked.
Correct, and I\'m sure that Spotlight hacked into it as well.
It\'s not very useful however as guests know better than to discuss anything sensitive in such a semi-public location.
From what I\'ve witnessed, you did a good enough job in lowering their guard.
Even if I lied, I didn\'t lie too much. Ves responded.
That will remain the key throughout your interactions with the KNG.
You need to be genuine enough for you to come across as authentic.
The last thing we want to do is to evoke their suspicion that you\'ve been sent to do some actual investigation.
Ves snorted at that.
Is the entire position of liaison mech designer even useful
Oh, they are still very much needed.
Especially to mech companies in the control of a single strong mech designer, they often tend to take weird directions from time to time.
Having a liaison in place will force entrepreneurs to rein in some of their wildest actions.
Liaisons aren\'t there to act as cops who will stop crimes when they happen.
They are placed among companies as a form of deterrence in order to ensure stability and continuity in operations.
I see then. Ves nodded.
Even if the liaison is overly friendly with the companies they are meant to supervise, just having another mech designer present that isn\'t completely loyal is already enough to stop most antics.
Let\'s move onto Kadar and Neyvis.
Having met them in person, what are your impressions of the two
They\'re a very happy pair.
I really like their children.
It\'s hard to imagine that there is anything amiss at the KNG.
That\'s what they wanted you to believe.
Don\'t fall for their act. Leland shook his head.
Perhaps you are too close and taken in by their impression of a perfect family, but even the best of people can take a wrong turn.
The fact that they have a wondrous family doesn\'t rule out that they are guilty of treason.
I can see what you mean, Leland, but it\'s really hard for me to imagine that Kadar or Neyvis are willing to ruin everything they built up so far.
Their family is bound to be ruined and broken up if it turns out that they are really working together with the BLM.
The main culprits behind any possible collusion may not even reach that high up.
Even so, I don\'t want you to develop the impression that the two mech designers are completely innocent.
You need to keep your eyes open as you inspect each aspect of the KNG.
Base your judgement on facts and logic instead of your emotions.
The two discussed some other matters related to the job.
Overall, the first meeting didn\'t leave Ves with much to go on.
He needed to wait for the tour of the KNG\'s various facilities before he could return with more intelligence.
The various properties of the KNG are well-guarded against real and virtual intrusions. Leland said.
We won\'t be able to monitor what is happening inside without risking detection.
That would be very bad.
So I\'ll be on my own when I do my inspections
Correct, but a strike team of operatives will always be a few blocks away.
Even now, they are still in hiding outside this base.
They will follow you around discreetly and come to your aid if there is a need for intervention.
However, all of this rests on the premise that Flashlight\'s involvement remains unknown.
The strike team that is backing you up are constantly in disguise.
Hopefully, Ves wouldn\'t see the need to call for their help.
That\'s reassuring to hear.
So to sum it up, I\'ll have to do all the actual inspections myself
Otherwise, why would we have a need of a mech designer of your caliber Right now, we need you because Flashlight has faith that you are skilled enough to detect any irregularities at the KNG\'s facilities in a very short amount of time.
The faster you spot anything amiss, the sooner we can decide upon an appropriate response.
How much time do I have
We\'re not sure, but by my reckoning you should return to us with a definite confirmation no longer than three weeks.
Three weeks sounded short, too short for Ves to develop a close trust with Kadar and Neyvis.
He\'d have to be a bit more brazen and assertive in his role as liaison to wrap up his investigation in that short amount of time.
Why three weeks Is that when the threat of Vesian intrusion becomes real
I can\'t say.
Just know that we can only spare three weeks for your investigation before we have to pull you out and move to another plan.
Leland quickly left after mentioning a few more things about the happy family.
Overall, the spy wanted Ves to remain sober and not be taken in too much by the overly rosy picture painted by the happy family.
Once Ves was left alone, he sat behind his terminal and wrote up a report of his activities for his cover role.
Even though he didn\'t include any important details in this casual report, it was nonetheless a necessary activity for every liaison.
The next day, Ves ate a quick breakfast at the base, thereby also showing himself off at the personnel present there, before boarding a military shuttle again.
Where to, Mr.
Take me to the headquarters of the Kadar-Neyvis Group.
The time limit imposed by Leland gave Ves a lot of pressure.
He canceled some of his initial plans of visiting other areas of Dorum for the sole purpose of appearing in public to show off his awards like a nouveau riche.
Even if I spend most of my time with the KNG, I\'ll already be exposed as it is.
There\'s no need for me to visit some busy street to attract attention from the public.
During the shuttle ride, he idly activated his comm and browsed some of the local news portals.
He searched his own name and found that a few outlets already started to report on Ves\' eye-catching awards.
This is just the start.
He already encountered some ads showcasing his connection to the LMC.
The more people looked him up, the more people would see those ads, and thereby become exposed to his company\'s products.
The shuttle landed at the familiar parking zone.
As Ves left the shuttle, a familiar relations manager greeted him again.
Ves, pleased to see you again.
Kadar and Mr.
Neyvis both have business to attend, so they are not able to accompany you on your tour this time.
They are busy mech designers and I know that time is money to them.
I can still do my job without their presence.
In fact, Ves preferred not to be accompanied by the two Journeymen because he wouldn\'t be able to get away with as much.
Mech designers knew each other the best.
If Ves showed an undue amount of interest in some of the more sensitive areas of the company, Kadar and Neyvis would easily be able to observe his unusual behavior.
He much preferred to be accompanied by a technical neophyte like Jeff who was good with people but bad with technology.
He just had to make sure he wouldn\'t appear suspicious to any of the security guards or monitoring systems while he made his inspections.
Today, there are two visits on the agenda.
In the morning, I\'ll show you around our headquarters.
In the afternoon, I\'ll take you to the design center where most of the magic happens.
Jeff brought Ves inside the headquarters and gave him a brief tour in every department.
Of course, he only obtained a shallow glimpse at the work being done related to the company\'s financing, marketing, strategy and public relations activities.
What struck Ves the most during his tour throughout the headquarters was that everyone appeared genuinely happy and loyal.
No one appeared stress and none of the managers rode their subordinates very hard.
Jeff noticed his astonishment.
Our leaders are very concerned with the wellbeing of their employees.
Treating our people as valued individuals instead of wage slaves is the first step to building an enduring company.
We pay our people above average wages and we offer generous benefits as well as bountiful bonuses to them.
Besides inspiring everyone\'s loyalty and devotion to the company, we\'ve also managed to cut down attrition to a minimum while boosting productivity.
It sounds really expensive, though.
Can the KNG actually afford such generous treatment to its employees
Our company is more than profitable enough to sustain such activities.
The fact that very few of our people quit saves us a lot of time and money that we would have otherwise spent on retraining newcomers.
Even so, Ves still remained somewhat skeptical on the claim that the company wasn\'t wasting a lot of money on unnecessary benefits.
He found it somewhat regretful that the tour hadn\'t allowed him a deeper glimpse into the company\'s finances.
Understanding their current financial state would help him a lot in determining whether they were desperate enough to look for… alternative sources of funding.
Even so, the accountants and managers at the Financial Department showed a bit less enthusiasm in front of Ves.
Obviously, they coped with a bit more concerns than the other departments, but they did their best to show their best faces in front of Ves.
Ves realized that the entire visit so far consisted of theater.
Jeff brought him along a guided tour through fabricated impressions of happy and productive workers.
Only once they neared the top of the headquarters did Ves get to meet with some of the top management team.
An executive solely responsible for supervising the production of military assets greeted them at his office.
Good morning, Mr.
Larkinson. The older man said as they shook hands.
My name is Charlie Rosen, and I am the executive director for military production.
Put simply, that means that all the assets we produce for the Mech Corps.
Can you walk me over what the KNG produces right now
I have prepared a short presentation.
Once everyone sat down, Mr.
Rosen presented the facts, most of which Ves already knew.
We produce thirty-five different mech models for five different mech regiments of the Mech Corps at a time.
That sounds impressive at first, but we don\'t run our production lines for each of these models at all times.
We only need to produce enough military mechs to replenish the losses of the mech regiments deployed on the frontlines of the war.
Even so, trying to retain enough ability and know-how to be able to fabricate so many military mech models must require a considerable amount of skill and manpower!
How many mechs have you produced in say, the last year
Charlie Rosen raised his eyes as if to recall the figure.
I\'d say over seven-thousands mechs.
That\'s quite a lot! Ves replied with considerable surprise.
The war is very hard on the mech regiments, as I\'m sure you know from your own service.
In most cases, mechs fall easily but their mech pilots are able to eject in time.
Sometimes, the fallen mechs can be recovered, but there are many times when they aren\'t able to restore their damaged machines.
That is where we come in.
Five different mech regiments rely on our production to cover a part or even their entire mech roster!
This was a very major responsibility! If the KNG was a loyal and trustworthy mech manufacturer, then there was nothing wrong about their supply contracts with the individual mech regiments.
However, such a strong responsibility could easily be turned against the military.
If someone powerful enough at the KNG wanted to sabotage the mech regiments, they could easily tamper with the mechs intended for the military.
This was why the Mech Corps felt the need to send liaison mech designers to the companies contracted to supply the military.
Ves realized that even as he was tasked with finding out if the KNG covertly supplied the BLM with mechs and supplies, he also needed to take his cover role more seriously.
He needed to investigate whether the KNG also fudged the mechs they supplied to the mech regiments!