Book 2, Chapter 3 (part 2)

The mysterious death of Sasuke Sanada

In Yamato’s life block, which the crew called the recreation facility, there was a fully-equipped gym center to help them maintain their physical strength. At the time, three people were using it in the area of the jump exercise facility: Susumu Kodai, Daisuke Shima, and Sasuke Sanada, Yamato’s three executive officers. The repeated accidents had filled the first bridge crew in particular with extreme anxiety.

Susumu had already finished exercising and was washing away his sweat in the nearby micro-bathroom, a circular space about five meters in diameter, just one auto-door away from the gym center. Alone, Susumu had released electronic rain freely in both horizontal and vertical directions, and now it was drying.

The smooth wall and floor shone a light green. It was made of a special flexible glass that was soft to the touch, and combined with a faint, comfortable melody, the color soothed the heart. As Susumu exited the bathroom to the locker room, Daisuke Shima entered in his training suit.

“Hey, Daisuke, earlier…”

“Yeah, I had a good sweat, too.”

“Ah. I hurried because I thought you were waiting outside.”

Shortly after Susumu left the bathroom to Daisuke, Sasuke Sanada slowly went in. Susumu waited for Daisuke with a refreshed expression for about ten minutes. Eventually, Daisuke opened the auto-door and appeared before Susumu, but he wasn’t his usual self.

“What is it, Daisuke?”

“Uh…um…”

Daisuke stood in front of Susumu looking as if he’d seen a ghost.

“Susumu! Sanada…Sanada, in the bathroom…!”

“What happened to him?”

“Uh…Sanada is dead in the bathroom…!”

“What!?”

Susumu leapt like a rabbit into the bathroom. Sure enough, the gruesome figure of Sasuke Sanada was lying there, having taken his last breath. He lay there like a broken doll, fresh blood from his head washing down into the middle of the pale green room. Susumu looked down at him in utter astonishment.

“… Sanada …!”

He whirled around and returned to Daisuke.

“Daisuke! What on Earth happened here!?”

“I wanted to take a leisurely micro-shower by myself, so I was waiting in the locker room for Sanada to come out. But no matter how long I waited, there was no sign of him. So I looked into the bathroom to see what was going on, and that’s how I discovered that horrible sight of Sanada.”

Susumu rushed over to the emergency transmitter attached to the wall.

“Anyway, I have to report this to the captain…”

Soon, news of Sasuke Sanada’s unnatural death spread through Yamato like wildfire.

The recreation facility had been the only place on board to be filled with laughter, and the micro-bathroom had been the only place to calm the heart. Now the crew was filled with bloodshot eyes as its function stopped and it was turned into an emergency autopsy room. The remains of Sanada Sasuke were being studied at the hands of Doctor Hiroshi Sado. Okita spoke to him sadly.

“The cause of death …?”

Susumu stood behind Okita with a pale expression.

“There are cranial depression fractures on back and side of the head. This would have been the direct cause of death…”

“Cranial depression fractures…”

“Yes. In other words, a violent blow to the head that crushed his scalp and skull.”

“But…”

Okita murmured in a suspicious tone.

“There’s nothing here that could have fallen and injured him. It’s very strange that he died in here alone…”

Dr. Sado fixed his gaze sharply on the sight of Sanada’s head.

“Yes, you’re right. In other words…this can’t be considered just an accident.”

“What exactly do you mean, Dr. Sado?”

“In other words, this wound speaks for itself. It had to have been made by being hit hard with something like a steel bar approximately 7cm in diameter. There’s nothing in this room that could have caused it naturally.”

“Dr. Sado! Then you think…”

“Yes. Looking at it medically, I can assert that this wound was certainly inflicted.”

At these words, Susumu’s expression changed as he edged closer to Dr. Sado.

“Hiroshi! That’s a serious statement. As I explained a little while ago, only Daisuke was in this bathroom when Sanada died. The only access to this room is by the auto-door. If someone beat Sanada to death, the criminal couldn’t have been anyone but Daisuke!”

“Well…I can’t say for sure, but it matches my findings so it could turn out to be true.”

“But…but that’s…”

Susumu became emotional, frightened for his close friend.

“Doctor, I can prove Daisuke’s innocence. A moment ago, you said he was struck with something like a steel bar. If so, Daisuke would have had it. But he was wearing a training suit with no pockets, so he couldn’t have had one. Of course, there was nothing in his hand. Besides, there’s nowhere in the bathroom or the locker room where such a thing could be hidden. You can see that for yourself, Hiroshi!”

Dr. Sado was bewildered by Susumu’s defiance.

“Kodai …I’m not saying that Shima specifically is the criminal. But judging from all the circumstances, I can say that there is no accidental way Sanada could have died. Whether the culprit is Shima or not, there’s no other way to interpret it. Sanada was unquestionably beaten to death with a steel bar. As you say, Shima didn’t have one and it was impossible to hide one, so maybe suspicions about him will fade.”

In any case, Sasuke Sanada had died a cruel, unnatural death, and it cast an increasingly fearful shadow over Yamato. Suspicion surrounded Daisuke Shima, but no murder weapon like a steel bar could be found, so it was put aside for the time being. Daisuke’s heart appeared to have been badly hurt, but in the suspicious eyes of the crew, he seemed to be hiding something.

Most of the crew whispered back and forth, “I can feel the presence of a mysterious enemy inside Yamato…”

From the radiation leak of the nuclear reactor to the explosion incident and other strange events, it was all too much. Yamato roamed through dark space like a lost child with enemies both inside and out. Still, the journey to Iscandar had to continue.

Suspicions about Daisuke

A few hours after Sasuke Sanada died, Susumu was suddenly called to Juuzo Okita’s private room. Orders should have been given on the bridge, so Susumu visited Okita with a puzzled look.

“Captain, I’m here!”

“Ah. Well, sit down and steel yourself.”

Susumu paused, then sat down in front of Okita. The captain’s room was unusually quiet. Due to the continued accidents, Yamato had been hit by a major crisis. The loss of so many personnel had significantly impacted its functions. Susumu imagined this was probably what Okita wanted to discuss.

“Kodai, what is the current strength of the Space Fighter unit?”

That was Okita’s subject after all.

“The Space Fighters have been virtually destroyed. Out of 60 soldiers, 50 have been killed in action or died in accidents. The few remaining are injured and under medical treatment.”

Okita sounded feeble as he answered.

“Is that so. The crew of Yamato has been greatly reduced.”

“However, Captain, the crews of other blocks are presently training to take over for the Space Fighters, so I don’t think there will be any trouble in another engagement with Gamilas.”

Despite Susumu’s apparent optimism, internally he was the complete opposite, raging with anxiety and despair. Engaging with Gamilas at that point would have been a joke, since none of the crew could even handle a battle boat yet. But Susumu found Okita’s response unreadable.

“Anyway, do your best. Even if there is only one of us left, the voyage must continue. Don’t give up hope until the very end…”

“Yes, I understand.”

“By the way …”

Okita’s tone suddenly changed.

“…that’s not all I called you here for. It’s about Shima…”

Susumu tensed up as soon as Shima’s name was spoken.

“I want to ask you as his close friend…does anything seem strange to you since he came back?”

“Well…”

Susumu didn’t yet understand Okita’s real meaning.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Hmm…in other words, do you notice anything different in Shima’s character from before?”

Susumu’s expression suddenly hardened.

“Captain! It’s impossible…”

“Kodai, there’s no sense in being coy, since I clearly suspect Shima as the criminal behind the series of accidents and the killing of Sanada.”

Okita’s words cut deep into Susumu, and he gasped.

“Captain! That’s ridiculous…!”

“Kodai! Do you really not see it at all? You’re the officer in charge of the combat section of Space Battleship Yamato. You have to abandon your feelings of friendship and look at it from an unbiased perspective. If you think about it, Shima is in an odd state. The accidents with the nuclear reactor and the explosion that killed your men all took place after Shima returned to Yamato. The same is true of Sanada’s death. If you think about it rationally, the connections to Shima float right to the surface. Even you must feel it, despite being so close to him.”

Susumu looked down and bit his lip. He didn’t need to tell Okita that despite the seemingly natural exchanges of friendship with Daisuke, he had a nagging sense of something that didn’t quite fit. For example, even though they traded the same old jokes, they didn’t ring as warmly under the surface for some reason. And Daisuke’s attitude when he came into contact with Yuki Mori was strange. Despite suffering such a wound to the heart, the passive look in his eyes indicated that he had completely forgotten about it. If Susumu were in Daisuke’s position, he wouldn’t have been able to talk to Yuki Mori with a straight face.

“Captain…”

Susumu’s voice had cooled considerably.

“…it’s possible that Shima is now a Gamilas spy…”

“Hmm…that’s only my gut feeling. Therefore, I intend to test Shima and find out.”

“Test him?”

“That’s right. This problem must be solved as soon as possible. If an enemy spy has snuck on board, it’s extremely serious.”

“Daisuke…a Gamilas spy. It just feels absurd…”

“I hope that’s all it is. In any case, even for Shima’s sake, it needs to be as clear as black and white.”

“Understood, Captain. If Daisuke is innocent, our friendship will prove it. How do you want to test him?”

“If Shima is a spy sent by the enemy, what would be his purpose to infiltrate?”

“It would have to be to destroy Yamato.”

“Right. But Yamato can’t be destroyed so easily. How would he do it?”

“Well…first, he’d spread a sense of insecurity around the ship by continued guerilla sabotage.”

“That’s right. And he’s certainly been successful in that. Now Yamato is being threatened by an invisible enemy and tormented by extreme anxiety. What do you think he would do next?”

“Then…he’d assassinate someone who was very important to Yamato.”

“That’s right. If I were a spy, that would be my plan.”

“Then, the incident with Sanada…!”

The exact thing Susumu suspected had certainly just taken place on board Yamato. It absolutely affirmed the existence of a spy.

“Still, Daisuke as a spy…!”

Susumu’s shoulders sank as he was overcome by discouragement.

“I was convinced that Sanada’s death must have been caused by something else,” Okita said. “But what if he’d just discovered Shima’s big secret?”

“But captain, doesn’t this criminal theory about Shima become impossible where the weapon is concerned?”

“No…there must have been a clever trick behind a murder in a closed room.”

“I see. Anyway, if Daisuke is a spy, we should proceed with that assumption.”

Susumu’s mind was wracked by turbulence. He felt that Daisuke couldn’t be a spy, but at the same time the Captain may have been right. One thought clashed with another.

“Well, Kodai, what would be a spy’s next move?”

“Hmm…the best way to break the crew and paralyze Yamato’s function…would be to assassinate the leader.”

Susumu jerked his head up to stare at Okita. The leader of Yamato was sitting right before his eyes.

“That’s right. If Shima really is a spy, there is no doubt that my life is his next target. Therefore, we should take this opportunity to put Shima to the test once and for all.”

Okita’s conversation with Susumu continued with low muttering in the quiet room.

Daisuke’s capacity

On the first bridge, the scene was the same as always. Okita’s orders flew one after another and the bridge staff worked briskly. However, contrary to the serenity on his face, Okita’s heart was tense. The plan was about to begin, a hunt for a spy with Okita’s own life as the bait.

“Shima,” Okita suddenly called out.

Daisuke Shima had been taking a respite from his duties in the navigation section, and seemed to come out of a trance. This was the first day he’d reappeared in his sub-control box.

“You’ve been away for a long time. Do your best.”

“Yes, it’s all right, Captain. I’m sorry it took so long.”

“Hmm…by the way, Shima, I’d like you to come to my room. Yesterday we examined some figures regarding our navigation to Iscandar, and we’re concerned about some problems. I’d like to get your advice.”

“Understood.”

After losing more than half of the crew members, open areas on Yamato seemed much wider. Okita and Daisuke saw no signs of life as they headed to the captain’s room, each keeping their thoughts close to the chest. Okita sat down on the sofa comfortably while inviting Daisuke into the room.

“Please enter and be at ease.”

Daisuke entered and looked around.

“Where are the navigational figures, Captain…?”

No matter where he looked, there was no trace of anything related to navigation.

“Shima…in fact, I was lying about examining navigation figures. It was because we have other problems to discuss…”

Daisuke’s expression shifted strangely.

“I see. So what do you need me for?”

“About that, Shima. I was thinking perhaps we leave the task to you. Because it’s just the two of us now.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Shima, please stop playing dumb. I know what you came to Yamato for. The nuclear reactor accident, the suspicious explosion and the closed-room murder of Sasuke Sanada. It’s obvious that you’re responsible for all of it.”

Hearing Okita’s stinging words, Daisuke simply kept silent, his expression unchanging.

“But there are still two things I don’t understand. One is why you succumbed to the indignity of becoming an enemy spy, and the second is how you killed Sasuke Sanada. I’m convinced that you were responsible, but I don’t have any clue of the whereabouts of the steel bar you used as a weapon. Without it, I don’t have the evidence to conclude that you’re a Gamilas spy. You have been 99% successful in your spy mission so far…but Shima, before carrying out your remaining 1%, at least answer my question. How and why could a man like you so easily become a spy for the enemy!?”

Daisuke’s expression did not change. For ten seconds, then twenty, nothing happened. Then Daisuke slowly stood up and began to act strangely.

He rolled up the right sleeve of his uniform and exposed his upper arm, then held it out toward Okita with a jerk. Okita turned pale at what he saw.

On the inside of Daisuke’s right arm was a vertical line with a concealed zipper that lead down to the center of his palm. Daisuke placed his left hand in his right palm and slowly, as if skinning himself, drew it all the way up to open it. Inside was an eerie, shiny arm of steel.

“I see,” Okita muttered as he stared at it, motionless. “As we suspected, it seems Sanada discovered your secret in the bathroom. With the cold eyes of a scientist, he could have glanced at your arm and perceived its true nature. A steel bar, about 7cm in diameter…”

Daisuke slowly stepped toward Okita.

“Poor Shima…! The alien Gamilas took away your Earthling humanity. How hateful, these Gamilas…”

Daisuke stopped in front of Okita and gave a sorrowful cry as he jerked his steel arm upward.

“Wait, Daisuke!!”

Susumu suddenly flew in from the next room with a maser gun clasped firmly in his right hand.

“Daisuke…it’s still you, isn’t it…!”

Large tears fell heavy from both of Susumu’s eyes, but Daisuke’s gaze was apathetic. He no longer had the zeal of a fiery young man.

“Kodai! Shoot Shima! He’s not an Earthling any more! Daisuke Shima is dead. This is a cyborg of the hateful alien Gamilas!”

Daisuke’s right hand was poised to come slamming down on Okita’s head. Fire burst from Susumu’s maser gun, dissolving Daisuke’s right hand in an instant. Its residual heat brought a horrific change to the synthetic skin of his entire body.

“Daisuke! Daisuke! Daisuke!”

Susumu cried out as his maser gun fired again and again at what once looked like Shima, but was now unquestionably a Gamilas cyborg. The strange object fell to the floor, now burned black. It was already reduced to inorganic debris, no longer even resembling a cyborg disguised as Daisuke Shima.

“Kodai…please bury Shima with dignity…”

Okita’s indifferent tone concealed his sadness. Inwardly, he heard a requiem for Susumu’s close friend that evoked new tears.

At that moment, the emergency buzzer in the captain’s room sounded, and the tense voice of Yuki Mori came over the speaker.

“Captain, it’s serious! Meal packs were handed out to the crew a short time ago, and now they’re suddenly beginning to suffer. Some have already died!”

Hearing Yuki’s report, Okita groaned.

“Oh, no! The enemy has been up to such a thing…!!”

The enemy was now a pile of hydrocarbon matter, lying on the floor, but its damage was still being done.

“Investigate the cause at once and take counter-measures!”

“Roger!”

Susumu dashed out of the captain’s room at the same time.

“Captain! I’ll join the investigation, too!”

And soon, it was discovered that a deadly poison had been thrown into the drinking water purifier. As a result, fifty more crew members suffered greatly and died in agony.

Now only a few Earthlings were left on Yamato.

Next: Mystery of Iscandar

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