A giant asteroid drifting through space, and a broken spaceship crashed into its tip. Tarou sat in the deputy seat of the Rockboy supporting up that ship as he gazed at his BISHOP display. The front of the Rockboy’s cockpit was airframe, with a glass dome… actually made of hardened resin… over the top. To Tarou’s side- meaning the driver’s seat- he could see Maar concentrating.
“Stand by… stand by…… now!!”
Timing himself to Maar’s voice, Tarou manipulated the functions of the Rockboy’s frame. Willing the Rockboy the yank the wire wrapped around it, the ship sunken into the asteroid misshapenly bent back and forth as it tried to come free.
“Airframe output and physical shield output are both stable. You can safely raise the output by 20%, Mister Teirow.”
Plugged into the Rockboy’s control panel, Koume flashed her lights as she spoke. Tarou hummed a tune as he increased the output, skillfully pulling the wires with a force that exceeded the specs listed in the ship’s catalogue.
“… Okay, stop!! Now we just have to sever it with the arms, and that’ll be the end of it. Good work, both of you. We’ve gotten our first big haul in a long while.”
Letting out a deep breath at Maar’s voice, Tarou leaned back into his chair.
“Let’s get out of here fast. Even if we have a shield, there’s still that million-to-one chance, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. Bomb disposal is something they really should have left to a professional, but… okay, it’s out.”
Maar turned her eyes to the outside. The front part of the wrecked ship slowly floated away with the asteroid.
“But how did the asteroid-destroyer ship crash into an asteroid itself? Some new-age kamikaze?”
Maar laughed as she answered Tarou’s complaints.
“I don’t know what this kamikaze is, but it is ironic. Whatever the case, isn’t it fine? The energy from its collision diverted the asteroid’s trajectory, after all. And more than anything, it put some food on an honest salvager’s table.”
“Miss Maar. I apologize for being so forward, but rejoicing over the misfortune of others is… Miss Maar, please accelerate the ship at once. The force of the detachment has begun to reactivate some of the explosive devices.”
On Koume’s words, time in the cockpit came to a momentary halt. In the next instant, “Recalculate!!” Maar cried, and “Leave it to me!!” a voice cried back.
“Oy, oy, oy, that’s no joke. We really should’ve given up on this job!!”
“Sss-shut it!! The pay was wonderful!!”
Taking the tension of the wires into account, Tarou quickly calculated the best position to be, and immediately sent the results of her calculations to Koume. Receiving them, Koume added in a factor of the ship’s remaining energy supply, and transferred it to Maar. Marr used her long years of experience, alongside the Rockboy’s tendencies, and the behavior of the scrap to steer the ship in the most appropriate way she saw possible.
The sudden strong acceleration slammed Tarou against his seat. The anti-g-force suit constricted against his body in a desperate attempt to keep blood flowing in his brain.
In the next instant, a flash erupted to burn his eyes out.
That grainy impact wave that expanded in a sphere.
“The… anti-de… bris…”
“Miss Maar, leave that to me.”
While Maar’s voice was strained by the same acceleration Tarou experienced, Koume gave a calm answer. She quickly activated the 8 anti-debris beams loaded onto the Rockboy, incinerating the asteroid fragments flying towards the ship.
“A big one’s… com…ing… goddammittt!!”
Tarou screamed as he used BISHOP. He regulated the Rockboy down a course to avoid a fragment likely too large for the lasers to burn through. Around when he thought he’d lose consciousness at the g-force on his body increasing even further from the curve, numerous large fragments passed right next to the ship.
“Erk… urgh… a-are we in the clear!?”
The ship stopped its acceleration, and Tarou was finally free from the clamping. As the blood came down from his head, he felt an intense sense of vertigo.
“Yes… somehow. The asteroid’s been successfully detonated, so the environmental sector of the station will pay us extra.”
“That’s good… hey, Maar. It’s going to be exposed soon enough, so I’ll be honest and say I wet myself a bit.”
“I see… don’t worry. So did I.”
“That so… hehe.”
“That’s right… fufu.”
The relief from their safety caused the two to raise voices of laughter.
“Should I have spilled some machine oil as well?”
On Koume’s voice, the two wrung out even more laughter. Kicking their feet in that narrow cockpit, carelessly throwing around their arms.
“Geez, I laughed so much my stomach hurts… hey, you. You really should give up on searching for earth after all. I’m sure we could make a good team.”
Maar suddenly changed to a serious tone. “Perhaps,” Tarou returned, but he folded his arms and turned away.
“Tell ‘ya the truth here, I don’t quite get it myself… even ‘f I find earth ‘n go home, there’s no way the place‘ll be the same earth I know.”
“Then all the more…”
Tarou gazed out at the stars outside the window. “But see,” he continued.
“I have to return, or ‘ow should I put it. I feel somethin’ like a sense of duty… it’s a bit difficult to explain. Should I call it the best place to bury my bones? When it really comes down to it, I’m an outsider here, and an iceman.”
On Tarou’s words, “I see…” said Maar. She folded her arms as he did, turning her eyes to the stars of the cosmos.
“The station doesn’t have a burial custom, so I don’t really understand… hey, what sort of place was the earth?”
“Even if you ask me what sort of place it was… first, it had an ocean. Around seventy percent of its surface was ocean. On the remaining thirty percent, the humans and animals lived cramped together, and at the very least, back when I was still there, there was a lot of nature remaining.”
“Seventy percent ocean… that’s way too inefficient. Wasn’t it ever terraformed?”
“By terraform, you mean that thing where they control the whole environment of a planet? Never. Humanity didn’t have that technology yet. Within that naturally-made environment, they were trying their best not to destroy it. Being eco-friendly and stuff.”
“Hmm,” Maar sounded doubtful. Tarou sent her a sidelong glance as he continued on.
“You could barely see the stars through the atmosphere, but in their place, we had a sky, and we could see the sunrise and sunset. I never went to them, but we had deserts and jungles too. Places covered in permafrost, and tropics where you could survive naked. Even where I lived, if you went a bit away, there were still mountains and rivers brimmin’ with nature.”
“Hmm… that’s quite different from the planets terraformed to a specific biosphere. It’s like they just stuffed a bunch of things together, a chaotic environment. Have you ever been to the rivers or mountains? They weren’t dangerous?”
“Dangerous? As long as you exercised adequate caution, you wouldn’t be in much danger. If you go to the mountains, you’ll lots of rivers, and when I was small, I’d play around them all the time. I don’t know how it is now, but they were clean enough you could just drink them like that.”
“Drink? You mean the river water? As is? Without any processing? What’s with that. You were living on a gold mine!”
“Gold… oh, I see. Water’s a valuable on the station… but if we get into that, I don’t see it endin’. We had hundreds, thousands of types of plants, and we had real livestock. Not that synthesized stuff where you can’t tell what it was originally made from. The real deal.”
Maar was desperately working her imagination to put together Tarou’s words. A wrinkle graced her brow as she looked into the distance.
“Then what about you place? What sort of house did you live in?”
“The houses really depended on where you lived, but they were generally stone or wood. I guess reinforced concrete counts as stone. Ours was a normal two-story wood house, though.”
“Wood!? What sort of estate was it!!?”
Maar cried out.
“Umm, then what’s this? You drank real mineral water, as you ate real meat and plants. And on top of all that, you lived in a dwelling made of wood? That’s absurd. No wonder you’d want to go home… what sort of paradise is that?”
“Ah, no. That’s not particularly why I want to go back…”
Tarou hurriedly said it, but Maar seemed to be immersed in her own thoughts, and she wasn’t listening.
“You think… you think it really exists?”
“As I was tellin’ you, I don’t just ‘Think’ it, it really exists. I don’t know where it is, and what’s become of it now. But at the very least, it undoubtedly exists. Because that’s where I came from.”
On Tarou’s words, Maar thought some more.
“… Hey, Koume. I’m just asking for reference, but what do you think?”
Koume, who had persisted in silence to that point, flickered her lights for the first time in a while.
“Yes, Miss Maar. I am unable to determine whether it exists or not, but I do think it is a highly credible story. All the knowledge and common sense Mister Teirow possesses match up with records of premodern times, and surprisingly enough, they all hold a sense of consistency. That would not be the case with a delusion or scam. And I do have something I can call sufficient evidence.”
At Koume’s words, the two showed expressions of shock. Koume spun her wheels as she continued.
“The first is the language Mister Teirow initially used. The ancient language called Japanese only exists within the studies of a small portion of language scholars, and it is not a standard language. No matter how vast the galactic empire may be, it would be nigh impossible to find anyone who spoke it fluently. And the other…”
The two swallowed their breath.
“… is DNA information. Mister Teirow’s DNA… if you will pardon my discourtesy, I had it examined, and it contained the base information for all humanity living within the present empire. All of them, from the winged, to those called subspecies. Do you understand what that would mean?”
On that unbelievable notion, time on the ship stopped.
“The common planet descent theory of humankind. Perhaps it wasn’t completely wrong.”