HEAVY OBJECT:Volume2 Chapter 2
- 1 Chapter 2: A Three Legged Race Up a Mountain is a Matter of Life and Death >> Battle of Shells in the Iguazu Mountains
Chapter 2: A Three Legged Race Up a Mountain is a Matter of Life and Death >> Battle of Shells in the Iguazu Mountains
In the Atlantic Ocean near the Falkland Islands, the almost 60 year old captain of the assault landing aircraft carrier Charlemagne slowly walked across the ship’s flat deck that was used as a runway. Alongside him was Froleytia, a girl of only 18. The 170 meter long deck was a bit short to use as a walking course.
“I suppose this is just the flow of time,” said the white-haired captain with a smile as he used one hand to hold a short and fat pipe of the type preferred by Western detectives. “Once, large aircraft carriers were designed to carry 70-80 aircrafts, but there were few opportunities to fully use all of them in actual battle. With the invention of ultra high speed torpedoes and stealth mines, the sinking of aircraft carriers was no longer an empty dream. …The cost and risk of having things aboard one became an issue.”
“So they stopped focusing all the personnel and equipment in one place and distributed it about to reduce the risk of loss?” replied Froleytia.
In her mouth was a long, narrow Japanese kiseru that stood in contrast to the captain’s pipe.
The captain slowly nodded and said, “If 10 aircrafts could be held aboard a single ship, that was good enough. If you needed more than that, you just had to bring in enough ships. The length of the runway for landing was the primary problem with making smaller aircraft carriers, but the development of high precision sensors and reverse firing nozzles for braking made that less of an issue. And something else changed what our missions entailed even more. …Yes, the arrival of those Objects.”
A heavy metallic noise reverberated through the area.
Two assault landing aircraft carriers were lined up with a space of over 50 meters between them. In the middle was that giant weapon that had around 100 cannons on a spherical body. It was the Baby Magnum. Scaffolding and countless wires were strung up around that Object that was the pride of the Legitimacy Kingdom.
The captain looked up at its giant body and said, “With the development of laser technology, the role of air supremacy moved to them. Our primary mission is no longer to quickly get aircrafts to the battlefield. Instead, we resupply the Object on the sea, carry out its defense during that time, and see it off.”
That was why the ship was not merely known as an aircraft carrier. It also carried out the role of a landing craft. That ship that held all the equipment needed to create a base would approach the coast and quickly get that equipment on shore. That was the function required of aircraft carriers in the age of Objects.
Froleytia lightly nodded once more and said, “I thank you for your assistance. We aim to one day be able to quickly construct a base in all environments, but it seems we still specialize in fighting on land.”
“Think nothing of it. In fact, we prefer it this way. If you were able to quickly move over sea, there would be no place left for marines like us. I am glad to have an opportunity to mobilize the ships of our fleet.”
Having said that, the captain exhaled a bit of smoke while making sure it did not go in Froleytia’s direction.
As if to change the mood, the captain’s expression stiffened and he said, “So who is this enemy you are chasing?”
“Is it enough to say it is the Mass Driver conglomerate?”
Quenser was about 30 meters up from the surface of the ocean.
Normally, the Baby Magnum underwent maintenance in a rectangular area created from a combination of large vehicles. However, that could not be done on the sea. The Object was positioned between two assault landing aircraft carriers with countless wires strung up around it from either side. This created an improvised maintenance area.
Numerous cranes with retractable arms were installed on either side of the assault landing aircraft carriers. They were not focused on just one side of the ships so that it did not matter which side either ship was on and in order to maintain the ships’ balance.
The scaffolding Quenser stood upon was not a solid catwalk-like passageway made of steel. Narrow steel plates were connected without gap between two wires, making it something like a narrow, metal suspension bridge. Of course, the rocking of the ships on the waves and the blowing of the sea wind caused the wires to constantly shake unstably.
“Wah wah wah wah wah!?”
With both hands, Quenser grabbed the thick wires that were in place of a railing as his upper body swayed back and forth like a beginner skateboarder. Meanwhile, the maintenance soldier old lady folded her arms and snorted without holding the railing at all.
“Now how are you supposed to do any work with both your hands full? Can you at least let go with one hand? What do you think we came all the way up here for?”
“I can’t! It’s shaking and we’re so high up! If I fall, I’m done for!!”
“It’s only the ocean down below, so you won’t die if you fall. Unless there’s a major storm, the waves and the wind have a certain regularity to them. If you learn that regularity and control your center of gravity, your body won’t even shake.”
“You sure ask for some crazy things!!”
Quenser started wondering if she was an aikido master or something, but when he looked around, he saw the other maintenance soldiers welding armor plates onto the Baby Magnum or checking its radar were not using a lifeline while working with both hands. Apparently, that was a basic skill for those doing maintenance work.
“…Why does no one use a lifeline?”
“Those awkward things just make your body harder to move and slow down your work. As I said, you won’t die if you fall into the ocean. You only need a lifeline when your life is actually at risk.”
“I don’t think this is a skill I need as a designer…” muttered Quenser.
The maintenance soldier old lady frowned slightly and said, “Come to think of it, boy, have you decided on your Object research topic yet?”
“Just when I was thinking about deciding, I was thrown out into the middle of Alaska,” replied Quenser in annoyance. “There are a few genres I’m interested in, though. Like the distribution of weight and efficient means of propulsion. I just don’t know which field would bring me closest to being a designer the fastest.”
“You went out of your way to leave your safe country as a battlefield student and now you’re choosing your field of specialty on what will be the fastest? …You really are trying to take the easy path through life, aren’t you?”
“I would prefer if you called it ‘efficient planning’.”
At that point, the siren warning that a crane arm was moving began blaring. Quenser and the old lady lowered their heads as if shrugging and the item hanging down from the arm passed a few meters above their heads.
Seeing it, Quenser looked puzzled.
“What is that?”
“A small refrigerator. A microwave oven is scheduled to be brought aboard as well.”
“Where are they going? And why???”
“Sailing the seven seas takes time. For example, cutting across the Pacific Ocean takes half a day. It has been suggested for a while now that they be bolted in the cockpit to ensure the Elite has efficient access to food to maintain her focus.”
“I see. So that’s what the microwave oven is-…”
Just as Quenser started to understand, he raised his head in realization.
The flavorless rations he was issued that looked like giant erasers did not need to be stored in a refrigerator and they did not need to be heated in a microwave oven. That meant…
“N-no fair!! The princess gets gratin, Salisbury steak, fried chicken, and other delicious foods!?”
“It is perfectly fair. Her focus can completely change the course of a battle, so it is only natural to prepare this sort of thing. The rations have no flavor because no one flavor will ever be liked by everyone. By having something that no one likes or hates, morale can be kept even across all the soldiers. However, the princess’s personal food can easily be matched to her personal tastes.”
“But the princess alone gets to heat fried chicken in the microwave and gets to eat fried chicken whenever and wherever she wants! And fried chicken!!”
“…Okay, I get that you really want to eat chicken, so just calm down.”
Heivia looked over at the small fighters lined up neatly on one end of the assault landing aircraft carrier’s deck. They were 3 or 4 meters tall, so he had to look up a bit.
“Look at these overloaded delta wings, Quenser. There’s nothing but special antennae for jamming. They have more of them than they have missiles.”
“Of course they do. If an Object gets a lock on them, it’s all over. It’ll just shoot them down with a laser that can fire anywhere in the sky at the speed of light. It’s only natural to focus on ways of not getting locked onto and just barely escaping if you are locked onto. They would still have poor odds of surviving if they seriously took one on, though.”
Heivia nodded offhandedly.
“There was a time when everything was all about stealth, but when multiple radar facilities have been set up, the radar signal you scatter in the opposite direction from your target is picked up by a different base, revealing your location.”
“Yes, the focus changed from flying such that you weren’t found to flying such that you couldn’t be hit,” said Quenser with little interest. He then changed the subject. “It seems Froleytia has been spending more time than usual putting together this strategy, but what exactly is this Mass Driver conglomerate?”
“As the name suggests, it’s a group with the world’s greatest mass driver construction technology. There are plenty of organizations talking about developing mass drivers and not just in the Capitalist Corporations, but apparently that conglomerate is the only one able to actually build a functioning one.”
“So it’s a collection of space nuts? Are they really that dangerous?”
“They are politically. The reasons are complex,” came the response, but not from Heivia. It was the fried chicken-hoarding princess.
(But where is she?)
Quenser was confused, but then he spotted the girl sunbathing face down on a bath towel laid out on the deck at his feet. The princess wore her special blue suit and seemed very relaxed.
Heivia shrugged and said, “In the Capitalist Corporations, money is everything. Those with money have a higher standing in society and those who do not have a lower standing. Even your priority in receiving civil liberties is determined by the size of your bank account.”
“Naturally, the leaders that control the military have lots of money,” added the princess.
“It used to simply be that the large companies controlled everything, but lately that seems to have changed. Basically, you just have to have a lot of money. There are now temporary groups that bring in investors who struck it rich with day trading or lawyers that work for multiple corporations. …I believe the Mass Driver conglomerate has its own territory and residents. So of course they had a military force in the name of protecting them.”
“Which means…” Quenser looked confused. “This Mass Driver conglomerate is a part of this new generation?”
“It was originally a group that mainly worked in the rate business.”
“There are commodities that’s values change daily like stocks and the foreign exchange, right? Well, that term refers to dealing in those things in order to make a profit from the changes in price. While stocks and currency are the representative examples, it is also done with energy related commodities like oil and coal, with jewels and precious metals like gold, and even historical works of art and antiques. That’s the Capitalist Corporations for you,” said Heivia offhandedly. “This conglomerate sent the massive fortunes it made this way to companies it felt had potential and began researching and developing the technologies needed for mass drivers. If that was adopted as the officially used method, they could monopolize the space traffic network. Their ultimate goal was probably to control a permanent source of profits rather than the more unstable rate business where profits were constantly in flux.”
The idea was a purely business one. It was completely cut off from any sense of hopes or dreams. It seemed the people of the Capitalist Corporations really did think of nothing but wealth no matter what.
“By the way, a mass driver is something like a giant railgun pointed straight up. It fires a shuttle or container into satellite orbit. It is simpler than using a space shuttle,” added the princess.
However, Quenser was not very focused on what she was saying. As she lay face down, she would occasionally fidget and wiggle her butt. Of course, he would likely end up being shot with an Object’s main cannon if he told her that was what he was focused on.
“So why is this rich Mass Driver conglomerate our enemy?”
“Quenser, you need to pick up a newspaper sometime. The Mass Driver conglomerate seceded from the Capitalist Corporations recently. They even took their territory and residents with them. It was closer to a coup d’etat than a defection. After all, money is everything in the Capitalist Corporations. As long as they have the money for it, they can buy military might. …They might even have an Object prepared.”
“Currently, they are going through a large migration to prevent the Capitalist Corporations government from forfeiting their assets,” said the princess as she held her feet up in the air and kicked them around.
Heivia continued, “I heard that just before the Mass Driver conglomerate began this large migration, Capitalist Corporation military intelligence succeeded in securing all of their Elites, which avoided becoming a war between multiple Objects; Without an Elite, an Object is useless.”
“That sounds like a mission we’d get stuck with,” commented Quenser.
“But the rumor is that the conglomerate might actually have an Elite they prepared in secret. If that’s true, they really are planning to make a war of this. The mere fact that they are making this great migration of their territory and residents shows they’re prepared for something big if you ask me.”
Quenser looked confused and asked, “But why? Even if they have an Object or two in secret, how is the Mass Driver conglomerate supposed to defeat a world power like the Legitimacy Kingdom or Capitalist Corporations?”
“It’s all thanks to a simple adoption war,” said Heivia as he rubbed the bottom of the small fighter with his palm. “The shuttles that used rocket engines back a long time ago were simply too expensive for large scale space development, so about 20 years ago, new methods began to be considered. In the end, two suggestions remained. One was the mass driver that used railgun technology and the other was the laser space elevators that used laser technology.”
“The Capitalist Corporations eventually chose the laser method,” added the princess.
“The Mass Driver conglomerate is in a bit of a rush because they lost to the competition. While there were two methods, the laser method had a great variety of corporations and organizations working on it while that conglomerate had a complete monopoly on mass driver technology. I’ve never heard of anyone else creating a functional one even in the world powers outside the Capitalist Corporations. If it had been officially adopted, the mass driver might have become a worldwide format and become a fountain eternally overflowing with money for the Mass Driver conglomerate. However, its financial value is less than zero if it fails. Any organization that is in the red tens of billions of dollars over failed research will go bankrupt.” Heivia shrugged and sighed. “And to add insult to injury, the laser method was chosen not because of any problems with the technology but because of the personal tastes of the higher ups. The way things were going, their organization was done for. That is why they wanted the mass driver to be adopted by another world power like the Information Alliance or the Faith Organization, but the Capitalist Corporations told them to stop. The Capitalist Corporations of course wanted to avoid anything that would use tech developed there for the benefit of other world powers. With their focus on money, taking part in the international market like that was the same as aiding the enemy.”
“So they were blocked at every turn…”
“That was when the Mass Driver conglomerate really got mad. It’s unclear what their ultimate goal is, but they have hired a lot of the mercenary units that make up the Capitalist Corporations military and some have caught glimpses of an Object. It’s not surprising that Froleytia wants to think carefully about our strategy here.”
“I see,” said Quenser.” So what’s this about mercenary units? Do they not have a standard army?”
“The Capitalist Corporations military is completely PMC based. Simply put, the entire army is made up of hired mercenaries. A balance is kept by having the mercenary companies control the troops including the technicians in charge of maintenance and having the companies that hire them supplying the all-important Elite.”
“So they don’t have complete control of the units?”
“It seems the companies possess the Objects and Elites which are the most important parts, but everyone else is called in from elsewhere. I supposed it’s something like sponsored athletes in individual sports. The athlete himself belongs to the company, but the detailed coordination of things like his outfit and drinks are handled by outside workers. The company itself does not control the stadium or field used to break records, but the athlete from that company is needed for the match to begin.”
“Is that how it works? But do food companies and convenience store groups have military troops?”
“If they need them, they’ll buy up the right kind of heavy industry companies, join them together, and then merge with them to gain the technology needed for an Object. From what I hear, there’s a custom of only viewing companies that have an Object as first rate companies. In fact, the PMCs I mentioned before are often subsidiaries of the company they work for or have an exclusive contract with them. Otherwise there would be issues with keeping things like Object designs secret. At any rate, those with huge amounts of money can mobilize more power, so the large companies and monstrously successful investors are naturally the ones with all the power. They’re something like our nobles.”
“So even if they started a war against a proper army like ours, they have enough military might to actually put up a legitimate fight?”
“See why Froleytia has to take this so seriously?” said Heivia, sounding slightly bored. “The Mass Driver conglomerate has seceded from the Capitalist Corporations and started this great migration. Also, they do not wish to negotiate a truce. If they are going to fight, it is going to be with everything they have. The battle will not end until one side’s Object has been blown away. I don’t know what kind of mission this is going to be, but I do know it’s going to be dangerous. You should carry out your preparations even more thoroughly than usual.”
“Preparations, hm?” Quenser looked up at the small refrigerator hanging from a crane overhead. He continued with what that reminded him of. “Then I’d really like some fried chicken.”
“Dammit, Quenser. You’re not supposed to say that on the battlefield where we get nothing but flavorless rations!”
“Eh? But I want some. I want to bite into it and have the grease spread through my mouth. It would be even better with a bit of lemon seasoning.”
“You idiot!! If you say that, I’m gonna want some too!! Ahh, it’s too late! Now I’m craving some nice, greasy chicken!!”
The two idiots began to writhe around, but then the princess spoke up with her usual expressionless face.
“You can get some.”
“This is the 15th anniversary of the Charlemagne’s commissioning, and they seemed to have had a lot of different foods brought in for a party. There seems to be some left over, so you can get some if you head to the mess hall.”
Quenser, Heivia, and the princess headed for the mess hall of the assault landing aircraft carrier Charlemagne. The only other person there was Froleytia who was stuffing her mouth full of a white sauce spaghetti soup.
“Look, Quenser!! As usual, our commander is taking all the good stuff for herself while we were too dutiful to check!!”
“First the deer in Alaska and now this. She certainly has quite the wonderful personality…”
“Mgh? Oh, did you catch wind of this too?”
Froleytia looked surprised, but it was no time to curry the favor of their commander. They had to find the fried chicken leftover from the party.
“I see nuggets here and kara-age here!? Dammit, so close!! I like it to be on the bone!!”
“Are you looking for fried chicken, Quenser? If you don’t mind it being a bit strong, I have three pieces left.”
“All that pepper you’ve already put on it is a point against it, but this is no time to be picky!! Yay, chicken!!”
Quenser raised his arms in the air and surrendered to Froleytia.
Heivia and the princess had leftover Salisbury steak and french fries piled high on their disposable paper plates.
The four simply sat chewing for a while, but there was no reason to sit in silent concentration the entire time just because they had not had proper food in a while. When people gathered, stupid conversations would begin. That is one of the rules of this world.
The one who began first was Heivia.
“You know pole dancing, right? Y’know, with the girl wrapped around the pole?”
“…That came out of nowhere. Heivia, are certain urges building up in you?”
“How do they do that?”
“What’s so difficult about it? They just wrap around the pole and swing around.”
“No, not that.” Heivia seemed to be having difficulty figuring out how to put what he wanted to say into words. “When it’s done more acrobatically, they flip upside down and have just the back of one leg wrapped around the pole while they spin around, right? How do they support their body like that?”
Quenser was about to say, “How should I know?”, but someone unexpected cut in from the side.
It was their commander, Froleytia.
Having polished off the spaghetti soup, she was elegantly wiping off her mouth with a napkin as she said, “It differs depending on the person, but the friction of your skin against the brass pole is usually enough to support you. Well, there is a trick to how you wrap your leg around, but as long as you do it like you’re trying to squeeze and twist around the metal pole, one leg is enough to support you.”
The two idiots stared in shock at Froleytia as she stood up from her chair and glanced around the area. She spotted a pipe wrapped in fabric tape running vertically at one edge of the mess hall.
Froleytia checked the thickness and sturdiness of the pipe and said, “Basically, you do this.”
“Huh!? Froleytia, why do you seem so used to doing this!?”
Quenser was in utter shock at the seductive action his commander had begun so suddenly. Froleytia replied as she spun around upside down, paying no heed to her tight skirt.
“Sometimes you need a hidden talent for the victory parties after a successful mission. Also, doing this seems to double the motivation of the troops for some reason. The only real problem is that spinning around while grabbing the pole with my leg like this tends to rip my stockings. The synthetic fibers also reduce the friction, so maybe I should start doing it barelegged.”
“Y-yeah, I can see how people would get worked up if you and those huge breasts of yours were spinning around with your stockings ripping apart on your inner thighs!!” shouted Heivia in utter shock at that unexpected military tradition.
Froleytia then got down from the pole and added, “By the way, our princess can do this too.”
The thought of that slender girl doing it gave them a different feeling than when it was their sexy commander. Quenser and Heivia began trembling, but all the princess herself did was munch on french fries with her small mouth. As usual, she had no interest in using her eroticism in a way only a girl could. Most likely, any guy who asked her to do that would just get a slap in the face.
As the four of them continued their stupid conversation, the topic turned to something more dangerous. In the end, they were on a battlefield.
Once again, it was Heivia that brought it up.
“So why was the Mass Driver conglomerate attacking that moon villa from that Antarctic probe robot via a hacked satellite?”
“I will be going over this in the upcoming briefing, but whatever. It’s simple enough. The Capitalist Corporations major general who stays in that villa holds a lot of authority when it comes to military satellites and space stations. He was the driving force behind the decision to go with the laser space elevator over the mass driver. …Basically, it was probably resentment over their method not being adopted,” replied Froleytia bluntly who had returned to her seat. “They may have been trying to send an ironic message by going out of the way to use a laser to attack the villa.”
“But then…” started the princess.
She must not have been very hungry because she was only slowly bringing french fries to her mouth.
Quenser continued for her, “Doesn’t that make this entire conflict contained to the Capitalist Corporations? I don’t see why we would need to get involved. Our involvement could even make things worse and cause this to develop into a much bigger conflict.”
“…That is what makes this so difficult.”
“I take it there is some reason why we have to be involved,” said Heivia as he stabbed his fork into a Salisbury steak he had cut into small pieces.
Froleytia nodded, “The Mass Driver conglomerate originally had their headquarters in Los Angeles of the Central Valley area of western America. But now they have begun a major migration away from the Capitalist Corporations. They seem to be moving south of the Sierra Madre area of Central America to the Iguazu area of South America.”
“What of it?”
“A Legitimacy Kingdom space development base is being built in the Amazon area near there. The method being used is a laser space elevator. The option of using a mass driver was brought up, but since we are at war with the Capitalist Corporations we could hardly get their cooperation for the technology required. It would be a problem if they attack it like the moon villa out of resentment over the method used.”
“So this war is one to guarantee safety?” asked the princess.
“Precisely.” Froleytia put her long, narrow Japanese-style kiseru in her mouth and lit the end. “The real pain in the ass is that this is really only a dispute within the Capitalist Corporations as Quenser pointed out. But since we do not know where the Mass Driver conglomerate will turn its sights next, we have to do something. The best option would be to take them out before anything could happen, but if we stick our noses too deeply into this, it could easily spark all-out war between the Legitimacy Kingdom and the Capitalist Corporations. We do have a justification in protecting the space development base under construction in the Amazon area, but we have to make sure we do not deviate from that line. We have no idea where they will have this war of theirs, but it will all be a waste if Legitimacy Kingdom people get wrapped up in it,” said Froleytia with a sigh.
A short silence followed.
Finally, Quenser asked a timid question.
“Do we have any definite information on the possible Mass Driver conglomerate Object yet…?”
“Not yet. Something quite large was detected in Central America, but it may have been a gas tank like in Oceania.”
“But do we at least know where they are?”
“Actually, that’s a bit unclear as well.”
“The Andes mountain range in South America has elevations greater than 6000 meters. It is also famous for its mines. The south-eastern trade wind from the Pacific is acting up this year, so clouds with a lot of dust mixed in have flowed inland. This makes areas here and there that cannot be scanned by satellite.” Froleytia stopped to think for a bit. “We do not know anything for certain, but the Object this time will likely have the full technological prowess of the Mass Driver conglomerate put into it. That means it will likely have large caliber railguns. Since they also used railguns in the Antarctic, we can more or less count on it.”
“The ones in Antarctica were spares, but…”
“But they were not large enough to be main cannons, you mean?” Froleytia picked up on Quenser’s concern. “Most likely, those were not spares for the Object’s main cannon. After all, these are the people who built mass drivers that can reach satellite orbit or the moon. A single direct hit will of course be a death sentence, but the shockwave will also be a real danger. Make sure your ears and organs are not taken out.”
“And how exactly are we supposed to do that?” Heivia muttered under his breath.
However, that was not anything new.
When Quenser and Heivia were being targeted by any 50 meter Object, even its smallest weapons could blow them to pieces. Whenever they faced that great danger, they always asked the same question to no one in particular even as they knew it was meaningless.
What exactly are we supposed to do?
Their current operation was to land on the coast of the Iguazu district in South America.
Their objective was the annihilation of the Mass Driver conglomerate that was supposedly lying inland.
As the pre-mission briefing ended, so did the maintenance on the princess’s Object.
The many wires strung up from the assault landing aircraft carriers were removed, freeing the Baby Magnum from its bonds. The princess slowly piloted the Object out from between the two ships and then accelerated to 300 kph all at once. The Baby Magnum was a first generation Composite Multi Role Object, so it could display tremendous power on sea when it had a special ring-shaped float attached.
Land could be seen even from the ship’s deck.
As Quenser watched the giant Object leave, Heivia called out to him.
“We’re about to land, Quenser. We should get down below too. It’s unlikely we’d be hit, but we’re in range of a howitzer.”
“The front of an assault landing aircraft carrier opens up like giant gates, right?” asked Quenser as he ran over to where Heivia was waiting. Rectangular lines separated out an area on one edge of the flat deck. It was an elevator that was originally meant to bring small fighters out onto the deck.
The two rode the elevator down for 30 seconds.
Walking down below, Heivia said, “This ship’s role is simple. It charges in using its thick armor to withstand the gunfire and shells. Once it gets near the shore, the front opens up like a gate. After that, the landing party (that’s us) charges out with a war cry.”
“…You make us sound like a suicide unit.”
“The princess goes ahead of us and cleans up the beach to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Heivia, sounding fed up with it all. “She’ll be rewarded if she takes out the Mass Driver conglomerate heading to South America, but we need to get on land first. Let’s get this pain-in-the-ass sea bath over with and get the princess up on the beach.”
The two headed to the very front of the ship.
Something like a large storage area was located there and it was filled with plenty of soldiers as well as the large vehicles loaded with equipment and materials for maintaining the Object.
Heivia sat in an arbitrary spot, took his rifle apart, and started making fine adjustments to various parts.
“Once the princess has secured the beach, we begin our sea bath. Once we reach the beach, we set up the bare minimum of maintenance facilities and a simple airfield. Other things like barracks are generally brought in via transport plane using the airfield. This ship alone isn’t enough to carry the 100+ vehicles needed to bring in everything we need.”
Quenser looked puzzled as he checked on his complement of explosives and checked on his radio.
“If the princess is that convenient, can’t we just stay here on the ship the whole time?”
“Don’t be stupid. The princess’s Baby Magnum can function on both sea and land, but it needs that special float to fight on sea. Its primary battlefield is on land. If we don’t remove that float, the princess can’t head on to the Iguazu battlefield. We need to spread out a net on one end of the beach and use a bunch of naturally decomposing repellant to give her a foothold.”
“…I guess it isn’t that easy,” said Quenser sounding disappointed.
Suddenly, a friendly transmission came in over the radio he was in the process of checking. It was from the princess who had reached the beach and was searching for any enemies.
“This is very boring work.”
“It’s better than killing people, right?”
“Waiting for all of you is boring,” said the princess with a sigh. “Quenser, you said you are unsure what the topic of your research should be, right? Then how about you look into a way to go back and forth between land and sea without exchanging parts?”
“Well, the princess certainly seems irritable today,” commented Heivia from the side.
As if to verify his words, a prickly silence was the only response from the princess.
Finally, she said, “Earlier, I received an email inviting me to a mock battle. It was more or less an order. It is taking place in the Normandy district a month from now.”
“Wow, that’s the Legitimacy Kingdom’s main country. That should be a nice performance. You can show off your awe-inspiring gallantry.”
“…I am just there as the underdog,” said the princess, sounding displeased. “Have you heard of the Bright Hopper?”
“Hm?” Quenser frowned. “Oh, right. Isn’t that supposed to be a new cutting edge Object we’re constructing? I heard its equipment is centralized on laser beams. Not only does it use static electricity to make its giant form float, it uses grasshopper-like legs to kick the ground and move at incredibly high speed. Is it already finished?”
“By the way, the Elite that pilots it is the eldest son of an influential noble family. To set it apart from other Objects, a high class carpenter was apparently commissioned to make the interior look like something from a royal castle,” added Heivia.
“Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of rumors about it. For example, I heard three prototype reactors were carefully made and tested before the actual Object was constructed. I have no idea how much of this stuff is true, though.”
It was to be a mock battle between two cutting edge Objects, but if the princess fought evenly or even defeated the Bright Hopper, she would be ruining the debut of their new Object. In other words, the higher ups of the Legitimacy Kingdom had told her to intentionally lose.
Heivia sounded utterly uninterested as he said, “Can’t you just hold back and get it over with like they want?”
“If I did that, the media would check the spec sheet and say Baby Magnum should have been able to do better than that. They would conclude its Elite must be unskilled.”
“God, what a pain…”
“I really don’t want that. The Bright Hopper’s specs are supposed to be higher, so maybe I should decide to not hold back and fight seriously,” said the princess, her words giving off a dangerous aura that hinted at a forthcoming storm. But she still had her work to deal with so she soon said, “I have finished checking the designated area. …I am picking up numerous metallic readings on the mountain slope.”
“Numerous metallic readings?”
Tension ran through Quenser and Heivia, but a transmission from the assault landing aircraft carrier cut in.
“This is Charlemagne to Baby Magnum. According to one report, that mountain is filled with iron ore. Take that into consideration.”
“Iron ore?” The princess fell silent. “(But there is no proof.)”
“Charlemagne to Baby Magnum. We have scanned the area via satellite, but there are no armored vehicles or the like presently visible. Even if the numerous metallic readings in the mountain are enemy weapons, wouldn’t they need many times that many vehicles to support them?”
“There you have it,” the princess said rather carelessly.
“Really?” Quenser said skeptically. “Um, if they turn out to be hidden enemy gun batteries rather than iron ore, we’re the ones that will be in trouble. With the thick armor of the Object around you, you might not be able to grasp how important an issue this is.”
“Mh. I said there is no problem, so there is no problem.”
“I see, I see. Well, if these metallic readings do turn out to be gun batteries, you have to make me a special bavarois in the shape of tits. And this will of course be done with an audience.”
The sound of something evaporating erupted out.
Baby Magnum had fired a warning laser beam from one of its main cannons as close as it could get to the mountain slope without hitting it. The dust and moisture in the air was roasted and an orange beam sliced through empty space.
“No response. No one is there.”
“I’m not kidding about this bavarois if you’re wrong.”
“Enough of this nonsense,” cut in Froleytia. “Reports from the princess take priority for now. Okay, let’s get up on the beach and take off the princess’s lifesaver. It would be bad in more ways than one if the enemy found us while the transition is being carried out. Let’s get the princess up on land and able to move about freely before we’re noticed. That’s the best way to end this mission safely!!”
The transmission must have reached the Charlemagne’s bridge as well because the ship suddenly accelerated. Quenser felt the backwards tug of inertia.
Froleytia’s voice rang out as she gave the final check.
“In five minutes, we will head for the coast. We will charge into the ocean with small hydrofoils and head straight for land. Our top priority is removing the ocean float from the princess’s Object. If it comes to it, do not worry about equipment falling into the ocean. We can get replacement parts in by transport plane. All soldiers not in charge of carrying out this work are to protect and cooperate with those who are. That is all!!”
As if launched by those words, Quenser and the others began to move. They ran down the wide floor that slanted steadily forward and climbed aboard hydrofoils that were carrying large vehicles.
They had not intended for it to happen, but Quenser and Heivia just so happened to climb aboard the same hydrofoil. About 20 other soldiers were with them.
The time came soon enough.
The siren blared and the thick wall-like gate before them opened up to either side. The devices holding the hydrofoils in place naturally released and the hydrofoils slid down into the ocean one after another.
They were about 3 kilometers out from land.
More than 10 hydrofoils left the assault landing aircraft carrier Charlemagne and they headed across the ocean with almost no space between them. And it did not end there. Seven or eight other assault landing aircraft carriers similarly sent out hydrofoils.
The hydrofoils had special wing-like devices on the bottom that cut through the water as they continued forward. The resistance from that allowed most of the boat to remain above water. This removed as much resistance from the water as possible, allowing the boats to soar across the water at dozens of kilometers per hour.
It would probably take about 2 or 3 minutes for them to arrive on the beach.
Quenser stared forward while gripping the handrail of the hydrofoil.
He could see the land clearly from where he was. It was not very developed. The beach was covered in driftwood and trash and what looked like a small mountain of about 100 meters could be seen beyond the beach. According to the princess, there was no sign of enemy soldiers or an Object on the beach.
“Hey, did something just flash!?” shouted Heivia.
It came from the small mountain of about 100 meters beyond the beach. Coming from the middle of the slope that was enveloped in green, something arced through the air at high speed, coming their way. Heivia had seen the light of the sun reflecting from the projectile.
That was Quenser’s immediate thought, but he did not have time to say it aloud.
The relatively heavy shell arced high into the sky and mercilessly fell at Mach 5 toward the ocean surface Quenser and the others were travelling along.
A tremendous noise and a huge splash of water exploded up.
Quenser’s vision was filled with water. He had avoided a direct hit, but the ocean surface roared and the hydrofoil flew into the air as if the ocean had become a ramp. His body shook when they landed and his hands left the handrail. He almost fell straight into the ocean.
He was on the verge of death, but Quenser threw his hands into the air and shouted, “Yahoo!! Bavaroooooiiiiissssss!!”
“Why the hell are you celebrating with a smile covering your face!? They’re bombarding us!!”
It did not end with that one Railgun shot.
One after another, 40 or 50 giant shells arced through the sky.
Quenser immediately grabbed his radio and shouted to the princess in her Object.
“Shoot them down!!”
The princess complied with his ridiculous request.
Of her 100 weapons both large and small, the anti-air lasers opened fire.
The sizzling sound of evaporating water exploded out. Orange light took the form of beams that fried the dust and dirt in the air. The beams pierced the Mach 5 railgun shells one after another, melting them away in midair.
But even she had her limits.
About a third of them made it through. Large cruise missiles or fighters were one thing, but the railgun shells may have simply been too small a target. Also, she might have been able to manage against small targets like a howitzer or short range missiles, but the speed of the railgun was simply too great.
The masses of steel that slipped through the anti-air network mercilessly rained down toward Quenser and the others.
Multiple pillars of water shot up.
The shockwave of the shells hitting the water struck Quenser and he saw another nearby hydrofoil tip up on one side like a car driving on two wheels in an action move. It then collapsed over and fully capsized.
“Continue the landing!! If you aren’t directly hit, you won’t die!! Turning back now will only get the assault landing aircraft carriers hit!! Continue on and work with the princess to silence the enemy as quickly as possible! That is how you can survive!!” shouted Froleytia over the radio.
Heivia held onto the handrail with all his might and clenched his teeth.
“God dammit!! This is completely reckless! That commander really is sadistic!! Her voice always sounds so bright while giving orders like this!!”
“Yeah, and your body trembles just as much when you hear the orders, Heivia!!”
“Hey, Quenser. Do you think the Mass Driver conglomerate’s Object is hidden in that mountain? What if that mountain is actually the Object itself hidden under a bunch of dirt!?”
“That can’t be! The railguns are firing from areas 500 meters apart!! Most likely, this is the same as in Antarctica!! They dug holes in the slope, stuffed spare Object railguns inside, and hid them under vegetation!” shouted Quenser as he hit the switch on his radio.
He was speaking to the Charlemagne’s bridge.
“This is Quenser!! I have a question for someone on the bridge who has data from the satellite. Have any people been spotted on that mountain!?”
“This is Charlemagne. No heat signatures or electromagnetic signals suggesting a human presence have been detected. Most likely, the spare cannons are being fired with a remote control program.”
“Are there any people’s homes or other buildings there!?”
“None have been detected. All we can see there are the spare cannons.”
“Okay.” Quenser changed the frequency and contacted the princess. “Baby Magnum, you don’t have to worry about getting civilians involved.”
At that point, Quenser took in a deep breath and then shouted with all his strength.
“Don’t hold back! Blow that entire mountain away!!”
A great roar rang out.
The Baby Magnum’s 7 main cannons located on its 7 arms spread out. The base of each cannon could rotate like a microscope in order to switch out the type of cannon to match the situation.
It was currently firing its low-stability plasma cannons.
A special gas was loaded into the barrel and a massive amount of electricity was used to create manmade plasma. This was then fired at the target. Its maximum range was around 10 kilometers, but it could only reliably shoot through an enemy object at a range of about 3 or 4 kilometers. It was one of the Baby Magnum’s most powerful weapons.
Instead of focusing the 7 cannons on a single point, the fire was spread out evenly across the mountains.
“Wow. You can tell we’re in South America; there are palm trees growing naturally. These long-sleeved, long-leg military uniforms just aren’t right. It’s so hot I’m expecting there to be bikini babes around here somewhere.”
“It’s only 19 degrees, so I think it might be a bit too soon for a bikini. What month is it again? I think you’d be starting to want a coat back in the home country.”
“I really don’t care. Just bring on the bikini babes.”
While looking at his handheld device, Quenser wiped seawater and sweat from his face. He did not even notice that doing so only smeared sand on his face.
Heivia switched on the infrared and ultraviolet sensors on his rifle as well as the microphone used to pick up distant noises.
“This has turned into a real mess even for a war. Operating inside Legitimacy Kingdom territory is one thing, but should we really be entering land that isn’t even ours without permission?”
“Come to think of it, who owns Iguazu? Since the Mass Driver conglomerate is fleeing here, I’m assuming it isn’t the Capitalist Corporations.”
“It’s independent. In other words, it’s a blank area.”
“After the collapse of the UN, the nations of the world collapsed, split apart, absorbed each other, and otherwise redrew the world’s national boundaries. With world powers like the Legitimacy Kingdom, the Information Alliance, the Capitalist Corporations and the Faith Organization, the world map was split apart by color like stained glass. However, there are some areas that do not belong to any world power.”
“You mean dictatorships like that Oceanian military nation?”
“Not quite. They don’t even have a government. The customs of the native people make the rules. Some of the areas that were late to join any world power due to political issues during the collapse of the UN are still left hanging there with no color.” Heivia used his rifle’s sensors to carefully check around the area. “Places like this are often used as relay points for criminal organizations. They’ll route money through them, store weapons in them, and other things. However, those types of professional criminals tend to operate by hopping from one blank area to another, so examples of someone setting up a permanent presence like the Mass Driver conglomerate is trying to do are quite rare.”
“So Objects from two foreign forces are coming in shooting up the place. It must suck to get caught up in that.”
“That doesn’t just go for places like this. Wherever the battlefield is, it’s nothing but trouble for the people who live there.”
As they spoke, a fellow soldier’s voice reached their ears over the radio.
“Area C, no enemy soldiers found. All we found was the barrels buried in dirt and thick power cables that were connected to something.”
Heivia butted in and spoke into Quenser’s radio.
“Area H, we haven’t found anything either. We’ve used all the sensors at our disposal, but we can only find dirt and rock.”
Similar reports came in one after another. Apparently, the enemy soldiers had never been there in the first place or they had quickly gathered their equipment and made a hasty retreat.
Suddenly, Froletyia spoke up.
“The removal of Baby Magnum’s sea float is complete. The groups in Areas A-D are to turn back and begin preparing the equipment for the simple airfield. The groups in Areas E-H are to extend the search to everywhere within 5 kilometers. Once the work is complete, we will call in the transport planes. If you don’t finish, the baths and beds can’t get here, so prepare yourselves.”
“Dammit, we’re in Area H. We have to stay out here.”
“Yeah, but leveling the land with a tractor to create runways or raising radar towers is no picnic either.”
“After that comment, you’re not allowed to complain if we run smack into a Mass Driver conglomerate Object.”
Quenser and Heivia nervously continued across the Iguazu land, but despite their expectations, they found nothing more. The gentle upward slope continued as they headed inland. The area seemed to be a coffee plantation because many trees about 3 or 4 meters tall were lined up along the relatively flat plain.
Heivia looked down at his feet.
“We’re supposed to be searching, but if they flew off by helicopter, there won’t be anything left. Even their scent will end.”
“You idiot. If a helicopter had been hovering near the ground, the wind from the rotor would have flattened the grass in a circle at the spot. You know how massive those spares are. It’s impossible to completely remove all traces.”
“Really? That was quite the welcome we got, but there doesn’t seem to be a single enemy soldier in the area. It might have been a while since they set it up. If that’s the case, I doubt there’s much left in the way of hints,” said Heivia in annoyance as he looked at the surrounding trees. “Someone planted all these trees here.”
“Come to think of it, why is this area called Iguazu?” asked Quenser.
“Because of the Iguazu River, one of the largest in the world. During the rainy season, it reaches 4 kilometers across.”
“Hmm. And so people built cities around that large river?”
“No, the Iguazu River is actually hundreds of kilometers from here. A ton of manmade rivers stretch from there like a tournament's brackets, supplying each area with water. It seems the water supply for this area is controlled by the Iguazu Dam. But…” Heivia trailed off.
The trees of the coffee plantation were neatly lined up, but there was no sign of any broken branches. In other words, it did not appear a giant Object had passed through.
“??? What is going on? Don’t tell me they used a power cable hundreds of kilometers long to fire at us from outside the country.”
Even if they had, it would have been impossible to retrieve the cable in such a short time. There was also no sign of disturbed dirt suggesting it had been buried.
After thinking for a bit and not coming up with an answer, Quenser sighed.
“…So we’re left with just the spares like in Antarctica. That just leaves me with a bad feeling.”
Heivia shrugged and said, “I may not fully understand the situation, but I know how I’m going to report this.” He then spoke into the radio. “This is Heivia. We’ve performed a sweep of our designated area, but could find no sign of the Mass Driver conglomerate. There are no enemy soldiers here at least for now.”
“…Should you really be saying that? If we don’t follow up on anything suspicious, we might end up targeted by a railgun buried in a hole and covered in vegetation again,” muttered Quenser.
However, Froleytia seemed satisfied simply with what they knew for the moment.
“Well done. I doubt you will find an answer to any of those questions just by standing there thinking about them for a few minutes. We can all think about all this at ease once the base is complete. Quenser, Heivia, return here.”
“Ugh. You split the groups in two, but are we going to get stuck with preparing the airfield anyway?”
“No. Since you completed the job assigned to you, you have the right to take a nice rest. Since this is not an urgent manner, you can take your time in getting back as long as you are back by sunset. Although personally I think the base would be the easiest place to rest since it is the safest place here.”
The transmission ended.
Quenser and Heivia exchanged glances.
“…What should we do? Should we head straight back to the base?”
“What a pain. We walked 5 kilometers here. I want to at least take a break to recover some stamina before heading back.”
The two sat down in a position that hid them behind a coffee tree. They pulled their flavorless rations out of their pockets and started eating the giant eraser-like food.
“Dammit. Can’t they do something about these rations? They do nothing other than teach you the value of proper food.”
“I heard the food development division is developing things like container-shaped fields. By bringing together wild plants that can be harvested in about a week after being nothing but a seed, they can ensure a food supply that is more efficient than having rations flown in.”
“…But wouldn’t that be all vegetables…or rather, edible wild plants?”
“This is my first time taking part in a landing operation, so what do we do after building the base zone at the beach?”
“Hm? First, the princess’s Object will head inland and into the mountains. Meanwhile, we will use half the day to slowly move the convoy forward. By repeating that process, we will move the base zone to the front lines 100 kilometers inland.”
The large building-like facilities were actually made up of multiple vehicles. To move the base, they had to be taken apart and reassembled, so it took a lot of work.
“That sure is taking our time. Shouldn’t we be getting this over with quickly? The Mass Driver conglomerate might get away while we’re doing this. Their route is supposed to be from Central America to here in South America, but they might make a U-turn partway through.”
“As long as the princess catches up with them in the end, it doesn’t matter. We’re just meant to stay behind and replenish her supplies. We do nothing more than extend the princess’s range of activity. You remember what we went through when we lost our Object in Alaska, right? That’s the advantage we have here. Once the princess arrives at the battlefield, it’ll be all over. If this is all resolved before we make it to the front lines, what does it matter?”
“And what if the Mass Driver conglomerate has an Object?”
“The Object on its own might be able to escape. However, all the maintenance equipment and facilities take longer. We’ll make sure they feel the pain of running and abandoning their maintenance unit if it comes to that.”
“I see,” muttered Quenser.
The way each individual action taken to decide the winner was carried out in a timeframe counted in days left that single boy unable to really grasp how long things took. However, that was just the way military actions were. In the days when battleships, aircraft carriers, and submarines were actively used, a single operation took even more time than that.
“But…” started Heivia. “You mentioned it before Quenser, but if the Mass Driver conglomerate really does have an Object, where do you think it is?”
“According to the map, there are coal mines in this area. Do you think they could hide a 50 meter Object in there?”
“No, those things weigh 200,000 tons. A coal mine would probably collapse if one went inside it.”
“Just like in Antarctica, we can’t find the Object that was powering the spares.”
Quenser stared up into the sky for a bit.
He munched on the flavorless rubber-like ration.
“Do you think they really have developed a stealth Object that can’t be detected by radar or satellite? Hey, Heivia…Heivia?”
He brought his gaze back down from the sky to find the other boy gone.
He looked around in confusion until…
“Hey, Quenser! Over here! I was just invited to tea by the old man and woman who run this coffee plantation!”
“Huh!? Why is some old couple having a picnic in leisure chairs in the middle of the battlefield!?”
“You idiot. This is their private property. They said their daughter almost never brings her family by to visit, so they never get to see their grandkids. …Eh? You say your grandson is as handsome as me?”
“Wait, wait, wait, wait! They shouldn’t be relaxing! They need to evacuate! This might become the front lines of a battle between two Objects!”
“Quenser, just drink some tea. Although, if you’d rather sit over there eating those flavorless rations, be my guest.”
“Fine!! I’ll accept the invitation, but we’re getting them out of here afterwards!!” shouted Quenser as he headed for one of the leisure chairs.
He took a cup from an old lady who looked like kindness personified.
“…If they run a coffee plantation, why are they serving tea?”
“They say they’ve grown sick of the black stuff,” said Heivia as he dropped a square caramel into his cup for some reason.
With a confused look, Quenser asked, “What are you doing, Heivia?”
“There are different ways to drink it. Did you think sugar, milk, and lemon were the only options? How about you think for yourself before questioning and complaining?”
“This old man has been pouring brandy into my tea without me asking for it. Is that just how things are done here?”
Quenser looked up as if to avert his gaze from the cup that was becoming something quite dangerous. The blue sky seemed to continue on forever and clouds were moving so slowly it seemed the sun would set before they disappeared from view.
“It really makes you think about world peace, doesn’t it?”
“Well, war is a real pain in the ass almost by definition.”
Quenser’s radio then picked up a transmission.
He assumed it was a message or order from Froleytia, but it was not.
The voice was male.
“Legitimacy Kingdom 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion, this is Major Halreed Copacabana of Legitimacy Kingdom 52nd Mobile Maintenance Battalion.”
Quenser and Heivia both frantically put in the headphones for the radio. They were afraid of getting the old man and woman of the plantation into any kind of unnecessary trouble by letting them overhear.
Meanwhile, the man’s voice continued over the radio.
“Although, it would probably be faster to just say I’m the pilot Elite of the Bright Hopper.”
The Bright Hopper was the name of a cutting edge Object. Quenser had a feeling it was the one the princess was upset about having to lose a mock battle against in a month.
“We are currently thinking of taking a route through Central America to meet up with you from the Amazon district. If we could perform a pincer attack on the Mass Driver conglomerate, that would be ideal, but is that even possible with your schedule?”
Froleytia’s voice then joined in.
She sounded somehow bitter.
“This is Major Froleytia Capistrano. I am currently in command of the 37th. We have confirmed your location, but we are still quite far from there. We would love to work together, but if we cannot wait, we will begin the operation as originally scheduled. Keep that in mind if you intend to begin a joint operation.”
“Understood. In that case, we would like for you to drive the Mass Driver conglomerate’s Object north, so we can take it out.”
Quenser looked over toward Heivia and spoke quietly.
“Is he asking us to merely wound the enemy and let him finish it off?”
“Didn’t I tell you? The Bright Hopper’s Elite is a rich boy from an influential noble family. He probably sees this incident as nothing more than a performance meant to show off the Bright Hopper.”
Froleytia would not want something like that.
They had suffered losses in both Antarctica and in the landing at Iguazu. And all that was before an actual Object had showed up. If both forces truly clashed, the odds were good that things would get much more serious.
“Capistrano of the 37th to Copacabana of the 52nd. Unfortunately, we do not have the spare strength needed to chase the enemy around like the 52nd seems to. We will finish this if we get the chance. I hope you do not mind if we do not comply with your proposal.”
“Halreed of the 52nd to Froleytia of the 37th. If I may give my personal opinion, I think you should simply comply with my request. Both publicly and privately.”
Halreed then ended the transmission.
Quenser lightly waved the radio around.
“What did you make of that?”
“They know each other. And Froleytia is none too pleased. Over,” replied Heivia after taking the cup of tea from his lips. “The horrid atmosphere you only get from noble society was all over that. It seems our beautiful lady has her own troubles.”
“Eh? Froleytia’s a noble?”
“In a way, she’s famous.”
“In what way?” Quenser replied in frustration, but Heivia seemed pleased to have evaded the question.
He seemed to like giving enigmatic comments.
A while later, a transmission came in from Froleytia.
“Quenser, Heivia. Change of plans. I’m guessing you are lazing around to recover your stamina, but get back to the base right away.”
“Fine, fine. Are you going to order us to give you a life consultation?”
“Heivia, be prepared to have the heel of my boot digging into your jaw,” said Froleytia with disinterest. “I want to get this over with before the Bright Hopper’s intervention ruins our pace. I do not want his attempts for personal glory to destroy our pace and cause unnecessary losses to my unit. Our schedule is going to be a bit rushed, so I want all spare manpower at work.”
“In that case…”
“Hey, Quenser. The old lady says she’ll give us some cookies to take with us.”
They wanted to have them evacuate, but the old couple seemed unwilling to leave their coffee plantation. They decided it would therefore be best to get the convoy moving as quickly as possible so it could safely pass through the plantation. That way, the battlefield would naturally move to somewhere else and the plantation would be less likely to be damaged.
Quenser waved back at the old man who was waving goodbye and asked, “By the way, how much power does the Bright Hopper have?”
“It’s a second generation Object that specializes in land battles, so it can’t be used for sea battles. That’s why it took longer to land in South America and was late to the operation. However, the rumor is that the values on the spec sheet suggest not even 3 of our Baby Magnums could defeat it in a land battle.”
“Let’s keep that rumor a secret from the princess. She may look expressionless at first glance, but she actually has a lot of pride in that kind of thing. I could see her suggesting she prove the rumor wrong.”
As the two chatted on the way back to the base, a transmission from the assault landing aircraft carrier reached them.
“This is Charlemagne. We have some information that might give those tired of waiting something new to live for.”
“A chaff missile meteorological weapon has been fired from the Parana Mountains 50 kilometers north of here. It was the type that mixes small particles in with the natural clouds to create temporary shelter from radar. Currently, the satellite surveillance network is unusable. The movement of the clouds is widening the area we can’t monitor.”
“…If they had something like that, why didn’t they use it in the first place?”
“Maybe because it’s similar to the surface-to-air missile in Antarctica. It gives away their position because we can see where it’s fired from. However, now that they could not prevent the Baby Magnum from landing, they have no other option.”
“We recommend immediately sending the Baby Magnum out before the enemy soldiers have time to evacuate from the launch point. An Object that can move at a maximum of 500 kph should have no problem travelling that distance,” said the man on the Charlemagne.
“Froleytia here, understood. I will take your opinion into consideration.”
Quenser frowned and said, “Wait a second. If they’re willing to give away their position in order to fire that chaff missile, they must have some reason they don’t want us to find them. Is the Mass Driver conglomerate’s main force in that area 50 kilometers north of here?”
“Yeah, they may want to hide themselves from the satellite surveillance network as soon as possible. I doubt they fired the missile from the exact same position as the unit, but they should be within a few kilometers of the launch point, don’t you think? If the wind causes the effects of the chaff missile to spread rapidly, this could be a problem, but if we can bring an end to this now, everything’s fine.”
In that case, what was it that had been supplying power to the spare railguns?
With the spares at Antarctica and there, quite a number had been gathered. And they supposedly needed an Object to power those spares.
Objects were synonymous with war.
The Mass Driver conglomerate held enough military might to wage a true war, so why were they intent on running?
And something odd stuck out about the use of the chaff missile.
With how accurately they had been targeted when landing at Iguazu, the Mass Driver conglomerate must have detected them well beforehand. The conglomerate was an organization related to space development, so there was a good chance they had a satellite of their own.
The satellite surveillance network was indeed a problem for the Mass Driver conglomerate, but they also benefitted from it. The chaff missile had cut off all of the satellites, so they would have no idea what route the Legitimacy Kingdom Object was taking to attack them. If they were truly intent on running, would they themselves create a situation where they had to fear a surprise attack at every turn?
Also, if the enemy actually had an Object, it was a case of 1 to 1.
The odds of victory were about 50/50. If they did not defeat the Baby Magnum then, the Bright Hopper would join in and make it 2 to 1. Would they really give up that chance?
“It can’t be…”
A bad feeling welled up in Quenser’s chest.
He had a feeling the enemy was not that naïve.
He had a feeling he was overlooking something.
Overlooking some other logical reason to cut off the satellites with the chaff missile.
“It can’t be!!”
The Legitimacy Kingdom 52nd Mobile Maintenance Battalion’s Object, Bright Hopper, continued forward through a mountainous region.
Its overall form was that of a giant sphere with a circular static electricity producing device attached to the bottom. The device allowed the Object to float slightly off the ground and three grasshopper leg-like units attached to the back would kick off the ground to move forward.
With each jump, a cloud of dust would explode up behind the Object.
In exchange for that destruction, the Bright Hopper was designed to carry out extremely high speed battles at speeds of 700-800 kph. The grasshopper leg design prevented it from moving backwards and only allowed forward movement, but no fear could be seen on the pilot Elite Halreed’s face.
Fleeing backwards was what unknown nobodies did. A proud Legitimacy Kingdom noble would approach his enemy at top speed and pierce the enemy Object’s armor with a quick attack. That quick destruction was the trick to quickly ending a war and preventing as much damage to both enemy and ally as possible. It was a compassionate and benevolent strategy.
The radar picked up on something flying at high altitude and Halreed immediately shot it down with an anti-air laser.
He was not worried in the slightest.
Halreed had of course been informed of the chaff missile fired previously.
It seemed the enemy was cutting off the electromagnetic and infrared links between the Bright Hopper and the military satellite in order to hide their location as much as possible. He had shot down the missile, but the chaff within had still spread out within the atmosphere to a certain extent. Static came from a few of his instruments.
He was 500 kilometers away.
However, once he got up among the mountains, the path the Object could travel through was as complex as the wrinkles of a brain. He was losing time due to that, but Halreed showed no impatience on his face.
(So they’re trying to hide. Just how cowardly are they?)
He determined that their decision to hide instead of fighting was evidence of the difference in ability between himself and them. The truly strong never needed to hide. A lion did not ask for protection and a giant Object was in a similar position on the battlefield.
Normally, he would have already annihilated the Mass Driver conglomerate by that time.
He had not done so because the Bright Hopper was specialized for land battles, so forcing it through sea routes had taken time. After covering it with countless balloons filled with a special gas to give it buoyancy, multiple tankers had towed it.
According to his subordinates who specialized in gathering intelligence, a similar sight of “tankers with something large” had been seen while the Mass Driver conglomerate was travelling from North America to South America. However, Halreed did not view it as a threat. The way he saw it…
(Even if that report was accurate, it could still be a dummy. It could be a gas tank or something like in Oceania.)
And if the Mass Driver conglomerate really did have Object development technology, they would surely have been a bit more strategic. It may have been true that Objects were synonymous with war, but the major powers of the world like the Legitimacy Kingdom and Capitalist Corporations had plenty of Objects. Creating an Object or two was not enough to put up a straight fight.
(It doesn’t matter if it’s real.)
(A quickly put together model is no match for a Second Generation Object like Bright Hopper.)
As he travelled at high speed, Halreed performed checks on his main cannons.
His one worry was about leaving his maintenance convoy so far behind in his rush to reach the battlefield. If he waited long enough for them to arrive too, it would take days, so he had no real choice. However, it still meant the Bright Hopper could not resupply or undergo maintenance.
(I just have to wait until I can meet up with Froleytia’s 37th. There is a certain level of commonality to Legitimacy Kingdom Object designs. While nothing can be done about the individual weapons, I can have armor plates and the attached box for exhaust gas replaced with ones for the Baby Magnum.)
He would be butting in and taking the spare parts dutifully prepared for the Baby Magnum and the princess, but Halreed had no problem with it. The only thing he felt was disgust over having to use inferior First Generation Object parts. For better or worse, he was a stereotypical noble. He was not too fond of the mere existence of a battalion supported by a female commander and Elite.
(But it will all be over soon.)
He finished checking on his main cannons.
The Bright Hopper was specialized to carry out history’s fastest combat, so all of its weapons were laser beams. That monster literally attacked at the speed of light. Naturally, its main cannons were high output laser beams.
He would approach at high speed, fire countless lasers at the enemy Object’s feet, and then accurately aim the main high output laser cannons while the enemy was unable to move. One blast from those would be enough to blow the enemy away. Theoretically, the Bright Hopper could instantly destroy any Object in the world as long as it made it within its 5 kilometer attack range. The Multi Role Objects made to fight in various environments had less power for each individual weapon, so he did not like being lumped into the same category as those First Generation Objects.
(It doesn’t matter what kind of Object the enemy might have. A single honorable strike of light will easily take care of this supposed large target that is trying to flee.)
In that instant, something before him flashed.
Instead of from the mountains, it was coming from the sky above.
Halreed frowned slightly.
A tremendous shockwave slammed into Quenser and Heivia’s ears as they attempted to return to the maintenance base zone. However, this was not merely a noise that vibrated their eardrums. It was a mass of noise that resounded in their gut like they were listening to death metal from a speaker larger than they were.
“Wh-what was that!?”
“This is Charlemagne!! Something has happened to Bright Hopper outside of the chaff missile cloud. It was heading here from 550 kilometers north when it was seriously damaged. I repeat, the Bright Hopper was seriously damaged on its way here!!”
“Wait a second.”
Heivia had thought something nearby had exploded, so he had gotten down on the ground. He now stood up and could tell his body was trembling.
“I thought the Mass Driver conglomerate’s Object was more than 50 kilometers from here. Was the sound of it firing just that loud? Not even plastic explosives detonating nearby would resonate in your gut that much!”
“And what do you mean 500 kilometers away? This is a mountainous region! Did they blow away the mountains in between!?”
“It used a high-angle trajectory.” Quenser’s question was answered by Froleytia over the radio. “It’s the same as a baseball. They fire the railgun at a high angle and let it fall back down! That is more effective for long distance bombardments and it eliminates the problem of the mountains to a certain extent!! Since the clouds were not blown away after the shot, it may not have ever reached higher than 2500 meters!!”
Quenser’s doubt was still not completely gone. The Bright Hopper was a cutting edge Second Generation Object that specialized in high-speed movement. It was not normal to have something like that destroyed in a single shot.
However, the situation did not give him time to calmly think. A further transmission came from the assault landing aircraft carrier.
“This is Charlemagne!! We have been unable to confirm the ejection of the pilot Elite, Major Halreed Copacabana! We cannot detect an emergency rescue signal either!!”
“…You’ve gotta be kidding me. It was really destroyed in one shot?”
Objects generally fought at ranges of 5 to 10 kilometers. While their main cannons could fire farther than that, the speed and power of the railguns and coilguns dropped as the distance increased and laser beams decayed as they travelled through the air. The same went for the heat of the low-stability plasma cannons, so it was assumed that they had to get that close in order to pierce the enemy Object’s thick armor.
In fact, it was quite rare indeed for a weapon to preserve its deadly ability at a distance of 500 kilometers while under 1 atmosphere of pressure. High altitude fighters or ballistic missiles that could be brought down with the slightest damage were one thing, but Quenser had certainly never heard of a valid strike being done to an Object from that distance.
“It seems Bright Hopper’s reactor has been completely destroyed. The estimated speed is…!? M-Mach 25!? Was that really a metal shell!?” came the report from Charlemagne.
“I-impossible!! That has to be a measurement error! R-right. That was a railgun fired at a high-angle trajectory, right? If it was fired at Mach 25, it would just continue up into the atmosphere rather than falling back down!!”
“Don’t ask me!! It might have special changeable grooves on the side of the giant shell to alter its trajectory to a certain extent, but don’t ask me for details!!” replied the Charlemagne.
“This is just ridiculous…” muttered Quenser. “This must be why they fired the chaff missile. It wasn’t to flee. It was to prevent us from knowing when they were going to fire!!”
He frantically pulled out his handheld device and switched to the GPS map. A large area was covered in white clouds so the various sensors could give him no information, but he caught a glimpse of a giant form through a gap in the clouds. The chaff missile was a type of meteorological weapon, so it used natural clouds. It must not have been enough to cover absolutely everything up.
“Dammit. Not only do they really have an Object, but it’s clearly Generation Two.”
Quenser suddenly felt faint.
That was the Mass Driver conglomerate Object.
Their job had changed from a one-sided interception using an Object to a war between their Object and another Object that odds were good they could not actually defeat.
Quenser stared at the screen of the device.
He saw a round body and a main cannon over twice as long as that body.
All Object main cannons were gigantic, but this one’s was especially huge. The reactor was not the core of the machine. The main cannon was the center and the parts needed to use it in actual battle were gathered around it.
The long weapon was supported by something like a sniper rifle’s bipod. When Quenser saw it, he thought his heart would stop.
Every few seconds, the GPS map would refresh its data.
From that, he could tell the giant form on the map was slowly rotating. It was as if the giant main cannon was now being aimed their way…or more accurately, at the Baby Magnum.
That was when the gap in the clouds closed and the Object was completely hidden once more.
If it got her in its sights, it was all over.
There was no way to avoid a shell flying at Mach 25.
“How can it aim so accurately from such a great distance?”
Quenser gave voice to the unreasonable question that had come to him.
(That was 500 kilometers away. Does it just use infrared lasers or electromagnetic waves? No, the area between the Mass Driver conglomerate Object and the Bright Hopper is filled with mountains. If it was sending out a signal from ground level, the mountains would have prevented it from getting a lock.)
Quenser first thought it must be using satellite lasers to accurately aim despite the terrain, but he immediately rejected the idea.
That would leave no reason for them to blind the satellites with the chaff missiles.
The Mass Driver conglomerate had gone out of their way to fire a chaff missile directly above the Bright Hopper just before it had been hit. That had been effective as a means of cutting off the Bright Hopper’s access to any military satellites, but it also prevented the Mass Driver conglomerate’s satellites from using its various cameras and sensors in the areas below the clouds.
Since they had chosen to use the chaff missiles, they must not have been relying on a military satellite.
“Wait a second…”
Quenser raised his head in a sudden realization.
He looked up at the clouds spreading above his head.
“They’re actually using the clouds!! It’s the same as how they fire the Railgun up at an angle and have it fall back down. The chaff missile created clouds that reflect electromagnetic signals. They send their locking signal up at an angle so it is reflected back down by the clouds and at the target on the ground. That way they can accurately lock onto their target while keeping their own location hidden. That way they can aim from above even in a mountainous area that tends to cut off electromagnetic signals!!”
“That would never work! Sure, they might be able to use the clouds to get their targeting signal to the princess, but the signal wouldn’t just be reflected straight back to them. It would be reflected in pretty much every direction, so they wouldn’t have a strong enough signal to accurately aim with!”
“What if they have some kind of compensation program? Something that can accurately pick up on the location of the target from the weak signal that is sent back amongst the diffuse reflection!! They specialize in space development, right? They could have based it on some project to intercept signals or lasers from military satellites that have been slightly reflected by the earth’s atmosphere!!”
Quenser then grabbed his radio.
He gathered up all his strength and shouted.
“Baby Magnum, this is Quenser!! The enemy Object is using the meteorological weapon to reflect their targeting signal off the clouds! Use your low-stability plasma cannons or something to blow away the clouds above you!!”
The giant Object responded to his words.
The seven main cannons supported by its seven arms aimed for the sky. Instead of focusing on a single point, multiple clouds were targeted at random. With a tremendous noise and flashes of light, giant holes dozens of meters across appeared in the clouds. Quenser was well removed from the Object, but the noise was enough to send pain rushing through his eardrums.
However, the entire 50 kilometer space between the two Objects was covered by clouds. Just opening a few holes was not enough to clear away all of them.
Most likely, the targeting signal was still accurately capturing the princess’s location.
Quenser estimated the locations of the two Objects on the map displayed on his handheld device.
“Run to the weeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssttttttttttttt!!”
The princess must not have been able to get rid of that sense of danger either. The movements of her Object looked frantic.
Full power was sent to the propulsion device that used static electricity to make the Object hover and used lasers to expand the air. The Baby Magnum moved as if it had suddenly jumped.
It moved so a small mountain was exactly between the two Objects.
A deadly shell tore mercilessly through the air at Mach 25.
It looked like an orange beam of light. It must have actually been flying in an arc, but the scale was so large it looked like it was falling down diagonally to Quenser. The railgun shell seemed to fly in a straight line past the small mountain and for the Baby Magnum.
Its aim was off slightly, but it was unclear if that was due to the mountains causing problems with the radar signal or due to the princess’s excellent reaction.
But even so, the powerful railgun still grazed the Baby Magnum.
An explosion rang out.
However, it went beyond what the human ear could detect.
The Baby Magnum’s armor was peeled up, and about half of the mass of the nearby small mountain was gouged out.
Quenser and Heivia were over a kilometer away, but their bodies were still slammed mercilessly to the ground. Pain exploded from each and every one of their internal organs. They could no longer hear any noise. The great noise had temporarily deafened them. Quenser sluggishly reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked like a hearing aid. He plugged a cord into his radio and stuck it behind his ear. It used what was known as bone conduction.
“…Baby Magnum has been partially damaged!! Main cannons 1 through 3 are no longer functioning!!”
“I can…still go on… As long as I have just 1 of the 7 cannons…”
“Something is wrong with the propulsion device! It is unclear if you can pull off the high speeds needed for battle!! I recommend the maintenance soldiers perform an emergency check of the leg area!!”
Something like a small contrail could be seen overhead. It had likely been created by the disruption in the atmosphere caused by the railgun shell passing through.
Still collapsed on the ground, Quenser grabbed his handheld device. Looking like someone checking their alarm clock after waking up, he operated the small device. He could see Baby Magnum on the GPS map. He should not have been able to see it due to the effects of the chaff missile, but the shock wave from the blast had apparently blown the clouds away. A round hole had opened up above it.
The armor on the Baby Magnum’s right side had burst open like a crushed can. The sharp edges fluttered like the wings of some strange insect. It seemed the center had not been blown out, but it still must have experienced quite a shock. It was no exaggeration to call it a miracle that the princess was still alive.
Another gap in the clouds had appeared over where the Mass Driver conglomerate Object had been, but no Object could be seen. However, it was visible through a different gap in the clouds. It was moving. And it was not moving away from Quenser and the others.
Quite the opposite.
It was approaching them.
(…What is it trying to do?)
Putting more distance between them should have been best for the Mass Driver conglomerate. After all, the Baby Magnum would have no chance of fighting back.
Meanwhile, Quenser noticed circular holes of blown away clouds in various places across the GPS map. They showed where giant explosions had occurred. They were all in areas between the Mass Driver conglomerate Object and Quenser’s unit.
The sound of firing the shells caused a tremendous roar, but Quenser had not heard any. It was possible they had been fired while his hearing was still gone.
(Could the shells not withstand the tremendous speed of Mach 25?)
Naturally, the faster the shells flew, the greater the air friction. Quenser could not even imagine how much heat would be created at Mach 25.
In that case, it may have been approaching to a distance where it could be sure to destroy its target.
And why was that?
Because this was not a modern battle between Objects where the enemy would overlook you if you raised the white flag. If the Mass Driver conglomerate did not finish off its enemy while it had the advantage, they would be at the disadvantage as they were on the run and would have difficulty receiving supplies. The Legitimacy Kingdom military had plentiful resources, so they did not have to worry about that. With time, they could even have more Objects sent in.
Even if it carried a risk, the Mass Driver conglomerate had to destroy their enemy when they had the chance.
If that was the enemy’s objective in approaching, the Baby Magnum had no chance of victory.
Just after having that thought, Quenser’s body stiffened.
He had realized something.
If the enemy was planning to destroy the Baby Magnum with certainty, what would their first action be?
Quenser could not get up, but he still desperately grabbed for his radio. He removed the bone conduction headphone leaving him in complete silence. He ignored that and started moving his mouth.
He was not speaking to anyone in particular.
He was speaking to everyone in the Baby Magnum’s maintenance base zone.
Someone who was trying to utterly destroy an Object would never ignore the base zone that was filled with the materials and people that repaired it.
That railgun possessed the accuracy needed to score a direct hit on a quickly moving Object, so hitting a stationary base zone would be no problem at all.
The Mass Driver conglomerate did not follow the rules of war or possess a human conscience.
The railgun shell mercilessly flew toward the base at Mach 25.
Something was blown away, a shockwave spread out, and Quenser’s body was blown up into the air.
Quenser had no way to know how many people had managed to escape the base.
The impact of the shockwave knocked Quenser unconscious.
All the while, the Mass Driver conglomerate Object continued to approach at a few hundred kilometers per hour.
It sounded like someone was shouting his name.
It felt like someone was lightly shaking his body.
The first thought that came to Quenser’s mind was surprise that his eardrums had not burst.
The even more obvious truth that he was alive came a bit later for some odd reason.
“…enser…Wake up, Quenser!!”
He opened his eyes and found Froleytia staring down at him rather than Heivia. Her hair was covered in mud and her always perfect tight military skirt was in complete disorder. A few of the long narrow kanzashi-like hairpins were missing.
“What…happened? …Where’s Heivia?”
“I don’t know.”
Quenser was confused as he thought Heivia was right next to him, but then he looked over to the side. He was utterly astounded.
The land was gone.
Just before, that area had been a relatively flat plain, but now the ground had crumbled away, leaving a cliff right in front of him. The newly made pit was over 10 meters deep and a large amount of earth, sand, and rock had crumbled down and piled up below.
The area beyond the cliff had not simply sunk down 10 meters. If so, water from the coastline would have come in and submerged it.
As the area beyond the cliff had sunk, the area Quenser was on had rapidly risen. The ground itself had crumbled.
He had no idea if anyone had been in the area that had collapsed.
It was just as Froleytia had said.
(It hit the base which is about a kilometer from here. If the landscape itself crumbled an entire kilometer away…)
“Wh-what happened to the people in the base…?”
“It would be best not to see.” Froleytia shook her head. “But that isn’t to say it’s some horrible situation where there are bodies smashed to pieces so much you can’t tell how many people were killed, so don’t worry. It was nothing worse than some broken bones. Fortunately we fled into the sturdy base rather than outside.”
“What do you mean…?”
“It was not a direct hit.” Froleytia sighed. “Either there happened to be some damage to the shell or it was a manufacturing error. It must not have been able to withstand the air friction, so it exploded in the air before hitting. Do you know about the meteor that fell in a place called Tunguska? A 100 meter meteor exploded due to air friction before it reached the ground, but the shockwave was enough to wreak havoc on the area. This seems to have been something similar. There would be a crater if it had hit,” explained Froleytia. “Mach 25 is a ridiculous speed, so the heat from friction has to be quite something. A normal metal shell would melt and lose its shape in an instant. Most likely, their shells have some kind of special cooling system inside to prevent the shell from melting. Maybe liquid nitrogen.”
“So did the shell crack due to the extreme change in temperature?”
“Possibly. You can likely tell from the aftermath on the GPS map, but the Mass Driver conglomerate Object actually fired more shells than arrived here. About half of them exploded before reaching us. This main cannon of theirs may be a prototype.”
“…It has that much power without even hitting?”
Quenser felt a chill run down his spine.
Even nothing more than the aftereffects caused destruction on the level of a tactical weapon.
“But the Bright Hopper was destroyed in a single shot from 500 kilometers away. The Baby Magnum was only 50 kilometers away. Shouldn’t it have been easier to hit?”
“It may have just been luck.” Froleytia hesitated for a second. “But we know the enemy’s shells use a high-angle trajectory. They are shot high into the sky so as to aim for their target in a parabolic trajectory. It is possible the shell has to be fired up to a set altitude regardless of the distance to the target. If so, the parabolic arc must be more steeply curved the closer the target is. That may have led to the shells breaking up in midair for the princess.”
It made a certain amount of sense.
“If that’s true, that Object has even less reason to approach. In fact, moving further away would allow it to more safely and more surely destroy the princess.”
“It does not need to use a high-angle trajectory,” replied Froleytia immediately. “The Mass Driver conglomerate cannot be resupplied, so they want to keep this short even if it is more risky. Heading forward and targeting the princess with a direct line of sight will end this much more quickly. Just before the base zone was destroyed, I saw the data on the damage to the princess. She will have difficulty participating in a high speed battle like that, so if an undamaged Object arrives, she will be unable to resist.”
A railgun shell’s speed was directly linked to its power, so the closer the target, the more destruction it could cause. If one of those Mach 25 shells was fired from close range, the princess’s Object would not fare well.
Quenser audibly swallowed.
He recalled the huge explosion from earlier.
“Will she be okay? Even the shockwave from a failed shot is enough of a threat…”
“But that shockwave is not enough to be decisive against an Object that can withstand a nuclear weapon,” said Froleytia. “Since the Mass Driver conglomerate Object has not continued with a second and third wave, its main cannon must have relatively little ammunition. They are on the run, so they may not be able to resupply whenever they want. They want to finish this while they have the advantage and they do not know if a chance like this will come again, so they have no choice but to approach. If they get close enough to take out the princess’s Object, she will not be able to escape.”
Froleytia placed her hand on Quenser’s shoulder.
“I am calling off the mission. I hate to admit it, but we have completely lost our ability to fight. We have no choice but to accept it. From now on, we should focus on evacuating with as few losses as possible. The wounded will be loaded aboard the hydrofoils and escape to the sea. You get aboard one as well. We are retreating for now. We have little chance of winning in this situation. We need to get far away from them and reorganize.”
“I will search for the missing soldiers up until the very last second. …The princess has not been found either. She is not even responding to our transmissions. I doubt she had ejected from her Object, so she might be trying to fight somewhere, but we cannot locate her via satellite due to the chaff missile.”
“No.” Quenser forced his battered body to speak. “It may be true that we can escape a land-based Object’s direct attacks if we head out to sea, but the assault landing aircraft carriers that will pick us up move so slowly. I doubt we can escape that Object’s main cannon.”
“I know that. It accurately blew away the Bright Hopper at a distance of 500 kilometers. And that was against a Second Generation Object that was moving at hundreds of kilometers per hour. It might be able to hit a slowly moving ship at even greater distances. We have no guarantee that all the shells will break up in midair.”
“I said the injured would head out to sea in the hydrofoils. I never said they would be meeting up with the Charlemagne,” continued Froleytia in a bitter voice. “Since the hydrofoils keep most of the boat above water, they can exceed speeds of 100 kph. If all of them spread out as much as possible, that should keep the losses down to a minimum.”
“But what about the Charlemagne…?”
“Unfortunately, their fleet is not mine to command. They will have to decide what to do for themselves. …A few hydrofoils should be left aboard the ships, so I hope they decide to abandon ship.”
Quenser could tell Froleytia was gritting her teeth a bit.
It was her unit’s fault that the fleet had been brought into such danger. She may have been feeling the weight of that responsibility.
“Luckily, a fleet under the command of the Legitimacy Kingdom flagship Sigmund has been deployed to the Atlantic Ocean about 700 kilometers away for a different mission. I’ll have them retrieve us even if that leaves me in their debt. That is best.”
“Best…? But will even half of us survive that? And we don’t even know if the hydrofoils have enough fuel to make it 700 kilometers…”
“I know it isn’t a pleasant option.” Froleytia scratched at her hair with one hand. “But there are no pleasant options here. This is the best option available to us. If we stay here on land, the Mass Driver conglomerate Object will eventually approach. The best way to escape a land-based Object is to head out to sea. …Even if that leaves a high risk of being sunk.”
A heavy silence fell over the area.
What Froleytia was telling him to do was turning tail and fleeing.
“Can you stand?”
“Ow!! My right ankle…”
Quenser grimaced as he tried to slowly walk. He looked down to find the area around his ankle inflamed and swollen. He could not freely move the joint.
Froleytia crouched down and checked his leg.
“It isn’t broken. It looks like just a sprain.”
He could manage to slowly walk while dragging his leg along, but he could hardly run at full speed.
Froleytia silently took Quenser’s arm and wrapped it around her neck to support his weight.
“Didn’t I tell you I was searching for the missing soldiers until the last possible moment? You’re one of those.”
It seemed she intended to take him all the way to the hydrofoils at the beach. Not only had he sprained his ankle, but the plain’s ground had been split to the point of creating a huge height difference. The terrain of the beach may have changed considerably from the way Quenser remembered it.
Just as they set off, an electronic tone sounded from Froleytia’s uniform. She pulled out her radio with her free hand and brought it to her ear. Since they were pressed together, Quenser could hear the voice coming from the radio.
It was a female voice he did not recognize.
“This is Corporal Bilany Saronno of the front lines scouting unit of the 52nd Mobile Maintenance Battalion.”
“She’s at the bottom rungs of Major Halreed Copacabana’s unit. They head to the battlefield before the Object to gather intelligence and set the foundation for the base,” explained Froleytia.
That meant they had been left with nothing to do after the Bright Hopper had been incapacitated. If they had headed to the battlefield first, they might be nearby and hoping to be picked up by an assault landing aircraft carrier.
However, Corporal Bilany’s view betrayed Quenser’s expectations.
“We have managed to contact the Baby Magnum of the 37th. We propose that the most effective means for us to survive is to work together to destroy the Mass Driver conglomerate Object. Unless we do something about that main cannon and its tremendous range and power, we cannot even flee.”
“How is the Baby Magnum and its Elite, Lieutenant Milinda Brantini?” asked Froleytia.
Without hesitation, Bilany replied, “The Object is hidden in between two mountains. We have no idea how effective it will be, but she has predicted the Mass Driver conglomerate’s movements and seems to be planning to keep multiple mountains between them at all times. It seems the predictions were made based on analysis by Private First Class Heivia Winchell.”
“Thank goodness. So both the princess and Heivia are okay for now,” said Quenser in relief.
“Given the emergency situation, I hope you will forgive us for proposing a strategy to Baby Magnum without going through you first. We should have done this earlier, but may we propose the same plan to you, Major Froleytia Capistrano?”
“Go ahead,” Froleytia responded.
“Currently, the damage taken from the enemy railgun has left the Baby Magnum with three of its main cannons unusable and with damage to its propulsion device that will make a high speed battle difficult. As such, we recommend that the Bright Hopper’s standard tactics be used instead of the Baby Magnum’s.”
“You mean targeting the enemy’s feet and then striking with a main cannon once the enemy has been stopped?”
“Yes. But since we do not have the high speed movement expected for such a plan, we will only get one shot. Assume that there will be no way to recover if this fails.” Bilany paused for a second. “The Baby Magnum will hide at the site of an abandoned alpine vegetation mass production plant in the Iguazu district. It can use the ruins of a hemispherical facility used for regulating atmospheric pressure. We have confirmed that it contains enough space for the Baby Magnum. If a low-stability plasma cannon is fired through the wall when the Mass Driver conglomerate Object passes nearby, it can be destroyed.”
“But how are you going to keep it in place? A surprise attack makes these complex and complicated actions less likely to succeed.”
“There is a large dam in the Iguazu district where your unit is deployed, major. Also, we have received no word that the Mass Driver conglomerate Object can travel over water without swapping out parts.”
Quenser had a bad feeling deep in his gut about what was to come.
But before he could say anything, Bilany smoothly continued.
“By destroying the dam, the area downstream will be temporarily submerged. That should be enough to keep a land-based Object in place. If the Baby Magnum fires during that time, the Mass Driver conglomerate Object should be unable to avoid it.”
Froleytia was used to calmly planning and carrying out war strategies, but even her breath caught in her throat.
“…Are you serious?”
“I cannot approve that method. Destroying the dam will not merely submerge the battlefield. Tens of thousands of civilians downstream would be sacrificed. I cannot have my unit participating in an operation like that!!”
“This is within acceptable bounds. Those are not people of the Legitimacy Kingdom.” Bilany’s tone of voice did not change. “I repeat, destroying the Mass Driver conglomerate Object by any means necessary is our best chance of surviving this. We are at war. I would hope a major who is commanding troops would be more aware of that fact.”
“Dammit!! Either way, the destruction of the dam will be meaningless if the Baby Magnum does not act. What you are doing here will accomplish nothing!!”
“I could say the same thing to you, major. We are carrying out this operation regardless. If you do not want those sacrifices to be in vain, I suggest you have the Baby Magnum play its part. I will contact you again once we have a timetable for the operation.”
With that, Bilany ended the transmission. Froleytia clicked her tongue in aggravation.
“Tch!! Our best chance of surviving this!? They just want to get revenge for their commander!!”
“She said they proposed this to the princess and Heivia, but did they really agree to this?”
As if to answer Quenser’s question, a different transmission arrived.
“I finally got through to you. I’ve been trying to contact you this whole time, dammit. I don’t know where you ended up passing out, but don’t get blown away where I can’t see you.”
“I know this is a bad time, but could I discuss something with you? The Bright Hopper’s unit is forcing some ridiculous proposed plan on us. I honestly don’t know what to do.”
“We’ve already heard about that,” cut in Froleytia. “It’s the plan to destroy the dam, right? As your commander, I order you to take no part in this operation. As originally planned, we will focus on retreating by sea. If the Baby Magnum does nothing, the Mass Driver conglomerate Object cannot be destroyed. Once they realize that, they should realize that destroying the dam is meaningless.”
“…I hope you’re right,” said Heivia in a strained voice “It looks to me like they only want to get back at them for destroying the Bright Hopper. All logic has left their heads. They might blow up the dam regardless of what we do. …Unless someone stops them by force.”
That was the exact fear Froleytia herself had voiced earlier. She had surely realized Bilany and the others from the front lines scouting unit had lost their cool.
“Hey, Quenser. Back to what I want to discuss. I may be about to ask something crazy of you. Will you hear me out?”
“I was just feeling a desire to have a serious chat about this with you. But it seems there’s not much left to discuss, so I guess I’ll stick with you on this one.”
Quenser and Heivia then spoke at the exact same time as if they had arranged it ahead of time.
“I’ll do something about the dam. However, stopping the dam from being blown up won’t finish this, so can I leave the Mass Driver conglomerate Object to you?” said Heivia.
“I’ll take care of the Object. However, that means I can’t do a thing about the dam, so can you stop the operation to blow it up somehow or other?” said Quenser.
The discussion was over after only 10 seconds.
Ending the transmission, Quenser looked over at Froleytia.
“…Froleytia, I have one request.”
“No, I cannot help you with this.” She immediately cut him off. “The retreat by sea is indeed a poor bet, but your plan is much too reckless. Especially since leaving the Baby Magnum here will give some hope to Bilany Saronno’s group. Also, I cannot think of any real way to destroy the Mass Driver conglomerate Object in this situation and I doubt you can either. I cannot let you do something so reckless.”
“Yes, but…” said Quenser, sounding a bit discouraged.
He then removed his arm from Froleytia’s shoulders. A dull pain ran through his sprained and swollen ankle, but he still took a few steps away from Froleytia.
“Then I really will ask for only one thing. Please report that you did not find me after that bombardment. I am a battlefield student. Whatever I do here will not affect the life of a soldier like you, Froleytia.”
“Please let me go,” said Quenser as his ankle throbbed with pain. “The only reason I came here was to learn about Objects. This is not my job. But even so, I cannot bear to just retreat. Saronno’s group is planning to blow up that dam no matter what. If the Mass Driver conglomerate Object settles here, we have no idea how much cruelty and violence will occur in this government-less blank area until an Object from some world power arrives to blow it away. We have no idea if any civilians were harmed when those shells broke up in midair. …Someone has to do this, and we are the ones standing here. I don’t know whether I should call it fortunate or misfortunate, but we are here!!”
Froleytia silently listened to his words.
She thought, looked down, chewed on her lip, and then looked away from Quenser.
“No, I can’t go along with that. I am the commander here. I am the one with the authority to give orders.”
Quenser suddenly became intensely aware of the plastic explosives in the bag on his back, but then Froleytia continued speaking.
“I could not find Quenser, so I had no choice but to continue my search. That is what I will go with. I will have the assault landing aircraft carriers ensure all but one of the hydrofoils evacuate. Will that suffice?”
“What can you do with that ankle? If you aren’t at your best here, you’ll be killed,” continued Froleytia with an awkward expression. “Once I have decided to do something, I go all out and take every option into consideration. And if that means I have to act as a crutch for an incompetent subordinate, so be it. In Alaska, Gibraltar, and that Oceanian military nation, you showed your ability to destroy an Object as a flesh-and-blood soldier. I would like to see that skill firsthand.”
“Quenser, do you have your survival kit?”
Froleytia was asking about the small set filled with medicines for first aid and tools meant to acquire and prepare food in the wild.
Quenser searched through the pockets of his military uniform.
“Are you going to fish for a quick meal or something?”
“The items in the survival kit have been designed so they can be used for more than acquiring food.” Froleytia checked the contents of the small box her subordinate had handed her. “In other words, they can be used to kill.”
Quenser recalled how the princess had used the metal skewer meant for cooking to stab an enemy soldier in the gut back in Alaska.
“The skewer can be used for stabbing or throwing and the fishing line can be used to strangle or as a wire trap. Combine it with the weights and it can be used as a blunt weapon.”
“What about the miniature fishing pole?”
“It works as a carbon fiber whip. It’s more convenient than a knife in close quarters combat. It can take out the trachea or an artery in a single strike.”
Having explained herself, Froleytia armed herself with the “weapons” she thought she could use and then tossed the kit back to Quenser with only the first aid medicines remaining.
“Of course, once the commander is relying on things like this, the unit is pretty much done for.”
She then headed back alone to the ruins of the destroyed base zone. She was hoping to find a military vehicle they could use to travel.
Quenser checked his leg, but he could still only manage a slow walk. However, he hardly had time to complain. If the Mass Driver conglomerate Object continued on it would blow everything away. Also, Bilany’s front lines scouting unit was going to blow up that dam to stop it.
They both had to be stopped.
With that thought in mind, Quenser looked around the area. It would likely have been better to set his sprained ankle, so he was trying to find a branch or something. However, he found something else instead. Much to his surprise, he spotted a gun. It was a Legitimacy Kingdom military PDW.
(Was this blown from the base all the way here by that railgun blast? It’s like a volcano erupted.)
The PDW was like a shortened version of a submachine gun, so it was only about 20-30 cm long. The gun was small enough that it was actually difficult to carry in both hands, but a complexly folded up stock was located at the bottom of the grip, so it would likely be difficult to fire one handed for someone with the arm strength and grip strength of Quenser.
So it could be used in the right hand or the left, it was made so the shell cases passed through the grip and fell out the bottom.
The magazine was inserted parallel to the barrel, so it could actually hold around 70 shots. The magazine was actually longer than the gun itself. It seemed to be made for a maintenance soldier who would never stand on the front lines. They wanted plenty of ammunition to stop any spies they might run into on the base.
Froleytia had said someone who had not finished their training could not be given a firearm, but Quenser figured it was best to have as many weapons as possible in an emergency. For that reason, he hid the PDW in his uniform. He would never be able to defeat an Object with something like that, but he might run into enemy foot soldiers.
Froleytia then arrived in a military off-road vehicle. The body was horribly dented and it looked like it was barely running.
“Sorry about all this trouble I’m putting you through.”
“You’d better be. Afterwards, I’m putting you through a hell of giving me shoulder massages,” said Froleytia as Quenser climbed into the passenger seat.
However, she somehow seemed to be enjoying herself. She might have gotten over something.
The Iguazu district sloped upwards as one moved inland from the coast. The slope continued forever as if the entire continent was tilted.
“…It’s gotten a bit cooler.”
“That’s because of the change in elevation. The inland area is over 900 meters up. We’re still relatively low here, but the temperature should be even lower up at the dam Heivia is at.”
“With Antarctica, the Iguazu coast, and now this mountainous area, the earth’s temperature is really all over the place. Will global warming just cancel itself out in the end?”
As Quenser was chatting mindlessly, a transmission came in over his radio.
“Charlemagne to Froleytia. We doubt you are still planning to fight, but we have learned some things from the analysis of the Mass Driver conglomerate’s main cannon.”
“So how many people do you think have seen through that façade?” asked Quenser quietly.
“All of them, of course. Otherwise, they would have abandoned ship long ago given the situation. Legitimacy Kingdom troops aren’t that stupid.”
“I see,” replied Quenser tonelessly.
That must have been why the bridge of the assault landing aircraft carrier sounded so happy.
“Froleytia to Charlemagne. We have a general idea that the enemy’s main cannon fires a railgun using a large scale high-angle trajectory. It uses the clouds created by the chaff missiles to reflect the locking signal from the sky in order to accurately aim in this mountainous region. If you have any information beyond that, I would like to hear it.”
“The enemy main cannon seems to actually be a combination of a railgun and a rocket. First the giant shell is fired by the railgun and immediately afterwards, the shell splits into three parts. This focuses all the kinetic energy on the center rocket, accelerating it further.”
“So it’s like a tank shell. Then the real shell must be rather small.”
“Just before hitting, ten or so smaller shells made of tungsten or something spread out in a ring shape. That must come from the interception missiles from the age of the Aegis ship. That is supposed to ensure the destruction of the target even if there is a slight targeting error, but it does not seem to be too effective. It fails to spread out properly more often than not.”
“Even so, if even one of those smaller shells hits…or if you are even in range of the blast, you will be instantly killed.”
“At least it isn’t using any kind of bacterial weapon,” commented Quenser.
“Also, about the high-angle trajectory of the shell,” continued the Charlemagne. “Its trajectory is rather unusual. Unlike the parabolic arc of a thrown ball, it travels to a point almost directly above the target and around 2500 meters into the sky, and then rapidly descends.”
“Is it forcibly changing its trajectory using tail fins? That’s less a high-angle trajectory and more a dive bomb,” added Quenser.
“That may be an attempt to more consistently avoid any objects in the way in a mountainous area. However, that sudden curve will create tremendous inertial force. They must have wanted to make this dive bombing a reality even if it presented the risk of having the shells break up in midair,” said Froleytia.
“We analyzed a video of launch, but no tail fins were seen. The small trajectory corrections are likely carried out by changeable grooves on the side of the shell or by intentionally damaging the side of the shell with special explosives to alter the frictional forces. However, we would need to analyze an actual sample to know more. …And that is only if there was enough left to analyze,” continued Charlemagne. “After splitting apart to concentrate the kinetic energy, the shell finally accelerates to the monstrous speed of Mach 25 by firing the rocket engine at the bottom. This seems like one of the world’s fastest prototypes. If it was launched from an already accelerated aircraft, it would probably set a record for the greatest instantaneous speed.”
“What about the cooling system? It has to have some kind of system to deal with the issue of heat from air friction,” asked Quenser.
The Charlemagne controller responded, “It seems to have a complete cooling system that uses liquid nitrogen. Its effective time seems to be directly linked to the distance of the target. The premature detonations when it attacked your base seem to be due to an error in the cooling system causing the shells to melt.”
“So is that contrail-like line you see after it fires due to evaporated nitrogen?”
“While we might find a way to use this to our advantage, even when the cooling system fails, it still causes such a massive explosion. It seems avoiding the Object and keeping it from finding you would be the best strategy.”
“I see. I will take that into consideration,” said Froleytia politely before ending the transmission.
She put both hands back on the wheel and looked forward before saying, “A mass driver, rockets, and the cluster technology of Aegis ship ICBM interception missiles. …This really is the monstrous weapon you would expect of a space development conglomerate. I have commanded units against Objects for a long time, but I have never seen anything that attacked like that.”
“With the method of aiming by reflecting off the clouds created by a chaff missile, this really is no normal layout. Whoever came up with this has to be rather eccentric.”
“As a future designer, are you jealous?”
“I’m more worried about my life right now. If that main cannon was beyond the prototype stage, we would have been completely wiped out.”
“It may be a bit soon to be using the past tense. If it gets close and targets the princess directly, she will be defeated. She will have a hard time evading at high speed with the damage done to her Object.”
As usual, the princess was in grave danger.
And her survival was directly linked to the survival of the rest of the unit.
Quenser fell silent, and Froleytia spoke to him as she pressed down on the accelerator.
“Now that we have officially confirmed the existence of the Object, we need to give it a tentative codename. It would save us some effort if the Capitalist Corporations would share their official information with us, but I doubt they would be willing. Maybe we should call it Break Carrier or something like that,” muttered Froleytia.
Break Carrier, the one that carries destruction.
That unpleasant name was perfect for that giant spherical body with the ridiculously high output railgun twice as long as it was. Quenser was not exactly pleased with the cynical naming.
“By the way, do you have an actual plan?” asked Froleytia.
“I’ll get the princess’s help. That would be fastest.”
“Oh, you’re relying on someone else from the get-go?”
“Bilany Saronno may be crazy, but the general form of her idea is good: hide somewhere the enemy can’t see you, and destroy the Mass Driver conglomerate Object in a single strike. That much is a good plan.” Some of Quenser’s focus was taken by the pain in his ankle. “To do that, we have to know what route the Object will take. Thanks to the chaff missile, we can’t use the satellite surveillance network. We need to give her a location and have her fire on it, and we need to prepare for that.”
As he spoke, Quenser took out his handheld device. The GPS map was still covered in clouds, so the details could not be seen. He switched modes and called up an offline map filled with data. That display showed the area better, but it was just like a paper map in that it showed no real time information.
“If the enemy is just going to pass through the canyons between mountains, it has more or less 3 routes it can take.”
“We don’t need to check out all of them,” quickly concluded Froleytia. “We can figure out its general direction via sound. The Object cannot hide the noise it makes. Let’s stake things out at the center route. If we hear it coming from ahead of us, it’s going through the center route and if we hear it from the right or left, we know which other route it is taking.”
Froleytia stopped the off road vehicle in a thicket just off the road and they covered it in fallen branches and dried grass to hide it. Quenser and Froleytia left the camouflaged vehicle and headed for the mountain slope. Since the Object had sensors and radar, it would be safest to distance themselves from the mass of metal that was the off road vehicle. Since a single shot would be enough to blow any kind of armor away regardless, they didn’t have to worry about defenses.
The mountain was over 500 meters tall, but they did not have to climb all the way up. They just had to stop somewhere high enough to hear the noise of the Object but where the Object would not notice them if it passed by, so they stopped a few dozen meters up.
The dark soil at their feet was damp and it seemed to be expelling thick hot air.
The slope was covered in foliage, but it had a manmade feel to it. The plants were likely there due to forestation rather than there naturally. There were a lot of short coffee and fruit trees. They were all sorts of plants that were useful to people.
(Did people replant trees after continually destroying the mountains for the mines?)
Quenser and Froleytia hid down in the plants and sat next to each other.
Quenser operated his handheld device with both hands.
Froleytia peered in from the side and asked, “What are you doing?”
“Oh, just bookmarking this. The mountains around here have a lot of tunnels through them for the mines and for transportation. I thought putting the maps of all those a click away might be useful.”
“Well, keep it short. If the Break Carrier picks up on the signal, it will all be a waste.”
Quenser frantically cut the device off from the internet. He made sure the bookmark in the military database could be accessed by everyone in the battalion and switched it off. With a bored expression, Froleytia watched Quenser’s panicked actions and took a sip of water from her water bottle.
Their ambush was set.
The wind blew a bit and the short trees rustled around them. The crying of an unfamiliar bird echoed. The slope was more dark soil than it was green, but it also had concrete in places. They were the entrances to tunnels. Apparently, a lot of iron ore was buried there, but the map said that mountain had also been scheduled to have a geothermal power plant built on it. However, he could not hear any sounds of people working. The project may have been shut down due to financial troubles or something.
All they had to do was await the coming of their enemy, but that enemy was the monstrous weapon that had ended the age of the nuclear missile. The intense pressure seemed to increase with each second that passed. Quenser almost felt charging out while yelling at the top of his lungs would be preferable to just waiting.
“This waiting is nerve-wracking. Maybe that’s why my throat is so dry. Quenser, I don’t care what, but we need to start talking about something to get my mind off this.”
“Please don’t say that like some company boss demanding her employee show off some hidden talent.”
“You’re just a student, so don’t act like you know what you’re talking about. What a boring guy.”
Quenser munched on a flavorless ration.
“Come to think of it, I did hear that you’re a noble, Froleytia.”
Froleytia seemed hesitant to reply to that comment.
Quenser thought he had brought up something he should not have, but then Froleytia nodded.
“The Capistrano family has an attractive – and rather famous – characteristic. It is really mainly suited to nobles. I suppose it would not sound all that valuable to a commoner.”
“We are a male family. No matter who we marry or how the child is made, the child has almost 100% odds of being male. It does not matter much to commoners, but in noble society, that is quite important. Especially when it comes to matters of succession and inheritance.”
It was well known that the royal and noble societies were highly biased toward men. Whether the ruler of the kingdom was male or female could create major changes to the very era itself, but the fact remained that kings were much more common than queens.
Froleytia commanded multiple units be it locally or remotely, but that was usually a job for someone with a rank higher than a major. Regardless of what she actually did, it was possible there were those who did not wish to give her a higher official position. There were those who did not view being protected by a woman as a virtue.
“As a commoner, does it seem rather trivial to you, Quenser?”
“Well, I suppose. The social standing for both men and women is relatively equal for us. Also issues of family or bloodline don’t quite click in my mind. It seems to me that people should be able to marry whoever they want. …Well, I am just a kid, so I guess even the idea of marriage doesn’t seem real to me.”
“I see. I’m jealous,” replied Froleytia offhandedly. “At any rate, my family has that characteristic. Whoever we marry and however the child is made, it is almost assured that a boy will be born.”
“??? You say males are born with almost 100% odds in your family, but you’re pretty clearly female.”
“That’s what makes me so attractive.”
Quenser did not understand what she meant by that.
It must have shown on his face because she laughed.
“I am a female noble who has an almost 100% chance of giving birth to a boy. Men who want to leave a male heir but have not been able to desperately want someone like me. After all, if they do not create an heir, their family will die out and their assets will be forfeited. By having negotiations related to having children, the Capistrano family can have the advantage while speaking with noble families so influential they would normally be well out of reach. Those other families want to borrow my womb no matter what.”
“You mean…like a political marriage?”
In a West European island nation, a king had split the country apart from a worldwide religion in order to leave the queen and marry his maid, but examples like that were the exception. In the Legitimacy Kingdom, nobles preferred to marry someone of a lineage of equal or greater standing to their own.
“Even if it is officially treated as marriage, I would be nothing more than a tool used to solve their problem of creating an heir. Due to the pride of nobles, the womb has to belong to a girl of the same social class as them.”
Quenser had thought his commander had a relatively angry personality.
However, Froleytia was thinly smiling at that moment.
Was there something different about that problem?
What had it taken to extinguish the raging flame that usually lived within her?
Wasn’t her family supposed to protect that flame and ensure it was not extinguished?
“But it could be worse. For a noble heir, it is best for both families to have legitimate bloodlines and personal histories. If that was not the case, it would not get as far as a political marriage. I might end up with a revolving door of men wanting male heirs coming for me. After all, we already have mountains of requests coming in wanting a surefire chance at a male heir.”
Froleytia had said that the Capistrano family created males with almost complete certainty and that she was the irregular girl born to that family.
That meant she certainly had brothers who could carry on the Capistrano family. Since her family was looking for the best possible terms, they were in no rush to marry her off. Her political marriage was not something that the family felt a pressing need to do. Since the issue of the family’s succession was already taken care of, her marriage was nothing more than a means of extending their power.
If it was something absolutely necessary, she might not have been able to make an excuse to get out of it even if it turned out to be a tragedy. However, not even consolation from that fact could be heard in Froleytia’s voice.
Even in the Legitimacy Kingdom that had influential royals and knights, that type of story was not often heard.
It seemed the Capistrano family was especially cold to women.
That may have been due to the family being almost entirely men.
Or perhaps it was because their lack of women led them to feel a need to construct a world where men had the advantage.
“But anyways…At some point, the rumors gained some strange embellishments. I have heard that the daughter of the Capistrano family will give a male heir even to the most impotent of men or that the daughter of my family is so good in bed that powerful nobles are desperately seeking her out. Besides those selfish people worried about an heir, some horrible dilettantes have also set their sights on me. Now even old men who have long since lost the ability to perform and horribly perverted men have joined in this auction to see who gains the right to have their way with me.”
Quenser had gone well past the point of being at a loss for words.
He had happily thought that nobles had their own worries and problems to deal with, but this problem was so much greater than anything he had imagined.
“That is why I prefer being out here on battlefields rather than in a safe country. If I leave the military, all that is waiting for me is the #1 candidate and a large bed. It would probably be some old man who I have never seen before in my life. …Remember that Halreed Copacabana man who piloted the Bright Hopper?”
“He was the #3 candidate or thereabouts. Depending on how the situation regarding money and conditions developed, he might have ended up in the #1 spot. There are around 10 official candidates, but he was probably on the kinder side of those. Some of the candidates only want me to give birth to a proper heir while some want to try some Russian roulette-like game where they give me multiple partners and see whose child I give birth to.”
That was more than enough to make Quenser grimace.
That example was simply too extreme to compare. Then again, an example that extreme may have been necessary to show how Halreed qualified as one of the “kinder” marriage candidates.
Quenser could not imagine just how twisted their view of a family was compared to his as a commoner.
“When his Object was more or less destroyed, I was actually relieved. Maybe there is something wrong with me. After all, losing one or two means nothing because there is a line of other candidates waiting behind them.”
The person before Quenser’s eyes was an 18 year old girl.
She had not come to the battlefield only recently like Quenser or Heivia. He had wondered before when she had first arrived on the battlefield.
Now he really wondered when she had.
How long had she been hiding on the battlefield in fear of the auction selling off her very own body.
It was not about love. It was not even about lust. How much had she suffered in that situation where she could be dragged off to a bed at any time in order to carry out her function as a means to assuredly produce a boy.
“Well, don’t get so uptight,” said Froleytia indifferently. “It isn’t like I have no way out of this. If it was that bad, I wouldn’t have brought it up so easily. Basically, I just have to keep fighting on the battlefield until I am some old woman who has lost her value as a woman. …Well, even then there might be some people seeking my body to leave an heir for their family. It may be that I will have the most freedom in my life if I both live and die on the battlefield.”
Quenser did not know what to say.
He could sense that this was not a situation where he could get by with cheap words.
Froleytia would probably smile and ignore it as the opinion of a child, but Quenser knew he could not let himself hurt her like that.
So instead of trying to console her, he muttered his honest thoughts under his breath.
“(…Y’know, Froleytia smells really nice.)”
“To say that after what I told you, you really are some kind of genius.” Froleytia’s eyebrows moved up slightly in surprise. “Wait, be quiet.”
Quenser pricked his ears up too.
He could hear it.
A low rumbling was coming from the distance. It sounded something like approaching thunder clouds. It was the sound of the type of Object propulsion devices that used static electricity to hover the giant 200,000 ton form off the ground. It seemed the enemy Object used the same type of propulsion as the princess.
The Mass Driver conglomerate Object was approaching.
“Where is it coming from?”
“I can’t tell. The sound seems to be echoing through the mountains…”
Quenser concentrated even further in an attempt to determine where the noise was coming from. If they misread which of the three routes the Object was taking, the Baby Magnum would be in danger. With the power it had, the enemy’s railgun could destroy the other Object even if it had to fire straight through a mountain.
The direction the noise was coming from was…
Heivia arrived at the Iguazu Dam.
The foliage was much thicker there than at the coast where they landed. It seemed more of the trees were natural than not. The solid plants with large leaves that were characteristic of tropical countries grew thickly around the area. Heivia had the feeling the area was crawling with giant rhinoceros beetles.
However, that noble heir had not come there to catch bugs.
He looked at the dam.
It was 40 meters tall, about 30-40 meters across, and slightly curved out from the reservoir lake. Supposedly, it could store over 800 million tons of water. That water that had been blocked from its natural flow would cause great damage to the natural world if it was let loose.
(Dammit. There are already off-road vehicles parked here!!)
Heivia carefully looked around the area as he ran while crouched down.
The Baby Magnum and the princess were not there. He had asked her to go help Quenser and Froleytia. He had had two reasons for that. First, the Object could easily destroy the dam on its own, so she would be dangerous help when it came to protecting the dam. Second, he had made a joke about Quenser getting along well with Froleytia and the princess had fallen into a very bad mood.
(…Oh, god. It doesn’t matter how many lives you have, fighting alongside an Object piloted by a distracted Elite is just too dangerous. It’s 100 times better to just do it on my own.)
Heivia held up his rifle and ran so as not to shake his upper body. When he arrived, he pressed up against the wall next to the door into the dam. Other than the dam itself, there was a facility that opened and closed the flood gates, a facility that checked on the water quality, a facility that held the hydroelectric turbines, and more. Heivia was approaching the flood gates facility.
The door was unlocked.
That actually made him uneasy, but he still slowly opened the door and cautiously entered. Just inside, he spotted two workers tied up. The fact that they had not been killed must have been a way of showing that killing was not their intention. However, the massive amount of water released when the dam was blown up would likely kill them anyway.
Heivia concisely told them that a group was trying to blow up the dam, that he had to stop it, and that they shouldn’t panic. He then cut their ropes with his military knife. He told them to evacuate to the mountainous region. Just to be extra safe, he told them to climb up higher than 100 meters.
(…This sure is selfish of us. I’m working with Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers to fight Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers.)
He very nearly spat out that comment, but instead headed for the stairs leading to the higher levels of the dam. On the way, he munched on a cookie the old coffee plantation couple had given him.
(Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers fighting each other is ridiculous, but I at least have to pay them back for these cookies.)
As he moved, he contacted Quenser via radio.
“Hey, Quenser. I sent the princess your way. I made sure she was in a wonderful mood, so could I ask you some things?”
“The Object might be able to detect our location from the radio signal, so keep it short.”
Heivia did not know much about explosives, so he wanted to get some advice from Quenser.
“In movies, blowing a small hole in a dam is enough to have the entire thing crumble from the water pressure. How do things work in reality? Is one of those clay-like bombs enough to destroy the dam?”
“It is true that the water pressure might destroy it once a hole is opened, but putting a crack in walls thick enough to hold all that water would take quite a blast. There’s an easier way.”
“Dams deteriorate and they will be scrapped if the repairs can’t keep up. They’re made to later be demolished. They create several bypasses, use several small dams to hold back the water, and blow away a few premade checkpoints in the empty dam to demolish it. A few dozen years ago, the issue of dam deterioration came to the forefront and they started being made like that,” explained Quenser.
“How many checkpoints are there and where are they?”
“It depends on the design of the dam. If you check the control room or find some documents…no, wait. If they kept that information where someone could easily find it, it could make a terrorist attack easier. It’s probably hidden deep down in the construction company’s offline database. And there won’t be any obvious signs.”
“You’re useless!! How am I supposed to protect an unknown number of points at unknown locations!?”
“Whether there are 20 or 30 of these checkpoints, I think all of them have to be destroyed to demolish the dam. For safety reasons and to help with repairs, the checkpoints will be in the places where any single one can support the dam. That way the dam won’t collapse if one is destroyed. In other words, you just have to find one bomb and cut the cord so it won’t detonate. Then you just need to defend that point to stop Bilany Saronno’s plan.”
“This bomb isn’t going to be some complex monstrosity like in the movies, is it?” Heivia clicked his tongue. “So I have to search at random. I can’t do a single thing if the bombs are detonated before I find one. I just wish I knew exactly how many there were.”
“How about you jam them?”
“You mean use a jamming signal? What for?”
“A massive amount of water will be released when the dam is blown up. I doubt Bilany and the others are opting for a noble death, so they’ll get far away and high up before blowing up the dam. In that case, they’ll be using a radio signal to detonate the bombs, right?”
“I see.” A powerful smile appeared on Heivia’s face. “In that case, I can buy time without knowing how many there are.”
The top portion of the dam making a gentle curve along the reservoir lake was like a giant castle wall. When Heivia grabbed the railing and leaned over, he spotted something like clay attached to the center of the thick wall.
It was a bomb.
Perhaps to regulate the destructive force, a number of bombs were set up in some kind of pattern. Something like a metal sheet was set up on one side of the bombs to focus the blast on the dam.
The area of the wall looked no different from the rest of the wall, but since the plastic explosives were set there, that had to be one of the checkpoints.
How had Bilany and the others known where the checkpoints were?
They must have had some kind of data on the dam. Or perhaps they had gotten someone who knew to talk.
(Shit, how did they get those there!? Did they tie a rope and jump down like in some action movie!?)
However, he could jam the detonation signal to the bomb, so it would not explode. That just left confronting Bilany’s unit…
“Wait a second,” muttered Heivia all of a sudden.
A thin bundle of cords extended from the bombs attached to the side of the dam. It was not just a meter or two long. The long cord hung down to the bottom of the dam and then continued on into the thick forest.
“Shit!! They’re doing a wired detonation!! Now I can’t jam it!!”
Heivia frantically held up his rifle, but then he stopped. There were two types of cords for wired detonations. One was a normal cable that sent an electric signal. The other was like an old-fashioned fuse. A fire was set that caused a small explosion in the plastic explosives fuse which detonated the explosive itself.
The cable type would be no problem, but the old-fashioned fuse type held a risk of catching fire if he severed the cable with his rifle.
But at the same time, the bomb could be detonated at any time with the cord connected. He did not have time to sit around thinking.
Suddenly, Quenser’s voice came in over the radio.
“Fire!! Don’t worry. That’s a cable for an electric fuse!!”
“How can you tell? It isn’t something you can tell just by looking!”
“The old-fashioned fuse type is used like a timer. It’s just like dynamite. The plan here relies on perfect timing between the flood caused by the dam and the Baby Magnum firing, right? They need to be able to blow up the dam at any time in order to get the perfect timing. Why would they use a fuse that can’t be changed once it’s lit!? This has to be a cable for an electric fuse!!”
Heivia brought his rifle back up, aimed it straight down, and pulled the trigger.
Multiple bullets flew and one of them severed the bundle of cables. The bombs did not explode. Quenser had been right.
Now that the cables had been severed, the detonation signal could not be sent to the bombs.
However, there was someone who was not pleased with that.
A female Legitimacy Kingdom soldier had come back up to the top of the dam to set bombs on another checkpoint.
(…Is that Saronno from the front lines scouting unit!?)
At that moment, Heivia and Bilany Saronno were at the entrances near opposite ends of the gently curving dam. The two leapt into the doors at almost the exact same moment and stuck only their rifle barrels back out.
Multiple streams of gunfire rang out.
(Dammit, she’s actually pretty good looking!! I don’t want pretty girls turning their guns on me! Why couldn’t she have been so hideous she was hard to look at!? Although while I’m at it, I might as well wish she was downgraded to a guy or even a Martian.)
Meanwhile, he could hear multiple voices coming from his radio. Since Bilany’s unit was from the Legitimacy Kingdom too, he was picking up their transmissions.
“Corporal Saronno, we’re headed your way. Do we need a rocket launcher?”
“We need to get the signal in to detonate the bomb. After taking out Private Heivia Winchell, we just need to reconnect that cable.”
“Circle around from the other side. Meet up with another group and head up the stairs. We’ll catch him in a pincer attack.”
“If necessary, we can treat Private Heivia Winchell as a traitor for getting in the way of our operation, so do not hesitate to shoot him. Continuing the operation takes top priority.”
“Dammit!! Why does everything have to be such a pain in the ass!!” shouted Heivia.
Heivia leaned just a bit out from the door and aimed at a soldier at the bottom of the dam who was aiming a rocket launcher at him. The rifle bullets struck the ground near the soldier. He had not shot him in the head or chest, but that may have been due to the fact that he was a fellow Legitimacy Kingdom soldier was affecting him more than he thought. The soldier’s aim was thrown off in shock and the rocket flew off harmlessly.
When Bilany and the others saw that, they increased the intensity of their firing. Heivia frantically hid behind the building, but then he heard footsteps coming from below the stairs.
(We’ve all received the same training, so is this a case where the winner is decided by numbers!?)
Meanwhile, the female soldier who was likely Bilany called out.
“Private Heivia Winchell!! Lay down your weapon and surrender!! It is not right for fellow Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers to be fighting each other!!”
“(Liar!! She was clearly fully intending to kill me!! Does she not know I can hear their transmissions!? Dammit, she’s both clumsy and a tsundere. This is making it harder and harder to kill her!!)”
“What will you do!? If you do not respond, I will take that silence as your answer!!”
A temporary calm from the gunfire accompanied Bilany’s voice. She may have been giving him his last chance to announce his intentions. Heivia had a feeling he might end up full of bullet holes depending on his answer.
Whatever the case, he was cornered.
If he was attacked from more than one direction simultaneously, he would have no way of dealing with it. If more than one explosive weapon like a rocket launcher or grenade were used against him, he could do nothing about it.
Heivia gave the issue serious thought.
(I only have one chance at victory.)
“Corporal Bilany Saronno!!” He shouted back. “The Baby Magnum has already gone to help the battlefield student named Quenser who is studying with the 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion! She has not gone to the remains of that abandoned alpine vegetation mass production plant as you suggested!! If you blow up the dam now, it will accomplish nothing!!”
“Is that your final answer!? If you do not prove you no longer intend to fight, we will be forced to shoot you!!”
“That’s not what I mean!!” Heivia shouted forcefully. “Your plan is to destroy the Mass Driver conglomerate Object with one of the Baby Magnum’s main cannons, right!? Then what about this? If Quenser and the others destroy the Object before you blow up the dam, you will no longer have a justifiable reason to cause that flood!!”
“That’s…!?” Bilany trailed off, but she gathered her thoughts soon thereafter. “How are we supposed to trust you!? That monstrous weapon destroyed the cutting edge Bright Hopper in a single blast from 500 kilometers away!! Are you saying a mere student will take out something like that!?”
“…Yeah. I am!!” Heivia replied without hesitation.
He abandoned the option of giving up peaceably and pulled the trigger to a deadly battle once more.
“So I need to buy him enough time to do it!! I’m gonna be firing like crazy, so don’t mess up and get yourselves killed!!”
Quenser and Froleytia hid behind the short trees on the mountain slope.
They could hear multiple sounds.
They could hear the sound of the leaves of the trees rustling and they could hear the sound of large, richly colored birds flying through the sky.
However, those sounds seemed to be forced away by another sound.
That was the sound of an Object travelling in the distance.
Quenser and Froleytia strained their ears to pick up exactly where the low, echoing noise was coming from.
“Is it coming from the right route?”
“Sounds like it.”
The echoing made the noise sound like it was coming from every direction, so it was difficult to pick up on the precise direction. However, when they listened closely, similar noises were slowly building up in order. The direction they heard it from first had to be the direction the Mass Driver conglomerate Object was coming from.
They had only one chance.
If they chose the wrong route and failed in their surprise attack, no one could stop the advance of the Break Carrier.
Baby Magnum and the rest of Quenser’s unit would be slaughtered, Bilany and her unit would blow up the dam, and countless civilians would be sacrificed downstream.
Froleytia grabbed her radio.
“It seems the princess is headed our way. She wants to know which of the three routes to lie in wait along. I’m going to tell her the route to our right, is that okay?”
Hearing that, Quenser stood up in a sudden realization.
He called up the offline map on his handheld device.
“Something isn’t right. We’re surrounded by Object noises. This isn’t just an echo.”
“…It’s Baby Magnum,” muttered Quenser in a daze. He looked back toward Froleytia. “Both the Baby Magnum and the Mass Driver conglomerate Object use static electricity to hover off the ground! Baby Magnum is approaching to prepare for its attack, so the sound of both Objects approaching is mixing together!! The noise we’ve been hearing was not just the Mass Driver conglomerate Object. We were hearing a mixture of both Objects, so we can’t accurately determine the direction from this!!”
In a normal room, a human would be able to distinguish between two noises coming from two different sources.
However, if the noises were almost identical and then echoed again and again and again, no one would be able to tell the accurate source of the noises. They had no hint.
Sounding impatient, Froleytia said, “We have no time! If we let it get too close, we won’t have time to hide and prepare for the surprise attack. If it spots the Baby Magnum, the Mass Driver conglomerate Object can just fire that high power railgun straight through the mountain!!”
“But we can’t do anything if we can’t tell which way it’s coming from.”
Quenser thought for a second and then raised his head once more.
There were three possible routes and there were two of them.
“Let’s split up,” suggested Quenser immediately. “We’ll both wait at separate routes. If the Mass Driver conglomerate Object passes by one of us, we’re set. If it doesn’t pass by either of us, we know it’s taking the third route. We’ll be sure to know which route it’s on that way.”
As he spoke, Quenser manipulated the offline map. The mountain slope they were currently on was along the center route. A geothermal power plant had been scheduled to be built on that mountain, so a few tunnels had already been dug. A tunnel just a bit up the slope led straight through to the other side of the mountain which was the left route.
After a short silence, Quenser said, “Froleytia, you head through the tunnel. Equipment for construction of the power plant should be there. According to the data I have, one of those is an electronic slide lift, so it should only take a few minutes to reach the other side of the mountain.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll stay here.”
That was partially due to his sprained ankle. However, he secretly also wanted to send her to the left route because it was the least likely route for the Object to take.
However, Froleytia shook her head.
“No, I can’t approve that. With that ankle, what are you supposed to do if the Object passes by? Even if it doesn’t notice you, the shock of it passing by could cause a landslide. You could be killed needlessly just because you can’t move. I can’t allow that.”
“Ha ha. I had a feeling you’d say that,” Quenser laughed weakly.
Even standing was painful, so he sat back down on the mountain slope.
He rubbed at his swollen ankle and asked Froleytia, “Sorry, but I’m about at my limit here. It might help with the pain if I set it so the joint can’t move. Could you grab that thick branch over there?”
Froleytia turned in the direction he pointed in, but she could not see a branch.
With a puzzled look, Froleytia turned back toward Quenser.
“Hey, Quenser. Where is this branch you-…?”
Froleytia trailed off.
Quenser was nowhere to be seen.
She could only hear a slight crunching noise a bit away. Then she realized what had happened. Quenser had rolled down the slope to get away from her. By heading for the center route himself, he was forcing her to head to the left route.
He would be easier to spot on the flat path at the base of the mountain as opposed to hidden in the forest on the slope.
And that was likely exactly where the Object would pass through.
Quenser had put himself in unnecessary danger to force her hand.
Froleytia gritted her teeth, but it was too late. Even if she headed down after Quenser, it would be difficult to drag him back up. The Mass Driver conglomerate Object would pass by while she was trying.
She had no choice.
She headed for the tunnel about 10 meters up from her current location. She could teach that insubordinate youth a lesson afterwards.
He slid down a few dozen meters.
The fact that the slope was primarily made up of soft black soil, the fact that the slope was not too steep, and the fact that his military uniform was relatively durable all worked in his favor.
Quenser managed to survive.
However, he was not unhurt.
He was collapsed at the base of the mountain. Even with the previously mentioned factors in his favor, pain ran through his entire body. His uniform was designed to have a certain level of durability, but it now had scratches and tears all over it. The mountain slope had not been smooth, so painful scratches from dirt and rocks covered his body.
He tried to stand up, but pain ran through his leg. This was not the leg he had sprained. Now he could use neither of his legs. He could no longer move from where he was.
(That doesn’t matter. I’m lucky enough to have survived. Even if I could run, it wouldn’t be enough to escape an Object. As long as I can get the location of the Mass Driver conglomerate Object to the princess, it doesn’t matter. I just have to focus on that.)
He tried crawling along with just his arms, but it was no use. Luckily, there was a thicket nearby, and the angle was such that he might be hidden by it.
Had Froleytia made it through the tunnel and to where she could check on the left route?
Where was the princess’s Baby Magnum?
Was Heivia still fighting at the dam?
Many questions floated up in his hazy mind, but then he heard the sound of the Object even louder than before. It was the approaching thunder cloud-like sound of massive amounts of static electricity being produced to make the Object hover.
It took him a few seconds to realize why the sound was so much clearer than before. The answer was simple. He was hearing the sound directly rather than with a mountain in between, so it sounded much louder and more distinct.
(It’s taking the middle route!! This is the one!!)
As Quenser had that thought, a group of large birds took flight from the nearby mountains. Afterwards, a mountain-like form filled his vision.
It was the Mass Driver conglomerate Object.
From what he could see, there was nothing stealth-like about its design.
The reason the Legitimacy Kingdom’s Second Generation Bright Hopper had not seen it until the Bright Hopper was destroyed was likely due to the mountainous region. The 900 meter mountains had hidden the Object’s giant form and the iron ore in the mountains had lowered the accuracy of the radar. And they had used a meteorological weapon on top of that. It was possible they had produced something like a manmade fog to cover the area between mountain peaks like a lid in order to hide the Object from satellites. The Mass Driver conglomerate was experienced with anything related to space development, so they likely had the knowledge and technology needed to enact numerous countermeasures.
Quenser looked up and gulped as the giant weapon drew near.
The Break Carrier.
Its spherical body was supported by three leg-like parts. The ends of those had ski-shaped planks attached to slide smoothly over the ground.
The most noticeable feature was probably the giant cannon attached to the right side of the Object. Near the end of the 100+ meter main cannon, it was supported by two leg-like parts similar to a sniper rifle’s bipod. It was probably so large that it would bend under its own weight if not supported.
At the back of the main cannon was a rotating part similar to a revolver. However, giant magazines stuck out from five evenly spaced points to the sides of the cylinders.
The shells must have been stored there.
A normal magazine would have been too large, so the design was made more complex in order to split the magazine up.
From the size of the barrel and magazines, it likely held around 25 shots.
Elsewhere, the Object had giant missile launchers attached. Missiles were exceedingly rare as Object armaments, but these were likely for the chaff missiles used to reflect the targeting signal. And their number matched the estimated number of shells.
However, this meant the Object had the ability to assuredly destroy 25 Objects from a distance of over 500 kilometers. If the liquid nitrogen cooling system was used at full ability and the top altitude reached in the parabolic arc was altered, it might even be able to reach 1000-3000 kilometers away. Also, if it had the ability to replenish its supply of shells mid-battle, it could continue fighting even longer. This meant the Mass Driver conglomerate had a legitimate ability to announce their ownership of a certain area.
Quenser audibly gulped once more as he stared up at the giant form.
He then realized the enemy’s threat was not just in the form of long distance bombardments.
(The barrel can extend and retract like a police baton? They can strengthen or weaken the voltage to freely change its power. Is that so if an enemy Object does get near it, the length of the cannon can be reduced to lower the inertial force and allow it to fight at high speed!?)
The Charlemagne had said the Break Carrier’s shells broke apart shortly after being fired in order to focus the kinetic energy on the smaller core and increase its speed.
However, it was possible they could use that in a different way for close- or mid-range battles.
They could keep the shell from breaking apart so the entire mass struck the enemy Object. The outer armor would be crushed and the sharp inner core would shoot out and pierce the target’s armor. Normally when the barrel was shortened there would be less space for the electricity to affect it, but the shells could switch modes as well to maintain the main cannon’s great power.
At long distances the dive bombing shell was used and at closer ranges it was fired directly.
By having multiple ways of firing built into a single cannon, the Object could use its power to its fullest from various ranges.
However, making the system so complex may have caused the malfunctions. A few of the shells fired at Quenser and the others had exploded in midair before reaching their targets.
(Where is the princess…?)
Thinking that, Quenser grabbed his radio. The Mass Driver conglomerate Object was definitely taking the middle route. If he passed that information on, the surprise attack had a much higher chance of succeeding.
But then Quenser frowned.
The radio would not turn on. No matter how many times he pressed the button, it did nothing.
It had broken as he fell down the slope.
He had the information, but he had no way to pass it on. Meanwhile, the Object continued on to pass right by Quenser. Their surprise attack would fail at this rate. Baby Magnum and the rest of the unit would all be slaughtered.
(Dammit, isn’t there anything I can do!?)
As he cursed in his heart, Quenser pulled out the PDW he had hidden in his uniform. It was a gun about 20-30 cm long that was a bit like a shortened version of a submachine gun. Its 9mm bullets were plenty to kill a soldier, but were of course not enough to pierce an Object’s armor.
Something fell out of his pocket as he pulled out the gun.
It was a clear plastic bag filled with homemade cookies. He had gotten it from that coffee plantation.
Quenser tossed one into his mouth and removed the PDW’s safety.
(…I know I can’t defeat an Object with this.)
He aimed the gun at the Object’s spherical body.
Still collapsed on the ground, Quenser put his finger on the trigger.
(Please don’t let them figure out what I’m doing. It’s all over if they do.)
There was only one thing he could do: pull the trigger and shoot the Object.
The dry gunshot spread throughout the mountainous region.
The Mass Driver conglomerate Object seemed to notice something had struck its armor. However, it did not seem worried. Of course it did not. A mere 9mm bullet could not destroy the lens of the targeting cameras linked to the Object’s cannons, much less damage the armor.
Even so, the Object stopped moving.
The action felt similar to someone stopping out of annoyance because a small bug was flying around their head.
Quenser pulled the trigger again.
He let loose a small burst of 2 or 3 bullets. Sparks flew from the armor, but no real damage was done.
The Object’s cannon moved.
It had located him from the sound of the gunshots.
Rather than the giant metal bridge-like main cannon, this was one of the smaller ones. Quenser recognized it. It was the same as the spare cannons used for the anti-tank position in Antarctica. This was likely their intended use. Even if it was the smallest cannon on the Object, it was still quite a large railgun. A shot from it could bend an Aegis ship in half, so there was no need to say what it could do to Quenser.
Quenser fired some more, but then suddenly stopped. He wondered what the Object thought about that. Did the pilot Elite think he had run out of ammunition or that he had realized it was doing no good?
Neither was correct.
The Object may have even realized the truth.
The railgun aiming at Quenser did not move any further. It was possible the computer aboard the Object or the Elite’s brain was analyzing the gunfire.
If they were doing that, they might realize that there was regularity to Quenser’s gunfire. If they realized it mapped to a certain information transfer code made up of simple 1s and 0, they would find the following message.
Middle route, point 391.
Low-stability plasma cannon.
The Mass Driver conglomerate Object had over 100 weapons both large and small, and each of those had targeting cameras attached. The sound of the lenses focusing came from all of them at once. The other sensors were likely activating as well.
At that moment, the princess and the Baby Magnum were waiting along what Quenser and Froleytia had designated the right path. This was simply because it was the only place the giant Object could hide.
The Baby Magnum was hidden in the valley between two mountains. The valley was a few dozen meters deep and the arms of the main cannons were the only things sticking out.
While waiting there, she heard gunshots with a certain regularity to them.
The princess immediately realized what it meant, but she did not have time to move to the other route. The Mass Driver conglomerate Object would suspect a surprise attack and therefore have its sensors and radar searching for an enemy in all 360 degrees around it. It was only a matter of time before it found her. If it did, it could fire its high power railgun while ignoring the mountain between them.
The princess had no reason to wait.
She called up all information on the surrounding terrain and searched for the layout of all the tunnels through the mountains.
The mountains had complex networks of tunnels through them for transportation, construction, and other uses.
However, the vast amount of information in the military database also meant it would take some time for the data she wanted to be displayed. Even a lag of a few seconds could change the outcome of the battle with the Break Carrier.
However, the princess took no time at all.
This was not simply because of her excellent information processing ability as an Elite.
It was primarily due to Quenser having searched for the maps of the area in the military database and bookmarking them such that the entire battalion could immediately access them. The princess had no way of knowing it, but it was after doing that that he had slid down the mountain slope.
Skipping past the usual searching time, she immediately called up the data she needed.
(Time to finish this.)
In other words…
There was a straight tunnel leading from where she was, through the mountain, and to the coordinates Quenser had given.
(I will not let you chase after Quenser and the others any further.)
She had no reason to hesitate.
One of the main cannon arms turned in the correct direction and the princess accurately fired the low-stability plasma cannon into the tunnel.
The flash of light was visible even from the distant Iguazu Dam.
Heivia was utterly cornered, but he narrowed his eyes at the bright flash and shouted into his radio.
“You saw that, didn’t you, Corporal Bilany Saronno!?”
“That was a giant firework blessing our victory!! Contact the Baby Magnum if you want! Actually, an explosion that big probably blew away the chaff missile clouds!! If you don’t trust the word of our princess, you can ask the satellite observation operators!! They’ll probably tell you only horrible wreckage remains!!”
The gunfire stopped.
The front lines scouting unit intended to blow up the dam to cause a giant flood of water downstream and stop the Mass Driver conglomerate Object. The Baby Magnum would take that opportunity to shoot the enemy with one of its main cannons.
Bilany and the others really only wanted to get revenge for the destroyed Bright Hopper, so any justification would have worked for them. However, this would stop them.
After all, the Object they wanted to take their revenge out on no longer existed.
“This is Baby Magnum. The enemy Object has been destroyed. The battle is over. I repeat, the Object has been destroyed.”
The transmission from the princess reached all of the Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers in the Iguazu district.
As Bilany stood there in a daze, Heivia shouted at her.
“Did you hear that!? The dangerous Object was destroyed!! This dam was never ours!! I’d like to get out of here before its owner gets back, but what are you going to do!? If you want to drown yourself in alcohol, I’ll keep you company. Would you rather compete with strong drinks or lead bullets!?”
It was not simply an explosion.
The trees in the area were torn down and Quenser’s body flew through the air. The Mass Driver conglomerate Object’s armor plates were torn off and flew in every direction with amazing speed. The fragments rained down over the mountain like a fragmentation grenade.
The low-stability plasma cannon had mercilessly pierced straight through the center of the Object.
The reactor had exploded from within and the 200,000 ton mass of steel had been blown to pieces along with a tremendous shockwave. However, that was the last thing Quenser saw. A tremendous flash of white light swelled up and temporarily robbed Quenser of his vision. He could hear a low rumbling noise, feel something powdery falling on his face, and just barely tell that dust and dirt was billowing into the air as landslides occurred in various places.
He had somehow survived.
Both his legs hurt and he could not stand up, but the only thing in his mind was surprise at his own survival.
Suddenly, someone grabbed his back collar and pulled. He was dragged upwards. As his vision slowly returned, he realized Froleytia stood before him. It seemed she had been the one to grab him.
Her face was covered in anger.
Quenser was shocked and she spoke in a low voice.
“The next time you give so little regard to your own life, I will kill you. Understand?”
“Y-yes, ma’am!!” Quenser replied and Froleytia removed her hand from his collar.
Quenser fell back to the ground and she looked up into the sky.
“Then let’s head back. The assault landing aircraft carrier has sent a helicopter to come pick us up. It seems everyone wants to speak with the person most responsible for this victory.”
The Baby Magnum had received heavy damage.
Three of the arms that moved the main cannons had been destroyed as well as much of the armor. It was not clear if the base zone would be enough to repair it all. It was possible it would have to be sent to a military manufacturing plant for repairs.
The propulsion device had also received damage, so the maintenance soldiers had attached the sea floats and were slowly taking it to the sea.
Meanwhile, the princess received a transmission. It was from Heivia.
“Honestly, we took quite a beating again today. What happened to the peaceful battlefield we were supposed to have?”
“…If it was peaceful, it would not be war,” she replied.
“Oh, is that how the Object-piloting Elite has viewed it each time?”
(What is he trying to say?)
The princess looked puzzled.
Heivia then said, “We did manage to destroy the Mass Driver conglomerate Object, so things here are resolved. But do you see anything about this that doesn’t quite make sense?”
The princess thought for just a second.
A question had resided in the back of her mind from the moment the Bright Hopper had been destroyed, and it had yet to be resolved.
“The Mass Driver conglomerate Object headed toward our base zone from a position 50 kilometers north of us. In that case, where was the Object that powered the spare cannons that bombarded us during the landing?” asked Heivia.
That was the question.
They had not found the Object that had powered the spares with its reactor. Only the thick power cables had remained on the coast.
Of course, an Object could travel at hundreds of kilometers per hour, so it was possible the one Object had gone 50 kilometers north after supporting the attack on the coast and then headed back south.
(That would serve no purpose…)
With a main cannon that could destroy the Bright Hopper in a single shot from a distance of 500 kilometers, there was no reason to do that. It would have been more effective to wait on the coast and target the Baby Magnum with its main cannon when Baby Magnum approached over the ocean.
Most likely, the spares deployed on the coast had been a test of the Baby Magnum’s specs to see if it could be destroyed by the main cannon at a distance. If that was the reason, it was even more suspicious. There was no point in bringing that Object in close for a test against an enemy they did not know if they could defeat or not.
“So the Object supplying power to the spare railguns on the coast was a different one?” asked the princess.
“Perhaps. Your Object is well equipped when it comes to radars, so I was wondering if you had seen anything odd.”
The Mass Driver conglomerate.
It was possible they had another Object.
No one had been able to see this mysterious Object and it did not appear on radar or any other sensors.
He had been lectured half to death.
A medic girl had suggested he be given a wheelchair since both his legs were injured, but Froleytia rejected the idea and headed straight into her raging lecture. He had been assaulted by her words for an entire hour within an officer room prepared aboard the assault landing aircraft carrier. At that point, Quenser started to wonder just how long it was going to continue, but then the lecture was suddenly cut short.
Froleytia’s computer had received a video chat.
Quenser had no real intention of listening in, but an entire wall of the room acted as a screen for the computer, so he could see whether he wanted to or not.
The call was from a man wrapped in bandages and gauze.
His most prominent feature was his curly blond hair.
(Is he an injured soldier from our unit?)
Quenser quickly learned he was wrong.
“Major Froleytia Capistrano. I somehow managed to survive, so I thought I should inform you of that.”
“Major Halreed Copacabana. It seems both of us are quite tenacious.”
Quenser finally figured out who it was when he heard the name. He was the pilot Elite of the Bright Hopper and the #3 candidate for the assured heir from the Capistrano family.
Naturally, the situation was quite awkward for an outsider like Quenser.
This was not the same as hearing a conversation between lovers. Now that he knew that the noble men around Froleytia were only interested in her ability to assuredly give birth to a male heir for them, his feelings were darker and more unpleasant.
Froleytia had confessed to him that she had been relieved when the Bright Hopper had been destroyed.
Currently, she leaned back in her large officer’s chair and breathed a small sigh.
“Is that all?” asked Froleytia.
“No, I have something else to report as well.” Froleytia showed no emotion while Halreed seemed to be enjoying himself. “You know that I am the #3 candidate, correct?”
“Well, yes. I don’t really remember who the #1 and #2 are though.”
“You may not need to. As of today, I have been raised to the #1 spot.”
Even Froleytia looked shocked at that.
“It’s thanks to the Mass Driver conglomerate. The Capistrano family has recognized my valor for continuing to fight for the sake of peace while faced with a dangerous Object-destroying enemy. They seem to have determined I am more useful than the #1 and #2 who are sitting around growing fat in a safe country.”
“But…the Mass Driver conglomerate was…”
Froleytia glanced over toward Quenser. She may have wanted to say that, even if he had been violating orders, the credit for the victory should have gone to Quenser as well as the princess who had scored the finishing blow with the Baby Magnum.
However, Halreed did not seem to mind.
“Regardless of the specifics, I still took part in that battle. I guess I’m just trying to say that it was useful in garnering me a few points.”
“I see…” Froleytia’s voice held even less emotion than before. Perhaps because she had learned even better what kind of man she was speaking to. “But whatever position your candidacy is in, I regret to inform you that I cannot go along with a marriage. I have my role as a Legitimacy Kingdom soldier to carry out. Rather than waiting for some unknown point in the future, you should probably search out someone better to propose to.”
“No matter how good a woman I found, it would all be meaningless if she does not come with a guaranteed heir. Any noble would know that.” Halreed did not hesitate to speak despite speaking to the very person in question. “Also, it seems you were caught up in the front lines battle with the Mass Driver conglomerate. We can’t have that. …You are to immediately return to the safe country and undergo a detailed examination. If your schedule does not allow for this, you can temporarily resign from your duties as a soldier.”
This time, Froleytia’s shoulders clearly jumped.
If she resigned from her duties as a soldier even temporarily, she would lose her justification for not marrying. She would lose any way of avoiding an unwilling marriage.
Before she could refuse, Halreed continued speaking.
“By the way, this suggestion was decided on by your Capistrano family. I can’t blame them for wanting to make sure no scars remain on your body. I may not be the one to join with you as another candidate may rise up first. But whatever happens, the preservation of that beautiful body of yours is essential for maintaining your value.”
He spoke as if he was worried about a scratch on a piece of art.
It was clearly not how one would speak of a human.
Quenser gave the issue serious thought.
He was indebted to Froleytia for what had happened. If she had not carried him in the off-road vehicle after he had sprained his ankle, the surprise attack on the Mass Driver conglomerate Object may not have succeeded. That meant Quenser no, every soldier in the battalion…no, given the possible destruction of the dam, every single person living in the Iguazu district was indebted to Froleytia.
That meant he had to save her now that she was cornered.
It was a delicate issue between nobles, so it would not be easily solved. However, Quenser already had an idea where to start. Halreed and the other candidates were not after Froleytia herself; they were after a male heir of legitimate lineage. Halreed had said a lot himself, but since he had admitted the issue lay with obtaining a male heir, that was a necessary requirement for him. If he just wanted to have sex and make a child, he could just hire a prostitute. The reason Froleytia was so important was because she both had an almost 100% chance of giving birth to a boy and (as ridiculous as it sounded to a commoner like Quenser) she had the pure blood of a noble. They had an odd insistence in only marrying other nobles. It seemed the king of a Western European island nation had once split apart from a world religion in order to leave the queen and marry his maid, but such things were rare. They could choose whoever they wanted for mistresses, but their wife who would give birth to their legitimate heir could not be chosen so simply. Several requirements had to be met in order to convince those around you.
Quenser circled around behind Froleytia, reached his arms below her arms, and mercilessly grabbed onto her giant breasts.
Froleytia was so shocked her mouth flapped open and closed wordlessly. However, Quenser looked at the small camera atop the computer and twisted the corners of his lips up as he continued to mechanically massage her breasts.
“Sorry, Major Copacabana. To be completely honest, Froleytia is in a relationship with me, a commoner battlefield student by the name of Quenser Barbotage. Ha ha ha. While she was kindly and carefully looking after me as a commander, we just grew closer and closer. If you’re the #1 candidate, then sorry about that.”
“Y-you idiot!! Th-that’s not true. There’s something wrong with hi-…ngh!? D-don’t pinch there, Quenser!!”
Froleytia must have been rather panicked because she did not sound convincing despite telling the truth.
Halreed looked on in shock for a bit, but he finally started trembling. The trembling grew in intensity as time went on.
“…Y-you said you were a commoner. So…that means…Froleytia Capistrano, the daughter of a noble family, is committing adultery with a commoner…?”
“Adultery? Wow, now that’s a word you never hear anymore,” said Quenser who was a bit impressed. “Y’see, I knew it was wrong, but once Froleytia pushed me down and straddled me, I couldn’t help myself.”
“Bfh!? Wh-why am I taking such an aggressive role in your fantas…Nn!?”
“You’re free to ask whatever questions you like.” Quenser squeezed Froleytia’s giant breasts to silence her denial and put on the most evil smile he could muster. “But if she was that important to you, you should’ve given her a chastity belt with your name on it. As things are, there was nothing stopping us.”
What Halreed and the other candidates wanted was not Froleytia herself. They wanted the male heir of legitimate lineage she would give birth to. To be “legitimate” required more than simply being born of a noble.
In other words…
A laugh came from the monitor.
It was a thick laugh filled with something completely different from joy.
“Heh heh heh. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!! I see, I see. So that’s it!!” Halreed said as if it had exploded out of him.
His confused mind had switched over to the gear of anger and restarted.
“Shit!! I thought something wasn’t right. So the reason you never returned from the battlefield was because you were too busy enjoying the guys there. Even if you can assuredly produce a male heir, the Copacabana family cannot have an heir produced by vulgar woman that opens her legs for anyone who comes along!! …How could this happen? Now I have to start over from square one. I am going to make sure the Capistrano family hears of this!!”
With a click, the video chat suddenly ended.
All that remained was Quenser massaging a pair of breasts and Froleytia having her breasts massaged with a pale look on her face.
(Good, good. If the story spreads, she won’t be treated like a source for a legitimate heir.)
Froleytia remained silent, but expressed her thoughts with her fist rather than words.
A great sound of impact exploded from Quenser’s cheekbone.
He fell to the floor such that his legs were bent back and to the sides. It was a very girly way of collapsing. Froleytia looked down at her young subordinate with a deathly cold expression.
“What am I to do? According to military regulations, I have the authority to have you shot. Now, where did I leave those bullets that fragment within the body? Those lovely bullets have a way of excessively opening the wound.”
“Oh, shit!! You aren’t just hiding your embarrassment! You’re serious!!”
“…Do you have something to say, Quenser? If so, this is your chance.”
“They were so big!! I couldn’t fit them in my hands!!”
“You have guts, I’ll give you that!! But I don’t want to hear any complaints when I stomp on you!!!!!”
Froleytia had completely snapped, so she stepped down on Quenser’s face. Meanwhile, Quenser began speaking in his defense.
“B-but!! You were cornered and didn’t know what to do, right!? I didn’t see any other way of resolving that peacefully!!”
“Do you not realize that what you did was more or less the same just on a smaller scale, Quenser!?”
“Yeah, but my plan was to soften the blow a bit. Y’know, make things softer.”
He tried to respond honestly, but more weight pressed down on the heel on his face.
“In other words, it was the exact same thing!! And what do you mean soft!? You were squeezing pretty hard! And for what!? Halreed may have given up, but are you going to squeeze me from behind every time a candidate shows up!?”
“I-I…!! W-wait, grab those tits each time? That might be a good idea…”
“No, it isn’t!!” As her boot dug into Quenser’s face, Froleytia brought her hand up to her chin. “And if he really accepted that story, it means I coerced you using my position of authority… Wait, wait, wait! That means I’ll be treated like an actual slut. What do I do? What I do?”
“Um, that’s too much weight. Froleytia, that’s too much weight. Your weight. That’s way too much. You’re crushing me. You’re crushing me. You’re boot is really digging in. I don’t mind if you tread on me, but at least put some love into it!!”
After he let out that SOS of a shout, Froleytia finally removed her boot from Quenser’s face.
As Froleytia breathed heavily, she brought her hands to her hips.
“Were you really that bothered by what I told in you on that Iguazu mountain?”
“Well, yeah. How else was I supposed to feel after hearing something that heavy? I think anyone would want to do something to help after hearing that.”
Froleytia averted her gaze from Quenser.
She then muttered something under her breath.
“(…Wanting to do something to help, hm? That’s something I haven’t heard in a long time.)”
Quenser looked puzzled, but Froleytia did not repeat herself.