After all, it is fluffy.
Technical terms are difficult to use correctly, so I try not to use them as much as possible.
The reason why I set the age of adulthood at 15 in the story is because I thought that in the future, the age of adulthood will be lowered. I’m sure it will be lowered in the future.
“Less than an hour to go…”
I inadvertently looked at the clock that I did not want to see, and the words escaped from the corner of my mouth before I could stop them. The vice-captain, who had known me for a long time, probably realized that my muttering was almost unconscious.
“Yes, sir.” he replied with a faint whisper. No more words were spoken, and only silence reigned in the captain’s quarters. When was the last time I had so much time on my hands? It will be the first time since this battle started at least.
Unable to stand the tranquility, I left my seat and proceeded to the coffee server. It’s a vintage gift that my wife gave me when I took over as captain.
(What’s so good about coffee, such an antiquated drink?)
I thought I heard my wife’s annoyed voice, and I looked back, but there were only seats for me and the vice-captain. Naturally, my wife wasn’t anywhere there, and my eyes met with the quizzical expression of the vice captain.
“Would you like a drink?”
I thought he wouldn’t drink it anyway, but I asked him to cover my embarrassment.
“Sure. I’ll take it.”
I was stunned by the unexpected response that I almost asked him back, but I stopped at the end and turned my body to the coffee server silently. You’re drinking coffee? That vice-captain? You’ve never had a cup of coffee in all the decades we’ve known each other, right?
“I’m sorry I have no sugar or milk. I was in a hurry so I didn’t have time to shop.” I said, as I placed one of the cups on the vice captain’s desk, he picked it up with trepidation and brought it to his mouth.
“Hot.” murmured the vice-captain.
Come to think of it, as I brought the cup to my mouth thinking that this guy has a cat tongue, the aroma of the coffee reminded me of the last conversation I had with my family.
Just before retirement, I was enjoying my vacation at home, when I received an urgent call from the command center.
Was it pirates? It said that there was a declaration of war from an unidentified aggressor. When I heard the details, I hurriedly prepared myself for a full-scale war in three days, but I was curious as to what and why the command center decided on full-scale war.
I thought there must have been something that would make them decide to go all out, but I don’t feel like I could live and make it back home this time. However, the captain of the ship himself could not say such a weak thing.
I intended to leave the house as usual so as not to make my family uneasy. I wondered why she burst into tears when, in a casual tone of voice, I told my long-time wife that my vacation would be ruined, but that I was retiring after this battle, and that she should have a place to put the coffee server at home.
“Bitter.” mumbled the vice-captain.. I guess he didn’t even know that coffee was bitter.
I don’t know if it’s a traditional taste, but he only drinks mineral water from Saturn’s rings, which has been on sale for less than a thousand years. But I can’t stand it when they repeat every year that this year will have a once-in-50-years miraculous taste because a comet is approaching.
By comparison, what about this coffee server? It is a masterpiece that faithfully synthesizes the taste of a type of coffee called MRE, which is said to have once been adopted by the army of the legendary power that was once said to have existed. It is truly a man’s drink. The fact that the liquid is fluorescent is also very clever.
I push the bitter expression of the vice-captain out of my head and think of my beloved wife’s face. My poker face is as good as any politician’s but I’ve never been able to fool my wife. Was my wife the only one who realized that I had left the house with the intention of never returning? Or was it tears of relief that I was quitting the military?
“It looks like the doctor didn’t make it.” murmured the vice-captain, who seems to have managed to finish his coffee.
“It’s not unreasonable.”
The doctor was definitely an eccentric, a scholar who had negotiated with the command center simply because he wanted to board a battleship. He is now so immersed in our ship that I fear he may have mistaken it for his home.
It is true that we have been saved by his knowledge and wit many times before, but no matter how competent he is, he will only be able to do so much this time.
In a war situation where defeat is not only a possibility, but almost a certainty, the craft is a mass of black boxes. It is unclear why it works, how to control it, how to fuel it, how to start it, or even how to maintain it. To make matters worse, the only pilot died suddenly of unknown causes.
He is the best mind in the world at figuring out how to get his body out of the cockpit. Even if it was a procedure and theory that no one else can understand. To him and us, the command center piled up an impossible task: to figure out how to activate the craft, to select a new pilot, and to lecture him on how to fly it.
The people in the command center may not have anything else to say. In this desperate situation, he and his craft were the only hope.
In response to our pleas for him to escape on his own, he asked for more time and headed for the hangar. We could only bow our heads silently. Was it in preparation for this situation that he remodeled the warehouse next to the hangar and made it his room named the lab?
In the case of the doctor, would it be useful? I didn’t feel like saying that.
I reconfirmed the situation on hand, but there was nothing good to report. I can’t even contact the other captains anymore. The fleet has already been destroyed, leaving my ship behind. This ship remained not because I was competent. It was the arrival and departure ship of his craft, and it was only the strongest benefit of his efforts.
If we were allowed to lose, we would have withdrawn a long time ago. But we have no way out.
“What is this battle all about?”
A meaningless question is posed, which was repeated many times. We were forced to fight an impossibly strong enemy in a designated area at the designated time. If we refused to fight, they say, the mighty enemies would have stormed in like a cloud haze. Of course we were defeated.
Unable to turn back, we followed the designated route and found ourselves a long way from home. Communication with the command center is possible, but there will be no resupply or reinforcement. In the first place, there were no ships left that could fight.
“It’s like being a subject in a combat experiment.”
The vice-captain makes a pretty good analogy. Certainly, the enemy gradually increases in number and strength, and the stress on us increases. The actions of the enemy, as if it were an unfeeling experiment to see when we would die, did not seem like an act of aggression, but it felt strange.
But it just doesn’t feel right. If we say we are subjects, what is the reason for being a test subject? If this is an experiment, there should be a purpose, but we are terribly vulnerable compared to the enemy that we do not seem to be fulfilling the role of test subjects. In a power relationship like a fight between an adult and a child, we are too weak compared to the enemy to play the role of test subjects. Rather, is it possible that they were even concerned about not annihilating us? Or was there any possibility of a message trying to convey something to us through the fight?
Adult and… child…?
“Is this a coaching match!?” I screamed, standing up. The Vice Captain’s eyes are wide open, but it doesn’t matter. Isn’t this like a board game coaching match?
Areas that change little by little, enemies that are gradually strengthened, and strategies that were initially understood were eroded as if pointing out the holes with each round. We were so busy preparing for the next battle, discussing and strategizing with the other surviving captains, that we didn’t notice the obvious.
Why did we keep winning against such a mighty enemy? How could we keep winning?
He and his craft certainly had benefits. However, it is impossible from the beginning to protect all the ships by himself. As he cut deeper into the enemy’s camp, there were plenty of opportunities to crush us who were providing logistical support.
No matter how powerful that craft is, it would be a checkmate if the landing ships were wiped out. Why is there only one obvious giant battleship in the mix among the enemy? Why would the battle end if he destroyed it? What did he know about it? Did he know who the enemy was? Did he know the meaning of this battle!?
“Captain, not another word.” the vice captain’s voice brought me back to myself. It seems that he had been speaking out of turn.
“I’m sorry. Forget it.” I said, as I slumped deeper into my chair. I understand what the vice captain meant. He is a hero. He was a hero and our comrade-in-arms. There were many questions about him. But we cannot doubt the comrades who risked his life to fight with us without any solid evidence. Moreover, he can no longer explain or justify anything anymore.
Suddenly, music began to play from the ship’s internal broadcast speakers. Did the operator do something wrong, or is it a tribute to him?
It’s a song that everyone on the ship knows. However, it was a song that did not exist in any database until the doctor hummed it and made it into a proper song. I became a little calm when I heard the brave song, saying that no matter how many times I was defeated, I would fight as long as I had a life, and that the flame burning in my heart was nothing but my soul.
It is regrettable that he has passed away without saying a word or teaching me anything, but in a way, it was probably understandable. He was only 13 years old. Two years away from adulthood, and yet his craft brought him to the battlefield.
His birth, upbringing, how he got that craft, and everything else is unknown, all we know is his name, gender, and age. Moreover, it wasn’t until the first battle was over that the headquarters inquired about how a minor, who had self-declared everything except his gender, had obtained military registration.
I also wanted to know, but I didn’t feel like checking with the person in question. No, I’m a coward who spared my own life. I was dazzled by the overwhelming consequences of the battle and was unconsciously afraid that I might have to let go of it by knowing the truth. If his age is true, it is strange that he has military registration. Then we should have protected him and sent him back. However, I overworked the boy who was still younger than my grandchild, and drove him to his death, which is a fact.
It’s not that I didn’t investigate at all, I checked with other staff members on his behalf, but the operator twisted his neck while looking at the crew list. Of course, it’s because his name is on the list. When and who did the registration process? At least neither I nor the vice-captain received any such report.
The hangar mechanics testified that they did not know when the craft was delivered. Even so, did the mechanics not notice that there was an unfamiliar craft at the time of the first departure?
Or was he not on this ship yet at the time of the first battle? If so, where did he come from? In the unlikely event that I return alive, who should I make amends for?
“Captain! Emergency contact from the hangar!” howled the vice-captain in a tense voice as he received a communication. The two of us wonder if things have turned around, but we couldn’t get the gist of it. The only thing we could tell was that the hangar was buzzing with activity.
I patiently let him repeat his report and asked him some questions, and I was able to get a rough idea of what was going on, but really didn’t know what was happening.
It seems that the doctor who came out of the lab got into that craft. Since he was able to get his body out of the cockpit, it was probably not impossible for him to get in the other way. The problem was that the doctor was covered in blood? The mechanics were so stunned to see him with blood on his lab coat that they didn’t even have time to stop him.
It seems that this song started playing a while after the doctor boarded the ship, but I guess I should assume that there is a connection.
I instructed them to report any changes in the situation immediately and ended the communication. What exactly is the doctor going to do? What was he doing in the lab?
Communication came in from the hangar again. While investigating the lab, it seems that the doctor’s memorandum was found. On the blood-stained paper, it said, ‘This is blasphemy against life and a challenge to God’. All that was left was a blood-stained cable, an unidentified machine to which it was connected, and his corpse embedded in the machine.
I have no idea what is going on here. Did this ship become the setting for a horror or suspense movie?
The communication came in a third time, but this time it is not from the hangar, but from his craft.
“Doctor! What the hell is going on!? We’re running out of time! Prepare to escape!”
The tone becomes harsh involuntarily.
“Doctor? No, no. It’s me, Captain.”
The voice over the communication was certainly the doctor, but the tone is completely different. No, this tone sounds familiar. No way?
“As expected of the doctor. I don’t know what he did or how he did it, but could it be a copy of my memory or personality? I’m sure the real me is already dead…”
He… is that him? What? Why? What happened to the doctor?
“Get off the craft now! And you get out of there! We’ll buy you some time! This is the captain’s order!”
While confused, I shout orders at him. Indescribable regret swirls in my chest. I had the opportunity to say these words over and over again, why couldn’t I say it sooner?
No, I don’t want to. I’m sorry Captain, but I can’t listen to that order. I’m already a dead man, right? I’m saying that the dead will fight on their own, so it’s a clear profit, right?”
I don’t want to hear such an answer, I want to get him out of there quickly, but I can’t say it.
“Thank you, Captain. You haven’t asked me any questions until now. I’ll tell you something good for my gratitude. I didn’t want to tell your wife. Real coffee is black, you know. There’s no such thing as fluorescent coffee. Also, MRE is not a brand of coffee, so maybe. They say that Mocha or Blue Mountain or Kilimanjaro are the best coffee. I prefer barley tea, though I’m not familiar with it. How do I know all this? Was it from the days when I was there, in the world? Then it was the norm. Is this the future? Or is it a different world?”
I don’t understand what he is saying. Is real coffee black? What is barley tea? Future? A different world?
“Teach us how to fly the craft!”
I had to say something, and I had to persuade him somehow, and the one word that I uttered almost unconsciously calmed my mind. Yes, just remove him as the pilot, that’s all there is to it.
“I’ll prepare a new pilot in your place! You! You alone have an escape!”
“…I can’t do that, Captain.”
The reply came in a low, very low voice.
“I died because my soul burned out. This thing burns my soul to fly. My soul, not anyone else’s.”
Soul? You think that’s the fuel? Burning your soul? No wait, then the meaning of that song he sang was not a metaphor?
“… I want to have a drink when I’m done. I’ll have a cup of that fluorescent coffee.”
The alarm struck five minutes before the time limit. I don’t know who he is or what he did, but I have a few guesses. If you keep riding that craft, you’ll die. The dead will be resurrected in someone else’s body. Impossible, but if that’s true, what can we do for him, that young comrade-in-arms?
“Prepare to launch!” I shouted unconsciously.
“Aye, sir.” he replies as usual.
When I turn to the pain in my shoulder, the vice captain grabs me by the shoulder and glares at me like a demon. I’m sure we’re going to send him to the battlefield again, we’re still going to use him. You don’t have to say anything. I don’t like it either. But I have no choice. I know what an ordinary person like me can do.
I turned away from the vice-captain’s silent protest and switched my communicator to the entire ship. From now on, it’s my own discretion. No one else is responsible, it’s my last order as captain. If my name remains for future generations, it will only be stigmatized as an act of grave treason against humanity.
“You are permitted to launch. However, you cannot land. I pray for good luck. Engine room! Prepare for maximum speed! Vice-captain! Last communication to the command center! ‘The ship has no power. We’re going in for a short decisive battle. Aim and pierce. Glory to mankind.’ Over and out.”
“Captain…” the Vice Captain mutters and prepares communications to the command center. He would have understood. A series of short messages of approval from the staff in the ship also arrive.
“Captain! Why? I’ll take care of it, so just watch from the back! We’re all going home! Don’t give up!”
I can’t do that. We have to disperse here. Weapons that use human lives as fuel, no matter how powerful, are unacceptable. There is no way we can bring back the technology that can revive the dead. Above all, if he returns alive, he will be thrown back into the battlefield again, continuing to die and be revived indefinitely in this path of carnage. That alone I can never tolerate. However, it was impossible to save him as a mere captain.
My wife’s tearful face comes to my mind. All I can do for him is to perish here with him. Geniuses and heroes may be able to choose a different path, but an ordinary person can only come up with so much in a few minutes.
An alarm sounds to announce the scheduled time. Five minutes passed in the blink of an eye. The enemy won’t wait for us. I gave the order as he jumped out of the hangar.
“Launch! Maximum battle speed! Even a little. Put the ship out in front of him! We will become shields and open a blood channel!”
The ship launches like a bullet.
There is nothing I can do after giving instructions. I may be relieved, but is it enough to blindfold me? I can hear his crying voice through the communicator, but I don’t give instructions to slow down. It seems that the command center has sent a transmission, but I didn’t bother to check.
Even so, is real coffee black? I wish I could have tried it.
While watching the enemy’s bombardment piercing the ship one after another, I chuckled to myself, feeling strangely calm. I’m sure the vice-captain is thinking about the mineral water. It would be hard on his family. But more than that, I would like to apologize to my wife for not being able to return home. That’s what I thought.
MREs are portable rations for the US military? That’s right. Looking at the pictures, I saw that green juice and instant coffee were included, and I wanted to make it appear in the work. Please forgive me because I do not know the details.
I thought that if juice and coffee were discovered in the future and mixed together, something strange would be created, like green in color and coffee in taste.
It is a one-sided clear simulation game.
I’m assuming a game balance in which He(Pilot) is riding several crafts, and even if the character leaves the game because his soul burned out in an event, the vacancy is filled in the next game.
Is he reincarnated? As a result, enemies also reoccurred, but since it feels like a so-called game CPU, they attack without hesitation.
Obviously the game balance has collapsed.