Major Verle finally explained his solution to Ves. "Rules are rules, but the mission is more important. Exacting justice on the offenders might soothe your conscious, but it will only weaken our strength."
"That sounds as if you favor a slap on the wrist." Ves carefully said, though he couldn't stop from frowning. "From my impression of the Vandal mech technicians, there is a large proportion of bad apples among them. They won't stop trying to take advantage of the system."
The Mech Corps never sent any promising people to the Flagrant Vandals. Everyone had their issues, and the mech technicians wasn't exempt from this problem. While the chief technicians mostly helped rein in their small-minded thoughts, chiefs could only keep their eyes on so many things.
"As I stated, the most important priority is to maintain our strength. The best way to do so is to stop the embezzlement without affronting the so-called masterminds as you call it. This can be done by adopting both solutions, but at different timings."
Ves tried to wrap his head around the idea. He started to get his eyes on a glimpse of such a plan. "Warn them first, and crack down hard if they persist?"
"In essence, that is correct. Call it starting from a clean slate if you will." Major Verle nodded. "First, in order to minimize the unrest, it's best if we do not give out the impression that we have locked onto their scent. Instead, you can come up with a scheme where you'll claim to introduce a new resource tracking system to replace the old one. The men won't question this change because it's typical for a new boss to implement bold ideas."
"It's going to take a lot of work to replace the software, sir." Ves carefully pointed out. "It's not something that can be done in a day."
"That's even better! The ideal transition time should be a week. That's enough time for everyone to clean up their acts and sweep their misdeeds under the rug. Once the new system is in place, everyone should have made up their minds. Those who are smart or careful may have gotten the message. It's not a coincidence that the resource management system has received an overhaul."
"What about those who haven't gotten the message, sir? Maybe the embezzlers are shrewd, but there are a fair amount of low-level people involved who aren't as perceptive. There's also the greedy ones who don't wish to relinquish their power."
Major Verle leaned back on his chair and waved his hand. "Idiots like these who scorn the opportunities I've given to them to start with a clean slate don't deserve any consideration. We'll investigate them and throw the book at them for any offenses they've committed after the new system is in place. I'd rather have them out of way no matter how important their positions are because I can't trust these scum to have my back in a fight."
In other words, the idiots that continued to hold small thoughts did more damage than what they contributed back to the Vandals. Major Verle wouldn't be merciful to these cancerous growths.
The contempt sounded obvious in the major's voice. Ves looked impressed at the commanding officer of the task force for coming up with such an elegant solution. It contained both mercy and resolve, and throughout it all it ensured the Vandals maintained their best strength.
"I understand now." Ves nodded, his eyes shining bright. "Still, some important people might get caught at the end. Their absence might affect the task force's condition more than the absence of a few mechs."
That was the sticking point with any solution that advocated for crackdowns. Even though Major Verle's suggestion provided a lot more leeway, it still needed to be backed up examples. If someone like a chief technician got caught, then the maintenance department of an entire combat carrier might fall into chaos.
"There is a limit to our patience. We need to send the right message and draw a line in the sand. It's fine if people are playing tricks, but once they are caught, they better look honest. This was Colonel Lowenfield's stance when she first reformed the Flagrant Vandals."
"I understand. Thank you for telling me this, sir."
"It is good that you've brought this up to me shortly after you have discovered this. An issue of this nature isn't something that you should decide on your own."
Ves and Major Verle hammered out the details in the next half hour. Ves needed to borrow some people and receive the right authority to push through this overhaul, which Major Verle directly granted in his name. With Verle backing this decision, it wouldn't take more than week to update the resource management system, though it would take some time to iron out the wrinkles.
After Ves left his stateroom, he came out of it with a much better impression of his superior. The man patiently explained his thoughts during the discussion and decision-making process. This allowed Ves to understand his priorities.
The overarching message was that their survival and the completion of the mission ranked as the highest priorities. Major Verle wouldn't have bothered with this relatively small case of embezzlement if hadn't affected the overall strength of his forces. He also didn't appear to feel compelled to act on it in times of peace.
Sadly, times had changed, and the Bright Republic had been plunged into war. The Flagrant Vandals successfully completed an operation that slapped the Vesians in the face, and now they were on the run.
Under these conditions, it was no surprise that Major Verle pursued every possible solution that could raise their fighting strength.
With a new set of orders in store, Ves returned to his office and prepared a proposal. The most challenging aspect about the change was that Ves needed to find the right software to replace the old one. The central database that Ves now had access to offered more than a dozen software packages. It gave Ves quite a headache to dig through the jargon.
Still, Ves only spent a few hours before he picked a replacement package. Now he needed to implement it throughout the entire task force.
"Please schedule an immediate meeting on this ship to every mech designer in the fleet. Set the time at half an hour after we drop out of FTL."
Iris looked startled. "Uh, do you want to invite every mech designer, or only the high-ranking ones?"
Ves thought about it. The high-ranking mech designers consisted of those who previously worked in the design team, while the lower-ranking ones were like Carlos who worked alongside the mech technicians.
Considering that the change affected the latter more than the former, Ves decided to invite everyone. "Bring them all. It will be good for them to meet their new superior in person at least once."
It wasn't as if Ves had the time to hop into a shuttle and pay a visit to the forty-odd ships that made up the task force. The inability for shuttles to travel from one ship to another during FTL formed the main limiting factor.
Even if an entire fleet transitioned into FTL in the same direction under identical circumstances, a ship often fell into their own band of dimension as it were. In general, a ship in FTL would never be able to interact with any other ships in FTL.
Of course, it wasn't unheard of for something like that to happen anyway. Rumor had it that the CFA, MTA and the first-rate superstates mastered technologies that made FTL warfare possible.
Those same rumors stated that trying to wage a battle in FTL was a massive pain in the butt, so almost no one bothered with it unless a ship carried a vital objective.
"Do you wish to tell the mech designers the items on the agenda, sir?"
"No need to bother, Iris, although tell them that the meeting might drag on for half a day, so make sure their schedules are cleared. I won't tolerate any absences."
"Understood, though I'd caution you that it's not good for the fleet if they are absent from their posts for too long. They play an important role aboard those ships as mech experts. Without their hands-on guidance, the mech technicians won't know what to do."
"They'll make do without one for a day. It's very important for me to meet all the mech designers in person."
Ves planned to take the opportunity for this meeting to accomplish multiple objectives at once. Besides announcing the software system change, he also wanted to appraise his subordinates in person and see whether they measured up. He planned to select two or three as his deputies.
He hadn't forgotten about the importance of delegation. Ves could not possibility keep his eye on everything that needed to be done. The software change alone might stall to a month if Ves lacked capable underlings to check all the work being done at his direction.
Picking a handful of mech designers elevating them to a position of power over their colleagues should help with widening his reach. While Ves had no delusions that the people he promoted would turn into his loyal subjects, Ves would always be able to strip them of their authority if they abused his trust.
"Do you want to invite Venerable O'Callahan's design team as well?"
Ves froze for a moment, before coming up with a response. "No. They require a special touch. I'll address them separately at a later date."
The expert pilot's design time nominally came under his purview, but Ves felt much less confident about being able to command their respect. These mech designers worked hard and tried to do their best to enter the venerable's design team.
"They've probably turned into total fanboys for O'Callahan by this time."
The hero worship surrounding expert pilots often reached a dreadful state. Some even enjoyed the adoration of trillions of people across the galaxy as some of their exploits would be broadcasted throughout the galactic net.
Even a washed-up senile expert pilot like O'Callahan enjoyed a lot of renown with the Vandals. Whenever Ves ate his meals at the mess hall, he occasionally overheard the spacers treating the expert mech pilot's presence in their task force as a point of pride.
Only a few Vandals knew about the true character of O'Callahan. The first time Ves heard his voice, the expert pilot refused to sortie on command! He directly disobeyed an order from Major Verle. Even worse, the venerable got away with it without a scratch!
"Maybe that's why the major is rather sensitive about this issue."
Due to O'Callahan's unique position, Major Verle could never sanction the proud symbol of their mech regiment. If word got out that the Vandals quarreled with the venerable, morale would instantly drop to the bottom, because the men might start to believe that O'Callahan wouldn't defend the Vandals with all of his heart.
Once Iris sent out the invitations, Ves began to make his preparations. He studied the software package and began to draft up a plan that would implement them on any machine related to resource usage.
He also made some other preparations to accomplish his other goals at the same time, and also diverted some time in studying the profiles of the other mech designers. These would be the only people he possessed the authority to command.
"They won't be happy for a relative newcomer like me to obtain the position of head designer."
The Mech Corps managed its mech designers in two different ways. The internal mech designers consisted of careerists who voluntarily signed up to serve for at least ten years. They contributed a lot of work to their mech regiments and accumulated a lot of seniority.
Ves fell into the category of external mech designers. He wouldn't have been here if the Mech Corps hadn't drafted him due to the outbreak of the current war. The difference between him and the internal mech designers was that Ves held no seniority at all.
Having mixed with the Flagrant Vandals for a long time, Iris explained it succinctly. "Some of these internal mech designers are very ambitious. They've been working diligently for a promotion. Those who do well even get the privilege of receiving Professor Velten's personal tutelage. Think about how they must feel how their hard-earned merits are ignored when the position of head designers have passed over their heads."
This was a serious contradiction that Ves needed to deal with as early as possible.