145 – Lieutenant Commander Serena’s Invitation
Editor: Thor’s Stone
We were quickly given permission to dock at the Imperial military outpost without much fuss. Maybe they’ve already done the necessary procedures in advance, or maybe the officer in charge of the approval process took into account our cargo of luxury goods. Or perhaps they just really wanted to get their hands on the newly developed special shells by Space Dwerg Co. Ltd. and proceed with live testing as soon as possible. ……Well, whatever the case may be, we’ve successfully landed at our destination. It’s great that we didn’t have to wait for a long time before we got permission to land.
“Man. We really have nothing to do right now huh.”
“Yeah, you’re right…… Haaah.”
I and Elma were idling inside Black Lotus’ break room since we really were quite free right now. Mimi and May went out of the ship in order to complete the delivery request and set up shop for selling leisure goods we brought with us. Thus, Elma and I were left idling about.
Oh, and the mechanic sisters were busy performing maintenance on the ships. They had to check Krishna out since I pushed it a lot in the earlier battle, and Black Lotus fired its weapons like crazy too, so they had to check those out as well.
“Go ahead and sleep if you want to.”
Elma moved next to me and leaned on my shoulder as she prepared to take a nap. Uh, I did say you could take a nap, but you didn’t have to use my shoulder as a pillow y’know. Well, I guess this is fine too.
Soon after, I heard Elma’s soft breathing as she drifted off to dreamland. I then picked up my tablet terminal and started to gather intel. May already put together a detailed report earlier, but it wouldn’t hurt to do some info gathering myself.
I first searched for info regarding the crystal lifeform activity in this sector. It seems that this base has a history of being sporadically attacked by the creatures ever since its inception. The attacks have been growing fiercer recently, so the Imperial military has been deploying more and more forces to hold the fort. I tried to search for info about the spawn point of the crystal lifeforms next, but it looks like they haven’t managed to find it yet.
That’s strange though. Usually, finding the spawn point is of the utmost priority, so why haven’t they found it by now? They usually nest in systems with pulsars after all. It shouldn’t be that hard to find it. I don’t know the exact details, but I’ve read that the crystal lifeforms make use of the electromagnetic waves and x-rays emitted by pulsars as energy sources, and then encroach and devour the surrounding planets in order to propagate.
In SOL, before they implemented the crystal lifeforms, they first released several chain quests that required players to investigate the new and mysterious enemy units. That’s where I got the info. I was already a veteran mercenary player at that time, so I participated in quite a few crystal lifeform extermination quests, as well as rescue and retrieval quests in systems encroached by them. A large part of the info about the crystal lifeforms was gathered by the hardworking explorer players.
“I wonder if the investigation regarding crystal lifeforms is still ongoing in this dimension, so they still ain’t aware of this particular piece of info……?”
I sighed as I continued browsing my tablet terminal. It’s quite possible, actually. This dimension really resembles SOL, but it’s not like they’re completely similar. My in-game knowledge won’t always apply, so I have to keep my wits about. The specialty products and needed goods of star systems that specialize in certain industries as well as the general specs of the ships are pretty much the same as what they were in the game.
However, there were also quite a few ship models I haven’t encountered in the game here, as well as other factors that were fairly different from what I remember. For example, maidroids like May weren’t present in the game at all. In fact, as far as I know, there didn’t seem to be highly advanced independent AIs implemented in SOL at all. It’s these factors that are real headscratchers for me.
In any case, I decided to postpone investigating the mysteries of this dimension for the time being and put up the star map of the Izrooks system on the break room’s large holo-display. Let’s see here. Where are the pulsar systems within range of the Izrooks system located……? Over here huh. ‘It’s pretty close……’ I murmured as I took note of the coordinates of the pulsar system. While I was immersed in gathering info, the ringtone of my portable terminal went off. I made sure not to disturb Elma as I checked out the caller ID and tapped the screen to accept the call.
『Ara, you picked up real quick…… Were you actually waiting for my call?』
I moved my portable terminal so that the smiling Lieutenant Commander Serena would be able to see Elma sleeping blissfully on my shoulder.
『……Are you showing off your harmonious relationship, perhaps?』
When I moved the terminal back, the smile was gone from Lieutenant Commander Serena’s face.
“I don’t have any such intention. I was quick in picking up the call because I didn’t want to wake her up and was busying myself gathering info using my terminal. So, what is your business with me today, Lieutenant Commander?”
『I shall be direct with you then. We have a new request for you.』
“Let me guess. Does it have something to do with fighting off the crystal lifeforms?”
『I’m glad you’re quick on the uptake. We want to employ you and your ships to help us fight off the crystal lifeforms. As for how long, it would probably be for about thirty days for now.』
“For now, huh… Hey, I have absolutely no plans of wasting my time here and get gradually cornered by you, okay?”
『You have the right to refuse, of course. You’re not part of the military after all. You’re a bold and free pro mercenary. It would be impossible for us to restrain you and keep you here in the first place. We also have to consider our relations with the Mercenary Guild.』
“I see. So, what about our reward?”
This was the most important point.
『The accounting department is going over it now. I cannot give an exact figure, but you can expect a fairly large sum for your contributions this time.』
“I see. Okay then. I’ll give you my answer once the reward amount gets decided and after I look up the particulars of the request.”
I won’t promise anything though. There are also things impossible for me to do. For example, there’s no way I would have been able to resolve the earlier battle all by my lonesome. I’ll be really troubled if they put too many expectations on me. And furthermore, I’ve been entrusted with the lives of Mimi, Elma, and the newly joined mechanic sisters. Thus, I can’t just rashly accept requests without taking the possible dangers into account.
『I thought you’d say that. Anyway, I just wanted you to know our intention to employ you in advance. And since we’re the ones greatly in need of assistance this time, you can expect additional rewards apart from Enels.』
“What sort of other rewards, exactly?”
『We can allow you to procure military-grade weaponry from us. There are certain limits, of course.』
“I admit, that’s certainly tempting.”
It was quite difficult to procure military-grade weapon systems even in SOL after all. You’ll only be able to obtain them by doing a ton of troublesome quests for the military and raising your affinity points by a great amount. Their performance and specs were, not just one, but two or more ranks above weapons sold to the general public. It was deemed an utmost priority for top ranking mercenary players to obtain their fair share of military-grade weaponry.
With that factored in, Krishna was a very unique ship, since it had such weapon systems at its disposal from the get-go.
『Isn’t it? Please do consider our request.』
It’s a really tempting offer, but I’m still not making any definite promises. There’s just something off with that perfect smile of yours, my dear Lieutenant Commander.
“Let’s set aside the reward amount first. What exactly do you want me to do anyway?”
『Basically, we want you to help in the investigation regarding the location of the crystal lifeforms’ nest. We will dispatch fleets for this operation, and we want you to tag along with them as an escort while they survey and investigate the surrounding star systems.』
Dispatching survey fleets to the surrounding systems huh…… It looks like they really don’t know that crystal lifeforms build their nests in pulsar systems huh. If they knew, they wouldn’t be doing something this tedious. Well, I can’t say it’s completely pointless though. Those guys often consume the asteroid belts of the surrounding star systems once they’ve stored up enough energy from pulsars after all. Cleaning up the crystal lifeforms that are consuming the surrounding systems is fairly important too.
But unless you find and destroy the Mother Crystal, it’ll just be an unending game of whack-a-mole.
“No, it’s nothing. It’s just I’ve heard from somewhere that crystal lifeforms often build nests in pulsar systems.”
『……Is that info credible? What’s your source?』
“I just said I’ve only heard of it from somewhere. I also don’t remember exactly where I heard of it.”
They’d probably just think I’m crazy if I told them I leaned it through playing a game in my home dimension. And besides, I’m also not sure if that info still applied here, so it’s not like I can vouch for its authenticity. I can only act like this to not cause any undue suspicion.
『……My fleet is actually the one scheduled to go on a scouting mission next.』
“Heee…… Oh, right. What are you guys actually doing here anyway, Lieutenant Commander? I believe your fleet is specialized in dealing with pirates, so why come here?”
『Our flagship, Restalias, is one of the newest state-of-the-art models fielded by the military right now. It can both serve as the command center and has firepower and speed above most of its peers in the cruiser class. We’ve built a reputation of covering a lot of ground ever since our inception, so the higher-ups also make use of our fleet to deliver military supplies via long-distance warps from time to time.』
“So while you were in the middle of that, you got caught up in the mess here, right?”
『It’s outside of our original purpose, but serving here would lead to the safety of the Imperial citizens under our protection as well, and we can’t really abandon our comrades to face the threat alone either.』
Man. Folks in the military sure had a lot on their plates as well. Lieutenant Commander Serena was apparently the daughter of a Marquis, so that might have factored in as well.
『And so, please take our request, okay?』
“I’ll discuss it with my crew first and then get back to you.”
C’mon. That bright smile just seems shady as all heck to me, Miss Lieutenant Commander. Please just cut it out.