- Part 3

Cosmic Girl, Starry Sky
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>> Your curiosity is torn between Eunseo’s affairs and Yeoreum’s safety <<

>> You decide to hurry to Yeoreum first, then catch up with Eunseo after <<

---

Yeonjung: Are you going to Earth, KC? I’m planning on gathering more resources over there.

You: Sorry, Yeonjung, I’m kinda concerned about Yeoreum so I’m heading over to her now.

Bona: Such a nice person 😆

You: I guess. Well, after that I’m going to see what Eunseo’s up to, so…

Eunseo: 👀

You: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

You: Yeoreum?

You: She’s not answering.

I turn my ship away from Mars’s direction and activate the interstellar warp drive. However, a warning appeared before I could fire the reactors.

System: Insufficient Clearance to perform solitary warp.

System: Continuing with solitary warp procedure will alert port and destination system authorities to your illegitimate travel.

That took me by surprise. Well, at least both my tech and power are working fine.

“How do I warp without clearance, Uzzu?” I speak to no one in particular.

Uzzu is reachable through voiced questions like this. As expected, the petite figure of the alien mascot appeared before me.

Uzzu: Look for a Gate Space Station in your ship navigation, Astronaut!

Uzzu: Until you obtain enough Prestige in any role to unlock a Tier 3 Clearance, or enter an occupation which comes with an equivalent qualification, you can only warp through the portals located at these stations!

“Alright, got it.” I answer.

A notification came up in the chat as I looked the keyword up in the ship nav.

Yeoreum: You’re coming over?

Yeoreum: Sure, I could use the help. Can just about keep myself from dying so far, but not sure what will happen when night comes.

You: Aites 👌

Yeoreum: Sorry, I was busy with the last wave.

Meiqi: So long as you’re alive, Yeoreum.

Meiqi: Just give us some time.

Yeoreum: Oh?

You: ??

Seems like Meiqi’s planning something, is she going over to help her as well?

I returned my focus to the results on my navigation screen.

The closest Gate Space Station to my location was Point Galileo, which was also the largest one in the Solar System.

As an incredibly developed metropolitan space habitat orbiting Jupiter in a key position, it seems like this space station holds as much economic importance to the human civilization as some of their major terrestrial cities.

“Wait a minute,”

I could see the bright lights of Galileo’s cities shine in neon purple and blue on my screen, a strong cyberpunk aesthetic in their design.

Chengxiao: You’re going to Point Galileo right, KC?

Chengxiao: Should we meet up there?

Xiao’s messages snapped me out of that momentary trance.

My guess was correct: It was the same city she described earlier.

You: I’d like to Xiao, but I’m kinda in a hurry…

Yeoreum: Don’t worry about me, KC. Go have some fun ;)

You: You bastard.

Chengxiao: I won’t take long, just wait for me in my location and we’ll set off to get Yeoreum right away.

You: Alright then.

…Her location?

Exploring the chat options for a bit, I saw a request function to allow the chat members’ locations to be displayed to me.

I selected Xiao’s name under this function, and an address popped up.

“Atrium 54, Northwest Nexus, Erinome Epsilon, Point Galileo…”

I have no idea what any of this means, so I’ll just put it on the nav.

The address matched to a certain location on the space station, and I quickly set off in its direction.

It’ll take a bit under half an hour to reach my destination at this rate. Activating the autopilot function on Wandering 14, I left my seat and explored the interior of my starting ship.

There three small rooms connected to each other in series: The bridge with the navigation controls in front, an installation of ship weaponry and utilities plus the CPUs that control them in the middle, and finally a storage space and crew quarters at the back. There’s only one bed but the room seemed like it could fit two more people inside.

Sitting on the single bed, I examined the repaired tools and resources I have in my inventory.

PBS, Blaster, All-Purpose Mining Tool, Hazard Shield Core, 35 pieces of low-grade power cells I refined from the Armatine Redwood, a dozen parts each of several alloys and minerals…

Only ten minutes have passed when I was done checking everything. Bored with not much to do, I spent the rest of the trip messing around with WJSN in chat.

Eunseo wouldn’t tell me what she was doing, and the others were also busy with their own matters. Only Exy and Luda had the spare time to respond, seeing that they were in the same situation as I was; waiting for their spaceships to take them to their destination.

I guess this part isn’t quite different from real life: moping around on the bed, chatting with people you know.

Just that this time around, it’s on a floating holographic screen instead of a smartphone.

---

[Day 1, Noon]

I admired the colourful bands of Jupiter from the window of my crew quarters.

Soon after, a beep sounded from the bridge, followed by a voice notification.

“One minute until arrival to your destination.”

Still looking at the window, I saw a few ships and drones fly out opposite to the direction my ship was travelling. An ambient pink glow suddenly entered my view, as if entering the atmosphere of a planet.

Looks like we’re here!

I scrambled out of the bed and made my way to the pilot seat.

The view in the cockpit was almost blinding, as it showed me in full splendor the cityscape of Point Galileo.

I took my time admiring the city’s futuristic atmosphere against the dark purple colour of their artificial sky. With no less than several hundred neon signs passing my view, it looked like something straight out of a gritty futuristic graphic novel.

A transmission appeared on my HUD:

‘Welcome to Erinome Epsilon, the Eastern Downtown of Point Galileo!’

I recalled that some of the signs had Chinese and Japanese characters on them, even some Hangul here and there.

I wonder if that was what ‘Eastern’ meant.

A few minutes later, my ship initiated a landing procedure as it slowed down in front of a colossal building made out of steel and concrete.

It was in the shape of a huge triangle laid flat on the ground, but with its corners cut such that it looked a little like a hexagon. In the center of the structure was a brilliant cyan sphere of light covered by what looked like several layers of… light webs and nets?

A pillar of light came out of the giant sphere that extended into the sky and out of the city, to God knows where.

A large section of the wall opened to reveal an incredibly crowded terminal, bustling with people and spaceships of various sizes; from personal crafts like mine all the way to entire frigates several times the size of naval battleships.

Even these frigates looked like small buses when they were parked inside this triangular building. The scale we’re dealing with here is immense.

On the interior walls, the number ‘54’ was painted in dark red.

This must be Atrium 54, then.

I left my seat and stood by the exit hatch of my ship as it finished the landing procedure.

---

Leaving my ship and setting foot on the metal platform, I wandered around for a while and ended up in a bar.

Someone with a body of patterned metal and a helmet of black glass approached me. As the bartender, it asked for my order.

“No, thank you.” I reply, “I’m waiting for a friend.”

“Very well.” They nodded with a voice of grinding steel. Harsh as it sounded, I didn’t hear any hostility from their tone.

Blocking out the house music playing in the background, I tried eavesdropping on the customers’ conversations to pass the time.

“…No luck today as well…”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll get the coordinates to a good treasure vault soon.”

“I’ve been stood up by my date again. Was it something I said?”

“That damn octopus! Giving the promotion to that stuck-up Miter instead of me, just what does he see in her?”

Huh.

Other than some unfamiliar terms, the things these people are talking about are pretty normal. Guess aliens and space people have their everyday life issues as well.

A notification appeared in chat.

Chengxiao: I’m done, KC. Where are you at?

I hurriedly responded, afraid that the other customers would find out I was listening to them.

You: Skewer Bolts’. It’s a bar not far from Atrium 54.

Chengxiao: Oh, that bar. I’ll be there soon.

Hmm?

I realize that Xiao was messaging me through a one-on-one screen, separate from the main group.

Well, it makes sense for a chat function to have this feature, even in game. It’s certainly cleaner than a whisper command as well.

Looks like she’s learnt a lot more about HF’s system than I have in the short time we’ve been playing the game.

Less than a minute later,

“KC! There you are.”

A girl walked through Skewer Bolts’s entrance.

“Hey.”

I turned to look at her.

Clad in a dark shirt, jeans and a leather jacket, she was otherwise the Chengxiao I know and love.

“Wait, how did you change your clothes?” I asked.

“There was a mall near the Nexus, really good clothes.” She answered, “I went there and shopped a bit after I was done.”

“Do you just click on a button and change out of the spacesuit?”

“It’s all real, they had changing rooms just like real stores. I even had to ask for other sizes because the ones I tried on didn’t fit.”

I giggled a little in response. Xiao’s gained weight again recently after a while and the fans were really happy for her. Of course, that includes me as well.

“So, I bought a few sets of clothing and stored my spacesuit in the inventory.”

“That’s pretty cool. Maybe I should try it out sometime.”

“Yeah,” She nodded, “Shall we go?”

“Sure”

I thanked the bartender for letting me stay and left the bar, with Xiao following suit.

---

As we returned to Atrium 54, I couldn’t help staring at a large rectangular box placed by the wall, opposite of where a biological-looking spacecraft was parked.

Chengxiao noticed my curiosity and laughed.

“Interested in that vending machine, KC? The drinks they have here are very interesting!”

“Can I really?”

My eyes virtually shined with joy.

“Just make it quick, we don’t want to be too late for Yeoreum, do we?”

“Alright!” I fist-pumped the air. Trying a fictional food and drink item has been a personal dream of mine.

“Do you want anything, Xiao?” I did not forget to ask her.

“Lemon Stardust, please.” She answered.

Can’t wait to find out what that is!

I walked up to the vending machine and tried to work out how to operate it, ignoring the writhing tentacles slithering out of the ship behind me.

The drinks sold were in metal cans and glass bottles, which would have been boring if I didn’t notice the swirling starlight inside them. Some of the metal cans were even glowing with a pulsing light!

Where the coin input would be was instead a biometric fingerprint reader. Placing my right index finger on it, a checkout prompt appeared on my screen.

I was familiar with the online shopping procedure, so I ordered Xiao’s Lemon Stardust and a bottle of grape flavoured Celeste’s Spring for myself, then pressed the button to pay.

A confirmation screen appeared, and I agreed to the payment.

The displayed amount of credits was deducted from my balance, and the drinks were dispensed into the hatch below the display.

So that part’s just like real life, huh? The sound of our drinks dropping into the collection space was as satisfying as ever, so I’ll let it pass.

I went back to Xiao and passed her the can of Lemon Stardust.

We immediately opened our drinks and took a sip, mine the first time I’ve ever had in my life.

The Celeste’s Spring tasted like a grape soft drink, but mixed into the carbonation was an indescribable taste that made me feel like I was among the stars. I could feel the galaxies and constellations flow within my body.

It really was unlike anything I’ve ever drank before.

Still, I hope the devs have verified with the relevant authorities for this part of the HF experience. Just because you could use the nervous interface of VR to simulate certain otherworldly sensations doesn’t mean that you should.

I shook off the dreamy sensation and walked with Xiao to my ship. Hers was apparently parked a little further, so she suggested we just meet up again after leaving Point Galileo’s gravity.

Before we parted, however,

“I also got an upgrade to my comms plugin; it lets me take photos and send them through the chat.”

A virtual lens appeared above Chengxiao’s hand.

“Let’s take a selfie!”

---

In the main chat window, a shot of us two with our soft drinks was posted, with a caption underneath.

Chengxiao: Met up with KC ✌ #SpaceSoftDrinks

You: ✌

Eunseo: Yeobo!!

Eunseo: Curse you, KC! Just what in the world were you doing with my wife!?

You: lol rekt 🤙 That’ll teach you to ignore me next time.

Dawon: You two look like you’re having fun ^^

Exy: Dawon! Glad you finally made it.

Dawon: Hi everyone.

As the group chat brought Dawon up to speed, I boarded my ship and began the launch procedure.

The parking fee was pretty cheap for such a large place, no wonder there were so many people.

The Wandering 14 lifted itself of the ground and headed towards the skies, leaving the Nexus and later Erinome Epsilon.

I searched for the warp portal and found one a few minutes from here. I relayed the location to Xiao and she agreed to meet me there.

As I left the grand metropolitan colony that is Point Galileo, the portal appeared a distance away.

It looked just like a wormhole from the movies, but on the rim were glowing rays of blue and yellow. There were also structures on either side of the portal, which looked like they were stabilizing the rift in space.

I could see ships floating before the portal, and occasionally a few would disappear into it as they warped.

A transmission reached my ship, and I answered it.

“Hey KC.”

“Xiao! How did you contact me?”

Her voice was clear with only a trace of static through the ship’s transmission channel.

“I think as long as you’re near enough to a friend’s ship, you can immediately contact them.”

“Where are you?”

“A ways behind you.” She answered, “You should be able to find me on the map.”

I checked the map section of my ship navigation. Sure enough, among the many symbols that indicated spacecrafts on the grid, one was green in colour.

I steered my spacecraft and headed for her direction.

I eventually ended up near a ship that looked like mine, except that it was light blue in colour and had slightly longer wings.

“The Harmonious 09, I like it quite a bit.”

Xiao seemed proud of her ship.

“Mine’s the Wandering 14. A fair stallion of her own.”

I introduced mine to her as well.

“I thought you were busy trying to contact the other Chinese members, Xiao? Why do you suddenly want to tag along with me?” I asked her.

“Oh, that was done just now, before I went to see you at the bar.” She responded. “The Nexus helped me gather everyone’s coordinates, even the members which weren’t online yet.”

“So that Nexus building helps you locate people, is that it?” I inquired. Realizing it a little late, “Oh right, triangulation… Devs got jokes don’t they.”

“For that purpose, the location function in the chat system is good enough, but only the Nexus can give us precise enough coordinates that we can use straight from the portal.”

“Anything less accurate and we may risk warping into another ship or the core of the destination planet, and I don’t think we want to know what that’s like.”

“I see.” I pondered.

So we can warp all the way to Yeoreum’s location without problems from here.

“What about Meiqi and Xuanyi, then?” I returned to the main question.

“They’re done with their work with the Nexus nodes on their space stations as well. It’ll take a little longer for them to decode the data since they were on smaller stations, but it’ll be fine.”

After a pause, Chengxiao continued.

“Yeoreum’s on Thohiri, right? That’s in the Turi-Nur system, which is also where Meiqi spawned.”

“Oh, now that makes sense!”

Meiqi’s repaired her ship and comms, and she also happened to be in the same system as Yeoreum. It’s only natural for her to rush over to help her maknae.

At first I thought that she’d be there ahead of us, but after what Xiao said,

“Since Meiqi’s not yet deciphered her Nexus data, we’ll warp over to Yeoreum before her?”

“That’s right.” She answered, “Oh, looks like it’s our turn, KC.”

She linked our network to an incoming transmission.

A blank faced character in uniform appeared on screen, a picture representing the authority talking to us.

“Where are you going to, travelers?” The neutral voice asked.

“Both of us are headed for these custom coordinates, officer.” Chengxiao replied.

“…Thohiri.” There was a short moment of silence. “Your ships look fine, and I don’t detect any contraband on either of you.”

“You’re good to go, travelers. Activate your warp drives in the portal’s direction when you’re ready.”

“Thank you.” Both of us replied.

---

On Xiao’s count, we booted up our ships’ drives and accelerated into the portal.

I thought about how much she has learnt about Hyperspace Frontier compared to myself, probably because how much time she’s spent among the civilization in Point Galileo and the Nexus.

She felt like a different person teaching me how many of these things work, from the system to space travel to even what the Nexus was.

I hope I can get enough time to learn more of these things on my own.

But save that for later. Let’s first do our best to help Yeoreum out of her crisis.

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zichromasis
Decision point right before the trial ^^ a little obvious this time, but let's see what happens.
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