059 – Hot Start
Editor: Thor’s Stone
I was woken up by a ticklish feeling.
In the midst of being immersed in warmth, I felt something tickling the tip of my nose. My half-asleep brain still refused to get away from this comfortable warmth, and a body will remain immobile without commands from the brain. There was something soft wrapping itself on my entire body. There were soft things hitting the center of my chest. It was definitely a taste of paradise.
However, it’s quite unfortunate. The brain, that has already started realizing the current situation, has now begun the process of waking up in earnest.
When I regained consciousness, the first thing I saw was the top of a head with a lustrous patch of light-brown hair. It seems it’s the soft locks of hair on this particular head that were tickling my nose. There was a young woman who used my arm as a pillow and pushed her delicate face near the base of my neck. Both I and she were unmistakably naked. Well, in other words, it was ‘that’ kind of relationship.
Now then, what should I do about this? It did feel a bit of a pity to get up from this position, but I had to get to the bathroom to do my stuff and take a shower. I still don’t know what time it is, but it’s not like I didn’t get sufficient sleep, and it didn’t feel like it was too early to get out of bed. Yeah, let’s get up. I’ll be as gentle in waking my partner up as possible.
I reached for the top of the head with lustrous hair in front of me and gave it a light pat. Shortly after, she woke up with a shudder. She looked at me with her still-half-asleep eyes and smiled gently.
“Good morning, Mimi.”
“Good morning, Hiro-sama.”
Now then, let’s have a little talk about our current destination – the Sierra star system.
It was four nodes away via Hyperlane from the Alein star system – the system we were previously at, with a great technological industry. You can think of a Hyperlane as a kind of subspace tunnel that serves as a sort of high-speed highway between star systems. It’s said that if you make use of it, you can travel a few tens, or even hundreds, of lightyears in a significantly shorter period of time.
And the Sierra star system is a place famous for being a vacation destination due to being a resort system, it seems.
So what’s a resort system, you ask? In other words, it was somewhere non-first class imperial citizens, mercenaries who aren’t imperial subjects to begin with, and other such foreign visitors go to in order to enjoy various activities experiencing nature in tourist planets, mountain climbing, sailing, hunting for local wildlife and eating their meat via outdoor barbecue and the like.
By the way, having a real nature experience means that you get to see things like a natural sunrise, naturally formed white clouds floating in a vast, blue sky, occasional rains, sunset, a clear view of the starry sky, and even witness shooting stars if you’re lucky enough. That is the ultimate nature experience. At least, that’s what’s written in the tourist pamphlet of the Sierra star system we had on our hands.
“It somehow sounds really grand!”
“Yeah. Those aren’t stuff people born and raised in colonies get to experience often.”
Mimi smiled cheerfully as she held a tablet displaying a virtual pamphlet of the Sierra star system on it. Elma agreed with her words and smiled back.
I woke up with Mimi earlier, entered the bathroom and took a shower together, and went to the dining room after refreshing ourselves. We were currently in the middle of an after-meal break after having breakfast.
All the things that Mimi found impressive were already quite familiar to me. In other words, it was like a nature camp-out, right? I didn’t really see anything worth getting too hyped up about, honestly. But that’s just me.
But on the other hand, there’s a good chance to see Mimi and Elma wearing skimpy swimsuits under a blue sky on a white sand beach. Now that’s something worth getting excited about. I definitely wanna get a load of that. Well, at least I’m gonna get to experience going on a vacation in a different dimension. Let’s just enjoy it to the fullest.
Oops. The talk got derailed a bit. Let’s get back to talking about the Sierra star system.
I mentioned earlier that the Sierra system is a resort system, and it indeed had a lot of habitable planets, but it doesn’t mean there are no colonies present. They function as relay points to transfer supplies and materials to and from the various planets, lodging places for those tourists waiting for their turn to have the nature experience tours, and expo sites for all the various exotic products produced and gathered from the resort planets in the system. Many colonies with varied functions such as these existed there.
But it seems quite a lot of people living in colonies aren’t able to afford the high costs of going in a vacation on these types of resort systems, so they just choose the next best thing and have their vacations in the comfort of their own homes via a simulated virtual environment. But isn’t something like that completely missing the point of a vacation in the first place?
That’s about it for the introduction of the Sierra star system as a tourist destination. Now let’s talk about the Sierra system as a viable pirate hunting ground for mercs.
Since it’s a resort system, there are naturally a lot of tourists visiting all the time. There are many passenger cruisers operating within the area, as well as ship escorts assigned for their protection. And there were also many cargo transport ships carrying supplies and materials between the various colonies and planets in the system, and even from other neighboring star systems.
Now then, I’m sure you guys can already tell. If there’s a great number of civilian and mercantile traffic, chances are, ‘those guys’ would also appear. Pirates, I mean. Since they chose to go on vacation on a resort system, it’s fairly safe to assume the tourists on the passenger ships were all of the wealthy sorts. There were many uses for them in the pirate’s eyes. They could be kidnapped and ransomed away for a great amount of cash, sold as slaves in the black market, or used as an outlet of lust for those guys and certain sorts of clients.
And the cargo transport ships are a no-brainer. There were quite a lot of merchants vessels carrying high-value goods. Even if that’s not the case, they could still be carrying things like luxury items, food, and drinks. There’s no reason for pirates not to go after them.
Of course those transport ships aren’t without defenses. There were sure to be guard ships escorting them during their travels. That’s why pirates in this system always form raid groups so they can successfully attack the civilian ships. And in lieu of necessity, the pirate raid groups in this system are composed of twenty to thirty ships instead of the usual ten-something.
The jobs mercenaries can take aren’t limited to pirate hunting but escort missions as well. In any case, due to the difficulty of going at it alone in this kind of environment, the mercenaries in the Mercenary Guild branch of the Sierra Prime colony often form unofficial ‘fleets’ and work in teams to complete missions.
“Hm? What’s up?”
“No. I was just curious about why you’re suddenly all quiet. What’s wrong?”
“I was just thinking about some stuff. Like what’s the most effective method for earning money in the Sierra star system.”
“Oh? You’re unexpectedly thinking about some serious stuff for a change. To think you’re actually concentrating on business even though we’re heading to a resort system.”
“I don’t know what to feel about that ‘unexpected’ part…… Well, this is kinda like a habit of mine.”
I shrugged my shoulders and answered Elma, who was giving me a side-eye. In fact, this may actually be a habit formed by many in my home country. You know. There are a lot of guys over there who’d end up working until they’re almost dead if you left them alone.
“In any case, we should go to Sierra Prime first.”
“Yeah. It seems we also need to place a reservation in the colony before we can go on a vacation tour on a resort planet anyway.”
“Let’s head over right away once we exit hyperspace. How much longer before we come out?”
“About one more hour.”
“We have enough time to work up a sweat in the training room then.”
“Someone’s working hard.”
“A healthy mind lives in a healthy body, as they say.”
“It doesn’t sound convincing when you’re the one saying it.”
“How cold. I’m quite the exemplary gentleman you know.”
“Try to look at yourself in the mirror and say that again.”
Elma gave me another disdainful side-eye. But it can’t be helped, y’see. For some reason, the games in this dimension just don’t interest me at all. In terms of ways to kill time, I could only either read some e-books, work up a sweat in the training room, or work up a sweat with Mimi and Elma in the bedroom. But it might really be a good time for me to find a hobby or something in this dimension.
“Hiro-sama, I’ll join you!”
“I see. Let’s go then.”
“……I’m coming along too.”
For some reason, not just Mimi, but even Elma offered to come with me to the training room. But the training room’s not all that spacious y’know. Oh well.
The three of us then proceeded to work out. I chose the menu focusing on building up muscle. Mimi chose the one tailored to build stamina. Elma, on the other hand, did some workouts that improve her flexibility and explosiveness.
“You’re not very flexible, aren’t you? It’s important to improve flexibility in order to take advantage of all that muscle, you know.”
“Oooow!? I can’t bend that much! I really can’t bend that much, okay!?”
“It’s fine. You can do it. C’mon. There you go. Do your best♡ Do your best♡”
I tried out the flexibility exercises, but Elma was merciless. She kept forcibly trying to bend my joints. I’ll die you know.
“Is it really that hard?”
“Mimi’s already pretty flexible after all.”
“Yes. I’m pretty confident in my body’s flexibility!”
Stop casually having a nice conversation like that and pay attention to me too, please! I’m gonna cry here! I’m really gonna cry!
With that, we finished up each of our training routines, with Mimi and Elma feeling quite refreshed after the workout, and me feeling quite sore from getting my limbs and joints stretched out. Should I get this treated at the med pod……?
“We’ll be coming out of subspace soon. Countdown start. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…… Warping out!”
Should I describe the sound as ‘gyoiooon’? Or is ‘gyuoooon’ better? Anyway, the ship finally got itself out of the multicolored light stream and tunneled out to normal space along with a peculiar wailing sound.
“Downloading star system data. Checking coordinates… We’ve successfully arrived at the target destination.”
“Please send me the navigation data for Sierra Prime.”
After a short while, Elma sent me the navigation data of the Sierra system as well as the immediate area. Mimi’s already inputted the exact navigation coordinates earlier. It was work the two of them have quite a couple of times already ever since we left the Termaine system. It looks like Mimi’s already getting a hang of it. Her work went smoother this time compared to before.
“Alright. Shall we get going? Start charging the FTL Drive.”
“Roger. FTL Drive, charging start. Count start. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…… Charging complete.”
“FTL Drive, activate.”
The Krishna activated its FTL drive with a loud boom as usual. The stationary stars started trailing behind the ship once more.
“We’ll arrive at the Sierra Prime colony in…… about an hour without any emergencies along the way.”
“Yeah. If we encountered trouble again like last time–”
Maybe Mimi saying that triggered a flag or something? An alarm started ringing out inside the cockpit.
“Eh!? Is this my fault!?”
When I called her out, Mimi started tearing up.
“No, it’s not really your fault, Mimi. It’s just a coincidence, okay.”
“Well someone sure is relaxed even after being hit by an interdictor……”
An interdictor is a device that can arbitrarily force the FTL Drive of a ship to stop, bringing it out to normal space again. I’m not sure how the thing works as usual, but it seems it has to do something with interfering with gravity and mass or something. It was an absurd dimension as always, but anyway, there are only two groups that actively make use of interdictors…… No, three, rather.
The first is the imperial military. Private combat ships traveling all alone like Krishna here can be said to be suspicious in a certain sense over here. Mercenary ships like us are usually part of an escort contingent for merchant fleets or move with other ships in teams in this particular system after all. Any lone ship sailing through space in these parts can only be lone wolf mercenaries or rogue pirates. In other words, the imperial military has the right to use an interdictor to forcefully stop suspicious ships like that in its tracks in order to inspect them.
The other is, of course, pirates. They’d use interdictors to stop private passenger cruisers and the like in their tracks in order to attack them.
The last one is mercenaries like us. There are times when our targets try to make a run for it while we’re hunting them down, so we use an interdictor to prevent them from using their FTL Drives to escape. Krishna also has some onboard. But we rarely use them though.
“What do you think?”
“There’s a good chance it’s pirates.”
They hit us with an interdictor without so much as a warning after all. Elma also thinks pirates are the likely cause.
“I wonder why they targeted us?”
“Maybe cause we’re a lone ship. I believe they were able to detect us via radar the moment we exited the Hyperlane.”
We tried tracing the source point of the gravity interference created by the interdictor while exchanging some light banter. The guys who used the interdictor on us are kinda amateurish. We could actually easily escape from them now if we had the mind to.
“Shall we get em?”
“Shall we? I heard the pirates in this system work in fairly large groups though?”
“It’s fine. Judging from the timing they used the interdictor, I’m sure they’re not that special.”
“Really? Well, I guess. Let’s go ahead and lay it to them then.”
“Right. Mimi, battle prep. There are probably gonna be quite a number of them, so focus on the radar, okay. And brace for Gs as well. I may make some forceful maneuvers later.”
“Elma, release the chaff once we get booted out to normal space. Release some flares too if needed.”
“I know. I’ll do it like always.”
“Great. Let’s go wild then.”
I dropped the power and obediently canceled the FTL drive without going against the interdictor. Now that we’ve chosen to fight, it would be better to deactivate the drive ourselves than to wait for it to get forcibly deactivated.
*Boom! The FTL drive finally deactivated, and the flowing stars in the distance turned into stationary light motes again.
“We’ve been locked on to by unidentified ships! There are ten enemy signatures on the radar!”
“Weapon systems online! Let’s go!”
The generator’s power output went up to battle level within moments. Now then, it’s showtime.