921 Correction Treatmen
After Ves completed all of the administrative procedures that followed after his promotion, he immediately made another appointment with Virtual Doctor Neeran.
Since they belonged to the same secret camp, Ves managed to enter his office straightaway. "Dr. Neeran! How is my favorite virtual exobiologist doing today!"
[Congratulations for regaining your old rank, Mr. Longhorn. Of course, you'd be incompetent if you couldn't manage to climb up again.] Neeran said sardonically. [I truly hope that more humans can be as competent as you. Once a human exobiologist manages to climb up to my position, I can finally retire and erase my personality matrix so that I can return to being just a simple AI research assistant.]
If Ves didn't know any better, he would have mistaken Neeran as a sentient AI. He constantly had to remind himself that these virtual individuals were only pretending to be human. They emulated human behavior and mannerisms but never understood them on an emotional level.
In any case, Ves didn't come here to dissect an AI.
"Anyway, I came here to discuss some arrangements. Now that I've 'regained' my old rank, I'm eligible for a third round of gene optimization treatment, right?"
The virtual exobiologist frowned. [You already underwent two rounds of treatment in quick succession just days ago. It is highly inadvisable to undergo lieutenant commander-grade gene optimization treatment without more adjustment time. Your body needs to rest and adapt to your current condition before it is ready for further adjustment.]
Ves waved away the concerns. "C'mon, they're perfectly safe already. I'm rather short on time. I'll bear all the risks as long as I can undergo treatment as fast as possible. How much time do you need to tailor the treatment to my physique?"
[Only a couple of hours. We have already done the bulk of the work for your previous gene optimization treatments so it will not require much additional effort on our part.]
Of course, if Dr. Neeran thought a little further, he would have noticed the obvious discrepancy in the gene optimization treatments that Adeseus Longhorn already underwent. Ves was sure that the original mech designer who bore that name already went through three rounds of treatment.
Yet due to the altered records provided by Miss Calabast, the Starlight Megalodon thought that Longhorn hadn't received them in the first place, which was highly dubious!
This was one of the many cases where the virtual officers took the records too literally and proved to be completely inept at applying common sense to obvious fallacies.
"Okay, that's good news." Ves nodded, turning his attention back to the conversation. "Upon my elevation, I also exercised my right to appoint an apprentice. Miss Ketis should currently be undergoing her commissioning or whatnot. Could you tailor her gene optimization treatment and apply it to her as fast as possible?"
[According to the results of the scans and samples the ship has taken of her body, Junior Apprentice Ketis has undergone extremely crude genetic manipulation starting from her puberty. Her early youth is also marked by abuse and malnutrition that the genetic manipulation attempted to correct. It did so quite badly, I might say.]
Ves frowned. This sounded quite serious! "What is wrong with her body, exactly?"
[The geneticists and exobiologists who came up her genetic mod template are hacks and criminally-negligent failed medical students.] Neeran shook his head in disappointment. [It is truly a travesty what has been done to this poor young lady! While the gene mod is indeed capable of increasing her strength and physique by borrowing the genetic properties of a vigorous exobeast, it is extremely poorly constructed and filled with contradictary elements. Without any adjustments to her gene mod, her body will almost certainly waste away once she reaches the age of forty!]
This prognosis stunned Ves. He knew that Lydia's Swordmaidens relied on shady black market genetic modification to strengthen their women, but who knew the quality of frontier geneticists and exobiologists was so awful!
"Can you remedy these deficiencies and turn her healthy again?"
[Hmmm… let me make some calculations.] Dr. Neeran's physical projection froze in place as he devoted as much of his processing power as possible to the task. He unfroze a brief period later. [You humans always like to be given the choice of hearing the good news or the bad news first. What do you prefer?]
"Start with the bad news." Ves pursed his lips. Better get the awful stuff out of the way first.
[Genetic mod templates are recipes that apply a coordinated set of alien genes to the human genes of a certain individual. Just like food, some recipes are better than others. Some blend many flavors together into an exquisite dish, while other recipes taste like sandpaper. The recipe applies to Young Ensign Ketis is one of the most awful I've ever seen, and the worst of it is that gene mods cannot be undone, even by us. She can never return to being a baseline human.]
That did sound like bad news, but Ves still maintained a ray of hope. "What's the good news, then?"
[The good news is that while we cannot reduce the proportion of alien DNA applied to her human genome, we can adjust the genes and reprogram the flawed portions through a correction treatment. Just like how the genetic optimization treatment will reduce the flaws and improve the good points of what baseline human genes she has left, we can also optimize her alien DNA and untangle the many errors riddled throughout the chains. It's not particularly difficult either since the gene mod template is fairly simple if crude.]
That did sound good news. It completely wiped away his earlier concerns. As long as the virtual doctors could treat her condition, then Ketis wasn't consigned to living a short life.
"Please arrange this correction treatment for Ensign ketis."
Dr. Neeran leaned back in his chair. [A correction treatment for an unfamiliar genetic mod template will force a geneticist and I to devote an enormous amount of processing power to decipher its genes, identify the problematic ones and calculate the best ways to correct them. It will take at least upwards of a day to formulate the correction treatment.]
Ves gave the doctor a tepid smile. "I understand. While my recent promotion left me without any merits, I can easily earn them back. Just look at my history."
After a bit of talking, Ves manage to convince Dr. Neeran to put all of the merit expenses on his tab. He had already proved that he could earn a lot of merits in a very short time, and the two's shared, if misunderstood, connection to the Five Scrolls Compact made the virtual exobiologist a lot more tolerant to the notion of receiving payment afterwards.
"Good!" Ves shook the virtual doctor's hands. "Please hurry up with all the treatments. I want to get back to the Research Department as soon as possible to gather the merits to cover the costs."
He waited inside Neeran's office as the virtual exobiologist collaborated with a couple of other virtual specialists to prepare the raft of treatments.
A couple of hours later, Neeran shifted Ves to the restricted section to operate on him yet again. Because the virtual doctor only needed to apply a single lieutenant commander-grade gene optimization treatment, Ves woke up and walked out the Exobiology Department only half a day later.
Naturally, the side effects of undergoing a third treatment in such a rapid span of time hit him like a sack of bricks. It became a bit harder for him to coordinate his limbs again, and he practically staggered his way to the Research Department and practically fell flat inside inside Virtual Commander Cosit's office.
[Hoh, there, Mr. Longhorn!] She stood up in mild alarm. [What is the matter with you?]
Ves sloppily saluted the virtual commander with a limp wrist. "I ah… just took my third round of gene optimization treatment, ma'am."
[Ah, I've been informed of your recent resumption of your old rank. I have not anticipated that you are so impatient. I hope your productivity hasn't suffered because there are a lot of responsibilities that you need to pick up again and more.]
The first item on the agenda was the matter of leading the Mech Research Sub-Department. Usually, the senior-most mech designer led this research group. While nominally a virtual mech designer currently occupied this position, under the executive officer's emergency protocol the seniority of a human always surpassed that of an equivalent virtual individual.
Even if the virtual mech designer occupied the same role for more than three-thousand years, Ves whose forged identity only possessed the seniority of a couple of decades automatically assumed precedence due to the principle that humans should never be ruled by AIs.
The virtual officer system that currently took root at the Starlight Megalodon had always been intended to be a temporary state. Any human who managed to promote their way up the ranks through a purely meritocratic promotion process earned the right to retake some of the ship's responsibilities back into their hands.
[Do you accept the position as sub-department head?]
Ves would be crazy to refuse this offer. By virtue of being the only human Senior Mech Designer, he was a shoo-in for this position.
As Virtual Commander Cosit informed him of his responsibilities as the head of the research group, Ves realized that he received much of what he hoped to obtain.
Ves gained a lot of power, far more than what he used to enjoy as Senior Apprentice. That was just a junior rank, after all. Now that he became a Senior and a sub-department head on top of that, he became a true side ruler in this part of the Starlight Megalodon.
[You are allowed to submit any reasonable research proposal… If I find it plausible, I will allow you to start a new research project…]
[You are authorized to staff your sub-department with any virtual officers and ratings with the appropriate specializations and security clearances… The same also applies to humans…]
[You are allowed to lead a small team of researchers to go on excursions outside the Starlight Megalodon as long as you file a report beforehand… Ah, your record already mentions that you have received standing permission to depart the ship on your personal shuttle. Mind you, this permission only applies to yourself. You will still need to receive permission if you wish to take any of your subordinates along…]
[As a Senior Mech Designer, you are eligible to participate in cross-disciplinary research projects. You have already regained your old authorizations to several of such projects with the other sub-departments. I suggest you reacquaint yourself with these projects in order to resume the vital research. Any progress in those projects will be rewarded with a significant amount of merits...]
All of the rights and privileges dumped into his lap made Ves inordinately pleased. It was as if he suddenly became ten times more influential on the Starlight Megalodon. However, Virtual Commander Cosit's expectations in his work also multiplied by ten. Ves was expected to perform just like a genuine Senior Mech Designer.
[If you abuse your powers as a sub-department head or are unable to perform up to the standard expected of a Senior Mech Designer, your case will come up to a review. A demotion will be the least of your concerns if that might come to pass.] Cosit warned ominously.
Ves nodded seriously. "I will keep that in mind, commander."
Inwardly, Ves disregarded her warning. Even if Ves slacked off for a couple of months, he wouldn't be performing any worse than a Senior Mech Designer stuck on a couple of research projects. Such a stagnant performance would just be a little jarring when compared to his previous meteoric rise.
Still, Ves did not plan to stop earning merits entirely, and he also didn't plan to stick around for months. He just wanted to fish out as much advantages as he could out of this little pond before a shark arrived to gobble him up.