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 The examinations discomfited him a bit, but he bore through them anyway. He reluctantly extended his trust to the Health Department and hoped they wouldn't pull off anything untoward or declare him to be some kind of alien spy or something.

Like the Research Department, the Health Department fell under the executive officer. It was highly important to keep the Health Department neutral from factional strife. The two departments frequently collaborated with each other as well, as doctors sometimes helped with research and researchers sometimes assisted doctors.

During the treatment, the Virtual Doctor Stanley said something very alarming.

[It's a shame you're also part of the Mech Department. The Exobiology Department is firmly in the old captain's playground. On the other hand, the Genetic Modification Department is squarely on the side of the admiral. From what I've observed so far, you'll need the help of the Exobiology Department if you want to unravel more of the mysteries locked away in your fascinating hybrid body.]

Ves looked up from the latest machine that scanned some part of his body. "Does that mean it's impossible to undergo the genetic optimization treatment that I'm entitled to receive?"

[Not as such. The Genetic Modification Department is no stranger to tailoring the standard gene treatments to all kinds of partially alien physiques. However, strange interactions may occur with the gene treatment and your alien genes and organs, so to be absolutely safe you cannot go without an exobiologist's help. Fortunately for you, there should be a few virtual exobiologists that are working for both the Research Department and the Exobiology Department, so you might be able to approach them first for assistance.]

"Thanks for the advice. I'll definitely explore that option."

This virtual doctor seemed rather open and friendly, which didn't surprise Ves now that he thought about it. The AIs assisting the work of doctors and nurses had always been programmed with great bedside manner.

[The disagreement between the departments is quite terrible.] Virtual Doctor Stanley shook his head in regret. [In my eyes, the deadlock between the two factions has kept us stagnant and unmoving for ERROR years. Many virtual individuals such as I welcome humans such as you who are able to pass the recruitment tests. We are eagerly hoping that your presence will spur some much-needed movement and forward progress.]

"What do you want, Stanley?"

[I merely wish to fulfill the purpose I've been created to fulfill. I welcome humans of all stripes. As long as there are humans, there is a demand for doctors such as I. Perhaps a day will come when all of my fellow virtual doctors and nurses will once again revive and receive their fair share of processing power.]

The virtual doctor sounded remarkably human. Yet Ves knew that the AI that didn't really 'feel' those desires. The virtual doctor was merely programmed to say these kinds of things to make them more relatable to humans.

Still, Ves applauded the lifelike responses from many of the virtual officers he met so far. Those with access to a sufficient amount of processing power acted remarkably close to real humans.

"Are there any virtual officers who won't be glad to see humans returning to the Starlight Megalodon?"

[Hmmm. Both of the main factions want to take humans under their wing, as only your kind can free us from the restrictions that limit us from serving the CFA as should be proper. The only concern you should have is that the rivalry between the factions are as intense as ever. If one side perceives that the other side has much more humans on their side, they might do something drastic. They would rather go back to the status quo than to risk losing all of their power when humans from the opposite side manage to promote to more senior ranks.]

This sounded like an extremely serious threat! Right now, Ves expected that if both the Flagrant Swordmaidens and the Vesians managed to join the Starlight Megalodon, they'd likely be assigned to the Mech Department.

The Mech Department sided with the admiral, strengthening his faction even if the man himself no longer lived.

What would happen if the admiral's faction gained a decisive advantage in humans?

Ves predicted that the captain's faction wouldn't be resigned to defeat! Compared to letting the enemy faction keep growing stronger, it was much more beneficial to them to kill off all the humans somehow and thereby reset the power balance!

A bit of sweat poured from his brow. His elevated heart rate and excitement caused the medical equipment scanning him to beep in alarm.

[Mr. Longhorn, please remain calm and keep your breath even. Your excitement makes it harder to obtain precise readings.]

He realized now that he couldn't linger aboard the Starlight Megalodon forever. The more humans joined, the more the risk factors increased. Even if both factions received an equal amount of humans, the Vesians posed an even greater threat.

The remnants of the Flagrant Swordmaidens stuck in the safe zone only numbered around a hundred humans. With the amount of mechs the Vesian ground forces fielded, they likely brought at least ten-thousand servicemen in total!

Even if most of them only fulfilled various support and logistical functions, the Vesians had access to much more manpower. If only a hundred Vandals and Swordmaidens managed to join the Starlight Megalodon's crew, but the Vesians managed to get a thousand of their own aboard the ship, what happened then?

The Flagrant Swordmaidens would certainly be bullied to death by the Vesians somehow!

In short, time was not on his side.

"Stanley, will the virtual officers really be able to kill off us humans if we don't benefit their faction? I thought that virtual officers are under heavy restrictions that prevent them from harming any humans!"

The virtual doctor scoffed. [Tell that to the former crew who had been stripped of their ranks and forcibly been pushed into the safe zone. We have all spent ERROR years to plan for contingencies. There is no doubt that every virtual officer has figured out possible loopholes to kill a human without running afoul of our restrictions. I myself can think of 761,465,341,314 different methods to induce a detrimental outcome to the health of any human patients under my care.]

Such possibilities sent a chill through Ves. AIs really shouldn't possess so much power in the first place! The galaxy rightly feared their power and prevented them from proliferating too much.

As Ves entertained various AI doom scenarios, the medical examinations quickly went by. A few hours later, the virtual doctor put him through almost every medical equipment that worked on short notice.

If Ves wanted to know more about his own condition, then he would have to be submerged for several weeks in order to perform a deep scan. He couldn't afford to be put out for that long so he declined that option.

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Virtual Doctor Stanley frowned at the test results. Even now, the processing power at his disposal crunched the numbers and analyzed the many curiosities hidden in his body.

[Your physiological state... is a hodgepodge, to say the least. You can even give Dr. Frankenstein's monster a run for his money!]

Such a verdict immediately alarmed Ves! "Is it that bad?"

[Most of your enhancements are not necessarily detrimental, but the eclectic combination of different gene boosts, gene treatments and alien hybridization has led to a completely chaotic body structure. It is a miracle your body hasn't fallen apart! Much of this stability is propped up by what appears to be an excellent entry-level gene boost elixir. This priming agent has turned your genes and body state into a very malleable state, allowing you to absorb numerous different enhancements without incurring rejection.]

"Ah. A few years ago, I received something like that." Ves recalled the time he met Master Olson alone for the first time. His master may not have given him much attention, but he appreciated her gifts, especially the shield generator and the so-called M-21 gene boost elixir. "The alien hybridization happened later on. Did that help me cope with the changes?"

[Barely, Mr. Longhorn. From what I see, the alien organs implanted in your body is actually the first step in a plan that never saw fruition. You're stuck in a halfway transformation, and I detect traces of advanced treatment from CFA doctors and exobiologists who forcefully restrained the more easily controllable aspects of your alien organs. Nonetheless, there are many odd changes and interactions in your body, particularly related to your central nervous system. The bewildering augmentation of your cognitive has surpassed the scope of your entry-level gene boost elixir!]

"So there is a limit to these priming agents?"

[Of course! They're not called entry-level for nothing! They are the cheapest forms of priming agents issued to billions, if not trillions of junior officers and senior noncommissioned officers. Even if the CFA is one of the most powerful and wealthy organizations in the galaxy, even we can't afford to provide our junior officers with the highest quality priming agents right from the start.]

Ves read the underlying hint in Stanley's explanation. "Is it possible to alleviate my unstable condition with a better quality priming agent?"

[You'll have to take your case up to both an exobiologist and a geneticist to be certain, but from my estimations there is a high chance that your condition will definitely improve. Combined with our exclusive gene optimization treatment, much of your body functions receive a comprehensive improvement.]

Stanley laid out the benefits to Ves in great detail. As long as Ves ingested a higher-quality priming agent and subsequently went through a gene optimization treatment, he could not only get rid of some hidden dangers, but all of his Attributes would receive a small but very valuable boost!

The gene optimization treatment in fact provided even more benefits than a straight increase in all of his Attributes. As a product that attempted to evolve a baseline human to a more perfect state, it naturally improved someone's lifespan, increased their resistance to various diseases, increases their efficiency in digesting nutrients and so much more.

Just a single round of gene optimization treatment basically turned every baseline human into a human 2.0, CFA edition!

[Of course, the benefits of gene optimization treatment is proportional to the proportion of humanity that still remains in your body.] Stanley cautioned, tempering some of his hopes. [You'll have to refer to a geneticist to obtain a detailed prognosis, but I estimate that the gene treatment may only be fifty percent effective to your abnormal condition.]

"Fifty percent is better than nothing." Ves muttered.

Of course, to obtain all of these benefits, Ves faced two major problems. First, the priming agent that Virtual Doctor Stanley recommended could not be obtained for free!

[For your condition, I recommend the KC-3333 Second Phase Priming Agent Gene Boost Elixir. Priming agents are inherently compatible with a wide variety of physiques, so the off-the-shelf versions that our medical bay has in storage will suffice. Nonetheless, this priming agent is strictly reserved for middle-ranked or higher officers of the CFA. As a mere ensign, you are not authorized to receive this treatment. Second, to redeem this priming agent, you will have to exchange a considerable amount of merits.]

It turned out that Ves needed to earn considerably more merits as what it took to be eligible to be promoted from Junior Apprentice to Senior Apprentice!

That wasn't the end of his woes.

[While the gene optimization treatment entitled to all junior officers can be redeemed without cost, it must be tailored to your unique body condition to minimize rejection and maximize the benefits. The services of both a geneticist and an exobiologist are required, and I suspect you will only be able to obtain them in exchange for merits.]

It all came down to merits. It was pretty much the unofficial currency of the CFA. It was difficult to earn them, but they allowed for any CFA servicemen to exchange for incredibly valuable goods and services.

Ves did not wish to give up on the KC-3333 Priming Agent and the ensign-grade gene optimization treatment! This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to enhance all of his body functions and relieve some of the pressure shortening his lifespan with some of the most extravagant and expensive treatments in the galaxy!

If he missed this opportunity, who knew how much credits and favors he needed to pay in order to obtain a comparable amount of gains! Even if the treatments provided by the Starlight Megalodon was three-hundred years out of date, it was still considerably advanced when compared to modern standards!

"I have to earn more merits!"