The Battleship Iris Konrad
The first encounter between mankind and the intelligent life forms known as Bugs occurred on the planet Vesta in the Arturo star system, in the year 1254 IC (Imperial Calendar).
Vesta was a colonial planet with an agrarian economy, with a population not exceeding 200,000 people and without a stationed military force and a bare minimum of defense weaponry.
When the Bugs warped into the system with a fleet of sixteen warships, they bombarded the major cities from orbit to cripple their infrastructure, then descended with dozens of landing craft.
The colonists who had no weapons to defend themselves with were trampled under foot, and all 200,000 colonists were killed; man, woman, and child. As if things couldn’t get more macabre, the Bugs had a passion for cruelty and feasting on human flesh.
Ten days later, the Second Fleet of the Imperial Galactic Navy rushed to the Arturo star system in response to the FTL communications transmitting distress calls from Vesta and destroyed the Bugs fleet they encountered as well as all the Bugs that had landed on Vesta proper. But, they were too late, there were no survivors.
The Imperial troops that landed on the planet were horrified by what they saw on various security cameras installed on facilities around the planet. It was a vision of hell.
Since then, for over a thousand years, humans and Bugs have been locked in an eternal war.
It was the year 2258 IC, and the Imperial Galactic Navy warship named the Iris Konrad has been on its reconnaissance and exploration mission for over two years without returning to port.
Their mission is to fulfill the sincere wish of all the human race: To locate the home planet of the Bugs, the enemy of all mankind.
As it navigates hyperspace the ship exits warp speed at set intervals to search and map the surrounding space, it was a simple yet endless mission.
A Lieutenant of the Galactic Army called Alan Corinth was replacing processor modules in the mainframe, in the cleanroom that was the nervous center of the battleship Iris Konrad’s system operations.
Several days ago, after coming out of warp speed, they received an FTL communication stating that there was the potential for a malfunction in the processor modules aboard the ship.
Iris, the ship’s AI, was monitoring the Lieutenant’s work.
During hyperspace navigation, the majority of the ship’s crew are in cryogenic sleep as there are few tasks that need attending to, if Iris were human she would probably grumble about having too much time on her hands.
Under these circumstances, Iris’ programming dictates that she use her time to observe humans and research human psychology.
Imperial Galactic Army First Lieutenant.
Assigned to the Battleship Iris Konrad as an intelligence officer.
25 years old.
Traydaire Star System, Planet Lancel.
After compulsory education, graduated from the Imperial Space Academy, 1032nd Class.
Served aboard the Star-Class Heavy Cruiser ‘Theo II’ – Three years.
Transferred to the recently commissioned Dreadnought-Class Battleship ‘Iris Konrad’ as part of a newly formed platoon.
Served two years, incumbent.
Height 175 centimeters and weight 70 kilograms, comparatively slender for a member of the imperial military. A member of the broader Caucasian ethnic group that makes up 50% of humanity, he also has blonde hair and grey eyes. His face is somewhat refreshing.
The judgment of a ‘refreshing’ face by Iris is the result of an application that features various tests and metrics, and an evaluation of a ‘B++’ ranks him above average.
Iris had developed the face evaluation application as part of her general study of human behavior, and to that end anonymously released the app to the public where it became a smash hit, receiving universal acclaim for its accuracy.
Her evaluation assessment system rated his work as neat and tidy. No behavioral problems detected. This more comprehensive evaluation rated him with an ‘A-‘, one of the highest valuations onboard the ship. It’s a shame that he is a mere Lieutenant.
“Is it really fine, Miss Konrad?” For someone like me to be here? In the case of a battleship, I don’t think it’s proper for an officer that isn’t at least a Major.”
I asked the ship’s AI, who was watching over the work I was doing.
Her name is the same as the ship’s, Iris Konrad. By convention, the AI of a battleship is given the honorary rank of Captain, and a mere Lieutenant like me has to speak with her courteously.
I’m a member of the assigned Galactic Army platoon detail to this ship, not a regular Navy staff officer, so it’s hard to believe that I’m permitted to be in this room.
“What else is there to do? There are only six crew members aboard suitable for this work. Four of them are in cryogenic sleep. And, even if the other person awake right now is qualified, he’s hardly able as I’m sure you’re aware.”
Indeed, Major Amarto is more than qualified to do the job, but as a gigantic man standing nearly 2 meters tall, he would have trouble working in the cramped space of the cleanroom.
The job involved moving through crawl spaces barely 1 meter in diameter to replace the designated processor modules in the mainframe.
The female officer on the virtual display was of course not a real human being, but the ship’s AI who is imitating the ship’s namesake.
That female officer was the hero of the Tau Vegas II star system ten years prior.
In order to buy time for 20,000 residents of a colony under attack by multiple Bug fleets, she commanded a single heavy cruiser into close quarters combat with their pursuers, her suicide attack earning her a posthumous reputation a hero of the Empire.
In the Imperial Galactic Navy there is a custom of naming ships after officers who achieved heroic deeds, and that was how the battleship Iris Konrad gained its name, as well as the AI named Iris Konrad who is imitating the late Brigadier General.
“I understand. After this, there’s just one more to replace. By the way, what are we doing with the defective processor modules after we’re finished?”
“There haven’t been any instructions so I do not know. Either they will be destroyed or collected for closer examination. …What are you thinking, Lieutenant?”
“No, I just thought it would be better to put it to another use instead of simply discarding it.”
“How exactly do you plan on using it? You can’t use defective equipment in the mainframe.”
“No no, there’s another use for it. To tell you the truth, it’s for my own research theme.”
During the long periods of hyperspace navigation, technical and intelligence officers who aren’t in cryogenic sleep are expected to conduct research. Even if it isn’t research expected to produce results, it is intended to keep one’s mind keen.
The value of a single processor module is more than my annual income. There’s no way I can’t get some effective use out of it.
My research topic is titled “Virtual Reality in a Standalone Environment”. The content is literally a technical report on the considerations around VR in a standalone environment that does not connect to any network.
In the system simulations, the research had progressed to a stage where a use-case scenario was feasible. The research paper also assumes the use of a processor module like this one.
“I looked through your research topic but I didn’t understand its meaning. Why would you bother to use VR in a standalone environment, why not use the mainframe? I will be blunt, the only reason I could think of was using virtual reality for some shameful purpose.”
“That’s a misunderstanding! It’s not true, Captain! It’s only humanity’s arrogance that leads them to believe that they will always have access to the mainframe at any time. Mankind should secure the means to utilize VR in situations where it isn’t available, such as in the case of an emergency.”
I was flustered because she had managed to get to the core purpose of my research straight away. As always, Iris is sharp.
“Well, if an order to destroy the processors is relayed, I’ll think about it at that time.”
“Thank you very much, Captain. The outcome of my research depends on one of those processors. …Okay! That’s the end of the module replacement.”
I had finally finished replacing all 64 processor modules.
The moment I tried to exit the crawlspace, it collapsed around me.
“…First Lieutenant! …an… th! First Lieutenant Alan Corinth!”
I woke up in response to those loud calls.
“No, I’m awake!”
I shouted out a reply without knowing the situation at all.
“Thank goodness, First Lieutenant. I don’t know what I’d have done if you didn’t wake up.”
It was then that I noticed that I had blood all over. It had already become dry on my skin. Moreover, I was free floating with no sense of gravity.
“Wha-!? What is this!? … What the hell happened!?”
It seems like my head injuries had already been seen to by Nanom.
Nanom is the term used for a military nanomachine, and all Imperial soldiers have these symbiotic nanomachines in their bodies.
These extremely small machines cannot be seen with the human eye and would require an electron microscope to view. It is a machine formed of at least 100 billion individual units.
It has multiple features, including AI, life sign monitoring, medical and repair functionality, sense enhancement, short-range communication and more.
It was impossible to replenish nanomachines with a regular human diet, so instead, rare metals had to be digested.
“We’ve come under some kind of attack during hyperspace navigation. The means of attack is unknown. In the first place, the ship isn’t supposed to have a consistent physical form during hyperspace navigation. An attack in these circumstances should be impossible.”
“Is it the Bugs!?”
“No, that’s not possible. Bugs do not possess a level of technology to do such a thing.
In any case, the ship has suffered enormous damage in the attack. We’ve exited hyperspace, but navigation is impossible.
And that’s not all. We were attacked from four different vectors. The command bridge, engine section, first and second cryogenic sleep bays, communications room, gravity control room, and the hangar were all obliterated.”
I have no words. There is nothing at all I can say. It has been over a hundred years since a Galaxy-grade Battleship had taken losses to this extent.
Both of the cryogenic bays destroyed!? Then, what of the crew? Everyone in his unit?
“Are there any survivors!?”
“Other than you, there were no survivors. Some moments ago, Second Lieutenant Ausgreol breathed his last in the mess hall.”
Even though they were in hyperspace navigation, about fifty of the 1,200 crew members were awake. Does that mean every one of them had died?
“But that’s… Then, the ship captain, first mate, everyone in my platoon is…”
“Yes, the crew stationed in sections where there wasn’t a direct attack were killed instantly when the ship exited hyperspace with no functioning gravity controls.
Since the cleanroom is the most important room in the ship, it is equipped with an independent gravity dampening. Therefore, there wasn’t as much of a shock, and the First Lieutenant survived.”
I see, it was only because I was here that I managed to survive just with some injuries… If I was outside of this room, I would have been hurled into the wall with tremendous force. I crawled out of the maintenance hole slowly.
“There’s another thing to report. There’s still some time left to spare, but this ship is falling towards a nearby planet.”
“Wha…!? But, that’s…”
It was virtually impossible for us to have come out of hyperspace randomly right above a planet! The chances had to be billions to one, at least.
“The engine section has completely stopped functioning. The only way to stop our descent would be to dismantle non-functioning parts of the ship and jettison unnecessary sections.”
It was a strange thing to notice in the situation, but Iris’ speech had become slightly more polite.
“Then, shouldn’t we do that?”
“To do that a first-grade emergency situation needs to be declared, and a direct order from the acting captain has to be received.”
“But, the captain…”
“Citing Article 12, Paragraph 3 of the Imperial Military Codex, I hereby acknowledge First Lieutenant Alan Corinth as the acting Captain of this vessel.”
To captain a Galaxy-class Battleship one would usually have to be at least the rank of Commodore. A First Lieutenant in the army is by no means qualified to assume captaincy.
But, even so, I’m the only one left alive. It might be inevitable. Someone who has to formally issue the orders, at least.
“In order to take the promotion, you need a senior officer’s education. As stipulated in the Codex.”
On the surface, senior officer education is intended to teach potential high ranking officers the code and conduct expected of them, but the actual purpose is to brainwash them so that they are unable to take actions contrary to the military regulations in the codex. It isn’t something the armed forces acknowledge, but everyone in the military knows it. It was implemented as a result of a harshly learned lesson in ancient times when a single lunatic destroyed a developed planet and wiped out a billion lives.
Even though it’s said to be ‘education’, there was no class involved, it was merely brainwashing through the use of nanoms and biological patching. Normally one loses consciousness in the process because of the information overload.
“We’re running out of time! …Just tell me what I’m supposed to do.”
“Please retrieve a biometric patch from the console, paste it onto your forehead, and sit in a comfortable posture.”
A biometric patch appeared on the console. I attached it to my forehead, pulled myself into a chair and laid back. As soon as a clicking sound came from the patch, I lost consciousness again.
“Captain…! -an Cortinth! Captain Corinth!”
I woke up to Iris’ calls.
“Thank goodness! I don’t know what I’d have done if you didn’t wake up.”
“Please tell me, how long have I been unconscious?”
“About 30 minutes. Moreover, Captain. You don’t need to use polite speech with me.”
“…Roger. Then, let’s get started. I am the captain of this ship. Confirm that.”
“Confirmed. The subject is not under the influence of drugs due to having undergone biological patching, and is of a normal mental state.”
“I hereby declare a first-grade emergency by the powers invested in me as the commanding officer. As such, I order the battleship Iris Konrad to take all necessary measures to maintain the fighting strength of this ship and the dignity of the navy. That is your captain’s order. It takes precedence over all else.”
It was the first time I had issues a cool sounding order like that. No, this isn’t like before. I guess things really are different after receiving senior officer ‘education’.
It should be said that I was just reading off the words Iris had displayed on her monitor like a teleprompter.
The previous captain’s prepared orders were still really cool! As expected of such a senior ranked officer, though that feeling is slightly diminished thinking about him having to read prompts.
“Aye, sir. Your order has been received.”
“Good, now we can start rebuilding the ship.”
“This may be sudden, but the captain should make his way to the escape pods immediately.”
“Ha!? What are you talking about?”
“The connection to the life support was cut off whilst you were unconscious, and outside of this room the ship is no longer airtight. The oxygen is already running out here.”
Just as she said it, I realized how stifling it was in here suddenly.
“But, is there even air or a livable atmosphere on that planet?”
“Using an optical spectrum analysis, the possibility that the atmosphere is breathable for humans is 93%.”
“What about the remaining 7%?”
“That accounts for potentially harmful gasses, viruses, and airborne parasites.”
“Even so, an escape pod… Why not use the landing ships?”
“The passage to the hangar section has been blocked off. What’s more, all the landing crafts were either destroyed or otherwise lost.”
Then, there’s no way to return to the warship if I leave.
“If you stay here, you will die due to lack of oxygen. I suggest to escape the planet, and then seek means to return once the ship is reconstructed. The chances at successfully rebuilding the ship and changing the current trajectory of the ship are 54%.”
Whoa! To think the odds were so low?
“Roger. …Food and weapons?”
“Unfortunately, there is only whatever is present in the escape pod.”
I ordered the nanom (nanomachines) to investigate the equipment in the escape pod. Looking at the report, I couldn’t help but groan.
M151 Pulse Rifle
A18P Laser Gun
Electromagnetic blade knife
Emergency Rations: 42 solid meals
28 litres of water
One bottle of rate metals (100 tablets)
To be honest, that rifle is a weapon that’s always frustrated me, speaking as a soldier. The firepower is completely worthless. And that’s nowhere near enough food or water. But, even though I can say all that, I’m not left with much choice…
“Is there anything more I can bring with me?”
“Why not take one of the processor modules you just replaced, Captain? They are made of rare metal.”
What she said is true. I’d have to disassemble it to digest it, but I’ll manage somehow. Rare metals are the raw materials for nanoms. There may be native supply, but I don’t want to go into the trouble of searching. Nanom is the lifeblood for galactic soldiers. No matter the situation, so long as you had rare metal you were fine.
The boarding area for the escape pods was directly next to the entrance of this room. Ah, I could kiss the guy who thought about giving this place its own escape pod. I asked Iris to open the escape pod doors, and I load the processor module inside. The escape pods were intended for five people and thus had five seats. The interior is quite large.
That’s right! I also need a uniform. It’s a completely unexplored planet. I can’t just have one change of clothes to wear.
Right now all I was wearing was work overalls. I loaded the uniform I had changed out of before I started work in the cleanroom.
Is there anything else… No.
Thinking about it, this is the mainframe computer room. There’s no way daily necessities would be in a place like this.
“Then, please board the pod.”
I stepped into the pod, sat on one of the seats and fixed my seatbelt.
“Then, good fortune to you, Captain.”
“Yeah, Miss Konrad as well.”
The escape pod ejected towards the planet.
They are an intelligent life form that resembles large insects, various species have been observed.
The most widespread type is a variant that looks like a cockroach raised on its hind legs.
It is covered in body hair and a hard outer shell. This should be enough to discourage humans enough, but in addition, it seems to always be disgustingly dirty and is covered in parasites both internal and external.
It is brutal, and is much stronger than humans, engaging one in hand to hand combat is suicidal.
However, in the past thousand years of war mankind has worked hard to close the gap, and with the help of nanoms the fighting capability of a galactic army soldier is now high enough that they can compete hand to hand with one.
Bugs also have technology that gives them the capability of hyperspace navigation, but the Empire is slightly ahead in that tech race.
The most imposing thing about the Bugs is their quantity. If the Bugs target a star system colonized by humans, they are attacked by a seemingly never-ending stream of Bugs fleets.
Expert analysis has concluded that there are 6 Bugs in the galaxy for every 1 Human.
However, there doesn’t seem to be any special reproduction capabilities in the Bugs colonies that have been captured and investigated, and the number of colonies seems on par with those settled by mankind.
For that reason, the prevailing theory is that there is some sort of large-scale breeding or production base on the Bugs homeworld, and if it can be discovered and destroyed, it may bring an end to this endless war.