428 – A Three Year Promise
The effect of the purifying nanomachines Dr. Shouko made was immediate. The number of pathogenic spores detected in the blocks where they were tested out was drastically reduced. Hartmut gradually extended the range of the purifying nanomachines and used the special medicine concocted by Dr. Shouko to rapidly bring the pandemic to an end.
And so, it’s been about a week since I delivered the containers entrusted to me by Dr. Shouko to Hartmut.
During the past week, I went to see the situation at Airia’s orphanage as the colony began its recovery process, took Dr. Shouko to meet with Hartmut in person to discuss the details regarding the purifying nanomachines, and negotiated compensation in exchange for the manufacturing data of said nanomachines. It was a fairly busy week.
“In any case, the power of nanomachines sure is amazing. Turning the situation around this much with just the effort of one single scientist is seriously impressive.”
I mumbled those words while treating Dr. Shouko to a lap pillow inside the break area. The holo-display installed inside the break area was broadcasting news regarding the pandemic ending soon.
“This particular case simply happened to be related to my own field of expertise.”
Dr. Shouko, who was resting her head on top of my lap, replied in a humble manner, but judging from her side profile, she seemed to be rather proud of her accomplishment. She had a really smug look on her face. I can’t really fault her for making such an expression though, since she did deliver awesome results.
“I still think it’s amazing. I’m honestly impressed. But wouldn’t it be quite terrible if nanomachines were employed as weapons instead?”
“Oh, that. I get asked about this often, and it’s certainly doable. We can actually manufacture some, you know? Those so-called killer nanomachines. However, when it comes to practical applications as a weapon, it’s easier to render them useless compared to biological or chemical weapons, so it’s not worth the trouble in the end.”
“Is that so?”
“Yep. After all, they are basically delicate machines, so they are vulnerable to EMP. There are also energy shields. Also, it takes a certain amount of them to successfully kill a person, so if you want to deal with an entire colony’s population, you’d need to disperse killer nanomachines with a mass equivalent to that of the Krishna. Honestly, I don’t think it’s worth the cost.”
“If that’s the case, then firing a reactive warhead is more cost-effective and less time-consuming.”
“Exactly. Well, I suppose it’s possible to use them in assassinations of lone targets, but I think it will be difficult to employ them as weapons on a large scale.”
In other words, Gray Goo — widespread destruction due to out-of-control nanomachines — won’t happen so easily. It’s a complicated feeling. I’m kinda relieved, but it also felt like one of my dreams had been shattered.
“Mm, I’m starting to get sleepy.”
“I won’t care about you if you end up sleeping on top of my lap and hurt your neck later.”
“I think the firmness is just right though. But yeah, I guess it’s better to sleep on a bed.”
“Got it…… Wait, what’s with those arms?”
“I want you to carry me, Hiro-kun.”
After saying so, Dr. Shouko displayed a self-satisfied smile. I see? Fine, I’ll carry you. Yeah. You’re surprisingly the type who wants to be pampered often huh, Doc?
We’ve completed most of our business here at Reemay Prime, and there’s just one matter remaining.
“Now then…… Do you three know why I called you over today?”
The three young girls (Only one was an honest-to-goodness young girl though) sitting next to each other at a table in the corner of the dining hall displayed awkward expressions.
“Well, though temporary, we did have Linda board our ship due to our own circumstances, so I, who made that decision, also carry a good deal of responsibility for that. Linda was the catalyst that led to the creation of the special medicine that’s effective against the pandemic afflicting this colony, and we received quite a bit of cash from Hartmut due to it. Naturally, I plan to distribute some of the profits to Linda as well.”
After saying so, I paused and observed the girl’s reaction. The girls were Tina, Wiska, and Linda respectively. Umu. All three looked pretty dejected. It felt like I was some sort of villain.
“Frankly speaking, I have no intention of taking Linda with us. We already have enough manpower at the moment. Besides, there are people she can rely on apart from us here. Isn’t that right?”
“Well…… Yeah, yer right, Boss.”
The orphanage that Linda originally belonged to had Airia, as well as Heinz and Sieg. If Airia asked, I believe Hartmut would also lend his strength without hesitation. That amount of cash that I, or rather we, will hand over to Linda wasn’t enough to buy her the right to free movement within the empire, but it was more than enough to allow Linda to learn various stuff in order for her to do whatever she wanted in life later on. In other words, it would be way too much for a kid like her.
I didn’t like the prospect of handing over a huge sum of money to an underage girl and ruining her life as a result, so I was thinking of leaving the management of the funds to Heinz. He’ll probably do a good job. It’ll be fine as long as I warned him a bit. You know what’ll happen to you if you use up Linda’s money right? Well, something to that effect. Anyway, since I’m gonna bother him with some troublesome stuff, I suppose I need to give him some sort of benefit as well.
“But I…… I wanna go with you guys.”
Linda said so as she looked straight into my eyes. Un. Well, yeah. I understood why Linda was insisting on coming with us. Really, I get it. If I was in her shoes, I suppose I’d act the same. Considering the environment she grew up in until now, this was only natural.
There were only a limited number of opportunities available to a girl from an orphanage in the lower block. She didn’t even know her parent’s faces, and the ones who formerly backed her were mafia and gangsters. The lower block of this colony was a hopeless environment for a child with no education or money to make it on her own.
If that’s the case, it was better to risk her life and chastity (I swear I’d never lay a hand on her though) by boarding a mercenary’s ship as an apprentice and acquire skills as a merc and sailor, which would greatly open up her future prospects. As long as they used their head a little, anyone…… even a young child like Linda, could understand that much.
“Actually, it’s completely possible to bring Linda with us. You can even say it’s too easy. Linda’s cost of living won’t even make a dent on our budget. We have more than enough income after all. However, to put it bluntly, there’s absolutely no benefit to bringing Linda along. None whatsoever. You can even say it’s not worth the risks.”
This was simply because Linda was still just a child. Linda, who’s currently at the cusp of puberty, was at an age where it’s difficult to control one’s emotions, and her physical development was lacking as well. She may have a rare factor that allowed her to resist the pathogens causing the pandemic, but it’s unclear if it’ll work on other diseases too. In the first place, there’s already a vaccine that prevents most diseases, and all of us have been vaccinated. In other words, the value of her unique constitution was actually quite low.
“I’m really persistent. I’m quick on my feet, and I think I’m really good with my hands too. I believe I’m pretty brave if I do say so myself. I’m not very smart, but Ms. Tina and Ms. Wiska say I’m a fast learner. It won’t happen right away, but I’m sure I can make myself useful if you give me a chance.”
“That was a great speech, young lady. But no. My ship needs no hot-blooded newbie.”
Mimi, who was an ordinary young woman at first, was now a qualified ship operator after all. In fact, Tina’s mental state was the one most shaken up during this time’s incident. She’s usually a bright and cheerful mood-maker. That girl.
However, Linda was just far too young. I’m not exactly at an age where I could flaunt my seniority to others, but even so, Linda was still too young. She was an honest-to-goodness minor. We’re already prone to getting caught up in all sorts of trouble, so we didn’t need a crew member who was likely to become a troublemaker herself.
“However, you still find all this unacceptable, right? I can’t risk having you stow away on my ship, so I’ll make a concession.”
The three of them held their breaths and braced themselves to hear my next words.
“If I remember correctly, you’re currently twelve years old right, Linda? In that case, you should work hard in this colony until you come of age when you turn fifteen. It would be best if you’ve acquired skills useful for sailing in space by then, but for now, it’s enough to focus on growing up healthy both physically and mentally. If you still feel like boarding my ship after three years, I’ll go ahead and come for you.”
“I don’t make a business out of lying. But keep one thing in mind, okay? The thing about exactly what it means to come aboard my ship of your own free accord. You better be prepared by then, alright? I won’t hold back against anyone who voluntarily comes to me, understood?”
Linda’s face turned beet-red as she backed away while trembling.
“You better become a good woman, hahaha.”
“You ero bastard……”
“Well, don’t take it so seriously. I’ll do my best to create an environment where you are free to do whatever you like. Take advantage of that environment and do your best to become the person you want to be. I won’t hold it against you even if you decide to take a different path in the end. Boarding my ship is only one option. I’ll give it to you straight. You can indeed earn a lot of money by working as a mercenary, but it will also be very dangerous. Even engineers like you have encountered life-threatening situations more than once or twice after working for me right, Tina? Wiska?”
Linda’s face was bright red as she glared at me, so I shrugged my shoulders and turned to the sisters instead.
“Yeah, that’s true.”
“We frequently go up against pirates, and if we lose, we’ll simply die at best.”
“Dying’s a good outcome? What’s the bad one?”
“Either being captured and used as a plaything until you die, or worse, get processed into a soulless ‘product’ and handed over to a pervert who likes that sort of stuff.”
Linda flinched and drew away. The mafia and gangs within colonies were already pretty perverted and violent, but space pirates were several magnitudes worse. A fun singing severed head connected to a life support system has been completed! They were the kind of guys who’d do stuff like that without batting an eye.
“Well, I don’t plan on getting done in by pirates, but mercenaries constantly live their lives with the risk of coming to such tragic ends. Keep that in mind while doing your best for three years.”
“Un…… I got it.”
I nodded in return to Linda who nodded in a solemn manner. With this, Linda’s matter was finally settled. Now, all that was left was to politely ask Heinz and Sieg to take care of some stuff for me, tell Hartmut to help out as well, and talk to Airia…… It’s a pain, but it’s for Tina’s sake. Just a bit more to go and we’re done.