In 2078, Toy Box puts in to port for some repairs. Ai Tanabe–or rather, Ai Hoshino–overhears some of the other debris haulers talking about another debris hauler known only as ‘The Baron’. Apparently, one of the guys told the Baron that grabbing a woman’s breast is a common Earth greeting. To their amusement, the Baron believed him and was slapped for his trouble. Through fits of laughter, one man metaphorically wonders what planet the Baron is from and is told that, if you ask the Baron, he’ll tell you he’s from the planet Retikle. Tanabe takes this at face value, but before she can embarrass herself too much, Fee breaks the group up, suggesting that they all get back to work and stop gossiping. A man with a rather impressive pompadour and rectangular glasses–the Baron himself–asks Fee if hard workers make good friends, startling her. Since Tanabe is curious about him, the three of them plus Yuri wind up going out for a drink together. Yuri and Fee obviously don’t buy Baron’s story, but Tanabe seems completely unfazed. Noticing Baron constantly scribbling things down in his notebook, Fee inquires and Baron explains that he’s taking notes regarding how to get along with people and make friends. Sure enough, Fee finds that the notebook is full of things like “don’t ask women their age” and “picking on a person isn’t cool.” Concerned, Tanabe asks him if he has any friends, to which Baron explains that he has not received verbal confirmation from anyone yet. An awkward silence ensues until Tanabe suddenly announces that all three of them are his friend. Later, Tanabe takes Baron to meet the port’s main receptionist, explaining that if he makes friends with her, he can use her to meet a lot of other people. Roxy Simpson, the aforementioned receptionist, blows off yet another flirt and wonders why she only manages to attract jerks. Tanabe walks up to say hi, but as soon as Roxy sees Baron, she slams the window gate down. It seems that Roxy was the one on the receiving end of Baron’s prior attempt to greet a woman. Later, as Tanabe tries to figure out a way to repair the rift between the two, Baron explains that his species uses telepathy. Without it he finds it hard to understand people. He wants to apologize to Roxy, so Tanabe asks Roxy to meet them in the park at seven. In the park that night, half an hour passes with no sign of Roxy. Tanabe suggests they give up, but Baron wants to wait a bit longer. Tanabe asks him why he’s on Earth and, after a pause, the Baron tells his story. He was sent to Earth originally as an inspector for the Galactic Union to watch the humans as they made their first steps into space. It was a dull job however, and to pass the time he would occasionally play tricks on people–mutilating cows and scribbling symbols into corn fields. Because humans can’t use telepathy, he could laugh at them without feeling bad about it. Eventually however, his superiors learned what he was doing and, as punishment, he was turned into a human and left on Earth to fend for himself. These days, he has grown used to human life and believes that his punishment was deserved. He notes that Tanabe is the first one to listen to his story to the end, and asks her if she believes him. She thinks a bit and says that she does–if only because he looks honest. He smiles and says “Thank you, Mrs. Hoshino”, which pleases her as she’s been trying to get people to use her new name for the whole chapter. Just then Baron notices Roxy walking home from work and runs up to apologize. As an afterthought he adds that touching her breast was a pleasant experience and thanks her for it. After a moment of surprise, Roxy bursts out laughing.
On the two year anniversary of the tandem mirror engine meltdown, Locksmith places flowers on a memorial to the 324 who died in the explosion. Locksmith is still under investigation for his part in the accident, and many of the families are not pleased by his presence today. As Locksmith walks off, one man is overcome and throws an egg at him. Though Locksmith is obviously capable of avoiding it, he stands his ground and lets it hit him in the face. Later, in his car, one of the bodyguards apologizes for the incident, but Locksmith doesn’t seem to care–his reputation is in tatters anyway. He felt it was his duty to let his colleagues know that their sacrifice was not in vain–the Von Braun launched. But he still must visit Yamagata. Yamagata’s sister, Kana, declined to allow her brother’s name to be placed on the memorial and had a tombstone for him placed in another cemetery. Locksmith comments that Yamagata was his head researcher… but he killed him anyway. When they arrive at the grave, Locksmith finds Kana there looking quite sullen. Locksmith sends his bodyguard away and Kana pulls out a small book and asks Locksmith if he left it for Yamagata last year. The book contains a story about a man named Guskou Budori, a man who dedicated his life to science to end the suffering of mankind. Kana notes that her brother once said that Locksmith was a Guskou Budori–the greatest compliment Yamagata could have ever given. Locksmith tells her that Yamagata was by far the most talented member of his team, and in place of his life he left them with an astronomical amount of invaluable data. Yamagata was the Guskou Budori. After a pause Kana recalls that at the end of the story Budori goes off on a mission he knows he will never return from. She then pulls out a small pistol and points it at Locksmith, asking him if he was responsible for her brother’s death. Crying, she recalls that in the story Budori had a sister who was constantly plead with him to stay where it was safe. Unfazed, Locksmith tells her that Yamagata always volunteered for the most dangerous work. He wasn’t afraid of death. Kana yells at Locksmith, calling him a liar. Locksmith tells her that Yamagata was Guskou Budori, and her love could neither affect his choices nor have saved him. Apparently shaken to her core, Kana becomes very still, and after a long silence, pulls the pistol to her head. Back at the car, Locksmith’s bodyguards hear a gunshot and come running. Locksmith apparently knocked the pistol away at the last minute, saving her life. He explains the situation and tells them to put her in the car. His bodyguard asks him if he’s okay. Locksmith looks up at the stars and says, “Yes… However, I feel sad.”
On board Toy Box, Tanabe argues with Fee over a nearby object which they are not allowed to collect. Fee tries to explain that this piece of debris has been declared ‘official’ by the government, and they’re to just pretend they didn’t see it, but Tanabe refuses to understand. Fee waves off any further protests and Tanabe leaves the control room. Yuri tries to explain Tanabe’s point of view, and Fee seems to understand, but after a pause she says she just does what they order her to do–just like a pet dog. Yuri notes that Fee doesn’t seem like her usual self. Recently, when Fee was down on Earth to visit her husband and son, a neighbor stopped to talk with her outside her apartment. The woman had a dog with her, which she dressed in an unnecessary shirt and a muzzle. The woman explained that though this is a pet-friendly complex, the neighbors are having a hard time sleeping because of all the barking coming from Fee’s apartment. Fee tells her they’re still training them, and the woman gives her a device she used to train her dog. Fee enters her apartment only to be trounced by several loud, friendly dogs. Her husband comes out to greet her and they discuss the dog situation. It seems their 9 year old son, Al, keeps bringing home strays (eight dogs and four cats, so far), and Fee’s husband just can’t seem to say no. Al comes home, complete with yet another dog. Fee tells him he can’t keep him, as he still has yet to train the last couple of dogs he brought home. Apparently, Al feels that training an animal is cruel. Fee tries to explain the necessity, but Al yells that it doesn’t make sense and runs off. Back in the present, Yuri tells Tanabe that the object they’re ignoring is actually an orbital mine, designed to lock on to and destroy and enemy spacecraft, leaving nothing but debris. Tanabe is surprised and aggravated that such things exist. During Fee’s trip, the dogs barked and howled into the night, causing many neighbors to come and complain. The woman from earlier strongly suggests she use the device she gave Fee–a collar that sprays weak tear gas-like solution into the dog’s face when it barks. The next day, Al comes home and is surprised not to get the usual loud welcome home. Kneeling down to look in one of the dog’s eyes, he tells it to bark, which it does, sending the solution into it’s and Al’s face. Fee comes out and wipes off Al’s face, explaining what it is and why they need to use it. Brooding with anger, Al goes around taking all the collars off the dogs. Fee tries to reason with him, telling him that life is cruel sometimes and he’ll understand it when he gets older. Al responds with an unexpected kick to Fee’s back. An enraged Fee turns to face him, but is tempered by the determined, angry look in Al’s eyes. Back in the present, Fee exits Toy Box, wondering when she decided that whenever she saw a mine she had to ignore it. Fee uses her suit thrusters to deliver a sold, useless kick to the mine. She stubbornly yells to her son that kids aren’t the only ones who rebel, and thinks to herself that she’s glad that Al is smart enough to question authority.
Fee angrily runs across the spaceport and changes the television station in the lounge despite the complaints of the debris workers watching the horse races. The newscast reports that an orbital mine was used to destroy a U.S. military transport in lunar orbit. An enraged Fee reminds them all that as debris collectors, they’re going to be the ones to clean this mess up–and this won’t be the last mine to go off in orbit. Down on Earth, the aptly named Colonel Sanders is suffering from indigestion due to his fear of Kessler Syndrome. With a war in space looming, he worries that the wreckage will go on to create more debris and so on until the Earth’s orbits simply aren’t safe for travel. Unfortunately, his concerns are lost on his superior, who reminds him that they have been attacked without warning or provocation and the only thing left to do is end the war before the damage gets out of control. Sanders is unimpressed, and suggests that, with a speech like that, you could run for president. Sanders leaves on the note that a war in space would leave no winner. Back in space, the crew of the Toy Box work harder than ever. With plenty of room left in the hold, Fee makes an impulsive choice and flies into a restricted area, ignoring Control’s warnings. She remembers what the other debris collectors said, about how you just can’t stop the military and even though it sucks you’ve just got to accept it and move on. She also remembers the look Al gave her after kicking her. Colonel Sanders eventually gets word that a debris ship has been ignoring regulations and clearing debris in the warzone. He remembers Fee as the astronaut that thwarted the terrorist attack back in 2075 and wonders if he can use her as well. Later, Fee receives a phone call from Sanders, who offers to help her. He wants to televise her insurrection to help buy time and public backing for his faction–those that want to prevent the war. He offers her supplies and support, but Fee simply becomes annoyed with him. Eventually, she pulls out a cigarette and lights it up (despite still being in Toy Box‘s control room). She tells Sanders that she’d die before helping a man like him, and suggests he go sell fried chicken before hanging up. Tanabe, who happened to overhear, begins checking over supplies to see how long they can survive on them. She agrees with Fee and believes that wars start because of men like Sanders. Fee thinks about Al and hopes that he never loses the urge to fight the things that don’t make sense.
Still skirting the law in Toy Box, Fee dreams of visiting her uncle when she was a child. He lived a hermit-like life in and off of the forest near her grandparent’s home. She thought he was wonderful, but her mother did not exactly share her sentiment. Meanwhile, the president of the United States announces that if the country behind the bombing won’t give up its leaders, the U.S. will declare war. A newscast follows this announcement with a special report about Fee–complete with faked interviews with Tanabe and Yuri. The report paints her as a hero, trying to protect space even in the face of warrants issued for her arrest. Alarmed by this, Fee’s mother calls her, wanting answers. Fee simply tells her that she’s not doing anything bad–she’s just breaking the law. After the expected outburst, Fee suggests that, due to the embarrassment of having a wanted daughter, she should disown her. Fee hangs up and adds, “just like you did your brother.” Fee remembers visiting her uncle after her mother had already told her she wasn’t allowed. She tells him she wishes they had a tree house like his, and asks him why her mother got so angry when she told her she wanted to grow up to be just like him… Back in the present, the Baron and his crew bring supplies and a spare cargo container to Toy Box. Fee apologizes for bringing them into this mess and asks Baron to take care of Tanabe. While Tanabe is outside talking to Baron’s crewmates having completed the transfer of supplies to Toy Box, she turns around to discover that Fee is flying off without her. Tanabe is none too pleased by this, and Baron’s crewmates have to grab her to keep her from trying to follow. They explain that a war has started, and Fee would never be able to forgive herself if something were to happen to Tanabe. Fee apologizes for dragging Yuri along, but he tells her he trusts her. Fee wonders to herself what an adult should do if she finds herself incapable of acting like one.
Volume 4 has been cut in half for its U.S. release due to its size (ten chapters, compared to six in the others). TOKYOPOP tries to make up for the loss of a chapter by adding in extra information about space development and a more in-depth look at the world of Planetes. So it’s not a bad deal, really. Since Hachi’s story has already been more or less resolved, volume 4 feels a bit side story-ish. We get to meet the ever amusing Baron (it’s a shame he doesn’t get more screentime) and learn that Locksmith does have a bit of a heart after all. But the bulk of the story focuses on Fee and her fight against ‘the man’. Fee fails to get along with Sanders because she believes that he’s being a coward by trying to manipulate events behind the scenes. She knows she’s being needlessly stubborn, but she really doesn’t care at this point.