“Um, how should I put this… if everything you said is true, to be honest, it’s all way too suspicious. I don’t want to get involved.”
“I know, right? Can’t say I didn’t see it coming.”
Tarou hung his head at the voice coming in through the communication line, but his heart was filled with delight. He was talking to another human he’d never thought he’s be able to meet, and the first human he’d encountered in a year.
“Is there anything I can do about my lack of family register and ship registration?”
He had gone with the flow and told her everything about his current circumstance, but now he regretted it. Perhaps he should have thought over it, choosing carefully what to say. Even if he didn’t lie, perhaps he should have avoided saying things that would put him at a disadvantage.
“Hah? You can do whatever you want to your register and registration as long as you have the credit. The problem here is your overdrive device, and the four thousand deaths. No matter how you look at it, this ship wasn’t conducting any honest trade.”
“No, the bodies were consigned to the abyss of space, you know? They were detached alongside the cargo hold, and there’s nothing left. By Koume’s calculations, they’ll run straight into a star in about twenty thousand years. Can’t we just pray for their happiness in their next life?”
“Well that’s just swell… it was an emergency, so I know there wasn’t any helping it, but you’re quite a piece of work.”
Maar let out a tired voice. “Anyways,” she continued on.
“As thanks for saving me, I’ll tow you to the station, but please do the rest on your own. For a ship of that size, the parking fee will be nothing to laugh at, and more than anything, I don’t want to be found by the inspectors. My selling point’s my honest business ethic.”
“EEeeeh… don’t be like that. Help a brother out here, Maar-tan. I’m penniless here, and I don’t know left from right.”
“What’s Maar-tan supposed to mean…”
“If you don’t help me, I might just say all sorts of things. Like Maar-tan the salvager might have been my accomplice.”
“H-hey! Don’t say that, even as a joke!!”
“It’s not like I have anything to lose. Hehehe, I’ll do it. I’ll do it all.”
“… That’s quite a personality you have there. But no. My principle is to not take on any jobs that won’t make me anything.”
Tarou raised a groan at Maar’s obstinate tone. There, the third party who’d remained a spectator to that point entered the fray.
“I have a proposal. Will you lend an ear, Miss Maar?”
“Um, I don’t mind, but who might you be? I heard there was only one crew member.”
“My apologies, Miss Maar. I am Mister Teirow’s personal possession. I go by Koume. Pleasure to be of your acquaintance.”
“Stop it!! No matter how you take it, that’ll cause a misunderstanding, so stop with that phrasing!!”
Tarou hurriedly knocked on Koume, but Koume ignored it and continued on.
“First off, the ownership rights to this ship definitely belong to Mister Teirow. I and the imperial government shall guarantee it. From the various records on-board the ship, I can assert we have enough positive proof to pass a trial.”
“Yeah, so I heard. Go on.”
“Yes, Miss Maar. By the way, Miss, did you happen to witness when this ship collided with the WIND craft? Regardless of that violent impact, this ship’s armoring only suffered a minor dent, and is still in good health.”
“Right, I saw it. Hey, so what’s that sh–”
“Black Metal Type IN.”
Koume interrupted Maar words. Tarou hadn’t the slightest idea what she was talking about, but he could hear Maar gulping on the other side of the line.
“Don’t leave me in the dark, Koume-chan. What is that Black Metal thing?”
“Yes, Mister Teirow. It is an alloy produced by mixing carbon fiber into a metal like titanium through a special process. Strong, pliable, with a high conductivity for energy shields. If you ignore the difficulty of manufacturing it, it is the ideal metal for armoring.”
“Hmm, I knew it was kinda hard. So that’s how it is. What about the IN part?”
Tarou’s answer came not from Koume, but from across the line.
“IN stands for Imperial Navy. It’s made for use by the fleet of the galactic empire. Honestly, I want to get involved with the matter even less.”
“Yes, that may be true. But Miss Maar.”
Unbefitting an AI, she spoke almost as if reading her opponent’s feelings.
“It is exceptionally valuable.”
She would say no more. The conversation between the three came to an end, and a while of silence went by.
“…… I’ve lost. How much?”
Maar let out a tired sigh. Tarou clenched his fist in victoy as he opened his mouth.
“Whatever price you want. You won’t get anywhere betting on my complete lack of sense for monetary value, after all!! Hehehe!!”
“Eeeh!? What are you so proud about? And wait, throwing it all to your negotiations partner, are you messed up in the head?”
“Affirmative, Miss Maar.”
“Hey, negative that one, Koume-chan!!”
“Hah… very well. Then I’ll take enough to shoulder the cost of Rocky’s repairs. How does that sound? It definitely won’t be cheap.”
“Sure, why not.”
“……… Dude. You’re deeeeefinitely going to be tricked by some bad guy down the line.”
The dumbfounded voice he could hear over the line ended with the noise of the call cutting off. Tarou held up his hands, standing to his full height as he let out a cry of delight.
… Begin Docking Approach…
A large warning was displayed at the top of his BISHOP interface. His heart taken in by the giant space station that grew closer by the second, he continued operating the delicate position functions he needed to dock the ship.
“It’s huge… a hundred times bigger than I had imagined…”
By Tarou’s memory, the cylindrical space station expanding before his eyes more closely resembled the concept called a space colony. It didn’t have any glass faces, but its main body was coated in solar panels, with docking bridges extending in all directions from it. On the wharfs, countless ships were parked, and here and there, various crafts off all shapes of sizes flew in and out.
“Mister Teirow, we have just received information from the station. It seems this Alba Station is a mid-sized station that holds an approximate population of 6,000,000. There is a stargate nearby, so it’s used as a stopover point on journeys between major planets.”
“So this is mid-sized… wait, people live on the station?”
“… I do not understand the implications of the question, Mister Teirow. 98% of the population of the galactic empire live in the residential areas of stations. Is that not self-evident?”
“Eeeh!? So we’re all full-blown aliens. This goes beyond the level of a culture shock!”
… Warning, please use the designated automatic approach program…
“Ah, yes. Thanks for that. But this ship doesn’t have an engine, so I can’t use the program you gave me.”
Tarou gave a retort to the troublesome warning signal displayed in the back of his eyes. He was hectically using the constantly updated information he had on the ship to finely tune the direction control jets.
… Warning revoked, please normalize your route…
Calculating from its mass, Tarou put all the directional jets towards braking. From the start, he had been moving at a tortoise’s pace, and his speed now dropped even further.
… Warning, please use the designated automatic landing program…
“No, as I was saying, this ship ain’t got no engine, dammit!! And wait, we don’t even have any landing legs!!”
Half-way to snapping, Tarou shouted out. After running the final jet propulsion for a brief instant, he cut it right when the ship’s relative velocity to the station reached zero. Meaning he had come to a complete stop.
… Docking complete. Welcome to Alba Station…
“Thank you,” Tarou muttered as he watched a number of thin wires extend from the station bridge on his display. Eventually, a snake-like tube slithered out, joining to the exit door of his ship.
“Good work. Hey, what was that back there? That looked like quite an unsteady docking. Did you have it on manual control?”
Maar’s voice came from Koume.
“Yeah, that was probably manual. I don’t really get it, but I just updated the program along the way.”
“… I’m sorry, I don’t really get what you’re saying.”
“No, I mean I just made a landing program along the way. There was no helping it. I mean, it’s already dubious whether this hunk of metal can even be called a ship at this point.”
“… Um, you mean you coded it in real time? No way… could it be you’re a Gift holder?”
“Gift? Sorry baby. If you want a present, you’re going to have to do with my body.”
“… Whatever. I’ll go get you, so just wait. You probably don’t even know how to walk yet, right?”
“How to walk? I’ve been walkin’ for close to twenty years!!”
Finding Maar’s tone somewhat rude, Tarou threw in a retort, but in just a few minutes, he found himself in a situation where he could only agree.
He had completely forgotten the zero gravity space that expanded before him the moment he left the ship.