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 Being pressed against the bulkhead by a feisty enemy expert pilot was a new experience to Ves. While Ves could easily resist her physical strength, an expert pilot's force of will possessed a minute tangible presence that made it very suffocating for him to think straight.

As Ves often speculated, an expert pilot definitely managed to harness their spirituality! While they might not be able to exert any conscious control over their small but very real spirituality, as long as they put their full will into play, their actions always receive an invisible boost.

Yet even if Venerable Foster brought her force of will to bear, Ves did not intend to remain as a fish on the chopping board!

He employed his concentration and hardened his Spirituality in the form of a shell around his vulnerable mind. The oppressive aura radiated by the Vesian expert pilot no longer battered his mind but instead bounced off his solidified Spirituality.

His defenses held!

Venerable Foster appeared to have noticed something amiss. She frowned and studied his impassive face as it relaxed a little.

"Don't push your luck, ma'am." Ves replied, not forgetting her rank advantage over him. "The rules and regulations are quite clear with regards to proper conduct."

"Rules and regulations only matter when anyone bothers to enforce them. In my eyes, you're a Vandal, and that means you're a pirate or an accomplice to pirates. Do you really think you can hide behind the rules and escape the fate you deserve?"

Instead of replying, Ves pressed a few buttons on his CFA comm. After a brief delay, the device quickly projected Miss Calabast on a lifelike scale.

The intelligence operative took in the sight and smirked. "When I expect you to call on me, Mr. Longhorn, I didn't think you'd call for mommy that fast."

"This is no time for jokes! Help me out!"

"You didn't say the magic word."

"Please save me!"

The projection of Miss Calabast disregarded Ves and turned her full attention on Venerable Foster. The latter stared at Calabast with a vigilant expression.

"A human. I don't recognize you. You're not part of the Flagrant Vandals or Lydia's Swordmaidens, are you? Identify yourself!"

Calabast plastered her usual grin on her face. Even when she faced someone as intimidating as an expert pilot, she didn't let that status affect her conduct.

"Lieutenant Summer, Intelligence Department. Now, we are all humans here. Please calm down and lay your hands off Ensign Longhorn."

"Why should I?"

"I doubt you wish to be regarded as a saboteur by the Intelligence or Internal Security Departments." Calabast threatened. "If you inflict any personal harm on a fellow serviceman, I will promise you that you will never be able to exit the brig."

Suspicion grew in Foster's eyes. She turned her head towards Ves and Calabast several times and tried to figure out their connection. "You need him for something, do you?"

The air turned frosty between the two dangerous women. Miss Calabast radiated a slippery and tricky charm while Venerable Foster exuded pure martial strength. Both of them recognized a tough opponent in each other. The air between the projection and the human grew tense.

Less than a minute passed before Miss Calabast took a step back. She didn't hesitate to put Ves into a pickle along the way. "Do take care who you are touching, Lieutenant Foster. Ensign Longhorn here is one of the best mech designers on the planet, and one that is in a suitable position to access all manner of research projects in time."

"We don't need the help of a pirate to get what we want."

"Really, now? As far as I'm aware, neither the Hostland Warriors or the Meandering Monkeys have brought any capable mech designers. The admittedly impressive Senior Mech Designers of your mech regiments are residing in their bases while most of your Journeyman Mech Designers are huddling safely in Lady Amalia's fleet."

"You know a lot about our forces for a stranger." The suspicion in Foster's eyes deepened. "And you're wrong. We aren't entirely without talents. We have many experts and we also have Mr. Crenshaw."

"Patrick Amari?" Miss Calabast said bemusedly. "For a Journeyman Mech Designer, Mr. Amari does possess some capability. However, for a mech designer he's not very suitable for the Research Department. As for your other experts? You know as well as I do that any experts deployed on the field are the lowest in their respective fields. True research-grade scientists hardly ever allow themselves to be taken to a battlefield. They know their worth, unlike this dimwit Brighter who led himself be duped into accompanying the ground forces of the Flagrant Vandals on a hazardous planet."

"Hey!" Ves couldn't help but bark. "Who are you calling a dimwit?!"

"Shut up, you pirate!"

Nonetheless, Calabast's words did manage to lessen the pressure Foster exerted onto Ves. Her palms stopped pressing against his uniform.

This told Ves quite a lot. Whatever Calabast and the Vesians were after, they urgently required access to the more restricted sections of the Research Department.

Eventually, Venerable Foster pulled back some of her aggression and grunted at Calabast's projection. "We'll talk later in private."

"My thoughts exactly. Have a good day, Lieutenant Foster. Do take good care of the little genius."Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.

"I won't break him... for now."

Once Calabast's projection winked out, Venerable Foster turned back to Ves and offered him a gruesome grin. She patted his shoulder with her palm. "Even if I don't kill you right at this instant, don't think of escaping your punishment."

"I'm not a pirate, ma'am!" Ves complained unjustly. "I'm just an average mech designer. I'm not even capable of harming a kitten, let alone engaging in piracy!"

Venerable Foster did not look amused. She leaned forward and sharpened her force of will, cutting him with her razor-sharp spirituality. "You don't fool me with your hapless act. I can see it in your eyes. You have blood on your hands. I've seen pirates with less murderous intent than you. Stop pretending."

It must have been all the dwarves he killed lately. Ves didn't listen of course. The less threatening he appeared, the more this Vesian expert pilot underestimated him. It was best if she thought he was nothing but a harmless nerd!

"I don't know what you're talking about, ma'am! I'm not a soldier! I just fix mechs for a living!"


Before Ves could do anything else, she punched him in the stomach!


He bent over wishing he hadn't left his Earth Ant behind at an armory. Without the protection of his combat armor, he was completely at Venerable Foster's mercy!

"Get a move on, ensign. There's work to do!"

"Yes, ma'am!"

Under Lieutenant Foster's supervision, Ves performed his duties under the most stressful situations possible. Not only did she boss him around, she also hurled insults at him and interfered whenever he performed delicate repairs.

The tasks handed out to Ves all directed him to restore the Starlight Megalodon's complement of outdated mechs to usable condition. Every mech he managed to restore earned him a decent chunk of merits, though not as much as completing a research project.

Still, to the merit-starved Ves, every contribution helped.

"Ensign Longhorn!" Foster shouted as he tried to assemble a mech engine. Her sudden shout caused him to misalign an engine part, causing it to deform! "You dropped this plasma welder."

"I didn't drop anything, ma'm!"

The Vesian expert pilot hurled the plasma welder at Ves, causing it to slam at his body and drop to the deck like a rock! "Don't tarry and pick up your own mess!"

Ves grumbled as he was forced to pick up the plasma welder. Fortunately, it didn't dent too much upon dropping.

All of these petty acts of bullying hardly caught the attention of the virtual mech technicians and virtual mech designers in the Mech Department. Most of them didn't even have enough processing power to pay attention to the environment. As for Virtual Commander Dislan, the head of the Mech Department seemed to have a soft spot for Lieutenant Foster.

In his virtual eyes, she could do no wrong!

Therefore, Ves was pretty much on his own. As long as Foster's bullying wasn't too blatant, she could do whatever she wanted!

Ves knew what she was doing, of course. Besides venting her indignation, she also tried to sabotage his ability to earn merits. Slowing down his work slowed down his speed of promotion. Her actions deprived him of merits, preventing him for redeeming them for various services such as allowing his comrades to enter the Starlight Megalodon.

It also left more broken mechs behind to be restored for any incoming Vesian mech designers. Ves hadn't forgotten about the manpower the Vesians had at their disposal. Listening to the dialogue between Calabast and Foster informed him that the Vesians were prepared to send as many experts to the Starlight Megalodon as possible.

For now, the harsh recruitment tests for non-CFA personnel served as an impassable barrier for both the Vesians and the Flagrant Swordmaidens. Ves had no doubt that the Vesians wouldn't let this barrier hinder them forever.

Perhaps Calabast had a point and that none of the experts accompanying the Vesian ground forces were any good. Yet as long as the Starlight Megalodon took in hundreds of different scientists, their collective research ability became extremely frightening.

As soon as his shift ended, he quickly said goodbye to Lieutenant Foster and practically fled the Mech Department without any regard for dignity! He practically shamed the entire CFA with his disgraceful exit!

"What a scary superior!" Ves huffed.

Fortunately, Ves did not have to drop by the Mech Department very often. Even though Foster tried to interfere with his work as much as possible, he still managed to compose a couple of repair plans for some neglected mechs and hand over responsibility to the virtual mech technicians.

While the virtual mech technicians lacked the programming to plan any sophisticated repairs to mechs, it was no problem for them to execute a prearranged step-by-step plan made by Ves. He already possessed an abundant amount of experience in doing so during his time with the Vandals, so the virtual mech technicians would certainly be able to fix the mechs regardless of his absence.

"All of those merits are in the bag as far as I'm concerned."

During the next couple of days, Ves spent most of his time in the Research Department. Not just anyone could enter this department. Numerous security checkpoints and roving security patrols restricted access to the laboratory facilities in particular. Without the necessary security clearance and authorization, nobody would be allowed to enter these sensitive areas!

Therefore, the Research Department and more specifically the Mech Research Sub-Department became his refuge. Lieutenant Foster had no way of harassing him when he holed himself up inside one of the research labs.

"Hehe. I finally completed this darned research project." Ves grinned. "I should have enough merits now to be eligible to take the promotion test."

He activated his CFA comm and navigated the menus until he came across the option. He immediately took the test, causing his entire surroundings to be engulfed in darkness.

Two hours later, the darkness disappeared and Ves reappeared but with a noticeable difference. The ensign insignia on his uniform morphed into the shape of a lieutenant junior grade insignia!

"That was easy."

While Ves believed in Calabast's capabilities, he still expected to face a considerable challenge in his promotion test.

Yet the reality was much different! The promotion test to Senior Apprentice was actually a repeat of his initial recruitment test that prompted the Starlight Megalodon to recruit him as a Junior Apprentice!

It was as if Miss Calabast replaced his university-level test with a high school-level test.

Even if the test that Ves just took right now randomized all of the variables, that didn't change the fact that the difficulty fell well within his range of competence!

This level of cheating was both audacious and daring. The level of hacking skills needed to pull off such a feat without the virtual officers getting wind of it must be extremely frightening!

His apprehension towards Miss Calabast and her shadowy organization aside, Ves was extremely glad to be promoted to lieutenant.

At the very least, Foster wouldn't be able to bully him for the moment, though he expected her to be promoted very soon. Besides tormenting him, she also began to suggest reforms to the tactics and operation of the mech units under the Mech Department. All of these improvements along with demonstrating her insane piloting ability netted her a considerable amount of merits and endeared her to Virtual Commander Dislan.

Unlike Ves, Venerable Foster probably didn't require any cheating to pass her next promotion test!

"I've got to stay ahead of her in rank and merits." He muttered.

As newly promoted lieutenant, Ves received some new privileges from the CFA. His comm jingled with incoming messages.