City Series:Volume6c Chapter2
Chapter 2: The Requiem Begins
05/30/1942 00:57 – 03:01
Some things you can see
Some things you cannot
But I think
What really matters
Is why you can see those things
Geheimnis Agency Personnel
Lowenzahn Naylor (Geheimnis Agency Commander)
Cheerful girl who also works as a mess hall waitress. Mother is Frobel. Father is Lowenheit.
Graham Karlsruhe (Geheimnis Agency Lieutenant Commander)
Commander-in-chief. Afflicted with Words Warn, has a fully prosthetic body, and had a Psyche Outer device installed.
Rose Karlsruhe (Captain of Eingeweide Gard-class Aerial Warship Requiem)
Graham and Heiliger’s younger sister. Also a Words Warn patient.
Hellard Schweitzer (Geheimnis Agency Air Force Division Captain)
Wielder of Eingeweide arm Der Held. Went to high school with Berger. Father is Bertecht.
Bermark Vier (Geheimnis Agency Air Force Division)
Automaton and wielder of Eingweide handgun Freischütz. Schweitzer’s lieutenant.
Alfred Maldrick (Geheimnis Agency Army Division Lieutenant)
Pilot of Eingeweide Grösse Panzer Kaiser and wielder of Werkzeug Rein König. Went to high school with Berger.
Heiliger Karlsruhe (German Air Force Lieutenant General)
Graham’s younger brother. Joined the army as an intermediary between the knights and the ordinary people.
Jeanne Schmitt (Geheimnis Agency Army Division Deputy Chief)
Middle-aged woman with a short temper. Wife of Army Division Chief Karl Schmitt.
Bermark Nein (Geheimnis Agency Army Division)
Alfred’s subordinate, joined with two Grösse Panzers.
Konrad Elrich (Geheimnis Agency Development Division Chief)
An old scientist with a passion for research. Superior of Marsch Gant who developed Eingeweide devices.
Galue Witzmann (Geheimnis Agency Intelligence Division Chief)
A kind-looking old gentleman. But will do anything to acquire intelligence.
Hazel found herself kneeling in a dark clearing.
It was nighttime, but the sky was a dark red. The wind was blowing.
The ground below her was made of sand. This was a schoolyard giving a view of the crimson sky.
…This is that bad dream I keep having recently.
The word dream helped her “wake up” in the dream.
But she did not actually wake up from the dream.
…It’s the same dream I had when I came down with a fever in the Heidenheim they brought me to after arresting me in the middle of class 5 years ago.
The dream had returned now that she was 20. When she had asked the college doctor about it, they had said it was probably just the Nightmare Syndrome going around recently.
…But this nightmare has plagued me for a while. It isn’t some new condition.
Nightmare Syndrome caused other people to be overwhelmed by indescribable anxiety as they slept, but Hazel’s nightmares had clear images, sounds, and other senses. And the events in the dream changed each time.
Now that she was partially awake in the dream, the images moved around her, the sounds reached her ears, and her skin sensitively picked up everything it could.
She had fallen to her knees after being shot and a large group surrounded her.
The stinging pain in her right chest quickly changed to such intense agony that she thought her entire body was breaking apart.
The distant sounds of sword fighting told her someone was still fighting out there, but she could not look to see who. She was in too much pain.
A woman stepped forward from the group of black-uniformed soldiers surrounding her.
Hazel did not recognize her.
She wore a green men’s suit and her long brown hair was worn in a braid.
Only now did Hazel realize how weirdly calm she was for having just been shot.
Her senses were sharp.
She could smell the sandy ground and the grassy scent carried by the wind. She could feel the wind and her hair blowing in it.
…I have no memory of this.
The dream was showing her this image.
The background resembled her former school and the smell of the dirt and wind reminded her so much of her school days in Germany.
This was only a dream. It was not real.
She kept telling herself that to wake herself up while she tried to bear with the pain coursing through her body.
It didn’t work.
The woman stood motionless before her. She did not even reach out a hand to help Hazel up.
But she did speak in too quiet a voice for anyone but Hazel to hear.
“Now, it is time to say goodbye to your free destiny. We have started down the path that leads to my death.”
Hazel’s mind was shocked into focus by the phrase “say goodbye”.
And the woman said more.
“You are just like us, Messiah. You fight only for the present.”
Those words reflexively sent Hazel’s thoughts in the usual direction.
…Only for the present?
She had the will and a reason to fight.
…I don’t want to run away, so I choose to fight.
“You cannot see where this fight leads either, can you? Or what it is you want to do once it is all over. …But that is fine. For you are only a tool for us. You are the Messiah who keeps the Nibelung turning.”
Her mind rejected that statement. But it was a reflexive thing with nothing to back it up.
…There are things I want to do!
She woke up as soon as she shouted her response.
Hazel sat in a small room with a long sword wrapped in cloth next to her.
The room’s white plastic walls and floor were 6 yards across.
There were no windows.
The only openings were the door made of the same material as the wall and an air duct.
The only decorations (if you could even call them that) were the clock built into the wall, the mirror, and the training pole sticking up from the floor by the wall.
This was a large ship’s martial arts training room. She was inside the flagship of the 5th Moonlight Resistance Squadron which was towing Corelle’s RB-21 two-hull transport ship to the Netherlands.
There was no sound in here, only the rocking of the ship.
She was seated by the wall with a notebook and pencil.
No one else was allowed in the training room when someone was using it, which made it perfect for doing some thinking, but…
“I shouldn’t be falling asleep in here.”
She smiled bitterly and then thought back on her dream.
“After that…they usually take me away. They force me to say goodbye to whoever is fighting in the distance and take me away.”
…I’ve had the same dream since I was taken away from school back then.
She took a breath. She shook her head to shake the dream from her mind and change her focus.
She pulled a letter from her pocket. It was her orders from the AIF. M. Schrier had given this to her directly, so the military stamp, “no inspection needed” mark, and his name on the envelope were only a formality.
The letter inside was just her plain orders with no greeting or anything like that.
She had two orders.
The first was to act as Berger’s assistant while they helped Pale escape from the Borderson village and then support Berger as he used Schwarz Löwe to fire a range sensor onto the Gard-class warship in Cologne.
The AIF included a lot of Brits, so they were allowed to play a supporting role in the RAF’s Millennium bombing operation.
She had read and reread the order countless times and completed her mock training.
But she had another order as well.
“Convince Berger…to join the AIF.”
She read M. Schrier’s handwriting aloud and then stuffed the letter into her pocket.
She had no idea if she could do that.
Berger was on this ship, but she never seemed to see him. He may have been avoiding her. Corelle had said she didn’t know where he was and the other men in his cabin had teased her when she showed up asking after him.
She had so much she wanted to ask him and talk to him about. She didn’t even know if he had read the letters she had sent him once per season. Even here, all she knew about him were the rumors she heard.
“It’s been three years.”
She had decided to join the AIF shortly after returning to America after the destruction of the Gard-class’s #1 ship three years ago. She had completed the AIF entrance exams while going to school, so…
“It normally takes 6 months, but it took me two years. But I should be fine.”
She tried to cheer herself up and gripped the pencil tight, but then the floor tilted beneath her. The ship was rocking in the high altitude winds. The moonlight-resistant ships were flying near the stratosphere, so the winds and atmospheric barriers were thick and heavy even for this light cruiser-class flagship.
The shaking was intermittent but it never truly went away. This time, the ship tilted to Hazel’s right.
It was making a gentle turn.
Seeing the sword start to slide across the floor, she grabbed it and held it to her chest, the hilt resting on her right shoulder.
…I wonder where we are now. Shouldn’t be too long until we’re on standby.
They had left America in Corelle’s RB-21 transport ship, crossed the Atlantic, and arrived in England the night before last.
She had been excited to see what that textual world was like, but other than feeling the atmosphere soaking into her body, it had just seemed dark and gloomy.
She sighed, opened her notebook, rested her head on the sword to her right, and readied her pencil.
She drew the UK on the left side of the notebook.
She accidentally drew an unspeakable silhouette and hurriedly corrected it.
Then she checked the clock on the wall to find it was 1:02 AM. They had to be on standby at 2 AM, so she had to prepare to board the RB-21.
…I never imagined my first AIF job in Europe would be something so major.
She laughed bitterly when she saw the UK in her notebook.
“I wish we could have stayed longer, so I could see the sights.”
They had only been in the UK for 6 hours, including travel time. They had arrived at Bristol to the southwest and then flown to the Glasgow base far to the north. On the way they had been guarded by a rotation of escort craft from whatever RAF group was in charge of that particular region: first the 10th, then the 12th, and lastly the 13th. The 13th’s 3rd combat squadron had joined with the Moonlight Resistant Aerial Division’s 5th combat squadron at Glasgow Air Base, where they had resupplied and exchanged information.
“Then we went east.”
She drew a line from the left of the notebook, signifying the RB-21’s route. They had entered the UK from the left and traveled north through the UK. The line stopped in the northern UK. She sketched out Europe at the bottom of the page and sighed.
Then she resumed drawing the line. It took a 90-degreee turn to the right from northern UK.
“From Glasgow, we first traveled to Newcastle on the east coast.”
At the RAF’s Newcastle Headquarters Base, they had joined with the Big Signal, a two-hull aerial ship equipped with a Babel Gun which had been waiting at the base’s aerial shipyard.
“Then we flew west into the North Seat, but at a slower rate to match the sluggish Big Signal.”
She was now drawing two lines.
The first cut straight across the North Sea and stopped off the coast of Norway. She labeled that line “Big Signal – 3rd Squadron”.
She drew their own line below that one. She labeled it “5th Squadron” and it followed the Big Signal line for a bit, but ultimately entered northwest Germany through the Netherlands.
“We parted with the Big Signal earlier, so we’ve picked up speed on our way to Germany.”
Shortly after leaving the UK, she had been given all the details in the ship’s strategy meeting being shared with across the squadron.
Simply put, they would use Project Millennium as a diversion while…
“They fire the Babel Gun from the North Sea to sink the Gard-class waiting above Cologne.”
She added national borders and major city names to her map of Europe.
She had studied in the education department at college, so she thought back to the kids’ atlases they used.
First, she added Cologne in western Germany.
Then she drew a large circle in England and labeled it “Cologne Bombing Force - 1000 Ships”.
The words felt like a direct representation of the RAF’s pride.
“The RAF will be creating a multiday diversion from the west while we enter from the northwest today, the morning of the 30th.” She took a breath. “Once Berger and I are dropped off by the RB-21, we help General Pale leave Borderson, attach the range sensor to the Gard-class in Cologne late at night, and escape. Then the RAF makes their move at 11 PM.”
Her pencil drew a line across the North Sea, taking the 1000 ships to Cologne. But that was not all.
“For Project Millennium, the 1000 ships are sent in and the Gard-class will move out to intercept them.”
She added to the Big Signal line up near Norway, sending it into Germany and then added a “Babel Gun” line continuing on to Cologne. She added 3:00 next to that.
She recalled what the mission commander had said.
“One who was once pursued by Germany will create a path to Germany and eliminate a part of it.”
She thought she might understand what that meant, but then again, maybe not.
She tilted her head as she closed the notebook with the pencil held inside it and set it down on the floor.
She understood the situation and she knew what she had to do.
But then a phrase from her dream came back to her.
“I keep repeating this…but what is it I want to do?”
She grabbed the sword she was holding to her chest and let the cloth fall away.
The sword’s blade came into view, revealing it had been blunted. Piping reminiscent of blood vessels ran from the hilt and through the blade, indicating this was a Device designed for beginners.
This was a portable longsword-style Device distributed by the US Army’s Buster forces and its S-41G designation was carved into the blade. Its design had the Phlogiston cartridge built into the hilt.
Hazel stared at the cold blade. The blunted blade.
She had blunted it herself. With a Live-related combat style, you did not always need a sharp blade when using a Device. And when the Device did have a sharp blade…
“It increases the attack power in your Messages.”
She stood up and gripped the S-41G’s hilt with armbands around her hands.
She planted her feet at shoulder width, one a bit in front of the other, and raised the S-41G high.
She swung it without hesitation. The blade sliced through the air, making a nice whooshing sound. The room’s stagnant air was set in motion and the blue Lives of wind appeared in her vision.
She stopped the blade at her feet and then remembered the mirror on the wall.
She took a step over to view herself in the mirror.
She wore a somewhat brownish red uniform. It was the dress uniform for a female AIF soldier. She also had a combat uniform, but…
…I’ve almost never worn it.
She swung her sword again.
Swinging her center of gravity threatened to overbalance her, which she counteracted by lowering her knees and hips to the front. That action also gave the blade a greater forward reach.
She pulled the stopped blade back once more.
The wind Lives followed the movement. She turned the blade on its side to stir up the azure Lives surrounding it. The wind wrapped around the blade and shook.
At this point, a Tuner would recite an Up to call out to the Lives contacting the Device and transform them into something else. A Buster would instead destroy those Lives and trigger a chain reaction within the Lives in the surrounding space.
She pointed the Device upwards with a scooping motion. The wind Lives gently fell away from the vertically-oriented blade. They shattered upon touching her hands.
She could feel the wind on her hand.
“I’m only a Greenhorner – not even a Buster or a Tuner yet – but I can see Lives like a pro.”
She swung the sword again.
She pulled it back again and brought a hand on her hip. She pulled a card from the holder on her belt.
This kind of card would emit light. It would create a glowing orb the size of a thumb for about three minutes, so unless it was being used as a signal in enemy territory, it needed to be placed inside your mess kit or your pocket to regulate its light.
She held the sword with that card still in her hand.
Then she swung it while sweeping her body forward.
She stopped the tip of the blade just before it hit the floor.
She pulled it back quickly but not in a rush.
M. Schrier had taught her how to practice like this. Doing this 500 times in a row was part of the physical exam for joining the AIF, so he had taught her three years ago.
She had failed that exam a few times, but she had eventually gotten the hang of it.
…My body is a lot more fit now too.
“I just wish it didn’t make my chest look even flatter.”
She took a breath and checked the clock. It was 1:31. She had to leave at 3.
She made another swing.
She upped the speed a little. That helped her transition smoothly from one swing to another.
Sometimes it was easier to move faster. That was a lesson this training had taught her. She had started off too scared to swing it very quickly, so she had had a lot of trouble.
The movements were a lot more stable when fast and it reduced the amount of energy required on her part to keep it up.
It required more strength to move it slowly.
If your arm was tensed with excess strength, it would slow the sword. the trick was to start by moving the hilt with a light, rolling movement of the wrists and then push straight forward once the blade was near vertical.
When pulling it back, you pulled your entire body back. You wanted to slash with your full body, not with the blade.
Anyone hoping to use Lives needed to become one with their Device.
…I can already read an Octave of nearly 1.2 million, though.
“And they say you only need to see Lives with an Octave of above 160 thousand to become a Buster or a Tuner.”
But she could not manage it.
She could see the Lives. She could read them. But whenever she tried to alter them either through transformation or destruction, she would hesitate and fail.
Thus, she remained a Greenhorner. That was not entirely a bad thing.
She removed her right hand from the sword and touched her right eye. That eye was the Messiah prosthetic. She could access a High Organ device using its Aerial Word.
In the mirror, it looked like she had her hand on her eye to wipe away tears.
She lightly shook her head. There was so much she didn’t know, but she could sum up everything – her eye included – with just one phrase.
“Five years ago, I decided I didn’t want to run away. Three years ago, I decided I wanted to do something.”
She hesitated before continuing.
“But what kind of power should I choose once I’m on the battlefield for real?”
Would she be a Tuner or a Buster? She knew why she found it so hard to choose.
“Once I obtain that great power, I will still have it after I no longer need it.”
…And I don’t know what I want to do after the war is over.
She recalled something from 5 years ago.
Before she was arrested, her class had been discussing their future plans. And when her friend had immediately written down her dream…
…I thought she was too naïve, but I also thought I wanted to be a teacher.
She looked to the floor, where the notebook sat. The map she had drawn in there was related to a war between nations.
…A war causing so much anxiety it’s causing mass suicides and nightmares.
She placed her hand back on the hilt and faced forward. She saw herself standing there with the sword in the middle position.
She raised it overhead and her reflection did the same.
She swung it. It strayed a bit to the left.
She pulled back and swung again. A little to the right this time.
“That isn’t it.”
…Which is it?
“A Buster destroys and a Tuner regenerates to assist that destruction.”
The information in that notebook was all about destruction. That was a Buster’s power and its nature gave the war its current form.
…To fight is to destroy.
Regenerative Tuners could join in as medics, but they primarily acted as frontline support.
…They restore the destruction done to people. And they assist in the destruction.
“Is there no opposite to destruction?”
No one was around to answer her question, so she simply swung the sword straight down.
She managed it. So she did it again. And again. And again. She set up a rapid repetition before her body could forget how to do it and she settled into that groove.
When she pulled back, she threw the card in her hand.
She immediately struck the card with the S-41G.
With a metallic sound, the white blade sliced through the card. Or so it looked. The card underwent an instantaneous transformation.
It became an orb of light. The orb floated for a bit while growing brighter, but then gravity pulled it down.
She struck it again from above, causing it to shatter and split.
Her eyes did not follow the spray of light. Instead, she focused on the coldly shining back of the blade so she could stop it just before it reached the ground.
It stopped and she let out a deep breath.
Just as that breath fell to the floor, the split orb of light reached the floor and bounced.
The light rotated for just a moment and then suddenly became paper once more.
She stood up and wiped the sweat from her brow. She paused for a moment, unsure whether to pick up the left or right piece of paper first, but then realized she was overthinking this and shut her eyes.
Just then, a great tremor ran through the ship and an alarm sounded.
This was the second alarm, indicating an emergency.
She gasped and readied her sword. Her sword practice had trained her sense of balance, so even as the floor shook below her, she spread her legs to shoulder width and loosened her knees.
One of her feet ended up stepping on the notebook and the notebook slipped.
The back of her head slammed into the floor.
When the patrol plane sent out an emergency assistance request, the closest aerial squadron was Heiliger’s squadron on its way to the North Sea.
The aerial squadron had flown north from Cologne and was currently above the mountains near Belgium. The patrol plane had lost the enemy reading, so they searched for the enemy and found a small aerial squadron.
Most of the air force was unavailable after being sent to the Cologne region, so Heiliger’s task was to track the enemy until an interception fleet could arrive from Cologne.
His light cruiser and four accompanying ships flew through the night winds.
The light cruiser took the lead and Heiliger held binoculars on the bridge which had windows in all four directions.
The enemy picked up by the radar was still not visible with the naked eye.
“The enemy force has split up!” shouted the navigator. “What appears to be the main division is changing course. They intend to escape into Belgium.”
Heiliger did not even nod.
“Tell our forces in Belgium to handle this. We will pursue the ship that has entered our country. Adjust course and accelerate. Maintain full speed and pursue. Capture them before the interception fleet arrives.”
“That will delay our original mission of supporting the northern coast.”
“I am aware of that. But the ship guarding that squadron has broken away and entered the country on its own. Which of those do you think is truly important to the enemy?”
“But, Lieutenant General,” whispered his young first officer. “Are you sure this is a good idea? Our arrival in the north will be delayed.”
“We are the only ones who can pursue them here. We received a request for assistance and we are answering it. …The air force staff officers would not be pleased if we continued north and joined the forces there.”
“I am sure you heard a great many rumors about me when you were assigned to my unit,” said Heiliger with a hint of a smile.
“Yes…and I thought they were true at first. But you always turn out to be correct in the end. I don’t know the details, but I think the higher ups should give you more credit. If they gave you sufficient forces, you could-”
“You are still young, so I doubt you know anything about my past. If you did, you would understand why I am treated this way and you would understand what happened the other day.”
“You mean with the Gard-class four days ago? I only received the report to be taken north.”
“What did you think of that ship? That massive warship that does not belong to any fleet and only I am allowed inside. …You have vaguely come to understand that you and the people of Cologne are protected by something much larger than our military, haven’t you?” He smiled bitterly. “Yet saying so out loud would mean denying the current form of Germany.”
Just then, someone gave a shout.
The navigator raised his right hand while looking outside with semi-stationary binoculars. He quickly formed some numbers with his fingers.
“Distance: approximately 5 miles. Low altitude. A single transport ship has flown into a mountain valley and…it is slowing down.”
Heiliger stepped forward with binoculars in one hand and asked a question of the gun commander.
“Can we fire on them?”
“Hitting a single moving ship at this distance would be difficult.”
“Then fire. Let them know we are here. If a transport ship is flying at low velocity and altitude, it is preparing to drop something off. Fire a Pseudo-Drach Kanone along their course and match our altitude to theirs.”
“A light cruiser shouldn’t be flying at low altitude in the mountains at night. Especially not at high velocity.”
“We are the air force’s outcasts. Besides, we were even more foolhardy during the previous war. Are you going to let the enemy’s plan succeed through our excess caution?”
The gun commander smiled as he responded.
“The short end of the stick again, huh?”
“What makes you say that?”
“Our orders were to pursue, not to attack. We are only supposed to drive them out so they can be intercepted by someone else. That means no credit goes to us. Not that that’s new.”
“If it isn’t new, then just do it like we always do. You can, can’t you?”
Heiliger was not actually asking.
After a moment, firm responses came from all across the bridge.
Every single one was a simple “yes, sir”.
He nodded in satisfaction.
Then the light of a Pseudo-Drach Kanone pierced the dark night out ahead of them.
Hazel had moved from the flagship to the RB-21 after the second alarm sounded. She was now rubbing her aching head while working inside the container carried by the RB-21 after it left the squadron.
The cold and endlessly shaking container was a block of shielded armor panels 5 yards high, 7 yards wide, and more than 20 yards long.
She was facing the enormous knee joint of a black male Heavy Barrel. It belonged to the Schwarz Löwe. She was performing maintenance on it.
“I haven’t seen him in forever and he puts me right to work.”
There were two things inside the container. The first was Schwarz Löwe and the second was a boxy metal frame sitting on drop-off guardrails. The four corners of the frame had parachutes attached and the bottom had a buffering structure welded on, but what mattered was on the inside. It contained a 750cc BMW motorcycle with sidecar the AIF had stolen from the German military. It also contained Hazel and Berger’s luggage.
This part of the mission would be complete once that was dropped off on a mountain road and they jumped down with it.
“Or that was the plan anyway.”
Once she finished her work, Hazel sighed and placed the wrench on a wall hanger. She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped off her sweat.
She felt unusually hot, so she looked down and found she was still in her dress uniform.
The sleeves of the jacket and shirt were stained with oil.
But she decided not to worry about it.
She wiped the sweat from her neck and loosened the jacket’s collar to help her cool herself down.
She felt better doing something than just sitting around waiting to be dropped off.
…I can forget about that nightmare and stop worrying.
“Okay, I’m finally ready to go.” Berger emerged from Schwarz Löwe’s back, wiping some oil from his cheek. “You’ll see what I mean if you lie down on the floor, but whoever’s pursuing us is having a lot of fun doing it. They started firing below the ship when they realized we were going to drop something off.”
“Can we fire back?”
“We are, but it’s not much help. The kind of bullets a transport ship’s equipped with can’t even scratch a warship’s armor.”
“Th-then does that mean we can’t be dropped off?”
Berger smiled a little and turned toward the internal phone on the wall.
“These people know how to have some fun for German soldiers, so we’re gonna play along.” He picked up the phone. “Hazel, get inside the sidecar and curl up.”
“Is there nothing else I can do?”
“Just one thing: obey every instruction you receive from me, the second cleverest guy in the world. Do it immediately and without delay.”
She nodded and walked toward the drop-off frame. The ship was shaking so much she couldn’t even hear her own footsteps.
…It’s like my legs are tingling.
The enemy shots were hitting nearby.
She realized now just how leisurely a pace she had taken in completing the maintenance earlier.
Corelle’s voice arrived over a shipwide announcement.
“Attention container personnel. We have no choice but to leave this airspace and-”
“Hold on, Corelle! Their mission is only to pursue us. I don’t know why that is, but how long do you think until he interception unit arrives?”
“We’re already picking them up on radar. They will be too close for us to escape in 2 minutes 30 seconds.”
“Which means those ships behind us will leave after 2 minutes and 30 seconds. That settles it,” declared Berger. “Make an accelerated ascent with the container door open. Once the enemy is lured in by that, we’ll launch the frame with all we’ve got.”
“And how will that help?”
“We’ll soar right over their heads.”
Hearing that, Hazel came to a stop partway through climbing over one of the frame’s poles.
“Why do you look so worried? We can get down to the surface. You should look happier.”
“I was kind of hoping not to die yet.”
“Then you’re in luck because you get to live for another 2 minutes at least. So you aren’t dying yet. Anyway, once we’re launched, we can land behind them. And aerial ships can’t make a 180 right away. It’s like a game.”
“A game?” she asked.
“They win if they can keep us from dropping until they pass the baton to that other force. We win if we can drop to the surface. Get it know, Hazel Mirildorf?” Then he spoke into the phone. “Corelle, this is in your hands now. Climb high enough for us to launch far enough. As a mercenary, I don’t want this mission to end in failure. …And we can still pull it off. This is destiny.”
He hung up.
Hazel noticed something when she saw him approaching the frame.
There was no concern of fear in his face or Lives. That meant this would be fine.
So a look of relief came to her own face.
He placed his hand on the frame and tilted his head.
“You’re smiling. Did the tension finally drive you insane? Guess it was bound to do that eventually.”
“No!” she shouted back, but he was no longer looking her way. His expression made it clear they didn’t have much time.
He silently reached a hand inside the frame, removed the bandolier attached between the sidecar and motorcycle, and pulled out a light machinegun. It was a German heavy weapon known as an MG 34.
“What are you doing with that?”
He attached the weapon’s barrel with practiced hand while he replied.
“Once the container door opens, the enemy ship’ll be right there. I can’t guarantee anything, but this might come in handy.” He sat down on the frame and attached a drum magazine to the MG 34. “Also, we can’t forget our personal parachutes.”
There were two white cloth packages similar to pillows hanging on wall latches.
He walked over to them while Hazel fastened her seatbelt. And…
“Is there really nothing I can do?”
“Hm…oh, I know. You see those three buttons on the wall? You can operate them.”
“They say ‘virtual and physical ay door controls’ and ‘drop-off lift control’.”
“Yeah, and I can’t operate them with my legs stuck below the machinegun. Can you reach?”
She reached her hand to the side. The seatbelt dug painfully into her shoulders, but her fingers reached the buttons outside the frame.
Then the container shook like it had been struck.
Her question was answered by Corelle, not Berger who was over at the wall removing the parachutes.
“We’ve started our ascent, so it’s time to do this! Berger, if you’re not all talk, you’d better be ready!”
“Oh, shut up.” Berger fought the shaking and had a definite smile in his voice. “Now, Hazel, do it in this order: the top green button is the safety. It activates the virtual door. Press that and then the red button below it to open the physical door. Then press the bottom green button to launch us.”
She pressed the buttons in the exact order he had asked. And, with his back still turned, Berger said one more thing.
“So do that once I say ‘go’, okay?”
She heard the wind roaring.
She looked back. The container door was open and the sheet of light known as the virtual door had appeared past it. The virtual door prevented any pressure difference, so there was no powerful blast of wind.
But when she looked ahead again, she found Berger looking back in obvious surprise.
“Hey! Hazel! What did you do!?”
“U-um, exactly what you told me to?”
“Why would you do it right away?”
“You told me to obey all of your instructions ‘immediately and without delay’!”
The roar from behind her was so loud it nearly drowned out her voice and light shined into the container. The pursuing ship was shining a searchlight on the ascending RB-21.
Berger removed the two parachutes from the wall and ran over to her.
“Hazel! Get out of there!”
She frantically worked at her seatbelt.
But then she smelled explosives.
The next thing she knew, Berger was vanishing into the distance ahead of her.
A painful pressure pushed forward at her as she was accelerated backwards. The view around her changed, as did the temperature and so much more.
She had left the cramped container and entered the wide open sky. She had been launched into the empty night along with the frame.
The domed room was filled with the color white.
This was the collection of knowledge below Munich’s central hospital where Rose used to sleep.
The room had a diameter of 20 yards and the floor had several bedlike holes in it. The only light source was at the very center of the ceiling and that light illuminated the intricate patterns carved into the walls that almost looked like woven art.
Various measuring equipment and sensors sat on movable stepladders and cargo carts by the walls and simple drawing boards sat on the floor. It all looked like an art exhibit at first.
The clock sitting on one stepladder said it was 2:37. And that was AM, not PM.
Only one person was seen among the machinery and drawings of the patterns.
He was a balding old man with a lab coat hanging over his skinny frame.
The surrounding silence and the early morning hour meant nothing to him as he peered through the lens of a measuring device on a stepladder and viewed a magnified version of one wall pattern in particular.
“How very strange.”
He had the devices placed on different steps based on their function, so he did not have to look to reach his hand for the side of the one he wanted. He felt across the many switches on its side and pressed the one with a rounded end.
The device produced the distinctive click of a camera.
“What did you learn here, Marsch Gant? When you developed the Sylphide, you were the first one the Karlsruhe family allowed in here. And after you died and Lady Rose awakened, this forbidden door was opened to the rest of us. But by then, you had finished telling your riddles.”
He pulled a white glove from his lab coat’s pocket and put it on.
He hesitantly reached out one finger of that hand.
He touched a part of the wall pattern. A white plate a foot long and an inch wide had been embedded in the wall there.
The color looked a lot newer than the plates with the other patterns engraved into them.
“My readings suggest this plate was installed approximately 25 years ago. It must be the most recent one. …It was placed here by Frobel Naylor. That much I know. And I know our commander knows nothing of it.”
There was something odd about the plate he had just touched.
The other plates reflected the light from the ceiling with their intricate patterns, but this one was flat.
“Unlike the other patterns, this one must have originally said something in Old German.”
But there was nothing there now. It had been scraped off.
He stopped tracing his finger across the plate and held his white-gloved hand in front of his face.
He suddenly opened his mouth, bit the glove’s fingertip, and pulled it from his hand.
He spat out the glove and reached his bare hand out toward the scars where something had been scraped off.
“I’m being silly.”
But he stopped just before touching it. With a smile on his otherwise serious face.
He looked those scars.
“What used to be here? The Sofort Leser involved in the creation of the Geheimnis Agency left a message for the future, but why was it erased? Why has it been hidden from us? What was it? What was here?”
He looked down at the measuring equipment.
The screen in the center of the device displayed a grayscale image of the marks on the plate.
He started messing with the switches next to the screen.
A change came over the grayscale image.
“It was only sloppily erased,” he said as he stopped operating the device.
The grayscale image had undergone one primary change: a few words were now visible alongside the straight lines scraped horizontally across it.
“I can make out the words ‘war’, ‘Nibelung’, ‘1943’, ‘sin’, and lastly…” He took a breath. “ ‘Take care of-’ ”
He looked down again.
The smile from before was gone, but his lips did mouth something. And then he moved.
He swung his right hand back behind him.
He was answered by a male voice at the room’s entrance behind him.
“Not the welcome I’m used to as one of the Fünf Leithammel, ‘Dachs’ Elrich.”
“The young Intelligence Division Chief?”
Some brightness entered Development Division Chief Elrich’s voice as he turned around. An old man stood in the darkness of the corridor leading to the room.
He wore a gray three piece suit and rubbed his bald head.
“After visiting some newspaper offices around the country, I flew here. I didn’t find you at the base and was told you had taken up wall polishing as a new hobby.”
“Show some respect to a man two years your elder, Witzmann. Also…” He smiled bitterly. “I will not ask who told you about the ‘sleep’. You always seem to know everything going on around the country. It’s quite a mystery. How do you do it?”
“The trick is to never sleep, Elrich. Simple, right?” Witzmann’s slit-like narrow eyes bent in amusement and he pulled a thick envelope from his pocket. “I came all the way out here because there is something I hoped to discuss with you in private, Elrich.” He kept his voice casual. “It is related to the Messiah.”
Once the high-speed transport ship took an ascending trajectory, Heiliger saw something unbelievable.
The enemy suddenly opened the container positioned between the ship’s two hulls.
They were about 300 yards away with a height difference of about 50 yards, so they were very close.
“What are they doing now!?”
The helmsman hurriedly turned the wheel to take evasive action.
The ship more tilted than turned, but it was too late. They could not escape.
Just as they expected some kind of attack, something else flew out.
No one on the bridge understood what they had just seen.
A motorcycle surrounded by a boxy frame had flown out. That much would have been a standard cargo drop off. They had done the same on German Air Force jobs a few times.
Except its parachutes failed to open. And…
They all saw the long blonde hair dancing within the frame.
But that wasn’t all.
After throwing out the framed blonde, the transport ship quickly reaccelerated while its container closed back up, but another figure slipped out through the closing door at the last second.
The figure was notably dark even in the shadows of the night. A black coat flapped like wings as the person flew out into the empty air.
It was a man.
“He’s got a machinegun!” shouted the navigator after seeing what the man held in his right hand.
At the same time, the young man in black raised his left arm. Like a magic trick, a white cloth spread out from his opened left hand and it spread further out behind him as he fell.
A massive white flower blossomed in the darkness.
It was a parachute. He was tugged backwards for just a moment as his falling speed was canceled out.
Then he let go.
He landed on the starboard deck of the aerial cruiser.
The falling frame full of blonde hair similarly landed on the port deck. The momentum of the launch and the ship’s rightward turn caused the frame to bounce and spin leftward across the deck, approaching the edge fast.
In that moment, Heiliger saw the girl in the frame illuminated by a searchlight.
She was screaming but not shutting her eyes.
Her right eye was brown and the left was blue.
“The Messiah is here!?” gasped Heiliger.
Hazel felt her vision blur from the landing and bouncing, but she still saw Berger.
Inside the frame, she was strapped to the sidecar by the seatbelt, causing her vision to spin rapidly leftward. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Berger land on the deck and run her way.
She barely had time to look to her surroundings. The world continued to spin around her and she felt the wind before he came into view again.
The frame hopped port across the deck.
She saw pieces of the buffering structure scattering from below the frame. She was lucky it had survived the initial 50 yard drop at all.
The frame flew low in the air and gently began to drop again. Berger observed its arc and…
“Is it going to hit the edge of the deck or fly right off!?”
“I-I can’t tell!!”
Berger smiled when he heard her response from the flying frame.
He suddenly looked toward the bridge and lowered his head.
Hazel tried to look that way too, but everything was still spinning around her. On the second rotation, she saw a gun emplacement next to the bridge turning toward Berger and beginning a horizontal stream of fire.
Berger ducked low and slid feet-first along the deck.
He slipped below the flying bullets and aimed his MG 34…toward her.
Her confusion was soon answered by the wind produced by the flying ship. Her frame was headed toward the edge of the deck, so at this rate, she and the frame would collide with it at considerable speed.
She heard the gunfire from behind her as her vision spun rightward. Once the spin brought Berger in front of her again, she saw him giving up on that and throwing the MG 34 away.
“Handle the rest yourself!” he shouted.
Whatever the case, she had to agree. She undid her seatbelt even as the centrifugal force flung her around.
She was nearly thrown from her seat as she grabbed the S-41G Device stored between the sidecar and motorcycle.
She spun around until she could again see ahead of the flying frame. The wall that formed the edge of the deck was right there. The MG 34 had broken it down some, but not enough.
The flying frame began another rotation.
It would crash once it faced forward again, so that was when she would make her move.
So she took action. She shut her eyes, gritted her teeth, and pulled some destruction cards from her hip holder while the centrifugal force and night wind whipped at her hair.
Her fingers refused to do what she told them, so she only managed to keep three of the cards in her grasp. The ten or so others scattered throughout the sidecar. She felt them on her legs as she pasted the three she had on the S-41G.
She pressed her knees against the inside of the sidecar to hold herself in place. She angled her body diagonally and raised the sword overhead.
She would use the momentum of the frame’s rotation to send the diagonal strike into the wall.
She opened her eyes to see the wall full of bullet holes directly in front of her.
And she heard a voice behind her.
She shouted to resonate with the Device.
She used a single “ah” sound.
The sword changed the three cards on its blade into triple explosions of light. Three empty cartridges were ejected from the sword and it accelerated.
She slammed it into the wall.
With a destructive sound, the light destroyed the wall in a radiating pattern.
The airborne rubble struck the frame and crumbled.
The frame’s course was unchanged, so it flew right past the edge of the deck.
It fell off the ship altogether.
Hazel grabbed the frame, leaned out from the sidecar, and looked up at the aerial warship.
It was so big. Even bigger than the two-hull warship she had once seen from the Sylphide.
…And so many ships like that are flying around for the war.
Once her gently rotating view turned skyward once more, the aerial warship was far above her.
She also saw a dark figure flying down toward her.
She held the frame’s parachute release cable and waited for him.
She just knew she was going to go limp and pass out the instant she handed that cable to him.
After leaving the hospital, Elrich and Witzmann got in Witzmann’s car.
It was a soundproof and bulletproof Benz with a partition between the front and back seats.
Witzmann sat in the backwards-facing seat in the front of the back and used the phone to tell the driver to leave.
The car shook a bit and he turned on the indoor light.
“Care for a drink?
“No, it would only remind me how tired I am.”
“I see,” said Witzmann, pulling a few black-and-white photos from an envelope and handing them to Elrich.
“Is this the Messiah girl?” Elrich asked as soon as he saw them. There were three in all.
The first showed a girl with long blonde hair righting a toppled bicycle.
The second showed her practice swinging a Werkzeug on an urban building’s rooftop.
The third showed her showing off an AIF uniform to her parents in their yard.
Witzmann nodded and smiled a little.
“We captured some pretty cute shots of her, don’t you think? She is here in Germany. I intercepted a radio transmission from Air Force Lieutenant General Heiliger earlier.”
“He does like those methods, doesn’t he? Whenever he wants to give us military information, he intentionally uses the radio.” Elrich sighed and leaned forward. “Where is she headed?”
“Borderson. There’s no doubting it. An AIF leader is there.”
“You mean Pale Horse? If not for him, we wouldn’t have lost the knowledge contained in the Naylor fortress. Do you remember that?”
“Unfortunately, I was off observing the revolution in Russia at the time.” Witzmann smiled and loosely crossed his arms. “I have already informed every unit that the time has come to fulfill our commander’s prophecy. …Elrich, it is time to make use of the Ton bullets your development division has created.”
“I see.” Elrich viewed the photos, leaned back in his seat, and crossed his skinny legs. “What did you really want to discuss?”
Witzmann nodded and pulled a document from the envelope.
“Do you remember the 2nd Heidengeist Purge in ’37? You know, the return of the purge caused by the Berlin Conflict in ’35. …It was carried out by the military and we were not involved that time, so it was sorely lacking in courtesy and important people’s families were not spared.”
There was a hint of a smile in Witzmann’s voice. His kind face loosened up somewhat.
“Ordinarily, a blood test is required to label someone a Heidengeist. Proof of being a pure-blooded German comes from detecting a portion of the German Ton that you yourself discovered at the time, Elrich.” He sighed. “Hazel Mirildorf’s mother is a Heidengeist. …Inject her with the German Ton ether your department has extracted from the Vaterlands and she can never again leave Germany.”
“A Ton cage, huh? Because someone who possesses that German Ton too strongly will have all the Tons of their body break down if they try to travel somewhere without that Ton. They will physically ‘tear apart’. And that Ton cannot be removed from their body except with a Ton exchange from a high-level Stimmer or by creating a competing Ton with a serum extract.”
“Which wouldn’t be possible. If we rewrite her Tons…then the Messiah is ours.” Witzmann then handed Elrich the document he held. “Now for my main point. When Hazel Mirildorf was captured in ’37, she never had a Heidengeist test done. However…”
“She did receive a blood test before the Messiah implant surgery?”
“These are the records of that test. …We want to make sure the Live bullet is effective, after all.”
“And the result?”
Elrich’s eyes searched for the answer on the document until they stopped on a certain point.
He gasped and started to stay something but stopped.
In lieu of answering, Witzmann opened the box next to his seat and pulled out a bottle of liquid.
“Has all this talking made you thirsty too?”
He opened the bottle and poured its contents into a wineglass. It was distilled water.
Elrich asked a question while the other man audibly gulped down the water.
“What does this mean? She is a Heidengeist, so how…”
“How can she also have traces of the German Ton? That is exactly what I hope to find out. Along with this.”
He finished drinking the water and tossed the glass in a bucket next to his seat.
Then he pulled a new document from the same envelope and handed it to Elrich.
It was the same type of document as before, but for a different person. Elrich frowned.
“Dog Berger? The man who accompanies the Messiah girl?”
“He has divine blood. Probably only half, but that still makes him a Heidengeist. But for some reason, he too has traces of the German Ton. Even though he was supposedly born in England. And…”
“In another mystery, he has lost his divine power. He has the Tons of his divine lineage inside him, yet he lacks the Ton for that power. Without checking his Tons, he would be indistinguishable from an ordinary human.”
“A fascinating mystery. The blood was taken in Munich back in ’37, I see. For a species test.”
“Do you think he wanted to see if he was no longer a god?” Witzmann held out a hand to ask for a handshake. “Elrich, how about we try to get along? These documents were actually ordered sealed by our commander and commander-in-chief, but I decided to lend them to you anyway. Because I don’t know why those two had them sealed. There must be more to this. Something important. My sixth sense as an intelligence officer says so.”
“Agreed.” Elrich straightened up and tightly gripped the proffered hand. Witzmann smiled bitterly.
“Don’t you find it cruel of them to hide such a cute girl from us? I was surprised to find the Messiah destined to lead us would be so unreliable.”
“I imagined the Messiah as someone void of doubts who lived to save the world and coldly manipulated us like mere tools. You remember that photo of her righting a bicycle?”
“Yes, what was that about?”
“Exactly what it looks like. She was riding her bike when she looked over to greet a neighborhood woman and crashed into a street sign.”
Elrich lowered his head to view the laughing old man two years his junior.
Witzmann ended the handshake and spread his arms so they nearly touched the ceiling.
“Isn’t it amusing!? The Messiah who will save Germany – no, who will save the entire world from the destruction coming in ’43 – is just a girl who can’t even ride a bike without crashing! And she’s our enemy! I must know.” He took a breath. “I must know how a girl like that will lead us! I want to see it happen! If the higher ups insist on hiding her, then we must act on our own. Elrich, I need your research!”
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