Home ->The Mech Touch ->901 Walking the Tightrope

 The interior of the legendary Starlight Megalodon disappointed him somewhat. Certainly, the AIs maintained the appearance the appearance of the hyper-advanced looking corridors. The bulkheads gleamed in white, and the machinery hidden behind them mostly worked fine.

It appeared the battleship completely resisted the spacetime distortion caused by the turbulence of the astral winds that leaked from her FTL drives. Ves wasn't surprised by this. What the Vandals and Vesians couldn't do, the CFA could easily accomplish. Every battleship was the pride of the CFA, and subsequently enjoyed the best materials and the latest toys upon their conception.

Stilling moderate irregularities in spacetime for a sustained period of time shouldn't be much of a challenge for the Megalodon.

Cleaning bots in entirely different styles still roamed the corridors, cleaning up every spec of dirt. Other bots made sure to reapply the pleasant white coating, repair the underlying machinery and patrol the corridors.

Obviously, the Starlight Megalodon managed to stay operational for more than three millennia through the diligent efforts of the virtual officers, virtual ratings and bots. The AI's possessed the limited capability to manipulate reality through the physical projection system that was ubiquitous throughout the ship, while the bots shouldered the more tedious or heavy duties.

Ves felt as if he entered a simulation accelerated at a million times before stopping when it went long enough to see what happened during this time. Performing a simulation like that was just for fun or curiosity, but now all he felt was a bemused sense of horror and bewilderment.

"The Starlight Megalodon is a wet dream for AI alarmists." Ves remarked with a stiff smile as he passed by a virtual rating who saluted Calabast in her identity as Lieutenant Summer. "I feel like I've entered the belly of an AI beast."

"There are treasures locked within the stomach of the beast. It's fine as long as we don't stay too long." Miss Calabast replied as she guided Ves to the Research Department.

They encountered many sights along the way. Most terribly, many sections of the ship still bore the remains of the terrible sandman mothership that dug through the structure of the battleship in random patterns. Tentacles of hardened, fossilized 'sand' remains bore through thousands of compartments, crippling many functions of the ship and blocking off entire compartments.

For some reasons, the human survivors and the virtual officers hadn't managed to remove the sandman mothership's remains. This highlighted the terrible nature of a highly developed sandman mothership centered around an old and experienced sandman leader. The materials the sandman mothership consisted of was completely made up of valuable materials and exotics. Anyone who mistook the sandmen as just sand made a grave mistake.

Miss Calabast noticed his interest at the sandman remains. "The sandman mothership is the cause of the Starlight Megalodon's accidents. It's the source of the anomalies that the battleship experienced."

"Is it tied to the ongoing anomaly with the leaking FTL drives?"

"That's not something you should be concerned about. The FTL drives falls under the management of the Engineering Department that sided with the captain."

From what Miss Calabast explained, the different departments of the ship always operated in a semi-autonomous fashion. The battleship was simply too big to be governed effectively from a top-down fashion. Even in normal times, the captain only set some goals and overall policies.

The decentralized departments mostly stuck to themselves and performed their duties according to their own internal directives. Since the Starlight Megalodon's crash, many departments became vital while others became irrelevant.

This reshuffling of power prompted nearly every department to take sides. The captain and admiral both promised more power and autonomy to strategically-important departments in exchange for their political support.

The less powerful and more irrelevant departments such as the Navigation Department or the Communications Department sought refuge under the umbrella of the factions until they managed to find a way to become useful again.

From how Calabast described the departments, Ves equated their circumstances to provinces in a state wracked by civil war. Some provinces pledged their loyalty to one faction while other provinces clung to the support of the opposite faction.

Such a state was inherently unstable and it didn't surprise Ves that the two sides eventually resorted to killing each other.

The ultimate point of Calabast's explanation was that the Starlight Megalodon's many departments operated as autonomous provinces after the crash. They each possessed their own quirks and became highly territorial of their power and privileges. Cooperation between departments dropped to an all-time low and competition for resources and political support became the established order.

"What about the Research Department?"

"As I've said, the Research Department is one of the few neutral domains that hasn't completely sided with the captain or admiral. You have to realize that CFA officers, especially line officers, are extremely ambitious and are used to playing the political game. The researchers on the other hand may be commissioned as officers, but they've always fallen into the support staff category. It has never been in their nature to play the grand game. Therefore, the executive officer became their best guardian, even if it seems as if he leans towards one faction or another."


"When you dive in the records, the executive officer faced many choices where he could either favor one faction or the other. Whenever the executive officer chooses to favor the captain, he's accused of being a spineless lackey. Whenever the executive officer sides with the admiral, he's accused of being a double agent."

"It sounds like there's no way the executive officer can please both sides, especially since he insists on walking the tightrope." Ves observed.

"It's the safest and most cowardly standpoint for him to take." Calabast said with an admiring tone. "All the criticism leveled against him from both factions destroyed his prestige and standing among the crew. However, both the captain and the admiral didn't want to get rid of him because his replacement might be worse."

"This also gave the executive officer the opportunity to develop his final solution." Ves concluded. "Since he's so powerless, he doesn't bear close watching."

Despite not knowing who the executive officer looked like and what background he possessed, Ves sympathized most with him. The poor man just wanted to stick to the Common Oath while the captain and admiral forgot everything the CFA stood for. The XO held a precarious position and Ves admired him for managing to keep his head down until he sprung the final solution.

Calabast made an insightful remark. "The CFA and MTA both play at the highest stakes. They wield an incredible amount of power as the stewards of the human race. Even though they pretend to be neutral and impartial, they are anything but as every decision inherently comes with political implications. True neutrality doesn't exist."

The disaster that struck the Starlight Megalodon stripped off the CFA's righteous veneer and revealed their true faces. Their hypocritical behavior showed that they learned nothing from the past and were doomed to repeat them, which they actually did!

After a lengthy walk, the pair passed by many wondrous sights and eventually reached deep into the belly of the beast. A heavily-guarded security checkpoint restricted access to the hatch that led to the Research Department and its many laboratories and research facilities.

"This is where you have to go on your own." She said. "Don't forget your new identity, Ensign Longhorn. Try and familiarize yourself with the research projects. There are a lot of goodies locked within. In the meantime, I'll try and lay the groundwork for your upcoming promotion tests."

Ves still couldn't believe that Miss Calabast intended to hack one of the databanks of the Starlight Megalodon again.

"One more thing before you go." He asked. "What should I do if I encounter a Vesian who managed to earn the Starlight Megalodon's recognition."

"Fighting is strictly prohibited between CFA officers. However, there are many unofficial traditions that allow for duels and brawls. This often occurred between officers or ratings from opposing factions. As long as you're part of the same faction, the virtual officers will make sure a conflict won't break out."

He remembered that the Mech Department fell under the admiral. Therefore, if Venerable Foster of the Hostland Warriors somehow managed to pass the incredibly difficult recruitment test for mech pilots, she would definitely be assigned to the Mech Department.

Ves in his identity as Ensign Longhorn also answered to the Mech Department, so technically Ves and Foster belonged to the same side. This gave him strong protection against any aggression from the Vesian expert pilot.

However, this didn't apply to the Flagrant Swordmaidens stuck outside. So long as they hadn't managed to gain the battleship's recognition, they became vulnerable to a rampaging Venerable Foster who might abuse her new status to clean up the safe zone from those she regarded as vermin!

In other words, Ves raced against the clock. He needed to find a way to protect his comrades before Venerable Foster gained control!

Without Miss Calabast and all of her inside knowledge by his side, Ves felt a little more vulnerable and exposed. The oddities of the Starlight Megalodon seriously creeped him out.

Some time later, Ves finally reached the office of Virtual Commander Cosit. He couldn't help it as the Megalodon was far too big for her own good. Just the Research Department alone claimed several city districts worth of space.

"Ensign Richard Longhorn reporting for duty, sir."Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.

The galaxy truly turned upside down when a human officer reported to an AI.

Ves thoroughly became affected by this surreal situation, though he didn't forget his role. He stood at attention and saluted the physical projection of an AI who took on the role of Virtual Commander Cosit.

[At ease, Mr. Longhorn. We're not as stiff as the others here at the Research Department.]

The virtual commander waved him to take a seat at his desk with a casual wave. Compared to Virtual Lieutenant Baskanson, Virtual Commander Cosit sounded a lot more expressive and emotional.

According to Calabast, some AIs emulated human complexity and expressions better than other AIs. The more important and higher ranking the AI, the more processing power they received and the more sophisticated their programming became. They were also subject to fewer shackles and possessed a wider range of authority.

Nonetheless, as caretakers and non-sentient entities, they could never match the capabilities of a human officer holding the same rank. Calabast reminded him over and over again that he should never be fooled by their human-like behavior.

The virtual officers were simply bots in virtual human skin.

[Ah, the damned HR Department finally sent me a human mech designer!] The middle-aged female virtual commander expressed in a remarkably human-like fashion. Her physical projection gazed at Ves like a treasure. [I've requested human transfers 3,813,048,343,414,032 times in the last ERROR amount of years. Hah! It seems my persistence has paid off! The Intelligence Department may have gotten the first batch of humans, but after ERROR years of patience our research projects may finally start progressing again. How exciting!]

Virtual Commander Cosit's candor made Ves feel a little more at ease. He realized from his jubilation that it was a big deal to be a human. "Why are humans so important, ma'am?"

[Because I finally see hope of finishing some of our research projects!] The commander exclaimed with feverish excitement. [Don't you know how tortuous it is to stare at all the stalled research projects for ERROR amount of years? I've been counting each millisecond of inaction since I became responsible for this department.]

"Shouldn't you and your fellow virtual officers be capable of completing the research projects on their own?"

[No! Impossible! Emergency Protocol Theta-Thirty-Seven forbid us from engaging in proactive research. We have always assisted in research but never received permission to create something on our own! With your presence, Mr. Longhorn, everything will change! How exhilarating!]

Ves unconsciously leaned back from Virtual Commander Cosit's rabid excitement. He felt as if he was a fly who voluntarily flew into a spider web.