160 – Fair Trade
Editor: Thor’s Stone
Waiting around in the Izrooks system turned out to be very boring.
First, a request for performing ship repairs by using the maintenance facilities and equipment inside Black Lotus was issued as a designated request by the Mercenary Guild. It was a separate matter from the existing contract with the military.
We got nominated due to the fact that the facilities and equipment inside Black Lotus were all state-of-the-art Space Dwerg products, and they performed even better than what the Imperial frontline base had when it comes to repairing and maintaining small-sized ships.
Moreover, we also had two skilled pro mechanics with great skills and a good number of maintenance bots at their disposal. The Imperial Military wanted to do everything to quickly recover its strength, so we were a valuable factor that they wanted to make use of no matter how much they had to pay.
All the materials used for repairs will be shouldered by the military, and we were paid 100,000 Enels per day. Since the mechanic sisters will handle all the repairs, I decided to give them a 30% cut. When I told them they’ll be receiving 30,000 Enels per day, their eyes sparkled in delight and they both quickly agreed. If you compare it to a Japanese salaryman suddenly being told he was going to receive a daily wage of 1,500,000 Yen, I think you’d mostly get how they felt.
Well, that’s why Black Lotus has now become a sort of temporary repair installation. Since both of Black Lotus’s hangars are in use, Krishna can’t park inside it for the time being, and since we didn’t take in any damage, for the most part, we weren’t a priority when it comes to landing clearance either.
In other words, we couldn’t get off the ship, and we were currently moored in a designated safe space near the forward base with nothing to do. If there were pirates here, we would be a very tempting target, but there’s no way there would be pirates lurking around Izrooks system that had a fortified military base, so we got plenty of spare time as a result.
Since we were quite free and would continue to be for quite a while, we had to find ways to kill time and relieve boredom. We held a holo-video watching marathon, played fighting games using our tablet terminals, and uh… well, you guys get it. Also, there was an increase in the use of the bed’s auto-cleaning function and the ship’s bathroom.
Uh, I didn’t just indulge in such activities though. I also held mock battles with the other mercenaries who held some form of animosity toward me and kicked their sorry behinds, but let’s leave it at that.
After spending four days doing all that, the military finally contacted Krishna.
『It looks like you went wild these past few days?』
“For the record, I wasn’t the one who picked a fight first. They came on to me, so I just gave them some pointers.”
Lieutenant Commander Serena had a pleasant smile on her face that was displayed on the cockpit’s main monitor.
Because the mock battles were carried out with the express permission of the Imperial Military, it wasn’t just mercenaries who participated. Imperial soldiers also joined in on the fun.
There wasn’t much in the form of entertainment within the base after all. Under such circumstances, mock battles using actual ships was a very interesting activity in the eyes of the military personnel. In the end, I won a mock battle between me and five silver-rank mercenaries. It won’t even be a gamble! That was what they told me after that. Uh, that’s not my fault though.
Well, even though it was still pretty much a landslide victory, they did manage to penetrate Krishna’s energy shields and damaged its armor. It’s all thanks to the final ship performing a sham kamikaze attack though.
It was a nice fight, but I dunno about a mercenary resorting to such a thing as a kamikaze attack. You won’t earn even 1 Enel even if you manage to defeat the enemy. C’mon.
“So, what do you want this time?”
『How boorish. Can’t I contact you for something other than official business?』
“Not really, but I won’t accompany you to drink. It’ll be a pain to take care of you afterward.”
『Kuh…… Anyway, can you take a look at this?』
Lieutenant Commander Serena sent me a video file with twitching cheeks. I opened the video file after confirming that there wasn’t anything strange mixed in and saw a brilliant pulsar star and a vast swarm of crystal lifeforms surrounding it. And within that swarm was a gigantic crystal urchin-like monster that dwarfed every other crystal lifeform present.
“Hey now. That’s a Mother Crystal alright.”
『……You actually recognized it?』
Lieutenant Commander Serena asked in a suspicious tone. Crap! I ended up slipping. How careless!
“Uh, well, ain’t it really huge? So I thought it was like a mother or something.”
『Come to think of it, you also told me about the crystal lifeforms nesting in pulsars back then, right?』
『Don’t dodge the issue, you! Just tell me everything you know. That’s an order.』
Lieutenant Commander Serena ordered me in an extremely icy tone that nearly made me wet my pants.
“I kinda remember hearing about them from a while back, but my memory’s quite spotty y’see.”
『Even so, you know a fair bit about crystal lifeforms, right? Just tell me what you know. I promise not to investigate your source, so please…』
I mulled over Lieutenant Commander Serena’s request for a bit. To be honest, I don’t want to get Lieutenant Commander Serena and the Imperial Military’s attention by saying something like ‘I dunno why or how, but I kinda just know.’ or something like that. It’s kinda too late already, but I still wanna minimize the damage.
Fortunately, regardless of the circumstances, Lieutenant Commander Serena was still giving me some consideration by promising she won’t pry. I’m positive Lieutenant Commander Serena knows that if I ended up rampaging all over the Empire with Krishna and Black Lotus in tow, it would make for a very great nuisance, so it was better to maintain the status quo and keep a cordial relationship with me. But I better bring it up just to be sure.
“……If you try to lay your hands on me or my crew, I promise you I’ll rampage all over the Empire and run away by any means necessary.”
『Is that a threat?』
“I just want to protect myself. Additionally, I’m gonna stir things up by using my secret video archive folder. I’m gonna upload footages of the ditzy and cute Serena-chan to various video streaming sites with provocative titles.”
『Okay, okay, I understand already. I won’t reveal the information source and I’ll do my best to block any investigation attempts. So please delete those videos…』
“I promise not to use them as a bargaining chip from now on.”
I can’t promise I’ll delete them. They can’t prove anything anyway. And more importantly, I have no intention of relinquishing such an emergency trump card.
『Kuh…… Oh, alright. That’s a deal then. Now start talking and tell me everything you know.』
I talked about everything I knew regarding the Mother Crystal, which was the big boss of the crystal lifeforms currently devouring the pulsar system. Basically, the Mother Crystal itself had little to no mobility and its only means of attack was to spew out myriad small crystal lifeforms. These small crystal lifeforms can perform laser attacks comparable to a Class 1 laser weapon and their usual ramming attacks. Since it doesn’t possess defensive measures equivalent to energy shields, ballistic or explosive weaponry would be more effective against it. That doesn’t mean optical weapons won’t work on it. They would just be less effective.
The ones that would actually pose more trouble are the Guardian Crystals protecting it. They boast abilities more powerful than medium-types, and there were quite a lot of them. They were particularly troublesome because they possessed excellent short-range shooting capabilities and also performed charging attacks without a hint of hesitation when given the chance.
However, since the maximum shooting range of the Guardian Crystals was pretty short, you can just snipe them from beyond it to whittle them down. Although their maximum speed was pretty high, their turning speed wasn’t, and they had a habit of only attacking enemies close to the Mother Crystal. So a valid strategy is attracting them with high-mobility small ships and grinding them down with long-range bombardment from medium and large-sized starships.
It would be best to infiltrate the infested system through a hyperlane node that was as far away from the Mother Crystal as possible so the small ships don’t have to deal with the small crystal creatures spewed by the Mother Crystal and the Guardian Crystals at the same time.
The reason for it was still unconfirmed, but large-types weren’t present within systems that had Mother Crystals residing in them. Perhaps large-types were newly spawned juvenile Mother Crystals, and they would go off on their own to develop independently.
“The Mother Crystal is pretty damn tough, so small ships won’t be able to deal any substantial damage to it without using something like an anti-ship reactive torpedo. The medium and large ships should be equipped with powerful missiles with explosive warheads or reaction warheads as well for maximum effect. But it’s not like laser cannons can’t be used. And also, the Mother Crystal’s main weakness is the glowing part at the center of its body. You should be able to spot it easily.”
After saying so, I marked the central part of the Mother Crystal displayed on the screen.
“But these thorny protrusions are a real nuisance. These thorns would swat down projectiles heading for the Mother Crystal with great accuracy. In other words, these thorns function as a kind of reactive armor for the Mother Crystal. That’s why after eliminating the Guardian Crystals, it would be best for the medium and large ships to surround the Mother Crystal and launch attacks all aimed at its weakness from multiple angles. It’s surprisingly tough and would endure for a long period of time if you just concentrate your fire from one direction.”
『……That’s some detailed information.』
“I’ve had some experiences subjugating the things after all. I can’t answer when or where I got them though. But you can’t treat the information I provided as something absolute. There isn’t a guarantee that this Mother Crystal is the same Mother Crystal I’m familiar with. That goes for the Guardian Crystals as well.”
It wasn’t certain if the info I carried over from playing SOL would still be applicable to this dimension’s crystal lifeforms. Well, considering my experiences so far, they’d been pretty on target for the most part. There’s a lot of new stuff that wasn’t present in SOL, but most of the things I knew from SOL were still applicable here.
『By your estimate, how accurate would the info you provided be?』
“I’d say fifty-fifty if I want to be extra cautious, but so far, it’s probably about 90% accurate. If not, I wouldn’t have been able to survive diving headfirst into a crystal lifeform swarm twice.”
Although I did make sure to have more than enough safety margins, the behavior of the crystal lifeforms here was pretty much the same as they were in SOL. The power of their attacks, their frequency, and the projectile speed were all pretty similar to the game. I also didn’t feel much difference when it comes to overall durability, so I think it would be the same for the Mother Crystal.
『I see…… Thank you for the valuable information. It’s even too detailed so I’m having trouble thinking up of a good way to hand the info over.』
“Just be sure to keep your promise not to reveal the info source. For both our sakes.”
『Yes, for both our sakes indeed. I’ll make it work.』
“Also, think of a way to repay me after this too. You owe me a pretty big favor now. You won’t try to sweep it under the rug, right, Commander?”
『Uu…… I know. I’ll do my best to accommodate you. If possible, can you give me some hints so I can decide on what kind of compensation is best?』
“Fumu…… In that case…”
I told Lieutenant Commander Serena about my plan to acquire high-performance combat bots to station inside Black Lotus. Lieutenant Commander Serena was the daughter of a high-ranking aristocrat, so maybe she can introduce us to some good dealers through her connections.
『I see. Your ships do lack guards comparable to power armor-equipped and trained Imperial soldiers. I understand. There’s a weapons company funded by the House of Marquis Holz that deals with high-performance military combat bots. I’ll look it up and write a letter of introduction for you.』
“It’s great that you’re easy to talk with, Commander.”
You had to be careful around Lieutenant Commander Serena, but her professionalism was impeccable. She was a pretty unruly drunk though!
“Is the military planning on launching a counteroffensive soon?”
『That would probably turn out to be the case. I did get some useful information, so the rest will depend on my efforts from here on out.』
“We would have a hard time with our current available forces y’know?”
If we didn’t incur any losses last time and still had our fleets intact, we would have a better chance. Since the losses suffered by the 3rd and 4th Recon Fleets were pretty substantial, the counteroffensive would be pretty tough.
『We’ve already considered that problem. The information about the position of the enemy was obtained through the sacrifice of the 3rd and 4th Fleets after all. We will also deploy the main force stationed within the base in the attack.』
“I see. Then I guess it’s alright.”
If the main forces stationed inside the forward base will also participate in the attack, it would probably be enough. You won’t snatch a victory by being passive after all.
『The arrangements and reorganization will probably take a few days more, so make sure to rest up to be in your best condition when it’s time to deploy.』
“Aye, aye, ma’am.”
I gave Lieutenant Commander Serena a crisp salute and she smiled faintly in return. She then cut the call.
Now then, I guess I have to tell Mimi and Elma the news as well. First, I’ll go wake them both up, then take a nice, long shower.