283 – After the Festival
Editor: Thor’s Stone
The large-scale space pirate group Red Flags were dealt a heavy blow resulting in them withdrawing into deep space, so the operation to destroy the Red Flags spearheaded by Commander Serena was to be halted for the time being.
Although the operation did manage to deal a considerable amount of damage to the Red Flags, the main leaders and other executives managed to slip away, and in the second half of the operation, the rest of the Red Flags got up on their bums and escaped, so the ending was a little anti-climactic. However, it was still an impressive feat to drive away a large-scale space pirate group that had widespread influence without incurring much damage.
『I’m personally not content with the outcome though.』
Commander Serena said such a thing when we parted ways. However, it looks like the evaluation of the military top brass and general public opinion wasn’t too bad, and if things continued going the way they were, she might be up for another promotion. Perhaps the next time we meet, she’ll be Captain Serena Holz instead of Commander.
“Well, it looks like they’re going with this official story huh.”
I sighed as I propped up my chin with one hand while reading the article displayed on my tablet terminal inside the dining hall of Black Lotus.
“You’re not planning to leak classified info out to the general public, right?”
“Of course, not. Do I look like someone who’d do something so terrifying?”
What was written in the article was only a superficial summary of events coupled with a glowing tribute to the young commander who led the operation. Well, in other words, the military was trying to package Commander Serena as a hero, or rather, an idol. She had the looks, demeanor, and pedigree after all. Her parents and the Noble House she’s from were very influential. They also had fairly deep pockets. Although she’d probably just serve as their publicity mascot most of the time, I’d have to hand this one to the Imperial Military. It’s not a bad plan at all. Furthermore, she hated injustice and corruption, so I think she’ll eventually become an indispensable asset to the Imperial Military in the future.
“I wonder what really went on back there? Judging from our previous experiences, the Imperial Military stinks a bit, doesn’t it?”
“Well, it’s a fairly huge organization after all, so it’s only natural that they’re not an absolute monolith. It’s said that three people can already form a faction or something like that.”
“As an Imperial Citizen, I feel a bit conflicted about it.”
Elma was a genuine aristocratic daughter who had a wealth of experience as a mercenary under her belt, so she seemed to be generally used to such things. Mimi, however, was just a common(?) Imperial Citizen, albeit an upstanding one, so she felt a bit conflicted after witnessing the dirty linen of the Imperial Military that she probably looked up to. For the Imperial subjects, the Imperial Military that protects the Empire’s domain and people’s lives from invasions from other countries, space pirates, and space monsters, were probably akin to heroes of justice.
We had witnessed several things that pointed to a very high possibility that some people connected to the space pirates were also connected to the Imperial Military.
There was the murder of Chris’s father and the plot to take over the position of patriarch of the Dareinwald House. What was that guy’s name again? Anyway, it was Chris’ own blood-related uncle, and somehow, he managed to get his hands on a secret weapon of the Imperial Military. And even beyond that, traces of corruption within the ranks of the Imperial Military could be smelled in most of the cases we encountered that involved the Nobility as well. In the latter half of the operation, the Red Flags made their move so quickly and decisively that you wouldn’t be able to avoid suspecting that someone might have been leaking information from within the Military to them. The maneuvers of that special squadron also highly resembled Imperial Military combat tactics.
“That squadron might not be from the Imperial Military at all, but the Vereverem Federation.”
“That’s possible. Well, that would mean that Vereverem Federation expeditionary forces have been able to penetrate deep into the Imperial territory and are performing sabotage operations.”
“That’s quite the terrible prospect…… We really can’t reveal this stuff to others huh.”
“That’s why they included hush money in the rewards you know.”
The reward money paid by the Imperial Military this time around was quite substantial. That said, it wasn’t enough to buy another custom ship like the Black Lotus. Even so, if we combined it with the savings we’ve made so far, we can probably afford a smaller custom starship for Elma.
“Will they tell us the results of the investigation on those unknown ships?”
“They probably won’t, and it’s not like I’m interested in knowing either. There’s nothing good that’ll come out from knowing too much.”
“That’s right. I honestly don’t want to get involved in the shady working within the Military.”
“ Should you or any member of your crew be caught or killed, the authorities will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This holo-data will self-destruct in five seconds or something like that.”
“I wouldn’t want to be involved in that for sure…… Or rather, those lines kind of sound familiar, Hiro-sama.”
“I’m sure they’re from some retro movie of some sort. It’s Hiro after all.”
Correct, my dear Elma. When I wandered around the colonies we visited, I would sometimes find retro movie holo-data stored in data chips selling for very cheap prices. Since you could view them on portable data terminals and tablet terminals at your leisure, it’s recently been my private hobby to collect data chips containing retro movies. I also sometimes stumble upon incomprehensibly bad low-budget movies, but oh well.
I’ve seen quite a lot of them together with Mimi and Elma. After all, we had a lot of free time when traveling through the hyperlanes. I also play some when we unwind and relax in the break space or when I retreat to my room. It’s not like I’m all work and no play even when we have some free time. It’s also important to relax and spend time together with the girls.
『Master, we will soon be entering the Refill system.』
We had nothing to do while Black Lotus was navigating the hyperlane so we were fooling around in the dining hall, but it looks like we’ve finally arrived. I really can’t thank Mei enough for controlling the ship by herself while we’re relaxing like this. When we get back to the Refill system, I’ll take some time to spoil her.
Though somehow, it almost always turns into her spoiling me instead of the other way around. Anyway, let’s just ignore that little detail, shall we? By the way, the mechanic sisters were busy repairing that unknown ship we captured after demanding some hugs. They were trying to put together a single working ship by salvaging parts from the wreckage of multiple ships. It seems they were about to finish it soon.
“Let’s head to Krishna. So we can sortie at any time.”
“Yes. But you’re being awfully cautious, aren’t you, Hiro-sama?”
Mimi tilted her head cutely as she stood up and followed after me.
“Just in case. We socked it to the Red Flags this time, right? As a result, we’ve stood out a bit too much to my liking.”
Actually, although it wasn’t treated with much importance compared to Commander Serena’s accomplishments, our activities were also mentioned in the article. They simply wrote that Captain Hiro, a Platinum-rank mercenary who became the grand champion of the war games recently held in the Imperial Capital, also actively participated in the operation.
But we did personally deal with that fishy special squadron after all. The survivors should have already reported our details to the Red Flag higher-ups. The senior executives who’ve received their report might have already pulled up relevant information about us.
“You mean there’s a chance they would go after us for revenge?”
I shrugged my shoulders in response to Mimi, whose face had turned a bit blue.
“We can’t discount that possibility. The full strength of the Red Flag pirates still wouldn’t be able to match up with the Imperial Military, but they would be more than enough to prove troublesome to a single mercenary, even if one’s Platinum-rank. ……Maybe that’s what they’re thinking you know.”
“We’re really newsworthy too. After all, we, or rather, Hiro, won the recent war games, and that event was broadcasted all throughout the Empire too.”
“Yep. And nabbing us while leaving a message that goes ‘The Red Flags were here.’ or something like that would be a pretty good show of strength for them.”
“B-But isn’t that really bad!? Or rather, that’s why we’ve been on high alert all this time, right!?”
“Yep, that’s right. Well, we don’t really need to change our routine and just continue like usual, Mimi.”
Elma seemed pretty chill about the whole thing, but having my ships destroyed or captured along with the entire crew were situations I didn’t even want to imagine. That’s why I made sure to stay on high alert.
“We’re about to arrive back in the Refill system soon, so keep that matter in mind, you two.”
I called out and briefly greeted the mechanic sisters who were busy working in the hangar and boarded the Krishna. Those two won’t be let off lightly as well if I mess up, so I better make sure not to let my guard down.
I briefly glanced toward Mimi, who was checking the sensor and comm systems like usual, albeit with a slightly nervous expression, and proceeded to perform a routine diagnostics check of the ship together with Elma. Tina and Whisker performed regular maintenance on the Krishna, so she was practically in perfect condition.
“……Come to think of it, we wiped the space pirates lurking within the Refill system first, right?”
“So does that mean there’s a low chance we’ll get attacked here?”
“Yes, I suppose. But the chance isn’t 0%, okay?”
“That’s why we still have to be on guard.”
I operated Krishna’s console and projected the footage displayed by the Black Lotus’s main screen onto Krishna’s main screen. Since Black Lotus was still currently navigating the hyperlane, the main screen projected an image of a multicolored tunnel that flowed backward.
“This scenery is as impressive as usual. Mei, keep alert and scan the surrounding area immediately the moment we jump out of the hyperlane. Also, make sure you’ll be able to deploy the ship’s armaments at a moment’s notice. Set the hangar hatch and electromagnetic launching catapult on standby.”
『Aye, aye, sir.』
As I listened to Mei’s prompt reply, I fired up Krishna’s main generator so we could sortie immediately if needed. We’ll be out of the hyperlane in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1–
『Hyperlane exit complete. No reaction indicating nearby hostiles.』
“Got it. Proceed to the Refill Prime colony while maintaining alert status.”
『Aye, aye, sir. Activating FTL Drive.』
I glanced sideways at Mimi once more and found her sighing in relief. I also exhaled lightly. Things are gonna get pretty stressful for a while.
 This is a parody of the famous and iconic Mission Impossible briefing lines. You know. The one with Tom Cruise and stuff going up in smoke or exploding in his face. | (Weasalopes): Ah, youth. Tom who? Nah, Peter Graves in the roll of Jim Phelps. “Mr. Phelps, should you choose to accept this…” coming from a reel-to-reel tape player, and once complete the tape starts smoking and sizzling and dissolves away. Explosions do occur. The original, what I watched on TV prior to it being syndicated, back in my callow youth.