“President!! We’ve finished taking in the cargo!!”
Wearing work clothes that consisted of characteristic vertical stripes of silver and red, one of Allan’s handyman companions called out. He wore a swimming-cap-like hat to assist movement in zero gravity, and Tarou felt the whole ensemble was somewhat reminiscent of old prison clothing.
“Should I make a uniform of our own sometime down the line… alright, good work out there.”
Tarou waved his hand as he answered, staring at the destroyer Plum that had increased considerably in capacity. The Plum’s original storage space was already overflowing with goods to deliver, another two additional cargo holds dangling on its left and right. In addition to the Rockboy joined nearby the thrusters, Alan’s speedster Stardust was joined at the substructure, giving the Plum the impression of a haphazard man attempting to carry all his groceries in one go.
“When we finally got a pretty ship for ourselves, for it to end up in such a state… well, it’s moistening our wallets, so it is a wonderful thing, in a sense..”
To Tarou’s side, Maar muttered as she organized various financial settlements.
“Well yeah, carryin’ 220% maximum capacity is like a dream for any deliveryman. When it comes down to it, money is money, but will we really be alright?”
“Alright? What do you mean?”
“I mean, when we don’t have a single qualification, we’re going to temporarily be charged with human lives. Does the government care about something like that? On earth, you’d need qualifications to drive a single taxi, you know?”
Tarou looked at the long line of people still in the process of boarding the Plum as he muttered. They were a portion of the never-lacking group that had decided to leave the Peta system, the relatively affluent ones who had paid a moving fee to the Rising Sun Corp. What was already a deserted mine system had long reached an impasse, and with this time’s WIND ATTACK as a trigger, all the stations in the system had gotten into a moving trend.
“The government couldn’t care less. The empire is quite tolerant, but look at it the other way, and they’re generally apathetic. There is only one constitution shared throughout the cosmos. Freedom and self-responsibility.”
Maar said it as if it were only natural before returning to her finance work. Tarou wondered if it was liberalism gone way too far, but he didn’t have the societal knowledge to determine whether that was a correct approach or not.
“From Allan to Teirow, This line is the last of our passengers. 1424 people on the dot. The cargo has also been fully taken in, it seems.”
To the communication line that reached his BISHOP, “Good work,” Tarou replied. As I recall, Allan should be over there, he thought as he peered out of the station’s gate lounge towards the bridge.
“Admiral, I’m a little lower… right, right. Probably around there. I’m waving my hands right now.”
Tarou spotted Allan in his spacesuit, waving his arms under the Plum, returning a wave of his own. Even if you called it a spacesuit, the only piece that coincided with Tarou’s memory was the dome-shaped glass over his head. Apparently the pressurization wasn’t carried out through air, but by the material itself, so it was a form quite close to full-body tights. Allan skillfully operated his jetpack, giving the Plum another inspection for damage.
“He really can do anything… this might sound rude to the person in question, but it looks like I’ve picked up some nice personnel.”
Tarou quietly muttered as he stared outside. To that, “Yes, that does seem to be the case,” said Koume.
“He bragged that he has never failed before, but it does seem Mister Allan holds a good enough history to back his boast. If he said he had the leisure to pick and choose, then surely that would be the case, but that also means he is an exceedingly cautious one.”
Tarou nodded at Koume’s level-headed analysis.
“I hope he becomes a good stopper fer our reckless… by the way, Koume, ‘ave you computed out a route for us?”
“Yes, I have finished calculating a route, Mister Teirow. By your request, I have settled with time as the priority. 18 jumps total. If we are to carry out the station missions Miss Maar picked out, then we will be able to carry out 80% of them in 24 jumps.”
“Yeah, I think we’re gonna refrain this time. Even if everyone’s responsible for themselves, whether it weighs on my mind or not is a separate issue. The probability that 20 WIND will come crawling out next time isn’t 0, right?”
Saying that, Tarou shrugged his shoulders. What Koume had come out with was the shortest route to deliver all the Plum’s passengers to their destination star systems. Maar insisted to take on transport missions at the stations along the way, but Tarou wasn’t quite on board. Perhaps he’d be able to do such a thing sooner or later, but right now, there was a high probability the weight of the human lives on board would make for a higher pressure on him than need be.
“Well, whatever the case, we’re set for a long trip with no end in sight, so let’s just take it easy. Impatience’s what leads to blunder… but our ship really is a popular one. Don’t you think it’d be nice if I was that popular too? As a president.”
Tarou gazed at the other vacant-looking ships on the bridge, feeling somewhat apologetic as he spoke.
“Naturally, Mister Teirow. What immigrants wish for is security, and there is no ship better equipped to actualize that than a warship. If this move was due to some factor besides the WIND, then on the contrary, few would ever think to board a destroyer. Fuel consumption and ride. More than anything, capacity, which leads to pricing. No matter what factor you take into account, there is not a single good point to be found.”
“So you’re ignoring my own popularity statement. I see.”
On Koume’s clear tone, Tarou stuck out his lips a bit. He wanted to tell her the Plum was a wonderful ship, but Koume’s words weren’t mistaken, so he called it off. As a warship, it was obvious. Compared to other transport ships, it definitely did lack in the area of comfort.
“Looking at our space, we’re going to have to keep them in a common space. They’ll have to put up with that… now then, shall we prepare to take off?”
Standing up and taking a big stretch, Tarou began walking off with a leisurely pace. Koume followed a little behind him.
“Mister Teirow, have you not grown a little taller?”
Tarou turned towards her.
“No way. I’ve finished my growth spurt ages ago.”
“Teirow, have a look at the news!!”
Around half a month since the passengers boarded in the Peta system. Transport to approximately half the planned star systems had been completed, and as Tarou was about to doze off from sheer boredom, an emergency message came in from Maar. In the central command room of Destroyer Plum, Tarou- who had been lying down in the command seat a step higher than the others- half tumble as he dived towards the floor.
“News… ah, this one?”
Of all the news headlines displayed, Tarou picked the one with close to two extra digits in its viewer count compared to the other entries. He sifted his eyes through the detailed information that popped up.
“Um, what’s this… an increase in WIND activity across the galaxy. The appearance of new models equipped with warp and beam jammers… these are the buggers we went up against. Umm, the imperial government has declared this a Level 1 state of emergency. It has issued address for all self-governing bodies to increase their vigilance. Star gates and stations are no longer obligated to pay reparations for damages caused in attacks from WIND crafts. Uwah, for real? That’s downright dirty.”
“Hey, Teirow, did you see the news? We were lucky… ick!!”
Bursting into the control room, Maar grimaced as she saw Teirow sprawled out like a shrimp.
“I’d like a video to see just what series of events led to you ending up like that… more importantly, did you see? Public facilities are no longer obligated to pay compensation for damages caused by WIND, it seems.”
In regards to Maar’s agitation, “Yeah, saw it,” said Tarou.
“They probably had to fork over so much reparations they could no longer ignore it. Under related topics, it looks like insurance companies are droppin’ like flies, so this might be a real crisis.”
“Yes, that’s right. Right about now, I’m sure the self-euthanizing facilities are bustling with life. And it doesn’t seem there’s a massive WIND outbreak at any specific point. What could this mean?”
On Maar’s words, “Yeaaah,” groaned Tarou.
“For argument’s sake, there’s an article saying the imperial navy is moving, and I doubt the central districts will be ruined. Honestly, no matter ‘ow many thousand or ten thousand WIND there are, from the empire’s regular army’s point of view, they’re somethin’ like trash.”
“You may have a point,” said Maar.
“But they definitely won’t dispatch them to the outer reaches. Ever since that mutiny incident happened, the empire never splits up its navy.”
“Mutine? What was it again? Did the king or whoever’s up there’s position get snatched up?”
“Yeah, something like that. A long time ago, the imperial navy left the center open or some large-scale military practice, and the soldiers that stayed behind tried to seize the capital, apparently. After a glaring match with the tens of thousands of practice ships that hurriedly returned, the incident got a soft landing. But if they went at one another, it would definitely be a civil war, right? Just thinking about it is scary.”
“Hweeeh,” Tarou raised a voice of wonder. It was a surprise that the great empire that supervised the cosmos faced such a crisis, but as he imagined a battlefield on a scale with tens of thousands of ships glaring at one another, his pure manly blood heated up.
“From the navy’s formation, it’ll probably be two hundred superdreadnoughts and five thousand battleships. Then twenty thousand cruisers. In addition to fifty thousand destroyers, and several hundred thousand smaller vessels… I can’t even imagine it at this point. Just how are they planning to fight? This takes me back to when I was a kid callin’ out ‘A jillion!!’ and, ‘the strongest fleet evah!!’ We’re already at that level here.”
To Tarou’s fed-up face, “Sure enough,” Maar laughed.
“Though I think it’s a good thing it’s come to that. Also, there’s some news pertaining to the management of the company. I sent it over.”
A news piece immediately popped up on his BISHOP. As Tarou scanned through the article, “I see,” he touched a hand to his chin.
“So they’ve made permanent government missions out of shooting down and gathering info on different variants of WIND… I want to avoid battle if possible, but these may be nice if it comes down to it. Though if possible, I’d like to leave it to the people who do it for a living.”
The people who did it for a living… meaning bounty hunters and security companies with multiple ships in their possession. If he clashed head on with them, Tarou knew he had no chances of victory. In experience and scale and funds and personnel, just about everything was worlds apart.
“But it’s that. We have a destroyer of all things, so I can think up quite a few things we can do. Guhehe. Maybe spring’s a’ comin’.”
Of the ideas popping up in his head, Tarou began inspecting them to see which ones were actually feasible. The seas were stormy, but as long as he had a favorable wind, who cared? Tarou tried to think along that vein.
“Spring, eh… looks like winter to me. Not that the stations have any seasons.”
Maar gazed at the various stars on the display.
At the galactic empire.
The waves of the times were advancing.