Yamato advanced through space toward the Large Magellanic Cloud. Since the start of the voyage, it had withstood the hardships of a 180-day journey across 140,000 light years.
On the first bridge, Juuzo Okita’s exhausted expression forcibly tightened as he called out to the chief pilot.
“There’s no error on our course to the Salezar system?”
“Yes, it is confirmed.”
The entire crew of Yamato was gathered on the bridge. Their total number was just eight people. 120 personnel had boarded at the time of launch, and all the others had been scattered into nameless space dust.
“Captain, please be aware…”
In addition to engineering, Hikozaemon Tokugawa now held the navigation post. He glanced down at the main radar panel.
“There’s a fairly large, foreboding shadow on our course, 10 million km just in front of Yamato…”
In a flash, tension filled the bridge. Even Okita’s voice sounded constricted.
“Another Gamilas unit!!”
If the Gamilas forces attacked now, Yamato would be completely destroyed. There weren’t enough people left on board to effectively operate the Wave-Motion Gun. Okita looked at the radar panel over Tokugawa’s shoulder.
“No, it doesn’t seem to be an enemy unit. It has a diameter of about 5 million km, so it might be a small gas nebula…”
It was definitely a spherical shape that clearly floated on the panel.
“But that radar shadow is a strange shape for a mere gas cloud…”
“Could it be a star or a planet?”
“Well…I don’t know, it’s too big.”
“Hmm…anyway, let’s look closer as we approach.”
But a further approach was unnecessary to learn the true nature of this shadow. It soon leapt into the naked eye through the bridge windows. It was utterly black, a star that looked like soot in space.
Susumu, who was assisting the chief pilot, cried out.
“A black star!”
Because it was positioned in front of the crowded stars of the Magellanic Cloud, its outline could barely be seen. If it there been just empty space instead of that starlight, its existence would have gone unnoticed. Indeed, it was a black star.
Okita stood frozen with amazement.
“Unbelievable! Such a big star, and so dark…!”
“Captain, what should we do? Should be change course immediately and detour around it?”
“No. At this distance, if we detour around it we’ll waste at least one day. We’ll take as straight a course as possible and graze its gravitational field!”
“Understood. The computer will gather data on that star at once.”
But Yamato’s computer calculated a strange answer. The black star had no gravitational pull. In other words, it had no mass.
“Could that star just be a collection of extremely thin gas?” asked Tokugawa.
“Regardless of the amount of gas, it’s huge. It’s strange that it has no mass. Our sun is a ball of gas, too, but its mass is 330,000 times that of Earth.”
“Anyway, keep a close watch as we close in. If it’s just a ball of gas, it could be possible to pass through its center…”
When they approached within 2 million km of the black star, it happened. Yamato’s engine suddenly stopped and all the instruments went crazy at once.
“I don’t know! None of the machinery is working correctly!”
Subsequently, like a boat being hit side-on by a wave, a sharp impact rolled the ship over and it was dragged toward the black star with furious momentum.
Holding onto the floor, Hikozaemon Tokugawa shouted.
“Captain! Apparently there was a convulsion and we’re being pulled into its gravitational field!”
Lying on his back, Okita shouted back.
“T-that’s impossible! How could gravity build up so suddenly? There’s no other star nearby, and that black star doesn’t have the mass!”
Suddenly, Susumu’s voice rose to a strange high pitch.
“Captain! Look at that…! The black star, the black star is…!”
Outside the window Susumu was looking through, a tremendous drama was developing around the huge black star. What had until now seemed to be a simple gaseous substance had undergone a rapid transformation that could also be clearly seen with the naked eye. The black star was unquestionably shrinking, compressing rapidly toward its center.
“W-wow…! What an amazing sight…!!”
This intense drama was certainly enough to make them all forget about the safety of Yamato. Soon, the black star had compressed to about 1/100th the size of its original form. Then it seemed its center was shining in a dim red. Okita shouted crazily.
“See, look! It’s starting to shine!!”
Meanwhile, Yamato was being rapidly drawn toward the star. Its light gradually strengthened, changing from red to orange, and it could already be said that this was the birth of a new star. The chief pilot shouted while manually keeping the hull in balance.
“Captain! Yamato is currently rushing straight toward that star! Distance is approximately 1 million km…since Yamato is running full speed at 1,000 km per second, we’ll crash in 15 or 16 minutes!
“The engine still isn’t moving! Something is blocking its motion!!”
“It’s useless! The engine’s a machine, it won’t work in a strong magnetic storm!”
The star’s light was getting even stronger now, already changing from orange to yellow. The chief pilots’ voice sounded heartbroken.
“Distance to the star, 700,000 km…!”
The temperature of the ship was rising rapidly, and large drops of sweat appeared on Okita’s face.
“No use! Yamato will melt in this before we crash into that star!”
The bridge was full of hopelessness. Susumu groaned, slamming his fist on the floor.
“To work so hard to reach the Magellanic Cloud just to be destroyed by something like this…!”
Yuki Mori’s soft hand gripped Susumu’s shoulder.
“Please…hold my hand until the end…!”
“Of course, Yuki. Hold my hand until it’s over!”
The form of the star was rapidly filling the bridge windows and its light was gradually changing from yellow to a yellowish-green and then a bluish-white. Its surface temperate should have reached at least 12,000 degrees.
The ship was becoming a scorching hell. The Earthlings whose strength had given out now lay limp on the floor, and some had already passed out.
Just after that word floated out of Yuki Mori’s mouth, the change happened. It felt as if all the extreme tension suddenly vanished. The space around Yamato went dark and the burning dropped to a pleasantly cool temperature, like an ice box.
Moreover, darkness suddenly absorbed all the light, and its stifling weight squeezed Susumu’s body. What had happened to the glowing star? Unbelievably, it had vanished before their eyes. Susumu’s voice sounded in the darkness.
“What in the world happened…?”
Tokugawa’s voice was heard clearly.
“I don’t know…I don’t know, but we seem to have been saved…”
“Captain…! Is the Captain safe?”
Okita’s voice responded to Susumu’s cry.
“I’m all right…”
“Captain. What happened? I thought we were done for.”
“Hmm…I don’t know, but perhaps that black star is abnormal, like an intermittent star.”
“Yes. In other words, it absorbs micro-matter over a certain amount of time and condenses it into the shape of a star, then expells it. It repeats a stellar cycle of birth and destruction with the rhythm of a human breath, so to speak. Surely it will repeat in a short amount of time.”
“That’s amazing… Then, you’re saying that, right now, we’re in the middle of that collapsed micro-matter? Even so, shouldn’t it have been destroyed by the energy from when it collapsed?”
“Yes. I think that, unlike the nature of an ordinary nova, where the energy of the collapse is released outward, this star may be completely unlike that. In any case, we need to escape this darkness before it begins to condense again. Chief pilot! Can you start the engine?”
“Yes, I’ll try!”
Before long, the faint noise of the engine could be heard in the darkness.
“The engine has started!”
“All right! Advance at the speed of light!”
Five minutes…ten minutes…Yamato dashed through the darkness at full speed. Then, suddenly, it passed through.
As Yamato emerged from the darkness, the sea of stars spread out as far as the eye could see. A star system ahead of them glowed with exceptionally strong light.
“That’s…the Salezar system! We finally made it…!!”
Susumu’s voice shook with joy, and a quiet excitement rose on the bridge.
Rush to Planet Iscandar
The figure of a binary planet loomed in front of Yamato. One of them was supposed to be Iscandar, which held the fate of Earth. Its counterpart was the planet of hate: Gamilas.
“Planet Gamilas may have already noticed our presence. We have to land on Iscandar before we’re attacked!”
“But, Captain, which one of them is Iscandar…?”
Yamato was now literally forced to make the final decision. This was surely their objective, but the wrong choice could plunge them into the midst of the enemy. Two planets with contrasting appearances hung before the Earthlings. One was wrapped in fresh green while the other was devastated in a deathly ochre.
Susumu’s feelings summed up those of everyone on the bridge.
“Captain. I feel as if Iscandar must be a rich, peaceful planet. So, do you think the green planet is Iscandar…?
Wracked with excessive fatigue, Okita made the difficult decision.
“Right, we’ll land on that planet.”
Before long, Yamato aimed itself at the atmosphere of the green planet and advanced. Hikozaemon Tokugawa put his face to the radar panel and muttered.
“The Gamilas side still hasn’t seemed to notice us.”
“Hmm…perhaps they don’t think that we would approach this close. But we must be very careful after we enter the atmosphere…”
The voice of the chief pilot was tense.
“We’ll break into the atmosphere soon!”
“Input the entry angle into the computer!”
The green planet was drawing closer, its vivid beauty unfolding before Yamato. Then, suddenly, the communication speaker resounded on the bridge.
“Stop, Yamato! You must stop and turn back! This is Captain Harlock of the spaceship Phantom.”
Okita and Susumu glanced at each other reflexively.
It was the mysterious man who had often saved Yamato from crisis and caught the Gamilas alien who had attacked Okita on Planet Bolzon…then just disappeared. Recalling the affair at Bolzon, Okita responded.
“Why? Why turn back, Captain Harlock?”
“Simple. The planet you’re headed for is not Iscandar.”
“W-what? Then that green planet is…?”
“Exactly. It’s your hated enemy, Gamilas.”
Okita and Susumu stood in dumb surprise. The aggressive, invasive Planet Gamilas was covered in lush, green beauty where Iscandar, filled with compassion, showed a face of cruel death. What in the world could it mean?
“Change course! Get us back out of the atmosphere!”
At Okita’s urgent order, Yamato turned its big bow.
“We need to talk, Captain Harlock. I want to understand why you’ve appeared again to lend us your power. And we want to land on Iscandar as soon as possible to find out how Earth can be saved.”
“Yamato…of course, I came to this dangerous airspace in order to aid you. There was also a request from the Bolzon King to see you safely back to Earth somehow.”
“Thank you, Captain Harlock.”
“As for landing on Iscandar, flying into the atmosphere with the huge Yamato is too reckless. It’s far too conspicuous, and you would be at a disadvantage fighting in a narrow airspace. Therefore, use my Phantom to land on Iscandar. Phantom has the capability to fight and is small enough for covert action.”
“I see, and I’m very grateful. I’ll begin preparations to transfer over at once!”
“Understood. I’ll anchor alongside Yamato immediately.”
Captain Harlock’s voice ceased. Okita stood up as if burdened by heavy feet.
Susumu stood before Okita.
“Captain, please send me to Planet Iscandar!”
“Yes. Please, by all means. You’re exhausted, and if you go to Iscandar we don’t know what kind of danger awaits.”
“Kodai, It’s the same even if I stay on Yamato. I appreciate your feelings, but I will go to Iscandar, too. Hurry up and prepare.”
“But, Captain! What will everyone do if something happens to you? How will we get back to Earth?”
“Please, Captain! Please let me be the one to go! And if I’m of no use, think of another way!”
Okita stared at the single-minded Kodai for a moment, then his gaze turned benevolent.
“Kodai…I understand your feeling. Then I will ask you to go. Do it well.”
“But just one isn’t enough. Take someone else along.”
Yuki Mori stood before them both.
“Captain, I’ll go.”
“Please, Captain! By all means, I’d like…”
Okita glanced between the eyes of Susumu and Yuki and discovered the desperate love between the two of them.
“Kodai and Ms. Mori. I’ll leave it to you two. Do your best.”
“Yes! We’re going!”
“Hmm…wear ring microphones so we can stay in contact with you.”
“Yes, setting ring microphones.”
They both placed thin metal rings around their necks and soon left the bridge.
To be concluded!