Ichijou Tarou raised a single motivated yell, and removed his sluggish body from the device.
“There are way too many things I want to ask, but is it alright ‘f I interrogate ya a bit?”
He lowered his hips down by the sphere, with its lamp flickering onto the ground, and held his knees. Taking a sidelong glance into it, he continued.
“So what might you be? A guide? Do you do somethin’ in place of humans?”
The sphere slowly spun on the spot, making one doubt if any one side was its front. It flashed its lamp towards Tarou, and let out a voice.
“In regards to both questions, I must refute, Mister Teirow. Koume is not a guide, and it hasn’t been designed to do any specific job in the place of human labor. Or rather, from this appearance, it should be apparent such a thing would be impossible, dunce.”
“Okay, at the end, I think I heard somethin’ unpleasant, but le’s just put that aside. So are you that perfect AI thingamajig? The next gen majimon? And you’ve already set your name as Koume?”
Tarou’s memory. Or at least in his memories of the twenty first century were at a level where even the hint of a perfected AI had yet to be grasped. If the machine naturally responding to him at that very moment was something based in artificial intelligence, it was something he would be surprised about.
“What you refer to as a perfect AI has not been defined by the current race of humanity. But at the very least, Koume behaves based on a program, and operates on a quantum brain powered by a carbon battery. The name is set by the owner, Mister Teirow. It has been recorded as something you set.”
The orb shakily rolled left and right with its lamp flickering in accordance with its voice. Tarou raised a groan of, ‘Yeeaaaah’, as he questioned further.
“Well, it’s just an inkling, but I kinda get it, so let’s put that aside. You said your owner was me, but what would that mean? Personally, I’m delighted, but you won’t try to wring a large sum outa me later? Like claiming paying the store fee and your fee are separate things? I’ve a bit of a trauma there.”
“Affirmative. Deny both allegations, per… Mister Teirow. By the DNA print possessed of current owner, it corresponds with you 100%. Milky way imperial law, paragraph 228, subsection 83, by in the case of emergency evacuation, all rights of ownership to this vessel have been transferred to you. Data on old cabaret customs have not been recorded in the databank. It is your own fault for being deceived on the cost, per… processing… pervert.”
“No, when you tried so hard, at least rephrase it!”
“Understood, Mister H. Teirow. Do you have any other questions?”
“That H was definitely the H of hentai, wasn’t it? Let’s see… well, whatever. Right. This ship. It’s been stopped for a while, right? Accident?”
“Affirmative, Mister Teirow. The sections from the fuel to the engines have been detached. The cause has not been recorded.”
“Whee, for real… ‘f there’s no engine, that ain’t even a ship anymore. We’re just floatin’ in space.”
“Affirmative, Mister Teirow. You are in a bit of an oversized coffin. Ha. Ha. Ha.”
“Exactly, hahaha!! To hell with that!!”
Bending his wrist, Tarou poked the sphere. It rolled with him.
“Violence does not bring about anything, Mister Teirow. Well, the acquaintance that said that was found out for his cheating, and stabbed. HAHAHA.”
“No, I just used that joke… even so, my situation ‘asn’t changed for the better, huh. Not bein’ able to move kills the man… Ah, right. Do you know what year A.D. it is? And around how far we are from earth.”
“Dearest apologies, Mister Teirow. In relation to year, the term A.D. does not align with the databanks. In regards to the planet known as earth, it has been recorded as a planet of ancient folklore. But no one has ever confirmed its existence.”
“Folklore!? Oy, oy, how far in the future is this…”
On that unexpected response, Tarou stretched himself out across the ground. He had been certain it was quite a distant future, but he hadn’t even imagined the Earth’s very existence would be in doubt.
“Now that’s a doozy… ah, and didn’t you just say Milky way empire, or somethin’ like that? Is there any planet that humans live nearby? I don’t quite get what ownership lets me do either.”
“Yes, Mister Teirow. There exists a terraformed planet 20000 light years from this point. In reference to the transfer of ownership, it is emergency evacuation regulation. Meaning, the case where the previous owner has been lost, and the rest of the crew remain on the spacecraft, the ship can set free. If a nationality registry or company name is left on it, its ownership will return to its original affiliation once in port, but this ship’s ownership has not been recorded. In name and in essence, this ship is your personal belonging.”
“Oh I see,” he crossed his arms. He didn’t get it down to its finest details, but he understood plenty, that this giant piece of oversized garbage seemed to rightfully belong to him. And understanding anything else was unnecessary.
“Hah… even so, twenty thousand lightyears, eh? Sounds like they’d have a warp. But if there’s no engine, that ain’t happening… and wait a minute there. Havin’ come so far, why was I woken up? So I get to learn all this stuff before I die? A bothersome act of kindness?”
“Affirmative. Refuting point, Mister Teirow. An overdrive by compressing stored oxygen is possible. In regards to fuel, it is surmised to be possible to use items in the residential area. At present, the reason the cold sleep device reactivated is surmised to be because it calculated a final possibility that you could be saved. It was definitely not harassment. Probably.”
“Mhm, mhm. It bothers me why you tacked on that last part, but I’ll even leave that aside. Anyways, what’s this possibility of me being saved?”
“Yes, from the ship’s present relative velocity, it should be approaching a stargate in the immediate vicinity. The distance to a space station along with the distance gained by using an overdrive through turning the residential district to fuel are nearly identical.”
“A space station!! I see, come to think of it, that’s right. It’s not like humans can only live on planets… wait, wait right a second. Something’s caught me, that. If we’ll just barely make it in the maximum distance we can warp, then if we miss it, that’s the end?”
“Affirmative, Mister Teirow. The next change will come in 17,000 years time. The operational limit for a cold sleep device is 500 years, so the rest goes without saying.”
“Goes without saying? Quite a way to put it. But I see… um, Koume. Since it wen’ outta the way to wake me up, that would mean ya can’t move this ship yourself, right?”
“Affirmative again, Mister Teirow. As even you can see in your human shortsightedness, Koume is only able to roll around. What sort of things are you expecting from a simple ball?”
“Yeah, yeah. Sorry for that. Then what are we supposed to do, ya’ bastard?”
“I’m sure there is only one option remaining, Mister Teirow. You do it.”
The approximately ten-centimeter diameter sphere rolling along the ground. Tarou stared dumbfound at its vivid green and red flashing lights, and his expression persisted in one of failed understanding.
“Hey, I’m a twenty first century antique here. A human of a time where when it came to spaceships, we’d gone to the moon and back at most. And y’er telling me to do it?”
“Mister Teirow. I do not know this moon you refer to, but that is correct. You do it.
With those words, Koume rolled across a hard iron plate. She came to a gentle stop in front of the modified cold-sleep device Tarou had been stationed in before.
“By the way, Mister Teirow. You have gotten quite fluent at galactic standard language.”
“Galactic standard… r-right. What’s with this. Why can I speak these words I’ve never learned? Does if have to do with the whack knowledge in my head?”
“Uncertain, Mister Teirow. Only you could understand what strange things go on in your head. But I do know about the language.”
Koume repeated a flash of grean, as she tapped against the cold-sleep device.
“Override. Mister Teirow.”
“That is right. Override. This device before your eyes has written over your memories. Who made it, and when it was made, and why it is here, that is unknown. But how to use this device is recorded in the databank.”
Tarou let his body shake along with the chill running up his spine.
“W-wait a second. The inside’ve my head’s been messed with? Somethin’ like that’s… h-huh? Japanese… Japanese ain’t coming out. Wait, calm down. Nonono, I should be able to speak it. How many decades has ’t been…”
“Mister Teirow. Your language cortex has been overridden. Please calm down. You shouldn’t be feeling any discomfort.”
“As if I could calm down!!”
As Tarou gave an agitated cry, he grabbed Koume with his right hand, and lifted her up to face level.
“Mister Teirow. I apologize for arbitrarily writing over your language. But it is a fact there was no other way. No precise database of Japanese has been left behind.”
Still holding Koume up, Tarou grit his teeth with rough breath. After a single deep exhale, he let his shaking hands slowly lower her to the ground. Even for the sake of a momentary diversion, throwing Koume against the wall wouldn’t accomplish anything, and Tarou understood that well enough.
“Well… right… sorry.”
He dug his face between his knees, and took another deep breath. Koume was bobing back and forth beside him but his thoughts were unclear. Without letting out a single word, he calmed himself down.
After an extent of time had passed. Tarou lifted his face, and turned his eyes to the still-bobbing globe-shaped AI.
“So what do I have to become? A pilot? Or an engineer?”
Saying that, he slowly stood, and strapped himself into the cold-sleep device.
“Mister Teirow. I am thankful for your resolution. But it is neither pilot nor engineer. While both roles are, of course, effective ones, Koume has the minimum required knowledge to fulfill them. Those are jobs where an individual’s nature and disposition do not bring about a transfiguration. The specialized professions divided into pilot and engineer are not required at present, and whether you could become one is a separate issue.”
Koume flickered her lamps, as she moved in front of him.
“Mister Teirow. Are you aware of the structure for a computer to operate?”
Tarou closed his eyes a little, and gave a small, ‘I see’.
“The programming, eh?. It’s true without that, nothing would start… but don’t you need knowledge on what you’d be programing? Like how you couldn’t make accounting software if you didn’t know accounting.”
“Affirmative, Mister Teirow. I think it is wonderful for you to be so quick on the uptake. But…”
As if she were human, Koume took a deep breath.
“You already possess that knowledge, Mister Teirow. Just who might you be?”