410 – Grasping the Situation
“For now, let’s confirm the situation first…… But before that, allow us to introduce ourselves. My name’s Hiro. I’m a mercenary.”
“I’m Elma. I’m also a mercenary like this guy.”
After introducing ourselves, Elma and I turned our helmet’s visors transparent and showed our faces. With that, the boy holding a laser gun seemed to have let his guard down a bit. Well, rather than people who hid their faces and identities, people who properly introduced themselves would probably seem more trustworthy after all.
“The reason we came here to check up on you guys is, like I said earlier, because of that red-haired repair lady…… Man, this is too tedious. Anyway, it’s because Tina was worried about you guys.”
“I don’t really know that person myself, but……”
The boy holding a laser gun turned his eyes to the bedridden adults at the back. Well, they were probably the ones who were more familiar with Tina, as expected. Anyway, we had no choice but to speak with them instead.
『Okay. I’ll perform a basic diagnosis using the scan function of your combat helmet, so come closer to them, please.』
“Got it. I’ll approach them in order to perform a scan. Is that fine?”
After hesitating for a bit, the boy eventually nodded. In any case, I’m glad things were proceeding relatively smoothly so far.
“I’ll check which of the children are showing more severe symptoms.”
Afterward, I worked together with Elma to scan the people in the room in order to perform a triage – prioritization according to the degree of urgency and the severity of the illness.
“How many have you brought with you?”
“I brought two. You?”
“Three. Just barely enough for all of them.”
After performing scans on all of them, we found that three adults and two children were in critical condition. That’s why I asked Elma how many medical nanomachine units she brought with her.
『That class of medical nanomachine units will buy them some time at least.』
“As expected, these won’t be enough to cure them huh?”
『Those medical nanomachine units can basically only perform surgical treatments. Even after administering them, they won’t be able to improve the patient’s immune functions or induce the production of antibodies, so I believe the symptoms will manifest again before long.』
The medical nanomachine units were capable of ‘regenerating’ the internal organs that have been damaged by diseases, thereby temporarily letting the sick and weakened patients to recover. However, just as Doc Shouko said, they don’t actually strengthen the patient’s immune functions, so they had a high chance of getting re-infected.
『In any case, those five people will be in danger if you don’t treat them as soon as you can.』
Using painless gun-type injectors, Elma and I administered medical nanomachines to the three adults and two children with particularly severe symptoms.
“Hey, what the heck did you guys do!?”
“Err, we just administered medical nanomachines to them, but…… Uh, Doc?”
『Right now, medical nanomachines are dismantling and rebuilding their damaged internal organs and dealing with the pathogens in their bodies. If internal organs such as the lungs are extensively damaged, one will feel a certain degree of pain when undergoing nanomachine treatment. They will stabilize soon, so don’t worry.』
Just as Dr. Shouko said, the patients suffering from pain after getting administered with medical nanomachines all calmed down in less than a minute. Putting the adults aside, the two children ended up particularly exhausted from the ordeal.
“The children are out cold though.”
『They’ll be fine soon.』
“It’s quite unbearable to see such young children suffering.”
I’d like to do whatever we can for them, but we have to understand the situation first. Fortunately, the three adults appeared to have regained some strength thanks to the nanomachine treatment.
“Uh…… Hey, kid.”
“Have the ones who can eat fill their stomachs first. We haven’t brought that many of these, so just make sure everyone has a portion. We’ll bring you some more food later.”
After saying so, I gave the boy calorie bars and a water bottle. I gave Elma a glance, and she nodded in response. After all, their bodies will lack the strength to fight off the pathogens without enough nutrients. Fortunately, the calorie bars we brought weren’t only rich in calories. They were also fortified with various nutrients. They were better than nothing, at least.
“Thank you for your help, sir.”
“Fufu…… The way you talked just now definitely reminds me of that girl. How nostalgic.”
One of the adults who regained some of their strength, a woman named Airia, smiled after hearing my impression of Tina’s speech pattern. She looked about the same age as me and had a gentle atmosphere about her. And her hair color was…… light pink? Was that actually her hair’s natural color? It’s kinda funky. I wouldn’t exactly call her drop-dead gorgeous, but she was definitely quite charming.
“Actually, we expected that you guys got caught up in the pandemic, but we didn’t imagine you’d get involved in such a tragedy as well…… Just what happened here anyway?”
“It wasn’t really anything particularly special. Basically, it was looting. How much has Tina told you about our situation?”
“Oh, uh, we’ve heard that this place was operating with the support of the gangs and mafias active in this area.”
“Knowing that is enough. The people we took care of in this facility in the past prepared medicine, food, and water for us before the pandemic really took off, but thugs unaffiliated with the organizations supporting us attacked us for those very supplies.”
“Eh……? But isn’t that like spitting in the face of the gangs and mafia organizations behind you guys?”
“That’s true, but those organizations have basically fallen apart already.”
In other words, the order built by the criminal organizations collapsed due to the pandemic, and as a result, this facility was attacked without any qualms.
“This situation shouldn’t have ended after killing off all the previous attackers, right?”
“Yes. However, this place no longer has anything worth looting left. So, I believe we won’t be suffering any more attacks.”
After saying so, Airia laughed in a self-deprecating manner. But this situation certainly was no laughing matter.
“So, what do we actually do about this?”
If we only needed to consider their immediate needs, then helping them will be simple. Tina should have more than enough funds to support them, and if she still comes up short somehow, she can always ask Wiska for help. I don’t mind chipping in myself either. However, even if it was easy for us to provide economic assistance, all that will be meaningless if they can be snatched from the people here through violent means. If done poorly, it will have the opposite effect and will put them in even more danger.
“Us staying here indefinitely in order to protect them is out of the question…… So, the first option is to kill all the thugs who are likely to loot them after we leave.”
“Just how many do we have to kill if we did that……? Do you really want to cause a bloodbath here?”
“Um, most of the looters are only desperately trying to survive, so……”
Elma gave me an exasperated look, and Airia rushed to dissuade me. No, uh, that was just a joke, ladies. C’mon.
“The second option is to deploy burly combat bots here as guards.”
“But there’s a high risk of their OS getting cracked if no one is here to properly look after them, right? And then, those bots might even turn their weapons against the people here.”
“Do you guys have someone who can properly look after the bots here? No one? Then it’s no good.”
Airia shook her head in response to my question, so the second plan was a bust as well.
“Option 3, push all responsibility to Hartmut.”
“I’m not sure about that man’s actual character since we just met him, but will he really go out of his way to take care of an orphanage that was previously supported by criminal gangs and mafia?”
“Back when we were negotiating, didn’t he get really upset when he thought that I was asking for official authorization to kill the citizens of his territory? Doesn’t that mean he does value them to a certain extent? It might be worth trying out. Who knows, right?”
“Um, just who is this Hartmut person……?”
“He’s a noble who just replaced the steward of this colony a few days ago. It seems that the previous one was dismissed because he was unable to prevent the pandemic from worsening. By the way, the new steward is the viscount’s eldest son…… In other words, he’s the viscount’s heir apparent.”
“I don’t believe any noble will actually care about us though…… Oh, no, I suppose there are exceptions after all. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, uh, I may have these with me, but I’m actually just an honorary noble. So, you don’t need to mind me too much.”
Elma and Airia were skeptical, but I believe there’s a chance the third option might work. The reason why this colony was divided into upper and lower districts, and why the lower district’s public order was extremely bad, was probably because of the policies of the previous steward. However, there might be a change in policies because of his replacement.
After all, this pandemic has caused a considerable amount of damage to the most troublesome elements in the lower district – the criminal gangs and mafia organizations. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hartmut was already contemplating wiping out the criminal remnants and bringing a new order to the lower district due to this development.
“Fine. Let’s say that Hartmut really does care for the citizens. There’s still no reason for him to give preferential treatment to this facility in particular, right?”
“Well, that’s true. I think it’s possible he’d consider it if I asked him personally, but I’m a bit afraid of the consequences…… Hmm. It will be nice if we have some sort of benefit to use as a bargaining chip. How about emphasizing the increase in his administration’s approval rating if he agrees to take care of this place?”
“I don’t believe nobles concern themselves with such trivial things though……”
“That might not be the case here, but…… Well, sometimes, they do only look at things as numbers and variables.”
For those at the top, those below them might appear as nothing more than numbers. There were even situations where this might be necessary. Otherwise, the management and smooth operation of territories might suffer. If leaders persisted in considering the circumstances of each and every citizen under them when deciding on policies, it might be impossible to carry out effective administration.
『Hiro-kun, can you hear me out for a bit?』
“Hm? What’s up, Doc?”
『Isn’t there one child among those people who seems to be doing quite well despite the pandemic? Maybe that kid will be the key to solving this whole situation.』
“I don’t get it. Why is she gonna be the key?”
As I talked to Dr. Shouko over the comms, I glanced at the boy who was giving a portion of a calorie bar to another kid with relatively milder symptoms.
『That kid who appears to be asymptomatic might actually be immune to the fungal pathogens. If we can figure out exactly why that is, we might be able to come up with a permanent cure for the pandemic.』
“In other words, we can use that as a bargaining chip when negotiating with Hartmut?”
『There’s a chance, right? I’m sure that guy also wants this pandemic to end as soon as possible. Wouldn’t a permanent cure be suitable as a powerful bargaining chip?』
“Well, yeah, but will making that bargaining chip really be that easy?”
『Of course, not. But with the equipment installed in the Lotus, it’s very possible. I’ll prove that all those expensive pieces of equipment are worth every Enel.』
Dr. Shouko’s confident voice resounded from the comms. I see. If that’s the case, then it might be worth a try. I turned my gaze toward the boy.
The boy had just finished distributing all the food we gave him.
“Hey, are you fine with boarding my ship for a bit?”
The boy raised his voice and pulled out his laser gun. Hey, stop. Why are you trying to pull out your weapon all of a sudden?
“–! Will everyone here be saved if I agree?”
“Well, I suppose the chances are high that they’ll be saved.”
“……I got it. I’ll board your ship.”
The boy’s shoulders dropped as he nodded. Good. I was worried about what was gonna happen if he really drew his gun earlier. I can’t just cut or shoot him in retaliation, of course. And moreover, we’ve already used up our medical nanomachine units. It would have been very troublesome if he got injured.
“U-Um, can…… can I go instead of this child?”
Airia pleaded in a suspiciously desperate manner.
“Well, uh, it’s no good if it’s not that kid.”
“P-Please…… This child is just too young for something like that. I will serve you no matter how many times you wish, so please take me instead.”
“Hmmm? Hold on. I feel like there’s something wrong with this conversation. Elma, help me out here.”
I felt quite uncomfortable when Airia suddenly clung to me, so I turned to Elma for help, only to find her giving me the stink eye. What? What did I do?
“Oh c’mon. If you don’t properly explain the situation to them and then suddenly bring up boarding your ship, of course, they’d misunderstand.”
“……? Ah! Eh? You’re talking about that? No, wait! That’s not what I meant. Our ship’s doctor said we might be able to find a permanent cure for the pandemic through the kid because she doesn’t seem to have contracted the disease yet despite being exposed to the pathogens like everyone else…… Oh, damn. Did they not hear Dr. Shouko earlier?”
Well, of course, they didn’t. I forgot to switch the comms to speaker mode. That’s why my suggestion took them by surprise and sounded so wrong.
“Or rather, you were actually a girl huh?”
“Well, sorry for not being girly enough!”
While baring her canines, the girl I previously assumed to be a boy became red-faced and performed a sharp kick. Hahaha, you won’t be able to hurt me with a kick like that since I’m wearing combat armor kiddo. Or rather, you’d end up hurting yourself instead. See? I told you.
“Anyway, allow me to explain properly. According to our ship’s doctor……”
I ignored the young girl’s attack, explained the situation to Airia, and obtained her permission to have the girl board our ship for a while.