HEAVY OBJECT:Volume12 Chapter 6
“Hey, if we’re gonna do this, let’s borrow a really nice one. Look, there’s a cruiser designed by an F1 maker.”
They felt like pirates.
Quenser and the others set out into the dark sea in one of the private possessions of Veneto Dandelion, the man who had sold god’s love.
It was just past two in the morning.
“There’s a party set in the fridge. There’s tons of ham, olives, and cheese, so it’s all perfect to go with some drinks.”
“Don’t grab the alcohol itself. We’ll be rocked by the waves all the way back and you’ll get a nice greeting from Frolaytia’s iron fist if you return to base smelling of alcohol.”
“I guess we’ll have to save that to use as an offering to that busty commander. What a waste. There’s some that aged for 20 years in a sherry cask! It’s clearly a Legitimacy Kingdom product. We’re taking back artwork stolen by an enemy nation, so why don’t we get a chance to enjoy it!?”
“Oh, there’s a big fishing set too. Looks like it’s for trolling.”
“Now that’s more constructive. Can you catch tuna around here?”
“Think I can catch something?” asked Evans as he quickly began attaching some of the food as bait and casting the thick wires out into the dark ocean. As long as the boat was moving, the electric reels would lure the fish in and reel them in on their own, so it was quite convenient.
Static ran through the ship’s radio.
“There it is,” said Heivia as he bit into some of the chilled chicken.
A moment later, a familiar voice arrived over the device.
“You, civilian ship, stop right there! Oh ho ho. The route to Second Venice is currently off limits in accordance with an Information Alliance military-…bffh!? Wh-what!? But you…? How did you get out there!?”
Blinding light danced through the air.
A mountain-like silhouette appeared in the darkness. Large floodlights shined down from it. These were far more than theatre spotlights. They could not even open their eyes or tell which direction led to Second Venice.
“Damn, my head hurts. My temples are burning. This is a real pain, so you deal with that lonely girl, Quenser.”
Heivia grimaced, removed the radio’s wired microphone from the hook, and tossed it to Quenser.
The student scratched at his head as he spoke into it.
“Sorry, sorry. I know it’s wrong to cheat, but this bastard in my pants just won’t take no for an answer. All I did was take a quick trip over to my mistress’s place and it’s getting late, so could you maybe open up the front door for me?”
One of the rapid-fire beam Gatling cannons opened fire and water vapor exploded near the cruiser.
“Do you want to diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie!?”
Without thinking, Quenser removed the microphone from his mouth and voiced his surprise.
“She forgot to say ‘oh ho ho’.”
“Do you not understand at all how a girl’s heart works!?”
For some reason, Myonri snapped back at him even though she was supposed to be on his side.
“So in this scenario, who’s the wife?” Heivia sounded fed up with it all. “The Princess? Or maybe cute Catherine?”
“Catherine’s my little sister, you creep!!”
“Why are you questioning my sense, you pervert!?”
“Bh, kh, kh… How much…how much do you have to humiliate me before you’re satisfied, Legitimacy Kingdom? This is information warfare on the level of sneaking into a strictly guarded summit meeting room, leaving behind a plastic bottle instead of a bomb, taking a picture, and revealing it to the world to mock our inadequate security. And you chose the Information Alliance as your opponent!?”
“Hey, you idiot. She’s getting worked up in a weird direction now.”
“M-Miss Oh Ho Ho? Isn’t it about time you played your latest bewitching Idol Elite music video to give us guys some hopes and dreams?”
Quenser tried to make a course correction in a coaxing voice, but it was too late.
A dull sound rumbled through the late night sea and the giant silhouette began to move. Even with the powerful light shining on them, they could not overlook such extreme motion. The two rapid-fire beam Gatling cannons were correcting their aim. They were clearly targeting the cruiser as it moved quickly along the ocean. They could tell all too well that the cannons were slowly turning to match their movement.
The cruiser’s speed had exceeded 100 kph as it seemed to skip along the waves, but that meant nothing if the amphibious Second Generation locked onto them. They could not escape an Object if it was serious about destroying them.
But Quenser and the others were not actually given a watery grave.
The battlefield underwent a change.
It started with an unpleasant sound reminiscent of gas bubbles in a rotting marsh.
The Rush’s various floodlights scattered and then focused on something other than the cruiser. They focused on the very center of the change. Countless air bubbles rose to the surface, creating an area of white in the dark sea. To Quenser, it looked like a jellyfish rivalling a small island in size.
But that was not what this was.
Something appeared as it broke through the dark sea of death.
It was the undead skull that had overcome death several times before supposedly being sunk by the Old Fashion.
It had a single coilgun on the front, four long floats that stretched back behind it, and bug-like legs that spread out to the sides.
Quenser groaned its name.
“The Zombie Object… The Faith Organization’s Lizard Tail!?”
As soon as it appeared, the Rush mercilessly opened fire with her two rapid-fire beam Gatling cannons.
As a strategy, it was overwhelmingly correct.
Before the enemy Object could get up to combat speed, the Rush fired its main cannons over and over. A normal Object would have been helplessly destroyed.
But the Lizard Tail was not a normal Object.
This was the Zombie Object. It did not fear destruction and it even built up its legend of immortality each time it was destroyed.
So it did not even try to dodge.
With a roar a lot like rain pouring down on a thin metal roof, the armor surface danced madly about like the katsuobushi on top of the Island Nation style of pizza known as an okonomiyaki. The energy that should have gathered as a beam weapon was randomly dispersed and the damage could not reach the inside.
“Dammit, it’s just a bad match!! Lasers and beam weapons can’t defeat that zombie!!”
“Whose side are you on, Quenser? Who cares if the Information Alliance and Faith Organization kill each other?”
“That thing hijacks the defeated Object and uses the firepower for itself! If Oh Ho Ho is defeated, that main cannon will target us next!!”
“What!? That’s just scary! Hurry up and do something about it!!”
Frightened Heivia continued to guide the cruiser toward Second Venice as quickly as possible, but no matter how far they fled, they were still right in front the Objects which could move at 500 kph.
“Do something? But what can I do against something that doesn’t stop even after you kill it?”
As a habit, Quenser ended up kneading some Hand Axe in his hand, but he could not even picture what kind of shape would be useful here. Even if he sliced the thing in half or blew it to smithereens, he could only imagine it crawling back up from the abyss. He was not even sure it had a cockpit and reactor. Those weak points logically had to be there, but after seeing it killed before his eyes so many times, he started imagining it had some kind of occult power. And that may have been a very Faith Organization way of thinking.
As Quenser hesitated, he realized the plastic explosive was turning into a 1/8 scale version of the G-cup idol. He was even using the fountain pen and paper knife he found in the cruiser to recreate the face and ringlet curls.
Meanwhile, Myonri commented on the battle between the Rush and the Lizard Tail.
“Hmm. If there’s no way to defeat the zombie, maybe we should defeat the Rush first. If we’re afraid of its main cannon being hijacked, it might be best to destroy that main cannon ourselves…”
“Ah!? …N-no, I didn’t mean it, everyone. That was just a clever joke to get a discussion started. It’s a thought experiment where you eliminate the impossible ideas first until you can start to see the outline of a successful idea! I can’t have you taking me seriously!! Tee hee! Smile☆”
Myonri frantically waved her hands back and forth in front of the guys who began arguing with each other: “This might not be the same as listing ‘education history, bloodline, and salary’ as her first three factors for deciding who to marry, but the reality in a girl’s mind can be enough to send a shiver down my spine.” “Isn’t that a lot like saying we should behead the survivors now to prevent more zombies later?” “Stop it. React to that kind of phrase and you’ll get some female company president in London yelling at you.”
Myonri may have only made the comment because she was so exhausted.
(But if we were really going to do it, how would we?)
Quenser gulped as he looked to the Lizard Tail illuminated by the floodlights. It used a design philosophy of deflecting damage instead of dodging attacks, so that Zombie Object was not unharmed. It could not fully deflect the rapid-fire beam Gatling cannons, so its spherical main body had lines torn across it like the stitches on Frankenstein’s monster.
It also had the giant holes from the Baby Magnum’s low-stability plasma cannon and the Old Fashion’s compressed metal cannon. It had damage in more places than not, so it was creepy seeing it moving around like that. If the reactor and cockpit were located somewhere other than the center, where were they? Quenser was reminded of the magic trick where someone got inside a large box while swords were stabbed in from the outside.
“Wait. Could it be…?”
In most of those box magic tricks, the assistant would actually escape outside the box before the swords were stabbed inside. There might be stairs to climb out the top or a space hidden below it with mirrors.
In that Zombie Object’s case…could it be in the ocean?
Could a thick power cable and a communications cable for piloting extend down into the ocean where the cockpit and reactor had escaped to safety? If a wire was dangling down like that, it would get dragged along during the high-speed movement and might rise up above the surface. But he just had to look at the fishing lines extending behind the cruiser. If the wire was attached to the end of the shark anchor reaching far down below, it would still be around a dozen meters below the surface even when stretched out horizontally.
Quenser grabbed the microphone to the ship radio.
“Listen, Oh Ho Ho. Fire a few of your secondary cannons into the ocean! If that zombie bastard overreacts, then there’s some secret in the dark ocean!!”
“You dare speak to me after treating this world-class idol like a runner up!?”
She complained, but she swiftly complied.
The secondary cannons on the Rush’s side poured a barrage down toward the ocean around the Lizard Tail instead of at the Zombie Object itself. Even though the thick seawater slowed the shells down, they would be plenty destructive at around a dozen meters down. They could easily tear apart any cables unprotected by armor.
“Ho…ho ho. It didn’t respond at all, you moron!!”
“Hmm. Then I guess that isn’t it…”
“That is no way to treat me!!”
Quenser was too lost in thought to listen to Oh Ho Ho’s protests.
Lowering the cockpit and reactor and then reeling them back in if the enemy caught on had seemed like a good idea, but it must not have been the answer. It looked like the Lizard Tail’s weakness really was inside the spherical main body.
“Come to think of it…”
“I refuse to help you any further! Oh ho ho. No matter what!!”
“The Lizard Tail floated up out of the ocean, didn’t it? …But how did it do that? An Object weighs 200,000 tons and it’s filled with onion armor, so it shouldn’t be able to float.”
“I-ignoring me only makes it worse!!”
“That lady-killer is manipulating her pretty well,” commented Heivia. “Anyway, doesn’t it just have some kind of spare part? Like a float. Just before fully surfacing, it probably cut it away.”
“But then the buoyancy would come from the spare part. It would be floating around here somewhere.”
Myonri leaned out and shined the large signal light around, but there was nothing evident in the dark ocean. Lifting the 50 meter Object would take something quite large, so they would not simply overlook it.
“Does the Zombie Object itself act as a float?” asked Evans with a frown. “Maybe it puffs out like a blowfish.”
“We’re getting closer and closer to a zombie now. Blowfish poison was used to make zombie powder, right?”
“This thing is connected to the Greek sect, so I doubt that’s related. But it’s not a bad idea. If it isn’t using some kind of spare part, it means the zombie itself floated up. And the fastest way to gain buoyancy is to fill it with a ton of air. That’s true of swim rings and nuclear subs alike.”
“Wait, you mean…?”
“That’s why no one can hit the cockpit or reactor no matter how much they shoot it. And even if those are main cannons blasts, it was weird that they blew open those giant holes so easily.”
In other words…
“That spherical main body is hollow. I bet the reactor and cockpit are made so they can move freely around inside.”
It was a bold theory.
It was so bold that it took some time for Heivia, Myonri, and Evans to catch up.
“Hold it. Then what are you saying? That the Zombie Object is like a hamster running around in a ball!?”
“If anything, the spherical main body probably has a ton of protrusions on the inside that the small gear-shaped reactor and cockpit use to move around with the interlocking teeth. We’ll know soon enough. We need to focus on the Lizard Tail’s movements.”
Myonri was the first to notice.
She spotted a moment when the Zombie Object made an especially sharp turn.
“H-huh? Can it really turn that quickly? That looked like it had more to do with a misplaced center of gravity than the air cushion engine.”
“You’re probably right. By shifting the positions of the ‘weights’ inside during a turn, it can intentionally alter its center of gravity. That allows movements that a normal Object couldn’t pull off. And with most of the inside being hollow, its overall weight is a lot lower too. With that much power, it’s probably harder to keep the entire Object from hopping up when it moves at full speed.”
Even if the weak point could freely move within the spherical main body, the Zombie Object’s main purpose was to shift its weak point to avoid any real damage. Without the ability to make quick movements, one lucky hit could sink it.
It was an expert at taking advantage of its own damage. By intentionally allowing a hit while shifting its weak point out of the way, it could finish off its opponent before they could move again. This risky Second Generation was always a step away from death.
“So it makes a show of being immortal?” Heivia gulped. “Is that really so attractive, Faith Organization? The Pilot Elite is clearly wearing away their own life.”
“It’s exactly what you would expect from them. A release from the fear of death is a standard religious idea. That’s the whole point of heaven and reincarnation.”
An immortal soldier that could return to the front line no matter how many times they were defeated had always been an excellent way of increasing the fighting spirit of one’s troops. That seemed to damage their score, but it was still effective at providing courage for the people. It may have had an overwhelming charisma different than an Object that reigned supreme and unscathed.
If it could continue coming home alive, then people would believe in miracles on the battlefield. And they would believe that the son they sent off to war would also return.
The zombie quickly rotated around in search of living flesh.
And its target was of course Quenser and the others on the cruiser heading toward Second Venice.
“Shit! It’s targeting us first!?”
“But why!? Does the Lizard Tail have any reason to go after us first!?”
“Because we have the Argeiphontes antidote?”
“But why start now, Evans? And either way, the deadly mold can’t spread to the whole world with the blockade around the infection base. Surely it isn’t still thinking of burning Second Venice to the ground so the scorched corpses carry the mold back to their families…”
Even as Quenser suggested it, he was rejecting the idea.
“But then why did it surface here? If it could make a surprise attack from the bottom of the ocean, why didn’t it get as close to Second Venice as possible to attack the city where the Rush couldn’t interfere?”
“It almost seemed to be waiting for us, didn’t it?”
“War isn’t always about efficiency. It might have been nothing more than a personal grudge. Remember that…what was his name? Anyway, that Hermes Pharmaceuticals trash whose legs we broke in the attack on the Olive Garden. If he has a connection to the zombie, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ordered it to take revenge.”
Their speculation was fine, but the most pressing problem was the fact that they were being targeted with pinpoint accuracy by a Second Generation Object. The Lizard Tail was designed for close-range battles, but it was not made to attack tiny cruisers. The Rush stood in its way, but that Object would be destroyed if it took all of the shells, including main cannon shells, meant for the cruiser. Plus, the Information Alliance Second Generation was not obligated to protect the Legitimacy Kingdom idiots.
Thus, the Rush escaped horizontally away from a main cannon blast.
Immediately afterwards, a barrage of smaller shells poured down toward the cruiser like rain.
The Zombie Object may not have accurately locked onto them, but just one coilgun shell falling nearby would be enough. It would form a frightening wave which would capsize the racing cruiser. They did not even have time to think about turning the helm to recover.
“Dammit, jump out!!”
“No, not the booze aged for 20 years in a sherry caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaask!!”
There was nothing they could do.
As soon as the four idiots jumped into the dark ocean, one of the randomly falling metal shells supplied a finishing blow to the cruiser. The wreckage erupted like a volcano, one of the wooden planks hit Quenser, and he experienced one of the double jumps he had thought only existed in games.
Except it slammed into his back and he started seeing an angel.
By the time he realized the angel veiled in light was unexpectedly macho, quite hairy, and had a butt chin, he came to in the dark ocean.
“Uooaaaaaahh!? Y-you’re kidding!! If you’re going to come for me, at least make the angel a beautiful woman!!”
“You didn’t know, Quenser? Most angels are androgynous. Gabriel is apparently the only one clearly described as a woman.”
“Seriously? Now I can see why people fall into depravity. All the demons are really sexy.” Quenser sounded annoyed. “Anyway, what do we do? I doubt that was it for the zombie bastard. It’ll attack us as soon as the Rush gives it an opening. And we’ll be turned into fish food next time.”
“Why is it even attacking us over the Rush? That threat assessment order is way off.”
“Um, do you think it has to do with this?”
Everyone reacted to Myonri’s words.
She held some kind of paper soaked with seawater. In fact, papers were floating all around the wreckage of the cruiser. It was more than just five or ten pages.
“What? Where did all this come from?”
“The cruiser may have had a hidden safe. And given who owned it…”
“Veneto Dandelion. So are these secret Hermes Pharmaceuticals documents?”
How much Hermes had to do with this was still a mystery.
They had developed the Argeiphontes that provided the toxicity for the deadly mold and they provided a lot of financial support for the Faith Organization’s Kerukeion special forces that had been working in secret in Second Venice’s infection base. Since the Lizard Tail had entered Second Venice via the asteroid to support Kerukeion, it was likely connected to Hermes as well.
But why would Hermes Pharmaceuticals want to spread the deadly mold carrying Argeiphontes?
They were the only ones with an antidote, so a worldwide pandemic might prove profitable, but it was already known that Hermes had developed the Argeiphontes. Everyone would know who was behind it, so they would be unable to profit from it. In fact, repeating the same disaster was more likely to destroy them beyond recovery this time.
Not to mention that Quenser’s group had been handed a card with something like 3D printer designs rather than the antidote itself. That suggested that Hermes was not prepared to mass produce it.
In that case, their goal was a mystery.
Did Veneto Dandelion actually hold a grudge against Hermes Pharmaceuticals, so he wanted to see the corporation crash and burn? If they were setting aside that sort of self-destructive desire, there was no apparent reason for this master plan.
But the documents about to tear apart from the seawater were on an entirely different level.
They said the following:
“Level 6. A pessimistic report from Hermes’s Secret Division concerning the development of Pilot Elites and how to handle the fast approaching upper limits of human evolution.”
It was ridiculous and grandiose.
It sounded a lot like a video game’s flavor text.
Since the documents had been scattered randomly, they were not even in order. But by gathering all of the data they could, they were able to read the following:
This project began as a means to oppose the utterly insolent Information Alliance who are attempting to electronically preserve all forms of culture and civilization – including the holy scriptures – as mere data.
They commonly use supercomputers and AI for government, civilian, industrial, and academic uses, so we had to surpass them in those fields if we were to bring the hammer of judgment down upon them. That said, walking the same path as those fools would have been meaningless.
If the Information Alliance was emphasizing the creation of a mechanical brain, then the holy Faith Organization only needed to take the opposite path.
We would develop the human brain to its limits and mass-produce professional chess players who can overwhelmingly defeat any supercomputer or AI. The shortest path was to develop the Pilot Elites who already had ample government funding and belonged to the closest relevant field. We would place our project on top of that.
“Where are we? Which page is this?”
“Let’s follow the page numbers. They’re numbered on the edge.”
The results were excellent. At least at the current stage, man solidly wins in any battle between the flexibility of the human brain and the high-speed calculations of a supercomputer.
But we have also learned something.
We have learned the limits of humans as humans. That is a wall we will run into no matter how thoroughly we develop the subjects. One-sided tests such as IQ tests or memory challenges do not matter. We at Hermes stand on the front line of producing the cleverest and most useful humans. And that is why we have reached a certain understanding:
Human evolution has an upper limit.
And it is far, far closer than anyone thinks.
A thick concrete ceiling is within arm’s reach. That final upper limit cannot be removed no matter what. And we are not simply talking about supercomputers and AIs leaving us behind as they develop further or an inability to keep up with the Information Alliance.
They are the same.
No matter how far we attempt to develop supercomputers and AIs, no progress will be made as long as the humans using them are stuck here. Humans will stop here, stall, and ultimately fall.
Humans will fall into ruin.
And not because of environmental pollution, limited resources, or war.
Humans themselves will harden over from within, lose their possibilities, and destroy themselves.
That is the truth of the coming age.
“Is this serious? Is this actual scientific data!? Hey, Quenser, tell me this is some Faith Organization bullshit like blood type fortune telling!”
“How should I know? I mean, what the hell is this? It’s tearing apart!!”
We must make a decision.
The only way to conquer this disease of stagnation and to smash the thick ceiling overhead is…
That was all.
The soaked paper tore and they could not read the rest.
But the bad feeling did not leave their chests. They had taken over an infection base that could create a worldwide pandemic starting from Second Venice and they had brought in a deadly mold that killed all those infected. They had a grand objective that surpassed the benefit to Hermes Pharmaceuticals itself. None of it sounded promising.
There was no stopping the sense of dread.
Quenser grabbed the radio he also used to detonate bombs.
“Can you hear me, Lizard Tail!?”
“Wait, are you stupid!?”
“Or whatever it is the Faith Organization calls you! Dionysus was it!? Anyway, answer me! What are you trying to do with that killer mold!? No, how are you planning to assist mankind with it!?”
An Object’s largescale communications equipment would pick up any bandwidth. And Quenser had not encrypted his transmission. Everyone it reached would be able to hear it.
Contacting them was the easy part.
The question was whether or not they would answer.
“Ksshh. Does this mean you opened the boat’s safe, Legitimacy Kingdom?”
“…Would you look at that. The zombie removed her hat and bowed.”
“This is exactly what it looks like. Argeiphontes was originally developed for riot suppression gas, but there were various issues after that. And an interesting effect was found in addition to the poison gas aspect. Well, it may be a lot like how a toxic herbicide also contains a concentrated amount of a rare hair growth agent. Of course, if the average person dumps the herbicide over their head, it will instead destroy their entire scalp.”
The death rate was 99.8%.
Had this Elite survived that without the antidote bought with money?
“Are you serious? Are you saying you were given god’s love for real?”
“Of course not. I was working with Hermes from the beginning, so they had me take the antidote. Or perhaps I should say they stole my right to take the challenge.”
They heard light laughter over the radio.
“And that is why it would be a problem for you to bring back that antidote. We must witness the moment when a human overcomes ‘that’ without using any bought love.”
“What are you talking about…?”
“There is no need to get the entire world involved. As long as there is a single success, we win. In Second Venice, there is a miracle human who is still alive through her own strength despite exposure to Argeiphontes, isn’t there? That person is attempting to receive the true love without relying on the kind bought with money.”
Quenser’s thoughts ground to a halt.
And he was finally able to draw a name out of his memories.
“Are you talking about Catherine!?”
“Ironic, isn’t it? The last word is going to come from another Elite. But as long as the concrete ceiling eventually crumbles away, nothing else matters. Mankind has stalled, but we have fought to bring us all another step forward. If Catherine Blueangel can accomplish that, she will become our guiding shepherd. I am fine being the Apollonius who vanishes inside her shadow.”
“…Is this really that great for her? Catherine is dying.”
“Don’t be so sure. You can’t know what will happen until the very last moment. The researchers decided to inject me with the antidote before I reached that point.”
“And what do you plan to do if Catherine does die!?”
“Search for the next candidate. By finding a way to start a pandemic without using Second Venice.”
That was likely her true intent. The Lizard Tail’s Elite or Hermes Pharmaceuticals supporting her had no clue whether or not the “next stage of mankind” would be completed. So they would keep trying until it happened. Even if the planet’s population of seven billion was worn down to a single person, they would count it a success if that person coincidentally happened to do it. This was nothing more than a blind search.
There was no academic theory behind it. They had not taken any statistics.
It was a cult disguised as an academic study. Their farfetched logic was decorated with plausible-sounding reasoning and numbers, but at its foundation, the idea was no different from the millennia-old idea of human sacrifices: if we sacrifice enough people, it’s sure to give us something in return.
What kind of god had they taken that name from? Their idea of righteousness might be found there, but Quenser did not feel like looking into it. He was certain he would find some depressing and bloody legend.
He summed up his thoughts in a short groan.
“You’re completely insane.”
“Yes, and that is why I was given an Object with this name. And if you ask me, the people relying on something like this to support their world are far more insane.”
A quiet beep followed that mocking voice.
It came from Quenser’s handheld device.
“Hey, this is a military network. How far have they infiltrated it!?”
Heivia voiced his concern, but Quenser had other things to worry about.
He hesitantly pulled out the handheld device and glanced through the received email.
A photograph was attached.
It resembled a wriggling anatomical model.
It looked like each of the organs and bones had been removed, placed in smooth transparent containers, and then neatly rearranged in a model of the human body.
Quenser felt sick to the stomach.
This was not a corpse. Tubes and cables connected it all together in place of blood vessels and nerves, so this was a living person. As soon as he realized that, he felt a second wave of nausea.
Their opponent was a Zombie Object.
So was its Pilot Elite also a living corpse?
“One year to live. After the doctor saw the shadow on the X-ray and told me that, I was made into this. The higher ups may have found this easier to control. I am only arranged as a single entity during missions…in other words, in the cockpit. Normally, each individual part is stored in a separate facility where they only wriggle in response to electric signals and receive nutrients from tubes. Strangely, no single piece is ‘me’ while broken apart. The center of my consciousness dose not reside in my brain. Cut away the brain as well and I just seem to float around while my thoughts and memories grow hazy. I assume that is because I am formed from the whole of the data stored in the nerves and organs.”
This person could only maintain her identity while inside the cockpit.
She could not even tell where her core was if someone else did not connect her together.
This was a witch’s pot that even toyed with the human heart.
“It can’t be…”
“But when they were gathering parts for the second Object being built in secret, I surreptitiously rewrote a few electronic documents to slip some ‘biological samples’ into a container. That is my current victory. With no face or body, I am now a mere component that can be easily replaced just by replacing a label on the outside. Dionysus is the god who transcends life and death and a god whose worshipers sink into madness through their rituals. That is the true identity of this clean age protected by Objects. Now, is this the right thing to do? Or is it insane? What would you say as you look in from the outside?”
It was definitive.
Quenser had a full body and had never been packed up in boxes, so he was left speechless.
“Now, boy. Do you think this age has a future? Now that the myth of safety brought by Objects has grown brittle, do the poor and foolish humans have a future?”
Or perhaps the Lizard Tail’s goal was not evolving mankind at all. Perhaps it was simply one person’s revenge against the oppressive age that had gone this far. That was how it felt to Quenser. In that case, there was no need for a miraculous survivor to appear. Even if all seven billion people were exterminated by the deadly mold carrying the Argeiphontes, this Elite would still achieve her objective.
“Oh, there’s no need to feel sorry. I become a ghost once the promised year passed. My dead body is only an empty shell. How to use it is up to you, the ones who have lived on.”
“No, not that.”
He breathed in and out.
He faced the horrific truth and spoke.
“Even after hearing that, I still want to save Catherine. I want to save that girl who longs to leave the battlefield countries and live in a safe country. Even if it has to happen in this shitty age!!”
A short silence followed.
Finally, he heard a quiet breath over the radio.
It may have been a laugh.
Although he had his doubts that the Pilot Elite could still produce such a human expression after being so thoroughly remade into a system.
Or perhaps that affirmation was a form of admiration.
The Pilot Elite lying alone in her hospital bed had someone who would attack the executives of Hermes Pharmaceuticals and even face the colossal weapons that had ended the nuclear age. That was something this Elite had never had. She had never had a foolish but warm person who would reject the age that had imprisoned her. Perhaps the undead Elite approved of that.
But not as a friend.
Only as an enemy on the battlefield.
“In that case…”
They spoke at the same time.
It did not matter that one was a puny battlefield student and the other was an Elite one step away from heaven.
“I’ll defeat you and continue on ahead!!”
“I’ll defeat you and continue on ahead!!”
In the dark ocean, Heivia’s mouth flapped in consternation next to the idiot who had just picked a fight.
“There’s no way we can win!! We don’t even have the cruiser anymore! So how are you gonna face this Object? The breaststroke? The butterfly? Freestyle?”
“Don’t worry, Heivia. We’re the ones risking our lives for a cute little sister. That means we can’t lose to a villain.”
“This is the problem with only children. You have nothing to base that on, so it’s basically a superstition!! How about you go join the Faith Organization and start up a Church of the Little Sister, you idiot!? You can pray to your twintailed idol every day and wear striped panties in place of a mitre! And instead of bread and wine, you can smile peacefully while eating burned fried eggs and drinking coffee with salt mistaken for sugar!!”
“That’s an oddly detailed scenario you’ve got there, Heivia.”
But complaining was not going to change anything. The Zombie Object would be viewing all four of the idiots as the Church of the Little Sister’s crazed worshipers. So if they did nothing, they would be blown away in the name of purification or something.
The Lizard Tail was still showing off its status as the undead. The Rush was showing off its own impressive ability, but it could not fully kill the other Object. A normal Object would have been destroyed ten times over by now, but the Zombie Object continued moving after every single clean hit.
“Damn. That thing’s armor has got to be way thinner than a normal Object’s. It would probably be better to use an outdated nuclear weapon for this. It can’t dodge a wide-area attack, so it’d definitely melt and sink.”
“And where do we find one of those? And it’d be the end of us if one detonated near here.”
(Thin armor… It isn’t made to survive a nuclear weapon?)
Quenser thought for a bit and then looked up in realization.
The Zombie Object already had several holes in it and the surface of the spherical main body was torn to shreds.
(Wait. Would…that work?)
He grabbed his radio again and their busty silver-haired commander answered.
“Our conversation is being monitored. If this is about an emotional suicide attack or empathizing with the enemy, I’m not listening.”
“We can defeat that thing. I just need approval and support.”
“That’s more like it. What should we do?”
“Gather all of the Baby Magnum’s armor panels you can.”
“The repair work is still underway, but it is not yet ready to send to the front line. A high-speed battle is still just a dream. It’s going to take another twelve hours no matter how hard we work.”
“That’s not what I was hoping for.” Quenser adjusted his grip on the wet radio. “You only have to gather the countlessly layered onion armor sections that shield against nuclear blasts and electromagnetic waves!!”
One form of nuclear attack was to emit an electromagnetic pulse over a wide area.
By detonating the nuke outside the atmosphere, the massive radiation emitted would collide with the atmosphere and produce a special type of electromagnetic pulse that swept across the surface. This is skipping some details, but a hit from it would destroy all semiconductors and thus fry all electronics and means of communications over an entire city or country. Early warning radars, tanks, and fighter craft would all stop functioning. And intelligence was everything in modern wars, so that was often viewed as the first wave in a largescale war.
But an electromagnetic pulse attack of course required a nuclear missile, so the preparation was not easy. The strategy was impossible to pull off in this Object-focused clean age that had graduated from the nuclear age.
At the same time, there were also microwave bombs that made a similar intelligence attack but on a smaller scale. By sticking a battery-powered high-power transmitter in the warhead and firing it at enemy territory, their communication network and electronics could be destroyed.
That might make microwaves sound special and amazing, but it was their low cost, high reliability, and lower scale that allowed them to pull off almost the same effect as a nuclear weapon when it came to an intelligence attack.
But that was not exclusive to microwaves.
Have you ever experienced this in a hospital?
When having an X-ray or CT scan done, patients are told to remove their wristwatch or cellphone. That is because the electronics could be destroyed by the powerful X-rays, which are electromagnetic waves with a different wavelength than microwaves.
In other words…
“The power is what matters and the wavelength is fairly unimportant,” whispered Quenser as he floated in the dark sea. “And the Zombie Object made its armor as thin as it could to pull off its concept. And that means it threw out what was needed to end the nuclear age. That means its shielding has got to be weaker too. And I’m not just talking about impacts and heat; I’m talking about invisible electromagnetic waves and radiation!!”
He grabbed his radio.
He did not care if they found out what he was after. The pieces were in place on the board, so it was too late to do anything about it. So without any real encryption, Quenser gave his final instruction to the Information Alliance’s Rush.
“Oh Ho Ho!! If you don’t want to die, say ‘woof’ and swing your right main cannon around!!”
“Wahyah!? Y-you want me say wooooooooooooooooooooof!!???”
The great Idol Elite was so thoroughly confused that she barked for the lowly student and swung her main cannon for him.
It left an orange trail along the Lizard Tail’s spherical main body, but it did not supply a fatal blow.
But that was not what Quenser was after.
“This just has to shift the Zombie Object’s position. Or to be more accurate, it just has to turn one of the large holes this way.”
The surefire attack would come from someone more than ten kilometers away.
In other words…
“If we focus powerful radar waves on that point, they’ll break through your thin shielding and fry your electronics, Lizard Tail!!”
In that instant…
“Take cover! All hands, take cover!! Whether you’re in the path or not, all maintenance soldiers are to take cover indoors!!”
Chaos filled the 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion on the coast of Malta across from Second Venice.
The Baby Magnum still could not fight at high speeds and was stuck as a stationary gun platform, but its main cannons and secondary cannons were not the star of the show.
That position was taken by the largescale radar that worked in conjunction with one of the main cannons.
EMP and radiation shielding had been placed around it like flower petals, creating something like a parabolic antenna or a trumpet shape. Light and electromagnetic waves had similar properties. Or perhaps it was better to say that visible light was a form of electromagnetic waves. Regardless, a parabolic antenna focused electromagnetic waves on a single point just like a concave lens focused light.
A weapon as colossal as an Object could be equipped with a great variety of weapons. The same was true of radars. They never knew what kind of interference they would receive, so they were made to use all sorts of wavelengths.
The Princess had chosen an extremely shortwave radar.
The electromagnetic waves were close to the range commonly known as X-rays, so they would pass through the average unshielded matter. The entire point of radar was to determine the number and position of opponents by catching the waves that hit something and bounced back, so electromagnetic waves that passed through things would normally be useless. That radar was only helpful when some extremely special chaff had been used.
But this was an exception.
The Princess reached a finger toward a square radar button instead of the trigger.
She was more than 20 km away. The horizon became an issue at that distance, but that also gave her some leeway in the height restriction. She would have no problem targeting the 50m Lizard Tail from the similarly tall Baby Magnum.
She pressed the button.
The destruction was invisible and silent.
It ended just like a toy being switched off.
The Lizard Tail had been zigzagging back and forth, so it was unable to apply the brakes and slipped right into the dark ocean. The air cushion engine that kept it afloat had died, so the great speed caused the Object itself to skip across the ocean a few times like a stone.
But that did not last forever.
The sequence of jumps came to an end and it collapsed on its side. The dark seawater bubbled in through the many holes on its spherical main body and it sank helplessly.
There was no death cry or curse of resentment.
The Pilot Elite had been so thoroughly built into the system that she may have died when the electronics were destroyed.
Whether that should be called murder or salvation was a matter of faith.
And Quenser did not glorify his sin.
“The dead has been buried at sea.”
The Zombie Object that had been sunk once before by the Old Fashion. That had been an act and the Object had waited for the perfect time to resurface.
But Quenser had a feeling this was different.
“Oh ho ho. So what are you going to do now? I am the Elite of an Information Alliance Object. I have no reason to overlook the Legitimacy Kingdom who would disturb law and order.” The Idol Elite spoke over the radio. “Are you going to ask for help from your filthy First Generation who is stuck as a stationary gun platform? Oh ho ho. But keep in mind that my Gatling 033’s electromagnetic shielding is perfect. You cannot destroy my electronics so easily.”
Quenser of course knew that.
That had only worked on the Lizard Tail due to its bizarre design created to pull off the paradox of never dying no matter how many times it was destroyed. The Rush had evolved in the proper direction, so it would have little effect against her.
Oh Ho Ho was definitely the queen of this battlefield.
So Quenser obediently raised his hands as he drifted through the dark ocean.
“Please help me, Oh Ho Ho.”
“Why? Why would I do anything for the Legitimacy Kingdom that made such a fool of me!?”
“Take a look at the ocean currents, you idiot.”
“We drifted to the Olive Garden by grabbing onto some unpowered driftwood. That means we’ll end up right back there if you don’t do anything. However, we want to fight that current and get to Second Venice. So how about it, Oh Ho Ho? Do you really want us to run out of steam and drift back outside? Keep in mind that we might just be infected.”
“Wha-, wha-, wha-…”
“Just to be clear, blowing us to smithereens still leaves a chance of a limb or organ washing up somewhere. And depending on the traits of the Pathogen X set up in the infection base, it’s perfectly possible someone can be infected from a corpse. Your defenses here are just full of holes. If you want to keep your quarantine going, then just do what I say. So shut up and save us. Bow your head like a servant, shake your cute butt like a maid, and obey like a coachman whipping the carriage horses. Got that, you Worthless Little Idol?”
It was noon.
Catherine Blueangel opened her eyes on a bed.
Then she realized she had been removed from that strange capsule-like container. She had been moved to a perfectly normal medical bed and she was separated from the many injured by nothing more than a curtain.
She had fallen victim to mysterious deadly mold, but she was no longer receiving special treatment.
The blonde braided girl thought about what that meant.
Then she heard some voices from nearby. They came from within the same booth separated out by curtains.
Some sweaty guys were sitting on the round stools for visitors.
“Man, this is great. That’s what you call a perfect victory. Nothing feels better than making a G-cup Idol Elite cry. It’s like the cool summer wind is flowing straight through my entire body.”
“I’m more afraid that a bastard as sadistic as you is starting up the Church of the Little Sister. That’s an awful combination and I think the last judgment is approaching fast.”
Catherine blinked her eyes, but Quenser and Heivia only shrugged.
“We gave you the antidote, but you probably haven’t fully recovered yet. You should get some more sleep.”
“You can rely on everyone else, just like when you have a cold. We’ll go along with it as long as you don’t get a taste for it and pretend to be sick.”
They readily spoke of an antidote.
But she could not even imagine what it had taken to acquire it.
“Big brother, you all did this…?”
“Of course he did. Who else is gonna set a world-class casino island ablaze, break the legs of an international corporation’s executive, and finish it all off by sinking an undead Zombie Object? And he didn’t do any of it for the betterment of mankind. It was all for his cute little sister. There’s something severely wrong with him!!”
“Acting cool isn’t the only sign of a great guy. Seeing a hot-blooded Quenser was nice for once, don’t you think?”
As they spoke, Quenser pressed the nurse call button lying on the side of the bed. When the medic girl arrived, he informed her that Catherine had woken up.
They apparently did not plan to stick around for long.
But Catherine doubted that was just to keep out of the doctor’s way. She sensed something in the boys’ backs that was hurrying them along.
She sat up in the bed and asked about it.
“Is there…something more?”
“Don’t worry. We’ll end it all soon enough.”
“The Baby Magnum’s repairs will be done before long. That will at least bring everything back to the starting point. If we can work together to open up a way out, we can keep all the civilians from starving to death.”
Their opponent required having their Object fully functional.
And even that only brought it back to the starting point. It was a battle they did not know if they could win.
Catherine spoke the natural answer.
“Are you finally going to settle things with the Information Alliance’s Rush?”
But the boys shook their heads.
And they answered by speaking the name of the grim reaper.
“No, our final obstacle is the Faith Organization’s First Generation Old Fashion.”
External Document – Motive for the Crime
I have no interest in ruling the world or expanding Faith Organization territory.
All I seek is my promise with an old friend.
I will use this power to show the world its possibility.
In this age, the people are unable to oppose the decisions of the four world powers and they must live on the food they are given like farm animals. I will show them that people are more than that. No matter how many brilliant scientists and extraordinary supercomputers they bring together to calculate out their numbers and data, I will face them head-on and crush them underfoot. I will show everyone that such exceptions exist. And that exception will give courage to the people. That was what I promised my friend.
And my friend held up his end of the promise by building the most powerful Object.
So I only need to pilot that Object as the most powerful Elite.
Dionysus’s plan to break through the upper limits of humanity was a fascinating idea. It may have been somewhat interesting to see whether or not that had created an Elite capable of reaching my level. But it is not worth going out of my way to pursue. I believe that mankind is a superb life form even without an extreme change to our environment.
I wish to see a true genius.
No, I wish to see a superb human who can surpass me.
I want to ensure that no one can ever say that mankind has hit the upper limit of our possibilities and that we can evolve no further. If my presence lights a fire in the hearts of my rivals and eventually allows someone to surpass me, then I will have fulfilled my promise to my old friend.
My name is Robert Mistynail.
My Object has been given the name Cronus. I walk the path of the ace while bearing the name of an old god whose value is found in his defeat by Zeus.
- [Trivia] In fact, that's wrong. Gabriel has always been depicted as male (sometimes fair-faced or based on human women but still intended as male), while the only angel depicted clearly as female is Laylah, Angel of Conception.