The stars move. Just like the heart of your lover and everything else you see here in space. How nice would it be if they could just decide to stop for just a second from that slow jog of theirs that’s been continuing for billions of years? Hey! Coffee break! They don’t ever listen. They never stop.
“Don’t you think that the stars want you to try to take after their tenacious nature?”
“I don’t care what an ugly Witanian says, nor do I care about what the stars say. I’m having my damned coffee.”
“I regret to tell you that the little time we have left has already fallen down to two digits.”
I turned to look at the countdown timer on the screen. 137 hours. Within my delirious state, I wondered for a brief moment whether or not Witanians counted numbers in a duodecimals, then soon realized that the damn Witanian took away my sleep time. I did my best to look calm and dignified as I spoke.
“Drinking this should change it back to three digits, Jereby.”
The emoticons Jereby sent me to my monitor showed me that I failed in trying to look calm. Well, I supposed it was difficult for a person with red eyes and a messy beard to look dignified in the first place. I gulped the hot coffee in my hand in my anger, then trembled in pain for a good while.
The sleepless alien spoke to me whilst sending me empathetic emoticons.
“Looks like the calculations were wrong. I suppose that’s the case since people of your kind never come out in space. Why don’t you try exploding a few bombs in that place like you would in Earth? We don’t have much time left anyway.”
I began to suspect the Council. Did they really paired us up with Witan fifty years ago just because we got along together the best? Or were they actually secretly planning on murdering us with annoyance of each other or what?
The ever-nice Council would give us a simple response, telling us that there were also Witanians who felt the same way about this. They would then try to use this information to make me accept that Earth was indeed a good fit for Witan. You become used to how the Council does things if you’ve lived knowing them for fifty years.
“I don’t need anything like that. My calculations aren’t wrong. The red giant has to be over there.”
“Well, it’s not really there since it exploded three thousand years ago.”
I was looking for a star. No, it’s not anything metaphorical. I was actually on a spaceship looking for a red giant. But like Jereby had told me, the said star had disappeared three thousand years ago after a supernova. Now, I can see you laughing at me for going to a location where the remnants of a dead star are, saying that doing something like that would be suicide. But look here you little shit, I’m 3,500 light years away from where the star died. That means that the shock from the supernova would take another five hundred years before it would reach me. If you want to laugh at me, then laugh at my strange way of drinking coffee, please.
If you’re a stubborn person, perhaps you might respond like this: I’d be able to see a star from 3,500 years ago by staying here, but that would be all. Just looking. But that’s exactly what I needed right now; the light of a star that last shone 3,500 years ago. Because without it, the god of compromises would lose his shoulder. You don’t get what I’m talking about? Damn it, I don’t either. How the hell did I get involved in all this stuff about religion? Angels were the ones who were supposed to take care of stuff like this.
I’m just an astronomer, damn it.
Somewhere in the universe, there exists a race known as the Revolfetes. I don’t really know if this is their actual name. Apparently that’s what their name sounds like to the Witanians, so that’s what earth took to calling them. Not the best way to find out about a species’ name, but that was what we got. It wasn’t like we could go to the Revolfetes to ask for their name either since the Council has forbidden us from doing so.
Only when the Witanians discovered the Revolfetes through unbelievable luck did the Council inform Earth and Witan about their existence. The Council told us that these ‘Revolfetes’ weren’t revealed to the outside world because they were not ready for cultural exchanges yet. There were a few humans who felt superior after knowing this. Because we had been lent FTL technology so that we could talk to Witan. The FTL spaceships that we were lent were akin to a technology that could create something from nothing in our point of view. A Sampo that could extract an infinite amount of energy from space. The technology was probably being carefully controlled by the Council somewhere, but it didn’t change the fact that Earth itself now had plenty of energy. The people feeling superior were probably feeling what they felt because of this. They became arrogant after knowing that others weren’t able to receive the Council’s blessing. Well, I know now that they were completely mistaken, though.
The Council immediately took care of the problem after explaining the situation to us. Let’s take a look at this from the Revolfete perspective. They just met the first alien civilization. It wasn’t like the Council could pretend such a thing had never happened. So instead of trying to cover everything up, the Council integrated the Witanians into the Revolfete mythology. That way the Witanians could talk to just a select few people– people like Popes, bishops, and prophets. The Council could control the communication between the two races this way. And it wasn’t like Witan could refuse the Council either.
Due to this, the Witanians ended up becoming the gods of the Revolfetes. Or at least, they became something akin to gods.
“It’s quite… funny from a human’s perspective. No matter what hero… In his town of birth, it’s… difficult for him to be treated well… by adults who remembered what he was like as a… baby. The Witanians… Who are just like us… Becoming gods? I’d laugh in my sleep.”
“I didn’t say since you didn’t ask, but we only have 112 hours left. Wake up already.”
I rubbed my face a bit before becoming rather depressed. Was this really my skin? It’s so rough… I rubbed my tired eyes before looking at the annoyed alien on my screen. Jereby must be extremely annoyed. The alien had to get my help because the problem wasn’t something that Witanians could solve, but the partner chosen was doing this strange thing called “sleeping”. Honestly though, isn’t it too much to wake someone up after three hours? I told the alien my thoughts while desperately trying to fight away the lingering drowsiness. Jereby didn’t respond kindly to that.
“I’ve done my research on you human folk. I’ve seen plenty of articles about people who slept for just three hours every day.”
“Don’t… you think that it has… been recorded because of the fact that it was so… strange?”
“I did. But those articles also show that humans can survive with three hours of sleep. So you should be fine as well. Drink that stimulant you call coffee already and wake up.”
“I refuse. I’m going to sleep, you see. If you wake me up before five hours passes, I will make you regret ever being born. I hope you have terrible dreams, good night.”
“I know that you’re a human, but you’re way too unreasonable!”
I forced my eyes open much easier this time and peered into my screen. Jereby spoke from it.
“I told you that Tilomak only has 112 hours left and 3 hours has already passed. But you still haven’t even found the shoulder of Tilomak. And you say you want to waste five more hours? Just imagine what five hours of nothing would feel like to Tilomak. I guess it’d be hard for a human, but still, just imagine.”
It was difficult to just take her insults without doing anything. I put up an image up on my screen without saying anything. A picture of the god of compromises with a shoulder appeared.
Jereby paused before speaking.
“It was unexpectedly simple. There had been a spaceship blocking our view of the starlight.I’m rather amazed that something like that ended up happening, but I went to sleep after confirming that anyway.”
Several emoticons chaotically appeared near Jereby’s face. The alien must be making quite a strange face at the moment. I assumed that it was the same case for me.
“Can you imagine? That there was actually a spaceship that’s big enough to completely block off a red giant that’s five light years away from us? That tells us that the diameter of this spaceship was at least… Damn it, it’d be at least 1/700th of the red giant. Since it’s blotted the out the star, it must be even bigger than that. A spaceship that’s hundreds of times bigger than Earth… What a joke. I’d rather not have anyone on that spaceship ever try to visit Earth.”
Imagine. A spaceship hundreds of times bigger than Earth, approaching the tiny planet of the humans. The reason why I’m telling this to you, the readers, is because you won’t be able to imagine such an astronomical scene even after having it described to you. I couldn’t bring myself to think about the kind of beings that have managed to reach FTL capabilities all on their own. If a spaceship was larger than the average plane; shouldn’t such a spaceship collapse in on itself from it’s own gravity? Was it even possible to build such a thing?
I continued to talk weakly.
“Perhaps it was the Temseks that built the spaceship. Hey, don’t you think you should be at least as advanced as them if you’re going to act like gods?”
Jereby stayed silent for a moment.
“We’ve found the shoulder, so all that’s left would be the fin. You should know as well, but without the fin…”
“The god of compromises would end up being the beast of calamity standing upside down. I know. We should be able to find the fin in no time. Once this nebulae clears a bit, a galaxy and a G-class star should come into view. Tilomak has been revived. In just a few hours…”
Jereby cut off the comm device.
I almost wanted to kick the separator between us. Honestly speaking, it was the only thing that I could do to try and stave off my anger. The ship had a separator in the middle in order to simulate both the Earth and the Witan environment. This was why there were two airlocks in the spaceship.
It made me really think that the ship was made for us two.
Jereby hates humans and doesn’t try to hide it. I don’t really care for Witanians, but ended up disliking Jereby. We ended up getting stuck in one spaceship for a certain mission. What would most people call this when they looked at this situation? Unfortunately for the both of us, this situation was currently being called “salvation of the Revolfetes”.
To the Revolfetes, a race that human beings have yet lay their eyes upon, there was a god of compromises known as Tilomak. From what I’ve heard till now, Tilomak was essentially Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King combined. You, as the reader, should be well acquainted with these two historical characters. That’s right, discrimination was a huge starting factor for the large amount of conflicts in Revolfete. Tilomak seemed to be a champion of sorts there with little energy that was to be executed by a higher being. Well, it’s not really an execution. The god seemed to die in a unique way that seemed to be different from the standard form of death that us humans were familiar with. In any case, if Tilomak dies, bad things would happen to the Revolfetes. Wars, fights, etc.
The Revolfetes tried their best to preserve the life of their god. But the situation had quickly gone out of their hand. So they tried to get help from their gods: the Witanians. One of the religious figures of Revolfete had requested Witan to send them a sign from the stars that they did not wish to see Tilomak dead. The one who had received this message happened to be Jereby, a head researcher of the Revolfete division.
Jereby panicked. Witan didn’t have a tradition for the study of astrology. Because Jereby was inexperienced with their cultural matters as well, it was impossible to understand what the Revolfetes wanted. Due to this, Jereby went to the god of Witan and Earth for help. The ever-wise Council only told Jereby this:
“This should be rather easy for you. Just go find a human. The people of Earth has a tradition known as astrology. And there just so happens to be an astrologist who had gained fame recently for managing to incorporate modern technique into his work. The man calls himself the star stitcher.”
And that’s how Jereby came to me for help. Even now I could remember what the alien said the moment we met.
“According to what we have learned so far, the Revolfetes seem to believe that the distance, arrangement, and shape of the stars in the sky somehow affect the fate of an individual. Of course, there are many things that are to be doubted about this from a scientific perspective, but the Revolfetes…”
I had to give it to Jereby. For someone who never came in contact with astrology, this alien sure knew a lot about it.
“I understand what you’re talking about. It’s a constellation.”
“Constellation? Not astrology? But the Council…”
“The constellations are essentially letters, and astrology is the way to read those letters. Recently, we just acquired the ability to write these letters as well, however.”
Jereby paused a bit.
“I was told by the Council that you were able to make stars appear on the sky.”
“I don’t make stars. I just bend light a bit to make things… convenient. I like to call it the art of stitching stars.”
That was what I did. FTL ships gave astrologists an unimaginable power. It has allowed me to find the location of multiple stars in space, and use it to create a constellation of my own.
“I see. Then if I were to give you a certain picture, would you be able to find a location where one would be able to see the said picture somewhere in space?”
“Yes. That is what I do. The astrologists back home can’t do anything but work with the few constellations they could observe on Earth. But FTL spaceships have allowed us to go to the constellations that we want to see. For example, if I gave a pregnant woman a set of coordinates, the woman would be able to give birth to a baby under a specific set of constellations, allowing the child to be blessed in one way or the other.”
Jereby stared at me for a moment before calmly speaking.
“Or be cursed by death… Is that it?”
My shoulders stiffened. I should have remembered what my friends have told me about Witanians. This bastard had researched everything about me and pretended to not know anything. What was it? Background research was a form of admiration to Witanians and pretending to not know anything about a person was a form of respect? It should be of no surprise that things were different here. On Earth, a person like this would be just a bastard. I tried to say something in response, but Jereby moved on before I could do anything.
“I get it. I think you can help me as the Council had told me. I need a special constellation for the Revolfetes. I want you to create a god of compromises using the stars.”
I felt like I needed more information. I glared at Jereby for a second before responding.
“Impossible. I don’t make stars, I just find a location where it becomes possible to observe a certain constellation. It’s not like I can take an entire planet full of people to a certain coordinate. If you need to make a constellation, you might as well make a few satellites to simulate the stars?”
Jereby stared at me. I couldn’t help but be astounded. The time Jereby stayed silent for was almost enough to make me wonder if I had asked a stupid question.
“A rather interesting suggestion, but when one considers the technological level of the Revolfetes, it’s just not possible. They are, after all, the fifth species to reach FTL capabilities.”
My jaw dropped.
“They made an FTL spaceship faster than the Temseks did?”
“A species of that much intelligence still hasn’t been contacted by the Council?”
First impressions shouldn’t affect a person greatly, but my reaction was understandable to an extent. These Revolfetes were treating the Witanians like gods. The Witanians that the humans had been paired with. It was rather inevitable for me to just assume that the Revolfetes were still in the medieval age or something.
“Yes. In any case, they are mobile enough. Soon enough, Revolfete would send out a research ship of their own. We would plant the coordinates for the constellation in the research ship’s flight path. This should let the Revolfetes take notice of the image of the god of compromises being drawn by the stars. I’m hoping that this should be enough as a sign for the Revolfetes. Do you understand?”
Having FTL ships, aliens, and social problems all mix up like this confused me a bit.
“Wait! Wait! If they’ve made an FTL ship on their own… wouldn’t that means that they would also have access to FTL communication devices? Therefore allowing them to be able to contact other beings even without the Council’s permission. Wait, could it be?”
“Yes, the Council is preventing them from doing this. The Council does not want the Revolfetes to meet any other race as of yet. Having the Witanians meet the Revolfetes was an unexpected coincidence. Due to this, the Council was forced to make us look like gods.”
I felt my breath was being taken away. To think that the Council could still elicit such a reaction from me… They were able to stop a species with FTL technology from discovering other people? I should give up on complaining to them. This, too. The Council might be safe when the Revolfetes discover that they had been lied to, but the same does not apply for me.
And at that moment, I criticized myself. This was a chance. A chance to get away from the Japanese who wanted to come for my neck.
“You would be going as well, I assume? Since you’d have to talk to the Revolfetes on the way. We’ll need a ship that can simulate environments suitable for both of us.”
Jereby seemed rather surprised.
“You’re going as well? I only needed the coordinates from you, though.”
“Yes. I can tell you the rough coordinates from the start, but the precise work will have to be done in the field. Stars can look very different with just a few light years of difference.”
“I see. Does that mean that you have gone out into space before? I had heard previously that humans didn’t like to get out much.”
“I go out a lot. I have a Temsek spaceship pilot’s license.”
Jereby allowed me to follow after seeing my license. With this, I became one of the many brave beings who jumped out of the frying pan a bit too early.
The saying goes: out of the frying pan, into the fire. Of course, outside of this frying pan was a world of flames that goes by the name of Jereby.
As I’ve said before, there was a separator set on the spaceship. The environment set for both of us was different. But since the pressure difference for the two rooms in the spaceship couldn’t be too great, Jereby was pretty much experiencing a high-altitude sickness in the room, while I was close to getting a decompression sickness. Once we had 85 hours left, I almost thought that I actually did get decompression sickness. I could almost feel bubbles in my veins.
The caffeine that I just drank in my exhaustion must have been what pulled my safety pin. If I was calmer than usual, I might’ve just laughed it off, albeit a little bitterly. Thinking that a F-class star was a G-class was a rather common occurrence. We had to translate the Temsek database that was downloaded on the ship. It was inevitable that there would be several mistranslations that would appear in the process. This usually wasn’t much of a problem, since most people would rely only on the location and mass of a star. But things were different for a star stitcher. Though G-class stars were similar to the F-class stars, their color was different. The former was yellow, and the latter white. Due to this, the star that was supposed to form a fin ended up forming something entirely different.
Think about the northern constellation known as Cygnus. It’s known as a constellation that resembles a swan, but if the star Deneb was just a little dimmer, it would have looked more like an archer with his bow. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at Sagittarius. The “bow” of the constellation looks much uglier than the one on Cygnus. But since Deneb is far too bright, Cygnus ended up looking more like a swan than an archer. Basically when it comes to constellations, the color and brightness of the star was extremely important.
Take a look at the ‘god of compromises’ that I made, which looked more like an old boot than anything else. The focal point of the constellation should have been a treasure in the god’s hand. But since one of the stars on the fin ended up becoming brighter, the constellation ended up looking completely different. It actually looked more like a slot machine than anything. When Jereby asked a person from Revolfete about what the constellation looked like, the result was a little depressing. It apparently looked like a weapon of murder to them.
Jereby sent me a laughing emote.
“Instead of finding the constellation to end the conflict of Revolfete, you found one that would only worsen the conflict. How human of you. Ah, are you trying to send a message to the haters of Tilomak or what?”
I was pretty hurt from that, but this was only the start. Jereby ignored me while humming.
“Strange fruit hanging from the popular tree.”
That’s a strong blow if I’ve ever seen one. I couldn’t just sit there taking the punches like that.
“A Pizar would eat an Eutshim for just wearing a Solferang’s fur.”
A second round almost started on the ring as a result of me saying that. But there was no second round, nor was there a ring in the first place in the spaceship. There was only a separator stuck between us two. Jereby sent me a flurry of emotes relating to a certain finger on earth before cutting comms. I ended up kicking the wall a few minutes later. Well, I tried but I only ended up hurting myself.
One good thing about there being no gravity in space was that you didn’t have to limp when you move. I moved back into my room as I tapped the wall one or two times. All sorts of negative emotes greet me when I came in. I gulped down as much coffee as I could before glaring at my screen. I cursed Jereby, the Revolfetes, the Temseks, and the Council. I even thought about cursing the Katsumura couple, but thought that just wouldn’t be right.
The problem within the United States was something rather simple, but unexpectedly deep. Both the Spartans and the Americans had access to cheap labor. The number of “cheap labor” was pretty big as well. But that’s where similarities end. There were actually quite a bit of differences between the two. First, in order to keep the slaves in check, the spartans must constantly endure relentlessly training. Americans? For them, by simply getting their hands on a gun allows a single slave owner to decimate all 300 of the spartans in the battle of Thermopylae. Second, Spartans had no idea what human rights were, but sadly, the Americans did. It was a fitting ending for people who have tried to use others to earn money. The Americans’ love of guns and all the assassinations that appeared in their history was a result of these differences. Unfortunately, all of this happened simply because humans were humans. This was reason enough for Jereby to laugh at me.
And now I was being treated like a KKK member in space. Simply because I mistook a G-class star as a F-class star. Because I drew a weapon in the skies instead of a god of compromises.
I needed a word that I could say that would get the stress off me better than the word “damn it”. I couldn’t think of such a word, though, so I just decided to sleep.
“It’s not Pizar. It’s Eutshim.”
“Wh-what? Where is this? Where’s the woman?”
“It’s Pizar, not Eutshim. Wake up already.”
God damn it. I was flying in space with just one other person in the spaceship, which made for a perfect sleep environment. But that one other person just had to be a sleepless alien. Jereby continued to talk as I considered banging my head against the wall in rage.
“The one who tricked the predator by wearing a Solferang’s fur was Eutshim. Eutshims are known to be the prey for Pizars. If you were trying to say that I wasn’t a member of the Council, but a simple Witanian partnered with a human, then you should have said ‘An Eutshim tries to eat a Pizar just by wearing a Solferang’s fur.’”
Ah, that. I rubbed my eyes a bit before responding.
“If you were trying to use Billie Holiday’s song, then you should have said poplar tree, not popular tree. Plus, I believe the act of racism deserves to be discriminated against. Does the conflict in Revolfete have something to do with racism?”
Jereby appeared to be thinking. Probably about if it was safe to tell this to a human. While I waited, I took out a new pack of coffee from a fridge.
I came back to my seat and pulled up the star chart. Nothing had changed. Oh, how I wished that F-class star would change to a G-class one. Since Jeremy didn’t respond to my question, I tried to find an answer of my own while suckling on my coffee pack.
What if we tried moving a bit away from the star? No, impossible. That damned F-class star was much closer to us than any of the other stars. The other stars would disappear by the time the F-class star would dim. Plus, other stars would come into the picture if we moved back, completely ruining my work. This region had a giant cluster of stars. Should I try changing the angle? If I use a meteor to block the view of the star a little bit… I can’t. Since the F-class star was too close to us, just moving a bit would change the picture greatly. At this time, Jereby spoke.
I stared at the screen blankly before remembering the question I had asked beforehand.
“So it’s like white people killing Martin Luther King?”
“Kind of. Except for the fact that there’s only a single race involved.”
“They’re the same race?”
“There is only a single race of Revolfetes. There used to be more, but the others were… taken care of.”
“Taken care of? Do you mean that they were driven to extinction?”
“Like the neanderthals.”
I thought about throwing my bag of coffee to the screen as a representative of the Homo Sapiens, but refrained once I realized the tool in my hand wasn’t a stone axe.
“Why would there be racism, then?”
“The young lady who got kicked out of the bus was white, and M.L.K. was also white.”
“What? Wouldn’t that be class discrimination, then?”
“It might as well be different races at that point. Apparently the effect of classes are a lot stronger on their planet since there’s just one race.”
“Hah. A fight between the rich and the poor? The rich must be in quite a lot of danger. They have a lot more to lose after all.”
“Hah? How poetic. A ‘hah’.”
“Just where is that race?”
“What are you talking about? I can’t tell you where the Revolfetes are.”
“No, I’m talking about that race that lets you choose their ancestors. God damn it!”
Jereby didn’t respond. My stomach surged from all the caffeine I drank.
“Hey, Jereby. You were right, I am a descendant of people who used to hang one another. I was descended from the people who burned women on the stake. Conquerors. Murderers. People who commit genocide. These were my ancestors after all. And it isn’t the dead that leave children, but rather the living. I’m jealous of you people who have three genders and three forms of reproduction. Since we only have one form of reproduction, intense competition was inevitable. Right. I know competition is just a very tame word for massacre in my world. But being judged because of problems that my ancestors committed is, in the end, a form of discrimination. Do you have to be like this to me? Do you have to show the Council that their decision in pairing a human with a Witanian was wrong?”
Jereby stared at me silently.
“You were mistaken.”
“I was judging you as an individual. The murderer who is with me on the ship.”
I’ve been called a murderer plenty of times, but I couldn’t help but feel as if my heart was being chipped away whenever I heard this. I could only open my mouth after a long while of silence.
“I’m not a murderer.”
“You should think about efficiency. Calling you ‘A person who sends off pregnant women in space to buy some bread’ is a little wordy, don’t you think? The Japanese seem to agree with me.”
I managed to remember that Jereby was a woman. The females of Witan were a bit different from those on Earth, but they were still beings that gave birth to babies. I was scared to see what I’d look like to her. I responded as calmly as I could.
“It was their decision.”
“It was just one request. Damn it. Just one out of the countless other requests I’ve gotten. You’re making me out to be a murderer simply because one of my customers went missing? If there’s anyone that needs to be blamed for the disappearance of the Katsumura couple, it would be the Temseks that made the couples’ spaceship. That’s the logical way to view things. Are you judging me because you’d never be able to see the Temseks?”
“You don’t believe it, though.”
“You don’t believe in astrology.”
A knockout punch. I could hear someone initiate a countdown in the back of my head.
I looked down at the floor as I clenched on my coffee pack. I could only think of a response to her words a long time after the conversation ended. I trembled out of shame and anger. I wanted to cut off the comms, but at the same time I wanted to preserve the last bits of my dignity. I wanted to take a bath all of the sudden. At the place where water flowed downwards.
“Don’t tell me you started believing in astrology now. If you believed in that ‘power of the stars’ kind of stuff, you would have given me your version of the god of compromises. Instead of trying to recreate the god from the picture I gave you. You don’t believe in astrology.”
“…The Katsumura couple believed in it.”
“I believe in it too.”
There didn’t seem to be an emoticon to show the emotion on Jereby’s face at that moment. The translator just returned a question mark to me. I assume that the face must be reflecting an emotion of unspeakable disgust.
“Let’s go back. We can’t let the Revolfetes notice a human. And it’s not like we can waste any more time either. We need to find a more realistic way to recreate Tilomak. I’ll control the ship. You go do your ‘sleeping’ thing.”
“You don’t know how I stitch stars.”
“Stop it already! I don’t give a damn about your stupid ‘astrology’! Are you kidding me? Stars affecting the fate of humans? Then what the hell are you doing, working like this? Why don’t you just go around investing stocks under a star of luck? That way you’d at least be able to earn a huge amount of cash, no? If someone’s sick, you can send them under a constellation of health, and if someone wants love, you can send them under a constellation of marriage. I suppose there’s a dead female human floating under that constellation at this point?”
“Excuse me, Mr. Lee. It’s Katsumura Eri! I’m back!”
I almost drowned in my coffee.
Thankfully, my coffee was sealed in a sturdy container and had a safety device as well. The hot liquid didn’t end up in my lungs due to this, despite me squeezing hard on it. Jereby, too, seemed to show an incredible reaction. Her face had disappeared from the screen, and some strange sounds were being heard from the screen. But I had no time to pay attention to those sounds. A voice of a human woman in a ship with a human male and a Witanian female? I wanted to scan the surrounding space of the ship. Was there really a human female just floating around in space near us?
“Excuse me? Mr. Lee? I’m back. Hello? Um, it doesn’t seem like he can hear me over there. Can you check the machine real quick?”
I put my coffee pack down on my desk and checked the comm device frantically. I didn’t know how it happened, but another ship seemed to have managed to connect with our ship without Jereby’s permission. We were connected only by audio, and our ship seemed completely fine with receiving a random signal like this… And the person who sent this signal was Katsumura Eri. Katsumura Eri… Katsumura Eri?!
“W-welcome, Mrs. Katsumura.”
“Ah! Mr. Lee! Can you hear me?”
I almost asked her what hell was like. The Katsumura couple were a pair of customers that I lost six years ago.
Six years ago, the Katsumura couple took a look at the expected birth date of their child and became disappointed. They had wanted their child to be an Aquarius, but their child was to be born as a Sagittarius. They ended up coming to me after much thought. I found a location in space where the constellation of Aquarius would be drawn in the sky and gave them the coordinates to the couple. The couple immediately lent a Temsek spaceship and flew off. They sent out a single rescue signal, then disappeared completely. Due to this, I was marked as a murderer by both the Japanese and an alien on this ship.
And the ‘Mrs. Katsumura’ that was presumed dead was currently speaking to me at the most peculiar of times. Was god trying to torture me in space? Is this what this was?
“I can hear you. This really is a pleasant surprise. I thought something bad had happened. You didn’t respond for a whole six years…”
My words were drowned out by Mrs. Katsumura’s screams.
“No way! Six years passed? Really? Cool! That thing called the Urashima effect was real! Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Lee. I couldn’t believe my hubbie when he told me about it. Six years actually passed? It just felt like a few days though. I really do feel like Urashima Taro!”
Time lag? Mrs. Katsumura had been moving at a speed faster than light for six years straight?
“Uh, would you tell me just what happened? So you didn’t have an accident six years ago? I clearly remember a rescue signal coming from your ship back then.”
“There was an accident. We both thought that we’d die. But when my hubbie sent out that signal, a super huge ship came to save us. Mr. Lee, can you guess what ship that was?”
“A Temsek ship, of course. Since the rescue signal was from a Temsek spaceship.”
But Mrs. Katsumura wouldn’t be asking me to guess what ship it was if things were that simple.
“Did you manage to meet a ‘real’ Temsek ship six years ago?”
“As expected of Mr. Lee! Yes, it was the Temseks. The Temseks picked me, my hubbie, and Kana up on their ship. Ah, Kana is my daughter and thanks to you, she’s an Aquarius.”
I probably should have asked a bit about her daughter out of politeness, but my mind was in no state to do so. What Mrs. Katsumura had just told me was something that would make the Big Bang seem trivial.
“M-Mrs. Katsumura! You’re telling me that you’re on the ship with the Temseks right now?”
Jereby seemed to be going mad, too, seeing from the glance I took at my screen. But Mrs. Katsumura seemed as calm as a woman out on a picnic.
“Yes, it’s a really big ship. My hubbie told me that it’s much bigger than earth. Seems like a joke, right? It seems ridiculous for someone to be able to build something bigger than a planet, on a planet. It’d look like a baobab tree from the Little Prince. It’d just look weird. But then again, if the Urashima effect is real, I guess this might as well be something possible as well. What do you think, Mr. Lee?”
I couldn’t help but be flattered by the high impression Mrs. Katsumura had for me. How is she expecting me to do something as advanced as “think” at the moment? Well, although I wasn’t trying to live up to her expectations of me, I still ended up thinking as hard as I could. Yeah. Our ship was made by the Temseks. It should have been a piece of cake for them to connect to our spaceship. Just by sending us the audio file, would allow them to hide their appearance from us. A big spaceship… Could it be the one that covered the star five light years away from us?
Damn it. I can’t think of anything other than six years. I glanced at the screen and noticed that Jereby was frantically tearing apart the comms device. I turned back to Mrs. Katsumura.
“You should be right, Mrs. Katsumura. But in any case, why didn’t you come back six years ago?”
“It’s because we didn’t like the prime minister.”
It was an extremely rude response, but do believe me. It was the best I could pull off at that moment. I’m not a Katsumura. I don’t know how these people think. But thankfully, Mrs. Katsumura let my rude response slide by.
“Before we left, there was a new prime minister that got elected. My hubbie and I both hated him. So we decided to test the Urashima effect. The Temseks told us that their spaceship needs to move slower than the average FTL spaceship. That must be why time moves slowly here.”
Oh, my dear Mrs. Katsumura, that’s not how that works at all.
“So they told me that staying a few days here would be the equivalent of spending a few years on earth. That’s like chasing away the prime minister in an instant, isn’t it? Mr. Lee, if 6 years did pass, do you know if the prime minister actually changed or not?”
Prime minister, huh. I could kind of see why she did it. It was the best way to get rid of him. But because of that, I…
“Mrs. Katsumura! Do you even know what happened after you disappeared? The Katsumura family’s been going after my neck!”
I lost all my anger after hearing this.
“They were trying to bury me alive using legal methods.”
“Is that so? I’m sorry for the trouble we caused. We’ll sort it all out when we get back. What about the prime minister, though?”
“…The prime minister? I believe there’s a new one. They changed about two times. In any case, the prime minister you hated is definitely no more.”
“Really? I’m so happy! Thank you, Mr. Lee. Kana is an Aquarius, and thanks to you we were also able to get rid of that prime minister we hated. The accident wasn’t at all that great of an experience, but looking back on it, it benefited us quite a bit. We can go back to earth now that the Temseks have fixed our ship. They were the ones who made it to begin with, so they should have fixed it up nicely, but my hubbie still seems a bit anxious for some reason. What is it with men and trying to offer advice to specialists in subjects they know nothing about?”
I had managed to remember that not only was Katsumura Daisuke a skilled surfer, but he was also a guardian of the stock market as well as a skilled physicist. He probably wasn’t trying to offer advice to engineers, but rather try to learn something by observing the repair process.
“He must be worried about having it break again. In any case, you can come back now. No, you must come back.”
“Yes, Mr. Lee. I’ll see you on Earth!”
The conversation ended just like that. Without me or Jereby’s permission.
The two of us looked at each other through the screen as if we hadn’t seen each other in decades. The conversation that took place for a few seconds after this was quite the sight.
We needed time to calm down. I was the first to speak after a moment of silence.
“Did you find it?”
“No. We should be able to if the spaceship is that big. They found us, so why can’t we find them?”
“The problem is that this thing was made by the Temseks. If they order our ship to refuse to find their ship, then we’d be unable to find their ship. I think I can see why they did this. Just like how the Revolfetes are unable to come into contact with us, we cannot come into contact with the Temseks.”
A depressed emote appeared on the screen.
“That’s what I thought. I didn’t really want to see it like that, though.”
I nodded silently. Jereby spoke up as if she just remembered something.
“You’re still a murderer.”
I almost kicked the screen.
“They’re alive, though.”
“That was just luck. That’s not something that you earned yourself.”
“Luck? Fine. Would you like for me to show you another instance of luck?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Jereby, don’t you think that the people who get used to FTL travel tend to make their ships needlessly large?”
‘It’d look like a baobab tree’. A spaceship bigger than a planet. When I told her about the ship covering a light of a star five years ago, a chaotic emoticon appeared on the screen. She was shocked. Was it shock, or was it amazement at the size of the ship? Or was it fear that she might leak classified information to an earthling? Jereby just told me to find the fin of Tilomak and cut off comms. Did she not want to talk about the spaceship anymore?
Okay, okay, okay!
“Answer me first. The Revolfetes developed an FTL spaceship by themselves a long time ago in the past. Are their ships big as well?”
“Why would that…”
“Answer me if you want to save Tilomak.”
Jereby put up the size of the spaceship after a little while. Thankfully, it was massive. I made a few calculations, then smiled. Jereby carefully opened her mouth.
“Is there a way?”
I nodded. There shouldn’t be a need to translate this action. Jereby spoke to the Revolfete representative for a bit before coming back to me.
“It worked. The captain sent a message to his planet. ‘The space told us. The reason why we were unable to meet aliens despite years of searching. If we are to meet aliens, we must learn how to live harmoniously first.’”
I nodded, and looked up at the god of compromises up in the sky. It was a scene crafted by a red giant star, a galaxy far away, the light from a star that no longer exists… And a ship from Revolfete.
Jereby spoke to me through the screen.
“It was a good idea.”
I drank my coffee without responding. It wasn’t that great an idea. It was an idea that appeared from the spur of the moment.
The stars we currently see in the sky are all from the past. If we fly out about five thousand light years into the past, it becomes possible to see the pyramids being built (though we’d need an unbelievably powerful telescope). I used this information in order to solve our predicament.
Ten hours ago, the Revolfete spaceship discovered that there was a problem with their FTL device. They attempted to pinpoint the problem by make short FTL bursts. They moved around 30,000 light seconds in order to see if their repairs worked. Funnily enough, the location they moved to was the place the star stitcher had designated. The trip was successful, and the Revolfetes looked up as they celebrated their success.
Above them was a majestic view of the god of compromises.
Everything was perfect about it. The fins looked perfect as well. The fin itself was formed out of two kinds of light. An unstable galaxy and a certain Revolfete spaceship. Right. What the Revolfetes were looking at was a shadow of their ship from 30,000 seconds back.
I wonder what the reason was for these alien species to make their ships so big? It wasn’t as large as the Temsek ship from five years back, but the ship of the Revolfetes was still impressively huge. By making them move 30,000 light seconds back, I was able to block the F-class star behind them completely. And by using a star nearby, it was possible to create a 2.6-class star.
“What we needed was a 1.8-class star, though. A 2.6-class star is a lot darker, so how did you succeed?”
“They recognized the shape. See, people always see themselves as something more beautiful than what they actually are when they look at the mirror. They must have instinctively raised their albedo as a result. Thought it wasn’t enough to make their constellation look like a weapon, but it was still enough to make it look like a god.”
Jereby seemed incredulous. She then put up a questioning emoticon.
“Wouldn’t something like that only apply to humans?”
“I was confident it would be the same for the Revolfetes. Creatures that can’t get rid of their sense of self-love. Without it, they would go extinct.”
Jereby seemed a bit suspicious.
“I feel like you want to say more. Are you trying to say that self-love would create something like a feeling of superiority or violence?”
“No, I just want to say that I believe in my method of star stitching.”
Jereby didn’t seem satisfied. I motioned her to speak.
“Don’t you feel anything from what the Revolfete captain said?”
“That we should take care of each other rather than shoot pregnant women into space for money?”
“Earth is full of energy and money. It is prosper. So why do you lie to others about something that you don’t even believe in for money?”
Earth was in its golden age. Granted, the Sampo that granted us wealth was no longer the slaves, but rather the Council. But our old habits did not change. We were acting like the masters of our own backyard.
In other words, we were trapped in our own planet.
“Katsumura Kana is the nineteenth baby to be born outside the Kuiper belt. Soon, the hundredth baby to be born outside the Kuiper belt would be born.”
Questioning emoticons spilled out of the screen. Then, it all came to an abrupt halt. Jereby stared at me with a surprised emoticon silently.
“Jereby, we sleep.”
“…Are you serious?”
“Humans are very strange creatures. It would make sense to become active when one has a lot of energy, and become inactive with little energy. Humans aren’t like this. When we have a lot of energy, we sleep. We try to spend as a little as possible. When we have little energy, we become active. We try to earn energy, or steal energy.”
Would Jereby be able to accept it if I told her that a majority of the problems Billie Holiday faced was because of sleep? It would be difficult. Jereby shook uncomfortably.
“That’s right, Jereby. Earth has a lot of energy, just like Witan. But you were the ones who discovered the Revolfetes. You were the ones who went out to space with your energy. All the while your people do this, we stay sleeping. We stay stuck inside a fantastic dream.”
Jereby spoke after a momentary time.
“But you guys found the Temseks.”
“It was luck.”
“Us meeting the Revolfetes was also luck. But to experience this luck, one needs to get out to space first. You were sending humans out to space, weren’t you? Telling them that doing this would bring their baby luck.”
“It’s something that can only work in a Golden Age. In an age where a method that is illogical, costly, and ineffective looks the fanciest and the most effective. What would the children born out in space say when they grow up? Some might cynically say that they were born in a storage room. But others might say that they were born in a sea of stars with grace.”
I always get surprised by the effectiveness of the Temsek translation processor. To think it’d translate an exclamation of surprise as well… I wonder if our children would be able to make something like this in the future?
“Just you wait, partner. Though it’s late, a portion of our children will be able to catch up with you. The Revolfetes used the stars to draw a god of compromises in the sky. I wonder what our children would draw in the sky using the stars?”
1. In Finnish mythology, the Sampo or Sammas was a magical artifact of indeterminate type constructed by Ilmarinen that brought riches and good fortune to its holder.
2. A reference to a popular song called “Strange Fruit”, sung by Billie Holiday.
3. More commonly known as the effect of “time dilation”.
4. A Japanese word for “beheading”.