HEAVY OBJECT:Volume1 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: War of the Ant and the Grasshopper >> Battle to Defeat an Oceanian Military Nation
An Oceanian military nation existed in a land famous for koalas and kangaroos. In the age when a country known as Australia had existed there, the cities had primarily existed on the coastal border areas and the central area had mostly been a dry, cracked wasteland that looked like something out of a Western. Even if the areas were not full-blown deserts, the dry, hard ground could only support undergrowth, so both growing crops and building up a modern city had been difficult.
However, modern times had overturned that situation.
Artificial soil with high water retention had been developed and many genetically improved plant cultivars were able to carry out urban greening even in harsh climates. Using these and other methods, a large scale plan to improve Oceania’s environment had been developed. With the improvements to the soil, the previously barren inner lands could be made able to produce large amounts of crops and the people who profited from those crops could build large cities and connect them with a traffic network. By drawing out the resources hidden within the earth, the country’s economy could flourish, and its position in the international community could rise. If it had all gone according to plan, no one would have even thought of targeting that nation with an Object.
However, it did not go according to plan.
The tribes that had lived in Oceania since ancient times felt it necessary to preserve Oceania’s original state. Their religious beliefs led them to view the natural state of the land as precious and noble no matter how barren that left it. As such, they refused to let the land be covered in non-native or genetically improved plants. The tribes could not bear to have their land “eaten away” just to make money, so they began carrying out completely peaceful demonstrations and protests. The military nation was lost in its greed for the profits the development of the land would produce, so they responded in a truly simple fashion.
They sent an Object after them.
“That is what is known as the Forest Conservation that began two years ago. And so a coalition force intervened to protect the tribes from the tyranny of that military nation,” said Heivia within the sand-covered maintenance base zone.
Standing next to him, Quenser said, “Huh? This all started two years ago? Then why are we only being called in now?”
“How should I know? There must have been some new development. Something that requires finishing them off.”
The balance of power within Oceania was incredibly easy to see. The areas under control of the military nation were covered in green while the areas under control of the coalition force (and the tribes that refused to support the military nation) were covered in desert. They were also separated by whether they were willing to slaughter an opposing force for nothing more than the profit gained from food and lumber.
Objects from various different forces were kept within that coalition base zone on the front line. Normally, those Objects would likely have been on opposing sides, but they were currently lined up next to each other.
The soil there was of course arid. In accordance with the demands of the tribes, they only cleared away the vegetation that had not existed in Oceania since ancient times.
“Why is it so damn hot? Weren’t we just freezing our asses off in Alaska not too long ago?”
“The seasons in the southern hemisphere are reversed, you idiot. But I suppose this weather is actually a little more suited to a miniskirt Santa.” Quenser looked around while wiping a mixture of sweat and sand from his face. “Y’know, we sure have a lot of Objects on our side this time. Maybe we can finally get by without having to charge in ourselves.”
“Don’t be stupid. Have you forgotten how many times our expectations have been horribly, horribly betrayed? It’s probably more realistic to think of more allies as something that increases the chances of getting stepped on accidentally.”
“The coalition force has sent countless Objects against bases in order to crush the dictatorship here, right? But what about the white flag? War these days is based on battles between Objects, so is it really okay to attack bases with only flesh-and-blood people in them?”
“Don’t ask me. It’s probably just some kind of extreme exception. Have you seen what nations make up this coalition? I can’t believe we’ve been working together with dangerous countries like that for two years now. This Oceanian dictatorship must really be hated by the international community. …Also, I doubt the Oceanians have ever raised the white flag. They’ve done some pretty nasty things, so I doubt anyone would let them in even if they did flee the country.”
While listening to Heivia, Quenser leaned up against the synthetic fiber barricade spread around the base and stuck something like a giant rectangular eraser into his mouth.
“Hm, the rations are as disgusting as ever, so that’s something.”
“Yeah, but now we get a coating of sand to add to the flavor.”
“I just want to go home.”
“The higher ups are carrying out firefights using the communication function on handheld game systems.”
While they muttered various complaints, they heard the barricade creak.
They turned around to find a local girl of about 10 grabbing onto the barricade from outside and staring up at them.
“What are those?” the girl asked while innocently pointing at the coalition Objects being moved within the base zone.
Quenser and Heivia were unsure how to respond.
However, the girl did not seem to mind and pressed a picture book up against the barricade.
“It’s them, isn’t it? They’re the kind beasts of the rocks in this story.”
“Y-yeah, that’s what they are. They’re providing shelter for the squirrels and kangaroos in case it rains.”
Quenser could not bear to tell her they were weapons of mass destruction and were anything but kind. To his annoyance, Heivia gave him a look that seemed to say, “Nice one, Quenser!!”
Next, a number of trails of white smoke were fired up into the air within the base zone.
The girl pointed up into the sky and asked, “And what are those?”
Quenser absolutely refused to tell her they were a new model of sensor-type meteorological missiles being tested.
“Th-they’re rockets…which are sort of like a relative of a space shuttle…I guess?”
“Wow, I’ve never seen one before.”
As the girl’s eyes glittered in excitement, the two boys averted their gaze.
That was when their superior officer, Froleytia, arrived.
“Hey, you idiots, don’t sit around chatting by the barricade. Stay focused.”
The girl outside the barricade responded more quickly than Froleytia’s subordinates. She jumped in fright and ran off as quickly as she could.
Quenser and Heivia stared silently at Froleytia for a bit.
“…What a waste.”
“…There’s no helping it. She may be beautiful, but she’s still a strict commander. Even a mixed martial artist would probably lose his nerve when faced with this aura.”
“Oh, do you want to see my nice side? I can give you an introduction using the heel of my boot if you like. But for now, don’t hang around near the barricade. This is a battlefield, remember?”
“We’ll be fine. Even in a military nation like this, I doubt a mere sniper is going to target a base filled with so many Objects.”
“That’s not what I meant. The base is being targeted by cameras.” Froleytia seemed frustrated, but despite the heat, she did not undo even a single button of the military uniform constraining her giant breasts. “A surprising number of foreign reporters have gathered, saying they will expose the tyranny of the military nation. However, they are mostly spoiled brats from safe countries that have never seen war and the rest are people who I seriously doubt are reporters.”
“Oh, you mean the people who act as battlefield guides now that Objects have made mercenaries obsolete?” asked Heivia.
“Seems that way,” agreed Froleytia. “The problem is that the military’s safety protocols don’t allow us to let them into the areas ruled by the military nation, so they have nothing to do. Occasionally, they will turn their cameras our way, hoping to get a shot that will be worth some money. If you don’t want your stupid face showing up alongside a satirical article in the home country, make sure to be in top form while outside.”
“…God, what a pain. Can’t you ban photography of the base saying it’s a necessary security measure to preserve classified information on the Objects or something?”
Froleytia thought she felt a headache coming on when she heard Quenser’s amateurish suggestion.
“What do you think the coalition is for? The home country could end this infighting on its own if need be, but the higher ups want a grand image of the heroes of justice on parade. If we banned photography, the candidates desperately campaigning for the council positions back home would be upset. Councilor Flide and the others are extremely on edge.”
“Hadn’t you heard, Quenser? They’re doing all sorts of things for the press. There was even talk of having decals for high-paying companies or political parties put on the Object’s armor like F1 racers or something.”
“What, are they planning to send the image of bases being attacked and soldiers being shot to pieces into people’s living rooms? They don’t understand what war is like.”
That comment of Quenser’s may have sounded like something any other soldier would have said, but he was technically still a mere battlefield student. The know-it-all expression he had as he made his complaint was more the trait of a peaceful citizen.
Fed up with that discussion, Heivia changed the subject.
“Hey, did you see those boats from an anti-war group racing around in the ocean? They had those huge banners insisting the coalition forces end the invasion that was made up of an overwhelming force of Objects.”
“They’re either a bunch of idiots who don’t know what’s going on inside the military nation or a bunch of self-centered bastards who know but don’t care. Do we really need to pay any attention to them? In fact, I’m willing to bet they would ask us why didn’t we attack the military nation sooner, the second a torpedo from that nation sinks one of them.”
With a displeased expression, Froleytia spoke up, “The Council elections back in the home country are coming up soon. As I said, Councilor Flide and the others are on edge to ensure they don’t gain any kind of negative image. It’s possible they really are planning an operation to provide relief to that ignorant anti-war group.”
“Oh c’mon. We come all the way to the battlefield and we have to babysit some idiots?” complained the two boys.
Froleytia glanced up toward the sun that was beginning to sink.
“You two will be taking part in a mission that begins at sunset, so you need to prepare yourselves now. An official briefing is being held this evening, so make sure you are fully equipped by then.”
“Wait, ‘you two’? Froleytia, are you just going to be sitting in an air-conditioned room waiting for the result?” asked Heivia while pouting his lips.
Froleytia shrugged and said, “Would you rather help us out here? It isn’t easy holding back the third-rate reporters who want to be battlefield cameramen and keep ignoring the military safety protocols and heading for the front lines. They all think us soldiers are something like tour guides. Whenever their freedom is infringed on even slightly, they call to complain as if we were a customer service center. Do you want to see the true face of pacifism while you have people spit in your face and are unable to strike back?”
Quenser and Heivia grimaced at the thought.
Inside the coalition maintenance base zone, the characteristics of the equipment found within the same class of facility varied depending on which force they belonged to. An Elite girl who was called the princess by others stood within a detached portion of the base zone created from multiple large vehicles.
Multiple such facilities existed and the one the princess was currently inside was not the enormous one that contained her personal Object, the Baby Magnum. She was in a special facility located next to the one for the Object. This one was for maintaining the Elite pilot’s body.
The area was so large it was hard to believe it was inside a vehicle and it contained a clear semi-circle dome about 10 meters across. The Elite girl was standing in the middle of that dome and countless devices and human eyes were observing her from outside the dome. The people were from the medical team that looked after the Elite girl’s health.
The old lady that normally maintained the Object was mixed in with the medical team and she operated a device that looked like the kind of recording console used to dub animation or movies.
“Okay, let’s get started. Have you finished preparing the instrument?” said the old lady.
Her voice was not transmitted by sound. Instead, orange words were displayed on the inner clear wall of the dome. This was because the dome was soundproofed. The girl read the words that scrolled across like on an electric scoreboard. As a music score raced across the clear and thin monitor before her eyes, she put on the special goggles also used to pilot the Object.
She held up a long, thin silver flute and entered text by having the infrared input function of the goggles read the motion of her eyes.
“Tuning of the flute is complete,” she wrote.
“I take it there are no issues with the score either. In that case, let the metronome go. You can begin your performance whenever you like.”
Having read the old lady’s words, the princess lightly let fly the paper airplane she held in one hand. While watching the papercraft gently arcing through the air, she held the silver flute horizontally up to her mouth.
She blew into it and moved her white fingers.
A small noise was emitted and the nose of the paper airplane tilted up slightly. It was made of a special material that was distorted by sound waves.
“Yes, yes, that’s good. Bring the metronome into a 5 meter radius loop at an altitude of 140 centimeters, completing one loop every 30 seconds.”
“Inartistic performances like that are boring.”
With the flute still to her mouth, the princess continued moving her eyes to continue the conversation. Notes moved dizzyingly across the monitor displaying the score, but there was no uncertainty in the movement of her fingers. It was less like the movements of a music-loving musician and more like the movements of a robot arm accurately soldering items to a circuit board in a semiconductor plant.
“Does it feel good to be surrounded by sound like that?”
“You mean the point vibrations of the dome and the sound I am creating? If I was satisfied with only that, I would feel like I was insulting orchestras.”
There was no standard method of regulating an Elite’s body. Nor was there merely a different set of standards for each army or nation. The ideal method was built up specifically for each individual Elite. For one person, it was to continually swim within a large pool, aiming for the fastest time. For another, it was solving every single problem on an answer sheet similar to a college entrance exam. For another, it was playing chess against a super computer. And for someone like the princess, it was to surround oneself in carefully modulated sound.
“Do you have a complaint with the instrument? For a change of pace, you could always try using the electric guitar.”
“Having the sound of my breath mixed in would have an effect on the regulation. I am using the flute because the breaths are written into the music.”
Other sounds could not be mixed in with the music. She could talk with no problem by taking breaks from playing, but the regulation could not continue during those breaks.
That was why the Elite girl was going through the annoyance of speaking with her eyes while playing with her mouth. Eventually, she reached the final note and that stage of the regulation was complete. The princess removed the flute from her mouth and the paper airplane that had been kept aloft by the music slowly fell to the floor.
The princess picked up the metronome and prepared for the next song, but then she suddenly looked up. Through the clear dome, she had spotted a familiar face entering through the open door of the large vehicle.
It was Quenser.
He was being pushed forward by his companion Heivia and his expression made it seem he did not know why he was there. Seeing that, the princess silently nodded.
(Heivia can be rough, but he is certainly considerate.)
Among the group monitoring her, only the non-medical old lady seemed to notice the change in her mental state. The orange text read, “How about we take a short break,” and the soundproofed door of the clear dome opened automatically.
Quenser entered and the princess moved her eyes to give instructions to the dome. Immediately afterwards, the polarization of the clear dome walls changed, making them white.
“Wah!” shouted Quenser in surprise as he looked around.
The princess approached him and said, “What are you here for today?”
“Oh, Heivia was saying something about us needing to drop by and remind you not to step on us since we’re going to be on a mission together.”
(What kind of brute does that person think I am?)
The princess was a tad miffed.
Oblivious to that fact, Quenser looked at the silver flute the princess held.
“Hehh. Is that a flute? I saw people using them in a wind orchestra back in the safe country, but I just couldn’t figure out how they were using them. I probably wouldn’t even be able to make a noise if I tried.”
“It is easier than it looks. Do you want to try?” asked the Elite girl and Quenser’s face lit up even more than she had expected.
That was enough to bring the princess back into a good mood, but…
“You hold a flute to the side, right? Huh? Does it go to the right or the left?”
Before she could say anything, Quenser innocently brought the flute to his mouth.
She had been planning to at least wipe the mouthpiece off before handing it to him, so she was stunned and stood with a blank look and a blush on her face. However, an even greater shock ran through her soon after.
The girl was having her body regulated by the sound of the instrument, so just as a small, stupid sound escaped the flute, a sudden deluge of strange feelings assaulted her spine.
The princess’s mouth wordlessly opened and closed as she curled up her spine. A specific suggestion command would release her from the regulatory effects of the flute, but she had completely forgotten to give the command.
As a soft, charming light appeared in her eye and the light of reason tried to deny it, the girl’s body stiffened, but Quenser was as clueless as ever.
As he tried to accurately produce the “do re mi fa sol la si do” scale, the strengths of the breaths he was using were completely wrong.
“Huh? The notes aren’t coming out right. They’re distorted. And how am I supposed to press down to made a ‘do’?”
With each grating noise produced by the flute, the princess’s body trembled unnaturally. A glossy light peach color appeared in her white cheeks and tears appeared in the edges of her eyes. Her slender arms and legs turned inward against her wishes. As the girl rubbed her thighs together, she had no idea why she naturally wanted to do so.
“Do re mi…fa? Is this ‘fa’? …Huh?”
Finally, Quenser noticed something was wrong.
The princess blushed even further due to the conflict between relief and embarrassment at his finally noticing.
“A-are you okay? Do you need to use the bathroom?” asked Quenser with a worried expression as he looked at her face.
Immediately afterwards, the elite girl did something she did not often do.
She punched a human being directly with her small fist.
The sun began sinking below the horizon.
As Quenser stood in that wild land that was being dyed orange, Heivia spoke out to him.
“Come to think of it, what exactly are we going to be doing?”
“Isn’t that what we’re about to find out at the briefing?”
“I’m sure the various coalition dignitaries are plotting to have their own Object take all the glory. Don’t you think there’s gonna be some argument over who gets to finish off the enemy?”
“We can only pray an actual fight doesn’t break out like dogs going after some meat.”
As Quenser walked along, he pulled out a folded up map. It was of the Oceanian military nation. When Heivia saw the old map, an annoyed expression appeared on his face.
“What the hell are you doing? Did you lose your handheld?”
“If the battery dies or sand gets in it, it’ll be useless. If you don’t learn when to use digital means and when to use analog means, you’ll get yourself killed.” As he spoke, Quenser refolded the small map like someone reading a newspaper on a crowded train. “From what the people maintaining the princess’s Object said, the plan is to attack the Oceanian military nation’s secret base and blow away the enemy Object.” Heivia peered over at the map from the side as Quenser continued to speak. “According to the higher up’s information, the Oceanian military nation’s level of tech is actually quite low. It’s to the point where we’re not even sure if they could create an Object or not. The electronic simulation group has created an estimated design for the enemy Object based on what has been brought into or developed here, and it only comes out to what they’re calling Generation 0.5. Basically, their level of tech is too low to evenly give the Object normal functionality, so it’s really just a piece of junk. The armor is especially crudely made, so the analysis says a nuclear warhead might actually be enough to destroy it.”
“Then this should be easy. We have a coalition force giving us over 20 Objects spread out across Oceania. Objects are synonymous with war, so we can crush Oceania by numbers alone, right?”
“Actually, they say it isn’t going to be that easy.”
Quenser showed the folded map to Heivia.
It had red circles in places.
“The Oceanian military nation knows that their precious Object will be destroyed in an instant if we attack in earnest, so they’ve hidden where its base is. That’s why, even with all the Objects we have, we can’t attack it right away.”
“Ahn? But I thought an operation was beginning at sunset. Surely that means we know where this secret base is, right?”
“We have a possible candidate.” Quenser pointed at one of the red circles on the map. “It seems the Oceanians have constructed fake base zones across the land to throw off our analysis. We’ve attacked what looks like a base zone a few times, but they’ve ended up being completely empty. They were talking about having done a more thorough investigation this time, but they must still not know if this one is real or not.”
“Objects are fucking huge. Can’t they tell where it is from the satellites?”
“That’s been used against us. The higher ups have gotten all excited upon seeing a giant 50 meter form and sent out a large force only to find a giant gas tank covered in decorations. From what I heard, those in charge of monitoring the satellites broke out crying in humiliation.”
“That’s quite the indirect attack,” replied Heivia.
The military nation had scattered dummy gas tanks about Oceania because they knew they were being monitored by satellite. Apparently, they had been trying to say, “Look how many Objects we have. Wah hah hah!”
Of course, the coalition force was not stupid enough to fall for all the dummies, but they still had to act carefully because they never knew when what they were approaching would turn out to be the real Object. This needlessly wore down the soldiers’ morale and rapidly consumed the people’s tax money. Because of all this, the higher ups just wanted to bring the war to an end quickly.
“So this is likely to end up being nothing but target practice against fakes?”
“The worst part is that looking at it like that could easily get you blown to pieces.”
No longer needing it, Quenser folded the map up even smaller and stuffed it in his back pocket.
Heivia looked around the area and said, “By the way, we’re working with a coalition force this time, right? So there’ll be Objects other than the princess’s. I hope we don’t end up working alongside a country we ran into in Alaska or Gibraltar. I’d rather not have a supposed ally shoot me in the back over personal issues.”
“Are you sure you want to ask that? You aren’t going to like the answer. I asked the same thing to the princess’s Object’s maintenance team. It’s only a rumor, but-…”
Before Quenser could continue, a giant building passed by in front of them.
Actually, it was an Object.
The giant 50 meter form passing by was all it took to blow sand up into the air like a sandstorm, but Quenser and Heivia had more important things to worry about.
The flag printed on the Object’s armor was enough to almost give Heivia a heart attack.
“Gyahhh!? You’ve gotta be kidding me! That’s the Information Alliance!!”
“Yeah, I just heard about it before. It seems we’re working with those crazy people.”
The Object’s information collection devices must have picked up their voices because the 50 meter form slowed as if in response and a female voice was transmitted over a speaker.
“My, my. If it isn’t the dogs of the Legitimacy Kingdom’s military. It seems we will be working together. Oh ho ho.”
The Object’s air cushion engine keeping it afloat then blew out extra air, blowing even more sand about and making Quenser and Heivia cough.
“Dammit. This is why they shouldn’t let immature people pilot Objects!! Do we really have to go on this mission along with someone like that!?”
“It’s still better than dealing with the Capitalist Corporations or the Faith Organization, so you should probably quit complaining.”
A satirical journalist had once likened the world map of that age to stained glass. Where it had once been divided into many small nations, it was now divided into just a few “colors” showing what group was in charge.
One was a group that insisted the accuracy of information was what determined good and evil and that was trying to create a network that covered the world. One was a collection of super capitalist corporations that felt the amount of money in one’s bank account determined your precedence in the world and what human rights you had. One was a kingdom that was a collection of cultures that wanted to resurrect the old system where legitimacy of one’s bloodline and one’s honor determined one’s social standing.
Food shortages, energy shortages, increasing populations, and many other things were touted as the “official reasons” for the world ending up like that, but it seemed the real reason was the failure and utter shattering of the United Nations in the first half of the 21st century. The shattered pieces continued on in the directions they wanted and eventually reformed into a few different alliances.
No longer did a map of the world’s power balance have a single continent simply filled in with one color. Instead, the countries of a single area freely joined whatever force they wished, making the power balance overcome geographic boundaries. This indeed made the map look something like stained glass. As this made neighboring countries often also be enemies, small scale battles were quite common in that world.
However, all of this had become completely normal by the time Quenser had been born, so he could only tilt his head to the side in confusion when the elderly shook their heads, fed up with it all.
“However, two Objects are being used for this operation, so I doubt flesh-and-blood soldiers like you will even be needed. Oh ho ho,” said the Object pilot.
“Then can we just go to bed?”
After the briefing where the coalition dignitaries came into conflict with their desire to have their own Object take all the glory, Quenser and the other soldiers like him exited the building, feeling incredibly bored.
The sun had completely set and darkness filled the sky.
It was time for the operation to begin.
“Oh, god. Why does the target site have to be 2 kilometers southwest of here? Two kilometers! Can’t the higher ups get us some trucks!?” shouted out Quenser without thinking.
Heivia shook his head and said, “They actually did, but it’s all they can do to carry the Information Alliance unit with their heavy powered suits. See how the tires are about to burst already?”
“They have motors and fibrous springs to supplement their strength, so why can’t they be the ones to walk? And what are they gonna use those for in an Object vs. Object battle anyway?”
“That’s a reconnaissance unit equipped with extremely high performance high speed cameras. They analyze the minute movements of the enemy Object’s main gun and lenses and send that information to their Object to help with timing for evasion and defense. At the very least, they’ll be more help in a battle than us. Although they do tend to get targeted first due to their annoying interference.”
However, it was not just the foot soldiers who were annoyed with the arrangement.
The giant Objects that could pull off speeds on the level of a linear motor train had to match the speed of the foot soldiers. They occasionally made small movements that were reminiscent of a human tapping their foot impatiently while waiting for someone.
Two Objects flanked the foot soldiers on opposite sides.
The first was the princess from the Legitimacy Kingdom army.
The other was the Elite from the Information Alliance army that Quenser and Heivia had met before.
The two Objects must have used different forms of propulsion because the rumbling sound similar to dark thunderclouds only came from the princess’s Object.
To distract himself from his irritation and because of the odd sense of connection due to fighting alongside each other (even if the team had been thrown together at the last second), Quenser decided to speak to the Information Alliance Object.
It was also possible he was merely curious due to the fact that he would normally be unable to approach (for fear of getting blown to pieces) an Object from the Information Alliance.
“Hey, is it true that the Information Alliance military is developing a human-shaped Object?”
“Oh ho ho. That is obviously an ugly lie. It may be technically possible, but its center of gravity would be too high, so it would fall over too easily.”
“That’s no fun. Then is the rumor about your Objects having power outlets false too?”
“That one is true. Just like with a blast furnace, an Object’s reactor is more efficient if it is left on 24/7 rather than switching it on and off. As such, there is spare energy that can be spread around while on standby in the base. Oh ho ho.”
“You travel on land for long periods of time using propulsion from an air cushion engine that uses pure air pressure rather than static electricity. When you go all out, it seems like the excess energy would be enough to blow any surrounding soldiers away.”
“When travelling alongside soldiers, the air cushion engine is only used to lessen the weight a bit so treads are enough to propel the Object. Oh ho ho. That way the surrounding air is not disturbed too much and soldiers can travel alongside it.”
“Hehh. So that’s how the Information Alliance does things these days.”
“I like the look of that admiring gaze. Oh, and to allow the air cushion engine to work to its fullest, the body is lightened by using carbon and aramid materials for portions of the armor. Oh ho ho.”
“By the way, all this walking is exhausting, so could I hitch a ride?”
“Oh ho ho. Such a small weight would hardly be an issue, so feel free to grab on.”
Quenser grabbed onto the urethane-like material of the air cushion engine and Heivia suddenly quietly shouted over at him.
“(Hey! That’s not a good idea, Quenser!!)”
“(What? You mean because the Information Alliance intelligence unit is glaring at me in fear that some information will be leaked?)”
“(Yes, well, the fact that they’re actually staring at your face through their scopes is a problem, but the bigger problem is that our princess seems to have gotten into a really bad mood for some reason!!)”
Having completely climbed on top of the military urethane material used on the air cushion engine, Quenser looked over at the other Object in confusion.
He saw the princess’s Object moving as if shaking its head.
“Nothing is the matter,” she said.
“Gwaahh!? The shaking of the Object is causing the air pressure and repellent spray to blow sand everywhere!!” shouted Heivia from the ground and all the soldiers still in proper formation started coughing. Quenser had managed to avoid the issues by climbing up a few meters from the ground. “Quenser! If you want to prevent any more damage, go grab onto the princess’s Object!!”
“But doesn’t hers use static electricity and lasers for propulsion? It distorts lasers like crazy with metal plates to heat up the air and detonate it. I think that would be dangerous to get anywhere near.”
“Cough cough!! Y-yeah well, this sand hell is pretty dangerous, too!”
That was when the Information Alliance Elite girl spoke up.
“This kind of casual attentiveness and nonchalant kindness is important to gain trust amongst us soldiers. Oh ho ho. I suppose the unrefined Elite of the Legitimacy Kingdom simply does not understand that.”
“I said it was nothing. …Are you mocking me?” replied the princess.
“Please, Quenser!! Come down!! Don’t provoke the princess and the other Elite any further!! At this rate, we’re all going to be slaughtered while caught between two battling Objects!!”
Quenser could hear the shouting from down below, but he had no intention of going back to travelling on foot with all the heavy equipment he was weighed down with. He lay down on top of the urethane with the intent of making himself comfortable until they arrived.
It was easy to tell who controlled which portions of Oceania.
The areas controlled by the military nation were covered in forest while the areas controlled by the coalition forces were covered in desert.
Quenser and the others were in the green forest.
At first, they had been travelling across cracked, arid land, but after crossing a certain line, the land became covered in grass. After that, the land quickly became covered in a thick forest. The state of the soil completely changed depending on whether the artificial soil that had high water retention had been distributed in that area or not. It was no surprise that the tribes that had loved the natural land there for over 1000 years saw the unnatural sight of those plants foreign to that continent as a desecration of the land.
Quenser got down off the urethane portion of the Object and looked around.
“Now then, the battlefield lies just ahead. Although I suppose we’ll just be sitting idly by and leaving everything to the real stars of the show.”
“…I’d rather you just left right now,” muttered Heivia.
Unbeknownst to Quenser, Heivia had had a horrible time trapped between the two Objects while Quenser relaxed atop one of them.
Heivia looked around too and said, “Y’know, this really is one hell of a forest. They improved the genetics for the sake of urban greening, right? I can’t believe this was originally a desert.”
“Don’t be stupid. Even if they altered their growth rate, they couldn’t have grown trees with trunks that large. The shorter trees are one thing, but these ones that look at least 100 years old were probably swiped from other countries in the area.”
The princess then spoke through the speakers on her Object.
“We are going to head out. Be careful and make sure you are not taken out by stray shots or radiant heat.”
“Thanks for the concern, but doesn’t that just mean we’re useless?”
“Oh ho ho. You can just wait here while completing a 10-minute brain training or something.”
The two giant Objects then charged off into the thick forest at high speed. Quenser and the others were left with only the trailing sound of dark thunderclouds that came from the princess’s Object.
Those giant machines that have main bodies over 50 meters across had headed off at 200-300 kph. The artificially-grown large trees snapped like chopsticks as the giant masses passed by. Before long, there was a flattened path through the forest.
Their target was a collection of rectangular concrete buildings in the middle of the thick forest.
An alarm started blaring in the military facility as those cutting-edge weapons of massacre approached.
Quenser pulled out a pair of binoculars and Heivia spoke to him, sounding annoyed.
“I’m betting this one’s another miss. If the Oceanian Object was really here, it would have left a path through the forest. You saw how the princess’s Object snapped all those huge trees, right?”
“No, I’m observing the Information Alliance Object,” responded Quenser as he adjusted the magnification of the binoculars. “If it was attacking us as an enemy, I wouldn’t have a chance to calmly analyze it, but this is different. This is a good chance to study it. I can take my time and visually steal information on their tech.”
“What, are you that crazy about some foreign girl’s sexy dress? C’mon, if you keep chasing after her, our cute princess is going to kill you.”
“What is it you keep going on about lately?”
As they spoke, the battle began between the coalition Objects and the normal soldiers in the Oceanian base.
From the looks of things, the enemy’s Generation 0.5 Object was not there.
The inevitable result of the battle was as plain as day.
Explosive beams of light covered the battlefield, ripping through the night sky.
They were being fired by a rapid fire beam cannon.
It was a powerful beam cannon that fired continuously at extremely short intervals.
The Information Alliance’s Object’s 35-meter main gun was made up of five giant rapid fire beam cannons linked together like a Gatling gun. Some people might wonder why it was necessary to construct a Gatling gun-like device when the weapons fired beams rather than metal bullets, but the powerful beam weapons would damage their barrels and other equipment if fired at too short an interval. Also, they used large amplifiers to instantaneously amplify and release electric power, so it was important to switch on and off in short intervals to divide up the burden on each individual cannon.
Supposedly, the Information Alliance Object could use those five cannons to fire those rapid fire beams indefinitely.
As the strips of bluish-white energy sliced through the night sky, the thick concrete buildings were ripped apart one by one. The wreckage that was blown into the air like in a volcanic eruption was almost entirely melted around the edges. The Oceanians tried to return fire with tanks and missile launching vehicles, but the Objects paid them no heed. The wreckage of the buildings raining down from the sky was enough to blow up the armored vehicles.
By the way, the princess’s Object was not merely watching all this go on.
It was using its quick maneuverability to cut off the escape path of the fleeing tank unit and firing at them from its 7 arm-shaped main guns. The princess’s main guns could switch out their devices like a microscope switching out its lens. By rotating the core of the barrel, she could attack using laser beams, low-stability plasma cannons, coil guns, or a number of other options. That was why her Object was known as a composite model.
Explosions, beams of light, and great roaring noises split through the battlefield, but no screams could be heard.
The shouts of anger and terror were likely there, but the sounds of destruction caused by the Objects drowned them all out.
The scene was overwhelming in just about every way.
It was a hellish sight that made one renew one’s desire to never stand before one of those monsters.
“Wow. I guess this is what the Oceanians get for ignoring all war treaties and just doing what they want. But I kind of feel sorry for them because I know what it’s like to not be able to use the white flag.”
“I can see why the princess warned us to not get caught up in it all. Hey, Quenser, can you tell how that giant Gatling gun works? It’d be pretty cool if we could have that as one of the princess’s options.”
“Eh? I’m more interested in what’s going on down below,” said Quenser while removing his eyes from the binoculars and pointing toward the Information Alliance Object. “I was thinking about why it would use both the air cushion and the treads, but I think I figured it out. Hovering with the air cushion is its basic means of propulsion, but it uses the treads to strike the ground and give it some instantaneous thrust for when it needs to make a quick dash. In fact, those look more like chainsaws than treads.”
“So what would happen if we put something like that on the princess’s?”
“She’d be able to get quick bursts of speed. Like this: whoosh.”
As Quenser and Heivia continued their idiotic conversation, the battle came to an end.
The enemy had been annihilated and not a single ally had been killed or even injured.
It had been the kind of ideal usage of Objects that would probably make the higher ups clap their hands in joy. No result could seem more reliable to those who fought alongside the Objects.
The Elites’ voices then came in across the radio.
“Hey, we’re done.”
“Oh ho ho. I did a scan with my sensors, but still be on the lookout for landmines or enemy troops waiting in ambush. …That is what it means to be truly concerned for others, you unrefined Legitimacy Kingdom Elite.”
Upon seeing the two Objects banging into each other, the soldiers started whispering things like “Looks like it’s still dangerous” and “Let’s just wait a bit longer”.
However, military actions were not something a soldier could simply refuse to do.
Quenser and the others headed toward the battlefield along the path of snapped trees left by the Objects. They felt safe because they assumed any traps would have been destroyed by the giant Objects heading through. Of course, this did not guarantee their safety, but it made them feel safer nonetheless.
When they arrived, the princess spoke through her speakers.
“It seems this was another dummy base. It did not have the functionality a base zone would require and the Oceanian Object was not here.”
“We’ll do a search just to be sure, but it really doesn’t seem there’s a space large enough to hide something that huge,” replied Quenser while looking around.
The area had not simply been burned down.
The buildings had been blown away, the asphalt had been torn up, and the ground itself had been split wide open in places. Trees, steel, and everything else was burned black and had lost their original shapes. The level of destruction seen there could not be achieved even by setting fire to a petrochemical complex.
It was simpler than a nuclear weapon, more powerful than a nuclear weapon, safer than a nuclear weapon, and destroyed its target with more pinpoint accuracy than a nuclear weapon.
The enemy soldiers had been blown to such small pieces that it was impossible to tell where their bodies were.
“Uehh…” groaned Heivia. “I’m glad we finished talking about our military rations before coming here. I heard the Information Alliance military has flavored powder to put on their rations. You can choose curry or cheese or whatever flavor you want.”
“I get the feeling that their grilled flavors aren’t going to be too popular for a while.” Quenser looked up at the two Objects. “By the way, what are we supposed to do now that you finished the battle so easily? Will we be leaving after we finish searching around the area to make sure there isn’t an underground Object maintenance base zone?”
“Oh ho ho. I doubt there are any weapons nearby that are on a large enough scale to destroy an Object, but would you please be on the lookout?” replied the Information Alliance Elite.
“I merely want to take a bit of a rest after going all out in that battle. Oh ho ho.”
“I see. Are the extra g’s from inertia wearing you down?”
The designs of the special suits for Elites differed from Elite to Elite, but for the most part, they were all pressure-resistant like an air force pilot’s suit. Objects did not move around at supersonic speeds like a fighter, but they had an extremely huge mass. To simplify the problem, think of it like a metal ball on a chain. The pull would be greater the faster the metal ball was moved around by centrifugal force and the heavier the metal ball was.
Quenser realized that the Information Alliance Object and the princess’s Object had been completely motionless for a while.
“Oh ho ho. If I had to fight, I could, but staying on edge like that when no enemies are around would be foolish. And Elite suits are very tight around the legs.”
“Oh, that’s right. When you’re moving around at high speed, they cut off the flow of blood to your legs to make sure your blood can circulate to your brain properly. …Does it make your legs go to sleep?”
“After a high speed battle that requires a lot of concentration, a lot of heat is left in my body, so it is quickest to take my legs out of the suit and use a cooling spray on them. Oh ho ho.”
“I see…” said Quenser, in vague admiration, but then he froze in place.
(Wait… If the princess is cooling off her legs too, does that mean she’s taking off her special suit behind those thick steel walls right now?)
Still frozen in place, Quenser started thinking deeply like a philosopher.
When he did, the Legitimacy Kingdom’s Baby Magnum turned its main guns toward him.
“You don’t need to think about those kinds of things,” said the princess.
“Gyaaahh!? Isn’t that a little too much firepower for a joke!? And it was the Information Alliance Elite that brought it up, not me!!”
Having been brought back into the discussion, the Elite in question spoke up through her speakers.
“Heh. Oh ho ho. It seems I need to strip off this high-leg leotard-style suit and cool off my glorious G-cup body!!”
“R-really!? I didn’t know a single sentence could hold so many attention-grabbing terms! I know our princess’s suit is already on that end of things, but why would the Information Alliance go that far!?”
“It was the designer’s request. Oh ho ho.”
“…!? Now, I have no intention of defecting, but if that’s an actual occupation over there…!”
“Don’t be stupid, Quenser. Don’t get those sparkles in your eyes over the Information Alliance’s obviously fake information!! If it was actually a high-leg leotard, it would have no way of tightening around the legs for pressure resistance!!”
“Oh, you saw through it. Too bad. Oh ho ho. It does indeed cover my legs, but it instead has slits in various places to let me easily get the cooling spray inside. …And some of those places are in even more risqué places than the slit on a school swimsuit.”
“Hey, Heivia, could that one be true!?”
“Quenser!! If you keep latching onto everything she says, you’re just going to let her get under the princess’s skin!!”
After Heivia punched him in the face, Quenser came back to his senses.
(Weren’t we just about to take control of an enemy base? Why was my head filled with nothing but the shyness of a pure girl and the sexiness of special suits?)
“We have to continue with the mission,” said Quenser, working up some motivation.
“In that case, there is still a job left for you to do. Oh ho ho,” announced the Information Alliance’s Elite. “Oh ho ho. We have a request from the local tribes. Because these genetically altered forests are unnatural, they want us to burn them away.”
“Oh, right. We need to change this area to our side’s color,” responded Quenser.
The princess then spoke up in a slightly apologetic tone.
“If we wanted to, we could burn it all away in an instant with our Objects, but…”
Using the low-stability plasma cannons powered by the Object’s reactor, everything above ground and even things deep in the ground could be burned away. However, the Oceanian tribes saw the land as sacred, so they did not want it damaged any more than necessary.
“A bit of destruction and a bit of restraint, hm? Sounds like a superhero from an American comic book to me.”
“Apparently, the Cultural Protection Agency is protesting that term. They say they should be called Capitalist Corporation comic books since the country known as ‘America’ no longer exists.”
“It’s because they get so worked up over pointless crap like that that no one likes them.”
As Quenser and Heivia argued back and forth, flickering flames roared up in numerous places throughout the nighttime forest. The Information Alliance powered suit unit had activated their flamethrowers in preparation to light the fires.
“Hey, we don’t have powered suits or anything. We aren’t going to get caught up in the flames are we?”
“It’s still safer than a defoliant though.”
Suddenly, some static came from Quenser’s radio followed by a transmission from an ally.
After listening for a bit, Quenser switched it off and turned to Heivia.
“We have a minor job to take care of. We need to check for villages in the area before the fires are lit.”
“Can’t they use a UAV or something?”
“Actually, is it really okay to burn the villagers’ houses?”
“Contact Froleytia over your radio and talk to her about it. Apparently, the coalition forces are going to take care of getting them relocated afterwards. And since the tribes were half forced to move here in the first place, they probably don’t mind abandoning it all to get their original lifestyle back.”
They complained, but they were still glad to be doing something before leaving. And so, the Legitimacy Kingdom and Information Alliance troops began the search while keeping an eye out for landmines or traps.
“According to the map, our area is 3 kilometers square. If we find an old cabin or something in that area, we need to knock on the door and check it out.”
“War is surprisingly boring. Well, it’s better than having it be too exciting I suppose.”
Quenser and Heivia walked along while chatting about things like how stupid they would feel if they stepped on a landmine, but they suddenly stopped.
The forest had suddenly opened up.
They were standing atop a small hill about 7 or 8 meters high. A rainstorm or something had caused the front of the hill to collapse, so it was a bit like a cliff. And at the bottom of that cliff was a small village with only about 20 buildings.
If that was all, they would only have had to gone in and given them an evacuation warning.
The problem was the military truck blocking the entrance to the village.
Oceanian troops had come to the village.
Quenser and Heivia had assumed all the fighting was over, but they now had to frantically get down on the ground. Quenser looked through his binoculars and Heivia through his rifle scope.
“(…Damn. Why is it always us that has to have the exciting things happen to them!!)” complained Quenser in a whisper. “(The princess and the other Elite were just fighting over there. Did they not hear any of that!?)”
“(How should I know!? Maybe they’re a reconnaissance unit. They may have informed their higher ups where our Objects are and are stopping by here on the way back,)” replied Heivia casually. “(So what are we going to do? It would be a pain to handle this on our own, so how about we call in the Objects?)”
“(No, wait. They would certainly notice something that large approaching. They might take the villagers as hostages. And think about the specs of the Objects. The princess’s may have those anti-personnel lasers, but the Information Alliance’s just has that gigantic rapid fire beam cannon Gatling gun. That would just blow the entire village away.)”
From what they could see from atop the hill, the Oceanian soldiers did not seem about to shoot the villagers or set the village on fire. When they looked closely, they could see an old man who seemed to be the village chief handing money to a man in a military uniform.
“(Is that this month’s ‘rent’ or something? It looks like something they’re used to doing.)”
According to the map, the area they were in was near the border between Oceanian land and coalition land. The village must have been created in order to aid with the loading and unloading of cargo from trucks going between the two and inspecting the contents.
Heivia made a general inspection of the enemy troops through his rifle scope.
“(There are about 20 of them. Each of them is armed with an old-style rifle with a grenade launcher attached. Since there’s only the one truck, there are unlikely to be any more of them that we can’t see. What do we do?)”
“(What do you mean? It’s not like there is anything we can do.)”
“(Yeah, I guess not. Taking on a force while outnumbered 10-to-1 would be pretty stupid.)”
Quenser and Heivia exchanged a glance and were overcome with exhaustion.
If the enemy troops gathered all the villagers in the center of the village and were going to shoot the men and rape the women, they would have no choice but to fight, but it did not seem things were headed toward that worst case scenario. After the usual payment of money and items was complete, the Oceanian soldiers would likely leave the village. Quenser and Heivia just had to wait until they were gone to give the evacuation warning.
If they started a firefight in the village, it would likely just increase the number of victims.
Also, Quenser was a combat engineer, so he only had explosives. The only practical weapons they had were Heivia’s rifle and handgun. When there was no real reason to fight, neither of them wanted to start a fight where they would be at a disadvantage.
“(Hey, wait. Something’s wrong,)” said Quenser as he looked through his binoculars.
The Oceanian soldiers who had been standing idly about before had suddenly begun to move. They were holding up the rifles hanging from their shoulders and searching for an enemy with nervous expressions. Meanwhile, the women and small children were fleeing for the buildings.
“(Look, Quenser. Over there!)”
Heivia pointed toward an open area in the village. Someone was collapsed there. It was a man wearing an Oceanian military uniform. Blood was gushing from the center of his body. He had likely died instantly.
“(That doesn’t look like heat stroke to me.)”
“(So…What? Heivia, did you accidentally shoot him while looking through your scope?)”
“(How stupid are you!? Do you really think this shitty rifle has a silencer so amazing you wouldn’t notice I had fired it while you were lying right next to me!? Also, he fell in the wrong direction for it to have been me!!)”
Quenser looked in the direction opposite of the direction the man had fallen.
What he saw was…
“(That’s the border with the coalition territory… Was he shot from beyond it? So did someone purposefully throw a ‘pebble’ in from outside their territory?)”
Suddenly, a slight bit of static came from Quenser’s radio. He thought he was getting a transmission, but he was not. Small bursts of static continued intermittently.
“(Bursts of static at 0.8 second intervals… I think that’s coming from a long sight for sniper rifles! It uses lasers and electromagnetic waves to assist in the aiming.)”
“(Huh? No proper military device would broadcast its sniper’s presence so obviously. Is some idiot using some piece of crap to pretend he’s part of some volunteer army or something!?)” said Heivia angrily, but then a sour look appeared on his face. He then held up his rifle and groaned. “(Oh, shit. Not good, not good, not good!)”
In addition to the optical scope, his rifle could pick up infrared and ultraviolet and it had a microphone for searching for enemies. Since he had the headphone in one ear, he must have been listening in on the conversation between the villagers and the Oceanian troops using the microphone.
His rifle was pointed toward the one soldier and the old man who seemed to be the village chief.
“(What? What’s not good?)”
“(I don’t feel like taking time to explain it properly, so I’ll just act it out. ‘Damn you, you tricked us!’ ‘No, you’re mistaken. We would never do something like this.’ ‘Shut up. We’ll kill all of you and burn this village to the ground!’)”
“(I think ‘not good’ was an understatement!!)” said Quenser in shock.
Heivia then turned to him for his opinion, asking “(What are we going to do?)”
“(If we called in the Objects, they’d probably just shoot everyone before they arrived.)”
“(So what are we going to do!?)”
“(Well, we don’t know where this sniper is hiding and those Oceanian troops are just going to cause unnecessary harm if we don’t do anything.)” Quenser stabbed electronic fuses into the Hand Axe he had been specially issued. “(We have no choice but to just do it!!)”
Already fed up with the situation, the two nodded and began to move.
Quenser started throwing the explosives he had stuck fuses into from atop the hill. They landed a bit away from the village, but Quenser sent the signal to detonate the Hand Axe anyway. The repeated explosions sent the Oceanian soldiers frantically running behind buildings for cover.
In reality, it was only a student throwing explosives, but they likely thought it was anything from a mortar on up to a tank. The repeated explosions needlessly increased their worries.
Next, Heivia began firing one shot after another.
To hide from the new enemy, the Oceanian soldiers had hidden from the wrong direction. Heivia could see them sticking their asses out toward him and trembling, so he easily picked them off one by one. In an exciting firefight, Quenser and Heivia would have been hopelessly outnumbered, but their disturbance tactics were completely one sided.
“(Hey, I’m not going to be able to shoot them all!!)”
“(Once you take out a certain number of them, won’t they just cast off their pride and flee into the forest? They don’t seem noble enough to fight to the last man to me.)”
“(Hey, Mr. Battlefield Student, they don’t seem to be fleeing. They look like they are planning to fight to the very end!)”
“(Dammit, it’s that sniper! He’s shooting at them again! He’s aiming to cut off their route of escape, so they can’t flee even though they want to!!)”
The longer the battle went on, the higher the odds of the unrelated villagers getting hit by a stray bullet. Quenser and Heivia had no reason to insist on absolute victory, so they did not care if the Oceanians escaped into the forest, but the mysterious sniper did not seem willing to let that happen.
Suddenly, a plump man who seemed to be the commander looked up at the hill.
He gave a command with a gesture and all the soldiers held up their rifles.
“(Oh, shit! They’ve figured out where we are!!)”
Quenser and Heivia frantically moved back. Immediately afterwards, a storm of bullets flew their way. Since they were shooting up at the cliff-like crumbled hill, the hill acted as a shield for them.
“(Luckily we’re far enough away that those cheap old-style grenade launchers can’t reach us.)”
“(Before long, they’ll have a force circle around and flank us. Hey, Quenser, can you set up some explosives to cut off their path before they get here?)”
However, before they could do anything more, someone grabbed their shoulders and yanked them backwards.
They frantically spun around and found Information Alliance infantry.
“(I’m not sure what the situation is here, but we’ll help out. We can send in our powered suit unit and have this finished in less than five minutes.)”
“(Five minutes, hm? Not bad, but it’s already too late.)”
Heivia pointed with his chin toward the bottom of the hill.
Various collapsed forms could be seen from people getting caught up in the firefight within the village. And they did not all belong to the Oceanian soldiers. Some of them were villagers who the soldiers had shot in their desperation.
Also, a great number of children’s toys were scattered about from where someone had knocked them to the ground in their hurry to escape.
Among those toys covered in sand, dirt, and blood was a single picture book. They were some distance from the village, but the details of the cover could be seen through a rifle scope.
The title of the book was The Kind Beasts of the Rocks.
It was the same book they had seen the local girl holding outside the barricade to the coalition maintenance base zone.
Heivia clicked his tongue and threw his rifle to the ground.
“(Fine, I get it. This is fucking war. Innocent women and children are killed for no good reason. …Do it. Go kill all those god damn Oceanians.)”
The Information Alliance man nodded silently and gave the order to the powered suit unit. Paying no heed to the downpour of bullets, they jumped down from the top of the collapsed hill.
“Hey, I found him,” said Quenser as he put down his binoculars and pointed.
He was not pointing at the village. He was pointing at the border between Oceanian and coalition land.
“I found that sniper. Look, he isn’t Oceanian or coalition. It’s one of those reporters. He’s switched out his camera for a rifle. That explains why he isn’t using a proper military sniper sight. He was starting a battle for his own personal satisfaction. Maybe he’s one of those mercenaries turned cameramen Froleytia was talking about.”
“Okay,” said Heivia as he picked his rifle back up from the ground. He then turned to the Information Alliance man. “We’ll take care of the sniper. I won’t feel satisfied until I’ve punched him a few times.”
After having returned to the maintenance base zone, Quenser and Heivia leaned silently up against a passageway wall.
Froleytia spoke to her two subordinates.
“I checked the report, and it seems the owner of that picture book was not the girl you feared it was.”
Quenser and Heivia remained silent for a bit longer.
Finally, Quenser opened his mouth and said, “Do you think that is enough for us to be relieved?”
“I know that, as soldiers, we have no right to pretend we’re innocent, but this isn’t the type of war we want to fight.”
“I see,” muttered Froleytia before grabbing a nearby doorknob and entering without knocking.
She sighed at the troublesome job that lay ahead of her.
She was within a small room.
She had long, silver hair with a hint of blue, a long, narrow hairpin modeled after a Japanese kanzashi, and was inhaling gray smoke from a Japanese-style kiseru. She took the notebook computer and tablet sensor from under her arm and placed them on a table. She normally used a pen-shaped input device on the computer to send orders to distant units, but the monitor was closed.
Froleytia looked straight forward.
A chair was bolted to the floor across the small table from her and a man was sitting in it with his arms shackled to the armrests.
He was the reporter.
Quenser and Heivia had told her about their guess that he was a former mercenary, but Froleytia disagreed. A mercenary willing to enter a battlefield without an Object to protect him would have a harsher look in his eyes. Most likely, an even harsher look than a proper soldier.
He was most likely some rich kid come from outside of Oceania who fancied himself a person of culture.
“Mr…Sewax, was it? You have caused quite a bit of trouble. Are you aware that this is a military interrogation room and that you have done something warranting bringing you here?”
“Remove these restraints,” said Sewax quickly, cutting off Froleytia. “I have no obligation to speak without a lawyer present, but I’ll do you a favor. This is a clear human rights violation. You have no right to rob me of my freedom. Remove these restraints this instant.”
“What, are you mad about the sniping? You soldiers are so worthless. Are you trying to say I’m a murderer just because I’m not part of the military? In other areas of conflict like Oceania where not even Objects have been deployed, mercenaries travel from safe countries, remove a few of the enemy troops, and then freely return home. Are you saying they are criminals, too?” Sewax grinned as if to say his rights were absolute and that no one could lay a finger on him. “All I did was what you all have forgotten to do. Isn’t it your job to put a bullet in those Oceanian monsters? I merely did it for you and now I will write a report on it and change the public opinion. To be blunt, you are not carrying out your job on a fundamental level when you get so upset over someone taking out a few Oceanian troops. Do you really think you can end their tyranny like that?”
Froleytia grimaced while Sewax looked at her with scornful eyes.
He overlooked the change in the soldier’s expression.
“Due to the Objects, you fools have forgotten what it means to be soldiers. I’m going to write about you when I return to the home country. I’ll tell everyone how you soldiers have forgotten what it means to fight and how you panic at the slightest sight of blood. Not to mention how you lost your ability to think rationally and illegally restrained an honest, hardworking reporter.”
Froleytia slowly placed her long, narrow kiseru on the table.
Immediately afterwards, a great noise rang out.
She had grabbed Sewax’s shoulders, picked up the reporter, chair and all, and thrown him forcefully against the wall.
The force of the blow smashed the back of the chair to pieces and Sewax’s body bent backwards. However, Froleytia’s narrow arms did not allow him to collapse to the ground. She held his body against the wall and brought her face in close.
“There were four,” Froleytia said in a low, cold voice she had not used before. “If you had merely killed enemy troops, we would have been praising you. However, there were four. Four unrelated villagers were killed thanks to your unwanted actions. Those people would not have died otherwise. And one of them died from your bullet, not the Oceanians’.”
“Cough. But thanks to that, you were able to make the decision to attack the Oceanians! We cannot overlook even the smallest evil!! What I did wasn’t wrong!! If I write up a report on this, the people of the world will resent the irrationality of war and anti-war sentiment will start to spread. This age where we rely on you soldiers who do nothing but swallow up our taxes will come to an end, you idiot!!”
“Oh, is that so!?”
Froleytia took Sewax’s body from the wall and swung him around. The centrifugal force slammed his back down on top of the small table.
As Sewax coughed, Froleytia continued speaking.
“Then let me tell you something. It turns out those Oceanian soldiers were not in that village for their regular payment. They were there on an irregular visit. Even if you had not attacked with that sniper rifle, they would have obeyed their commands from above and systematically started attacking villages.”
“And they were doing this because of the actions of reporters like yourself!! Due to the coalition intervention, the Oceanian military nation thinks international society is taking them lightly. To show just how powerful they are, they came up with a ridiculous plan to actually strengthen their forestation and to slaughter the villagers!! They are using their own people as cards in the negotiation by saying their deaths are our fault for ignoring their orders and sending in the coalition Objects!! Why do you think we did not let any reporters or cameramen near the Oceanian border? Because we had already learned of their plan! They had no one to witness the slaughter and transmit it around the world, and that is why the Oceanians had not begun this meaningless slaughter before! However, your thoughtless actions gave them the push they needed!!” said Froleytia, regretting her own foolishness rather than Sewax’s. “What do you think the Oceanians are going to do now that their comrades have been killed? They were trying to show off to the international community and instead suffered a great disgrace. They are sure to escalate the slaughter now in order to erase this from their image! They will now ‘search for the killer’. They will arbitrarily choose a ‘suspicious-looking’ tribal village, send in troops, and slaughter them all until they are satisfied!! Did you hear that!? Until they are satisfied!!”
Sewax’s body stiffened in shock upon hearing that.
“B-but I am a journalist of the Legitimacy Kingdom. I made sure to fire into Oceanian territory from coalition territory. Why would they target Oceanian villages? That’s utter nonsense. Even that military nation would not take action without any evide-“
“Do you really think they will listen to that kind of reason!!!!!?”
Froleytia finally clenched her fist and punched Sewax in the gut.
Sewax was unable to restrain the nausea and spewed vomit across the floor. Froleytia grabbed his hair and spoke to him with a face filled with anger.
“They see the villagers’ lives as no more valuable than an insect’s!! If they feel like it, they will kill them regardless of whether they have evidence or not! That is why I said they would slaughter them until they are satisfied! They will attack the villages they do not like out of anger over their fellow soldiers being killed!! Did you think trials to enforce proper laws exist in this country!? How many innocent lives do you think will be lost thanks to this PR stunt of yours that was for nothing other than to sustain your own pride!?”
It was unclear if he had finally understood what he had done or if it was merely a chain reaction from emptying the contents of his stomach, but tears began falling from Sewax’s eyes.
“To be honest, I wish I could just hand you over to Oceania’s foolish leaders, but unfortunately, the Legitimacy Kingdom has excellent human rights laws. I can’t just casually hand you over.” Froleytia let go of his hair and seemed to have regained some of her cool when she spoke again. “Do you understand? We were barely managing a careful balance on this battlefield and your actions have changed that to the long, drawn-out fight we all dreaded.”
As Froleytia’s interrogation came to a close on the monitor in front of them, Quenser and Heivia both looked away from the screen at about the same time. They left the small observation room filled with recording and analysis staff and began speaking once they were alone in the passageway.
“Hey, Quenser. How long do you think until the Oceanians start ‘searching for the killer’?”
“If the estimations from the electronic simulation team are accurate, then the military nation’s Object is only Generation 0.5. Its level of tech is too low to have all the proper functionality of an Object.” Quenser chose his words carefully. “An Object’s reactor is like a nuclear reactor or a blast furnace in that it is more efficient to keep it running constantly rather than switching it on and off. However, the Generation 0.5 is too weak. If it kept its reactor running for long periods of time, its inner parts could fuse. As such, its reactor is usually kept off. If we calculate back from how long it takes for its revolution speed to get up high enough for it to move around…”
“That would mean we have somewhere between 4 and 5 hours,” said Heivia as he checked the time on his military wristwatch.
Quenser nodded and said, “According to Froleytia, they intended to have their massacre of the village caught by a reporter’s camera in order to show off their strength to the world. Now that they have failed in that, the Oceanian military must go for something even more shocking to wipe that previous failure from everyone’s minds. In that case, wouldn’t attacking a village with their Object be the most obvious course of action for them?”
It may have been given the unflattering name of Generation 0.5, but it was still an Object. The Legitimacy Kingdom or Information Alliance’s state of the art Objects might be able to defeat it easily, but a powerless village would have no hope.
At the current rate, they would just slaughter everyone to acquire the “obvious tragedy” they wanted.
“This is bad. If we don’t find that Object before then, this will be very, very bad.”
“But how are we supposed to find it? The satellites have been monitored for months, and it still hasn’t been found. How are the two of us supposed to find and destroy this Object in just 4 hours?”
“Destroying it will be simple enough. We have over 20 coalition Objects here. If we can tell them where the Generation 0.5 is, they can focus all their firepower and simply blow it away.”
“Meaning we just have to come up with a way of finding the thing. We might be able to figure something out if we look at this from a point of view other than the satellites.”
Just as the two of them were about to begin, someone interfered.
It was Froleytia who had just exited the interrogation room.
“To be honest, I would like to let you two do that, but I can’t. That’s what the higher ups have ordered.”
“If the Oceanians are going to have their Generation 0.5 Object give us a strip show and reveal itself from its concrete building, then we have a chance. The higher ups want to simply watch with the satellites and wait for it to leave one of the base zones. If they notice any reconnaissance attempts, this rare opportunity could be ruined and we would be back to pointlessly searching along the ground.”
“So you’re telling us to just let them attack some small village!? I know you know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of an Object attack without one of your own!”
“When we spot it leaving a base, we can intercept it before it begins its attack!! We will not allow even a single other person become a victim!!”
“But surely the Oceanians realize we can see them! What are you going to do if we happily head after the target spotted by the satellite and it turns out to just be a gas tank with treads!? Meanwhile, the real one will mercilessly burn a village to the ground, mix in with some other gas tank, and escape to a different base!! If that happens, we’ll have to do it all again. Are you just going to let them attack village after village until we get it right!? It may be wrong to say this after we attacked those Oceanian troops with Objects, but an Object isn’t something we can let be sent after unarmed civilians!!” shouted Heivia, losing sight of any of the formality he should show his superior officer.
Most likely, Froleytia agreed with his concerns, but something was preventing her from agreeing with Quenser and Heivia’s view.
That something was military regulations.
“I would like to send at least you two, but I can’t overturn these orders,” said Froleytia bitterly.
Seeing her expression, Quenser and Heivia fell silent.
“And don’t try to access the military database. In order to prevent having information on our Object leaking to the other members of the coalition, the security has been increased. If you try to access data that goes against your orders, you’ll be court martialed before you know it.”
“Then what are we supposed to do?”
Heivia still refused to give up, but Froleytia turned her back on them.
“I need to make some preparations to ensure we can head out as quickly as possible as soon as the coordinates come in from the satellites,” she said before leaving.
Left behind, Quenser and Heivia exchanged a glance.
“Hey, Quenser, what do we do now? You had special access to the data on Objects after Alaska, right? Can’t you use that to get into the database without anyone noticing?”
“If I had that kind of skill, I would have just hacked in before they gave me access. It’s impossible. There’s no way we can search the database for information on the Generation 0.5 in this situation.”
Quenser then stuck a hand in his back pocket and pulled out a folded up map.
Heivia was surprised, but Quenser merely pointed at the map and said, “So I think this is a case where analog means would be best.”
Quenser and Heivia exited the building and circled around behind it. They sat down on the hard, dry ground and spread out the map.
“Oceania is huge,” groaned Heivia.
Quenser nodded and said, “Well, it is large enough to contain most of Western Europe. It isn’t called a continent for nothing.”
“So how are we supposed to find a single Object in such a huge area?”
“It would take years to do a thorough search, but it seems they have a general area they think it is in.”
As he spoke, Quenser used a red pen to draw a large circle around one side of the map.
The circle was on northern Oceania.
“They think it’s in the Northern Territory between the Kimberley region and the Tanami Desert.”
“So somewhere in here?”
Even narrowing it down that far left an area as wide as the wider portions of Honshu, one of the Japanese islands belonging to the Capitalist Corporations. It was not an area they could search by foot.
“Two years ago, when the Generation 0.5 was completed, the Oceanians held a parade around there. After that, it hid amongst the many mobile gas tanks with treads they sent scattering and entered one of the bases. However, we still do not know which one.”
“So that’s why the coalition has been going around destroying the bases despite knowing they’re likely dummies. If they keep taking out bases in the area, they’re sure to get the right one eventually.”
“To be honest, they would probably find it eventually even if they did nothing, but who knows how many villages would get attacked in the process.”
“Yeah, we can’t just leave this to them anymore.”
“But here’s the problem. There are over 100 dummy facilities and around 40 gas tanks have been brought up to the surface. The higher ups have no way of knowing which one is the real deal.”
“Could there be a base that has been kept completely secret so the higher ups don’t even know about it?”
“It’s not impossible, but I doubt it. Keeping the satellites from detecting a building to hold something that large is no easy task. And even if they hid it underground, it would need ducts and entrances that would give it away.”
“So it’s almost certain that it’s hiding in one of the buildings the higher ups know about, hm?” muttered Heivia.
Quenser stared at the area of the map he had marked.
“If only there was some sign that only the real one would have.”
“You mean like maintenance equipment constantly being brought in? In that case, wouldn’t the bases with large roads leading to them be the most suspicious?”
“The base we just attacked had a dummy road leading to it.”
“But not many of them have a space large enough for a 50 meter Object to pass through. Even the base from earlier was surrounded by the green forest and had no sign of an Object having passed through.”
“It seems the bases with Object-sized paths leading to them were attacked first. All of those have already been destroyed. That’s why we were ordered to attack a target that didn’t really seem like it could possibly be right.”
“But what else is there to go on? If destroying all of the suspicious places didn’t work, does that only leave destroying all of the less suspicious places one by one?” said Heivia carelessly.
Most likely, the higher ups had come to the same conclusion.
“What if we turn this on its head?” said Quenser.
“Hah?” said Heivia with a stupid expression on his face.
“The Generation 0.5 was only ever seen two years ago when it was completed. Ever since, it’s been hidden in a base somewhere. Couldn’t they have grown up trees and plants around that base to cover up the path the Object used?”
“Why would they do that? If they surround the base like that, it would leave an obvious trail the second it left. They would basically be marking the base for us.”
“The base would be marked by the satellites anyway, so all the broken trees wouldn’t matter. After its attack, it could hide among a number of gas tanks and head to another base. Of course, that would mean we’ve been going around destroying its possibilities for its next base.”
“That means the suspicious bases would be the ones with thick obstacles around them. The most abandoned looking bases that the higher ups probably dismissed right away would be the most suspicious.”
“The bases most quickly covered in the forest over the past two years are these three here, here, and here. It seems the higher ups decided they were merely dummy bases that were abandoned and allowed to be overtaken by the forest.”
“That leaves two problems,” said Heivia as he stared at the points marked with the red pen. “First, the distance between the bases is still too great even after narrowing it down to three. We can’t search all three so easily. If we came to a dummy, we would lose a lot of time.” He lit the map up with a small light. “Second, even a dummy facility is going to be filled with soldiers. Even if we managed to take them out, they would still manage to contact the real base. Then they would simply scatter a number of gas tanks and the Generation 0.5 would be gone. The attacks on the villages would merely be delayed a bit.”
“And for a third problem, we can’t get any help from the military or the Objects.”
“Are you sure about that? Even if we were ordered not to do this, surely at least Froleytia would send the princess out if we actually managed to find the Genera-….”
Suddenly, an emergency alarm began sounding within the coalition maintenance base zone. The deep blare of the siren reverberated through the night sky. All the lights in the base turned on at once like during a night game of baseball.
“What’s going on? We haven’t left the base yet!”
“No, you idiot. The Objects have been ordered out! Have the higher ups figured out where the Generation 0.5 is!?”
Quenser folded up the map and looked around.
A great number of soldiers were pouring out of the buildings. He also saw the princess running to the maintenance area. The maintenance workers who had been working on the Object opened up the giant shutters.
Quenser grabbed one of the rushing soldiers to speak to him.
“What is going on!? Did we find the Oceanian Object?”
“Yes. I’m finally going to get to return home! The final boss is waiting for us on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. The coalition Objects are headed there at full speed, but we have to hurry there on military trucks. It’s first come first serve for the trucks with good suspension, so you should probably hurry. If you’re too slow, your back is gonna be hurting.”
“The Great Sandy Desert?” muttered Quenser blankly as he watched the soldier run off.
“Hey, that isn’t one of the three places we were predicting,” said Heivia, having realized the same thing.
“How odd. On what basis are the higher ups convinced the Generation 0.5 is there?”
This time, Heivia stopped a passing soldier. He had an indoor uniform and was apparently an Object analyst just like Heivia.
After a short conversation, Heivia returned.
“As I thought, it was from the satellite. When an Object’s reactor starts up, a faint energy signal leaks out. Apparently, the satellite caught that.”
“But the Oceanians have been able to fool our satellites this far! If we had a method that convenient to detect it, we wouldn’t have been fooled by those gas tanks!!”
“It was because of those bitter experiences that the higher ups had a new type of meteorological weapon prepared. That new weapon has finally been deployed. It’s something like the chaff missile used in Alaska. It scatters special particles at high altitude which temporarily turn the huge clouds themselves into giant sensors. When the satellite used those sensor clouds to search the surface, it picked up on the faint signal of an Object. We didn’t even know if that prototype Object emitted the same type of signal and the particles don’t always mix with the clouds properly due to the wind direction, water density of the clouds, and other factors, so it was mostly luck that let us find this.”
“But,” said Quenser who was still not satisfied. “Even so, wasn’t the Generation 0.5’s reactor stopped?”
“They have to raise its revolution speed bit by bit when they activate it and it must have reached the point where the satellite could pick up on it.”
“Really?” asked Quenser with a frown.
That military nation had constructed dummy bases across Oceania and used gas tanks with treads to trick the satellites, so would they really give away their location so easily? It was like they were asking for the over 20 coalition Objects spread out across the continent to focus their fire there.
After thinking for a bit, Quenser raised his head.
He seemed panicked.
“No, that’s the prototype reactor!!”
“With the prototype reactor, no one knows if it’s going to work or if it’s going to suddenly blow up. No one would put that on their Object! The usual method is to create a safer second reactor based on the first to put on the Object. Oceania probably has a prototype reactor, too. They’re trying to hide where they are starting the real reactor by running the prototype all out at the time when we know they will be activating their Object!!”
“Aren’t you reading too much into this? The sensor cloud is a prototype weapon that hasn’t been officially deployed yet. How could the Oceanians build a trick around the effects of a weapon that doesn’t even have a proper spec sheet!?”
“If this was the first time the prototype had been used, you’d be right. However, it’s been 2 years since the coalition army has been stationed here in Oceania. That toy may have been tested here a few times. If it has, the Oceanian army could have gathered the data on the failed experiments and guessed at what it was supposed to do. There’s still a risk that this is a trap!!”
“You have got to be kidding! The princess and the others are about to leave!!”
If Quenser was right, the princess and the others were headed to a dummy base. And while their attention was drawn elsewhere, the Oceanians’ Generation 0.5 could attack nearby villages.
The Oceanian military knew that they could not win in a straight fight against the coalition forces. That was why they were using the tribes that opposed their policies as hostages in an exceedingly military style of diplomacy. They were saying that even more tribal people would be killed if the coalition did not immediately leave.
Quenser and the others could see that more slaughtering in the name of forest preservation would not make the over 20 Objects leave, but many people’s lives were at stake regardless.
If the princess and the others continued, that ridiculous plan might actually be carried out.
Quenser and Heivia frantically headed out from behind the building in an attempt to block the way of the Objects. However, the Objects were much too fast. The Legitimacy Kingdom and Information Alliance Objects cut across the ground faster than a bullet train. They shot past Quenser and Heivia before they could get near and exited the base zone.
Only the dark thundercloud-like noise of the princess’s Object remained.
“Shit! Can we call them back on the radio!?”
“Both Objects here were sent out, so they must have had an official order. And one with a high level of authorization at that. Our personal communication isn’t going to be enough to get them back. They’d definitely be punished if they did!!”
Quenser frantically thought as he watched the soldiers leave the base in truck after truck.
Seeing him, Heivia said, “What are we going to do? It is possible that the Object really is in the Great Sandy Desert like the higher ups say, but…”
“That’s it!” Quenser replied. “If this is the prototype reactor, then this is a trump card they haven’t used even once in the two years since their Object was completed. They’ve kept it hidden even while letting their soldiers be slaughtered in the dummy bases. Why are they all of a sudden using it now? Why do they want to trick us that badly? It has to be to get the threat of our cutting edge Objects out of this area! The Generation 0.5 must be nearby!! They realized we would soon find it if they didn’t do anything!!”
An expression of shock appeared on Heivia’s face.
“Then, the facility hiding the Generation 0.5 is…”
“Most likely, it’s the base closest to here of the three we were looking at! But this doesn’t prove anything. We need data showing reactor energy leaking from the facility!!”
The two looked back toward the nearby building.
If they could access the military database, they could check almost instantly. However, the database that contained Object designs and battle strategies was an especially sensitive thing in the military. If they disobeyed their orders and accessed it, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were shot without even being given a trial.
“Anyway, just sitting around isn’t going to help anything. The data we need will only be in one of the buildings, so we need to at least get inside. We need to find some way of viewing the information from the database…”
“Hey, Quenser. Were any of the old higher ups the type to not like digital things?”
“If any of them had the report for the pre-mission briefing printed out, the data we need might still be there on a piece of paper. That way we wouldn’t have to even touch the database.”
And so Quenser and Heivia headed for the large facility the briefing had been held in. Most of the soldiers had already headed out to the Great Sandy Desert, so barely anyone was left inside.
However, the two of them saw something that made them groan when they reached the briefing room and peered inside the cracked door.
“(Why is Froleytia of all people still here!?)”
“(She may look showy with those giant tits and all, but she’s actually a pretty serious worker.)”
After one last look at his large-breasted commanding officer operating a notebook computer, Quenser stepped back from the door. Even if the document was inside the room, they could not check with Froleytia there. If they made any suspicious actions, she would likely confine them for some arbitrary reason or another.
“(Is there no way to get a look at the printed out report without running into Froleytia?)”
“(What if we caused some kind of disturbance to lure that Japanese obsessed woman out of there?)”
“(If we did that, we’d definitely be court-martialed after everything was over.)”
While the two were only able to stand by wondering what to do, they heard a slight knock.
They turned around and heard a male voice.
The voice was coming from the other side of the door to the interrogation room.
The reporter named Sewax was speaking to them.
“(What the hell? Why is the interrogation room not soundproofed!? He can hear all of the goings on of the military from in there!)”
“(This place was only designed to maintain Objects. They probably never even thought of the possibility of taking prisoners. It looks like they threw that room together from parts they had on hand.)”
Something banged against the door harder than before.
Quenser and Heivia were worried Froleytia would hear from the other room, but Sewax continued speaking.
“I could hear what they were saying from in here. The higher ups seemed split as to where the Generation 0.5 is hidden. I think they had two candidates, but they ended up choosing the stronger signal in the end. That was the Great Sandy Desert.”
Quenser and Heivia exchanged a glance.
“(What do we do, Quenser? Do we hear him out? He might just be making it all up.)”
“(From what he did before, he may be a terrible person, but I doubt he would do anything that would benefit Oceania. Let’s hear what he has to say.)”
Having made up his mind, Quenser spoke to the locked door.
“Where was the other location!?”
“Somewhere called the Tanami Desert.” Sewax must have really wanted to tell someone because he answered without hesitation. “Some of the higher ups were skeptical, but the Tanami Desert signal was just too weak and the Great Sandy Desert one was a much more realistic reading for an Object, so they abandoned the other one.”
“Just as we thought,” groaned Quenser.
The Tanami Desert was the location of the closest base Quenser and Heivia had decided was suspicious. If the Generation 0.5 activated there, it could attack the nearby villages or even the coalition base itself.
“Not good. It’ll take a while for the princess and the others to head out to the Great Sandy Desert and back.”
“That means we have to do something ourselves. We’re right back to the usual hell!”
Quenser checked the location on the map and Heivia mentioned that they would need a vehicle. However, they were cut off by Sewax speaking up once more.
“Wait. Please take me with you.”
“Ahhn? Hell no. We can’t take a civilian onto the battlefield with us. And we don’t have time to aid you in your escape.”
“No, not that. I want to make up for what I’ve done. I brought this situation on us all, right?” Sewax’s voice held a certain impatience to it. He sounded completely different from when they had first brought him back to the base zone. “All the footage we ever get is of close-ups of two Objects fighting, so we never get to see what happens to the local people. That is why we all see war as something not worth worrying about. I came here because I could not forgive that. But I was wrong. You build up your strategies with the insight of experts and I ruined it all with my amateurish ideas. I thought eliminating those Oceanian soldiers would improve the situation for the tribes, but all I did was doom innocent people to violent deaths. And many, many more people are going to be killed! I can’t overlook that. Surely there is something I can do to make up for what I have done!!”
Quenser and Heivia exchanged a quick glance.
“You can use a sniper rifle, right?”
“Y-yes. I have no military experience, but I do go to the shooting range on the weekends.”
“As long as you can shoot someone, that’s enough. We’ll prepare something for you. We definitely can’t bring you along if you’re unarmed.”
“I understand. Thank you. Thank you so much! I’ll be waiting!! Please let me fight alongside you!!”
From the sound of his voice, Sewax may have been crying on the other side of the door.
Quenser moved a bit away from the door to the interrogation room and whispered to Heivia.
“(Hey, let’s go find a vehicle. It would be best if we didn’t have him fight.)”
“(I had a feeling that’s how this would go.)”
Heivia followed suit, turning his back on the interrogation room door.
As they headed for the exit, Quenser said, “If we brought him with us, he might decide a wonderful death on the battlefield was the only path left for him. He pisses me off, but I would still have trouble sleeping if he died right in front of me. Also, we’d get into a lot of trouble if we brought a member of the press to the battlefield and he died.”
“Well put, hero. But let’s work on not getting ourselves killed either. Waking up again is just as important as getting to sleep in the first place.”
The two of them exited the building.
Heivia ran off somewhere and when he returned, he was driving a military off road vehicle. Quenser climbed into the passenger seat and Heivia sped off.
As they exited the base zone, Quenser asked a question of his companion.
“Hey, do you even have a license? You’re my age, so aren’t you too young?”
“In the Legitimacy Kingdom, you can get a special military license. It only lets you drive on the battlefield, though. Y’know, when are we going to get past these four wheeled things? Not much has changed since automobiles first appeared on this earth.”
“All the cutting edge technology goes to the Objects. Why would they waste their effort developing other military items? Advances are being made bit by bit, but I heard that the speed of civilization’s development has slowed. Apparently, things like guns and tanks would likely have advanced at least 3 generations in the time since the Object was first developed, but that hasn’t happened. …Actually, if you don’t know all this, should you really be driving? Wait, does this model have a passenger side airbag?”
“Oh, shut up. No military vehicle has those balloons that blow up when they receive a shock. Look, we’re moving forward. Isn’t that all the proof you need that I can drive?”
The noble heir crudely drove the off road vehicle forward while manipulating the steering wheel in a way that would likely have made a proper driving instructor scream.
“Hey, hero. Do you have your explosives? This Generation 0.5 is still an Object, so this is still going to be the usual type of life-or-death struggle.”
“I have my usual complement of Hand Axe and electronic fuses. …But I doubt we can take it out just by attaching bombs to its armor.”
“Oh, right, right. What are we going to do about the princess and that prototype reactor? If they’re bringing out their prized dummy, they’ll certainly have set up some kind of trap.”
“You’re right. This could be bad. Can you contact them on the vehicle’s radio? I have my own radio, but I want it set to send out the detonation code for the electronic fuses. I can receive signals fine, but I’d rather not mess with the transmission frequency. All the recorded frequency slots are filled up with detonation frequencies.”
“Just a second. I’ll set the frequency.”
Operating the steering wheel with one hand, Heivia used his other hand to grab a small wired microphone similar to what a taxi driver might use. Using a shared frequency the entire coalition force would pick up, he started speaking.
“Umm, testing, testing. Can anyone hear me? I have a warning for all you diligent Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers out there. Sorry to disappoint you, but what you’re chasing after is likely a fake. The real one is in the Tanami Desert.”
An odd noise came in through the radio’s speaker.
Quenser ignored it and leaned in to speak into the microphone.
“Most likely, the facility in the Great Sandy Desert holds the prototype reactor rather than the Object. Also, there is a good chance a large scale trap lies in wait. They could even be planning to push the reactor’s output past its limits to make it go critical and destroy any nearby Objects in the explosion.”
Despite how many people had to be listening, no response came for a bit.
Everyone must have been trying to work out how credible that information was.
Finally, the Information Alliance Elite spoke up as if she was the representative of them all.
“Do you have any definitive proof of this? Oh ho ho.”
“No,” replied Quenser immediately. “We didn’t have time to verify it. We have one claim to that effect, but it was from someone we can’t exactly trust.”
“That is why we are suggesting both possible targets are destroyed. One thing we know for sure is that the energy readings of a reactor were detected in two different places. Oceania has only one Object, so one has to be real and one has to be fake. But what do we lose if we destroy both?”
“We feel the more hidden base in the Tanami Desert is more suspicious than the much too obvious one in the Great Sandy Desert,” added in Heivia.
After a bit of silence from their allies, Quenser spoke up again.
“As I said before, we believe the Great Sandy Desert base is a giant trap using the prototype reactor. Just to be safe, not even the Objects should carelessly get close. Stay at least 10 kilometers away and blow the facility away with your main guns. This isn’t some fast moving target, so I’m sure the princess can manage if she stops and aims carefully.”
“Oh ho ho. I am a bit annoyed that you do not seem to expect anything of me,” said the Information Alliance Elite.
In annoyance, Quenser replied, “Your main gun is a rapid fire beam Gatling gun, right? It may be overwhelming at close range, but it can’t aim precisely when it comes to distant targets, now can it? This is a job for our princess.”
“…I will do my best,” cut in the Legitimacy Kingdom princess.
Hearing that, Heivia whispered to Quenser.
“(Our princess finally got her reward. I can tell your guts made it across to her.)”
Quenser merely looked confused, but he didn’t have time to worry about what Heivia had meant. There was something else he had to get across.
“We believe the Object is actually in an area on the west side of the Tanami Desert. It’s only about 5 kilometers from our base and apparently a faint reactor signal was detected coming from there.”
“Basically, if you end up having nothing to do there in the Great Sandy Desert, we hope you’ll be kind enough to come lend us a hand.”
Suddenly, another voice came in over the radio.
It was Froleytia.
Her radio’s transmitter must not have been working properly before because the staticky sound of her fiddling with it could be heard.
“Wait just a second. Do you mean you two are headed for the Tanami Desert!?” she said.
“Oh, is this about that whole court martial thing? Let’s make a deal. If the Object turns out to be in the Great Sandy Desert, you can throw us into a detention room, but if it’s in the Tanami Desert, you have to do one thing we ask of you, no matter what it is. By the way, I’ve always wanted to have a beautiful woman do various things to me with the bottom of her feet!!” said Heivia.
In shock, Quenser shouted, “Wait, you’re actually asking that!? Oh, and I’d rather have the beautiful woman do various things to me with her armpit!!”
“Wh-what…? D-don’t make a bet like that without my consent and you could at least request more realistic things!!” shouted Froleytia.
“We’ve barely begun! There’s still the nostrils or the back of the ear!!” the two shouted in unison.
“Why even bring it up when you know I’ll never do anything like that!?”
Froleytia’s last shout brought Quenser and Heivia back to their senses. Why were they getting so oddly excited while on their way to fight an Object?
“The real problem here is that we’ll be more than heroes if we take out the Generation 0.5 on our own. Maybe we’ll get another medal. Actually, we might pass Froleytia right by if we keep this up.”
“No, Heivia. Whatever happens, we’re still disobeying our orders. We might even get our previous medals stripped from us.”
“No, you idiots! After everything you’ve done, I can’t let you go off like this!!” While the two boys had been half joking, Froleytia was truly angry. “The Generation 0.5 is still an Object!! If it really is in the Tanami Desert, you will be fighting an Object on your own! Don’t you understand that!? At least wait until one of our Objects arrives!!”
Quenser and Heivia fell silent when they heard their superior officer’s surprisingly kind words.
For a short bit, they seriously thought about what Froleytia had said.
However, they did not stop the off road vehicle.
Quenser and Heivia both spoke into the radio.
“But we have to go. If we wait around, the Generation 0.5 could start moving.”
“If villagers end up being slaughtered because we were tricked by Oceania, the coalition’s reputation will be in tatters. You might even get demoted.”
Froleytia started to yell something, but Heivia switched off the radio.
Silence continued for a bit, but Heivia finally spoke.
“Various things with the armpit, hm?”
“I’d say that’s more normal than the bottom of the foot.”
“(Hm, I wonder if the princess would be willing to offer up her armpit for you?)”
As the Object-destroying duo chatted, the off road vehicle continued on.
The Tanami Desert was a desert in name only.
The area spreading out before Quenser and Heivia’s eyes was a giant tropical forest like the Amazon. There were relatively few animals for the amount of nature because the number of plants had been artificially increased in a short period of time. It would still take some time before animals would settle in.
“It would be best if we walked from here on out,” said Heivia as he stopped the off road vehicle at the entrance to the forest. He then grabbed the rifle and portable anti-tank missile from the back. “I’d rather not announce our presence with the sound of the engine. There will definitely be soldiers if it’s a dummy base and there will likely be soldiers if this is the right one too.”
“Also, if the vehicle gets destroyed, we’d have to walk back to the base.”
“Ha ha. Yeah that would be bad. ...Actually, that really would be bad. Let’s hide it.”
The two of them proceeded to camouflage the vehicle by putting fallen tree branches and the like over it.
After disguising it, Quenser took a step back to view it.
“Will we even be able to find this on our way back?”
“If we make it too obvious, the enemy soldiers might spot it. Let’s get going. No matter what we do, we’ll still be left with worries.”
And so Quenser and Heivia headed into the thick forest on foot.
It was exceedingly rare in that day and age, but people still fought other people in “old” battlefields where Objects were rarely used. In those cases, landmines and other traps were common. Quenser and Heivia advanced through the forest with extreme caution.
“Come to think of it, I heard that the ruler of Oceania disappeared along with the Object.”
“Yeah, as the pilot Elite. Otherwise, Oceania would have long since been liberated. How many times do you think we’ve attacked their capital with an Object?”
“Isn’t that a lot worse than attacking small villages?”
“The only ones allowed to live in the capital are the military and those profiting from the military’s actions. When the military regime came into power, they took all the normal citizens’ houses and kicked them out into the wild. There’s nothing wrong with blowing up some of the people left.”
“Shh. Look at that. Isn’t that the Object maintenance base zone?”
Quenser and Heivia stopped walking and crouched down. They hid in the tall grass growing from the ground and peered out at the facility in question.
It was a giant rectangular concrete building.
It was large enough to contain the entire 50 meter Object. Smaller buildings dotted the area around it. They were likely either related facilities or garrisons for the troops.
Quenser looked down at his military wristwatch.
“Okay, we still have 2 hours before the reactor should be ready. The Generation 0.5 shouldn’t be able to move. I don’t know how many soldiers are stationed here, but getting here before the Object can move certainly makes this easier.”
“Hey, doesn’t something seem odd?” asked Heivia.
When Quenser focused with everything he head, he felt a slight vibration under his feet. It slowly grew until the plants and trees around him were clearly shaking.
“This is bad! I’m pretty sure the reactor is going strong!”
“L-let’s hope for the best. Maybe the low-tech reactor is going critical after they tried to restart it after such a long period without being used.”
“If that’s what’s happening, it’ll blow up and kill us too. Well, I can’t help but expect the worst. Maybe they used some kind of secret weapon to shorten the time it takes to activate the Object,” replied Quenser.
Just after Quenser’s comment, a loud dull noise rang out.
The front wall of the giant maintenance building was actually a giant shutter. It had opened upwards.
At the same time, white steam poured out.
A giant form crept out from the maintenance building as if it was hiding its silhouette in the smoke.
“…Well, it certainly seems like it’s gone critical,” muttered Quenser.
Even from 500 meters away, he could feel the waves of heat emanating from the Object.
The spherical main body of the Generation 0.5 had multiple large constructions attached to it. It had an X-shaped propulsion device attached to the bottom and giant building-like masses attached to the back of the sphere like wings. Obviously, it could not fly. They were most likely used to release the excess energy created by the reactor that was so hard to control with their level of technology.
A single main gun was attached to the left side of the sphere.
It was a few dozen meters long and reinforced with numerous steel bridge-like wires. It would likely have been fine without them, but there was a risk of the gun damaging itself with its own weight while it was held horizontal for long periods of time. It was a cheap countermeasure that would never have even been considered for a normal Object.
In exchange for the stability, affixing the main gun like that robbed it of almost all ability to move the gun independently. For any small adjustments to its aim, the entire Object would have to move.
That unrefined construction made the Object lose its image as a modern smart weapon and instead have the image of a primitive and savage weapon. It would not give you a peaceful death. Its presence sent a chill down their spines.
From a distance, Quenser stared at the Generation 0.5 Object that had appeared amid that strange heat.
“Most likely, they used an electric booster to force up the temperature of the reactor. The Information Alliance Object has electrical outlets on it, remember? This is the opposite. I guess it’s sort of like the ignition of a gasoline engine. By pouring in a large amount of external electricity, they activate the Object’s internal laser emitters or something. That allows them to interfere with the reactor…but it failed. A small scale explosion occurred in the maintenance facility.”
With the Information Alliance’s high level of technology, it may have been possible to pull that off. However, Oceania’s Object already held the danger of fusing its inside parts if the reactor remained active for too long. Forcing the reactor past its normal functionality had simply been reckless.
“The maintenance workers in there must have been utterly annihilated. Actually, that might be why we haven’t seen any sign of soldiers around here. They may have been holding a ceremony to see the Object off and it blew away all of them at once.”
Heivia used the auxiliary functions of his rifle to check for any noise in the area, but he did not detect any human voices.
Quenser, Heivia, and the Generation 0.5 Object were the only things around.
If they could destroy it, the battle in Oceania would essentially be over.
However, Quenser and Heivia were not stupid enough to charge straight at the Object.
The Generation 0.5 had not yet noticed them, so heading out into the open would have been tantamount to suicide.
“(Let’s sneak closer while making sure it doesn’t notice us. If a small explosion occurred in the maintenance building, the area around the plug was likely damaged. If we can find the damaged portion, we might be able to do something.)”
“(I’m fine with taking this slow, but what if the Object charges off at full speed to kill villagers in the name of ‘forest preservation’? I don’t know how fast that Generation 0.5 can go, but I’m sure it’s faster than we can keep up on foot.)”
“(Its reactor has been activated for the first time in 2 years. I’m sure it’ll make sure to carry out some exercises so the Elite can refamiliarize himself with the controls. It won’t be going anywhere right away.)”
Suddenly, the Generation 0.5 Object moved slightly 500 meters away from them. The 70 odd sub weapons, both large and small, moved separately as if in some kind of warm up exercise.
Finally, all of the Object’s guns froze in place and the main body moved to aim the giant main gun. It looked as if all of the pilot Elite’s attention was on those exercises.
And then the main gun fired as if to mow down everything in a vertical line.
The Oceanian Object used a large caliber coilgun.
A giant coil made out of a bundle of conducting wires had steel shells passed through it. The power of magnetism was used to fire the projectiles.
That main gun was firing shell after shell in rapid succession like a pitching machine.
The countless shells moved from right to left like a machinegun, tearing a horizontal line through the thick trees.
Quenser and Heivia hugged the ground.
The line of deadly projectiles passed right over their heads and the dense forest was torn to pieces around them.
“(Shit! Did it notice us!?)”
“(No, its aim is too general for that. This is probably another of its ‘warm up exercises’!! It hasn’t noticed us at all!!)”
At any rate, it was much too dangerous to approach the Object in a straight line. Quenser and Heivia slowly crawled along a large looping route.
“(This undergrowth hides us better than I would have thought.)”
“(It can hide landmines and other traps just as well, so don’t let your guard down.)”
The undergrowth rustled and swayed around them, but with the destruction to the surrounding trees the Generation 0.5 was causing, it didn’t notice such a small change.
“(It really does seem like an older model. It doesn’t have any kind of ingenious mechanisms like the Information Alliance’s Gatling gun-style beam cannon. From the look of it, the coilgun’s barrel will burn away before long if it keeps firing.)”
“(Well, old model or not, it’s still way too much for us to handle.)”
“(How do you think it aims?)”
“(A camera sight would be the standard. My guess would be it has a camera on each weapon so it can be aimed. If it was using ultrasonic waves to search for our pulses, this undergrowth wouldn’t be helping to hide us at all.)”
“(Standard camouflage will work on it. C’mon, let’s cover our clothes in mud. Even that should help hide us.)”
However, they could not exactly stop and carefully prepare. Coilgun fire was still flying by nearby. The most they could manage was to occasionally roll over onto their backs in some mud as they crawled forward.
Eventually, they managed to get only 300 meters away from the Generation 0.5. They were approaching in a spiral with the Object at the center, so they had crawled much farther total. After getting in a position located behind the Object, they finally managed to escape the threat of the coilgun.
“(Okay, now we can finally find a weakness in peace.)”
“(Hey, we’re about to enter the grounds of the base.)”
Perhaps due to being activated for the first time in 2 years, the Generation 0.5 was completely focused on its system checks. That was clear from its test firing before.
Quenser crawled a bit further and peered at the Object through his binoculars.
If the Object’s reactor had been forcibly brought up with an external power supply, it had to have a plug somewhere. And if that had caused a small scale explosion, it may have a crack running from the reactor to the plug.
(Is that it?)
Quenser looked all over with his binoculars and finally stopped on a single point.
On the back right portion of the spherical main body, he saw something that looked like a broken hatch. A power cable over 50 centimeters thick was hanging down with a torn end.
It had likely connected the electrical booster directly to the reactor. Normally, the line would be cut off with countless thick bulkheads so it could withstand any powerful attack.
(Or is that weakness one of the reasons it’s known as the Generation 0.5 and thought to be destroyable with a nuke?)
Just as he had that thought, Quenser heard a high-pitched electronic noise.
It had not come from the Generation 0.5’s sensors. He had accidentally touched one of the infrared security lasers surrounding the maintenance base zone.
The Generation 0.5 Object did not take the time to turn its giant form around.
The rear facing ones of the 70 odd smaller weapons attached all over its body made slight adjustments to aim at the two boys.
However, they were lucky.
Just before it fixed its aim, a portion of the Generation 0.5’s wheels struck a small marsh. The 50 meter Object was not about to sink into such a small area of water, but it did change the time Quenser and Heivia had from a few seconds to about 10 seconds.
“Heivia! Hand me that missile!!” shouted Quenser as he ripped the portable anti-tank missile from Heivia’s grasp and rested it on his shoulder.
He was not aiming at the Object.
For one thing, a student like Quenser did not know how to properly use the missile’s sight. He merely pulled the trigger, sending the missile flying out and into the muddy marsh just in front of the Object. The missile stabbed into the center of the marsh and exploded, scattering mud everywhere. With a splattering sound, one side of the Object’s armor was painted the color of mud.
Immediately afterwards, the Generation 0.5 moved its guns despite their cameras being covered in mud.
Quenser tossed the empty missile launcher aside.
Instead of getting down for cover, he and Heivia ran off as quickly as they could. As soon as they did, the area they had just been in was blown to a thousand pieces with the tremendous sound of a shell hitting. The two were stuck by the shockwave and blown a few meters through the air. They rolled along the ground, stood back up, and continued to run. They were no longer headed toward the Generation 0.5. They were now running straight toward the cover the maintenance facility would provide with survival the only thing on their minds.
The Generation 0.5 finally started to slowly turn around so it could aim the weapons not covered in mud at them. However, it had lost sight of them by the time it turned around. The camera-equipped weapons aimed all over the place as it searched for them.
With his back pressed up against the maintenance facility wall, Quenser said, “Damn am I glad that thing is so low-tech. A standard Object would have had plenty more sensors to track us with.”
“Surely even that piece of junk has wipers installed, right? I’ve never head of an Elite crying and raising the white flag because of a bit of mud.”
Quenser glanced down at the Hand Axe in his hand.
He poked just his head out from behind the maintenance facility and focused on the thick cable hanging down to the ground from the Object’s armor.
“(That’s definitely a weakness, but do you honestly think I can get close enough to attach this?)”
“(If you’ve been working out enough that your muscles can deflect shells, then you should be fine.)”
“Dammit,” cursed Quenser.
He had a general plan. He knew what its weakness was. He had every tool he would need to use. However, he still could not defeat the Object. That giant machine was not something to be defeated by such small things. Its overwhelming firepower was a thick barrier in the way of the path to victory.
Quenser clenched his radio in his hand.
It was meant to be used to detonate the Hand Axe, but it could be used for other purposes as well.
He could contact his allies.
“(Hey, would it be okay to make a transmission with this thing?)”
“(I’m sure the Generation 0.5 would notice right away, but I doubt it would be able to pinpoint our location. The real question is whether the princess and the Information Alliance Elite will be able to get here anytime soon. The Great Sandy Desert is pretty far away.)”
“(So are we going to be stuck running away until they get here?)”
“(That would make an excellent diet. The only real problem is that you’d die 100 times over before losing a single pound.)”
Despite Heivia’s words, Quenser still hit the switch for the radio.
The Generation 0.5 was not an opponent they could defeat with standard methods.
The black thundercloud-like noise of an Object moving using static electricity reverberated throughout the Oceania night.
After reaching an area near the Great Sandy Desert, the Objects of the Legitimacy Kingdom and the Information Alliance came to a stop.
The princess checked on a magnified image of her target.
The Oceanian artificial greening project had only just begun in that area, so most of it was practically a wasteland of sand dunes. In the center of that was a collection of concrete constructions. It looked like a large scale supply station centered around a gas station located along a long, long desert road. In fact, it was officially registered as just that. However, the abandoned-looking buildings were in fact an Oceanian military facility.
The Elite called “the princess” by her allies aimed at the facility with one of her main guns. She was 10-13 kilometers from her target, so she was obeying the instructions her comrades had given her.
With a great explosive noise, a line of light shot out from the low-stability plasma cannon. The line of light stabbed into the main concrete building, spreading bluish-white explosions about. Her distance was a bit too great to pierce the armor of a high-spec Object because the plasma energy had time to dissipate, but it was more than enough for a mere concrete building or the armor of the low-tech Generation 0.5.
After she fired on the same building a few more times, an even larger explosion occurred. The prototype reactor had exploded.
The scale of the explosion was smaller than she had expected.
The blast only had a radius of 300 meters, so even the alterations to the reactor to make it go critical must have failed. The small explosion seemed to signify just how low the Oceanian military nation’s level of technology was.
The princess received a transmission from a Legitimacy Kingdom communications soldier.
“According to the report from the satellite division, no sign of anything that could be a functional Object can be seen within the wreckage of the facility. Most likely, this was a dummy using a prototype reactor, but our orders are to check the facility out just to be sure.”
“But isn’t that your job, not mine?” the princess replied.
“Oh ho ho. They are asking us to remain on standby in case an Object emerges from the wreckage. It is something like being a pool lifeguard.”
The princess felt it was a waste of time.
Just then, she received a transmission from an unexpected person.
“…Ksshh…This is Quenser. We have confirmed the Oceanian military nation’s Object is in the Tanami Desert. I repeat, we have confirmed the Oceanian military nation’s Object is in the Tanami Desert! As the electronic simulation division predicted, its tech is only at a Generation 0.5 level. With our cutting edge models, a single shot from the main gun should finish it off! We request reinforcements. We don’t care who from! Just send an Object with a giant gun our way!!”
“Whoever gets here first, wins!! If you don’t hurry up, we’ll take all the glory for ourselves!!” cut in Heivia’s voice.
She could also hear some of the soldiers muttering their disbelief that the Object was actually there.
The princess started to turn her Object around, but another transmission came in.
“No. No reinforcements are to go to the Tanami Desert. That is a direct order.”
The princess froze in place.
(Whose voice is that?)
From the frequency being used, it seemed to be someone from the Legitimacy Kingdom military, but…
“I repeat, the transmission from the Tanami Desert is a trap. No one is to do as it says. Quenser and Heivia have headed off on their own and seem to have become confused.”
(Wait, this voice is…)
She recognized the voice as belonging to the Councilor Flide.
The Councilors led the Legitimacy Kingdom and he was said to be the one who had put together the coalition force and sent them to Oceania for the sake of his election. However, that identity held another great meaning for the princess.
“As you can tell from our data, Oceania’s Object truly was in the Great Sandy Desert. The prototype reactor and the Object were both in the same facility. The Oceanians were afraid of our attack and hurriedly had the Object escape while leaving the prototype reactor behind. The real Object is still out there in the Great Sandy Desert somewhere. We must not let it escape. If we turn back for the Tanami Desert now, the Generation 0.5 Object will disappear again.” As the soldiers listened on in bewilderment, Councilor Flide continued. “Quenser and Heivia know this, but they are afraid of having to fight the Object, so they are intentionally trying to have us waste our time on the dummy facility in the Tanami Desert. They will soon be arrested, but the Generation 0.5 Object in the Great Sandy Desert comes first. Do not be deceived by Quenser and Heivia’s words.”
Whether the Tanami Desert facility was a dummy or not should have been immediately obvious from the satellite.
When moving slowly, an Object and a gas tank could be difficult to tell apart, but if Quenser and Heivia were facing the object in a fight for their lives, the Object would be moving much more quickly. Even the slower Generation 0.5 would not be mistaken for a gas tank with treads.
(There is something more to this…)
The princess finished turning her Object in the direction of the Tanami Desert.
Acting on their orders, the soldiers following her tried to stop her, but normal firepower could do nothing against an Object.
The princess ignored them and headed on, but then her Object came to a sudden stop.
Only one thing in that area held the firepower necessary to make her stop.
“Oh ho ho. Aren’t you supposed to obey the orders of your superior officers?”
The Information Alliance Object was pointing its main rapid-fire beam cannon Gatling gun toward her as the princess glared at it through her sensors. The soldiers must have thought the two Objects were going to enter a direct confrontation because they broke rank and scattered.
“A possible enemy Object’s Elite must not be allowed to act on her own discretion. This is not a concept unique to the Information Alliance. It is common to all militaries that use Objects. Oh ho ho. Your actions could lead to a great slaughter. I cannot overlook an Elite disobeying her orders.”
“Councilor Flide lead the Legitimacy Kingdom. You have no reason to do what he says.”
“Oh ho ho. That may be true…”
The Information Alliance Elite showed no sign of moving her rapid-fire beam cannon Gatling gun.
The princess moved her arm-shaped main guns.
They both aimed their main guns at the other’s reactor.
The eerie dark thundercloud-like noise reverberated across the area from the bottom of the princess’s Object.
“…but I was ordered to record our joint actions together to investigate the technology of the Legitimacy Kingdom’s Object. Normally, that would have been done while we fought alongside each other, but if you are picking a fight, I will gladly take the opportunity. Oh ho ho.”
Quenser’s face paled when he heard that ominous transmission.
“Wait, wait, wait. What is going on!? What was that about us being confused!? How can we be confused about the Object right in front of us!?”
“Councilor Flide, hm? If I recall, he used to work in the munitions industry and holds an important position related to the Objects. He manages all of the positions related to improving the talents of our Elites.”
The two frowned while they wondered why he would be interfering.
And then they received their answer from the radio.
“You two have betrayed our expectations,” said Councilor Flide.
Quenser and Heivia exchanged a glance.
They had not expected him to contact them directly.
“This transmission is being sent only to you two who betrayed our expectations.”
“Your expectations? Did we do something that harmed your chances of getting reelected?”
“Sending this coalition force to Oceania was part of your plan, wasn’t it?” added Heivia. “Are you saying we’ll ruin people’s impressions of this war if our muddy faces are broadcast into people’s living rooms?”
“Quite the opposite. You two have done too well. If only you could have been a bit more incompetent,” replied Councilor Flide in a smooth voice. From his tone, it sounded as if he was reading from a prepared script. “Flesh and blood soldiers destroying an Object is a wonderful story that gives hope to those with none. However, the carefree residents of the safe countries are not the only ones this gives hope to. Had you realized that the guerillas and terrorists continuing reckless fights around the world have become more active recently?”
“This hell in Oceania was created by you two,” said Councilor Flide.
The two boys listened to the words of that man who was likely their enemy.
“It is true that the coalition forces – including the Legitimacy Kingdom forces – have spent the last two years doing very little, but the war should have ended a month ago when so many Objects were brought in. That was right when you were fighting that Object in Alaska. Modern wars are quite simple. The winner and loser can be easily calculated from the quality and quantity of Objects on either side. If you have one Object and your enemy has three, you decide that fighting will gain you nothing. As such, you quickly retreat to lessen the damages as much as possible. War was nicely built up so the loser would give up right away.”
That was how the war in Oceania had been supposed to turn out.
The military nation possessed a single Generation 0.5 Object while the coalition force had over 20 cutting edge Objects. Normally, the second that many Objects were spread out across the continent, Oceania would have raised the white flag. That would have brought the war to a quick end.
In fact, that was exactly what Oceania had done up until then.
All they had been able to do was just barely keep their prized Generation 0.5 hidden.
However, they had instead planned and begun to carry out a military strategy using the Generation 0.5. They had even used their prototype reactor as a trap.
“Yes, this is all thanks to the amazing results you two produced.” His tone was one of scorn. “War is no longer just about Object vs. Object. Flesh and blood humans can destroy an Object. What you two proved in Alaska is seen as hope by guerillas, terrorists, and old-style dictators. This hope has robbed them of their sole chance to raise the white flag. This has led to the war continuing on much longer than we ever expected. The benefit for my campaign has become overshadowed by the costs of the battlefield. We can’t have that. Is it really that surprising that some wish to correct this new deviation in how the world sees war?”
“So you want us to die here?”
“You specifically want us to be killed by an Object, don’t you? If the news gets out that the heroes that destroyed Objects were themselves killed by an Object, the flesh and blood troops would give up, deciding that our victories were just flukes.”
“War needs certain fundamental understandings if it is to be smartly ended in the shortest amount of time. No one wants extended conflict on the battlefield. What you two are doing will only needlessly lengthen wars and increase the numbers of the dead.” Councilor Flide's voice did not waver. “Originally, the plan was to cause a split between the forces in the coalition base and have you two get caught up in a battle between cutting edge Objects. However, it seems you have done us a favor and found the Oceanian Object on your own. We would prefer not to damage our precious Objects, so we will not stop you from having the Oceanians play the dirty role.”
On the surface, Councilor Flide’s argument may have been just.
It may indeed have been true that Quenser and Heivia had played a role in lengthening the war in Oceania. It may indeed have been best to leave all fighting in wars to Objects while leaving the flesh-and-blood soldiers and civilians to be nothing but side characters.
“If you let the Oceanians kill us here, that Object will then head off and attack nearby villages. How can you be okay with that!?” shouted Quenser.
“We are tracking the Generation 0.5 with the satellite. This will be the final massacre for the Oceanians. Afterwards, we will finish it off with one of the coalition Objects.”
After hearing how readily the man said that, Quenser had the proof he needed.
The Councilor was thinking nothing of justice or peace.
“You two need to realize that you have become dangerous enough that a plan to eliminate you must be carried out even if it requires that level of sacrifice. If it is merely between Objects, war can be carried out smartly. That way, no needless harm will be done. Your hope has gotten in the way of that.”
(Yeah fucking right.)
It was true that the winner and loser were decided solely by the Objects in that kind of war. However, that did nothing to eliminate the slaughter of the rest of the soldiers. Quenser and the others had almost been slaughtered when they had lost their Object in Alaska. In the Strait of Gibraltar, all of their bases had been destroyed just because the princess had been a little late. On the battlefield, there was no kind rule that said the rest of the soldiers would be overlooked just because they had lost their Object.
Quenser summed up his thoughts on the Councilor’s argument in his next statement.
“Only someone who has never lost could make that argument.”
“You only want to protect your own interests,” said Heivia. “You just want to hold onto this world where the countries with the most Objects hold all the power. The countries without Objects and the normal soldiers being targeted by an Object all realize there is something wrong with the world. They realize that Objects are nothing but weapons used to slaughter people as efficiently as possible.”
The idea that the fight was over before it had even begun was just plain wrong.
It was living human beings that picked up their guns and fought.
No matter how puny they were, they still fought with everything they had.
It was wrong to say they had lost before the fight even began. The world was not so boring that it did not allow for coincidences and unlikely wins.
Councilor Flide was one of the people who had invested massive amounts of money in constructing Objects and made even more money from their victories in wars. His argument was merely the argument of the people like that who wished to keep their important positions in the world.
“Say what you will,” said Councilor Flide in the tone of voice of one who held many Objects in his control and felt untouchable. “Either way, you two will die there. We will monitor the Generation 0.5 as it carries out its attack and send a coalition Object to utterly destroy it. This way this war will end up being what we had originally planned. It will show a cutting edge Object conquering all that gets in our way.”
“I see. Then let’s make a bet.”
Quenser and Heivia both spoke into the radio to pick a fight with the leader of the Legitimacy Kingdom.
“If we lose to the Generation 0.5, you get what you want.”
“But if we win, it’s over for you.”
Quenser turned off the radio and clicked his tongue.
“Shit, this means we aren’t getting reinforcements! There are coalition Objects all across Oceania, and not even one of them is coming!!”
“Hey, Quenser. What about the princess?”
“She might come if we asked, but then the rest of the coalition would be her enemy. Also, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Councilor has some kind of safety device installed to keep that from happening.”
“Then I guess we have to do this on our own!”
“Yeah, let’s make sure to survive at least long enough to get a punch in on that damn Councilor!!”
While hiding behind the building, the two checked on what they had to do.
They knew one thing for sure.
They were not obedient enough soldiers to die there like their leader wanted.
However, Quenser and Heivia were not superhuman enough to charge straight at the Object like comic book heroes.
“(I’d feel like an idiot if we got shot just trying to get near it. Heivia, let’s take a shortcut through this building to get closer to the Generation 0.5.)”
“(You can get as close as you want, but how are you going to blow it away?)”
Quenser and Heivia moved along the back wall so the Object would not see them. They finally found the back entrance and it was unlocked. In fact, the door itself had been blown away. It must have been due to the explosion within.
They entered and found a wide, open area.
They were within the Generation 0.5 Object’s maintenance facility.
Everything needed to maintain the giant Object was there, but it was all bent up. Cranes lay collapsed on the ground and meters larger than industrial refrigerators had been discolored by the intense heat. Corpses lay here and there. Lots of corpses. Around 40 people wearing military or work uniforms had been almost completely cooked.
Quenser’s feet almost stopped as he entered, but he had no choice but to head on. If he turned back there, the Generation 0.5 Object would create even more tragic corpses.
“(What are you looking around for, Quenser? Let’s go. Or are you that interested in those horrid corpses?)”
“(No, it’s just that this is the Generation 0.5’s maintenance facility, so…)”
“(So you’re looking for a spare of its main gun or something? Even if we found one, we’d need an energy source to run it with. If a convenient prototype reactor was lying around here somewhere we might manage, but…)”
“(No, I was wondering if the Object’s plans might be lying around here somewhere. We might be able to find a weakness if we had those.)”
The two split up and searched through the large maintenance facility.
When they had snuck into the enemy base in Alaska, they had found mountains of static electricity-producing turbines that had turned out to be the Water Strider’s weakness. Similarly, they might be able to find a special weakness of the Generation 0.5 from its spare parts or its plans.
“(Hey, what’s the Object doing? It didn’t go off to attack a nearby village because it lost sight of us, did it?)”
“(Of course not. I think it’s cleaning the mud off its cameras. It seems to be letting it dry and then deflecting the powdered mud away with a negative electric charge. I think it’s a similar technique to those masks that don’t let pollen near.)”
Heivia peered out through the large open shutter the Object had exited from. A cutting edge Object would have been able to find people in a building with its sensors, but the Generation 0.5 did not seem to have that functionality.
Most likely, the Oceanians had mostly wanted an Object to show off to the international community as soon as possible, and having it function well in an actual war had been a secondary priority.
“(Hey, do you think this might be what blew up?)” asked Quenser.
Heivia returned from peering outside and found Quenser pointing at some large container-like objects lining one wall of the building. The containers were connected together with thick cables.
“(What are those? Batteries?)”
“(I think they might be giant capacitors. They’re probably the external power source they used to interfere with the Generation 0.5’s reactor. They used diesel generators to gather energy, amplified it, and then sent it to the Object.)”
One of the containers had exploded from within. The blast had filled every nook and cranny of the sealed maintenance facility. The people within had had nowhere to run.
“(Hey, does that mean it was this amplifier that exploded and not the Object? In that case, the Object might not actually be damaged at all!!)”
“(Come to think of it, if the blast had originated from the center of the Object, its thick armor should have been buckled outward. Well, we know it isn’t going to be easy to take it out, so let’s look for the plans in the maintenance computer.)”
“(Damn, I hope the computer wasn’t destroyed in the blast.)”
They glanced around the area, but did not see the computer at first.
However, they then noticed the large computer on a second floor passageway hugging the outside wall. To reach it, they would have to climb a flight of stairs that had been almost broken in the blast. Luckily, the computer was located in an area the Generation 0.5 could not see.
“(This LCD screen has melted. It’s useless.)”
“(Here’s a usable monitor. Hook up the cable.)”
The computer itself still seemed to be functioning and the Generation 0.5’s maintenance information appeared on the replacement monitor once they hooked it up.
Then Quenser frowned.
“(Huh? This key layout is weird. This isn’t shift?)”
“(Tch. They’re using a different OS than we use. I think this is an old Information Alliance OS.)”
Quenser had some difficulty operating the computer, but he managed well enough once he realized the major differences. The keyboard was a bit discolored from the heat, but it functioned well enough.
“(Hey, Quenser. We targeted the legs and such on the Water Strider in Alaska and the Tri-Core in Gibraltar, right? Should we try that again?)”
“(From what I can see, the Generation 0.5 uses steel wheels like a train. The structure is simple enough that there are no real weaknesses to target.)”
“(Wheels? So it doesn’t use an air cushion at all? Can that really support a giant Object? Even with giant steel wheels, wouldn’t the wheels warp or the axle break?)” asked Heivia.
“(To distribute the weight of the Generation 0.5, it has around 500 wheels. It’s like those torture chairs covered in spikes. If you calmly sit on it, your weight will be distributed enough to avoid getting skewered.)”
“(Yeah, but no one’s actually volunteered to prove that, right? I thought it was just an urban legend.)”
“(It was just an example. I’m not telling you to try it out. I have no idea what would happen to you if you did.)”
Theoretically, if they could destroy two thirds of the steel wheels, the rest of them would be crushed under its weight. However, flesh and blood soldiers could not carry that out.
“(We could probably melt the armor with a direct hit from a nuke, but we don’t have any of those handy.)”
“(Even with it only being Generation 0.5, it’s still suicide to try to take it on with a frontal assault. We need to find some kind of hole in its defenses we can attack through. Oh…?)”
Quenser’s hands suddenly stopped on the keyboard.
The screen was displaying the inner workings of the device that quickly activated the Object’s reactor using an external power supply. It was a new technique that not even the Legitimacy Kingdom military had developed before, but a proper Object kept its reactor running at all times, so it was unnecessary.
“(This is it. Using this is how the Oceanians here were killed by their moronic leader.)”
“(Hey, while its primary use is to start up the reactor with an external battery, it looks like it also emits excess energy to protect the reactor. A device to emit the energy as electrical power has been attached.)”
“(That may have been what failed. Raising the rotation speed is one thing, but it must have gotten too high to control.)”
“(Meaning control of the reactor may be lost again if another massive dose of electricity is sent into that plug.)”
As he spoke, Quenser moved away from the computer. He looked down from the second story passageway and at the container-shaped capacitors.
Suddenly, the wall right next to the two boys was blown away in a stream of fire.
It was likely from the Generation 0.5’s coilgun.
The holes in the wall moved from right to left…toward Quenser and Heivia. The angle the shells were coming from was odd. The Object must have slowly circled around the building as part of its warm up exercises.
“Get down, Quenser!!”
“You idiot, we’d be killed by the fragments of the wall! Jump down!!”
The two jumped over the railing and down to the first floor. The very next instant, the wall up at the second floor was blow away in a horizontal line. Sparks flew from the large computer and it exploded.
“Shit! I guess we can’t look anything else up!”
“We can only try out what we know. Let’s get those capacitors up and running!!”
However, they did not have time to do so.
With the wall completely destroyed at the second floor level, the maintenance facility itself had tilted some. However, the Generation 0.5 seemed dissatisfied with the lack of blood. It fired some more at the building.
Railguns, laser beam cannons, coilguns, and rapid fire beam cannons.
All of its various types of weapons turned the giant maintenance facility to Swiss cheese in no time at all. Quenser and Heivia were unable to move. If they lifted their heads, they would likely be blown away by a giant shell.
Luckily, they were not hit directly by any of the blasts.
However, they heard a dull roar.
The walls had been utterly destroyed and the roof no longer had much support. The giant ceiling came crumbling down, crushing what was left of the walls. It came crashing down straight for Quenser and Heivia who were inside.
“You have got to be kidding me!!”
They had no time to even think about avoiding it.
With a great roar, Quenser’s consciousness was mercilessly blown away.
Quenser seriously thought his heart had stopped, but apparently it had not.
“(Dammit. Hey, Quenser! Wake up!!)”
“(What? We weren’t crushed?)”
“(The roof was supported by multiple columns like a gym and we seem to have managed to get in one of the gaps those created.)”
The roof was cracked enough that they would be able to crawl out.
However, they were not stupid enough to exit without thinking.
At the very least, the Elite piloting the Generation 0.5 thought Quenser and Heivia were dead. As long as he thought that, he would not continue his attack. Now was their only chance to prepare for their counterattack.
“(But what exactly are we going to do? Him thinking we’re dead is great, but he’s going to head off and attack the nearby villages at this rate!!)”
“(You saw that firepower. We can’t face it head on. The only way is to destroy the reactor via that plug.)”
“(Did you see that firepower!? We won’t have time to walk up and plug in the power cable like we’re working at a power station for electric cars!! How are we supposed to get close!?)”
“(We just need to get the electricity there without getting close. C’mere.)”
Quenser stuck his head out of the cracked roof.
He could see the giant form of the Object in the dark night. Its 70 odd sub weapons were making slight movements, but it did not seem to be searching for them.
“(Is it continuing its warm up exercises before heading out to attack those villages? God dammit.)”
“(It’s possible the reactor is acting up a bit due to being powered up for the first time in 2 years. Let’s go.)”
“(Hey, you never told me what your plan is!)”
Quenser climbed up out of the cracked roof and crawled along it. He wanted to move more quickly, but that would have caused too much noise. If the Object noticed them, it was all over.
Luckily, the cameras were the Object’s only major sensors. It had poor reception of sound. The fact that the cameras numbered in the 70s was a problem, but they could escape the Elite’s notice by blending in with the darkness of the night.
Quenser eventually reached what had originally been the maintenance facility’s wall.
There, the large container-shaped capacitors were lined up. Most of them had been crushed by the roof, but a few were still functioning.
Heivia crawled up shortly thereafter and whispered to Quenser.
“(Are you seriously planning to take that cable and charge in at the Generation 0.5!? You’ll die!!)”
“(That’s not my plan. Hey, is there any water around here? Even just a storage tank or a fire hydrant would work. I just need enough water to create a pool on the ground!!)”
“(What are you talking abou-…Wait, you mean…!?)”
“(Exactly. The torn power cable connected to that plug is dragging along the ground. If we create a huge puddle of water and run the electricity through it, it’ll pass through that cable and into the Generation 0.5’s reactor!!)”
Suddenly, they heard a sound coming from the Generation 0.5’s main gun.
“It noticed us!!”
“Quenser, over there! There’s a water storage tank!!”
It must have wanted to finish them off with its main gun because the Generation 0.5 was going out of its way to turn around.
Meanwhile, Quenser stabbed an electronic fuse into some Hand Axe and threw it as hard as he could in the direction Heivia was pointing.
A rusted water storage tank lay in that direction. Instead of being located on the building’s roof, it was on top of its own steel tower.
Just as the bomb was about to strike the tank, Quenser sent the detonation signal.
With a loud roar, the tank ruptured and the steel tower itself collapsed.
“It was empty!! Was that just part of the dummy facility disguise!?”
Meanwhile, the Generation 0.5 Object had finished turning their way.
With a slight creaking noise, the main coilgun finished its last bit of careful aiming.
They were doomed.
At the same time, the steel tower struck the ground. The tower had merely been a fake to fool the satellites, but the impact of it striking the ground tore up the earth below it. Dust flew into the air and dirt flew above Quenser and Heivia’s heads.
However, that was not all.
It must have burst a water pipe buried in the ground. A pillar of water erupted from the ground. It could not have been a normal water pipe. The water erupted a few dozen meters up into the air and rained down on the entire area.
(Was that an industrial water pipeline? Did they use a machine tool that used water to cut out the parts for the Object?)
Really, Quenser did not particularly care what they had used it for.
A great amount of water rained down on the ground, connecting the cable hanging down from the Generation 0.5’s body with the large capacitors in the crushed building.
“Ruuunnnn!!” shouted Quenser as he turned from the Object and ran.
Heivia followed just behind him.
They were not fleeing from the Generation 0.5’s coilgun.
That was not something they could escape from on foot.
They were fleeing from the quickly expanding pool of water.
And then a clear path was created between the crushed building and the Generation 0.5.
Immediately afterwards, they heard a great explosive noise.
At first, Quenser thought the ground had exploded in brilliant light.
However, that was not what had happened. The massive amount of electrical power stored up in the large capacitors had spread through the pool on the ground. In an instant, it had raced 200 meters across the ground and directly to the Generation 0.5.
The target was the power cable dragging along the ground. Twenty or thirty percent of the high voltage current entered the Object and forcibly activated the laser emitters used to heat the reactor.
The main body of the Object seemed to swell from the inside.
However, Quenser did not have time to keep watching.
Heivia tackled him to the ground and covered both his eyes with his hand.
“You idiot! You’ll go blind!!”
Just before Quenser managed to grasp what Heivia meant, he heard a loud roar.
At the same time, a brilliant flash of light stabbed into his retinas despite Heivia’s hand covering his eyes. His vision and his consciousness were filled with nothing but pure white. An intense pain stabbed through his ears and into the center of his head. He then thought he felt a liquid oozing back out. He didn’t know where he was hurt, but he must have been bleeding.
He had no idea how long it took for his vision to recover.
It was possible he had lost consciousness a few times before it happened.
He was not even sure of that.
“Quenser! Open your eyes, Quenser!”
As Heivia shook him, Quenser finally opened his eyes.
He could vaguely see Heivia’s face.
“The Generation 0.5? What happened to it…?”
“Take a look,” said Heivia as he pointed with this chin.
Quenser looked over and saw the Oceanian Object ripped open from the inside. The spherical body had folded outward like a blooming flower, and its 70 odd guns were scattered about and stabbed into the ground. Due to the explosion of the reactor, the huge pool of water was gone. It had all been evaporated. The eruption of water from the ruptured industrial water pipeline had stopped. It was possible the ruptured portion had melted and sealed once more.
There was no question what had happened to the foolish leader piloting the Object.
Even if he had used an escape device, he would have been roasted in the air as he floated down in a parachute.
“Yeah. This isn’t just an issue of an Object or two. The war in Oceania is now over.”
The two sat there blankly for a bit, but they finally stood up.
Then, not one, but both of them said, “Now let’s do something about that damn Councilor.”