Chapter 6: Phantom Battleship

Back up to Chapter 5

Earth, Planet of Death

February 8, 2199. A single space cruiser took off from the N district of the Tokyo underground, aiming for the lunar surface. Once, it was a region of rich green trees and the dignified white capitol building. But now there was nothing. All materials had dissolved into mud, mixing together so that the surface of the Earth had been reduced to a strange wilderness as far as the eye could see.

The cruiser carried five members of the scientific staff and all the surviving space fighters (only about thirty in all) with Susumu Kodai and Daisuke Shima along as their guides. Their purpose, of course, was to examine the engine of the disc from the distant planet Iscandar.

“Susumu…the message was true. There’s no sign of the enemy’s shadow around the Earth.”

“Yes. I’m sure they’re back at some base, smirking as they wait for us to die.”

Infuriated, Susumu looked out the window as he shouted.

“Daisuke! Look at that!”

Daisuke followed Susumu’s line of sight and was rendered speechless. Outside, a deep red planet appeared in space.

“Oh, that’s the Earth!!”

The pilot raised his voice from the cockpit: “Advancing on predetermined course!”

“Roger!”

Once, the view of Yakushima and the Tanegashima islands off the southern tip of Kyushu was magnificent. But now they had just become a vague extension of the violently reformed, rust-colored land.

Mysterious cave

The cave under the sea loomed large and dark in front of the submarine. It was located 1,000 meters beneath the sea bed just off Gaja Island. The pilot stopped the submarine just beneath the surface of the water at the mouth of the cave.

“Commander, the water level has dropped considerably. Shall we surface to enter that cave…?”

“The lunar expedition group reports no sign of the enemy on the ground. I’m confident that we can surface and enter that cave!”

“Roger!”

The submarine began to slowly surface, then disappeared into the cave. Previously, it had been an unexplored region wrapped in green, but after the waters receded around Gaja Island, it seemed strangely large and white.

The cave lead into the dark depths of the Earth, but gradually climbed upward until a circle of light appeared before the submarine. It loomed larger until the submarine suddenly broke through the water in the large open space.

In its center was a huge ship.

It was as large as a building, a tremendous battleship that was firmly anchored. Steel scaffolding and a crane were cluttered around it, eerily reminiscent of a shipyard dock. The ministers raised their voices in admiration as they stepped out of the submarine and looked up at the huge figure.

“Wow!”

“What is that!”

“I’ve never seen a battleship that big!”

The prime minister suppressed his excitement as he placed his hand on Okita’s shoulder.

“Mr. Okita, this…!”

Okita was filled with fascination as he gazed up at the battleship.

“I thought perhaps you would recognize this hull, prime minister…?”

“Yes, yes…this size, this style…I’ve certainly seen it somewhere before…”

The prime minister seemed lost in thought, then slowly looked at Okita and murmured in stunned surprise.

“So…it’s Yamato…once the greatest battleship in the world, built by the Japanese Navy. It’s Yamato…!”

“That’s right, prime minister. It’s said that about 250 years ago, it was attacked and sunk to the bottom of the southern sea without ever showing its true power…the phantom battleship Yamato…”

Amazed, the prime minister and the cabinet ministers stared at Okita. It had been said too briefly. The story of the Battleship Yamato, which disappeared beneath the water off the Kyushu coast had become a legend in the memory of some people. Now the legend loomed before them in reality. The ministers were utterly astonished. Finally, the prime minister managed to move his mouth and form words.

“Why is Yamato in a place like this…!?”

“I’ll explain later. I need to get in contact with the lunar research group and hear their findings.”

At Okita’s order, one of the soldiers descended into the submarine to swiftly make contact with the lunar surface.

“Even so, Mr. Okita, I never knew there was a secret dock in such a place.”

“I’m sorry, prime minister. This place is very personal, and only a few people other than me know about it.”

“But why is it here…?”

“To understand it, I must explain the details of the Battleship Yamato’s discovery.”

With the valiant, shining black figure of Yamato behind him, Okita looked slowly over the faces of the cabinet ministers.

Discovery of the Battleship Yamato

“As you know, until about 25 years ago I was devoted to the physics of the human body in space at the Bonomisaki research institute. But my studies required larger facilities, so it was impossible to continue in the small building there. So I poured the fortune I inherited from my father into the building of a special laboratory under Gaja Island that could reproduce the conditions of outer space itself. That’s where you’re standing now.”

“But while this laboratory was being built, a terrible accident unexpectedly occurred. There was a sudden explosion that killed the men who worked on the underwater construction. I took the lead to investigate the accident. The construction team was not a factor in the cause of the explosion that killed them, so it could only be called a mystery.”

“I conducted the investigation along with an old friend, the only person who understood my work. We went aqualung diving at the scene of the accident. I can still clearly remember the clarity of the unique landscape under the southern sea.”

“We immediately began to search around the site and found something strange. What I thought was just a rock at first turned out to have an odd shape. There was no reaction on my explosives detector, so I scraped off some of the rock’s surface. And I discovered this. What I thought was a rock turned out to be part of the Battleship Yamato. Perhaps it was the cause of the accidental explosion due to the unused shells that had been loaded on the ship.”

“My friend and I returned to the laboratory and started searching through old documents. It seemed certain there would be some record of a huge, old-fashioned battleship sinking in such a place. As for that, it was sunk by enemy attack on April 7, 1945, at 2:23 pm. At that time, the huge 72,000 ton Battleship Yamato was the pride of Japan.”

“My friend and I looked at each other. We were surprised by this great discovery, and the significance it brought to my studies. Since my research had the theme of interstellar migration, it pursued the physical results of the human body over extended space travel. So, by all means, I required a spacecraft for personal experiments. I made this dome to study simulated space. If I had an experimental spacecraft, I could obtain valuable data for the future. ‘This is the chance!’ my friend said.”

“I couldn’t get national support and I didn’t have enough funds on my own, so I couldn’t expect a new spacecraft to be built. I immediately thought about remodeling the Battleship Yamato. When I got the results of a hull survey, the indication was that the hull could be reinforced for about half the cost of building a new spaceship.”

“Then, for about a year with the cooperation of my friend, I borrowed twenty engineers to wrap the entire hull in steel-reinforced titanium and equip the ship with a new P4-type sub-light engine, using the best equipment offered by the technology of space travel. As a result, though the old Battleship Yamato has no equipment for combat, it could be perfectly revived as a giant spacecraft.”

“However, just at that time, the defense forces decided upon the establishment of a full-fledged space fleet, and my friend strongly requested that I participate as a technical officer to the staff headquarters. I thought I could freely continue my research as a technical officer, but all too soon I was placed in a position of certain responsibility, and it wasn’t possible for me to return to this dome, let alone study. Thus I began to walk an unexpected life. My beloved wife died during that time, and testing stopped completely. That’s why Yamato was left here in this way.”

Old Friend

Standing before the legendary Battleship Yamato, the last of the Earthlings felt a tremor of excitement grow in their chests. From deep inside the ruined Earth and the depths of despair, Yamato had just revived like a phoenix. Light eased into their hearts after far too long.

The prime minister had completely recovered his formerly cheerful expression, looking toward Okita as someone he could rely upon.

“Anyway, this could be used as a space battleship. After the engine problem is solved, perhaps Earth really can be saved, Mr. Okita.”

“Yes, prime minister. Even if it is only a faint possibility, I intend to do my best as long as there is still a way to be saved.”

“Hm, yes. Exactly right!”

Even after Tokyo Base, a friendly atmosphere had not died out. The feelings of the cabinet ministers rose to become all the more optimistic. However, the same darkness dwelled in Juuzo Okita’s expression as before. Thinking of the many obstacles and difficulties that still lay ahead, he hardly felt as they did.

“By the way, Mr. Okita,” one of the ministers said, “who was the old friend who helped you to remodel Yamato?”

It was a reasonable question. Someone who would cooperate with this work without hesitation, and who could draw such a talent as Juuzo Okita into the space fleet, must be considerably important.

“Yes…” Regret washed over Okita’s expression. “He was my childhood friend, and a great statesman. It was his dream that Earth should become as one as soon as possible, and this allowed us to realize Earth’s unification. Few politicians loved the Earth as he did. He made an effort to reach beyond national borders for politics that benefited all of the human race. It seems that he probably also lost his life in this fight…”

“Mr. Okita! Could you possibly mean…?”

“Yes, as you may have guessed, that man was Kenkichi Goda, Japan’s representative to the Republic Federation.”

“So, then…it was Mr. Goda…”

Kenkichi Goda. The man who worked fervently to the last as an advocate for global unification at Federation headquarters in Brazilia. The man who was a friend and collaborator with the Federation Chairman, and who shared his fate. The ministers, who knew him as a firmly principled politician to the bone, were amazed to learn of his hidden side.

“Commander!” The voice called out to Okita from inside the submarine. “We’ve established contact with the lunar research group…”

“Very well!”

With Okita in the lead, the cabinet ministers rushed headlong into the sub.

“This is Okita. What are the survey results?”

“This is the scientific staff leader of the lunar expedition, reporting our findings. As you concluded earlier, it is not possible with our knowledge to interpret the engine within the Iscandar space ship to 100% accuracy. However, we are able to understand it on a theoretical level, and we conclude that this is sufficient.”

“Very well! That’s good. Please return immediately and get to work!”

“Certainly. But it seems that a flying object thought to be an enemy spaceship has just appeared in the lunar sky. As a result, the space fighters are preparing to attack it so that we can escape.”

“All right, be careful and return safely.”

“Roger!”

One hour later, a small escape rocket from the space cruiser arrived at the Gaja Island underground dock. Space fighters Susumu Kodai and Daisuke Shima had ridden on it as escorts for the scientific staff. The color of delight spread over Okita’s face in an instant.

However, all the other space fighters had stayed behind to meet the enemy ship in combat above the moon. Since then, all communication had been lost.

Continue to chapter 7

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