HEAVY OBJECT:Volume12 Chapter 7
It was the seventh and final day.
If they did not settle things and secure an escape route from Second Venice today, they would run out of food and water and everyone would die, military and civilian alike.
They got as much rest as they could beforehand.
Win or lose, this battle would decide everything, so they could not afford to be worn out.
Do-or-die was not a phrase to be used lightly, but it was an accurate description of the situation for the Legitimacy Kingdom’s 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion.
“Let’s review the situation.”
Early in the morning, Frolaytia Capistrano had summoned everyone in the battalion to the briefing room.
She removed the restrictions on knowledge about the infection base and killer mold and shared the details with everyone.
“The Argeiphontes is the primary component of a poison gas, but Quenser and Catherine’s cases have proven that the antidote is effective. The electronic simulation division is busy putting together a report. You could say they’re putting some pretty wrapping paper around the unadorned present, but once they’re done, the Information Alliance will lose their justification for their blockade. Once they understand that people can be tested for an infection and that the infected can avoid certain death with the antidote, their indiscriminate quarantine becomes nothing more than a human rights violation.”
A mixture of surprise and relief filled the briefing room.
They had simultaneously been informed of the deadly mold and the fact that they need not fear it. They must not have had time to decide whether or not to feel frightened.
“Thus, there is no need to force a confrontation with the Information Alliance’s Rush. With their justification gone, they should blush and withdraw in embarrassment. …The problem is this: The Faith Organization’s First Generation Old Fashion.”
Its technology was inferior even to the Baby Magnum’s.
That solitary ace could have switched to a cutting-edge derivate model at any time, but he had stubbornly stuck with the old model to keep a promise with an old friend. That should have fully cut him off from the flow of time, but he had continued to battle cutting-edge Objects in his First Generation. He was enough of a genius to make up for the inadequate technology with his piloting skill. He was brilliant enough to pull off that one-man showmanship inside the military, an organization that wished for group action from top to bottom.
“Robert Mistynail.” Frolaytia spoke the monster’s name. “He is the greatest success and his name always shows up in reference material concerning Pilot Elite development. Supercomputers have supposedly ‘solved’ chess to a level that no human can defeat them, but he has the insane brain needed to ignore that conclusion and win three world championships. He is reliable yet unpredictable. A group of Information Alliance scientists attempted to fine-tune a competitive AI learning program for use against him specifically, but they ended up throwing in the towel. Legend has it those scientists got drunk at a bar near their lab and were overheard complaining that his synapses had to form a wormhole.”
The Old Fashion and the Lizard Tail were both from the Faith Organization.
And the Old Fashion had made an attempt to defeat the Rush and rescue the civilians trapped in Second Venice. If he had known about the infection base from the beginning, that would mean he had tried to spread the deadly mold carriers throughout the world.
Frolaytia than named someone else with her kiseru in her mouth.
“You were the one who interacted with the Old Fashion afterwards, so you explain it.”
It was now the student’s turn to get up on the podium.
“I don’t know how it started. Maybe he was working with Hermes and maybe he wasn’t. But at the very least, Robert has now left the plan to break through mankind’s upper limits using the Argeiphontes. His actions appear gentlemanly at first glance, but that was only the setup. He was setting the stage to give him a justification for an enjoyable battle. Both breaking through mankind’s upper limits and rescuing the starving people from Second Venice would have worked just fine for him.”
On Quenser’s instruction, a soldier from the electronic simulation division in charge of voice analysis replayed the master data.
“This is the radio transmission I received on the way back with antidote yesterday. The analysis says it was definitely Robert.”
The recording said as follows:
“I see. So the tide is turning. Having the Legitimacy Kingdom and Information Alliance join forces to protect Second Venice while I aim to destroy it might just be the most exciting possibility.”
“He went out of his way to announce his intentions.” Quenser explained how dangerous Robert Mistynail was. “It would have been easy to act like he was on our side only to stab the Princess and Oh Ho Ho in the back. If they were escorting a fleet carrying civilians to safety, the Baby Magnum and Rush would have been unable to make use of their great speed for fear of sinking those ships. By announcing his hostility, he put us on guard before we began a largescale escape operation. And he even gave us the best possible advice: our best bet is to have the Princess and Oh Ho Ho work together. This is the true nature of an ace. He wants to experience genius and see truly superb people. That sounds fine on its own, but he’s really only in it for the fun. He wants to experience as great a thrill as possible. I don’t know what age he comes from, but he wants to be reminded of old times. By stubbornly sticking with that outdated Object, he wants to once more enjoy an age frozen in the past. That is his only reason for piloting his Object.”
Robert Mistynail was indeed a genius Object pilot.
But it was impossible for him to function within an organization like the military.
The military likely had no intention of getting him to listen. They simply let him loose where it was convenient and reaped the benefits. It was a lot like turning a naturally-occurring typhoon or hurricane toward an enemy nation. The fact that he had something that made the military want to protect him made him seem all the more monstrous.
“We cannot avoid a battle with him,” summed up Frolaytia. “He knows Second Venice’s food and water limit and he will use that to force us into a naval battle. He has heard the legends of the abnormal strength of injured animals and starving soldiers, so he is licking his lips in anticipation of discovering if they are true or not.”
“Frolaytia, have you contacted the Rush…or rather, the Information Alliance?”
“I’m about to. We have no room for negotiation until we can logically explain the traits of the deadly mold and that there is no need for an indiscriminate quarantine. But once the electronic simulation division completes their report, that should go well. This whole incident had to have hurt the Information Alliance’s diplomatic image. I can’t say all’s well that ends well, but if they can work toward as peaceful a resolution as possible, they might be able to avoid a concentrated attack by global public opinion.”
“In other words, the Information Alliance will have to act tough while making sure they do what we want, huh? Yeah, if we don’t ask them for help, they’re stuck being the villains here. …Damn that Oh Ho Ho. I’ll make her bark for me but only after getting down on all fours and spinning around thrice.”
“Try not to mix business with pleasure, Quenser. …But it’s true this could be fun. Threatening their commander over the camera might not be a bad idea.”
They were mixing in some fun even with their lives and the futures of hundreds of thousands of civilians on the line, but that was the 37th’s style.
To get back on track…
“The Old Fashion itself is an old model, so we have quite a bit of data on it. It uses a simple two-by-two layout of amphibious air cushions and its main cannon is a tricky compressed metal cannon, but it’s pretty standard if you view it as a metal shell fired by gunpowder. …In fact, it looks like we won’t have any problems with both the Baby Magnum and Rush to work with, so I’m not really sure what else to do. This should be an easy victory, and yet we’re cornered. It’s like running across a situation where one plus one isn’t two.”
If they chalked it up to a difference in Elite skill, the discussion ended there.
To win, they needed to keep thinking in some way or another.
“He uses countless tactics, so the electronic simulation division can’t keep up. The one thing we can say is that he is not making up for his old tech by eliminating all waste and reaching the optimal answer. In fact, he would be a lot easier to predict if that were the case. The Old Fashion is…how should I put it? He seems to add some meaningless playfulness and leeway into his strategies. It was likely the way he strays from the optimal answer that kept the Information Alliance’s competitive AI from catching up with him.”
He probably enjoys fighting, thought Quenser.
Or perhaps he was addicted to the thrill of putting his life in danger. No AI focused on logic and efficiency could outdo him. And that included this ultimate Elite’s insane desire to use his outdated Object against someone technologically superior to him.
He was strong.
He was simply strong.
He was an old-fashioned style of strong that tried to enjoy the difference in specs and even the difference in number of Objects. He was a living embodiment of a legendary warrior. Instead of fearing a formidable foe or growing irritated at a difficult situation, this insane genius would laugh, thank them for giving him a chance to get serious, and pleasantly break through it all.
He wished to converse with a true genius through the medium of combat.
If that really was his only goal, then the Old Fashion would have no interest in Second Venice. He saw the island as bait for the Baby Magnum and Rush, but it was no more than that. After destroying the two Objects, he might even open the way for the starving people because they were of no more use to him.
The people comfortable in their safe countries on the other side of the world might see that has a gentleman’s or warrior’s heart. When some heard the story with handkerchief in hand, they might even think about basing a new song or movie on it.
But the people here would lose everything.
They could not allow the Princess or Oh Ho Ho to be chewed up and spat out by him.
They would defeat him here.
“What do we do?” groaned Heivia. “Is there any way to beat this guy?”
“There is,” answered Quenser. “We just have to take that playfulness and leeway from him. If we do, won’t he have to recompile his actions into something we can predict?”
It was strange for the final battle to be the most relaxed, but they truly had nothing left after this one.
Heivia spoke to Quenser as they left the large vehicle that functioned as a briefing room.
“Hey! I hear we’re gonna get you-know-what up and running. And I can’t believe we’ve got another new weapon after all this.”
“Well, Second Venice does belong to the Information Alliance. Frolaytia apparently made a deal with their military, so they shared data on a district not found on the public maps.”
“So is this gonna work?”
“The problem is how hard it is to calculate any of that out. We’re up against Mr. Strongest here.”
They ran across a bodyguard team who surrounded the Princess in her blue special suit.
She seemed to notice them.
“I’ve been stuck in the Object this entire time.”
“This is no time to be sulking. We’ve been crawling through a bunch of gray rubble, so I wish I’d been able to stay nice and comfortable with an air conditioner and fridge.”
“Mh. It wasn’t easy for me either.”
“Well, yeah. It couldn’t have been fun sitting there in a motionless gun platform. It’s the toughest thing we have, but it was also the easiest target.”
The Baby Magnum’s repairs were complete, so it was finally back up and running. And since Frolaytia had gained the cooperation of the Information Alliance, the Princess no longer had to be prepared for battle around the clock. They probably wanted a chance to perform a condition check on the Pilot Elite herself.
And speaking of Pilot Elites, there was another one here.
After Quenser and Heivia left the Princess, they walked to the general medical building where a small girl with a blond braid waited for them.
“It’s fine, it’s fine. You don’t need to get up.”
Catherine had started to sit up, but Quenser held out a hand to stop her.
The back of her head sank into the pillow once more.
“I’ve heard most of it. And it sounds like you really weren’t kidding about taking on the Old Fashion.”
“Why would I kid about that?”
“You can simulate a way to defeat the Baby Magnum. …But you can’t with Robert Mistynail. Even if you have every last bit of information, the calculations never work. Do you really think you can defeat someone like that?”
Quenser could not deny that he was afraid.
Even without Robert’s legendary status, simply facing an Object was frightening.
But he could not stand still.
“We will end this today,” he said. “And we’ll send you to a safe country. We’ll send you somewhere where the rules of the Object-filled battlefield countries can’t reach you. That’s why we can fight.”
When they saw Catherine pull the blanket up to cover her face, the two idiots left the room.
“You sure like to act cool.”
“You know as well as I do that I have to say that or I’ll piss myself.”
Meanwhile, Major Frolaytia Capistrano held her kiseru in her mouth and faced her notebook computer in her private room. The video chat mode was active and it displayed a brown-skinned woman with long silver hair who was apparently the Information Alliance base commander.
“That was a very interesting document. But depending on how you look at it, you might be missing the main point. We will be going back over everything from the ground up.”
“Enough posturing. No matter how much you review that report, you will not find any errors. I feel bad for making you read a 200+ page epic, but I can sum up what that report means in a single sentence: You’re in trouble, Information Alliance. Now, what will you do? You forced some very public casualties on the world to draw out the culprit, but without a chance to recover, you really will sink this time, Lieutenant Colonel Lendy Farolito.”
“What we need to do is break free of this situation. I think we can both agree with that. But if you have time to search for nonexistent mistakes, then the wise thing to do would be to cut your losses and help us. Second Venice will dry up soon. If we do not defeat the Old Fashion and open the way out, hundreds of thousands of civilians will die. And a lot of them are wealthy or VIPs, so that will create a lot of resentment. And since Second Venice originally belonged to the Information Alliance and the trouble began as soon as it was taken from you, responsibility lies with you. Aren’t you the ones who will suffer the most if this bomb goes off?”
“But you have no time.”
“So you think you can find excuses to delay negotiations until we’re desperate enough to give you a better deal? Don’t be ridiculous, you crafty woman. You’re the ones without any time. The last train is about to leave the station. We will send it out whether it has any passengers or not, so you will be the ones left in tears if you do not board it in time.”
“Do you really think we can agree to a plan where our Gatling 033 acts as your shield!?”
“It was on your orders that the Rush blew away a transport ship with thirty days’ worth of food and living supplies and – more importantly – a crew of forty. Second Venice was a threat as an infection base, so you had no real reason to kill anyone coming in. You only had to add them to the quarantine list after they arrived. But you still fired. You wanted to avoid dragging out the issue and you wanted us to starve as soon as possible. Did you think you could strut around the world without paying for that?”
“…Tch. Understood, Major Frolaytia Capistrano.”
“I’m sorry, lieutenant colonel. But in my unit, this is how we reeducate useless trash. You can refuse if you want, but my demands will only grow harsher as time passes. I would suggest learning who is in charge before I make you pose and beg like a dog. Got that, war buddy?”
After returning to the Baby Magnum’s cockpit, the Princess put on her goggles, operated the console with her fingertips, and confirmed that the naval floats had properly linked to the system.
(That just leaves the hardware.)
“Hello? Old lady?”
“What is it? We’re busy sewing up your dress, so keep it short. We’ve got to get you to the ball in time.”
“You’re shorthanded, aren’t you? I’ll head down and help.”
With that said, she unzipped her special suit, stripped it off, and tied the side knots to transform her naked body into a blue bikini. She used the cockpit seat elevator to exit the Object and found herself in a world where thick wires functioned as scaffolding. It looked like Gulliver had been tied up.
A few of the male maintenance soldiers whistled, but the old lady personally shoved them all into the ocean. The wiser guys kept their heads down and focused on their work. Seeing that bikini meant death.
“Is there anything I can do?”
“You can start by taking a refresher course on ethics. Anyway, we’re replacing the onion armor, so if you’re willing to face the welding sparks in a bikini, then grab a mask and burner and come with me.”
When the Princess picked up the tools, a transmission reached the radio in the tool belt around her waist.
It was from the G-cup Oh Ho Ho, Pilot Elite of the Information Alliance’s Second Generation Rush.
“Oh ho ho. Honestly, to think I would have to fight alongside you of all people.”
“I’m trying to work right now, so don’t talk to me.”
“I mean, I don’t know how much the Faith Organization’s Powder Cannon 011 can do, but it’s just a moldy old First Generation, isn’t it? I can handle this on my own, so you should really thank me for letting you share the credit. Oh ho ho.”
“A filthy First Generation should be able to take on another First Generation, but apparently you have so little confidence in yourself that you had to come crying to a cutting-edge Second Generation like me. How sad. Oh ho ho. We may be working together, but make no mistake here. You are nothing more than the backup dancer. You should thank me for even letting you stand on the same stage as me. Make sure – make very sure! – that none of your shots accidently hit me! Now, the Gatling 033 can shrug off a puny old First Generation attack, but you must know your place on the stage. Honestly, you are bad enough on your own, but that gentleman has some nerve too! I only decided to mess with him a little because I was curious, but he seems to have misinterpreted it and gotten carried away. I should probably teach him who exactly is in charge here. Oh ho ho! Yes, after blowing the Powder Cannon 011 to smithereens right in front of him, I can aim my Gatling cannon at him and have him beg for his life. Oh ho ho ho ho!! Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho!!”
The Princess looked up in her blue bikini.
That Elite had inherited the genes of the 37th, so she was as blunt as any of them.
“Sit. Shut up and wait for me, you mutt.”
The final battle began at noon.
The Faith Organization’s First Generation Old Fashion appeared 30 km out from Second Venice. That forced the united Legitimacy Kingdom and Information Alliance group to drop what they were doing and respond.
That solitary ace determined everything about this battlefield.
Quenser, Heivia, and the rest of the soldiers quickly prepared to head out to sea.
“This is a goddamn emergency!! Did we manage to get everything ready in time!?”
“We just have to start with what we do have ready! Let’s go!!”
At this point, there was no reason to leave anyone on standby to establish a rotation. Almost all of the 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion’s soldiers were sent out to sea. They used a great variety of vehicles: patrol boats, hovercraft, water scooters, and rubber motor boats.
The Baby Magnum took the lead.
Not only was it the key to everything, but the Object could freely move around at more than 500 kph. No normal boat could keep up.
Quenser watched the giant Object leave while crammed into a small patrol boat with other soldiers.
“If this ends nice and quickly, I’m not going to complain.”
“Like that’ll happen. Hey, looks like the Information Alliance is here. It’s the Rush.”
A Second Generation surrounded by missile destroyers arrived from a different direction. It kept pace with the fleet for a while, but then the fleet changed formation. The ships opened up in front, releasing the Rush to join the Baby Magnum.
“D-does the Legitimacy Kingdom not even know how to show a bare minimum of appreciation!? You all do nothing but mock me!!”
“C’mon, it’s time for your walk. Come with me, little doggy.”
The soldiers frowned when they heard the radio exchange and the two idiots exchanged a glance.
“Are they arguing about something?”
“I’m getting through this by mentally transforming it into a world of beautiful lily flowers. I don’t want even a hint of further trouble right now.”
Then there was the final Object.
The Faith Organization’s First Generation Old Fashion.
It had not moved since arriving. It had invaded this naval territory and yet it was maintaining the position it had chosen for itself. Why? For the tingling thrill and blood-boiling battle.
“This won’t be one-against-one, but you don’t mind, do you?”
“Of course not. This is war. There is not a single reason why our conditions must be identical. So come at me with everything you can muster. In fact, one-against-two feels somewhat lacking, defenders of Second Venice.”
“No,” cut in the Princess.
She did not hesitate to make her announcement with her fleet behind her.
“Including all of the Legitimacy Kingdom and Information Alliance troops, we are taking you on two-thousand-against-one, Mr. Solitary Ace.”
The battle had finally begun.
When using multiple Objects, there was no real reason to fire from the same direction. In fact, spreading the Objects out and firing from multiple directions increased the odds of a hit.
Plus, the Rush’s main cannons were rapid-fire beam Gatling cannons. Simply by swinging them around while firing allowed her to fully cover 180 degrees to her left and right. A battle on land might have mountains or valleys to hide behind, but this was a naval battle. Most Objects could not escape the deadly sabre as it swept horizontally across.
But that sort of assumption did not work with the Old Fashion.
As soon as the rapid-fire beam Gatling cannons began pursuing him, Robert Mistynail did not hesitate to charge forward. He accurately decided which of his two-by-two floats to lift and which to lower to make sharp turns and position himself behind the Baby Magnum.
To avoid friendly fire, the Rush was forced to stop her Gatling cannons.
Meanwhile, the Baby Magnum was not just sitting still. She moved quickly left and right just like mixed martial arts footwork while constantly targeting the Old Fashion with her seven main cannons. This was like avoiding a tank’s gun by hiding behind another tank. He would normally get hit by a point-blank blast.
But even then…
“What…? I can’t hit him from this range!?”
“It isn’t that surprising. The instant laser beams were brought to the battlefield, Object battles were destined to become competitions in predicting each other’s actions. Distance and speed don’t matter. As long as you can predict it, it doesn’t matter what they try to do to you.”
The Old Fashion’s main cannon squirmed.
The targeting lenses whirred as they focused.
“Show me, cutting-edge Elites. It can be acrobatics or technology, but do something to surprise this aging man.”
Quenser and the others watched from the side, but they were not here as spectators.
“We need to get started too, Heivia!”
“That thing scares the shit out of me!! It’s a First Generation, so it has plenty of anti-personnel, anti-vehicle, and anti-fortress weapons, right!? It’s made to target us, so do we really have to get close!?”
The Baby magnum and Old Fashion exchanged cannons blasts while making detailed movements from less than 100 meters apart. But the countless secondary cannons growing from the Faith Organization First Generation’s spherical main body began to move as if blowing in the wind.
“Here it comes!!”
Quenser gave a yell and the entire army began taking countermeasures.
With a roar much like the fireworks signifying the beginning of an athletic festival, something was fired from the patrol boats and rubber boats. They burst in midair and produced a great quantity of bubbles. That region of ocean was covered by a ceiling of white bubbles. The entire fleet had likely been hidden from any satellites.
And a storm of laser beams did not hesitate to tear through it all like a downpour of light.
Heivia covered his head with his hands and cowered down on the deck of the patrol boat.
The laser beams arrived dozens at a time and with only a few seconds in between waves. But none of them hit the patrol boat Quenser’s group used to navigate the bubbly sea. When the light hit the violently expelled bubbles, it was reflected randomly.
They had only managed this countermeasure because the Old Fashion was an old First Generation and because they had so much data on it.
And the older the Object, the more likely it was to prefer laser beams as an anti-air defense for nuclear missiles and the like. It was almost more a matter of faith than anything. It could have used railguns or some other method, but it chose lasers. Finding a solution had not been all that difficult.
But that did not mean they could rest easy. They could not see the lasers. The orange lines were only the afterimages of dust and moisture being burned. They only saw the result after the fact. They were repeatedly experiencing the same fear as cutting down some normal-looking grass only to find a landmine and realizing how close they had come to stepping on it. Of course their balls were going to shrivel up.
They heard an explosion from beyond the bubbles.
One of the boats had apparently been unlucky enough to be blown away by one of the reflected laser beams.
And the rest had no guarantee the same would not happen to them.
“Oh, god! Oh, god!! Urp, oh god is this scary!!”
“If you have time to scream and sob, then get working, Heivia! We need to drop our cargo!!”
Quenser kicked Heivia’s back as the boy curled up and wept and then he worked with the other soldiers to push something attached to a thick metal wire over the patrol boat’s railing. It was quite heavy and it sank instead of floating.
Meanwhile, the laser beams continued pouring down.
Someone must not have been able to stand it anymore because they shouted over the radio.
“This is Mermaid 9! We’re at our limit! The soap chaff isn’t enough to stop the laser beams. Preparing Plan 2! Emitting polarized smokescreen!!”
“You goddamn idiot!!” shouted back Quenser.
But before he even finished, some unnaturally colorful smoke rose from one corner of the bubbly sea. It was a blinding smokescreen. By scattering the light, it would deflect the laser beams, but…
All the bubbles in that area vanished as soon as the smokescreen appeared. The fine powder and the bubble film collided, popping all of the bubbles in turn.
At the same time, the fine powder forming the smokescreen was caught in the liquid forming the popped bubbles.
So what happened?
They created a nice blank space with no defenses whatsoever.
A blinding light revealed the result.
Heivia clung to the patrol boat’s railing with both hands.
“This is bad. We have no idea where the lightning is going to strike and the soap chaff and smokescreen don’t mix. As more ships are hit and scatter black smoke, our dubious shield is going to be filled with holes!!”
“If there was a perfect defense, Objects never would have ended the nuclear age. No matter what we might do, the Objects still have an unfair advantage. That’s just the age we live in! You knew that, didn’t you!?”
As they shouted back and forth, most of the ships dropped their cargo. There were quite a few sacrifices, but they used the time that bought them to make progress.
Beyond the bubbles, the Baby Magnum and Old Fashion were firing back and forth at close range. That strongest Elite was truly frightening. He moved around like a mixed martial artist, but also maintained his position behind the Princess to use her as a shield against the Rush who was constantly trying to target him with her Gatling cannons.
He made it look easy.
The Baby Magnum and the Rush would both have been outmatched while fighting alone and his pace did not falter even when facing them both at once.
Also, the Old Fashion used more than just its main cannon, which was a compressed metal cannon with an ultra small caliber barrel that used both a normal magazine and a drum magazine.
Again and again, sharp sounds of cannon fire burst from something like a boxy metal container on the opposite side.
The Princess continually shot down what it was firing.
“What are those? Missiles!?”
These were nothing like the shoulder-fired ones meant to shoot down fighters. They were a much more overwhelming sight and they looked like a nationally-funded rocket tilted on its side.
“It might be more accurate to call them reverse-thrust rockets,” clarified the Princess. “They attach themselves with instant glue and then fire against my wishes to rob me of my mobility.”
The Baby Magnum was covered in weapons meant for use against nuclear missiles. She did not even need to use her naval floats to dodge. Even with those rockets constantly fired from less than 100 meters away, not even one could slip through her interception barrage. But using her mental resources on that could easily lead to falling behind in the direct battle between Objects.
The Old Fashion was not especially fast, its main cannon was not especially powerful, and its armor was not especially thick.
And yet no one could defeat him.
No one could keep up with his thoughts and no one could damage his Object.
“It’s like a miracle, Faith Organization!!”
“Then we just have to rob him of that mystical movement of his!!”
After that shout, Quenser sent a signal via radio.
Everyone had been waiting for it, so they all responded immediately.
And then “that” happened.
The Old Fashion kept afloat with air cushions.
It emitted massive amounts of air toward the surface below it and gained lift by allowing that air to accumulate between the two-by-two arrangement of floats and the ocean surface.
The system was well known for being broadly adaptable to changes in the terrain. A flat surface was of course best, but a bumpy wasteland was not much of a problem.
However, that only went so far.
If the ground was made of a lattice like chain-link or a birdcage, the air cushion would not work. The air would escape downwards and fail to provide enough lift.
Quenser and the others had done the same thing.
They used steel beams.
For as far as the eye could see, steel beams jutted vertically up from the ocean surface like this was an asparagus farm.
They were basically a type of buoy. They were a lot like a larger version of a fishing float. A ball-shaped float made of a foam material was attached around the steel beam, a thick wire was attached, and they sank to the bottom of the ocean. The wire could be cut with a remote signal, freeing the giant buoy so its buoyancy could carry it to the surface.
A large quantity of needle-like protrusions was another terrain air cushions had trouble with.
No matter how much air they released, it would not remain atop the needles. The Object was kept afloat in relation to the ocean surface, so its floats would contact the steel “needles”.
A normal hovercraft would have its skirt torn and it would sink, but a nuke-resistant Object would not be so easily defeated. It would force its way through by pushing the steel beams back down below the surface.
But the top of the beams tearing at it from below was sure to lower its speed.
That First Generation was not especially fast, not especially destructive, and not especially well-protected. Pulling at its feet would help tear down its undefeated legend.
A voice reached them from the Old Fashion. He sounded more excited than afraid or angry.
“Wait, wait, wait! Ho…oh ho ho. I use an air cushion too, so won’t this affect me as well!?”
“Yeahhh, but you’re an enemy Elite, so we didn’t really worry about you too much.”
“You monster! Do I have to start reminding you I have basic rights as a human being!?”
They heard the blast of metal being melted and blown away.
From her safe zone a short distance away, the Baby Magnum’s low-stability plasma cannon had finally torn away one edge of the Old Fashion’s spherical main body. It was far from a clean hit, but it was still a valuable first step. This was no longer a one-sided battle and they were no longer helpless.
With its mobility taken, a grinding sound came from below the Old Fashion, but the Elite still forcibly moved the Object around. As he did, large waves formed which nearly capsized Quenser’s patrol boat once they arrived.
“What a stubborn son of a bitch!! How perfect a pilot is he, dammit!?”
“Wait a second…”
Quenser said something strange.
Something else changed as they watched. The Old Fashion was not just fleeing randomly. There was a pattern to the waves he was creating. And they interfered with the buoys floating in the ocean like giant steel needles. In fact, it looked like he was neatly guiding them so they gathered in a single place!
And why he was doing so became abundantly clear a moment later.
He climbed up on top of the mountain of needles he had created.
Quenser and the others had interfered with his air cushions because the sharp and evenly-spaced steel beams prevented the compressed air from building up. That should have caused the bottom of the Old Fashion to hit the steel beams which would lower his speed.
But Robert Mistynail had taken the opposite tack.
By gathering the scattered beams in a single place and pressing them together, he had filled in the gaps. It was like a brand-new straw container that was packed full. That prevented the air cushion’s air from escaping. Just like a tanker in a shipyard with its great weight distributed over many pillars, the Old Fashion could climb up onto the needles like it was traveling across land!
The Baby Magnum was slow to react to this unexpected freedom of movement.
That lag was less than a second, but it was enough for her armor to be torn apart.
A burning spear burst out from the cross that decorated the tip of the Old Fashion’s main cannon. That was the muzzle flash. That compressed metal cannon with an ultra small caliber barrel truly was like a needle and it targeted the Baby Magnum’s spherical main body. The left side of her armor opened up like a flower around that central point and three of the seven main cannons were torn away at once.
“The Baby Magnum was damaged!! I can continue fighting, but the partially-remaining armor will increase my air resis-…!!”
Quenser’s group did not have time to listen through to the end of their ally’s report.
One of the Old Fashion’s intermittently-fired laser beam attacks had hit the ocean nearby. It must have reacted to the bubbles or the smokescreen because it triggered an explosion of steam.
The impact from the side capsized the patrol boat.
Quenser frantically tried to grab onto something, but Heivia kicked his hand away. Clinging to the sinking ship would only get him dragged down to the bottom of the ocean.
They were all thrown out into the midsummer Mediterranean.
“This is the worst vacation ever…”
“Pwah. But it’s not over yet.” Quenser grinned while soaking wet. “Did you think you’d won once you crossed the asparagus farm, Old Fashion? Here it comes!!”
A moment later, something hit the Old Fashion from directly below and the Object floated up from the ocean a little.
Second Venice was a giant artificial island.
It looked like a floating city 20 km across, but it was actually made by combining giant dice made of aluminum alloy or reinforced stainless steel. The air inside those was used to keep the entire city afloat. They were basically giant metal beach balls.
They naturally could not allow water in, but destroying the connection between dice was also a bad idea. To ensure the safety of Second Venice, a set number of spares had to be preserved at all times.
They had borrowed those.
They had borrowed them and used submarines to drag them down to the bottom of the ocean. The rest was no different from the previous asparagus farm. They had cut the wires and allowed the air inside to pull them up.
The Old Fashion floated up into the air.
It weighed 200,000 tons, which was twice that of an outdated nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. That frightening weight was pushed up just a bit by the float used to support an entire city.
And even an Object could not accelerate or turn while on unsteady footing. When performing a long jump, it was impossible to change direction after leaving the ground.
The Princess breathed a slow sigh of relief.
Her low-stability plasma cannon burst out. This time she made full use of the few seconds of opportunity by targeting the very center of the Old Fashion’s main body.
But even after that…
“You’re…kidding!” shouted Heivia.
The Old Fashion had not been destroyed. It had aimed its main cannon and all of its secondary cannons downwards to blow away the giant piece of artificial land that had knocked it into the air. And the intense shockwave slightly changed the Old Fashion’s own path through the air. That allowed it to just barely avoid the Princess’s low-stability plasma cannon. Most of its armor turned orange and tore away, but the reactor and cockpit escaped unharmed.
“You damn genius!!” groaned Oh Ho Ho.
The badly-damaged Old Fashion landed in the ocean rather than the land made of aluminum and stainless steel. Great waves spread in every direction. The float arrived right in front of Quenser and Heivia. In only a dozen or so seconds, they would be tossed around.
But Quenser did not care.
The ocean was filthy. There were boats, wreckage, buoys made from steel beams, and the dice-shaped pieces of the float drifting around. The student grabbed a piece of equipment from their patrol boat that he spotted among it all.
It was a wire shooter that used pressurized gas to fire a metal hook.
It was part of a winch used to drag around a captured enemy ship.
“The float wasn’t just to throw you into the air.”
He ignored the approaching wave and grabbed onto the float. He attached the edge of the wire shooter device onto the latch of the joint holding the dice together.
“We don’t even have to break through your armor to defeat you.”
Then he looked up at his giant foe.
He rested the wire shooter on his shoulder and took aim.
“Even an Object will sink if it capsizes!!”
With the sound of compressed air escaping, the metal hook shot out.
He was lucky the Object’s own massive shockwave had forcibly altered its trajectory. That had prevented it from using its secondary cannons to shoot down the metal hook with an anti-air laser.
Then the wire attached itself by wrapping around the main cannon.
The giant spare float was attached to the Object by a wire.
It happened just as the Object regained its balance and swung itself around to aim at the Baby Magnum from the side.
The Old Fashion was already unstable, but then the wire and spare float tugged at it. It was like a horse being dragged around by a rope caught on its neck. The Object rocked and tilted. The air cushion engine blew a massive amount of air downwards to create a layer of air between the float and the ocean. If the float itself flipped upside down, the Object could no longer remain afloat. The 200,000 ton mass would simply sink.
As the Old Fashion wobbled, Quenser raised what sounded like a prayer.
“Sink already, ace!!”
But then he heard the sharp sound of the thick wire snapping. Even if it was made to drag around captured ships, it had been unable to bear the Object’s weight.
Quenser glared at his powerful enemy even as the wire flipped back like a serpent and nearly took off his head.
A moment later, a further impact arrived from the side.
It was the Baby Magnum.
And the Rush.
This went beyond a volley of main cannons or secondary cannons. They used their full speed to charge in and ram their Objects against the Old Fashion as it tried to regain its balance.
“It’s time you gave up that position for someone else, ace.”
“Oh ho ho. How about you rest in peace, you ghost!?”
That clinched it.
The Faith Organization legend flipped over and sunk. The two-by-two arrangement of floats writhed about and blew air out, but they accomplished nothing while not in contact with the ground or ocean.
“He didn’t eject,” noted Quenser as he drifted in the ocean.
“Well, he flipped upside down. The water may have gotten in the way and kept the emergency exit from opening.”
Quenser could not agree with Heivia’s suggestion.
That ace had stuck with that old Object for a promise with an old friend. Quenser suspected the man had never had an ejection device installed in the first place.
External Document – Concerning Catherine Blueangel
This is a report concerning the requested matter.
Catherine Blueangel was exposed to a deadly mold carrying Argeiphontes, but the antidote has proven effective and she is recovering. No after effects have been noted, so there should be nothing to worry about there.
The results of the counseling session with a military doctor are less promising.
Catherine is still highly dependent on firearms and it would be difficult to send her to a safe country at the moment. And even if she is a special case due to being former Councilor Flide’s pawn, she is still a Pilot Elite who was developed using plenty of Legitimacy Kingdom technology. Even if she is given a new identity through a witness protection program, there is still a threat of foreign agents abducting her or retrieving information from her. It would be best to view her life in a safe country as a pipedream.
As for the incident in Second Venice, that only proved Catherine’s skill in combat. Placing an Elite before enemy soldiers would be truly foolish, but she could be sent to a military research institute or a training facility to analyze her combat methods for use by normal soldiers.
This will mean sending Catherine back to an institution after briefly releasing her from that life, but if we think of it as a service to her country, then there is no reason to stop it. She will only gain more medals to wear on her chest, so she might even welcome the chance.
An Elite can only live as an Elite.
Besides, the Civilian Acclimation Assistance System has always been set up so we can determine who passes. It is specifically designed to prevent skilled Elites from retiring at their own discretion. Catherine’s may have been a somewhat unique case, but since she is an Elite, we will have her live as an Elite until she enters her grave.