The distant Stardust. Once it had reached a distance difficult to confirm with the naked eye, Allan’s voice came across the line.
“This is Stardust. I’ve reached the 2km point from the destination. I’m beginning my approach.”
“This is Plum, Stardust, approach approved. Exercise the utmost caution.”
As Tarou sent Allan a reply, he began testing out the new direction control program he had written up. Destroyer plum unsteadily swayed to and fro as it returned to its original trajectory.
“We can make use of approximately 80% of our original maneuverability, Mister Teirow.”
Tarou gave a satisfied nod to Koume’s calculations. In that previous crash, the Plum had lost two directional control thrusters, so in order for the other thrusters to compensate, he had to finely tone their handling outputs.
“Maar, did you get through?”
“It’s no good,” Maar shook her head.
“I think there’s might be some sort of interference with their receiver. She got a response to her last transmission, so I don’t think it’s a problem with the hardware…”
As Maar raised a groan, “Got it. Keep tryin’ for now,” said Tarou.
“Even so, the solar wind interference is huge… our beams’ll probably curve terribly. Koume, could you look up the expected influence of the radiation? I’ll try calculatin’ it too, so let’s see if we get somewhere close.”
“Understood, Mister Teirow. But I plead that you do not rely on Koume too much. Honestly, I am lacking in confidence.”
On Koume’s unexpected words, Tarou couldn’t help but raise a hysteric, “aEeh!?” To Koume’s side, Maar showed a similar look of surprise, turning her face to peer into her mechanical face.
“Oy, oy, what’s wrong, Koume-san? That didn’t sound like you at all. What’s wrong? Facin’ a midlife crisis ‘er somethin’?”
“Negative, Mister Teirow. I cannot say whether an AI has a sense of being, but I am perfectly… ah, no, I mean it is highly likely I am functioning under perfectly normal conditions. The problem lies in the connection to the neuralnet.”
“Connection? Well, you did say something about that. But it’s not like you’re some household security guard who can’t live without the net, so where’s the problem?”
“There is nothing but problems, Mister Teirow,” Koume turned her face. Her expressionless mechanical eyes took Tarou in.
“The memory loaded onto Koume may certainly be considered extensive when compared to a standard AI. But if you compare it to the vast amount of information you can find on the neuralnet, it is but a trivial amount. Meaning I cannot make conclusions grounded on certain information or various calculations as I have to this point. Regrettable as it may be, Koume in a disarray from the present situation, and even in concerns irrelevant to available information, I feel doubt at the integrity of my decisions. There are no problems with my logic paths, and I detect no abnormality with any of my loaded knowledge mechanisms. The probability of serial error in the tunnel effect of my quantum circuit is…”
“Wai- wait, stop, time out. I’m sorry, I have absolutely no idea what you’re talkin’ about. If possible, could you make it simple enough trash like me could understand?”
As it seemed Koume would only go on and on, Tarou went and stuck his mouth in. To that, Maar raised an eyebrow, “Uum,” she went on.
“In short, Koume is, ‘anxious,’ right?”
Koume spun her head towards Maar’s voice.
“Anxious… yes, that it correct. An exceedingly precise term to express Koume’s present state. As expected of Miss Maar. That is right, Koume feels extremely anxious.”
On Koume’s answer, the two humans exchanged a glance.
“Umm, is it that? Someone who’s been takin’ exams with a perfect cheat sheet up to now suddenly had it taken away?”
“Your example’s way too negative, but that sounds about right.”
Tarou had a vague understanding of Koume’s circumstance, but that didn’t mean he had any idea what to do about it. As he scratched his head in perplexion, “Please tell me,” Koume opened her mouth.
“Mister Teirow. When put into this sort of situation, in what manner does a human take action?”
Looking up at Tarou, Koume intently focused her eyes.
“In what manner… well, you just gotta do your best, right?”
“Now that’s just careless,” Maar grimaced. She continued on to say, “But maybe you’re right.” She gave a bitter smile.
“Nah, I know I’m right. Hey, Koume, just have a look at me. The other day, I should’ve been seekin’ out indolence in my peaceful life, but by the time I noticed it, I was in some random spaceship driftin’ through the macrocosm of space. You’ll do just fine. What’s this about the neuralnet? Of course you may be anxious, but it’s all gonna work out. That’s how we humans go about it.”
Tarou answered as he pointed at Koume. “Not that it actually resolves anythin’!” he proudly stuck out his chest and stuck up his thumb.
“So that is what the humans… do… understood. In that case…”
Koume turned back towards the display in front of her.
“Koume shall do her best. Mister Teirow, I will send the results of the calculation over to you.”
Tarou exchanged a smile with Maar, his eyes scanning through the results coming in from Koume. The calculations didn’t deviate far from his own estimates, yet they were clearly much more precise.
“Hmhmm, that’s how it’s gotta be. Allan, what’s your situation?”
A voice came across the line to answer Tarou’s call.
“This is Stardust. Admiral, it’s just as you said. I picked up a manual semaphore SOS. It seems there are a number of people still shut up inside. Presumed number is close to the triple digits. Now taking measures for rescue.”
The three on the Plum looked at one another and nodded.
“This is Plum. Thanks for that. Any signs of a threat apart from WIND?”
“This is Stardust. Can’t really tell… ah, no. The information just came in. There are a number of WIND crafts on the station’s interior dock, it says. There’s a high probability they’ll jump out if they notice us.”
“This is Plum. Understood. We’ll reach in around 4 and a half minutes.”
“This is Stardust. You’d better hurry up, Admiral. The Stardust is a master of running away, but battle’s a bit iffy.”
“Yeah, got it.” He answered as he glared fixatedly on the distant station’s details the camera was finally able to capture. As they were chasing that cylindrical station from behind, from their side, it looked like a white dish.
“Mn, what’s that?”
The moment he zoomed into that dish-like circle, he caught sight of a streak-like white line extending from the station.
“Mister Teirow, the optical scanners have captured two moving objects. From the locking dog on your righthand side.”
“Just caught sight of it myself. I doubt it’ll do anythin’, but try sendin’ an identification signal.”
“No response from identification signal, only the Stardust sent anything back.”
“As I thought… lock-on and fire some warning shots. It may be a waste, but we can’t have them goin’ towards Stardust. Be careful not to hit the station.”
Tarou said as he swiftly locked onto the two targets, firing a volley with all turrets at once. As he wasn’t calculating for the radiation, gravity or any other variables, they were complete shots in the dark, but they displayed ample effect in drawing the enemy’s attention.
“Enemy responses have turned course towards us. Their acceleration is exceedingly high, they are likely small-scale crafts.”
“Okay, then let’s load the next one.”
From the enemy’s course and the strength of the solar winds, Tarou recalculated the presumed correct angles to fire his beams, immediately sending it to the blast control devices.
“Wah, we hit on the first shot!! What’s this, Koume, we’re perfectly fine after all!”
The direct hit from the beam stopped the WIND in its tracks. As Maar raised her voice, “Thank you,” Koume called back.
“You normally wouldn’t hit at this range. Aah, so they’re not considering the influence of the radiation themselves?”
The remaining WIND fired on the Plum, but its beams received the influence of the solar winds, drawing gentle curves as they strayed from the ship. In the end, until it was destroyed by the Plum’s bombardment, that ship was unable to land a single hit.
“Guess that just goes to show humans are still more flexible than AI. Though it might’ve been different if the enemy had someone like Koume.”
Maar let out a relieved sigh.
“Don’t say such scary things, Maar. If all our enemies were Koume, then humanity wouldn’t have a future… whoah, what’s this!!”
The three dimensional radar produced on the display from the optical scan. What caught Tarou’s eyes was an unbelievable amount of moving objects.
“Mister Teirow, there are 22 hostile responses. Correction, 24 hostile responses. It may be accurate to say those previous ones were recon drones.”
“Wheeh, I don’t like where this is headed, but numerically, we’re around the same place as we were none too long ago… ah, no, the situation is different. This is bad.”
“What do you mean different? Right now, it looks like the solar winds are on our side.”
“You’re right about that, Maar-tan. But the Thunderbolt model’s armor and turrets are all concentrated on the front. Retreating back while firing is one thing, but what’ll happen if we’re the ones advancing?”
On Tarou’s explaination, “I see,” said Maar.
“It would be troublesome if they flocked around us from all sides… understood. At present, there’s no trace of them using a warp jammer, so I’ll make it so we’re ready to jump at any time.”
“Good idea,” went Tarou. He confirmed the WIND ships spreading out in all directions on his moniter as he cocked his head over what was going on.
“Well for now, we can only do our best.”
Gazing at the encroaching points, Tarou let out a deep sigh.