HEAVY OBJECT:Volume12 Chapter 3
“Soldiers! I know you must be tired, but this is an emergency.”
Frolaytia spoke from the dais at the front of the briefing room.
“The Information Alliance’s Second Generation Rush has set up a blockade. Now none of the transport ships with humanitarian aid from the Legitimacy Kingdom or anywhere else can reach us. This was just after the four world powers – including the Information Alliance – announced their intent to provide disaster relief. This violates international law. Their position should only grow worse, but that does not solve the more immediate problem. We must gather food as an emergency measure. Search through the half-destroyed Second Venice and check the warehouses, containers, supermarkets, convenience stores, shopping malls, bars, restaurants, and hotels. Go wherever you think you might find food and water and then retrieve it.”
“If the evacuated people learn about this, they’ll fight us for it. They’ll claim it belongs to them.”
Heivia sounded annoyed, but Frolaytia did not seem to mind.
“With the power out, the food in the city will spoil before long. The food would be too much for the citizens to eat before it rotted, but we can preserve it in our large cold rooms. Listen, this is not our food. Do not forget that we are merely storing it for redistribution. If you eat any while gathering it, that will be considered looting and you will be punished when discovered. Now get moving!”
Frolaytia clapped her hands twice to encourage them all.
None of them were particularly excited about this, but they had already released their own rations and their storerooms were empty. When they could not expect breakfast in the morning, they could not slack off, so they silently obeyed their orders.
With the Rush ruling over the surrounding sea, they could not use transport helicopters. If it targeted them with anti-air lasers, they could not avoid them.
And unfortunately, their military vehicles could not drive through Second Venice thanks to the canals.
“We have to go on foot!? We’re just like some volunteers cleaning up litter!!”
“I think someone forgot what soldiers are for at some point.”
Heivia complained as they marched out into the late night ghost town now that the rain had stopped, but Quenser remained somewhat calm.
“I had kind of thought Oh Ho Ho was on our side. I mean, yeah, she’s an Information Alliance soldier and she’s the person piloting the Second Generation at the cornerstone of this war, so maybe I should have seen this as a possibility.”
Catherine was clinging to Quenser’s waist.
She had cut her bikini strings with the knife in the boy’s survival kit, so she had changed back into the blue special suit of a Pilot Elite. Catherine had done the work on her own inside a changing room, but Quenser’s small cooking knife now had the rare quality of being “the one used to cut a girl’s bikini strings”. The student himself was back in the sweaty military uniform that had been hanging up in his room.
Incidentally, Catherine’s special suit had some additional elements that resembled a thin-collared blouse, a ribbon tie, and a short pleated skirt. It made her look like a student. Lineage and honor were everything in the Legitimacy Kingdom, so they liked to reveal one’s status and occupation through their clothing. What school had she been in before that bastard Flide snatched her up?
“Are you shocked about the Information Alliance, big brother?”
“I’m not sure. Well, maybe I am.”
Second Venice had temporarily fallen under Legitimacy Kingdom control, but there were a lot of facilities and equipment they could not control without removing the locks placed on them by the Information Alliance. The broadcast towers were one example and they had been transmitting a swimsuit G-cup idol’s cheerful online concert all day and all night long. It was being broadcast on all frequencies, so it amounted to jamming. Normal cellphones and smartphones without a military-grade control tower could not get word of the disaster out of Second Venice. And even if they did use some trick to punch through, it was obvious whose side the mass psychology would take when some random person’s face appeared in place of the world-class idol’s swimsuit.
There was a clear difference between those inside and outside the blockade.
Definite malice and hostility could be seen in the Oh Ho Ho’s actions here.
“I thought we might run into her as an enemy, but it’s true I never imagined it would happen like this.”
“Let’s stop talking about that Oh Ho Ho. If the Princess is listening in over the radio, this will only put her in a bad mood.”
The Baby Magnum still could not take part in a high-speed battle after the hit from a piece of the asteroid. The Princess could do nothing about the Rush. Even so, she was still plenty powerful as a stationary gun platform. She might be able to support them now that the civilians had been fully evacuated from half-destroyed Second Venice.
“Will the Princess have a chance to help out here? Do you think the Information Alliance has troops hidden in the rubble city?”
“I stopped trying to make sense of this after a transport ship protected by international law was blown away before my eyes. Anything goes in this war. If we’re attacked by little greys in backpacks instead of soldiers, I’m just going to roll with it.”
As they spoke, a large supermarket in the south side came into view. It was dark inside since the power was out, the windows were broken, and the shelves had fallen over. When they shined their military flashlights inside, it looked like a strange cave.
“Heh heh heh. Now I’ve finished ‘draw a portrait of a friend’ and ‘play basketball’. I’ve got a bunch of stamps now.”
“Oh, you’ve passed your daily quota while I wasn’t paying attention, Catherine. Did you make some friends at the base?”
“Look, big brother. The stamps cover more than half the card!”
“So you’re on the final stretch of the Civilian Acclimation Assistance System, hm? You’re real close to the safe country now.”
Catherine smiled like she was showing off a perfect score on a test.
Heivia peeked at the fresh foods section along the wall.
“The meat and vegetables look like a lost cause. I guess that’s just how it is in August.”
“We should be able to grab all the pre-packaged stuff and the cereal. And we should check the storeroom in the back.”
“Big brother, it’s nice and cool over here.”
There was still a chill in the meat processing room and storeroom in the back. No one had needed to open and close the thick insulated door, so it had kept the cold air in like a thermos. It had already been 48 hours since the asteroid exploded in midair, but time was still on their side.
“How are we supposed to carry all these cardboard boxes?”
“We’ll have to take a lesson from the ants.”
They stepped outside, pulled out a smoke bomb that let out colorful light and smoke, scraped the tip against the cap, and threw it out onto the end of the road. After contacting their fellow soldiers by radio, they noticed similar requests from the shopping malls and department stores in the area.
The Princess must have been monitoring them through a camera because she contacted them over the radio.
“You all seem to be having fun. It’s like a school camping trip.”
“I was always the type that hated volunteer work in the mountains so much I would vomit. So are you irritated that you’re stuck there? Try doing some stretches. But make sure to change into a white school swimsuit and give the stretches some real energy. Eh heh heh. That’ll bring some light to the world.”
“Quenser, could you not make me a part of your fantasies that make me want to vomit? Didn’t I tell you anything but a bikini isn’t even an option this year?”
Once they shared the location of the food, another unit could send someone to collect it, so Quenser’s group moved on to another store.
Heivia let out a cheer on the way.
“Oh, hell yes! There’s a soldier flying through the air using a water jet.”
“Where did they drag that leisure product from? Are they entering a store through a skylight because the other entrances were crushed?”
“Huh? They have an engine on their back, but they still need that water hose dangling down into the ocean like a tail, right?” asked Catherine. “It’s something like a vacuum cleaner, so I feel like it’s still missing something if it’s going to be a fashionable leisure item…”
Meanwhile, they ran into some other soldiers.
“Hey, aren’t we supposed to be gathering food? What are you doing at a hardware store?”
“The place is full of weapons: crowbars, shovels, hammers, chainsaws…everything. A nail gun could be used as a projectile weapon. We still haven’t set up any gun control, but I don’t want to imagine what happens if they begin rioting and bring out things like this. We’ll have to kill them.”
The fact that their fear was not of being attacked by the rioters may have been a unique side of the military.
“But we can’t just destroy it all. With the blockade in place, we’ll have to do any construction with whatever we can find. We still haven’t built any real temporary residences.”
“Yeah, neither option is great, so we’ll have to retrieve them and store them at the maintenance base for now. See ya.”
After leaving those soldiers, Heivia made an annoyed comment.
“Civilization keeps breaking down more and more.”
“The Information Alliance might actually want that. If they do have soldiers hidden in the city, they might be working in secret to turn the military and civilians against each other. I can see why Frolaytia wanted to retrieve the food right away.”
“What if the Information Alliance hid small glass shards on or in the food out here? The food we retrieved would kill the civilians. Then they would just have to shout complaints while pretending to be civilians themselves. They’d say the Legitimacy Kingdom sabotaged the limited food to reduce the number of mouths to feed. They’d say we were tricking everyone for some population control.”
“Are you serious…?”
“Frolaytia told us not to swipe any of the food, remember? That may have been because she feared that possibility. She wants to retrieve it all and then do a thorough inspection because who knows what could happen.”
Quenser’s view had no actual evidence to back it up.
And misinformation had a way of spreading during disasters.
Which side was putting everyone in danger? The inability to answer that was what made a crumbling ghost town so frightening.
They went around to a few more stores and placed smoke bombs near the entrances, but after that, they were stuck helping carry it all back.
The rain had let up, so the midsummer sun beat down on Second Venice once dawn broke.
“Goddammit. It’s already past six. With how diligently we’re all working, I feel like something’s bound to blow up soon.”
“It’s nice having a thousand people working together. We’ve finished carrying most of the food.”
“But a lot of the food had gone bad already,” said small Catherine as she strolled along beside them. “What a waste.”
“I’ll ask our busty commander if we can retrieve it later to make compost. We might be able to manage some fast-growing vegetables, like a resourceful office lady growing her own salad ingredients in her planter.”
“And couldn’t we make batteries by sticking electrodes in the rotting oranges? Each one might not amount to much, but all of the fresh foods were wiped out. We could gather a whole bunch. Plus, the shelters will need power and I bet that would be more reliable than if one of them thinks he’s an amateur inventor and tries to build a generator.”
Naturally, they did not think they could grow enough to make up for the lost food, but it was better than nothing. Even if a bucket had a hole in the bottom, it could still hold a little water if it was tilted at an angle.
“Hmm. Wouldn’t that battery idea be pretty unsanitary? Would you be boxing up a bunch of rotten fruit and sticking it in the shelters? Wouldn’t that bring in a bunch of flies and roaches which would spread disease?”
“I guess it isn’t that simple.”
“If we need batteries, it would be safer to gather them from the motor boats floating upside down all around here. Their batteries have got to have at least some power left. And if we tear up a parasol just right, it can work as a propeller. Combine that with a bicycle light generator and we’ve got a wind power generator. I have no idea if that busty commander would give the go-ahead on any of that, though.”
At that point, Quenser felt a shiver down his spine.
(Wait… How long do I think we’ll be stuck here?)
A week? A month? ….Or a year?
They normally moved from battlefield to battlefield as a part of the Object’s mobile maintenance base, so they never stayed anywhere for long. But the Princess had been taken out and the Information Alliance’s Second Generation Rush was blockading the ocean. The usual rules no longer applied. He could not deny the possibility of being stuck here for an extended period of time.
And once they returned to the maintenance base, Frolaytia spoke to them.
“The MPs are measuring all of the food, but with this many people, it likely won’t last two weeks. Ten days if we’re lucky and seven if we assume there’s trouble and we lose some. And that includes the rations we already released.”
That provided a clear limit.
Before that caught up with them, they had to figure out what was going on in Second Venice, drive out the Rush, and remove the blockade. Otherwise, they would starve to death along with 130,000 civilians.
The delinquent noble grew pale.
“Wait, wait, wait! Isn’t there anything we can do!? Can’t they hold an international summit to gang up on the Information Alliance for breaking their treaties!?”
“This is the Information Alliance we’re talking about. They’re the world’s best at weaseling out of things. I guarantee we’ll starve before the ambassador their home country sends to the online summit has run out of excuses. But don’t ask me whether it would be them speaking or just an AI negotiator stringing words together.”
Quenser brought a hand to his forehead.
“Give us our orders. What do we need to do?”
“I wish you were always that eager, but to be honest, there isn’t much we can do. And we might not even need to bring this to a direct conclusion ourselves.”
The busty silver-haired commander winked.
“This isn’t a desert on the moon. It’s a Mediterranean resort. The Legitimacy Kingdom and Faith Organization home countries are right in front of us. The four world powers have already announced they intend to provide disaster relief. That means the Rush has made an enemy of the entire world with this blockade.”
“Yes,” said Frolaytia. “An Object will be here soon. One on our side.”
It was eight in the morning. The ocean glittered in the early morning sun as a Second Generation floated above it with an air cushion engine.
The Legitimacy Kingdom called it the Rush.
The Information Alliance’s official name was the Gatling 033.
It was an amphibious model, but it was more suited for land battles. However, that did not matter here. That queen of the sea would use every attack method it had to exterminate any ship or aircraft that attempted to approach Second Venice.
(Honestly, even if it’s borrowing Juliet’s processing power, this fully virtual show just isn’t very exciting. It lacks the edge only seen in the dances using my motion data.)
In her spare time, the Pilot Elite displayed a few small windows to check on the previous night’s data for the online concert that had been running for several days. She was digitally reviewing the excitement over the high-speed connection as well as the combination of the song and dance.
(Oh, that’s surprising. The private talk between songs has higher numbers than the intense dancing. Oh ho ho. I suppose cute and sexy are just two different things.)
She of course could predict what was coming.
The Gatling 033 was not fully controlled by the Pilot Elite. It was unique Object that was mostly left to a strategic AI named Juliet. By diverting those resources elsewhere, it could be used for some generic largescale simulations.
All that remained was to see who sent out an Object first and what Object it would be.
“Oh ho ho.”
A thin mocking smile came to her lips.
“The Faith Organization? Yes, the Faith Organization! Since you’ve shown up now – oh ho ho – can I assume you have been tasked with opening the gate to hell?”
“What are you talking about? I am here for humanitarian purposes and to drive you away so you cannot interfere with the safe travel of the transport ships. All four world powers have agreed to this. So prepare yourself, you bitch.”
“Yes, yes. I’m sure that’s the official reason.” She did not seem at all bothered. “I do not know whether or not you are aware of Second Venice’s ‘true form’. Are you here to assist your superiors who informed you of everything, or are you just an ignorant pawn? …Either way, I cannot allow you to approach. Oh ho ho. At least make sure you give this everything you’ve got. A top idol is personally inviting you to dance after all!!”
Her enemy was an air cushion style of amphibious model. It had a standard and quite boring design: four rectangular floats arranged two-by-two to form a large panel. It had just the one main cannon: an old-style cannon on the right side that fired metal shells. There was also a large missile container on the left and various other cannons sticking out from its spherical main body like a sea urchin or chestnut burr.
To sum up, it was a First Generation.
The Information Alliance called it the Powder Cannon 011.
But things were different for the Legitimacy Kingdom. They had once referred to it as the Iron Lance, but they had begun to use a different name in recent years.
That name was the Old Fashion.
It was indeed old-fashioned, but it was undeniably an ace.
The Gatling 033 had the firepower of two rapid-fire beam Gatling cannons, so it boasted devastating strength on an ocean with no obstacles. Its rapid-fire attacks became a single long blade. Just by swinging that around 180 degrees, it could slice through most any Object. That was why she was stationed on the ocean even though that reduced her mobility somewhat. If she took out her enemy before they could do anything, she did not have to fear any damage.
But that assumption was overturned in a single shot.
Just as she began swinging her main cannon around to sweep the bluish-white light across the ocean, the Old Fashion fired a railgun secondary cannon.
Instead of at the Gatling 033 itself, it fired at the joint on the base of the Gatling-style main cannon just as it started to move.
This was not a fatal blow.
But the impact still lifted up the Gatling 033’s main cannon. The line of fire shifted and the horizontal sweep passed fruitlessly above the Old Fashion.
Object battles were primarily fought by exchanging main cannon fire, yet this Object had suppressed a main cannon blast with one of its secondary cannons?
“You deflected it!?”
“Is that really so surprising? This is merely one of my tricks.”
The Old Fashion put on a burst of speed to move fast and deep into the opening in the Gatling 033’s barrage. The Gatling 033 was meant for close or midrange battles, but she fell back because she did not like letting her opponent choose his distance. While keeping her distance, she made alternating sweeps of rapid-fire beam Gatling cannon blasts from the left and right.
But none of it hit.
Sometimes the Old Fashion would fire its main cannon into the ocean to create a wall of water in front of itself and sometimes it would use the floats beneath itself. Instead of a single float, it had four of them arranged two-by-two. Originally, that would have been so it could press one of them against the water or ground to make a rapid turn, but by intentionally submerging one of those floats and rapidly lifting it, it could launch up the nearby driftwood or flotsam like someone kicking up a soccer ball with the top of their foot.
Of course, the Gatling 033’s main cannon was not so weak that a wall of water or large junk could stop it, but it was enough to slightly divert it. The Old Fashion used that tiny margin of error to just barely evade what was supposed to be impossible to dodge.
Every one of those actions tore at her pride.
“You…!! But that’s a First Generation!!”
“Unfortunately, I have no intention of switching to a newer model. My lost friend designed this and I intend to take it with me to the grave. The only question is whether that will be today or in ten years’ time.”
That was another of the legends surrounding this Object.
Objects were a crystallized form of military technology, so the ones that absorbed the most advanced technology were the strongest. …But this old-fashioned pilot had singlehandedly overturned that theory. This veteran Elite had stubbornly rejected all orders to the contrary, continually refused any upgrades to a newer model, and ignored the modern trends and the military’s desire for optimization. And it was all to keep a promise with a war buddy of his.
He had the skill needed to drive an enemy world power to change their codename for him from Iron Lance to Old Fashion.
But what had the Faith Organization called it?
Cronus, the ruler who preceded Zeus.
The original reason for the name would have been different, but it was an ironically perfect name for the ace that continued to resist any advance in technology while slaying all the latest Objects.
“You need not try to entertain me, Information Alliance.”
The owner of the ultimate piloting instincts bared his fangs against her.
“I will entertain myself with Cronus. It really doesn’t matter who it is in front of me.”
The actual battle did not even last an hour.
Heivia pouted his lips as she stared at the flashing dots on the screen.
“Aww. The Old Fashion and Rush are moving away. Is that all you’re gonna do!? Are you running away!?”
“The Old Fashion was probably only meant to fight a quick battle to gather information. It didn’t have to settle this in the first battle. After all, the Rush can’t send in another Object or Elite, so the Rush is the one that loses its advantage as time passes.”
As Quenser listened to that conversation between Heivia and Frolaytia, he narrowed his eyes in thought.
“Is the Old Fashion’s main cannon what I think it is?”
“Yes. It’s an old Object, so we have all the data on it. It fires metal shells, but it isn’t a railgun or a coilgun. It’s a compressed metal cannon. That sounds fancy, but it really only fires them with gunpowder the old-fashioned way. You saw the gigantic cross-shaped muzzle flash, right?”
“Gunpowder? How can that break through an Object’s nuke-resistant onion armor?”
“It uses special shells. The energy from the Object’s reactor is given to a press that applies extreme pressure to a large mass to sharpen it down to a pin-like point. The destructive power of two one-ton shells varies a lot depending on whether it’s as thick as a bowling ball or as narrow as a pin. Think of it like the difference between being stepped on by athletic shoes versus high heels. Some of the outdated tank guns would increase their destructive power by focusing the heavy shell’s kinetic energy on a dart-like pointed core, but you can think of this as an extreme mutation of that. And that allows it to pierce the armor that a nuke can’t get through.”
“Ugh,” groaned Heivia, but Quenser looked puzzled.
“But just like with diesel, wouldn’t forcibly compressing the shell create a ton of heat?”
“It’s just like the earth’s core. The melting point of steel is over 1500 degrees, but the core reaches 6000 degrees. The pressure from all directions is so great that the liquid can’t act like a liquid and then it’s bound by its solid state. And when a magnetic substance is exposed to high temperatures, it’s spin is disturbed, which can apparently cause irregular changes in its magnetic susceptibility and electrical resistance. The method was left behind by the flow of time. The shells’ paths were too unstable for railguns and coilguns, so the method tends to fall back on old-fashioned gunpowder. It might look strange now, but at the time, there was a lot of resistance to the switch from giant cannons full of gunpowder to laser beams and railguns. It’s all about who benefits.”
Perhaps this Object was a freak specifically because it was old-fashioned. If just a little more time had passed, the firing method would have taken priority over the processing of the shell.
“That would explain why it has both a normal magazine and a drum magazine. One is for the explosive and the other is for the metal shells. I also don’t see any cartridges being ejected, so maybe the powder is being wrapped up and held in place like a giant roll of old paper.”
“It doesn’t really matter as long as that antique from the pirate age can slap up the Rush for us.”
“Also,” cut in Frolaytia. “The Information Alliance has taken another action. Some soldiers hidden in Second Venice seem to have broken away from them. And they are showing no interest in surrendering to us. They are currently holding the observation deck of the Pillar of Truth, a giant broadcast tower on the east side.”
“A broadcast tower?”
Quenser sounded skeptical and the busty silver-haired commander sighed.
“Assuming they aren’t just seeing the sights, they might have wanted to hijack the airwaves and broadcast something to the world. Now, the tower itself seems to have had backup power to preserve the broadcast infrastructure in an emergency, but the crucial broadcast equipment was apparently remotely locked by the Information Alliance and they haven’t sent out even a single 140 character comment. And that idol Elite’s online concert is still playing on all frequencies. That swimsuit girl jamming is truly frightening. Anyway, the rogue Information Alliance troops haven’t left the tower yet, so they’re probably still fighting to unlock the equipment.”
“So if we capture them…”
“We might be able to figure out what’s going on, even if we can’t get rid of the Rush. This group has broken free of the Rush to transmit something and the Rush is trying to stop them. It smells fishy to me.”
With that settled, they had a mission.
But attacking a broadcast tower was different from attacking a normal building. It was going to be a real pain in the ass.
“The Pillar of Truth is 400 meters tall and the rogue Information Alliance soldiers are holed up on the observation deck at 300 meters. The elevators are of course stopped and they’ve completely cut away the emergency stairs. That means we’ve lost the normal methods of climbing to the top.”
“What are they planning to do? Hole up there until they starve?”
“The observation deck has a restaurant and a souvenir shop, so they’ll have plenty of food and water for the time being. I don’t know how they plan to escape, but towers like that tend to have maintenance gondolas like window washers use. If they need to, they might be able to descend with those.”
Of course, those would be stored up top, so Quenser and the other attackers could not use them.
Heivia rubbed his chin in thought.
“It would be easy enough to send out some snipers or an attack helicopter to fill the observation deck with holes, but then we might not be able to get our hands on whatever information these rogue soldiers have.”
“How are they equipped, Frolaytia?”
“As infantry, probably assault rifles and military handguns. Maybe grenades too.”
They could not get in from below.
Nor could they directly attack the observation deck to exterminate the enemy.
“Then what do we do? If we can’t attack from below, are we supposed to attack from above? But I doubt that pointy tower has a heliport.”
“Close but no cigar.”
Frolaytia responded to Heivia’s complaint with a serious nod.
The two idiots were confused, but then she said something even more inscrutable.
“We’ll be taking the average of those two by attacking from the middle.”
The Legitimacy Kingdom potatoes entered the east side before the sun reached its peak.
Second Venice contained a spider web of canals, so they could not travel by truck. And taking a transport helicopter would be suicide thanks to the Information Alliance’s Rush’s anti-air lasers. The crucial waterways were filled with sunken rubble which could pierce the hull of a boat if one was not careful. But after spending so much time in the inconvenient city, even those potatoes could come up with an answer.
“We could have used a hovercraft this entire time?”
Quenser’s voice sounded muffled as he viewed the scenery flying by.
“Why didn’t we realize this sooner? What was the point of all that effort?”
“It can’t be helped, big brother. That effort is what brought us to where we are now.”
Short Catherine comforted him from the seat next to him.
The hovercraft used the power of air to float above the water’s surface, so it was incredibly effective. It was not entirely safe since they still had to avoid the pieces of metal sticking up from the water, but it reduced the amount of rubble and wreckage they had to avoid by more than 99%. They also came close to hitting their heads on the lower arched bridges, but it was still far better than gasping for breath as they traveled through the ruined city on foot.
“Frolaytia,” asked Quenser.
“What is it?”
His reply came via radio.
The student looked down at his own body which was surrounded by something like a giant steel egg as he sat in the hovercraft.
“What is with this situation? Why is even Catherine wearing a powered suit?”
“First of all, Catherine Blueangel is a Pilot Elite, so she can pilot vehicles better than anyone. Second, her risk is the same on the front line or waiting back here. We don’t know how much of a backlash there will be among the evacuees, so she is safest inside a powered suit. Third, Myonri specialized at this sort of thing, but she was injured and has to sit this one out. I want to use every resource available. Fourth, until the officers in their safe countries rescind their orders, I cannot remove Catherine from her rehabilitation program. Fifth, I received a report on what happened in the container yard. And Quenser, you’re probably the only one that can control Catherine. How many points am I up to?”
“That’s enough, dammit.”
“Just enjoy this like it’s a date with your cute little sister. But don’t let her remove the powered suit unless it’s an emergency. Even if she says she’s thirsty, don’t just give her some drink you find. She has been isolated to a lab and has had little contact with germs, so her immune system is weaker than a normal person’s. Her risk of infection is fairly high, so keep her from consuming anything we didn’t supply for her.”
They were in Second Venice’s east side. It was filled with countless high-rise buildings with shattered windows, but a complex arrangement of steel beams formed a giant metal tower that rose twice as high toward heaven.
That was the Pillar of Truth.
The giant broadcast tower boasted a height of 400 meters.
“A cable broadcast would have been enough to cover an artificial island, but they must have wanted their shows to reach the living rooms of the enemy nations on the closest coast. That’s about what I would expect of the Information Alliance.”
“Yeah, they’re completely insane.”
“They probably think the same of us.”
The journey was so much different with a hovercraft. They arrived at the broadcast tower in no time at all.
Sporadic dry gunshots reached their ears from overhead.
“Ahh, ahh. What is this?” complained Heivia. “Those are our people collapsed on the ground, aren’t they?”
“Don’t just watch, Catherine.”
“Right. We need to drag the injured into a nearby building. Leave it to me!”
Quenser tried to sound cool, but he moved stiffly and awkwardly when he actually stood up in his powered suit. The different motors and actuators assisted his own movements, so there were no levers or pedals for the pilot to control. However, the apparent weight and the actual weight were entirely different and the center of gravity was very different from a human’s, so someone who had never used one before could trip over nothing. And if he did trip and fall into the water, he would not float back up.
Meanwhile, Catherine nimbly hopped out of the hovercraft and onto the walking path. She then ran through the rubble to make contact with the Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers lying in pools of blood.
And then Quenser’s powered suit stopped moving.
“Oh, no… I think it’s malfunctioning!”
“Big brother, if it won’t move, then hurry up and get out!! You’re a sitting duck!!”
“In this downpour of bullets!? I’d rather not!!”
“What if they fire a rocket while you can’t move? Powered suits aren’t invincible!”
After she more or less threatened him, her pathetic big brother tearfully stripped off the thick armor. But more surprises awaited him. For some reason, Catherine had opened her powered suit’s hatch.
“What are you doing, Catherine! You’re on the front line!!”
“So hurry on in! An amateur like you will be turned into a sponge in less than a minute!!”
His balls shriveled up at that comment. Without thinking of the consequences, Quenser did as he was told and got inside Catherine’s powered suit with her. He was now holding the small girl from behind.
Yes, it was a lot like wearing a single mascot costume together.
“How should I put this…? What an amazingly girly aroma! And please, Catherine, stop fidgeting your butt.”
“We don’t have time for that. I’ll move, so you just relax, big brother.”
That began the world’s strangest form of teamwork.
They finally resumed their rescue work. Could they not move after being shot in the leg or were they being used as bait to draw other soldiers out from behind cover? Either way, they grabbed the male soldiers who had been left behind and brought them to a nearby bank.
They heard gunfire from above and something scraped across the powered suits, but it did little damage. They ignored it and ran.
“Sorry. We have a kit, so we can treat our own wounds. You need to prioritize the timetable.”
“What exactly happened?”
“The rogue Information Alliance soldiers are sporadically firing down from the observation deck. They’re using a shotgun. It’s probably a fully-auto model with a drum magazine.”
“A shotgun!? But there’s three hundred meters from the observation deck to the surface!”
“They aren’t actually aiming. Remember, they’re three hundred meters up. Dropping a pachinko ball, a screw, or a nail can be deadly at that height. They’re only vaguely aiming and then firing down a steel shower on full-auto. It’s like being hit by a spotlight.”
That sounded even more annoying than they had been expecting. It also somewhat conflicted with Frolaytia’s information. One of the powered suits had malfunctioned too, so nothing ever good came from a conversation with that busty commander. Idiot #1 swore in his heart that he would grope the hell out of those giant breasts later.
Quenser spoke to the blonde braid girl in front of him and the powered suit resumed moving to match Catherine’s movements. Shotgun blasts poured down from the observation deck, but they could ignore that.
Quenser sounded carefree as the gunfire hit them.
“This will get a lot worse if they pull out a grenade or grenade launcher. Even if they can’t break through the armor, the impact will still mess us up like being stuffed in a metal drum and having a bat pounding on the outside. So let’s get started already.”
“You’re the one taking the most time, big brother.”
As they spoke inside it, the shared powered suit ran to the base of the broadcast tower.
“I thought it was just a bunch of steel beams, but there’s a lot more to it, huh? There are maintenance stairways and catwalks…”
“But they’ve all been removed.”
That was exactly right.
Normally, the narrow stairways and catwalks would have run along the outside of the steel beams, but there was no sign of that now. Up to about ten stories up, all of that had been cut away so it fell to the ground. There was no reaching the surviving portion without a firefighter’s hook-and-ladder truck.
But that was not what Quenser and Catherine were after.
They were not going to grab onto the complex arrangement of steel beams and climb up.
They made their way to the main entrance. And instead of the industrial entrance for delivering supplies, they used the sightseeing entrance that led to the elevator and stairs up to the observation deck.
They stepped through the broken glass door.
There were plenty of LCD monitors above the ticket counter and they seemed to be playing footage from each of the stations, but they all had the same image now.
“This midsummer swimsuit concert is far from over! Oh ho ho. It is time for the next song. You recognize this intro, don’t you? Now, everyone, say the title on my cue. Three, two, one…”
Quenser sounded irritated as he watched it.
“They risked their lives to leave their unit, but they were drowned out by that jiggling G-cup bikini. I’d be desperate to accomplish something – anything – after that too.”
“Big brother, you should probably look away from the bikini before saying something like that.”
“There weren’t any landmines rigged with wires, were there?”
“They probably had their hands full sealing off the route up and couldn’t spare the time for that.”
The elevator was of course not running. When they used the powered suit’s leg strength to kick through the metal door, they found that even the emergency ladder had been cut away with a burner or something.
“We can’t use the ladder or the stairs. The metal emergency stairs were all brought down with what looks like explosives.”
“Then we can’t let our guard down. That means they can blow up the powered suits.”
On the inside and the outside, the way up had been cut away up to the tenth floor. And the bottom of that upper area would of course be guarded by enemy soldiers. If they tried to climb the wall or throw a rope up to climb, they would be exposed to the enemy’s concentrated firepower while defenselessly climbing.
The stairs, ladders, and elevator were all out.
So were Quenser and the others going to give up and leave?
Of course not.
“Then let’s go with the original plan. We need to support Heivia and the others from below, Catherine.”
“Right. Let’s cover the floor with pamphlets or whatever we can find and set some fires to smoke them out.”
They were on the roof of a bank near the Pillar of Truth, a giant broadcast tower and a landmark of the east side. Due to the limited land, the roof had been made into a nouveau riche villa and Heivia hid inside the manmade woods there.
“Oh, man. That student is as cruel as ever. The tower’s turned into smokestack full of black smoke.”
The enemy could keep people out by knocking out the elevator and stairs, but they could not do the same for rising smoke. And since they had cut off their own route too, they could not head down to put out the fire.
They could of course shut the fire doors to protect themselves for the time being, but that was not enough to relax. The intense flames could spread to the observation deck or the heat and fire could destroy the base of the tower and cause the entire thing to collapse. …Even if none of that actually happened, it was a success for Heivia and the others if the enemy was worried and panicked.
Heivia wore a mask connected to a small oxygen tank.
“Let’s get started while the skinny Information Alliance troops are focused down below. Myon-…”
Heivia caught himself and awkwardly clicked his tongue below the mask, so a large soldier spoke to him from nearby.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Marks, Evans, Conrad. Let’s charge in before they can recover from their panic. We’ll be defenseless while we make our tightrope walk, so we’ll all be wiped out if they can react rationally. So let’s get moving!!”
Heivia and the others rested something like a bazooka on their shoulders, aimed toward the neighboring tower, and pulled the trigger. The devices fired with what sounded like compressed gas rather than gunpowder. And instead of explosives, they fired a piece of metal with four sharp hooks jutting out in a cross shape. A long, thick wire was attached to the bottom.
After the hundred meter flight, the hooks powerfully connected the bank building roof to the steel beams of the tower.
“Agh, it didn’t work! My Elephant Shooter bounced off!!”
“Understood, Evans. You support us from this side with the heavy machinegun. …And you’re working with outdated information. These things had their name changed after a flood of complaints from conservation groups.”
They pulled out metal devices that looked like a bicycle’s T-shaped handlebars with handcuffs in the center and attached them to the taut wires.
As Heivia had said, they had no time.
While the Information Alliance was distracted by the smoke, his group grabbed the T-shaped handlebars and ran across the roof. After their starting run, they jumped onto the metal railing and leaped out into the air.
They were more than 200 meters above the ground.
Their flailing legs had nothing to rest on as the Legitimacy Kingdom potatoes coasted along the wires.
“Now this is dangerous!!”
“Looking at things from up here, I can really tell how badly this place was hit. Is this really a world-class resort island?”
Heivia and the others approached the “other side” as they listened to Conrad complain over the radio.
Instead of the steel beams of the tower itself, they were aiming for the narrow metal stairs and catwalks on the outside.
Once they arrived, the lovely sensation of support returned to their feet, but they did not have time to relax. The catwalks and stairs zigzagged up from there, but as Heivia grabbed the silencer-equipped carbine hanging from his shoulder, he saw something up above.
Some cables were carelessly winding along on the underside of the catwalk above them.
And something like clay was attached at even intervals.
“Goddammit…! Marks, Conrad!! Grab-…”
God did not give him enough time to tell them to grab onto something.
With a deafening explosion, the catwalks and stairs on the outside were purged and fell down all at once.
When the entire tower shook, Quenser looked up as he and Catherine used their powered suit to deal with a burning metal drum.
“What? Did something happen?”
“Don’t move the powered suit on your own, big brother. It reacts to your motion too. We need to focus on fanning these flames.”
“You’ll get your ‘have a campfire’ stamp either way, right?”
“It’s ‘have a campfire with everyone’!!” said Catherine Blueangel as she carried the metal drum through the tower’s entrance and used a handmade tool like a giant fan.
But with an intense metallic sound of destruction, something heavy fell near the exit.
“Junk is falling down…”
But Quenser and Catherine had their own task and could not focus on that too much. They just figured something was going on up above.
If they left their post and the smoke thinned out, that would only cause Heivia’s group more trouble, so they focused on their job and sent plenty of smoke on up.
“There’s so much going on here,” commented Quenser.
“Yeah, all four world powers are here.”
It had all started with the rehabilitation program for Catherine Blueangel, the former Pilot Elite used as former Councilor Flide’s pawn. They wanted to grant her wish of retiring, but since sending her to a safe country right away would be too dangerous, they were sending her to relatively safe and mild battlefields to gradually defang her. And the ideal candidates for that were Quenser and Heivia because they had met her when rescuing her.
The mission chosen for them was to protect Second Venice, a giant artificial island and world-class resort that had been temporarily taken from the Information Alliance. A satellite drop weapon from the Legitimacy Kingdom’s past was going to fall on the island “by accident”, so the Baby Magnum and the Rush had been tasked with shooting it down with their anti-air lasers.
It would have been a simple mission if the Appetizer Asteroid had not caused such a disaster.
“There was that old astronomer man, wasn’t there?” said Catherine.
“Come to think of it, the asteroid was named after him and he was attacked by someone in the south side. Who were they?”
That had been a small incident and they had not had time to focus on it.
The asteroid itself had been destroyed in midair, but the shockwave and the pieces of the asteroid had crashed into Second Venice and caused severe damage.
“And then the Capitalist Corporations showed up,” continued Quenser.
“They gave people copies of Legitimacy Kingdom launchers and had them shoot at us, right?”
“It looked like they came from a floating restaurant near a north side container yard and we went there to check it out, but we never figured out what exactly the Capitalist Corporations were after.”
“They said something about Second Venice’s system not being safe and destroying it being the only way to bring safety.”
After that, a Legitimacy Kingdom transport ship had arrived.
“The ship full of food and water was blown away by the Rush. And that means we’re still short on food.”
“But why did they do that? That’s a surefire way of turning the world against you.”
And an enemy for the Rush had indeed arrived from outside.
A Faith Organization Object had shown up.
It had been an outdated First Generation known as the Old Fashion. Its technology had been inferior, but the Pilot Elite’s skill had put it on equal footing with the cutting-edge Rush. However, it had not tried to push things too far. After a short skirmish, it showed no sign of returning to defeat the Oh Ho Ho and open the way.
“The Legitimacy Kingdom, the Information Alliance, the Capitalist Corporations, and the Faith Organization. All four world powers are indeed here.”
“But it’s obvious who our enemy is.”
Yes. It was the Information Alliance.
They were the absolute worst. Why were they blockading Second Venice after the asteroid explosion had torn it apart? Why were they allowing all the civilians to starve?
To find out, they wanted information from the soldiers who had left the Information Alliance and holed up in the Pillar of Truth.
“ ‘Reminisce with someone.’ Heh heh heh. Another stamp.”
That summed up the environment Quenser and the others found themselves in.
Powered suit Catherine fanned the metal drum fire with her giant fan.
“But this has gotten really complicated, big brother.”
“That’s what we call real life.”
Meanwhile, Heivia threw himself from the metal catwalk’s railing. He jumped inward rather than outward. He sought footing on the steel beams arranged like the ceiling of a gym.
But his comrades did not make it in time.
Conrad had not had time to let go of his T-shaped handlebars and he vanished from sight. The midair wire was meaningless if it was not taut. The soldier was still holding onto that entirely useless lifeline as he vanished into the east side cityscape that looked so tiny below them.
“We don’t have time for sentimentality, Heivia! Here they come! Get re-…gabh!?”
As Marks shouted over at Heivia, his mask grew red from the inside. Heivia heard the light gunshots of a handgun. His eyes widened at how close by they were. And they came from “outside”, where the metal catwalks and stairs had just been purged.
He glanced over and saw the enemy.
It was a toy drone flying with four rotors. It had a camera lens on the bottom and a military handgun was attached with plastic tape. Finally, a thin shaft had been forcibly attached to pull the trigger.
This was likely what had noticed their approach and signaled for the detonation.
It was a very Information Alliance style of ambush.
Heivia fired his silencer-equipped carbine again and again. He easily hit the thing, but unlike with a human target, he could not guess how many times he had to shoot it. He felt like he had wasted a lot of ammo, but he did manage to shoot down the attack drone.
While swapping out the carbine’s magazine, he glanced over to his remaining comrades.
Marks was not moving.
He sat on one of the tower’s steel beams and simply clung to it.
It was unlikely they could retrieve the body if Heivia left it there, but he could not just push it off either. Heivia settled on taking the dog tags and spare magazines. He dropped Marks’s handgun and carbine down to destroy them (even though he had no idea whether or not the enemy soldiers would bother venturing down there).
Then he looked straight up.
He was the only one left, but he was not entirely isolated.
Being driven insane by silent isolation could wait until later.
He spoke over his radio.
“Evans, attach a camera and monitor to the heavy machinegun and watch me from that side. If you see any drones flying around the tower, shoot them all down. And make sure you don’t hit me.”
“You’re going to continue!?”
“If I said I was too scared to keep going, do you really think someone would come collect me!? A helicopter can’t get this close to the wall!! I have no choice, you idiot!!”
He was 200 meters from the ground and he had about 100 more meters before the observation deck. He could use the complex arrangement of steel beams for footing, but it was still like scaling a cliff.
“This just keeps getting more dangerous… Thank god I practiced my wall-climbing skills so I could peep on our busty commander in the bath.”
This took both hands, so he could not hold his carbine properly. If another handgun-wielding drone showed up, he would have a million bullets up the ass before he could do anything. He had to rely on Evans for support.
It was a hellish climb.
The crosswind and gusts of wind were terrible. And the wind sometimes blew the black smokescreen toward him. The drones were occasionally shot down by Evans’s heavy machinegun, but it was not perfect. He was sometimes spotted and a detonation was triggered directly above him, so pieces of the stairs and catwalks would fall like stones. He had to stop his climb and slip between the steel beams to escape.
“That settles it!! If those Information Alliance bastards aren’t cute girls, I’m killing them on the spot! They’ll look like Swiss cheese when I’m done with them!!”
“Heivia, someone’s leaning out from the observation deck. An old man with a beard is aiming a fully-auto shotgun down your way!!”
“I wasn’t asking for spoilerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs!!”
Heivia tearfully ducked back from rapid-fire with a somewhat slower cycle than an assault rifle or submachinegun.
A courageous voice reached him over the radio.
“Should I take him out!?”
“Shut up! We don’t know how many are inside, so we lose our source of information if he’s alone! I’m almost to the observation deck, so spray some bullets around to keep him from moving but don’t hit him!!”
As requested, the heavy machinegun fired toward the observation deck. Each bullet was as large as from an anti-materiel rifle, so the fright of being anywhere near where they hit would take years off of someone’s life.
Some of the remaining reinforced glass must have shattered because clear shards rained down toward Heivia. He had to bite his lip because he could not get angry when he had been the one to request it.
Even so, he somehow managed to reach the observation deck at 300 meters.
He stepped inside through a broken window.
There were only about three people there.
The only other thing to see was the cheerful idol showing off her swimsuit on the various monitors.
“Time for a topic drawn from a hat! The topic this time is…tah dah! O-oh? The moment when you see a member of the opposite sex and your heart skips a beat? Oh ho ho. I seem to have drawn quite an exciting topic.”
One of them aimed the fully-auto shotgun at him, so Heivia silenced him with a carbine shot between the eyes. Another one seemed bored and was toying with something like a game controller with a small monitor attached. He had a stiff smile on his face, but Heivia could not figure out what was so amusing, grabbed the guy by the collar, and threw him out the observation deck window.
“I cannot help but be charmed by a gentleman who runs full-sped toward his goal without worrying about appearances. Instead of trying to act cool, I like it when he is covered in sweat and mud while making a straight shot toward…kyah☆ I think I said too much. Oh ho ho.”
The final soldier ducked down as an insane gap appeared between the worlds inside and outside the screens, so Heivia clapped his hands.
“Ladies and gentlemen! Now the number of corpses on both sides is even. As a super noble with a generous heart, I would love to strike a deal here, but what about you? If you’re intent on continuing the fight, that heavy machinegun will be your one-way ticket to the afterlife. 12.7mm hurts like hell. Just a graze to the shoulder is enough to tear off an arm. It’s like breaking open a tender lobster. So are you sure you want to fight?”
“The Legitimacy Kingdom…?” The soldier sounded bewildered. “Why are you here? Oh, oh! I get it. You’re actually Information Alliance in disguise, aren’t you? Nothing else makes any sense!!”
“Tell me everything you know, one at a time.”
Heivia aimed his silencer-equipped carbine and that direct threat drove the Information Alliance soldier to silence. He glanced toward the fully-auto shotgun on the floor, but even if he could take out Heivia, he knew he could not prevent the heavy machinegun from getting back at him. He gave up on the idea and sighed.
The young soldier sat down, put his hands up, and spoke.
“I am Jax Spencer of the Information Alliance’s Sd Independent Assault Logistical Support Unit. My rank is sergeant.”
“You can tell from our weapons that we’re not the intelligence team hidden in Second Venice, right? We were on standby so we could lend them some more firepower if they screwed up and had to make a run for it.”
In other words, they got to take every day off unless there was an emergency. And those emergencies would only occur once a year at best. They were a prime example of soldiers living off of people’s taxes. Heivia was jealous.
“That’s why it took us so long to figure out what they were doing. We thought this was a simple job like normal, but…dammit! I can’t believe they called Second Venice a world-class resort. If we’d known this was an infection base we would have refused the mission from the beginning!!”
“Wait, wait, wait. Let’s go over this in order. I just heard a really ominous term in there, didn’t I?”
“Listen, Second Venice is a world-class tourist spot. It officially belongs to the Information Alliance, but it’s actually full of wealthy residents of safe countries from all four world powers. …They gather here from all over the world and then return to every part of the world. You understand that much, right?”
“But Second Venice is an artificial island. It has a bunch of tropical-looking palm trees and such growing on it, but it’s really just barren land made from empty boxes of aluminum and reinforced stainless steel. That means the soil is fragile and almost entirely void of nutrients. To make up for that, they spread some kind of agar across the soil. It’s an Island Nation…what did they call it? Natto bacteria? Anyway, by covering the soil with that, it improves the water retention, replenishes the nutrients, and prevents the growth of mold. All of that is well and good, but there’s a problem. What do you think would happen if that harmless natto bacteria were replaced with some other kind of microbe?”
“Wait a second… Are you saying this is connected to the ‘infection base’ you mentioned earlier!?”
“The official name is Sprinkler 001. But at that point, it was still a beneficial project. More and more of our safe countries are plagued with resistant bacteria. The housewives with nothing better to do have been keeping everything so sparkling clean with anti-bacterial sprays and wipes that everyone’s losing their immunity and ability to recover. So when they get even slightly sick, they go to the hospital and take tons of antibiotics, which in turn increases the toxicity and resistance of the bacteria. The medical fees are no laughing matter. The VIPs needed to do something before the national treasuries were strained too far to continue waging war.”
Jax smiled a little.
“It was a package of convenient and harmless bacteria. By setting them in the infection base of Second Venice and disseminating them, the infected carriers would spread them to the safe countries. The clean freak housewives would be letting the bacteria into their bodies without realizing it, but that would increase their immunity and reduce the frequency with which they visit the doctor. That would reduce the medical fees and allow the Information Alliance to focus on war. It wasn’t a bad plan. At that point at least, it didn’t harm anyone. …Yes, ‘at that point’.”
“There’s more? Wait…you’re kidding, right?”
“Something unexpected happened.”
The Information Alliance soldier must have wanted to do anything but admit this out loud. His face was even more unpleasantly sweaty than when he had the gun aimed at him.
“They used a package that shouldn’t have existed. So our Second Generation was used to quarantine the island. Of course it was. We don’t know what Pathogen X is, but if it’s brought back to the safe countries around the world, it’s all over.”
“Wait, are you saying something’s happening to our bodies!? Are you saying we’re filled with something people in strange protective suits would need to pack up in a plastic bag and keep in isolated storage!?”
“But this is a manmade disaster. We were never told the risks! We only learned about the infection base by desperately gathering information on the scene!! The Information Alliance needed to protect us. How could they let us rot with all the other corpses in this good-for-nothing graveyard!? We thought we could use the threat of transmitting this information to convince the main unit to come rescue us, but…but they…!!”
“Answer me, you piece of shit!!!!”
Heivia aimed his carbine at the soldier again, but Jax Spencer only gave him a thin smile.
“…It’s too late.”
His quiet voice sounded like someone remembering something on their deathbed.
Heivia felt a chill down his spine despite being the one aiming the gun.
“The grim reaper has already sown his seeds. Spend just thirty minutes in Second Venice and you’re guaranteed to be infected. No one can escape this infection base. Yes, that’s right. Yes, no one really understands. Not even I-…”
Someone somewhere spoke.
“Oh, you’ve made up your minds? Oh ho ho. You top brass in the safe countries never do want to draw the short stick, so I thought you would keep stalling until we ran out of time. …There go my plans to analyze the swimsuit concert in my spare time.”
“The situation this time leaves us with no other choice.”
“Understood. I will cancel the work task and get back to my main job. I’m a little reluctant, but orders are orders.”
“Will the distance be a problem?”
“Perhaps in a high-speed battle between Objects, but this is a stationary tower. Oh ho ho. I am just barely outside my ten kilometer range, but I should be able to manage.
“Then get to work.”
“Yes, right away. As much as I hate doing this.”
Heivia received a transmission on his radio.
“Heivia, get down!”
“I saw it on the radar. The Rush is aiming a cannon your way. Her target is probably the tower. Stay there and you’ll be silenced along with them. Hurry!!”
His throat immediately went dry.
But he could not imagine what exactly he was supposed to do.
A blinding light and intense blast shook the Pillar of Truth’s observation deck. Most of the windows had already been broken, but the little that remained shattered. Heivia could do nothing as his feet floated up from the floor before he was slammed against the inner wall a few meters ahead.
The Rush specialized in close- to mid-range combat, so its rapid-fire beam Gatling cannon could not reach ten kilometers. It had likely used a small (for an Object) railgun or coilgun.
And it had not been a direct hit.
Heivia had seen another line of fire tear through the air at the last second. It had come from the Baby Magnum. The Princess could not take part in any high-speed battles and she was stuck as a stationary gun platform, but she had still interfered with a cannon blast. The two shells had struck like billiards balls, so the Rush’s had veered off course and spared Heivia a direct hit.
But even the side effects were this powerful.
Static played from the broken speakers as a violent wind struck the elevated location. All of the flat screen monitors broke, cutting short the swimsuit concert.
“Gh…kh… Jax! Jax Spencer!? Where are you, dammit!? If you can come here, then get over here!!”
Heivia had been blinded by the light and he choked as he yelled.
He received no response.
But he doubted the other soldier had escaped.
His eyes finally adjusted after a few dozen seconds and he found a giant mess where the observation deck’s interior had been.
And he saw the remains of the windows on the opposite end.
A single foot in a boot had been torn off at the ankle and was caught on the twisted window frame.
“This is Heivia.” Heivia groaned and reached for his radio while lying on the floor. “I acquired some information at the observation deck. Second Venice itself is a global infection base created by the Information Alliance and some kind of unexpected situation has apparently led to it disseminating an extremely dangerous Pathogen X. Yeah, and there’s a chance we were infected too! I repeat!! We all might have been infected and that makes the Rush the righteous guardian of mankind for setting up that blockade! Goddammit!!”
External Document – Journal Saved to a Hair Accessory's Micro Memory
My big brother is an amazing person.
I mean, he saved me from war. He destroyed the cutting-edge Second Generation Exact Javelin, defeated Councilor Flide, and rescued me from that lab full of pain and suffering.
It sounds like something from a movie.
But there was one thing different from any action movie.
My big brother never touched a gun.
I think that’s amazing. It’s way, way more praiseworthy than everyone thinks.
Anything goes in war. People say it’s protected by international rules and the concept of clean wars, but that’s all a lie. That should be obvious from the moment a flesh-and-blood soldier is forced to take on an Object.
But even so, my big brother never relies on a gun.
I know how reassuring a single bullet can be. I know that really, really well. To an embarrassing extent. But my big brother sets aside the reassuring weight of a gun like it’s normal.
Things like an age of peace or mutual trust don’t really mean much to me.
Even in a safe country, I don’t think I could walk around without a gun at my hip.
But my big brother showed me it can be done.
He showed me a gun isn’t necessary. He made it through the worst possible battlefield without a gun, so a safe country should be a piece of cake.
He’s a role model. He’s someone whose example I should follow.
Or to put it another way, he’s my big brother.
Maybe I can get past needing a gun too.
My big brother is everything I aspire to be.