“Whaaaaaah, h-help, kersplat!?!”
Within that weightless space, Tarou spun forwards as e collided with the wall. Just like that, he bounced as he floated towards the ceiling. Perhaps in the same principle a billiards ball ricochets off a cushion.
“Mister Teirow. I do not care if you make merry, but at this rate, we will never reach the station.”
“E’en ‘f ‘ya tell me that, hey, stop, argh!!”
Even as his knees crumbled at the terrible impact, he somehow used his limbs to absorb the force and land on the ground. To make sure he didn’t spin away again, he crept along the station bridge. While he looked considerably creepy, safety was of a higher priority.
“Wait, Teirow. That lock is… eek! I feel sick.”
Beyond an automatic sliding door was a woman in a suit looking down on Tarou. Even if you called it a suit, it wasn’t the sort of thing he was used to seeing businessmen wearing, it was something made with orange as the base color. Through her smoke-tinted helmet that covered her head, it was difficult to confirm her expression, but she was likely making quite a fed-up face as she observed Tarou.
“… Hmm, humanity isn’t ready for this means of movement yet.”
“Yeah… right. Honestly, I’m shocked.”
“Don’t praise me so,” Tarou bashfully laughed as he stood with good momentum. That force sent him into the emptiness again. Remembering the pain he felt last time his head was hit, he braced himself, but Maar promptly grabbed him by the leg, letting him survive without issue.
“I was half in doubt, but you really are a planet dweller… no way any sensible station-raised man would do something so stupid. It’s a good thing that there’s a roof here, but if we were in the atrium, you’d be space refuse.”
Keeping her hold on Tarou’s foot, Maar pulled on a wire running town the wall to drag him back in the right direction. It seems there were various wires running at various speeds lining the wall, and Maar swiftly changed between wires to steadily accelerate.
“So instead of a moving walk, you have a moving handrail? Um, Maar-san? Aren’t we going a bit too fast!!? I still have a problem with my positioning, and I’m crazy scared over heeeerre!!”
As Maar grabbed the highest wire, Tarou experienced an acceleration so strong he thought his leg would rip off.
“Now look here, just how many kilometers do you think it is from the bridge to the station? If we dilly dally, there won’t be any day left.”
He was still face up towards the corridor. Pulled down it at a speed as if he was falling. He almost lost control of his bowels over the fear, but his chest was filled with a warm exhilaration. Before his eyes was a human who would respond if he let out words. And there were other people passing by in that endless corridor.
“…… You’re beautiful.”
Inside the station. His unsteady body finally reaching somewhere with active gravity, Tarou spoke out as he saw Maar’s face outside of its helmet. Green eyes, and red hair. An orderly nose line, and wide eyes. Her stature was low, but the body line he could see from the tight-fitting suit was a wonderful thing.
“You think? Thank you. But coming from an iceman, well…”
“People like you who’ve woken up from a long cold sleep. Wait there a bit. I’ll go register your ship, and get a census form for you. Pardon me.”
As Maar said that, she casually plucked one of Tarou’s hairs. Gazing at it dubiously, she started off towards some sort of computing terminal.
“Oww, say something first… but I see. So it’s DNA registration. And wait, you can get a registry that easily?”
He hadn’t directed those words to anyone in particular, but Koume suspended from his belt gave an answer.
“Affirmative, Mister Teirow. The galactic empire’s neural network preserves the DNA information of every resident registered to it. If the DNA in your hair does not match any other entry, it will automatically create a record for you without any issue.”
To Koume’s words, “Wow,” Tarou gave a thoughtful reply. He didn’t know much about the term Neural Network, but he imagined it as something like the internet.
“But this is a crazy amount of people… ‘s it that? Something like an airport gate?”
“Yes, I think that comparison is correct, Mister Teirow. Until you cross over that gate, you cannot strictly say you are inside the station.”
“I see. So it’s like that. On the other hand, as long as I don’t cross over it, they don’t care whether I have a registry or not?”
“Correct, Mister Teirow. It’s common that people who don’t have a registry due to various circumstance carry out their business and exchanges here. They are still charged a docking fee, so it is not a bad deal for the station. They do not cause any trouble, and they do not use up resources. They are exemplary customers.”
After letting out a sigh of admiration, Tarou observed the people restlessly moving about. He didn’t see any octopus-like lifeforms or little gray men. The only difference from earth he could see was a truly wide abundance of skin, eye and hair color.
“It’s a bit of a letdown… I was expecting some insectoid aliens ‘r somethin’.”
“Are you talking about arthropodians, Mister Teirow? In that case, it is not as if they do not exist in imperial territory, but they are not a common sight in this star system.”
“So they exist!! For real!?”
While he was just told they were not a common sight, Tarou looked around nervously with slight expectations. Of course, he didn’t find what he was looking for, but he was able to spot humans growing wings and horns.
“Really no joke… Whoah, Koume-san, Koume-san. Could that possibly be a robot?”
At the end of Tarou’s outstretched finger was a lustrous metallic body belonging to a supposed robot man. His face made of a real mold looked exceedingly human, but his elbow and knee joints consisted of exposed mechanisms, and every time he moved, they showed a smooth, steady operation.
“Yes, most likely, Mister Teirow. If it was made with organic materials, it would be properly classified as a cyborg, but that is probably a robot. From what I can see, its body is the latest model. I find myself envious.”
As Koume said that, she tried spinning the wheels Tarou had made for her.
“I… see… you’re right, that sort of body may be best for you. I’m sorry you’re so shoddy. Right, when I get money for selling the ship, I’ll buy you a body like that.”
“… Thank you, Mister Teirow. But I shall make do with the sentiment. That is an exceedingly expensive item. There are numerous other places you ought to be spending your money.”
“No, but you know… ah, she’s back.”
Tarou spotted Maar in the corner of his eye, lightly raising a hand.
“Alright, here’s a ship registration, and a family registration card. With this, you’re an imperial citizen like the rest of us. Also, I don’t want to keep up this complicit relationship, so I’ll have you sign this. A sales contract between you and me.”
Tarou received a black chip in his raised hand.
“What’s this? An SD?”
“Wrong. Wait, just what ancient era did you come from? That’s called a pulse chip… ah, whatever. Let me see it for a second.”
Maar painstakingly took the chip from Tarou, pressing it flat against his forehead. He obediently followed her order to, “Startup BISHOP,” and he was able to confirm a Sales Contract function had been added on.
“Like that, the chip can send data directly as brainwaves. You might already know, but BISHOP functions aren’t all just programs. Databases are also treated as functions. They’re stored as temporary memory, so you can’t do something like load a dictionary, thought.”
“How convenient,” Tarou leisurely replied, as he scanned through the contents of the contract he had received. The contents were pretty much just the verbal promise they had already exchanged put into official terms, so they were neither advantageous nor disadvantageous to Tarou.
“How do I… ah, I see. Just link the signature function and sign. Ok, ok. Koume, I don’t really get contracts, but is this one alright? I won’t be charged for some exorbitant sum later? You’re the one who signed the document!! She’ll say?”
“You have watched too many movies, Mister Teirow. And you can only obtain pulse chip data through direct contact. Could you sent that data over to me?”
“Ah, that so? Oh, wait that sounds about right. Otherwise, info’d leak all over the place… here.”
Tarou peeled off the chip stuck to his forehead, and put it against Koume’s lights.
“… Yes, that is enough, Mister Teirow. There does not seem to be a problem with the contents of the contract. If I had to say, then the payment imposed on Miss Maar, ‘Assistance with pressing daily necessities’, is too vague for my liking. But taking Miss Maar’s character into account, it seems trustworthy enough. Right, Miss Maar?”
Koume’s tone was composed. As Maar returned it a bitter smile, Tarou offered Koume’s body- strapped to his waist- a few gentle pats.
“You’re much more proficient than you owner. Next time, I’ll write up a contract that properly spells out my duties. Is that alright?”
“Yes, of course, Miss Maar. You really are a person worthy of trust.”
As Maar made a smile, Koume’s voice was as expressionless as ever.
But Tarou felt from her voice that the sphere really was enjoying herself.