The moment they walked towards the collection of mechs situated closer to the Starlight Megalodon ’s hull, Ves and Ketis suddenly tripped and floated in the air.

”What the?! ”

”The gravity! It ’s normalized! ”

The two hadn ’t expected to walk into an area affected by an antigrav field.
This existing field superimposed with the effects of their active gravitic backpacks, causing them to turn virtually weightless!

Ves quickly calmed down once he realized what had happened.
”Gently dial down the power of your gravitic backpack.
Don ’t do it instantly or you ’ll drop like a brick. ”

Their armored forms slowly descended into the ground as the gravity affecting them gradually increased until it matched the gravity of Old Earth.
The little jaunt in the air discomfited them both, but they managed to retain the contents of their stomachs.

It was still unpleasant to be thrown into the air like that when they didn ’t expect such a thing.
For a moment, Ves believed that Miss Calabast deliberately sent them ahead without a warning as a prank.

”That woman has a sense of humor. ” He muttered.

”Next time, I ’ll smack her face. ” Ketis shamelessly boasted.

The antigrav field emitted by the Starlight Megalodon reduced one of their worries.
It wasn ’t a good idea to keep their gravitic backpacks active all the time.
Not only did they expend a lot of energy, they also wore them out through continuous active use.
It would have been disastrous if the gravitic backpacks malfunctioned all of a sudden.

The two resumed their short journey towards their comrades.
They passed through broad corridors of old prefab structures.
Ves peeked through the windows and saw nothing but empty, dust-laden rooms.

Ves found it eerie that he couldn ’t find any furniture and objects inside that could tell him what kind of people used to live here.
It didn ’t seem like the previous occupants evacuated this sprawling settlement in haste.
It seemed more as if someone calmly cleaned up the place and threw out the trash a few hundred or thousand years ago.

”The people who lived here… what happened to them? How come no one ’s left? ” Ketis asked the obvious question.

Ves wondered about that as well.
”Cities are raised and abandoned all the time in human history.
They ’re usually forced out of their old homes when faced with a calamity. ”

A thriving settlement of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people became nothing but abandoned ruins over time.
Ves found the emptiness to be a huge shame.

They walked around the corner and finally spotted their comrades.
The moment the pair of mech designers walked into view of the members of the exploration and follow-up party huddling in some sort of abandoned park, both sides stopped and stared at each other.

Larkinson? ” Captain Orfan rose up from the dirt.

”Ketis? ” Lieutenant Dise called.
”Why are the two of you here? ”

While the exploration members all became befuddled at the new presence, Ves and Ketis all stared at what their comrades were doing.
The dug-up trenches, the plants placed inside of them and the pulverized contents of nutrient packs sprinkled on top of them made for an unimaginable sight.

”Are you turning this park into a farm?! ” Ketis called out.

Lieutenant Dise grimaced.
”It ’s a long story. ”

The appearance of the pair of mech designers raised everyone ’s spirits, but the news they brought spoiled the reunion.

In the next hour, Ves huddled with the hundred-odd members of the two parties that ventured into the safe zone and filled them in on the disaster that struck the Flagrant Swordmaidens.

He activated his military-issued comm and projected a portion of the footage of the battle against the Meandering Monkeys and the Hostland Warriors.
The appearance of the Belisarius and the ease in which it tore apart the Vandal and Swordmaidens mech all led to a round of cursing and sorrow.

The outcome of the battle and the fate in store for those who remained caused many of them to be wracked with grief.
Though they were too far from the battle to experience it as it happened, they had no reason to doubt the news.
Ves even uploaded the data of the battle to everyone ’s comms so they could study the records by themselves.

The more the Vandals and Swordmaidens watched the footage, the more they became angry and despondent.
Even if Ves didn ’t show them the butchering that surely happened afterwards, they knew the score as well as anyone.
If they were in the shoes of the Vesians, they would have done the same.

”So many of sisters are dead now! ”

”We ’ve lost our way out! There ’s no rescue awaiting us outside! We ’re stranded! ”

Captain Orfan immediately cracked down on such talk.
”Pipe down! You don ’t know anything! As long as we ’re alive, we still have a chance of finding a way out.
Didn ’t this battleship send out FTL-capable shuttles into space? A battleship easily carries hundreds of shuttles.
As long as we manage to get inside and hijack a couple of shuttles, we can still go back to the fleet! ”

Her words roused everyone ’s hopes, but only slightly.
Ves looked at their expressions and saw that they hadn ’t been doing well lately.
Miss Calabast ’s warning that the survivors had gotten stuck rang in his ears.

Why hadn ’t they managed to get inside the battleship? Ves stared back at the Starlight Megalodon and saw plenty of minor cracks and rents in the hull.
Was there something blocking their way?

As the Vandals and Swordmaidens settled down and poured over the battle footage by themselves, Captain Orfan and Lieutenant Dise brought Ves and Ketis inside one of the nearby abandoned structures.

As they entered the prefab house, Ves saw that the survivors welded pieces of loose metal into pieces of furniture.
Though the fast transport provided some accommodation, it seemed as if the survivors settled in for the long haul.

As the four sat down at a table, the true discussion began.

”Can you tell us what is going on here? ” Ves asked with a sense of urgency.
”Why are you setting up a farm of all things? ”

Captain Orfan sighed.
”It ’s because we can ’t enter and exit this region.
Ever since the battleship tractored us over here, we ’ve been exploring our surroundings for days.
That ’s when we realized we ’ve entered a ruin.
We haven ’t found anyone even after circling the entire crash site.
There ’s no trace of natives or any of our rivals until a week ago when some Vesian tiger mechs got dragged inside. ”

”Did you come to blows with them? ” He asked.

”We tried, but as soon as we boarded our mechs and attempted to fire our laser cannons, the Starlight Megalodon suddenly put all of our mechs into stasis and separated us as if we were unruly children.
Over the following days, we ’ve tried to attack the Vesians several times but the battleship keeps preventing us! ”

”What ’s with the farm then? ”

”We ’re trapped here. ” Captain Orfan sighed.
”We tried to walk away but the blasted battleship immobilizes us with a stasis beam and forcibly drags us back.
We ’ve been starting up a farm in case the worst case scenario happens and we run out of nutrient packs before we ’re able to find a way out. ”

Ketis found this sequence of events to be perplexing.
”Since the Megalodon is so insistent on keeping you here, did you try to enter her instead? ”

”There ’s a hindrance. ” Lieutenant Dise replied, taking over from Captain Orfan.
”No one appears to be in control of the battleship.
Yet that doesn ’t mean the Megalodon has gone dormant.
She ’s highly automated and is acting on ancient directives. ”

Ves frowned at that.
”What does that mean? ”

”Without a competent crew at the helm, the battleship ’s AIs and automated routines are operating by themselves.
The AIs that are in control are still following their directives faithfully, but they ’re very inflexible.
Every time we interact with them, it ’s like talking to a bot! From what we ’ve found out so far, the AIs are currently acting on the directives of the original executive officer of the Starlight Megalodon.
The short version is that he revoked everyone ’s authority and set a test for someone to obtain entry and some privileges from the systems that are currently running the ship. ”

This sounded exceptionally weird, but not that unthinkable.
Ves didn ’t know the story behind the executive officer and why he issued such an extreme command.

”Is this test only eligible to the original crew or is anyone allowed to try? ”Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click for visiting.

”The test the battleship serves up isn ’t limited to anyone.
Each of us have walked up to the Megalodon to give the test a try.
None of us succeeded. ”

”Why? ”

”Because it ’s basically a recruitment test of the CFA. ” Captain Orfan revealed with an exasperated voice.
”We can apply to numerous starting positions, such as applying to become an able spacer, a cook, an engineer, an internal security officer, a marine, a mech technician, a mech designer, you name it! As long as the position exists on the battleship, there ’s a way to apply for them and become a legitimate crew member of the Megalodon! ”

This sounded very shocking.
Such a test came with a lot of implications.
If just one of them succeeded, they not only gained access to the Starlight Megalodon, but also enjoyed the privileges of their position.
While the automated systems wouldn ’t let a lowly spacer access to the restricted parts of the ship, they might be able to salvage some goodies in the less important sections.

Yet from the glum faces of Captain Orfan and Lieutenant Dise, it seemed that passing the test was no joke.

Ves knew why.
The CFA rarely ever recruited outside people these days.
Those not born from a CFA or connected spaceborn lineage faced huge hurdles if they wanted to become a member of humanity ’s most powerful fleet.

The recruitment tests they served to outsiders was impossible to pass for the average person.
Only prodigies, talents and geniuses in their professions stood a chance of passing the famously rigorous tests!

Supposedly, only those who received specific grooming and an abundant amount of genetic treatment stood a realistic chance as passing these tests.
Therefore, the majority of outsiders who entered the ranks of the CFA tended to come from the hugely prosperous galactic center.

Country bumpkins from the galactic rim like the Vandals and Swordmaidens need not apply.

”The tests are too difficult! ” Captain Orfan slammed her fist on the crudely welded table.
”The AIs are too obstinate and aren ’t willing to lower their standards no matter how much we try to convince them.
They ’re dumb as rocks.
I ’ve seen cleaning bots who are more intelligent than the AIs who call the shots at the battleship. ”

The two mech officers explained that they all tried to apply for a variety of positions.
Even the lowest sanitation engineer, which was just a fancy way of referring to janitors, needed to be the equivalent of mechanical engineers who could design and develop state-of-the-art cleaning machines.

After all, a shipboard janitor these days mainly cleaned a ship by managing the cleaning bots.
Some knowledge about the ins-and-outs of how the bots worked should be a given, but the CFA wasn ’t satisfied with that.
Not even the best professors of mechanical engineering in the Komodo Star Sector would be able to pass the test to become the Starlight Megalodon ’s janitor!

The more Ves heard about the ridiculous demands the recruitment tests imposed, the more he became confounded by the executive officer ’s intentions.
Perhaps the original crew of the Starlight Megalodon were smart and capable enough to pass these tests, but what about their descendants?

On a planet where technology constantly degraded, how easy would it be to raise offspring and educate them to a ridiculously high standard?

”So you see, Ves, this is why we ’re stuck here.
The battleship won ’t allow us to leave and she doesn ’t allow us to enter either unless we pass her tests. ”

Ves could see now why the survivors started farming.

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