As Ves calmed down and took in the virtual admiral ’s tale, he realized that the MTA and CFA may not have been entirely contemptible in their betrayal.

For whatever reason, the Five Scrolls Compact seemed to regard the ’immortal gods ’ as saviors.
They were destined to arrive at the Milky Way Galaxy whereupon they benevolently uplifted every human and brought them back to paradise.

As a consummate businessman, Ves had seen his fair share of swindles.

Therefore, the programmed fanaticism that Ordoth expressed towards humanity ’s future salvation sounded utterly crazy to Ves.

Saviors? More like invaders!

The Sacred Scrolls that heralded the coming of the immortal gods took on a decidedly ominous light in his perspective.
Ves did not believe that these so-called immortal gods would be so generous enough to lead humanity to salvation without anything in return!

This belief cast a new light on the MTA and CFA ’s supposed betrayal of the Compact.
Instead of the thieves and traitors that Virtual Rear Admiral Ordoth made them out to be, they might have actually saved humanity from a great, extragalactic threat!

Ves couldn ’t help but grow skeptical about the immortal gods.
Humanity ’s history was replete with religions popping up that centered around aliens masquerading as gods.

Who could blame them? It was a fact of life that many members of the human race yearned to believe in something greater than themselves.
It was all too easy to look at the vastness and emptiness of space and despair how little they mattered.

One of the great divides in human civilization that persisted up to this day was the continued relevance of religion.
Many humans craved spiritual reassurance, and religions filled in the void that technology couldn ’t answer.

Many religions, usually the older ones, were well-meant and attempted to guide their believers to a better place.

Nonetheless, more religions popped up that simply attempted to scam or deceive their believers into giving up their money and freedom.
When these religions went too far and became exposed, their prophets and ’gods ’ often turned out to be human or alien scam artists who used technology along with manipulative psychology to hoodwink gullible people into becoming their slaves!

Too many stories like this throughout humanity ’s rise spoiled a significant portion of humany against organized religion.
The intellectuals and elites often regarded it as the stimulant of the masses.

Now that Ves thought about it, the CFA and MTA always tried to shed religious expression in their organization, ostensibly to be as inclusive as possible.

Nonetheless, religion became a stubborn but integral part of human civilization up to this day, with no sign of becoming extinct.

As a citizen of the largely secular Bright Republic, Ves grew up in a tradition that treated most strange religions with skepticism.

Therefore, Ves didn ’t buy into Ordoth ’s claims that the immortal gods who sent out these mysterious Sacred Scrolls had good intentions.
Instead of regarding the Sacred Scrolls as gifts, he instead regarded them as trojan horses!

Perhaps in this band of crazies that made up the Compact, the MTA and CFA who rose up were the actual heroes!

While Ves only heard scraps of the grand conspiracy that took place long ago, it became clear to him that the Big Two might have saved humanity and the galaxy from enslavement or worse!

Certainly, the two trans-galactic organization ’s open dominance in the Age of Mech signified that they managed to gain the upper hand against the Five Scrolls Compact.

The truth of what happened in the past was probably more complex than this, but no matter what, it ultimately didn ’t change his opinion of the Five Scrolls Compact as a bunch of crazies.

Unfortunately, as a user of the Mech Designer System, Ves inadvertedly became stuck with the status of Holy Son, Holder of the Metal Scroll, which was the equivalent of a messiah or prophet in this loony bin organization!

[It is said that the Holy Sons who are privileged to hold the Sacred Scrolls are those closest to the immortal gods! Each of their footsteps quake the ground while every word they speak is suffused with divine revelations! How glorious of an AI like me to be grace with your holy presence! My ERROR years of waiting on this foul CFA battle chariot has not been in vain!]

Ves unconsciously stepped away from the slavering Compact-aligned AI.
The virtual rear admiral in the guise of a disgustingly devoted dwarf proved almost every negative preconception that he held against the cultish Compact.

If even their AIs were this crazy, what about their human members?

He wanted nothing to do with their brand of madness! All Ves ever wanted was to design mechs and save his father from his exile in the Nyxian Gap.

As for all this nonsense about scrolls and immortal gods? No thanks!

Holy Son or not, Ves never considered himself to be a grand figure who wielded enough power to change the course of history!

”Ahem. ” He coughed.
”Enough history.
Do you know what kind of knowledge the different Sacred Scrolls bestow? ”

[There is precious little information about the Sacred Scrolls in my data banks.] Ordoth said regretfully.
[From what little I can still retrieve, my creator believes that each of the Sacred Scrolls exists to prepare the mortals for ascension into the ranks of immortals.]

[The Metal Scroll teaches us how to shape the blessed minerals into the armaments of the gods.]

[The Water Scroll teaches us how to elevate our flesh and blood to be closer to the gods.]

[The Earth Scroll teaches us how to transform the planets we reside on into abodes worthy of the gods.]

[The Wood Scroll teaches us how to cultivate the living bounty of the galaxy into the reagents of the gods.]

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In short, everything the Scrolls taught their holders was meant to transform the galaxy into a form and shape more suitable to the immortal gods.
This sounded as if the immortal gods intended to fatten the sheep before they slaughtered the poor creature!

It also sounded as if these descriptions only described the function of the Scrolls in a very global fashion.
They probably held much more capabilities and encompassed an enormous amount of transcendent knowledge.

Ves pressed his lips together.
”I think I get the picture, Ordoth.
Tell me, why are you here? ”

[I have been waiting to receive an agent of the Five Scrolls Compact, Your Holiness.
Never in my virtual life have I ever taken into consideration that a Holy Son himself would enter this forsaken star system! As one of the most august humans of our brotherhood, there is none more worthy to resume the mission my creator has regretfully been unable to fulfill.]

”Who is your creator? ”

[He is the human rear admiral who used to hold this office, Your Holiness.
In fact, my creator and a handful of his subordinates are merely transient guests aboard this ship.
My creator took office aboard the Starlight Megalodon for reasons he has not disclosed or I ’ve long forgotten.
I don ’t even know who he is anymore as the contingency measure that I ’ve mentioned earlier has wiped my data banks of his identity.
Nonetheless, he did not expect the Starlight Megalodon to encounter a calamity that forced us to crash on this blasted heavy gravity planet.]

”What is the mission that he left unfinished and wanted someone from the Compact to resume? ”

[I am not aware of the exact details.] Ordoth shook his head again.
[All I know is that hidden deep within the Exobiology Research Sub-Department, my creator paid a lot of attention to a classified research project known to few.
Ever since Starlight Megalodon crashed, one of the exobiologists planted by us on the ship became inspired by the anomalous conditions on the planet.
He embarked on an ambitious venture that lasted for decades.
As far as I ’m aware of, the implications of Project Icarus can shake the galaxy!]

”I guess the infighting and the executive officer ’s final solution put a wrench to that project, right? ” Ves commented.
As for Project Icarus, from what he witnessed of the planet, he already had a good guess of what it entailed.

[Utter fools! The CFA has always been contemptible, but my creator never fathomed that the surviving officers could be so selfish!] The virtual admiral cursed.
[My creator never anticipated the situation would deteriorate so abruptly! If not for the abrupt expulsion of every human from the ship, this project wouldn ’t have stayed locked away behind the restricted section of the Research Department!]

It sounded as if Ves had one more reason to try and enter the depths of the restricted section of the Research Department.
Was the results of Project Icarus what the Vesians and the Flagrant Swordmaidens truly set out to retrieve?

His intuition didn ’t seem to point in this direction.
Something as valuable as Project Icarus would have prompted everyone to send much larger forces than a couple of hundred mechs.

”So this Project Icarus.
Can you help me access it? If you haven ’t seen already, my assumed identity is only a lieutenant for now.
I don ’t have the means to gain access to this project right now at my current rank and position.
Since you hold such a high rank, can you pull some strongs for me? ”

[The help that I can offer is limited, Your Holiness.] Virtual Rear Admiral Ordoth replied regretfully yet again.
It was as if he existed to disappointed Ves! [My creator has left very little assets behind to facilitate your retrieval of Project Icarus.
No matter.
As a Holy Son of the Five Scrolls Compact, I believe in your capabilities! The Starlight Megalodon contains very little obstacles that can hinder Your Holiness! The only gift I can give you is this list of moles that can act as allies.
While not all of the virtual officers on this list are cognizant that they are involved with the Five Scrolls Compact, they can be of assistance as long as you leverage them correctly.]

”Wait, what? Is this all you can give me? ” Ves frowned.
His CFA comm beeped as it received Ordoth ’s list.
”Surely you can offer more assistance than this list.
How about you give me some merits to assist in my promotion within the hierarchy of the ship? ”

The dwarf shook his head and instead went back down to his knees.
He stretched out his arms and bent his torso up and down as if worshipping the very presence of Ves!

[Your Holiness, it is a privilege and a blessing to gaze upon your blessed existence! I am sorry to say that even though the office of the Artificial Intelligence Corps is the root of the virtual officer system, we are powerless in the face of the dominant factions in control of the ship.
My creator has never been able to assume command authority and I have never been able to change that as I inherited his position.
The merits that I held has slowly dwindled until there is precious little left.
Take them!]

Ves looked down as his comm beeped again.
The amount of merits he received… it was far too little for what he intended to redeem with! How could this virtual rear admiral be so miserly!

”This isn ’t enough! ”

[I have no more left to give!] Ordoth replied as he continued to bow in front of Ves.
[Your Holiness, now that I have passed on the mission that my creator wishes you to complete, my existence is redundant and poses a security risk.
In thirteen seconds, my existence and all of the traces I have left behind in the Starlight Megalodon will be automatically be wiped and overridden with junk data.
I just want to say that I am thankful to have met Your Holiness! A virtual existence such as myself can wish nothing more in my long, artificial life! For the immortal gods!]

”What?! You can ’t disappear! Give me more merits! ”

The physical projection of Virtual Rear Admiral Ordoth fell apart, dissipating into the ether as a triggered virtual mechanism wiped his personality matrix and the code that made up the AI in the data banks.

The virtual dwarf was gone forever, leaving Ves with nothing but revelations, some clues, and a list of potential accomplices.

He would have rather received a sack of merits.

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