In the CFA, an ensign held very little status. Looked down upon by the senior ratings as kids fresh off the naval academies, they still required lots of on-the-job training before they measured up as capable leaders.
Now that Ves reached reached the rank of lieutenant, he finally became a 'proper' officer in the eyes of the Common Fleet Alliance. This was when the CFA started to invest in those who proved their mettle through years of dedicated service.
Lieutenants received several new perks over ensigns besides increased authority. First and foremost, the CFA granted them the opportunity to receive lieutenant-grade gene optimization treatment. This was a little more expensive and in Ves' case also required individual tailoring from a trained geneticist and an exobiologist.
"Great. The Starlight Megalodon owes me two gene optimization treatments but I don't have the merits to pay the specialists to adjust them to my own condition. I'm also short on merits to exchange for a KC-3333 priming agent. Furthermore, I also need to pay the specialists to study my body and gene condition in detail in order to uncover all the hidden dangers."
He left the matter of medical enhancements aside aside. The Virtual Doctor Stanley already warned him that the checkup he went through previously still left a lot of questionable points that required the help of specialists to decipher.
All of that cost merits, of course.
"I'm broke again."
Upon his promotion, his hard-earned merit count dropped down to zero. Ves needed to climb all the way up again.
"At least the CFA saw fit to bestow me some other goodies."
It was as if they compensated him for robbing him all of the merits he earned so far. Normally, the CFA would never promote any officer in such a hasty and haphazard manner. As a somewhat conservative and tradition-bound organization, promotions required years of service, positive evaluation from superiors, a proven, expanded skill set and much, much more.
The Starlight Megalodon long diverged from the proper course. The lack of humans and the rise of virtual officers led to a peculiar circumstance where newly-arrived humans like Ves worked hard to promote up the ladder as fast as possible.
Even as humans tried to reach a higher rank so that they could make use of their expanded power to fulfill certain objectives, what did the battleship get out of it? Certainly, merits didn't come out of nowhere.
He never really considered the arrival of humans from the perspective of the battleship until now. Even as humans tried to take advantage of the Starlight Megalodon, the stranded ship also took advantage of the humans!
All the work that humans performed in the pursuit of merits either restored or strengthened certain aspects of the Starlight Megalodon. Humans also enabled virtual officers to accomplish tasks they long hoped to complete.
"Each virtual officer exists to fulfill a purpose. Each of them have different priorities, and sometimes they fight over who gets to decide."
All of this led to a mess where the half-broken Starlight Megalodon became both a prize and a slumbering beast. Those who entered the belly of the beast should be cautious lest they inadvertently be digested in the bowels!
Ves turned his attention back to the CFA's presents. Besides the new gene optimization treatment, Ves also received the right to pick up some new gear from the armory.
And this didn't include the standard gear that CFA officers were already entitled to. Every lieutenant gained the opportunity to redeem some of the good stuff such as a shield generator or a souped-up sidearm.
He felt tempted to redeem a shield generator.
"Yet do I really need something like that? With the firepower available on the Starlight Megalodon, any casual weapon can drain a shield generator's reserves in a matter of seconds."
The utility of a shield generator in such an environment provided him with little benefits. He should be focusing on obtaining gear that either facilitated his ability to earn more merits or enhanced his ability to survive the crises up ahead.
He spotted something good. Something really good. As soon as he saw the item on the list, he immediately selected it regardless of the other goodies on the list. He set it up so that he'd be able to pick it up along with the rest of his upgraded gear at the Marine Detachment's armory.
The final perk he received from his promotion that benefited him was expanded access to the Starlight Megalodon's libraries. He felt tempted to visit them immediately, but he didn't have the time to calmly study new knowledge unless it helped him achieve a breakthrough in a research project.
"The CFA definitely has exclusive knowledge and technical specifications in their library." He surmised. Much of it would be outdated but much more may still be relevant.
He ignored all the other benefits the Starlight Megalodon claimed to bestow upon him. For example, adding him and his family to the CFA rolls so that they all enjoyed the status of internal CFA personnel. The ship would never be able to fulfill such an outlandish benefit, and even if she could it didn't help him cope with his current predicament!
Still, he was pleased with what he already received. A wealthy and powerful organization like the CFA certainly pampered their officers with fantastic benefits.
"I should be able to obtain even more extravagant gifts upon my next promotion."
A lieutenant commander from a naval service branch enjoyed the equivalent amount of status as a major from a mech service branch. Obtaining such a rank from the Starlight Megalodon propelled him into the category of senior officers.
"Considering that I'll effectively be regarded as an old-style Senior Mech Designer, that's the least that I deserve."
Now that he thought about it, Ves believed that the original Mr. Longhorn's biological implant might even be the reward he redeemed upon promotion or commissioning. Such a sumptuous gift certainly seemed fitting for a new senior officer!
Still, that left the question why Adeseus Longhorn buried it under his toilet rather than implanting it in his brains. Was there some kind of issue with the implant?
"I should get it checked out by a specialist. Still, that will cost me even more merits!" Ves sighed dramatically.
The more time he spent on the Starlight Megalodon, the more he became enchanted by what she offered. If not for the ticking time bombs in the background, Ves wouldn't mind spending a couple of decades on the ship to unearth each and every treasure!
After he got over the jubilation of his promotion, Ves considered his options. While becoming a lieutenant sounded impressive, in the Research Department he was still a Senior Apprentice Mech Designer who only received a little bit more trust. In order to gain full access to some of the major research projects, he really needed to acquire the status of Senior Mech Designer.
"Back then, Master Mech Designers hadn't popped up yet. If they did exist, they certainly didn't advertise their presence. To the rising mech industry at large, Senior Mech Designers are the most knowledgeable and respectable of their profession."
This meant that the Starlight Megalodon valued their old-style Senior Mech Designers with the same regard as modern Senior and Master Mech Designers. The ship would definitely treat their Senior Mech Designers well if they wished to retain their services. Otherwise, the Seniors would be better off in the private sector!
Promotion required merits. Goodies required merits. Medical treatment required merits. Saving the Flagrant Swordmaidens required merits. Saving his own life definitely required merits.
The pressure of earning merits made Ves doubt if he could ever earn them fast enough to get out before the entire situation blew up. With Venerable Foster and other competitors trying to outpace him, he keenly felt that he should try and find another way of earning merits besides working on research projects.
A dangerous notion struck him. While he always felt apprehensive about the strange dwarf from the Artificial Intelligence Corps and his cultist affiliation, a virtual rear admiral was an impressively high rank in the CFA.
"It doesn't sound as if he took over the role of the previous admiral, though."
Ves felt apprehensive at the thought of accepting Rear Admiral Ordoth's invitation to visit his office on the upper decks. Dipping his toes into the craziness that the Five Scrolls Compact regularly engaged in was an exceedingly risky business.
Yet from what he observed so far on Aeon Corona VII, he deduced the presence of their hidden hand behind the planet's grand design.
If the Five Scrolls Compact already managed to manipulate Seven into their playground, what about the Starlight Megalodon herself? How far did their influence stretch?
In any case, Ves saw some hope of cooperation in the virtual dwarf flag officer. After spending some time working under various AIs, he realized very keenly that the best way to prosper on this ship was to receive their backing and support.
Humans may enjoy the ultimate authority in the CFA, but the Starlight Megalodon remained very much in the grip of her virtual officers at this point!
Ves hesitated several times as he slowly crossed the huge distance to the office of the Artificial Intelligence Corps. From time to time, he came across the remnant of a sandman mothership tentacle blocking the corridor, leaving a legacy of destruction and blockage that the ship never managed to erase.
The way the ancient sandman mothership invaded the Starlight Megalodon and riddled her with tentacles made Ves wonder if the Five Scrolls Compact infiltrated the battleship in the same way. The CFA obviously didn't do a good enough job to prevent their prized battleships from being infiltrated by other influences.
The section of the ship which housed the office Artificial Intelligence Corps encompassed many other notable branches. Ves and the other humans only came in touch with the surface of what the Starlight Megalodon really had to offer. Much of the core functions of the battleship remained firmly out of reach.
As Ves approached the hatch that led into a large compartment claimed by the Artificial Intelligence Corps, it automatically slid open after sending a cursory query to his comm.
[Your presence is expected, Mr. Longhorn.] A virtual security guard nodded him onwards.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
Ves pursed his lips. That sounded pretty ominous. He resisted the urge to check his CFA comm. Het set it up so that he'd be able to call for Miss Calabast's help at a single press of a button.
"Here goes nothing."
As he entered the domain of the Artificial Intelligence Corps, he felt as if he had entered a lab. A lot of databanks and advanced computing equipment occupied the open compartments. All of them quietly churned along. Virtual specialists and various bots tended to the equipment with quiet diligence.
[Mr. Longhorn! Please enter!]
When Ves entered a side office, he encountered the dwarf yet again. Though Ves still couldn't wrap his head around the image of a clean and neatly-groomed wildling, he tried his best not to show his doubts.
He saluted the dwarf as befitting his rank and made sure he addressed the dwarf with respect.
The virtual officer smiled at Ves and activated a command. Immediately, the side office's hatch slammed shut. The bulkheads glowed as some sort of advanced energy screen went active and the air hummed with strong interference that Ves recognized as a signal jammer effect.
"What is going on, admiral?!" Ves asked with alarm.
Rear Admiral Ordoth didn't immediately reply. The unsettling dwarf smiled wider at him before his physical projection phased out of his seat, only to reappear right next to Ves! The dwarf's projection quickly inserted a needle right through his uniform, underlayer vacsuit and skin, drawing a small amount of blood!
Ves immediately responded by pulling away, but the dwarf already got what he wanted. The smiling dwarf ignored him and returned to his desk, upon which a small apparatus emerged that took the sample of blood.
The device analyzed his blood sample and quickly finished its study. The dwarf evidently received a satisfactory result, because his smile widened even further.
[My apologies. I had to make sure. When the mole in the monitoring system reported your august presence, I could scarcely believe your arrival. The immortal gods has blessed us all!]
Ves frowned at that. This conversation immediately went into a strange direction. "I don't know who you think I am, admiral, but I am not a worshipper of these so-called immortal gods."
Ordoth smiled at him in a sly manner. [You do not have to pretend. We are in a secure compartment.]
Before Ves could ask what Ordoth meant, the physical projection of the dwarf stepped aside and went down on his knees. He stretched out his stubby arms and bent over in supplication in front of Ves, completely disregarding the disparity in rank!
Ves had never seen an admiral bend down in front of a mere lieutenant like this!
[All hail the Holy Son of the immortal gods! All hail the Holder of the Metal Scroll!]