Editor: Thor’s Stone
“Oh, you don’t want to shake hands with me?”
“Sorry. I’m a bit of a shy man, you see.”
I thought about what our next move would be while secretly measuring the distance between us and the grinning Marie. They were currently blocking the entrance to the Mercenary Guild branch. It’s unlikely that we’d be able to get out of the building without getting past them first.
Elma nudged my flank with her elbow as she called out to me, probably because she noticed I was acting a bit strange. But I kept my eyes on Marie as I held Elma’s hand, shifted half a step to the right, and pointed to the reception counter with my free hand.
“We’re done with our business. You came all the way here because you have some business with the guild as well, right? Please go right ahead.”
“Ara, you’re quite the gentleman despite being a mercenary, aren’t you? You better learn from him, you guys.”
One of the grim-looking men who seemed like bodyguards replied to Marie with a flat tone. Underneath their thick leather-like clothes were seemingly well-trained muscular bodies. No, their muscles could have also been the result of bionic or cybernetic enhancements rather than being natural. At least, it looked like they’ve undergone cybernetic enhancements to me. They also seemed to have high close combat ability. They should really be Marie’s bodyguards. Well, it’s not like Mei wouldn’t be able to deal with them though.
“But isn’t it fine to talk a bit more? After all, we’ve managed to chance upon each other here, so that might mean we have some fate with each other. At least that’s what I think. What about you?”
“I’m sorry, but the rest of my crew members are waiting for us back in my ship. We also have some other plans and are pretty busy you see.”
“Hmmm……? Well, it can’t be helped then. I pray that we meet each other again soon.”
After saying so, Marie withdrew her grin, instead opting for a faint smile on her lips as she passed us by with her group and headed for the counter. When Marie passed by me, a sickeningly sweet smell wafted over, making me inadvertently knit my brows.
Elma seemed to have been quite shaken by the tense atmosphere earlier as she followed after me along with Mei, who was the same as always.
“Mei, keep a good eye on the areas surrounding Black Lotus. Use all of the ship’s available sensors and make sure not to miss anyone or anything suspicious.”
“Also, find as much information as possible about that woman. But make sure you won’t be traced.”
“Yes, please leave it to me.”
“Hey, what’s wrong with you? You were acting really weird since earlier.”
Elma finally couldn’t hold herself back after she heard my ominous-sounding exchange with Mei and pulled my jacket lightly to get my attention. Well, I can’t exactly blame her for reacting this way though.
“Let’s just say it’s due to intuition.”
“That woman was bad news. Very bad news.”
Something like intuition sounded pretty vague, didn’t it? And taking that kind of prickly attitude simply due to intuition alone sounded pretty silly as well, so I’d understand if she found my behavior incomprehensible.
“But Hiro’s intuition is…… Yeah, we can’t exactly dismiss it lightly.”
Wow. She was more receptive to the idea than I expected.
“Anyway, I get that we need to be extra cautious. The fleet she leads looks pretty good in a fight, and it’s a toss-up if we can take all of them with Krishna and Black Lotus alone.”
“I’ll figure something out. I don’t feel like I’d lose in a dogfight.”
“Krishna might come out fine, but Black Lotus could be downed by a concentrated attack. Isn’t that the same as losing?”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
Krishna can probably shake off even the most dogged pursuit, but the considerably slower Black Lotus couldn’t. In other words, we should definitely avoid fighting them.
“Well, this is troublesome. No matter how you look at it, their ships seem faster than Black Lotus.”
“That’s because their fleet is composed of small and medium-class ships. The medium-class ships also seem to be the type that emphasizes firepower and speed.”
I continued to discuss with Elma while checking out the currently anchored ships of Marie’s fleet as we made our way back to Black Lotus.
The ships might have had their original shapes changed significantly due to extensive modifications, or perhaps they simply were of an unknown model. In any case, it was difficult to determine their equipment and performance through just outside observation. However, one thing they all had in common was the presence of large main thrusters, so it appears that all of them were pretty quick on their feet. Judging from their characteristics, Marie’s ships might possibly specialize in blitzes, tracking, and hit and run tactics.
“I don’t think it’s impossible for us to get rid of up to three times their current number. We can probably do it with Krishna.”
“As far as I can see, they have five medium-class ships and seven small-class ones. This is probably the largest mercenary fleet I’ve ever encountered.”
If the small-class ships focused on holding Krishna back and concentrated the firepower of five medium-class ships on Black Lotus, she probably wouldn’t be able to come out unscathed. Black Lotus had a thick energy shield and armor plating, but its speed and mobility weren’t that much to speak of. It’s virtually impossible for it to avoid most enemy attacks.
“Let’s leave the combat strength analysis at that. Anyway, it’s definitely dangerous to take them head-on without a plan.”
“Right. And we’re not sure if that woman would really make a move on us anyway.”
“And it’s not so easy for them to make a move either.”
“They’d be out with one strike if they got reported to the authorities after all.”
It would be more viable in a place without much imperial military presence like the Edge World, but it would be very risky for a ship that’s been officially ID’d to attack another officially ID’d ship in a star system with a well-organized and functioning imperial military garrison like the Refill system. Once one gets reported, a criminal record would immediately get created, and once that happens, the party that launched the attack would find themselves joining the pirate and criminal bounty list.
As a result, they wouldn’t be able to legitimately enter most colonies, and if they can’t enter ports, they wouldn’t be able to resupply things like oxygen, water, and food. And that would lead to possible death by suffocation, dehydration, or starvation. And since their ships wouldn’t be able to undergo any decent maintenance, they would eventually break down, leaving their crews helpless. Once that happens, their chances of joining a pirate group to live as space pirates would be shot.
In other words, Marie would lose all her status and fame as a Gold-ranker.
“Well, I wouldn’t be so wary of her if I thought she would be bothered by those consequences though.”
“Why wouldn’t she?”
“Oh, I hope she actually does.”
It’s not like there wasn’t a way to prevent them from getting reported. The point is that they would just have to make it impossible to send a report to the system, and there were surprisingly many ways to do so. One can simply just launch a powerful enough jamming signal during the battle preventing transmissions, or if you want a sneakier method, you can intercept the transmission and convert the content into meaningless data. You could also choose to deal with the receiving side. You can attack a colony’s comm network and bring it down in advance so that they would be unable to receive a report.
It’s not like a criminal record would be created automatically through an act of God once one commits a crime after all. Since one is up against a human-made system, there were bound to be some factors that weren’t exactly perfect. Although it was listed as a banned item, there was also a portable satellite that emitted a powerful jamming signal within a certain range in SOL. In other words, there were many methods as long as one had the mind to look them up.
“In any case, we can’t walk around outside for the time being. We’ll stay indoors until the descent application to Refill IV gets approved.”
“Aye, aye, sir. I hope nothing really happens.”
“Truth is I’ve already half-given up on that.”
If I knew this was gonna happen, it would have been better if we postponed going back to the Refill system. Should we have just gone to a technologically advanced system somewhere first to purchase Elma’s ship and a new power suit……? Well, it’s not like we can do anything about it now. It can’t be helped. The best we can do right now is to remain vigilant and pray that nothing really serious happens.
I had a sneaking suspicion our prayers would be useless though.