HEAVY OBJECT:Volume1 Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Tom Thumb Runs through the Oil Field >> Battle to Prevent Passage through Gibraltar
A girl known as an Elite, who was nicknamed 'the princess' (whether she liked it or not) by her own army and troops, was inside a giant naval port style of maintenance base zone.
The facility to maintain the Object she piloted had to be quite large to accommodate its over 50 meter size. If the ancient Greek designers who had built the Greek temples had seen the giant structure, they would likely have been utterly shocked. The princess’s Object, Baby Magnum, fit snugly inside the structure.
The Object was surrounded by maintenance walkways and the princess was sitting in the center of the Object itself.
In the center of its sphere-shaped main body was the Object’s cockpit.
To match the shape of the Object, the cockpit itself formed a sphere with a diameter of 2 meters. The seat was ergonomically streamlined, its shape had been calculated out by a computer to limit fatigue as much as possible, and it even had a massage functionality to avoid things such as bedsores.
The cockpit in the center of the Object had no windows or windshields with which to see outside with the naked eye. Her vision out was done solely through monitors working in unison with cameras and sensors. The monitors were curved to cleanly attach to the inside of the sphere and the Elite would constantly be viewing over 300 windows accurately but quickly.
It did not have just one means of control.
The princess used her index finger to lightly tap a device she was wearing that looked like sharp athletic sunglasses.
It was an example of an input device that used infrared rays to read the movements of her eyes, but she also had the more well-known fighter craft-type of control column and a large number of keyboard-like buttons. Any one of the control systems could function as the main system and any one could function as the subsystem.
With multiple main systems and countless derivations given the possible combinations of subsystems, it seemed as if just learning how to use it would be enough to confuse you. However, an Object itself was the military might of an entire nation. Not being able to fight due to a deficiency in the system was not acceptable, so the Elite pilots had to at the very least go through a piloting manual that was thicker than an encyclopedia and many more manuals on top of that in order to ensure they could use any of the derived patterns with no problems and would know what to do in any given situation.
The Elite princess gave a small sigh within the Object that was resting as it was serviced.
The sigh was not due to having just seen what her next mission was and thinking about the families of the people she was about to kill. Instead, she was holding a completely ordinary cell phone in her hand. To prevent hacking, the Object normally cut off all signals from the outside except for a few communications devices independent from the rest of the system, but the barrier walls through the long tunnel-like passageway leading from the cockpit to the outside were all open for maintenance purposes.
She was looking at the cell phone’s small screen.
A short email was displayed there.
It was from her true friend who she had met at a base in Alaska and who had come to save her when she had been in trouble.
The actual content of the email was quite short and blunt, but the princess did not care. She had never before imagined that who had sent it could mean so much more than what it actually said.
“Heh heh heh heh heh. Heh heh heh heh heh.“
She started humming and moving left and right in her seat in a little dance. And then she swung her hand around and accidentally hit a lever with the back of her hand.
One of the giant main cannons moved with a loud kachunk and was about to crush one of the walkways. The princess frantically pulled the lever back in place before the cannon could send the old maintenance lady flying for a homerun.
“Quenser, the mission is about to start. Personal communications are restricted, so put your cell phone away until we enter free time again,” cautioned Froleytia, Quenser’s beautiful superior officer.
Quenser frantically stuck his phone in his pocket.
“The mission is simple,” boasted Froleytia within a large transport craft while shaking the long narrow kanzashi-style hairpin that held her silver hair. “The enemy’s Object is trying to break through the Strait of Gibraltar, the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. Due to the disaster that would occur if it made it through, we must stop the Object before it breaks through the strait but without blowing it up. That is all.”
“That is all!? Stop it without blowing it up? What, are we supposed to give a non-lethal blow to a monster like that?” complained Heivia.
Froleytia must have been aware she was asking the ridiculous because she gave a light shrug.
“The higher ups are seriously ordering that. It seems this Object is transporting a large amount of crude oil it stole and they want to retrieve it. Granted that is a rather reckless order,” Froleytia said simply. “But don’t worry. As the commander on the scene, I will be giving you more realistic orders. …The stolen oil doesn’t matter, so just stop the Object from breaking through the strait. If you need to blow it up, oil and all, that’s fine. That is all.”
“I’d say that’s a pretty reckless order in and of itself. That isn’t an opponent for flesh-and-blood soldiers…” grumbled Heivia, but it seemed Froleytia was not willing to compromise any more than that.
Quenser felt slightly dizzy when he imagined the intense fight to come.
“…The Mediterranean Sea. I guess that’s why the color of the camouflage on the uniforms we were issued was changed to gray.”
“Look, Heivia. Students these days catch on quickly. As an actual soldier, can you let him leave you behind like that? Hmm?”
“Fine, fine. I just have to switch out the camouflage pattern for my rifle, right? God, it’s like switching out the cover of a cell phone.”
“Are you picking a fight with your superior officer, Heivia? If so, hurry up and come at me.”
“You probably don’t want to do that. I think I’d get a little more excited than you’d like if you stepped on my crotch with those slender legs of yours.”
With that response, Heivia started switching out the reinforced plastic parts. While glancing over at him, Quenser spoke to Froleytia.
“Why are you even here, Froleytia? Weren’t you assigned to Alaska?”
“I wasn’t transferred here because I wanted to be. It was those higher ups again. Since you two and the princess will be working on this mission together, they were probably thinking that it would be best to have the same person giving the commands as in Alaska. Really, I’d rather not have to stick around for your grandstanding.”
“What will happen if this Object breaks through the strait? You said it was transporting crude oil it had stolen, right?” asked Quenser in an attempt to change the subject.
“Our country has been cutting off provisions to the enemy base zone for six months now and that would make that half year a complete waste. Apparently, the enemy Object travelling across the sea can also mine for its own oil. Paying no heed to the divisions between international waters and other countries’ territorial waters, it has been drilling up the oil, storing it in itself, and going around distributing it to its allied countries.”
“So it’s something like a delivery service for state-sponsored terrorist groups and it would benefit the world if we sunk it here,” said Heivia as his lips curved slightly.
Quenser shook his head.
“Is oil even needed on a battlefield centered on Objects? Their reactors are JPlevelMHD types, right? I thought those functioned on some special mechanism.”
“That’s the ironic thing. The more advanced technology gets, the more efficient it is to use older things like coal.”
“Yes, but for the JPlevel, it is melted down to have its structure altered before it is re-solidified. Do you know how long it takes to burn through it? Once you put that fuel inside, you don’t have to swap it out for 5 years.”
As they were diverging onto a tangent, Froleytia brought the conversation back on track.
“The oil is used by the maintenance base zone, not the Object itself. Just like with the base you attacked in Alaska, an Object cannot continue to function if it does not undergo maintenance.” As she would be unable to drink once they reached the base, she sipped at a strong shochu. “The goal tape is currently being put up between the two sides of the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a net with mines intertwined at even intervals. It’s supposed to prevent the giant steel form from entering, but who knows how effective it will be against that Object. That’s why the princess’s Object will engage it in battle and you two will act behind the scenes.”
“Sounds like a harsh area. I’ll probably be killed by stray bullets 100 times over,” muttered Heivia.
Quenser looked out the small window on the side of the transport craft. He could see the beautiful blue sea spreading out below the clouds. As he looked down at it, he muttered a few words.
“I’m back, you god damn battlefield.”
The large transport craft Quenser and the others were aboard landed on a runway on the beach, but apparently that was not where the maintenance base zone they were assigned to was located.
“…You’ve gotta be kidding me. That’s right in the middle!” moaned Heivia from atop a crude military boat with standard metal plates covering it and two autocannons on the front and back.
Quenser understood how Heivia felt.
A structure similar to an offshore oil platform stood at almost the very center of the Strait of Gibraltar. It was an island of steel supported by numerous pillars. Apparently, it was a quickly constructed base zone to be used to intercept the enemy Object that was attempting to break through the strait.
The pillars reached over 50 meters above the surface of the water and they supported a ceiling-like sheet about 300 meters square. Below that, many walkways, stairways, and elevators stretched about in every direction.
Quenser looked over at Froleytia.
“We’re just a giant target like this. If we know that huge thing is coming, why don’t we call in the air force rather than just wait for it to come?”
“That won’t work against an Object. Your studies of their designs should have told you that much. Objects are synonymous with war. To stop the monster headed for the Strait of Gibraltar, we had to build a base zone for the princess’s Object.”
Quenser was well aware of that, but he simply did not want to fight.
At any rate, having to work in such a dangerous place was not something a person could easily bear. If the Object bombarded the base zone, their corpses would never rise back to the surface.
Quenser looked around and could see several more similar oil platform-like structures dotting the sea.
“Those are not oil platforms. This area is not a good place to drill,” replied Froleytia when he mentioned that initial impression. “The oil needed for maintenance is gathered from cooperative areas around the world and stored in tanks at the bottom of the sea.”
“…So we’re doing the same thing as them. That really drains my motivation to fight,” Quenser said.
Meanwhile, Heivia disembarked and climbed up the metal stairway on his way to the top of the base zone. Of course, he was not intending to climb 50 meters using the stairway. He was first heading for an open area with a work elevator.
Quenser followed him.
“Hey, why are you so motivated?”
“It seems the higher ups are expecting quite a bit from us. From what I heard, they’ve supplied us with powered suits from the army.”
“Those things will be blown away to the point that not even ash remains from one hit from an Object.”
“But the powered suit might keep us from being blown to pieces by an explosion, right? Being killed by your ally’s armor would be one of the lamest ways to go.”
They came to a large metal plate 10 meters above the surface of the water. The area was over 100 meters wide and stretched about 30 meters back. Since there were a number of cranes stretching down toward the water like fishing poles, it must have been an area for loading and unloading cargo from transport ships. On the wall opposite the cranes, a number of elevators for moving entire containers up and down were prepared. The unrefined elevators were about the size of a family-oriented 3LDK but had only the bare minimum of railings.
Heivia ran around the large space before stopping in the center and spreading his arms wide. He may have been attempting to call down a UFO.
“Arriving at a large base really raises your spirits, doesn’t it?”
“…Filling my mind with knowledge that can’t be used for a thesis is a waste of space.”
“Are you still acting like a battlefield student? You graduated from that path in Alaska, remember? Once you’ve passed, there’s nothing wrong with slacking off for the rest of the time, right?”
“Your brain is like a muscle, so you’ll need to rehabilitate it if you stop using it. I don’t want to all of a sudden realize I know nothing but how to blow things up.”
As they spoke back and forth, Froleytia waved a hand over at them.
“Hey, we aren’t here to have fun. Go put your things in your lockers and get to your stations. I heard that the higher ups will be observing this, so any mistakes will give them a bad impression of you.”
“That’s right. And our issued explosive was changed from C4 to Hand Axe, wasn’t it? That stuff is more valuable per gram than platinum.”
“Even so, it won’t even scratch on Object’s armor,” said Quenser having recalled what their mission was.
He then whispered to his companion next to him.
“(…Hey, do you honestly think this will work out somehow? It isn’t normal for people like us to take on an Object. Miraculous coincidences aren’t going to just keep happening…)”
“Actually, I do think this will work out.”
Quenser’s eyes opened wide at Heivia’s surprisingly lighthearted response.
“After all, it’s not just us this time. We have the princess’s Object. The Object vs. Object battle will be the main focus and we just have to help out every now and then from behind the scenes in order to give the princess as much of an advantage as we can. The princess will take care of everything else. This isn’t the same as in Alaska when we had to take on that ridiculously huge Object without an Object of our own.”
Heivia pointed past the giant metal sheet of the base zone and out to sea.
Facilities similar to the base were located here and there throughout the sea. It was not just a few. Twenty or thirty base zones covered the area of the strait in a straight line at even intervals. It looked something like an area filled with offshore oil platforms.
“They may have been hastily constructed, but there are about 30 Object maintenance facilities here. Even if one or two of them are targeted, we’re still prepared to keep the princess’s Object running. It isn’t normal to spend that much money on this and they won’t let facilities they put that much money into be easily destroyed. The higher ups must have a plan to keep that from happening. And that also raises our odds of survival.”
That did indeed allow Quenser to view the situation more positively.
If they were truly nothing more than sacrificial pawns, the higher ups in the military would not have spent that much of their budget. And they also had the princess’s Object. Given what had happened in Alaska, they could not solely rely on her, but having her still made a large difference. At the very least, a battle between Objects was more balanced than the overwhelmingly one-sided alternative.
Quenser and Heivia’s job was to support her.
They did not have to face a giant Object head on.
They just had to help the princess from the background and prepare the conditions needed for her victory.
If that was all, it was indeed possible that they could manage.
A smile naturally appeared on Quenser’s face and he turned to his companion.
“In that case, we should be fi-…”
Before he could finish speaking, a neighboring base zone was blown to pieces.
The explosive noise arrived slightly after the visual information.
As if it were a card pyramid being struck by a slap, the base zone collapsed due to a horizontal strike and sank into the sea. That neighboring base was over 200 meters away, but the shockwave from the explosion blew Quenser and Heivia off their feet. Small wire-like fragments of parts rained down from above them.
“What…the hell!? Was it not built up to code!?” Heivia shouted as he grimaced due to a ringing pain in his ears.
“You idiot! Don’t try to escape from the reality in front of you! That had to be an Object!!”
Quenser had landed on his back, so he rolled over onto his stomach and used his binoculars to look across the horizon.
He spotted a mountain-like form.
He saw the giant sphere of nuclear shelter-like armor surrounding a reactor that was characteristic of Objects as well as countless weapons extending from it. The main weapons on this Object were railguns. Apparently, they could fire shells a few meters long at almost Mach 10. Their destructive power had already been demonstrated. One of them had wiped an entire base zone from the map in a single shot.
On top of all that, this Object did not have just one giant sphere with a reactor inside.
It had three.
Each sphere was arranged such that they constructed an equilateral triangle and straight line-shaped armored parts connected the spheres. Ripples spread out from the Object as special A-shaped floats and air cushion engines on the bottom of the Object allowed it to float on the water.
The Object was specialized for naval battles. It was known as Tri-Core.
As soon as Heivia saw that giant form that had been in the military documents, he started yelling out complaints.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait!! How is that thing even moving around!?”
“I don’t know! It’s probably some kind of combination of using air to make it float like a hovercraft and a water jet or something! For something that huge, it wouldn’t surprise me if it had multiple means of propulsion!!”
Paying no heed to those two boys, the Object aimed its giant railgun that looked like a steel pylon on its side at them.
It gave no warning or threat.
With a tremendous explosive noise, the base zones spread out in a line across the sea were horizontally blown away one by one.
Heivia covered his ears and shouted over the shockwaves.
“Shit, are we the prizes at a carnival shooting game or something!? What happened to the net of mines that was set up!?”
“Normal explosives aren’t going to do a thing! Surely you had realized that much!”
Quenser turned his binoculars in a different direction.
Only 60 seconds had passed since the first shot and almost half the base zones had already been sunk. That meant it was sinking them at a rate of about one every four seconds.
(Where is the princess’s Object? Don’t tell me it was taken out with one of those bases!)
Quenser was starting to panic.
“Hey, what’re we going to do!? We were too naïve! An Object isn’t something we’ll be fine taking on even if it isn’t head on! Hanging around on the edge of a battle between Objects is enough to get you blown away!!”
“No, wait. Why hasn’t the princess’s Object counterattacked yet!?”
Still lying down, Quenser looked around with his binoculars, but he saw no sign of the other giant Object.
That was when Froleytia called out to them while glaring at the Object on the ocean with an irritated expression.
“What!? Didn’t you two hear!?”
“I don’t like the sound of that…”
“The princess is in a naval port-style base zone on the land having maintenance done on the floats for a naval battle! Apparently, they started acting up while crossing the Atlantic, so her arrival was delayed! Why did you think we chartered that transport plane to fly you over here so quickly!? Since our Cinderella is a little too lax with time, it’s going to be a bit before she gets here. Since you two are our only means of opposing an Object without one of our own, the higher ups want you to damage it now so the princess can easily finish it off once she arrives!!”
“No, fuck that,” said Heivia, briefly transcending the normal hierarchy of the military. “There’s no way we can do anything on our own. There’s nothing we can do without an Object!! Quit joking around and raise the white flag!! Didn’t you say back in Alaska that wars these days are not all-out wars!?”
“That is my decision when we can surrender the land and evacuate. This time, our lines are constructed such that they block the enemy’s path. Even if we raise the white flag, the enemy will still break through our lines to continue their mission. Whether we surrender or not, the Object still needs to destroy our base zones to pass through the Strait of Gibraltar. …Simply put, the situation will not allow us to surrender.” Without admonishing them, Froleytia continued speaking with a humble expression. “Also, the higher ups did not give me the wireless code for the white flag this time. It seems they want us to prevent the enemy Object from getting through even if we get blown to pieces in the process.”
“So try to stop it as if your life depends on it…because it does. That’s why you were issued that Hand Axe despite it being more expensive than platinum.”
“Like hell we can do thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttttttttttttttt!!”
“Like hell we can do thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttttttttttttttt!!”
Quenser and Heivia both shouted at the top of their lungs and ran off ignoring their orders. They headed for the ocean surface spreading out beyond the cranes extending down like fishing poles. They were about 10 meters up, but jumping off was still safer than being targeted by the enemy Tri-Core.
“Hey, wait a-…!!”
Froleytia started to call out after them, but before she could finish, she realized the Tri-Core was aiming one of its railguns their way. Her expression utterly changed and she jumped off of the base zone after Quenser and Heivia. Immediately afterwards, the giant mountain-like base zone was blown to pieces by the giant mountain-like Object.
Quenser and Heivia were thrown out to sea.
Remnants of the base both large and small were scattered about, dirtying the sea. The scene was similar to the fallen trees and other flotsam piling up in a river mouth after a typhoon passes by. However, the maintenance base zone had been made up of steel and concrete, so the remnants scattered about the surface of the water were sinking down into the depths.
Quenser and Heivia were treading water in a desperate attempt to keep their heads above water, but their military uniforms were quite heavy after absorbing so much water. They were also carrying kilograms of plastic explosives and rifles, so it was not the same as swimming while wearing a swimsuit. It felt as if an invisible hand was grabbing at their ankles.
“Uehh…Dammit…I’m gonna die!! We got carried away! I’m never coming back to a battlefield with an Object on it!!” shouted Quenser even as he was about to sink.
Next to him, Heivia’s movements looked something like the halfway point between swimming and drowning.
“At this rate, we’ll be crushed by the remnants of the base raining down even if the Object doesn’t shoot us! Where are the powered suits we were issued!?”
“At the bottom of the sea by now! How about you dive down 300 meters and get them for us!?”
“They issued us suits that would make us sink like a stone for a battle on the sea!? Were the higher ups trying to get rid of us after they had gotten what they wanted from us!?”
“More importantly, shouldn’t we try to get as far away from the base as possible!? The oil tanks are at the bottom of the sea with pipes bringing up what’s necessary for maintenance, right? The safety devices must have kicked in to keep that crude oil from coming out of the broken pipes, but who knows how long those safety devices can last against that Tri-Core’s attack!!”
“So there’s going to be a black fountain followed by a literal sea of flames!? Who the hell okayed this horrible mission!?”
As Heivia complained, he sank below the surface once and then frantically worked his way back up. Once his head was back above the surface again, he shook it like a wet dog.
“Shit, I can’t last much longer. I-I’m sinking… I can get rid of these explosives, right?”
“And turn your 1% chance of survival into 0%!?”
“What good is this junk going to be!? Even if we set it up properly, it won’t damage the armor! And we can’t even get close in this situation!!”
“That’s true…Getting close to it is going to be a real issue, but…gyahh!! It’s coming this way!!”
Quenser screamed and Heivia looked toward the horizon with a shocked look.
The Tri-Core may have decided its victory was assured now that it had destroyed almost all of the base zones with its giant railguns (or it was relieved that no Object had appeared) because it was approaching while intermittently firing.
Its speed was around 200 kph.
(Is it just going to break right through the strait?)
Just as Quenser thought that, he heard Froleytia shout over at him with only her head above the water.
“Do something!! If it breaks through, it will get that oil to the enemy base zone! If you don’t want that, stop it!!”
“Who cares about that now!? It can bring them some nice cooking oil along with it for all I care!!”
“If that oil gets there, the base zone’s Object maintenance area will be up and running again!! If that happens, an even worse Object that had been stopped due to lack of maintenance will join in!! The Mediterranean will be thrown into an even worse hell!”
“Oh, give me a fucking break!! Do you think I could get discharged from the military if I shot this superior officer of ours in the head!?”
Heivia made his comment to Quenser with a completely serious look in his eyes, but Quenser had more important things to worry about.
“Hey, this is bad! The Tri-Core is headed this way!!” he shouted with an even more serious look on his face.
“Of course it is, hero!! It’s trying to break through the strait, rememb-…”
“No!! It’s on a route that will directly crush us!!”
“Oh, come on!! You have got to be kidding me!!” Heivia shouted, but unfortunately, Quenser was not kidding.
The Tri-Core with its three reactors had realized that there was still a base zone that retained its basic shape even after 2 or 3 shots from its giant railgun and now seemed to be heading over to fire at pointblank range. Its giant form approached, paying no heed to Quenser and the others treading water there.
Of course, a human body would be utterly crushed if it was directly hit by the giant form.
The Tri-Core seemed to float using the same means as a hovercraft that blew air down, but it took so much to keep that giant body afloat that it was only floating 30-50 cm from the surface. Quenser and the others would surely be hit as they treaded water in its path and the blast of wind that kept the hundreds of thousands of tons afloat would utterly crush a human body.
At that rate, they would be pureed and eaten by octopuses.
Heivia’s eyes widened as he saw the Tri-Core approaching on a clockwise path.
“We need to get out of the way!!”
“You idiot! There’s no way we can swim that fast!! The Tri-Core is over 150 meters wide! Not even an Olympic gold medalist could avoid it!!”
“Then tell me, future scholar!! How are we supposed to survive this!?”
Even as they yelled at each other, the Tri-Core continued to approach with overwhelming speed.
It would reach them in less than 30 seconds.
(If we can’t escape by swimming to the left or right, the only option is…!!)
Quenser swam toward a nearby sinking lifeboat.
Seeing that, Heivia shouted, “Do you really think some cheap motorboat can outrun an Object made for naval battles!?”
“No, you idiot! Put this on!!”
Quenser tossed something that had been provided on the lifeboat toward Heivia and Froleytia. It was a hairspray-sized can with a clear mask to cover the nose and mouth on the end.
“An oxygen tank…?”
“Put it on and dive!!” said Quenser as he put on his own clear mask and pointed down. “The Tri-Core travels over the water with giant floats and an air cushion engine! In that case, it shouldn’t reach down below the surface!!”
It seemed Heivia and Froleytia tried to give some kind of reaction, but Quenser did not have time to listen.
The end of the Tri-Core as it travelled at almost 200 kph had drawn quite near to them. As it travelled at such high speeds, it created a V-shape of high waves. Even though the actual craft was floating, the intense downward wind was tearing into the surface of the water. Even if by some miracle they managed to escape to the side of the Tri-Core, those waves would be enough to swallow them up.
Quenser dove down below the surface without having time to check if his mask was working properly.
The Tri-Core’s thick floats passed by above, barely missing him. The intense wind greatly disturbed the surface of the water, but that great fury did not reach Quenser below the surface.
(Hoo. I somehow made i-…)
Just as Quenser was breathing a sigh of relief, something almost caused his breathing to stop.
The Tri-Core’s main body did indeed use giant floats and an air cushion engine to almost perfectly float above the surface of the water.
However, something like a steel pylon stuck straight down from each of the three sphere reactors. They were shark anchors that were retractable like a police baton. The weights ensured that the giant Object would not roll onto its side.
The main body of the Object passed by over Quenser’s head, but the pylon-sized shark anchor was headed straight for him.
Quenser immediately swam to the side in an attempt to avoid it, but the Tri-Core made a move of its own at the exact same time. It may have been adjusting its aim, but it made a sudden clockwise rotation like someone sliding their feet around on the ground. Its speed dropped considerably, but the giant shark anchor almost seemed to correct its trajectory toward Quenser like it was a guided weapon.
At that point, he could not come up with any plans or tricks. Quenser simply frantically moved his arms and legs to try to get as far away from it as he could. However, his tiny human body only spun around in the water like a leaf blowing in the wind.
The shark anchor itself did not hit him.
If it had, his body would no longer have been recognizable as human.
He just barely managed to avoid it, but the swirling seawater agitated by the shark anchor’s giant mass put Quenser’s body into a spin.
(But at least I managed to avoid-…)
Quenser had miraculously managed to keep his life, but he was still not allowed a sigh of relief.
Something suddenly grabbed at his leg.
Such intense pain ran through his leg that he thought his ankle had been dislocated, but it was not actually that serious. Even so, Quenser’s consciousness started to dim. Whatever had gotten caught around his ankle started to drag him through the sea at around 50 kph.
(Cough cough!! Dammit. Am I caught on some part of the Tri-Core!?)
Quenser looked at his ankle that had a grinding pain running through it and his expression turned bitter.
Something like a metal net was wrapped around one of the shark anchors and a portion of it had gotten wrapped around Quenser’s ankle. It did not look like a net that would be used for fish. This became even more clear when Quenser looked around and noticed a metal sphere nearby. It was about the size of the large balls used in sports festivals and its metal surface had thick thorn-like things covering it.
Quenser’s expression stiffened even further upon seeing it.
He recalled that Froleytia had said a net covered in mines had been placed across the Strait of Gibraltar to obstruct the Tri-Core. The Object had used its giant form to force through the net and had been dragging it along ever since.
Something like that mine could not destroy that Object.
But if it were to detonate there, it would blow Quenser to pieces.
(Dammit. I’m not going to let myself be killed by my own side’s trap!!)
Perhaps in order to even more accurately aim its railgun, the Tri-Core stopped moving, its air cushion engine weakened, and it came to a stop on the surface of the water using only its floats.
Quenser used that chance to ball himself up and reach for his ankle. However, it was so tangled up in the net that he could not free it. He panicked, but then someone else’s hand reached in from the side.
Apparently, his companion had gotten caught in the net, too. Heivia seemed to try to say something, but the oxygen mask and seawater prevented his voice from reaching Quenser.
Heivia used his hands surprisingly skillfully and freed Quenser’s ankle from the net, but he grabbed Quenser’s arm when Quenser tried to leave on the current of the water.
The Tri-Core was at an almost complete stop and was firing its railgun. It was utterly destroying a base zone that had already lost almost all of its original form and that’s soldiers had already leapt into the sea.
While its attention was elsewhere, they could safely escape from the Tri-Core by letting go of the net. However, Heivia kept a grip on the net.
Quenser was confused, but he grabbed the net like a ladder all the same. He simply could not tell what Heivia was thinking. The other boy seemed to be trying to explain, but Quenser could not hear him in the water.
After a bit, Heivia realized his efforts were a waste and simply pointed up with one hand while holding onto the net with the other.
What his gesture indicated was simple.
The blast of air from the air cushion engine seems to have stopped, so let’s take this chance to climb aboard the Tri-Core before it accelerates again.
Quenser and Heivia climbed up the net like it was playground equipment and finally reached the surface.
The giant floats of the Tri-Core made an A-like shape. They were in the hollow center area where the surface of the water looked like an open fish pond.
Heivia removed his oxygen mask and started spewing out the curses that he had not been able to get across within the water.
“Fuck! I’m all sticky and shit! I’m like a wet dog!! What the hell was that about being safe if we dove!? I almost died!!”
“You only asked how to survive, not how to be safe! Anyway, where’s Froleytia!?”
“How the hell should I know? She’s probably floating around here somewhere,” Heivia said carelessly as he looked around. “Getting up above the surface is great and all, but how are we supposed to get up on the Tri-Core’s deck?”
“There’s a maintenance ladder over there.”
“!? Oh, shit! Hurry, up, Quenser!! The Tri-Core’s finished with its target practice and is starting to move again! We’re gonna be crushed by the blast from the air cushion!! The wind that lifts up this six hundred thousand ton monster is about to blow down!!”
“Shit! It isn’t going to head straight for some enemy country, is it!?”
“How the hell should I know!? Just climb up! That shark anchor is still a danger. Its retractable end functions both as a suction tube to bring in water for the water jet and as drainage. If that giant pillar retracts up near the surface, we’ll be sucked in!!”
And so Quenser and Heivia climbed up the ladder installed on the side of the giant float that was over 5 meters thick and arrived on the deck of the Tri-Core.
The float that kept the Object afloat was over 20 meters wide and giant cylindrical tanks that looked like something from an industrial complex were installed right next to them.
“…The Tri-Core can drill for oil, right?”
“I’ll set up the Hand Axe, but do you really think it’s enough to sink the Tri-Core?” said Quenser with a dubious look even as he stabbed the fuse into the explosive. “In Alaska, we managed to blow up the Object from the inside by setting the explosives up within the parts in the enemy base zone, but we don’t even know when the Tri-Core needs maintenance next.”
“Hey, look at that,” said Heivia as he removed his rifle from its shoulder strap.
Modern rifles were not made unusable just by being plunged into seawater.
Quenser looked in the direction Heivia indicated with his chin and he saw one of the other floats. As previously explained, the Tri-Core’s floats were A-shaped and many different facilities were constructed elsewhere. One block had giant cranes used for drilling for oil and one block was lined with giant storage buildings similar to what was normally found at a port.
Quenser glanced over the fish pond-like areas of open sea created by the shape of the floats.
“…Large storage areas? I see. The Tri-Core has its maintenance base built into itself!! That way it doesn’t have to protect a weak maintenance fleet-style base zone. With three reactors, it can pull something like that off!”
“No, not that!”
“Enemy soldiers! Those facilities come with a full complement of soldiers armed with machine guns!!”
As Heivia spoke, he grabbed Quenser’s arm and pulled him behind cover.
They heard gunfire and then sparks started flying from the float at their feet and the metal panels they were hiding behind.
“Wait a second. Aren’t we hiding behind an oil tank?!”
“There’s nowhere else to hide!! Would you rather go stand out on the wide open float!?”
The few dozen Tri-Core soldiers seemed to have noticed where Quenser and Heivia were hiding because their gunfire grew very careful and sporadic. They did not use any kind of grenade.
Heivia held his rifle out from behind the oil tank and returned fired in short, two or three shot bursts.
“Hey, circle around the float and head to the maintenance area!!”
“And pull off the same thing as in Alaska? But when is the Tri-Core going to undergo maintenance!? If it isn’t for three days, we’ll be stuck running away for three days straight!!”
“Then find some weakness!! We have to find some way of taking advantage of this opportunity and damaging this thing somehow!!” said Heivia as he continued to pull the trigger, but the gunfire suddenly stopped.
“What, is it jammed!?”
“Shut up, I’m gonna fix it!!”
Heivia moved back fully behind cover and removed the cover to his rifle. He just had to take out the jammed bullet and replace the cover to put the gun in working order again, but…
Suddenly, the ground started shaking.
The Tri-Core seemed to be rotating clockwise and the two of them were almost thrown off as they fell down. As Heivia had been in the middle of taking apart his rifle, the small metal parts and springs scattered atop the float.
A truly displeased look appeared on Heivia’s face.
“…Can I cry?”
“Don’t get discouraged. Just gather them up!! Look, they’ve realized something’s gone wrong for us and are picking up their rate of fire!!”
However, a few of the parts had fallen off the float and into the ocean, so nothing could be done to fix the rifle. Heivia tossed the incomplete rifle to the side and pulled out his spare handgun to fire back.
“Hey, have you figured out where you’re gonna set up the explosives!?”
“Give me a second. I’m using my mobile device to access the military database.”
“And I thought the waterproofing option was only good for letting you surf the web in the bath.”
“You’d stay in too long and the heat of the bath would get to you if you actually did that. You were an analyst, right, Heivia? So you helped draw up predicted general designs of enemy Objects from distant observations? Then you might be able to find a weakness if you look over this.” Quenser looked down at the small screen. “Oh, c’mon! What a piece of junk. This signal is terrible. Maybe it’ll be better over here…”
“Wait, you idiot!! That’s right in the middle of enemy fire!!”
When Heivia frantically pulled him back, Quenser returned to his senses.
“Oh, I guess we don’t really have time to leisurely look over this diagram.”
“What, do you want them to prepare us a stylish café with free wifi in the middle of the battlefield?”
“Actually, the Tri-Core might really have a café somewhere,” replied Quenser with a serious expression as he lightly kicked at the ground. “But when you think about it, couldn’t this be the biggest weakness?”
“The giant floats, hm? Well, this giant Object does have three spherical main bodies, so it’d probably just sink down to the bottom of the ocean under its own weight if the floats were to burst.”
“The problem is figuring out how to destroy these floats using only the Hand Axe we have when direct hits from giant mines didn’t even scratch them. If we could focus some kind of impact to destroy one point…”
“Oh, fuck!!” Heivia shouted suddenly, cutting off Quenser’s thoughts.
Quenser looked over to see Heivia’s handgun’s motion stopping in the middle of its blowback.
“I’m out of ammo! This handgun was my only spare weapon, so I didn’t bring many magazines for it!! If we stay here any longer, we’re gonna get our brains blown out by normal soldiers!!”
“Then what are we supposed to do about the Tri-Core!?”
“How the hell should I know!? Just throw the explosives around randomly and then jump into the sea! Our only choice is to try to meet up with Froleytia wherever she is and get out of here. This may be our only chance to get away!!”
In the meantime, the gunfire from the enemy soldiers became even more sporadic. They seemed to be trying to circle around the large A-shaped float between short intervals of firing.
Quenser and Heivia were running out of time.
They would be cornered before long.
Quenser hated the thought of giving up on the Tri-Core, but it was true that he could see no weakness they could use to surely sink it with the Hand Axe. Drawing out the firefight would only be detrimental to him and Heivia.
(I guess that settles it…!!)
Quenser and Heivia gritted their teeth and started to jump off the A-shaped float and into the sea.
However, they ended up not leaving the battle.
This was not due to a noble reason like their heroic hearts refusing to flee.
The Tri-Core had been struck by a large caliber bombardment fired from a distance and the nearby shockwave had knocked Quenser and Heivia back.
That one strike had been enough to nearly eliminate their sense of hearing.
The damage must have reached the organ that controlled his sense of balance because Quenser was unable to get back up. He could only desperately try to suppress an intense headache and an urge to vomit.
“Damn…it…! What…was that?!”
Heivia was right next to him, but his voice sounded indistinct.
While collapsed atop the giant float, Quenser used only his eyes to search for the attacker.
He noticed something quite large approaching at high speed from the horizon.
Its main body was a giant sphere. Below that was a normally upside down Y-shaped static electricity propulsion device, but it currently had a marine battle-use circular float added on. Seven giant arms stretched from the back of the sphere and each arm had a giant main cannon attached to the end. It had likely been one or more of those that had fired.
Its method of propulsion must have been different than when it was on land because the dark thundercloud-like noise created by the massive amount of static electricity could not be heard.
“Hey, this is bad,” said Heivia in a trembling voice to Quenser whose mind was still hazy. “This is very, very bad!! That’s the princess’s Object! If we stay here, we’ll get wrapped up in a bombardment between Objects!!”
Quenser’s face suddenly twitched.
The 50 meter monstrous weapons that were Objects used weapons such as laser beams, railguns, coilguns, and low-stability plasma cannons. Their destructive power made a battleship look like nothing. If they got caught up in a battle between Objects, it did not matter if one was their ally. A piece of an Object’s outer armor blown off by an explosion would be more than enough to kill a flesh-and-blood soldier instantly.
They now truly had no choice but to leave the Tri-Core as quickly as possible.
However, their bodies would not move as they wanted them to due to the shockwave that had struck them.
The same thing had happened to the enemy soldiers who had been aiming at them from a different float. They were frantically trying to escape to the maintenance base zone atop the Tri-Core’s float.
Meanwhile, the two Objects were staring each other down and their steel pylon-sized main cannons were being moved into position.
The normal soldiers no longer had time to flee.
The battle had begun.
Tremendous explosions and shockwaves rang out.
Quenser and Heivia were not even able to crawl forward. All they could do was lie face down with their hands over their heads.
The Tri-Core fired its powerful railguns one after another, drawing on the full power of its three reactors.
The princess’s Object accelerated back and forth in short bursts to escape the enemy’s sights and repeatedly fired its seven main cannons in their coilgun mode that used magnetism.
A flesh-and-blood human had no way to oppose those giant weapons known as Objects. The surface of its armor came detached and scattered about like a firework. The scale of the destruction was so great that anyone watching was completely overwhelmed and Quenser and Heivia were stuck right in the middle of it all. It was more than they could bear.
“Fuck!! Objects really are synonymous with war! Our lives don’t matter at all in the middle of all this!!”
“No, I’m betting the princess just doesn’t know we’re on here,” said Quenser as he used his handheld device to try to contact the princess’s Object.
As usual, the signal was terrible.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
“I’m gonna have her switch over to mainly using her lasers. If she melts through the armor rather than blowing it away, we’re a lot less likely to die from a stray shot! It gives her no real advantage strategically, but she might just be willing to hear us out!”
“Hey, we’re not gonna be blinded by the bright welding light are we!?”
“Oh, would you rather die in a downpour of shrapnel!? At any rate, we just need to jump into the sea while the princess draws the Object’s attention with the lasers. Once we’re out of the way, she can switch right back to using the coilguns!!” Quenser then spoke to the Elite princess through his handheld device. “This is Quenser. We are currently on the Tri-Core’s deck! Please switch your weapon for a short time while we escape. Please switch over to the WL3B1s! I repeat, switch over to the WL3B1s!!”
The Elite girl held the control column within the cockpit of the Baby Magnum, one of the Objects that was synonymous with war.
Special talent was required to pilot one of those giant weapons.
However, this talent was not some strange psychic power. What was needed was an exceedingly high proficiency in skills anyone could develop such as memory, calculation ability, multitasking, and situational awareness.
An Object was a giant weapon that controlled over 100 weapons at once.
As such, just managing the targeting data required being able to process hundreds of pieces of data at once. The weapons also had secondary target functionality (multiple targets could be locked onto and the sights could be switched between them at any time), so using an Object’s abilities to their fullest required following 300 or 400 enemies at once.
And that was only for controlling the weaponry.
To fully understand every function of the 50 meter Object was more than even a natural genius could handle. Only an Elite who had his or her data processing ability raised to the limit was able to pilot an Object.
To alleviate this problem, some armies had tried dividing the control among a large crew and some companies had used an AI to simplify the work required.
However, using a large crew created a time lag for communication between parts of the Object which led to defeat from an Object that was piloted by a single Elite who could make decisions instantly. When an AI was used, the AI would be unable to respond to any situation unfamiliar to it and therefore was unable to keep up with the flexible strategies of an Elite.
While it was possible solutions to those issues would be found in the distant future, it was currently more practical and more productive to use a single Elite to pilot an Object.
Just as the Elite girl was firing her large coilguns at the enemy Tri-Core, she received a transmission from an ally.
It was a voice she had longed to hear.
Strength entered her small hands as they held the control column.
“…switch your weapon…short time whi….escape. Please switch…WL3B…! I repeat, switch…WL3B…!!”
However, the signal was so bad it was hard to tell what he was saying.
The Elite girl tilted her head in confusion.
Apparently Quenser had made it onto the Tri-Core’s deck and was asking the Elite girl for cover fire. …However, the crucial weapon code had not made it through intact.
(WL3B…That would be something from the laser system.)
“Hmm…” the girl thought.
She did not have much time. The longer she took, the greater the risk of Quenser and whoever was with him being in real trouble. Pressed for time, the Elite girl made the following decision.
(I have a feeling he said WL3B2… Yeah, that had to be it!!)
She nodded once and reached for the switch to change weapons.
A sound like evaporating water reached Quenser’s ears.
It was coming from the princess’s Object.
Specifically, it was coming from a part on the surface of the spherical body that looked like a planetarium lens. Hundreds of laser beams then shot from it like a folding fan pointed forward. The orange lines this made were likely created by the dust or moisture in the air being burned.
It was the WL3B2 which was known as the Killer Squall.
It was a secondary weapon meant to annihilate flesh and blood soldiers defending a base rather than to defeat another Object.
While raising a shout against the scene before them, Quenser and Heivia rolled across the top of the float to escape. As they did, the many optical weapons burned across the Tri-Core’s surface.
None of the lasers pierced into the Object, but the areas of the surface struck were locally heated up like a frying pan. The cranes used for oil drilling were burned off and the few relentless soldiers who had continued to chase Quenser and Heivia from the other float practically exploded.
“What the hell!? I asked for the WL3B1s, so why is she using the WL3B2 system!? Is that princess trying to kill us!?”
“Look, hero. Isn’t there something odd about the princess’s Object!?”
When Quenser looked over at Heivia’s insistence, he saw one of the arms stretching from the Baby Magnum’s back shaking left and right as if following some kind of prey.
If they had looked at it calmly, it may have looked more like a cute feminine gesture of greeting, but they were anything but calm given the situation.
“D-dammit! Is it just me or is she aiming this way!? She’s even making slight adjustments back and forth!!”
“So we really are just expendable pawns! Screw that, I’m not gonna die here!!”
As the deadly anti-personnel lasers rained down from above, Quenser and Heivia pulled together the little amount of courage they had left and stood up. They were not facing the depths of the Tri-Core. Instead, they ran as quickly as they could toward the sea that was spread out around the Object and leapt into it, completely abandoning all of their professional duties.
No great splash was heard.
They had jumped from the Tri-Core while it was moving at around 200 kph and were pushed by the side effects of its great hovercraft-like wind that was spread out around it. Quenser and Heivia skipped a few times across the surface of the water like a flat stone thrown into a river before they finally crashed through the surface.
A tremendous explosive noise rang out.
In no time at all, they had ended up over 150 meters from the Tri-Core.
Immediately afterwards, the two Objects once again started an all-out battle between their main weapons. They had gotten a good distance from the Tri-Core, but the vibrations that spread through the ocean waters felt as if they would shake their bodies apart.
“I’ve had enough! There’s no way we can keep up with a battle like this!!” shouted Quenser half in tears when he finally made it back above the surface.
Heivia desperately shouted from nearby, “Hey, you set up a few of the explosives before, right!? Detonate them already!! We almost died setting them up, so we have to get something out of them!!”
“Okay, partner!! This is the crystallization of our efforts!!”
Getting oddly energetic as well, Quenser unhesitatingly transmitted the detonation signal.
Immediately afterwards, crimson flames flew into the air.
One of the cylindrical oil tanks attached to the Tri-Core’s float had exploded.
The shockwave spread out evenly and struck Quenser and Heivia. Their heads were knocked under the water’s surface and they desperately made it back up like they were part of a strange game of Whac-A-Mole.
“Ueh…Shit. It just came back and hit us…”
“But doesn’t destroying that tank we’d been using as a shield count as strategic damage? After all, their objective is to carry that crude oil to an enemy base.”
“Wait a second… Even if it’s a strategy to cut off their supplies, was that really okay? I mean, won’t the oil wreak havoc on the sea?”
“I’m sure the higher ups predicted something like this would happen and have already put together a means of dealing with it. Dedicated work ships will probably go out and suck it all up after the battle’s over. If they insist we bring them all the stolen oil, we can just throw them into the sea and tell them to deal with it themselves. …Right now, I’m more interested in what happened to the Tri-Core itself.”
They then looked over at the Tri-Core that had black smoke rising from it.
They did not look pleased.
“Shit. That damn Object is perfectly fine!!”
“Yeah, I see no sign of damage to the floats. Damn, how are we supposed to sink that thing!? Is it even possible with the explosives we were given!? Dahh!! I just want to chuck it all at the thing and get the hell out of here!!”
That was when Froleytia approached them aboard a lifeboat with a small motor aboard. She took a small bite out of a piece of cheese most likely from the emergency rations and gave no sign of caring that her adult underwear could be seen through her wet uniform.
“Well, there is a chance you two might actually get out of here.”
“Froleytia!? Where have you been this whole time!?”
“Where did you find that lifeboat!? And what’s with that cheese!? Do they keep that aboard the lifeboats!? It looks way better than the rations we usually eat! I wish I got that kind of food!!”
Froleytia moved the conversation along, ignoring the two shouting idiots.
“What I told you to do was to damage the Object while we waited for the princess to show up. After blowing up that tank, our role is over. Now we just have to pass the baton over to the princess. If we wait around for a rescue helicopter, we just have to grab onto the rope, get dragged up, and fly straight for land.”
“…Assuming the helicopter isn’t knocked out of the sky due to the insane battle over there,” muttered Heivia.
The Tri-Core had moved away from them in order to engage the princess in battle, but the range of an Object’s cannons are measured in kilometers, so they were not exactly safe.
Meanwhile, a large military helicopter approached from the land's direction. The Tri-Core’s radar would of course have seen it, but it made no attempt to shoot it down. It was likely giving no attention to every little transport helicopter in order to focus on battling the Object the princess was piloting. It had already been well proven that normal soldiers, tanks, and fighters could not damage an Object. It would have been pathetic indeed to get hit by the princess’s powerful main cannons while trying to shoot down a harmless fly.
The helicopter flew to a spot directly above Quenser and the others as the two boys treaded water. While it hovered about 10 meters up, a wire like those used by rescue teams was dropped straight down.
Froleytia said, “Sorry, but let’s do this by order of rank. If I don’t get aboard first, some complete stranger could very well label you two as subordinates so afraid for their lives that they ignored military regulations.”
“If you show any sign of pulling up the wire before we’re aboard, I’ll stick a fuse in this Hand Axe and throw it into the helicopter,” Heivia said with a completely serious expression.
Quenser stared off into the distance where the two Objects were fighting. The princess was making quick movements left and right to throw off her opponent’s aim and the Tri-Core was attacking with its giant railguns while moving clockwise. There was no guaranteed winner in a battle between Objects. Who was on the offense and who was on the defense would move back and forth, giving the battle the same kind of tension as the last 10 minutes of a world cup match tied at 0.
“Don’t zone out like that, Quenser!! It’s your turn!!”
That shout from above brought Quenser back to his senses. He looked up and saw that Heivia and Froleytia were already inside the transport helicopter. Heivia was leaning out of the open door.
“What, do you want to stay behind and do some extra studying as a battlefield student!? A stray bullet could come this way at any time, so we can’t stick around any longer!!”
Quenser frantically grabbed at the thick wire hanging nearby. A large motor started winding up the wire and Quenser was quickly brought up into the air.
After about 30 seconds, he was all the way up.
To steady the wire and his body that was shaking with it, Quenser placed his feet on the edge of the floor of the helicopter. The helicopter must have been originally intended for rescues during naval missions because inside it were diving suits, oxygen tanks, tools such as wrenches and drills that used compressed air to function underwater, and something called an aqua scooter that looked like a kickboard with a motor attached.
“Okay, we’re all aboard! Get us out of here as quickly as possible!!” said Froleytia loudly in the direction of the cockpit.
The helicopter tilted forward and started moving away from the battle between Objects.
“What a mess,” Heivia muttered as he looked down at the sea.
Around the two rampaging Objects, countless pieces of wreckage were scattered about. That wreckage was all that remained of the offshore maintenance base zones like the one Quenser and the others had been supposed to wait aboard.
“They may have been hastily constructed, but there were 20 or 30 of those things. And yet now there’s nothing left that’s staying afloat properly. Everything but the base of the pillars is at the bottom of the sea.”
“Luckily, most of the soldiers managed to jump into the sea just after the Tri-Core began its attack. That’s why so many rescue helicopters have been sent out.”
Quenser could see 40 or 50 helicopters in the direction he was looking. Most likely, as many as possible had been gathered from nearby naval ports and bases. Not all of them were dedicated rescue helicopters. Transport and reconnaissance helicopters could be seen mixed in. They were hovering and using wires to pick up soldiers floating in the sea like how Quenser and the others had been.
“I can’t believe so many survived…” Heivia muttered.
While wiping seawater from her long kanzashi-style hairpin, Froleytia sighed and spoke.
“Objects are synonymous with war after all. Even if you linked together 10 nuclear aircraft carriers and set up a 40 meter cannon, you would not be able to defeat those monsters. Look at those movements. Not even a mixed martial arts champion can pull off footwork like that.”
After determining when the enemy would fire from the minute movements of its cannons, the princess’s Object made small, quick movements to avoid the railgun shots and return fire. The Tri-Core had realized it could not completely avoid getting hit, so it was deliberately facing its thicker armored areas to the front to avoid a fatal blow.
Just as Froleytia had said, it looked like a detailed martial arts match rather than a battle between tanks or battleships.
“Chaff or flares will not throw off their aim and hiding behind cover and using ranged attacks will not protect you. Even in a wide open battlefield like this, they can defend against and avoid attacks from main cannons that move at almost Mach 10. How are tanks or fighters supposed to take them on?”
Suddenly, Quenser practically pushed Heivia out of the way as he leaned out of the open door.
“Wait a second. Something’s odd about the princess’s movements!”
“What do you mean? It’s the same impossible-to-predict battle as ever.”
“No, Quenser’s right,” said Froleytia as she reached for some binoculars from within the helicopter. “The princess has been attacking less often for a bit now. More and more now, she’s not firing when she clearly has an open shot on the Tri-Core.”
“What does that mean?”
“Look at that!!” shouted Quenser as he pointed.
Immediately afterwards, one of the Tri-Core’s railguns fired. The shockwave produced by its nearly Mach 10 speed created a tremendous noise despite the railgun not using any kind of gunpowder to fire.
The Tri-Core was not aiming for the center of the princess’s Object.
The railgun shell was aimed for the end of the princess’s main cannons.
“…It’s decided this is going to be a long battle and is trying to wear down her attack power,” said Quenser with a groan. “The Object is covered in thick nuclear shelter-like armor, but the very end of the gun battery is different. …If I recall, one of the best strategies against an Object without using one yourself is to use a weapon that creates as much heat as a nuclear weapon and uses that to distort the shape of the Object’s weapons.”
Of course, an Object had over 100 weapons. Even if a normal army used a nuclear weapon, they would only be able to “distort” 20 or 30 percent of those. Since even one active weapon remaining would be enough to wipe out an army, that was not enough to utterly destroy an Object.
But what if that strategy was used in a battle between Objects?
Both giant Objects were covered in solid armor and the weapons the enemy could use to penetrate that armor were limited. Even if an Object had 100 weapons, only the main weapons could destroy another Object.
So what if all of the weapons that could destroy an Object were destroyed?
“Shit!! She’s gonna lose at this rate!!” shouted Heivia.
Quenser was a student who had studied the designs of Objects and Heivia was an analyst who searched for characteristics and weaknesses of enemy Objects from data gathered on the battlefield.
That was why they understood.
The princess’s Object was still fighting, but 5 of its 7 main coilguns had already been made useless. It was clear that, before long, all of the main weapons would be unusable.
Quenser watched the princess’s Object as it was driven further and further into a purely defensive battle. His gaze then dropped to his own hands. The higher ups had supplied him with a large amount of the plastic explosive Hand Axe in order to damage the Tri-Core as much as possible.
“Hey, wait.” A stiff smile appeared on Heivia’s face when he noticed Quenser staring at the explosives. “I think I know what you’re thinking, but wait. It’s impossible.”
“The princess will be sunk at this rate,” said Quenser as he leaned even further out the door in order to check on things outside. “I have to give her some help before she loses for sure.”
“You’ll be killed! And we already did quite a bit!! That Tri-Core is enough of a monster to be fine even after we climbed up on its deck, set explosives, and blew up that giant oil tank! Just where do you think you’re going to put those explosives on it to damage it!? In fact, just getting near that high speed battle will be enough to crush your body to a paste!!”
“But if I don’t do anything, the princess will die!!” Quenser stared Heivia straight in the eye. “In Alaska, we learned better than we ever wanted to that Objects are synonymous with war. Have you already forgotten the hell that awaits the rest of the soldiers once we lose the Object!? Objects are powerful but not invincible. That means that we can’t just rely on the princess but doesn’t it also mean we might be able to do something about the Tri-Core!?”
“No, stop this! If we approach on this slow helicopter, we’ll be shot down in no time at all!!”
“I never said anything about heading there on the helicopter.”
“Stop, you idiot!! Shit!!”
Ignoring Heivia, Quenser jumped out the open door. From 10 meters up, he reached the ocean surface in only a few seconds. He broke through the surface that felt as hard as concrete and sank deep down into the water.
His head burst back above the surface and he looked around while treading water.
The helicopter Heivia and Froleytia were aboard showed no sign of actively supporting him, but it did not just fly off and leave him behind either.
“You softhearted idiots,” Quenser muttered with a smile.
Quenser himself had no intention of facing the Tri-Core head on.
There was no way he could win if he tried to.
No matter how noble a reason one had and no matter how many things one had to protect, an Object would slaughter a flesh-and-blood soldier without hesitation.
There was not even a hint of a chance of things conveniently working out if you tried hard enough or a miracle occurring if you fought desperately enough.
However, Quenser had learned something in Alaska.
He did not have to face the Object head on.
He could circle around to the back.
The element that would make the impossible possible was not strength. It was brains. He had to worry over everything as much as he could, think as hard as he could, and find some means, method, or technique with which he could defeat the enemy. Only if he thought everything through to the very last second rather than charging in desperately could he achieve an unthinkable victory.
While treading water, Quenser spoke to Heivia through his radio.
“Now then. It’s time to find a weakness. That giant Object has three reactors rather than the usual one, so maybe there’s some kind of shortcoming there.”
“You idiot. Weaknesses aren’t that easy to find. That Object was made exclusively to be used in naval battles. Unlike a Composite Multi-Role one like the princess’s, it has no design blind spots when it’s on the water. That monster was designed so it wouldn’t.”
“It was designed for naval battles… But then…”
Quenser thought as he swam a bit in the direction of the battling Objects.
(But then its movements seem a little too monotonous… Almost as if it isn’t used to fighting…)
As he watched the Tri-Core turn to the right as it followed the arcing path of the princess’s Object, Quenser suddenly stopped swimming and spoke into the radio.
“Wait… Didn’t the Tri-Core only ever turn to the right before, too?”
“Ever since the battle began, the Tri-Core has only been turning to the right! It’s moved slightly to the left in emergencies, but it hasn’t curved any large amount to the left this entire time, has it!?” Quenser said quickly due to his own idea making him feel impatient. “It hasn’t turned left even once from the moment it tried to crush us with its shark anchor!! When it was attacking the half-destroyed base from pointblank range, it should have just rotated clockwise or counter-clockwise, whichever way would bring one of its cannons in range fastest. However, it never once rotated counter-clockwise. No Object specialized for naval battles would lack a basic ability like that!! Something must have happened to it to keep it from turning to the left! If we could worsen whatever it is…!!”
“You say something must have happened,” Heivia said dubiously while likely leaning out the helicopter while looking through some binoculars. “But I can’t see anything wrong with it. There’s nothing odd about its floats or air cushion. Its balance is perfectly level. At the very least, nothing is wrong with it that can be seen from here.”
Something was clearly wrong with it, but Heivia was unable to see anything.
The problem was located somewhere that could not be seen from a helicopter.
“Underwater…?” Quenser muttered. “Hey, drop down that aqua scooter that was in the helicopter. It’s the thing that looks like a kickboard with a motor attached!!”
“Wh-what? If we don’t get out of here soon, the Tri-Core’s continuous right turning will put us in its path!!”
“That’s perfect!! I’ve figured out the Tri-Core’s weakness!!”
A hunk of plastic about the size of a small drawer to a steel desk fell from the open door of the helicopter. At the same time, the helicopter quickly left the area because the Tri-Core was quickly headed that way and it was over 50 meters high itself.
Quenser grabbed the round piece of plastic floating in the water and pressed a button to bring out a hair spray can-sized oxygen tank. He put the clear mask that smelled of seawater over his mouth and hit the machine’s ignition switch to start the internal motor.
An aqua scooter was essentially exactly what Quenser had said it was: a kickboard with a motor attached. By diving down using it, he could move through the water much faster than when using only his legs.
“Quenser!! Dive!! The Tri-Core’s headed your way!!” said Heivia over the radio.
Quenser looked over and saw the 150-180 meter weapon sliding sideways toward him. It sped up from 50 kph and the cliff-like float approached at an alarming speed of about 200 kph.
The Tri-Core showed no sign of even knowing Quenser was there.
Not even the smallest of its around 100 weapons turned in his direction.
It was likely focusing on its battle with the princess’s Object. It did not care if a soldier got crushed in the process.
Before, he had somehow managed to escape the Tri-Core by diving down into the water, so he frantically dove down this time as well.
However, this time he was not trying to escape.
He was heading down to cause real damage to the Tri-Core.
As he soured through the seawater, Quenser made it below the Tri-Core. …Or rather, the Tri-Core passed over him as he dove down.
Quenser maxed out the aqua scooter’s thrust so as not to be left behind.
And he stared at a giant structure that had been hidden in the water.
(The shark anchors!!)
As the Tri-Core moved about to toy with the princess, Quenser aimed for the moment it had decelerated the most, let go of the aqua scooter, and grabbed onto the mine-covered net that was caught on the shark anchor. Even then, it was moving at 50 kph. It was like grabbing onto the side of a bus to hitch a free ride.
The shark anchor was one of the three steel pylon-like structures that stretched straight down from the three spherical main bodies of the Tri-Core. They acted as the weights that kept the Object’s balance like a self-righting toy. It was a necessary part for an Object that made sharp turns at high speed.
Each of the three shark anchors could extend and retract like a retractable baton. By changing their lengths in accordance with the Tri-Core’s slant, the Object’s center of gravity could be regulated. That way, it would not capsize even when quickly moving using the massive energy produced by its reactors.
The Tri-Core used the hovercraft-like method of having its main body float simply because it could move faster that way. Water resistance could be reduced as much as possible if the ship itself was not in the water.
Even so, it still had those three shark anchors that created a large amount of water resistance.
Why would it do that?
It was because the shark anchors were so important that the Object could not be piloted without them.
(That functionality has been partially sealed due to the “goal tape” net getting tangled up in it.)
The Tri-Core had charged through the net because it had assumed mines would not do any real damage to it. It had been right about that. However, it had not expected for the net to get stuck in the gaps of one of the retractable shark anchors.
Due to that, that one shark anchor could no longer move.
(If the Tri-Core turns to the left too much, it will lose control of its balance and turn over. So as not to take itself out like that, the Tri-Core has been forced to fight the princess while only turning to the right!!)
When he thought about it, the Tri-Core had somehow not felt like an absolutely invincible Object when it had used long distance attacks to destroy the normal base zones Quenser and the others had been on. Normally, it would have charged into the center of the enemy forces and blown everything away in all directions. The reason it had not done so may have been because it was afraid of getting into a situation where it would be forced to turn to the left.
But knowing that made things much easier.
(If losing control of just one shark anchor is that much of a handicap, losing another will completely destroy its balance!!)
That was why Quenser had brought all the explosives he could with him.
He had brought the plastic explosive known as Hand Axe.
He doubted the explosives would be enough to do anything about the tough Object itself, but there was something much easier to use already prepared there for him: the net covered in mines the size of the large balls used in sports festivals. The net had been so torn up that it trailed behind the shark anchor for almost 350 meters like a giant windsock.
Quenser stuck an electric fuse into the Hand Axe and placed it next to the mines.
Using them, he could sink the Tri-Core.
(Okay, that’s all set up…wah!?)
The Tri-Core suddenly turned to the right sending Quenser swinging around. His hand was ripped from the net and the tremendous current created by the giant shark anchor sent him tumbling away through the water.
In no time at all, he was a good distance from the Tri-Core.
However, he had done what he had needed to do.
Quenser kicked his legs to bring his head above water and then removed the clear mask covering his face.
In his hand, he held the radio with which to send the detonation signal to the Hand Axe.
As Quenser stared at the mountain-like presence of the Tri-Core, he pressed the button with his thumb.
A muffled explosion roared and bubbles over 10 meters across burst to the surface from below the Tri-Core.
It did not end there.
Shockwaves did not traverse only through air. The shockwave caused by the explosion rushed out and mercilessly assaulted even Quenser’s body. He doubled over in the water like he had been hit by a body blow.
The impact to the shark anchor supporting the Tri-Core’s balance caused it to stop for an instant while it turned to the right in its chase after the princess’s Object.
“Hey, did you stick the Hand Axe on the shark anchor!?”
“Yeah, and I got the giant mines to blow up with it. This should…”
“You idiot. It isn’t that easy! The Tri-Core has been moving around this whole time after plowing right through that net, setting off plenty of those mines in the process! Setting off more of them with the Hand Axe isn’t going to damage one of those giant shark anchors!!”
The Tri-Core moved one of its weapons.
It finally turned one of its over 100 weapons as if displaying its anger for a small bug that had bitten it.
It was not using one of the main cannons that was aimed at the princess’s Object.
However, anything on the Tri-Core was enough to sink a normal battleship. There was no question as to what would happen to a flesh-and-blood soldier.
“Dammit. The Tri-Core’s gotten serious!! Hey, Quenser, we’ll send out all the chaff and smoke we have, but don’t blame me if it doesn’t work!! It’s impossible to damage those shark anchors with just that kind of explosive!!” said Heivia desperately.
“That wasn’t what I was trying to do,” Quenser replied with a fearless smile on his lips. “I was trying to blow up the net caught on the Object!!”
The explosion Quenser had caused had further torn apart the giant net caught on the shark anchor, causing it to spread out.
The net had spread out like a flag waving in the wind and had entwined itself around one of the other shark anchors due to the very current created by the shark anchors.
Up until then, only one of the three shark anchors had been made useless by having the net wrapped around it.
However, Quenser had caused the net to wrap around a second one. The net made its way into the gaps in the retractable shark anchor, stopping its movements. The Object's ability to maintain its balance was further reduced.
With a tremendous roar, the Tri-Core fired at Quenser.
However, the shell did not actually hit him. A tremendous amount of water was thrown into the air and Quenser was tossed about by the great current this caused. He did not die. An invincible object had aimed for him, yet he lived on.
The reason for that was simple.
Quenser stared at the Tri-Core as it started acting oddly.
“Objects always have mass and weight on a normally unthinkable scale and the Tri-Core has three spherical main bodies. That is likely why it is exclusively used for naval battles. Any use of legs to try and support something that large on land would be crushed underneath its weight.”
An eerie creaking noise resounded throughout the battlefield.
The Tri-Core’s body had been precisely made according to its schematics and did not have even the slightest defect, but it was clearly beginning to warp bit by bit. The sight was similar to seeing a mountain range being created by tectonic plates crashing into each other. The creaking continued and the center of the A-shaped Object swelled up as if being folded symmetrically by a giant hand.
“That weight carries quite a bit of potential energy. It is one thing when it has the shark anchors to control the balance, but when those shark anchors aren’t functioning, the main body of the Tri-Core suffers when it moves that normally unthinkable weight. It’s exactly like how an aikido practitioner uses his opponent’s own weight to throw him!!”
The Object struggled.
However, it was too late.
The Tri-Core’s giant form had clearly bent into a lowercase n-shape. Anyone could have predicted what fate awaited the Object as it continued to loudly self destruct.
A great noise reverberated across the Strait of Gibraltar.
Like something out of a wiener commercial, the Tri-Core bent past its limit and snapped in two. Bisected under its own weight, the Object started to sink deep into the sea. Its floats were smashed and its air cushion engines were no longer functioning properly, so it no longer had any way to float.
Just before the Tri-Core sank completely below the surface, a small blast came from the top and an escape device shot out. The enemy Elite pilot had given up. Quenser had defeated the Tri-Core.
Quenser looked up at the helicopter flying above his head and laughed like an idiot.
“Ha ha ha!! So you’ve finally come back, you losers!! First the Water Strider in Alaska and now this!! That’s two I’ve taken out!! How many medals am I gonna get now!? I may just be a battlefield student, but maybe now I’ll be the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel or something!”
“Wait, you idiot!! This isn’t over! You need to get out of there!!”
“Hah? The Tri-Core is on its way to the bottom of the-…”
“Yes, and a giant tsunami-like wave is spreading out in a ring from where it sank! This is something like the crater-shaped wave created when a space station falls in the ocean!!”
Quenser looked over in shock and saw a giant wall.
It was a wall of water 20 meters high.
From his position, it almost looked like a building was collapsing down on him. He could see the helicopter above frantically ascending in order to avoid getting hit by the wave.
(You’ve gotta be kidding…!)
Even the aftereffects of its defeat were enough to kill a flesh-and-blood soldier.
At the very end, Quenser was newly made aware of just how huge Objects were as the lethal wall of water struck him. All five of his senses were thrown into chaos and he became unable to tell what was going on in the outside world.
Amid the chaotic sensations, that word floated up from within him.
However, Quenser was not dashed to pieces.
Something was supporting his body to prevent it from being swept away.
After several seconds, the 20 meter wave finally passed.
Quenser looked around in confusion because he had no idea why he was still alive. Then he realized what had happened.
The princess’s Object had circled around in the direction he was being swept and had used one of the main cannon's arms to scoop him up. Quenser was draped atop the end of the 40 meter main cannon like a futon hanging to dry.
“Hi there.” He heard the princess’s voice coming from the external speakers normally used to demand trembling soldiers to surrender once the enemy Object had been blown away. “How does it feel to ride on one of the Objects you love so much?”
And so Quenser, Heivia, and Froleytia survived. They were aboard a large transport plane that had taken off from a military base.
All three of them were holding the type of giant hamburger that completely ignored balanced nutritional needs and that they could not get while stuck on a base. Froleytia’s Japan obsession showed itself once more as her burger held a Japanese tatsuta-age rather than a beef patty.
She moved her small, pale lips and said, “I thought I wouldn’t be able to properly enjoy normal food after months of nothing but flavorless rations, but it seems good food is good food no matter what. Just eating this is enough to remind me that I am a living being.”
“Sorry to interrupt you in the middle of some kind of philosophical dissertation, but could you not cross your legs while wearing that tight skirt? Please think about how your subordinates must feel sitting right in front of you.”
“Hm? What, you don’t like it? C’mon, I’m going out of my way to give you a little reward. Can you really escape the allure of this sexy zone made up of black stockings and red panties?”
“No, I feel panties aren’t something that should just be out in the open like that. I mean, they need to be a rare sight that you just catch a slight glimpse of. Not that I think the sight of panties is a bad thing, but my theory is they just aren’t living up to their full potential like this. They’re red. And soaked with seawater. Those black synthetic fibers are torn just a bit showing some white skin… Dammit, you’re right!! I am happy!! Gwaahh!!”
The slightly bluish-silver-haired and large-breasted Froleytia laughed and gave a victorious smile as she toyed with the healthy young man that was Heivia.
“Damn, my clothes are sticking to me uncomfortably though. Why does seawater stick to your skin like this? Just changing clothes would be meaningless if I still reek of the beach like this. If only we had had enough time to get a shower back at the port.”
“The plane has no shower room, so you’ll just have to put up with it until we reach the next base.”
“Not necessarily, Quenser,” said Froleytia as she undid the latch on a large box on the ground nearby. She pulled out a strange item that looked like a bag that was made of water resistant material that had a watering can-like faucet attached to the bottom. “This is a simple portable shower. It seems the divers have had the same thoughts.”
Froleytia moved her damp body and hung the water resistant bag from a hook on the ceiling.
“Ehh?” Heivia shouted upon seeing his superior officer pull out a kiddie pool-like object to prevent the water from spreading across the floor. “You mean…here…? We’re all going to take a shower together here!? W-with pleasure, ma’am!!”
“I’ll be partitioning the shower off with a curtain, so outta the way, Heivia!”
Heivia let out a scream as Froleytia pulled a thick plastic sheet across in front of her on a rail on the ceiling while kicking him in the side as he sat on the ground.
When he heard the sound of clothes being slipped off from behind the sheet, Heivia stopped rolling around on the ground and became completely still.
“…Shit. Talk about a cock tease.”
“Y-yeah… That’s right… You’re completely right, Heivia.”
“Eh? What kind of half-hearted reply is that? W-wait, is there a gap between the sheet and the wall over there…!?”
“Nope. Not at all. Not even slightly. Don’t worry about it.”
Froleytia’s exceedingly calm voice that was accompanied by the sound of water came from the other side of the thick sheet.
“Quenser, I only allowed you to see as far as the underwear. If you go any further, I may have to use the interrogation room afterwards.”
“Wah!! You noticed!?”
“Wait, so you can see!?” exclaimed Heivia.
The two idiots started struggling over that spot, but Froleytia upped her defense by using a piece of electrical tape to close the gap between the sheet and the wall. By the time Heivia managed to look over, there was nothing left to see.
“Oh, c’mon, Heivia. Is it really something worth sulking in the corner over?”
“…Leave me alone. Someone who got everything he wanted can’t understand how I feel.”
As it was not enough of an issue for him to worry about when he was so sweaty, Quenser decided to leave Heivia be. Quenser had other things to worry about.
“The princess sure has it tough,” he muttered as he glanced out the window. “It’s normally just a quick plane ride away, but they have to actually alter the landscape to transport her giant Object to the next battlefield.”
From behind the thick sheet, Froleytia turned Quenser’s words to himself into a conversation.
“And yet that thing is a monster that can rush across land or sea at the speed of a linear motor train. There are plenty of just causes for this war, but the primary reason seems to be gaining exclusive control of the best routes to efficiently move an Object to any battlefield in the world. Straits are especially desirable in that sense.”
“What, are we back to the Age of Exploration?”
Quenser was forced to reflect once more on the reasons behind the killing he had been taking part in. As he did, the thick sheet partitioning off the shower area slid to the side, revealing a fully-clothed Froleytia.
“Tah dah. Now that was refreshing. It’s a shame the only available change of clothes were unfashionable overalls, but what can you do? …By the way, Heivia, why are you sulking in the corner?”
“…Being under the command of a beauty of a superior officer comes with some serious problems,” muttered Heivia with a grim look on his face, but Froleytia only looked confused.
Quenser looked over at what she was holding.
“Froleytia, why are you hooking that tablet up to that notebook right after getting out of the shower?”
“Hm? Oh, this? I have to provide real-time long-distance orders to secure the transport route for an Object in South America and the troops supporting it. Doing this really drives home how much the power balance of the world can change based on who holds the quickest routes with which to transport Objects.”
“…I really don’t care. Just so you know, I’m never taking part in an awards ceremony again. I’m leaving!” Heivia said out of displeasure.
“You know what the military regulations are, right?”
“Fuck the regulations!! Go ahead and discharge me! If you need a reason, I’ll rape you and those giant breasts of yours right now!! I only enlisted in order to gain the experience I needed to become the next head of my noble family!! After destroying two Objects with normal firepower, I think I’ve more than done that! I’m never going back to a battlefield like that!!”
“You know, I’d say today’s victory goes to Quenser alone…”
“Yeah, in more ways than one!! I didn’t get to see anything!!”
“? I have the feeling we’re talking about two different things now… Where did you get off track, Heivia? Well, I’m not quite sure what the problem is, but quit crying.”
Froleytia had looked up from the map on the computer in confusion, but then her radio started beeping. After an exchange over the radio that was filled with special military jargon, Froleytia frowned in annoyance and finally cut the connection after giving a quick word of consent.
“It seems you’re in luck. You aren’t going to have another awards ceremony.”
“Really!? Thank goodness, I can go home! The home country is designated a safe country, so everything will be fine once I get back there!!”
“Who said you had been ordered back home? That’s been cancelled too.”
“Hah?” said Quenser and Heivia as they stared at their superior’s face.
Froleytia shrugged and responded with, “A previously inactive military country in Oceania has made a major move. Now that you two have destroyed two Objects, it looks like the higher ups have really taken a liking to you. They referred to you by name when they asked to have you sent straight to Oceania.”
“Let me off!”
“I’ll hijack this plane!”
The two soldiers shouted in protest, but the large transport plane’s route could not be changed. It seemed some distant person was controlling the plane’s route remotely by drawing a line on a map on a computer.