Even if Project Starfarer turned out to be a bust for Ves, he nonetheless made several small gains when he read through its records.
First, he gained access to documents and technical specifications of miniature FTL drives, a genuine piece of high technology that the rest of the galaxy didn't have access to even in modern times!
The level of innovation and the amount of high-grade exotics put into their construction truly boggled his mind. He could barely understand a single percent of its inner workings. It would take an extremely capable and knowledgeable CFA engineer who specialized in FTL drives to even comprehend this tech.
He wanted to copy all of the valuable documents into his CFA comm for later perusal, but he couldn't. All of these documents contained specifications for some of the most advanced pieces of technology in the Starlight Megalodon's possession. An enormous amount of security measures made it impossible for Ves to take a recording of the documents and smuggle it away.
In the end, Ves could only look but not touch, let alone take away.
"At least I know the basic properties of miniature FTL drives."
This was his most valuable gain out of Project Starfarer. Every complicated research project under the Mech Research Sub-Department involved some way of combining mechs with extremely advanced tech.
All of these ambitious, oddball research projects allowed Ves a glimpse into the high technology that the CFA used to rely on to dominate human space alongside the MTA!
A couple of days went by as Ves worked sleepless nights in an attempt to earn merits as fast as possible. He never relented in earning merits, and his only breaks consisted of reading through the technical specifications of advanced technology.
The capabilities the CFA held in store really opened his mind! He particularly paid a lot of interest on any technology related to manipulating spacetime. While he wouldn't be able to apply the scraps of knowledge that he gained on improving his mechs or helping him out with his work, they nonetheless peeled back some of the mysteries with regards to FTL travel and dimensional stabilization.
Still, he didn't let his spurious curiosity distract him from his core work for long. He completed project after project, starting with the low-hanging fruit and building up to the more challenging ones that required actual time and effort on his part to complete.
In this, Ves decisively gave up any research projects in which he saw little hope of achieving a breakthrough in less than a day. Right now, the rush of earning a lot more credits than any mech designer ought to pushed Ves to continue his strategy of pursuing quick gains over anything else!
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It seemed that in practically no time, Ves rapidly accumulated enough merits to fulfill most of the items on his wish list! The huge amount of merits needed to be eligible to take the promotion test to Senior Mech Designer was this close to reaching the required amount!
"This is too fast! Even if I'm only picking off the low-hanging fruit, I'm earning the same amount of merits in a couple of days that used to take my predecessors months or years to complete one at a time!"
The speed of his accumulation even made Virtual Commander Cosit speechless. Right now, Ves pretty much had Cosit wrapped around his hand in the same way that Venerable Foster completely ingratiated herself to Virtual Commander Dislan.
His eyes sharpened a bit as his jubilation about his rapid progress faded a little. He hadn't forgotten about his Vesian rival. He kept tabs on her through the Starlight Megalodon's internal network and saw signs that she was nearing her promotion to the rank of mech captain in short order!
As long as she was promoted again to the rank of mech major, she would enjoy the same status as a Senior Mech Designer within the Starlight Megalodon's hierarchy. By then, she would easily be able to wrangle Commander Dislan into recruiting more Vesian humans!
"Right now, I'm further ahead than Venerable Foster, and speeding up much faster than she ever could. I have to keep going while the iron is hot."
Ves knew that as soon as Foster managed to become a senior officer and opened the floodgates to her fellow Vesians, he would no longer enjoy a monopoly on the research projects.
He grinned at the thought of other Vesian mech designers arriving at the Research Department for the first time.
"There's no way they can earn merits as fast as I am doing now. I've already completed all the easy projects where they can cheat by using their future knowledge. The only projects that are left in the Mech Research Sub-Department are those too difficult and time-consuming for any modern Apprentice or Journeyman Mech Designer to complete!"
When Venerable Foster confronted him at the Mech Department back then, she mentioned that a Journeyman Mech Designer accompanied the Vesian ground forces. This Patrick Amari likely fulfilled the same role as Ves by presiding over the Vesian landbound mechs as their head designer.
While Ves warned himself not to underestimate a Journeyman Mech Designer, neither did he thought too highly of them. The more impressive ones such as Mayra of the Swordmaidens reached their ranks long ago but spent a lot of time as Journeymen to accumulate a vast amount of experience.
"The older Journeyman Mech Designers tend to be quite scary while the older ones aren't necessary better than what I can already do."
Still, no matter of Mr. Amari was a younger or older Journeyman, Ves already robbed the tree of the juiciest and most accessible fruit. He already gorged upon them until his stomach was about to explode!
The only mech research projects that Mr. Amari and other incoming mech designers had access too were basically hard or rotten fruit that poisoned anyone who tried to take a bite out of them. No one except for Ves would be able to propel himself at this breakneck speed!
"Hahahaha!" Ves couldn't help but release a diabolical laugh at the thought of the glum faces of the Vesians. As the mech designer who got here first, not only did he rob all of the best research projects, he was also on track of promoting to Senior Mech Designer first! "That will essentially make me boss of the Mech Research Sub-Department!"
Right now, Virtual Commander Dislan took the reins of all the Sub-Departments because the AIs who were supposed to be in charge of them all turned into virtual zombies due to lack of processing power.
However, as long as Ves promoted to Senior Mech Designer, he'd be the only human within the Mech Research Sub-Department that held this august rank. There would be no one with higher seniority than him, so it was virtually assured that Ves became the head of the sub-department!
He could do a lot of things once he held this post! Not only would he be able to dictate which research projects the other mech designers were allowed to work on, he could also screw with them in many ways!
A despicable grin marred his face as he rubbed his palms at the thought of how he could sabotage the Vesians.
"Unfortunately, my power only extends to research projects related to mechs. I don't have any influence over the Exobiology Research Sub-Department or many of the other research groups."
This realization immediately halted his stupid laugh. No matter what, Ves believed that whatever the Vesians and the Flagrant Swordmaidens were after, it would be hidden somewhere in a biology-related sub-department.
From what he had seen so far, the Mech Research Sub-Department may have been developing radical new innovations related to mechs, but they were all extremely costly in terms of advanced technology and material requirements.
It simply wasn't realistic for the Bright Republic or the Vesia Kingdom to steal the designs of an extremely advanced mech design in the face of these realities. They couldn't even fund the production of a single copy!
Whether the Vesians or the Flagrant Swordmaidens sought out Project Icarus or some other highly sensitive project, Ves could do little to help.
Unless Miss Calabast helped.
"I wonder how long it will take for her to smooth out my upcoming promotion test." He frowned.
He sent a quick message to her comm stating that he was accumulating merits a lot faster than he initially thought. Hopefully she would stop taking her sweet time to hack the promotion test.
As Ves continued to farm more merits, he quickly received a highly-anticipated message from Virtual Chief Armorer Levitt!
[We've finished modifying and adjusting your gear! We also integrated the extra feature you sent some time ago. Come on over to our armory to pick them up!]
Ves immediately stopped working overtime and left the Research Department. He practically raced towards the Marine Detachment's armory where Levitt greeted him and gestured him to approach a work table laying out his newly-upgraded gear.
[My apologies, Mr. Longhorn. It took us a day longer than we agreed to for us to decipher the new innovations. While your gear is extremely inexpensive, that doesn't necessarily make them less complex. My old human armorer would have been able to decipher the principles of the new tech much faster than an AI such as myself, but after pooling our processing power we managed to crack the inner workings of your devices.]
Both of them beheld the equipment that underwent huge makeovers after spending some time in the armory. All of the new parts and subparts looked new and of considerable quality.
"Let's start with my light combat armor." He said, focusing on the most important piece of gear to Ves. "What did you do with my old Earth Ant?"
[Your customized light combat armor is extremely rudimentary in our eyes, but contains several useful innovations, but not nearly enough to justify its continued existence. Such a suit of armor is scrap in the eyes of us marines. I decided to replace your Earth Ant with a modified version of the XV-99 Sqaulon, a standard-issue suit of light combat armor for engineers and support officers. As per our agreement, I've modified your new combat armor with as many of the innovations of your old Earth Ant. The most complicated procedure that I've had to undertake was to combine the software security suites.]
"Can the Squalon resist modern hacking?"
Ves explicitly demanded this to Levitt. He didn't want to receive an off-the-shelf antique that was three-hundred years out of date. Just like Mr. Longhorn's data chips and data pad, any modern comm would be able to hack into those old suits of combat armor!
[I've tested the XV-99 out with the military comm you left behind. I can guarantee you that your own comm has no way of hacking the Squalon's augmented security suite. I actually intended to earn a lot of merits by submitting this modern security suite to the Starlight Megalodon, but it turned out the Intelligence Department already submitted far more software updates and advancements.]
That must have been Miss Calabast earning merits in her own way. "Tough luck."
The virtual armorer waved his hand, projecting a list of technical specifications of the modified Squalon.
[The XV-99, despite its age, is a good piece of armor that has saved the lives of many non-combat officers of the CFA. Its highly-treated armor plates are both light and able to resist a considerable amount of damage. It excels in operation in space, but it is perfectly fine on land.]
"What are its strengths?"
[As a combat armor intended for engineers and mech designers among other personnel, it possesses a considerable amount of technical capabilities! The flagship feature of the XV-99 is the minifab system, a molecular disassembler and integrated miniprinter in one! With this feature, you are able to recycle a large amount of easily workable material and use them to fabricate almost any small-scale device in the field without requiring access to a large and immobile 3D Printer!]
Ves practically slobbered when Levitt mentioned this feature. The minifab system alone was precious beyond compare! Yet the CFA actually treated such a wondrous capability as a standard option to any field engineer three-hundred years ago!
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