001- First Battle
I couldn’t wake up even after repeatedly pinching my cheeks, which hurt as expected. The resulting Gs from speeding up and slowing down made me suffer, and I managed to completely wreck an asteroid using heavy laser cannons. Its fragments rained down on the ship but were blocked by an energy shield. From all these crazy things that happened to me so far, it seems I have no choice but to acknowledge my present situation.
But once I do, It’ll bring a whole host of other problems. Just why did all this happen to someone like me? I don’t understand at all. I can’t think of any possible reason how I managed to get myself wrapped up in this kind of crazy situation.
“Just what did I do yesterday anyway?”
I should have gone to work like usual, came back from work like usual, ate my meal like usual, took a shower, played some games and went straight to sleep.
I didn’t get hit by the ever omnipresent truck-san or receive a mysterious message on the computer I use to play games.
“I really don’t get this.”
But there’s really no use complaining. Let’s think positive. If all this is true, then it seems I managed to get myself transported to the world of Stella Online.
So wouldn’t it be possible for me to live freely as a mercenary just like when I was playing the game? To not be tied down by anything and only relying on one’s own power. Yep, sounds pretty good. It sounds a hundred times better than a network management job with next to no prospects of promotion. Seems I can make pretty good use of my gaming skills too.
Great, I’m feeling much better already. Sometimes, you just gotta enjoy whatever jam you find yourself in. Yup. Let’s do just that. I’m a bit uneasy, but let’s try ignoring that feeling as much as possible. Ignorance is bliss.
Well then, since that’s decided… where the heck am I anyway? I tried to confirm my coordinates on the Galaxy Map only to find the words NO DATA being displayed. I totally have no clue about where I am and what’s out there. Man, this is real bad.
Anyways, the universe is quite vast. It wasn’t a place where you could simply wander around while expecting things to somehow go your way without any definite info on hand.
In the Stella Online MMO, players still haven’t managed to reach the center of the galaxy even though four years have passed since the game went live. I don’t know if the situation was the same in this universe, but I think it would be safer to assume it had the same scale.
I temporarily gave up on confirming my current location and proceeded to check on the status of the ship. I didn’t really have any bounties put up against me. Guess that’s a good thing, considering my current circumstances. I won’t be suddenly caught by Sector Patrol and forced to eat rotten food in jail or anything of the sort.
Next, I checked my current registered affiliation and available funds. I was apparently unaffiliated. I was an out and out civilian who doesn’t even belong to the Mercenary Guild. My registered Captain Name seems to be the same as the one I used in-game.
And my total wealth was a whopping 0 Enel. What the heck? I sure am one dirt poor sob. “All that money I painstakingly saved…” I muttered in despair as I proceeded to check the ship’s cargo.
“Let’s see how much food there is available…”
When I operated the touch panel display, I was able to confirm that the minimum amount of food and water have been safely stored inside the cargo hold. How conscientious. Just who prepared this for me, I wonder? I had no idea.
There were also a few rounds of scattershot shells and two spare energy packs for the ship.
“And there’s also some rare metals huh… That’s quite a lot. This is bad.”
What’s wrong with this stuff, you ask? Well, first I’ll have to explain about Stella Online’s in-game currency.
In the world of Stella Online, physical banknotes and coins have been long obsolete, and an electronic currency called Enel was the trading medium widely used all throughout the galaxy. Enel exchange was pretty simple and convenient, but since it’s an e-currency, there was a need to keep track and regulate all transaction records involving it.
Let’s go back to the topic of rare metals. Rare metals were, as the name implied, valuable resource materials which were extremely scarce in amount across the galaxy. They could be exchanged for lots of Enel at almost any colony or space station.
In short, they were just like gold, silver or precious jewels on Earth. Since trading directly with materials involved a whole lot of trouble, this method was only used by shady folk who wished to avoid being traced back through conventional Enel exchanges.
So I think you guys already have an idea after me telling this much, but let me spell it out for you anyway. Carrying this much rare metal would make me a pretty tempting target for folks engaged in a particular line of ‘work’. In game terms, the encounter rate for hostile NPCs would shoot through the roof.
[Warning. We are being scanned by an unidentified ship.]
The support AI installed on Krishna gave out a warning.
“Well, that was fast…”
Just because I was scanned without warning didn’t mean the other party were definitely space pirates. It may be that it was a mistake due to my ship having a malfunction. Or maybe the other party was just someone who’s passing by and just happened to scan me.
Right. Let’s not kid ourselves. I’m most probably being scanned because I was hella suspicious.
An unknown ship containing a boatload of valuable and difficult to acquire materials moored in the middle of a desolate space sector was definitely suspicious as heck. They were probably suspecting me of being in the middle an illegal trade with criminal elements using rare metals or something.
[The unknown ship has brought its weapon systems online.]
Ah, how heartless Lady Luck is. Looks like she wasn’t inclined to bless me with her smile this time. The odds of suddenly getting threatened with weapons at the ready by an opponent who doesn’t even seem to be a bounty hunter right in the middle of nowhere was supposed to be a low 1 in 10 chance, yet here we were.
“Hey there, brotha. You taking a nap in a place like this?”
“Ha- Ahahaha. There’s actually nothing of interest here, folks. Now please don’t mind me and hurry along.”
“Huh? Don’t say that brotha. Isn’t it a good thing that we’ve luckily managed to meet each other within this vast universe? How bout ya share some of the cargo ya have there with us poor folk. Ya do that and we won’t give ya much trouble, kay?”
“I’m afraid I’ll have to refuse. How about I sell some off to you for a good price?”
In the middle of our negotiations, three other unidentified ships suddenly warped out and arrived at the sector we were located on. All of their weapons were already deployed and were primed for firing at a moments notice.
When they closed in enough, info on the three unknowns appeared on my monitor’s screen. Their overall build was a great, heaping mess of haphazard modules forcefully joined together. All of them had moderate cargo capacity and were fairly capable of fielding weapons. It was just that their maintenance seemed severely lacking. There were lots of scratches and dents on them. They really looked like your typical pirate ships.
“Hm? Now that’s quite an unfamiliar ship model. Where’d the ship come from, kid?”
I scanned the unknown enemy ships as well while thinking they were most probably bona fide space pirates. Yep, that’s a hit alright. Every ship had a bounty of 5,000 to 8,000 Enel.
“Hah, you’ve scanned us huh? Well, can’t be helped. Just hand over all yer cargo. Ya do that kid and I’ll at least leave ya with yer life intact.”
“Hah… Guess I really gotta do this, huh?”
I started to harden my resolve while gradually raising the energy output of the main generator from normal level to battle level. What am I resolving myself for? Well, for massacring some unfortunate folks of course.
This rare metal was extremely important to me. People can’t live without money after all. If I were to get threatened with weapons in order to forcefully take these babies away from me, then I’ll have to respond in kind, in virtue of self defense. In other words, that means thoroughly crushing these fucking space pirates.
“Yep. Atta boy. Ya don’t wanna kick the bucket just yet, right?”
“Yeah. Guess so.”
It’s obvious what would happen if humans were to lose the protection of ships within the vacuum of space. In the first place, they’d get done in once they get caught up in a ship’s explosion.
Even though I was undoubtedly going to engage in a battle to the death moments away from now, there was no sense of fear within me. Maybe because the ship I’m helming right now was Krishna.
The ships the pirates sported used civilian general purpose models as bases and were several generations old. The output of their main generators, shield strength and weaponry were all horribly lacking. They weren’t properly maintained and their armor was brittle as fuck. On the other hand, my Krishna was a bona fide military model which has been modified to peak performance by yours truly.
The shield output and weapon firepower were lightyears beyond their trashy models, and its armor was also military grade.
Let me put this bluntly. There wasn’t even a tiny sliver of a chance that I’ll lose. This wasn’t going to be a battle, but a one sided hunt. Or rather, a deathtrap.
The generator output finally reached battle level.
“If you guys don’t want to die, then I suggest you surrender. I think I’d probably end up killing you anyway, so don’t hold a grudge, alright?”
“Ya sure bark hard for someone facing three opponents, huh? Ya better not regret this, kid!”
The pirate ships surrounding me turned their bows toward me all at once. In that instant, I fired up Krishna’s throttle to maximum.
While being assaulted by Gs, I operated the touch panel and brought my ship’s weapons online.
The shape of Krishna’s streamlined hull transformed and four manipulator arms equipped with pulse laser cannons appeared from within. Weapon bays on each side of the cockpit opened up, and two gleaming large caliber cannon barrels stretched forward.
The auxiliary thrusters blasted out, allowing the ship to make a sudden reverse turn while preserving all its built up momentum. In mere moments, all four pulse laser cannons were aimed straight at the space pirate’s ships.
“The bastard just transformed!!!”
The military grade pulse laser cannons fired in succession and easily pierced the shield and physical armor of a pirate ship, causing a series of explosions within its hull. Its cockpit seems to have been burnt to a crisp as well.
“With just one attack!?”
I wordlessly accelerated and took the rear of a fleeing pirate ship. The heavy Gs caused my field of vision to darken. I fired the pulse laser cannons again once I felt a bit better.
“N— No! I don’t wanna die! I don’t wanna die! I don’t—!!!”
The four pulse laser cannon energy beams effortlessly smashed through the shield and ruthlessly pierced through the main boosters of the pirate ship whose pilot was crying desperately for dear life. When the beams reached the main generator, the second ship also exploded to bits.
“Ya f*cking bastaaard! I’ll f*cking kill ya!”
The third ship didn’t choose to flee, but challenged me to a dogfight instead. Does he want to get even after seeing his friends get killed? There’s almost no way to effectively avoid laser cannon fire launching out at the speed of light. So what does one do instead? Move erratically so your opponent couldn’t get a proper lock.
I controlled Krishna to make random maneuvers by using the various auxiliary thrusters while interchangeably accelerating and decelerating constantly. I might throw up from this.
“Shit! Ya sure are one slippery bastard!”
The space pirate adjusted his firing angle accordingly and launched off some shots towards me. It was an action I’d never encountered in the game. As I thought, this really wasn’t a dream, and the one riding inside that thing was a human just like me. It honestly made me feel like vomiting.
Perhaps my urge to vomit had an influence on my handling of Krishna, or maybe the pirate’s aiming adjustments managed to catch up to my evasive maneuvers, but laser cannon fire finally managed to hit Krishna dead on.
“It— It didn’t even flinch!?”
The red laser fired off by the pirate ship was completely blocked by Krishna’s energy shield, and could not even leave any burn marks on its armor. Guess that settles it, huh?
I started to accelerate towards the pirate ship with its bow pointing towards me. The pirate ship also rushed towards me. It was like a chicken race.
The pirate ship frantically fired off its laser cannons in a last ditch effort, but it was ultimately futile. Even if the shots managed to hit Krishna, they couldn’t even get past its energy shield.
“S— Stooop! Mommy—!”
Before I crashed into it, I maneuvered out of the opposing ship’s way, and fired off two canister rounds straight at it the moment our units passed each other by. The shards shot out at super-high speed and broke through the pirate ship’s energy shield, punching its hull full of holes.
Swiss cheese is ready to be served.
“Hah! Haaah, ha…”
I rapidly brought the ship around and adjusted my messy breathing while gazing at the exploding pirate ship, decreased the generator output back to normal levels and turned the weapon systems offline.
The feeling of wanting to throw up had settled down before I knew it. Were my insides just shaken up from all those reckless maneuvers? It wasn’t something caused by any sort of psychological aversion? Hm, I seem to be made of tougher stuff than I gave myself credit for.
“I didn’t manage to wake up even after experiencing all this stuff. Guess this truly is ‘reality’, huh…”
I can’t sink into negative thoughts. Let’s think positively. Positive. Otherwise, I’d die. Mentally, that is.