The Mech Touch

 
 

The Mech Touch Chapter 897 Factional Strife


A familiar spy soon found Ves and Ketis wandering away from their comrades. She did not seem pleased that Ves brought an extra person along.

"Mr. Larkinson, I expressly told you that we only have need of you." Miss Calabast frowned and shot Ketis a dismissive look. "This lady here needs to go."

"She's not going anywhere unless the Starlight Megalodon kicks her out." Ves stated firmly. "You can trust her to keep her mouth shut if that's what you're worried about. I still want to bring her along if possible."

"It won't work. We worked hard to provide you with a way in, but we have no solution for Miss Ketis here."

Ves shrugged. "As I said, we'll let the Megalodon issue her verdict."

While Calabast became a bit peeved at his insistence, Ves stood his ground. Eventually she just gave up and turned around to guide Ves and Ketis away from the Flagrant Swordmaidens.

In truth, Ves trusted Miss Calabast up to a point. In lieu of an escape route, he decided to bring some extra insurance instead. While Ketis might not be the brightest bulb in the shed right now, her swordsmanship and combat prowess was no joke. If Ves ever fell out with Calabast and her operatives, Ketis instantly became his sharpest weapon.

After a few minutes of walking wherein Miss Calabast frequently turned her head and deployed some sort of scanner to see if anyone was following them, she finally explained some of the background and their upcoming involvement.

"Now that you've become more familiar with the Starlight Megalodon, you know how difficult it is to gain access to the Starlight Megalodon. From what little we found, long ago, the executive officer staged a mutiny. Another source says the captain became mad and turned against his own crew. A third source states the admiral wanted to kill off all the enlisted spacers. We're not sure what actually happened."Find authorized novels in Webnovel´╝îfaster updates, better experience´╝îPlease click www.webnovel.com for visiting.

"How do you know all this?" Ves frowned.

"Some of us already managed to get inside."

"What?! How did you manage to pass the recruitment test?!"

Ves stared at Miss Calabast, wondering if she was a groomed elite from the galactic center. Unfortunately, while she looked pretty, she didn't exhibit the stature and snobbiness of a privileged citizen from the greatest and most prosperous region of the galaxy. In fact, Ves couldn't distinguish anything from her accent or mannerisms except they reminded him of a Vesian.

As if.

"I'm getting to that point." Calabast calmly spoke. "First, you should understand that a battleship is a massive vessel that is as large as a decent-sized city. Up to a hundred-thousand if not millions of spacers serve aboard a typical CFA battleship depending on her ship class and mission. The Starlight Megalodon definitely leans towards the higher end because of all the activities she's expected to perform. It's as if she's an independent mini-state that moves in space."


"So what does that have to do with you passing the recruitment test?"

"Patience, Ves. First, when you think about a giant battleship carrying hundreds of thousands of spacers, how easy do you think it is to command them all?"

Ves became blank for a moment. The thought of managing such a sprawling amount of subordinates truly intimidated him. It wouldn't be easy to lead so many men and women!

"I don't know how. I guess it's really hard?"

"Heh. That's an understatement." Miss Calabast grinned. "There is a strong respect for hierarchy and seniority within the CFA. They're rather rigid when it comes to obeying their superiors, but that's also why it works out for them, no matter how big they build their ships. The command structure of the Starlight Megalodon is divided into many different departments that often compete against each other for attention and resources. The captain, executive officer and whoever else is up top gets to wrangle these departments on a daily basis. It's already hard enough to keep them in line when times are good, so how do you expect them to get along when stranded on Aeon Corona VII for a couple of decades?"

Ves could easily imagine the divergences. "Some departments become incredibly critical to the survival of the stranded spacers while other departments are made completely irrelevant. For example, the department in charge of cultivating food has become essential, and the department in charge of navigation has become powerless."

"Exactly. Because the CFA isn't exactly fast to change things up, the survivors of the Starlight Megalodon stuck to the same rigid rank and command structure. You can imagine that after twenty or thirty years or so, the officers and spacers of the neglected departments begin to nurse a grudge. This is especially so when the spacers assigned to critical departments begin to throw their weight around and demand an increasing amount of tribute from the others."

"And is this the source of the mutiny?"

Calabast shook her head. "Not quite, but it led to some of the reasons why the conflict boiled over. Another pressure point is that the admiral of the war fleet led by the Starlight Megalodon enjoyed an awkward position. He was in charge of the fleet, and obviously outranked the captain. However, in the CFA's hierarchy, the captain is the master of his or her own ship. It isn't proper for a flag officer to micromanage the ship and do the job that captains are supposed to do. The admiral is supposed to command the fleet, something which he can't do when the Starlight Megalodon separated from the war fleet and dropped out of FTL."

"So the admiral that adopted the Starlight Megalodon as his flagship became a king without a country?"

"Exactly. As soon as the Starlight Megalodon crash landed on the planet, a power struggle began that lasted for decades. At first, the captain and admiral agreed to share responsibilities. In simple terms a Brighter like you can understand, the captain adopted the role of prime minister who ran the state and set policy as the head of government. The admiral saw himself as the president and took on a more ephemeral role as the head of state. He was hands-off when it came to leading the survivors but commanded immense respect and served as a figurehead of ultimate CFA authority."

Ves already saw the flaws in that kind of arrangement. "Let me guess. The admiral thought he was the big chief and thought he was in charge, while the captain did all the actual work but felt unappreciated that there was a useless ponce doing nothing useful except to order him around. Do I have it right?"

"Mr. Larkinson, what an astute political prediction. You should get into politics!" Miss Calabast mockingly praised.

Ves chuckled. "No thanks. I have no desire to enter that swamp. Business and politics shouldn't mix. Besides, anyone can see the problem coming when you describe it that way. So did the captain and admiral ever came close to reconciliation?"

"Nope. In fact, their differences grew more acrid as time went by. The problem here is that both the captain and the admiral became the head of their own political factions of sorts. The supporters of their camps became infected by their biases and this is reflected in the records and systems of the Starlight Megalodon. It's very hard to reconstruct the truth of what happened in the end. All we know is that the captain and admiral fought for power and presented increasingly different visions of the future to the survivors. When violence erupted, many officers abused their authority to turn some of the Starlight Megalodon's weapons against each other."

This explained all the craters and wreckage he found in the red zone. "From what I've seen, they didn't resort to weapons of mass destruction."

"That's because they learned their lesson from the Age of Conquest. There are a lot of safeguards in place. You can't launch a nuke with the press of a button. The hot-headed officers fighting it out don't possess the authority to launch the more destructive weapons, so the slaughtering didn't wipe out the survivors in a single day."

"Even so, a battleship is like a fortress stuffed with guns and weapon mounts. There are thousands of smaller weapon systems capable of wiping out hundreds of people at a time." Ves stated.

"True, and the killing got so bad that the command structure completely broke down. Everyone went mad and communications got cut off. Everyone acted on their own impulses and lashed out at people from the opposite factions. I don't think the captain and the admiral even exerted any more control over the civil war."

Ves noticed a missing character in this story. "So what did the executive officer do in all of this?"

"Were not so sure." Miss Calabast admitted freely, though whether she was genuine or not Ves couldn't tell. "The captain features prominently in the records while the executive officer took a back seat. Some records state that executive officer was the captain's lapdog. Other records stated that he tried to stay out of all the factional strife and present himself as a neutral party. More records speculated that he held the captain's trust but actually worked as an agent of the admiral."

"That sounds like a mess."

"Because it is. The true role of the executive officer is rather murky, but there is no doubt he played a very pivotal role at the end. Through some drastic means we don't know, he managed to usurp the authority of both the captain and the admiral and gained ultimate control over the automated systems of the Starlight Megalodon. Through a single fateful command, he stripped every serviceman of their rank and privileges and discharged them from the CFA. Everyone lost the ability to command the weapons of the Starlight Megalodon including the executive officer himself to insure no loopholes existed. The virtual officers that run the ship to this day became her temporary caretakers until the murderous officers and spacers cooled their heads."

"So that's why the safe zone came into being." Ves ventured a guess. "With the Starlight Megalodon enforcing a forced peace, sanity will eventually reassert itself. Then why does it sound like this drastic measure didn't work out the way the executive officer envisioned?"

"That's because he made a catastrophic mistake. He stripped everyone of their rank and authority, but gave them a way to regain their old positions by working from the ground up. We think his intention was to build a new meritocracy where only the worthiest and most capable officers called the shots. The virtual officers acting as caretakers received the power to judge whether someone met the criteria for promotion."

Ves couldn't believe what he heard. "This sounds incredibly radical! The executive officer must be crazy to hand over so much power to AIs!"

"You have to relive that period of chaos. The human survivors didn't fare so well on Aeon Corona VII at the start, as weird stuff constantly leaked from the ship's FTL drive and the terraforming process just started transforming the planet into something more habitable. Instead of working towards a better future, they instead repeated the mistakes of the Age of Conquest and started killing each other over power. This was something the CFA originally rose up to eradicate. The executive officer probably felt that everyone forgot their original mission, so he decided to press the reset button."

This narrative supported the standpoint that the executive officer was a neutral party between the bickering of the captain and the admiral. Whether Calabast misrepresented anything about the story, Ves wasn't sure, but he didn't have any reason to distrust her recollection either.

"Okay, I can accept that the executive officer became desperate enough to trust AIs instead of humans. So what went wrong?" He asked.

"The executive officer overlooked a single, important detail when he forced everyone to pass the simplified recruitment tests. Every person that wanted to apply for the easier recruitment test for CFA personnel needed to prove their identity with a valid, up-to-date proof of identity."

"Oh."

Proof of identities came in many forms. They indicated that the person presenting them was the person they claimed to be. These days, people like Ves carried tied their proof of identity to their comms. This was just a piece of encrypted data that connected to a vast database on the galactic net, which held the complete records.

Two problems emerged from this situation.

First, the astral winds enveloping the planet and star system cut the Aeon Corona System off from the rest of the galaxy. The Starlight Megalodon's quantum entanglement nodes that connected the ship to the galactic net long stopped working.

Second, a proof of identity stored on a comm only held validity from a couple of years to a decade at most. After that, they expired. The only way to renew a local proof of identity was to obtain a new one from the galactic net or some official entity.

Presumably, about twenty or thirty years went by since the crash. Everyone's proof of identity surely expired at the time.

Basically, this meant that every single survivor couldn't make themselves eligible for the easier recruitment tests for internal CFA personnel. They were all forced to pass the near-impossible tests for non-CFA personnel!

Calabast pointed out the tragedy what happened. "You have to realize that even if there are many geniuses among the officers and spacers due to their background and their genetic optimization, the years that passed caused them to forget many aspects of their core responsibilities. They're human and they're all getting older. Their children that recently grew up don't have any proof of identities at all and have never enjoyed the best educational support. It's even more impossible for them to meet the standards of the harder recruitment tests. So in short, the executive officer doomed himself and every serviceman who settled in or around the Starlight Megalodon. The surviving CFA spacers and their new families became trapped in the safe zone for the rest of their lives because the executive officer neglected to debug his final solution!"

Ves practically gaped open his mouth by now.

Ketis, who listened from the side, provided the most appropriate response to such an outlandish tale.

"Oops."

 
 


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