In the Age of Mechs, wealth meant nothing on its own. The ability to leverage your wealth mattered more, because anyone could take it away by force.
Many affluent people either formed their own fighting forces, or they joined an organization which already did. True safety lay in the power of the mech and the gun.
Troublemakers sought out easy targets. Those with an abundance of wealth but not enough guards often parted with their assets rather quickly.
Ves had a number of groups to rely on. First, as the founder and CEO of the Living Mech Corporation, Ves enjoyed a significant amount of protection from Sanyal-Ablin Security Services.
Their contract primarily tasked them with escorting Ves as he travelled within secure Republican space. They also guarded the LMC's fixed assets such as the old workshop and the newer manufacturing complex under construction.
While Ves had an amiable relationship with Sanyal-Ablin, he never trusted them quite completely.
"Even if SASS is a security company known for their neutrality, they're still a subsidiary of the Konsu Clan of the Coalition."
If Ves ever fell out with the Konsu Clan, then the consequences for the LMC would be dire. It would be better for Ves to fold the company entirely.
SASS also worked primarily for the company and not to Ves as a person. While he could still ask for their assistance in company-related matters, they wouldn't oblige him if he wanted to go on a personal errand. Security companies firmly drew a line between security activities and mercenary activities.
The only way to bolster his personal power was to raise his own force, which declared their loyalty to him and him alone.
While he could also employ a mercenary corps, he'd never be able to insure their loyalties. It was the easy way out. Hiring a reputable mercenary corps saved him a lot of trouble, but the expenses added up the longer the contract lasted.
Their main use was to fill a hole in your lineup and to take care of some short and medium-term tasks. Anyone who relied on mercenary corps as their primary line of defense was woefully naive.
Many people these days dreamt of piloting mechs. If they lacked the required neural aptitude, then they dreamt of being able to own or command a group of mechs.
Right now, he had the will, funds and talent necessary to make this dream into a reality. With Melkor and Captain Silvestra at the helm of his mechs and ships respectively, Ves hoped to establish a small but capable personal force within the next six months.
"We're already in an unofficial state of war. With everything the Mech Legion is capable of, it's never too soon to raise my own force."
Ordinarily, he'd have to file for a lot of permits and licenses to do so. This might hinder ordinary people, but with his current status, Ves did not expect the government to put up any significant roadblocks.
This was also the time where his favored status with the government made itself useful. This status allowed him to skip a lot of red tape and expedite the registration process of his own force. He easily filled in a couple of forms on the galactic to get the ball rolling.
He only stopped when the form asked for a name.
"It's gotta be something cool or professional."
Those who wanted to cultivate a lot of contacts and wished to enter the nexus of power went for professional names that incorporated words like Guardians, Knights or Defense Force.
Ves found those names to be bland and uninspiring. As a younger mech designer in the prime of his life, he could be forgiving if he used a more daring name for his personal force of mechs.
"It's not like I want to hobnob with all the politicians and business magnates. I'm not cut out for social influencing."
If he wanted to gain someone's favor, he'd send someone else make connections on his behalf. What Ves should be focusing on was designing mechs or doing stuff that improved his ability to design mechs. Anything else formed a distraction to him on his ambition to reach the pinnacle of mech design.
"A mech designer's personal force reflects his ideals on how his mechs should be used. It serves as an example to be admired and emulated by my customers."
As such, the name should incorporate an aspirational aspect. Much like how ancient humans invented mythical characters such as Heracles or and let themselves be inspired by them, so did Ves had to come up with his own myth.
"This sounds kind of familiar."
He already possessed a fair amount of experience with coming up with myths to blow some life into his images. The X-Factor drew its strength from the imaginary realm, so Ves always came up with vivid ideas to empower his mechs.
"Forming my own force is similar to designing a mech. It starts with a vision. The name will fall into place once I have a solid idea on what my force should be doing."
He wanted his own personal force of mechs and ships in order to enable him to form his own expeditions. He had to admit he had taken a liking for adventure. As long as the rewards sounded attractive enough, he was not afraid of taking risks.
Through his adventures, he also wanted to see his designs at work. His personal force should employ as much of his designs as possible. He wanted his mech pilots to showcase the potential of his mechs under the most difficult circumstances.
After all, much of the current momentum for the sales of his Blackbeak came from the model's excellent performance on the Glowing Planet.
"Even with all of the hype and marketing, real examples remain the best driver for sales."
He didn't want to spend too much time on forming a name. He picked his mind for possibilities and settled for one that sounded the coolest without going too far on the tacky side.
Ves chose to go for a name that reflected his design philosophy. He already did so for the LMC, and as his force would ideally be composed around his company's models, the two should definitely share a common bond.
He decided upon a name. "The Avatars of Myth."
The name referred to his aspiration that his mech pilots could connect with the images attached to their mechs and commune with each other. In the most ideal case, his mech pilots became embodiments of myths and heroes that previously only existed within his mind.
"Thus, they are never fighting alone in their mechs."
After he entered the extravagant-sounding name, Ves quickly finished the rest of the forms. Now the government had to go over his application and provide the necessary permits. The next step happened after that.
"For now, I need to go back to business."
The Barracuda flew ahead of the main fleet. With her tiny cargo space, she carried no cargo at all other than the Stanislaw. This posed no risks to the ship, so Ves ordered Captain Silvestra to deliver him to Bentheim as fast as possible.
Once the ship touched down on the planet, Ves took an armored shuttle from SASS to Marcella's office.
While the LMC opened up a branch on Bentheim, Ves knew no one who worked at that office, so he would rather consult a familiar friend.
Once the shuttle and its escorts arrived in front of the office, Ves entered the front doors, upon which a receptionist directed him directly to the elevator.
"Took you long enough to come back home." Marcella remarked as she swiveled her chair from the impressive view out the window. "A lot has happened while you were gone."
Ves nodded lightly as he took a seat across her desk. "I've heard."
"I suppose you want to talk about Vaun Industrial."
The mere mention of that name soured his mood. "Did you agree to extending a licensing contract to Vaun?"
"I did, after some persuasion." Marcella admitted as she took on a slightly regretful expression. "You have to know it makes a lot of business sense to supplement your company's inadequate production capacity. There is no shame in admitting that the LMC is in the early stages of its growth. Every mech manufacturer that rose up to become behemoths have started small as well."
Ves thought that Marcella understood his vision, but he was wrong. He closed his eyes and shook his head. "My designs are not commodities to be copied blindly. What do the reviews say about Vaun's products?"
"They're mechanically sound. They are quite a hit in the Ylvain Protectorate, you know."
"That's what you think, but in my eyes they are defective. They are missing a crucial ingredient that is characteristic in my products, and that is the human touch."
"Ves, craftsmanship is overrated. This is the Age of Mechs. The time where we need to commission a weapon from a blacksmith and expect a work of art is long past. I know that you want to do things in your own way, but if you want to be a successful businessman then you need to make some compromises."
"I don't believe that." Ves replied. "There is a definite demand for quality mechs, and no, I don't consider anything that comes out of Vaun Industrial to be of high quality. Many other mech manufacturers already pursue efficiency and standardization above all. My company doesn't have to follow suit."
As they argued back and forth, it became evident that Marcella would never see eye-to-eye with Ves. She always treated mechs as commodities. She merely pretended to appreciate them in order to woo her customers.
"Mechs are products in our line of business." She said with a tone of finality. "Your job isn't to change the galaxy or upend the entire mech industry. Your job is to serve the mech pilots that fight on our behalf."
"My ideals don't conflict with that demand."
"Well, you sure don't act like it. Just face it that you need Vaun's help to tide the LMC over. You can always reinvest the fees you've received from Vaun to expand your own production capacity."
"That's already in the roadmap. It's not as if I can spend my profits elsewhere at this time. I don't think I will need to divert a lot of money to design my next mech."
Marcella's eyes shone. "So are you finally ready to design your next mech?"
"I am. I've seen a lot of things on the Glowing Planet. I've got a number of designs in mind. Right now, I'm thinking about designing a rifleman mech."
"That's great news!" The mech broker enthusiastically supported the idea. "Although they're not easy to design, rifleman mechs occupy the largest share of the mech market. It's about time you take a slice of that pie."
In truth, Ves did not choose to design a rifleman mech because he wanted to increase his sales. The LMC already had their hands full with the Blackbeak and it would take months for demand to peak and decline. Unless the LMC quickly added new production lines, their production capacity remained at full capacity for the foreseeable time.
Instead, Ves wanted to design a mech for Melkor. If his cousin were to lead the Avatars of Myth, then he needed to pilot a mech worthy of his future stature.
The Stanislaw supplied by the Larkinson Estate was more of a workhorse mech than something that evoked prestige. It made for a fairly poor symbol and impressed nobody if they glanced at it. Rifleman mechs like these were a dime in a dozen.
"Since I'm planning to design a rifleman mech, what can you tell me about the type, and what does the market want?"
Even though he formed a vague idea of his next design, it didn't hurt to hear from an expert in the business.
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