“W-what are we supposed to do… A-activate shield and turrets!!”
A throbbing beat, and an unbearable tension. Tarou gave thanks to the fact that his stomach was completely empty, as he barked orders in his quivering voice. To him, came Maar’s words, intermingled with irritation.
“For the shield, do you want beam? Physical? We don’t have ammunition loaded in the turret bay. Calm down Teirow. The enemy is still far.”
Looking towards Maar, Tarou nodded a few times. The fact that he himself was so afraid surprised him. And the reason was the existence of others besides himself.
“This is B112, I’ve come across the shadow of a WIND. They’re headed for D024.”
“This is C111!! They’re over here as well! I can confirm two of them just by sight. These sons of guns are swarming all over the place!”
“This is D024, help me! I’m being attacked by WIND.”
“This is C164. Root, issue an order. My scan’s no good, I can’t see a thing.”
The panic-tinged signals continued streaming in. Tarou opened his eyes wide at the chat log flowing across his BISHOP, repeating some shallow breaths.
“W-wait. What am I… I can’t take responsib…”
Unable to follow these sudden developments, Tarou sat straight in his seat.
“Mister Teirow, the enemy numbers are too great. In these situations, the established tactic is to gather them all in one place. Can you calculate their evacuation routes?”
On Koume’s level-headed voice, “G-got it,” he somehow replied, concentrating every nerve in his body on his BISHOP. Subduing his panic, he carefully derived a coordinate for them one by one.
“Done! Koume, transmit it to the other ships. Maar, I’m leaving the weapons to you, so get me a bit of time…”
“… Got it. Hey, listen Teirow. No matter what happens from here on, it’s definitely not your fault. This isn’t for comfort or consolation. It’s fact. I’m begging you, please remember that.”
As Maar said it with composure, she began operating the armaments. “What do you…” Tarou opened his mouth, but Koume cut in with her cold voice.
“Call sign D024’s signal has gone out.”
Tarou looked at her dumbfounded.
“You mean… that person from before died? Just like that?”
“Uncertain, Mister Teirow. There is a possibility they simply cut off communication, and a possibility they found some way to escape.”
“No matter how you look at it, these numbers are… Teirow, there are 4 coming our way. They’ll enter our firing range in about 5 minutes.”
“Wait, give me a second!!”
It was so sudden, Tarou raised a scream. Even now, Maar and Koume continued relating him information, but the images crossing his mind erased them all.
The wreckage of countless ships floating through the asteroid belt.
The form of a broken Koume floating weightlessly into the abyss.
The pale face of Maar.
“It’s no good… no good at all!!”
Himself stuck stagnant in a vast spaceship.
“I don’t want to be alone!!”
Standing up on his seat. Tarou hoisted Koume up. Leaving behind a dazed Maar, he ran from the room towards a pass-locked space only he knew about.
He did hear the sound, but he couldn’t perceive it as a voice. Swiftly linking the password function, he set foot in the room.
In the room’s center was a large machine.
Towering high to the ceiling, a monster of box and cable.
And a cold-sleep device.
“Mister Teirow. Koume does not recommend this course of action.”
Koume’s voice echoed through the vast room. Without returning anything, Tarou buried his body in the cold-sleep device.
“Combat, tactics, managing a fleet, anything is fine, just load it.”
Tarou’s eyes remained wide open. “But–” Koume went on, but Tarou cut her off.
“Hey, we’re screwed, right? Maar wouldn’t say something like that as a joke. 20 WIND’s normally impossible, right? Hey, Koume, I’m beggin’ ya.”
The expressionless mechanical face gazed at Tarou.
“Mister Teirow, this destroyer is powerful, and perhaps it will be capable of taking on multiple…”
“Perhaps is no good, Koume!!”
Tarou interrupted her again.
“This ship may be a new model, and hell, it has some heavy armor installed. But it’s being piloted by an amateur. Even if I did my study, there’s a limit to that. Koume, we don’t have any time!!”
“…… Mister Teirow. Will the imperial navy officer training program be enough?”
On Koume’s voice, Tarou gave a courageous smile.
“Thanks, Koume… okay, make it quick. Or Maar’ll get lonely.”
Koume removed her eyes from Tarou’s crooked smile. She plugged her own finger into a cable near him.
“We are in a hurry, so I will do it without putting you to sleep. Mister Teirow, please grit your teeth.”
Tarou tried to return some words, but what came out in their place was an unintelligible scream.
The miscellaneous memories circled around him like a revolving lantern.
The enormous load of information flying at him…
his brain had no time to prepare to accept it,
And it was all overwritten to black.
… Weapon Information…
“Principle of optic weapons… principle of ballistic weapons…”
… Controlling a Battleship…
“Application of combat maneuvers… application of evasive maneuvers… application of electronic warfare…”
… Close Quarters Combat…
“Allignment control… future prediction… cipher firing…”
… Strategic Command…
“Diversion… assault… search… concealment… surprise…”
… Controling a Fleet…
“Group command… grasping communication… managing rank and file…”
… Special Control…
With bloodshot eyes, Tarou rolled out of the machine. The gastric juices he had unconsciously spit up brought an unpleasant sensation as they burnt his throat. The brain that was said not to possess a sense of pain was raising screams of pain.
“Mister Teirow, take deep and slow breaths. Do not forget to exhale.”
Tarou’s stuck-open eyes gazed at Koume. Matching her movements, he slowly got his breath in order.
“Hack… llettts go, kokkoume. maar is waiting.”
His head was still mush, and he had to lean on Koume to stand. In his right eye was an image of the ship. On his left, the expanded number of BISHOP functions.
“Fufu… fufufu… huh? Why am I laughing? Ah, dammit, my head hurts.”
Tarou muttered to himself as he opened the door to the central control room.
“Teirow!! Where did you… wait, are you alright?”
Maar’s face was pale. Tarou moved just his eyes to take in her form before, “I’m fine. You can scold me later,” he settled in his seat.
“Engine output 80%. Ignore all debris with a danger level 3 or lower. Concentrate laser on the front. Alter the fleet’s predicted reunion point. Set both shield and turrets to beam. Set the secondary shield to physical, and prepare for collision.”
As Tarou swiftly sent orders through his BISHOP, he allocated work to Maar and Koume.
“You… used that device, didn’t you?”
“Mn, I just kinda went through six years of military academy.”
“Mister Teirow. We will soon come into contact with the enemy. Time until the fleet converges, 120 seconds.”
“Aight,” Tarou returned to Koume, as he led the ship alongside a conspicuously large chunk of debris.
“High speed turn.”
“I said high speed turn, Maar.”
Tarou said as he operated Biship, forcing the ship into a vertical 180 degree turn. The scenery that used to be behind them reversed, as if the world had inverted at a fearsome rate.
“Concentrate the Thunderbolt’s armaments on the front. Suspend the engines. Use the rock as a wall, and continue cruising. Koume, lock onto the target.”
“Command received. Lock onto closest threat?”
“Mn, all of them.”
Koume showed some surprised motions unbefitting a machine. With a backward glance, Tarou activated all the turret lock systems and began aligning them. Including the weak gravitational pull of the obstacles around in his calculations, he separated debris and enemy aircrafts.
“This is C111, I can see you. I’ll provide support. Where should I aim?”
“This is C164, I’m behind you. The electromagnetic obstruction is terrible, and I can’t lock onto anything.”
“Maar, transfer the lock-on coordinates to C111 and C164. Turret 1 and 2 commence fire. Koume, I’l leaving the shield to you.”
Eventually, multiple WIND crafts appeared from the space between the debris. As he’d seen once before, they boasted designs made of odds and ends. Commencing its attack, the Plum’s turrets emitted beams, piercing through and destroying one of them.
“Enemy response gone. One craft down.”
“Yippee, let’s keep at it!! Fire 3 and 4 too!!”
The four double-barrel turrets on the plum could each fire one shot per second. Those eight beams continued spitting out madly. Those blue lights glittered as they reflected irregularly off the debris, and if they weren’t in battle, it would be an exceedingly whimsical scene.
“This is B112, I’m sorry I’m late. I’m being chased by 3 WIND. Can you do anything about it?”
After taking out two WIND crafts in succession, Tarou turned his attention to B112.
“This is Root, could you keep flying straight ahead? Maar, start the engine. Start edging backwards at a speed where we don’t leave anyone behind.”
He continued his bombardment without waiting for an answer. A small space craft rounded the debris, and one of the WIND crafts following behind it went up in flames. It was unknown whether they took it as a provocation or not, but the remaining two wind ships altered their course towards Tarou.
“Mister Teirow, two enemies have begun firing on us, and another three have entered our firing range. C111 has shot down one ship.”
“Got it, Koume-can. I’m countin’ on you to manage the shield.”
“Teirow, we’re leaving the asteroid belt.”
The space crafts hurtled back with good momentum. The WIND chasing them were silenced by concentrated fire from the Plum. On top of that, three more WIND crafts shot out, firing their beams to scrape away the Plum’s shields.
“If it’s brute force, we ain’t losin’!! This isn’t a destroyer for nothing!!”
Acting as a shield for the other shields, the Plum devoted itself to firing its beams. The WIND activated laser jamming to obstruct his attacks, Tarou immediately added the curve the jamming bestowed on the lasers to his calculations, shooting them down.
That exchange without an ounce of strategy continued on for close to 30 minutes, draining the Plum’s remaining shield to 20%. As the final WIND let off light and heat as it ceased movement, silence finally returned to the area.
“Get out here… come and get me. I’ll shoot you all down.”
Tarou muttered as he glared at his display and BISHOP with bloodshot eyes. There, Koume let out a calm voice.
“Mister Teirow, the total number of crafts shot down has reached 25.”
“25? Three left… ah, no, the rest are the allies behind me.”
“Right… hah. It doesn’t really feel like I survived that one. It’s not like the problem’s gone, but for now, we’ve gotten out of it alive. By the way, the ship is safe. Though some places were burnt.”
On Maar’s words, Tarou began checking over the ship. As she said, some portions of the hull’s armor were singed, but… it wasn’t as if the shields could diffuse the beams entirely… and it didn’t seem any of the damage had reached the interior.
“This is C111, you’re a lifesaver, admiral. When we get back, I’ll treat you to a drink.”
“This is C164, that was a splendid battle. Hey, everyone, how about paying some of the reparations we’ll get from stargate management to Root?”
“This is B112. C164, I agree with your proposal.”
On the voices over the communication line notifying him of their good health, Tarou felt relief from his heart. He closed his eyes, collapsing into his seat, quickly losing a hold of his consciousness.