HEAVY OBJECT:Volume13 Track 6
Track 06: Dead to the Next
Did they chase after anything that moved, or could they be programmed to attack Mariydi specifically?
The military truck was fast enough to lose those chasing them from behind, but the ones who rolled out in front managed to reach the truck. Each time, the chassis shook violently, something wet tore apart, bodily fluids splattered out, and the tires and suspension were coated in the result. It was possible the radiator would eventually burn out and the engine would stall.
“I would be so sick of this if not for Boy Racer’s masterpiece.”
“You’ve been looping the same song so much I’m starting to feel dizzyyy!!”
Before even worrying about traveling by land or air, bringing these things back to her AB would be a problem. That meant she had to lose them first.
“…Either way, the answer is an aircraft.”
While Mariydi held the large steering wheel, Nancy the glasses fried shrimp discovered a folded paper map in the dashboard.
“This is a Legitimacy Kingdom truck, isn’t it? I think these marks all over the map are their military installations.”
“All over the map isn’t good enough. Give me some proper navigation.”
“Where even are we right nowww?”
Nancy looked unsure as she compared the view out the windshield with the map and Mariydi sighed when she glanced over to see her starting to spin the map around in her hands. That girl seemed to violate the law of conservation of energy because the amount she consumed and produced was entirely mismatched.
Gunfire that sounded like a broken buzzer burst from the sky.
One of the other world powers had apparently noticed the military zombies created using rabies molecular motors, so an attack craft with a large isosceles triangle silhouette was sewing a line across the ground using a Gatling gun. The zombies along the gun’s line burst like water balloons.
“E-eek!? We’re dead too if that hits usss!!”
“You’re exactly right…but they don’t seem to be shooting at us. And I doubt this is some kind of gentleman’s agreement.”
Mariydi kept her foot on the gas as she considered this development.
“Yes, since it’s a delta-wing-worshipping G-22 doing the shooting…they probably think we’re on their side since we’re driving around in a Legitimacy Kingdom truck. That’s convenient.”
That meant a Legitimacy Kingdom attack craft was attacking Legitimacy Kingdom infected to protect a Legitimacy Kingdom base. It had probably taken them a while to make that decision, so Mariydi could already see several runways surrounded by fences. It was an airbase. This was far too close in for a defensive line.
And when faced with their misguided savior, Mariydi Whitewitch’s decision was a simple one.
“This is perfect.”
“You monster! You demooon!!”
“That assessment is right on target, but don’t forget that there’s an uncertain element in play here: we don’t know which world power disseminated the rabies molecular motors. It might have been the Legitimacy Kingdom.”
The fried shrimp shrieked, trembled so much her glasses made a chattering noise, and fell silent. If that was true, the people here were truly out of luck, but that was often how war was. It was always a possibility.
After the attack craft passed by overhead a few more times, it finally began slaughtering the zombies with rockets instead of its guns. At the same time, Mariydi stopped the military truck now that they were close enough to the AB.
“Dh, wha-!? If we don’t hurry, the zombies will catch uuup!!”
“This is fine.”
10 minutes later, Mariydi and Nancy began driving toward the Legitimacy Kingdom AB once more. They drove straight toward the guarded front gate without trying any kind of trickery.
“A-are we really doing thisss?”
“Put your skirt back on already. Besides, this isn’t a spy action game with full anti-personnel radar. We can’t sneak into a strictly-guarded base.”
Even in a Legitimacy Kingdom truck, they would still be asked for identification at the gate. If it was found out they were from the Capitalist Corporations, they would be arrested and detained, if not outright shot on the spot. There was a possibility they would be accepted in as a humanitarian act due to the zombie outbreak emergency, but counting on that would be as much of a gamble as betting all your money on 0 during a casino roulette game.
So after stopping in front of the main gate that had a pole lowered like at a railroad crossing, Mariydi had the following conversation with the guard soldier:
“Hey! We don’t have time to sit around and do this by the book!” shouted the guard. “Who are you? Show me your ID and get through the gate or the zombies will catch up!!”
“Oh, is that so? By the way, I’m sure you can hear the back seat shaking.”
“You sure are insensitive. He had to have been one of your comrades originally. And what do you think the zombie trapped in the foot space will do first if I raise the seat back?”
Someone bloody burst out of the opened back door and a quick but gory scene followed.
New screams and gunfire followed.
“Hm, hm, hmm. In we go.”
Mariydi used the chaos to break through the front gate’s pole and drive right on into the base while humming. The dangerous metal claws of a spike lock rose up across the bottom of the entrance, but blowing the tires was actually for the best. Anyone who saw the situation would assume one of their own trucks had panicked and gotten in an accident.
And with the chaos spread this far, there was no need to sneak around.
The biggest advantage of zombies was how a large enemy force could actually help them. The molecular motors had been given a greater infection speed than the original pathogen, so the infected group rapidly grew as the Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers bit the other soldiers.
“This is just scary.”
The infected were filling the base even now. The only uniforms in evidence were Legitimacy Kingdom ones, but bullets and shells were flying within the base, the tanks and hoses of fuel trucks were torn, and aircraft fuel exploded, scattering flames and black smoke.
Mariydi retrieved her handheld music player, left the truck with Nancy, crouched low, and ran across the vast AB while hidden by the rising smoke.
“There really is no such thing as an ally of justice.”
“I’m feeling pretty blessed following you around, though.”
Several fighters and attack craft were stopped next to the runways. Mariydi and Nancy approached one when no official orders had been sent out, but no one tried to stop them. That was because fires had started here and there in the hangars and runways, so the aircraft were being quickly moved to safety. Some were being towed and the pilots were directly hopping into the cockpits of others when the trucks were not arriving in time. Going through the entire tiresome process would have let the fuel tanks and missiles catch fire, so no one was worrying about the formalities.
“The S/G-31… A delta wing that was copied from the Faith Organization. Oh? Looks like they’ve updated it on their own by forcing in a second seat. It only just barely avoids a failing grade, but I guess I can’t be picky.”
No one paid Nancy any heed even though she was not wearing a proper g-suit, so they were apparently willing to take any help they could get. However, they must have been unaware of the ironclad rule that thieves were more than willing to help gather up emergency supplies and trash during a disaster.
Mariydi climbed into the front seat and Nancy into the back. Then they closed the clear canopy.
(The S/G-31 can do VTOL, but…well, it’s safer to use the runway if one’s available. Without weather data from CT, a surprise crosswind could flip us right over.)
Mariydi was finally able to remove the handmade ghillie suit from her head. And she indulged in the same sense of liberation felt when removing a mascot costume.
(Damn. I thought the copied version used an HMD instead of a HUD. And it uses a smelly oxygen mask used by who knows who. Curse this outdated thing.)
It felt a lot like borrowing a damp judo or kendo gi from a stranger, but once again, she could not be picky. She put it on and continued her preparations.
“Oh, so you don’t have to lower the seat this time? Poo hoo hoo.”
“…If it wouldn’t take me with you, I’d pull the eject lever for that one. Why the hell is it always the most annoying people who survive the longest in a zombie outbreak?”
“Wait, it bothers you that much!?”
“It doesn’t bother me! I’m just irritated with your unfair assessment of the situation!!”
They bickered while Mariydi flicked various buttons and switches to continue their preparations. Sitting in a fighter really was the best. It calmed her down.
“Find some string or something to tie around your thighs.”
“Without a g-suit, the inertial Gs will send the blood down to your feet and it won’t come back up. You won’t have enough oxygen in your head and your brain cells will die.”
“Eh? Eh? Is this your revenge on me or something?”
“It’s just the truth.”
Nancy shrieked and frantically got to work.
“If I ignore their CT’s instructions and start to take off, they’re sure to notice something’s up. They’ll catch us in a crossfire then, but…well, we just have to pray.”
“Don’t you have a better plan than thaaaat!?”
In the middle of the chaos, Mariydi made minute adjustments to the delta wing’s flaps and ignited the jet engine. The poor, diligent damage control team that noticed something was wrong and approached from behind the fighter were blasted more than 5 meters back by the explosive flames. The control tower finally began to question them, but 30 seconds had passed since ignition and they were already moving at 250kph.
They were lucky there were no fire hoses lying across the runway.
The S/G-31 piloted by Mariydi broke through the black smoke and took off from the airbase.
“Feeling that invisible hand on your stomach already, huh? Vomit if you want, but take the mask off first. It’s you who’ll experience hell if you don’t.”
“What are we going to do now? Urp, surely they’ll send someone after us…”
“I doubt anyone else will be taking off from that AB. Military weapons are all about procedure, procedure, procedure. With those zombies wandering around, they won’t know who should submit the paperwork or who should sign it.”
Nancy sounded more like she was being slowly crushed by a clear panel of glass than experiencing motion sickness, but she would still be feeling somewhat relieved to have escaped that zombie outbreak. The breath contained a hint of the sigh after a job well done.
“H-ha-have you never wanted to live a normal liiife?”
“Sorry, but this is normal for me.”
However, nothing said they had escaped danger.
A glance at the radar screen showed a few dots rapidly approaching them.
“To get back on topic, the real danger is anyone who was already in the air to protect their air superiority. If we can shake them, we’ll have a nice safe trip through the sky.”
“H-h-ho-h-ho-how are you supposed to do thaaat?”
Instead of answering, Mariydi operated her handheld music player.
Deep notes permeated her entire body and filled her heart with energy.
“Nothing beats rock at times like this.”
“Hey, why do you look so disgusted just seeing the player? Okay, I’ll teach you the true essence of Boy Racer. This is the masterpiece from their 4th album…”
“Noo, please don’t use this inescapable flying room as a chance to proselytiiiiize!”
“Punish Cross 1 to unknown. Punish Cross 1 to unknown. State your affiliation and assigned mission. We’ve received word about what’s going on down below. Even if you panicked and left your post, we will be as accommodating as possible. Follow our guidance and land at another AB.”
It was a 4-craft squadron of S-36 canards with forward-swept wings. They were specialized for high-mobility combat. Normal aircraft had large main wings in the front that swept backwards and then smaller tail wings on the back, but this oddly-shaped fighter had main wings on the back that swept forwards. Its unique aerodynamic control allowed sharp turns that produced such high inertial Gs that it was known as “The Juicer”, but that meant it was an extremely tricky aircraft with a high risk of stalling or losing control if the pilot overdid it.
And Mariydi pouted her lips.
“Cheh. I should’ve grabbed one of those. This thing’s too average to be any fun.”
“U-umm… They seem to be right on our tail to meee.”
“Of course they are. Standard practice is to be all nice at first and then start yelling.”
“Punish Bullet 2 to unknown!! Don’t act spoiled! Don’t you know abandoning your mission and deserting under enemy fire is enough to get you shot!? Unless you want to expose the Northern Restricted Zone to the abnormal weather conditions of scrap metal and mincemeat rain, then obey our orders right this instant!!”
“After scolding their subordinate, they’ll count down to 0. Will they start from 3?”
“Stop it, Bullet 2. They’re one of the allies who have eaten bread and wine at the same table as us. But if they aren’t going to obey, we’ll have to lock onto them. We’ll give you a five count. Please do as we say.”
“Oh, 5 whole seconds? The Punish Squadron must care for their comrades.”
“I’ve heard talk of them. But they stick to defense missions deep in their own territory and barely join the real fun, so I haven’t had a chance to take them on directly.”
With a ferocious smile, Mariydi flicked on the radio.
She could have stayed silent and attacked them, but she showed her respect for the enemy’s ace squadron.
She waited until the pause between one song and the next. And…
“This is Ice Girl 1. Show me a good time, Legitimacy Kingdom exorcists!!”
Mariydi suddenly pulled back on the control column to pitch the nose straight up, catching air resistance with the entire aircraft. It rapidly decelerated and the Punish Squadrons’ canards with forward-swept wings passed right by them and overshot them.
This was a special maneuver known as the Pugachev’s Cobra.
Dogfights between fighters basically came down to a fight over taking a position behind the enemy. This was a world where going for anyone who carelessly showed their tail was standard practice. Mariydi enjoyed the pleasant stimulation of the deep notes passing through her body and focused her mind.
(2 of them overshot and the other 2 are still behind me. But we’re nice and close!)
The HUD’s tactical information placed boxes over the 2 S-36s.
It was not difficult for modern fighters to lock onto multiple targets at once. A different guide pursued each enemy craft. The enemies were lined up in a straight line so soon over overshooting her, so the two displays soon settled in place.
“U-umm, concentrating on things up front is all well and good, but what about behind usss!? They’re right on our tailll!!”
(That’s why you need to let me focus, you idiot!!)
When the 2 displays surrounded the targets, the frames changed from green to red. That meant the lock was complete. Pressing the red button on top of the control column would fire air-to-air missiles (AAM).
Several orange lines shot right past them, overshooting them. The 2 fighters behind them were firing their machine guns. They must not have been trying to hit her right away. They intended to restrict her movements so they could get a proper lock.
“An alarm is blaring! What does that mean!? Did we get hit somewherrrre!?”
(So they have Defense Beta. I don’t have much time!!)
Mariydi grimaced at the rude warning buzzer intruding on the hard rock and she accurately moved her fingertips. The AAMs loaded on the S/G-31 were Ballista IIs. They were known as “fire and forget” which meant she did not have to keep track of them after launching them. After firing the necessary missiles, Mariydi scattered flares from the tail wings like horse dung and began a sharp turn.
“Attack Delta: Strike 2.”
The 2 S-36s of the Punish Squadron in front of her (she did not know which ones those were) blossomed like fiery flowers in the sky. She had been too focused on shooting them down to take evasive actions, so the remaining 2 had a complete lock on her and had already fired their missiles.
But the blown up and scattered Legitimacy Kingdom fighters were swept backwards by intense air resistance. The wreckage struck the missiles fired by the surviving S-36s and continued back toward their comrades who had sworn revenge on Mariydi. Their special alloy fuselages were torn apart like someone taking a machete to a thin aluminum can.
Page 242 of the Capitalist Corporations Pilot Training Manual said the following: The closer you are in a dogfight, the easier it is for your attacks to hit. But if you are within 3000m of the enemy, be wary of the fragments and wreckage of the destroyed aircraft.
“Accident: Strike 1.”
“Ugh. That’s quite the smug look on your face there, but the other one surviiived!!”
“So you noticed? This is going to get a little rough.”
“Ahhhh, I shouldn’t have said thaaaaaat!!!!!”
She spun the fighter like a screw and then made a deep and sharp turn. Perhaps as a sign of chivalry, whoever it was contacted her over the radio.
“Punish Cross 1 to unknown…”
“Call me Ice Girl 1.”
“I understand your intentions. And I’ll increase your weight by about 20 kilos to allow my lost men to rest in peace. And by that I mean I’ll be killing you by firing 20 kilos worth of bullets into you. I’ll leave it up to you to calculate out how many that is…!!”
“How about you try using that overheated head of yours? Fire at someone that much with a 30mm gun and they’ll lose weight. Even their bones will be blown to pieces. Here, I’ll show you what it’s like.”
That casual exchange acted as a signal.
They began flying in S-shapes to get behind each other. They did not make full comma-shaped circuits because Mariydi had a destination.
“We’re just not a good match, you murderer!!” shouted Punish Cross 1.
“Sorry, but I don’t like it from behind or 69.”
But Mariydi was at a disadvantage given the situation. As said before, dogfights were all about taking a position behind the enemy. When the enemy was already behind you, they naturally had an advantage. Also, Punish Cross 1’s S-36 was specialized for high-mobility to the point that it ignored safety. The S/G-31 was almighty in both anti-surface and anti-air, but it was very generic. The difference in specs made it hard to lose him even with her skill. If they flew in the same curving motion, there would be a difference in their turn radius. It was a lot like trying to escape a racecar in a heavy dump truck.
“Hey, don’t burp. This is a sealed cockpit.”
“But…gweh, gheh…more importantly! Aren’t we in trouble? It’s beeping again!!”
The beeping of course meant they were exposed to the enemy’s radar. That alone did not mean he had a lock, but it was only a matter of time before the lock was complete. Mariydi wiggled her tail back and forth while fleeing to delay it, but that would only last so long.
“I know that. Just another 45 seconds.”
“Is that how long until we diiie!?”
“What are you talking about? Whenever a pilot says something in the air, it’s always about life or death. This is my job.”
The glasses fried shrimp was screaming something, but Mariydi had never really been paying any attention to her.
(I’m impressed she’s lasted this long without a g-suit. Tying strings around her thighs isn’t really all that effective. And it would honestly be quieter and easier to work if she’d just blackout already.)
“Ah, this silence… You’re thinking something I wouldn’t like, aren’t you!?”
“No, I’m honestly impressed. It turns out masochism is a kind of talent.”
Then the promised time arrived.
With the control column in hand, Mariydi clicked her tongue over multiple alarms.
“What does that mean!? Can’t you speak English like a normal persooon!?”
“What language do you think ‘defense’ and ‘beta’ are!?”
Simply put, that meant the enemy had a proper lock, but she decided not to explain that since it would only cause the fried shrimp to go nuts in the cockpit.
But Mariydi had not been fleeing randomly.
From the beginning, they had been flying in S-shapes to get on each other’s tail. They had not been flying around and around in comma-shaped half-circles. …That had prevented her from making any especially bold actions, but she had of course had a reason worth accepting that handicap.
“Ice Girl 1 to all.”
She flicked on the radio switch and spoke in a singsong voice.
“I’m back, Ice Squadron.”
They were right in front of her.
The instant she entered Capitalist Corporations airspace, 3 very familiar Zig-27s charged right toward her. The AAMs flying out ahead of them cut right past Mariydi’s fighter with trails of smoke behind them.
This never could have happened under normal circumstances, but pilots could easily lose sight of direction and distance when making constant sharp turns to the left and right in pursuit of the enemy in front of their eyes. This was especially true for a small one-man fighter like the S-36 when it had no supporters and the surface CT was too busy with a zombie outbreak to provide any advice. The blood must have rushed to his head too much for him to carefully observe his map or radar. Just like a racehorse with a carrot dangling in front of its eyes. When semi-active, missiles could make a lock even if the radar waves did not hit the enemy until after the missiles were fired, so it was hard to detect them in advance.
Punish Cross 1 did not provide a death cry.
There was only a gasp that could oddly be interpreted as both regretful and envious.
Immediately afterwards, the leader of Punish Squadron, who had lost his companions to Mariydi’s deception, was blown up in midair by Ice Squadron who were supported by many comrades. There was no sign of him bailing out. Had he been unable, or had he chosen not to? Members of another squadron working with them were one thing, but Mariydi had never once had one of her own squadron shot down in front of her eyes, so she could not know the answer to that question.
“…Red target strike confirmed.”
The girl rested back in her seat and crossed herself just once. She had no interest in the Faith Organization’s ways, but she showed her respect with a purifying cross.
“About those Capitalist Corporation Zig-27s. Aren’t they taking up position right behind us? Just like those previous fighters?”
The fried shrimp fidgeted in her seat.
“Uh, that isn’t because we’re in a Legitimacy Kingdom fighter and they think we’re an enemy, is it?”
“If so, they would’ve blown us out of the sky on the initial pass. We might not be sending out an IFF, but the radio was playing my voice with a Boy Racer masterpiece in the background. My squadron would know it’s me.”
“Heh, eh heh heh. That’s right. You had it all figured out from the beginning, right!?”
“I did. There’s nothing to worry about.”
“Ohhhh, well that’s a relief. Ah hah hah!!”
“Yeah, once we get back, I need to take a bath while sipping on an ice-cold soda. The ones in a small bottle are nice. Makes me feel like a celebrity.”
The two of them laughed together for a while longer.
Until, that is, a regular gun mercilessly fired at them from behind.