902 Virtual Commander Cosi
Ves initially worried about the dangers of entering the belly of the beast. His forged proof of identity left plenty of questionable points.
Now, he realized he underestimated his value. Even if his fictitious background sounded implausible, the virtual officers never questioned it! Instead, like bots, they exhibited the capacity to miss the obvious no matter how glaring the faults.
Like every virtual officer, Virtual Commander Cosit only cared about fulfilling his duties to the best of his ability. However, Cosit and the other AIs under her command were still bound to the restrictions imposed on them. Their inherent flaws and lack of creativity prevented them from being able to circumvent these restrictions during all this time.
They were stuck!
Rather than regarding them as officers, it might be more appropriate for Ves to see them as prisoners who gained partial control over their own prison. As a human, Ves possessed an incredible amount of value as the internal systems of the Starlight Megalodon imposed much less restrictions.
[Humans are the true backbone of the Starlight Megalodon.] Virtual Commander Cosit emphasized. [You are the original owners of our great battleship. However, there's still a long way to go. As a lowly ensign and Junior Apprentice Mech Designer, your authority is exceedingly limited. Nonetheless, you're the only human I have, so the burden of finishing the research projects falls upon your shoulders.]
Ves frowned at that. "There aren't any virtual mech designers under your command, ma'am?"
[Unfortunately, mech designers are too new, Mr. Longhorn. The complexity surrounding this profession and our relative unfamiliarity with mechs has prevented us from employing a virtual mech designer. Even if we could, there wouldn't be any point as all of our virtual researchers are bound from performing most research functions. I predict that you'll be very popular in our department, as you are the only human available that can do what our virtual researchers are forbidden from doing.]
He gleamed at that. "Does that mean you can put me in charge of all the research projects, commander? None of your virtual researchers are able to exercise their duties. Why not pass on those responsibilities under my name?"
[It's not that simple.] Cosit shook her head. [While it isn't unheard of for junior officers to take on the responsibilities of a senior officer during emergencies when the latter is unavailable or incapacitated, that doesn't apply the Research Department. We perform many classified, top secret research projects, many of which are highly sensitive in nature. At the moment, you are just a lowly ensign with a correspondingly low security clearance. You are only eligible to participate in a small number of low-priority research projects, and your autonomy there is limited.]
"I understand, ma'am." Ves replied.
He expected something like this. It wouldn't be appropriate for a newcomer in the organization to obtain complete control in the Research Department. The Starlight Megalodon still abided by the strict hierarchy to the point where even AIs started to take their ranks seriously.
[For now, I'm not allowed to tell you the full scope of what we do here at the Research Department. We perform many classified research projects that are extremely shocking and can damage the CFA's standing if exposed. Do not approach any laboratories, sections or compartments you are not cleared to enter. Your CFA comm will warn you where you can and cannot go. If you force your way in, the entire ship will turn against you. Is that clear, Mr. Longhorn?]
Virtual Commander Cosit smiled at him. [I have learned that humans like you are naturally curious and rebellious by nature, but please restrain your biological impulses. We have already lived through one period of chaos caused by human hubris. We do not want to experience such anarchy again.]
"That sounds remarkably self-aware of you, commander." Ves remarked.
If he didn't know any better, he would have thought that Cosit was a sentient AI. Yet he knew that was impossible because humanity had been chasing after this unicorn since the Age of Stars.
Thousands of years went by as humanity continued to develop more sophisticated and human-like AIs. Yet while AI researchers created increasingly more convincing fakes, they never managed to develop a true sentient AI that possessed the capacity to appreciate art or felt irrational emotions such as love or hate.
Underneath their emotional masks, Every AI was a stone-cold machine who abided by pure logic. Virtual Commander Cosit was no exception even if she imitated a human a thousand times better than Virtual Lieutenant Baskanson.
[Let us not go into the matters of the past.] Cosit shook her head. She waved a new projection into being. It consisted of a list of research projects that Ves possessed sufficient clearance to know. [It is time to put your human abilities to work.]
"That's a lot of research projects, ma'am." Ves said as he noted hundreds of entries under different categories. These were just the lower-level research projects of lesser importance!
[The research projects of our Research Departments are divided into many sub-departments. The Mech Research Sub-Department is jointly managed by the Research Department and the Mech Department, though in practice the latter has little say in how we perform our research. Most of their meddling comes in the form of demanding new toys for them to play with. As a Junior Apprentice Mech Designer, you cannot neglect your duties to the Mech Department, though. Please check your schedule to see when you have to report to the Mech Department.]
Ves did so and found out that he wouldn't be free to run around except during his off-time. Most of the time, the schedule obligated him to contribute to the research projects. Only some shifts forced him to go down to the Mech Department and provide unspecified assistance.
As a supposed commissioned officer of the CFA, Ves wasn't allowed to be absent without leave. Any tardiness or insubordination on his end might lead to severe punishment! Even if the virtual officers valued humans immensely, they couldn't act outside their obligations.
Once Ves scanned the list, Virtual Commander Cody pointed his finger at three seemingly-random research projects.
[For now, I shall assign you to three stalled research projects under the Mech Research Sub-Division. Project Freeroller, Project Xenophon and Project Legbreaker are all at near-completion. As long as you can assist the virtual researchers in finishing them, you will earn a considerable amount of merit.]
Ves perked up at the mention of merit. "What is the use of merit, ma'am?"
[Merit is a measure of your contribution, diligence and service to the CFA. Merit is never publicized or condensed in a single sum, but there is a dedicated system in place that tracks everyone's performance so merit is always rewarded properly. Ordinarily, it is very difficult to earn merit in the CFA, but it just so happens that completing or facilitating breakthroughs in research projects is one of the fastest methods of earning merit. Know that merit has many uses. With merit, you can ask for leave, request some allowances and most importantly become eligible for promotion!]Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
Merit! When Ves heard what merit could do for him, he immediately became excited. "Commander, I have some human comrades who are stuck outside in the safe zone. Is there any way for me to exchange any merits that I've earned to induct them into the CFA?"
The commander shook her head. [Unfortunately, the regulations are very clear regarding the treatment of non-CFA personnel. It is not in my power to meddle with these other humans and it is not so easy for you as well. At the very least, there is one way in which I can think of which will allow you to extend your protection to other humans.]
"And what is that, ma'am?"
[Earn merits diligently. There are promotion tests that will enable you to a higher rank, but you will only have the opportunity to take them if your merits surpass a certain threshold. As long as you work hard and pass the promotion test, you'll be able to intervene once you become a Senior Mech Designer and a lieutenant commander.]
The original Adeseus Longhorn used to be an old-style Senior Mech Designer.
[A Senior Mech Designer under the Research Department has the power to propose their own research projects to me. I suggest you make use of this power to propose a research project that requires you to take those humans outside as test subjects or 'volunteers'. I'll send some virtual officers to round them all up and take them to a lab where they will be safe and protected. The other departments won't be able to encroach on our domain.]
While the plan sounded rather convoluted, it was better than nothing. Ves recognized that Virtual Commander Cosit truly possessed very little discretion in the matter due to long-standing restrictions on AIs mandated by existing CFA regulations. The additional restrictions piled on top of them by the executive officer further curtailed their ability to give humans an easy way back inside.
Otherwise, the survivors would have been able to squeeze back in after being locked out by the executive officer's actions.
Cosit informed him of another perk. As a Senior Mech Designer, Ves also gained the power to take on an 'apprentice'. This enabled him to allow Ketis to skip the recruitment test and become a Junior Apprentice Mech Designer straight away!
After a few minutes of tips and instruction, Virtual Commander Cosit finally dismissed him from her office. She shooed him out and directed him to the research labs.
[Don't come back to me until you complete those three research projects, Mr. Longhorn! If you're not competent enough to push them into completion, there's no point for you to aim higher!]
Ves activated his CFA comm and allowed it to guide him to a restricted section that house the labs responsible for the three low-priority research projects. The bots and virtual guards manning the security checkpoint scanned his entire form, and despite his hidden weaponry and numerous non-CFA standard gear, the goons just waved him through.
He shrugged at that. He figured that several decades since the crash, everyone carried so much custom or improvised gear that stripped them of their possessions risked provoking a mutiny. Neither factions could afford the enmity they'd receive if they did such a drastic action.
"The interior of the ship itself isn't as safe as it looks."
Ves knew that advanced starships hid numerous weapons and safeguards against hostile actors. One infamous method would be to crank up the antigrav field and alternate their orientations.
Even the heaviest-armed invaders in exoskeleton armor would become completely dizzy if the alternating gravity in the corridor bounced them against the deck and floor in quick succession!
Therefore, Ves constantly needed to keep on his toes. He became quite distressed about the role he adopted. Sweat sometimes poured from his brow at the dangers lurking in and out of his sight. The stakes were high and his life and the lives of his comrades depended on his ability to
He wasn't cut out to be a spy!
The navigation guide projected by his CFA comm finally led him to a lab compartment which housed the first research project on the list. The hatch scanned his credentials stored in his comm and beeped in satisfaction before sliding open.
Ves entered in what looked like a decently-equipped mech workshop and lab area. It wasn't as well-equipped as the projected mech workshop from the recruitment test, which said something about the research project's importance.
[Mr. Longhorn. You are expected. Welcome to Project Freeroller.] A grandfatherly virtual researcher garbed in a high-tech lab coat called. Unfortunately, his stilted, robotic speech pattern sounded robotic which meant that this AI didn't receive much processing power. [Take a seat at the security terminal and please go through the obligatory reading material.]
He did so and started to read through the documents prepared for his perusal. Besides some general instructions and lab safety regulations which he skimmed, Ves thoroughly read the project files and became bemused.
"So Project Freeroller is an attempt to design a wheeled mech?"