HEAVY OBJECT:Volume12 Chapter 5
One requirement for a military weapon was even more important than destructive power: controllability.
Argeiphontes, the poison gas developed by Hermes Pharmaceuticals was no exception. With a death rate of 99.8%, it was history’s worst invention, but it had still begun development as a military product. It was possible they had a stock of an antidote or reductant.
But if so, why had they not saved the tens of thousands of people during the riot suppression accidents? Frolaytia had a possible answer.
“If that research was not their main focus, they would have had enough in stock for a few dozen people at most, so they could not save the vast majority of them. And once the world discovered an antidote existed, the people might decide the company was actively trying to kill people. That’s why they refused to use it. The best scenario for them was to hire a parade of lawyers and throw doubt onto the cause of the accidental deaths. …They seem to have failed there, though.”
Their busty silver-haired commander was speaking from the top of a tank. The exhaust pipe was attached high in order to cross rivers and a water-resistant firefighting hose had been attached to it. The joint was held on with duct tape and rubber instant glue, so it looked pretty handmade.
Quenser covered the tank’s gun with a giant rubber plug and filled the gaps with putty.
“Will this really work?”
“The submarine tank? They used this technique in old wars and the custom designs I had the old lady draw up are perfect. She even tested it on the smaller Full Helm UGV, so it shouldn’t be a problem. …There, that should do it.”
The busty commander toyed with the duct-taped end of the exhaust pipe and then turned toward Quenser.
“The doctor says Catherine won’t survive two days even if we treat all of her symptoms. I assume you know what you need to do, Quenser.”
“Sneak through the ocean in this to contact a VIP. That piece of shit bought god’s love with a generous donation to Hermes Pharmaceuticals, so they might know how to save Catherine.”
“Well done. With the blockade in place, the Information Alliance of course won’t let us through, so don’t let the Rush notice you.” Frolaytia wiped the sweat from her brow. “Your destination is the Olive Garden 50 km north of here. It’s a modern alternative fuel plant that’s trying to resolve the energy crisis with olive fields instead of petroleum.”
“So they feed you smooth extra virgin olive oil that’s been made more stable and efficient for use in machines? They sound even pickier about their food than us.”
“Well, that might mean we’re a little slimmer than they are. And the Olive Garden is also known as a world-class floating casino. It’s known for buying back the chips for barrels of oil instead of cash.”
“I’m sure it’s just a method of laundering dirty money.”
“The VIP in question is Elizabeth Schnozzle. Her father is the president of an Information Alliance sightseeing company and she was caught in the riots and poison gas after sneaking off to Athens for some fun two years ago. After her miraculous survival, she sent a large sum of money to Hermes Pharmaceuticals. Shockingly, it was enough to buy half an Object.”
Why were they not going after Hermes Pharmaceuticals itself?
They had a simple reason. Hermes Pharmaceuticals had produced the poison gas and was likely to have some of the antidote in stock, but they were an international corporation with more than a million employees and it was impossible to know who had supported the evil deeds. In fact, the majority would be normal, decent people. And Catherine did not have time for them to go searching through them all. To swiftly locate the culprit within Hermes Pharmaceuticals, it was best to track down someone who knew a lot about the situation.
“Plus, Elizabeth’s company helped to develop Second Venice, but they also hate it. The island’s popularity exploded, which threw off the corporate group’s power balance, so they’re losing their place in the group. They tried developing different areas along the Mediterranean like crazy to take some of it back, but they keep falling into the red. The Olive Garden is one of those that’s still in the black. Of course, that’s partially because our Resort & Dolce group has been applying pressure from the outside.”
“Do we have any reason to think Elizabeth is there?”
“A red tiltrotor. Elizabeth’s faction originally bought it as a luxury helicopter to take her to and from a nearby desert island she was planning to turn into a private beach, but with Second Venice freely moving around, the couple’s private sex beach was a little too much in the public eye. She was displeased, the plan stalled, and the tiltrotor became her own personal pumpkin carriage. It hasn’t moved since landing at the Olive Garden. We’ve confirmed it by satellite, so there’s no mistaking it.”
“50 km. That’s awfully close to the infection base.”
“She might want to experience it close up. Experience the final moments of the popular destination that’s been weighing on them for so long, that is. And luck would have it Elizabeth and Hermes Pharmaceuticals are enjoying the same casino. They seem to be attending some kind of party together, but more than 500 people from Hermes are scheduled to be in attendance. That’s too many suspects, so getting Elizabeth to talk would be best.”
That said, they did not know when Elizabeth would end her fun and leave on the red tiltrotor. If they did not contact her before she left, they would be unable to save Catherine’s life.
It was a bit forceful, but they would have to cross that sea of death.
And to do so, they had created a makeshift customized submarine tank.
“All I can do is send you off. Once you’re over there, you’re on your own, Quenser.”
“Catherine saved my life. She didn’t hesitate to give me the mask she should have worn. I’m not confident what I would have done if our situations had been reversed. Compared to that loneliness, infiltrating a den of money-wasters is nothing.”
“Is there anything we can do while we wait?”
“Repair the Baby Magnum as quickly as possible. It can only be for show, but make sure she can respond to a high-speed battle. Second Venice is surrounded by the Rush and the Old Fashion and we haven’t entirely wiped out the shadow of that Zombie Object. Whatever the case, we can’t even sit at the table without an Object.”
“I’ll do what I can, but I can’t make any promises. The spare armor panels are being used as roofs on the makeshift lodgings.”
“It doesn’t have to be perfect. We just have to be able to put on a performance to show that the Legitimacy Kingdom Object is operational.”
“If that bluff works, what do we do after hiding in the smokescreen?”
Quenser answered that question with a short sigh.
And then he made an announcement.
“I don’t care how many Objects stand between me and rescuing Catherine. I’ll destroy them all myself.”
“I see,” muttered Frolaytia.
She placed the kiseru in her mouth, scratched her head, and continued.
“Then get to it.”
It was midnight as they ventured into the dark sea.
“Oh, god. Are we really using a handmade submarine tank? If water gets in through the gaps in the duct tape, it’s all over. You’re not supposed to go 120 meters deep in a school summer project!!”
“My school built a lunar probe. It was crushed underfoot after we sent it on a mission to the girls shower room, though. Besides, a solid tank can bear a fair bit of water pressure to begin with. We closed up all the holes in the gun and radiator, so with the long snorkels attached to let oxygen in and exhaust out, we can travel along the bottom of the ocean just fine.”
The snorkels he mentioned were the firefighting hoses from before. The ends floated on the water’s surface and the floats were camouflaged as planks of driftwood so they would not be noticed.
They had no sense of direction, so they were reliant on a compass as they travelled through the darkness.
But even if the submarine tank could travel freely along the ocean bottom, they could not travel in a straight line. When avoiding those, they had to keep their detour to a minimum. Otherwise, they could lose their sense of direction in the dark sea and end up driving in circles.
“So I guess that bastard Evans survived. Didn’t he fall to the ocean bottom in a powered suit?”
“If he didn’t survive, than who’s that in front of me right now? I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“I can’t believe you two. You forgot about me, didn’t you!? You were so moved by what happened with Catherine that you forgot all about me, didn’t you!?”
“Shut up. What good is wasting valuable memory space on guys? I’m more surprised about Myonri. Didn’t you get shot just three days ago!?”
“Uuh… I really would prefer to be sleeping in a bed in the medical room, but then I heard what happened with Catherine. I’d feel bad sitting around when someone is so much worse off than me.”
“You don’t seem to understand that people normally die on the battlefield, Myonri. But anyway, congrats on your return to hell. I’m just glad we have a nice feminine scent to counteract the rest of us guys.”
“Hmm, well, I guess I’m glad you’re as perverted as ever. If Catherine had awoken a spirit of justice inside you, I figured you were going to die here.”
The submarine tank was an extremely effective way of crossing national borders while slipping past radar and satellites, but it was also slow going. They had to make sure the environment did not crush their hearts, so the topic of conversation kept jumping around. The trick was to avoid any silence.
“Oh, yeah. We got some information on that Zombie Object.”
“The Old Fashion already sank it, right? Do we really need that?”
“Well, it is a Zombie Object.”
“It never hurts to be careful. It’s a Faith Organization Second Generation and our codename for it is Lizard Tail. That means this wasn’t its first battle.”
“Then why didn’t we find anything in our database? Is the electronic simulation division getting lazy?”
“We thought it had been destroyed, so it was removed from the list of search candidates. Tee hee.”
“The first part makes sense, but that last part is unforgivable. If some bearded old man tried to play it off with a ‘tee hee’, I am so punching him.”
“Well, to be more serious, there’s some suspicion that Lizard Tail isn’t the name of a specific Object. It might be a disturbance tactic where different Objects are given similar exteriors to look like they’re the same. The Faith Organization apparently calls it Dionysus. I’m not entirely sure where the name comes from. I just remember it’s the god of a sect with a perverted ritual.”
It was a self-harming Object with a death wish.
That Second Generation increased its own value by destroying itself over and over.
“How bizarre can you be?”
“Yeah. Objects are all really weird, but I’d never want to pilot something like that. Even if it’s an efficient way of staying alive, it’s like how bugs and crabs will let their leg tear off if something grabs it. I can’t bear to watch trivia show footage like that.”
But this was being done by the Faith Organisation that loved gods more than food. The design may have been to fulfill an ideal of reincarnation or human sacrifice rather than efficiency.
“How many more kilometers is it? We’ve run out of things to talk about, but this silence is going to drive us insane.”
“Then let’s do the usual. Y’know, how we kill time during the night shift on guard duty.”
“Oh, you mean Boobs Concentration?”
They heard someone do a spit take.
It was probably Myonri.
“Wh-wh-wh-what are you talking about!?”
“Do we really have to explain it? If you can name two female soldiers with the same chest size, you get a point. Get one wrong and the other guy gets a turn, so it’s pretty simple. The only problem is it leads to some fights if you don’t have someone else to act as a judge, so can you take that job, Myonri?”
“There’s something wrong with this! Why do so many people know our sizes!?”
“Because we’re bored.”
“And you can make a pretty good guess by looking.”
Oh Ho Ho gave an exasperated sigh in the Information Alliance Second Generation Rush’s cockpit.
She was rearranging the songs she would use for her next public performance, and…
“Really, do you have to be so obvious about it?”
An Object was generally meant to be the ruler on land or sea, so anything else was branching off of that. They dealt with the air by shooting down the enemy aircraft with their anti-air lasers, so the Object itself did not actually fly. Similarly, underground and underwater were not the 200,000 ton mass’s main field.
However, that did not mean there was nothing they could do.
Objects were the weapons that had ended the nuclear age. And those old weapons had included many bizarre varieties: nuclear mines set on the sea bottom, nuclear torpedoes that traveled through the ocean, and ship-to-surface nuclear missiles that slowly approached the coast in the ocean but traveled just off the surface at more than Mach 5 after rising from the sea.
Objects of course had weapons to deal with those, just like they had anti-air lasers.
An inability to dive underwater was not the same as an inability to rule the sea.
(Well, I do owe him one after saving me before.)
Oh Ho Ho rhythmically tapped her slender finger on the control panel in time with her own music as she paused in hesitation.
“Oh ho ho. And what better way to thank him than to go all out no matter the situation?”
She ultimately decided to attack.
That may have been due to her Idol Elite side also being military-minded.
Several metal dice were thrown into the dark ocean from the bottom of the Rush.
They looked tiny compared to the Object, but each one was the size of an air cargo container. And they were loaded with explosives. The dice could detect the artificial sounds in the ocean that did not exist in the natural world and they could compare them to the sound patterns of the propellers registered to their own army. Any that did not match would be deemed an enemy and the deadly fish eggs would be fired at the target.
The barrage density and individual accuracy was great enough to perfectly intercept up to twenty simultaneous nuclear torpedoes that travelled through the ocean at Mach speeds using supercavitation.
Thus, a submarine tank digging through the sand on the ocean bottom was hardly a challenge.
(Unlike land battles, the slightest damage is enough to take you out in the sea or in the air, so I don’t even need my plasma or railguns.)
“Oh ho ho. Target X confirmed destroyed. I detected the bubble after the water pressure crushed it and the air escaped.”
After their last ray of hope in submarine tank form was destroyed, Quenser and the others groaned inside sweaty diving suits.
“Couldn’t Oh Ho Ho show at least a little bit of dere!?”
“An idol’s got to seem out of reach. Once they start to seem like an individual, they can’t sell anymore.”
They had never been aboard the submarine tank. No matter how silently it moved, they had decided it was impossible to slip past the Second Generation.
So where were they?
On something camouflaged as driftwood.
“Th-this snorkel will ride the waves to the Olive Garden even though the submarine tank was destroyed, right?”
“If the map had the currents right. If not, we’ll just have to pray. We’re in the middle of the Mediterranean, so we’ll have to pray we get washed up on a shore controlled by the Legitimacy Kingdom. It’d be a real tragedy if we ended up in the Faith Organization.”
A long snorkel much like an antenna buoy had extended to the ocean surface to circulate oxygen and exhaust to and from the submarine tank. That was why their busty silver-haired commander had attached a fire hose with duct tape.
Quenser and the other three had assumed the submarine tank itself would be destroyed, so they were clinging to the air intake floating on the surface. They had let the engine pull them along as far as possible and, now that the submarine tank was gone, they would ride the current.
This was still a deadly sea. If the Rush noticed the trick, they would be killed instantly. The four idiots were still restricted to a slow pace.
“Hey, isn’t the smallest nuclear weapon the size of a rugby ball? It fits in a suitcase, right? Couldn’t someone use this method to slip a nuke past an Object’s defenses?”
“Use a heavy element like californium and you can make a nuclear weapon the size of your thumb. The nuclear age is supposed to be over, so let’s just hope mankind doesn’t get any cleverer.”
“What is it, Evans? I know you’re nervous, but try not to vomit. There’s nowhere for it to go in these diving suits. You don’t want to drown in your own vomit, do you?”
“It’s not that… Sorry, I’m not sure why, but that Object is scaring me so bad it’s giving me a bit of a boner.”
“Welcome to the club, Evans. Now you’re a true member of the 37th!”
“Wait, are you including me in that!?” protested Myonri, but the idiots did not care.
After more than three hours, they finally left the Rush’s territory.
“Is that the party that doesn’t seem to care there’s a war going on?” asked Heivia as he clung to the driftwood.
It was past four in the morning. The late night was shifting to early morning, so the black was changing to navy blue. But one section of the sea contained a flood of light that was never extinguished. It was not a natural land. A giant square area of reclaimed land was located alongside the coast. The only connection to the mainland they could see was a single large illuminated bridge.
“They built a floating city for no reason and without thinking about the economic efficiency or environmental effects? Sounds like the location of a school in an Island Nation light novel.”
“There are better analogies, you know? Like a bay airport.”
“Anyway, we’ll be there in less than twenty minutes. Men, prepare yourselves.”
The end of the reclaimed land had been made into an artificial beach, but it did not seem to be very popular at night. The casino was the real draw at this time.
After safely reaching land, Quenser and the others stripped off their diving suits and removed the items packed in plastic and attached to the bottom of the driftwood. They had everything they needed: assault rifles, submachineguns, handguns, knives, hand grenades, grenade launchers, fully-auto shotguns, light machineguns, anti-materiel rifles, and even plastic explosives and shoulder-fired missiles.
“Everyone gave us way too much stuff! We can’t carry all this!!”
“Heh. This just shows how much everyone loves Catherine.”
Quenser took some explosives and Heivia took an assault rifle with a grenade launcher attached. Myonri took a fully-auto shotgun with a box magazine and Evans took a semi-auto anti-material rifle. The four idiots complained, but they all grabbed the weapon they wanted.
“Oh, it’d be a pain if someone picked up the extra weapons, so should we bury them in the sand?”
“This place is amazing. They’ve got a luxury hotel and an industrial complex’s huge-ass cylindrical tank right next to each other.”
“Please help me out here. U-um, where is the actual olive field? Isn’t this supposed to be a facility for making alternative fuel?”
“It’s probably one of those plant factories that are all the rage these days. The olives will be growing with the protection of air conditioning and water purifiers inside a building or dome. They might have more comfortable beds than we do.”
Their first step was finding Elizabeth Schnozzle who had miraculously survived and getting her to tell them who in Hermes Pharmaceuticals gave her the antidote. The next step was grabbing that person and getting the product or a chemical formula out of them. Fortunately, Hermes Pharmaceuticals was also planning to throw a large party at the Olive Garden.
If they failed at any point, Catherine would not survive.
Quenser took a deep breath while carrying a backpack full of bombs.
“Let’s get started. Where’s Elizabeth’s castle?”
“Um, I think it’s one of the monster-sized casinos. This one is called Olympus. The Olive Garden has a ton of casinos, but based on the flow of money, that’s the only one with a lack of an upper limit on bets. She’ll be making a ton of money at once there instead of betting little bits at a time elsewhere.”
“So she’s one of the honored guests that the normal people don’t even get to know about, huh? That’s perfect. It gives one less reason to hold back. I was asked to protect everyone and that includes Catherine.”
“She’s apparently drawn in a lot of customers by acting like a goddess of fortune ever since her miraculous survival. Let’s get her to share some of that love of god she bought. Catherine could really use it.”
The Olive Garden itself was a five kilometer square of reclaimed land. Somewhere in the flood of lights was the Olympus casino.
Quenser and the others made their way straight there.
They got some weird looks from bored limousine drivers waiting for the few customers who remained in the casinos at this hour and from the call girls who had been kicked out of the fancy hotel lobbies.
It was a small area full of lots of money.
That meant security would be strict and there would be more cameras and sensors covering the entire area. They were not tuxedo-wearing spies, so they could not remain hidden forever. But that had never been part of their plan.
“Hey, Quenser. Do you know what the Olive Garden is classified as?”
“It’s officially a Faith Organization military base. I’m sure the fuel reserves they use to buy back the chips are a way to avoid taxes, though.”
“But that makes it a battlefield country, right?”
“Yeah, and so there’s no problem if some soldiers get into a firefight. It won’t even make the news.”
They heard the disconcerting sound of military tires tearing at the ground. A boxy truck-sized mass ignored the traffic light to secure a line of fire. It looked like the fusion of a firefighter’s hook-and-ladder truck and an armored truck, but it was not painted red and it had no front windshield. It had arrived within five minutes of Quenser’s group reaching land, so their reaction speed was quite good.
Heivia asked a question while hiding behind some nearby cover.
“What is that?”
“Either a military firetruck for base security or a modified killer water truck.”
“Um, doesn’t water have the opposite effect with an oil fire?”
“Don’t cry before it’s even started, Myonri. It probably uses a chemical based on incombustible oil. This is an alternative fuel base, remember? And a sticky liquid will be released with more force than normal water. The high-pressure chemical used for oil fires can push a parked car to the side or break your back even through a bulletproof vest.”
“It’s probably a necessity for security when they can’t afford to trigger any explosions. Ugh…”
But the resort security may have been a little too well-mannered.
The four Legitimacy Kingdom idiots no longer cared much who their opponent was. They just wanted to know who they needed to shoot at.
Quenser took a baseball-sized plastic explosive, stuck a pen-shaped electric fuse into it, and did not hesitate to chuck it toward the killer water truck.
“Your friend Quenser is a little different. Today, you can call me your angry big brother, baby.”
He hit a button on his radio and a flower of explosive flames blossomed.
With that first explosion, the battle began.
Below the navy blue sky, the killer water truck hopped straight up and burst into flames. The blast-resistant doors opened and soldiers ran out while partially on fire only for rifle bullets to hit them. Heivia whistled as he fired.
“This is only the opening skirmish and it isn’t over until we reach the casino. Don’t use up all your ammo before we go for the jackpot!!”
“You’re shooting more than anyone, Heivia!”
“It’s all meaningless if we kick the bucket before getting there!!”
“Which of those instructions are we supposed to follow!?”
As he complained, Quenser kneaded some Hand Axe into a baseball-sized sphere and attached a pen-shaped electric fuse to the top. He threw it toward the Faith Organization soldiers who were persistently targeting them from behind cover.
“Oh, did that stick to him?”
The enemy panicked when he saw the bomb stuck to his helmet, but Quenser did not let up. He used his radio to blow up the fleeing soldier and everything else behind cover.
Heivia mercilessly pulled the trigger on the enemy soldiers that just barely managed to roll away from the blast.
“Wow, these guards sure are straitlaced. They actually fight properly and even die when they’re supposed to.”
“Their pay must be better than ours.”
While Heivia swapped out his magazine, Evans used his anti-materiel rifle to destroy the very wall the enemy was hiding behind.
Quenser and the others advanced further while harmless bikini girls and bunny girls ran around in a panic.
They had reached the neon-flooded main strip of casinos. It was almost dawn, but the brightly lit signs were an eyesore.
“The Faith Organization isn’t taking this as seriously as I would have thought. I mean, I’m carrying a heavy missile on my back.”
“They probably don’t want to damage the roads and bridges with tank treads. And longer range heavy machineguns or autocannons raise the odds of accidentally hitting some VIP or another.”
“D-does that mean they can’t bring out some dirty depleted uranium rounds in this luxury resort for the wealthy? The rounds that pierce their target could also break through a giant water tank or something.”
At precisely that moment, the restaurant to the side had a wall blown apart and a giant mass moved out onto the main strip. This was not the same as the killer water truck from before. It felt like looking up at a giant excavation dump truck that rivaled a three-story building.
And this was no construction vehicle. It was a 12-wheel armored truck with a swiftly rotating roller tilted on its side on the front. It swung around lots of chains and weights like a car wash’s brush, so simply coming into contact with it would level a reinforced concrete building. They did not even want to imagine what would happen to human flesh.
“That’s a flail roller!! They really developed that landmine digger in a stupid direction!!”
“I guess they aren’t going to make this easy after all. They probably use it to destroy the buildings without any chance of starting an oil fire. Evans, your anti-materiel rifle won’t work on that! It’s a waste of ammo!!”
Quenser shouted at his comrade who was continuing to fire nonstandard bullets straight at the vehicle.
That equipment was originally meant to allow a mine clearance vehicle to dig up the ground as it moved. Simply put, it cleared the mines by stepping on them. Unlike a tractor’s metal blades, the chains and weights would not bend or break from the impact of the exploding mines. Now that its size had been increased and it had been further modified, no normal firepower stood a chance against it.
And that giant armored truck with flails attached was clearly headed their way. Any car they hid behind would only be turned to scrap along with them.
Quenser and the others quickly ran inside a nearby shop. There was a reception counter up front, a row of long narrow glass doors was located behind that, and the rest was divided into booths about the same as phone booths.
When Heivia and the others aimed their guns forward, the young man behind the counter tearfully raised his hands instead of reaching for the button below the counter.
“I-I have no money! There’s no safe! I’m not pilfering any of the sales and there’s no secret account book!”
“I don’t care, you liar. Where’s the emergency exit! Point the way and we’ll leave. Hurry it up! Hurry!!”
The noble roared with a rifle in hand, but the problem was the rest of the building, not the counter.
“Dammit, this is a shooting range! They let the drunks have rifles!? Are they crazy!?”
“Don’t think about taking control here. They all have their backs turned and they have ear protection on. They’re so focused on their own gunfire that they won’t notice us.”
Evans urged them to be careful as he held up his heavy-looking anti-materiel rifle. Instead of paper targets moving along metal rails, the shooting range had a giant screen covering the wall like in a movie theater.
“The Olympus Casino’s Goddess Cup Poker Tournament is approaching its climax. The star tonight is Wydine Uptown of a Capitalist Corporations battlefield cleanup service. The way that money-mad maid lines her cards up so neatly has been the highlight of the show. But let’s not forget the surprise mystery contestant who has only identified himself as The Evil God of a Thousand Faces. That name is a mystery, but his skill is real. Europe’s best eight have already had their chips taken and dropped out. The predicted odds have been in total flux for a while now.”
It seemed to be a game where they used toy guns that synchronized blanks with an infrared laser rifle so they could try to shoot the celebrities on the live footage between the eyes. It was a way for the losers to blow off some steam. The four idiots rushed down the corridor running behind the 100 meter bowling alley-like booths.
“I can’t fault these people for their taste in hobbies, but why isn’t Elizabeth on the screen? Isn’t Olympus the casino she’s at?”
“She’s the goddess of fortune, remember? She can’t take part in a game that might let people see her lose big.”
They discussed the situation while following the guiding lights to the back exit.
“Anyway, we need to deal with that flail roller out front. Its invincible armor is only on the front. If we circle behind it and shoot it in the side or right up the asshole, we should be able break through just fine.”
That was when several gunshots sounded in the back corridor. And these did not sound like the toy blanks. Myonri and Evans hid behind a drink vending machine and Heivia tackled carefree Quenser over. The bodyguards hired by individuals seemed to have better weapons than the actual soldiers.
Confused by the gunfire from an unexpected direction, Evans shouted to the others.
“What are those giant parasols!? Screen camouflage!?”
“Yeah, it’s still too expensive to wear like a raincoat, but I guess the market is picking up for the ones you hold up like a flat shield.”
“Damn those hobbyists. Were they killing time on a bench out here while their carefree master is firing in there!?”
Heivia fired a warning shot just outside of the group of parasols that hid the bodyguards by overwriting the background in real time like a TV.
“We’re only here for Elizabeth Schnozzle! If you don’t want to get your client involved in this, then get lost!! We’re really pissed since a 12-year-old Elite collapsed after deciding she wanted something new in life. A future beauty’s life is wearing away with every second that passes. Slow us down and you’ll get a bullet right up your dirty asshole. But if you’re the kind of pervert that thinks a pointless firefight is worth a 5.56mm suppository, then come and get it!!” After the suggestion from the potatoes behind the vending machines, the men in black clothes and sunglasses closed the parasols. They were apparently normal. They slowly moved toward the booths occupied by men with ample builds (i.e. they were fat) and hit the button to sound the alarm. Heivia raised his middle finger and gave a suggestion to those young men with a future.
“We’ll say we had to retreat due to your courageous mercenary work. You can report whatever you want, but make sure the official write up mentions how stunningly handsome I am.”
The lead bodyguard gave him a look that demanded they leave and pointed toward the emergency exit light with his chin.
“It’s cruel how understanding adults can be.”
“It’s better than running across someone with a weird sense of justice.”
“I know what you mean. Shooting an ally of justice is the hardest thing to bear.”
“You too, Evans!?” complained Myonri. “Do we not have a single justice-minded hero among us!?”
They left the stress-relief shooting range through the back entrance, snuck back toward the main strip, and observed the giant flail vehicle as it crawled around. The flails were only on the front and the side armor looked perfectly normal.
That word was all it took. The semiauto anti-materiel rifle punched fist-sized holes in the side at even intervals from front to back, destroying the crew compartment, the engine room, and the fuel tank. The large explosion also blew away the infantry accompanying it.
They continued walking along out front and finally got near the Olympus casino.
But then they heard a great din like the flapping of drying sheets in the wind but amplified by several dozen times. The Four Heavenly Idiots looked around.
“Wh-where is that coming from? It sounds like an engine warming up!”
“It doesn’t matter where. It’s like a helicopter but different. That red tiltrotor is preparing to take off! That’s Elizabeth’s!!”
“Then we can’t let it take off. It doesn’t matter who, let’s take a soldier hostage.”
Gunfire rang out and an enemy soldier fell out from behind an electronic sign after being shot in the leg. The Faith Organization soldiers tried to gather their ally, but Myonri chased them off with some rapid-fire shots of her shotgun.
Quenser dashed over and kicked the soldier in the face as he tried to draw a handgun with his bloody hand. Anyone could be a hero when they had the upper hand. He stepped on the enemy’s right hand and asked a question.
“I hear this place buys back the casino chips with the alternative fuel from the olive oil. Which tanks are Elizabeth’s?”
“You don’t have to answer me if you don’t want. Then we just have to blow them all up. This angry big brother can be frightening when he gets serious.”
“N-numbers 8 through 19… She is loved by god. She relied on her good fortune to gather all that oil from the other investors…”
“I didn’t need to know that much. Here’s your reward.”
He pulled some disinfectant and bandages from his survival kit, threw them at the soldier’s feet, and then pulled a plastic explosive from his backpack.
“What are you going to do with the bomb? I doubt you can throw it high enough to reach the pumpkin carriage after it takes off.”
“The real problem is we can’t kill her. There’s a ton we have to ask Elizabeth, remember?”
As Quenser moved on ahead, the other idiots discussed their plans.
And the first idiot gave his answer.
“Hey, Heivia. As a noble, you know a thing or two about charter planes, right? What are the main reasons for canceling the takeoff of a plane?”
“Wind and fog.”
The beautiful woman with plentiful bodylines wore a blood-red dress. Her taste in clothing and makeup had yet to leave the category of “girly”. That created an imbalance with her body, but no one was willing to tell her that. And unlike the emperor and his new clothes, she was at least pleasant to look at. Some people might even welcome it.
That very beautiful queen was incredibly angry. Her face was as red as her dress and she yelled at the tiltrotor pilot with the short temper of a young girl still intact.
“What do you mean we can’t take off!?”
“W-we can’t fly with the poor visibility! I’m sorry!! The oil fire has filled the sky with black smoke!!”
The navy blue sky was burned orange as it reflected the fires on the surface. And unhealthy-looking black smoke boldly ruined that billion dollar view.
“Faith Organization aviation law bans taking off in fog with opacity of greater than 40% or in equivalently poor visibility. The control tower won’t give me permission for takeoff and the oil fire won’t be extinguished for a day or two. There’s no point in waiting here any longer!”
“Wh-why are you acting like this is so dangerous? There’s nothing up there to run into.”
“First of all, the Olive Garden has a great number of high-rise buildings to effectively use the limited space. Second, the sky above the Olive Garden is a high traffic airspace, so some kind of aircraft passes by at a rate of once every two minutes. Not to mention the possibility of seagulls or an unregistered photography drone that some tourists brought without permission. And a lot of them would probably want to get a video of this oil fire. So…”
Elizabeth slammed her palm against the partition and climbed out of the tiltrotor. She was accompanied by bodyguards that looked equipped for urban warfare (perhaps because their client wanted what she had seen in movies) as she descended from the heliport and held her long brown hair in place.
“That carefree pilot is so fired!! We’ll just have to use a land route. Form an escort group with those bulletproof cars in the underground parking garage and we’ll take the bridge to the-…”
She trailed off when she heard another explosion in the distance. It was hard to see through the curtain of black smoke, but some flashing lights were plainly visible in one direction.
They were coming from the one bridge to the mainland.
It had likely been a missile attack. And anyone with any sense would assume a connection.
“Kh. Get me a cruiser! Or a submarine if you have to!! The marina has plenty that you can purchase with a single tap on the electronic catalog!!”
One of her special unit whispered to her.
She glared at him, thinking of firing him as well, but he resolutely gave his report.
“That will not work either. …They are already here.”
A moment later, an explosion shook the entire casino.
A killer water truck had been waiting at the roundabout in front of the Olympus hotel, but they threw some balled-up Hand Axe to blow it up. When they threw a few of the scorched helmets in through the building’s broken glass door, the employees and guests in the lobby grew quite obedient. The doormen’s upper bodies were swollen with the commercial bulletproof vests worn below their uniforms, but even they let go of their shotguns with attached metal detectors and put their hands up. They seemed to understand that the anger of these cowboys went beyond the frustration of losing big at the casino.
Once inside, Quenser was stunned.
The front gate was the only proper building. Beyond that, the different forms of adult recreation were separated out like at a zoo or amusement park. There was an outdoor leisure pool lit up from below the water. Slot machines and bar counters were lined up on the pool side and the roulette and card tables floated in the pool like small islands.
“Why do rich people want to get in a pool after going to a seaside resort?”
“They’re here for the girls in swimsuits, not the sea. …Hey, you!! Don’t be using this confusion to put some old lady’s sweaty panty hose over your head, you loser! We’re not letting anyone blame some regular old casino robbery on us. If you don’t want to get shot for your greed, then get lost!!”
“Humans really are bold creatures.”
The live footage they had seen in the shooting range seemed to have been taking place on a special gazebo stage floating in the center of the pool, but it had already been abandoned. The card game experts seemed to have sniffed out the trouble before it arrived.
Quenser politely stuck some Legitimacy Kingdom money in the cleavage of a bunny girl cowering nearby and asked a gentlemanly question.
“Excuse me, miss. Where is the heliport!?”
They all ran in the direction indicated by her pointer finger. It was a short distance from the pool casino and the view was blocked by a row of palm trees and hibiscus trees.
“Come to think of it, I don’t hear the rotors anymore.”
“They’re not stupid.”
As they burst through the wall of giant vegetation, they found the way blocked by a tall chain-link fence. A metal sign warned them of a high-voltage current.
“So they grew the trees to hide this from the guests. How dangerous.”
They followed the fence and found a chain-link door. It would normally be shut with an electronic lock, but someone had apparently been in a hurry. It sat slightly open.
They continued on in and the heliport came into view beyond the tropical trees. The red tiltrotor sat there with its engine stopped. It was less than thirty meters away.
There was someone there.
The beautiful young woman wore a red dress with a design too youthful and girly for her. Her face matched the newspaper clipping in Frolaytia’s report.
“Wait, Quenser! Dammit!!”
Quenser started forward, but Heivia grabbed his arm and quickly dove behind a nearby palm tree. Gunfire immediately followed. The surrounding bodyguards had reacted.
“She’s got fifteen bodyguards equipped with bulletproof plates. A grenade would work if we could kill Elizabeth, but we can’t. Evans, take them out one at a time with your anti-materiel rifle!”
“Take our time with that and more reinforcements will arrive. Heivia, let’s take them all out at once. Start shooting on my signal.”
“What, are you going to use that to mold a tits-shaped bomb, stick a fuse in the cleavage, and throw it? You’ll blow Elizabeth to pieces along with them!!”
“Normally, yes. But what do you think happens if we start shooting but readily fall back when they shoot back!?”
They all looked confused, so Professor Quenser continued his special lecture.
“This is an away game for us. And we’re outnumbered. So if we start falling back, they’ll get carried away pretty easily! They’ll eagerly begin the hunt. And since they can’t use the tiltrotor, they have to pass through this door to escape some other way. They’ll come right for us, so hiding a bomb wouldn’t be hard. If we detonate it up below their feet once they approach, we can blow them all away!!”
That was exactly what happened.
Thirty seconds later, the careless group was blown away along with the high-voltage wires and chain link fence. They must have been issued some decent jackets because the bodyguards were still alive as they groaned among the scraps of metal and broken trees.
And after waiting a short distance away, Quenser’s group returned to the heliport.
Heivia aimed at the collapsed worms and gave a shout.
“If you think you can turn this around now, then just try it! But only if you think you can win when you don’t even know how far away your gun ended up!!”
“H-hey. Remember that screen camouflage? There aren’t more hiding behind those weird parasols, are there? I’m kind of scared.”
“Look at the color of the sky, Evans. The navy blue sky is a mess of reflected orange and black smoke. The real-time footage can’t keep up with that in the background. If the specs are the same as the one a perverted professor at my safe country school was messing around with, it would definitely stand out right now.”
But the beautiful brown-haired woman, whose bright red dress she was a little too old for, had grown bright red in the face too. She pointed one at a time at the bodyguards who were lying around like they were hungover after letting loose at a training camp.
“You! And you and you and you!! You’re all fired!!”
“Don’t worry. Your assets are burning away right now, so you wouldn’t be able to pay them either way. Putting it in words is a waste of time.”
When they heard that, the men all sighed. They held their heads and slowly stood up, but it was obvious they had no intention of fighting. This may have been the atmosphere seen in the instant that someone gave up on – or was given up on by – someone else. In that super awkward atmosphere, the muscular men left the scene as if their job was over.
“Now then, miss.”
“Tell us what we want to know and we won’t hurt you. We’re all a bunch of perverts with a severe lack of morals, so I’d recommend not angering us. Don’t underestimate people stupid enough to sneak past an Object to go fight a war for their cute little sister. Do you understand the rules now? Then how about you tell us.”
“T-t-tell you what…?”
“How to buy god’s love.”
Heivia sounded entirely carefree.
His pointless chatter rang loudly through a large empty space.
“The world is a weird place. It’s been ten hours since then. Lunchtime is about over and the sun is high in the sky. There was a commotion right after the attack, but why is Hermes Pharmaceuticals still holding a party according to their peaceful schedule only about half a day afterwards?”
“This isn’t a late-night party in some fancy bar. It’s a daytime ceremony. They must have reserved a resort hotel for the participants and they rented out an event hall too. These formal things aren’t allowed to fail. Even if an asteroid hit, they need to be able to show the signature that says it was all completed without delay. I thought a noble like you would know more about this kind of thing.”
“B-but I’m amazed they didn’t find us. If they had used all their personnel to search the limited reclaimed land or gone over everything with their rollers, we wouldn’t have had anywhere to run.”
“There’s a good and bad side to everything. The oil fire won’t go out for two or three days and all of its flames and smoke prevent them from using satellite photography or thermo. As long as we aren’t taken out by the heat and smoke ourselves, doesn’t this seem like the best urban hideout?”
Quenser continued his “work” as they chatted.
Heivia helped from the side and seemed to still have plenty of questions.
“Hey. We’re after the people who developed that poison gas in Hermes Pharmaceuticals, right? We can’t get the antidote otherwise. They created a debt in the billions of euros, so why do they still hold an important position? Even ten thousand euros would be a hopeless debt for us. The units of money are confusing me.”
“That’s just how crucial a pillar they are for the country. You could say they’re partially nationally owned.”
They were pasting clay-style plastic explosives to a luxurious wall. The long, skinny bombs were attached in a two meter box as if to create a door. They then attached pen-shaped electric fuses and synchronized the detonation timing.
Even without a directional microphone, they could hear the voice on the other side of the door.
“Doesn’t it scare you how well this is going?”
“You’ve caught the Frolaytia disease. You should be celebrating.”
All four of them moved away from the wall.
They heard the following announcement from beyond the wall:
“Now we will hear from a key figure who will bring an even greater future to Hermes! Please welcome Veneto Dandelion, a pioneer in the field of chemical security, including tear spray and oil slicks!!”
They blew it to pieces.
At that moment, a perfect door shape was blown into the back wall of the grand party stage being viewed by 500 people. A well-built elderly man was spectacularly thrown through the air and into the speech lectern. His head was shaken so hard his toupee flew off and four idiots in the uniforms of an enemy nation poured out of the makeshift entrance.
“Hey, is he okay? The old man’s legs are broken.”
“He’s made enough dirty money for a lifetime of fun, so even if he spends the rest of his life in a hospital bed, it averages out to a pretty good life. And this is perfect. Hey, say it in front of everyone from Hermes. Say you covered up the poison gas accidents, torpedoed the brand name everyone else worked so hard for, and are actively killing a cute 12-year-old all for your insane greed.”
There was some obvious violence going on, but not one of the 500 people moved. And not just out of fear of the guns and soldiers from an enemy nation.
They would never say so, but they mostly knew the truth.
So if some enemy soldiers would take care of it, they were not about to complain.
That was the gist of the atmosphere.
“Where’s the antidote?”
When Quenser slowly asked, Veneto Dandelion slowly reached into his fancy suit’s pocket. He pulled out a few syringes in a special case.
Quenser pulled one out, stabbed it into the man’s neck, and mercilessly pressed his thumb down on the cylinder. The mystery drug quickly slipped into the man’s veins.
When the man suddenly began struggling violently, the angry big brother grabbed his arms and shouted into his ear.
“I asked for the antidote! I don’t know what you tried to give me as a bluff, but it isn’t the real thing if you have to struggle that much. So you should probably get yourself treated too!! This is for both of us now!!”
“Who would think this thin card could turn into the antidote?”
After retrieving their spare weapons buried in the beach, Heivia held the laminated card up to the moon in the night sky.
Quenser shook a glass device.
“Mixing a drug is a lot like making a cocktail. If you know the ingredients and the ratios, you just need to know how and in what order to mix them together. And it’s safer to keep that on a card in your wallet than to leave it out on the cloud. And it won’t raise any questions when a police officer searches your possessions because it doesn’t have any special equipment. They won’t know if it has a military encrypted IC chip inside.”
Just like before, he had combined things like a vacuum coffee maker and a bowl full of ice to build his own chemistry set that looked like a glass roller coaster. He used that to separate and recombine ingredients from the cold medicine and pain medicine he had acquired at a drug store.
Instead of rushing back to Second Venice with the card, they were hiding out in the dangerous reclaimed land to do the work in advance. They had a simple reason for that.
“It’s crazy that we can’t just send an email now that we have it right here. Well, I do get that we can’t let the Rush and its largescale communications equipment notice us.”
“And if that Veneto bastard was lying a second or third time, we need to turn right back around, shove some Hand Axe in his mouth and up his ass, and turn him into a human firework.”
“You’re one scary big brother.”
“It is a citizen’s duty to risk his life for his cute little sister.”
“Well, you’re definitely an only child. There’s no way I’m throwing my life away for a ‘little sister’!!”
The finished mixing up the antidote as they argued.
It was a translucent and somewhat yellowish liquid.
“But how do we test it?”
“I brought this with me. It’s the impurities built up in the filter to the gas mask Catherine gave me. In other words, it’s the primary component of Argeiphontes.”
“Are you insane!?”
“Inject me with the antidote. If it doesn’t work, go kill that Veneto bastard for me. Adios.”
Quenser dropped the white powder on the back of his hand and snorted it. It may have looked like a different sort of scene, but then he started wobbling and fell to the side.
“Are you kidding me, you pervert!? Did having little Catherine by your side bring out a new fetish inside you!?”
“Let’s be nice and at least call it an interest! Here’s the syringe!!”
“Heivia, wrap a belt or something around Quenser’s upper arm. I think we need to make sure the blood vessel is bulging out!”
“Dammit, do we really have to make this look even more like that kind of scene!?”
Quenser had collapsed with fever, so they borrowed his right arm, rolled up his uniform’s sleeve, sterilized the area with some alcohol, and passed the needle through his skin. Surprisingly, Heivia looked away when the needle pricked him. He did not hesitate to slit an enemy soldier’s throat from behind, but he apparently had trouble with this.
“Well? What happened? Did it work?”
“Please wait a moment. This isn’t instant glue, so it isn’t going to take effect so soon.”
“…Is it just me or is his breathing growing shallow?”
“Not good!! Prepare for a heart massage!!”
Meanwhile, Quenser’s eyes opened a little as he lay on the ground. Light entered them. The antidote seemed to have worked.
And as he prepared to tell the others that as they peered down at him.
“Okay, start! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!!”
“Bweh!? Gbah!! Aghah!!”
(I’m gonna die! I’m gonna die!? Wait, why are they doing chest compre-…gweh!?)
“Ah, Quenser’s reacting!”
“Let’s keep him here on this filthy planet. It’s too soon for this idiot to visit the luxury resort in the sky!!”
As Heivia relentlessly continued the chest compressions, Quenser grabbed the boy’s neck and sprang up like some kind of trap.
“Are you trying to kill me!?”
“Is that anything to say to the guy who saved your life!? H-hey, stop! Don’t crush those soap-like rations below your dirty boots and throw them at me!”
Myonri and Evans could only sigh as the two idiots got into a fight. There had been some trouble along the way, but the antidote had proved effective.
“I’m the proof. We don’t need to fear Argeiphontes anymore. Let’s get back to Second Venice and wake up Sleeping Beauty.”
“Cough, ugh. That’s fine. Catherine’s the only one infected, so the Rush will lose its justification for the blockade if we save her.”
“But how do we get back? Borrowing a cruiser is easy enough, but the Information Alliance’s Rush is still watching over everything.”
“Y-yeah. And Quenser, we can’t float past as driftwood this time. The direction of the current is fixed. Since we used it to get here, we’ll be fighting the current this time.”
Quenser shrugged at Myonri and Evans’s comments.
“We can just take a cruiser back.”
“We don’t need to hide. The Rush’s job is to keep us in. She can’t restrict us if we’re going back in. Since we already left, she’ll be curious where we were out having some fun, but forcing us back out wouldn’t make sense since we might be infected.”
The more normal two among the idiots exchanged a bitter glance.
And the extraordinary idiot had more to say.
“Now, let’s make a triumphant return right past the Information Alliance who won’t have a clue what’s going on.”
External Document – Report on Faith Organization Object Development
As wartime PR, all four world powers have a tendency to deify their Objects and Pilot Elites. The Legitimacy Kingdom views them as knights and the Information Alliance as idols. But that trend is most evident in the Faith Organization which focuses heavily on religious belief.
They tend to focus more on the Pilot Elite than the mechanical Object and they view the Object as a tool the Elite uses to increase their charisma. You could say the Faith Organization views the Object as a temple and the Elite as the priest or shrine maiden that controls the temple. Through that, the people under their protection see a god.
For that reason, the Faith Organization will occasionally adopt designs far removed from the ideals of efficiency and logic. For them, the concept of the Object as an unsinkable ship with all-powerful guns is nothing more than one aspect of the device to increase their charisma. To embody the god whose name it borrows and the ideal desired by the people, they will even throw out any benefits that would harm that balance of theirs.
These bizarre designs are often far removed from general effectiveness and will introduce flaws and fragility.
But it does not end there, as should be obvious from the Faith Organization’s continued presence as one of the four world powers. Standard assumptions do not apply to these bizarre designs. It may be similar to how the unexpected actions of a complete amateur are more likely to kill an expert than the ineffectual efforts of poorly-trained soldiers, but if they can control and reproduce those lucky hits and beginner’s luck, then that is a real threat indeed.
Or perhaps the fact that the fate of their entire army relies on those lucky hits is a sign that the Faith Organization truly is loved by god.