HEAVY OBJECT:Volume2 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: In a Cavalry Battle, Destroy Your Opponent’s Footing >> Total War in Amazon City
Seven or eight assault landing aircraft carriers were travelling north through the Atlantic Ocean centered on the flagship Charlemagne. They were headed for the Amazon district of South America which was Legitimacy Kingdom territory. Their destination was the sea near Port Braganca just below the equator.
A young male maintenance soldier slowly walked across the flat deck while occasionally leaning over. He was checking the takeoff catapult to ensure it had not warped due to heat. It had of course been designed to take into account a certain level of expansion and contraction just like rails for a train, but it was crucial to be extra sure. If that catapult lost functionality, the assault landing aircraft carrier would lose its value.
The maintenance soldier removed his helmet and looked up at the sun in annoyance.
“Shit, I can’t believe it’s so hot when we’re past Halloween. If we were given permission to enter port, we would have a plastic roof blocking the sun. This is a Legitimacy Kingdom port. They should let any Legitimacy Kingdom citizens in whether we’re civilians or military.”
As the maintenance soldier muttered, he heard the sound of the elevator. However, this was not the elevator of a high class department store where a young woman pressed the button for you. It was bringing up a small delta wing fighter. He could see the pilot waving from within the cockpit.
The fighter carried only one person.
That was likely due to the research for Object cockpit layouts being used. In that age, fighters were obsolete. With wars fought by Objects, military development was centered around them. All weapons tended to be designed such that they could also be used for Objects.
The maintenance soldier heard the pilot’s voice come over his headset.
“Quit complaining. Although I’ll admit I would rather not think about the fact that the port has enough vending machines and stores for us all to have as many cold drinks and ice cream as we could want.”
“As usual, you’re covered in more jamming devices than missiles. Do you really need to be that worried? The enemy Object was destroyed.”
“It’s a habit. …And I didn’t join the military to take part in dogfights. Do you think you could spare me the life saver and training wheels?”
“You’re not the only one. These days, the entire air force is like that.”
The maintenance soldier checked the catapult with measurement tools.
“With Objects implementing anti-air lasers, gaining air supremacy has lost its popularity.”
"There is a plane paradise in Scandinavia where Objects are internationally banned from entry.”
“There’s no point in that though. It’s like being an animal in a cage at the zoo,” replied the maintenance soldier, sounding bored. “The modern job of the air force is to transport personnel and equipment, to perform low altitude reconnaissance when chaff missiles have made the satellites unusable, and for aerial acrobatics at ceremonies. Which is your specialty?”
“The acrobatics. When I was going through aviation school, I did hope to get into dogfights or perform precise bombings though.”
“So you’ve been away from the battlefield for a while, hm?” The maintenance soldier took his eyes away from the measurement equipment and gave the success sign from the check sheet. “How does it feel nowadays?”
“I want to get a chance to actually do something, but I also don’t want to be stuck in a situation where I have to do something.”
Someone else was listening in on that radio conversation from elsewhere.
It was the Charlemagne’s captain sitting on the ship’s bridge. He cut off the frequency his subordinates used to chat and focused on the frequency used for official transmissions.
On the other end was Froleytia, the commander of the 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion that the Baby Magnum belonged to. She had headed inland to the Amazon district ahead of time.
Also on the channel was the commander of the Legitimacy Kingdom military base that protected the Amazon district.
“After losing their Object, the remnants of the Mass Driver conglomerate have moved north from the blank region and across national boundaries. Reports say they have entered the Amazon district which is our territory. Is that correct?” asked the captain to make sure.
The local commander replied, “We have not engaged in direct combat and have instead focused on evacuating the civilians from the general area. As a result, we allowed them to enter, but…”
That was when Froleytia cut in.
“Where is the Legitimacy Kingdom Object that protects the Amazon district? Our Baby Magnum was heavily damaged, so we would like to request a joint operation if possible.”
“Our Object, the Forest Roller, is undergoing scheduled maintenance. As for other units, one Object is undergoing emergency maintenance after taking heavy damage in a different operation and another is currently engaging a Faith Organization Object. We do not have any military force to spare for this problem. …Our Object was scheduled to be protected by the Bright Hopper while this maintenance took place, but it was destroyed in the previous battle. And ever since, its Elite, Major Halreed Copacabana, has insisted he return to the home country and refuses to listen to anyone saying otherwise.”
“Tch. Now that he’s been forced to wait, that dog is of no use.”
The captain frowned slightly at Froleytia’s strange comment. The local commander was likely making a similar expression. Froleytia ignored this and continued speaking.
“Understood. As originally planned, our Baby Magnum will deal with the remnants. However, we are not in prime condition either. The armor plates have been replaced, but the rest is not so easy. Three of the seven main cannons are unusable and the propulsion device was damaged, so it cannot carry out high speed battle.”
“Didn’t you gain supplies from the Amazon district base? They are both Legitimacy Kingdom Objects, so don’t they have the same standards?”
“N-no.” replied the local commander. “While the armor plates are interchangeable, the main cannons and propulsion device are almost entirely custom made. The equipment at our base is specialized for our Forest Roller. It is unlikely we can meet the needs of the Baby Magnum.”
“I know. That just means we have to do this as is,” said Froleytia.
She was unable to entirely hide her disappointment.
Her next statement seemed to be intended to sweep away that disappointment.
“Do you understand our situation now, Charlemagne? We would like as much military strength as we can get. We would like help from your fighters as planned.”
“I do not mind providing that.” The captain chose his words carefully. “However, we only have outdated fighters. They may not be able to keep up on this modern battlefield.”
“??? I thought the Mass Driver conglomerate Object had already been destroyed,” said the local commander in confusion.
The captain gave no clear reply.
(…I hope that’s the case.)
Some reactor had been used to provide the massive power needed for the spare cannons in Antarctica and on the Iguazu district coast. That raised a question as to the number of Objects owned by the Mass Driver conglomerate.
Froleytia likely had similar doubts.
He heard her mutter, “Unconfirmed object X. If it really exists, things could get rough out there once more…”
Quenser and Heivia were completely unaware of that dangerous conversation as they helped construct the maintenance base zone. So that it could be set up anywhere in the world, the Baby Magnum’s base was made up of a group of more than 10 large vehicles. By linking the vehicles together front-to-back and side-to-side, setting up block-shaped rooms on top in multiple layers, and stringing up wires to support the weight like with a tent, buildings could be quickly constructed.
The two of them were not helping with the construction of the buildings. They were carrying boxes of packed equipment into the empty buildings that had already been constructed. They were doing the same thing as movers.
While he walked down a hallway carrying a cardboard box, Quenser said, “How can we know the remnants of the Mass Driver conglomerate won’t escape while we’re moving this base along so slowly?”
Heivia walked along beside Quenser and occasionally glanced down at Quenser’s feet. Quenser’s sprain had healed, but he may have still been a bit mindful.
“If they do, the princess’s Object can move in to deal with them. From what I heard, they’ve started to build a base in the ruins of Amazon City about 20 kilometers ahead. Apparently, they hope to put up a counterattack here so they can cut off all pursuit before fleeing.”
“…What’s Amazon City?”
“The world’s biggest ghost town.” Heivia set his cardboard box heavily down on the floor of a strategy room. “There are a lot of things in the jungle. Coal, oil, iron, gold, jewels, and a lot more. There were also people who planned to use the rare location to make medicines from special plants and extracts taken from insects. The Legitimacy Kingdom set up an entire mining city.”
“But you said it had become a ghost town, right? Did the project fall through due to economic issues?”
“It was nothing that cute.” Heivia turned back to the hallway after Quenser set down his box. “While the jungle was being mined, they ran across a horrible virus. Apparently, it completely overturned what we knew about immunology. In order to keep the losses to a minimum, the Legitimacy Kingdom completely abandoned Amazon City and pulled out.”
“W-wait a second. Isn’t that where we’re headed?’
“All of that happened 20 years ago. A research group wearing protective suits came in a while back, but they could find no trace of the virus. And if that virus was still wreaking havoc on the area, we wouldn’t have to go to all this effort. We could just wait for it to wipe out the Mass Driver conglomerate.”
“That’s right…” muttered Quenser, but he could not get rid of a strange feeling of unease.
Heivia entered a room filled with cardboard boxes and said, “Antarctica, that blank region, and now a city being swallowed up by the forest. Areas a lot of people have an interest in really do invite war. Ugh, what a pain.”
Heivia sat heavily in a large chair sitting next to all the boxes. It was covered in the plastic used for packaging, so they could not see it, but it seemed to be quite a nice chair.
“Hey, Heivia. If that’s an officer’s chair, you might want to get up. What if it’s Froleytia’s?”
“That Japanese-obsessed woman wouldn’t bring a chair like this into her room. And besides, my job is to analyze enemy Objects and yours is to learn about Objects. The problem lies with them for pushing this physical work on us.”
At that point, an unexpected new face arrived.
It was the Baby Magnum’s Elite princess.
“Nn? Oh, it’s here.”
Quenser and Heivia turned toward the princess and she replied with no facial expression.
“That chair is to go in the cockpit.”
“Seriously? These hard things at my shoulder blades are electrodes for a low frequency medical device, right? Is that what Objects are like these days?”
“According to the old lady, this is one method of ensuring my concentration does not drop during long battles.”
“…And I heard you had a fridge and a microwave in there too,” said Quenser in slight shock.
Heivia shrugged while still sitting in the chair and said, “That’s quite the comfortable battlefield. How about you install a home theater system and a popcorn machine?”
He had meant it as a joke, but the princess seemed to take him seriously. She pulled a high spec handheld game system from one of her miniskirt-style pockets.
“I can watch anything I want with this.”
“Dammit!! You can just do anything, can’t you!? And do those headphones have a vacuum tube on them!?”
Both Quenser and Heivia had actually brought the same handheld game system along with their personal items, but they were unable to resupply with the latest movie disks each month. There was a way to purchase and download digital copies of the movies, but they were not allowed to use it over the military line.
Meanwhile, Quenser patted the plastic-covered chair with a low frequency medical device installed.
“I’ve never used a low frequency machine before. Do they really work?”
“Only one way to find out,” said the princess as she moved Heivia out of the way and removed the plastic.
She connected the power cable to a jack that connected to a normal household power outlet and plugged it into the wall.
“Should we really be doing this?”
“It is no real problem,” replied the princess, so Quenser went along with her suggestion.
Unlike a normal chair, this one had very low resistance, so it felt like his body sank into it and was fixed in place. He felt something hard that must have been the electrodes for the low frequency medical device against his back and legs. He began to wonder if it would really work over his uniform.
The princess pressed a few buttons on the chair’s armrest.
Immediately afterwards, a feeling Quenser had never felt before rushed across his entire body.
“Hohhhhhh nyaaahhhhhhh!? Ahh, anthahh…fnyahhh. Styop, styop. Wyait, thyis! Styop it, styop-…fnyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”
Quenser’s entire body started to pulsate unnaturally.
Heivia frantically pressed the stop button.
With bloodshot eyes, he shouted, “What the hell kind of noises were those!?”
“Don’t blame me!! Just try it! You try it too, Heivia!! You’ll be making the same noises! It’s completely involuntary!!”
Quenser pulled his body out of the low resistance material and Heivia took his place.
“You’re an idiot. A simple low frequency massage chair isn’t enough to get a reaction out of me.”
“Okay, switch on.”
“Kyawynn!? Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhnnnn!? Wai-…wyait, wyait jyust a second!! Quyenser, I thyink thyis myassage chyair is syupposed tyo be used thyrough thye pryincess’s syuit!! The byuttons of my uniform are vyibrating in syome weird places!!”
“See? This is no normal massage chair.”
“I gyet it!! S-syo!! Dyon’t turn up thyat switch! Fwooohhhhhhhhh!! Hyaaaaaaahh!! Hehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!?”
Private Heivia’s body twitched in pleasure.
When the princess saw the disgusting mess of sweat and such the two boys had left on her chair, she slowly pulled out her radio and covertly spoke into it.
“…Medical team. I need you to discard one of the cockpit chairs ASAP.”
After they had carried all the boxes to their respective locations, Quenser gained a bit of free time.
Technically, that time was used to check on the wiring for the computers and radars, but that was a task for the specialists. There was nothing to do for the normal soldiers during that time.
Quenser parted ways with Heivia and headed to the supply area. He received a few flavorless rubber-like rations before running across Froleytia.
When she saw Quenser, a tremendous frown appeared on her face.
“…Do not stand behind me without permission. I am never allowing you to catch me by surprise again.”
“Fair enough, but did you have any other ideas for getting yourself out of that situation?”
Quenser’s shoulders drooped limply and the middle aged man at the supply area looked at him with a puzzled expression. Froleytia cleared her throat once and returned to what she had come there for: obtaining a small container of shampoo. With that task complete, she left the supply area with Quenser.
As they walked through the passageway, she said quietly, “I would have a hard time coming up with anything else, but that doesn’t mean you can just do whatever you want.”
“Come to think of it, how did things go after that? It seemed that Copacabana guy gave up on the political marriage, but that’s all I know.”
“Right now, my perceived value has fallen by an amazing amount. There are still some old men who don’t care so much about an heir that are still sticking with it, though. Well, I wouldn’t be out here in this war if this could be solved so easily. You don’t need to worry about it.” Froleytia sighed and leaned her back up against a nearby door. “However, I’m also in a bit of trouble since my Capistrano family isn’t contacting me. Dammit. If I just out and out deny it, some of the candidates are sure to return, but everyone will treat me like a slut if I don’t do anything. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to-…”
Suddenly, Froleytia trailed off.
The door she had leaned against had already been half open, so she had pushed it the rest of the way open. It led to a small room used to store the design documents needed for maintaining the Baby Magnum. It was also the room Quenser spent a lot of time in studying as a battlefield student.
“Whoops,” said Froleytia.
She managed to avoid falling over, but she ended up stumbling two or three steps into the room. A bookshelf right next to the door was filled with training video disk cases. However, a single porn video was mixed in.
Froleytia froze in place as she read the title on the package.
It read: A Cool Female Soldier’s Secret Training of Pleasure and Tits
She fell silent for a bit while squeezing the Japanese-style kiseru in her hand.
“…Quenser, is this your personal preference?”
“No, you’ve got it all wrong!! I didn’t bring that here! I only grabbed you in order to help you! But why is that here!? That’s the video that was on the bookshelf in the ammunition storage when we were loading magazines!! Is it just really popular in the Legitimacy Kingdom military right now!?”
Quenser was met with a great mystery, but Froleytia did not seem to trust him at all. She was slowly backing away from him with the look of someone who was faced with a wild beast.
“…Umm, I’ll be going then,” he said.
“No, I have work to do as well. I cannot alter my schedule due to my personal feelings. I have no choice but to accompany you partway.”
And so Quenser and Froleytia started walking down the passageway once more. They were walking alongside each other, but they were keeping an odd distance between each other.
“So what is the plan for dealing with Amazon City?”
“So you’ve learned those ruins are where we’re fighting.” Froleytia sighed. “Around 500 people remain to the Mass Driver conglomerate. Previously, it seems the pilot Elite of the Object was commanding them, so their command structure has changed thanks to the Object’s destruction. With this change, the command has probably shifted to Sladder Honeysuckle. When the princess’s Object attacks the ruins of Amazon City, we need to make sure we at least kill him. Without him, the rest will not be able to put together a proper strategy. Then we can slaughter them in the confusion.”
“Who is he?”
“He has various titles. He is an Object designer for the Mass Driver conglomerate, one of the world’s leading investors, as well as a military advisor for the powerful president of one of the conglomerate’s companies.”
Quenser’s eyebrows twitched at the word “designer”.
However, he specifically avoided that and asked about something else.
“The Capitalist Corporations take military actions at the approval of company shareholders. For this reason, they hire specialist strategist. The same goes for the Mass Driver conglomerate even if it has a different structure from the other companies.”
At that point, Froleytia fell silent.
Finally, she spoke quietly as if speaking of her own worries.
“This should be a simple task if we really are only up against a maintenance base that has lost its Object. But…”
“I’ve heard the rumors.” Quenser frowned. “You’re talking about the possibility of a second Object that was powering the spare cannons in Antarctica and on the Iguazu district coast, right? …But is that even possible? Objects are monstrous weapons 50 meters across. How could one of those escape notice by radar, satellite, and the naked eye?”
“I don’t know.”
Froleytia shook her head.
At the same time, she spoke as if to herself.
“But that’s exactly why jack-in-the-boxes are so scary. You need to be careful too. If you take this lightly, you might not get by with a simple sprained ankle this time.”
And so they headed out for the attack on Amazon City.
However, Froleytia was not commanding the operation from the front lines. She was in the maintenance base zone constructed in a location far from the battlefield. With the kiseru in her mouth, she checked on the progress of the unit on a monitor.
Froleytia liked things in the Japanese style, but the interior of her room was relatively lacking in such things. This was due to the maintenance base having been almost completely destroyed by the Mass Driver conglomerate Object in the Iguazu district. She was having a new collection brought in with the additional supplies, so she must have had quite a bit stored away in the European home country.
(…The stage this time is a jungle ghost town filled with buildings. It’s the perfect environment for hidden soldiers.)
That would not be an issue in a battle between Objects. After all, an Object was simply too large. With the exception of mountainous regions like in the Iguazu district, those giant machines could not be hidden by the terrain.
However, using one of those monstrous weapons to search for puny humans hidden in the jungle was a different story altogether.
Of course, Objects had various forms of sensors, so they could search for hidden people via body heat or magnetism. However, the jungle was filled with living things, so a massive number of objects would be found even when searching for human-sized living creatures.
(Now then. Can we solve that problem by having foot soldiers work with the Object? Or should we focus on trying to pick up on human noises such as voices and footsteps?)
With the sensors on full power, the presence of allied soldiers could actually get in the way. The specific method could be handled by the people on the scene, but Froleytia had to take care of any problems that might arise because of that.
To make sure that she did not overlook even the smallest sign, Froleytia stared intently at the monitor once more. However, she then received a transmission.
It was from the princess who was piloting the Baby Magnum.
“I have a question for you,” said the princess.
“Has the situation changed since the strategy meeting?”
As far as Froleytia could tell, nothing had changed, but she asked to make sure. As expected, the princess denied that possibility.
“No, it is nothing like that. I suppose this is a more private sort of question. Is that okay?”
(This is unusual for her.)
Before Froleytia could realize what was odd about the princess, the princess herself cut to the chase.
“…Is it true you were groped by Quenser?”
It felt like the long, narrow kiseru almost shot from her mouth.
However the princess had interpreted that response, she fell silent.
“Wait, don’t just fall silent. Don’t tell me you feel like your mental condition has dropped because of that! You know just how much the mental state of the Elite can affect the outcome of a battle, right? If we lose the war here, it will end up in textbooks. If that happens due to whether someone was groped or not, the higher ups of the military will faint and the history buffs will laugh their asses off!”
“…Oh, dear. You aren’t even trying to deny that you were groped.”
Froleytia wiped an unpleasant sweat from her brow as she felt a dangerous tension in the princess’s oddly low tone of voice. Froleytia felt like something had been off about herself ever since that incident.
The advance on the ruins of Amazon City began.
Quenser and Heivia joined a group of about 200 people and headed to the ruins on off road vehicles. They did not head directly into the city. Instead, they got off about 3 kilometers away, and split up further before heading to the city on foot.
From the point they stopped the vehicles on, they were heading through tropical jungle. Beyond the thick trees was a group of concrete buildings. That was the ruins of Amazon City. After it had been abandoned, it had become buried in green.
They had known the jungle was just south of the equator, but it was worse than they had been expecting. The heat and humidity was trapped there like inside a plastic greenhouse. When they breathed in, a lukewarm feeling gradually spread through their bodies.
Heivia looked fed up with it almost instantly.
“…Dammit. So we’re acting as human antennae again.”
“The Baby Magnum isn’t at 100%, so they probably don’t want to send it straight in.” Quenser wiped sweat from his chin with the back of his hand. “This place is horrible. The ground seems so soft. Isn’t there a better way to this place?”
“We would be a lot more comfortable using the remains of the highway created for Amazon City, but that would put us in plain view of the enemy.”
“Hey, Heivia. What’s that on the front of your rifle?”
“You can’t tell? It’s insecticide.”
“…Heivia, is the type of person that can’t touch bugs? To be fair, I can’t stand roaches myself.”
“You idiot.” Heivia brought his hand to his forehead. “This is the Amazon. It’s the world’s biggest jungle. There are rare and dangerous bugs that’ll sting you and bite you here. The giant spiders jump at you, so it’s dangerous to try to stomp on them with your boot. But it would be a waste of ammo to shoot at all of them. Also, it would be stupid to let the enemy know your location because of a bug. That’s why we need insecticide to deal with any dangerous bugs. Since we’re going for a bold attack here, we don’t have to worry about leaving any traces of our presence with dead bugs.”
“Is that so? I just hope it doesn’t leave a strange smell that military dogs can follow.”
“I’d be pretty excited to run across a Hercules beetle.”
Quenser and Heivia continued through the jungle as some strange bird cried overhead.
As Heivia used the various sensors attached to his rifle to check for hidden soldiers or traps, he said, “And what is that you have in your pocket? Looks like a book. Is it a camping manual for if we get stranded out in the jungle?”
“It’s nothing like that. It’s just a wild west novel. I was thinking I could read it if we had to wait around for the enemy to appear.”
“Oh, c’mon, Quenser. We’re taking part in a war involving giant Objects. Why are you reading a story about people shooting at each other with tiny pistols?”
“Heivia, you mustn’t forget the danger a single bullet can present.”
“Heh, you’re one to talk. You don’t even carry a single handgun. With how much you love to study, I would have thought you would be staring at Object designs during your breaks.”
Heivia spoke in light tones, but Quenser fell silent.
He could not tell Heivia he had been reading a paper by Sladder Honeysuckle.
That man was not normal.
All Quenser had been able to get his hands on was what was released online to the Legitimacy Kingdom. The Capitalist Corporations and the Legitimacy Kingdom were at war, so the information was likely of little importance. However, Quenser could see a fragment of that man’s genius hidden within.
Even a child could give a twisted response to a predetermined theme.
But that was only by using nonsense arguments.
An idea forced out while knowing it would never be useful in reality was no more valuable than an idle chat.
However, the place Sladder started from and where he kept his focus was not normal. He mentioned things Quenser had never noticed until then. Despite starting from some twisted idea that was something like a trompe l'oeil, the argument he constructed was perfectly logical and well-reasoned. He went through the proper steps needed to efficiently implement the theoretical idea.
The finished paper left its readers with a deep impression of a certain type. It was similar to seeing someone fit every single piece of a veritable mountain of luggage into a small storage box. It was close to that feeling of “oh, so you could put it in at that angle”.
However, Sladder’s text did not end there.
He also included a certain “possibility”.
If what he imagined was ever completed, it would be something unthinkable. And yet the reader was left with the desire to see a world where the ideas written there were made a reality. Even if that would only help the enemy.
That was the type of text it was.
It opened up a brand new dimension that would be unachievable just by memorizing the information in some textbooks.
It was no ordinary task to fight and win against someone with a brain as twisted as his.
Quenser was trembling in fear at the prospect, but Heivia did not notice. Instead, he held up his insecticide-equipped rifle and glared hatefully up at the sky.
“God dammit. This formation is assuming a counterattack. We’re scattered about to reduce the losses in a bombardment.”
“If the princess’s Object was at 100%, there might have been a smarter way of doing this.” Quenser wiped sweat from his face. “But it’s odd.”
“If the Mass Driver conglomerate had that high power railgun, why didn’t they just use it to target the moon base? They didn’t have to go with that roundabout method of using the satellite via the probe robot in Antarctica.”
“How am I supposed to know what they’re thinking? Maybe they felt there was meaning in carrying out their terrorist attack with a laser,” said Heivia offhand. “Also, their Object’s main cannon kept breaking up in midair due to frictional heat. They might have not thought it would make it out of the atmosphere.”
“Hey, don’t think about this so much. The Object is gone. It doesn’t matter to us how the Mass Driver conglomerate insists on using their Object.”
“I hope we can be that optimistic.”
“Ahn? …Oh, are you talking about the possibility of the Mass Driver conglomerate having a second Object?” Heivia sounded annoyed. “Only an Object can defeat an Object. I guess that’s why they want to preserve the weakened Baby Magnum. But sending us forward to check for an Object is more dangerous than removing landmines.”
“It would be quite a tragedy if we carelessly sent the princess in and she was destroyed by a surprise attack. We would lose our piece for checkmate. Do you want to continue on with a war of attrition that will never end?” asked Froleytia over the radio. She continued as if to make doubly sure. “Listen. Whether there is a second Object or not is vitally important to know, but we also can’t let the enemy scatter. We need to keep as many from getting away as possible and kill them here. At the very least, we absolutely must kill their leader, Sladder Honeysuckle. If he gets away, we cannot end this war here.”
“Fine, fine. Is this Honeysuckle guy really that much of a problem?”
“He is the Mass Driver conglomerate’s prided Object designer. There is a risk of him even beginning construction on a new Object if he can make the proper preparations.”
“…You’re kidding, right? Doesn’t an Object cost at least 5 billion dollars?”
“He can raise that 5 billion on his own. He is a large shareholder and one of the most famous investors even in the Capitalist Corporations. I’m sure you know, but Object designer is a popular occupation because they receive massive rewards. He knows ways of taking that massive amount of money and making 10 or even 20 times the original amount. All transactions under the name Honeysuckle will have been frozen, but rumor has it that he has enough funds on hand for constructing an Object to be a real possibility.” Froleytia sounded annoyed. “That said, constructing an Object from scratch takes three full years. Unless he remains in hiding for a very long time, there may not be any real danger of this happening.”
“But if he joined forces with a third country that wants his skills, this could get bad,” said Quenser.
“Exactly,” replied Froleytia. “I have no intention of letting this war grow any further. Let’s exterminate these idiots as quickly as possible and stop the convoy near a hot spring. ...But to do that, we need to kill the Mass Driver conglomerate here. We cannot let Sladder Honeysuckle escape no matter what. We need to make sure to get a picture of him, as well as get his fingerprints and a blood sample. We can negotiate with the Capitalist Corporations afterwards and use that information to confirm we completed the mission.”
“That’s only if the Capitalist Corporations go along with that.”
“We just need to create a situation where they have to.”
A different signal came in over Quenser’s radio.
He could hear a jet engine far, far above. The radio transmission was coming from there.
“This is Burning Alpha. We could scatter landmines around Amazon City to block their escape. We can drop them from the sky at any time.”
“I appreciate the suggestion, but no. I don’t want to contaminate our own land with mines. That would create a dangerous land that threatens to blow off someone’s leg even 50 years from now,” replied Froleytia.
“These are smart mines, so they can be detonated remotely.”
“If you can guarantee that not even one of those safety devices will fail, I will give approval. However, if one of them does fail, your unit will be plowing those fields. Do you still recommend this, Burning Alpha?”
“Don’t joke. Our job is to fly through the sky. We’re not used to trudging through the mud.”
Quenser looked up at the contrail overhead.
“Is the assault landing aircraft carrier helping out too?” he asked.
“Everyone is desperate to make sure the damaged Object can function. I thought Objects were synonymous with war. Did we find our way back to a war from a few decades ago?” complained Heivia.
Meanwhile, the texture of the ground changed. Instead of the soft, wet humus, they were now walking on a cracked asphalt road. They had made it to one of the countless roads that connected to the ruins of Amazon City that had been swallowed up by the jungle.
They were near the city that would be the battlefield.
Heivia frowned and looked up for no real reason.
“Wait, are we just going in? Isn’t the Object going to blow away the buildings in the way first? We have no idea how many enemies there are in these buildings.”
“They can’t hide an Object in them though. We can ignore anything that can’t,” replied Froleytia coolly. “The princess’s Object was damaged in the battle against the Break Carrier and her railgun and coilgun shells have not been replenished. We want to avoid any unnecessary firing. And only a high power attack from another Object can damage it. It won’t be destroyed from a portable missile fired from a window.”
“…We’re in trouble, Heivia. It doesn’t look like they’re thinking about any protection for soldiers like us,” said Quenser with a sigh.
At the same time, he heard a great roar as many trees were knocked over.
He turned around to see a giant mass of steel approaching from behind. It was the Baby Magnum.
“Seriously? Let’s just destroy the entire environment here, why don’t we?”
“This is a lot more ecological than when they practiced slash-and-burn farming.”
Their field of vision was opening up.
They had entered the ruins of Amazon City.
Quenser and Heivia were standing on a surface covered in gray asphalt and concrete. However, the artificial ground had giant cracks running through it and trees were growing through those gaps in the center of the road. Most of the windows on the buildings were gone and plenty of the buildings were leaning. The traffic lights and streetlights were of course not lit. The rusty street signs were so worn down it was impossible to tell what had been written on them.
The one other noticeable characteristic was….
“This is a damn wide road. It has 3 lanes on each side, but it looks 80 meters across overall. I think the road takes up more area than the buildings,” muttered Quenser.
Heivia replied offhandedly, “The main street was probably designed to accommodate a parade featuring an Object.”
Looking up, Quenser could see power lines running high in the sky between building rooftops. The power network was likely constructed from a combination of underground cables and those high cables so as to not get in the way of an Object parade. The subway and water system may have been set up to not pass below the main street for that same reason.
Half in shock, Quenser said, “It is true that a lot of large cities in safe countries are designed for those ridiculous parades, but it isn’t normal to keep that width for the roads other than the main street.”
“This city was made for jungle mining. They needed the roads to be wide and durable enough to allow the large machinery to pass smoothly through.”
“Hmm. The dump trucks for that kind of thing are as tall as a school building, right?”
“Yeah, the driver needs to climb a staircase to get in.”
Suddenly, they heard distant gunshots ringing through the blue sky. As if lured out by those gunshots, more gunshots followed. If they focused, they could notice a vague difference in the pitch of the gunshots.
Two different forces were firing at each other.
Heivia reached for the switch for his rifle’s sensors and said, “So it’s begun.”
“The princess is nearby too, so I guess we don’t really need to try so hard to remain so covert.”
Quenser and Heivia were not in the middle of the road. They were slowly moving along while keeping next to a pile of rubble a few meters tall that had likely once been a building wall. They were watching their surroundings closely as they advanced.
“What do you think?”
“We can probably ignore anything from above. As Froleytia said, I doubt there are any weapons that can critically damage an Object.”
“But those spare cannons that attacked us in Antarctica and on the Iguazu coast were railguns meant to be used on Objects. So…”
“Yeah, and they’re meant to be attached to a 200,000 ton Object when fired. When attached to the ground, you need to put an anchor over 10 meters deep into the ground to fix them in place. If you attached them to the floors of these rundown buildings, they’d knock the entire building over when fired.”
“Understood. So we just need to worry about snipers in a window while we search for any spare cannons on the ground.”
At that point, the princess contacted them over the radio.
“Quenser, Heivia, plug your ears.”
“I have received an order to assist with a bombardment. If you do not hurry up, your eardrums will be blown out.”
“God dammit!!” the two idiots shouted.
They did not only plug their ears, but also leaped down to the ground.
Immediately afterwards, a tremendous noise and shockwave rushed toward them.
A coilgun shell ripped through a few buildings ahead and flew off into the distance. It was one of the smaller cannons on the Object, but the word “small” only applied when talking on the scale of that monstrosity of a weapon.
Quenser got up within a cloud of dust and coughed.
“Cough, cough. Dammit, I think that kind of assistance is as dangerous as the enemy…”
“I-I’d certainly want to get 100 to 200 meters away from where it hits at the very, very least.”
That was the strength of a unit with an Object.
The strength of those foot soldiers was not just the assault rifles they held. As long as they could call in the coordinates, the Object could blow away the target with pinpoint accuracy. They were merely borrowing the power of the Object, but there was still nothing more frightening for their enemies.
Quenser looked around the area and said, “It’s possible there are hidden enemy soldiers or spare cannons around here. And now we have to be careful to make sure our own Object doesn’t blow us away with that shockwave. …Dammit. What ever happened to leaving war to the Objects?”
Froleytia’s voice then came from his radio.
“Those spare cannons are relatively small when it comes to Object armaments. They aren’t main cannon class, so I doubt they can shoot through an Object’s armor. You do not need to be on the lookout for them.”
“Then remind me why we’re out here again.”
“How many times do I have to tell you that the Baby Magnum is damaged? One of the damaged areas is the propulsion device. Right now, it is possible the Baby Magnum cannot move across excessively tall piles of rubble. If that happens, the combat engineers are needed. You need to use your explosives to blow away those shackles as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, the princess’s Object had entered the city. The main street had been constructed to accommodate an Object parade, but the street signs and traffic lights would likely have been removed beforehand. They did not have time for that at the moment. The Baby Magnum simply smashed those obstacles as it advanced.
Heivia had been speaking over his radio, but he now turned to Quenser.
“It seems the others have entered the city from different points. We’re going to head inwards, slowly tightening the circle, until we have searched our way to the center of the city. The frequency of gunshots will likely increase as times goes on.”
“What exactly are we going to do? Are we going to head into each and every building to search for enemies?”
“First, we’ll destroy their transportation.” Heivia shrugged. “With 500 people, the enemy is on the level of a company. It can’t be easy to transport all of them. They must have a large convoy somewhere, so we just have to blow that up. That way, they can’t escape these ruins. We can take our time searching them out then.”
Quenser looked up at the contrails overhead.
“Can’t they find that from the sky? Y’know, using satellites or fighters.”
Even then, the delta-winged fighters flying through the blue sky were dropping large bombs into the middle of the ruins. Low rumbles were passing below Quenser and Heivia’s feet.
“It isn’t that easy,” said Froleytia over the radio in an annoyed voice. “The satellite confirmed a large group of vehicles entered an underground parking garage in the middle of the city, but there is no guarantee there are no other vehicles. They might have additional transportation hidden ahead of time in a different underground parking garage.”
“So we need to start searching any underground areas?”
“You should also check any abandoned vehicles you come across. They might merely be disguised to look abandoned and Sladder Honeysuckle could escape using one.”
Multiple gunshots sounded in the distance.
There was no combat occurring near Quenser and Heivia, but that may have been because no enemy soldiers had been in the area by mere coincidence or because they had left formation to distance themselves from Baby Magnum.
“If Honeysuckle suggested that plan when they’re cornered, wouldn’t he just end up being ganged up on by the others? We see Honeysuckle as an important figure we must not let escape, but would they really see that as a means of victory? What the Mass Driver conglomerate wants is a safe place to head to. If they were putting their lives on the line and then their commander headed for the goal on his own, I doubt the others would accept just being cast aside.”
“Quenser, let me tell you something. It does not matter what they think,” replied Froleytia with a short sigh. “We just need to achieve our own objective. Even if Honeysuckle was truly thinking of a means for world peace, we would shoot him and call it a day. All of this has surely led them to resent us. If they gain power once more, the odds are good they will turn their sights on the Legitimacy Kingdom.”
“Yes, yes. Our cool, beautiful commander is frightening,” said Heivia casually with a twisted smile on his face as gunshots and explosions sounded in the distance.
The two of them came to a stop.
The path before them had turned black. It began about 20 meters ahead. At first they thought some past earthquake had ripped up the asphalt and exposed the black soil beneath. However, they realized they were wrong as they approached.
Something like black tar was flowing from the entrance to a building on the side of the road…or so it looked. The black stain was flowing thin and wide so that it covered the entire width of that large runway-like road.
That was what it looked like, but…
“Are you kidding me…?” groaned Heivia.
When they looked closely, it became clear it was not a black liquid that was spreading out. Many, many small objects were crawling up and down. Someone who watched some of the more unusual documentaries might recognize what the collection of tens if not hundreds of thousands of small black objects was.
It was a swarm of army ants.
Quenser and Heivia both quickly moved instinctually back away from it. The great number of small bugs caused a physiological revulsion inside them and the smattering of knowledge they had caused fear to well up within them.
“Wait just a second! Aren’t these those things that move in groups of tens of thousands and will swarm over any cows or pigs nearby and eat them!?”
“That’s the Amazon for you. Nature is on an entirely different level here!!” shouted back Heivia as his eyes raced about the area.
He had no intention of charging into an area that had been taken over by the army ants. He was hoping to find a side road to head down, but…
He heard a rustling sound like a plastic bag being balled up.
It was the sound of a large tree growing near the two boys falling over so as to block the path back. The inside of the tree had been entirely rotten, but the confusion of branches growing out from it created natural intercrossing bars to block their escape. It was too thick for them to climb over or crawl through.
Heivia’s eyes opened wide.
“Shit!! What the hell is going on!? That thing was sticking up through the asphalt just a second ago!!”
“It might have just been barely standing and the shockwave of the princess’s bombardment shook it a little too much…”
At any rate, they could not fall back any further than 30 meters.
The roads in the ruins of Amazon City were quite wide, but the giant tree was half broken so that it formed a V-shape on the asphalt. Between the building walls and the remains of the giant tree, Quenser and Heivia were completely trapped. Their one escape was through the area controlled by the army ants.
Quenser tapped Heivia on the shoulder as he stared at the swarm of insects.
“This is bad! If we don’t do something soon, we’ll be part of the ant and the grasshopper’s winter reserves!!”
“What exactly do you suggest we do!? If I tried shooting that group of tens of thousands, I’d run out of ammo in no time at all. And if we tried stomping on them with our boots, they’d probably just climb up our legs and counterattack!!”
Quenser pointed at the object attached to the end of Heivia’s rifle.
“How about you use that insecticide you have there?”
“Oh!! I did supply myself with this special item, didn’t I!?”
Heivia must have completely forgotten he had it, but now he finally held up his rifle. He pulled the trigger of the insecticide attached like a bayonet.
The swarm of army ants had already approached about 10 meters.
The cloud of insecticide forcefully struck them. Instead of spreading out like a spray, the insecticide flew in a direct trajectory like a powerful water gun. Quenser optimistically thought about how it could be used to blind an enemy temporarily.
“Gyahh!? The insecticide just sent the army ants on a desperate rampage our way!”
“Get back, you idiot! We need to get some distance!! If they catch up to us, we’ll be bitten all over!!”
While fleeing with Heivia, Quenser frantically shouted into his radio.
“Baby Magnum! Can you fry these ants with a small laser beam or something!?”
“I can, but…”
“Then hurry! Do it now!!”
“If I fire it at the ground that near you, the light will make the light from welding look like nothing. Most likely, the two of you will be permanently blinded.”
“Agh, dammit!! So we’re blocked at every turn!!”
“Y’know, this is a pretty lame war we’re fighting if we’re about to be killed by ants!!” shouted Heivia as he sprayed about the water gun-like insecticide.
Quenser looked at a nearby building and said, “What do we do!? Should we head upstairs in a building and wait for them to pass!?”
“Didn’t the ant colony come from within one of those buildings!? And if the ants happen to head inside the building we flee into, we’ll be cornered eventually!!”
Quenser recalled the feeling of the bag he wore on his back. It was possible he could throw a plastic explosive and blow them away.
(But could I really take out all of those tens of thousands of ants? I could probably blow away a portion of them, but…)
At that point, Quenser reached for the smoke bombs inside Heivia’s uniform. The sudden action surprised Heivia.
“Kyahh, pervert! What are you doing, you molester!!”
“You still have the mental leeway to joke, Heivia? ...Anyway!! Hand over smoke grenades and smoke bombs for contacting helicopters!! Just hand over everything that emits smoke!!”
“What, why? How are you going to target the smoke toward them?”
Without responding, Quenser pulled the pins out of the drink can-sized objects and threw them one after another.
In shock, Heivia shouted, “You really suck, you know that!? Half of those didn’t even land in the ant colony! And the smoke’ll head up, so it’ll barely affect the ants crawling on the ground!!”
“This is fine.”
Quenser hurriedly reached for the Hand Axe plastic explosives in his bag, carefully adjusted the amount, and stabbed an electric fuse into it. This time he threw the mass straight up. It flew up a few dozen meters.
“And now a bomb?”
“This is to make sure that smoke doesn’t go to waste.”
Heivia frowned in confusion and Quenser hit the switch on his radio.
The Hand Axe detonated in midair.
The smoke that had flown high into the sky was slammed back to the ground.
It was like a giant fist had dropped down on top of it.
Depending on the model, the smoke grenades and smoke bombs let out white, red, yellow, and other colors of smoke. All those colors dropped back to the ground at once as if struck by that giant hand. When they struck the ground, they spread out in every direction.
The many ants panicked and tried to scatter in every direction, but they did not have enough time. After about 180 seconds in the smoke, they lost their momentum, started only twitching, and finally stopped moving altogether.
“…Ow… If that had just been a normal blast, you wouldn’t have been able to tell how much explosive was used.”
“Hey, Quenser. Are those things really dead? They’re not just playing dead, right?”
“How about you use that insecticide to check?”
Heivia cautiously sprayed the insecticide from a distance, but he got no response. The two boys finally breathed a sigh of relief, but they still didn’t enjoy the prospect of walking through that swarm of ants. They kept as far away from the middle as they could. In other words, they timidly headed across the carpet of dead ants while pressed up against the side of a building.
After crossing that carpet of ant corpses, Heivia looked around.
“We need to hurry. The Mass Driver conglomerate will head here to check on that explosion and the smoke. Even if a firefight is inevitable, I’d rather not be surrounded. We can at least leave a bomb or some kind of trap, though.”
“…No, look at that.”
“What is it?”
Heivia looked puzzled, but Quenser pointed inside a window of one of the buildings.
“Aren’t those Mass Driver conglomerate soldiers that are collapsed there? See, they’ve been bitten all over and have swollen up.”
“Seriously? …I guess that explains why we were the only ones to avoid a firefight.”
“War really can be pretty lame sometimes.”
Froleytia was on standby in the maintenance base zone that had been set up well back of the battlefield. The commander’s office prepared for her was properly covered in tatami mats ordered from the Japanese islands and a short table had her laptop sitting on it.
Froleytia was using that laptop to monitor the progress of the battle, but then she received a video chat. She placed her long, narrow Japanese kiseru in a Japanese tobacco tray and then opened a new window.
A solidly built middle aged man was displayed in the window.
It took some effort on Froleytia’s part to keep her expression passive upon seeing the rank insignia on the shoulders of his military uniform.
(A Capitalist Corporations major general!! I had a feeling they would be calling before long, but…)
“I am Major General Buffer Planters calling on behalf of the Capitalist Corporations military. It has come to our attention that you are pursuing our Mass Driver conglomerate.”
Froleytia recognized the name.
(Dammit. That’s the VIP that Quenser and Heivia carelessly saved from that moon villa attack.)
“I am Major Froleytia Capistrano, the commanding officer here. So you will not waste your time, let me inform you ahead of time that we will not discuss the means by which we will end this.”
As ranks went, there was a huge difference between major and major general, but Froleytia did not particularly care. What mattered more was that they were soldiers of enemy nations.
It seemed the man felt the same.
“Girl, we are not talking about ridiculous honor here. We would like to talk about profit.”
“Are you afraid we will gain information on Mass Driver conglomerate technology after we crush them?”
If the Capitalist Corporations was worried about something, it would be that.
It was also possible they wanted to make sure Sladder Honeysuckle, the Object designer involved in the construction of the Break Carrier, did not defect to the Legitimacy Kingdom.
“Even if Honeysuckle surrenders to us, we will shoot him, so do not worry. In the Legitimacy Kingdom, we value honor and law above all. After someone has opposed us as he has, we have no system by which to receive them with open arms.”
“No, that is not what we are worried about.” Buffer shook his head slowly. “For one, if the Mass Driver conglomerate truly intended to defect to the Legitimacy Kingdom, they would not have fought with your unit like that.”
“True enough, but…”
Froleytia finally began to frown.
In that case, why had that Capitalist Corporations military leader contacted her?
Not caring about the technological information Sladder Honeysuckle had was not like a modern soldier who sent Objects to the battlefield. If there was anything else he was thinking about, it had to be…
Sladder had received massive compensation for his Object designs and he supposedly carried out massive stock trades using that money. He was such a massive investor, it was said he could prepare an Object and start a war all on his own. It was possible the Capitalist Corporations would insist that money belonged to them. But…
(Is that really more important than the Object development race? It is true the Capitalist Corporations supposedly prioritize human rights by the amount of money people have saved, but does that thought process go so far as to…?)
“Oh, how rude of me. Did I confuse you by any chance?” Buffer Planters shook his head once more and then gave a bitter smile. “I merely said we are not worried about Honeysuckle defecting ‘to the Legitimacy Kingdom’.”
“You don’t mean…”
“This is no longer an issue of only two forces,” continued Buffer as if to reinforce Froleytia’s fear. “The Mass Driver conglomerate has requested assistance from the Information Alliance.”
Her face grew pale.
The Information Alliance was one of the world powers on par with the Legitimacy Kingdom that Froleytia belonged to. Naturally, many nations and Objects belonged to that force. And these Objects would not be like the princess’s. Those monstrous weapons would be in perfect condition and polished to look as good as new. Not only did the Information Alliance have plenty of Generation 1 Objects, but they also had plenty of Generation 2 Objects.
They were quite skilled on the technology front and it was said their military software surpassed even that of the Legitimacy Kingdom military. They were the ones putting the most research into projects to create unmanned Objects using AI.
(…Not good. If that’s true, we can’t have them interfering given our current exhausted state!!)
Froleytia clenched her teeth and pictured an image of the layout of power in South America. Currently, the Baby Magnum, Quenser, and the others were deployed in the Amazon district. The Parima district that was ruled by the Information Alliance lay right next to it.
Buffer Planters continued, “At this rate, the Information Alliance military is sure to send aid to the ruins of Amazon City. The one question is whether that aid will be nothing more than supplying firearms and additional supplies or if it will include a large scale movement of personnel, weapons, and at least one Object.”
Soldiers who had been taken out by the army ants were collapsed here and there.
It seemed they had been in the middle of setting up a gun platform hidden behind a building. One of the spare Object railguns and a crane equipped with a boring device for driving the 10 meter+ anchor into the ground were left with the work half complete.
In shock, Heivia muttered, “Were they so focused on their work that they didn’t notice the ants drawing near?”
Even on a battlefield ruled by Objects, soldiers would check their surroundings. However, they would focus on the routes by which people could approach. If a swarm of army ants suddenly came pouring out of a manhole directly below the equipment, that would easily slip through a gap in their guard.
Heivia crouched down and peered at one of the convulsing soldiers.
A bite from a mosquito would cause a slight swelling. The soldiers had similar marks covering their entire bodies two or three times over. The small ants had bitten them again and again. Even so, they had been fortunate enough to not have run across the types of army ants that would eat them down to the bone.
Quenser counted the soldiers.
“…It looks like they’re still alive. What should we do?”
“Tie them up and abandon them.” Heivia replied offhand. “If they don’t intend to fight, we can just leave them alone. I’d rather not go through and shoot mostly incapacitated people one by one.”
“Well, I doubt they would be able to fight even if fellow Mass Driver conglomerate soldiers found them, cut their ropes, and give them guns.”
“But I see no reason to worry too much about the possibility of some other animal or insect coming by and biting them while they’re tied up.”
“…Can’t we treat them or rescue them?”
“After it’s all over, we can come back to pick them up if we remember,” said Heivia as he looked around. “But this is strange.”
“Hasn’t the Mass Driver conglomerate backed themselves into a corner?” Heivia pointed at the partially set up spare railgun. “There’s no advantage for them in setting up something like this and trying to hold out here. The longer they spend here, the more time the Legitimacy Kingdom has to send in more Objects. Even if they have a second Object, this strategy will only shorten their lives.”
“Come to think of it…they are doing this backwards. What they want is a way of escaping, not a way of putting up a fight in a single spot. In fact, what did they come to the ruins of Amazon City for in the first place?” Quenser thought for a second. “What if we assume they are sticking with the original plan of escaping?”
“But they’re setting up these spare cannons to put up a final fight to the end. And even if they try to sneak away, the military satellites will see them. Then we just have to send an Object after them. …What are we doing running around on our own two legs?”
“Maybe there is some route the satellites can’t see. That would be a problem.”
“Ahn?” Heivia looked puzzled, but Quenser pointed down at the ground.
“Amazon City was originally created to be a large city. They must have put some effort into the transportation network. It wouldn’t be surprising if there was a direct subway connection to some other city.”
“Wait, wait, wait! So they’re setting up these spare cannons to….!?”
“To buy time! While we’re panicking up here, the Mass Driver conglomerate is going to try to flee through some long tunnel!!”
Quenser pulled out some of the Hand Axe plastic explosive and looked around the area. He quickly found a stairway leading down to the subway. He had no idea if he could make it in time, but he had to destroy that subway line.
“Hey, Amazon City was a large city meant for a million people. The subway has to run all over the place like a spider web, right!?”
“In the city, yes. But there will only be so many lines connecting to other cities. Most likely, there are only 2 or 3 ! Heivia, you get on the network and find a subway map from when the city was occupied!!”
“Dammit, this has gotten to be a real pain in the ass!!”
Heivia frantically tried to contact Froleytia, but he also kicked an assault rifle lying on the ground at the same time. It had belonged to one of the Mass Driver conglomerate soldiers who had been taken out by the army ants.
Heivia froze in place when he saw the magazine come out from the impact.
“What is it, Heivia?”
“Um…The Mass Driver conglomerate is a Capitalist Corporations organization, right? They should be getting their weapons from there, right?” As he spoke, Heivia poked at the magazine with his foot. “But these are 7.62mm bullets from the Spear Rifle Company. Isn’t that Information Alliance ammo?”
As Heivia was muttering that, a transmission came in from Froleytia.
“All units, hurry up in this pursuit!! The situation has begun to change. If we do not take out Sladder Honeysuckle right away, the flames of war could spread!!”
“Froleytia?” Quenser looked confused, but then he recalled what he had to do. “I know how Honeysuckle and the others are going to escape. Most likely, they’re using the subway tunnels! They’re setting up spare cannons around the city to buy time while they use the subway to escape while hidden from the satellites!!”
“Sorry, but that’s wrong, Quenser. This isn’t going to be so easy,” replied Froleytia without a second’s delay. “The Mass Driver conglomerate hopes to defect to the Information Alliance. If we do nothing, the Information Alliance will advance into the Amazon district in order to ‘rescue those who wish to seek refuge’. Apparently, the defection has already been officially recognized. In their opinion, it is wrong for Honeysuckle to not be with the Information Alliance.”
“They really do intend to put up their final fight here!! If we do nothing, the Information Alliance will be here with an Object and all its strength as a world power, so they just have to hold out until then!! Dammit! It really is a simple plan on their part!!”
“That’s crazy…” groaned Heivia.
Protecting refugees who had already safely crossed the national border was one thing, but Quenser had never heard of a country crossing national borders like this to rescue someone who technically belonged to an enemy nation. If this kind of thing was permissible, national boundaries would lose all meaning.
“Heivia, you saw how they used their Object, right? They must really want that technology. And the Legitimacy Kingdom and Information Alliance are already in conflict. If things between us are so bad they can hardly get worse, advancing into one of our countries isn’t completely out of the question for them.”
“That’s right, Quenser,” said Froleytia. “Also, the Capitalist Corporations fear their Object technology will be leaked to the Information Alliance if Honeysuckle defects. If the Information Alliance military does advance into the Amazon district, the Capitalist Corporations military is prepared to send an Object of their own into the Amazon district to stop this defection at all costs.”
“Seriously? This was bad enough with just two sides!” Heivia shouted.
If what Froleytia said was true, the Amazon district could turn into a hell in which Objects from four different forces clashed: The Legitimacy Kingdom, the Information Alliance, the Capitalist Corporations, and the Mass Driver conglomerate. Only ruins were left of Amazon City, but it was possible everything within those national boundaries could be swallowed up by a storm of destruction if the flames of war spread. This would of course affect the civilians as well as the soldiers.
Quenser frantically opened his mouth. “I-if that happens, how many Objects will there be here!? Will we get reinforcements!? Will we gather all our Objects in the Amazon district!?”
“They’re all either tied up in other operations or undergoing maintenance. Either way, this is not a situation where we can count on reinforcements. If we had Objects to spare, we would not have used the princess’s Object in its damaged state.”
“Could this be any worse…?” muttered Heivia.
Froleytia must have agreed because her tone was one of annoyance.
“That’s why we need to crush Honeysuckle as quickly as possible so we can end this on our own. If the Mass Driver conglomerate is completely destroyed, the Information Alliance will lose its reason to interfere. That will in turn take away the Capitalist Corporations’ reason. If we can’t do that, we will be the ones cornered. You know what condition the Baby Magnum is in, right?”
“Dammit. This is bad, Quenser,” groaned Heivia.
The princess’s Object had been heavily damaged in the battle with the Break Carrier. And it had been sent here before receiving proper repairs. It was more than enough firepower to take care of the remnants of the conglomerate, but not so much when it came to a clash against cutting edge Objects sent in by other world powers. If her Object was at 100%, the outcome would have been unknown, but it was obvious what would happen in this damaged state.
Quenser felt like his vision was going dark, but he forced his dizzy head to start working again.
“Froleytia, what’s the time limit? Do we know how long we have until the Information Alliance military is coming?”
“We don’t have any real information on their timetable. However, they have no reason to wait around. If it was me, I would head out as soon as possible. The satellites have confirmed the Information Alliance is constructing temporary prefab buildings on the border of our Amazon district and their Parima district. That is likely their Object’s maintenance base zone. Once that is complete, they will likely send their cutting edge Object across the border.” Froleytia must have been tapping her fingers on her desk because a slight tapping noise could be heard as she carefully chose her words. “The base zone will likely be complete in 2 hours. If we do not crush the Mass Driver conglomerate and kill Sladder Honeysuckle in that time, both the Information Alliance and the Capitalist Corporations will invade.”
“Shit!!” swore Heivia. “If the Mass Driver conglomerate has a second Object hidden somewhere, our odds would normally be 50/50 at best! But now that we have to rush this, we could make a fatal mistake!!”
“Hey, Heivia. Since they were going to use a spare railgun here, that means they have an Object to power it, right?” Quenser checked around the partially set up railgun. “If we follow the power cable, we might find the Object.”
“Well, we need to hurry it up. Even if we find their Object, who knows if we can deal with it in such a short time!!”
However, that work was rendered needless.
They heard a heavy explosion in the distance. The low rumbling resounded deep in their guts as, a few kilometers away, gray dust shot up behind the intervening buildings.
“Quenser, Heivia!” shouted Froleytia. “Get away from there!! The Mass Driver conglomerate has made its move! They’ve used explosives to blow a huge hole in the roof of the underground mall!!”
Heivia was confused, but Quenser pulled out his handheld device and called up the satellite map. Quenser was left speechless, so he could not explain what he was seeing, but Froleytia’s pressured voice continued from the radio.
“They’re doing the same thing as in Antarctica or on the Iguazu district coast. It’s a spare Object cannon. But this one is different! They’re using a spare of the high power railgun used as the Break Carrier’s main cannon!!”
The two boys were frozen in shock.
That demonic cannon had pierced straight through an Object in a single shot from 500 kilometers away. If that was fired, the princess’s Object could be taken out instantly, not to mention the soldiers like Quenser and Heivia.
“What do we do, Quenser!?”
“We can still make it in time…” Quenser grabbed his radio while frantically keeping in mind the map that was about to disappear. “Baby Magnum!! The cannon is just over 3000 meters away! That’s well within range of your main cannons! Take it out before it takes you out!!”
She must have been thinking the same thing because the princess immediately took action.
Several buildings stood between the Baby Magnum and the high power railgun. Even if the princess fired a main cannon there, the obstacles would very likely alter the trajectory of her shots. However, the Break Carrier’s main cannon held enough destructive force to fly in a straight line while ignoring the obstacles.
She could not do it there.
The princess came to that conclusion and then began moving her Object in a sideward slide. She was moving in a large circle with her target in the center. Once she reached the straight highway, there would be no obstacles. If she fired her low-stability plasma cannons or something then, she could finish it off.
A gasp came from the princess over the radio.
Either due to the Object’s sudden movement or due to natural deterioration, one of the nearby buildings had suddenly fallen over. Quenser and Heivia frantically fled into a back alley to avoid getting hit by the debris. The 10 story building had broken in half at the center and fallen into the road. The mountain of concrete acted as a giant barricade.
A tsunami of dust swallowed up Quenser and Heivia a few seconds later.
“Ugh…cough!? Heivia, Heivia!?”
“Quenser, don’t move!!”
Quenser could not see, but he could tell Heivia’s voice was coming from an unnatural direction.
It was coming from directly below.
“The shock of the building collapsing caused the back alley to collapse. If you aren’t careful, you’ll be headed straight to the underground mall!!” From the sound of Heivia’s voice, he likely had not received any serious injuries in the fall. “I can’t climb back up from here. I’ll search for a different exit, so don’t you die before we can meet up again!!”
He said nothing more.
Most likely, he had left just as he had said he would.
Quenser was worried about Heivia, but he had other concerns. He altered his focus and spoke into his radio.
“Cough, cough. Baby Magnum! How are things on your end!?”
“I cannot get over the rubble!! At this rate…!!”
As he listened to the princess’s bitter voice, the dust finally cleared up. While paying careful attention to his footing, Quenser ran out. As he headed for the Baby Magnum, he pulled out some Hand Axe plastic explosive, but he stopped moving before he could stab the electric fuse in.
It was too much.
The mountain of concrete blocking the road was nearly 10 meters tall. With that much, a single combat engineer did not have enough explosives to blow it all up.
“Baby Magnum! Can you blow away the wreckage with your main cannons!?”
“Not from here…!”
“Then try moving back a bit and-…!!”
Having realized something, Quenser trailed off.
The Baby Magnum’s propulsion device was primarily located on a reverse Y-shaped part extending below the spherical main body. The bottom of that part produced massive amounts of static electricity to make the giant Object hover. Then laser reflection was used to rapidly expand the air and move it forward. However…
“Shit. Are the ‘legs’ trapped in the rubble!?”
“Quenser, you don’t have to blow it all up. Could you just take care of the rubble that is keeping me from moving?”
Quenser looked up at the rubble that had piled up like a mountain. It did indeed seem simpler to use the explosives rather than trying to move the rubble. However, there was no guarantee that it would free the Baby Magnum. It was possible that removing that portion of the rubble would only cause more to slide down and trap it once more.
All the while, the Mass Driver conglomerate high power railgun would be rotating its barrel their way.
Quenser grabbed at the rubble that looked like a stone wall destroyed in an earthquake.
“What will you do once you get your ‘legs’ out of this rubble!? Can you go around another way!?”
“There are not many paths large enough for an Object, so I would have to go well out of my way…!!”
“Shit,” swore Quenser as he tried to climb up to a spot where he could set up a bomb. To blow away the rubble holding down the reverse Y-shaped propulsion device, he had to climb up over 7 meters.
However, he could not do it.
The mountain of rubble was not a single piece of rock like the cliffs rock climbers loved. The concrete he grabbed as a handhold crumbled and Quenser fell back down to the road.
“Dammit. Would it be faster to just throw the bomb up there!?”
The destructive power of a bomb changed depending on how it was set up. To destroy such a large amount of rubble, it would be more effective to bury the bomb in the rubble than to just place the bomb on top. He was unsure if he even had enough to blow it all away under the best conditions, so he could not be negligent in how he used the explosives.
“Quenser go into the building to your left. It would be quickest if you climbed onto a protrusion of the rubble from a 3rd story window and then climbed down!”
“Shit. Do I have time to do that!?”
Quenser got up and ran into the building as he gritted his teeth. There was a large area inside. The first few floors created an atrium.
And then he was left speechless once more.
He could of course not use the elevator, but the escalator used in place of stairs had crumbled partway up. He could not reach the third floor.
(Is there…Is there an emergency staircase somewhere!?)
Quenser looked around, but he was in such a rush that he found nothing.
Three thousand meters away, the Mass Driver conglomerate Object might have been beginning to send out its targeting signal.
“This is Burning Alpha calling Baby Magnum. From what I can hear, you seem to be in trouble. I have a 500 kilo bomb here, so do you need me to drop it on top of that rubble?”
Quenser was left in shock at that transmission from the fighter flying through the sky.
It would be great if he could use that huge bomb, but in all likelihood he could not. The odds were good he would be shot down by the Mass Driver conglomerate’s anti-aircraft fire before he was able to drop the bomb.
Quenser frantically grabbed his radio and said, “Burning Alpha! A spare Object cannon has been confirmed to be operational in the ruins of Amazon City!! They likely have anti-air lasers, too! Get out of here! If you fly in here, you’ll be shot down in no time at all!!”
“I know that, baby!” The fighter pilot smiled as he replied to Quenser. “That just means I have to choose a course that won’t let it get a lock.”
With the partially set up railgun and the spare Break Carrier main cannon hidden in the underground area prepared, it was highly likely that the anti-air laser beam cannons equipped on Objects were set up in the ruins of Amazon City as well.
Normally, a fighter had no way of resisting anti-air lasers that flew at the speed of light.
The instant after a lock was made with electromagnetic or infrared targeting, the aircraft made of composite materials would explode. The pilot would not even have time to pull the ejection lever.
However, there were a few exceptions to this.
The first was to use jamming devices, chaff, or flares to prevent the Object from getting a lock. Since Objects used multiple methods of gaining a lock, this was not always successful. But with some luck, the fighter could escape for a few seconds or even a few dozen seconds.
The second was to fly at an exceedingly low altitude.
Lasers were made of light. At low altitudes, there was a lot of dust in the air, so the power would often decay and the trajectory would often be thrown slightly off. Above asphalt, the urban heat island phenomenon could even cause mirages, so the odds shot up that the laser would miss its target. However, flying at low altitude was no guarantee of safety, so the fighter usually flew at full speed.
That meant it would be flying at over 1200 kph through a city riddled with countless buildings and complexly crisscrossing power lines.
Staccato Raylong, the Legitimacy Kingdom pilot codenamed Burning Alpha, poured all his concentration into his right hand gripping the control column.
He was only 5 meters off the ground. The shockwave created by flying at supersonic speeds blew away trees growing from the cracks in the city, but Staccato did not have time to notice.
Mach 1 or 1200 kph meant he travelled more than 300 meters every second. As he travelled down the center of the straight highway, he occasionally turned his fighter so that the main wings created a vertical line in order to cut between buildings and occasionally flew beneath rusted pedestrian bridges. All the while, he flew through the ruined city at tremendous speed.
(This is practically suicide.)
A large building drew closer and closer.
The building grew to fill his vision like a giant monster opening its maw to devour him. This time, he could not avoid it.
(Unfortunately, it’s my love for this kind of thing that led me to becoming a pilot!!)
The small delta wing fighter flew straight on.
However, it did not crash.
The building had lost all of its windows, and the fighter flew in at the 4th floor. It flew across that entire floor and back out through a window on the other side.
The small fighter Staccato was piloting was used on assault landing aircraft carriers. The runway it had to land on was 150 meters long. That was about half the length of the runway on old style aircraft carriers. For that reason, the small delta wing fighters Staccato and the other pilots used had several sensors on the bottom to accurately measure the distance to the ground or the runway.
Staccato was using those sensors.
Before flying into the city, he had fired a laser in a completely straight line to confirm he had a straight shot through. That included the path through the building.
However, flying through the building was close to acrobatics because the floor and ceiling drew as close as 50 cm away at the tightest point. He placed his faith in the sensors that drew accurate information on his location from the surroundings shooting by at high speed and boldly charged straight through the empty building without hesitation. If he had not had the piloting skill to control his position down to the millimeter, he would have immediately slammed into the side of the building.
No sane person would have attempted it.
However, Staccato opened the throttle up even more with a savage smile on his lips. He lit the afterburners to truly bring out the fighter’s full speed.
His reason was simple.
(Objects rule the battlefield. There aren’t many places left for fighters to shine.)
As Staccato gathered information from both his vision and from the sensors, he piloted the fighter with frightening accuracy.
(Sometimes, I want to play the lead role!!)
Staccato flew through several empty buildings at supersonic speed and then felt as if his vision had suddenly expanded.
Before him was one of the giant Objects that symbolized war. Below the Object was a veritable mountain of rubble.
Staccato used a fingertip to release the safety on the 500 kilogram bomb.
They would only cross paths for an instant.
Staccato dropped the bomb directly above the rubble, but it felt more like he was placing it in the air than dropping it.
While Quenser was looking around the abandoned building for a usable emergency staircase, the small delta-winged fighter passed by above him in an instant.
The fighter flew in through a window that was missing its glass, through the fourth floor portion of the atrium, and out the other side.
Immediately afterwards, the shockwave of supersonic speeds knocked Quenser over three meters through the air. The pain shooting from his ears and deep into his head was worse than the pain of landing back on the ground. Quenser almost cried out in pain, but he did not have time.
At the very top of the mountain of rubble blocking the Baby Magnum’s path.
Something was floating a mere 2 meters above it. No, it was falling. The object was a giant capsule about 3 meters long and made of black, shining steel. If what Burning Alpha had said was true…
(That’s a 500 kilo bomb!?)
With that realization, Quenser forced his body up even as it rolled across the floor and then leaped into the staircase leading to the abandoned building’s basement.
Immediately afterwards, there was a brilliant flash of light and all noise disappeared.
A tremendous blast of wind rushed through aboveground. Even after fleeing to the basement, Quenser’s body was knocked a few meters by the shockwave. However, that was better than the alternative. A great amount of rubble poured down from the floor above and landed in the spot he had been in a split second before.
He could not even hear a ringing in his ears.
Quenser placed a hand against the wall, walked along the rubble, and climbed up to the surface through a hole in the ceiling that had already been there due to deterioration. He left the building through a nearby back entrance.
“Dammit. Was that pilot trying to kill me!?”
The mountain of rubble had been piled up almost 10 meters high, but it had been blown away without a trace. Baby Magnum could freely move once more. However, the surrounding buildings had begun to collapse due to the blast. The princess’s Object moved before the rubble could block her path once more.
“I am going to fire a low-stability plasma cannon, so get down, Quenser!!” said the Princess over the radio.
In order to avoid putting herself in the sights of the enemy and to gain a straight line-of-sight path to the enemy, she moved the Baby Magnum in a giant circle with the high power railgun 3000 meters away at the center.
It took about 5 seconds to reach the giant bypass.
Three of the princess’s 7 main cannons had been destroyed in the battle with the Break Carrier. She moved the remaining 4 main cannon arms to accurately aim.
At that moment, a chill ran down Quenser’s back.
Something wasn’t adding up.
The Break Carrier’s main cannon was indeed powerful. That had been proven when it had destroyed a cutting edge Object in one shot at a distance of 500 kilometers when the target had been moving at high speed. It was quite a threat even while not installed on an Object.
(Can a cannon with that much power really be fixed to the ground?)
Objects were equipped with over 100 weapons both large and small. The ones used in Antarctica or on the Iguazu district coast had been the smaller models of railguns. And yet they were still large enough to require anchors over 10 meters long to be stabbed into the ground.
So how long an anchor would be required for a main cannon of monstrous size that fired at Mach 25 and could destroy an Object in a single shot? And could they even get something like that?
(Don’t tell me…)
Quenser’s head was still swimming a bit thanks to the shockwave of that 500 kilo bomb, but the fear welling up within him forced in some clarity.
(Don’t tell me…this is a trap!)
Quenser moved his aching body and looked in the direction of the princess’s Object.
At that point, Quenser had already abandoned the possibility that the Mass Driver conglomerate had a mysterious second Object. If they did, they would not use the Break Carrier’s high power railgun like that. It would be more effective to install it on the other Object.
That meant the Mass Driver conglomerate did not have an Object.
But something had supplied that massive power in Antarctica and the Iguazu district coast.
When it came down to it, the source of that power was quite simple.
(A prototype reactor!!)
Quenser gritted his teeth and grabbed his radio.
A prototype reactor was created to ensure the JPlevelMHD reactor that was the heart of an Object was constructed properly. Most likely, the dozen or so meter prototype reactor had been placed aboard a submarine or something and had been supplying power to the railguns with power cables stretching up from the sea.
The enemy’s intention here…
Was to force the high power railgun to move despite the fact that they could not fire it…
To draw the princess out to the easiest point to destroy the high power railgun from.
And the most efficient way to use that treasured prototype reactor of theirs was…
“The enemy railgun is a trap!! A prototype reactor is likely hidden underground!! They’re going to intentionally make it go critical to blow away the Object!!”
On the other end of the transmission, the princess froze up as she operated the Baby Magnum.
However, she had no time.
If the reverse Y-shaped propulsion device had been at 100% and she could use the static electricity and lasers to their fullest, she might have been able to avoid it.
However, that was not the case.
A giant explosion erupted below the princess’s Object.
A bit before the prototype reactor explosion, Froleytia was sitting in her commander’s office with a bitter expression.
The expression was caused by the laptop sitting atop a short table. A video chat window was open, but she was no longer speaking with Major General Buffer Planters of the Capitalist Corporations. She was speaking with someone who was even more of a pain to deal with.
Lieutenant Colonel Lendy Farolito of the Information Alliance military.
She was a brown skinned woman of about 20 who had silver hair. From the medals on her chest, it seemed she had spent an even longer time on the battlefield than Froleytia who had worked her way up from being a child soldier.
“Let me be blunt. We have no interest in whether Sladder Honeysuckle survives. We merely want the technological information he possesses. It just so happens that the most efficient way to get it is to support his defection.”
“And if you send an Object across national boundaries and into our Amazon district to do that, you will be causing a war on all sides. This is no mere skirmish. This could lead to our home countries being targeted. Do you understand that? Is this really that valuable to you?”
“There are a few different ways of avoiding that. For example, you could attack the Mass Driver conglomerate base yourself and hand over any data on Honeysuckle’s technology that you might find. I believe that would solve this problem.”
“…Do you really think the Capitalist Corporations would go along with that?”
“No.” The image of Lendy on the screen smiled. “But such trivial matters are none of our concern. Even if war breaks out between the Legitimacy Kingdom and the Capitalist Corporations, that does not affect us in the Information Alliance any.”
“I suppose not,” agreed Froleytia.
But that was exactly why she had no duty to cooperate with them.
“What is it you are prepared to go this far to get?” asked Froleytia.
“What do you mean by that?”
“It is true the high power railgun that acts as the main cannon of the Break Carrier – that is, the Mass Driver conglomerate Object – is powerful. Its construction likely requires the application of the mass driver which is a crystallization of space development technology. However, it would be in the format of the Capitalist Corporations military. It may not conform to the standards and compatibility of an Information Alliance Object. Is it really worth going this far for?”
“You misunderstand. It is not that high power railgun we are after.”
“This is the ‘Mass Driver’ conglomerate we are talking about. What we want is space launch technology. Many agencies and organizations are continuing research into the construction of electromagnetic space development bases. However, due to a lack of technology, a lack of development funds, a lack of safety, and unease due to the worldwide format shifting toward laser space elevators, they have all come to a standstill. We can create railguns as weapons, but we cannot use that technology to create mass drivers that can safely, cheaply, and stably transport goods and personnel. It is rather ironic.” Lendy spoke smoothly. “Currently, no one but that conglomerate has successfully mass produced them on a practical level. It would be such a shame to let that technology die out. We respect their technological culture and have determined it to be worthy of preserving. That is why we are gladly accepting Honeysuckle’s defection after he tried and failed to get that mass driver technology adopted.”
Froleytia frowned at the Information Alliance lieutenant colonel’s words.
What she was saying was odd.
“Are you trying to confuse me? I thought the Information Alliance’s new shuttles used laser space elevators just like ours. Gaining that railgun-focused mass driver technology will serve you no purpose.”
“Yes, for now.” The silver-haired brown woman named Lendy Farolito’s words seemed to hold deep meaning. “At the moment, laser space elevators are the more efficient method. However, we have no idea how long that established theory will last. …It is not unusual for weaknesses and problems to be discovered in such things. If we have no alternative once that happens, we will be in trouble. That is what the mass driver technology is for.”
Froleytia remained silent.
There was some sense to what the other woman said.
“You are willing to take actions that have a 100% chance of causing a war in order to resolve a problem that may or may not ever even occur?”
“Yes,” replied Lendy without hesitation. “When you have a weapons development race, it seems you scrap the loser. However, we find that to be too much of a waste. If the two technologies rival each other, it is best to preserve both of them. And we do not merely store the data away. We preserve even the familiarity with the technology on the worker’s fingertips. That way the information is ‘alive’ and can be used at any time.”
“That massive and overwhelming collection of data may seem meaningless at first glance, but it serves to protect us from unforeseen worldwide trouble. If you loathe wasting bullets and hold back on your barrage of the enemy, you cannot stop the enemy’s advance. Even if it is meaningless at first, the thicker that barrage becomes, the safer we are.”
“Perfect browsing…?” muttered Froleytia in annoyance.
The Information Alliance was trying to create a system that would display how to resolve a worldwide crisis just by typing a string of text into a search engine.
“However, you will lose any reason to go ahead with that plan of yours if you lose the ability to take in Sladder Honeysuckle,” said Froleytia. “This will all be over if we kill Honeysuckle and destroy the Mass Driver conglomerate’s data before the Information Alliance Object being prepared on the Parima district border is ready. If you are sure to gain the mass driver technology, that is one thing. However, I doubt your superiors will approve a mission that will cause a war if the odds of acquiring the desired information are exceedingly low.”
“True,” admitted Lieutenant Colonel Lendy Farolito. However, her smile remained as she continued. “But can you really do that?”
“If Sladder Honeysuckle were to destroy the Legitimacy Kingdom Object, you would have nothing left to stop our advance.”
After ending the transmission with the Legitimacy Kingdom, Lendy Farolito sank down in the sofa. The Parima district was also just below the equator, so it was hotter than 30 degrees. Those who were not an officer like her were likely dripping with sweat due to having to work without air conditioning.
Lendy got up from the sofa and pulled some brandy out from a small refrigerator similar to those in hotels. She used her brown fingers to pour the liquid in a large glass while using voice recognition mode to connect to the maintenance base zone’s hangar.
Her question was straight and to the point.
“How much longer until our Generation 2 Gatling 033 can head out?”
“I can be out there annihilating anything and everything in another half hour. Oh ho ho.”
He thought his body had been roasted from the inside.
Lying on his back, Quenser tried to groan, but no sound whatsoever escaped his lips. His throat was oddly dry. An afterimage seemed to cover his vision in a white screen and it would not go away. Intense pain ran through his ears and he did not even hear a ringing.
The LED on his radio was blinking.
After a few seconds, Quenser was finally able to hear the sound.
His brain sent a signal to his fingers and he grabbed the radio from the ground with motions reminiscent of a poorly-made robot. He did his best to move his cracked lips.
“…Are you…okay? For an instant, it almost looked like the Object was floating…”
“How are you Quenser?”
“I somehow managed…to avoid getting roasted like in a grill where the flame is too high…”
He of course should have been killed instantly.
However, the prototype reactor placed beneath the princess’s Object had been set so the blast would travel upwards. The same was done for normal bombs. Depending on how the bomb was set, the destructive force would change. To destroy a more solid target, a cup-shaped metal plate would be placed around the bomb to focus the blast on a single point.
Of course, no normal metal plate could do anything to alter a blast from a prototype reactor going critical.
(Did they use a spare piece of Object onion armor?)
“Everything below me was completely taken out, so I can’t move,” said the princess.
“Dammit. So the blast took out the entire propulsion device. Does that mean we have to put together a plan that only uses your cannons?”
“No, the countdown has begun.”
“The system has determined it needs to prevent the enemy from capturing the Object. I am working to cancel the command, but I do not think I can keep up with the speed of the system.”
“A self destruct system…!?”
When the giant weapons known as Objects were being used, one thing had to be avoided at all costs: letting the enemy capture one of your Objects and analyzing the technology. The princess’s Object had a self destruct system installed to prevent that from happening.
The system would gauge the damage done and make the decision automatically to account for the possibility of the pilot Elite being knocked unconscious.
The princess had said she could not stop it.
At the current rate, the Baby Magnum would explode. The explosion would likely cover even more distance than the one from the prototype reactor. The blast from a bomb on the surface would spread farther than one buried underground.
And then the princess added, “Pattern B does not activate the self destruct.”
“What do you mean?”
Apparently, the automatic anti-capture safety system had a few different levels. If the program determined that nothing at all could be done, the Object would be blown up from the inside as soon as the Elite was ejected in order to prevent the leakage of technological information. However, Pattern B did not go that far.
Pattern B only ejected the pilot Elite. After that, the humans could decide if the Elite would pilot an identical model or successor Object or if the damaged Object would be recovered and repaired. If the situation worsened and it seemed the enemy would capture the Object after all, the Elite could send a commander class signal to blow up the Object remotely. Normally, the Object shut out external signals to prevent hacking, but the numerous hatches were opened in an emergency. This allowed a radio signal to reach it.
After explaining all that, the princess said, “I’m sorry, Quenser. I knew losing the Object here would put a major burden on you and the others, and yet…”
“I-it’s okay. We’re the ones that made you fight despite the damage done by the Break Carrier. You don’t need to worry about it.”
Despite what Quenser said, he could not hide his unease.
Objects were synonymous with war.
Everyone knew how much more likely soldiers were to die once theirs was lost.
The Mass Driver conglomerate had been fighting with a prototype reactor rather than a 2nd Object, but they could not let their guard down. Without their Object, they would be forced into a war between flesh and blood soldiers. They had no idea who would win in such a conflict.
And it was also possible cutting edge Objects would be coming in from the Information Alliance and the Capitalist Corporations. If that happened, they had no way of winning without an Object of their own.
Quenser placed a hand on the wall and slowly stood up.
(This means we really do have to end this as quickly as possible. We need to incapacitate the Mass Driver conglomerate to prevent anyone else from joining the fray…)
“At any rate, we need to get away from here. It’ll eject you automatically, right? Can you send your estimated landing point to my handheld device? That way I can meet up with you as quickly as possible.”
“I’m sending it to you now. I will be ejected in 700 seconds.”
Hearing that, Quenser pulled out his handheld device. He then ran in the direction of the princess’s estimated landing point. The course took him right by the side of the Object.
The cityscape had been utterly destroyed for about 200 meters in every direction from the Object. The asphalt had been ripped up and the empty buildings had collapsed. One building was tilted to the side. It was only still partially upright because the princess’s Object was supporting it. The bottom half of the Baby Magnum’s spherical body had melted.
(I should ask for help from the other soldiers.)
Quenser made his request in a businesslike manner over the radio.
The ruins of Amazon City were huge. The soldiers had been spread throughout the entirety of the city and would contact the princess’s Object if they discovered enemy soldiers or important facilities. That way the Object could immediately attack. That meant the soldiers were very spread out. At the very least, Quenser saw no sign of other Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers as far as he could see.
He sent his request, but he doubted any reinforcements would arrive any time soon.
He had also received no word from Heivia after the other boy had fallen down through the cracks and into the underground mall. Since the prototype reactor had been set up underground, that silence was not exactly comforting.
(Dammit, this gives me a bad feeling. That bastard had better not have gotten himself killed.)
Due to his previous experiences, Quenser had one fear.
A pilot Elite that had lost her Object became a top priority target for the enemy troops. Whether any Objects of same or similar models existed or not, the possibility that the Elite could pilot another Object made it crucial to eliminate her immediately.
The Mass Driver conglomerate had calculated everything out beforehand so the princess’s Object would be destroyed at that exact point.
(They don’t have an anti-aircraft gun or something set up at the point they expect her to land after ejecting, do they!?)
With that thought in mind, Quenser ran as quickly as he could. As he did, he naturally looked up at the majestic Object. The princess would be shot diagonally up in a parabola from the upper back portion of the spherical body.
(What is that?)
Quenser stopped running and froze up in shock.
(There’s something spread across blocking the ejection point!? What is it? A…steel net?)
Normally, Objects had several anti-air lasers used to accurately shoot down fighters or ballistic missiles. However, that prototype reactor explosion had just occurred. While it had robbed the princess of her senses like a stun grenade, someone may have fired a bazooka to place that net there.
The net would not do any damage to the Object.
In fact, it was likely a weapon meant to capture people, not kill them.
(It’s blocking…the ejection point?)
Quenser pulled out a small pair of binoculars and checked on the area around the ejection point.
The net was attached so that it dug into the ejection point hatch. This made the automatically opening hatch unable to open.
An Object was 50 meters across.
The long ramp leading from the center to the ejection point automatically moved the Elite at extremely high speed. But if the hatch did not open at the end…
(She’ll run into it at over 100 kph!?)
“Wait a second, princess! Can you stop the ejection countdown!?”
“Someone has intentionally blocked the hatch! If the ejection system activates now, you’ll be slammed into a thick steel plate!!”
He heard her gasp.
Most likely, she did not have time to stop the automatically determined course of action.
Quenser clicked his tongue and started running again.
He felt heat on his skin as he approached the center of the blast.
The prototype reactor explosion had caused many buildings to collapse. One of those buildings was leaning diagonally against the Baby Magnum. Quenser charged into the building, leapt into an elevator shaft that no longer had a door, and ran through the leaning building. Luckily, the shaft’s wall had plenty of uneven portions due to metal beams and the like, so it functioned similar to a staircase with the building tilted.
The countdown continued.
Only a few minutes remained until the ejection.
Quenser reached for the bag on his back and pulled out a rectangular plastic explosive. He stabbed an electric fuse into the Hand Axe.
Just as he was moving to switch the radio channel for the detonation, he heard a violent clanking noise come from the speaker.
The cockpit’s automatic ejection system had activated.
There were a few dozen meters to the ejection point, but that distance would be covered in only a few seconds. And once she reached there, it was all over. She would collide with the metal plate at over 100 kph.
At that same time, Quenser saw what functioned as an exit to the tunnel. It was originally where the elevator opened up onto the roof of the building, but it was missing its door.
But he was not going to make it.
He could see the exit, but it would take him too long to reach it.
“Make iiiitttt!!” screamed Quenser as he threw the plastic explosive as hard as he could. It flew through the rectangular exit and left Quenser’s vision.
It was a desperate gamble.
Quenser hit the switch on the radio and the Hand Axe detonated.
An explosion roared.
Gray dust flew in through the exit.
During it all, Quenser continued to run.
A few seconds later, he finally exited to the diagonal rooftop. The concrete floor had crumbled away at the point he exited at and his feet struck the steel body of the Object instead.
He heard something being ejected. He looked up into the blue sky and saw the princess wrapped in the special suit of an Elite. At the last second, the blast had blown away the net blocking the ejection point hatch. If he had been even an instant slower, she would have been killed by her own safety device.
The princess’s parachute opened and Quenser breathed a sigh of relief.
But then he heard a noise. He turned around and saw someone else standing on top of the Object’s spherical body over 10 meters away from him. A man stood hidden behind one of the Object’s weapons. It was one of the smaller weapons, but it was still a few meters tall.
The man wore a white lab coat over a military uniform.
That lab coat had multiple types of spray paint sprayed on it to create camouflage.
His rounded face had a slight beard as well as a look of weariness that was likely thanks to his life on the run. However, the most overwhelming impression he gave was that of a wild beast.
He held a handgun.
And he was aiming it at the princess as she floated down on her parachute.
Quenser pulled out some Hand Axe plastic explosive, but he did not have time to put in the electric fuse. He simply threw the clay-like mass through the air in a parabolic arc.
The man noticed it immediately.
And he mistakenly assumed it was going to explode.
The man frantically jumped behind a different cannon. In so doing, he lost his chance to shoot. After a second or two, he must have realized it was a fuse-less bluff because he then turned the gun on Quenser.
Quenser frantically hid behind yet another cannon.
Lead bullets caused sparks to fly from the steel cannons that stuck up with a certain regularity like roadside trees.
“From the Legitimacy Kingdom military, are you?” said the man as he hid behind the pillar without letting his guard down. “It seems that young lady is quite well liked by this unit.”
“Who are you?” asked Quenser as he pulled a plastic explosive from his bag and actually put in an electric fuse this time. “Who are you?”
He received no response.
Instead, more 9mm bullets came his way. Sparks flew from the steel cannon Quenser was hiding behind, so he instinctually ducked down.
It was best not to let the other man know he had no gun.
If he realized Quenser was a combat engineer who only had bombs, he would make a more proactive attack.
As Quenser came to that conclusion, the man’s words reached his ears.
The man had either learned what little Quenser could do from the previous exchange or he had a relatively steady personality. Whatever the reason, the man’s voice showed no sign of worry.
That changed the look on Quenser’s face.
And the next comment made him frown even further.
“I am a military advisor for the powerful president of one of the Mass Driver conglomerate’s companies, one of the Capitalist Corporations leading investors, an Object designer…and the man you in the Legitimacy Kingdom most want to kill.”
If he was taken out, the war that had begun in Antarctica could be brought to an end. It seemed a bit strange for a VIP like him to be on the front lines, but Quenser’s mind was focused on something else.
He was an Object designer.
Was that why he had been able to take advantage of the princess’s Baby Magnum’s weaknesses and defeat it? Would he have been unable to achieve such results by simply putting together a plan and having other soldiers carry it out?
(We’re the same…)
Quenser lowered his gaze to the plastic explosive he had put an electric fuse in. On a few occasions, he too had used his knowledge as a student of Object design to destroy those giant weapons.
There was no sign of any other soldiers either ally or enemy.
The explosion of the prototype reactor had been so large scale that it had likely been obvious the Baby Magnum was seriously damaged even from a distance. However, the soldiers still had to continue with their firefights. They could not break formation and reorganize.
From the status of supplies and the number of soldiers, the Legitimacy Kingdom should have had the overwhelming advantage. However, it seemed unlikely they could end it immediately. There was nothing else for them to rely on as they fought with all of their ability.
“Can you really just take your time like this?” asked Sladder in a voice void of concern.
(He’s checking on what I have available to me.)
Sladder had let Quenser know where he was with his voice, but Quenser did not fire a single shot at him. That would tell Sladder that Quenser did not have a gun.
“If you do not kill me right away, the Information Alliance and the Capitalist Corporations will invade. If they learn the Legitimacy Kingdom Object is no longer functioning, they can use that to claim they are merely trying to ‘protect the neighboring countries from a terrorist organization’.”
“Is that what you’re after?”
“Do you think it is?”
They were about 10 meters apart. Quenser was hiding behind one of the cannons that stuck up with a regularity similar to roadside trees. Sladder was hiding behind a different cannon.
Even if handguns had a relatively short range, that was close enough for him to have almost perfect accuracy. Quenser looked around the area, but even moving to a neighboring cannon would be a risky move. If Sladder circled around, he would be in trouble.
Quenser pressed up against the cool steel of the cannon and wet his lips with his tongue.
If he did not buy time using conversation, use the enemy’s voice to determine his location, and put together a plan to overwhelm the enemy, he would be cornered in no time.
(Dammit. If only Heivia was here with his rifle…)
Would Heivia even be able to come if Quenser contacted him over the radio? In fact, Quenser and Sladder were standing atop a giant Object. Heivia might not have to come all the way there. It was possible he could snipe with his rifle while still on the ground.
With that thought in mind, Quenser operated his radio so Sladder would not notice and opened his mouth to speak.
“Give up. The Mass Driver conglomerate no longer has an Object. That high power railgun in the center of the city is too big to shoot from the ground. Not to mention that you no longer have your prototype reactor. Even if you defeat us here, you have no future.”
“How pessimistic. I thought you knew that we of the Mass Driver conglomerate had asked to defect to the Information Alliance.”
“Do you really think they’ll live up to that?”
Quenser felt an urge to click his tongue as he looked at his radio.
He was sending a signal to Heivia, but he was getting no response. It was possible Heivia’s radio had broken or that he had been knocked unconscious.
“When you get there, it is likely nothing but torture that awaits you. Once they get as much information on mass driver technology as they can get out of you, they’ll hand you over to the Capitalist Corporations. Some other country isn’t going to trust someone who betrayed their original country. You should know that.”
“True enough.” Sladder’s voice was as unworried as ever even as the faults in his life plan were pointed out. “But only if information on mass driver technology was my only present for them.”
“Why do you think I went to all this effort?” Sladder fired two or three more shots at the side of the cannon. “If we had wanted to, we could have sent our Lisolette out at once. Her maximum range is 3000 kilometers. If we had her waiting in the Antarctic Ocean, we could have destroyed your Object instantly.”
For an instant, Quenser thought that was the name of the enemy’s Elite, but an instant later he realized it was the official name of the Mass Driver conglomerate Object that the Legitimacy Kingdom had called the Break Carrier. The Capitalist Corporations had a tradition of giving Object’s female names. It was likely an extension of the tradition of giving hurricanes female names.
Quenser toyed with the Hand Axe in his hand.
“What are you trying to do?” he asked.
“Destroy an established theory,” replied Sladder briefly. “Objects are synonymous with war. Modern wars are won or lost based on the specs of the Objects. If it is known that one side will have one more Object than another, the winner can be known before the fighting even begins. This clarity does make these wars very safe in a certain sense of the word, but there are plenty of people who wish to overthrow that theory.”
“You don’t mean…”
“Defeating an Object without using one yourself. That is the desire of all those who wish to deny that theory. And I have taken action to make it a reality. The anti-tank position made up of small spare cannons in Antarctica, the high power railgun used as a decoy, and the explosion of the prototype reactor. After testing out all of that, I have some data the Information Alliance should be very interested in.”
Objects were said to cost 5 billion dollars at the very least. But what if you could destroy one with only the parts rather than an assembled Object? That would only be a fraction of the cost, if not a fraction of a fraction.
The Legitimacy Kingdom, the Information Alliance, the Capitalist Corporations, and the Faith Organization.
The modern wars fought between those world powers were not on the ridiculous scale of a total world war. They were made up of small scale skirmishes, the Object development race that supported those skirmishes, and the acquisition and loss of funds or economic power. The standard method of carrying out these worldwide wars was to drive the enemy power into an economic situation where they could no longer keep up the war.
In that situation, the technology to assuredly destroy an Object that costs over 5 billion dollars at a fraction of the cost would be an incredibly valuable card to have in your deck.
That is of course only if such technology existed.
“Too bad. The primary damage done to our princess was not due to your tricks. It was the Break Carrier’s bombardment in the Iguazu district. If it wasn’t for that, she might have been able to avoid your prototype reactor.”
“The Break Carrier? Oh, that’s your codename for Lisolette.” Sladder somehow seemed to be enjoying himself. “That is merely an issue of degree. I am not a researcher in that field. I merely needed to protect myself and acquire something I can use to gain safe refuge somewhere where I can freely develop mass drivers. For that reason, it was actually more effective to not pull it off perfectly. It is much better to be a few steps away from perfecting this dream come true for them. After all, if it was already perfected, some of them might just want to torture it out of me.”
If the incredibly valuable technology still required some more research, they would have to keep Sladder alive so he could continue that research. They could not just torture him or hand him over to the Capitalist Corporations. Sladder had intentionally made his results so-so, so that the entire Mass Drive conglomerate would not be abandoned by the Information Alliance.
It was a dangerous gamble.
If he did too well, they might determine they could make Sladder’s research a reality without him. However, if he did not do well enough, they might determine that Sladder’s ideas were nothing more than a pipedream.
When faced with the overwhelming power of an Object, he had needed to produce results that were in that sweet spot between too much and too little.
That was many, many times more difficult and dangerous than simply recklessly heading in to destroy an Object with some bombs.
“I don’t believe it,” said Quenser. “You let the Break Carrier be destroyed for that? Did the Break Carrier’s pilot agree to that?”
“To be honest, it wasn’t all planned out to that extent.”
Sladder’s tone dropped a bit.
He may have been recalling the face of that Elite.
“I only started seriously thinking about securing refuge with the technology to destroy an Object without an Object after Lisolette was destroyed. The plan at the time was to negotiate with the Information Alliance using Lisolette. That long distance bombardment using a combination of a method of aiming using the chaff missile clouds and the high power railgun is a good bargaining chip, don’t you think? Our Elite could control it best and we could maintain it best. You could say what we actually used was the Plan B we had prepared ahead of time.”
(The Mass Driver conglomerate passed through Central America. To get to the Iguazu district, they had to pass by the Parima district at the northernmost part of South America. If their plan was simply to ask the Information Alliance for help, they would have had no reason to go to the Iguazu district. That means they were either planning to create their own independent nation or that they still needed data on the Break Carrier or the non-Object tactics to use in negotiations.)
Had Sladder simply been very lucky?
Or had his excessive preparedness saved him?
Quenser had a feeling it was both. By taking in everything he could by coincidence or necessity, that monster had gained the nature of the ultimate pawn. That was not something that could be gained merely by natural talent or merely by hard work.
“None of it really matters,” said Sladder Honeysuckle the Strategist quietly. “All that we want is an environment in which to develop mass drivers. It does not matter to us if the balance of the current Object-oriented battlefield is destroyed. Those giant things can do nothing but kill.”
“…I see.” Quenser checked on the plastic explosive in his hand once more. He toyed with the Hand Axe in his hand. “It seems we cannot come to an understanding.”
“What part of that did you have a problem with?”
“The part where you want to hide in the shadows and benefit from the Objects and Elites that are fighting on the battlefield. And the part where you have no problem blaming others and viewing yourself as blameless when your own Object is destroyed.”
He spoke with conviction.
It was because he felt that way that Quenser was standing there at that moment.
He had come there to force open the blocked ejection point hatch rather than abandoning the princess and her destroyed Object.
His words only made Sladder laugh.
As they were both hiding behind upwards-pointing cannons, Quenser could not see his expression, but he heard his laugh. Sladder’s shoulders were likely moving up and down.
“You’re one to talk.”
Sladder’s tone of voice gave Quenser an ominous feeling.
Quenser naturally tensed up even more.
“You’re the one that has ended several wars with the smallest amount of damage by blowing up the Objects from the very beginning. Isn’t that right, Quenser Barbotage?”
(How does he know my name!?)
Quenser was utterly shocked, but he was not given time to respond.
Gunshots rang out and sparks flew from the upwards-pointing cannon he was hiding behind.
However, this was no threat or warning.
He also heard approaching footsteps partially masked by the gunshots.
Quenser immediately leaned out from behind the cannon to throw the plastic explosive in the direction of the noise.
But he got kicked instead.
Quenser was crouched on one knee to throw the bomb, but a heavy strike struck his face before he could.
Quenser’s head was horribly shaken and he was knocked rolling backwards. The bomb he had been about to throw fell down onto the Object’s spherical body.
And then Sladder aimed his handgun at close range.
“You’re more famous than you think. …Especially among those who gather the best of their technology to create Objects.”
Quenser did not have time to get up, so he frantically rolled to the side in order to evade. However, he gained more momentum than he had expected. A second later he realized he was starting to roll down the slant of the spherical body.
(Not good… If I roll any further, I’ll be headed straight for the ground!!)
Quenser managed to stop his momentum, but then a gunshot rang out.
At the same time, a blazing pain ran through his left shoulder.
“Don’t get so worked up. It only grazed you. It didn’t even take out the joint.”
Quenser clenched his teeth as he held his burning shoulder with his other hand.
At the same time, a twinge of doubt entered his mind.
Sladder should have had no reason to hold back.
“I had no real reason.” Sladder Honeysuckle smiled calmly. “I started out as an engineer. To be honest, I’m almost entirely self-taught when it comes to guns. I tried shooting at you as you rolled and I just so happened to hit your shoulder.”
They were only 3 meters apart.
Someone well versed in a specialized martial art might have been able to take the gun from him. However, a student like Quenser had no such ability.
Meanwhile, Sladder accurately aimed the gun at him.
“So I will make sure to kill you when the time comes. Oh, and it seems that time is now.”
“…Then you should have shot every bullet you had rather than just shooting once.”
“If you don’t put every effort into this, people can take advantage of it like this.”
As he spoke, Quenser held out his uniform’s jacket to show the inside.
Sladder assumed he had a gun, so he immediately prepared to pull the trigger, but then he stopped.
A clay-like object was hanging from Quenser’s belt.
It was a Hand Axe plastic explosive with an electric fuse inserted.
“Should you be taking aim like that?”
As he spoke, Quenser held his thumb against the switch on the radio he held in one hand. Even if he was accurately shot in the head, he could very well press the button when he collapsed. That would blow Sladder away as well.
Sladder leapt behind a nearby upward-pointing cannon to avoid the blast.
However, he then realized something.
It was about that detonator Quenser had.
He had been using a radio to send the detonation signal.
(Wait a second. Would he really have that switch set on a direct connection with the bomb hanging from his belt!?)
That worry brought unease and the unease grew into fear.
However, Quenser did not wait.
He unhesitatingly pressed the switch.
A great noise and a shockwave exploded out.
However, they came from directly behind Sladder as he hid behind the upwards-pointing cannon.
When Sladder had kicked Quenser’s face, the bomb Quenser had been about to throw had fallen onto the Object’s body. They were now down where Quenser had almost fallen off whereas that bomb had still been up nearer to the top of the Object. Quenser had kept the focus on himself while detonating the bomb directly behind Sladder.
There was a good distance between Sladder and the bomb, but the blast was still strong enough to send him flying through the air. Sladder flew a few meters before striking the spherical body made of steel once more. From there, he rolled. He finally came to a stop near Quenser.
Quenser crouched down to pick up the handgun Sladder had dropped.
He then held the barrel against Sladder’s head.
Sladder let out a groan, but Quenser uttered only one word.