150 – Preliminary Negotiations
Editor: Thor’s Stone
May served everyone with a bottle of purified water, and the preliminary negotiations were finally underway. The term was a bit technical, but to put it simply, it’s to make sure both parties agree with the terms and conditions of the request before formally taking action.
“First of all, Command wants you to follow us as a temporary addition to our fleet for the duration of the mission.”
“I’m good with that. It’s a lot better than teaming up with unfamiliar people anyway.”
“That’s right. We would also prefer teaming up with someone whose strengths and abilities are familiar to us. We would be able to form strategies and act in concert better that way.”
“So what troublesome thing did Command shove on you guys, anyway?”
Lieutenant Commander Serena’s eyebrow arched at Elma’s direct question.
“It’s not really all that complicated. We were just tasked with investigating a slightly dangerous sector.”
Mimi raised a worried voice. I’m also doubtful about the ‘slightly’ bit.
“Yes. The Izrooks system serves as a hub system for the hyperlane network, you see. The hyperlanes from five systems all converge here; four of which are Imperial territories. The last one is connected to the frontier region.”
“Frontier region, huh? ……Have they dispatched survey fleets to it already?”
“There was only one case of a survey fleet being dispatched, but none of the ships managed to return. However prosperous our Empire may be, its resources aren’t infinite. That’s why they established a military outpost here in the Izrooks system, which also doubles as a development base for the frontier. We are allocating resources as efficiently as possible.”
“I see. How about survey fleets from private enterprises?”
“There have been lots of cases where their ships have been lost as well. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that no ships have managed to return. The reports from the surviving private vessels confirmed the presence of crystal lifeforms in the frontier, and more and more forces are being deployed to this base as a countermeasure.”
“Your deployment here was also a result of this, Lieutenant Commander Serena?”
“No, not exactly. We have just been temporarily assigned here as reinforcements due to the increase in crystal lifeform activity. We won’t stay here indefinitely.”
“I see…… So we were asked to accompany your fleet to investigate the frontier area. Is that it?”
“Yes. So expect a high probability of encounters and battles with crystal lifeforms during the mission.”
“Well, of course. How about the reward?”
“400,000 Enels per each 24 hour period.”
“Wow, boss. That’s a lot of money……”
“F-Four hundred thousand……”
Tina was muttering softly with a stunned expression while Whisker’s eyes became round as saucers as she froze up on the spot. Mimi and Elma were displaying conflicted expressions. I’m probably making the same expression as them right now.
“I’m telling you this first. I have absolutely no plan of being used as a scapegoat.”
The reward was astronomical, but that just made the mission even scarier. It’s so high that I suspect we’re gonna get involved in something highly dangerous.
“We do not intend to do that at all. This reward amount was proposed in consideration of your skills and abilities, as well as our expectations for your service.”
I’m afraid they really want to push us as hard as they can. Well, there’s no use complaining about it here anyway.
“You claim you have absolutely no intention of discarding us, right?”
“Yes. That is correct……”
“If that’s the case, then promise me you’ll heed my advice if I judge that things are getting far too dangerous and I propose a retreat. Treat this as a personal promise between you and me, Commander. I’m not saying we’ll abandon our post and run away on our own when things get hairy though. We’ll bring up the rear for you if push comes to shove.”
Lieutenant Commander Serena cupped her delicately-shaped chin and thought for a little while. And then, she finally nodded slightly.
“Alright, I understand. I will promise you then. I will not ignore your words and prioritize the safety and lives of the ships and crew, including you all. It should be okay with this, right?”
“Yep. That’s fine for me. How about you two?”
“I’m okay with whatever Hiro-sama decides.”
“I have no complaints either.”
“How about you guys? Tina, Whisker.”
“U-Us? Um, we don’t really have anything to add either……”
“Sis, what about our report?”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right! Um, Miss Lieutenant Commander, ma’am?”
“Yes, what is it?”
Lieutenant Commander Serena turned her gaze toward Tina.
“Um… actually, we were tasked by our company to write up an activity diary periodically and send it back to them as part of our duties while dispatched to this ship. Um, will including this meeting in the diary be okay? I mean, won’t there be any complications if we write this down as well?”
“Let’s see…… I don’t think anything that we’ve discussed here is considered confidential, but let me check just in case.”
“Will you employ censorship?”
“Now that’s an unpleasant way of putting it…… We’re just being careful not to leak any classified military secrets accidentally. It’s completely well-intentioned.”
Lieutenant Commander Serena gave me an annoyed side-eye.
“I check and edit the contents of their diaries every day, so you do not have to worry, everyone. As an additional precaution, I shall send a copy of the edited materials to you for confirmation.”
“Really? Please do so then.”
May bowed her head. So it isn’t the military that will employ censorship. The material was already censored by May from the beginning. What a twist. Tina acted shocked for some reason. What’s up with that? Whisker didn’t have any reaction, so I guess she knew it from the start. Why was Tina not informed though?
“Okay then. That leaves the matter of command out on the field, but… it should be okay if we did it like usual, right?”
“Yes. You will be treated as my direct subordinate out on the field, and only I as the fleet commander have the right to issue commands to you.”
“Ok. You can just send the details of our discussion to the Mercenary Guild for approval.”
“Next would be regarding supplies. Black Lotus has just unloaded its cargo so the cargo hold has quite a bit of free space right now.”
“Oh, that sounds good. It would be quite convenient if you could store some supplies for the fleet in your ship for the duration of the mission.”
“Uhuh. But we’re not going to be your porters for free, y’know.”
“……You’re really not holding back, are you?”
Lieutenant Commander Serena’s smile twitched awkwardly. Of course. We’re gonna provide you protection out in a potentially dangerous sector of space, so we should get as much compensation as we can.
“Oh c’mon. Just listen to the proposal first. It’s not like I’m gonna ask for more money.”
“……Go on then.”
I raised my hands in surrender to Lieutenant Commander Serena who was giving me a doubtful gaze and started elaborating further.
“You see, I think it’s a bit of a waste if we just left this system after the mission with empty hands. That’s why I was thinking of stocking up on some goods. I have no problem with acting as a porter for the fleet and storing part of its supplies for the duration of the mission, but in exchange, I want you to negotiate with your superiors if we could get a cut of the raw materials derived from crystal lifeforms when this is all over.”
“We will lend our help and expertise to you as much as possible, Commander. In exchange, we want to gain as many benefits from you, but without touching your bottom line. In other words, we propose a fair trade. What do you think?”
“Let me just ask to make sure. What exactly do you expect from me?”
“Of course, I’m not asking for something unreasonable or against the rules. We’re gonna purchase the materials from you, but I want you to put some word in so we can get it at the lowest price allowable without compromising quality.”
I thought back to the first time I met Lieutenant Commander Serena. She seemed like a person with a strong sense of justice and had a distaste for illegal or fraudulent practices. I’m not so stupid as to ask such a person to break the rules.
“Alright. I’ll try to talk to the accounting department then. Oh, and before I forget, we will shoulder the costs for the supplies we will use during the mission. However, luxury and leisure items are a different story. You’ll have to pay for those yourselves.”
“Understood. We’ll send you our cargo capacity later.”
“Alright. That’s about it then.”
Lieutenant Commander Serena rose from her seat, and we saw her and her subordinates off with a smile.
“Well, that’s how it is. So, for now, go ahead and prepare, everyone.”
The mechanic sisters are acting a bit nervous as expected. It can’t be helped. Any normal person would feel scared if you tell them they’ll be going to a place potentially teeming with hostile crystal lifeforms. The terror of being consumed by crystal lifeforms is pretty well known, even among the common populace.
“You don’t have to worry too much, you two. It’s unlikely that Black Lotus will face any direct attacks. The only situation where the Black Lotus, which will act as a supply ship during the mission, will get attacked is when the rest of the fleet is practically annihilated. And I’ll warn Commander Serena properly to avoid that worst-case scenario from happening in the first place, so I believe the Black Lotus won’t be in any sort of danger during the mission.”
“I-I see…… It’s really gonna be okay, right, boss?”
“Yeah. Don’t worry.”
At least, that’s true for Tina, Whisker, and May. On the other hand, I, Mimi, and Elma would probably have to engage the crystal lifeforms head-on if we encounter them. Well, I’m sure it’ll be alright as long as we don’t face a large enough swarm. There’s also the strength and firepower of Lieutenant Commander Serena’s fleet to consider.
“We should have finished resupplying by now, right?”
“Yes. We have stored a total of twelve anti-ship reactive torpedoes on Black Lotus in addition to the four on Krishna, just like you instructed, Hiro-sama.”
“Yep. The supply manager’s expression was twitching when we took them from the base armory though.”
“It’s fine. There’s no need to hold back.”
I was actually planning to get twenty spares in addition to the ones loaded on Krishna, but I was told twelve was the limit, so that’s that. Well, they were dangerous weapons that had the power to destroy a colony, so it can’t be helped.
“We have enough stock of water, food, and other daily necessities that we got from Brad Prime, and I was told we would be given part of the supplies from the military as well… Mm, we would be able to sortie anytime once the goods from the military get loaded up. How’s the condition of both ships?”
The mechanic sisters were still a bit nervous, but they managed to reply clearly. I’ll try and talk to them more later to relieve their fear and stress as much as possible.
“Mm. We’ve finished up Krishna’s maintenance. We just need to do some minor checks on Black Lotus later, so we can probably finish everything before the day ends.”
“Black Lotus engaged in heavy combat this time, so we’re focusing on checking the energy supply and weapon systems. We haven’t discovered any problems so far.”
“I see. Do your best.”
“Leave it to us.”
“Okay. That’s a wrap, folks. I’ll wait for the official request to go through the guild, and I’ll contact you guys again once the sortie time gets decided. Until then, do whatever you need to do. Oh, and as much as possible, stay on board the ship. Well, there’s no place suited for sightseeing inside this base anyway.”
Everyone responded in the affirmative and dispersed.
Now then, what should I do? I’m basically free until the sortie time gets decided…… Since that’s the case, how about I spend my time checking out how all of my crew members are doing? The mission this time seems to entail quite a bit of danger. And it’s a different kind of danger from facing off pirates. It’s the Captain’s duty to ensure the physical and emotional wellbeing of his crew after all.