The Common Fleet Alliance adopted the Independent Evaluation System around two-hundred years ago.

Before this time, every naval fleet, group or individual warship interpreted the evaluation standards differently.

Perhaps one naval captain prized learning ability over motor coordination.

Bookish Fleeters gained merits more easily than those who were able to manipulate instruments better.

Perhaps one admiral wanted his subordinates to be more cautious and conservative in their decision making.

In that case, those who were brave and more willing to take risks did not have a good time in this admiral ’s fleet!

Over time, the differences between different naval units became more pronounced for that reason.
While diversity was not necessarily a bad thing, the Common Fleet Alliance abhorred uncontrolled deviations.

The CFA always placed a very high emphasis on standardization!

With the inherent mobility of most CFA assets, many officers and vessels frequently shuffled around the galaxy.

Perhaps an officer would spend thirty years in the galactic center, only to be reassigned to the galactic heartland for the next forty years.

Under these circumstances, a CFA warship stationed at one side of the galaxy should be able to seamlessly integrate in a warfleet patrolling the other side of the galaxy!

This became increasingly more difficult as different naval fleets began to adopt increasingly-strange standards and subcultures.

Due to the vastness of the galaxy, it was very hard to maintain a single identity across the entire organization.
Some fracturing and splintering was inevitable.

That did not mean the CFA wanted this trend to continue.
Otherwise, the CFA might become outwardly strong but inwardly weak, just like the divided states it protected!

This was why the smartest minds and the most senior admirals came together to enact the Independent Evaluation System around two-hundred years ago.

The IES aimed to address two distinct problems.

First, it aimed to address the increasing divergence of recruitment and promotion criteria.
Researchers and officers spent decades to perfect a single, universal set of evaluation standards.

While promotion opportunities still depended on the judgement of superior officers, the evaluation given by the super intelligences that ran the IES possessed a lot of weight!

If the human officers tasked with recommending someone for promotion disregarded the IES too often, then their impartiality would come into question!

In that case, their own evaluations would sink, thereby impacting their own promotion opportunities!

This was the second problem the IES aimed to solve.
The rampant nepotism displayed by officers throughout the CFA stifled the opportunities of countless promising officers.

Bootlickers, sycophants and those born in high positions within their clans gained opportunities they didn ’t necessarily deserve.

The talents who possessed a lot of promise undeservedly languished at the bottom of the totem pole for their entire careers.

This widespread pattern of behavior was self-defeating, and most of the leaders of the CFA knew it.
Many of these distinguished figures had lived through the formation of the CFA and did not wish to see their organization degenerate into a paper tiger!

It was one thing if the CFA grew lazy along with all of its other rivals and enemies.
It was another thing to grow lazy while the MTA became increasingly more vigorous due to its high ambitions!

The MTA still had a lot to prove! This young organization never slacked off and never allowed its Mechers to accept incompetence!

Seeing that the MTA ran their warfleets better than the CFA, all of the distinguished naval admirals were ashamed!

The introduction of the IES managed to reverse the CFA ’s downward trend.
Every Fleeter became convinced by the impartiality of the IES, and promotion opportunities were given to the capable instead of those who only excelled in ingratiating themselves to their superior officers.

That gaze Zonrad very little to work with.
As a distinguished member of the Novilon Spaceborn Clan, he should have enjoyed the appreciation of his superiors.

Admiral Adolphus Teyrach, who commanded the Archangel Battle Group, was a trueblood elder of the Novilon Clan!

Even if the great admiral had no reason to pay attention to a trivial lieutenant like Zonrad, he thought that the members of the Novilon Clan should have received more advantages!

This was why he exerted all of his connections and favors in order to obtain a position on the Karaton Dwight!

Every battleship was a treasure of human civilization! To be stationed aboard a battleship was a supreme honor.
Even a minor position conveyed a lot of honor!

Yet to those who hungered after something more, remaining stuck as a mere lieutenant junior grade after several decades of continued service was a tragedy!

How could Zonrad Reze lift his head high when he met with his fellow clansmen?

Even his fellow clansman Victor began to show some distance.
Zonrad and Victor used to be as thick as thieves, yet after the latter was promoted to lieutenant commander, their relationship shifted.

When Zonrad dismissed his Status page, he gestured with his fingers to resume the comm call.

”Sorry about that, Victor.
I wanted to see if my Status had changed. ”

The lieutenant commander scowled.
”It ’s because of actions like this that you haven ’t managed to climb up.
If I wasn ’t your old buddy, I would have ripped into you without mercy! In fact, I don ’t even need to! Monodwell is probably revising its judgement of you as we speak! ”

”Monodwell shouldn ’t care about my conduct when I ’m off-duty. ” Conrad flicked his hand in dismissal.
”Anyway, can you do anything to help me gain an opportunity to prove myself? ”

”Only you can help yourself at this point.
No amount of influence from our clan and your personal connections can help. ”

”Please, Victor! ” Zonrad became desperate! ”You ’re in charge of a base, right? Can ’t you request me to transfer under your command? I ’m willing to switch my trajectory and serve under you if that ’s what it takes to become a senior officer! ”

Aside from the higher status and increased longevity that senior officers enjoyed, Zonrad wanted more!

He wanted to become like Admiral Adolphus Teyrach who led an entire battle group!

The admiral not only commanded a powerful battleship, but also numerous escorts whose firepower and other functions shouldn ’t be underestimated!

With his enhanced cognitive abilities and proven judgement, Victor easily read what Zonrad was thinking.

”I told you that you were a fool to think that you can follow in Admiral Teyrach ’s footsteps! ”

”As long as Novilon blood flows through my veins, I am destined to become great! ” Zonrad retorted.

The pride in his bones welled up to enhance his stature!

Too bad Victor already saw through Zonrad ’s vain exterior.

”I ’ve supported you for so many years.
I ’ve even granted some minor favors to you that were in my power to give, but you ’ve squandered them all.
At this point, I would rather devote my attention to a promising newblood than a trueblood who hasn ’t managed to stand out for so long! ”

The comm call ended without another word, causing Zonrad to be perplexed.

”Victor? Where did you go!? Don ’t you dare end our call like that! ”

He quickly reined in his temper.
Though Zonrad disliked what he heard from his friend, he couldn ’t entirely discount them.
Monodwell was watching and listening in on everything.
That was the reality of serving in the CFA.

The moment a Fleeter wore the dark blue uniform of the service, they became a cog in a machine.
Though they were still humans, they had to dedicate their lives for the betterment of the Alliance.

Zonrad glowered and flitted his hands over the interface of his desk terminal.
He called up some of the internal CFA notices on the recently-unveiled invasion of the Red Ocean Dwarf Galaxy.

Junior officers like Zonrad were just in the dark as the rest of the galaxy about the invasion.
He only learned about it a few days before the MTA announced the news!

”Red Ocean.. ” Zonrad greedily huffed.
”The Milky Way is too quiet! Only the Red Ocean can propel my career! ”

No matter how poorly Monodwell judged his performance, as long as he showed his bravery at the frontlines at the Red Ocean, he would surely be able to prove his valor in combat!

At the very least, Zonrad would be able to make something of himself after earning a lot of merits!

Instead, Zonrad was stuck in the Archangel Battle Group, which mainly patrolled the borders of the Komodo Star Sector.

Although the Archangel Battle Group was on a mission, there was hardly any honor in squashing a weak race like the sandmen.

For several months, the Archangel Battle Group had split up into smaller units in order to sweep across the star systems occupied by the sandman race.

Not a single sandman managed to pose a threat to the mighty warships of the CFA.

A small destroyer possessed enough firepower to scour all life on the surface of a planet.

A heavy cruiser already possessed the potential to crack a planet into pieces!

It was too wasteful to let a lumbering battleship like the Karaton Dwight participate in the extermination of the sandmen.

That essentially meant that an officer of the Auxiliary Gunnery Department hadn ’t gained a single opportunity to exercise his ability in action!

However, another opportunity knocked at his door.

A few days later, an alarm rang throughout the Karaton Dwight.

”Man your stations! ”

Everyone knew what was about to happen.
Zonrad and the other Fleeters calmly but briskly moved to their stations and readied themselves for battle.

Even though the sandmen never exhibited any meaningful resistance, no one was allowed to slack off aboard the Karaton Dwight!

A few hours went by.
Though Zonrad ordinarily became distracted at this time, he didn ’t dare to loosen up today.

He marched along the banks of terminals manned by the gunners under his command.

His unit was only responsible for a small number of secondary positron beam turrets situated on the starboard side of the Karaton Dwight.

That was still enough power to wipe out an entire metropolis with a single press of a button!

Of course, Monodwell would never allow someone to fire a battleship armament without instructions from above.

Every modern CFA warship was run by both humans and AIs.
The latter had become increasingly more interconnected in the systems of a warship.

In fact, the bigger the class, the greater the degree of automation.
A huge battleship that spanned for many kilometers could never be run by humans alone! AI assistance was a necessity in order to keep its performance optimal!

This was why humans like Lieutenant Zonrad Reze were still necessary.
The control of weapons was one of the more sensitive responsibilities.

How someone with questionable judgement like Zonrad managed to become in charge of a couple of positron beam turrets was a mystery.

While Zonrad tried to make himself appear as attentive as possible, in space the Karaton Dwight and a dozen escorts of varying sizes and ship classes lay in wait.

A few minutes later, something finally changed.

A portion of space began to shimmer and flicker.
Space itself started to bend and tear as a portal emerged out of nothing!

This portal started off small, but began to balloon in size! The circular portal kept widening until its mouth was enough to engulf the Karaton Dwight with plenty of room left to spare!

A number of probes that lay in position began to move through the portal first.
After a few minutes, the probes returned and transmitted the actual situation on the other side.

No ambush lay in wait.

After verifying this, the ships moved forward.
The escort ships took the lead and entered the portal first.
The larger ships followed afterwards, with the Karaton Dwight entering last!

At the other side of the portal, the mighty battleship announced its presence to the entire star system upon emergence!

A powerful superluminous scan pulsed from the battleship! A lot of sensory data poured into the battleship, causing it to form a very detailed picture of their new location!

Among the various satellites and other objects in space, one planet orbited prominently around an energetic giant.

According to expert analysis, this was the origin of the sandman race!

The legendary sandman emperor ostensibly ruled his empire from this planet!

When Zonrad observed a real-time depiction of the sandy brown planet that was surrounded by entire deserts of sand, a bloodthirsty grin formed on his face.

”It ’s about time we crush the heart of this weak and imbecilic race! ”

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