HEAVY OBJECT:Volume2 Chapter 1
Chapter 1: It is Only Natural to get Muddy in an Obstacle Course >> Battle to Control Antarctica
I have an exceedingly important mission for you two!!
Heivia, a boy of a solid build with short brown hair, thought back on the words of his superior officer as he silently moved his fingers with a look in his eyes reminiscent of a dead fish.
He was in a cramped room.
Inside the room was a table with a pile of small metal devices on top of it. Quenser, a boy with blond hair that did not quite reach his shoulders, sat across the table performing a similar task.
Instead of chairs, they were sitting on cases used to store the shells for the smaller railguns used by Objects. Heivia had no idea how many shells fit inside, but each case was the size of a sofa for three.
The table was also not really a table; it was a large wooden box. It was empty, but it had been crammed between the railgun shell cases to create a work space.
They were loading ammunition.
They had been handed a large number of empty assault rifle magazines, and they were using their fingers to cram bullet after bullet inside. While an inefficient clicking noise was coming from Heivia’s magazine, Quenser was using his slender fingers that were like those of a sheltered maiden to systematically carry out the job.
They had started only 15 minutes ago, but Heivia was already down for the count.
He kicked his heels against the railgun shell case he was sitting on and said, “Hey, I can’t go on. This isn’t war!! With those Objects that can keep moving after a nuclear blast, loading these puny little bullets isn’t going to be of any use!!”
“Heivia, redo that magazine. You used too much force and bent the spring into an S-shape. I can tell from the sound.”
“Why do you look so happy!? This annoying work is going to drive me insane!!”
“Eh? Doesn’t this kind of trivial job soothe your heart? I’d say running around the wilderness with a heavy rifle is more messed up than this.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize you Object design students were insane. And what point is there in this? Can’t the munitions companies load the bullets in the factories before packaging them and shipping them out?”
“Doesn’t storing them inside for so long loosen the spring, increasing the risk of malfunctions? That’s why we have to load only the necessary bullets when they’re needed and remove them again if they aren’t needed anymore.”
“Really? Isn’t that just the same as printer ink? I’m betting you could keep them in there forever without issue, but they tell you these things so we’ll keep buying more.”
“Heivia, that magazine’s spring is messed up. You need to remove the bullets and redo it.”
“Gahhh!!” he shouted out of utter annoyance, but Quenser naturally ignored him.
Heivia was not the type to back off because he received no reaction, so he pointed toward the many cardboard boxes placed next to the large wooden box they were using as a table.
“How are we supposed to finish all of these!? And isn’t this something a machine should be doing!? If they got just one machine to do this, we could just set the magazines in it and press a button. Then they would all get loaded automatically like with a soft serve ice cream machine!”
“Aren’t they just trying to save on their budget? Everything war-related is centered on the Objects these days. Normal soldiers don’t fight anymore. When would a loaded rifle bullet actually be used? To them, it makes more sense to use their idle soldiers for this than to bring in a ridiculously expensive machine.”
“You really have a way of wearing away people’s motivation, you know that?”
Fed up with it all, Heivia tossed the assault rifle magazine on the wooden box they were using as a table. He arched his spine backwards as he stretched and glanced behind him.
He spotted a small cupboard.
Heivia casually glanced through the items lined up there, but then…
“Hey, Quenser. Look at what I just found.”
“There’s a single porn video mixed in with the training videos.“
After pushing an incredibly boring job onto two boy soldiers under her command with a smile on her face, Froleytia had headed back to a special officer room prepared on the base. However, the base was really a large scale convoy made up of over 100 large special vehicles, so even her office was similar to a blocky container.
Quenser and Heivia were both 17 and Froleytia was 18. The average age in units was continuing to lower, but that was just a sign of the times. That silver-haired girl was a minor, but no one found it odd that she was commanding a large group of around 800 people. That was simply how things were done.
Currently, Froleytia was using a tablet connected to her computer to recheck the invasion route of her force on their next mission.
As she did, she glanced over at a different monitor.
With a microphone and video camera attached to the computer, it was something like a video chat device. On the other end was a guest from the safe country that was a great distance from the battlefield.
She could have just had two windows open on her laptop rather than preparing two computers, but Froleytia had a reason to not do that.
This guest was the kind of person that would find it rude to even have her face covered by another window. She only had a rank of three stars, but she acted like it was five stars.
“I see. So how is Heivia doing?”
“Oh, fine. After all, he is the heir to the well-known Winchell family. He would never be put in danger by being sent to the front lines.”
Froleytia said that to move the conversation along, but the truth was that she had used Heivia for everything from loading puny rifle bullets into empty magazines to destroying 50+ meter Objects.
(Well, I’m living quite the unfortunate life myself…)
The guest displayed on the monitor was not aware of any of that. She was a blonde girl of about 15 who was wearing a dress that did not belong in the modern era. However, the corset and other important points had been modified enough that it could be put on without needing someone else’s help. Even if she was a noble girl, it seemed her upbringing had not been so sheltered that she used her servants for everything.
She scratched at her cheek with her index finger and said, “That is fine. Even for me, it would be a waste if he died before that grand ceremony could be held.”
“Excuse me, but I thought the engagement was fiercely opposed by both the Winchell family and the Vanderbilt family.”
“The greater the obstacle, the more it burns within me. You should try falling in love sometime, miss soldier.”
Without thinking, Froleytia shrugged at having that pointed out by an influential noble girl. She shook her long silver hair and tried to change the subject.
“But was this really such a good idea?”
“Was what such a good idea?”
“Having Heivia treated as a private first class. As the heir to the Winchell family, shouldn’t he have at least been an officer such as a second lieutenant? This may sound rude, but a private first class is a bit…”
“Well, I’m sure there were various reasons that went into it. I really don’t know. I do not really care and I have no real knowledge of military ranks, so it really is not my place to comment on it. And if you are going to bring that up, you are the daughter of a noble family and yet you are firing weapons on the battlefield.”
Froleytia cleared her throat.
She had tried to avoid unnecessary trouble by changing the subject, but she had only dug up something worse.
“So may I speak with Heivia?” asked the girl.
“Honestly. I’ll connect the video chat, but keep this a secret. All the others are looking at photos of their lovers and saying they will marry them once they return home.”
“Oh, and I thought that only happened in movies,” said the blonde girl as she fixed her bangs and checked over various parts of her dress. It seemed she was a bit nervous about speaking with Heivia.
(I guess she can be cute at times.)
As Froleytia had that exceedingly rude thought, the noble girl gave one last demand.
“Please connect me to Heivia.”
“Fine, fine. He is in the third ammunition storage’s spare work room. I’ll connect you there.”
Quenser and Heivia were facing a computer in a corner of the room. They put in the disk for the porn video and sat tensely while the media player software started up.
And then plenty of pink porn filled the screen.
“Okay!! I, Jessica the genius intellectual woman soldier, will now make men out of you new recruits who are too afraid to move!! This is an order! Everyone who no longer wants to be a child, leap into my cheeeeeesssssst!!”
“Me too, commander!!”
“Wah ha ha ha! Okay, I, Jessica, will do something about this, so everyone come here!!”
While listening to the continued laughing, shouting, and grunts of exertion and watching the flesh and flesh and sweat and flesh and sweat and sweat and flesh and sweat displayed on the monitor, Quenser frowned. He looked back at the package and noticed it was titled “A Cool Female Soldier’s Secret Training of Pleasure and Tits”.
He turned back toward his fellow soldier who had found the video and said, “Um, Heivia? Are you the type of person that enjoys being bossed around by a female commander?”
“No, you idiot!! I was just saying we should enjoy what I found. I wasn’t the one that hid it here!!”
Quenser turned away from the images that were more gaudy than erotic and went back to putting rifle bullets into empty magazines. But…
“…Huh? What? Huh? For some reason I’m working faster than before. Why?”
“Quit slacking off, boy!! Who said you could take a break!? How many times do I have to tell you not to stop until I, Jessica, tell you to!?”
“Waahh!! I feel really motivated for some reason!! I thought this was supposed to be sexy, but I’m making incredible progress by working to the rhythm of her voice!”
“What? My hands are moving on their own. Why do I have this natural feeling that it would be wrong to take a break!? Do you think they could make an effective diet video by having a drill sergeant yelling at you!?”
“Quit yapping and move your fingers faster!! Don’t leave me, Jessica, bored for even an instant!! If you are men, then outdo even my expectations for you!!”
“Yes, Commander Jessica!! We will do exactly that!!”
“Commander! We will show you that we are competent soldiers!! Commander!”
The two boys’ hands started moving faster and faster until they were cramming rifle bullets into empty magazines at what looked like the speed of a sewing machine. As Quenser and Heivia took that task to its limit, they threw off all idle thoughts and became machines that did nothing but accurately put bullets in magazines while breathing heavily.
Suddenly, they thought they heard the small electronic tone denoting an incoming video chat, and a new window opened over the porn video.
“What are you doing?” said an adolescent blonde girl in a dress with a cold voice and gaze.
Quenser and Heivia screamed in unison and leapt over to grab the mouse and close the video player playing the porn video.
However, the blonde girl in the window pointed with dull eyes and said, “Heivia, I see a suspicious package lying on top of that wooden box.”
That tough, experienced soldier screamed like a girl and knocked the porn video case off of the wooden box acting as a table.
Quenser leaned over and whispered to Heivia in order to gather some intelligence.
“(Hey, Heivia. Who is that girl? She seems to know you.)”
“(I’ll explain more later, but she’s the only daughter of the Vanderbilt family. Her family has about as much power as my own, but she can use pretty much all of her power as a noble while I’m relatively alone and helpless. I can’t let my guard down, so you be quiet and let me do the talking. This isn’t someone a commoner should be angering!!)”
“I don’t have such a short temper,” said the girl.
“I see. But if what milady says was true, I would not have had so many difficulties in the past.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about. Anyway, I do not need a reason to speak with you. As we are engaged, it is unnatural for us to even spend a day without speaking. In fact, if you would contact me, I would not need to do this, Heivia. It is not right for me to have not heard from you ever since you left for the battlefield.”
“Please give me a break. Any emails I write even to relatives are monitored in order to prevent information being leaked. They would find out I use all sorts of cute emoticons.”
Heivia spoke as if he was annoyed, but Quenser realized his tone was different from normal. It lacked its usual edge. Quenser decided it would be best to remain silent, so he went back to loading bullets. He was not one to butt into a conversation between a couple.
“But what kind of room are you in? I thought you were on the front lines performing valiant deeds to gain the right to succeed as the head of your family. Does the Winchell family determine its heir with side jobs?”
“Oh, things can be complex out here. A young lady sipping tea in the safe country probably would not understand how things work on the battlefield.”
“Heh heh. You would think that, wouldn’t you?”
“Ahn? What? You aren’t relaxing in a Paris mansion? …Don’t tell me you’re on your way here or something.”
“Not even I would be so impolite as to enter a base and throw everything into confusion while a war is going on. It is quite the opposite. I am currently headed to the place farthest in the world from this planet’s wars. In this place, the colors of national flags are irrelevant.”
“Well, if you manage to prove yourself on that muddy battlefield and finally convince those hard-headed members of the Winchell family, you come here too. It is a bit too inconvenient for a primary residence, but it is perfect for enjoying every once in a while.”
And then the door to the room opened wide without so much as a knock.
Quenser and Heivia spun around at the loud noise.
Their long silver haired commander, Froleytia, stood there.
“Quenser, Heivia, we have an urgent job. We need to gather in the conference room.”
“??? Why did a major like you head here directly? Couldn’t you have sent a message?”
“This room is oddly sealed, so radio signals can’t reach it. Also, this video chat was given priority, so I wouldn’t have been able to cut in until the transmission from the Vanderbilt family ended. I only realized that a bit ago. It was my mistake, so I came to get you.”
Froleytia then turned toward the computer’s monitor.
She grabbed Heivia by the back of the neck and said, “As I am sure you heard, I have to borrow him.”
“Yes,” said the blonde girl in the dress with a slight nod. “Work him as hard as you can without killing him, so he can finish with the military quickly.”
Froleytia threw Quenser and Heivia into the conference room and began the meeting with the soldiers who had already gathered there.
“Our stage this time is Antarctica,” said Froleytia as she projected a large map onto a whiteboard. “One of our Legitimacy Kingdom survey planes was targeted by a surface-to-air missile while it was flying along the coast of the Ross Sea. It was exposed to a locking laser.”
“Is our mission to rescue the crew that crashed in Antarctica?” asked Quenser but Froleytia shook her head.
“Fortunately, the plane was equipped with emergency flares. One of those broke the enemy’s lock and they escaped out of their range. The problem is that some idiot in Antarctica was targeting them with a missile,” said Froleytia while grinning. “We directly contacted the Information Alliance, the Capitalist Corporations, the Faith Organization, and the other world powers to check, but none of them seem to know who it could have been. Whether they were telling the truth or not, this is being internationally treated as an attack by terrorists not associated with any world power. In other words, no one can complain if we take them out.”
Hearing that, Quenser and Heivia began whispering to each other.
“(Terrorists, hm? I had heard the ones in the Western European safe country could be more frightening than a battlefield where Objects deal with everything.)”
“(Yeah, I’ve heard it said the special forces in the police have a lot more training in direct combat. In fact, dealing with terrorists isn’t really a job for the military.)”
“(The police can’t head out to Antarctica. That’s probably why we’re being sent in.)”
Heivia raised his hand and spoke to his commander.
“So we’re getting them back?”
“This is nothing so uncivilized. The predicted location of the surface-to-air missile from the aiming laser is nearby an unmanned Legitimacy Kingdom observatory. We need to see if it has been destroyed, and if it has not, eliminate the threat to keep it that way. …Simple, right?”
“(So we’re killing them regardless,)” muttered Heivia upon seeing Froleytia’s smile.
Paying him no heed, the commander continued her explanation.
“As I said, the direction the aiming laser came from was used to estimate the location it was fired from. That location is at the base of Mount Erebus which is along the coast of the Ross Sea. We will send out a unit and attack. If possible, we would like to capture them alive to get their objective out of them, but if not, don’t worry about it. It seems killing them all would be no big deal.”
A stir utterly devoid of tension spread through the conference room.
Those monstrous 50+ meter weapons known as Objects were synonymous with war.
Objects had a certain characteristic. While they had over 100 weapons, those weapons were powered by a high output reactor and the weapons were primarily along the lines of laser beams, low-stability plasma cannons, railguns, and coilguns.
No one bothered putting surface-to-air missiles on them.
In other words, the odds of the supposed terrorists having an Object were quite low. And the Legitimacy Kingdom military could send out an Object filled with their latest technology at any time.
Their victory already seemed assured.
An Object could not be stopped even with a nuclear weapon, so small arms and missiles could do nothing. It was their understanding of that fact that led to all tension leaving the soldiers’ shoulders.
“Oh, right. I have one warning,” said Froleytia. “We cannot use the princess’s Object on this mission. Keep that in mind.”
“Hah?” said Quenser without thinking.
He thought he must have heard her wrong, but Froleytia awkwardly continued.
“Once again, we cannot use the princess’s Baby Magnum. Objects are monstrous weapons that weight over 200,000 tons. Putting one on that icy continent could easily lead to the thick ice cracking and the Object falling through. Then how are we supposed to get it out? I certainly don’t know of a crane that can lift something that heavy.”
“U-umm… I thought we were supposed to be a maintenance unit that ensures the Object can quickly and accurately deploy. What are we supposed to do without the Object?” asked Quenser.
“Well,” said Froleytia as she tapped at the map with a baton. “I expect you to fight the terrorists with smaller weapons.”
And so they headed to Antarctica.
The terrorists were supposed to be hiding at Mount Erebus which was near the sea, but Quenser and the others used a boat to land on the coast rather than fly directly there. From there, they and about 100 fellow soldiers slowly approached in a circle around the area. The soldiers taking part in the operation usually acted as guards around the base. As they were also using tanks and attack helicopters, they seemed like a force from an earlier age.
“Are you serious?” muttered Heivia as he walked alongside Quenser. “This is Antarctica. Let me say that again: Antarctica. What am I doing? I was supposed to work in a base for 3 years in order to become the next head of my family. What am I doing here? Has that giant-breasted commander of ours forgotten that I’m a radar analyst?”
“Come to think of it, I came to the base as a battlefield student in order to study the Object, so why am I on this ice continent that doesn’t have the first thing to do with Objects?”
“God dammit. We’re just human antennae. They could just use drones for this.”
“With this gusting wind, UAVs would be hard to use. Also, the radio signal is easy to intercept, so they probably aren’t a good idea for dealing with terrorists.”
“What kind of serious response is that? Did you awaken to your masochist side under that beauty of a commander?”
“I just want to finish this so we can leave. I really don’t care about a job that has no connection to Object designs. Heivia, you need to learn how to just get things over with like an adult,” said Quenser in a bored tone of voice, but it did not seem Heivia was listening.
Heivia looked up into the white sky and said, “By the way, this is Antarctica, right? There’s one thing I’ve been wondering for a bit now. Mind if I ask it?”
“The wonders of nature are outside my area of expertise. If you want an explanation, ask one of the environmental protection organizations.”
“Oh, it’s nothing tricky.”
Antarctica was an ice continent. In some places, the temperature was as low as 50 below zero, making it a true area of frozen earth. In that white land, water spent more time of the year as a solid than as a liquid. The same went for humans. If a flesh and blood body was thrown out into that extreme environment, it would be frozen solid more often than not.
Or so it should have been.
“Why is it so damn hot in Antarctica?” groaned Heivia as he removed the hood of his cold weather coat.
He awkwardly wiped the sweat from his brow and looked around. In the animal documentaries he had seen, the area had been a flat land of pure white, but they were currently standing on a ground made of black stone. Also, white steam could be seen coming up from the ground in places. A powerful crosswind was blowing through and white snow continued to fall from the clouds above, but the steam kept them from feeling cold and the snow melted just before it touched the ground, so it did not accumulate. Nothing matched the image he had had in his head.
Meanwhile, Quenser looked down at the reading from a digital thermometer.
“The seasons in the southern hemisphere are reversed, right? It’s almost summer here. Even so, the air temperature is -3.9 degrees. You’d get cold in no time if you took off your coat.”
“No way. This is below zero? I feel like I’m in a sauna.”
“This is a volcanic area, so a strange heat does temporarily come from the ground. I remember a major eruption 2 years ago that made news by majorly changing the crater. You’re just feeling hot because of that. If you stay still, you’ll start to get cold, so you should put your hood back up.”
“Ah ha ha ha ha ha!!” laughed Heivia without warning.
Quenser looked over with a confused look and Heivia pointed in a certain direction.
“Look, Quenser!! It’s a hot spring. We’re in Antarctica and yet there’s a hot spring coming up from the ground!!”
“…I already told you this was a volcanic area.”
“But it’s a hot spring! In Antarctica!! This place is destroying everything I thought I knew about it!!”
As he spoke, Heivia removed his thick gloves. He crouched down at the edge of the pool of water that had white steam rising from it and stuck his hand in.
“Oh…wow. It feels like it’s a perfect 40 degrees.”
“Stop it, Heivia. If we got in a hot spring, we would just stop caring about this war.”
They were reluctant to leave, but Froleytia was sure to yell at them if they fell into the trap of that hot spring. So the two headed onwards.
The 100+ other soldiers were heading along too, but the circle was so wide Quenser and Heivia could not see any of the others.
They walked across the land of hard, black stone based on the map displayed on their handheld devices. After travelling some distance, the dark ground became covered in white snow and ice. The ground seemed flat, but it was actually sloped gently down to the extent that a ball would roll slowly forward if it was placed on the ground. The temperature seemed to be slowly falling as well. The white land continued as far as they could see in every direction and they could see no obvious landmarks. Merely looking away from the map was enough to make them feel lost.
Quenser looked down at the small pieces of ice that crunched under their feet as they walked.
“Oh, now this is more like what I expected of Antarctica.”
“Ow!? This isn’t just cold; it hurts! Hey, Quenser. There’s something weird about my face, can you see anything odd there!?”
“The sweat on your face is freezing. I’m guessing it hurts because it’s pulling at your skin.”
“Shit, shit, shit, shit!!” shouted Heivia as he frantically brushed the tiny bits of ice off his face and pulled up his hood. “Dammit! If it’s suddenly going to get Antarctica-like, why can’t it just be something cute with penguins!?”
“This much ice is quite a sight. You’d probably get sick of it after a few days, though.”
“Why are you taking this so well, Quenser? Are you from some cold country?”
“No. I’m more fed up with ice than anything,” said Quenser with a shrug. “When I was in my safe country school, we did all sorts of experiments with breaking rectangular sheets of ice to teach us the basics of Object armor. We would see how the cracks would run through it by striking it in different places.”
“Why ice? Object armor is made of steel.”
“With water, it’s easy to reuse. With a freezer, the experiment can be repeated as many times as you want. Also, we just needed to learn the basics of how the cracks worked, so there was no reason to use steel plates fine-tuned with highly flame resistant reactive material that requires an expensive artisan. By mixing in some chemicals to increase the viscosity before freezing it, it cracks the same way. We also performed experiments where we found more efficient means of absorbing impacts by destroying the balance of the viscosity,” said Quenser with a sigh.
It was due to how boring he found those school lessons that he had actually headed out to the battlefield.
Quenser then changed the subject.
“Come to think of it, what are the terrorists doing in the middle of nowhere like this? Did they get a surface to air missile just for some sightseeing?”
“You know nothing, Quenser,” responded Froleytia over the radio. “Antarctica has been an area of intense competition between many nations over who has rights to what areas even before the UN was destroyed.”
“…? I thought Antarctica had no national borders?”
“Because it has none, various forces have tried to claim it for themselves and have gotten in fights over it. Antarctica has iron and coal mines after all. The ocean also has plentiful areas to fish. It has plenty to compete over,” explained Froleytia offhand. “Currently, the powers claiming rights to Antarctica are the Oceanian military nation that was destroyed before, Western America’s Central Valley area of the Capitalist Corporations, the Chonos Archipelago area of the Information Alliance, and the southern Great Britain area of the Legitimacy Kingdom.”
Quenser frowned at that.
“Oceania and the Chonos Archipelago are in the southern hemisphere, but West America’s Central Valley is around Los Angeles, right? And southern Great Britain is where London is… Those areas have no connection with Antarctica.”
“They are bringing out their pioneering spirit and insisting the people who first discovered the continent have a claim. If it went in the order the expeditions were sent out, they would have the best claim, but that thought process does not take the concerned parties into account just like during the Age of Exploration.”
That meant the terrorists (or so they were officially being called whoever they might actually be) must have targeted the Legitimacy Kingdom survey plane with a surface-to-air missile due to trouble related to either Antarctica’s territories or resources.
(But that is not the real issue. In this age of Objects, the soldiers like us being forced to run around with a gun have it worst…)
“Do you have something you would like to say, Quenser?” asked Froleytia.
“N-no!! Nothing at all!!”
“I have one piece of good news for you. You need not get into a firefight with the terrorists once you find them. Our wonderful Object is on standby at the Ross Sea, so our cute waitress can blow them away with a long distance barrage once you get us their location.”
“Then,” said Heivia with his breathe showing up white in the cold air. “Couldn’t you have just used a military satellite instead of having us walk all the way there? In this day and age, you can get a villa on the moon and shuttles are either launched by laser space elevators or mass drivers. Satellites are as plentiful as empty cans on the side of the street. But I suppose I can’t expect a commander giving orders while sipping hot cocoa on the bridge of an assault landing aircraft carrier to understand how we feel shivering in the cold.”
“Things get a bit tricky when it comes to the Arctic or Antarctic,” Froleytia replied smoothly while completely ignoring that last disagreeable comment. “A geosynchronous satellite using the centrifugal force of the earth to hang near the equator can’t see this far. Some satellites do orbit perpendicular to the equator, but they can only monitor an area during a specific time of the day.”
“Don’t they have satellites that stay exactly over the earth’s axis outside the atmosphere?”
“Yes, but that is right in the middle of an area of disputed ownership. ‘Exactly over the earth’s axis’ is practically a pinpoint, so only so many satellites can be there. The Legitimacy Kingdom has a powerful advantage over the North Pole, but that also means we do not have a single satellite over the South Pole.”
“And so you are making up for that lack of equipment by shoving this insanely inefficient workload onto us human soldiers,” said Heivia with a sigh and a frown. “This isn’t something a civilized human should be doing.”
“Heivia, civilized humans have something known as manners. Do you get my meaning?” replied Froleytia.
Heivia was about to give a light reply, but before he could…
A rifle bullet struck the ground between Quenser and Heivia.
(An enemy attack!?)
The two immediately tried to take cover, but they realized the snowy plain gave them nothing to hide behind. Heivia grabbed Quenser’s shoulders and forcibly pulled him backwards. Even on that flat plain, the ground has slight ups and downs. They retraced their steps a few meters to a protrusion in the snowy plain and hid behind that cover created by the icy ground.
“(What, what, what!? Is this those terrorists!?)”
“(Who else would it be!? We almost died out here in Antarctica. If it hadn’t been for this strong crosswind, one of us would definitely have been killed by that initial shot!!)”
“(This area is both volcanic and ridiculously cold, so it has major temperature differences. They’ve been here longer than us, so the metal of their gun barrels or sights may have altered somewhat.)”
As they spoke back and forth in hushed voices, rifle bullets intermittently struck the white ground and sent ice crystals up into the air. The impact points were scattered. It may have been due to the crosswind that they could not hit their targets as Heivia had said, or it may have been due to numerous other smaller reasons piled on top of each other.
Still lying on the ground, Heivia held up his rifle with the sight attached that could pick up data from various sources such as the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums.
“(Their distance is 200 meters. There are 7…maybe 8 of them. The rifles they are using are those ones with the wooden stocks. They have forcibly attached grenade launchers with electrical tape.)”
“(Can you take them out?)” asked Quenser.
“(Why do you make it sound like you’re just a spectator? You should be pulling out your handgun or PDW!!)”
“(Sorry, but I don’t have any guns. I only have the usual explosives.)”
“(What are you even here for!?)”
Heivia was about ready to strangle Quenser, but then a rifle bullet struck the ground nearby. He frantically lowered his head and fired his own rifle back to hold the enemy in check.
“(Shit, shit, shit!! I’ll strangle you later, but I still need to ask! Why did you head off to fight terrorists without a single bullet!?)”
“(To be honest, I really did want to bring some!)”
“You can’t, Quenser,” cut in Froleytia. “A student who has not finished training cannot be authorized to carry a soldier’s firearm.”
“(Yeah, but doesn’t it take even more delicacy to handle explosives?)”
“You used explosives in your anti-shock experiments related to the shape of Objects back in your safe country school, didn’t you? That is why you have authorization for those. Also, that line of thinking is the sign of a boy who does not know how frightening an accidental discharge is.”
“(I see…)” responded Quenser faintly just as a terrorist bullet shot chunks of snow into the air right next to him.
At that point, Heivia snapped.
“Quit sitting around and do somethiiiinnnngggg!! Why am I the only one risking his life to fight back!? We know where the enemy is, so have the princess use her Object to blow them awaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy!!”
“Oh, that’s right, that’s right,” said Quenser as he set his radio’s frequency to contact the Object.
The response he received was brief and clear.
“At that location, the shockwave and radiant heat would blow you two away as well. Are you okay with that? Over.”
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, fuck!!” shouted Heivia as he gave repeated quick bursts of 2 or 3 shots with his rifle.
Meanwhile, Quenser contacted their allies in the area, but none of them were in a position to arrive any time soon.
“Dammit. They aren’t lying about their position to avoid getting caught up in this, are they?”
He wanted to throw his weapon down and leave, but with the bullets flowing above, carelessly lifting his head would likely get him killed. Two hundred meters was relatively close range for rifles, so it was only due to the powerful crosswind and the plain white area affecting their visual comprehension that kept either side from hitting the other.
The enemy soldiers must have been more used to it because they were gradually spreading out. Only a few meters had opened up between the enemy soldiers, but they were clearly trying to circle around via different routes.
Quenser almost lifted his head up in shock, but Heivia held him down. Immediately afterwards, a bullet flew directly over his head.
Still covered in snow, Quenser said, “This is bad, Heivia!!”
“You mean that the enemy is splitting up to circle around on either side!? I already know! The problem is that there is nothing we can do about it!!”
“No, not that!! A penguin!!”
“Hah!? Who cares about a penguin right n-…A penguin!?”
“It’s a baby! A baby penguin!!”
With a shocked look, Heivia looked over in the direction Quenser was pointing. A small gray baby penguin was waddling awkwardly across right in the middle of the area between the soldiers firing rifles at each other.
It was going to be caught up in the firefight, but they could not exactly stop either.
Just as the veins in Heivia’s temple were bulging out in anguish, something odd occurred.
Just as he was about to remove his finger from the trigger, the terrorists stopped firing as well.
The only motion left on that white land was the baby penguin continuing to waddle along while paying no heed to the soldiers on the front line of a battlefield.
With sweaty palms, Quenser and Heivia watched its progress.
“(C’mon!! You can do it, baby penguin!!)”
“(Wait, why is it just the baby!? Doesn’t the parent need to be watching over it!?)”
And then the baby penguin tripped.
“No, Heivia!! No human intervention is the rule of nature!!”
Heivia very nearly rushed out to help, but Quenser frantically stopped him. Meanwhile, the baby penguin used its small wings to force itself back on its feet.
“Gyah!” came a new avian cry.
“It isn’t going to eat it, is it? It isn’t going to attack from the sky, is it!?”
Yet the rule of nature came into play again.
While Heivia was trying to aim his rifle at the sea bird and Quenser was trying to stop him, the albatross spread its wings wide and readied its aim from up in the heavens. The baby penguin that’s silhouette looked like a fluffy ball had no idea that it was being targeted.
And then the albatross attacked.
The penguin’s natural enemy soared down from the sky like a spear. Its deadly beak was accurately targeting the baby penguin.
Everyone envisioned the color and scent of blood.
Quenser and Heivia forget about fighting over the rifle and brought their hands up to cover their eyes.
But the tragedy they expected did not occur.
“Kmyaaaaaaaahhhhh!!” came a new cry from the side.
“!? Wh-what was that, Quenser!?”
“I think the mother is here. It’s the penguin’s mother!!”
Frightened by the warning cry, the albatross’s aim was thrown slightly off. The beak just barely grazed the baby penguin and it gave a high pitched cry for its mother.
The albatross did not seem willing to give up. It soared back up into the white sky, flew in a wide arc, and then aimed for the baby penguin once more.
However, the baby was no longer alone.
The large mother rushed over to act as a shield.
There was no guarantee the mother could save the baby.
The sea bird’s sharp beak and talons were enough of a threat for an adult penguin.
Even so, the mother penguin’s gaze did not waver.
It spread its wings that were meant for paddling through water, opened its beak as wide as it could, and let out warning cry after warning cry as loudly as it could.
Quenser and Heivia both held their breath.
The terrorists across the snowy plain were also silently watching on.
The albatross circled above the two penguins’ heads a few times before giving up. It left its previous trajectory, gave a defiant cry, and flew off into the white sky.
The penguin mother had protected its child.
In that instant, a great cheer as if from a stadium erupted within Antarctica. It sounded as if all of humanity was letting out a cry of joy at the familial love of those penguins. Quenser and Heivia embraced each other and the enemy soldiers could be seen lifting their rifles up in both hands like barbells in a show of passion. The spiral of joy surrounding the penguins seemed to surprise them. The baby hid in the small space between its mother’s legs and the two animals quickly left the area. Normally the male would have been doing this, but for some reason it was the mother.
After about 10 minutes, the penguins had cut across the battlefield, headed down a slight slope, and completely disappeared from Quenser and Heivia’s view.
Before long, the penguin fever quietly came to an end.
Immediately afterwards, both sides began the firefight anew without hesitation.
Quenser and Heivia hid as best they could. As Heivia pulled the trigger, he cried out with bloodshot eyes.
“Ahhhhhhhhh!! Fire fire fire fire fire!!”
“Dahhh! Dammit! I guess we really can’t come to an understanding!!” yelled Quenser as he operated his handheld device.
In Antarctica, everything was white no matter where you went, so he zoomed in and out of the map repeatedly to double check everything.
Seeing that, Heivia cried out in an annoyed voice. “What good will checking the map do us!? We can’t get help from the princess! The enemy is just going to split up and circle around!!”
“Let’s take care of them before that happens.” Quenser pulled some Hand Axe plastic explosive out of his bag. He stabbed the radio-receiver-equipped electric fuse into it. “When I give you the sign, fire like crazy to hold them back. I’ll throw this during that time.”
“Do you know how far away they are? That’s 200 meters. Not even a long throw with a regulation baseball can go that far.”
“I don’t have time to explain! Do it now!!”
Still complaining, Heivia held up his rifle. Instead of carefully aiming for one enemy, he fired across all the enemies while swinging the rifle barrel in a fan shape.
As a result, his accuracy dropped even further, so his bullets did not even come close to hitting. However, it frightened the enemy soldiers enough to send them behind cover.
Quenser lifted himself up and threw the plastic explosive with all his might. The Hand Axe flew through a long arc, but it did not reach the enemies just as Heivia had expected. Also, the wind prevented it from flying exactly straight forward. Given how powerful the crosswind was, it must have taken quite some effort to throw it over 50 meters as Quenser had done. It landed on a patch of thick ice, so the Hand Axe slid along even further like a curling stone. The gradual slope of the snowy plain in that direction also helped, so the plastic explosive gained even more distance as it slid across the ground.
Even with all those factors, 120 meters was its limit. It was nowhere near the 200 meter distance of the enemies.
Heivia clicked his tongue and shouted, “Dammit! I told you!!”
“This is fine! This is what I wanted!! Get down, Heivia!!” Quenser shouted back as he used his thumb to send the detonation signal via his radio.
Heivia was doubtful, but the result came immediately thereafter.
With a great roar, a 200 meter long portion of the white earth ahead of them caved in.
It was like a giant pitfall. The earth crumbled and collapsed down a few hundred meters. The snow, ice, and soldiers on top were all swallowed up.
There was nothing they could do about it.
The enemy soldiers who had been firing bullet after bullet fell into the pit with shouts of surprise.
“Good, that seems to have worked,” said Quenser with a sigh of relief as he took his thumb off of the radio he had used for the detonation. “All I want to know about is Object design, so why do I keep learning new ways to kill people?”
“…Um, what just happened?”
“The area they were standing on was really and truly ‘on top of the ice’. A thick sheet of ice was covering the gap in a V-shaped stone cliff and nothing but a giant gap existed below. Thanks to the volcanic activity in this area, the space below had become something like a river. It was thick enough that a diesel snowmobile could have passed over without it budging, but it was not enough to withstand military explosives.”
“Oh, so that’s why you were checking the map.”
“I can see why they won’t send the Object out here.”
Quenser looked into the depths of the ice cliff he had created. He could not see the bottom within the deep, deep darkness. If an Object broke through that ice, a crane that could lift 200,000 tons would be needed. And of course, humanity had no such thing.
“Come to think of it, you did mention performing experiments with breaking sheets of ice back in your safe country school.”
“It was nothing this rough,” said Quenser with a shrug. “But aren’t you glad I brought these explosives?”
“Either way, I still feel like strangling you.”
Quenser and Heivia trudged on through the snowy plain.
Before long, they arrived at their destination.
The ring of soldiers surrounding the area had tightened in enough at that point that they could catch glimpses of their fellow soldiers approaching via different routes. When an ally waved at him from across the white landscape, Quenser waved back.
“Y’know, it really is a relief to have so many familiar faces around.”
“You idiot! There are other ways of giving signals!! Waving your hand now is like using a smoke bomb to tell the enemy where we are!! We just killed some of them, so they’re probably on high alert!!”
The fellow soldier must have received a similar warning because he was struck over the head and dragged out of sight.
Heivia trembled and his breath was white in the air as he said, “I’ve had enough of Antarctica. It’s too damn cold!! I thought the southern hemisphere was supposed to be heading into summer!! I’m having a hard time believing global warming is actually happening right now! It’s plenty cold here!!”
“That’s only because you don’t know the average temperature here. At the very least, I certainly wouldn’t want to take a walk at night here.”
As they muttered to each other, a transmission came in over the radio. It was from the princess as she waited at the Ross Sea in the Baby Magnum.
“With all the heat produced in this airtight area, I am roasting. I want this over with as soon as possible. Quenser, did you mess up the maintenance on the air conditioner?”
“Dammit, the princess’s castle sounds as wonderful as ever.”
“Ahh, it is so hot. No one can see, so maybe I should strip off this special suit. I doubt I will have to deal with any high speed battles.”
“Are you trying to raise our body temperatures through our imaginations?”
As Quenser frowned, Heivia seemed to have truly lost all motivation.
“I would like to again point out that this is crazy,” he groaned. “We’re soldiers that are meant to protect the area around a safe base. We aren’t suited for special missions where we’re sent out to attack a terrorist stronghold.”
“Huh? Are there different kinds of foot soldiers?”
“Oh, c’mon. That isn’t something I want to hear from someone on the front lines! At the very least, you should know that the jobs you should get are very different from the ones I should get!!”
“You seem pretty full of yourself, Heivia. I may just be a student, but the others are soldiers in the same base as you.”
“We may call them all soldiers, but we became soldiers in different ways. Some go to a military academy and others go through a short-term training course. Depending on what area of the military you want to go into, your route changes. Most of those in the base went through a yearlong training school. Not many went through the 6 month training course like I did.”
“Wouldn’t the ones that trained for twice as long be stronger?”
“Quenser, do you think someone who sat in a desk for a year would be stronger than someone who crawled through the mud for 6 months? Also, most people have to repeat the short-term training course at least twice before passing. The ones like me who graduate in just the 6 months are quite rare.”
“Either way its something like an amusement park compared to back in my day when we had to run around with a rifle,” cut in Froleytia.
Her phrasing made it sound like she was some old woman, but she was really only 18. Quenser had to wonder just how long she had been on the battlefield.
“By the way, why did you choose that muddy course, Heivia?” asked Quenser.
It was either due to the sense of calm after ending one firefight and confirming no enemies nearby or due to their wanting to procrastinate having to head to the next battlefield, but Quenser and Heivia continued chatting.
“Well, you’re a noble, right? Surely there’s some special course for nobles. One where you get to be a 2nd lieutenant as soon as you graduate.”
“Oh, that would be the military academy. Even commoners can get into those. Once you get up to the generals, you find almost nothing but nobles, but a commoner can make it as far as brigadier general if they work hard.”
“So why are you at the very bottom as a private first class?”
“Various reasons. To have the rights to my family, I need to show off that I’m actually fighting to defend a base and aiding the country rather than watching on from some grand post.”
“But you just laze around the base regardless,” added Froleytia.
“Well, I don’t tell them that. It’s all about appearances. Also, it’s not like the actions of a single soldier on an Object-dominated battlefield is going to ‘aid the country’. I never expected to be kicked out into the middle of Antarctica like this.”
“Nobles sure have it tough. Whenever I hear about this kind of difficulty, it makes me glad I’m a commoner,” said Quenser.
“I’d be more worried if I was a commoner. Even if the parliament has been opened up somewhat recently, nobles still have control of the center of government. Doesn’t it worry you that you have so few opportunities to let your voice be heard by the government?”
“Politics is such a pain. As long as someone is taking care of it, I don’t really care.”
“Really? I guess that’s what they call the apathetic demographic.”
As they continued to speak quietly to each other, they suddenly stopped walking.
After a low hill was the base of Mount Erebus.
Quenser and Heivia naturally hid atop the snow and viewed the area through binoculars and a rifle scope respectively.
However, the base area was quite large. The snow being blown by the crosswind made the area hard to see. What they saw through their respective lenses was a sharp slope after a few kilometers of flat plain.
Similar to a gate leading to a road up the mountain, a single rectangular building sat at the point between the plain and the slope. It must have been the Legitimacy Kingdom unmanned observatory. On the snowy plain near it, cylinders 80 cm thick and about 9 meters long lay on their sides. It was not just two or three of them. At set intervals, about 50 of them were placed such that they spread across a few kilometers.
Quenser and Heivia looked puzzled.
“(Supposedly, the targeting laser for the surface-to-air missile that attacked the survey plane was around here.)”
“(Where are the rest of the terrorists? Don’t tell me they couldn’t stand the cold and left.)”
“If they’re keeping warm in the unmanned observatory, we can just attack them, but this could be a pain otherwise,” said their commander, Froleytia.
“We’ll be ordered to search for these terrorists even if they might not be here anymore. We’ll have to search for them in every nook and cranny of this freezing continent. Even if the terrorists are long gone from Antarctica, we might have to continue the search until we are absolutely sure.”
“Seriously? Hey, Quenser, let’s go check the unmanned observatory already. If we let them get away, we’ll end up freezing to death. Hurry, hurry. C’mon, let’s hurry this up so we can get back to some warm blankets and heaters.”
“No, Heivia. Rushing like that will get you shot in the head.”
As they argued in hushed voices, Quenser and Heivia crawled slowly along the snowy plain. They caught occasional glimpses of others moving along in the same way. They were other Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers and their reactions had been about the same. They wanted to get the job over with, but they were also wondering what those huge cylinders were.
As if to say what they were all thinking, Heivia said, “In this age where 50 meter Objects fight, flesh and blood soldiers running around shooting each other with guns is utter nonsense. Whatever strategy our enemy might have, they can’t win with the princess’s Object waiting in the Ross Sea. Really, they should just give up. Dying for something like this is just stupid.”
“Hey, Heivia. I’ve been wondering about something,” said Quenser as he looked around while still lying on his belly. They had crawled about a kilometer through the snow at that point. “What are those weird cylinders lying around the unmanned observatory?”
“Ahn? Aren’t they just antennae used for the observatory? They’re probably put down like that because of the strong crosswind,” said Heivia offhandedly, but he really had no confidence in his answer.
And then Quenser got his answer from a different source.
The 80 cm thick, 9 meter long cylinders all moved as one, centered on a single point.
A giant gun battery supported by a platform with a low center of gravity had suddenly turned its sights in Quenser and Heivia’s direction.
In that instant, Quenser and Heivia were unable to move their bodies as they wished. Even as they stared blankly, they were able to comprehend what the scene before them meant.
They had seen that scene before.
They knew what it was that was targeting them.
The spares for the giant cannons created to be put on a giant Object.
The 50 cannons that were lined up at even intervals all aimed at the snowy plain where Quenser and the other soldiers were.
Quenser and Heivia realized what was happening, they shouted, and they rolled across the snowy plain as quickly as they could.
Immediately afterwards, the cannons roared.
It seemed the ones installed there were railguns.
Countless shockwaves erupted out and Quenser’s body floated up into the air. A few seconds later, he was slammed back down into the cold snow and started rolling but this time not because he wanted to. The cannons had not directly hit him. If any of them had, his body would have been blown to pieces. His puny body had merely been struck by the shockwaves created when they were fired.
However, it had been enough to stop his breathing.
He bent his back like a bow and somehow managed to suck in some air. It was likely due to the cold freezing over the moving parts of the cannons that he had not been directly hit. However, the heat caused by the motors would soon eliminate that. Miracles like that would not continue forever.
(I’ll be killed!?)
Standing up would just get him shot, but that flat plain had no real place to hide either. The enemy had lured them out there for that very reason.
(Dammit. Why do they have railguns prepared!? They used an old fashioned surface-to-air missile when they targeted the Legitimacy Kingdom plane!!)
Quenser had no idea what to do.
As he panicked, he heard Heivia’s voice call out to him.
“Quenser!! Get down here!!”
He did not know what that meant, but figured it out once he looked around the area. The first wave of shockwaves had opened a huge crack in the earth. It was over a meter across. Heivia had climbed down into that naturally occurring trench and was sticking his head out to shout.
Quenser rolled across the snowy plain and entered the crack that passed nearby.
Just as he fell inside, the railguns began their second wave.
The after-effects alone created a noise like an aerial bombing and all oxygen was squeezed from Quenser’s lungs even inside that crack.
Heivia noticed and ran over to him.
“Damn, this is no joke. Those terrorists have prepared a ton of Object spares. Was this supposed to be like an anti-tank position from wars in the old days!?”
“We had boring lectures on various forms of classic warfare during the history lessons in training. Battle positions where they would lure in enemies and bombard them from both sides were used in wars in the old days. Back then, they used anti-tank guns, but they sure have changed that. Shit!! Isn’t this a bit much for foot soldiers!?”
Quenser wondered how many of their allies had crawled into cracks as well. He hoped all of them had gotten into some crack or another, as any that hadn’t had likely been killed.
Heivia leaned up against the wall of the crack and asked, “Do you know what the worst thing about this is, Quenser?”
“That those Object cannons can fire in any direction despite being spares?”
“No,” said Heivia with his brow covered in sweat. “If they’re using Object cannons, they must have a reactor capable of powering them.”
“Wait, you mean…”
“Like hell these are terrorists!! They have an Object!! They have one hidden somewhere and have some thick power cable connecting to these railguns. Even if we escape here, we might find an Object waiting for us!!”
Hearing confirmation from someone else sent a chill down Quenser’s spine.
The giant weapons known as Objects had thick armor on the level of a nuclear shelter and reactors with outputs that outdid even nuclear reactors. And they used that great electrical output to create a storm of lasers or low-stability plasma cannons. Only another Object could stand up to that. No matter how much a flesh and blood soldier struggled, it was exceedingly difficult to do any damage to one.
“Heivia. Sorry, but we don’t have time to discuss what to do next.”
“Look down!! The shockwaves are spreading the crack! At this rate, we’ll fall down so far we can never crawl back out again!!”
Heivia looked down toward his boots in shock. The crack was indeed widening, and quickly. However, carelessly crawling out would only have them fall victim to the countless railguns. They were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. If they did not resolve the problem quickly, they would be killed.
“What do we do, Quenser? Those cannons are giant lumps of steel. A rifle isn’t enough to destroy them!!”
“Yeah, and I don’t have enough Hand Axe to blow up each and every one of those things. Not to mention that I can’t think of any safe way of approaching them.”
“Can we break the ice beneath them like with those terrorists?”
“Unfortunately, they’re on top of ground with proper bedrock. And even if we could, we would be caught up in the middle of it all as well.”
Having said that, Quenser altered the frequency of his radio.
He was contacting the princess who was waiting in the Object floating in the nearby Ross Sea.
“Calling Baby Magnum. Do you have our position? Can you take out some of the cannons from there?”
“The mountain is in the way, so I cannot target them directly. I could fire a coilgun in a large arc to avoid that, though.”
“What would your accuracy be?”
“About 50/50. I could blow them all away with a carpet bombing, but that would blow you away too.”
The Baby Magnum’s main cannons were intended to directly fire on enemy Objects rather than fire in long distance arcs. With the irregular winds at high altitudes, pinpoint accuracy would be very difficult.
Meanwhile, the railguns’ third and fourth waves shook the ground beneath Quenser and Heivia’s feet. The enemy likely knew they were hiding in the cracks and were trying to bomb them out.
Quenser grimaced as the vibrations hurt his eardrums, but then he suddenly raised his head.
“Baby Magnum! Even if you can’t target accurately, you can still reach this area, right!?”
“Y-yes. I can do that, but…”
“I’ll give you instructions on the grid!! Using Coordinate 000212 as the standard, target W-11, J-18, G-26, M-19, L-27, B-20, and R-12!! Even with the wind, that should avoid any allies with a margin of error of plus or minus 5! Send those huge coilgun shells raining down right away!!”
“I do not think that will hit the enemy either.”
“Just do it!! That will solve everything!!”
The princess still had no idea what he was after, but she seemed to realize it was an emergency situation where every second mattered. Even without an explanation, she followed those instructions.
A different loud noise from before reverberated throughout the area. Due to being between two mountain-like walls, it sounded a bit muffled to them.
The Baby Magnum’s coilguns were supposed to be fired at a speed much faster than the speed of sound, but these were being fired at a lower speed (and therefore lower power) so they could fall in an arc on a specific point. For once, the sound arrived before the shells.
However, it was no time to be impressed by something like that.
Quenser grabbed the edge of the crack with both hands and shouted to his fellow soldiers through the radio as he dangled down.
“Hang on!! The cracks are probably about to widen and collapse!!”
“Hey, what was the point of this!?”
Heivia did as instructed while utterly bewildered, but there was no time to explain.
The coilgun shells rained down from above.
The masses of steel mercilessly stabbed into the bedrock and shook the ground like an earthquake.
The shells weighed easily a ton and were just under a meter across. They were falling down from a height of 3800 meters, so they naturally had an unbelievable amount of kinetic energy.
With an explosive noise, snow and bits of ice were blown up into the air and poured down into the cracks like an avalanche. Quenser had been holding on tight, but his hands still almost slipped from the edge of the crack. However, he could no longer feel anything at his feet. The shock of impact had widened the cracks and the ground he had been standing on had disappeared. The very bedrock of Antarctica had split like broken glass.
“Shit!! Whether they’re from an enemy or an ally, Object cannons are insane!! You could probably see this crater from a satellite!” spat out Heivia as he desperately got his legs up on the edge of the crack and crawled out. “Hey, Quenser. I don’t like what your request did! Honestly, I can only hope the shockwave was enough to knock over those-…”
He suddenly trailed off.
He had seen it.
Giant shells that weighed in the tons had rained down from high altitude. The shells had cracked the bedrock of Antarctica, a great shockwave had blown out, and an avalanche had even occurred on the distant mountain.
However, the 50 cannons had not been directly hit.
They were covered in quite a bit of snow and pieces of ice, but it did not seem enough to keep them from functioning.
Heivia’s throat dried up. Crawling up from the crack would result in nothing but getting them blown to pieces. However, they could not hide within the crack because the bombardment had widened it and turned the ground within into a cliff.
Quenser then climbed out from the crack and shouted, “Just climb up!!”
“Do you have any idea what you’re saying!?”
“If you don’t, you’ll die!!”
Quenser climbed fully above ground as he shouted what sounded like nonsense. He then used his radio to tell his other allies the same thing. Heivia was unsure what to do, but the wall of the crack that had become a cliff had no protrusions to put his feet on. If he lost strength in his fingers, he would certainly die. He decided to crawl up before he lost the upper body strength to do so and climbed up to the surface half out of desperation.
Of course, the countless railguns then targeted them.
They were not something a flesh and blood human could avoid.
Knowing it was useless, Heivia brought up his rifle.
But then Quenser said, “It’s okay.”
Heivia wanted to reply, “How is this even slightly okay?”, but the enemy made their move first.
The tremendous sound of the railguns being fired struck Heivia’s eardrums and squeezed at his heart.
A single shot from one of those could bend an Aegis ship in two.
Heivia almost squeezed his eyes shut, but the result came even before that reflex could kick in.
Heivia stared blankly at the scene before him.
He had indeed felt pain.
However, that had merely been from the shockwave. If a shell had hit him, he would have died instantly.
The railguns fired in their direction had not hit them. Instead, they had flown off in a completely different direction. And that was not all. Some of the cannons had lost to the recoil and rolled backwards, others had fallen over, and some had even launched backwards like rockets. The collection of railguns had collapsed like an incomplete layout of dominos.
Heivia’s head was filled with questions.
“Wh-what? What just happened?”
“I made sure the anchors stabbed into the ground to support the railguns aren’t working anymore.”
“Specifically, it was the bedrock itself that was destroyed rather than the anchors.” Quenser got up from his lying down position. “The railguns and lasers used for Objects are designed to be installed on those 200,000 ton bodies. When they’re fired, the shockwave and radiant heat is scattered about. They aren’t used to directly defend bases because, with them, allied attacks are just as dangerous as enemy attacks.”
“What does that have to do with this?”
“When placed on the ground, the power of these things is so great that the shockwave will knock over the railgun itself. They had to have planted anchors that go over 10 meters down into the ground to ensure they don’t collapse. But…”
“The princess’s bombardment broke the bedrock itself…”
“The anchors are no longer functioning. The first shot didn’t hit either because it caused the cannons to tilt. After that, it was like having a child shoot a magnum one-handed. They took themselves out. While avoiding the line of fire of the collapsed cannons, we need to go sever that power cable. Some of them might still be functioning.”
“Then we just have to find the people who were controlling them.”
“I think I have an idea regarding that.”
Quenser used his chin to point toward the Legitimacy Kingdom unmanned observatory where things were getting rather lively. Apparently, the enemy had been remotely controlling the cannons while taking advantage of the heat there. Their last resort had now been utterly destroyed, so they were naturally panicking.
“Let’s find a better position before they start returning fire,” said Quenser as he tapped Heivia on the shoulder. “Once a real firefight breaks out, I won’t be of any use, so you take the lead, Heivia.”
After silencing the countless cannons, Quenser and Heivia joined with the other Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers. They had lost fewer allies than they had expected.
And the flow of battle afterwards was as clear as day.
The terrorists in the unmanned observatory were eliminated without much trouble. It seemed the anti-tank position using the spare Object cannons had been their primary focus and they had not given much thought to the possibility of an enemy making it past them. The terrorists were low in number, so they had little chance of winning in a straight fight. That may have been why they had relied so heavily on the remotely controlled cannons.
They also found the missile launcher thought to have targeted the Legitimacy Kingdom survey plane. The launcher itself was located atop an armored vehicle. Eight missiles were loaded atop a swiveling turret. Four firing tubes created a set and two such sets were lined up next to each other.
The missile launcher itself used a laser sight, but a separate specialized radar vehicle had been prepared. However, the angle at which the radar vehicle was set was odd. Most likely, the anti-aircraft setting had been forcibly altered to search for Quenser and the others on the ground.
“We ended up killing them all, so we still don’t know what they were after. I can already see Froleytia’s displeased expression,” said Heivia in annoyance.
In a situation where great damage could occur to either enemy or ally, capturing the enemy alive was exceedingly difficult. If the enemy soldiers managed to make preparations while they waited around, they would be in trouble. As such, Heivia and the others used their firearms to their fullest and ended up killing every single one of the enemy soldiers.
“Now we don’t even know if this was all of them or if there are more hiding somewhere else. Are we going to end up shivering in the cold as we search this white continent even though we won?”
“Mount Erebus is an active volcano, so this area seems to be warm like the area we disembarked at.”
Quenser pointed down at their feet. Instead of the white of snow and ice was hard, black rock.
Heivia looked at the white steam rising from the rock and said, “Dammit. This is no situation to be searching in. No matter how hard we work, our pay is the same. We took out the terrorist’s scouts and silenced their anti-tank position. Wouldn’t you say we’ve already done more than our fair share of work? It would be rude to steal the rest of the credit from the others.”
“What, you’re giving up already? Froleytia will give you an earful.”
“Look down, Quenser. That’s a hot spring. And it’s at a perfect 40 degrees. I’m not about to leap in naked, but I don’t see what’s wrong with taking off my boots and socks and soaking my feet.”
“Y’know, I don’t want to search through this white continent any more than you do. This has nothing to do with studying Object designs.”
The Legitimacy Kingdom forces were searching the area around the unmanned observatory. The existence of an Object that was powering the anti-tank position was still a mystery, but those two idiots no longer cared. They stuck their feet in the pool of hot water that was about a meter across and 30 cm deep, sat on the rock, and let a completely laidback mood overcome them.
“By the way, why did the terrorists use a surface-to-air missile?”
“Ahn? What do you mean?”
“They were using all those spare Object weapons, right? Couldn’t they have used them to shoot down the plane? And if they really have an Object that was powering those spares…”
“How should I know? They used that anti-tank position as a surprise attack, so maybe they purposefully used a worse weapon to keep us from knowing about their better weapons.”
“And how is this supposed Object not showing up on the princess’s radar? Objects are 50 meter monsters. It would be difficult to hide one.”
“Hey, Quenser. I highly doubt it, but we don’t have some Stealth Object on our hands here, do we?”
“Wow, that would suck. But how much would it cost to add advanced stealth functionality to something that big? And on top of the development costs, they would have to spend money like water on the maintenance.”
“Well, you’d have to ask the enemy about all that. All these 2nd generation designs just go to the extreme in some way or another. Of course, that’s only if this Stealth Object actually exists.”
They could not ask the enemy and they did not even know what the terrorists’ objective had been. What had they come to Antarctica to do?
“Well, that isn’t our job. Our huge-breasted commander can worry about that kind of thing,” said Heivia offhandedly. His entire body was relaxed as he absorbed the heat of the water through his soaking feet and the heat of the steam through the rest of his body. “Dahh…This feels so good that I’m about to fall asleep…”
“Hey, please let me tell you you’ll die if you fall asleep. I’ve been wanting to.”
Quenser did not intend to keep thinking about things unrelated to Object designs either. He turned his head around as he enjoyed the heat of the water on his feet.
And then he noticed a silver mass.
Quenser stopped moving and looked back that way again.
It was in the middle of the blizzard blowing in the crosswind. About 50 meters away was a rock about as tall as a person. Some large mass was half-hidden behind it. It seemed to be in the spot that protected it from the blizzard the best.
“Oh, I wish I hadn’t spotted that.”
“Why are you finding things, you idiot!? Now we have to actually do some work!!”
“I wish all the trouble was occurring on the opposite side of the globe.”
“We’re in Antarctica, so the opposite side of the globe would actually put the safe country in danger.”
Utterly annoyed at the turn of events, Quenser and Heivia pulled their feet from the hot water, and properly wiped the moisture from them before putting on their socks and boots.
“Hey, Quenser. There’s quite a bit of what looks like white steam rising from the other side. Is this really okay?”
“If we deal with this problem, we can get back to relaxing all the sooner. Think of it like that to work up some motivation.”
They muttered to each other as they headed for the large mass behind the rock.
It was a square box about 80 cm across.
…Or so it looked at first. It actually had crab-like mechanical legs attached to either side. It was a robot. Upon closer inspection, cameras and sensors could be seen attached to the top of the box. The metal cover had been removed and a waterproofed laptop was attached by cable.
“What is this?”
“An observation robot. I remember making one of these back in my safe country school to learn about the fundamental structure of Objects or something like that,” said Quenser with great interest as he approached it and viewed it from various angles. “It looks like a robot used to get information from areas like the crater of an active volcano that a human can’t go to.”
“Developing UAVs and unmanned weapons has gotten pretty popular even in the military, but would they really leave their survey work to a handmade robot like this?”
“What’s needed for something like this is a lot less than the robots sent to Mars. Also, it’s easier to make a robot to enter a high temperature volcanic crater than a suit to do the same,” readily replied Quenser. “Since it also has to withstand the cold of Antarctica, it must be designed for both extremes. It has a parabolic antenna, so it’s probably radio controlled and sends the data it receives back to a laboratory or research boat via satellite.”
“I see. But that isn’t what bothered me.” Heivia circled around behind the robot and pointed at a certain spot. “The cover has been removed and a strange computer is attached by a cable.”
“Hm, it does have proper external connecters. I don’t see why the person who put together the robot would go out of their way to remove the cover to connect a computer.”
“Does that mean someone other than its designer forcibly connected it?”
Quenser and Heivia exchanged a glance.
This may have been the terrorist’s objective.
“Hey, Quenser. Can you tell anything from the computer’s display?”
“Should we even be touching it?”
“What, do you want to ask Froleytia what to do? I don’t want to be like a newlywed wife attending a cooking class. Y’know, the ones that call the teacher over even if they’re just putting some oil in the frying pan.”
“Well, if anything goes wrong, you’ll be the one getting the lecture, Heivia.”
“Fine, fine. Dammit, Quenser. Are we a young wife who doesn’t even know how to put on an apron?”
With how quickly his response came, Heivia must have truly been afraid of that commander.
Quenser set the frequency on his radio and concisely explained the situation regarding the Antarctic probe robot and the laptop.
Froleytia’s answer was clear.
“I’ll send the staff from the electronic simulation division there. Don’t touch anything until they arrive.”
“Keh. So once again, our achievement is being taken by someone else,” said Heivia with a displeased look.
However, from his complaining not too long before, it was possible he was upset about having to wait around in the middle of Antarctica rather than about their “achievement”.
As Heivia emitted an aura of wanting to hurry up and leave, Froleytia spoke in a light tone lacking any worry.
“Oh, did you not think that some empty space in the robot could have been filled with plastic explosives? If you make a mistake, it could explode.”
“I want to leave!! I want to leave right now!!” shouted Heivia with tears in his eyes, but Froleytia indifferently ordered them to stay and ended the transmission.
Quenser and Heivia were left to nervously stare at the robot.
They both naturally distanced themselves from it bit by bit.
“Hey, is it just me, or did it just start doing something?”
The two of them suddenly stopped moving.
Their eyes moved toward the laptop connected to the robot.
Specifically, to its screen.
New windows had started to appear at an alarming rate.
Heivia’s desire to flee was growing by the second.
“Did this just get very, very bad?”
“This goes beyond bad…”
Quenser was following the lines of text in the windows with a serious expression on his face. Unlike Heivia, he rushed over to the waterproofed laptop. He frantically brought his fingers to the keyboard.
He opened various windows himself and checked what they said.
“This probe robot is controlled from a remote laboratory via satellite and its data is sent back via the same route. It looks like something is interfering with the communications line that goes through the satellite.”
“You mean they’re stealing classified data through here?”
“No, not that! Shit!!” Quenser suddenly shouted as he stared at the windows. “They’re after the satellite!! The satellite it uses for communications is also equipped with various devices used for experiments in space. One of those experiments involves burning the surfaces of nearby asteroids with a laser and analyzing the data taken of the light emitted. The entire system for that experiment has been taken over!!”
“Sorry, Quenser, but you’re going to need to explain that in a way I can understand.”
“Simply put, they’ve hacked in so they can freely target whatever they want with an experimental laser!! It’s powerful enough to burn through a 30 mm metal plate!!”
“Wait, wait, wait!! They can do that? I thought satellite’s had strict security!!”
“They can. This isn’t a satellite made for national projects that was built using a massive budget. This is a small, cheap satellite made with personal funds at a university. The system it uses is only a slightly improved version of a commercial OS with some freeware added on. And that goes for the security as well!!”
“But this is a laser that burns the surface of asteroids in space. Even if it targets the earth, wouldn’t the atmosphere attenuate it and the ozone layer refract it before it reached a building or the surface?”
“Yes, but only if its target is the earth,” said Quenser as he pointed at the screen. “The terrorists are targeting an area on the moon’s surface filled with a special grade of villas.”
“The moon!?” shouted Heivia in a hysterical voice.
Quenser pointed at the data on the satellite laser’s targeting angle displayed on the monitor. It was clearly in the opposite direction of the earth’s atmosphere. It was targeting a different celestial body.
“The moon…? You shouldn’t joke like that, Quenser. This is a good opportunity to tell you there are some things you really shouldn’t joke about.”
“Stop denying reality! The satellite laser really is targeting the moon right this instant!! Specifically, it’s targeting the Blind Net set up as a terraforming experiment on the moon’s surface!!”
“? The Blind Net? That’s the thing known as an optical second atmosphere, right? They make two ridiculously huge hemisphere-shaped net-like structures out of semitransparent wires made of variable photonic crystal, one larger than the other, and use them to freely regulate the amount of sunlight that reaches the surface, right? I remember hearing a rumor that it would be used in the ReTerra Project to combat global warming.”
“The moon does not have a thick atmosphere like the earth, so there is no protection from the effects of sunlight! In a single day, it varies from freezing temperatures of dozens of degrees below zero to blazing temperatures of a few hundred degrees!! Do you have any idea what will happen if the terrorists use the laser to destroy the Blind Net!?”
Humanity had continued its development of the moon, but it still did not have an atmosphere like the earth’s. The villas were solid buildings surrounded by thick walls. Even so, the buildings had been built on the assumption that the Blind Net would be protecting them. They were not made to withstand the extreme extraterrestrial environment.
“Without the Blind Net, the buildings will receive those extreme variations in temperature. Who knows what this will do to those villas! And even a crack of a few millimeters is enough to leave the people inside to a death in the hell of a vacuum!!”
The radiation coming from the sun was another problem. The giant net-like Blind Net also polarized the radiation pouring down on the moon’s surface.
Sounding fed up with it all, Heivia shouted, “What the hell!? This the first large-scale attack on the moon in the history of mankind, isn’t it!? I think that has more to do with no one ever thinking about doing it than us not having a way, though!!”
“The plan is underway as we speak. We need to do something about the satellite and quickly!!”
The terrorists that had been in the unmanned observatory may have been planning to buy enough time for the attack on the moon to end before they fled. It had not been found yet, but there may have been a boat hidden somewhere which would have allowed them to get away.
“Not good!! From the orbit of the satellite, the direction the moon is facing, and their position related to the sun, we can tell about where the hole is going to be opened up. If we don’t get the celebs in that general area to evacuate, this will leave a really bad taste in my mouth!!”
“On our authority!? Can you give orders to people rich enough to have villas on the moon!?”
“Oh, I know. When in doubt, contact your commander. We need to get Froleytia’s help!!”
Quenser and Heivia went to their radio for further instructions.
Froleytia responded with a voice filled anger that seemed to blaze hotter than the flames of hell.
“I thought I told you not to touch anything until the electronic simulation division arrived…”
“Yeah, sorry about that. But this is hardly the time!!”
“You have guts to give an order of precedence to your commander’s orders, Quenser. But…villas on the moon, you say?”
Her tone was meditative, but a hint of impatience could be heard mixed in.
“Wait just a second,” Froleytia said and ended the transmission.
After a few minutes, she contacted them again and calm had returned to her voice. She may have had the electronic simulation division make some predictions for her.
“I’ll start with the conclusion: we don’t need to worry about the satellite. We have estimated the target of the laser, but the general area targeted by the hole in the Blind Net is called Rock Castle. An interesting VIP happens to be there.”
“A major general of the Capitalist Corporations, one of the world powers on par with the Legitimacy Kingdom. The Legitimacy Kingdom has tried to assassinate him a few times, but failed. If the terrorists are going to kill him, that actually solves a problem for us. The higher ups are of the opinion that we should let them do this. I agree. If the alternative is to have my subordinates killed on an assassination mission, I would rather turn a blind eye here.”
Quenser and Heivia exchanged a glance. They began to feel foolish for having been so worried before. It would of course have been bad had there been Capitalist Corporations civilians in the villa, but they had no obligation to save the life of someone who gave orders to kill people and watched on from above.
“Anyway, you do not need to do anything regarding the satellite. You did touch the computer connected to the probe robot, though. Well, we can send it to the intelligence department afterwards and have them make it look like it naturally failed due to the extreme environment, so that won’t be a problem. If you understand, head back immediately.”
Having said that, Froleytia ended the transmission.
Heivia limply sat down on top of the ice.
“Sigh… I feel like all my energy is gone all of a sudden. What were we fighting for this whole time? How are the ones who fell prey to that anti-tank position supposed to rest in peace now?”
Quenser gave no response to Heivia’s offhand comment.
He seemed to be thinking about something.
“Hey? C’mon, let’s get going. Or are you still worried about what happened to that baby penguin from before?”
“Heivia, can I ask you something?”
“Before we came to Antarctica, you had that video chat in the maintenance base’s ammunition storage, right? Y’know, the one with that blonde girl in a dress from the Legitimacy Kingdom’s something-or-other family.” Quenser chose his words carefully as he spoke. “Do you remember when she said where she was going? Something about the place farthest in the world from this planet’s wars, right?”
“…Wait a second. Wait just a second!”
“I think she also mentioned the colors of national flags being irrelevant. That means it has to be somewhere outside the boundaries of any of the world powers.”
There were of course a few general areas that could be.
For example, international waters, the area 200 nautical miles from land. Or Antarctica where Quenser and Heivia currently were. There were a few different paradises that belonged to no one, but one of those was…
“H-Heivia. We don’t know this for sure. In fact, odds are good we’re worrying over nothing here, but can you at least contact her over the internet?”
“Y-yes. We have no proof. Wait, can we even use the internet here?”
Due to the flood of research stations from different world powers, the internet was surprisingly easy to come by on Antarctica and the Legitimacy Kingdom had the assault landing aircraft carrier waiting in the ocean.
Heivia pulled out his handheld device and switched on the wireless LAN.
“Quenser, we’re cut off from external access during missions, but can you hack your way through that?”
“If I could do that, I wouldn’t be here as a battlefield student. But the special access for that girl might still be active. If it is, you might at least be able to connect to her.”
“Oh! It worked, it worked! But I have a feeling it’s only a matter of time before Froleytia notices and gets really pissed!!”
After some simple operations, Heivia had connected to a familiar girl who was in an unknown location.
His first question was, “Where are you right now?”
It was a simple question and it received a simple reply.
“That should be obvious. I am in a villa on the moon named Rock Castle.”
Immediately afterwards, the son of the Legitimacy Kingdom’s well-known noble Winchell family, Heivia, let out a yell with the veins in his temple bulging out.
“Th-that is quite the straightforward proposal! I-I do not particularly mind such proposals however,” said the girl.
Quenser almost cried out, “You don’t mind!?”, but he stopped himself at the last second because he did not want to anger the daughter of a noble family.
Heivia and Quenser started a whispered emergency strategy meeting so the young lady could not hear.
“(So what is going on, Quenser? Do the higher ups want to kill this Capitalist Corporations major general badly enough to kill the only daughter of a noble family in the process!?)”
“(If her family is influential and does not view the Capitalist Corporations as an enemy even while we are at war with them, some of the military higher ups may want to get rid of them. But I doubt Froleytia knows there are civilians there. If she did, she would not have given the order so calmly.)”
“(Either way, the result is the same. With a military order, we cannot mess with the satellite without being penalized. But if we do nothing…!!)”
“What are you two whispering about?”
Her voice made them both jump.
Quenser jabbed Heivia in the arm with his elbow.
“(Heivia. Hey, Heivia.)”
“(What is it!? This is kind of an emergency!!)”
“(We can say your hand slipped. Do it, do it!!)”
“Bfh!?” Heivia spat out in shock. “(Do you have any idea what you’re saying!? If we did that, you would be penalized along with me!)”
“(Hurry! The laser will fire in another 30 seconds!!)”
“(Fine, I’ll do it!! But I don’t want to hear you complaining afterwards!!)”
Heivia took a deep breath to focus himself and then turned toward the laptop connected to the probe robot.
“Whoops! My hand slipped!!”
“Heivia, you idiot! That’s the wrong way!!”
As they shouted at each other, they both turned toward the computer and desperately altered the satellite’s orbit.
“Just what have you two been doing? It is rather disturbing.”
“We’re playing the role of hero together!! And preparing ourselves for a rather unexciting danger to our lives to come!!”
It went well beyond the level of whether she was mad or not.
Quenser and Heivia had been called to the officer’s room in the assault landing aircraft carrier being used as a sea headquarters. What they found waiting for them there was Froleytia’s raging lecture special. It was exactly what they expected, but on a much greater scale. Quenser could not help but wonder when the Japanese shuriken decorating her desk would come flying his way.
After the long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long string of abuse had ended, over 120 minutes had passed. Froleytia herself must have realized how long she had been speaking because she took a cough drop before speaking again.
“Well, you are lucky this was an unofficial additional mission. Since this operation was never supposed to exist in the first place, they cannot publicly make you take responsibility. Otherwise, you would be behind bars right now.”
“…Dammit. I fight to save the heroine, and all I get is a lecture.”
Quenser and Heivia’s faces looked like the plastic bag after all the cream had been squeezed from it.
With the cough drop melting on her tongue, Froleytia asked, “So how did the lady in question react?”
“You should ask Heivia about that, not me.”
Quenser passed the question along to Heivia. Heivia looked uncomfortable, but he had to answer without averting his gaze since his commanding officer had asked the question.
“She seemed really happy.”
Froleytia’s expression had been one of anger for the past two hours, but now it changed.
With a bitter smile, the two boys’ commander said, “Then I guess I do not need to ask anything else.”
With his job complete, Heivia left Froleytia’s officer room and parted ways with Quenser. That constant companion of his was a student after all. He had not undergone the training of a soldier, so he was too tired to do anything else after moving around at the same pace as Heivia.
Also, Heivia wanted to be alone for a bit.
The bedrooms were four to a room, so he could not head there. In the end, he opened a hatch on the ship sailing near Antarctica and stepped out onto the cold deck.
He used his handheld device to begin a video chat over the internet.
He was calling the daughter of the Vanderbilt family who was on that moon villa.
Froleytia surely knew that special access was still valid by that point. That she had not yet ended it may have been her way of showing discretion.
Most likely, the special access would end after this final call.
That was why he was going to say everything he wanted to while he could.
“Have you calmed down a bit now?” he asked.
“Y-yes. You cannot blame me though. Anyone would have panicked if they heard the villa on the moon they are in is being targeted by terrorists.”
“Perhaps,” said Heivia with a bitter smile.
He had once again ended up distancing himself from the valiant deeds he needed to inherit his family. However, Heivia did not regret it. If he had lost her there, those deeds would have been meaningless.
“Why?” the girl suddenly asked. “I understand that inheriting the Winchell family is no ordinary matter. Even more so given the fact that the others in your family have reason to shun you. But still…”
“Are you saying the things I am doing are too dangerous?”
“Today, I saw a glimpse of what you are doing. I thought the right to your inheritance would come after three years spent in a safe base, but this is completely different. If you keep doing things like this, something bad will eventually happen. And…if you gave up on you-know-what, you could inherit the Winchell family at any time without having to deal with all this. So…why?”
The others in your family have reason to shun you.
If you gave up on you-know-what…
Hearing that, Heivia narrowed his eyes slightly. The look on his face was more serious than any he had ever let Quenser, Froleytia, or the Baby Magnum princess see.
“Listen. My Winchell family and your Vanderbilt family are so hostile to each other that they wish for each other to be destroyed. You understand that, right?”
“Yet neither you nor I wish to be pushed around by that ridiculous feud. You still feel that way, right?”
“That is all I need to know.” Heivia smiled. “At this rate, we’ll end up like something from a Shakespearian tragedy. However, I have no intention of letting things end like that. I will continue struggling until I have snatched the right to inherit my family from those who would take it from me. Once I do, I can silence everyone in my family and bring an end to this ridiculous feud.”
“So you wait there. I will make sure I have the right to what is mine. Why do you think I refused to go to a military academy and resigned myself to start as a private first class? It was so I could do what I must do.”
As he spoke of his goals through that video chat, he made one more silent decision that he neither spoke nor let show on his face.
…And I will even fight Objects to accomplish this if necessary.
The princess, the pilot elite of the Baby Magnum Object, stared at one of the monitors in the cockpit.
She was in the Ross Sea just off the coast near Mount Erebus, which had been a battlefield not too long ago.
A few motorboats were stopped there. They likely belonged to the terrorists. They may have been planning to use them to escape to Oceania or wherever once the attack on the moon using the probe robot was over.
However, that was not the issue.
On the ocean surface right next to the motorboats was a bundle of a few dozen thick power cables. They were the ones used to power the spare Object cannons used in the anti-tank position.
Normally, they would be connected to an Object, but there was no sign of one.
The princess checked her Object’s radar, but she could not find anything large enough to be one.
She thought for a bit and then gave a frank report.
She was speaking to Froleytia who had command of the area.
“As expected, I could not find the reactor used. It is unknown how it was transported in secret. It is possible it was an Object that can dive underwater.”
“I would think a 50 meter spherical mass under the water would cause enough of a disturbance in the currents to pick up on sonar.”
“Then it may have stealth functionality.”
“I have a feeling something that large would be visible with the naked eye even if it did not show up on radar. Well, if we couldn’t find it, we couldn’t find it. And we have a good lead as to who these terrorists were from a different route.”
“From those railguns used in that anti-tank position, from the low resistance cables used to power them, and from the surface-to-air missile unit that locked onto the survey plane. All the enemy soldiers may be dead, but there are several things leftover that can provide hints. From what those show us, the power behind this is likely…”
Froleytia trailed off.
It may have been because she had no real proof.
Or perhaps she did but was still reluctant to say it.
Whatever the reason, she finally finished.
“The Mass Driver conglomerate, an extremely large organization within the world power of the Capitalist Corporations.”