HEAVY OBJECT:Volume13 Track 4
Track 04: Money≠Treasure
Thanks to the giant explosion of the laser-blinding SAM setup in the old farm, the mountain slope covered in conifer trees was torn up and covered in metal scrap even more than 500 meters away. Had it been blasted this far by the eruption, or had it slid down the slope? That was unclear, but not all of it had been destroyed equally. Mariydi grabbed a relatively unharmed scrap and pulled it upright.
It was a large military motorcycle colored moss green. It was equipped with a ridiculous engine large enough for city racing, but the suspension was more like one used for off-road motocross. Mariydi could see why these were not sold on the civilian market, and the monster machine was far too large for a 12-year-old girl.
It was more than 3 times her weight, but she easily righted it like she was lifting a barbell and climbed onto the seat. That was when a gentle sensation clung to her from behind.
It had glasses, giant breasts, a tight skirt suit, and a fried shrimp hairdo.
In other words, it was Nancy Jolly-Roger.
“Heh, eh heh heh.”
“P-please don’t leave me behiiiind!! No matter what you say, I’m never letting go, just like the Island Nation’s Konaki-Jijii!!!!!!”
Mariydi grimaced at the two soft masses squishing up against the back of her head more than her back.
“What do you hope to accomplish by doing this to a girl, fried shrimp?”
“Ohhh, your head is in just the right spot to rest my chin onnn.”
“That’s distracting! Don’t place a three-point lock on my head!!”
Complaining was not going to accomplish anything. Even if the thick fog and the curtain of conifer trees would block their vision, the transport helicopter was still flying around with a heavy machinegun sticking out of its cargo door.
“That’s right! When trouble arrives, we’re all in this together, aren’t we!? Hm, hm, hm, hm!!!!!!”
The fried shrimp got so worked up she began breathing from her nose onto the nape of Mariydi’s neck, but Mariydi started the engine regardless. The transmission could apparently be switched between manual and automatic, so she hit the button near the handlebar grip to select manual, skipped straight from first gear to third gear, and began a start dash that made the motorcycle hop up.
There was no road here.
She drove directly down the steep and bumpy slope. There were thick tree trunks all around and everything was wrapped in thick fog. The conditions could hardly be worse.
“You really have strange tastes, you know that?”
“I was the only one falsely accused, so if you had abandoned me and run off, the chopper’s HMG probably wouldn’t have targeted you.”
“But when trouble arrives, we’re all in this together, hm? That’s the kind of volunteerism you don’t often see in the Capitalist Corporations, but well, it’s your life. If you want to throw it away, that’s your business.”
“Wait, wait, please waaaaaaiiiiiiiit!? Let me off! Help me! I’m a victim! Pleeeeeeeease!!”
Nancy tearfully waved her arms toward the sky, but she had already made the decision for herself without realizing it. She was now a companion of Wanted Criminal Mariydi, so it was too late.
After they heard some explosions in the sky, tree trunks thicker around than Mariydi or even the fried shrimp’s torso shattered like styrofoam. The logs from the cabin had functioned as a shield against a handgun or assault rifle, but they were far less effective against a heavy machinegun. Sharp splinters flew right past their faces and several trees collapsed as if to block their way.
“Hey, if you’re going to panic, at least get your mouth away from my ear.”
“I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared. Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw.”
“Nnh, don’t calm yourself by gently biting me!!”
Mariydi’s control of the motorcycle could only be called superb for managing so well while accompanied by a complete amateur who did not even know how to lean her body. Even so, it could have been worse. The transport helicopter’s heavy machinegun extended straight out from the side cargo door. That meant it could not target the fleeing motorcycle while also following after it. It was forced to fly such that their paths drew a cross shape, so Mariydi and the helicopter were constantly on the move. And the thick fog and curtain of trees prevented the helicopter from pinpointing their location so easily.
The heavy machinegun attached to the cargo door was meant to spray bullets to hold back the enemy while the helicopter hovered defenselessly and lowered infantry by rope. Unlike the chain guns on the jaw of slender attack helicopters, no one expected it to actually hit and destroy a target.
A ground attack helicopter or a fighter would be able to electronically adjust the direction of the gun while synced to the pilot’s gaze, so Mariydi and Nancy would have been blown to pieces almost immediately.
That said, a single hit was all it would take.
While pursued by the lead rain pouring from the heavens, Mariydi’s small nose twitched.
She smelled old asphalt, which was out of place this deep in the Scandinavian forest.
“Old Route 20. I see. If I take that down about 40 kilometers, that will be waiting for us.”
As soon as she sensed it, Mariydi further opened the throttle and reached triple digit speeds not normally seen while off road.
They drove over a small bump.
And then the extraordinary monster of an off-road motorcycle flew through the air.
They soared over the gap and landed on the forgotten elevated highway.
The jump was more than 20 meters long and 5 meters tall, so it was more of a circus act than proper driving.
The elevated highway ran perpendicular to the mountain slope and it was built to pass between the gaps in the mountains. The road was wide with 4 lanes in either direction, but even that was barely enough room. As soon as they landed, Mariydi shifted down to decelerate and twisted the handlebars to make a wide arc while the tires screeched and slid. She completed the 90 degree curve with only 2 cm until they hit the central divider and then she set off down the highway.
Something heavy passed by overhead.
It was not the previous transport helicopter. It was much faster. It was a group of Capitalist Corporations fighters that had likely been sent out to preserve their newfound air superiority – that is, to drive off the Information Alliance fighters that were sure to be scrambled. The small fighters had a single engine and main wings with an odd, diamond-like shape. They were high-mobility fighters that used their light weight for sharp turns instead of a high top speed. Mariydi looked up and sighed.
“The Rev-19s that are built for pure dogfighting, hm? That’s not my squadron.”
With their bodies and minds worn out from the intense battle with the SAMs, those problem children had disobeyed the BtB order from CT and continued flying as a plea for their fallen commander’s plight. They must have similarly refused the order to hunt down Mariydi, so the high-mobility fighters of their MPs had likely stuck close to them to demand they make a forced landing (FL).
Mariydi still did not know what was happening to her, but they were on her side.
She could not betray their expectations, so she had to survive this no matter what.
The engine gave a roar.
Mariydi and Nancy were riding a monster machine that managed to seamlessly combine off-road suspension with a large city-racing engine. Perhaps as a sign of military pride, it could easily reach 200kph when accelerated on an open road. A helicopter’s top speed tended to be between 300 and 400kph, so they could not shake it. However, this did allow them to lure it elsewhere.
As they drove across the dangerously cracked highway, they heard the transport helicopter’s unrestrained rotor noise approaching once more. To aim for the fleeing target from the side cargo door, it had to shift its route to the side to fly parallel to the motorcycle. Of course, that removed it from the shortest route, causing a loss in speed.
With heavy sounds of gunfire, giant holes appeared in the asphalt. A span of only a few minutes seemed to stretch out endlessly. After a few scattered bursts of destruction, the helicopter passed Mariydi and Nancy. Mariydi clicked her tongue.
“They plan to take down the highway instead of me directly.”
“Ugeh!? They’d go that far!?”
“The elevated highway has already deteriorated pretty badly and that HMG can fire bullets the size of anti-materiel rifle ammo at a rate of 2000 per minute. Concentrated fire can break through a concrete bridge.”
But unlike the forest’s trees, it could not do so instantly. If they were to make it in time for Mariydi as she raced along at 200kph, they would have to start well ahead of her.
Just like train tracks, an elevated highway became impassible if even a single point was destroyed, so the helicopter knew they did not need to stop Mariydi right away. They assumed they would win if they flew 10 or 20km ahead and destroyed the road there.
“H-h-how can you be so calm? I’m pressed up against your back, but I can’t sense your heart racing at all.”
“Get off of me. It’s hot enough already.” Mariydi grimaced in annoyance. “And isn’t it obvious? I already know we can win this.”
The fried shrimp tilted her head while still holding onto Mariydi.
Immediately, one of the small fighters attempting to secure air superiority was blown to smithereens.
Nancy choked and her breath seemed to strike Mariydi in the back.
The glasses fried shrimp’s entire body gave off an aura of confusion, so Mariydi explained in a singsong voice.
“This is the Northern Restricted Zone. Look left or right and you’re bound to see some muddy soldiers fighting over something. The grim reaper lurks everywhere here.”
“Whether Capitalist Corporations, Information Alliance, Legitimacy Kingdom, or Faith Organization, the potatoes of the four world powers ignore the current trends to fight it out in trenches with a shovel in hand. You never know when you’ll get a knife in the side, so you should really keep an eye out, especially when you’re feeling victorious.”
If someone was aiming a gun at them, the color of their uniform did not matter.
Even if they were fellow Capitalist Corporations soldiers, she would mercilessly send them to hell.
Another explosion occurred shortly thereafter. With the fighter protecting the sky taken out, it went without saying what happened to the helicopter attempting to destroy the highway. The other fighters finally realized what was happening and fled like small birds, but it was too late. Unlike with the Thor’s Hammer, it was not the accurate pursuit that made this explosion frightening. It was the large scale. It almost looked like a giant firework had been launched into the sky. Something was fired to a general point in the air and then a horrifically large explosion caught all of the aircraft in the area, turning them into scraps.
It was not a missile.
Mariydi knew what it was.
“That’s a shell from the Lævateinn, a Legitimacy Kingdom combat train. It didn’t produce a mushroom cloud today, so I guess they’re still being stingy with the explosives.”
“You can make one of those with a normal bomb if you use a ridiculous amount of explosives. It definitely looks impressive, but they mainly detonate it high in the sky to hit relatively high-flying fighters and unstable attack helicopters with the explosive blast and turbulence. There’s almost no chance of the fireball and shockwave reaching us on the surface. Attacking the ground directly with something that big might break their internal rules or something.”
This was why she had used the highway.
She had wanted to get within firing range of that thing to pit her enemies against each other. The military motorcycle could reach speeds exceeding 200kph in no time, so she could travel 50km in only 15 minutes. Pursuing her without thinking was a good way to cross an invisible border without noticing.
This was the obvious result, but it was easier to target airborne targets than surface ones.
Traditional shells were not guided, but that did not matter.
They only had to chuck the shell close to the center of an enemy group and use the fearsome blast and turbulence to surround the targets in a wide-range vortex of destruction that could not be dodged. The skill of the pilot never came into play. A kilometers-wide surface dropped down on the aircraft like a flyswatter.
“I think we called it the Drop Ceiling.” Mariydi narrowed her eyes and looked up at the explosive roar she had once experienced herself. “That mass of armor and ridiculous firepower can only run along the preset rails. Our combat engineers finally managed to destroy the rails in a suicide sabotage mission, but even after being rendered stationary by derailing, it’s been pushing back the Capitalist Corporations war front for 2 weeks. And it’s just one armored weapon.”
The thick fog should have been obstructing their view, but the image burned vividly into her retinas. That meant the tremendous explosive blast in the sky had blown away the natural band of fog.
And beyond the forcibly cleared fog, a giant monolith rose up between the mountains a few kilometers away like Ayers Rock. No, it only looked that way. It was actually a mass of steel armor with a giant engine for mobility. It was still fighting even after being derailed, so it had to be difficult to destroy just by blowing it up.
The deadly birds who had ruled overhead had either been shot down or forced to withdraw. The sky was open once more. The giant derailed combat train had also fallen silent. But not because it was letting Mariydi go. Its giant targeting system probably could not capture something so small on the ground.
Mariydi had successfully escaped the Capitalist Corporations’ hounds, but her expression was far from cheerful.
She had also had a bitter experience with that thing. Her allies in the sky had been shot down and she had heard the voices of their ground support begging for help over the radio before falling silent.
“Th-they say to let sleeping dogs lie, don’t theyyyy?”
“That’s not an option.” Mariydi sighed. “I don’t know why the higher ups have invented these false accusations about me, but they’re an organization. They didn’t do this on a whim. Conspiracies aren’t cheap. If they don’t have a reason and some profit to earn, they wouldn’t go to the effort of framing me like this. But I have no idea what that could be. No idea whatsoever.”
“H-how can you say that when you’ll shoot someone in the arm just to test themmm? You have to have made all sorts of grudges.”
“I’ll throw you off, fried shrimp. …Ahem. That means I must have seen something I shouldn’t have. And the specific false accusation they’re going with is interesting. They claim I intentionally got shot down to send the military secrets of my fighter into enemy territory.”
“They wouldn’t need to focus so much on an outdated fighter. If they just want to frame and capture me, they only have to stick some white powder in my locker while I’m away from the base. If they went out of their way to mention the destroyed fighter, they must need it. That way they can focus on the fighter and quickly recover it in the name of preventing a leak of technological information.” Mariydi paused for a beat. “In other words, there’s something in that crashed Zig-27. It must hold some record of me unwittingly coming into contact with something. …I want to recover my fighter’s flight recorder. It must have recorded something no one was supposed to know.”
Whatever it was, it was likely closely related to the ridiculous sum of 50 billion dollars. That was supposedly the amount of platinum the delinquent soldiers had in their artificial bones and the total sum of the rewards offered by the Capitalist Corporations companies with interests in the Northern Restricted Zone. It was unclear how much of this was true or not, but this was no longer a forgotten battlefield. It was a hotspot fighting over enough money to buy 10 Objects.
“What’s your point!? Then go hiking through the mountains and gather the trash you need. What does this have to do with that monster weapon called the Lævateinn!?”
“Fighters don’t just vanish after the pilot bails out. They’ll fly for a bit even with no one at the controls. And I’m not going to drop a plane onto one of the cities civilians build in this land of blood and gun smoke for some odd reason. I made sure to aim it toward the empty mountains before bailing out. However…”
“Huh? Um? S-surely you don’t mean what I think you do. That’s just my pessimism talking, right!?”
“Yes,” simply replied Mariydi. “It seems the detonation of the Thor’s Hammer SAMs altered its course. Thinking back, I’m pretty sure most of the wreckage fell near the Lævateinn. I need to silence that thing if I’m going to grab the scorched fried egg of a flight recorder.”
“No, no, no! Please leave me behind! I don’t want to do thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!”