HEAVY OBJECT:Volume12 Epilogue
The fleet that acted as an Information Alliance base was buzzing with activity.
They had taken the dirty job of establishing an indiscriminate quarantine to save the world, but that had been entirely overturned and they were on the verge of being viewed as mere villains. They were carrying out a great variety of information manipulation both in public and in secret. A mistake here could erase the future of their Pilot Elite.
While all that was going on, some engineers had arrived in secret using a small submersible so they could not be detected via satellite.
Lendy Farolito, the commander with long silver hair and brown skin, spoke the group’s name.
This was a front line battlefield, but every last one of them wore a suit and tie and their hair was perfectly parted. Simply breathing brought the scent of cheap hair gel to her nose. That was suicidal because they would be detected from 500 meters away if trying to hide in a dark forest.
The military office workers grinned cheerfully and made a suggestion.
“Please leave the rest to us, lieutenant colonel. We have heard the Gatling 033 was recently hit by a cyber-attack by the enemy Coilgun 052, but we will inspect and defrag the system. There is nothing to worry about.”
“You’re going to touch Juliet? On whose authority?”
“We cannot leave any possibility of the Strategic AI having been infected, can we? We must clean it up. Would you like to check the electronic document temporarily granting us S-level access? …Or should I say the electronic document we forged in real time?”
“There is nothing to worry about, lieutenant colonel. When you have no way of determining the veracity of information, it can be as easily true as it can be false. It is much like arguing which is the outer side on a Mobius strip.”
“Do you intend to use this as a pretext to alter the black box within the Object?”
That was the greatest taboo. The black box recorded all actions and transmissions during battle, so it was something like the document that proved they had not lost control of a soldier on the battlefield. Altering that was the same as being able to do whatever one wanted without consequences.
But the office workers viewed war from a different angle and did not see it as quite so important.
The leader immediately answered with his usual flat smile.
“If you would like. That is a common request on the battlefields we visit, so feel free. Even this is a popularity contest.”
It was true that they would prefer there were no records of this battle. Assuming things did not get too bad, they could always weasel out of any demands to release the information, but it was always possible things would get “too bad”.
She thought about her cute Elite and what would be best for that girl.
“Either way, we will cooperate with you, Dullahan. The Information Alliance as a whole needs that girl to remain in the cockpit.”
“But let’s not alter that black box. This crime will never be made public, but it seems that girl does not intend to forget it happened.”
“For better or for worse, we simply comply with the requests we are given, but I will ask for your sake. Lieutenant colonel, are you insane?”
“Please. This is a request from that girl.”
The man with perfectly parted hair sighed just once.
He erased his smile before answering.
“You leave us with no choice. Resolving this under those conditions will require great risk for both of us…but it has been a while since I ran across such an exciting challenge.”
Catherine Blueangel got up from her small medical bed.
“Oh? Are you feeling better?” asked the old maintenance lady.
Catherine had not been with the 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion for long, but she knew the woman. Her name was Ayami Cherryblossom and she had helped Catherine with the stamps ‘Cook a meal’ and ‘Give one of your elders a shoulder massage’.
“Granny…? But why?”
“As long as you’re feeling better, nothing else matters. Frolaytia asked me to look after you while Quenser is away, so you can really tell how much of a kid she still is. …Yet if I stay with you for too long, the Princess will get upset.”
The old maintenance lady sighed and shook her head.
Catherine tilted her head.
“Can I go outside now?”
“If you’re feeling up to it. Don’t worry about the Argeiphontes. If there was a problem there, you wouldn’t have been taken out of isolation.”
Catherine’s face lit up and she placed her feet on the floor.
“Oh, yeah. I’d gotten all my stamps.”
“Oh, well done.”
“Heh heh heh! Now I can go to a safe country!! I need to ask Frolaytia about it. I want to go to Paris and see the scenery my big brother saw!!”
The old maintenance lady sighed as she watched Catherine run out of the medical room.
It was too heavy a sigh to be of relief.
“Well, I do understand how Frolaytia feels. This is just too much to bear.”
With the low humidity, the summer sun was hot and dry.
The cool sea breeze washed over Frolaytia Capistrano as she lay in a beach chair while wearing a bikini.
She was on the roof of a building on the south side. The small drink table next to the villa pool had a laptop on it. The video chat window showed a man on the border between young and middle aged and he cleared his throat
“Major Capistrano, that is a tad risqué.”
“Captain, I am trying to work off all the stress the military has given me. …This was supposed to be a simple job even an older Object could handle, but just look what we found. And the worst part is that my men believe this was my decision.”
“Major, this conversation is being monitored.”
She ignored him.
As the busty silver-haired base commander lay on the beach chair, the laptop desperately continued speaking as if to put her back in a good mood.
“I-I hear Second Venice will be returned to the Information Alliance.”
“What else could we do after all this damage? Trying to repair it could easily put us in debt and who knows if we could make that money back by reopening it as a tourist destination. Especially with the stories about it being an infection base. We need to shove it back into the Information Alliance’s hands. Repair it or abandon it, it’s clearly going to cause massive financial damage.”
Race, ideology, resources, and territory. A lot was weighed on the scales when it came to wars, but in this age, the most popular factor was money. From that perspective, handing back a useless tourist resource to drag your enemy into debt was not a bad decision.
But the man on the laptop had more to say.
“Some suspect that they were waiting for this.”
“You mean they secretly drove the Faith Organization to attack so they could take Second Venice back from us? Not a chance. A plan on that scale takes a lot of time, so the timing doesn’t work. Not to mention that their tourist resource is in shambles, their secret infection base was revealed to the world, and they torpedoed the Rush’s diplomatic image by using her for the quarantine. The city isn’t worth taking back.”
“Didn’t I tell you? The Information Alliance was badly burned by all this, so they’re working hard to spread nonsense in an attempt to dilute the truth. Don’t get all worked up over every conspiracy theory you see on a message board, captain. This was an absolute victory for us, so I recommend sitting back with a nice drink and watching them flounder. Oh, how I loathe them.”
That said, the Information Alliance was not about to collapse.
Second Venice was indeed partially destroyed. And the negative image of the infection base meant a great amount of effort and funding would be needed to bring it back as a tourist resource.
But at the same time, economies were interconnected. The infection base image had apparently led to antibacterial sprays and sheets selling even better than before back in the safe countries. That just left the usual pooling and laundering of money. The money made by the antibacterial industry would be secretly sent to the infection base to heal the burn as quickly as possible. The Information Alliance was the world power that publicly announced it was ruled by the winners of digital expansion whether they were good or evil, kind or unkind, innocent or guilty. Something like this was nothing to them.
Whether it continued at Second Venice or not, they would repeat something similar at some other international tourist destination. They already had the data showing them the extreme medical expenses their countries had to pay because the people were visiting their doctors so often thanks to the antibacterial craze weakening their immunity. With that data in hand, they could not just ignore the problem.
“Well, that’s more or less what tourist destinations are. They invite people in from outside and influence them with their culture. It can be people, money, information, ideologies, or aesthetics, but that’s where it is all exchanged. It only got so complicated this time because immunology got thrown into the mix.”
“What do you think about the infection base, major?”
“It’s neither good nor bad. Besides, the Legitimacy Kingdom nobles love their wine and cheese to death, so they tend to get along well with microbes. We need some contact with germs and bacteria, but it all comes down to how you do it. Instead of being sneaky about it, maybe they should have manufactured some major fad. Call it edible health or a drinkable diet and they could sell the germs that have been floating around for millennia as a new kind of yogurt. …And since this is the Information Alliance we’re talking about, they could get the entire world behind it by slapping on a sticker saying its popular in New York.”
Why had they not done that?
They had talked about protecting their people’s health and reducing international medical costs, but it likely came down to authority and territory. Had someone not wanted to use the food industry? Or had someone wanted an excuse to maintain a method of disseminating a deadly virus, just like remaking a rocket launch base into a missile launch base?
“We’re the same, captain.”
“Is there really any reason for modern wars to take this form? Just like that infection base, it might be the result of someone twisting things to increase their authority. …Not that pieces on the game board like us would be able to tell.”
Frolaytia rolled over as if sulking, but the topic of conversation may not have mattered much. Anyone could have noticed her mind was elsewhere.
She placed her kiseru back in her mouth as she continued.
“Those safe country money-lovers who have never set foot on the battlefield can all go straight to hell for placing Catherine’s future on the scales for their own amusement.”
More and more large transport ships arrived at the port.
There were too many for them all to fit at the docks, so some of them lowered their anchors nearby and used small boats to ferry the supplies over.
Quenser and Heivia discussed the situation while assembling a battery-powered lighthouse on a piece of Second Venice’s north side that jutted out.
“Wow, there’s more Information Alliance ships than anything.”
“Well, they’re desperate to improve their image. Switch on your radio and you’ll hear more of Oh Ho Ho’s sweet voice than you ever wanted. She’s apparently going to hold a charity concert in a safe country with all proceeds going to restoring Second Venice.”
“Will that actually work? Second Venice was full of VIPs and wealthy people from around the world, right? I don’t know what industries are needed to raise up an idol, but won’t the people at the top be less than pleased with her?”
“There are some frightening rumors about that. Those wealthy people never actually went out into the ocean, right? Well, even if it’s revealed that the Information Alliance was behind the blockade, they can apparently obscure which Object it was. They’re apparently creating the data for an entirely fictional Object and Elite so they can place all the blame on that. They’re using some kind of information safety device that’s called the Dullahan Protection because they digitally swap out the head. Of course, we are talking about the Information Alliance. That rumor might just be a bluff to hide some even deeper secret.”
“Are you serious…? Even if it had military encryption, we were talking over the radio like crazy. And the silhouette had to have been visible from the coast. An amateur radio enthusiast or a birdwatcher could sink that plan.”
“They’re blaming it all on some younger Elite that looked up to Oh Ho Ho. And of course, that Elite only exists as a 15-digit social security number. If the rumors are correct, that is.”
“Damn that’s scary.”
“Yeah, you’ve gotta hand it to the Information Alliance. Not many people can tell a search engine’s trending words what to do. I really don’t want to see the moment when history is made. My balls will shrivel up.”
Even as they spoke, they had no intention of ending their solemn mood.
“Well, let’s just look at this as having an idol’s secret all to ourselves.”
“Oh, I like the sound of that. That’s another trophy for my life.”
That was when a simultaneous beep came from their pockets. It was their handheld devices. They pulled them out and saw a business-like email from Frolaytia. The information would normally not have been released to them, but she likely felt obligated to the soldiers who had participated in this mission.
Yes, they were faced with another problem besides the disaster recovery(?) for Second Venice.
“So they really did fail Catherine,” muttered Heivia, sounding disgusted.
The Civilian Acclimation Assistance System allowed a Pilot Elite to leave that path and live in a safe country rather than a battlefield country. Their mission had been to see Catherine Blueangel through to the end of that. Simply put, they were to see whether or not Catherine’s small hand could forget the feeling of a gun.
But she had been too useful.
Without her, it was doubtful they could have overcome the challenges at Second Venice. Quenser would have lost his life, the deadly mold would have spread across the globe, and the experiment to create a “miracle human” would have begun in earnest, even if success was highly doubtful.
She definitely deserved praise for what she had done.
She deserved to wear an official medal on her chest for her actions.
But that was a battlefield honor. The more she had done, the further she had strayed from being a normal civilian.
Winning a gold medal at an international piano or ballet competition was not always a good thing for the winner. That would sometimes restrict their life. That might sound like a first world problem, but when it came to deadly wars, it was a much more serious issue.
“It sounds like it’s a lot harder for her since she doesn’t have any parents. Since she’s all alone, the hurdle is apparently twice as high. It sounds like things would have been different if she had someone to take her in who could stop her if it came to it, but the only people stepping forward are agents for the government. They just want to send her to the military or a lab and rob her of her freedom while using their authority as her parent.”
“That’s a lot of ‘sounds like’ and ‘apparently’ and I don’t care if you don’t have anything to back it up! What’s really going to happen to Catherine? It’ll take years before they can finish a successor to the Exact Javelin. And since that was that Flide bastard’s personal Object, who knows if there’s even a division left to continue the research.”
“In that case, they might see her results here and use her as a saboteur. Or maybe they’ll attach a ton of electrodes to her head in a lab to get as much information out of her as they can.”
“Those are all terrible options. Catherine risked her life to save 100,000 people and anyone could tell she’s not a serial killer, so why does that mean she can’t leave the path of killing?”
“That’s why I won’t let that happen.”
“Weren’t you listening? The hurdle is a lot lower if she has someone to take her in. And do you remember the role I was given for this mission? …I’m Catherine Blueangel’s big brother.”
External Document – A Father and Son’s Phone Record
“Oh, Quenser? What’s with the international call from the battlefield? Should you really be spending so much just because the government is paying you?”
“Don’t worry. This is a collect call on a satellite phone, so it’s all on you.”
“That’s a triple punch! Can I hang up right this instant? How much does ten seconds cost!?”
“Now, now, now. I don’t call home often, so you should know your cute son is in a bit of a bind. I’d like some of my daddy’s wisdom.”
“Nothing good has ever happened when my wife starts speaking sweetly or when you start calling me daddy. And you even threatened me with the phone bill to keep me from thinking about it for too long. But this is at least something a safe country office worker can do, right?”
“I’ll be the judge of that. So what exactly do you need?”
“Sure. Daddy, I want a little sister.”
“Bfhhhh!!!?? C-cough, cough! U-um, Quenser? You’re not a child anymore, so surely you know babies aren’t gift-wrapped and delivered by Santa Claus. I don’t know what movie has influenced you, but you have to think about the burden on your parents’ bodies.”
“No, no. Not that. I’m talking about a step-sister.”
“Really, what movies have you been watching, you brat!? And that isn’t easy either!!”
“C’mon, don’t be like that. The girl’s the one in trouble, not me. Remember when you sheltered that disagreeable noble named Monica in our food storehouse when her family fell into ruin? Can’t you help out this girl like that?”
“Let me ask one thing. I’m sure this has to do with the military, so you can leave out the details. Just give me the final answer. …Is that girl really in trouble? Like with Monica, is she in immediate danger if we don’t reach out a helping hand?”
“W-well, let’s just say this is even worse than with Moni-…”
“Then I don’t care if it means picking a fight with the entire world. Bring that girl here at Mach speed. And I mean right now.”