Ves closed his eyes once he successfully passed the promotion test to Senior Mech Designer. Even though the achievement was spoiled by the fact that Miss Calabast blatantly hacked it, it didn't change the fact that he officially entered the upper ranks of the Starlight Megalodon's hierarchy!
Virtual Lieutenant Baskanson smiled. [Congratulations, Lieutenant Commander Longhorn! You have regained your original rank and all the associated positions, authorizations, privileges and security clearance! It has been ERROR years, ERROR months, ERROR days and ERROR hours since you last held this rank.]
The virtual officer's dumb response to his promotion exemplified how thoroughly broken the virtual officer system could be. Ves shook his head at Baskanson's inability to realize that a human couldn't possibly live for over three-thousand years. Any AI with a bit of common sense would have realized that Ves only pretended to be the original Mr. Longhorn, yet to a virtual officer like Baskanson, the data never lied.
Despite officially 'regaining' his rank, Ves nonetheless received most of the rewards the CFA provided to a newly-promoted lieutenant commander.
First, and the most irrelevant one, he drew a vastly higher salary in the form of CFA credits or fleet credits as everyone called them. To Ves, this was pretty much worthless as there was no way he could ever spend the CFA credits deposited in his comm in the galaxy. The Starlight Megalodon had long lost her connection to the galactic fleet network and the galactic financial system.
"Damn, a monthly salary of 5,000 fleet credits! How extravagant!"
While the exchange rate of fleet credits to bright credits often fluctuated due to a trillion different causes, last Ves heard a single fleet credit was worth as much as several billion bright credits!
CFA officers consider this salary to be rather low. The true benefit of being a part of the CFA was never about money, but rather about the access to high technology. Anyone who joined not only get to play with the latest technological gizmos, they also underwent the highest quality gene optimization treatments.
Just like last time, Ves again received the option to redeem for a piece of advanced gear as well as earned the right to undergo a third round of gene optimization treatment!
"I'll definitely be stopping by the virtual exobiologist again no matter what Calabast says!"
He turned his attention to the list that projected into the air. Just like last time, it offered him a wide range of options for him to receive at no cost. Naturally, the quality of the goodies on the list significantly exceeded those from before.
Instead of starting to make his choice, he first browsed to the bioimplant category and tracked down any entry that resembled the cranial bioimplant he found in Mr. Longhorn cabin.
The Starlight Megalodon actually didn't offer a lot of variety of bioimplants, at least not to Senior Mech Designers like him. He easily managed to match the bioimplant he found underneath the toilet with a specific item on the list.
[TITO BIOSYSTEMS ARCHIMEDES RUBAL 1002-Z CRANIAL CODEX BIOIMPLANT]
"So it's called the Archimedes Rubal, huh?"
The CFA didn't develop the bioimplant in-house. Instead, they licensed the Archimedes Rubal from a company called Tito Biosystems. Evidently, the product was really good for the CFA to find it worthy enough to put into the list of possible rewards for newly-promoted lieutenant commanders.
As Ves read the description, he realized how useful the 1002-Z would be for someone like him. The Archimedes Rubal didn't add much processing power to someone's brain. Instead, the bioimplant served as a massive organic data bank that could stuff a few data chips worth of data!
While that didn't sound very impressive at first, the key to this enhancement was that it was directly connected to a person's senses. Making use of the Archimedes Rubal was the same as possessing eidetic or photographic memory! While it didn't allow someone to comprehend all of the data immediately, it still possessed many other uses!
Ves immediately realized why Mr. Longhorn redeemed this bioimplant.
"He probably wanted to memorize data that he can only look at but can't take away!"
To a Senior Mech Designer with a wide range of access to all kinds of whacky research projects, Mr. Longhorn could easily take advantage of them by memorizing all of the restricted knowledge only made available in the labs. An implant like this could defeat nearly every security precaution that prevented copying and disseminating restricted knowledge!
Yet why didn't Longhorn implant the Archimedes Rubal into his brain immediately upon receipt?
After a bit of thought, Ves came up with the probable answer. Would the CFA offer a senior researcher the means to cheat their own security systems? Of course not! The Archimedes Rubal definitely a number of restrictions and backdoors to allow the CFA a firm grip over the usage of the implant.
"There's no use putting this implant into your brain unless you can accept becoming a slave for the CFA for life."
Ves felt glad he hadn't moved upon impulse and went ahead with implanting the Archimedes Rubal that he found into his brains straightaway.
For now, the implant offered very little utility to him unless Ves somehow managed to remove all of the CFA's tampering from its bioprogramming. It would be difficult for the virtual doctors of the Starlight Megalodon to accomplish something like this, as it likely bumped against the restrictions against undermining the CFA.
"I'll probably have to return to civilized space and find a trustworthy bioengineer to remove all the hidden dangers."
There were problems associated with that options as well, but Ves couldn't figure out a better alternative for the moment.
"I shouldn't be too greedy. The gene optimization treatments are already a boon to me that a citizen of the galactic rim could never hope to receive in ordinary circumstances."
Now that he obtained the name and specifications of the implant, Ves returned to the much more pleasant task of shopping for his next goodie.
He spent half an hour trawling through the different categories and subcategories and opened his eyes to the many pieces of advanced gear on offer. While he hadn't spotted anything as extravagant as a fully-fledged personal teleporter reserved for flag officers, he did find several items he found almost inconceivable.
"An upgrade to the Squalon's minifab system!"
"Two heavy security bots as permanent and completely loyal guard escorts!"
"A complete replacement of the bone structure with a compressed alloy version!"
The sheer amount of attractive choices threatened to overwhelm him to the point where he forcefully took a break in order to calm his raging excitement.
He started to return to his initial priorities. What did he require the most in his current conditions? "A way to survive the coming crises!"
His previous selection of a single-use teleporter already leaned towards this direction. Yet what was the use of teleporting up to a thousand kilometers away when he was still stuck on this planet?
What he needed more than anything right now was a real escape route off this planet!
"There's really only one choice left among the thousands of options." Ves smiled ruefully.
He could have used this extremely rare and valuable opportunity to redeem for something that would have undoubtedly improve his ability to defend himself or to design mechs. Yet he decisively gave up those long-term gifts because future benefits would be of no use to him if he was dead!
Ves picked arguably one of the most valuable options on the list, the personal rights to make use of one of the CFA shuttles stored in the hangar bay.
While the shuttle he redeemed wasn't a copy of the CFA's valuable FTL-capable models, it possessed an attractive range of options that put it far ahead of any other shuttle he had ever laid his eyes on! It not only possessed a large passenger and cargo capacity, it also accelerated very fast and possessed more than enough thrust to escape the heavy gravity of Aeon Corona VII.
It might not have any exotic features, but in terms of speed and acceleration this shuttle could even leave many starships in the dust! It also helped that it possessed an efficient engine that could stretch its fuel capacity over several weeks!
"This is a perfect escape vehicle if not for its lack of FTL capability!"
Unfortunately, a lieutenant commander didn't have the rights to touch an FTL-capable shuttle. Ves would need a much higher rank or authorization before he could touch one of those. The Starlight Megalodon also had very few of them left.
Obtaining the personal rights of a CFA shuttle meant that Ves pretty much owned it outright. Although the ownership title of the shuttle still rested in the hands of the CFA and the Starlight Megalodon, Ves obtained a nearly unlimited right of use of the vehicle as long as he was an active servicemember.
If he wanted to go on a joyride and drive the shuttle straight into a moon for his own amusement, the CFA wouldn't bat an eyebrow at him. Not only that, Ves also gained a standing permission to leave the Starlight Megalodon with the shuttle as long as he provided a plausible reason!
"This is also a privilege reserved for senior officers." Ves nodded as he read the rules associated with his choice.
After confirming his choice, he quickly went through the raft of other messages. Now that Ves became a Senior Mech Designer, he not only gained some rights to speak, he also regained many of Mr. Longhorn's old authorizations, including access to some of the most core mech research projects in the Research Department.
In fact, Ves also 'regained' his access to a handful of cross-disciplinary research projects with some of the other sub-departments!
Miss Calabast should probably be pleased with this unexpected development. Ves quickly sent her a message of his successful promotion and his access to these highly confidential research projects.
Of course, Ves couldn't state outright which projects fell into his lap, but he was sure the department head of the Intelligence Department could get around that restriction.
At the very end, Virtual Lieutenant Baskanson offered an option that Ves always kept his eyes on. [As a final privilege upon your ascension to Senior Mech Designer, Mr. Longhorn, you are allowed to exert the right to recruit any mech designer as your personal disciple or apprentice. Do you wish to exercise this option?]
He asked for an overview of the safe around the battleship. Through the top-down view projected in front of him, he carefully sought out the presence of a hibernating Qilanxo along with a gaggle of Asterias, Enduring Protectors and transports.
While Ves was having the time of his life on the Starlight Megalodon, the remnants of the Flagrant Swordmaidens continued to languish in the empty and overgrown safe zone.
A lot more Vesians arrived as well just outside the border of the safe zone. Numerous transports poured in from the opposite side of the battleship, gorging out a large number of what appeared to be scientists and engineers. The experts looked out of place amidst all the armed troops and mechs.
Even though the breakdown effect did their best to degrade all of that gear, the Vesians brought plenty of spares. No other force that initially arrived on this planet would be able to pose a threat to the Vesians!
After studying the disposition of the Vesian forces and making sure that the Flagrant Swordmaidens still lived, Ves proceeded to zoom in over Ketis' head. She was currently practicing her swordplay on an open field next to the farm.
As Ves tapped his finger atop her head, a tractor beam immediately held on to her armored form.
The projection even transmitted her voice!
"Ehh!!? Why am I flying?!"
Without even bothering to put her into stasis, the Starlight Megalodon swept Ketis right towards one of her access hatches!
"Ahhh! What the hell?! I didn't sign up for this! Lemme go!"