Chapter 2583: Lucky the Sniffer
The naming ceremony of the Larkinson Clan\'s first capital ship went well.
It signified another turning point in the history of the clan.
Once the Larkinsons gained basic control over the Spirit of Bentheim and their other recently-obtained starships, the grand expedition would officially set off for Tarnished Crown.
No one was sure how long the preparations would take.
Ves decided to set a tentative deadline of 1 month.
In 1 month, he wanted every ship in the Larkinson fleet to be ready for departure.
He knew this was going to be a challenge, but he did not ask for much.
The second-hand starships provided by the Hegemony may be old, but they had all been serviced and refurbished.
As long as they were reliable at the beginning, their crews didn\'t need to have much familiarity and expertise.
The main reason why you needed knowledgeable and competent crew members for starships was to respond to any possible emergencies.
When fires broke out, power reactors overloaded and FTL drives fell apart, having crew who served on the ships for a very long time could make a huge difference!
For now, the need wasn\'t too great.
As part of his deal with the Hegemony, the Hexers dispatched a small but crucial amount of trainers who also served as very capable stand-ins.
While Ves was a bit leery about Captain Daria-Maria Vraken\'s background, he could not think of anyone else he would entrust the safety of the Spirit of Bentheim more.
Her lengthy list of competences and certifications was more than enough to convince him that his factory ship was in good hands!
That said, Ves knew that he shouldn\'t blindly trust the Hexers on everything.
While it was nice to replace his old fleet with a lot of new Hexer-built vessels, the problem was that the Larkinson Clan was unable to confirm whether their builders added in any backdoors to them! If he was in their place, he would have definitely slipped in a lot of listening devices and tampered with some of the core programming of the ship systems.
As worrisome as this sounded, Ves did not panic because of several reasons.
No matter where he bought his ships, he could pretty much assume that the shipbuilders or the states they answered to always tampered with the vessels in question.
Even if he managed to buy a starship from the MTA or the CFA, Ves would merely exchange one set of voyeurs to another set of voyeurs.
The only way to completely eliminate this problem is to build my own ships and ship components. He muttered.
The latter was possible but the former was way too difficult to realize.
Capital ships were especially challenging to build.
Therefore, buying ships that were compromised was not something that his clan could avoid.
Still, if the shipbuilding companies ever went too far with taking advantage of the backdoors they built into their own products, their credibility would definitely be ruined!
Not just the shipyards, but also their owners and the state they belonged to would lose a lot of reputation.
This was very fatal to the shipbuilding industry to a state.
If wealthy clients no longer turned to a specific state, then it would lose a lot of revenue.
Capital ships weren\'t cheap! The value of the Spirit of Bentheim exceeded 2 trillion hex credits.
Though Ves had not obtained her through ordinary means, in many cases governments stood to earn immense sums of money through levying taxes and other fees.
Shipbuilding was such a major industry that it affected many other industries as well.
All of that money spending invigorated the economies through the multiplier effect.
With such a lucrative cycle, the short-term benefits of exploiting the backdoors built in a starship simply wasn\'t worth it.
Yet that did not automatically mean that those backdoors didn\'t exist!
Ves liked to assume the worst.
Until proven otherwise, he considered the Spirit of Bentheim to be stuffed with bugs, listening routines and secret programming.
Naturally, there was no way he tolerated their existence.
The longer they existed, the greater the chance that someone, whether it was Hexers or some other people, would find a way to exploit the backdoors.
In order to discuss this very serious security problem, he chose to leave the Spirit of Bentheim and travel back to the surface of Cinach VI.
After arriving at the temporary base that was in the process of being abandoned, he entered a small, secure meeting room that had been especially prepared by the Black Cats.
Numerous jammers flooded the bare metal interior with interference.
I know it feels uncomfortable, but just bear with it.
As long as you do your job, you can go play around.
I mean it! Now get to work!
As his cat utilized his excellent sensors, Ves sat next to the bare metal table.
A short time later, two of his most trusted advisors entered the room.
Major Verle and Calabast took their seats.
Before we begin, I\'d like to thank you, Ves.
The planet is dead, but the spirit still lives on. Verle recited.
You honor us all by calling your factory ship the Spirit of Bentheim.
Ves looked a bit closer at the military officer.
The major\'s increasing workload had caused him to look a bit older than before.
No matter what care he received, it was hard to counteract the effects of overworking.
Major Verle used to be a mech pilot and mech commander when he was in his prime.
That was a long time ago.
It must have been at least a decade since he last entered the cockpit.
His thinning form and greying hair signified that he must have lived through several ordeals that took a toll on his health.
Are you okay, Verle
You don\'t have to worry about me.
It\'s just that your announcement has caused me to recall my old life.
Before all of this, I was just a mech officer of the Flagrant Officer and a Firestarter answering to Flashlight.
Life was much simpler back then.
Do you agree
Ves shook his head.
The past is the past.
I was weaker, stupider and more naive back then.
The Bright Republic may have shaped me, but it has also stabbed me in the back.
I don\'t like to think back on those days for this reason.
Hehehe. Calabast chuckled a bit.
You clearly hate the Bright Republic and its hypocritical government.
Why would you possibly honor your home state by dredging up the name of Bentheim from the grave
I\'m a Brighter as well as a Larkinson.
While I value the latter, I can\'t get rid of the former.
It sounds contradictory, but a part of me still loves my home state.
He felt rather helpless about this.
No matter how hard he tried to override his old feelings for the Bright Republic, he simply couldn\'t douse this stubborn flame in his heart.
I understand how you feel. Major Verle supported him.
Anyway, our feelings and nostalgia are not up for discussion today.
Our time is short, so we should address the main reason why we have gathered here.
The spymaster brought out a tube and retrieved a set of printed blueprints of all things.
She carefully placed the blueprints over the surface of the metal table.
The blueprints all depicted various cross-sections of the factory ship.
A lot of sections and points were marked in red.
In fact, there were so many of them that there were hardly any clean white lines or blue spaces in the interior of the Spirit of Bentheim!
There are two broad categories of security risks that we need to take into account. Calabast began.
The most laborious one by far is the integrity of all of the electronic components and software systems of the ship.
As a former DIVA agent, I can state with 100 percent certainty that DIVA along with many other Hexer intelligence agencies have bugged your new capital ship.
While he expected her answer, hearing it still made him upset.
We signed a contract that explicitly stated that the Hexers weren\'t allowed to compromise her systems.
Both Calabast and Major Verle looked amused.
Intelligence agencies aren\'t bound by the usual constraints.
You of all people should know that by now.
Even if you catch them red-handed, no authority is going to sanction them for their actions.
Each intelligence agency is an arm of the state.
Damn Hexers. Ves cursed and pressed his fingers against his forehead.
Well, it was nice to hope.
The more important issue is what we can do to sweep all of the bugs and backdoors.
Calabast pointed to Lucky, who had slacked off on the job and was lazily floating around in the air.
He can help, for a start.
I don\'t know how, but you have CFA-grade hacking and detection capabilities.
Do you know what this means With your sensors, you can detect any listening device that Hexer intelligence agencies make use of.
With your hacking and virtual intrusion capabilities, you can expose every layer of programming of any electronic device.
On the Spirit of Bentheim, only her AI core is able to resist your intrusions!
Ves nodded in agreement.
We shouldn\'t squander Lucky\'s gifts.
Calabast, starting from tomorrow, I want you to employ Lucky as your personal sniffer.
This is a massive effort. She gestured to the blueprints.
Do you see how many compartments and ship components that we have to sweep No matter how much I expand the Black Cats, I don\'t have faith in any of our anti-surveillance technology.
Only Lucky gets my vote of confidence.
How long do you think it will take
The woman paused for a moment.
The work might not be finished by the time we enter the Red Ocean.
Though Ves was disappointed by that news, he knew that an endeavor as vital as this couldn\'t be rushed.
Just do the best you can.
I want Lucky to perform his duty at least an entire shift a day.
If he ever shirks his job, then let me know.
Lucky\'s tail straightened behind his back!
Don\'t complain! You\'re not a kitten.
As an adult, you need to earn your keep!
Ves ignored the complaints of his cat and turned to the blueprints.
Are there any parts of the Bentheim that aren\'t as easy to deal with
There are plenty.
What is particularly tricky to deal with is to inspect every single line of code of every piece of tech.
We can\'t fully automate the process because it is too easy for hackers to camouflage malicious programming.
While Lucky\'s capabilities help somewhat in this aspect, we still need a large team of programmers to verify the code by hand.
Well, do your best, then.
Is there something more specific we should take into account
Calabast pulled out a red pen from her pocket and circled the heavily-reinforced compartment that held the ASTERA AI core.
Lucky won\'t be able to deal with this.
This CFA-made AI core is built out of a fragment of a sandman admiral body.
I think the three of us know how that might complicate matters.
The AI core won\'t suddenly grow sentient, will it Major Verle asked with a hint of concern.
The conditions simply aren\'t there. Ves stated.
If it makes you feel better, I\'ll frequently check up on the AI core.
Even if it is good at hiding whether it has become sentient, don\'t underestimate my capabilities.
I\'m very good at discerning whether something is alive.
I trust you, Ves.
The issue that I\'m trying to address is not about this.
Instead, I\'m more concerned about the CFA connection.
Just like every quantum communication node made by the Comm Consortium, this AI core can probably feed back a lot of data to the CFA.
Not directly, though. Ves pointed out.
It\'s not a quantum communication node and every transfer of data takes place through specific channels.
As long as we tighten our control over these channels, we can lessen the risk of data leaks.
That sounds good in theory but is much more complicated in practice.
Let me explain all of the steps we need to take to contain an AI core that we cannot alter…
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