HEAVY OBJECT:Volume3 Chapter 1
- 1 Chapter 1: A Grave of Junk is a Mountain of Rare Metals >> Interception at the Remains of the Alaska Battlefield
Chapter 1: A Grave of Junk is a Mountain of Rare Metals >> Interception at the Remains of the Alaska Battlefield
There was once an Object known as the Water Strider.
It was a cutting edge Generation 2 Object. The monstrous Object had travelled smoothly across the snowy plains using static electricity, and had been able to pierce the armor of enemy Objects with two low-stability plasma cannons on either side even though not even a nuclear weapon could do the same.
A normal Generation 1 Object would have had a hard time standing up to the Water Strider, but a battlefield student who had come to study Object design and a noble radar analyst who had come to amass valiant deeds had managed to blow it to pieces. That was 2 months ago.
“We’re back, Alaska. I’m glad to see you’re even colder than when I saw you last.”
“Hey, Quenser. Let’s ditch this work and go look for Santa Claus’s house or something.”
“I thought Santa lived in Scandinavia.”
“You’d have to ask the Faith Organization about that one. Wait, he changed the color of his clothes in a soft drink commercial, so would he be with the Capitalist Corporations? He might actually be relaxing in some company’s health facility.”
Quenser and Heivia of the Legitimacy Kingdom chatted as they walked through the snow.
One had blond hair and the only way to determine his gender at first glance was whether he was wearing pants or a skirt. He was a commoner battlefield student named Quenser.
The other had short brown hair and a somewhat muscular build. He was a noble radar analysis specialist named Heivia.
They were not walking through a white winter scene that filled one with the wonders of nature.
It was true that there were not any areas where the bare ground was visible. The white covered the ground all the way to the horizon.
However, strange metal pieces of art were scattered about.
That was the remains of the Second Generation Object known as the Water Strider. A small screw would be buried beneath the snow, but these masses of steel were 20 meters or more across. Main cannons that looked like bent metal bridges created a large wall blocking the way along that plain.
“I’ve gotta admit, this is pretty damn amazing,” muttered Heivia as he scratched at his head. “It looks like a volcano erupted. There’s wreckage as far as the eye can see. That blast was pointed up, but I think some of these things flew a few hundred meters away.”
“Some things probably flew kilometers. But it was a 200,000 ton Object. It isn’t that easy to retrieve the parts. And that goes for us as much as it does for the other side.”
“I was wondering what those gloomy intelligence guys were so busy doing. I guess they must be analyzing the technology on site as well as stripping it of any rare metals.”
“We can leave all that to them, so let’s get on with our own job.”
Quenser then half-slid down a relatively gently sloped cliff. He was heading for a spot a few meters down. Fragments of the Water Strider could be seen glittering there, but either due to the area that exploded or the direction of the wind, no pieces larger than 10 meters were there.
That was the problem.
And Quenser had been called in as a combat engineer to solve that problem.
“Okay, okay.” Quenser gently tapped the cliff he had come down from with his palm. “The surface is already crumbling. It seems like a waste to use this expensive Hand Axe on it.”
“Everything looks fine up above too,” said Heivia when he came sliding down shortly thereafter. “Just open up a 5 meter crack and all the wreckage should come sliding down. And that includes an entire leg belonging to that damn Water Strider.”
“And we can use that to hold it back,” replied Quenser offhandedly as he assembled an electric drill.
It was a model used for road construction rather than for work around the house, so the actual drill itself was 50-70 cm across. He held the electric drill about level with the cliff slope and pressed the trigger-like button.
After drilling a few holes in the cliff face, Quenser said, “Stick a bomb in the areas I mark. Afterwards, cover them up with the metal plates I gave you beforehand. Then cover it all back up with dirt. That way the energy of the bomb will be directed into the cliff.”
“Fine, fine. Honestly, this is as much of a pain in the ass as squeezing whipped cream onto a cake. A gram of this explosive is more expensive than a gram of platinum, right? It’s really powerful stuff, so can’t you just place it wherever and have the cliff collapse?”
“Are you complaining this much because you had to carry around all the spare batteries for the drill?”
“I’m complaining because I’m a radar analyst and yet am out in the snow working with drills. Can’t we just blow it up already so we can head back?”
“Surely you know that you set up bombs differently for different situations. Even a powerful explosive won’t do much damage if all of the energy escapes.”
“Didn’t you come here to learn about Object design?”
“I’m not doing this because I want to, but I have to make myself useful if I’m going to stay here. And the same goes for you, you delinquent soldier.”
After creating all the small pockets in the cliff, Quenser too began setting up the bombs.
But then he frowned.
Heivia had realized it too.
“Hey, I put just a fuse inside to test the detonation signal receiver, but it isn’t responding to the radio signal. Is the dirt or the metal plate cutting off the signal?”
“Dammit, this wasn’t my plan.” Quenser clicked his tongue with a puff of white breath. “Froleytia’s an excellent commander, but she has a tendency to make up the small details on the fly.”
“We can grope those giant tits of hers over this later, but what are we supposed to do now, Quenser?”
“We’ll have to use a timed fuse rather than a radio one. The signal doesn’t matter then.”
“What should I set as the detonation time?”
“1700 hours. That’s about 20 minutes from now.”
There was a reason they set it to detonate at a specific time. If they set it to detonate after a certain number of minutes, the time spent between setting up each bomb would result in them not detonating simultaneously.
After setting up all of the bombs along the cliff face, Quenser and Heivia quickly left. After all, they had fewer than 10 minutes left.
“Hey, Quenser. With that much explosive, how far away do we need to get in order to be safe?”
“The blast is directed inward, so 50 meters should be enough to avoid being deafened given the shockwave. But it couldn’t hurt to be extra safe.”
“Froleytia wouldn’t shut up about not leaving footprints, but it’s not like we can help it with this snow.”
“With the blizzard today, it should all be gone after a few minutes.”
While chatting some more, the two boys made it about 100 meters away.
Heivia suddenly looked like he had just realized he had forgotten to lock the front door after heading out.
“Hm? Oh, I think I messed up!!”
“What is it, Heivia?”
“I might have entered the number without switching the fuse mode first. So instead of setting the timer, I might have set the frequency to 1700. I-I need to go check.”
“Now!? They’re going to detonate in less than 10 minutes!!”
“I just need to run over and check, then run right back!!”
“You can’t!! Just wait until 1700 hours. If they don’t detonate then, we can go back and check. Okay, okay!?”
“You’re the one that said the bombs have to be set up to match the situation. If the ones I set up don’t do anything and yours blow up properly, we won’t get the results we want, will we?”
“You’re right…” Quenser trailed off.
“C’mon, c’mon. We just have to get it over with real quick. Hurry up!” urged Heivia.
“Eh? Me too? This was your mistake, not mine!!”
With Quenser being dragged along in bewilderment, the two of them started back toward the cliff.
They were about 100 meters away.
After travelling 30 of those meters…
A huge explosion suddenly erupted from the cliff before 1700 hours had arrived.
As Quenser and Heivia approached defenselessly, the sudden shockwave knocked them onto their backs. Quenser had said they would be safe as long as they were 50 meters away, but that was only if they were crouched down preparing for the shock. He had not been talking about if they were defenselessly standing straight up.
While the two of them were sinking into the snow on the ground, Quenser started beating Heivia with his fists.
“You idiot!! You idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot, idioooottt!!”
“Ow!! My bad, my bad!!”
“You didn’t just forget to set it properly! You set the time too soon!! You did the ones in that area, right!? And you didn’t set the metal plates right either, did you!? If you had, the blast wouldn’t have reached this far!!”
“Yeah, but we would’ve been killed if I hadn’t set the time so soon. It all turned out all right in the end.”
“Depending on the situation, this kind of mistake could ruin an entire military operation! That could lead to an entire unit being killed!!”
“Quenser! Hey, Quenser!”
“Don’t interrupt me when I’m just getting warmed up!! I’m legitimately mad here!! Look, the cliff only partially collapsed. Our first objective for today was completely-…!!”
“No, it’s almost 1700 hours!! The bombs you set are going to detonate!!’
Quenser looked over blankly.
In the next instant, the second wave of explosions occurred.
Those two idiots had finally managed to lift their upper bodies from the snow, but they were knocked back into the exact same position as before due to the shockwave. A pain ran through their heads like spikes were being stabbed into their brains through both ears.
After a short silence, Heivia finally managed to clench his fists.
“You idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot, idioooottt!! You didn’t set up the metal plates right, either!! If you had, that shockwave would never have reached us!!”
“My bad, my bad!! Ow! I’m sorry about acting so full of myself when I was rushing things, too!!”
However, the cliff still collapsed thanks to an unexpected coincidence.
The collapse of the cliff brought Water Strider wreckage down with it. Among the wreckage was a leg that looked like a twisted steel pylon and a mass of armor that was over 10 meters long.
The two of them had gotten into a scuffle in the snow, but they froze in place at that unexpected result.
Quenser spoke up first.
“Hmm. It seems the wreckage rolled down far enough to plug up the area between cliffs.”
“And that will block the path of the convoy trying to pass by below.” Heivia frowned. “I know they can’t move things this heavy so easily, but will this really work? Using such huge pieces of wreckage for a wall also means the gaps are huge.”
“There’s an ambush set up to deal with that.” Quenser pointed out into the snowy plain. “There are tiny fragments a few centimeters or a few millimeters across scattered all over the place. That’s why we can’t just send in giant cranes to deal with this. Those caltrops would blow the tires.”
“So I guess stage 1 was a success.”
“Yes.” Quenser disassembled the large electric drill that was no longer needed. “We have the foundation we need to confine the Information Alliance Object.”
It all started three days prior.
That was the day Quenser and Heivia were flown to Alaska while complaining as usual.
“Our enemy this time is an Information Alliance Object. It is a cutting edge Generation 2 Object that we at the Legitimacy Kingdom military have codenamed Rush,” said Froleytia, their silver-haired, large-breasted, and Japanese-obsessed commander.
This was not part of an official pre-mission briefing.
It was after she had discovered the billiards table those two idiots had made out of scrap wood and had lectured them for two hours straight. After she had made sure they had taken official responsibility for that, Froleytia’s expression became more cheerful and they started playing a game of pool to kill time.
In a disgusted tone of voice, Quenser said, “Taking on a Second Generation Object in Alaska? I have a bad feeling about that.”
“Make sure not to mention that we’re fighting atop the freezing cold snow of Alaska in front of the princess. It would only anger her.” Froleytia sighed before continuing. “The remains of the Water Strider that became our nightmare are still strewn across Alaska. We want to analyze the technology there, but it’s just too much to easily transport away.”
The wreckage from the previous Baby Magnum was still there too, but the Legitimacy Kingdom had no real reason to look into it. They would only strip it of rare metals to reuse them.
“Can’t we just hook it to one of our Objects and tow it out of there?” said Heivia who was exhibiting his position as a noble by holding the cue skillfully.
Froleytia smoked her kiseru with even more annoyance and said, “The area is still fiercely fought over, so Objects are commonly coming and going. What if a different Object targets ours while doing that? We would just end up with another souvenir to analyze the technology of.”
“Is that so?” muttered Heivia offhandedly.
However, the conversation must have affected his concentration because the cue ball he struck was swallowed up by one of the pockets.
Froleytia removed the kiseru from her mouth with one hand and said, “Heivia, I’m going to perform a middle kick, so stick your ass out this way.”
“Where the hell did that come from!?”
“Quiet. Hitting the cue ball into a pocket without getting a single other ball in is punished with a kick to the ass where I come from. Okay, lower your knees a bit and…yes, right there. Now, don’t move. If you dodge it, you get two.”
“Dammit. The thrill in your voice is scaring me, you sadistic queen!!”
Froleytia’s lovely leg shot out like a whip before Heivia could complain any more. With a ridiculous crack as if from a real whip, Heivia collapsed to the ground holding his ass despite all his military training.
“Gyahh!? The boot’s air conditioning motor!!”
Quenser had known Heivia for a while, but he had never heard that kind of voice come from him before.
Meanwhile, Froleytia put the kiseru back in her mouth and spoke with an unconcerned look on her face.
“Hmm. I may be a weak little girl, but I am good at doing that.”
“…Y-you liar. You could never pull that off without thoroughly training your entire body…” groaned Heivia.
Ignoring him, Froleytia took the cue from Quenser who was trembling in fear. She then headed for the billiards table.
“Getting back on topic, the remains of the Water Strider are strewn about Alaska. Those remains are full of treasure both of the soft and hard variety. We can learn from the technology used in its design, from the electronic programs it used, and it’s also full of military secrets. Not to mention all the rare metals inside. Also, we might also learn something about the techniques of the artisans that made the armor from the composition of the highly heat resistant materials and the balance of heat treatment. Since we were the ones that blew up the Faith Organization’s Water Strider, we naturally have the right to the benefits of that analysis. However, we are not the only ones that want those benefits.”
Froleytia aimed the cue at the white cue ball, staring down a straight line from the ball. She was so focused on the game that she did not seem to notice that her ass inside her tight skirt was sticking out toward Quenser.
“We have learned that some intelligence agents from the Information Alliance snuck in there a few weeks ago, but they went too far. We were ordered to destroy the quickly constructed antenna facility they were preparing in order to transmit information on the technology they had analyzed. I doubt the Information Alliance will take that sitting down, so they will likely send an Arctic Object in.”
“And that’s the Generation 2 Rush…?”
“You’ve already seen it, Quenser.”
The high pitched noise of a number of balls striking each other rang out and the 3 ball was swallowed up by a pocket. Froleytia circled around the table with a delighted spring in her step.
“That’s the one we fought alongside during the liberation of that Oceanian military nation. Its two rapid fire beam cannon Gatling guns were its trademark.”
Hearing that, Quenser almost brought his hand to his forehead.
“(…That G-cup ‘Oh ho ho’!?)”
His bitter expression was not simply because he had to fight someone he knew. They did belong to enemy nations after all.
It was because he knew just how powerful the Object that “Oh ho ho” piloted was. The rapid fire beam cannon Gatling guns it used as its main weapons were more powerful than the princess’s main cannons when it came to brute force. The odds were good the enemy would simply maintain an ideal distance, and blow away their Object’s armor in no time at all without giving any chance to evade.
Froleytia would have gone through all sorts of data on it beforehand when coming up with the strategy, and she seemed to realize what Quenser was worried about.
“We won’t be fighting it head on. Not even the higher ups are expecting that of us. This is more of a job for our decorated combat engineers.”
“Wait! Wait just a second!! I like that even less!! That’s just putting all the danger on us! I’ve been wondering, why does this unit seem completely incapable of sending an Object after an Object like normal units do!?”
“It’s no good, Quenser. You heard that thrill in her voice, right? That’s the tone she gets when she’s hoping for a good reaction from us when she asks something ridiculous of us,” said Heivia with tears in his eyes as he continued to hold his ass.
Froleytia targeted the next ball and pouted the lips that held her kiseru.
“Don’t talk about me like I use my position to harass you. The princess still takes the leading role while you only have supporting roles, so don’t worry. You just have to take care of some simple demolition wor-…Hm!?”
Her sudden exclamation was due to the cue ball unexpectedly veering a bit diagonally after she struck it with the cue. The conversation must have affected her concentration.
The cue ball struck the edge of the table a few times before being swallowed up by a corner pocket.
The three remained silent for a bit.
In order to break that awkward silence, Froleytia squeezed the cue with all her strength, held it out toward Quenser, and opened her eyes wide.
“You’re up next, Quenser!! And since I foolishly hit the cue ball into the pocket, it’s your duty to kick my ass as hard as you can!! Now!!!!!!”
“Please stop trying to hide your embarrassment with intensity!! It’s scary!! This is the first time anyone has stuck their ass out toward me so forcefully!!”
And so those two idiots played their roles as supporting characters by moving secretly across a snowy plain of Alaska and carrying out demolitions work to stop the enemy convoy.
“This is the 5th spot,” muttered Quenser on that snowy plain that had grown dark due to the sun having completely set. “The ‘maze’ is finally complete.”
“Now the Information Alliance maintenance convoy can’t move freely to and from the battlefield. The primary route is blocked by the wall of wreckage we created and the sharp fragments will destroy their tires if they try to find a way through. But we can still move through quickly because we know the proper route.”
“This in itself does not actually work as an attack against the Rush. It’ll all be a waste of time if our princess loses in a direct conflict.”
Quenser looked confused, and a cruel smile appeared on Heivia’s face.
“The Rush uses a special means of movement that uses both an air cushion and treads. It normally floats using the power of air, but it uses chainsaw-like treads to tear at the ground and give it bursts of high speed. Surely you knew that, right?”
“Unlike the princess whose Object floats at all times, the Rush does contact the ground at times.” Heivia lightly waved his index finger. “That means it’s possible the fragments of the destroyed Object could be sucked in by the treads, causing a malfunction.”
Normal stones or concrete would be torn away by those treads powered by the massive energy of the giant reactor.
However, the obstacles this time were remnants and armor plates from a similarly monstrous Object. It was possible those could actually damage the monster’s treads.
“But will it really go that well?” Quenser was somehow doubtful. “Objects have tons of sensors. They’ll be able to detect the metal on the ground, right?”
“It’s everywhere. Even if they can detect it, they might not be able to avoid it.”
“If this would really work, wouldn’t someone be putting serious effort into developing anti-Object caltrops?”
“The high heat resistance of the armor plates comes from the work of artisans. This isn’t cheap stuff they can pump out like crazy. They’ve likely determined it’s more efficient to focus it all on spare parts for Objects.”
“You sure are optimistic, Heivia. Are you the type that wouldn’t hesitate to buy a lucky pot if your beautiful commander confidently told you to?”
“Our large-breasted commander isn’t the type of beauty that gives you a sense of peace.”
“…Yeah, she’s the type of commander that personally organizes a unit under her direct control to perform surprise checks for porn magazines in the barracks.”
“About that! Why does she have to put only women in their 20s in that group!? If it was some middle-aged guy, it could all be resolved peacefully with an awkward smile!!”
“That’s the entire point. By the way, how about we form an alliance, Heivia? When it looks like they’ll be checking in one of our hiding spots, the other can hide the goods in their spot and vice versa.”
“But she has complete control of the radio transmissions. She would hear any emergency transmissions we made.”
“We can use metaphors or code words or something. Y’know, we can say ‘I’m cornered over here’ or something to denote the beginning of a coded conversation.”
“It would be best if we didn’t use the same metaphors for long. How about we switch them out between missions?”
The two worked out those plans together, but they did not forget that they were on a battlefield.
“It looks like we’ll know just how effective our sabotage is soon.” Heivia checked the time on his military watch. “The clash between the princess and the Rush should be beginning right about now.”
“…In any normal place, only people working overtime would still be at work. I’d like to make it back in time for the last train.”
The Legitimacy Kingdom Object known as the Baby Magnum was designated a Composite Multi-Role Object.
However, the more common term used was “First Generation Object”.
It was made to perform in all environments and weather conditions. If some parts were switched out, it could even move freely over the ocean. When First Generation Objects first appeared, they were said to be more powerful and easier to use than a nuclear weapon, but the situation had changed now that it was normal for world powers to possess powerful Objects.
The main cannons supported by the seven arms extending from the back of the Object could rotate at the base like a revolver. This allowed it to fire different types and varieties of weapons to match the situation. When put that way, it sounded quite convenient and powerful.
However, the Elite pilot girl who piloted the Baby Magnum felt about it differently.
Her Object only had multiple options for its main cannons because it was necessary.
In other words, the designers had not been confident its main cannons could defeat an enemy in a single strike, so they had prepared that option as a form of insurance.
Her main cannons were weak.
The implications of this were as follows: In an age where Objects were common and there was a flood of Objects of equal or greater ability, a standard First Generation Object had no guarantee that it could destroy any and all enemies.
(I know that…)
The slender princess took a deep breath within the cockpit at the center of the Object. The air was purified with multiple filters and caustic soda, and the air pressure was maintained at the perfect level for high-speed thought. That air almost mechanically swept away her negative thoughts and allowed her to bring her thoughts in order.
(Regardless, I can only pilot the Baby Magnum as it is what I was specially modified to pilot. I have no choice but to take on the world with the Baby Magnum.)
She focused her thoughts and looked back at the front monitor.
There was already a reading on the radar.
She had her enemy’s location and her enemy surely had hers.
It was 1 on 1.
Single combat on the greatest scale ever seen in the world was about to begin.
Just as the princess felt a tense atmosphere fill the cockpit, she heard the electronic tone indicating an external transmission had come in.
It was not on an official Legitimacy Kingdom military frequency.
Objects tended to have the ability to pick up all transmission from frequencies not of their own army and attempt to analyze them. If they happened to learn of the enemy’s movements from doing so, that was great. Due to complex codes, enemy transmissions were rarely intercepted, and when they were, they could always be false information meant to lead you into a trap. This meant it was usually not too useful, but a Composite Multi-Role Object was filled with such “useless” features.
What the Baby Magnum had picked up was on neither a Legitimacy Kingdom military frequency nor an Information Alliance military frequency. It was pretty much a general frequency. It was also not coded so either side could understand it.
(Are they purposefully letting me hear this…?)
The princess gave a suspicious look.
The voice of a teenage girl came from the speaker.
“Oh ho ho. I don’t believe I have seen you since Oceania, you unrefined Legitimacy Kingdom Elite.”
The princess immediately cut off the transmission, but another transmission came over a different frequency almost immediately after that.
“I suppose I cannot blame you for trembling in fear, but do not worry. I am kind. Oh ho ho. I am of course generous enough to recognize your white flag. I am not like that Object that lies in pieces all around here.”
“Must you insult me with every word you speak…?” A dangerous light appeared in the princess’s expressionless eyes at the Information Alliance Elite’s reference to her defeat to the Water Strider. “I will make sure we have no need of our white flag. I will destroy you here. I will make you into a souvenir just like the Water Strider.”
“My, my. Now, this is a problem. I cannot take my reward according to plan unless I make you use your white flag. Oh ho ho.”
“After all, if you use your white flag, we can take prisoners from the surviving soldiers. Which means… Oh ho ho. I will have a chance to retrieve a certain gentleman from your unit and scout him for my own uses.”
In the next instant, the princess fired one of the Baby Magnum’s main cannons.
The coilgun fired a massive steel shell with the power of electromagnets, but the Information Alliance’s Rush was out of range, so it did not receive so much as a scratch. However, the princess had achieved her objective.
That had been no warning shot.
It had been a signal to denote the beginning of the deadly battle.
As if in response to the shot, the giant Object before her quickly approached. It charged across the open snowy plain as if intentionally entering effective range of the Baby Magnum’s weapons.
The princess also charged across the snowy plain while heading back and forth in an S-curve.
A simple word was filling her head.
“Oh ho ho! Oh ho ho ho ho ho!! Once I have that gentleman, I will put a collar and dog ears on him and give him the best of care, so do not worry! In fact, he would clearly be happier here than with your unrefined unit. Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho!!”
With an overwhelming explosive noise that disturbed even the electromagnetic waves of their transmissions to each other, the two giant weapons fired their main cannons.
Object versus Object.
A safe and clean battlefield.
That international competition was something like an official sports competition that cleanly distinguished between the battlefield and safe countries.
In this age, wars were deadly fights between those giant weapons, so no others needed to die in the wars. When one of the Objects was destroyed, the war was over. The only sacrifice was the Elite piloting the Object. And even that was not assured. If the Elite performed an emergency ejection and transmitted the signal known as the white flag, the enemy Object would end its pursuit and preparations would be made for an end of war conference between the two nations.
Dying on the battlefield was no longer common.
The most common reason for a soldier to leave a front lines base was not injuries or death. Instead, it was due to complications in a romantic relationship with someone else on the base.
New soldiers fresh out of boot camp would lose their edge on the front lines.
Or so it should have been…
“God dammit!! How in the hell is this a safe and clean battlefield!?” shouted Quenser and Heivia in unison as they ran full tilt across the snowy white plain.
They had been hiding about a kilometer from where the two Objects had begun to clash. From there, they had tried to use binoculars or rifle scope to watch the “sports competition”, but the aftereffects of the battle spread to a frightening distance.
The cause of their fear was the shockwaves.
The main bodies of the Objects alone were over 50 meters across, so when they fired their main cannons, something like a tremor in the earth spread across the snowy white plain, causing the ground to push up at them from below. That had relentlessly shaken the 10-meter-long piece of Water Strider wreckage Quenser and Heivia were hiding behind, causing it to fall over so that it would crush them.
With the cover they were using as a shield trying to kill them, Quenser and Heivia were forced to run as fast as they could across the snowy plain. Given how massive the piece of wreckage was, it was just as dynamic a sight as seeing a slightly old car being turned into a hunk of recycled metal.
The Objects on the battlefield did not seem to notice the presence of the two boys. Or they had but were simply ignoring them because they could not affect the battle any.
The puny human crawling across the ground named Quenser did not want his grave to list such a pathetic cause of death, so he ran away looking like a demon covered in snow.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!! See, this is just as ridiculous as ever!! This is divine punishment for lowly people like us thinking we could watch an Object battle with our own eyes!!”
“Divine punishment!? Are you from the Faith Organization now!? Only shrine maidens talk about divine punishment!!”
“Divine punishment is a Shinto concept? I thought it was Buddhist.”
After the wreckage fell over and knocked a cloud of white snow into the air like dust, Quenser and Heivia hid behind it once more. The shockwaves still blasted through intermittently, but the Object wreckage seemed to have fallen into a more stable position. It was the same as a fallen tree not moving after it loses to gravity the first time.
Heivia lay on his stomach behind the wreckage and kept his breathing shallow.
“…This is really pathetic. We’re putting our lives in the hands of the wreckage that tried to kill us. It feels like getting in the bath the next day without letting out the water.”
“If you worry about pride when up against an Object, you won’t last 5 seconds,” replied Quenser offhand as he checked on the battlefield with his binoculars.
Since it was 50 meter+ monsters fighting, the assistance of the lenses was pretty much unnecessary.
They were fighting at close range.
Despite their huge size, Objects could move at high speeds of 500 kph. And this was not simply in a straight trajectory. They could make slight evasive movements similar to the footwork of a mixed martial artist. Overall, they ended up moving in circles around each other.
They could not hide behind cover to avoid shells and they could not use chaff or flares to throw off the enemy’s aim.
When a shell came flying toward them, they evaded it by sliding to the side.
They could actually predict when a cannon would fire from the minute movements it made, but the sight of shells being avoided like they were fists moving at tremendous speed was enough to leave a human speechless.
“…We should be thankful for the enemy’s rapid fire,” said Quenser quietly as he carefully watched the Information Alliance’s Rush. “Its main cannons are rapid fire beam cannon Gatling guns. They were made into Gatling guns in order to extend how long they could fire, but even then 30 seconds at a time is the limit. They probably put one on either side to make up for the time it takes to cool down.”
If it could fire those Gatling guns without limit, the princess would not be able to escape with her quick movements. It would be no different from the enemy swinging around a giant saber. But with the time limit, the princess only had to flee at full speed in one direction during that time and then change directions once the rapid fire ended.
With both main cannons, the Rush could fire without break, but its giant form got in the way. Each cannon could rotate enough to cover 180 degrees. This meant the right main cannon could only target the right 180 degrees. If the princess escaped to the left side of the spherical main body, that cannon could not target her.
“It looks like the Information Alliance’s ‘Oh ho ho’ is trying to make up for that by rotating the entire Object, but she isn’t able to keep up with the princess’s speed.”
“Hey. Hey, Quenser. Listen to this.” Heivia had been messing with the radio and now he held the rectangular device out toward Quenser. “I’ve picked up some kind of lover’s quarrel.”
Quenser frowned and focused on the voices coming from the radio.
What he heard was…
“Oh ho ho!! Just as I would expect of a loser like you, you are excellent at running away! End this pointless struggle and hand that gentleman over to my G-cup chest!!”
“He is here to perform maintenance on my Object. My Object!! He would be wasted on an Object as irregularly shaped as yours. You’re not wanted here, so get lost. Or die.”
The two Objects continued to fire their cannons at each other, but the two Elite’s tone of voice was even more frightening.
Still holding out the radio, Heivia said, “This is no joke. I bet that large-breasted commander of ours has her head in her hands right about now.”
“Hey, Heivia. What is this about?”
“Weren’t you listening? It’s pretty obvious. Does this really sound like some high level code to you?”
“Two Elites from different sides using a war to fight over a single maintenance soldier? That’s one hell of a story. How much engineering skill does this guy have? Does he have proprietary tools only he can use or something?”
Without speaking a word and still smiling, Heivia clenched his right fist and punched his partner in the face.
Lying in the snow and holding his nose, Quenser was about to cry out in protest, but the voice never came.
A major change came over the battle.
A remarkably loud explosion rang out.
The two Objects had fired their main cannons and hit their opponent.
“They hit each other!!” shouted Heivia.
“How’s the princess!?” shouted Quenser.
It seemed both Elites had decided it would be a long battle and had therefore targeted their opponent’s main cannons.
The princess’s Baby Magnum had blown one of the Rush’s main cannons clean off. Its main cannons rotated to cover the 180 degrees on either side. With one of those gone, one side was a complete safe area.
And as for the princess’s Baby Magnum…
“Hey, this is bad.” Heivia gulped as he looked through his rifle scope that provided more magnification than Quenser’s binoculars. “The Baby Magnum had the ‘base’ taken out!! The back of the body where the joints for the 7 main cannon arms are gathered was blown off!!”
“The joints? But that could keep all of the arms from moving!”
“She focused too much on taking out that ‘Oh ho ho’s’ main cannon while circling around the Rush. Otherwise, she would never have been hit in the back in a 1 on 1 fight!!”
The two Objects continued in slow circles around each other, but the bombardment had ended.
The shouting voices over the radio had ended as well.
The princess’s back joints had been shot off, but it was unclear if all of the 7 main cannons were unusable or if some of them were just barely functioning.
It was just as unclear how well the Information Alliance’s Rush could continue fighting with only one of its main cannons.
They were both trying to assess the battle ability of their opponent.
Quenser felt a great tension cover the battlefield.
If either of them decided they had a way to attack, the battle would be over in an instant. However, that decision might not be correct. If they tried, they could fail. If they failed, the battle would end with their opponent taking advantage of that failure and taking them out.
The Elites piloting the Objects were likely using their respective Object’s auto diagnostics to their fullest to determine just how usable their Object was. And all the while, they would be repeating strategy simulations in their heads dozens or even hundreds of times.
(…What are they going to do?)
Quenser had never known that a motionless battlefield could be so oppressive. He felt a pressure over his entire body like he was on a submarine sinking into the dark depths of the ocean after an engine failure.
After about 500 seconds, the slow circular motion stopped completely.
With its main cannons pointed at the Information Alliance’s Rush, the princess’s Baby Magnum slowly moved backwards. She was headed away from the snowy plain of the battlefield and to her maintenance base zone.
The Information Alliance’s “Oh ho ho” did not try to head after her.
As if in response, the Rush backed away from the snowy plain as well.
Once it began, it all sped up.
After they had moved about 500 meters each, the two Objects suddenly rotated 180 degrees and left at full speed.
Quenser and Heivia were left alone on the battlefield.
“Wh-what was that? What happened?”
“They’re going in for a pit stop.” Heivia got up off the snow. “Only another Object’s main cannon can penetrate the thick armor of an Object. Both of them had their main cannons taken out. Without a way to finish this, there was no point in continuing. They need to have maintenance performed as quickly as possible so they can attack before the other’s maintenance is complete.”
“But the Rush still had one of its main cannons.”
“Didn’t you see the layout of the Rush’s main cannons, battlefield student? It had one on either side. With one destroyed, it has a major blind spot. That was hardly an ideal situation for the Rush. She probably wanted to head back for maintenance if possible.”
As previously stated, the princess’s back joints for the seven arms of the seven main cannons had been damaged. The cannons themselves had not been destroyed, so it was possible they could still be fired. The Rush had wanted something certain, so it had not headed after her.
Naturally, the one that finished its pit stop first would win.
“That means…” Quenser felt an unpleasant pressure in his gut. “This is bad. The princess had the part on the back that collects the joints for the 7 main cannon arms destroyed. That’s like a human hand. All the joints in there make it a delicate area. Can they swap that out quickly?”
“And the Information Alliance just has to put in a whole main cannon. Even a monkey would be able to tell who will likely finish changing first.” Despite his words, Heivia did not look all that frightened. “Hey, Quenser. Why do you think we drilled holes in that cliff and stuffed bombs inside? It was to get in the way of their maintenance unit.”
“Oh, that’s right,” said Quenser as if he had only just remembered.
The flashy battle between Objects had made him completely forget.
They had originally been trying to block the path for the maintenance convoy.
Heivia shrugged and said, “The Information Alliance’s highhanded girl and her followers will be caught in our obstacle course. If the princess can finish changing in the time that we manage to buy, we win.”
“But what are we supposed to do? Head back to the base as quickly as we can and help with the maintenance? They’ll need all the help they can get.”
“You idiot. I said it was a pit stop, remember? If it isn’t done by the time we make it back to the base, the Information Alliance will finish first no matter how much time we buy. Even if we rush back to the base at full speed, the princess’s maintenance will be over already.”
“Then what are we supposed to do? That leaves us with nothing.”
“Are you trying to be an overachiever now? There’s no rule saying we have to always be doing some kind of work. If there’s nothing for us to do, we just need to head back at a nice leisurely pace. In fact, if we rush back, that giant-breasted commander would probably just force some odd jobs on us.”
“Really. What, did you get all excited seeing Objects so close? The presence of two puny soldiers makes no difference, so why bother gathering your strength? Froleytia and the others rely on us too much. A battle between Objects is just on too great a scale for humans with nothing but their two hands to deal with.”
“True,” agreed Quenser.
In what seemed like some kind of cruel punishment on a global scale, Quenser had been forced to face Objects himself due to various unpleasant coincidences, but wars that did not require his involvement should have been in the vast majority.
There was no reason for them to go all out here.
For one thing, they had properly carried out the demolition work on the cliff as Froleytia had ordered.
They had carried out their role, so there was no need to carry out any free overtime.
The Information Alliance military would get caught in the Alaskan obstacle course as planned, so the maintenance on the princess would have time to finish. After that, she could destroy the Second Generation Rush.
After thinking through all that, the tension finally left Quenser’s shoulders.
“…Then let’s take our time heading back.”
“Yes, yes. That’s our general stance. Did you finally remember? How about we try to find a deer or bear to shoot on the way back? Despite all my complaints about those flavorless rations, they would probably work as bait if we cut them up and scattered them over the ground.”
“If we have time, I would rather see if I can analyze any of the technology in the Water Strider. There’s educational material just scattered over this entire area.”
“You’re still digging for scraps? You’re quite the enthusiastic student.”
“When it leads to making a fortune, anyone would get serious about it.”
“But the Legitimacy Kingdom military has already analyzed it all to a certain extent. Isn’t there even a design in the database?”
“That’s just an estimation based on the pieces we have. There might be some technology they overlooked. Really, I see more value in digging through this mountain of treasure than this pointless war.”
As they chatted, the two started walking across the snow, but then Froleytia contacted them via radio.
“Quenser, Heivia!! Are you still at Point 199ASD!? I’m checking via satellite, so don’t try to lie. This is an emergency, so I have no time for stupid jokes!!”
“I don’t feel like explaining it all, so just check the satellite image via handheld device and listen.” The impatience was clearly evident in Froleytia’s voice. As she spoke, Quenser frantically pulled out his handheld device. “I’ll get straight to the point. The Information Alliance’s Second Generation Rush has not returned to the maintenance base 50 kilometers to the north. They have deployed a different convoy from nearby. If the work to swap out its main cannon begins like this, it will likely finish before the princess’s maintenance is done!!”
“Wait, wait, wait!!” cut in Heivia from the side. “Isn’t that what we blew up those cliffs to stop!? I thought the convoy couldn’t reach the battlefield because of the Water Strider wreckage in the way!?”
“The convoy couldn’t,” replied Froleytia.
Quenser finally managed to call up the satellite image and he grimaced when he realized what she meant.
“…Look, Heivia. They carried it on foot.”
“Hahh!? What’s that supposed to mean!? How many tons do you think an Object’s main cannon weighs!?”
“The Information Alliance has worked to make the raw materials as light as possible, so about 100 tons I would think. But that uses 5 rapid fire beam cannons, so each individual one would be about 20 tons. They broke each one apart into over 100 pieces and are carrying those pieces!! That’s 200 kilograms a person! Just five trips between the stopped vehicles and the work area would be enough!!”
“200…There’s no way they can walk around on this snowy plain while carrying that much!!”
“Normally, no. But the Information Alliance has a powered suit unit. The normal limits of the human body do not apply here,” Froleytia replied to Heivia’s complaint. “The walls of wreckage that keeps the large vehicles from getting through have big enough openings for people to walk through! They have headed through those openings to meet up with the Rush!!”
“This is bad…” Heivia audibly gulped. “This is really bad!! This is no joke! Even with the time it takes to disassemble and assemble the Rush’s main cannon, we’re at the disadvantage here. If they finish their pit stop, the princess will be destroyed without being able to fight back!!”
“That’s right, Heivia. It’s possible the Rush’s main cannons were designed to be easily disassembled so that they could be transported by air. That’s why I need you two to stop the Rush’s maintenance in any way possible!! The expected rendezvous point for the enemy is 2 kilometers north of you! You’re closest!!”
“You’re crazy,” muttered Heivia as he trembled at the invitation to a deadly battle he had just been given. “I saw their powered suits in that Oceanian military nation, and those aren’t things you can take care of with a rifle!! And even if it needs maintenance, that Second Generation Object is still functioning!! It still has one main cannon, not to mention the almost 100 smaller cannons all over it!! If we get close, we’ll just be blown to pieces!”
“If we had another option, we would not be relying on problem soldiers like you two.” Froleytia sounded annoyed and she was likely holding her head in her hands. “At this rate, Alaska will be transformed into a nightmarish battlefield once more. If you’re okay with that, then you can just hide behind that Water Strider wreckage, Heivia. Think up a way of slowing them down on your own,” was all Froleytia added before ending the transmission.
Heivia almost threw the radio to the ground, but the ecological side of his mind just barely won out over that urge.
Looking like he was about to cry, Heivia spoke to the student who stood next to him.
“This is really no joke. They say a request from a beauty is another name for a one way ticket to hell!! What are we going to do, Quenser!?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” said Quenser as he stared at his handheld device.
The old movement patterns from the Rush’s battles in the Oceanian military nation were recorded in the Legitimacy Kingdom database. He was checking those.
“We need to think of a way to deal with this. Otherwise, the princess will be the first one to be taken out.”
“Wait, I thought the obvious solution was to ignore our orders and run away! Wait a second, Quenser!! Dammit, you really are a knight in shining armor, you know that!? You’re wasted as a commoner!!” shouted back Heivia as he chased after Quenser who had started to run.
Quenser was headed for the wreckage of one of the Water Strider’s main cannons. The wreckage looked like a metal pylon forcibly bent into a V shape. It had ripped open like an empty can right in the middle of the bend.
The rip was over 70 cm across. A human could probably walk inside without even crouching.
Quenser slid his body inside the crack, but did not go all the way inside. He was checking on the edge of the “wall” as seen from within the crack.
Flat cylindrical objects with a 20 cm diameter and 10 cm thickness were stuffed inside. They were likely installed from one end of the tunnel-like main cannon to the other.
As Quenser inspected the edge, Heivia asked a question with an expression of regret.
“Hey, Sir Knight. Is this any time to be looting? What are you looking for anyway?”
“Electromagnets,” replied Quenser bluntly. “The Water Strider’s main cannons were low-stability plasma cannons. After the special gas was turned into plasma, it was sent in the proper direction using a large number of electromagnets installed within the barrel.”
“Did you look up the destroyed Object’s design, battlefield student?”
“That much is just general knowledge,” said Quenser as he continued his work with both hands.
He took the parts for the large electric drill he had for drilling into the cliff wall and removed them from their bag. He then removed the cylindrical electromagnets from the edge of the rip in the main cannon and put them into the empty bag. After finishing, he grabbed just the battery from the electric drill’s parts.
“What are you going to do with those electromagnets?”
“Attach them to metal of course. You know what Objects are primarily made of, right?” After leaving the crack in the main cannon, Quenser tapped the side of the cannon with the back of his hand. “Steel mixed with high heat resistant materials.”
“Are you serious? Are you saying you’re going to go rock climbing on that giant monster!?”
Without answering the question, Quenser held his handheld device out toward Heivia’s face.
It was displaying the satellite image.
“Froleytia seemed pretty impatient, but we probably have a bit more time. They can’t head straight for the area 2 kilometers north of here. That’s where the Water Strider wreckage is thickest. Even if the powered suit unit can get over it, there is too much wreckage around for them to have enough space to carry out the assembly process. They’ll have to head back and take a bit of a detour. …That means the Rush can’t just head away from here in a straight line. While they’re circling around, we’ll have a chance where the Rush draws closer to us. We might be able to do something.”
“You mean because the wall of Object wreckage can’t be blown away with normal explosives?” asked Heivia in annoyance. “Did you forget, Quenser? The Rush still has one of its main cannons left! That thing can destroy a brand new Object, so that wreckage will be no problem for it!!”
“If it just had to destroy it, yes.” Quenser’s expression did not change. “But the Rush’s main cannon is a rapid fire beam cannon Gatling gun. The armor it fires at melts from the heat. Even if they’re wearing a powered suit, do you think a person can just walk through those blast furnace-like conditions? Also, the outside of the main cannon may be resistant to shocks, but the inner portions they’ll also be carrying are filled with sensitive equipment.”
“Even if the Rush takes this detour,” said Heivia who seemed completely flustered. “We’ll still be in danger. Whether it’s the powered suits that 5.56mm bullets won’t work on or the Second Generation Object with 100 cannons covering every direction, it would be suicide for just the two of us to try to fight them.”
“Sorry, but I don’t have time to argue. …Look at this image, Heivia. The Rush will be here in less than 3 minutes!! It’ll be passing by less than 50 meters from here!!”
“To hell with that!! If there’s no time, then just explain yourself! I’m running away otherwise!!”
Heivia was ready to run away regardless of shame or honor, but Quenser grabbed his shoulder. Heivia seriously considered knocking him down by force, but Quenser spoke before he could do so.
“Please help me, Heivia.”
“No, thank you! I only take sadistic orders from women!! I’m not going down to hell with you!!”
“You can’t escape regardless. If the unit is wiped out, the Information Alliance will use all of its forces to do a sweep of the area. And even if you slip through the gaps in their search, the Legitimacy Kingdom will not rescue you. You will just end up freezing to death before spring.”
“And don’t think you’ll be rescued if they take you prisoner. I’m just a commoner, but you’re a noble. The brunt of their cruelty will be aimed at you rather than me. And having to pay a ransom for you would bring shame to your family, so you would never inherit it after that.”
“Are you serious…? Then what am I supposed to do!?”
“Help me, Heivia,” said Quenser again. “We have no time.”
The Second Generation Object known as the Rush by the Legitimacy Kingdom was named the Gatling 033 by the Information Alliance. The Elite girl sat in its cockpit. As Quenser had predicted, she had no choice but to take a detour.
The battle with the Legitimacy Kingdom Object would be determined by how quickly the maintenance on her main cannon could be completed. Once it was, the battle would effectively be over.
However, the Elite girl was not piloting the Object at full speed.
In fact, she had lowered her speed to move along very, very cautiously.
The Gatling 033 used an air cushion engine that used the power of the air and special treads for high speed movement. She doubted the scattered Object wreckage could damage the treads, but in the off chance that they did, she would lose even more time with the extra maintenance. She was afraid of losing her time advantage.
(Objects can withstand nuclear attacks, so I doubt it would be damaged so easily, but that is why completely unpredictable “acts of god” are so frightening. Oh ho ho.)
Those who let their guard down when they had a single safe strategy could not hope to defeat what were known as “coincidences”.
The outcome of entire wars rested on the shoulders of an Elite, so the girl felt it was necessary to pay close attention even after putting together a safe strategy.
Luckily, her maintenance was simple enough that she would likely still have time to finish her maintenance and attack the Legitimacy Kingdom Object even while taking such a cautious detour.
A few different means of hindering the convoy had been set up, but the powered suit unit had taken action to keep them from losing any time.
However, she could not allow herself to get too worked up.
It was important to keep a level head.
If she became impatient and moved at full speed to preserve that safe strategy, it could bring about unnecessary trouble that would bring that safe strategy crashing down. Even if she was just barely staying on the proper side of the limit, she had to accurately move the Object like she was a machine as well. That was the way to ensure victory.
Suddenly, the Gatling 033’s sensors picked up infrared rays.
It was the type that guided weapons used to aim.
The white smoke of something being launched came from atop a cliff to her side…but the cliff only came up to about half the height of the Gatling 033. It was a portable anti-tank missile, a weapon that was not really useful on a modern battlefield.
(If this is all they can do to slow me down, then these “acts of god” are surprisingly cute. Oh ho ho.)
It happened immediately after it was fired.
It was no more than 0.3 seconds later.
The smallest of the Gatling 033’s weapons reacted. A metal railgun shell was fired at a speed greater than Mach 5. The missile that had only just left the barrel was shot down and an area 10 meters around where it had been fired was blown away. The impact held such great power that it blew away even the flames of the missile.
A dull rumble shook the snowy earth.
Paying it no heed, the Elite girl informed her fellow soldiers.
“Oh ho ho. This is the Gatling 033. Someone who is likely from the Legitimacy Kingdom attacked me in the middle of my detour.” She sounded utterly bored. “No, that will not be necessary. There is unlikely to be even a body left. It would be a waste of time to investigate. Oh ho ho.”
Heivia hid behind some rocks a bit away.
He had attached a portable anti-tank missile launcher to some Water Strider wreckage, connected a cable to it, and had fired it remotely. The Rush’s railgun had fired on an area well away from where Heivia was.
But his body was still covered in sweat.
If the Rush realized what Heivia was trying to do, he would have been shot without hesitation.
“…God dammit. I can’t tell if going along with him is bringing me towards victory or death.”
Quenser was not currently with Heivia.
He of course had not been blown away with the anti-tank missile.
Heivia slowly left the rocks, got down on his belly, and used his rifle scope to check around the area.
Quenser had run between pieces of Water Strider wreckage to travel across the cliff. The Information Alliance’s Rush had various sensors, so the odds were good he would be spotted if he simply hid. The reason Quenser had not been shot was…
(Because it’s Object wreckage, hm?)
Heivia himself was hiding behind a piece of thick armor plating.
Object armor was incredibly thick and it would reflect radar and most other types of sensors. Also, Quenser was currently using a piece of anti-nuclear weapon lead plating as a shield. Quenser could not have been located even with X-rays.
(Also, the shockwave from that blast affected the surrounding snow and the smaller pieces of armor. Someone running around in white camouflage might be overlooked as long as the sensors don’t pick up on an abnormality.)
The Rush was currently moving through a ravine.
The Object was slowly moving along such that it was almost rubbing up against the cliff face
Quenser jumped from the cliff.
Just before he jumped, he threw a plastic explosive off the cliff and detonated it. A great amount of dirt and snow cut off the Rush’s information from its cameras, microphones, heat sensors, and other sensors. Since the Object barely fit inside the ravine, the Elite would likely either think the vibration of the Object had caused a landslide or a bomb had been detonated remotely in an attempt to block the Object’s path.
The Rush was made up of the spherical main body with the † shaped float and the treads located directly below that. The floats extended to the front, back, left, and right. The two to the left and the right each had a rapid fire beam cannon Gatling gun installed on the top of the end.
Quenser had landed on one of those.
Even if the Rush had slowed down to make it through the ravine, it was still moving. When Quenser landed, he could not stop his momentum, and his feet slipped.
(Waaahhh!? Damn. The past movement patterns I checked on my handheld device were no use whatsoever!!)
He then slipped down off the main cannon.
He landed on his butt atop the Rush’s float.
(…Come to think of it, I rode on here in Oceania, didn’t I?)
He looked up.
The Object had over 100 cannons both large and small, but it did not have all that many on the side. They likely wanted to give priority to giving the main cannon room.
However, it did have almost 20 smaller cannons.
Quenser attached a rope to an electromagnet and then wrapped a battery cable around the rope. He plugged the power cable into the jack on the front of the electromagnet and bluish-white sparks flew from it. He lightly swung the rope around to build up centrifugal force. After gaining momentum, he threw the electromagnet straight up. The mass attached at a point near the base of a small cannon.
The Rush’s armor plates used carbon and aramid, but the electromagnet succeeded in attaching.
(Now then. This is like having something stuck to your face. Even all those sensors are of no use at this close range. That’s the problem with being so large.)
Quenser grabbed the rope with both hands and began climbing up. In all honesty, that was the hardest part. He was wearing thick gloves, but a stinging, scraping pain covered his palms in no time.
It felt like forever before he made it all the way up.
While making sure to avoid being seen by the aiming camera located just below the barrel, he sat down on top of the cannon. It was similar to taking a quick rest on a short outcropping while rock climbing. However, his goal was still quite distant.
He was only about 20 meters up.
Quenser pulled an additional electromagnet and rope out of the large bag, but then he heard Heivia over his radio.
“You really just run all over the place with a confident grin on your face, don’t you? If the Rush had magnetic sensors, you would have been noticed the second you used the first electromagnet.”
“That was no coincidence,” said Quenser as he started to move slowly toward the spherical main body at the base of the cannon. Moving across the cylindrical cannon took more care than he had expected. “I rode on the Rush’s float in that Oceanian military nation, remember? I noticed it had no magnetic sensors on the main body then. I also noticed that the aiming cameras for the cannons were located on the underside, leaving the top side defenseless.”
“Oh, god. Wouldn’t it be faster if you just got the Object design from her in bed?” joked Heivia, but Quenser ignored him and looked up at the giant Object.
Just the main body was 50 meters across, so he still had plenty to look up at.
“It’s just like how you can’t see something stuck to your face with your own eyes. The Elite won’t notice that I’m rock climbing.”
Quenser removed the rope from the electromagnet attached to the side of the armor.
However, he was more than halfway down the spherical main body, so the wall was slanted more than 90 degrees. It was jutting out towards Quenser. An expert free climber may have managed easily, but a complete amateur like Quenser would have a hard time climbing up even with the help of the rope. It would have been easier if he was climbing straight up with the rope hanging down vertically.
However, he could hardly head back now.
He was over 20 meters from the ground. Even with snow on the ground, he would not fare well with a drop from that height. Meanwhile, the Object was picking up speed. It must have left the narrowest part of the ravine. With the Water Strider wreckage buried under the snow, jumping to the ground would be suicide.
(Both heading up and heading down leads to hell. I should really get paid overtime for this.)
While crouched down atop the small cannon, Quenser looked around to check on his climbing route.
“Quenser,” said Heivia from the radio tucked into Quenser’s uniform. “I get that you’re climbing up, but where exactly are you headed?”
“Dunno. But I need to find something I can use to slow down their maintenance! I could destroy the radar or the auxiliary sensors, or I could do something to the cockpit barriers to force them to open! After I get up, I need to find a way to buy us some time!!”
“We’re running out of time. If you don’t hurry, you’ll be taken along with the Rush to the Information Alliance’s impromptu maintenance area!! If that happens, it’ll be hard for me to provide a diversion while you escape!”
Hearing that, Quenser pulled a new electromagnet from the bag.
The electromagnet could be used as a powerful handhold, but it was useless in its current state.
Still on the cannon, Quenser connected the thick cable into the jack on the electromagnet.
Bluish-white sparks flew.
He forced himself not to flinch and threw the electromagnet a few meters up onto the Rush’s body.
With a solid click, a new contact point was created on the flat armor of the spherical body.
(The pilot can’t see a soldier attached to the surface from within the cockpit. But I have to make sure not to pass in front of one of the cannon’s cameras. The cameras are set below the cannons. I have to pass the rope around and get my feet on the cannon from above.)
“Quenser, not good!!” shouted Heivia in a sharp voice.
For an instant, Quenser did not know what Heivia meant, but he soon figured it out.
Over 200 cannons both large and small were installed on the Rush’s surface.
Those cannons were making small, ordered movements like a crowd in a stadium doing the wave. That flow was headed his way like a grassy field blowing in the wind.
(There must have been a slight error in the cannon’s movement, so it’s checking to see if anything is hanging from any of them or on top of any of them!!)
Quenser took his feet from the cannon he was standing on and hung from the rope with both arms.
Immediately afterwards, the wave of the cannons passed right below him.
He had managed to get through it.
But then Quenser felt an unpleasant jerking sensation reach his arms.
He had only one battery, but he had multiple electromagnets. The more electromagnets he used, the less power would be left in the battery. And that would lower the power with which the electromagnets clung to the armor.
He could tell the electromagnet attached to the armor surface was slowly sliding down. Quenser frantically got a better grip on the rope and tried to climb up as much as he could.
Luckily, he was almost at the center of the sphere.
The slope was greater than 90 degrees there, but once he got past the halfway point, the slope would work in his favor. Then, he would just be heading up a slope.
If he had received proper training like Heivia, he might have learned how to support his weight by grabbing the rope with his feet. However, Quenser did not know how to do that. He frantically climbed up using almost entirely his arms.
(Please, don’t let me fall here!!)
Quenser finally made it up the rope and grabbed the electromagnet itself.
He pulled himself up onto the upper portion of the sphere.
He just had an upwards slope left.
(Now I can make it…)
Quenser’s heavy breathing showed white in the cold air.
The effects would be even weaker, but he used an additional electromagnet to create another handhold. However, it no longer had to support his entire weight. He just needed something to help him with the steep slope, so he would be putting less of a burden on it. It would most likely be no problem.
“Heivia. Can you hear me, Heivia?”
He tried to contact the other boy over the radio, but he got no response.
He must have moved out of range. The Object was headed to the nearby site where the Information Alliance powered suit unit would replace the main cannon, but he had still ended up quite far away.
Quenser’s mind turned to the plastic explosives in the bag on his back.
(Now, what do I target? I’m not trying to blow up the Object this time. Where can I damage it to slow down the maintenance the most?)
He was not even sure if the bombs he had were enough to destroy any part of it. An Object was a monstrous weapon that could withstand a nuclear strike. Its sensors and radar would likely be destroyed in a nuclear strike, but that did not mean the Hand Axe plastic explosive would be enough.
(Trying to destroy something from the outside will be difficult. This isn’t something for a flesh-and-blood soldier to attempt. Which means…)
Quenser came up with a new plan.
If he was going to do something, this idea was his only option.
But he did not have time to slowly check that his plan would work. The Object he stood on took another new action.
Specifically, the cannons did.
The lenses of the cameras attached to them all made a slight whirring noise in unison.
Quenser’s throat grew dry.
(A simultaneous firing!?)
Inside the cockpit of the Information Alliance’s Second Generation Object, the Gatling 033, the pilot Elite’s fingertips moved complexly.
Multiple windows opened on the large window, but she did not see any suspicious shadows at the moment. She was using the sensors too, but for an Object, “close range” was a few hundred meters out. An enemy that was truly close by was unlikely to show up.
There was a simple reason that she was suspicious of something being there.
“Some kind of electromagnetic signal was transmitting from close to the Gatling 033’s surface. Oh ho ho.”
The Elite girl had carried out the check due to a warning that appeared in a small window. She had confirmed that some kind of signal was being sent and received, but she unfortunately could not determine what kind of information it was.
There might have been someone there.
Or it might have been something unmanned.
(Oh ho ho. I moved all the cannons, so I know whatever it is is not using a cannon as a foothold.)
Due to that, the Elite girl decided that it was most likely unmanned. The radio signal might have been coming from a transmitter that would help the enemy Object aim.
The Elite moved her fingertips and sent signals to every one of the Gatling 033’s cannons.
(How about I carry out one more countermeasure to be absolutely sure? Oh ho ho.)
She was performing a simultaneous firing.
She would fire the over 100 cannons both large and small installed on the Gatling 033 all at once.
She did not have to worry about aiming.
What mattered was that she fired them.
(Oh ho ho. Strictly speaking, it is the shockwaves and radiant heat that accompanies the firing that will swat away any annoying bugs.)
Railguns, coilguns, laser beams, and low-stability plasma cannons.
Each of the cannons produced massive side effects when fired. Object cannons could not be placed around bases because those side effects were so great they would likely affect those in the base.
If someone was clinging to the Object or some small device was attached, the Gatling 033’s simultaneous firing would send shockwaves and radiant heat across the entirety of the armor.
Whether it was a person or an unmanned device sending the radio signal, they or it would be knocked off.
The Elite accessed the recorder box and called up information from the countless cameras and sensors installed on the Object. She was checking the time when she had passed through the narrowest portion of the ravine.
The camera showed only a blurred shadow, but the heat sensor had picked something up. But…
(Well, either way...)
The Elite coldheartedly hit a key with her index finger.
(Mercy to those who bow down before me and none for those who oppose me. That is the standard for those who operate Objects. Oh ho ho.)
Immediately afterwards, every single cannon fired mercilessly.
Massive shockwaves and radiant heat covered the entirety of the Object’s armor.
After confirming that the radio signal had disappeared, the Elite girl happily piloted the Gatling 033 on further.
The shockwave had been powerful enough to knock a human unconscious.
The radiant heat had been hot enough to burn both skin and military uniform black.
With it covering the entire spherical body of the Object, there should have been nowhere to flee.
That is, Quenser should have had nowhere to flee.
There was one exception.
The area where the Rush’s auxiliary sensors were gathered.
The Object’s cannons did indeed produce massive shockwaves and radiant heat. However, they were made so that the side effects the Object produced did not destroy its own sensors and radar.
In other words, the arrangement and density of the cannons was designed to ensure the delicate radar and sensors were not affected by those side effects.
Quenser had immediately crawled into there.
(Before, the princess and the old lady got really mad at me for carelessly getting too close to the Baby Magnum’s sensors. However, these sensors are only for support, so it can apparently continue fighting without them.)
Approaching the sensitive sensors increased the risk of being noticed by the Elite. However, luck had been with Quenser in his actions. Since the Object did nothing more, the Elite must have decided the intruder had fallen off from the simultaneous firing or none had been there in the first place.
(…Oh, shit. Did she notice this?)
Quenser looked down at the radio he had turned off and wiped away sweat that had started to freeze like sherbet. When he breathed out, it was visibly white.
(…This is where it truly begins.)
He pulled a clay-like bomb out of the bag on his back.
Even in that area filled with the most delicate sensors, he was surrounded by thick pillars, so it seemed it would be difficult to blow them away with bombs.
(I guess that’s my only option.)
Quenser had an idea, but it would require a bit of luck.
An attack on that place was not something he could do on his own.
However, an attack there would have much greater results.
(I can’t just go with a safe plan.)
As he thought, Quenser kneaded the clay-like plastic explosive in his hand.
(Standing up to a monstrous weapon like this is nothing but risks from the very beginning.)
The Information Alliance’s Second Generation Object, the Gatling 033, slowly came to a stop on a snowy plain.
It had not run into some kind of mechanical trouble.
It had reached the rendezvous point with the powered suit unit. The foot soldiers had gathered the parts to the disassembled rapid fire beam cannon Gatling gun. They just had to reassemble it and switch it out with the destroyed one. Then the Gatling 033 could attack the enemy Legitimacy Kingdom Object and the maintenance base zone it was within.
The Elite used her communications device to contact a maintenance soldier wearing a powered suit.
“Juliet is confirmed to be shut off. We will now replace the main cannon,” said the maintenance soldier.
“Please keep this pit stop short. Oh ho ho. I have a plan laid out, so do not make it meaningless by wasting time.”
In battles between two Objects, it was generally considered “bad manners” for an Object to attack a maintenance base zone. (This was not a strict rule, so there was no real need to follow it, however.) But if an enemy Object holed up in its maintenance base zone and refused to come out to the battlefield, the other Object had no choice but to destroy the Object, base and all.
On that pretext, a maintenance base zone could be attacked.
(…Oh ho ho. If it comes to that, there is a chance I will lose that gentleman.)
The Elite sank deeply into her seat, grabbed a small oxygen inhalation spray located to her side, and tried to recover some of the stamina she had lost in the high-G battle.
(But I have no other choice if it comes to that. I would like to make him mine, but it is not worth risking my life over. Oh ho ho.)
The main cannon replacement would be done before long.
She called up images recorded from the battle. The damage to the enemy Object had been in a more serious area. No matter how skilled their maintenance soldiers were, it was unlikely they could make up for the time delay it would cause.
(I can win this.)
The Elite used the spray to suck in more compressed oxygen and gave a thin smile.
Improvised autosuggestion was one means an Elite had to regulate her own condition.
(Oh ho ho. This is not just my power. It is me, my unit, and the Gatling 033. Every one of those is superior to the enemy’s. I will not be destroyed so easily. They cannot turn this around now. That is why I can win this. I will win this.)
Suddenly, a red warning window appeared.
The Elite looked at it in suspicion. Some odd measurement errors had occurred in the targeting sensors.
(…Oh ho ho. I do not like this. It is like a prickling feeling in the back of my mind.)
To anyone else, they may have seemed like minor errors. She could easily fight with them. However, they were difficult measurement errors to deal with for an Elite who viewed the Object like an extension of her own body.
She moved her slender fingers to perform a few adjustments, but they did not correct the measurement errors.
It was not a software issue.
There was something physically wrong with the sensors themselves.
“Maintenance soldiers! Recheck sensors A through E!! They have measurement errors from 0.5 to 0.7. Oh ho ho. If it requires manual work, I will come out too!!”
“That will vastly slow down our work,” said a maintenance soldier who was not sure what to say to the sudden request. “0.5 to 0.7 is within acceptable ranges. After the main cannon has been replaced, you need to immediately head out to engage the Legitimacy Kingdom Object! We do not have time!!”
“Do not be foolish!! Oh ho ho. It is because I will be up against an Object that I cannot allow even the slightest error!!”
“We really do not have time! The current strategy did not take into account any replacements other than the main cannon!! Lieutenant Colonel Lendy Farolito has ordered us to follow that strategy, so doing otherwise could get us court martialed!”
“You do not understand,” spat the Elite.
The current pit stop was just something added to the strategy. The Object lay at the foundation of the plan, so everything would be a waste if its abilities were hampered. If fighting with the measurement errors in the sensors led to the Gatling 033 being destroyed, who was supposed to take responsibility?
The maintenance soldiers did nothing.
Normally, the adjustments to the sensitive sensors would have been carried out by the girl herself under observation of the maintenance soldiers.
“Argh!! Oh ho ho. Then I will do it on my own!!”
To carry that out, the Elite opened the dozens of barriers leading from the cockpit. She would use an elevator to bring the cockpit itself up to the outer wall.
However, the cockpit never had a chance to ascend.
Something else happened before it could.
A noise came first.
It was the sound of cloth rubbing up against something. By the time she realized it was the sound of something sliding down a slope, it was too late.
She did not have time to turn around, much less undo her seatbelt.
“Excuse me, mademoiselle,” said a voice from directly behind her.
She felt a cold object press against the back of her neck. It was a short-bladed knife.
“I do not normally sneak into a lady’s bedroom, but I am woefully short on time. I will need you to just do what I tell you.”
She recognized the intruder’s voice.
It was the boy whose Legitimacy Kingdom comrades had called Quenser.
“Do not worry.” The Elite girl shrugged and sighed with her body still held in by the seatbelt. “I was already planning to invite you in here. Oh ho ho.”
Quenser had managed to sneak into the Rush’s cockpit.
He had used the Hand Axe plastic explosive, but not to blow something up. He had attached the clay-like bombs to the top of the sensors to lower their sensitivity. If they had been noticed and someone tried to remove them, he could have hidden inside an arbitrary cannon barrel to hide from the enemy soldier and the blast. Then, he could have detonated the bomb to do some damage to the maintenance soldiers.
He knew they were short on time.
However, the Elite would not remain silent if there was some abnormality with the sensors.
The Elite might have headed out to check the sensors herself. Or she might have told the maintenance soldiers to do it or else she would not go out to fight. Either way, the Elite would still have to open up the barriers and exit the Object.
Quenser had been waiting near the exit connecting to the cockpit, so that had allowed him to sneak inside.
Even if an Object could not be destroyed from within, things were different when he was on the inside.
(This isn’t really a plan. It’s more or less a gamble. But I just had the best card dealt to me.)
Even with how close the princess and the old maintenance lady were, they still discussed in much detail the delicate adjustments that needed to be made to the sensors. If those partners did not have such a close understanding of each other, the princess would likely have dealt with the sensors directly. Quenser had seen Elites using tools in documentaries he had seen.
An Elite saw the Object as part of her body, so a slight error in the sensors was like wearing glasses that were not quite right. Rather than having any direct results, it would wear down her concentration.
(Only the Elite is risking her life. It isn’t surprising that she would be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the condition of the Object. With every second and every instant counting, she likely felt it would be faster to do it herself rather than continuing to argue.)
The blade Quenser was pressing against the Elite’s neck was a small cooking knife from his survival kit. The actual blade was only as long as his thumb.
Quenser was reaching his arm around the chair.
(What…? That’s rather low.)
From what he had heard in the Oceanian military nation, the Rush’s Elite had a nice body with G-cup breasts.
But what he actually found was a girl of at most 10. She was maybe 130 cm tall. She of course did not have a G-cup. With her body type, it was doubtful if she had ever even seen a bra.
He had no idea if she was aware of it, but her special suit was designed like a white school swimsuit worn over a skintight red under-suit that covered her entire body. Just like with the princess’s, it showed no sign of any attempt at camouflage.
The Elite girl must have been able to see Quenser’s face reflected in the monitor because she remained calm even with the knife at her throat.
“Oh ho ho. Surprised? The Information Alliance views truth as just and falsehoods as evil. However, intentional lies can be used as an attack on enemies.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
Real sorrow seemed to cover Quenser’s face.
He repeated himself as if to say farewell to the nice body and G-cup he had imagined in his mind’s eye.
“…Sob…You’ve gotta be kidding me…Sob…”
“Wait a second. I’m going to get mad if it brings tears to your eyes. This body type is excellent in its own way, don’t you think? Oh ho ho. Back in the home country, I act as an Idol Elite that sings and dances.”
“But your official profile said you have that nice body and G-cup. How could you fool everyone that much!?”
“Oh ho ho. I have a dummy body displayed on a screen in full 3DCG. It is a shame that some call me a liar for that, but the motion is completely based on my own data.”
In the Information Alliance, all sorts of data was managed over the internet and truths and falsehoods were used strategically. It was possible the people there knew it was likely nothing more than wartime propaganda, but they did not care if it was virtual so long as they could get emotionally invested.
“By the way, this conversation is being transmitted to those outside. You will be surrounded before long. Oh ho ho.”
“That doesn’t matter. You are the only one that can use this Object. If they take any careless actions, I will put an end to their Elite’s life. I would rather not go that far, though. …You can hear me out there, can’t you?”
Quenser ignored that girl’s nonsense and moved on to the mission at hand.
He looked around the cockpit.
It was odd.
The area was a sphere of about 2 meters across with a giant monitor attached to the front. To that extent, it was the same as the princess’s Baby Magnum.
However, while the Baby Magnum had many different forms of interfaces such as a control column, buttons, a keyboard, a trackball, and more, the Rush used only one form of input.
A large number of keyboards were lined up on three stepped levels. And the third step spread out in a U-shape around the edge of the cockpit. Quenser had no idea how that was an efficient layout. It was possible not even other Elites would understand. It must have been designed based on a line of reasoning that only worked for the girl who piloted the Rush.
In the space not taken up by keyboards, an inscription read “Manual Interface ‘JULIET’ ”. Quenser wondered if that was the Elite girl’s name.
(I guess an Object really can’t be piloted by anyone but its Elite…)
Quenser felt like an idiot for the faint hope he had briefly held.
Quenser gathered strength in the hand holding the knife and spoke in as low a voice as he could.
“First, close all the barriers leading to the cockpit. I’m sure those outside will complain, but ignore them.”
“Oh ho ho. That will only cut off your escape route.”
“Just hurry up and do it. I would rather not slice through a girl’s skin as a meaningless threat.”
“I must praise you for still treating me like a girl. Oh ho ho.”
Quenser raised the blade he had pressed against the girl’s neck.
The Elite girl shrugged to indicate she was giving in and pressed a few keys. Her 5 slender fingers moved at an inhuman speed like a sewing machine. At the Elite’s command, the dozens of barriers through the pathway leading to the cockpit closed.
The maintenance soldiers sent several alarmed transmissions.
However, they received no response.
After all, Quenser had the Elite’s movements sealed.
“Oh ho ho. Welcome to the most private love seat in the world. …You have now hijacked an Object with nothing but a knife. You really do love doing unprecedented things, don’t you?”
“Listen to what I have to say and do not say anything more than necessary. That is how you can survive this.”
“What should I do next? Should I shoot the Statue of Liberty with my main cannons or something?”
“Don’t do anything,” was Quenser’s sharp command. “Even once the maintenance finishes, do not move. Do not respond to the communications from the maintenance soldiers. Do not move a finger until our princess has completed her preparations…no, until she has declared checkmate. That is all.”
“Oh, dear. Oh ho ho. Should you really be saying that?”
“Do not try anything. I am not used to this. It’s possible the tension could make my arm tremble enough to slit your throat.”
“No, not that. Oh ho ho,” said the Elite girl with a smile on her face.
That was the difference that experience made. Quenser could not believe that she had the nerves to smile while an enemy soldier was holding a knife to her throat.
But the Elite was truly calm.
He probably should have put more thought into why that was.
“If I am not holding the ‘reins’, not even I know how much of a rampage the Gatling 033 will run. Oh ho ho.”
Quenser did not understand what she meant.
But shortly thereafter, the answer became evident.
Quenser’s body was thrown by the monstrous power of inertia, sending him slamming into the wall.
The maintenance vehicles surrounding the Rush were knocked away and the maintenance soldiers ran screaming out of the way, but Quenser was too focused on himself to care what was going on outside.
All the oxygen in his lungs rushed out in an instant.
The knife fell from his hand.
The Object had suddenly moved. He could tell that much, but he felt practically weightless. The force was simply too great to just brace himself against. His vision blurred at high speed, but he could still see the Elite girl grinning while held in her seat by the seatbelt.
With the threat of the knife gone, the girl contacted her allies.
“Oh ho ho. The main cannon has been replaced, correct?”
“Gatling 033, we heard what is going on there, but you can’t possibly mean to head out with that Legitimacy Kingdom soldier still aboard!”
“And what if I am? Either way, there is no way to force open the Object’s barriers from the outside. And right now, every minute and every second of delay could greatly affect the outcome of the battle. I have no choice but to head on. Unless you wish to raise the white flag here.”
“Then are you going to raise the white flag? On whose authority? Are you going to waste a possible victory against an Object due to a single flesh-and-blood soldier?” The Elite girl spoke slowly but with a steady voice. “First of all, we should not be discussing my own safety here. What matters is if the maintenance is complete or not. And whether my Gatling 033 can continue fighting or not. So can my Gatling 033 fight?”
“Answer me. This is crucial to our strategy.”
“Y-yes. We just now finished the replacement of the main cannon. But we have not managed to deal with the sensors you ordered us to-…”
“That is fine,” said the Elite girl, cutting him off. She turned to face Quenser who was coughing on the floor before finishing. “But I do not feel like operating the Gatling 033 in that state. I have no choice but to leave this to the Strategic AI Juliet. Oh ho ho.”
Quenser’s body stiffened in shock at the term “AI”.
“Wait a second!!” shouted the maintenance soldier. “Juliet’s complete Object control is still in the third stage of testing! The odds of misfires based on erroneous detections or judgments goes up, raising the risk of friendly fire!!”
“If I narrow the possible targets down to the anti-Object level of 50 meters and up, that will not be a problem. Oh ho ho.”
“But Juliet is too dangerous to use in its current state!! If we give it complete control of our greatest weapon, who knows how far the damage could spread!!”
“Oh ho ho. Please do not make me repeat myself,” said the Elite girl. “If we simply follow the standard military codes, we will lose this battle. As we have a means of continuing to fight, I do not intend to end the fight prematurely. Oh ho ho.”
The Elite cut off the transmission and looked at Quenser once more.
“Surely you have heard the rumors of the Information Alliance working on a plan to make unmanned Objects. Oh ho ho.”
“It can’t be,” groaned Quenser from the floor. “AI research is impractical. Something simple like a UAV that goes on periodic patrols is one thing, but no program can match an Elite in a high speed battle requiring quick improvisations.”
“Are you talking about the Legitimacy Kingom’s Angelina List? Oh ho ho.”
“Oh ho ho. If I recall, that is a paper collecting the weaknesses and failures of AIs after repeated tests designed to be difficult for AI by a group of scientists opposed to the idea of AI. Running amok, freezing, and erroneous learning…I believe there were several patterns.”
“The Angelina List is the world’s standard barrier for creating strategic AI for Objects. The paper is free to access on the Legitimacy Kingdom’s public database, so the Information Alliance most likely used it in their research. Something with simple movements like a UAV is one thing, but the system controlling an Object is too large and complex. With our current technology, it is impossible to create an AI that can pilot an Object with greater speed and flexibility than an Elite who has been thoroughly improved both mentally and physically.”
“Oh ho ho. Are you talking about how AIs will choose the shortest path to victory too much, leaving openings for attack? Or how they will continue with vain attacks when in a situation their learned patterns do not know how to handle?”
“That just means it cannot be completely unmanned. Oh ho ho. When the Gatling 033 is used at full specs, it is not being controlled by me. The Strategic AI Juliet generally pilots it while I deal with any mistakes caused by errors or bugs. Meaning…” The Elite grinned. This smile was different from her previous smiles. “If I do nothing, the Gatling 033 will begin a rampage.”
Quenser was unable to hear her sentence through to the end.
The monstrous weapon known as an Object began using its full power.
Quenser learned firsthand what that meant.
A massive amount of inertia.
That power began squeezing at Quenser’s insides.
Everything shook front and back, left and right.
A great pressure kept him from breathing.
It felt like every single blood vessel in his body was swelling up oddly. The contents of his stomach rose, he could not take in enough oxygen no matter how wide he opened his mouth, and it felt like he could not properly control even the expanding and contracting of his heart. After a dozen or so seconds, he could tell his thoughts were becoming completely scattered. Blood was not reaching his brain properly. Color gradually faded away from the edges of his vision. An unpleasant ringing in his ears took over his entire head.
The Rush was doing nothing special.
It was merely headed away from the maintenance base zone and towards the battlefield where the Baby Magnum awaited.
That was all it was doing and yet Quenser was on the verge of death.
All the while, the Elite girl grinned in her seat.
She looked like a young queen looking down in contempt at a bug crawling across the ground.
Quenser could not understand how she could be so calm.
The special suit she wore was not enough to explain it.
The only possibility he could think of was that she was made differently than a normal soldier down to the most fundamental construction of her body.
“Oh, dear. What has your eyes spinning like that? Oh ho ho. You will never be able to handle the Gatling 033’s high speed battle like this.”
As that girl of only about 10 spoke to Quenser, she calmly sipped at the straw of a drink sitting in her armrest.
For strategic PR purposes, the Information Alliance military had created an idealized G-cup Elite using a full 3DCG model. The people (whether they knew it was a lie or not) had accepted that. It was possible their ultimate objective there was to have the people accept that virtual ideal as a foundation to accepting an AI-controlled Object.
“This is still only about 9 Gs. When the treads are used, it can momentarily exceed 12 Gs. Well, that is enough for any normal person to certainly lose consciousness, so try your best to bear with it. Oh ho ho. After all, I was kind enough to invite you to this special seat when I really should have handed you over to the Information Alliance military.”
It had been proven that a normal human could not withstand anything at that level. But for her, that room was like a bedroom. The Elite’s body had been so thoroughly remade that it felt normal to her.
That concept sent a chill down Quenser’s spine.
(So this is…an Elite…)
Quenser thought as something like foam seeped from the corner of his mouth.
(Their bodies have been altered for the sole purpose of piloting Objects into battles. Dammit. This is like a battle between a deep sea fish and a submarine…)
Modern soldiers would often jokingly say something.
Modern battlefields are so boring. If they really wanted us to fight wars, they should send one of those air-conditioned Objects our way.
This was no joke.
Actually being aboard one of those monsters was enough to shorten your lifespan. Quenser was in such intense pain that he thought his blood vessels were going to burst and that his eyeballs were literally going to pop out of his head. Amidst it all, he decided that the people who piloted those Objects like it was nothing were not normal. Unless the human body was remade both inside and out, it was impossible.
While sprawled on the floor next to the wall, Quenser tried to stretch out his arm.
A great number of keyboards were installed around the Elite girl. It was possible that tapping just one of those small keys could end that nightmarish pain.
But he could not move his arm. All he could manage was making his fingertips twitch ever so slightly.
It was not just that he could not move his body.
A tremendous pressure was also holding down the thoughts and emotions in his head.
Having restrained the enemy soldier with inertia rather than handcuffs or shackles, the Elite girl placed her drink back down next to her and brought her 10 fingers to the keyboards around her.
She was not piloting the Object.
As if she was holding the reins of a rampaging horse, she removed the unneeded commands from the hundreds and thousands the strategic AI was instantaneously calculating out.
“I now have what I wanted, so it is about time I finished with today’s job. Oh ho ho.”
The treads shot a blast of snow into the air and the Second Generation Rush shot across the snowy plain. The scenery visible in the monitor sped up all at once.
Quenser heard a familiar sound through the speakers.
It was the emergency siren used at his base. They had arrived within a few kilometers of the Legitimacy Kingdom convoy. He could see the tanks that had been deployed just in case frantically leaving the path of the Object.
(Shit…!! How far has the princess’s maintenance gotten!?)
The joints on the back gathering the Baby Magnum’s seven main cannons had been shot off. To replace the part, every damaged joint had to be removed and then it all had to be built back up.
He saw no way the Baby Magnum’s seven main cannon arms could be fully functioning after such a short time.
Nevertheless, the princess’s Object headed out from the convoy.
By showing an intention to fight, she was making sure the convoy would not be a valid target.
“Oh ho ho. So you have decided to show yourself.”
A smile appeared on the Elite girl’s face
This one was different yet again. It was tinged with cruelty.
“I need not even use my high precision sensors. It is clear only one of them can move. Oh ho ho. You must truly be desperate to come out to fight with only one of your seven main cannons functioning.”
Objects had over 100 cannons both large and small, but only the main cannon class armaments could finish off another Object. That meant it was more logical to work towards getting one cannon up and running at full power rather than having all seven running at limited power.
That only gave her the bare minimum of ability to keep fighting. Since it was assumed she could fight evenly with the enemy Object with all 7 main cannons functioning, she was clearly at an overwhelming disadvantage with just the one functioning main cannon.
“She might be purposefully keeping the others motionless to lull you into a false sense of security.”
“Oh ho ho. Falsehoods are evil. You were fortunate enough to be captured by me. I suggest you quickly teach yourself the rules of the Information Alliance.”
The Elite girl casually typed on the keyboards while ignoring that Quenser looked like he was about to cough up blood. She seemed to be adjusting the radio. Quenser thought she was preparing to contact her allies, but she was not.
She sent a transmission on a frequency that was intentionally easy to intercept by the Legitimacy Kingdom princess.
“Oh ho ho. Hello there, unrefined Legitimacy Kingdom Elite. If you raise the white flag, I promise to spare your lives.”
“…Sorry, but military regulations do not allow the white flag to be raised before the Object has been destroyed.”
“Fine, then.” The Elite girl rhythmically tapped at the keys. “I have no obligation to be considerate. I merely have to blow you away. Oh ho ho.”
The real battle began.
With a set amount of distance between each other, the two Objects each moved quickly to the left and right. The action looked like two opposing magnets being forcibly pushed towards each other. The two Objects moved at high speed in circles around each other as they fired their weapons at each other.
The princess was an expert at battle.
Even in her dismal situation of having only one functioning main cannon, she was not immediately dragged down into a disadvantageous situation. Even if they could not finish off the enemy Object, the Baby Magnum still had around 100 other cannons. The princess used them to blow away the snow on the ground and fired weak lasers to interfere with the enemy’s sensors. While using disturbance tactics like that to dull the enemy’s movements, she fired her one remaining main cannon.
The Information Alliance girl was as much of an Elite as the princess.
She existed to pilot an Object.
She would lose everything if she could no longer pilot an Object.
That girl’s body had been trained to the extreme, the amount of blood in her body was modified to stand up to high Gs, and she had been given artificially high amounts of iron to supply her with large amounts of oxygen. Even in those abnormal conditions that reached 10 Gs, she continued typing while humming.
The disturbance tactics were not working.
Even with one sensor sealed, multiple windows would immediately appear from which she could gather information from multiple angles. Using that, she continued the high speed battle.
She knew she could not avoid every attack, so she repeated bold, high-speed movements that focused on surely avoiding the attacks from the main cannon that could actually produce a fatal blow.
She repeatedly made quick, high-speed movements using the treads while trying to lure the Baby Magnum closer and closer to a position where the terrain would corner the princess against a cliff wall.
The princess was clearly in the disadvantage.
(Dammit…I need to…interfere with…her control…!!)
Quenser frantically tried to suppress the urge to vomit, but even moving a single finger was difficult as he lay sprawled out on the floor. There were plenty of keyboards close enough to easily reach if he could only stand up, but he could not even stretch his arm out to the side in those high Gs.
Suddenly, the Elite girl moved the Object sharply to the side. Quenser’s body flew through the air and landed neatly in the Elite girl’s seat.
“Oh ho ho. Leaving this to Juliet is so boring, how about the two of us take this time to get to know each other better…physically.”
“Wha…!? Gh…What are you saying!?”
The intense power of the inertia was still affecting Quenser, so he was unable to give a proper response. He felt like a heavy sheet was being pressed down on his chest, so he could hardly breathe.
And then the princess’s voice came in over the Rush’s radio.
“W-wait, why are you using that heavy tone like you’re speaking to some suspicious perso-…gfh!?”
“Oh ho ho! Oh ho ho ho ho ho!! There is no room left here for you, unrefined Legitimacy Kingdom Elite!! Now, let us show this to her. We can email her a picture of us with our cheeks pressed up against each other. Say cheese! …Oh, dear. The barriers are cutting off the signal, so I cannot send it to the Legitimacy Kingdom with my phone.”
“Quenser… I am sorry, but this is a battle with the Rush. …I have no idea why you are there, but if you do not escape soon, you will be blown away along with her.”
“W-wait, wait. I’ll do something about the Rush’s movements from within…”
As he was being crushed down into the seat, Quenser tried to reach his trembling fingers toward one of the Elite’s keyboards. However, the Elite girl slapped his hand down like she was scolding him.
Quenser’s hand was so weak that was enough to knock his hand out of the way.
(…Damn…it… I can’t even do this…)
The giant screen was divided up into windows that were covered with all sorts of constantly changing information.
The Strategic AI Juliet was piloting the Object.
One window displayed a tree diagram that must have represented what commands the AI was using. Quenser could not tell if the number of lines was 100 or 1000, but the Elite girl would rapidly type a few things on the keyboard and a few of the lines would turn red and be cut off. That must have been what she called “holding the reigns”. The movements of the Object gradually lost their unevenness and stiffness. That may have been because the AI was starting to “learn” from the progress of the battle, or it may have been because the Elite girl had grasped some of the AI’s idiosyncrasies and was able to “revise” the commands more efficiently.
The great pressure of inertia squeezed at Quenser’s heart even more.
As blood trailed from the corner of Quenser’s mouth, something fell from his pocket. It was his wireless device. Seeing the small device sliding along the floor, the Elite girl gave a slight sneer.
“Oh ho ho. Even if you are within the cockpit, that cheap piece of junk cannot interfere with my interface. And trying to rely on a Legitimacy Kingdom supercomputer will not work either. The thick barriers cut off any and all signals.”
Quenser ignored the Elite girl’s gloating and stared at the screen of the handheld device that had slid a bit away.
The Strategic AI Juliet.
The radio transmission currently connected between the princess and the Elite girl.
The plastic explosive in his hand.
While still unable to move much, Quenser stared at the giant monitor with bloodshot eyes. He had a silent thought.
(I might have found the beginnings of a plan.)
Meanwhile, the princess was breathing shallow breaths as she piloted the Baby Magnum.
The situation was changing from moment to moment. A dizzying amount of new information was constantly being displayed on the large monitor in front. Even with the device that read the movements of her eyes and sent commands based on them, it did not seem she could keep up with it all. The 200,000 ton mass moved quickly to the left or right to evade the Information Alliance Rush’s attacks. The great pressure of the inertia brought on by those movements wore down her stamina. Her brain had been optimized to pilot that Object, so she brought out its full processing power even while more than half of the air she breathed in could not be taken in by her body.
The struggle continued.
Sometimes she seemed to have the upper hand, other times she did not.
However, the princess could tell something was different about this battle. She had only 1 of her 7 main cannons. If that one was taken out, it was all over. However, that was not what she was worried about.
It was more along the lines of the vague luck of a gambler.
She had an odd feeling that the state of the battle was sliding to the side. It was supposed to be a struggle purely along a straight line. However, she had a premonition of a new vector appearing that would greatly change the flow of the battle.
(This is bad…)
The signs pointed towards things changing for the worse.
If the situation changed, it would be like she was a toy ship floating in the bath when the drain plug was pulled out. The danger of things growing worse would rise drastically.
The princess knew that, but she had no way of changing the flow in that direction. She had her hands full keeping up with that high speed battle. She did not have time to focus on anything else.
“…Quenser to…Baby Magnum…”
The voice sounded like it was being squeezed out.
It was coming from the communications device installed in the cockpit. However, it was not coming from a Legitimacy Kingdom military frequency. It was the same frequency that she had been arguing with the Information Alliance Rush over.
(So is he really aboard that Object…?)
As that thought entered the princess’s head, Quenser continued his transmission.
“I-I’m cornered over here. Can I ask you a favor just in case?”
“If I kick the bucket here, I want you to return the engagement ring in the maintenance base zone barracks to my childhood friend Angelina from my hometown…”
The Baby Magnum fired its main cannon while completely ignoring the flow of the battle.
The Rush evaded the low-stability plasma cannon blast with a quick movement.
The princess was still expressionless, but her pupils were larger than usual, letting the piloting lasers in even more.
With an extremely calm voice, she said, “I am sorry, Quenser. I forgot to ask you if you would rather be shot with a coilgun, a laser, or a low-stability plasma cannon.”
“Ugehhh!? The inertia from these evasive maneuvers is doing horrible things inside my body! You idiot! Don’t fight seriously!! At this rate, you’ll meet the same fate as when you were easily taken out by the Water Strider that is strewn about here!!”
“Quenser, now you are digging up things from the past that would best be kept buried? …And ‘easily’?”
The increased firing and evading left Quenser only able to reply with groans.
“By the way, Quenser, if you would like to say anything else, now is the time.”
“Ugh. R-really? Okay, then. Various things happened with this foreign girl named Etta who worked as efficiently as an AI at a restaurant back in the safe country, so could you give her the necklace I have in the barra-..gbheeeehhhh!?”
This time, the Rush took evasive actions back and forth that did not seem at all necessary to evade anything.
The Information Alliance Elite said, “…Oh ho ho. I too would like some questions answered about this childhood friend and these ‘various things’.”
“Bfh!? S-stop! Don’t move back and forth like that!!”
Quenser seemed to be enduring unreasonable torture, but then he suddenly shouted, “Now’s your chance!!”
“Quenser to Baby Magnum!! Can you hear me!? The Rush’s Elite is taking actions not needed for the battle. This is your only chance to escape this bad situation! Evade to the right! Evade way to the right!!”
“Don’t get so mad!! Please just listen to what I’m telling you!!”
The princess frowned at his instructions.
They did not fit into the strategy she had put together. As the Object’s pilot, she knew it best. That was why she hesitated to immediately obey the piloting instructions of a boy who was more or less a complete amateur. But…
“At this rate, you’ll be cornered against the cliff face and shot with her main cannons once you can no longer move!! Trust me! I have a way to win this!! So evade to the right! Way to the right!! You’ll be blown away if you don’t!!”
It was true that she would soon be cornered.
And it was highly likely Quenser had made it into the Rush’s cockpit. He might have read something about the Rush’s strategy from something displayed on the monitor.
She made up her mind.
She moved the lever she was gripping tightly.
The Baby Magnum took a great evasive action to the right and the intense power of inertia struck her slender body.
“Oh ho ho. Even if you are greatly mistaken, hearing that still pisses me off.”
A slight chill had entered the Elite girl’s voice.
The Rush spun around which must have created quite a bit of inertial power. Over the radio, the princess heard a pained gasp presumably from Quenser.
The bullets of light fired by the rapid fire beam cannon Gatling gun grazed the Baby Magnum’s body slightly. The beam cannons continued to fire, crushing one of the princess’s main cannons and sending it flying through the air.
Ignoring that, Quenser shouted, “…Gh…!? N-next, make a slight turn to the left!! Switch to the low-stability plasma canno-…gh!? Fire at the front of the Rush!! And…the Killer Squall sub-cannons!! Aim for the Water Strider wreckage…the the left!! Cough. If you melt the snow around it with the lasers…it can be used as cover!!”
“Oh ho ho! Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho!! I do not know what you are after, but you are too slow!! Even if you are trying to get my strategy across to her using information from the cockpit, you are too slow! By the time the unrefined Legitimacy Kingdom Elite can take action, the command will already be complete!!”
The enemy was exactly right.
Quenser’s instructions would essentially waste the princess’s last chance to attack. It was like knowing you would be checkmated in 100 turns, and then wasting half of that time. Even then, a thin portion of the Baby Magnum’s armor had been peeled away and several of her cannons had been blown off to litter the Alaskan snow. Several warning windows had appeared and she could hear shouts from the operator monitoring the situation from the maintenance base zone.
Suddenly, the Baby Magnum’s movements came crashing to a halt.
The enemy’s main cannon had struck her near the core. Thousands and even tens of thousands of beams fired from the Gatling gun-style weapon. The thick armor glowed orange and the beams dug through it in no time. Sparks flew, the air explosively expanded, and a violent wind burst from the “wound” like it was a jet engine. That great wind kept the Baby Magnum from moving properly.
“I hope you have prepared yourself. Oh ho ho,” said the Rush’s pilot Elite with the tone of someone who had just placed their queen in a crucial point. “This settles it!! You can regret not raising your readily available white flag while you burn in the depths of hell!! Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho!!”
The princess gritted her teeth.
She hesitated over whether she should stop the ejection device that had automatically started to power up.
Quenser’s voice over the radio had not given up.
“You can win like this.”
A great noise like a thick gear breaking rang out.
The princess had no idea what had happened.
That was not surprising.
It had not come from the Baby Magnum. As it was not something wrong with her own machine, it was completely natural for her to not understand what had happened.
But that meant…
“Quenser…?” muttered the princess.
The Information Alliance Rush had been the unopposed ruler of the battlefield just a moment before, but it had completely stopped in the middle of the snow.
The machine suddenly stopped.
Quenser was thrown across the floor, but he was not the only one damaged by it.
The immense inertial force caused by that truth stopped even the Rush’s Elite girl’s breathing for an instant.
The girl was coughing, but her voice held more confusion than pain.
The Information Alliance’s Second Generation Gatling 033 operated based on high speed decisions made by the Strategic AI Juliet. The Elite girl did not completely pilot the Object. Instead, she selected and deleted the bugs and errors amid the hundreds or even thousands of commands Juliet created each second. Basically, she held the reins of a rampaging horse and guided it in the direction she wanted.
Nevertheless, the Gatling 033 was not moving.
It was not that the strategic AI had stopped. Juliet was still calculating at maddening speed.
None of the seeming inexhaustible supply of commands it calculated out at high speed led to the Gatling 033 doing anything.
No matter how skilled a coachman the Elite girl may have been, she could do nothing when the horse stopped to think and did not take a single step forward. When the horse refused to move no matter how much she kicked it with her heels or struck it with her whip, the very value of the coachman was brought into question.
It was like a gear connecting the thoughts of the strategic AI to actual movement had been removed.
No matter how high the Juliet’s specs were and no matter how skilled the Elite girl was, there was nothing that could be done if the Gatling 033 could not move.
“Ho…ho ho. Oh ho ho.”
The Elite girl looked around while seated in the cockpit.
She then looked over at Quenser as he lay collapsed on the floor.
She was forced to view him as an actual opponent.
“What…? What did you do to my Gatling 033?”
Quenser did not reply immediately. The inertial forces that had squeezed at his body had done some damage. His mouth opened and closed wordlessly as he took deep breaths.
Finally, the boy gave a thin smile and said, “Are you hoping…to start a quiz show…?’
“Oh…ho ho. I can tell some of it from the situation.”
The girl’s small shoulders were trembling.
Trembling in bewilderment and anger.
“I can tell that Juliet is carrying out unnecessary ‘learning’!! I can tell that has caused various bugs and errors which are causing a conflict over which commands to prioritize!! The bugs and errors are spreading so quickly, my ‘revisions’ cannot keep up!! I am asking about something beyond that! I am not asking what is happening! I am asking why!! What did you do to Juliet!?”
“It is reevaluating the risks,” said Quenser despite being unable to even sit up.
Fatigue and pain seeped into his voice, but there was no weakness there.
That boy had successfully become an equal opponent to that Elite who piloted a giant weapon known as an Object.
“The Juliet has keenly noticed some changes to the situation that you cannot see. These changes have made a major change to the priority of what the Rush should do.”
“It’s unfortunate, though. This strategic AI pilots an Object that can alter the outcome of a war, and yet it seems not to have the ability to raise the white flag and surrender. Thanks to that, the Juliet has no choice but to continue calculating out a way to resolve the situation despite being in clear checkmate. The Rush has come to a halt because the Juliet is vainly trying to think up a way out of the situation.”
“That’s…That’s ridiculous!!” denied the Elite girl reflexively. “Oh ho ho!! My Gatling 033 had the overwhelming advantage!! There is no way I would have lost to that unrefined Legitimacy Kingdom First Generation Object here! Even if you were advising her via radio, there is no way I would have been in checkmate!!”
“I was not advising the princess,” said Quenser decisively and the Elite girl froze in place. “Like hell I have a childhood friend named Angelina. And what kind of nickname is Etta? That was a surprisingly simple code referring to a report in the Legitimacy Kingdom military database.”
“Angelina…report…Etta…Juliet… You don’t mean…!?”
“Since you’re the one that went out of your way to contact your enemy, you should have known that the transmission being sent to the Baby Magnum could be picked up by other soldiers’ radios too.”
A while before when the Baby Magnum and the Rush were firing at each other at high speed, a small figure was moving through the snowy plain that was littered with Water Strider wreckage.
It was Heivia.
He was listening to Quenser’s voice coming from his radio.
At first, it sounded like he was using the Rush’s communications equipment to give advice to the princess. However…
(“I’m cornered over here”. That was the code phrase to indicate a secret discussion about a porn magazine check. The “foreign girl” must have been referring to the Rush. Since he also used the name “Angelina”, the term AI can likely be taken at face value.)
“Ugh. Dammit Quenser. You rely on your beautiful genius of a noble partner a bit too much,” Heivia said to no one in particular.
His handheld device was displaying the design of the Water Strider. It was the one the Legitimacy Kingdom military had drawn up from an analysis of the technology in the enemy Object.
(Heading to the right and turning to the left. Why do his instructions have to be such a pain in the ass?)
Just the main body of the Object was 50 meters across, so the design was quite large. Heivia scrolled the screen as Quenser instructed and marked the necessary components.
(Now I just have to use the map to check where those parts are on the battlefield.)
“Made it! Made it!”
Heivia stopped at one of the places he had marked.
It was a main cannon-class low-stability plasma cannon lying bent in the snow.
“Y’know, I’m little disturbed that I was able to figure out what Quenser meant so well. I’d rather have this kind of tacit understanding with a girl.”
He lowered his bag from his back.
Inside were a large number of batteries. They were the backups prepared for the electric drill.
Heivia’s original mission had been to work with Quenser to drill holes in the cliff wall, stuff explosives inside, and efficiently bring the wreckage down. Heivia had been carrying quite a burden to support Quenser.
However, those batteries were nowhere near enough to power an Object’s main cannon.
Luckily, Heivia had no intention of doing that.
“Well, just getting the infrared targeting system running should be enough to fool it.”
He peered in through a tear in the armor on the side of the cannon where it had been bent in the middle. He stuck his hand inside and pulled out a giant electromagnet. He unwound the lead wrapped around the cylindrical container to create a coil and then rewound it to create a different coil.
“Electromagnetic induction~. That’s what transformers use~,” sang Heivia as he used the square-shaped metal core to prepare a large coil and a small coil.
He then faced the infrared targeting device that was as large as a log.
It was surrounded by armor that a normal bombardment would not budge, but it could not be maintained if there was no way of getting at it. Heivia used his tools to open a panel on the armor. He attached a battery to the cable and transformer inside. Then, he removed the wireless detonation device from a Hand Axe electric fuse and added it to his impromptu device.
Now, he could freely run the Water Strider’s infrared aiming device with the flick of a switch on his radio.
“The Water Strider had 8 main cannons, right? Well, just 3 of them should be enough.”
Heivia looked back at the design from the Legitimacy Kingdom military database that had been created with the intention of using the technology from the destroyed enemy Object. He then began moving again.
Partway there, he found an off road vehicle that had likely been abandoned by the Information Alliance when it could not make it past the giant pieces of wreckage.
He climbed aboard and said, “The plan is to confuse the Rush’s AI by adding in unnecessary calculations, but why am I the one running around doing all the work?”
Heivia’s goal was plain and simple.
He would fix up just the targeting devices for the Water Strider weapons scattered about the snowy plain and set them to run when he sent a radio signal.
Using that, he would make the Rush’s strategic AI mistakenly conclude that the Water Strider’s main cannons were still functional and so the Rush had to constantly keep that danger in mind.
After that, Heivia had switched the 8 main cannons’ targeting devices on and off at high speed and in a certain pattern. By continually giving the strategic AI unnecessary calculations and having it “learn” unnecessary and incorrect things, the high level calculation ability would work in vain for a while.
He had the source for this information in his hands.
The Angelina List.
That report had been put together by the Legitimacy Kingdom military and it contained countless records of problems and failures of AIs that had led to AI research being declared “unrealistic”.
Of course, that alone would not function as a weakness of the Rush’s strategic AI.
The Information Alliance had the most advanced AI research in the world, so they would have already come up with countermeasures for those things.
It was like using a computer virus on a computer that had a proper countermeasure for that virus.
However, just the foundations were enough.
Heivia was not simply going to use the Angelina List. Like he was creating a subspecies of that virus, he just had to create a new problem right then and there.
He already had the knowledge and skills required.
While he usually seemed to do nothing but run around the battlefield with a rifle, Heivia Winchell was a radar analyst.
He was an expert when it came to viewing the battlefield as a board and the Object as a game piece in order to search out the idiosyncrasies and weaknesses of the enemy machine from its movements.
“Oh…ho ho… You used the Angelina List…to make her stop and think…?”
Having heard Quenser’s explanation, the Elite girl sat in the Rush’s cockpit with her small body trembling.
Quenser had finally managed to slowly get up from the floor and he wiped away some of the blood flowing from his nose and ears due to the inertia. He spoke to the Elite girl of the stopped Gatling 033 once more.
“Shouldn’t you be doing something? Now is your only chance to stop the Juliet.”
“Ho…Oh ho ho… What do you mean…?”
“Even now, the Rush continues its wasted thinking. Countless bugs and errors are created and vie for priority. Before long, there will be too many for even an Elite’s thoughts to keep up with.”
“An AI is not just a program. Its ability to learn can be both a plus and a minus. At this rate, the problems are going to multiply explosively. An AI that is rapidly learning in an erroneous direction should be forcibly terminated as early as possible. Otherwise, the Juliet will fatally damage its own script.”
Quenser was grinning as he spoke.
He must have had a good guess as to what “forcibly terminating” the AI would entail.
(Kh… He’s right. I have no choice but to perform a forced termination on Juliet in this situation.)
The Elite girl bit her lip.
(The Object is too large and complex a system and the strategic AI must constantly simulate the movements of the enemy and the progression of the battle, so it cannot be turned on and off so easily. Once I perform the forced termination, it will take time to reactivate it!!)
And since the system was intended to be run primarily by the strategic AI, it was clear what risk there would be in having that AI shut off.
Whether she let Juliet continue thinking or manually shut it down, she would be left at an overwhelming disadvantage.
At some point her choices had been downgraded from “win or lose” to “lose one way or lose another way”.
The Elite girl trembled at the great change to the situation, but she had another thought as well.
That boy was not normal.
It was true that it had been the boy’s partner who had actually taken action. However, it had been the boy in the cockpit who had originally thought up the method and had created the perfect opportunity to carry it out.
Even if someone had come up with that plan and tried to use it as a means of recovering, would they have been able to pull it off so perfectly on an unpracticed first attempt? Would they have been able to accurately get across their idea using an easily-misunderstood transmission filled with code words without having any kind of agreement beforehand?
To take care of such a broad threat, a foundation had to be laid first.
And what was most frightening was that the Legitimacy Kingdom boy had not had the slightest clue that any trouble of that nature would be occurring.
He had not undergone any kind of specialized training.
And yet he had succeeded with an impromptu plan.
How open-minded would someone have to be in order to pull that off?
“What will you do?” Quenser gave his ultimatum. “Will you let the Juliet destroy itself or will you forcibly terminate it? Choose how you want this to end yourself. The delinquent soldier helping me has likely explained the situation to the princess, so she will hold back for now. However, that is no guarantee. If our commander orders her to prioritize destruction over acquiring the technology, she will immediately shoot you with her main cannon.”
The Elite girl’s small shoulders moved up and down.
She was laughing.
“Ho…ho ho. Oh ho ho. Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho!! You are right. I will give you that much!! Juliet is done for now. Letting her continue her calculations will accomplish nothing, so I have no choice but to perform a forced termination!!” The Elite girl did not stop there, however. “But do not think this is over.”
A painfully high-pitched noise reverberated through the cockpit.
The Elite girl had forcefully struck one of the keys on the countless keyboards.
In the next instant, all illumination disappeared from the monitor and lights.
Darkness ruled for an instant.
That was proof of all the systems having stopped.
As she had announced, the Rush did not stop there.
A combination of static from multiple sources slammed into Quenser’s ears. At the same time, the monitor and lights lit up once more. With a mechanical noise, the angles of the countless keyboards surrounding the Elite girl were adjusted.
They were now positioned so it was easier for a human to use them all.
They were now positioned so her ten fingers could race across them even faster.
“Full key touch. Release,” she announced.
There was a smile on the Elite girl’s face. It was not the calm expression of one in a privileged class. It was the extremely wild smile of someone crossing swords with their destined enemy on the battlefield.
“Oh ho ho!! The Gatling 033 is primarily intended to be piloted by Juliet with me performing ‘revisions’, but I do not recall saying that it could not be piloted any other way!! I can pilot it on my own if necessary!!”
One hundred cannons, many more sensors and radars gathering data, a complex propulsion device that used both treads and an air cushion, and a reactor that produced massive amounts of power.
She was announcing that she could control it all with just her 10 fingers.
That was not something any normal human would ever think of doing.
Even a normal tank was usually run by 4 or 5 people, but that reasoning did not apply to an Elite whose body and mind had been thoroughly improved.
Computers carried out all sorts of tasks in the background that normal people were never aware of. She was basically saying she could take care of all of that better than the computer by manually entering it all one letter of the alphabet or number at a time.
If she truly could continue fighting, it was clear as day which Object would have the advantage.
The Baby Magnum was truly cornered.
If things continued, the princess would be the one destroyed.
“Oh ho ho. I must praise your skill for coming up with that weakness of Juliet’s.”
The Elite girl’s fingers stopped to hover above the keyboards.
The pause was as filled with tension as if she had the barrel of a gun pressed against the back of her enemy’s head.
“But that has just made me want you even more!! Such quick thinking. Such application. You are perfect for my unit!! Honestly. Ho ho. Honestly. Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho!! Why do you light such a fire in my heart!? Oh ho ho!!”
“Stop,” said Quenser quietly.
He used a finger to wipe up some blood that was dripping down from his ear and slowly crawled across the cockpit floor.
“This is a useless struggle. You cannot defeat our princess like this.”
“Oh ho ho. And what proof of this do you-…”
The Elite girl trailed off.
Quenser had used his finger to write something in red on the floor.
A bomb has been set up.
The Elite girl looked at Quenser in shock, and he wrote more on the floor in blood.
Cut off all transmissions. Including the ones monitored in the background.
Quenser slammed his palm against the wall.
His gaze said it all.
Do not speak.
Whatever you do, do not speak.
If you overlook this opportunity, you are doomed.
He had no time to deal with the Elite girl’s confusion.
The girl’s slender fingers hovered hesitantly above the keyboards for a few seconds. Finally, she hit the switch. After seeing her finger move, Quenser slowly got up.
“Over there. On the floor below the cockpit seat, a plastic explosive has been set up. It is likely to be used in emergencies. Did they not tell you anything about this?”
For a bit, the girl did not move. After that, she shook her head for some reason. She may have wanted to deny something. However, Quenser gave no response. Silence reigned. The Elite girl undid her seatbelt with trembling hands and slowly stood up. She timidly circled around behind the seat and peered underneath.
She then staggered as if she was feeling faint.
“Why?” Her whispered voice could be heard throughout the small cockpit. “Why would they set up something like this? Oh ho ho. Losing the Object or its Elite means certain death for my unit.”
“An Object is a monstrous weapon that cannot be destroyed even with a nuke. When it is controlled by a single Elite, the military will fear the Elite turning on them. If the Object did turn its main cannons on its own base, no one would be able to stop it.” Quenser leaned against the wall and took a long, slow breath before continuing. “And the Rush is controlled by a strategic AI. There is even more danger of a rampage since there could be a bug in the program that the Elite cannot take care of fast enough. That is why they created an ‘emergency shutoff’ for themselves. There is probably a similar bomb installed on the Juliet’s main computer in addition to this one in the cockpit.”
“But that is not the biggest problem.”
The Elite girl understood what he was trying to say.
Quenser pointed towards where the bomb was with his index finger that was wet with blood.
“The detonation counter has begun. It may be linked to a major error occurring in the strategic AI.”
“Impossible! Ho…oh ho ho. I-I am the Elite of the Gatling 033! They would not dispose of me so simply!!”
“The Elite is important, but only so long as the military views it that way,” spat out Quenser in reply. “I have seen an Elite being discarded. When the princess was defeated by the Water Strider here in the Alaska district, she was used as a decoy so the unit could retreat. An Elite only has value when combined with a functioning Object. And as long as they have the Juliet and the public 3D model, they do not even need to tell the people if you die. Is there perhaps a backup? Is the Juliet saved to some area of memory in the network?”
The Elite girl leaped back into the cockpit chair and reached for the communications system’s switch.
But Quenser said, “Stop. They did not want you to know about the bombs. It is entirely possible they will remotely detonate them the instant you ask about them. They might decide your knowledge would lead you to betray them.”
The Elite girl’s finger stopped an instant before reaching the key.
As she remained motionless, Quenser continued.
“Why do you think the bombs were set up only in the cockpit and the main computer? Because they want to keep the damages to a minimum so they can switch out just the interior and reuse the Object. Normally, only you can pilot the Gatling 033 because it was modified just for you. However, if they only use the frame and reconstruct the inner portion similar to another Object, they can swap in another Elite fairly quick. This way, they can discard an Elite they can no longer use and move over to the next plan with a minimum cost.”
“I…I would never betray them or go on a rampage!! Ho…ho ho. And the erroneous learning of the Strategic AI Juliet is due to the vulnerabilities of the program!!”
“But what do you think the commanders back at your base zone are thinking right now? They saw the Rush suddenly stop when it should have been able to continue fighting. It is not the Rush or the Elite that the Information Alliance military cares about. It is the Strategic AI Juliet.”
The Elite clenched her fist.
She stood up, swaying, and slammed her small fist into Quenser’s face as he sat with his back against the wall. She did not stop with just one or two hits. She continued on and on and on and on and on. She punched him with all of her strength again and again.
“This is…! This is all your fault!! I did…nothing wrong!!”
The dull sounds continued on.
The girl’s shoulders trembled.
She was not running out of stamina.
Her humiliation, her anger, and the fear she could no longer hide were making her body tremble.
“What will you do?” Quenser asked the Elite girl with his split lips. “The plastic explosives will detonate in another 10 minutes at this rate. The bomb here is not that big, but the blast is enough to kill any human in this enclosed space. Do you understand the situation now? What will you do?”
The Elite girl swung her fist up, but then stopped.
Her trembling reached its peak. That cockpit surrounded by thick walls had likely been akin to a cradle for her. Feeling real danger in there may have given her claustrophobic fear for the first time in her life.
She motionlessly breathed shallow breaths and Quenser sighed.
“Where is the ejection device?”
“Where is the control device for ejection? I came to the battlefield to study Object design as a battlefield student. I can look into it. If the ejection is linked to the bomb, you can’t just activate it. I need to cut the cord connecting it first.”
Quenser placed a hand on the wall and slowly stood up with his face swelling from the pummeling it had taken.
The Elite girl hesitated for a second, but finally said, “Th-the ejection device is built into the seat. Oh ho ho.”
“I see. So it’s the same as our princess’s.”
Quenser pulled some small tools out of his uniform’s pockets. The screws in the cockpit chair were made in a special shape, so his Legitimacy Kingdom tools would not work. However, he pulled out a small pair of pliers and directly rotated the heads of the screws.
After removing four screws, he pulled off a small panel.
He saw several cables and an air compressor used to tighten the seatbelt.
As he looked inside, he said, “Here it is. It is connected. But it doesn’t use some complex system to connect the cord or anything. This isn’t some puzzle like the time bombs in movies. I can take care of this simply enough.” Quenser grabbed the Elite girl’s shoulders and sat her down in the cockpit chair. “Put on the seatbelt again. Eject after I cut the cord. That should take care of this. This is still a battlefield with rules. As long as you go through the proper steps, you won’t be shot out of the air or pursued across the snowy plain after you eject.”
“This is war. I am not doing this out of kindness.” Quenser circled around behind the chair and stretched an arm inside where he had removed the panel. “As I told you before, I came here to study Object design. Ultimately, I do not care who wins or loses the war…as long as our lives are not in danger, that is. And as a student, this is a chance to drive the pilot Elite out and capture an enemy Object almost completely unharmed. This is a key to getting rich quick. Normally, I would never get to study a Second Generation Information Alliance Object.”
The Elite girl blinked in confusion while held in place by her seatbelt.
In response, Quenser said, “This is a one time deal. The next time we meet, we’ll be enemies. We’ll be forced to fight to the death. Keep this a secret from the princess. If it turns out I let an enemy Elite escape, I could very well be court martialed. Normally, it seems you would be used in negotiations between nations.”
A loud snipping sound could be heard.
It was the sound of Quenser cutting the cord connecting the ejection device to the bomb.
Now she could eject.
His arm reached around the chair and headed for the red ejection key.
That was when the Elite girl realized something.
“W-wait a second! The ejection device can only eject me, and the bomb’s detonator is still functioning! You will just be trapped here-…”
“Yes,” Quenser readily admitted. “I’ll deal with the rest myself. As I said, this is a key to getting rich quick. It’s worth risking my life for. At the very least, it’s worth risking my life more than fighting deadly battles for the interests of the higher ups is. If the Elite does not eject soon to display that you can no longer fight, the princess will destroy the Object. Once that happens, I’ll have nothing left to study.”
“Make sure you survive. I’ll make the proper preparations so you can.”
Before the Elite girl could complain any further, Quenser slammed down the red ejection key.
The dozens of barriers set throughout the tunnel-like passageway all opened up. After the route was confirmed to be open, the Elite girl’s seat was forcefully launched out.
It took less than 10 seconds for her to exit the tunnel. Once she had exited the Object, the Elite herself was launched from the chair and a parachute activated.
With that, the war was over.
Left alone, Quenser unsteadily moved backwards until his back struck the wall.
While leaning against the wall, he slid down to a sitting position.
His focus lay only on the presence of the plastic explosive sitting on the floor where it had been set up to kill the Elite.
The Strategic AI Juliet of the Information Alliance’s Gatling 033 had been shut off and the Elite girl who had mastered the technique of manually controlling the entire Object had ejected.
With the Gatling 033 truly unable to move, the war in Alaska came to an end. Naturally, the Legitimacy Kingdom was the victor.
After landing on the snow with her parachute, the Elite girl turned tail and ran, but the Legitimacy Kingdom Object did not pursue her. That was proof that she stood upon a clean battlefield ruled by a type of law and order. The Elite girl bit her lip in humiliation, but she had no way to fight back in her current situation. Retreating as quickly as possible when given the opportunity was the duty of the loser.
She ran for kilometer after kilometer across the cold snow.
Even inside her special suit made with cutting edge technology, she was gradually losing heat.
As she gritted her teeth at the bitterness of defeat, the Elite girl heard the sound of snow being crushed. However, it was too smooth a noise to be human footsteps. It was an Information Alliance off-road vehicle. Since the noise of an engine would draw in enemies, the Information Alliance usually used hybrids. The electric motor made much less noise. Issues of horsepower and driving distance prevented them from using fully electric vehicles. The gasoline engine would be used for terrain with harsher slopes and the electric motor would be used when enemy troops were likely around.
The off-road vehicle stopped in front of the Elite girl. The door opened and the commander of the Information Alliance’s maintenance base zone stepped out. Her name was Lendy Farolito. She was a woman of about 20 with brown skin and silver hair. She was one of the young officers who were growing rather common in recent years.
The fact that the commander had personally come to the front lines may have been a form of respect for the Elite. Or perhaps the commander simply had nothing better to do with the war over.
“Thank goodness… It seems you managed to survive,” said Lendy with a relieved expression.
The Elite girl remained silent and simply looked at her commander. Lendy seemed to interpret that hard look as coming from the shock of defeat.
“For now, we need to retreat. The intelligence department trying to analyze the technology from the Object wreckage will probably resent us. The facility they set up to transmit their data will likely be destroyed by the Legitimacy Kingdom now. However, we have no duty to continue fighting to the last man once our Object has been lost. We can deal with this digitally. A certain amount of data has already been gathered from the wreckage, so this was not without any results. And the higher ups do not seem insistent that we stick with this. Fortunately, we were deemed to be a card worth preserving.”
Lendy crouched down to put herself on eyelevel with the short Elite girl.
She looked like a parent or a teacher.
However, the Elite girl could not forget two facts.
The fact that a bomb had been set up inside the cockpit and the fact that a detonation signal had been sent to it after the situation had grown unfavorable.
“Losing the Gatling 033 is a painful blow, but the Information Alliance military emphasizes piloting systems and strategic AI, so we should be fine. The Juliet was backed up and you can still be used. Constructing an entire Object would take 3 or 4 years, but we can take one in construction and change the layout to suit our needs. That way, it won’t take too long before you can get back to it.”
“The biggest problem is the fear that the Legitimacy Kingdom will retrieve the Gatling 033 and analyze the data and technology concerning the Strategic AI Juliet. But we do not need to worry about that. The main circuits and memory devices in the Gatling 033 have heating elements installed to deal with that. With the circuits directly fried, all the crucial technology will be erased, so-…”
A high-pitched noise rang out.
It came from Lendy Farolito’s cheek.
The Elite girl had slapped her commander.
In a stiff voice, the Elite girl said, “If you try something like that again, I really will turn my main cannons on your base zone.”
Having been slapped, Lendy looked at the Elite girl with an expression of bewilderment. The Elite girl did not feel like dealing with her commander if she was going to feign ignorance. She headed for the back seat of the off-road vehicle while ignoring Lendy who was holding her cheek with one hand.
The Elite girl thought while ignoring the driver who was remaining silent due to the odd atmosphere.
(It may be safer to keep an engineer like him as a confidant than a soldier who excels at giving suspicious pretexts for everything. …Oh ho ho. Now I want him even more.)
Meanwhile, Quenser held his radio to his ear in the Rush’s cockpit. The thick barriers had prevented the radio signal from getting through before, but the tunnel-like passageway had opened up during the ejection. That meant he could now use his radio.
He was speaking with his large-breasted commander.
“The battle is over. I’ve gotten us the Second Generation Information Alliance Object almost completely intact. Send over some people from the electronic simulation department who know how to deal with the data processing. Of course, any staff familiar with the Information Alliance format would be best. A strategic AI called Juliet was stopped due to a conflict over commands, but it would be best not to leave it for too long. An auto-scan or self-restart could begin which might lead to the reactor being detonated to keep their data from us.”
“Understood, Quenser. First the Water Strider and now this. This really is a mountain of treasure for the Legitimacy Kingdom.”
“Tell me when you’re going to dismantle it. I would appreciate it if you could negotiate with the higher ups to get me in first.”
“Hmm, I can’t promise anything. The analysis of the latest technology of an enemy nation will likely become a national project. They might not let you due to fears that letting a student participate could damage some sensitive circuitry and prevent a proper analysis.”
“I guess it isn’t that easy…” sighed Quenser.
Either way, a report on the analysis of the Rush would be uploaded to the military database. He could learn a lot from that. There was more than one path to becoming a designer, so he decided it might be best to let this one slide.
After ending the transmission with Froleytia, Quenser began coughing. The intense inertial forces had injured him internally. He had blood coming from his ears and nose. It would likely be best if he received a full medical inspection once he returned to the maintenance base zone.
After that thought, Quenser noticed a new incoming transmission on his radio.
It was from Heivia.
“Hey, Sir Knight. It seems the plan to cause erroneous learning in the AI to stop the Object was a success. You should thank me. They might have to add a new strategy to the training manual for new recruits next year.”
“The Information Alliance won’t make the same mistake twice. They’ll have a countermeasure the next time we meet. A technique used once is an outdated technique. The battlefield is being constantly updated, so even the best information can become worthless in no time.”
“I heard a plastic explosive had been set in the cockpit to prevent the Elite from turning on them.”
“Thanks to that, I was easily able to get the Elite to eject. It seems she was able to control the Rush using full key touch. If it hadn’t been for that disagreement with her comrades, this battle might have lasted quite a bit longer.”
“Hmm,” said Heivia half-heartedly.
“By any chance, was that bomb made of Hand Axe?”
Quenser fell silent.
He glanced over.
The plastic explosive was definitely set up there. The name of the explosive used was Hand Axe. A gram of it was more valuable than a gram of platinum, and it was developed by the Legitimacy Kingdom military. Naturally, the Information Alliance had no way of manufacturing it.
What looked like a detonator was actually a decoration created from the cords meant for a wired detonation and the LCD screen taken from a pen-shaped wireless fuse.
Finally, Quenser spoke into the radio once more.
“…This is war. I wasn’t doing it out of kindness.”
“That was a bit of a cruel method. But just a bit. You could have been more thorough. You just needed to prevent the Elite from manually piloting using full key touch, so you could have just killed her. As long as she’s still alive, she can always use a derivative Object to return to the battlefield. The Information Alliance hadn’t raised the white flag yet, so you could have done it, right?”
“Should you really be saying that?” Quenser sighed. “After blowing up several Objects, I’m not really one to talk, but this is Alaska. Don’t tell me you forget what happened here.”
“Heh heh. True enough. Humans really aren’t fair. We complain like hell when someone does it to us, but forget all about that when we’re the ones doing it.”
“Please, just keep this a secret from the princess and Froleytia.”
“Because they’ll be mad at you for going against military regulations for something like that? The princess seems calm at first glance, but she does have a bad habit of being oversensitive when it comes to wins or losses against Objects, doesn’t she?”
“No, because it would probably put them in a bad mood. I’d rather not be ordered to make a 30 kilometer dash through the snow.”
“Heh heh. Shouldn’t you be more worried about the bad mood the princess is already in? When you were getting along surprisingly well with the Rush’s Elite, you said some rather explosive things. She seems quite agitated wondering who this Angelina childhood friend and Etta from the restaurant are.”
“Hah? I was just pointing you to the Angelina List!! You followed my instructions, so surely you figured that out, Heivia!”
“Eh? It’s not my problem if she didn’t catch on.”
“Why does it look like I’m going to have to explain myself to the princess after all this…?” muttered Quenser.
Ignoring him, Heivia cut off the transmission.
Amid the silence, Quenser looked up at the ceiling of the Rush’s cockpit. He thought back to what he had said.
The next time we meet, we’ll be enemies.
We’ll be forced to fight to the death.