Vandread Extra Stage Chapter 5

Boundless Solitude

Part 1

‘PI————! PI————!’

‘Protective hull shield is down! First, second, and third layer bulkheads damaged, life support functions will cease after ninety seconds.’

‘Pexis Pragma functions have ceased! Energy supply pipe damaged, a fire has broken out! Automatic diagnostic equipment functions ineffective!’

‘Danger present due to hull explosion. Crew members please abandon ship immediately.’

Together with violent sparks, the computer hysterical voice resounded as it issued danger alerts. In the midst of this, there was a person who was trying to maintain control by typing on the console that would soon vanish.

“I’m perfectly aware that this is a shitty situation! After all I did meddle with that fake Nirvana thing!!”

Surrounded by smoke, the one who let out a self-deprecating laugh with a sweat covered brow was none other than Gascogne. She was currently in the cockpit of the delivery ship that would soon explode. And then, the delivery ship that was covered with flames and smoke, had smashed into the interior of the Harvest Mothership that had been dispatched from Earth.

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The origin of this situation goes back to a few hours earlier.

In the midst of their journey towards their home planet, they had encountered a single Reaping Mothership. Due to them obstructing the Earth’s ‘Reaping’ plan on several occasions over the course of their journey, the Reaping Fleet had changed from it’s previous heading towards other colonized planets to a course aimed towards the Majere star cluster. Although it was an unanticipated situation, the Mothership that had hunted down Magno and company launched a merciless assault against them. Particularly the ‘Fake Nirvana’, which having imitated the Nirvana, had been endowed with a humanoid-form transformation function, the use of which it had dealt tremendous damage to the Nirvana’s crew when they had launched a counterattack. At the height of the fierce battle that gave rise to various individuals being wounded, a single pilot, Jura, had suffered a particularly serious injury. Her intimate friend Barnette was enraged, and attempted a reckless counterattack. In order to save her from that, Gascogne, without considering the risk to herself, had taken decisive action by ramming the ‘Fake Nirvana’ with the delivery shuttle.

As a result, the delivery shuttle she was piloting had been pierced by the sharp talon of the ‘Fake Nirvana’ that had transformed into humanoid form. However, far from faltering, Gascogne applied further acceleration and, together with the ‘Fake Nirvana’, rushed towards the Reaping Mothership.

A giant fireball arose at the approximate center of the Reaping Mothership’s flank, whose hull was easily tens of kilometers in length. The explosion produced by the ‘Fake Nirvana’ caused serious damage to the massive armor, resulting in tremendous damage to the Reaping Mothership.

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From nearby, Hibiki and Dita, who had seen the whole thing, as well as Barnette, all believed that Gascogne’s life had been extinguished due to the massive damage inflicted. However, she was still alive. Miraculously, just like the words she had spat at Hibiki who had opposed her, she didn’t permit herself to give up even in that final moment.

‘What comes from making excuses? So long as we continue to survive I’ll make however many you want! If you still want to make excuses, then after your life’s extinguished you can make as many as you want in the next world! However, leave me out of that! I’ll clench my teeth, and make sure to survive even by force of will!’

Her field of vision obscured by smoke and sparks, those words from before continued to play like a broken record in Gascogne’s mind. While in a situation with practically no control, she continued to move her arms without rest, as she guided the delivery shuttle inside of the mothership.

“……Fuh……. Geez, even though I made that absurd declaration……. If it ends here it won’t have any persuasive power huh…………”

The long toothpick she held in her mouth was shaking repeatedly. However, that shivering wasn’t from fear. It was due to the hull controls having become unresponsive.

‘Port hull has been cracked! Impossible to maintain airtight conditions……. Remaining oxygen supply has fallen below ten percent.’

An even greater life crisis had befallen Gascogne. However, there was entirely no indication that she had given up. Clutching the steering grip with all the strength her arms could muster, Gascogne’s gaze surveyed the entirety of the mothership’s interior.

“Anywhere’s fine! In a space as vast as this isn’t there somewhere with a maintained airtight seal!?”

Even while feeling irritated Gascogne calmly observed the situation inside. In accordance with her mutterings, the inside of the mothership was a vast space.

Illuminated by an ominous red light, the interior, which had an organic structure that was reminiscent of a creature’s ovipositor, was filled with strangely intertwined pipes and cables that supplied power throughout the ship’s interior.

The organic looking substance, whose shape resembled ‘eggs’, but in actuality was interior of the structures where the Piroshki-types and other weapon types would dock. {TN: Piroshki similar to a pierogi, a type of stuffed bun. I believe the term refers to the ships that docks on the mothership’s exterior, who shape is similar.}

“Over there!?”

Setting her eyes one a membrane-shaped guard covering the Piroshki-type interior structures, Gascogne swung the delivery shuttle around with the last of her strength.

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‘Presence of Earth-level oxygen detected outside the hull. Beginning to supply delivery shuttle’s interior.’

The computer’s automatic voice announced the possibility of Gascogne surviving. As soon as she heard that, even Gascogne breathed a sigh of relief.

“Phew∼∼∼∼∼∼……! Thank goodness there aren’t any dangerous aliens……”

She had gambled by entrusting her fortune to the heavens, but somehow or another she had managed to escape death by suffocation at the very least. Even as the delivery shuttle plunged into the ‘membrane’ the oxygen levels inside had reached zero. It could be called a fluke and the damage was still severe, but the flames released by the conflagration had been extinguished by something or other.

“I say, it seems I won’t be dying just yet huh……”

Though she was smiling bitterly, Gascogne was once again tasting the feeling of being alive. However, she couldn’t afford to feel relieved. The hull was naturally an issue, and moreover the system had suffered severe damage. If she wanted to restore the delivery shuttle’s functionality, she would have to put a tremendous effort into that goal.

“To start with I guess I should check on the state of the damage……. Computer! Run voice response system! Voice entry, Gascogne, 47—epsilon!”

Due to the console in front of her having switched off, Gascogne booted up the emergency system. Recognizing the voice print pattern identification code she had recited from memory, the computer acknowledged voice input.

‘Comparison complete. From here on, input may be done by voice.’

Confirming the computer’s response, Gacogne finally allowed herself to relax. This was because the emergency system had safely understood.

“Seems the system ended up less destroyed than I had thought……. I’ll be returning home surprisingly soon!”

Muttering that as though to cheer herself up, she pulled herself together and raised her voice.

“Dispatch emergency shipwreck transmission! Open a circuit to the captain and the others!”

Apparently thinking that she ought to inform them of her survival first and foremost, Gascogne chose to send the delivery shuttle’s spatial position to the Nirvana. However, the response from the computer forced her to give up on that.

‘Presence of damaged substance confirmed on delivery shuttle’s exterior. External communication is impossible.’

Ironically, owing to the ‘membrane’ that had saved her from suffocation, the condition that had befallen the delivery shuttle was isolating it from the outside.

“Cheh! Well that’s quite unfortunate huh……”

Gascogne was grinding her teeth in frustration, but there were a number of additional methods still. Having thought of her next move, she unfastened the safety belt securing her body to the seat. Then, at that moment, Gascogne’s body floated gently up in the air.

“! Oops! Just because there’s air doesn’t mean that there must also be gravity.”

It appeared that inside the ‘membrane’, on top of all the Piroshki-type constructions, there was also weightlessness. Surely if she were to examine the surroundings once more there would be all sorts of parts and cords from the destruction caused by her ramming attack against the ‘Fake Nivana’ floating about. Even though she had intended to remain calm, it seemed she had not regained her composure to the degree she had thought. Having realized that, Gascogne let out a sigh mingled with a forced laugh.

“……Really now, my own training still isn’t complete huh……”

Gascogne was scratching her head with a feeling of bewilderment, took a deep breath to calm herself down properly this time, and while adjusting her posture slowly floated up away from the seat.

Part 2

“……What the hell…………”

Having emerged from the delivery shuttle’s outer hull, Gascogne reflexively widened her eyes at the scene before her eyes. While it was only natural given that it was damage to her own ship, the structure of the Reaping Mothership gave her such a shock that she forgot even that. The ‘Reaping Fleet’ launched by Earth was by nature an unmanned automated attack system. That is to say, the Piroshki-types and other combat ships contained within the mothership, going all the way down to the Cube-types, they were manufactured automatically, and therefore could carry out repairs.

Previously she had investigated a Piroshki-type together with Dita, but this system that manufactures Piroshki types went far beyond what she could imagine.

“……Is this truly a just a machine?”

In accordance with her muttering, regarding what was inside the Piroski-type ‘membrane’, she thought that the term ‘larva’ was more appropriate than ‘machine’. From the ‘membrane’ on all four sides there were Pexis crystals that had grown to surround the main body of the Piroshki-type, supplying energy as though it was pumping nutrients. Without any visible machinery necessary for construction like cranes and arms, the necessary parts, while weightless, were being affixed to the Piroshki-types as though being drawn to them. It seemed likely that there was a system designed to use magnetism in place of such things, but, instead of assembling it from the outside, what was worthy of Gascogne’s admiration was that the system was constructing itself under its own power from inside the main body.

“……Those Earth guys, it seems their sense for having a good time knows no bounds…………”

Although they were enemies, seeing the mothership that possessed such an admirable system before her eyes, she could do nothing more than sigh.

“This thing is surely can’t be defined in terms of conventional battle power huh……”

Despite murmuring this, after pondering something for a short while, Gascogne swiftly left the delivery ship, and began to head towards the Pexis crystalline pillar growing from the Piroshki-type.

Other than her own return, Gascogne also decided to secretly backup the Nirvana that was still engaged in battle. The interior of the ‘membrane’ may look to be entirely organic, but to summarize it, the programming at its foundation was until the end distinctly different from a living creature. That is to say, if she could disrupt the main system even slightly, it was conceivable that the enemy’s combat power wouldn’t grow any further.

“If it goes smoothly, it’s possible it may even destroy the mothership itself……”

As she murmured that, Gascogne began searching for a main system access point within the ‘membrane’.

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At that time, without anyone being aware that Gascogne was taking action to save the Nirvana, those on the Nirvana were overcome with sorrow at her loss. Nevertheless, the mothership continued to stubbornly pursue them. With everyone having temporarily lost their confidence, the crew decided to launch one final decisive assault due to being roused by Hibiki. Raiding the interior through the hole in the mothership’s flank created when Gascogne had plunged into it, their reckless strategy was to disrupt it from the inside.

While preparations were continuing around Hibiki, Meia, and Barnette, the isolated Gascogne was silently searching for the enemy mothership’s main control.

“! ……This is!?”

Having spread out on a wall that, being bathed in a strange red light, gave off the impression of a living creature, Gascogne had discovered an apparatus that was hidden inside it. Though she described it an an apparatus, the thing was larger than Gascogne’s body. While weightless, after cautiously surveying the surrounding she slowly opened the protective panel.

As expected the inside consisted of various chips distributed throughout its structure, with circuits extending in all directions from the center of them. It was a safe bet at the very least that it was a system for constructing Piroshki-types inside of the ‘membranes’.

“Now then, as for where I should go from here……”

Given that it was clearly a complex program, there was a high probability that access from the terminal would be cut off. If she wasn’t entirely careful in penetrating in accordance with the program’s flow there was a fear that she might never be able access it again.

“Without rushing, remain calm……carefully now…………”

So as to prohibit herself from having stray thoughts, Gascogne repeatedly muttered under her breath as she connected the program detection device she had taken from the delivery shuttle.

“PI———!”

Just then a loud alert sounded. The shocked Gascogne surveyed her surroundings in confusion, but it wasn’t from her accessing it, but rather was a signal for the commencement of energy being supplied to the Piroshki-type with coincidental timing.

“……Phew……. Geez, don’t startle me like that……”

While wiping the cold sweat from that had formed on her forehead, Gascogne accusingly cursed the machine before her. Pulling herself together she resumed working, but due to excessive stress she didn’t talk to herself as her mouth had tightly stiffened. However, with nothing but the thought of saving her comrades Gascogne continued working in that vast weightless space.

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Much time had apparently passed. Her thoughts had become distant as she continued the program analysis, though it was uncertain when it would be completed. Even if it was only measured in size, the enemy mothership was several tens of times the size of the Nirvana. Therefore accessing the main system wouldn’t be that easy. Nevertheless Gascogne adamantly gazed at the program display that was floating before her eyes.

“……It’ll definitely be discovered! No, I will definitely discover it!”

Gascogne was straining her eyes with such a serious expression that it appeared that she might be forgetting to blink. And then, it was at that moment. Together with a thunderous roar the inside of the mothership shook tremendously.

“W-What the!?”

Looking around in surprise, Gascogne was shocked as what appeared to be the strange white bird known as Vandread Meia passed before her eyes.

“!? ……Meia!”

Rather than being joyful at the sight of an unexpected ally she was more astonished. Even as she was feeling amazed, something happened that caused her attitude to change as this time Barnette and Dita’s crafts passed right before her.

“Those kids, such rashness!”

Having finally noticed that Meia and the others were forcing their way through, Gascogne gazed it the direction the Dreads had flown off towards with a complex expression. Even though she had been out of contact, there was enough for her to surmise that something had happened on board the Nirvana. In all likelihood the decision to force their way inside had been Hibiki’s idea. Thus, considering the mental state of Magno and Buzam who passed down that decision, it was easy to judge that the Nirvana’s crew wasn’t having pessimistic thoughts.

“Hmph……. That boy is quite courageous it seems huh.”

Though she didn’t so much as raise her voice, Gascogne was filled with strength at the sight of her comrades reliable figures.

“You better not be defeated you hear!”

Having roused herself she once again tried to access the enemy mothership’s main system. Together with a furious alert sound the interior defense system started to boot up. The target was of course Meia and the others. Within the long tunnel that seemed like it might continue until infinite, gun turrets appeared successively and set their sights on the raiding party. And then in the next moment it happened. A dazzling rain of beams rained down upon the three crafts.

“KUH! Just watching isn’t good for my nerves!”

As she watched intently as her comrades aimed for the heart of the ship while narrowly avoiding the beams, Gascogne was frustrated by her own situation. Nevertheless, thinking that she could use this opportunity to suspend the warship’s functions, she faced the console.

‘GUUN! BAKIBAKIBAKI!!’

As if to disrupt Gacogne’s focus, an even more thunderous roar resounded from behind her. Simultaneously she was assaulted with a violent shock that was incomparable to the one from before.

“What is it now!?”

Shocked Gascogne looked back once more, and she saw the ‘Fake Nirvana’ that ought to have been dispersed forcing its way inside through the large hole she had previously opened. It was pursuing the raiding team.

“CHEH! Damn your tenacious!”

Seeing that Gascogne’s face tensed in irritation. However, at present she had no methods available to her. As though ridiculing Gascogne who could only stare in awe, the ‘Fake Nirvana’ proceeded through the interior as it calmly destroyed the huge tunnel.

‘Control system program has been altered. In order to prevent disruptive activity within the warship, the link to the ordnance factory area has been severed……’

Yet another critical situation was conveyed from the terminal to which she had connected. That is to say, in the present situation it had become impossible to access the main system from that location.

“……Good grief, well this is just perfect huh……”

With an expression filled with bitterness Gascogne muttered this. Usually she would let out some level of frivolous line while laughing scornfully, but at present she didn’t have such a luxury.

“……The heck am I supposed to do now……”

She had exhausted all means at her disposal, and yet it amounted to her own spit hitting her in the face. As expected even she felt stumped after the successive occurrence of one crisis after another. And like that the frame of yet another craft flew right over her head. Though it was outside her field of vision it was possible to distinguish that Dread’s showy red body.

“!? Jura!”

Just as Gascogne had reflexively called out, it was indeed Jura’s Dread.

“Isn’t that just reckless! You suffered a serious injury!”

Gascogne lost control of herself and raised her voice, but naturally her voice didn’t reach her. As she slipped through the beams of the newly restarted interception system, Jura’s crimson airframe quickly vanished from sight. It seemed that perhaps Jura, having became aware of the incursion by the ‘Fake Nirvana’, forced herself beyond her limits to pursue it in order to save her comrades. From the staggering operation of the spacecraft, it was clear even watching from the outside that she was pushing her injured body.

“……Geez, if it’s not one of them it’s the other……”

At her wits end Gascogne spat as she voiced her complaints. However, her true feeling were of great concern for those youths who had infiltrated, so much that the emotions were tearing her body apart.

“You all had better not die!”

Having resolved herself, Gascogne, who wanted to help those youths, turned her attention back to the terminal. However,

‘Main system at combat readiness! Outside access not accepted!’

for attempting to retrieve such a considerably large program, even if it was just a small portion of it, the terminal Gascogne had connected to returned only that heartless message.

“Don’t give me that, with this kind of timing!”

Gascogne was clenching her fist in indignation, but forcibly accessing it would only end up backfiring. Her anxiety over the state of her comrades was exceeding her patience. The reaction was typical of Gascogne whose compassion runs deep. That being said she couldn’t just get angry. Taking a big stretch to calm herself down Gascogne repeatedly grumbled to herself.

“Settle down now! Think about what you need to do if accessing it from here is impossible! You absolutely can’t let those kids die!”

As she struggled with a growing sense of unease, Gascogne knitted her brow and thought it over. As she was considering her next hand, the previously activated interception system was steadily moving back toward the interior. Seeing this Gascogne realized something shocking.

“Those kids’ target is this warship’s Pexis Pragma huh……. In that case the interception will be concentrating all of its protection over there……. Accordingly, it would be insufficient elsewhere, so an effective point would be……”

The current Gascogne had not broken with the courteous attitude she usually showed. With every thought she refined her strategy focusing on backing up the infiltration team. Her gaze swirling through space, she was hectically changing the direction of her neck with every word she muttered. It was a serious expression that her comrades from before had never seen.

“……If this were a manned ship attacking the life support functions would be an easy point……. How about an unmanned one though? Something in place of life support…………. !! That’s it! The offensive ordinance guidance system!”

Having hit upon a great idea, Gascogne’s expression lightened at that moment.

“Beyond making use of the guidance system, the relation between the mothership and the offensive units is like that of sled dogs and the musher who steers them! The greater the number of dogs that are tied together, the more cords the musher controls. Even if the system itself doesn’t stop, it’s fine if it just creates chaos by causing the cords to become entangled!”

Compared to chief engineer Parfet she was weaker at logical thinking, but being able to arrive at a conclusion by she changed her way of thinking was her area expertise. Naturally that was the case for the current Gascogne. Having finally discovered a glimmer of light in the darkness, Gascogne joyfully gazed at her terminal.

“……A disturbance from here is impossible……. Then, in that case!”

Rather than hesitating Gascogne was someone who acts quickly. Having returned to the delivery ship by soaring through the weightless space, she donned her spacesuit and without hesitating jumped out from within the ‘membrane’.

“Six hours of remaining oxygen……. I have that much time to locate the guidance system’s transmission booth relay point!”

With the terminal that had been loaded with the mothership’s program data in her hand, Gascogne jumped into the vast space whose length was in the tens of kilometers.

“……Since the ship is so huge it must be packed with information relays points.……”

Though computer programming was outside of her expertise, she had a considerable amount of experiential knowledge. It was a huge space, but she could see where the circuits and cables gathered together. Having estimated these to be information relay points, Gascogne activated her spacesuit’s boosters and immediately propelled herself towards the surface of the wall. At that moment, it happened.

‘JIJIJIH……BASUN…………’

Together with a strange sound the terminal shorted out and lost power. As Gascogne gazed at it in surprise, the terminal had already ceased functioning.

“Kuh…… The effects of internal plasma radiation huh……. But, why now!?”

She had no way of guessing being alone as she was, but this was linked to the strategy of Meia and the others who had penetrated the central reactor core. It was a consequence of Pyoro, the colonization ship era navigation robot, having injected a virus into the mothership’s main system, disrupting the energy balance throughout the entirety of the ship’s interior.

“Tch! I don’t need this!”

Having succumbed to impatience once again, Gascogne forced open the wall of the mothership like she was digging through soil and proceeded through in search of the relay point.

Part 3

As Gascogne was continuously struggling in isolation, a miracle was occurring before the eyes of the Nirvana’s crew members. The ‘Bangata’ powered suit operated by Hibiki and the three Dread spacecrafts piloted by Dita, Meia, and Jura had all fused into a combined craft using the navigation robot Pyoro as a medium. Oddly enough this outcome was the personification of the words Gascogne had left behind saying, ‘I’ll grit my teeth, and I survive by willpower alone.’

Its silver body shining brilliantly, the newly formed ‘Super Vandread’ splendidly crushed the ‘Fake Nirvana’ that had come in pursuit of them.

Beginning with Magno, the entire crew had been intently watching the actions of the raiding party, and now realized that with the Super Vandread’s actions the enemy mother ship had ceased all functions. However, the reality was slightly different from that.

Certainly it had been Hibiki and the others who had decisively stormed the interior of the enemy’s energy core, where they then injected a computer virus into the main system. However, in regards to the total shutdown of the enemy mother ship’s functions, this would not have been accomplished were it not for the secret actions by Gascogne.

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‘ZAZA……Intrusion system has detected……a virus……in this ship’s……main controller…………. Launching immediate quarantine of dangerous portions……’

Having reached the information relay point, Gascogne, having connected a new data plate, dived into the information exchange channel. Unexpectedly, at that moment she learned of the existence of an emergency backup system within the enemy mother ship.

“It’s only to be expected for a long ranged unmanned journey……. It’s constructed so as to be able to completely revive even if something happens……. I say, if I ever get back I’ll have to teach Parfet about this……”

While the near perfectly arranged system was that of the enemy, Gascogne was reflexively struck with admiration. However, the discovery of this system had given her a major hint.

“……This program is cutting off the portions infected with the virus, and is only rebooting the safe portions……. Hmm……in that case……if I input disruptive information during the reboot wouldn’t the severed portions would gradually increase, eventually resulting in a complete cessation of activity?”

Unfortunately Gascogne wasn’t familiar with machines to that extent. Even if she repeatedly asked herself the question she wouldn’t arrive at a clear conclusion. However,

“Until now I’ve only had painful experiences here since getting started, but since now the hinderance has already occurred……. There ought to be merit in trying to take advantage of the confusion……”

In a situation where despite the danger the likelihood of success was high, it was her nature to unhesitatingly take action. Having resolved herself Gascogne began probing the Reg System programs stored on the data plate.

“……Something convenient…………. OH! How about something like this?”

What had caught her eye as she said this was the Order Return program {TN: ‘Return’ here means to return a purchased or rented item}. On the Nirvana temporary equipment was taken out by the Dread pilots, and this system was used to reimburse for unused ordinances. That is to say, the decision Gascogne had reached was to have the enemy mothership’s quarantine order ‘returned’.

“Fufufu……now then…………for you sweetie who’s only been accompanied by colleagues who’ll do anything they’re ordered to, let’s see how you react to some insubordination huh……”

Even though she had been cornered, Gascogne’s downloaded the program on her data plate that was her final hope. As a result, the main system, into which contrary orders had flown during reboot, was repeatedly debating with itself, and thus shortly fell silent as it ceased all function.

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As though the tumult up until now had all been a lie, the huge space was enveloped in silence. Within that silence was Gascogne.

Having used up all of the equipment, including the delivery shuttle’s communication system, in order to disrupt the enemy, there was no way to contact her comrades despite them being close by.

The Nirvana whose whole body was wounded, having won through the fierce battle, while overcome with grief over the loss of Gascogne, had slowly vanished into the sea of stars. Left behind in solitary silence, Gascogne was at her wits end and could do nothing but patiently watch them go. However, the look on her face wasn’t the least bit sad. On the contrary she was filled with satisfaction for having accomplished a great deed. Gascogne had by no means given up. ‘You’ll always be able to return to your comrades.’ That determination gave her great power.

“……Now then…………”

Gascogne stretched while floating in isolation in that vast space. She subsequently muttered in a springy voice, as though she was enjoying the situation.

“This baby with an oversized body……how should I go about disciplining you!”

Part 4

Approximately one month later, the Nirvana finally returned to the region of their home planet of Majere. However, further hardships awaited them, as even though they had at last notified the people of their familiar home planet of the danger of the ‘Reaping’, Magno and company, who had brought the information, had been ridiculed. The leaders of Taraak and Majere had chosen the path of submitting to their fates. However, Magno and company never gave up. Although they were arrested, they were rescued by Rebecka and Valore who had been left behind at their hideout, and they reached the decision that the Nirvana, by itself, would ambush the Reaping fleet. It wasn’t a blessing to anyone to have to face that sad fight alone.

Magno and company sortied the Dread teams, and facing the imminent arrival of the Reaping fleet, established a thin front line. It happened at that moment. From the Nirvana’s flank a enemy mothership whose coloring had been changed to yellow appeared. For some reason the Nirvana’s radar had not been able to sense it. As the crew’s faces stiffened with fear, the friendly tone of Gascogne’s voice was heard resounding from the calmly approaching enemy mothership.

“How unpleasant! It wasn’t my intention to be threatening……”

She was, needless to say, a member of Magno’s Family. Hence, so as to not trigger the Nirvana’s interception sensors, she had previously manipulated the identification code in the ship’s so as not to cause a response. She had not particularly intended to cause a panic among the crew. Due to her having been thought of as an approaching enemy that had gone unnoticed, and that moreover so as not to come under unnecessary attack by those she considered as friends, such things were her concern.

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Upon realizing that it was Gascogne the crew greeted her with return with feelings of both surprise and delight.

‘It’s true isn’t it! She suddenly appeared!’

‘……Gasco-san……. Is it really Gasco-san!?’

‘……Geez! You’re always just full of surprises huh!’

Through the speakers came the messages that her comrades were scrambling to transmit. It was immediately understood that all of them, from the depths of their hearts were pleased by her safe return. While listening to the voices of the comrades she had dearly missed, Gascogne once again felt that this was ‘the place that she must return to’. At this, her normally rigid eyes wavered with emotion.

“……Geez…………I can’t reply to everyone all at once.”

Her tone was a rude as always, but Gascogne’s expression was a smile of calm relief.

“Hibiki! That remark, just what was that!? Didn’t I tell you? I’ll make sure to survive even by force of will! And you Dita! While I’m pleased to be so appreciated, haven’t I told you not to strangely abbreviate people’s names!? It’s not Gasco, it’s Gascogne! …………Was that Rebecca’s voice? The last time we met you were as sharp-tongued as ever……. Geez, you seem to have become a good girl who excels are being quiet……”

As the voices of her companions continued to chime in one after another, Gascogne replied politely to each of them in turn. In her mind, her one month of daily isolation was recalled. Within the massive ship whose length was in the tens of kilometers, she had spent all that time alone by herself. If one were to give an example, it would be like a  town that had been abandoned in which one person had been left behind. Though Gascogne who had tasted isolation had nothing to say about it, just by hearing the voices of her companions, all the hardships until now seemed to vanish as though they were all lies.

Now, Gascogne truly felt that she had survived and as she was surrounded by people’s joy she was thoroughly reflecting on it.

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“EH∼∼∼∼∼∼! Then, you really rewrote the program by yourself!?”

At the cafeteria inside the hideout of Magno’s Family, Parfet’s hysterical voice resounded.

From grieving the loss of Gascogne, they had not given up on surviving, and due to the Super Vandread that was formed through their strong will, Magno and company had crushed the the Reaping Fleet, and then, they had obstructed the artificial wormhole fired by the earthlings. And then, the joy of victory in their hearts, they had returned to the pirate hideout together with the battered Nirvana.

The inside of the entire hideout shook for joy, as a great party was held to thank everyone for their mutual hard work. During this, a conspicuous crowd had formed centering around Gascogne. Surrounded by her companions, Gascogne was shaking the long toothpick in her mouth while wearing a proud look. Naturally, what the surrounding crew members were interested in was nothing less than the epic story of when she had been left behind on the enemy mothership.

“I guess so! Since it had temporarily ceased functioning after all……. Even without the knowledge of an engineer, I am able to rewrite data.”

Perhaps aided by the flow of alcohol, even Gascogne had become talkative.

“However, if it had ceased all functions surely even the life support systems would have stopped!”

With all of her knowledge, it was Parfet who was easily able to imagine the situation at that time, and her expression was comparatively stern. Nevertheless, having been intrigued, she listened as Gascogne continued speaking as though she were a kid being teased with a ghost story.

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“Fortunately the inside of the membrane was securely airtight, and moreover it was about the size of a large neighborhood that had been placed inside the massive ship! Even if something like that happened it was possible to ensure there’d be at least one person’s supply of air available.”

“Well then, tell us now how you were able to tame that ship!”

Not at all satisfied, disregarding the expression of Parfet who had spoken, Dita was now inclining her body forward. Thereupon which Gascogne answered with a slightly perplexed expression.

“……Ahuh…………. Well, wasn’t it poker we started with?”

“EH———!?”

At Gascogne’s unexpected reply, everyone there raised a voice of surprise.

“What’s up with that!?”

Even Barnette, who had been seriously listening to the story, reflexively asked for an explanation. Gascogne replied with an even more perplexed expression.

“Hm……? ……Well, we did have some free time after all……. It seemed like a poker game would be a good way to kill some time…………. That computer of theirs wasn’t all that accommodating though! It was quite dull so I taught it various techniques……. I thought it could serve as my opponent for for some games, and before I knew it it had started following my orders.”

“!? ……T-Then…………it was just a coincidence!?”

Parfet once again raised a loud voice as she spoke due to amazement. This reaction was due to her expertise with machines. Even hearing Gascogne speak about it, everyone felt that the suffering she had gone through being in isolation was unfathomable. Having stout-heartedly survived in the face of that, the esteem they held for Gascogne now was far greater than it had been before. Having expected a tale of heroism while stifling tears of gratitude, the faces of everyone present were now wearing frankly despondent expressions. Having seen that Gascogne sat up in a panic.

“W-What, you guys, what’s with those faces!? There’s been enough hardship! It truly wasn’t that serious!”

Panicking Gascogne tried to gloss over everything, but the crew members had already stopped listening. Everyone was in a state of shock, and their gazes had gone cold.

“…………What, that’s disappointing……”

“True. Even though I thought it would be a more amazing story…………”

“For it to have just been a coincidence……”

Having made a complete turnaround from just a moment before, the crew members all immediately began raising complaints. At this reaction from everyone, Gascogne pouted in apparent offence.

“Well then, what did you want!? Would you have preferred it if I had been bearing a serious fatal injury!?”

“……W-While that’s not the case at all…………”

“Well then, what is it!? Such troublesome people to speak politely while being so conceited! You think I would just happen to have an over the top exciting heroic tale on hand!”

Gascogne may have been ranting with an attitude of apparent indignation, but it was understood by the crew members that in truth she wasn’t actually angry. Even if Parfet, Dita, and everyone had been raising complaints, they took comfort in Gascogne’s verbal abuse that they hadn’t heard in a long while.

“To begin, first of all it’s not good that you all became so conceited from a little pampering! Parfet! Shouldn’t you understand the extent to which those hardships were outside my area of expertise!? If that’s the case shouldn’t you be the first to sympathise? And you Dita! Saying that someone’s story is dull, would you say that’s something good to say or something bad? And what about you Barnette!? I didn’t give you permission to arbitrarily rewrite the Reg System!”

“Yeah sure! Well, I need another drink!”

“……Geez, first of all you all……”

Gascogne’s tone was slurring over time as she was affected by the alcohol. The surrounding crew members as well, beyond having realized this, were pouring alcohol such that her glass was never dry for very long. For Gascogne to be giveing so talkative a speech, her comrades truly felt that she had actually returned to them alive and well. Moreover, similarly for Gascogne, at long last a time had come when she could reflect while enjoying the laughter of her comrades.

One thought on “Vandread Extra Stage Chapter 5

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