A room in the space station. With that room Tarou saw as around the size of a school gymnasium, the figures of one man and one woman surrounded a mountainous pile of scrap metal.
“Hey, Teirow. I want to remove this part, can you do something about it?”
Maar raised her face from the pile of scraps. Tarou raised his own face from the children’s picture book he had been reading, walking over to Maar as he started up BISHOP.
“Another code, huh… yeah, yeah, I’ll do it, so don’t make such a scary face. By the way, this might be a stupid question, but why do is there an encryption set whenever a ship part is joined?”
Tarou looked through the numerous password programs in his BISHOP space, decrypting them as he asked.
“Why? I mean, it’s dangerous if you don’t do it, right? If a part falls off in the middle of a voyage, there’s a possibility it could lead to a major accident.”
“Ah, no, no. I know that. I’m trying to say, isn’t it strange for it to be made so you have to use software to dismantle the hardware? You sure it’s not a fault?”
“You think? It seems military ships and the like are made that way for secrecy, but generally, isn’t it because people prioritize ease of maintenance? If it’s joined through hardware, detaching things is quite some work, but if it’s through BISHOP, it takes no time at all.”
“Hmm… come to think of it, your Rockyboy got to mint condition in the blink of an eyes. Did ya’ just swap out the parts, and call it a day?”
“That’s right. I’m having the broken parts slowly repaired, and once they’re good as new, I’ll use them as spares. In space, the slightest accident spells life and death, so most ships generally have spare parts loaded onto them.”
“I see… right, voilà.”
Tarou snapped his fingers. And at the same time, the ship component in front of Maar detached and fell, exposing its internal parts.
“It’s as unfair as ever, your BISHOP… or rather your brain. If you put in a request to an unlocksmith, it usually takes around three days, you know? At this point, why not find a job as a thief?”
“Hmhmm, the only thing I’ll ever steal is a woman’s heart.”
“Yeah, yeah, keep it down, virgin.”
“I-! I-I ain’t no virgin!!”
“N-no. That was a joke… ah, this circuit’s still alive!!”
From the detached part, Maar pulled out a chip about the size of her fist, glowing like the light of a sun.
“It’s the auxiliary equipment of the drive for a large-scale freighter, so it’ll fetch quite a hefty sum. It’s enough to pay your salary for the week.”
Maar grinned as she looked at the stripped chip. Taken in by it, Tarou returned a smile.
“Oh, that’s good… but you salvagers sure have it hard. Having to do such plain work day after day, if it were me, I wouldn’t last a day.”
It had been around half a month since Tarou began living in at Maar’s workplace. Hearing her work was salvaging parts from scrap ships, at first his heart raced. But contrary to his expectations, the essence of the job largely consisted of monotonous dismantling.
“That goes without saying. Our assigned scraps are already determined, so we don’t have too many opportunities to go out into space. It’s mostly hit and miss, and more than anything, the large ships are all sent to Corp.”
“Corp? Who’s that?”
“The Corporation. She is referring to a company, Mister Teirow.”
The two turned towards the voice they heard from the hill of scrap iron. After a while, Koume’s form appeared, climbing over it.
“Good work, Koume. How are things on your side?”
At the top of the pile, Koume flashed her lights.
“Things are proceeding smoothly, Miss Maar. I have successfully made a catalogue of everything that looks to be sellable. Mister Teirow, I sill confirm it once more, but you really plan on selling everything but the ship’s core?”
“You betcha. Just selling the other portions’ll fetch quite some money, right?”
“Yes, though that depends on your definition of quite a sum, Mister Teirow. I think it will likely make for enough money that you could play around for the rest of your life.”
“… Yes? Eh? No way. That much?”
Ignoring Tarou’s surprise, Koume displayed a precise amount. As Tarou had only treated that ship as oversized garbage to that point, he felt complete shock as he compared the sum to the price of a meal. Looking over him, Maar breathed out a sigh.
“Now look here… let me ask it like this. In your ancient times, was everyone rich enough to have one cruiser-class ship per house?”
On Maar’s words, Tarou ended up nodding. The values here were too far off from earth, so it was difficult for him to get a sense for them, but he imagined it something like a large private cruise ship for the rich.
“How could this be. Before I e’en noticed it, I’ve gotten to a position where I c’n fulfill my lifelong dream of slapping someone with a wad of bills!!?”
“Looks like it… I don’t intend to get in the way of your hobbies, but do it to me and I’ll smack you.”
“With a wrench.”
Tarou nimbly performed a dogeza. He himself didn’t understand why he had to dogeza at all, but for some reason, he ended up doing it by reflex.
“By the way, Mister Teirow. With so much money in your hands, what do you intend to do? Will you live your live without any clear goal, clinging onto your parent’s legs, while the neighbors whisper about you as the disgrace of the house? Koume will not particularly do anything to stop you.”
“At that point, just honestly say NEET!! And you totally intend to stop me, don’t you!!”
“I’m also a bit interested. Are you going to invest it or something?”
On Maar’s words, “Even if you ask me that, all of a sudden…” Tarou scratched his head.
“In the first place, I don’t have the basic knowledge to form any greed… ah, but I do have somethin’ I wanna do.”
The two sent eyes full of intrigue to Tarou’s words. After putting his hand on his chin in thought, he gave quite a natural response.
“I want to search for the earth. And I’ll need a ship.”
The words from his mouth left Maar dumbfounded. And Koume kept her silence.
“A real huge one at that.”
“When you said ship market, you know. How should I put this, I was imagining some super huge trade-fair sort of deal. Little Teirow-chan is a bit disappointed.”
“You’re kinda irritating me… more importantly. Are you sure you’re not going to reconsider it? No one knows whether the planet called earth really exists or not.”
The exhibition hall of the station’s ship market. Ships of all shapes and sizes were projected in holograph, and the two of them walked casually alongside a great number of customers.
“No, no, it exists. That’s comin’ from someone born and raise there, so there’s no doubt about it.”
“I’m sure that some sort of mistake. The galactic empire has existed for over five thousand years, but it still has yet to be confirmed, you know?”
“I mean, even if you tell me that… ah, but what about that thing? I heard it remained in folklore.”
“Yeah, what you’re talking about is probably the common planet descent theory of humankind, but rather than science, that’s practically in the domain of religion.”
Quite obstinate against him buying a ship, Maar was hanging on incessantly. Without paying it any mind, Tarou continued gazing at the ships on display. His eyes stopped on one of them. A large vessel with a streamlined body
“Ah, this one’s badass. And more ‘n anythin’, it’s huge. That’s how it is, so what says you, Koume-sensei?”
Tarou turned his eyes to the sphere hung at his belt. She flashed her lights as usual.
“That is a DD-E559, a model called a Thunderbolt. While it will not be a problem with your finances, what exactly do you plan to fight, boarding a destroyer like that?”
Tarou thought a bit over Koume’s words.
“Hey, Maar. About those WIND things we fought some time ago. Can you find them all o’er the place?”
On Tarou’s words, “Let’s see,” Maar replied.
“They’re generally dispersed all throughout the galaxy, but… if you really plan on searching for an unknown planet, then you’ll have to go out to the outer reaches of space. In that case, you’ll be up against more humans than WIND.”
“Humans? Is that where the criminals go?”
“Umm, it’s dubious whether you can call them criminals or not. The outer reaches are outside the galactic empire’s sphere of influence, so that place is generally a lawless zone. If there’s no law, it would be difficult to call anything a crime, right?”
“Wow, we really are at the fin-de-siècle… but I see. All the places humans can live on normally have long since been found.”
Tarou raised his face, looking at the window installed on the exhibition room wall. In that space where air didn’t exist, a number of stars you could call beyond count gave a dazzling twinkle.
“… Well, having more places to look just fires me up more.”
Even Tarou knew it was a rash flight of foolishness from his own ignorance, but it’s not like he didn’t have any prospects. He himself undoubtedly had memories of his life on earth, and at the very least, there was the fact he was able to come here. And more than anything…
“Koume, when we get back, access the neural network, and investigate a bit into earth-like exoplanets. There can’t be too many ‘f them, right?”
“Yes, understood. But I cannot give an affirmative, Mister Teirow. By earth-like, you likely mean planets capable of human inhabitation, but even in this galactic system alone…”
… He had a reassuring ally with him.