The Mech Touch Chapter 900

898 Loopholes

Ves recognized an important crux in this unexpectedly tragic outcome. "The AIs that govern the battleship shouldn't be that stupid, right? The people they shoved into the safe zone all consisted of genuine CFA servicemen. Shouldn't the virtual officers recognize their former human masters?"

"It's not as simple as that." Miss Calabast shook her head. "The executive officer goofed up because he developed Emergency Protocol Theta-Thirty-Seven in secret. As the nominal second-in-command of the ship, the executive officer is subject to a lot of monitoring. You have to realize that it's impossible to keep a secret on a ship where monitoring is pervasive. The captain firmly held the internal security department in his grasp. Someone as power hungry as the captain won't let the executive officer muck about out of sight."

"Even so, the virtual officers are just AIs pretending to be in command. Shouldn't they have the power to disable the safe zone or reduce the difficulty of the recruitment tests once they realize they're missing the mark?"

"Much like mechs, the CFA has a love-hate relationship with AIs and automation. They're absolutely essential in the running of a complex warship. There is no way a human can replace the sheer precision, processing power and response time of a properly coded AI. However, there are plenty of examples where AIs gained so much autonomy that they usurped the human officers and went on to scour entire planets of life because their programming forced them to. So while the CFA still depends heavily on AIs and advanced algorithms, they set extremely draconian rules on what they are allowed to do. Every CFA officer is taught never to give AIs the flexibility to bend the rules."

"What can go wrong will go wrong." Ves summed up the CFA's standpoint on this issue.

"Exactly. The executive officer is a product of the CFA and inherited all of their values. When it comes to programming the AIs, he would rather err on the side of caution than to provide them with too much decision-making power. He was deadly afraid that the captain and admiral inserted backdoors in the automation system of the Starlight Megalodon. This is why he went as far as stripping everyone, including himself, of their positions, so that the captain and admiral no longer possesses the authority to access these backdoors."

"That's a rather extreme solution, but one that sounds effective." Ves nodded. "Yet extreme solutions always have a way of backfiring upon themselves. Why didn't the executive officer do a more thorough job?"Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click for visiting.

Miss Calabast smiled. "The executive officer faced too much restrictions. Not only did he have to work in total secrecy, the civil war between the factions constantly intensified. If he took his sweet time to program the perfect set of rules, the factions would have exterminated each other by then! Therefore, he decided he would rather implement a hasty solution than postpone it and risk becoming irrelevant."

Ves recognized this dilemma. Having worked on many design projects with strict time limits, he often chafed at the fact that he could have designed a much better mech if only he had more time.

"Alright, I understand a little bit what went on. So right now, the virtual officers are in control of the battleship, right? Haven't they changed at all since the last CFA officer died? It's been thousands of years. Surely the AIs must have found some loopholes?"

"They did find some loopholes. Otherwise, we wouldn't have been able to find out about the Starlight Megalodon's existence and enter the Aeon Corona System in the first place." Miss Calabast responded, confirming his suspicions. "However, the executive officer's original directives are simply too restrictive. They haven't given the virtual officers any leeway at all when it comes to changing their predetermined roles. They are slaves to the rules that forces them to wait for a human that never comes because the recruitment tests are meant to be nearly impossible to pass."

Ves wanted to shake his head at the comedy of errors that led to this result. "It's kind of tragic that they fell due to their own mistakes. The aliens didn't kill them. The planet didn't kill them. The exobeasts didn't kill them. A superpathogen didn't kill them. Instead, they insured their own destruction from the same mistakes of the past."

He found it rather ironic that the survivors of the Starlight Megalodon fell for the same mistakes the CFA claimed to guard against. As the successors of the war fleets that used to dominate human space, the CFA always claimed to have learned the lessons of the Age of Conquest.

Instead of tempering their ambition, their commanding officers instead engaged in unrestrained power mongering. The split authority of the captain and the admiral led to a humongous power struggle to the point where they allowed their subordinates to kill each other with the destructive weaponry of the Starlight Megalodon! It was like the latter half of the Age of Conquest all over again!

As for the executive officer, perhaps he was the only senior officer who adhered to the ideals of the CFA. Yet even he couldn't help but repeat another mistake of the past, and that was to transfer too much authority from the human officers to the virtual officers. Only this time, the lack of flexibility in the rules governing virtual officers led to the downfall of the survivors. This was different than the classic mistake of extending too much autonomy to artificial intelligences, but led to the end of civilized humanity on this planet.

"What's the deal with the blessed people and cursed people, then?" Ves asked. "The blessed people live in their ancient cities in complete ignorance of their once-glorious past. As for the dwarves, their level of civilization is so primitive they haven't invented toilets yet!"

"We're not sure about the purpose of their existence either." Miss Calabast shrugged. "The terraforming of the planet and the distribution of the genetically-modified offspring across the planet is related to highly sensitive secret research projects. The details are buried under strict confidentiality. There is one fact we know for sure. The executive officer was in charge of all the research projects."

"Does that mean he called all the shots?"

"Not really. The captain and the admiral both wanted to take the Research Department for themselves due to their vital role in helping the survivors adapt to the planet. Neither of them wanted to concede control over the numerous and highly capable researchers that survived the sandman mothership's attack and subsequent crash. In the end, they both took a step back and let the executive officer be the man in charge. This way, not only would the researchers be able to stay out of the developing factional strife, the executive officer also made sure that the pet projects of the captain and the admiral received equal attention."

"Yet this also opens the possibility that the executive officer pursues his own projects in secrets."

"Agreed, although we don't know what projects the executive officer pursued. Access to the Research Department is extremely strict. In fact, that is where you come in. With your help, we hope to make some inroads in this highly restricted department."

"Shouldn't mech designers work for a Mech Department or something?"

She shook her head. "There are mech designers in both the Mech Department and the Research Department. Some even wear both hats at once. Therefore, obtaining the recognition of the battleship as a mech designer with both practical and research capabilities will provide you with wider access than normal."

"Then how do I get in?"

Here came the essential part. Ves turned to Calabast when she stopped and handed him a data chip.

"The survivors of the Starlight Megalodon lost all of their access, privileges and authority." She explained. "Their rank and power meant nothing against the unyielding virtual officers, who no longer recognized them as CFA affiliated people due to their expired proof of identities. Stored on the data chip is an adulterated proof of identity of Adeseus Longhorn, an old-style Senior Mech Designer and a Lieutenant Commander who served aboard the Starlight Megalodon. He's one of the premier mech designers aboard the ship and used to have access to many research projects related to mechs. Once you gain the battleship's recognition, it should be easy for you to obtain Mr. Longhorn's old authorization and security classification!"

Ves widened his eyes. He had to admit that this was a truly elegant solution to the problem. Since the root of the problem lay with invalid proof of identity, what would happen if they used a seemingly legitimate one? Still, how did Miss Calabast and her organization prepare something like this beforehand?

He frowned a bit when he considered the complications. "Back then, mech designers only consisted of Apprentice and Senior Mech Designers. The phenomenon of Masters wasn't widespread yet. From what I'm hearing about Mr. Longhorn, this guy must be a geezer. How could you possibly fool the Starlight Megalodon into thinking that I'm this old guy?"

"Oh, it's a little difficult, but we managed to hack the Starlight Megalodon's peripheral systems."

"What?! How could you possibly hack a battleship! That's preposterous!"

Calabast grinned. "It's impossible to hack a modern, up-to-date CFA battleship. But this old broken rust bucket? All of its security suites are three-hundred years out of date! Even so, we've only managed to gain limited access to the personnel files of some mech designers and some other new positions because the Mech Department was a recent addition. The administration regarding mech designers was entirely new and isn't as well-protected as the core data. Through the use of some known loopholes, we've managed to replace the biometric and identity characteristics on file with yours! As of now, your age, height, portrait, fingerprints, retina, DNA and other characteristics have supplanted the deceased Mr. Longhorn's!"

This was an audacious move! Yet somehow she managed to accomplish this daring feat without triggering the Starlight Megalodon's retaliation! It spoke wonders about their capabilities. The CFA dared to dabble with AIs and extensive automation because they were one of the foremost researchers in the field of AIs and security systems. To be able to hack a peripheral database under their noses took a lot of guts!

The identity of an old-style 'Senior Mech Designer' would prove very useful to Ves. While the man also carried the rank of lieutenant commander, this likely didn't convey him any command authority so it wasn't as if he could order spacers around willy-nilly.

Nonetheless, just holding such a considerable rank conferred a lot of rights and privileges from the Starlight Megalodon! This would certainly open many hatches inside the ship for him disregarding his status as a mech designer.

"So what's the plan?" Ves asked as he carefully inserted the data chip to his military-issued comm.

"The plan is for you to pretend to be Adeseus Longhorn when you approach the virtual officers. From now on, you are no longer Ves Larkinson, a citizen of the Bright Republic. You are Lieutenant Commander Adeseus Longhorn, a Senior Mech Designer from a spaceborn clan. The details of your fake history is stored in the data chip. Take the time to study it and memorize it by heart. The virtual officers may be restricted but there's always a chance to trigger a preventative response if you don't act like the person the Starlight Megalodon thinks you are. We've fudged some of the details such as age to make up for some of the discrepancies."

"Even if the virtual officer is fooled by this forged proof of identity, I still have to pass the recruitment test. Even if it's easier, will I still be able to pass them with my capabilities?"

"Relax. The CFA doesn't make things too difficult to their own personnel." Miss Calabast waved away his concerns. "I believe you're more than capable enough to pass the test for an entry-level mech designer. From there, you can take more tests to promote your rank and regain Mr. Longhorn's old authorizations."

In the end, Miss Calabast only smoothed the road for him. He still needed to tread it on his own power. If Ves still failed to gain entry even after attempting the easier test for internal CFA personnel, he would instantly lose most of his value to Miss Calabast. Such an outcome put him and the Flagrant Swordmaidens at a dead end.

For the sake of his surviving comrades and his own poor life, he needed to succeed!