The Mech Touch Chapter 916

914 Carrion Bird

Sadly, Virtual Doctor Neeran proved to be an ineffectual source of information when it came to Project Icarus. Most of what he heard consisted of hearsay his human counterpart used to pick up over the years.

[The Starlight Megalodon used to serve as a central bulwark of the CFA.] Dr. Neeran explained. [She is not 'just' a battleship. She served as the mobile headquarters of a powerful regional CFA war fleet. As one of the most powerful warships at the CFA's disposal, she served as an ideal research center. After all, who in the galaxy had the guts to attack a CFA battleship?]

"There's a flaw with that plan, though. A battleship of her size requires a lot of crew to keep her running. Obviously, the CFA failed pretty badly when it came to stopping spies and moles from taking up positions on this ship."

Neeran smiled ruefully at Ves. [That is all in the past. I can scarcely remember who I used to serve. While I haven't heard much about the project you mentioned, I know that it is one of the most significant and tightly-guarded research projects of the Research Division. I don't believe any virtual officer has access to the lab that houses the project right now. In fact, it is under strict lockdown ever since the old captain lost his position along with all the humans.]Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click for visiting.

"It's that sensitive?"

[That's an understatement, Mr. Longhorn. There are many secrets involved with this project, and the captain is intricately involved with it. Don't bother asking, because I don't have any answers. From what some of the other virtual officers have hinted about the project, the lockdown is there for our own protection. If whatever is locked inside comes out, the Starlight Megalodon's destruction might very well be at hand!]

Ves didn't know how seriously he should take these rumors. Hyperbole aside, it sounded as if gaining access to Project Icarus would be a lot harder than anticipated.

Well, it wasn't as if he planned to do the Five Scrolls Compact a favor anyway. If it was too hard to gain access to this project, he felt no compulsion to go through with the mission handed over to him by Virtual Rear Admiral Ordoth.

After Neeran repeated all of the rumors associated with this sensitive project, the two wrapped up their meeting. Ves stood up and shook the virtual exobiologist's hand before he left.

[Remember to prepare more merits to cover for my services, Mr. Longhorn! The advance you've given me isn't even enough to fill the gaps between my virtual teeth!]

"I'll be back as soon as I prepared the merits! I hope you have finished your analysis and treatment plan before then!"

As Ves exited the frosty Exobiology Department, he inwardly lamented his lack of merits. It took no time at all to spend the modest stash of merits he received from the dwarf officer, and he owed the exobiologist a lot more than that. Even if Neeran was a low-level Compact plant didn't change the fact that the virtual exobiologist needed merits as well.

"After all of these distractions, I shouldn't stray any longer. From now on, I should make the Research Department my home and churn out as many merits as I can earn!"

He crossed over to the next compartment and entered the familiar confines of the Research Department. He first entered Virtual Commander Cosit's office to report in for the first time since his promotion.

[Mr. Longhorn, your performance is admirable in the short time since you rejoined the Research Department. I had no doubts at all that you would succeed in your promotion test to Senior Apprentice!]

"It is thanks to your care that I managed to promote, Commander Cosit." Ves said in fake modestness.

Cosit laughed in self-satisfaction. [I appreciate your compliment. Anyway, let us get to business. As a lieutenant of the CFA, your security clearance is no longer stuck near the bottom. I have taken the liberty to apply for an increase in your clearances, which has just been approved. At least with regards to the Mech Research Sub-Department, your access and authority to the research projects has expanded enormously.]

Ves glowed when he heard that. He knew that the Research Department housed hundreds of serious research projects that weren't like the side projects he worked on before.

This was real, core research meant to push the envelope of what the CFA knew about mechs back then! Even though it was a shame that most of the projects were horribly outdated by now, the mech designers back then truly attempted to innovate.

"Will I finally be able to contribute to real research projects, ma'am?"

[Hold your horses, Mr. Longhorn. A Senior Apprentice Mech Designer is still an apprentice in our books. Even if your security clearance is bumped, you are still not eligible to work on the most truly valuable mech research projects. However, you've gained enough status to access many intermediate research projects, some of them interdisciplinary, that urgently require humans to achieve a breakthrough. Even if you don't manage to complete them, there are still merits to be earned if you manage to push them along.]

This sounded pretty good as well. Right now, Ves wanted broad access to as much research projects as possible in order to pick and choose where he could best spend his time on. Not every project yielded the same amount of merits over time.

"Which projects do I have access to now, ma'am?"

Virtual Commander Cosit projected another list of research projects and elaborated on their nature. About a dozen or so research projects glowed, overshadowing the others.

[I'm not yet inclined to give you the discretion to choose your own research projects yet, but as soon as you promote to Senior Mech Designer I'll reconsider my decision. For now, I want you to ease into the simpler research projects that have opened up to you. Do well and I will hand you over some of the more difficult projects.]

Naturally, the more difficult and significant the research project, the more merits Ves stood to gain as long as he succeeded.

"I will try my best, but some of my capabilities have gone rather rusty, ma'am." Ves said cautiously.

Even though he succeeded in promoting to Senior Apprentice, he had to cheat in order to reach this position. The discrepancy between his record and his actual capabilities would only become more obvious over time. Ves only hoped that his various advantages would still allow him to make some progress by the time he was promoted to Senior Mech Designer.

After receiving a list of projects and a short description of each of them, Ves filed out of the office and headed straight towards the lab.

He studied the list of projects on his CFA comm and decided to start with the easiest. He entered the laboratory of Project Stillbirth, an attempt to develop an electrical weapon that could disable a mech from a short distance in a non-lethal manner.

Even though the project was only less than half-finished, Ves possessed the utmost confidence that he could design such a weapon and fabricate a working prototype of it in just a couple of hours.

This was because this weapon already existed to the rest of the galaxy!

"It's just an electrorod weapon system!"

The CFA already harnessed electrorod technology at the infantry and warship scale, but adapting this weapon system to mechs required a lot of adaptation. However, Ves was already familiar with most of the complications and issues due to the broad base of knowledge he acquired from the System as well as his passing familiarity of modern electrorod weapons.

It wasn't that complicated anyway. The main challenges involved with electrorod weapons was to get it to hit the intended target instead of diverting to the nearest eligible lightning rod.

"Project Stillbirth, complete!" Ves sighed after a couple of hours of intensive work.

The electrorod weapon that he fabricated after quickly finalizing the design succeeded in the handful of tests meant to assess its capabilities. To be frank, it took more time for him to fabricate the mech-sized weapon mount and conduct the tests than to design the weapon system in the first place.

Ves watched his comm as a bucketload of merits poured into his record. He easily earned five times as much merit as completing an unimportant side project!

"And this is only the easier intermediate projects! The more serious ones should yield a lot more merits than this!"

Ves spent the rest of the shift bouncing between several more intermediate research projects. He managed to complete two more projects that already achieved significant projects before they stalled. He found it to be much more efficient to complete someone else's half-finished work than to start from scratch.

"When the groundwork and direction has pretty much been set, it doesn't take too much effort for me to swoop in and bring the project to the finish line!"

He felt as if he was a carrion bird swooping in on another predator's recently-felled prey. Still, even if he rode in the wake of other mech designers who left their unfinished work behind, he still needed to exert a lot of effort.

In the typical course of a mech research project, the mech designer in charge intended to achieve a specific goal, but didn't know how to get there. Ves leveraged his future hindsight knowledge in these cases, allowing him to know the answer to the conceptual problems that confounded the mech designers for weeks or months!

As Ves continued to work past his standard shift without resting, he completed more and more easy pickings, accumulating a vast amount of merits on the cheap!

All of these research projects came and went without much significance to Ves. He already completed so much of them that he pretty much treated them as practice exercises. Each time he completed another project, Commander Cosit's projection would pop up and congratulate him for his outstanding work!

Of course, Ves didn't have it easy all the time. Some of the weirder research projects tried to accomplish goals that even he could never conceive of. There wasn't any working example in modern times for him to draw upon as source material.

For example, one difficult bone for him to digest was Project Starfarer. It was basically an attempt to merge an FTL drive into a mech, allowing it to jump from star system to star system without relying on a carrier ship!

"This is quite radical!"

Even in modern times, Ves had never heard of a mech capable of travelling through FTL on its own! While he believed that the MTA perhaps managed to develop a working prototype, they never publicized it or showed it off.

As Ves delved into the logs and academic literature related to Project Starfarer, he found out that the challenges to this project was immense. While the CFA at the time of the Starlight Megalodon's disappearance did in fact managed to develop miniature FTL drives that could fit inside a large shuttle, mounting them on something like a mech was much more challenging.

"It's a matter of function and capacity. A shuttle is a simple transportation tool. It possesses a pretty large internal volume to accommodate cargo and passengers, so there is more than enough space to fit a small FTL drive."

A mech didn't possess that luxury, especially when it came to the spaceborn types. Their core components, internal architecture and energy cells already took up all of the internal volume of a a mech design. There simply wasn't any more room to fit in an FTL drive unless it came in the form of an ugly distended backpack attachment or something!

So far, Project Starfarer attempted to tackle this problem by designing a new mech with FTL capabilities from the ground up. Nonetheless, the draft designs depicted mechs that were far too large, slow and cumbersome for their battle power.

"This project is impractical!"

Although the amount of merits on offer made Ves salivate, he knew he didn't have a chance of designing an FTL-capable mech. So far, all the draft designs his predecessors managed to cook up didn't even have enough room for fuel and energy to sustain the FTL drive's voracious appetite. Such a mech wouldn't have the range to transition more than a single light-year away before running out of juice!