HEAVY OBJECT:Volume13 Track 5
Track 05: Sword of Catastrophe
Mariydi did not want to let go of the military motorcycle since it had excellent specs, but some things could not be helped. She had concluded the Legitimacy Kingdom’s Lævateinn combat train could not target it, but she had to be extra cautious here. In other words, continuing along the elevated highway would be too dangerous and descending to the forest was safer. And since there were no interchanges along the way, she had to abandon the motorcycle to climb down.
Luckily, they were deep in the forest and mountains.
There was a tall tree right next to the highway and she could easily descend using its branches and trunk for footholds.
After descending the height of a 3-story building and setting foot on the humus that was a friend to the great kingdom of insects, Mariydi heard a trembling and unreliable voice from overhead.
Nancy Jolly-Roger had made it partway down and then gotten too scared to continue in either direction, so she was clinging to the tree trunk and shaking.
“E-ee-eeeeeek… It’s too high. I’m no good with heeeeiiiiights.”
“Hurry on down, panty-shot supplier.”
As soon as she jumped in shock, the fried shrimp lost her balance and fell, breaking smaller branches along the way. She had gotten stuck partway down from a 3-story height, so it was about the same as jumping down from a tallish slide. Plus, she landed on soft humus.
After landing right on her butt with her legs spread as if to show off the underwear below her torn stockings, Nancy tearfully rubbed the back of her hips.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.”
“Get up already, chick panties. If that’s all it did to you, it can’t hurt too badly.”
“Please don’t make that nickname so specifiiiic!!”
“I may not be one to talk, but kiddy-style cotton material? Really?”
“I like how it feels!! And the only underwear with the soft material I like happens to have this kind of picture on iiiit!!”
“If you say so. …If you ask me, it looks more like you have the kind of humiliation fetish that leads people to wear a chastity belt below their normal cloth-…”
“Be quiet, you monster! Be quieeeeet!!”
The busty glasses fried shrimp blushed a bright red, panicked, and covered Mariydi’s mouth with a hand. She had not wiped off her soft hand after falling into the humus, so the ace pilot punished her rudeness by grabbing her wrist and lightly throwing her aside.
This time, the chick panties girl was flipped upside down and sticking her butt into the air as she tearfully complained about her terrible treatment.
“I-I have rights as a human being, you knowww?”
“Sorry, single flower vase, but this is the Northern Restricted Zone.”
The Lævateinn had continued to fight for more than 2 weeks after being derailed by a suicide sabotage mission and it was stopped only a few kilometers from here. No amount of air-to-surface missiles (ASM) had managed to stop it. The monster was so solid that no one could think of a way to destroy it. And this dark forest was already within range of its deadly attack.
“That thing is covered in battleship-style heavy cannons that use old-fashioned gunpowder charges. That means it can make surface-to-surface attacks just fine. If it notices us, moving behind cover won’t save us. It’ll crush the entire terrain flat with a giant hand and that’s that.”
(But that also means it can’t fire on us if we’re too close for the battleship-level of parabolic arc it needs.)
It was the same as a mortar. If the target was too close, the curved ballistic path made it harder to aim. And even if you did successfully aim, you could easily be caught in the blast yourself.
“Ah. Wait, please waaaiiit…”
Unless they destroyed the Lævateinn that had effective control of this area, they could not focus on a search for the flight recorder. Mariydi was currently armed with a carbine, grenades, a handgun, and a military knife. She had already used the rocket launcher and it would not have done anything against a steel mass the size of Ayer’s Rock anyway.
(Honestly, this is the problem with an intentionally isolated Galapagos like this. And why is a weapon larger than an Object fidgeting nervously around over there?)
At any rate, observation came first.
That meant approaching the Lævateinn that could no longer move.
“Don’t breathe so heavily and writhe around like that just from a short hike through the mountains. Are you supposed to be a walking sex symbol?”
“C-can you at least call me a sexy young ladyyy?”
“You have some nerve suggesting that in those chick panties.”
“Please stop repeating personal information like you’ve stumbled on a great secreeeeet!”
As she panted, gasped, and moaned, Nancy gave off a slight sweet scent which left Mariydi very worried about the possibility of any trained dogs in the area. She wanted to believe that an indoor worker would not wear perfume if she was heading to the battlefield, but if it was not perfume, what was that incredibly sweet aroma mixed into her sweat? Was it a human-attracting pheromone that had yet to be properly discovered?
As they continued along, the forest started to thin out, so Mariydi came to a stop. With the handmade ghillie suit over her head, she kept low and leaned against the final tree.
She saw a gray mass there.
“That’s the destroyed capital of Asgard. That’s all that remains of the largest city here back before Scandinavia was known as a restricted zone. It was known as the City of 5 Million back then.”
It was a strange sight. It looked like it had been destroyed by an aerial bombardment, but the damage was worse in the center than the outer edges. Some diagonally-tilted high-rise buildings remained on the outer edges, but the damage grew worse further in and it eventually became nothing more than unrecognizable rubble.
“Asgard used an Object reactor to power the energy infrastructure needed for its giant financial district, but it was also surrounded by a powerful anti-air and anti-surface cannon formation made up of 12 main cannons and more than 100 others. It used thick underground power cables to supply immense amounts of power to the swiveling laser beam cannons and railguns attached to the ground by powerful concrete foundations. You can think of it as an Object that took the nuke-resistant spherical main body and spread it out into the form of a city.”
“So how did this happen to it…?”
“Look at Asgard as a weapon. How could you kill it and secure your safety while it was pouring extra-large shells down on you?”
“Enough aerial bombs and SSMs to blow away the reactor rained down on the City of 5 Million without even an evacuation warning. In the end, the reactor buried deep below went berserk, triggered a major explosion, and obliterated Scandinavia’s largest financial city. What you see here is the result. I’ve only seen it in the video archives, but there supposedly wasn’t even a sea of blood left. That’s the horrifying war record that led to Objects being restricted from Northern Europe.”
That overwhelming social trauma was too strong for the lie of the clean wars to overpower it.
This was the only place in the world where anti-Object statements were not shut out of mass media.
It was more than just the number of deaths. There was still plenty of speculation as to why there had been no evacuation warning: for the strategic advantage, a simple miscommunication, someone had acted rashly to protect their allies from the massive artillery fire, etc. But there would also have been misguided hatred for the 5 million people who had secured a nice peaceful life in the middle of a quagmire of a war.
It was a local issue, but that negative turning point of history had twisted the flow of time for the entire world.
And now the Legitimacy Kingdom military had enshrined a different sort of colossal weapon atop the giant grave marker for those 5 million. They could only thank god that the Lævateinn combat train did not have a JPlevelMHD reactor installed.
“By the way, the band called Boy Racer used Asgard for the jacket photo of their major debut album. Those bastards are defiling a holy site.”
It was time to get a look at that scum.
The Lævateinn had used the existing tracks and re-laid some of the tracks that had been lost in the explosion of the destroyed capital of Asgard. That was why tracks ran through what should have been a ghost town with a giant crater in the center.
It was 520 meters long, 65 meters wide, and 40 meters tall.
Long ago during the early days of SALs, trust in aerial transportation had been shaken, so there had been a rush to develop land and sea routes. It had apparently been a magma-like mixture of national research and amateur inventions. 8-lane large-scale transportation routes, which were even wider than the elevated highway Mariydi and Nancy had used earlier, were seen here and there throughout the Northern Restricted Zone. Those were one sign of the struggles during that chaotic time.
It really was like a mass of black steel.
If you knocked a high-rise building on its side and filled its entire volume with special steel, would it look as impressive? A battleship could be sunk by opening a hole and letting the water in, but how much firepower would be needed to purely destroy one if it was on land? And the Lævateinn problem was even greater than that hypothetical battleship.
Among the giant train’s total of 6 cars, the large circular mass crossing between 3 of the cars stood out the most.
“Wh-what is that…?”
“The demonic sword that saved us. The high-speed gun car moves along a closed loop of linear rails and the appropriate amount of both centrifugal force and liquid gunpowder are used to fire the shell the appropriate distance. This kind of artillery normally uses solid gunpowder, so some high military official must really want to intervene in the deployment of new methods. Of course, even this crazy thing can reach the stratosphere.” Mariydi sounded exasperated by that ridiculous obsession. “The front and back cars have connectors to the circular rail that act as a damper so that it can slide properly around the curves without doing any damage. But it’s just too heavy for bridges and too wide for normal tunnels, so it has to travel along the coast. And that means you should assume it has the destructive power to make up for those negatives.”
Needless to say, that was not its only weapon. The top had so many guns embedded in it that it looked like honeycombs. Those adjustable antiaircraft guns functioned like a pitching machine, so the internal rifling could be adjusted to the values needed to apply the appropriate spin for curving the shell however one wanted. The individual shots were not all that accurate, but the many guns provided a storm-like barrage across a full surface. Mariydi had felt a chill in her gut when faced by that during an earlier bombing mission. Even if you escaped the one-shot mushroom cloud, you would have to face another hell while fighting the turbulence.
The Lævateinn was not unharmed.
It had small damage here and there and the armor looked like it had been torn apart by claws in places. But not even all that damage was enough to stop it. The real problem was its incredible mass. It was like challenging a beached great white shark with only a plastic fork.
(Attacking with the weapons I have on hand won’t get me anywhere. Can I trigger an explosion like with the Thor’s Hammer?)
That giant structure was being run without an Object reactor. There were plenty of fuel trucks and thick hoses around it. There would also be combat engineers re-laying the rails destroyed by the sabotage operation to get the Lævateinn back on track.
The area had been turned into a small city.
Just like the giant aircraft carriers of an older age, a crew of 3000 to 5000 was used to run a single weapon system. All of those people needed food, clothing, and a bed to sleep in and entertainment facilities were also a must to maintain their mental health, so a military weapon really would begin behaving much like an independent city.
It was easy to forget given the Lævateinn’s size, but the area was full of collapsed buildings and rubble blocked the roads like the aftermath of a landslide. They may have intentionally caused some collapses so they could use them like trenches. It would probably look like a giant three-dimensional labyrinth when viewed from a satellite.
“Uheh. How can they stand all this dust? The air must be so stuffy…”
“Let’s take a look at the ruler of this mansion of trash. The mansion they’ve created might seem like heaven to them, but I really don’t want to mess with someone else’s pile of trash. Of course, they would probably feel the same if our positions were reversed.”
Mariydi then breathed an exasperated sigh.
“An Object needs a battalion of about 1000, but are these people going for a world record or something? Why would they go this far? I feel like I’m looking at a ridiculously large paella pot.”
“C-can you please stop talking about food…”
“Yeah, the whole area will smell like roast meat before long.”
“That wasn’t what I meeeaaaant!”
Whether it was a tank or a fighter, armored weapons were basically collections of fuel and explosives. The bigger they were, the greater the risk of an induced explosion. That was the reason the damage from a strategic stealth bomber was so much greater than from a small reciprocating engine plane used for disseminating agrochemicals.
Giant weapons were all twisted in their own way.
Mariydi sometimes suspected that those Objects had nuke-resistant armor not out of fear of damage from without but to manage the risks they contained inside.
“So it’s using diesel fuel. Did they just use a ship or submarine engine?”
“Only about 800 people are directly involved in running the weapon. But conveniently roasting everything within that thick armor would not be easy. Using an explosion here would be difficult.”
Besides, she doubted they could reach the Lævateinn just by approaching on the surface.
The abandoned city’s buildings had been demolished in a calculating way to cover everything in rubble and create a giant three-dimensional labyrinth. The only ways through would definitely have soldiers posted and the entire labyrinth could be seen from the Lævateinn which stuck up above everything else. And if they were noticed, a battle with thousands of soldiers would be unavoidable. Getting close enough to be in the giant cannon’s blind spot was not enough.
“Wh-what exactly are you going to dooo?”
“If we can’t directly destroy the weapon, we just have to get rid of the people controlling it.”
Mariydi put her hands on her slender hips, took a breath, and thanked the wonderful air that covered this blue planet.
“There’s tons of fuel here, so let’s slaughter them with common carbon dioxide.”
Even if it only looked like rubble now, this place had once been the largest financial city in Scandinavia. It had plumbing, power cables, gas pipes, fiber optic cables, subway tracks, flood-prevention waterways, and plenty more spread out underground like a giant spider web. That meant it was relatively easy to sneak into that “small city” with a few thousand people working in it.
Mariydi and Nancy used the underground maintenance entrance for a power cable thicker around than their arms. It did not look like a normal high-voltage line, so it was probably a military standard used to carry power from the central reactor to the anti-air and anti-surface laser beams (LB) and railguns (RG). However, rainwater had gotten in through the small holes used to help open the manhole, so the ground below their feet was mostly coated in dried sludge.
Mariydi used a torch made from a stick and some rags to advance through the tunnel until she spotted a ladder up to a manhole. She observed the surface through the small holes on the manhole cover.
“What are you doing?”
After determining they were below a truck, she stealthily opened the manhole and stabbed her thick knife into the belly of the military truck. It did not have to gush out. She only needed a unique-smelling liquid to pour down underground.
She repeated the process a few times, opened a hole in the tank of a fuel truck along the way, and then nodded in satisfaction back underground.
Unable to bare the unfamiliar stench, Nancy’s head wobbled unsteadily on her shoulders.
“Urp. I think this is going to kill us fiiiirst.”
“I’m already done.”
They now had puddles here and there in the spider web of crisscrossing underground pathways. After confirming they connected like an amoeba, Mariydi took the torch back from Nancy and tossed it into the puddle.
The darkness was instantly driven back by the color orange.
It was not just gasoline that was burning. The dried sludge on the ground seemed to be working like dried grass.
Mariydi shut an eye as the heat pressed in on her head.
“An underground fire is hard to notice from aboveground, but the updraft produced by the heat will carry the contaminated air up through the manholes.”
Carbon dioxide was everywhere, but it was colorless and odorless. By the time the Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers working “above the smokestacks” realized where the smoke and odd smell were coming from, it would be too late. Humans lived in earth’s atmosphere, but if the ratio of nitrogen or carbon dioxide changed even slightly and reduced the amount of oxygen by even a few percentage points, they would fall unconscious and collapse.
That was simple enough to do in a sealed space, but was it really possible in the open air?
There was only one answer.
“They knocked down the buildings to make a trench-like three-dimensional labyrinth. After working there day in and day out, surely they know all too well how stagnant the air gets within all those thick walls.”
“B-but will this really fill the Lævateinn with carbon dioxiiide? Something that big is sure to have purification filters on its ducts.”
“That’s why we have a little more work to do.”
Mariydi walked to the safe exit she had made sure would be protected from the flames and smoke.
“Whatever this means for the Lævateinn, the few thousand working outside of it will be dead now. So as long as we protect ourselves from the carbon dioxide, we can walk around outside without anyone stopping us.”
“A-and what does that get us?”
“The Lævateinn itself runs on a giant diesel engine. We just have to set this up like a suicide inside a car. If we approach the exhaust pipe and shove something inside to clog it up, the even-more-dangerous carbon monoxide it’s creating will fill the interior.”
Incidentally, what was commonly referred to as a “gasmask” was meaningless without a filter attached for the kind of toxin or bacteria one wanted protection from.
What would you use if excess carbon dioxide was reducing the amount of oxygen in the air?
The answer was simple: lime.
To omit the details, lime absorbed carbon dioxide, so it would allow you to breathe even inside the contaminated air. Theoretically, it could absorb the carbon dioxide from your own exhalations and let you breathe it again just like caustic soda.
This was not a chemical weapon that could be absorbed through the skin, so anyone could put one together for a summer break project using a plastic bottle and an anti-dust mask used for tunnel construction. The lime used for the filter could be found anywhere in the city full of rubble.
“That should do it.”
Mariydi opened a random manhole and climbed up to the surface.
This was the same place as the jacket photo for Boy Racer’s debut album. It was like a holy site for the girl and it spread out around her like a dull world of death.
“International treaties aren’t perfect. Chemical reactions produced by normal fires can’t be classified as chemical attacks. You couldn’t exactly wage war otherwise, but it’s still pretty frightening…”
There had not been a single gunshot or a drop of spilled blood, so thousands of soldiers lay collapsed on the ground without ever knowing what was happening to them. And their expressions showed it had not been a peaceful death. More than pain, their faces were plastered with looks of fear and confusion concerning the sudden death approaching them. It looked like they had been hit by a strange curse.
“You can vomit in your mask if you want, but don’t remove it.”
The Lævateinn combat train had fallen silent. Those inside had to have learned of the abnormal situation outside thanks to the transmissions from their allies. They had not even cracked the solidly-sealed explosion-resistant door, but that was of course to prioritize their own lives. The dead were piled up on top of each other near the entrance that had never opened.
Mariydi had no right to criticize anyone here.
She was the one who had created this hell.
And without the thousands of workers, Mariydi and Nancy could reach the wall of the giant weapon. Just like a human could not directly view a fly on their face, point-blank range was a blind spot.
Mariydi pulled out a perfectly normal blue plastic sheet and balled it up. The exhaust duct was on the roof of the first car. Normally, it would have been impossible to climb a 40 meter cliff, but there were plenty of crane and elevator trucks around it for maintenance. She left the fried shrimp below as she walked along a diagonally-extended metal arm to reach the Lævateinn’s roof where she stuffed the balled-up plastic sheet in the exhaust duct.
That alone would be effective enough and it would only work better if the heat melted the plastic.
(Preparing multiple filtered ventilation openings seems kind of meaningless when you line all the intake points up in one place. Well, they may have wanted to keep them all together to more easily control hem in case of an internal rebellion. Whatever the case, I might as well plug them all up along with the exhaust port.)
Repeating the same task over and over could break one’s spirit, but it was not bad when she knew it was having real results.
Good things come to those who wait.
And even if the Lævateinn crew noticed what was happening and rushed outside, their fate would be little different in the oxygen-deprived air. Their only options were death in a cramped space or death in a wide open space.
A short distance away, Mariydi and Nancy waited a good while to make sure the giant weapon was dead.
There had been a chance those inside would panic and desperately scatter that incredible firepower randomly about, but that never happened. Since the crew would not have known what exactly happened to them, they would not have even known if there was an enemy at which to direct their hatred.
The Lævateinn had been silenced.
“Let’s get going. The other world powers will move in once they learn the demonic sword is broken and we’ll be in trouble if the Capitalist Corporations resumes their game of tag. Let’s keep the wind direction in mind and remove our masks once we’re far enough away.”
“I think there’s something wrong with a world where this cruel method doesn’t violate any international treaties.”
Finding the crashed Zig-27 fighter was entirely reliant on Mariydi’s memories from her pleasure flight down in the torn parachute. She estimated the direction and distance based on what she had seen then.
And after experiencing a second tragedy, the destroyed capital of Asgard had plenty of motorcycles and trucks with the keys in the ignition, so they borrowed a Legitimacy Kingdom four-wheel drive truck.
“Puhahh. I’m finally free of that thing.”
Mariydi of course climbed into the driver’s seat and removed her handmade gasmask, but…
“Hm? Oh, hell.”
“What is it?”
The fried shrimp in the passenger seat looked puzzled, but Mariydi only blushed and refused to explain. Sounds of metal joints adjusting continued for a bit, but they had nothing to do with starting up the vehicle.
Finally, the glasses girl looked down from Mariydi’s face to her feet.
“…Hey, what do you think you’re looking at? It’s really nothing.”
“Oh, are your legs too short to reach the-…”
“They aren’t short! Don’t screw with me, you lumps of fat!! Look at the overall proportional balance of my body and my hips are positioned higher than yours!!”
“Yes, yes. There are lots of sexy curves on that widdle body of yours.”
“Wait! No! I’m sorry! How is it even possible to use a seatbelt like tha- gwehh?”
Simply put, she was struggling to adjust the driver’s seat. Unlike the off-road motorcycle, it was difficult for her to use this macho military truck.
After moving her seat quite a bit lower than the passenger seat, Mariydi could finally stroke the foot pedals with her feet.
“Let’s get going.”
“Can you even see out with your seat that low?”
“Why are you surrounded by a victorious aura when you haven’t done a damn thing!? And since when were you in any position to tease me, you burden!?”
Messing with the car stereo only found dumb, mass-produced pop songs with clichéd lyrics about love and dreams, so Mariydi clicked her tongue and connected her own handheld music player.
Intense deep notes immediately filled the solid truck.
“U-uwehhh!? What is this!?”
“It’s Boy Racer’s Crack Life. You’ve gotta play their major debut song if you’re visiting this holy site!”
“Is this the band you were talking about…?”
“I don’t know what kind of biases you’ve let people give you, but I recommend watching what you say, you pleb.”
They left the city and returned to the conifer forest. In one area, the trees had been knocked over and were smoking. The Zig-27 crash seemed to have ignited them, but it had ended as a localized fire instead of growing into a large wildfire.
(It’s all still mostly in one piece. No one really cares about fighters these days, but maybe I should mix in some aluminum or iron oxide powder to incinerate it later.)
It was ironic that the more cutting edge the tank or fighter, the less allowable it was to have it destroyed on the front line. There had even been a time when stealth fighters were so expensive that they were only used to decorate showcases at air shows to intimidate enemy nations.
Regardless, the fighter’s flight recorder was her top priority.
After stopping the truck near the crash site, Mariydi watched out for the fuel tank and for unexploded ordnance like missiles as she crouched low and approached the center. Nancy the fried shrimp girl was in charge of perfectly following the path Mariydi took.
“There it is.”
Mariydi crouched down and pulled something from the mess of mangled metal scraps and wiring. It was a heat-resistant reinforced plastic package a little thicker than a slice of toast. It had been scorched black, but undoing the screws and removing the cover revealed the device inside was safe.
She connected her portable music player to the flight recorder with a cable and operated a dial to check through the data inside.
Flight recorder data was made to be incredibly difficult to modify or erase, but it could be easily viewed or played. It made sense considering its main purpose.
“So what happened just before the crash…?”
When shaken by intense inertial Gs while undergoing extreme tension, a pilot risked blacking out due to lack of blood to the brain. Memories while piloting a fighter could sometimes be vague or hazy.
She remembered blowing up the SAMs with her regular gun to save her wingmen in the Ice Squadron, but that was while experiencing blindness and a piercing headache courtesy of the laser light. That left so much of an impact that she could not at all remember what dumb things she had said with her wingmen when it was not a life or death issue.
She used the objective recording device to recover that lost time.
…However, she did not know what exactly had triggered this trouble, so she could not just input a keyword to find the results like it was a search engine. She could speed up the playback to an extent, but she still had to listen through the recording.
“Fwehh. Are you still not dooone?”
“Quit distracting me, fried shrimp.”
“Are you sure you aren’t checking the wrong part of the recording?”
Mariydi glared at her, wondering if she was a demon who transformed people’s worries and doubts.
And she saw the idiot doing something.
“Hm, hm, hm, hm, hmmm☆”
“…Hey, fried shrimp. What in the world are you doing???”
“Tah dahhh! A crown of flowerrrrs☆”
“This is a battlefield where stepping on a branch can be the difference between life and death! So why are you picking all the flowers around here!?”
“You wouldn’t have such a harsh mindset if you didn’t put so much pressure on yourself. You need to forget all about that war mode and…look, when you wear this, you look so girly.”
The fried shrimp even removed Mariydi’s ghillie suit and placed the crown of flowers on her head.
“Why are you putting such an obvious target on my head, fried shrimp? Are you trying to get me shot by a sniper who could be hiding somewhere around here?”
“Didn’t we take out all the Lævateinn people?”
There could always be elites who had crossed the border…but arguing any further would accomplish nothing. She was defenseless enough just crouching down and struggling with the crashed fighter’s recorder.
(I hope I can finish this soon…)
“~ ~ ~”
“Huh? Are you not used to dressing up cute? But you look so pretty, even if you aren’t so pretty on the inside.”
“Shut up! I’m trying to concentrate!”
While blushing and fidgeting restlessly, she finally found something different.
She heard some mechanical static.
“Ksshh…!! Kssshhh! …CT here…oblem with the datalink. Ksshh! Watch out for delays in the update speed!! Ksssshhhh!!”
“That’s a lot of statiiic. Is it broken?”
“Of course not.”
The flight recorder was designed to survive the impact of a crash. If that was enough to break it, it would need to be recalled.
In that case, what was causing this static drowning out the conversation?
“…Was the MA being jammed?”
Only after saying it herself did it start to seem real.
“Yes, that’s right. We were hit by the Thor’s Hammer’s light because the map was slow to update, but that wasn’t CT’s fault. The jamming had nearly cut off the datalink, so the detailed updates to the map couldn’t keep up.”
But who had been behind the jamming?
It of course would not have been Mariydi’s Capitalist Corporations. Then had it been the Information Alliance who controlled the Thor’s Hammer? That seemed the most likely, but all four world powers were in constant conflict in the Northern Restricted Zone. It was possible the Legitimacy Kingdom or Faith Organization had done it to take advantage of the situation.
The girl heard her own recorded voice speaking.
“There seems to be an ordered signal inside the random noise.”
Her voice was not staticky because it had been recorded without passing through the communicator.
“Ha hahn. I bet they sent out this largescale jamming to hide the secret transmission they didn’t want anyone hearing. In that case…”
“Ksshh!! Ice H…3 to I…Girl 1. Kssshhh! Commander, what…ing? Kssshhh!!”
“The Zig-27 is loaded with too many processors. Why would I need to lock on with that many missiles at once? I’ll actually make that useful for once. I wonder if the spare processing space can decrypt this weak signal.”
Mariydi slapped her forehead.
Everyone cursed their past actions at some point, even if it was entirely useless.
“I’m such an idiot. I should have sent that to the unused AWACS server…”
“What does this meeeaaan?”
She had no way of answering that.
Someone in the Northern Restricted Zone had used largescale jamming to hide a secret chat and now they had put out a reward for capturing Mariydi who had secretly recorded it. That was all she knew. The identity and scope of her enemy was entirely unclear.
She doubted the actual decryption had finished.
She only had the raw data on the recorder, so she would need to hook it up to a supercomputer to find the answer. 50 billion dollars. Someone wanted this data enough to offer up a sum rivalling the cost of 10 Objects. They would never want her to have this. Whether she had decrypted it or not, possessing the original data could be used as deterrence and a threat.
And just as she considered that, she heard something.
It was a deep, bestial growling.
The growling was coming from more than one place. They seemed to be surrounded. Mariydi clicked her tongue, picked up the scorched flight recorder, and looked around. These would not be trained military dogs. The shepherds and dobermans that had been made into soldiers would not bark or growl unless it was necessary as a threat. That suggested these were probably wild wolves or something.
But that was enough of a threat.
And carelessly firing a gun could alert any number of people to their position. This area was effectively controlled by the Legitimacy Kingdom’s Lævateinn, but who could say how many soldiers from the other world powers had snuck in. Avoiding gunfire as much as possible was standard practice.
Thus, Mariydi quickly arrived at a plan.
“Strip, fried shrimp.”
“My name is Nancyyy! And don’t just ask me to strip! I’m a girl, this is a Scandinavian forest, it’s freezing out, and I can’t even explain all the ways that’s messed uuuup!!”
“Just do it. I need that jacket of yours.”
Mariydi swiped the fried shrimp’s jacket without taking no for an answer and then wrapped it around her left arm. She then drew the military knife from her ankle using her right hand. She would let the wolf bite the thick cloth and then slash its throat. That would be the best way to slay the beast without injury or noise.
“If a wolf goes for you, you’re on your own. It’ll probably bite you on the ass and tear off one of the cheeks, but just think of it as a diet.”
“No, thank yooouuu! Please give me a shield too! It’s my jacket, isn’t iiit!?”
“If you’re that scared, then wrap your skirt around your arm. (Of course, you’ll just be tossed around if you don’t have the skill to guide it to your arm, fix its jaw in place, and slash its throat within 3 seconds.)”
“I think you have an obligation to explain that part you whispered!!”
She must really have been scared because she quickly unzipped the tight skirt, removed it, and held it in her hand, transforming herself into a chick panties glasses fried shrimp with an extra-large side of boobs, but then something odd happened.
There was definitely a low growling.
Something rustled through the underbrush and appeared between the trees.
But it was not a wolf or a wild dog.
A young man in a military uniform was walking forward with his head lolling unsteadily back and forth. He was likely one of the Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers who had been maintaining the Lævateinn. His eyes were unfocused, drool dripped from the corners of his mouth, and he was unarmed and emptyhanded, so he must not have been fully conscious. It was possible the oxygen deprivation attack using the carbon dioxide had partially destroyed his brain function.
Mariydi narrowed her eyes.
An enemy was an enemy. She considered taking him out with her knife, but then there was more movement.
The rustling came from more than one point. More and more men and women in military uniforms approached through the trees and underbrush. There were more than 20 in all. And that number continued to grow. Covert activity was meaningless at this point. Mariydi swapped out her knife for her carbine and did not hesitate to shoot one of the nonresistant soldiers.
Shot through the head, the young man collapsed backwards.
Unable to fully control the recoil, her aim was shifted a bit as she moved to the female soldier next to the man. This shot tore away the flesh of her shoulder, but then something odd happened.
The woman’s expression remained unchanged.
Whether it hit her vitals or not, a direct hit from a rifle bullet should have been enough to kill her from shock, but she continued walking forward while dripping blood.
(What is this…?)
Shooting the woman through the heart did the trick, but that was as far as Mariydi got.
The gunshots seemed to have triggered something, so the 20+ unsteady soldiers began rushing in toward her.
Mariydi fell back while reducing their numbers as much as possible with the carbine. The fried shrimp (in a white blouse and chick panties) stared blankly for a moment before frantically running after the smaller girl. The group of soldiers continued charging forward even with dark red holes in their chest or gut, so they inspired a different sort of fear from a trained fighter.
But partial consciousness was not enough to explain this.
Their sense of pain and fear had clearly been erased and they were ruled by a desire for primitive violence. Yes, not one of them had drawn a handgun or knife. They only extended their arms, opened their mouths, and tried to bite the girls.
Mariydi and Nancy ran back to the military four-wheel drive truck.
Mariydi started the engine after tossing the unneeded jacket to Nancy who had circled to the passenger side. The fried shrimp began complaining with a pale face and tears behind her glasses.
“What was that!? Those are like the monsters in a zombie moviiieee!”
That term caught in a corner of Mariydi’s mind.
Regardless, she set off in the truck. There were some battered soldiers in the way, but she floored the gas pedal regardless and ran them over with the high-riding truck. With each dull sound, Nancy held her head in her hands and squeezed her eyes shut.
“Oh, right. Zombies. I’ve heard about that before.
“What is it now? Is this a joooke!?”
“Not at all. I’m talking about synthetic molecular motors.”
“…Aren’t zombies caused by a mysterious virus?”
“It’s a similar idea.”
She regretted being unable to incinerate the mass of metal at the crash site, but she had no more use for this forest now that she had the flight recorder. The best course of action was to let the truck’s horsepower carry them out of there.
“Synthetic molecular motors are a technology that can draw out or suppress ‘tension’ at the molecular level in reaction to certain kinds of light or electromagnetic waves. It’s said they could be used to further shrink down computers and memory storage devices.”
“What does that have to do with zombiiieees?”
“It’s all in how you use it. Use your imagination: what if you disseminated a combination of synthetic molecular motors that took on a shape almost identical to the rabies virus? Wouldn’t you have an artificial object that acted exactly the same as rabies? And since it’s completely artificial, you could freely switch it on and off from the outside. You could infect 10,000 people and only trigger symptoms in a specific person or you could link it to GPS and program it to make people go berserk only in a certain city while automatically switching off once they left that area. That would recreate the fictional zombies supposedly only seen in movies.”
“Of course, actual rabies doesn’t make people indiscriminately bite everyone around them like it does with dogs, but that’s the scary thing about something completely artificial that can be fine-tuned to the liking of the developer. The smallpox-based experimental model I’m familiar with could alter the incubation period between infection and the appearance of mock symptoms. Think about it: what if you made the synthetic molecular motors so they would break down like a puzzle and leave the body after the target’s death? Makes a scientific examination sound a lot more frightening, doesn’t it? In the case of a rabies molecular motor, I bet they’ve made it spread far faster than the real thing. If I had to guess, I would say they don’t invent a new disease from scratch so they can predict the level of damage in case of trouble.”
The fried shrimp was rendered entirely speechless.
…But in that case, there had to be a third party who had disseminated the invisible rabies molecular motors to create the zombies to attack Mariydi and Nancy. They had to be the true villain here. They would be the vanguard of whoever wanted to retrieve the recording of that secret conversation masked by the jamming and whoever was willing to pay 50 billion dollars for the death of Mariydi who had recorded it.
Mariydi would have loved to catch them, but that would be difficult while being pursued from all sides. Escaping the infected area came first.
However, that was easier said than done.
The soldiers infected by the rabies molecular motors were not using handguns or knives, but…
The truck plowed through the white-eyed soldiers who dropped down from the trees alongside their path and the tire drove right over the head of another soldier who crawled out from a bush. In a normal vehicle, the zombies could have gotten caught in the gap between the ground and the chassis and stopped the vehicle. And if enough of them were piled on top of each other, there was still a risk of that happening with the military truck.
This was based on rabies which was orally transmitted through bite wounds. If it had indeed been given an accelerated infection rate, driving even a military truck through the mountains and valleys back to the base might be dangerous. If a large group of zombies blocked the path in a narrow mountain pass, they would be stopped long enough for the zombies to surround the truck.
“Wh-wh-what do we dooo!?”
That left only one idea.
Mariydi Whitewitch was a fighter pilot.
“Let’s swipe a fighter from an AB around here. Not even those zombies can touch us if we’re cruising through the sky.”