HEAVY OBJECT:Volume10 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: The Sixth Branch in Full Bloom >> Disturbance Intervention in the Soberania District
The Panama Canal was a major entranceway to the world’s sea transportation routes and the Soberania Disturbance was fought over controlling the key to that entranceway. However, a “cleaner” justification was given.
There was a hideout for an anti-Object force in the Central American Soberania District.
That hideout was secretly training a special commando unit that specialized in largescale terrorist attacks on safe country metropolises.
Just north of the Soberania District was western North America, the home country of the Capitalist Corporations.
The special commando unit could create deadly weapons out of everyday items like detergent and compressed gas cylinders, were skilled at slipping into countries undetected, and most importantly, were as elusive as ghosts. The police force in charge of protecting the cities would be helpless, and even the intelligence agencies that worked in secret only had a fifty-fifty chance of capturing them.
Once they arrived, the concept of the “safe country” would collapse. No one could imagine how many cities would sink into rubble.
So they needed to be defeated before that happened.
They needed to be killed before their northward operation began.
“There was no special commando unit. The supposed training camp was nothing more than a digital detox nature camp set up by a tour company from your Capitalist Corporations. You sent young people out there and punished them as villains while they were none the wiser. It was quite the setup. You used overblown reports and doctored photos to get them registered as a truly frightening combat squad.”
The man spat out the words.
The square space was surrounded by metal walls and everything was blotted out by darkness.
“Saying you slaughtered them because you wanted the Panama Canal would damage the reputation of a great nation. Compromising with international society sure isn’t easy.”
“But thanks to that farce, my family is dead.”
His voice remained flat, which made it terrifying in a different way from an angry shout.
That man was said to have a thousand faces, so the standard expressions may have been meaningless to him.
“The funny part is that I had my skills as Nyarlathotep, but I had completely forgotten them as my family was killed before my eyes. I was so afraid of bringing those deadly skills into that small household that I used self-suggestion to fully seal them away. Do you understand now? It was the shock of seeing my family die that broke the seal of Nyarlathotep. If it had broken just a few minutes…no, just a few seconds early, it all might have turned out differently.”
His voice sounded like dripping coal tar and it was likely directly linked to his emotions and expression. After undergoing so much cosmetic surgery, he had completely forgotten the proper face he had been born with. His face may have melted in the darkness and splattered all over the floor.
That word felt like strength slowly building into a supposedly safe rubber knife until it stabbed into someone’s body.
That was the cruelest method that brought far more pain and fear than a simple sharp blade.
“You’re supposed to laugh at times like this, CEO. Or should I call you Azathoth?”
That single word spoken by an old man sounded like forcing it out had worn an entire year off his life.
“Why don’t you just kill me already?”
“A death changes meaning entirely depending on the circumstances. In a back alley, you would be a victim. On a battlefield, you would be a war hero. At the execution grounds, you would be a despicable criminal. So I need the proper place to kill you. You already know where I’m taking you, don’t you?”
“You can’t mean…”
“Welcome to my home, the hell that was once the Soberania District.”
A metal door opened wide with a creak and a rusty smell.
Only then did the old man realize they were inside a container loaded on a ship.
They were surrounded by the colors red and black.
The entire sky seemed to be dyed in the colors of twilight, but it was not. It all came from the fires of war. The wreckage of homes, the historical remnants, the vast swaths of nature, and the people who had lived there had been mercilessly piled up and burned as the fuel for these crimson flames.
The idea of clean wars did not apply in the slightest. It was a literal hell.
And this apocalyptic scene had been created by Acre Kiss-of-Rose, CEO of Salem Logistics.
“We’ve arrived at the stage.”
Despite the red and black coloring the world, Nyarlathotep relaxed his entire body with an expression that said “I’m home”.
With a heavy sound, he pressed his palms against something, but it was not a table. It was a giant wooden barrel filled with something incredibly heavy.
“Now, how about we get started? You wanted the Panama Canal so badly, so that’s where I’ll kill you. So make sure you appreciate the effort I’m going to here, Azathoth.”
“This entire situation makes my head hurt.”
Frolaytia’s words were in stark contrast to how she was lounging on a beach chair and re-crossing her legs while staring up into the sky.
She had removed her usual stuffy uniform and now only wore a white blouse over a brightly-colored bikini. The strings on the sides of the bottom were only loosely tied, so the knots looked about to come apart just from the fidgeting of her legs.
“During the Gigant Hustler, Acre Kiss-of-Rose, CEO of Salem Logistics and thus one ruler of 7th Core which controls the Capitalist Corporations’ home country, was abducted. I’d love to say that doesn’t matter since he’s the VIP of an enemy nation, but for better or for worse, this has been far too influential. The waves have even reached us in the Legitimacy Kingdom.”
Quenser and Heivia were of course not paying a lick of attention to their silver-haired huge-breasted commander.
They may have looked like they were obediently hanging on her every word, but they were actually staring at the bottom of her shirt (or rather, at what lay within the shirt) from directly in front of her.
“(I’m scared. Why is Frolaytia giving us a treat like this out of the blue? It feels like watching swarms of bugs moving away before a natural disaster strikes.)”
“(Then move out of the way! And quit crouching down for a better look! You’re being too obvious!! Besides, I don’t care if this is a trap! I’m gonna milk it for all it’s worth. So outta the way!! Outta the way!!!!)”
“(There has to be something more to this. Something’s coming that she has to distract us from.)”
Despite their fears, the two subordinates continued trying to send strange telepathic waves to the knots at Frolaytia’s hips.
Meanwhile, she continued talking.
“He was apparently abducted by a Capitalist Corporations’ spy, but the problem is where he was taken: the blank region of the Soberania District. It borders the Panama Canal, that world-famous entrance to the sea, and it’s the hottest battlefield at the moment. I’m sure you’ve seen the term ‘Soberania Disturbance’ pop up as a top search when you’ve opened a search engine.”
“Hm? Didn’t the Capitalist Corporations send a large unit to the Soberania District to eliminate some special commandos being secretly trained to attack safe countries?”
“Yes, but the existence of those commandos is extremely suspect.”
Frolaytia spread and closed her toes.
To the north of the precious Panama Canal is the Capitalist Corporations’ Azuero District and to the south is the Soberania District. …The conflict is officially known as a clash between those two districts, but in reality, the Legitimacy Kingdom has sent quite a few military advisors to the Soberania District to trip up the Capitalist Corporations. The point is to thoroughly train them in things that a regular army will hate. So if that CEO is brought there and killed, who do you think the blame will fall on?”
“Just to be clear, it really was a Capitalist Corporations spy that did it, right?”
“Yes, but will international society believe that?” Frolaytia sounded as melancholic as the morning of her period. “The Capitalist Corporations has to be hoping to find someone else’s secret stash of cash in the rubble after the devastating hurricane blows away their house. That means this could lead to war. If we’re falsely accused of directly attacking a 7th Core CEO, I can’t even imagine how far the madness will spread. …It could even start a world war that erases the boundaries between safe and battlefield countries. If they distort the death of one of their seven corporations’ leaders into an attack on their home country, that could quickly become no laughing matter.”
Quenser and Heivia fell silent at that.
If the bikini knot effect(?) had not already gathered their blood in their lower bodies, they might have been fighting over a shovel to dig their own shelter.
“So our job this time is to rescue a VIP. …Even if that VIP is the enemy boss. Before Armageddon breaks out, we need to find the spy hiding in the Soberania District and secure CEO Acre who that spy abducted. Do you get the situation now?”
“I get that it’s a dangerous situation, but why us? If things are that bad, wouldn’t it make sense to send in some special forces with masks over their faces and medals covering their chests?”
“Not everyone sees the danger quite so clearly.”
Frolaytia started crossing her legs again but instead rolled onto her side on the beach chair. This put even more of a burden on the bikini’s knot.
“I’ll explain the geographical layout now. To the north is the Capitalist Corporations’ Azuero District, to the south is the Soberania District where the Legitimacy Kingdom is helping out, and in between is the eighty kilometer Panama Canal. The Panama Canal is a demilitarized zone, so neither army is allowed inside. …The canal is a lot more complicated than a simple waterway, but do you know why?”
“If I remember right, it doesn’t have just one set water height. Several water gates and pumps are used to raise or lower the ships in stages like an elevator using water.”
“And if that system were destroyed, taking control of the Panama Canal would be meaningless, so no soldiers are allowed in. The only people who are allowed there are the Blue Cross, an international peace organization that is working to maintain and preserve the water gates and pumps.”
“Don’t tell me…”
“The spy in question has moved deep into the demilitarized zone. We will naturally have to follow suit to pursue him, but it would be an international incident if we’re caught. We can’t be spotted by the civilian Blue Cross, and if we are, we have to take some rather severe ‘emergency measures’. …The heroes in black masks don’t want to act here for fear of being caught by trap cameras and talked about around the globe or of having to shoot civilians and dirty the reputation of their unseen career.”
“They’re refusing the mission in a situation like this?”
“That gets down to the nature of special forces. They’re meant to thread the needle and complete their jobs under the best of conditions, so they have a greater authority to refuse missions than normal units. They’re even allowed to turn them down because they’re on their period or having a fight with a sibling.”
Quenser groaned at his busty commander’s words.
It may have sounded soft for supposed special forces, but no matter how experienced they were, soldiers were still human. Even if they had a number of mental switches that allowed them to kill without fear or guilt, they still could not handle situations that stepped outside that.
For example, if the enemy soldiers cruelly slaughtered civilians, they could probably stuff those corpses into body bags.
For example, if they failed to rescue a hostage, they could probably face that dead body without issue.
But they would not be able to personally aim their guns at the vitals of perfectly innocent civilians and pull the trigger.
So what if their own mistake would create a situation in which they had to kill civilians themselves?
Their unwavering sense of justice gave them the resolve needed to dirty their own hands to protect the current age, but that very justice would completely shatter from a single mistake.
“Are you serious? But the world is in as precarious a situation as a vase about to be knocked to the floor by the giant ass of a clumsy maid. What good are special forces if they can’t act under special circumstances?”
“I agree with you there, but unfortunately, the abduction occurred during the Gigant Hustler we were taking part in. No one else wants to do this shitty job, so it’s been deemed our ‘responsibility’. Are you impressed I had the courage not to break that carefree brigadier general’s jaw?”
“Are you sure they aren’t getting back at us because they didn’t like that an outdated First Generation won the Gigant Hustler?”
Quenser spat out the words, but Frolaytia neither confirmed nor denied the possibility.
She rolled onto her back again before continuing.
“Officially, the Baby Magnum is being sent to the southern Soberania District to hold the Second Generation Extra Arc in check with long-range fire. And while the spotlight is shining on the Princess, you all need to walk along the dimly-lit catwalk and crush that pesky bug. The assassination and rescue operation will be carried out by our stars in the shadows, the intelligence division, but don’t trip them up. Use every skill you have to help them as much as possible. That is all.”
With that said, Frolaytia raised her slender white legs straight up. She then swung them like a pendulum to gather momentum and stand up from the beach chair. Even then, the bikini’s side knots did not come undone.
They were not at the beach of a luxury resort or on the deck of a luxury cruise ship.
This was a manmade floating island built in a square shape with two kilometer sides.
That megafloat beachhead was known as the Garden Gate, it was floating alongside the Soberania District which was wrapped in the flames of war and the large curve of the Panama Bay, and she stood barefoot on its reinforced stainless steel surface.
She cracked her neck while looking just a few kilometers ahead, where crimson flames and black smoke filled both the ground and the sky.
“Now, we have our work cut out for us today too. Let’s line up the pieces on the board and begin the ladies and gentlemen’s game.”
“This is stupid.”
Quenser’s voice was muffled.
He was wearing something like a thick raincoat over his uniform. The material resembled the fire-resistant cloth that firefighters wore and its shiny surface was incredibly bad for his heart after growing so used to normal camouflage. He felt like he was holding up a placard saying “please spot me” with his email address at the bottom.
“What’s the temperature right now? Not only are we almost right on the equator, but there are fires burning all over the place. I’m sweating like crazy and I’m pretty sure heatstroke is going to kill me before any bullet has the chance.”
“It’s 75 degrees Celsius, but don’t take that thing off. It’s like a sauna out there.”
“Can’t they use a meteorological weapon to make it rain? Why did they even make those things?”
“Don’t be stupid. Adding more moisture would only steam us to death.”
Heivia was also part of the shiny team that included the intelligence division.
“Besides, the Extra Arc is watching from the other side of the canal. Without these sensor-blocking cloaks, we’d be spotted right away and on our way to an international incident.”
“I can’t believe it’s this hot when we’re still upwind. …And do you really think these things will help? If they did, I would think the age of Objects would have ended a lot sooner.”
“Better to have it than not. Especially when the government’s tax money is paying for it.”
They were walking through what had once been a metropolis of metal and concrete, but there was no sign of it now. The structures had not so much burned or crumbled as they had melted. It was not often that not just the metal and plastic but even the concrete would completely melt.
That was the result of Objects firing back and forth at each other from north and south of the canal.
In places, the way forward was blocked by orange rivers or by solid black objects where it had cooled, so Quenser spoke up in annoyance.
“What century have we wandered into? What ever happened to clean wars?”
“Let’s just hope everyone made it to the refugee camp set up by the Blue Cross. If anyone was left here, they wouldn’t have survived. Even divine miracles would run out of gas about an hour into it.”
They knew what had caused this and it had done so without directly showing up here. It had instead fired long-distance from beyond the Panama Canal.
“The Capitalist Corporations Second Generation Extra Arc, huh?”
“Hard to believe, isn’t it? It uses low-stability plasma cannons, but the light and heat is so far off the charts that it screws with any observation equipment and the crucial moment of firing isn’t captured. Just how powerful is that thing?”
Fortunately, their objective here was not to be the dragon slayers from an opera.
They had to slip past the Object, enter the demilitarized zone of the Panama Canal, and rescue Acre Kiss-of-Rose, a Capitalist Corporations VIP. At the same time, they were to assassinate the spy who would be trying to stop them.
“And the Extra Arc belongs to Salem Logistics. It isn’t going to play around if this gets out. It might charge in to save its big boss without worrying about what kind of international incident that’ll cause.”
“The best way to survive this is to find CEO Acre, take him as a hostage, and withdraw to the beachhead while making sure he’s indebted to us. But will it really go that well?”
“If we fail to rescue him, we’ll seriously have a world war on our hands. That’s the death of a CEO of their home country, which is like a king for us. Revenge plots will boil over and the laughable clean wars will be burned away. It’ll lead to an age that could easily annihilate six billion people.”
“I’m not talking about our sense of duty or justice. I’m talking realistically.”
“Well, in that case, it comes down to the specs of the Object and the skill of the spy trying to stop us.”
“Didn’t they say there’s just the one spy and he doesn’t have a huge organization backing him up?”
“What, were you only interested in the information on that huge machine? Just listening in on the intelligence division’s discussions made my head hurt. He goes by Nyarlathotep and his real name is unknown. He’s had so much cosmetic surgery that any old documents are completely worthless. They’ve estimated that he was only active around twenty years ago and it isn’t even known if he’s alive or dead at the moment. The Legitimacy Kingdom’s intelligence division developed so rapidly because they needed to strengthen the organization after the mess he made of things all over the place. He truly is a legend.”
“Sounds like someone who would show up in a stealth spy game.”
“I wouldn’t know. Anyway, his specialty is faking his own death. In the official records alone, he’s already kicked the bucket more than thirty times and even some dictator’s kid was shot as revenge for ‘killing’ him.”
“I stand corrected. He sounds like he would be more at home in an open world zombie game.”
“I haven’t heard a single thing about him that doesn’t make me more worried. I don’t know why he’s gone after this CEO, but we can’t relax just because we’ve finished him off with a bullet or a bomb. This isn’t over till we get home. In fact, we’ll basically be on a nerve-racking test of courage until we get back.”
As he listened to Heivia, Quenser checked the weight pressing down on his right shoulder. Instead of his normal plastic explosives, he had a special device hanging from his shoulder on a sling belt.
It looked like a bullpup assault rifle (i.e. one with the grip on the front and the magazine attached on the back), but the caliber was quite large at 25mm. However, it was not the kind of fully-automatic human mixer that got the anti-war crowd so upset.
Although in a way, it could cause an even more gruesome scene if directly aimed at a human being.
“Will this thing really help?”
“I don’t understand why anyone would give that thing to an amateur who doesn’t know how to fire a handgun. It’s a sticky bomb launcher, right?”
“It’s called the War Hammer. Once you fire a jelly-like liquefied explosive plus fuse onto the wall or floor, you just have to pull the wireless trigger for a huge explosion. You can apparently stick the bombs on a car or a person’s back as they try to escape.”
“That’s just dangerous. When are we going to see an age of peace?”
“It’s not like I had a choice. This place is a hell of seventy to eighty degrees, so normal plastic explosives would melt. I can’t use my usual Hand Axe here.”
“Ahh, ahh. That reasoning is insane. It’s the same giving a child a grenade because you can’t give them a handgun.”
Heivia was complaining about more than just the War Hammer’s specs. Even with the support of the laser sight, having a firearms amateur behind you created a very real possibility of having that “grim reaper egg” splattered onto the back of his head.
While it was true he would still be fine as long as Quenser did not pull the wireless trigger, that did nothing to slow the racing pulse of the person who had a bomb stuck to the back of their head.
A member of the shiny army physically pointed to gather attention and the voice muffled by the hood of stealth material could have been male or female.
“We’ve finally reached the Panama Canal. The demilitarized zone starts now, so at least the stench of burning fingernails and hair should end.”
“Hey, Heivia. What do you think about the intelligence division’s sense of humor?”
“I deal with it by assuming everyone whose face I can’t see is actually a beautiful girl.”
The eighty kilometer canal separated the American continents between north and south, but it was not that wide. It was only a little wider than a fifty meter pool, so Quenser could probably have swum to the other side if he took off his clothes and jumped in.
Both sides were entirely covered in concrete and metal rails ran along parallel to the canal. They had likely been meant to carry some kind of maintenance equipment.
Even as they approached the water, the temperature did not drop. In fact, the wind had more room, so the intense waves of heat seemed to reach them with even more force.
The canal’s waving seawater was dyed red and black because it reflected the color of the sky. It resembled the sea at twilight, but it was much more sinister looking. It looked like the perfect place for ghosts to appear in any pictures taken.
“This is awful. And the other side of the canal’s covered in a filthy industrial region. If the Soberania Disturbance goes the other way, will that desert spread to this side too?”
A three meter tall metal fence covered the opposite side for as far as the eye could see. Perhaps just to buy time, there was a second fence not far beyond it.
The area beyond that was filled with steel pipes, cylindrical tanks, and smokestacks rising into the sky. Overall, it looked like a petrochemical complex. The kilometers long facility was entirely covered in asphalt like an international airport and it looked like concrete boxes and thick silver pipes were piled up on that.
“Why is that side burning too? Their double fence is completely broken.”
“How should I know? That place is perfect for hide-and-seek, so it was probably easier to create a completely unlivable space than to search out and kill any enemies that might be there.”
Regardless, the opposite side of the canal did not matter, so Quenser focused on their side.
“Where is this Nyarlathotep guy supposed to be hiding?”
“Near the Miraflores Water Gate. That’s not even two kilometers from here. …But I can already see those Blue Cross people busy preserving the canal.”
“You’re kidding. You mean the people we have to kill if they see us?”
Quenser sounded annoyed as he too spotted the people in yellow heat-resistant suits.
Heivia crouched down.
“Let’s stay low as we continue on. I don’t want to mass-produce some PTSD and suffer from nightmares for the rest of my life.”
They were wearing shiny cloaks with nothing to hide themselves, but no one seemed to notice them as they followed the concrete bank. They could of course have used some cover, but with orange flames everywhere, the fire reflected in the silver surface drew the most attention.
The intelligence division took the lead and the two idiots followed them further along the canal.
Heivia checked his sensors from time to time and some areas apparently reached an instantaneous temperature of over ninety degrees. The average sauna was around one hundred degrees, so it was enough for a human to pass out after thirty or forty minutes.
“Is this Mars? This is no place for human life.”
“Look, there’s something like a giant mountain beyond the canal. Is that the Capitalist Corporations’ Extra Arc!?”
Life returned to Quenser’s eyes once an Object was involved, but he was not given time to look back there.
A moment later, his vision was dyed in white.
“…… ………… ………… ………… ……………… ………… ……………… ………… …………… …………… …………… …………”
For a while, he completely forgot about the passage of time.
He felt a cold liquid flowing into his mouth and finally realized that he had collapsed and Heivia was sticking a water bottle in his mouth.
“Cough, cough! Wh-what…the hell?”
“The Extra Arc fired its plasma right over our heads.”
As Heivia spoke, his hearing gradually returned.
He could hear explosive sounds, but they were not only coming from the Extra Arc. Back in the Soberania District, the Baby magnum was firing back with its different varieties of main cannon.
Those Objects could not set foot in the Panama Canal.
They would suffer an astronomical financial loss if they destroyed the water elevator made from giant water gates and pumps.
“This time, it wasn’t about you being weak. The flash was so bright that a few of the intelligence division are still convulsing on the ground. The shock seems to fade as your eyes get used to it, but I’ll agree that isn’t something you want to look directly at.”
“You’re kidding, right? No normal low-stability plasma cannon goes that far.”
“There’s something to it that goes beyond normal. After all, this is the personal Object of one of the seven corporations that manages the Capitalist Corporations’ home country. …There’s no way I want to take on that thing. Let’s stuff that Acre bastard in a bag and get back to the beachhead.”
Quenser could understand now how the light and heat messed with cameras and sensors. The abnormal plasma was still being fired and it seemed to burn through his optic nerves to torment his brain. Heivia was right about getting used to it, so he was just barely able to avoid passing out again.
“Dammit, we should have brought welding masks with us.”
“You’d sweat so much you’d get athlete’s foot all over your face. But if you’re doing good enough to complain, then get up on your feet. I’m not about to keep nursing a guy any longer.”
He may have been imagining it, but the surrounding waves of heat seemed to have grown in intensity.
Like this, they could easily go blind before being able to see what kind of technology the Object used, so they unsteadily continued along the canal.
The previous exchange must have only been a “skirmish” because an overwhelming firefight had finally broken out.
But at the same time, Quenser and the others let out a heavy sigh of relief.
That comment came from one of the intelligence division members of their shiny army.
Twenty or thirty meters up a gentle slope was a small lakeside house on a small hill.
That may have sounded nice, but it was still in the scorching hell of red and black that required heat-resistant firefighting equipment to survive even an hour. The paint on the walls was scorched and peeling, the windows were gone, and the roof was nowhere to be seen. No normal person would ever try to hide there.
“This matches the satellite photos taken through the gaps in the flames and smoke. If nothing has changed since then, Nyarlathotep should be in there.”
“Just to be clear, there were two people inside, right?”
“According to the image analysis, yes. But we can’t rely on the heat signatures since this hellish sauna drowns out any human body heat.”
They did not even know if the VIP was still alive, but they had no reason to stop here. The intelligence division silently approached the half-destroyed house and quickly spread out to cover each entrance. Quenser and Heivia helped by pressing against the wall on either side of the backdoor.
The intelligence division passed fiberscopes through the cracks in the doors or the broken windows and sent the footage to everyone’s handheld devices, so Quenser checked it all.
“There are no traps. Or at least, we shouldn’t have to worry about the spy faking his death by blowing the house to smithereens as soon as we kick down the door.”
That was the final sign needed to begin their assault.
“We may know the house’s layout, but we only know the people’s approximate locations. Killing the CEO would make all this effort worthless, so be careful not to shoot the wrong person as we rapidly check every room. On the count of three.”
After the short countdown over the radio, bullets destroyed the locks at each entrance and the intelligence division rushed inside the house.
Quenser and Heivia followed after them.
There were several short bursts of gunshots muffled by suppressors.
Heivia quickly raised his assault rifle to assist, but several members of the intelligence division were already surrounding a man.
There were bullet holes in the wall and the man put his hands up at a battered table.
He wore the same kind of fire-resistant suit as the Blue Cross, but his head was exposed. He had neatly parted hair, but it looked eerily out of place like a stuffed animal floating in a muddy river.
“That isn’t Acre,” groaned Quenser as he showed up late. “Is it Nyarlathotep?”
The man with the parted hair responded from his chair in what had likely been a dining room.
“Welcome to my home, guests.”
“What are you talking about, you bastard!?”
“I don’t remember inviting you over for supper, but you are still welcome. Had the Legitimacy Kingdom not figured out that I bought this house myself by taking out a loan?”
As if to say that did not matter, an intelligence division member grabbed the man’s parted hair and slammed his face against the partially broken table.
Then they turned the man’s head on its side, pulled a handgun from their holster, and shoved it against the man’s head.
“Where is Acre Kiss-of-Rose, CEO of Salem Logistics?”
“He decided to take a nap. He must have been tired after our long trip from Africa.”
“Answer me now. Now!!”
“You’ll find him if you look. I can’t guarantee you he’ll wake up again, though. Have you still not figured out why I didn’t put up any kind of resistance?”
Even with his head shoved against the table, Nyarlathotep’s eyes seemed to be focused on some other place entirely. Quenser followed his gaze and found an opened door, a hallway, and another door.
He walked over and reached for the knob.
That simple action was enough to get his fingertips trembling.
Not even he was sure why those feelings were welling up inside him.
Some dreadful torrent of emotion was stopping his fingers from moving, just like a mother who had learned the horrifying true identity of the baby formula she had happily been feeding her young child.
It felt like his mind and body were separating.
He grabbed the knob while so unsteady he seemed to be sleepwalking.
He turned it.
With a creak, the wooden door opened away from him.
It was a dark, windowless room. It may have originally been a storage room rather than a living space and it seemed the roof here had survived. In addition to some scattered tools and a pile of broken airplane models, a wooden barrel the size of a small industrial drum sat in the middle of the dusty room.
The barrel was filled with to the brim with a massive amount of pebbles.
And like something sticking above the water’s surface or an egg-shaped brooch inside a jewel box, an old man was buried in the pebbles up to the neck with his tongue hanging from his mouth.
Quenser fell to the ground and screamed.
Some intelligence division members rushed over, saw what was there, and continued on inside. They knocked the wooden barrel onto its side. Most of the pebbles were packed together in a single block. Glue, coal tar, melted rubber, caramel, or some other sticky substance may have been mixed in. In other words, the gaps had filled in and it had grown tighter as it had solidified, slowly and gradually squeezing down on the helpless old man buried inside.
The old man wore only his underwear, his eyes were sunken in, his cheeks were gaunt, and his white hair was falling out. He had looked old in the photograph they had been given, but not this much. His white hair had looked carefully maintained, but now it was coming out like an old carpet. His skin had turned red and purple, but he could no longer complain about the pain. Perhaps due to rigor mortis, his body was bent in an unnatural shape as he lay on the ground like a dried up dead insect. Was that really just the effect of the compression from the stones? How long had it been since he had gone missing? How long had he been soaking in that barrel? Was that really long enough to crush someone to death? Or…
(This wasn’t an issue of the physical damage. He died of shock.)
In movies and dramas it was not uncommon to see people quickly age or have their hair go white due to excessive fear.
But how much fear was necessary to actually reproduce that nearly legendary phenomenon?
This was the work of Nyarlathotep, an expert spy who excelled in madness and psychological change.
“Match…confirmed,” blankly muttered a member of the intelligence division. “This is definitely Acre Kiss-of-Rose, CEO of Salem Logistics. It’s him. The package is dead. I repeat, the package is dead!!”
Quenser’s entire face had paled.
It took over ten seconds for his nearby ally’s voice to enter his ears and reach his mind.
But not just because he had seen a human corpse.
This was not just a normal person like the Blue Cross people, so his death had an added meaning.
“What…do we do?”
Heivia spoke with a scratchy voice as he peered inside the room and his voice quickly rose to an almost tearfully desperate shout.
“That Acre bastard was killed!? But he led one of the seven giant corporations that control the Capitalist Corporations’ home country! That’s a VIP on the level of our royals!!”
If an enemy leader was dead, shouldn’t they be throwing their hands in the air and celebrating?
That reasoning did not apply here.
“Does this mean the end of the managed clean wars we have now…?”
Quenser looked like he had just witnessed the giant meteor strike that had caused the ice age.
This battlefield was the site of an intense competition between the Capitalist Corporations and the Legitimacy Kingdom.
If the world found out a Capitalist Corporations VIP had been brought there and killed, where would their suspicions land?
“Is this the beginning of a true war of revenge that will erase the distinction between safe and battlefield countries as it burns through six billion people!?”
“Carry the corpse back with you. If that isn’t possible, dig a hole and burn it. Napalm, an aluminum reaction, or a grenade with some kind of chemical incendiary properties would be perfect. If the Capitalist Corporations can’t check his teeth, fingerprints, or DNA, we can just barely pull through.”
They had contacted Frolaytia for some help with their troubles, but her answer was more severe than they would have liked.
But since the blue planet Gagarin had seen was on the verge of turning red with flames, that kind of severity should not have been surprising.
“Normal gasoline or oil wouldn’t have enough firepower, so you need to make some modifications to turn it into napalm. That shouldn’t be a difficult job for a bomb specialist like you.”
“This isn’t killing the enemy before my eyes to survive. I’ll be destroying an unmoving corpse until even the bones burn away. I feel like I’m only one step away from cannibalism here.”
“You’ll have to focus on the fact that it’s better than dumping gasoline over the head of a living person who can still beg for their life. And make no mistake here. Everything you’ll be doing here is still ‘to survive’. And now the survival of another six billion people is hanging in the balance too.”
She ended her transmission there.
Quenser desperately suppressed the urge to vomit rising from the pit of his stomach and kicked the sole of his military boot against a partially broken pillar.
With that loud sound, he finally gathered his resolve.
“There’s no way we can carry him back, is there?”
One of the shiny members of the intelligence division answered him.
“Since we’ll have to sneak past the Blue Cross on our way out, not a chance. Disposing of him here to lighten the load would be best. The garage out back had collapsed, but there was some gasoline left in the scrap metal that had been a car. Can you make napalm out of that?”
“I can manage as long as I have some cleaning supplies, some household painting supplies, a metal bowl, and the kind of mixer used to make shortcakes. They’re all a housewife’s allies, so I’ll look around for them.”
“Then you take care of that. We’ll dig a hole out back. Let’s go!”
After a few members of the intelligence division left, Quenser breathed a heavy sigh.
From there, nothing felt real and he felt like his feet were floating.
It was not easy work, but losing himself in it lessened the pressure on his heart.
The kitchen had mostly collapsed, so he placed the metal bowl on the dining room table and got to work. Naturally, Nyarlathotep sat obediently in the same room with the intelligence division aiming their guns at him.
As Quenser transformed the gasoline into jelly with the electric mixer, Nyarlathotep spoke with a smile that was strangely lacking in humanity.
“It looks like I’ve caused you all a lot of trouble. Sorry about that.”
“Why did you turn on your own big boss? You may not have known the Legitimacy Kingdom would be involved, but you had to have guessed it would cause a war somewhere in the world.”
“The Soberania Disturbance began because Salem Logistics tried to take the Panama Canal for themselves to expand their business. And this was my house. …If this is what remains of the house meant to protect my family, what do you think happened to the wife and son who lived with me here?”
“My wife was helping the Blue Cross. She was creating a list of the people who fled to this blank region to help them register for citizenship and insurance. My only son was just five and he was so excited about getting to go to school for the first time. But all of that was taken from me by that money-worshiping piece of shit.”
What did Quenser look like to him?
What did he think of the boy creating napalm to burn away a corpse using the mixer that may very well have been used to make his son’s birthday cake?
That man had brought the entire world to the precipice, but that did not change the fact that his smaller world was being trampled on.
“That doesn’t matter.”
Quenser heard a low, low, dreadfully low voice cut in.
It belonged to Heivia Winchell.
“I don’t care what kind of life you lived or what kind of despair you carry with you. That’s no excuse for burning our homes and families to the ground!! This is…this is really why the world’s gonna end? Thousands of years of human history are going to come to an end for one guy’s private life!?”
“Do we really need to bring this bastard back alive? Who knows when this expert illusionist of a spy is gonna slip from our fingers! Wouldn’t the world be better off if we put a bullet between his eyes!?”
“You can’t shoot him here, Heivia!!”
“Why not!? What possible reason do you have to cover for the guy who set the world on fire!?”
“The napalm! The air here is already around a hundred degrees, so the contents of this bowl are pretty unstable. Fire your gun now and we’ll all be roasted like turkeys!”
Heivia clicked his tongue.
He removed his eye from his assault rifle’s sight, but he did not remove his index finger from the trigger. He was in such a state of disarray that he was completely ignoring the most basic lessons from boot camp.
“I won’t run away.”
The man with the neatly parted hair spoke up as if to throw oil on the fire.
He had a disturbingly thin smile on his lips.
“I’ve finished everything I wanted to do. After all this, I have no dreams for my future.”
Heivia moved both arms and produced a sound like a swinging metal bat.
Next came the sound of Nyarlathotep’s nose being broken by the rifle’s stock.
The man did not even utter a groan.
Heivia tapped a member of the intelligence division on the shoulder and made his way to the dining room door.
“Call me first when it’s time kill the bastard. If we’re out of ammo, I’ll tear out his throat with my teeth.”
“The napalm’s done. If you want a breath of what passes for fresh air around here, then take it to the group digging the hole out back. But tell them to detonate it with a wire and fuse, not a lighter or matches. Otherwise, they’ll end up roasting their own face with a magnificent pillar of fire.”
Heivia snatched the metal bowl and finally vanished from the dining room.
Quenser toyed with the mixer still covered in sticky flammable jelly, but finally set it on the table and collapsed into a chair. He was sitting directly across from Nyarlathotep.
He glared at the man across the table that could burst into flames at any time for any reason.
“Just to be clear, I’m not on your side.”
“Oh, I know.”
The man with the neatly parted hair smiled but sounded like he was spitting out the words.
“If a single person in this world were on my side, I might have walked a different path.”
Quenser also wanted to kill the bastard a hundred times if he could.
However, he was valuable as the “true culprit”.
Quenser could not guess how much the Capitalist Corporations would learn about Acre’s death or how far the chaos would spread around the world, but he knew losing the true culprit would be incredibly bad. Once the Legitimacy Kingdom and Capitalist Corporations began arguing back and forth, the truth might become as valuable as a scrap of paper, but it was still possible that a “confession” from Nyarlathotep could act as a safety switch to calm down the boiling world.
Killing him was like drilling a hole in the bottom of Noah’s ark.
While it would be best for the deluge to never occur in the first place, ruining the boat before your eyes was a lot like a gentle form of suicide.
“They’ll probably be burning the corpse in the hole before long. Are you sure you shouldn’t be helping them? You seem to be the most experienced with this sort of thing.”
“That’s none of your business.”
“Oh, can you kill an enemy actively attacking you, but you’re reluctant to burn a defenseless corpse? A very European way of thinking. I suppose it’s why you like to bury bodies under crosses.”
“I can’t even remember what my wife and son looked like anymore.”
Nyarlathotep continued speaking words that may or may not have been true.
“You’re wondering how I could say that when I set the entire world on fire for my family, aren’t you? But it’s true. No matter how much I try to remember those pleasant times, their charred black faces are all I can see. So I understand why your hands are trembling. That fear isn’t something you should give visual form. …But will you really finish this in time if you rely on others?”
“What are you trying to say?”
“The Capitalist Corporations aren’t stupid. If you’re trying to burn an inconvenient corpse, you should have done so as soon as possible. They’ll be here soon.”
It happened before the unease could race down Quenser’s spine.
The small house had already lost its roof, but a tremendous shock caused it to collapse altogether.
Quenser fell from his chair and the walls collapsed. In fact, fragments flew parallel to the ground as if a directional mine had gone off. Then the walls fell over with rattling sound. A great strength grabbed Quenser’s arm and pulled him under the battered table.
Surprisingly, it was Nyarlathotep who had saved him.
The lack of the roof had helped them. The amount of rubble falling from above was not enough to break through the table or bury them alive.
When he pulled himself out from below the table and rubble, a noise started hurting Quenser’s ears.
It sounded like an electric fan amplified many, many times over.
That was the sound produced by the propeller of an aircraft given a reciprocating engine instead of a jet engine for longer flight times.
“Drones!!” shouted Heivia. “They got a picture from above. They saw where we were and they saw the corpse in the hole!!”
A pillar of fire loudly rose from the hole. That was the napalm Quenser had made, but it was anyone’s guess how effective that would be at this point. If the corpse had been photographed from the sky before it was burnt, they might have even wrapped the noose around their own necks by burning it.
“Hey, do you think the war here’ll end now that their big boss is dead!?”
“Not a chance! This’ll just cause a chemical reaction transforming the rescue operation into a mission for revenge!! In fact, now that we’ve lost our shield, they can relax and start shooting all they want!!”
The drones in question were not fighter jets with high-level computer equipment onboard. Instead, they looked like a giant paper model with an engine attached. A whole bunch of them were flying around like dragonflies in the autumn sky. It would have been hard to get an accurate count of them all.
“Those don’t carry missiles,” explained Nyarlathotep as he dug through the rubble and (for some reason) pulled out a member of the intelligence division. “Do you have an Object on your side? Now that they know where you are, you don’t need to hesitate to ask for some assistance. If you don’t have those eyes in the sky shot down by anti-air lasers, you’ll be blown to bits by Cynthia’s anti-personnel and anti-vehicle cannons. The smoke and waves of heat seem to be affecting their targeting for now, but they should correct that before long.”
Quenser frowned at the man’s prediction.
“Cynthia? Oh, you mean the Extra Arc. Is it linked with those drones to indirectly target us!?”
“No, both of those names are inaccurate. I guess I’m not thinking straight either,” curtly replied Nyarlathotep. “Its true name not recorded on any official Capitalist Corporations documents is the Miskatonic. That is the truly cruel Second Generation personally funded by Acre Kiss-of-Rose…no, by Azathoth who was using that name.”
Even for a Capitalist Corporations’ Second Generation, an absurd amount of funding and technology had been pumped into the Miskatonic. The Object represented one of the seven giant corporations making up 7th Core which directly managed their home country.
Even from the edge of the scarlet lake which reflected the burning color of the sky, it could clearly be seen deep in the giant destroyed industrial sector across the Panama Canal.
It had a bizarre design.
One look at its main cannons was enough to know that.
A giant mechanical flower spread out from the back. It was shifted upwards a little like a straw hat on someone’s head. Except the flower was actually made up of giant reels and two meter wide tubes extending from them. Eight identical devices were laid out in a circle like on a clock face and the special tubes could move freely like the fiber scopes used for endoscopes.
They looked like eight snakes or the tentacles of a squishy sea creature.
The Miskatonic’s main cannons were high-power plasma cannons that were fired through the tubes. It fired from different positions, at different angles, and with different timing to seal off its opponent’s movements.
It was similar yet completely different from the Baby Magnum’s cannons that were supported by seven arms and could be used for diffusion or convergence.
However, they did not have time to sit there analyzing its structure.
Death was pursuing Quenser and the others in the form of drones.
“This ain’t good! The forest! Run into the forest, Quenser!!”
Heivia gestured toward and instructed the student as he ran.
“Get somewhere where they can’t see you from the sky! Luckily, they can’t use an IR search with all this heat and smoke. If we can escape the cameras, we still have a chance!!”
Quenser immediately grabbed Nyarlathotep’s wrist, much to the surprise of the man with the neatly parted hair.
“You could just leave me, you know?”
“I’m not letting you use this confusion to fake your death.”
Quenser started running while dragging along a ghost who showed no desire to live.
Lots of drones were fried, blown up, and shot down overhead. That was thanks to the Baby Magnum’s anti-air support. But the surviving ones and even the ones that were shot down produced whirring sounds from their camera lenses and transmitted the fleeing soldiers’ location to the Miskatonic.
An explosive roar followed.
This was not the Object’s fierce plasma main cannon. Most likely, its many railguns and coilguns had been simultaneously fired into the sky.
It poured down just like rain.
This downpour of death was meant to crush the target even with some level of targeting error.
Its own drones were shot down as the shells rained down on the edge of the lake.
After a scream, Quenser flew through the air.
He could no longer feel Nyarlathotep’s wrist in his grasp, but his vision was spinning around too much to tell if he had let go or if one or the other’s arm had been blown off.
He slammed back-first into the ground and something soft fell from the heavens.
The items that had been blasted into the air with the black soil were horribly dark-red metallic-smelling clumps.
Quenser nearly tore at his hair in a panic, but a powerful strength grabbed his arm.
Nyarlathotep was pulling him to his feet.
“Can you stand?”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Run. If you aren’t ready to meet the grim reaper before finishing your job, that is.”
He fully focused himself on running.
Whether it was rain or spears falling from the sky, he forced his legs to continue moving.
He finally half-slid into the deep forest next to the lake.
Shells poured down on the forest as well and trees too thick to reach one’s arms around splintered like chopsticks.
Still, the accuracy had dropped and the shells started falling nowhere near them as they ran deeper and deeper into the forest.
It finally stopped after about ten minutes or a little more, but that hell seemed to have lasted an eternity.
Had it given up?
Or had the Princess’s anti-air support successfully shot down all of the drones?
That was Quenser’s guess as he leaned against a tree and tried to catch his breath, but then Nyarlathotep spoke up.
“Here it comes.”
The world vanished into whiteness.
Eight blasts of high-power plasma instantly filled the entire terrain with destruction.
The forest melted.
The trees were not even allowed to burn. They and the ground turned to a glowing orange liquid which formed rivers of lava.
The downpour from the heavens had been at least generally aimed, but the eight main cannons had not even done that.
The enemy had escaped into the forest, so the Object was melting the entire forest.
Instead of just wiping them off the face of the earth, it was wiping off the face of the earth too.
That was just how insane the fan-shaped attack was.
Quenser stared blankly as he slid his back down the tree trunk to sit down.
The scenery that had been there a moment before had transformed into a red river.
Nyarlathotep glanced upwards and seemed to be sniffing at something.
“No second wave… So was that all? Or it may be focusing on its battle with the Legitimacy Kingdom Object. Either way, this is our chance to escape.”
A crackling sound reached their ears.
They looked over and saw Heivia unsteadily approaching while treading on the embers.
“Hey, what happened to the intelligence division?”
“There were a ton of them with you, weren’t there!? What happened to them!?”
Heivia did not give a clear answer.
But the rivers of lava and his next words said enough.
“It’s time…we killed this guy.”
Heivia’s assault rifle suddenly hopped up.
Quenser immediately grabbed the firearm that hung from his shoulder.
It was the bullpup sticky bomb launcher known as the War Hammer.
Two boys wearing the same military uniform aimed their weapons at each other from about twenty meters away.
“You can’t, Heivia. If you kill him, we’ll lose any way to fight back against the Capitalist Corporations’ accusations!!”
“What the hell do you think we can clear up or stop now!? We’re past the stage where the fuse was lit. The spherical bomb with a skull and crossbones on it was has already blown up! And the friendly idiots who were supposed to stop it are all below the lava. This hell is going to cover the entire world before long. And yet the gigantic idiot that set the initial fire is still alive!!”
“He can’t fix anything, so we have no reason to risk our lives to protect him. We should just execute him already. Even if we did drag him back to the beachhead, some bizarre political decision would get in the way. …Do you really think the VIPs want this war to end? Just like the Capitalist Corporations wanted a reason to attack the Legitimacy Kingdom, the Legitimacy Kingdom has tons of reasons to have an excuse to attack them! It isn’t fear that’s burning through the world! It’s a fire of greed, so there’s no way to end it!!”
“Are you saying taking him back still wouldn’t stop this world war?”
“He won’t get a proper hearing. He’ll be found suspiciously hanged in his cell and it’ll be called a suicide, so why protect him? If it’s an issue of sooner or later, then we might as well kill him ourselves!!”
Quenser gave an anguished groan as he held enough firepower to blow his awful friend to smithereens.
“Then we can’t leave him with the Legitimacy Kingdom. We’ll have to leave him with the neutral Blue Cross and have the truth revealed in the international courts. It’s a long shot, but that’s the only way to stop the entire world from burning down!”
“All you’ve done is give me the justification I need, Quenser. Now I can shoot you to prevent you from deserting and leaking our information.”
“Stop. You can’t win this. Do you really think we’re on equal footing here? There’s no way I’ll lose to a student.”
“You get one warning. I’ve got an assault rifle, so even if I shoot an arm or leg, it’ll still tear open an artery. …Put down that War Hammer. I’ve said my part, Quenser. The rest is up to you.”
Still, the two boys remained entirely motionless for over ten seconds.
If either one of them moved their trigger finger five millimeters back, it would all fall apart.
But finally, something seemed to drive Quenser to remove his eye from the sight.
He slowly removed the stock from his shoulder and lowered the muzzle of the gun. Then he let it dangle down from his hands.
“There, that’s a good boy. Now you-…”
Heivia never finished speaking.
Without even looking through the sight, Quenser pulled the trigger of the firearm dangling from his hands.
Something was fired onto the thoroughly heated ground at the exact midpoint between them. It was a translucent slime that covered twenty or thirty centimeters.
A piece of metal the size of a watch battery released a mechanical flash and a large explosion followed.
Both Quenser and Heivia were swept backwards by the blast.
A cloud of dust filled the sky to block their view of each other.
Those boys always seemed to be together, but now the distance between them seemed to stretch out forever.
Quenser pulled on Nyarlathotep’s hand as he ran through the boiling orange forest.
As he did, he opened his mouth wide.
He could not stop screaming even though the scorching wind could roast his lungs at any moment.
He was not dead.
He was not dead.
There was no way that could have killed him.
That prayer filled his heart, but he did not have it in him to turn around as he raced across the battlefield.
As the world teetered on the verge of destruction, he could not allow Nyarlathotep to be killed.
That should have been the right decision, so how had his methods strayed so far?
Extreme anguish filled him as Nyarlathotep asked him a question.
“What are you going to do now?”
The man sounded as casual as someone asking him to buy some bread for breakfast tomorrow, so Quenser thought the circuits in his head were going to fry.
He violently let go of the man’s hand and aimed the War Hammer at him.
At a distance of less than a meter, he mercilessly pulled the trigger while aiming at the man’s stomach.
With a muffled sound, Nyarlathotep’s body flew through the air and crashed into a broken tree trunk.
He coughed and looked down at his stomach for a while.
Quenser kept the bullpup War Hammer at the ready and his finger on the detonation trigger.
“I don’t want to get along with you either!!”
“But the world will end without you. So I’ll use you! Listen, if I pull this wireless trigger, your body will be blown in half and your organs will scatter everywhere!! I can do that at any moment! So do as I say. I don’t care what kind of justification you had. Whatever your reason, I’ll make sure you take responsibility!!”
“That makes sense. Fine.” Nyarlathotep smiled. “If I could redo my life a hundred times, I would still kill Azathoth every single time, but I don’t want any lasting effects. Take me wherever you want. Take me someplace where I can take responsibility for what I did.”
“First, we’ll pay the Blue Cross a visit,” replied Quenser. “Both the Legitimacy Kingdom and the Capitalist Corporations avoided attacking them. It can be the refugee camp, the tent hospital, or the food support center, but we need to get someplace with the same authority as a temporary embassy or consulate. Even Objects are banned by international law from firing their main cannons there. I can’t think of any other way to survive against those monsters.”
Heivia groaned as he got up from the scorching ground.
He started tearing at his hair when he found Quenser and Nyarlathotep had vanished.
“Does that idiot really get what this means?”
Requests were still flowing in over the radio.
The intelligence division members had been wiped out.
The Princess on the Baby Magnum and Frolaytia commanding the battalion from the megafloat beachhead would both want to know of any survivors.
But what would they do when they learned about this?
What would they do when they found out Quenser Barbotage had taken Nyarlathotep with him as he left the Legitimacy Kingdom and tried to flee to a different group, even if that group was the Blue Cross.
“If I could have stopped him here, it all would have worked out once this was over.”
Heivia was a Legitimacy Kingdom soldier.
He had his reasons for taking part in this war, so he could not walk the same path as a battlefield student like Quenser.
He could not just throw it all away.
Still, he raised his voice while thinking about the boy who had watched his back all this time.
“The Capitalist Corporations aren’t your only enemy now! Don’t you get that the Baby Magnum is going to be after you too!?”
Two armies and two Objects would now be sent after a mere student.
Quenser and Nyarlathotep no longer needed to hide from the Blue Cross civilians, so they approached one and asked where their base was located.
There, they learned the refugee camp and tent hospital were located even further south than the Baby Magnum stationed five kilometers south of here. It made sense when they thought about it. They could hardly let people sleep on the ground when it was ninety degrees Celsius, so they would need to place their base far away from the heat and lava.
“But…I don’t see how we can possibly slip past the Baby Magnum.”
“Agreed. As a First Generation, it was made with enemies other than Objects in mind and has a lot of excess fat to show for it. A Second Generation would be one thing, but we can’t hope to survive a traditional anti-personnel battle here.”
As the two of them discussed the issue, the young volunteer in a fire-resistant suit said more.
“The Panama Canal is a giant entranceway that’s eighty kilometers long in all.”
“There’s a water gate maintenance point at the forty kilometer point in the center. It should be protected by international law too. If you can make it there…”
They were near the eight kilometer point on the far western end of the canal, so they still needed to travel more than thirty kilometers through this scorching hell that would be deadly after an hour without a fire-resistant suit.
However, that faint hope was all they had.
As they thanked the young man, they advised that he leave the Panama Canal because the usual rules were not going to apply, but he only smiled and shook his head. But that was not because he did not see the danger.
“The canal gathers the most attention, but there was a lot of vegetation around here. It used to be a famous for its coffee and quite a few corporations came here to investigate rare insects in search of chemical compounds to use in drugs.”
“Back when the UN still existed, a destroyed Eastern European city was apparently reproduced down to every last crack in the bricks as a symbol of restoration. I’m not going to give up. This is our fight and it’s far more difficult than wielding guns or bombs. So I’m not going to give up the fight until this land is filled with water and vegetation and everyone’s smiles have returned.”
“I see. Sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
The young man tilted his head at Nyarlathotep’s oddly affable voice.
The three of them turned to face their separate objectives without knowing which one of them was truly approaching almost certain death.
Quenser and Nyarlathotep walked along the scorching concrete bank of the glowing orange canal. Their side of the canal was a world of orange lava and the other side was a burning industrial region partially hidden by a tall, broken double fence. The scenery never seemed to change and simply viewing it seemed to wear away one’s stamina.
Even so, Quenser kept his feet moving.
This work slowly but surely wore down his life.
For some reason, Nyarlathotep did not seem to like walking in silence, so he kept speaking as he walked alongside Quenser.
“I did quite a lot.”
“The most notable jobs were mostly ways of obstructing an enemy nation’s weapons development and manufacturing. I would infiltrate a fighter jet production line and inject some data that would mass produce defective products. Or I would lure them into making a cyber attack where I would let them steal the plans to a decoy reactor. The scientists in lab coats would construct the test reactor and happily blow themselves up on the other side of the planet. They didn’t even have time to feel any pain.”
“Did you really enjoy tricking people for a living that much?”
“It would be more accurate to say that was the only way I could face society. I didn’t become an expert in faking my own death because I wanted to. I screwed up so many times that I had no other way to get by.”
Nyarlathotep was an expert spy.
He may have wanted to keep the conversation going so he could keep the mental initiative.
But he may not have had any real goal in mind. It may have been more of a habit, like a squirrel hiding nuts.
“I often worked with Acre Kiss-of-Rose…that is, Azathoth who created an ID with that name.”
“What’s with those Nyar and Aza names? I don’t get it.”
“They’re nothing more than common pseudonyms. You need to learn more about recreation, boy. He was originally a Capitalist Corporations’ spy just like me. Other people often don’t accept the things we do for our jobs and it can be difficult getting on everyone’s good side or finding a weakness to exploit, so Azathoth decided it would be faster to send someone to the higher ups and have a ‘system’ created that made it easier for us.”
“Just to be clear, he was the CEO of a 7th Core corporation, right?”
“That just shows how well he did for himself. Although it is true he knew how to use the carrot and the stick to control people’s hearts like a true spy.”
Nyarlathotep stared down the seemingly never-ending path as he continued speaking.
“But once he could command his own Object, a gear seemed to come loose. A change in the earth’s crust transformed the equal round table into a distorted pyramid. From there, it became nothing but a series of uninteresting jobs.”
“And that’s why you took out Acre…I mean, Azathoth?”
“That’s skipping a fair bit.” The man with the neatly parted hair smiled a little. “After my heart was worn down quite a lot, I joined with some others who felt the same and we used my usual method.”
“Faking your death?”
“Even as skilled as I am at it, it wasn’t easy against that CEO of a major corporation.”
While it “wasn’t easy”, he had managed to pull it off.
That summed up the man’s talent and skill.
“Anyway, after erasing all traces of ourselves, we parted ways. I chose my new home in a carefree land near the equator that had plenty of water and a certain level of medical facilities. …In other words, I chose the Soberania District.”
“Oh, so was the Soberania Disturbance started because Azathoth was pursuing you?”
“I’m not so sure about that. Personally, I don’t think he knew.” The man rejected the idea. “He was trying to start a new online shopping service known as the Silver Key. It was set to bring in a massive fortune, but that meant it needed a massive amount of jet fuel. That in turn meant he needed a system to safely transport all that fuel by tanker, so he tried to take the Panama Canal while claiming to be wiping out special commandos that would infiltrate large cities and cause largescale damage with detergent, fuel, and other everyday items. That was probably his entire purpose here. Reality isn’t always driven by conspiracies or long, drawn-out plans. If it was, I could have cut him off more quickly.”
Still, he had killed him.
It did not matter if the man had done it intentionally.
Nyarlathotep raised a finger as spoke.
“There were two tragedies for him. The first was not realizing that I, Nyarlathotep, was here.”
He raised a second finger.
“The second was the fact that the self-suggestion I used to seal away my spy skills was broken by the deaths of my wife and son. …If something had been a little different somewhere along the line, I would not have been given that chance to kill him.”
Inside that half-destroyed house, he had claimed he might have walked a different path had a single person in this world been on his side.
This may have been what he had meant.
What if someone had told him ahead of time and he had been given a chance to escape?
What if a hero had appeared and saved his family before his eyes?
What if, when he decided to walk the path of murder, a small hand had remained to grab at the sleeve of his uniform?
Quenser had no reason to support this man.
He understood that, but he still muttered a few words.
“…That is a tragedy.”
“Ha ha. What, are you going to believe the words of someone who worked as a spy for over two decades?”
“I believe you.”
Nyarlathotep’s expression did not change at the blunt admission.
He may have felt a reason to use his ability to fully block any emotion from showing on his face.
“You deceived a lot of people for your work and for your revenge. …But I don’t see any reason why you would lie about the story you’re leaving behind in the end.”
“Even if you’re captured by the Legitimacy Kingdom or sent to the international courts via the Blue Cross, you have no future. You’re a living corpse. You have no idea if you’ll ever come across someone else who won’t twist your words to help their organization or for appearances, so you’ll take this chance to leave behind what it is you hold inside.”
As they spoke, Nyarlathotep suddenly grabbed Quenser’s shoulder and tugged him behind a forklift for some kind of maintenance that was so scorched that its paint looked like a blackened banana.
They were hiding, but from what?
The answer was only three hundred meters ahead.
“It’s the Legitimacy Kingdom,” whispered Nyarlathotep.
Quenser just about clicked his tongue on reflex, but he quickly slammed on the brakes. Fortunately, the soldiers had yet to notice them. Even so, the War Hammer felt extremely heavy hanging from its sling belt.
“Why are they blocking our way? Did they predict where we would go?”
“It wouldn’t have been hard since you mentioned the Blue Cross before running off. The safest plan would have been to kill that boy instead of just creating a smokescreen.”
Quenser did not have it in him to respond to that.
They were still more than twenty kilometers from the Blue Cross water gate maintenance camp. Even if they slipped past these soldiers, more Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers could easily be patrolling along the rest of the way.
Would they continue on or make a change of plans?
The extreme situation sent sweat pouring down Quenser’s face, but something even more ominous approached.
It was a long, deep wing-like sound much like the propellers in an old war movie.
When the student looked up from behind the forklift, his expression crumbled.
The drones that acted as the Miskatonic’s anti-personnel eyes in the sky were slowly passing through the dark red sky.
“I can’t believe this…”
He spat out the words and stood up from behind the forklift.
It was hard to tell thanks to the hooded cloaks meant to protect against the heat and the sensors, but a close look revealed the soldiers blocking the way (and being observed from the sky) were all boys and girls even younger than Quenser himself.
“Dammit, and that Second Generation’s locked onto them! If I don’t do something soon, a deadly downpour is gonna fall right on top of them!”
“Can you really save them? They might put a bullet between your eyes the second you show your face.”
“Sorry, but while I might be working against them, I’m not their enemy!!”
Loud gunfire rang out as the panicking soldiers started firing their assault rifles into the sky, but Quenser doubted that would help. It would only call in more drones.
Quenser opened a container the size of a vaulting box that sat next to the forklift. There were thick pipes and safety valves inside, but that was not what he was interested in.
Some thick paper was crumpled up inside as cushioning.
“They may be using reciprocating engines, but they can still move at three or four hundred kph,” whispered Nyarlathotep. “I doubt you can shoot them down with a bomb launcher.”
“Who said that’s what I’m doing? Hey, you help too!!”
“Why should I?”
He looked confused, so Quenser clicked his tongue and spoke.
He did not have time for this.
“Was your kid who died a boy or a girl?”
“As I said, he was my son. What about it?”
“Then if he were alive, how old would he be?”
“Isn’t that a bit of a cheap shot?”
“How different was he from those kids who are about to be killed over there? Answer me.”
“And this time you can save them. You can make it in time. So think carefully about this.”
It was now Nyarlathotep’s turn to click his tongue.
They may not have looked anything like him. There may not have been anything in common between the dead boy in his memories and the living people before him. Not their build, not their personality, and not their age.
But the associations made by the human mind were powerful.
Once a connection was made, it was impossible to escape it.
“Fine then… What should I start with?”
“Do you have anything I can tie with? It can be a string, a wire, or whatever else. I need to tie together this paper!”
“I’m making a weapon that had its first major debut in the Swedish army’s river crossing operation back in 1701!!”
“I see. That does seem like it would be effective.”
Quenser worked with Nyarlathotep to tie up the thick paper, stuck a War Hammer fuse inside, and threw each of them into the orange canal one after another.
The loud splashing seemed to have clued the Legitimacy Kingdom boys and girls into their presence, but they could not back off now. Quenser pulled the detonation trigger to set off the fuse inside the paper. With an impact greater than a firecracker, the damp paper burst into flames.
The man with the neatly parted hair faithfully raised both hands but spoke with a thin smile on his face.
“The originals were clumps of straw, so I wonder if these will actually work.”
“It doesn’t matter if they don’t burn perfectly. We already proved this would work back at the Miraflores Water Gate!”
A moment later, black smoke started rising from the paper floating on the water. Just like an octopus or squid would muddy the seawater with ink if they sensed danger, a portion of the scenery was quickly filled with the color black. The heated wind immediately swept the smoke over their heads.
Quenser raised his hands as well and shouted to the soldiers that he still believed where his allies.
“Don’t fire! You’ll tell them where you are! The heat and smoke will blind their eyes in the sky. All you need is an impromptu smokescreen weapon! If you don’t cause a commotion, the Miska-…the Extra Arc’s anti-personnel cannons can’t target you!!”
A dull metallic sound rang out.
Despite the countless guns aimed his way, Quenser turned just his head toward the sound.
At one or two kilometers away, it was closer than he had expected.
It was the Extra Arc…no, the Miskatonic.
(What happened back at the Miraflores Water Gate? After the drones lost sight of us, what did that monster do once we ran into the forest?)
With a great roar on the opposite bank, the area around the Miskatonic was surrounded in scarlet flames. Its own industrial region crumbled even further. It may have been scattering chemical incendiary rounds at the same time. Not only did the entire area burn indiscriminately, but it seemed to cover even its own surface in a deep red hood.
The eight flower petals on the back of the spherical main body began to wriggle. The main cannons squirmed through the air like the tentacles of a mollusk capturing its prey and they slowly turned toward Quenser and the others.
Those plasma cannons had abnormal power. They contained a disastrous fire that could instantly transform the entire scenery into orange lava.
Heivia must have contacted the others to inform them of that firepower because the Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers started retreating. They were slowly backing away from the canal as if to put as much distance between them and the Object as they could.
But Quenser shouted out as if to tap them on the back.
“No, jump in!!”
As if to demonstrate, Quenser ran full speed toward the Panama Canal, and thus toward the Capitalist Corporations-controlled Azuero District and the Miskatonic itself. Nyarlathotep followed after him with a thin smile on his face.
The Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers aimed their assault rifles at the two, but not a single bullet flew their way.
After a moment of hesitation, several sets of footsteps ran after them.
They all jumped into the water that reflected the orange light. They did not at all feel like they were inside the ocean. It was worse than a hot bath. It was possible all of the fish had long since died.
But they could hardly complain.
They immense quantity of water and the current saved them. The water had an average temperature between sixty and eighty degrees and it would occasionally reach as high as ninety. If the liquid were not being churned up by the current, it might have been the same as boiling water.
Quenser poked just his head from the water and glared at the Miskatonic.
He waited in silence.
And waited in silence.
And waited in silence.
Finally, the Miskatonic’s giant form moved. It slowly backed away and accelerated northward.
“It doesn’t want to get the Panama Canal’s water gates and pumps involved. Looks like those rules are still in effect.”
“That’s no real reason to relax.”
Quenser spat back at Nyarlathotep’s comment.
He then shouted at the boys and girls wearing the same uniform he was.
“Do you know why it withdrew? To come up with a countermeasure! Next time, it won’t be using drones. They might have to throw something together at the last second, but they’ll attach some anti-personnel sensors directly to that thing and resume the hunt. Once that happens, a smokescreen will be useless and we’ll be blown away as soon as it locks onto us. You need to get out of here before that happens! Hurry!!”
Nyarlathotep ignored the confused boy and asked a question.
“You can worry about others if you like, but what about us? I think we’ll be targeted first and foremost.”
“Change of plans,” groaned Quenser. “We’re going to swim across to the Azuero District to the north. We’ll slip into their maintenance base and stop them from using what little knowledge they have to find a way to get the anti-personnel sensors they need. …I said I excel at that kind of thing, didn’t I?”
“Didn’t you say you had to be prepared to die about three times along the way?”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m sick of babysitting some kids that I’m not sure have even grown any hair down there yet. Let’s destroy the source of the danger so we can safely reach the goal line.”
With that decided, Quenser and Nyarlathotep began swimming across the fifty meter wide canal.
There were armed soldiers behind them, but no one fired at them.
The soldiers may have realized that pulling the trigger could lead to something unpleasant dropping down on their heads.
An unpleasant tension stung at Quenser’s skin.
It had begun the moment he had crossed the canal and entered the Capitalist Corporations’ Azuero District. It may have come from his awareness that he was standing in enemy territory.
A double chain-link fence nearly three meters tall blocked the way, but it was not much of an obstacle with so much of it broken and collapsed. There were also guard towers with gun turrets, but they had fallen over.
The entire scenery changed.
The Soberania District had resembled a resort town or forest after a fire, but the Azuero District was covered in asphalt and filled with giant concrete boxes and cylindrical metal tanks. It all looked like an unhealthy industrial sector.
However, the entire place had transformed into a scorching red and black hell with the buildings melted into lava.
Here and there, Quenser saw groups of metal pipes that almost seemed to form a brain. They even passed by overhead like overpasses, so he opened his mouth.
“This is right on the border, so what kind of factory was this?”
“It’s too scorched to read properly, but you can just barely make out ‘Liquid-N’ on the tanks.”
“It’s probably officially meant for humanitarian medicine, but I bet it was actually being used in research and development for a new type of night assault cannon.”
“Those weapons are meant to silently attack a maintenance base zone and then leave, right?”
“Mortars and multiple rocket launchers are the standard weapons for attacking a base, but they don’t have much initial speed and it takes a few seconds before they hit. If people react to the sound of them being fired and jump out of the way or get down on the ground, the number of casualties goes way down, so everyone wants a way to launch a shell without using any powder.”
“I know our intelligence division was doing some research by launching a baseball with compressed air…but I think that was a failure because it didn’t give the ball much distance for how heavy the unit was.”
“Here, they were probably trying to gain even more power by flash vaporizing liquid nitrogen inside the barrel. It might sound difficult to use, but liquid nitrogen can be safely stored in a thermos.”
“It still doesn’t seem to fit with the ‘firepower above all else’ ideal of the Object worshippers.”
“If the research was actually important, they would never build the factory next to the border, even if it is a border with a blank region. It’s probably a dumping ground for anyone who messes up in defending their home country.”
The industrial sector burned loudly as Quenser and Nyarlathotep walked through it.
The sky was covered by black smoke as far as the eye could see, but it was not coming from the smokestacks. They could not hear a single sound indicating the facilities here were running.
Similarly, no one else seemed to be around.
“Those main cannons we saw back at the Miraflores Water Gate were insanely powerful.”
The facilities were packed in tightly despite how much space there was, so they had poor visibility. Quenser glanced around, but he could not see the giant Object from here.
“Those weren’t normal low-stability plasma cannons. How do they get that much power? Are they compressing a huge amount of catalyst, are they sending in a powerful electric current, or does it have something like a circular particle accelerator inside?”
“It’s probably simpler than that. That’s plasma, but it leaves the category of the low-stability plasma cannon. That’s why it can use an unprecedented level of power.”
Quenser initially did not seem to know what the man meant, but…
“Wait, you’re kidding, right? Is that even possible?”
“All of the energy swirling through the JPlevelMHD reactor is directly retrieved and launched from the tubes. …So that’s plasma that can’t be called ‘low-stability’. It’s the overwhelming heat that keeps a two hundred thousand ton giant fighting at speeds in excess of five hundred kph. Do you see now why that would have the destructive power to carve orange paths into the planet?”
“Do you have any proof that’s what it’s doing?”
“No. But I can’t think of any other theory to explain what I saw.”
Quenser was not about to take the words of an enemy spy at face value, but he placed it in a corner of his mind as a possibility.
But if that theory was true…
(The explosion of a test reactor has enough power to stop an Object. If all that energy is being directly sent out, even the Princess would be vaporized in a single hit. And it can keep firing it from eight different cannons?)
Those were some frightening specs, but he still had his doubts.
If that was true, they would need a way past a certain problem present in the design of an Object.
Nyarlathotep pointed forward.
“If you have any doubts, check it out for yourself. That’s the best course of action in an environment filled with both truth and lies.”
After walking around the corner of a giant crumbling factory, Quenser frantically backed up.
The Miskatonic was hidden there.
That nightmarish Object used its eight tentacles to freely fire the energy drawn directly from its reactor.
“Why!? Shouldn’t there at least be guards around it if it’s undergoing maintenance!?”
“Even with heat-resistant suits, they can’t keep soldiers around at all times when it’s ninety degrees here. But if they send the Object back to a safer area, the Legitimacy Kingdom will use that as an opportunity to advance. Instead, they send only the bare minimum of equipment into this scorching region to keep the soldiers out of this sauna as much as possible. …After all, an Object can’t be damaged by a surprise attack from rank and file soldiers. Or so they believe.”
Based on their experience so far, the Miskatonic most likely used the drones for everything but anti-Object targeting. Currently, it was busy having anti-personnel sensors installed because it could not trust its eyes in the sky. It was unlikely it would send out the drones it no longer trusted.
With that in mind, Quenser and Nyarlathotep moved out from the factory wall again. They stayed low and jogged over to the Object.
It used an air cushion propulsion device. The air cushion was shaped like a diagonal “#” with the front two lines stretched out. Overall, it had the silhouette of a double-edged sword. The edges suck out from the Object a little bit and they looked like an aircraft carrier’s flight deck.
“Wow… The entire road is covered in a forest of steel beams. How many of them are there? And the Object is sitting on top of that metal forest.”
“It’s a way of distributing the weight. They do the same thing in shipbuilding. When a seventy thousand ton cruiser is being constructed, it’s supported by countless wooden beams before it’s allowed to float in the water.”
Countless thick wires extended from the surrounding factories and cylindrical tanks and they connected to the Object like it was Gulliver. Maintenance soldiers in fire-resistant suits were traveling up and down those wires. Most of the work was being done overhead, so Quenser and Nyarlathotep rushed into the forest of steel beams so as not to be seen. They were directly below the two hundred thousand ton Miskatonic.
Quenser groaned as he nervously looked overhead.
“That float looks like a sword. It extends so far forward. Wouldn’t half…no, a third as much be able to support it?”
“That’s just how incredibly powerful its main cannons are. It needs this giant float for the recoil.”
They continued to the very back of the metal forest and poked their heads out from below the Object ceiling.
There, they saw the eight flower petals attached to the back of the spherical main body. The eight tentacles attached to those giant reels were far too close.
“They’re basically endoscopes. Do you think they use electromagnets to control the plasma?”
“I don’t see what else they could use. They basically have a small sun trapped in there, so even if they make the walls thicker, the plasma’s heat will still melt the material.”
They did not know if it was the tokamak method or the torus method, but the inside of those tubes had to be filled with extremely high power electromagnets. That immense magnetic line would restrain the plasma and fire it by letting it “escape” in the desired direction.
Quenser pulled his head back to hide below the Object ceiling again.
“I have one question about its targeting.”
“And that is?”
“Our theory was that the Miskatonic uses its own sensors to target Objects and the drones for soldiers and anything else.”
Quenser leaned against one of the steel beams.
“But how? Its main cannons are overwhelming. I’d heard the Legitimacy Kingdom’s observation equipment was blinded in the instant it fired because the values grew too high. In that case, how is it targeting the enemy Object from the center of that vortex of plasma?”
“Now that you mention it, that is strange.”
“It obviously can’t use optical or IR sensors. And all the noise rules out auditory or ultrasonic.”
“That much plasma would also render electromagnetic waves unusable. It couldn’t be using radar.”
Quenser followed up Nyarlathotep’s comment by thinking through a human’s senses.
“What about smell or taste?”
“Do you know how chemical weapons like poison gas are disposed of? Most of the time, they’re incinerated in the high temperature of aluminum of napalm. The particles behind smell can’t be relied on in that plasma.”
“But the particles aren’t wiped out entirely. That would break the conservation of mass. They’ve only been made harmless and invisible, but they’re still floating around, right? The extreme heat simply changes their chemical structure into something else.”
“So you’re suggesting an olfactory sensor that assumes the indicator has been oxidized? In other words, it has a particle collection device? We should have paid attention to the direction of the wind.”
“It doesn’t look like it’s about to fire. It must use something scattered by the target…like a static electricity model’s repellant or an air cushion model’s turbine lubricant. It uses that ‘smell’ to maintain an accurate targeting lock in the middle of this hell of heat and light.”
In exchange, the Object’s own sensors had not been able to accurately target Quenser and the others when they fled into the forest near the Miraflores Water Gate. Humans did not scatter that much material when they breathed.
That was why it had been forced to attack the general area and create those rivers of lava.
It had only been able to assume it had killed them.
Nyarlathotep accepted the idea before saying more.
“But how does that help us? All that lets us do is divert its aim with chaff or a flare when it targets another Object.”
“Not necessarily. We can abuse that method to get it to fire its main cannons wherever we want. And the Miskatonic uses massive plasma cannons. It’s possible we could…”
“Get the enemy to fire on its own forces?”
Quenser fell silent for a while and finally responded.
“No, let’s wait until later to get greedy. Right now, we just need to take out its anti-personnel sensors. We need to figure out what they’re attaching to it.”
“What a pain. Are we going to walk up one of those wires? That would definitely be hard to do without being spotted. It would be easier if we could get our hands on those fire-resistant suits they’re wearing.”
“All that matters is that we know they aren’t done working yet.”
Quenser grabbed his War Hammer with both hands.
“If I fire at the tip and base of their crane game, I can interrupt their work.”
“I’m all for blowing something up, but wait until after we have an escape route. That has a wireless trigger for remote detonation, right?”
Just as they started discussing their plans, a high-pitched whistle sounded overhead.
It was the same explosive roar as the jet engine hanging down from a large passenger plane’s wing. Quenser looked up without thinking and was amazed to find his body still had enough moisture to sweat.
“Oh, no. The air cushion is starting up! We need to get out of here! We’ll be crushed by the compressed air!!”
They did not have time to worry about the danger of being spotted by the Capitalist Corporations maintenance soldiers. The two of them ran through the forest of steel beams and out from below the roof formed by the Miskatonic.
A moment later, a tremendous wall of air blew through.
Just as the two hundred thousand ton mass began to float, the excess air scattered in every direction. Their bodies seemed to grow weightless and their toes left the scorching asphalt. Quenser swallowed a scream and focused exclusively on not biting his tongue as he was forced to enjoy an aerial swim at more than five meters up.
He lost his balance, crashed into the road again, and rolled another twenty meters.
“Ah…gah! Gh!? Bghah!!”
Occasionally the news would get worked up over a story of a truck dragging someone behind it, but this may have been similar. If not for the thick helmet meant to fight the flames and sensors, his head might have looked like it had been grated.
Similarly, Nyarlathotep was saved by his firefighter’s outfit and he slowly rose to his unsteady feet. Quenser’s mouth was still flapping wordlessly, so the man grabbed his arm and forced him to his feet as well.
There was a good reason for doing that.
A sudden flash of light sliced through the industrial sector.
There was a thick orange afterimage through the air and a white flash of light as if from welding at the point of contact.
The giant concrete factory was roasted through. The Miskatonic snapped its many wires and jumped to the right to escape. The maintenance soldiers working up top were vaporized, set on fire, or sent into a freefall.
Yes, the Miskatonic dodged.
The attack had come from somewhere else.
In other words…
“A laser beam!? Was that the Princess!?”
“So they’ve crossed a line too. I never thought the Legitimacy Kingdom would be the first one to enter the demilitarized zone.”
Removing rubble would leave one a sweaty mess at the best of times and doing it in an 80+ degree sauna did not help. The word “heatstroke” seriously entered Heivia’s mind as a weapon.
While he focused on his surroundings, a rumbling passed him by. A metal bucket on the front of a military tractor was shoving the rubble (and the asphalt below it) away like a snowplow.
Heivia and the rest of an infantry unit followed to make sure there was nothing remaining on the road and finally called in a report over the radio.
“The road has been levelled. I repeat, the road has been levelled! If you blow a tire here, you’re either incredibly unlucky or the maintenance soldiers haven’t been doing their job. Let’s get this over with and leave the rest to the Princess!!”
A response came in the form of an even greater mass of noise approaching from up ahead.
Or rather, it was a tremor running through the ground.
A vehicle two or three times the size of trucks seen on normal roads traveled down the path they had cleared. Lengthwise, it was on the same level as the Princess’s Baby Magnum.
The giant vehicle had thirty-two wheels and it was on the way to the Panama Canal that divided the Soberania District and the Azuero District.
The entire chassis was lifted up by fixed legs like with a crane and the creaking of hydraulic cylinders rang out.
The already giant vehicle extended even further like an accordion. It was enough to slowly cross the entire Panama Canal that was made for tankers to pass through.
“This is incredible. We can build a bridge to reach the battlefield in only ten minutes.”
Heivia commented out of habit but cleared his throat when he remembered his usual companion was not with him.
Meanwhile, the large bridge vehicle extended its body that was folded up like an accordion. The mountains and valleys flattened out as it extended further and further.
It soon reached the other bank and something like a stake was driven in.
“Can I go now?” asked the Princess.
“Not yet. If we don’t attach floats at even intervals down the bridge, it’ll snap down the middle. It’s just like a girl’s ass: being too big can be a problem too.”
The Princess did not respond to his joke.
The awkward silence of an elevator ride with a stranger followed, but she used the downtime to say something else.
“Did Quenser not know this would happen?”
“How should I know? What matters is that he made an enemy of the Legitimacy Kingdom. And to protect the guy that caused all of this. He’s got a boner for the fact that he holds the fate of mankind and the trigger to war in his hands.”
The Princess only had secondhand information, so she did not know the exact situation in which Quenser and Heivia had aimed their weapons at each other.
She only knew that she had been ordered to resolve this situation even if it meant killing Quenser.
“But no matter how hard he tries, he can’t defeat the Baby Magnum.”
She was not simply overestimating her ability. She had seen Quenser and Heivia blow away cutting-edge Second Generations on several occasions, but she could still confidently state that fact.
Her Baby Magnum was an “outdated” First Generation. That meant it was constructed to overwhelm any weapon, including nuclear missiles, instead of just fighting other Objects. Simply put, it contained far more anti-personnel sensors and weapons than those other Objects.
Defeating a Second Generation was no proof that he could defeat a First Generation.
“And apparently he’s doing it all to protect some old guy,” she complained. “Does it not even have to be a girl anymore?”
“What are you talking about? From what I’ve heard, he charged right into danger to protect our novice unit from that Object. It scares me how far that suicidal pervert has expanded the range of who he’ll protect.”
“The Baby Magnum has crossed the demilitarized Panama Canal using the bridge vehicle. The invasion of the Capitalist Corporations’ Azuero District has begun. As planned, contact with the Extra Arc has been confirmed.”
A young female operator read off the report in the operation control room of the giant square megafloat beachhead near the Panama Bay.
The dimly-lit room was kept a little too cool and the operator glanced just once over at Frolaytia.
“Are you sure we should have done this?”
“The situation is urgent enough to warrant it.”
An orange glow came from the end of her long, narrow kiseru as the busty silver-haired commander gave her annoyed reply.
She was currently using the laptop sitting next to her to speak with an old man relaxing in a distant safe country.
“Do you think you can manage this?” he asked. “I have my hands full dealing with the hard-liners who can barely contain their smiles as they shout shrilly at me. They want you to attack the enemy’s valuable weapons manufacturing facilities and resource mines as a preemptive strike to protect the valuable lives of our own people. …And would you look at that? All of the marks they’ve put on the map are cities with populations of at least a million. Makes you wonder if they even know how to read a map.”
“If we do capture Nyarlathotep, is there a chance he’ll be silenced before he can be transported to a safe country for a military trial?”
“Of course. And even if he does give his testimony, they’ll buy as much time as they can by claiming his confession was forced through torture. Those damn berserkers have forgotten the terror of war after living in peace for so long. It’s those kinds of idiots who end up with foolish-looking pictures in the history books.”
“If we don’t come up with a countermeasure, the entire globe will be sent back to the stone age.”
“The Faith Organization might be crying tears of joy since some of them think it’s about time humanity was destroyed for a global reset, but we disagree. You’re on the beachhead instead of in your usual maintenance base, right? Do you know why that change was made?”
“You can’t mean…”
“Open the container marked top secret in the corner of the third bunker. On top of that giant float is everything you need to hold a military trial. It doesn’t have to last more than a minute or even half a minute. As soon as Nyarlathotep gets there, begin and end that trial. That will leave the conclusion that this series of events was all his doing and the Legitimacy Kingdom had no part in it. …As long as we have that judgment paper, we can avoid giving the solar system a second star.”
“In other words, you aren’t giving any thought to what happens to Nyarlathotep afterwards?”
“If the defendant kicks the bucket, there’s no risk of an appeal. We won’t have to worry about war breaking out during a years-long process or some skilled attorney overturning everything. This is actually the best option for anyone who wants world peace. When the hard-liners’ assassin shows up, make sure to pay them a tip.”
The smiling old man ended the transmission.
Frolaytia breathed out some sweet smoke and spoke with a bitter look on her face.
“I’m beginning to think it really is time humanity was destroyed for a global reset.”
Quenser was covered in scrapes, but he could not complain.
His goal had been the destruction of the anti-personnel sensors set to be added to the Miskatonic. That had been meant to reduce the sacrifices among the Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers, but the situation had changed.
The two Objects were fighting now.
Led by Nyarlathotep, Quenser ran from the Miskatonic. The Object moved every which way as it dodged the main cannon shots fired by the Baby Magnum. The orange ruins were destroyed even further like some kind of natural disaster.
Nyarlathotep spoke as he ran.
“Let’s find some masks somewhere. There must be some in these specialized factories.”
“Those tanks are filled with liquid nitrogen, right? If they burst and the contents get out, it will vaporize almost immediately. That is not an environment for a human being that inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide.”
“This place is going to get even closer to being like the surface of Mars!?”
Quenser shouted in fear as he held his War Hammer in both hands.
Not far away, the Miskatonic began returning fire. It scattered chemical incendiary rounds while its eight tentacle-like main cannons began to wriggle. Pure white beams were released from various angles.
The industrial sector had just barely maintained its scorched form as it was dyed orange, but it quickly melted into the lava now.
It had been enough of a shock to knock him unconscious when he first saw it, but was growing accustomed to this a good thing? Quenser swore in his heart to see an eye doctor once this was over.
The two of them were assaulted by scorching waves of heat and a tremendous shaking below their feet.
Walls collapsed and Object maintenance materials fell from large trucks. A metal sphere several meters across even rolled across an intersection in the work roads.
Quenser was nearly crushed, but his surprise did not come from the near miss.
The item was far different from a giant wrecking ball.
“A test reactor!? They carried in one of those as a spare part!?”
“Do you think we could make it go supercritical to blow away the Miskatonic from below?”
“It wouldn’t be that easy. Even if we did try to get close, those randomly fired chemical incendiary rounds are too scary. Let’s just keep going!”
However, a giant wall blocked their way. It was actually a tube over two meters wide wriggling around the area. It was probably a spare part for the Miskatonic’s main cannons.
Quenser clicked his tongue and searched for a way around it.
The clash between the two monsters was underway not far away.
“She’s at a disadvantage,” said Nyarlathotep in reference to the Princess. “Part of it comes down to the power of her main cannons, but the lava also stops her static electricity propulsion. Plus, her sensors are blinded. And if our theory is correct, the Miskatonic can accurately aim using its high-level olfactory sensors. She has no chance in a head-on battle.”
“Fortunately, the Miskatonic’s new anti-personnel sensors weren’t added in yet. The Princess is one thing, but we don’t have to worry about it locating us.”
“The fact that you chose to charge in to fight after hearing my explanation tells me they should build a statue to honor you. I sympathize with that partner who must always be following you around like this.”
Quenser adjusted his grip on the War Hammer and changed direction with Nyarlathotep. They gave the Miskatonic a wide berth as they ran through a factory.
“Don’t forget that the Legitimacy Kingdom is firing on us too, boy. Look, there are foot soldiers deployed in addition to the Object. How are we going to get past them?”
“I know that. Besides, the First Generation Baby Magnum’s sensors are enough of a-…”
He trailed off as he heard something explode behind them. He quickly looked back and saw a burst pipe partway down the way they had come.
(Did the heat raise the internal pressure too far!?)
But that was not the only explosion. More and more sounded out and they were getting closer.
“We’re going to be swallowed up.”
“But if we run out from here…!!”
There was another large building across a large work road. If they made it there, they would find new, safer cover.
But the second Quenser poked his head out, orange sparks flew from the nearby wall.
He ducked down and pulled his head back.
He poked just his survival kit’s knife out to check again and could tell someone was wielding an assault rifle seven hundred meters ahead.
Quenser clenched his teeth and shouted the familiar boy’s name.
“So we’re cornered. He seems to be using a silencer, but I don’t see why he would need to avoid telling his comrades where his enemy is.”
“That doesn’t matter.”
The explosions were approaching from behind.
“Without a rifle that has support sensors, they’ll have to get closer to shoot. We can make a run for it now. If we can find a way past that idiot, that is.”
“But he’s proven his skill. Step out there and you’ll have your spine shot out before you make it ten steps.”
“I have an idea.”
“Just tell me what it is.”
“If he can shoot at us, that means the line of sight between us is clear.”
“But we have no gun. A handgun and your precious War Hammer can’t fire seven hundred meters.
“That isn’t all I have on hand.”
As he spoke, Quenser reached for his bullpup sticky bomb launcher.
With a solid clicking sound, he removed a piece of it.
In the fiery hell of nearly one hundred degrees, Heivia Winchell could not lie down on the asphalt to steady himself.
Instead, he stood upright as held his assault rifle and secretly clicked his tongue.
(Dammit. I would’ve hit on the first shot if I could do this by the book.)
The young soldier next to him spoke from below a silver cloak.
“What is it, Heivia? Quit firing needlessly. Just because this is an abandoned Capitalist Corporations factory doesn’t mean you can blow up all the fuel tanks like this is a video game. Wars have rules, you know?”
“You idiot, that’s not the point!!”
Just as he removed his eye from the scope to shout back, a transmission reached his radio.
The frequency and encryption format had long since been changed, but he still had Quenser’s bandwidth set in case he could “intercept” something. The reason for that went without saying: intelligence itself was a weapon for the military.
“Yeah, yeah. You’ve got that right. I never knew you were so heartless.”
“What are you talking about? You’re the one that blew me away with a bomb! Besides, you still owe me two hundred euros! And when we went to peep on the women’s bath the other day, you ran off and abandoned me!!”
“I have a suggestion, Heivia. …By the way, what do you think happened to the photo I took back then?”
Heivia’s expression grew incredibly serious.
At the same time, a small piece of paper slowly stuck out from behind a distant wall.
It was a picture of Frolaytia Capistrano in the bath.
“Let’s make a deal, Heivia. This will be our little secret.”
Reason and instinct began an all-out battle inside Heivia Winchell.
Killing Quenser would be easy, but if he let go of that photo, the wind would blow it right into that sea of flames. The only way for Heivia to get his hands on this was to accept Quenser’s terms.
Blood focused in the soldier’s head until he thought he would get a nosebleed, but he finally reached his conclusion.
(Okay, I’ll burn it into my memory and then kill him.)
A hopeless guy was only going to reach a hopeless conclusion.
He began staring through his sniper scope so intently he thought the capillaries in his eyes were going to burst.
(This isn’t good. I know it’s only a photo, but it still looks like red light is shining from her eyes. She’s trained me pretty well, hasn’t she?)
But the idiot soon rejected that idea.
That alluring bathing scene photograph had a tiny, tiny pinprick of a hole in it. It was right on Frolaytia’s eye.
And something was aimed Heivia’s way from behind the photograph and thus hidden from his sight.
“A laser sight!? What are you, a rude spectator!?”
With the photo in his right hand and the War Hammer’s sensor in his left, Quenser’s hands were full.
So it was Nyarlathotep who used the boy’s survival kit knife as a mirror to observe the situation.
“The sniper looked away. He probably doesn’t want to be blinded.”
“Now’s our chance. Let’s go!!”
Quenser and Nyarlathotep both charged out from behind cover.
At the same time, the exploding pipes swallowed up the spot they had been hiding in.
The surrounding soldiers began spraying bullets their way, but reaching them and hitting them were two different things. Without a mid-range sniper unit, an assault rifle’s average range was between three and four hundred meters. That was not enough.
They ran across the wide work road and behind the cover provided by the wall of the next building.
“That settles it. They know we’re here now. They’re going to start a human wave attack soon.”
“Either way, we can’t escape from the anti-personnel sensors of the Princess’s First Generation. Plus, the more of their people are here, the more options we have.”
Quenser reattached the laser sight to the War Hammer and poked his head out once more.
A few guns immediately aimed his way, but he fired his War Hammer before they could do anything.
A few of the lenses attached to the Baby Magnum’s smaller cannons whirred as it fought the Miskatonic.
Rather than hitting a person, the jelly-like bomb had hit a giant cylindrical tank filled with liquid nitrogen.
Quenser ignored the assault rifles as he brought his radio to his mouth.
“Let’s talk this out peacefully, Princess! Call off the soldiers. If that tank bursts here, the heat of the lava will immediately create a cloud of nitrogen and that will kill everyone here like it’s a gas chamber.”
“Do you want me to kill you?”
“I’ll admit I look like a caged bird about to be killed by the fat cat, but are you sure you want to shoot me? Even the smallest of an Object’s cannons will cause too much destruction. Ha ha ha! If only you had a way to kill me without destroying the tank.”
That was when he heard a muffled explosion and a wave of heat washed over the surface of the earth with enough force to feel like a physical wall.
The Miskatonic was scattering its chemical incendiary rounds while moving at high speed.
Quenser covered his mouth with a hand and crouched down to weather the storm.
He had to peel his dried lips apart to shout into the radio.
“Just have them fall back, you idiot!! It’s too late by the time all your adorable little comrades are holding their throats and writhing in pain!!”
There was a short pause and confused looks covered the faces of all the soldiers aiming their rifles his away.
They all glared at him while moving back without turning around.
Heivia did the same, but he accurately aimed at the center of Quenser’s chest as he gave a shout.
“Quenser!! What are you trying to do!?”
“If you want to stand on the same stage as me, you should’ve been at least a little bit better of a guy, noble!!”
Quenser shouted back while stroking his finger over the War Hammer’s wireless trigger.
Even if they shot the boy, he could still blow up the liquid nitrogen tank if he was not killed instantly.
“Are you still gonna use that radio!?”
“What’s it to you!?”
“If you’re in real trouble, contact me on that frequency. If you kiss the burning asphalt, I’ll listen as you beg for your life!”
Heivia clicked his tongue and withdrew with the other soldiers.
Then the Princess spoke over the radio.
“Now what are you going to do? You lost your hostages, so I don’t have to worry about your tank shield.”
“That just means I need to use a different bargaining chip.”
“Give me your scent, Princess. That will give me everything I need to defeat the Miska-…the Extra Arc.”
“Maybe I really should kill this pervert…”
“I’m talking about the repellant for your static electricity propulsion device!! It’s divided into small containers you can eject to avoid any trouble if it gets clogged up, right? Eject one of those containers at your feet!!”
The Miskatonic was not exactly an easy Object to control.
The Pilot Elite sitting in the cockpit readily admitted that fact.
After all, the main cannons were far too powerful because they took energy directly from the reactor. The extreme recoil needed to be controlled and the brilliant torrent blinded any sensors, whether they used light, heat, sound, or electromagnetic waves. The residual heat could easily set his fellow soldiers on fire and, even if the high-level olfactory sensors could pick up the enemy’s location, no other information was known, not even the layout of the terrain. He would often run into buildings or walls and he had often almost plunged right into the rivers of lava he had created.
But he accepted all of that risk.
The great advantage that came with the risk had gathered many people to the Object.
The monster blinded itself with its own main cannons, so it pursued its enemy by smell.
This was a sightless world.
And this scorching hell gave the advantage to the one accustomed to blindness, even if the other side had greater specs and originality.
Even now, several fluorescent lines were drawn on the pure white screen. Those were the trails from the repellant that supported the enemy Object’s static electricity propulsion device. The Elite’s prey lay at the end of those trails. With that targeting information in mind, he used a trackball to hold the reins of the eight automatically wriggling tentacles and waited for the enemy to change direction at high speed. In other words, for the instant of motionless when the enemy was controlling their inertia.
In that instant, the leading edge of the “smell” vanished.
A moment later, a new point of light appeared about twenty meters to the left.
But given an Object’s size, that was only a “half step”.
(The repellant reading jumped? Did they use some kind of booster or is something wrong with the olfactory sensors?)
He clenched his teeth and immediately fired the main cannons.
The surrounding speakers were turned off, but a deafening torrent of noise still reached him.
Regardless, it was over now.
The high energy plasma stabbed accurately at the source of the smell and melted even part of the earth’s surface into an orange liquid.
Or it should have.
A moment later, something incomprehensible happened.
An overwhelming heat pierced through the center of the Miskatonic and melted it to the color orange.
Quenser and Nyarlathotep’s tactics had been simple.
Some spare parts for the Miskatonic had been scattered about. Among them had been the main cannon’s giant reel, the tentacle-like tube attached to it, and a sphere several meters in diameter…in other words, a test reactor.
Nyarlathotep had been the one to break the lock on a piece of heavy machinery and then to operate it.
“The setup is simple! Just place it in a giant U-shape near where our Princess is fighting!! Use the War Hammer’s laser pointer to get the exact angle of the muzzle more or less right!!”
“Do you really think this will work?”
“It scares me that the test reactor is cold, but it should still work. We don’t need to run the entire system. We just need the band of electromagnets inside the main cannon to run, so we should get enough energy even if it isn’t in a perfect critical state!!”
The two of them had secretly continued their work while the two Objects continued their intense battle.
Normally, not even a Second Generation specialized for use against other Objects would have overlooked this, but the Miskatonic blinded itself with the flash of its own main cannons and its anti-personnel sensor modification had not been completed. Someone could run right in front of it naked and it would never notice.
Once the preparations were complete, Quenser grabbed the repellant container meant for use with a static electricity propulsion device and placed it near the end of the tentacle main cannon.
He fired one of the War Hammer’s jelly explosives on the side of the container and moved far away.
Then he shouted into the radio.
“When I give you the signal, move right past us and switch off your propulsion device! I’ll blow up the container to release the repellant! It should look to him like you made a quick reversal!!”
The moment of truth had finally come.
A brilliant flash was released from the Miskatonic’s tentacle-like main cannon. It was absorbed into the spare part Quenser and Nyarlathotep had laid in a U-shape and it obediently traveled through the tunnel like a signal down a fiber optic cable. It looped hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of times around the wrapped reel and then shot back out the other end.
It was almost like the blast had been reflected by a giant mirror.
The result was obvious.
The Miskatonic’s own main cannon blast pierced through its spherical body.
The armor capable of enduring a nuclear blast instantly melted. The air cushion on the bottom and the eight main cannons arranged on the back like a giant flower or straw hat had not melted yet, but those external components and wreckage exploded like a firecracker placed inside the top of some melting ice cream. After a short delay, there was another explosion. The reactor itself had melted and exploded.
Quenser and Nyarlathotep should have been plenty far away, but they were still blasted into the air.
The boy slammed back-first into the ground and entered a fit of damp coughing, but he was still wrapped in a sense of relief.
The greatest enemy had been defeated.
He still had to escape the Legitimacy Kingdom, but the hurdle had just lowered significantly. He grabbed and shook Nyarlathotep’s shoulder as the man lay on the ground nearby.
“Hey, let’s fake our deaths. That explosion had to have blinded the Baby Magnum’s sensors for a while, so how can we make sure they lose our-…”
He trailed off as further terror arrived.
Or perhaps it was more accurate to say the battle was not yet over.
Quenser Barbotage had forgotten something.
The Miskatonic’s main cannons gathered and released energy directly from its reactor.
But that also meant the heat built up in the reactor would escape at uneven intervals. Needless to say, that would create extreme irregularities in the energy supply to the entire Object. Normally, it should have lost speed every time it fired its main cannons. In the worst case, the reactor could have even lost its critical state, causing the entire Object to stall.
But it had shown no sign of that whatsoever.
In other words, Quenser’s analysis had been half right and half wrong.
Simply put, it had two reactors.
The eight tentacles extending from the eight flower petals on the giant clock face had fallen to the earth, but one of them released a dreadful blast toward the Baby Magnum.
“The Baby Magnum has been damaged! I repeat, the Baby Magnum has been damaged!! Her evasive action failed. The reactor is stable, but the propulsion device’s output has dropped by more than seventy percent. Keeping the Object afloat is the most it can manage, so I doubt she can avoid the next shot!!”
Frolaytia swore at the shouted report from the young female operator.
“I can’t believe that bastard. It has armor that can withstand a nuke, but they still put the cockpit on the outside? That’s a nearly suicidal bluff.”
But it did not matter how bizarre the trick was if they had fallen for it.
A simple tank or bomber could finish off the Extra Arc now, but it would be difficult for Heivia and the others there to make that theory a reality. The eight main cannons would obviously turn the entire area to a hell of lava before they could do anything.
And what would happen if they could not get the testimony from Nyarlathotep, the “true culprit” and only person who could stop the madness from covering the entire globe?
The countdown to mankind’s end had begun.
Quenser stood in a daze as he watched the end of the world.
The Miskatonic had had two reactors. Or more accurately, it had been two Objects. Like a bizarre alien attached to the back of someone’s head, the cockpit had been attached outside the onion armor.
“…I should have noticed.”
The right half of the Baby Magnum looked like melting ice cream. The cannons and armor were all glowing orange. The Miskatonic was forcibly extending and raising its tentacles from the giant flower or giant UFO, but it would be difficult for the Princess to shoot it now.
Nyarlathotep spoke with a thin smile still plastered to his face.
“I don’t blame you. I also overlooked it when we found that test reactor. I should have considered the possibility that it was a cartridge and not a spare part. After all, this Object represents a 7th Core corporation and Azathoth spent a massive budget on it. I should have known that it could easily have more than one reactor.”
“No, not that.”
“I should have noticed. Yes, I should have noticed from the very beginning!! How stupid am I!? Was anything I eating sending nutrients to my brain!? I don’t have any tits to absorb it all, so where was it all going!?”
“What are you talking about? Are you focusing on something else here?”
“Yes!! The Soberania District across the Panama Canal was getting support from the Legitimacy Kingdom, so I get why it was filled with rivers of lava! But why did the Miskatonic turn its own side into a sea of flames!? That doesn’t make any sense!!”
“It can’t rely on its anti-personnel sensors, so it was scattering chemical incendiary rounds to keep any foot soldiers away, right?”
“So what if foot soldiers get close? Are they going to fight this two hundred ton monster with their fists? It wouldn’t be afraid of that. Even if the cockpit was built on the outside of the onion armor.”
“Then why?” Nyarlathotep looked like that question had only now hit him. “Why was it using the chemical incendiary rounds?”
“To create fiery hell of ninety degrees…no, it would be far hotter in the danger zone. More like a thousand degrees or more.”
“That shrinks the temperature difference between the interior of the reactor and the outside air. You mentioned before that it doesn’t need a thick wall to control the plasma, right? Even if they tried, the wall would just melt, so they used powerful magnetic lines instead.”
“I see… So it works like a vacuum coffee maker.”
“That’s right. It didn’t want much of a temperature difference between the outside and inside, so it used the incendiary rounds. …But if liquid nitrogen rapidly cools the air and creates too much of a temperature difference when the valve at the base of the tube-like tunnel opens, the high-energy plasma will be drawn from the high to low temperature and from the high to low pressure. And at a level that it can’t control. It might even break the valve too badly to close again.”
A vacuum coffee maker functioned by changing the pressure inside a sealed container, but pressure changes did not necessarily have to happen inside a sealed container. Some meteorological weapons used dry ice or liquid nitrogen to cool the air and cause a tornado or downburst.
“Even with both its reactors working, there was a risk of melting itself, so now that it only has one…”
“We can cool the inside enough that it loses its critical state and stalls. No, in the worst case, it might even drown inside that stuff its spewing out itself!!”
As he shouted his idea, Quenser raised his War Hammer at the ready.
The Miskatonic was just beginning to re-aim its tentacle main cannons toward the Baby Magnum.
He fired everything remaining in the thick magazine for 25mm ammunition. The jelly explosives splatted onto the cylindrical tanks around the Miskatonic.
He had no reason to hesitate, so he pulled the wireless trigger and detonated them all.
Explosion after explosion rang out and the thick surfaces of the tanks were blown through. The explosion went beyond what the explosives had been designed for and the entire tanks were blown away. The intense heat of the lava had entered those thermoses and flash vaporized the nitrogen.
A lake of liquid nitrogen quickly formed.
With the sound of stir-frying, the flash vaporization spread and the surrounding fiery hell instantly transformed into an icy hell.
Fortunately, the Miskatonic was barely functioning and did not have the equipment left for a detailed scan of its surroundings.
It released blinding light from its tentacle-like main cannons to eliminate its greatest threat.
A moment later, everything was swallowed up by white light.
This time, every last trace of the Miskatonic was erased from the planet.
Quenser’s eyes were nearly fried by the intensity of the explosion, but Nyarlathotep pulled on his hand when he fell to the ground.
“This isn’t over yet,” said the spy with the neatly parted hair. “You need to punish me to prevent the collapse of the world, don’t you? Let’s vanish before the Legitimacy Kingdom can recover from this confusion. Fortunately, the cloud of nitrogen is still spreading, so those without any chemical warfare equipment will probably be too afraid to approach. We have a chance of escaping now.”
Quenser slowly started to stand up, but another voice stopped him.
“No, this is over, you worm.”
A heavy impact ran through the midpoint between the back of Quenser’s head and neck. His knees gave out and he collapsed to the scorching ground.
It took him some time to realize he had been hit by the stock of an assault rifle.
He received no response.
The most he could do was watch military boots step past his head and toward Nyarlathotep.
The war had ended.
It was truly over and the official records would say the Legitimacy Kingdom had been victorious.