“… Damn straight!!”
Alongside a strange cry, Tarou raised his body. Nervously overlooking the area, he noticed he was in the sick bay of the spacecraft Plum.
“Good morning, Mister Teirow. Just what sort of dream might you have been dreaming?”
At the voice coming down on him from above, “No, these sunglasses were…” Tarou leaned his head backwards. Koume tilted her mechanical head.
“How are you feeling? The full body scan concluded there were no abnormalities, but there is no way to discern the inside of your head. And the medical benefit of leftover skin has been proven. Live your life with confidence.”
“What’re you talking about!? Ah, no way, I kinda get it, so don’t say anythin’. I don’t want to hear it, lalala.”
Tarou held up a hand to silence Koume’s next words once more, “I don’t feel too bad,” he said as he stood.
“What’s the situation?”
As he walked towards the exit, he offered a short question. Koume opener her mouth.
“Yes, Mister Teirow. At present, we are in the midst of a long-distance warp drive to the destination point. Approximately 8 hours have passed since you collapsed. By the way, do you have any recollection of call sign C111? He purposely conducted malicious hacking over the neural network to establish contact with the imperial government.”
“Oh, now that’s quite a messed up idea. So they came to save us?”
“That’s right. Though it seems the government was momentarily devising a mission to assassinate him, once our circumstances were brought to light, they immediately stepped down.”
“Assassination, now that doesn’t sound peaceful… I’m kinda gettin’ a sense of how this imperial government maintains its public order.”
Arriving at the central control room, Tarou set foot inside. After Maar- who had been working on something at the display- spotted him come in, she silently made her way over.
“Don’t do something like that without discussing with me again. At the very least, you could’ve offered a word as you went off.”
“No, I don’t think I’ve done anything you have to worry ab–”
“We’re partners. Was I the only one who thought of it that way?”
Maar’s voice overlapped with his. Unable to add another word, “I’m sorry,” was all Tarou could let out.
“Mn, don’t look so disheartened. There was no helping it in that situation, and looking at the results, it’s because of you that we were saved… looks like I’m the one who should be saying sorry. Perhaps my anger’s unjustified.”
On Maar’s voice, Tarou made an indescribably bitter smile.
“No, no. I don’t know what to say about that. I was just all over the place from my unrest, and lookin’ back on it now that it’s all over, I really didn’t do much, right? Maybe we would have been able to force our way through normally.”
“No, I am the one who does not know what to say about that, Mister Teirow.The one who made the decision to slip out of the asteroid belt, and the one who took command was you. Pursing them may have not given a bad outcome, but you can honestly be proud of yourself.”
Tarou felt somewhat saved at Koume’s voice. He offered Maar another word of apology before he switched the display to show the ship’s exterior.
“In the end, see… I was unprepared, and reckless, wasn’t I. My resolve was much lower than I thought it was, or ‘ow should I put it…”
While they were moving at high speeds through a warp, Tarou looked over the stars that looked no different than usual. The universe was vast, and the stars were distant. In a mere few lightyears of movement, the scenery would barely ever change.
“Well, let’s see. To be honest, I could say the same for myself. Perhaps I was thinking of this as one of those dreams of adventure I always had as a kid… this is reality, I have to get a bit more of a grasp on that fact.”
As Maar looked into the distance, “Maybe,” said Tarou.
“But havin’ dreams and goin’ on adventures, they aren’t necessarily bad things If the romantic throws it all away, what you’ve got is just another old man.”
As Tarou gave a wink that didn’t fit with his grin, Maar let out a laugh.
“What’s with that. So in my case, I’d just be some old lady? We can’t be having that. Looks like I’ll have to do my best chasing after my dreams.”
“Fuhehe, go right ahead, my dear. Hey, by the way, Maar-tan. It looks like you’ve been fiddlin’ around with BISHOP for a while, but what’re you doin’?”
“What? I’m regulating the overdrive device. That C111 guy, his name’s Allan, but anyways, it’s because of him that we were able to use the gate at our destination. Since we had the imperial government’s permission, we had them open up a gate at our coordinates.”
I see, Tarou nodded at Maar’s explanation. By the explanation he had gotten from Koume not too long ago, the gate was something that pushed and pulled. Thinking about it along that vein, they were currently being forcefully pulled through space. To try and help Maar, he started up his BISHOP, but a question mark floated about his head at what he saw.
“The hell’s this? So this is the program that controls the overdrive… right? There are quite a few function’s here I’ve never seen before.”
“Of course there are. In its base state, there’s no way of telling how many days it would take to get there. To make sure the main engine battery flows to the drive, I ‘fiddled’ with it.”
“Fiddled? In that short period of time?”
To Tarou’s surprise, Maar stopped her hands, and said, “Because it’s my Gift.”
“Mechanical engineering. That’s my Gift. Even if I look like this, they called me a genius when I was younger, you know.”
“Gift? Ah, you said it a few times before. Like when you asked me if I was a gift holder or something. Is that like, something of a special sort of talent?”
“Let’s see. It’s not like they’re particularly rare or anything. It’s what they call people whose BISHOP construction speeds reach abnormal levels limited to a specific field.”
“Hmm. So that’s why you’re good at working with machines. Explains a lot. Dismantling a ship isn’t usually something you could do alone, after all. At first I thought, ‘For real?’… er, rather, I thought it was real amazin’.”
Yeah, yeah, Tarou nodded a few times. Tarou wondered just how much of a saving grace Maar would have been if she was on that drifting chunk of space wreckage with him. After a while of silence, “Thank you,” Maar muttered as she leaned deep into her seat.
“But because of it, I got a misunderstanding and of all things went and made a salvager of myself. If I had joined a company like a normal person, I’m sure I’d have been able to lead a much better life… by the time I noticed that doing everything on my own was difficult, I had already gotten to quite a good age.”
To Maar’s confession, “I see,” said Tarou.
“But bein’ a salvager is cool. If you get a hit, you make it big, and while it’s not totally relevant, I think it’s alright to dream big.”
“Right… fufu, you’re the only one who’s ever said that to me. They all say it’s dumpster diving, or pointless gambling. They even call it black-market business. I should’ve just gathered some comrades, but my thoughtless pride was too high for that.”
“That so… so you’re saying it ‘was’ too high? Past tense?”
“Ahaha, how mean, Teirow. But yeah. You’re right. I’ll admit I’m not being honest.”
Maar looked up at the ceiling as she laughed. Tarou looked at her from the side, “By the way,” he said to change the topic.
“In the end, what was the cause of that anyways? For an accident, there were a few too many pests lurking around. I’d rather not be a magnet for trouble.”
“About that,” answered Maar.
“They’re talking about how that might have been intentional interference by the WIND. Lately, there have been new types of WIND popping up all over the empire, so it wouldn’t be strange if there was a WIND equipped with a warp jammer. How troublesome.”
“Ah, as long as they have the parts, they’ll use whatever they can get their hands on, right? They’re kinda like salvagers.”
As Maar said, “Could you not group us together?” Tarou sent a smile, letting his thoughts spin around the WIND. Just like what had happened to them, he worried the number of victims from WIND attacks might increase. But simultaneously, perhaps his earnings as a transporter may increase, a business manager0esue thought floated in his head.
“So getting a warship rather than a fast one was the right decision…”
Tarou quietly muttered. If he had a speedy ship, perhaps he would be able to outrun them, but he wouldn’t have been able to save the three ships following behind the Plum’s warp. Tarou understood that he had no need to bear responsibility for them, but he couldn’t help the fact it would make it harder to sleep at night.
“This is C111, can you hear me, admiral?”
A voice came through his BISHOP. “Loud ‘n clear. Allan, was it?”
“Yep, it’s Allan. Pleased to meet you. Negotiations with stargate management are over. They’re putting out two million credits per ship as reparations. Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad figure, but what should we do? Everyone said they’d leave the right to decide with you.”
“Two million… whoah, that’s worth ten round trips of all the cargo we have on us now. Yep, our financial department’s givin’ the okay, so let’s go with that.”
“Got it. Then we’ll take a million each, and request five million for you. As I recall, your place’s a corporation, right? It’s been authorized as a government mission, so you’ll be able to take it easy for a while.”
“Five mill–!! No man, givin’ over half is a bit mumhhff. “
Having everyone hand over half of their reparations was such a high ration Tarou couldn’t help but decline. But his mouth was covered up by Maar, who silently approached with skillful movements.
“You should… accept their gratitude. Teirow.”
Maar gave a business smile. Feeling fear at the sheer purity of her smile, Tarou gave an honest nod. There, a voice came across the line once more.
“But that really was a disaster for the lot of us. Before your ship came to the rescue, I ended up praying to the folks five times. ‘Save me mama!!’ I cried.”
“Ahaha, of cou… huh? Ah, yeah. Yep. That’s right, I was also prayin’ in my heart.”
As Tarou said that, he ignored Allan’s words of, “What’s wrong?” and cut the line.
“You had parents, right? Were they both in good health? Ah, um. I’m talking about when you were on earth.”
Tarou’s body twitched at the voice that called out from behind. Come to think about it, she didn’t have any relatives, he recalled.
“Well, from what I can remember… they should… have been.”
“Should? Fufu, what a strange response. I’m sure you didn’t call them often enough. Were your parents a lot like you?”
“Ah? Yeah… that’s right. They always used to say, like father, like son. I’m feelin’ a bit sick, so could I go back to my room?”
Said Tarou as he fled from the room. Maar’s dubious voice barely reached him from behind, but he chose not to hear it.
“Can’t say I didn’t see it comin’…”
Tarou let out a small sigh at the first lie he had ever told Maar.
The faces of the parents he should have known well,
Not even a fragment of them remained in his memory.