HEAVY OBJECT:Volume5 Chapter 1
A familiar electronic tone rang throughout the athlete locker room.
“Day one of the shootathlon begins in thirty minutes. All participants are to complete their preparations and stand by. I repeat, day one of the shootathlon begins…”
When she heard that gentle female voice, Mariydi Whitewitch gave an annoyed sigh.
She was a 12 year old girl from the Capitalist Corporations. Her long blonde hair and her white skin were her primary characteristics, but the outfit she was wearing would likely draw more attention. She wore a special skintight suit that covered her from just below the neck all the way to the very tips of her toes. It was brightly colored in yellow and black. As befitting someone from the Capitalist Corporations, it had the names of various sponsors printed across it. She looked a bit like a hornet that had transformed into a race queen.
One might think it was the uniform for the shootathlon event, but that was not accurate.
It was actually the flight jacket from the PMC air force she belonged to.
“What the hell? I always thought this thing was weird, but I can’t believe it fits in perfectly among the outfits that are designed for a show.”
“It was designed for an air force. Other than if you crash, is there really any need to insist on proper camouflage?”
That composed response came from a woman holding a handheld device.
Her name was Alicia Sloppyjoes.
Sportswear, shoes, rifle, dietary restrictions, training coordination, bodyguard… Many, many people surrounded a single athlete like rings around Saturn. Alicia was the international sports PR manager sent by an advertising firm. She coordinated the connections between those several dozen rings of Saturn and Saturn itself.
However, Alicia was not Mariydi’s obedient servant.
“So it’s a nice message telling us we should die if we do crash,” commented Mariydi
“How should I know? I have no connection to the military. If you want mental help, speak with the sports counselor. If you want to chat, you will have to pay me extra.”
“That’s the Capitalist Corporations for you.”
“I could say the same to you, Miss PMC Air Force Mercenary.”
Mariydi clicked her tongue in annoyance.
“Let me go over this once more,” said the woman in the suit that made it look like she would never have anything to do with a marriage. “The shootathlon is a marksmanship event. You are to use the new rifle from your sponsor company Clear Snipe and earn excellent results in the event.”
“It’s basically a variation on the triathlon, right? You run and shoot, you swim and shoot, and you bike and shoot. Since each stage is on a different day, it’s easier than it used to be.”
“The first day has you running 25 kilometers and stopping for long-distance sharpshooting three times along the way. The targets will be human-shaped and flying disks. The end score is an average of your scores from each day, so be on your best game from the beginning.”
“Yes, yes.” Mariydi waved her hand while sitting on a bench. “You went to the effort of calling in not just a soldier but one from the long, drawn-out battles in the Northern European Restricted Zone where the use of Objects is not allowed. You want me to immaturely stand up to these peaceful athletes with my killer techniques.”
“Unlike the old international sports festival, the Technopics also effectively functions as a technological race between the world powers. It is best to think of the athletes as enemy soldiers in a proxy war.”
“Heh.” Mariydi gave a small laugh. “Those are enemy soldiers? It must be nice having a sheltered upbringing away from real war.”
“We have no reason to know about real war.” Alicia’s expression did not change in the slightest. “In these events, we are allowed to use air resistance alleviating technology in the sportswear, shock absorption technology in the shoes, nonconductive fiber springs, and as much doping as is legal for civilians. …All of your enemies are athletes specially developed for this event.”
“And I’ve had the inside of my body altered as a test subject in survivability experiments for the Elites that pilot Objects. I am well aware that I am as abnormal as any of them.”
“And are you also aware that you will be forced to pay a fine for being in breach of contract if your results do not live up to the level expected of you by your sponsor?”
“I know that.” Mariydi stretched her hand out a bit. “Hand over the sponsor’s precious new rifle. I want to perform some final adjustments. As long as it isn’t loaded, I can carry it outside the event grounds, right?”
Alicia casually glanced over.
When she did, the man who was Mariydi’s bodyguard handed the girl a silver case.
“Do I really look stupid enough to stare down the barrel if it jams?”
“That isn’t what I meant.” The bodyguard shook his head. “As that icy lady said, the Technopics is a proxy war based on a technology race. You will find no concept of fairness or sportsmanship here. Everyone here will do whatever it takes to win. We must ensure the safety of the money we have invested in sending you out to compete, but we cannot remain by your side during the event itself. If your results are too good, others may focus their attacks on you as a type of ‘countermeasure’.”
“I suppose that is especially true for an event like the shootathlon that’s results are based on three events over three days.” Mariydi disassembled the rifle so quickly it was clear she was used to doing so. “But that also means I’m free to do the same, right?”
Standing up perfectly straight, Alicia answered the question with a serious expression.
“On the surface, this is viewed as a peaceful festival. You are free to do so as long as you do not sully the image of the sponsor’s rifle.”
“Heh. The management of Olympia Dome officially condemns it, but every single spectator sees such trouble as one aspect of what makes the Technopics enjoyable. That is why it is commonly known as the Festival of Death or the Massacre Parade.”
As she continued her work, Mariydi glanced over at her bodyguard.
Even in that age, certain things were not allowed in sports competitions. Those included doping beyond a certain level, physical training that was too harsh, and special sportswear that included springs and motors powerful enough that they would likely damage the athlete’s body. While human technology had invented such things, they very rarely saw the light of day.
But even if something seemed like it would be banned in sports competitions, it would not be banned if it could be used in other fields.
For example, the military.
For that reason, the participants in the Technopics were commonly referred to as athlete soldiers.
“I’ll be out there with 30 or 40 of those man-made machos. I assume you have some kind of protection strategy for if they cause some trouble.”
“This would be a lot easier if Objects could handle situations like this.”
Athlete soldiers primarily had abilities as individuals, but they could also break previous limits in physical strength when using weapons like powered suits.
But at the same time, the abundance of Objects in the world meant a fighter pilot for a PMC air force like Mariydi was only useful in a very limited environment.
She could only defend or attack areas where Objects could not be used.
(We’re both types of soldiers that are not needed in this era of clean wars.)
With that self-deprecating comment in her heart, a new figure entered the locker room.
It was a woman wearing a white coat over a brand name track suit. She had short, slightly wavy, brown hair and wore frameless glasses. However, the biggest clue to her true colors was the large cooler hanging from her shoulder.
Her name was Stacy Palmetto.
She was a pharmacist that specialized in the techniques known commonly as doping.
“Hi, there. It’s time for the scary injection! Young lady, how would you like to improve yourself today?”
“Just a time-delayed transfusion is fine. I don’t need any unnecessary drugs.”
A time-delayed transfusion was receiving a transfusion of your own blood.
Humans created blood every day. A few days after blood was drawn, your blood level would be back up to 100%. If that drawn blood was saved and then given as a transfusion, you could have a blood level of more than 100%.
Blood carried the role of carrying oxygen throughout the body, so the more blood you had, the more oxygen you could store. This could be used to raise an athlete’s score in an event.
Stacy pouted her lips.
“Chehh. You aren’t going to use muscle builders or sedatives? I have plenty of varieties that can help keep your hand steady when you aim.”
“After looking into the average lifespan of Technopic athletes, I would really prefer not to use them.”
“Boo, boo. I say it’s all the assassinations that bring the average lifespan figures down.”
As Stacy continued pouting, Alicia replied while still standing perfectly straight.
“Her participation in the shootathlon is meant to show off the abilities of the sponsor’s new rifle. Please avoid any elements other than the gun that might raise her marksmanship ability.”
“There you have it,” said Mariydi. “Also, even if these drugs are perfectly safe, anything that suppresses your fatigue makes it more difficult to keep track of the condition your body is in. That could have some slight negative effect on my aim.”
“You say you won’t use the chemical drugs, but do you really think time-delayed transfusions are kind to your body?” Stacy pulled a tube and a pack full of blood from the large cooler. “Raising your level of blood above normal means your blood pressure shoots up. The effects of that can wear down your stamina. Especially in a long race. Do not forget the risk of applying a tremendous burden to your blood vessels just by attempting to run according to your normal pace.”
“That sounds harsh,” muttered the bodyguard with his arms crossed.
Mariydi removed the elbow-length glove-like part of her full body flight jacket.
As he watched the needle for the transfusion pierce her youthful skin, the bodyguard continued speaking.
“All the athletes have their bodies thoroughly strengthened daily with various drugs and their sportswear and shoes are carefully designed, yet it all has to be prepared before the event. It seems to me they could just mix the necessary ingredients into the drinks here.”
“This is a sport, remember? There is no logical or convincing explanation as to why you cannot use your hands in soccer. You can only say that those are the rules.”
“It is almost time,” said Alicia as she turned over her slender wrist to look at an oddly small watch.
Mariydi looked over at the tube sticking into her arm, rested the rifle on her other shoulder, and let out a sigh.
“Okay, time to appear in the world’s largest commercial.”
The Technopics were held in Olympia Dome, a giant man-made island floating in almost the very center of the Atlantic Ocean.
The man-made island was not created by filling in land to expand an already existing natural island. It was instead created entirely out of giant floats. When a man-made island was given independence, it was not required to stay in one single place. Most of those islands slowly followed the currents through international waters on the seven seas.
Due to global warming and rising sea levels, there had been a temporary rush to create that kind of man-made island. Weixing Taiwan, Second Venice, and the New Ryukyu Islands were good examples. However, their maintenance costs were unexpectedly high, their diplomatic situation was fragile as they required resources to be shipped in from the continents, and the recovery speed of city functions after an emergency was quite low. These problems were all discovered after their creation and so they had gone out of fashion.
Olympia Dome had a giant dome 20 kilometers across as the main central stadium. The 10 kilometers around it contained the harbor, airport, lodging facilities, and everything else required for the island to function. For this reason, its shape was often likened to a fried egg.
That giant fried egg circulated around the Atlantic Ocean with a cycle of about 2 years.
Mariydi and the other participants in the women’s shootathlon were gathered at one end of the circular dome. The event for the first day was to run for 25 kilometers along the wall while stopping at 3 places along the way to perform sharpshooting.
She could hear Alicia’s sharp voice over a pen-cap-sized piezoelectric receiver attached to her ear.
“The final results of the shootathlon are based on an average of the scores from the three days, but your results on the first day determine your starting point on the second day. To be blunt, the better a lead you gain here, the easier things will be later.”
“We’re running 20 or 30 kilometers, so I don’t think starting a dozen meters or so back is going to make that much of a difference,” replied Mariydi in annoyance. “Also, the shootathlon is about shooting as well as running.”
She glanced around and estimated there were over 100 female athletes gathered. The starting line looked like it had a higher population density than the entrance to a department store before a big sale.
Capitalist Corporations, Information Alliance, Legitimacy Kingdom, Faith Organization.
It was a strange feeling to have so many people from different world powers gathered in one place.
Some of the uniforms were full-body suits like Mariydi’s, but more standard running outfits with a separate top and bottom were common as well. Some wore large boots that extended all the way up to the thighs. Those seemed ill suited for running at first glance, but they likely contained fiber springs that thoroughly increased the wearer’s leg strength.
The great amount of variation was likely due to the fact that these were women’s uniforms. From a moral standpoint, women’s uniforms had to cover more of the body which made them harder to optimize than men’s uniforms.
However, this provided a more florid visual display and the designers went beyond simple athletic ability and designed the uniforms to have sex appeal as a form of advertisement. (The sponsor companies’ names were printed on the uniforms.) In some ways, this almost seemed to actually work against the original purpose of the uniforms.
A female announcer’s voice cut in on all of their piezoelectric receivers.
“Day one of the women’s shootathlon begins in ten minutes. All participants are to move to their marks.”
(If they’re going to divide it up by sex, I wish they would divide it up by age, too.)
Perhaps in an attempt to apply pressure, a nearby older Information Alliance woman half-jokingly aimed her rifle at Mariydi. Mariydi ignored her and walked a few meters to the left. As the other woman moved along while peering through her scope, she did not realize she had walked right in front of a camera.
That was just how sports were.
Regulars on the same team would constantly try to trip each other up and athletes would taunt each other in what they called psychological attacks. Mariydi wanted to vomit every time she heard someone use the word “sportsmanship”. She felt the soldiers on the battlefield who silently exchanged fire were much more sincere.
She then heard an ally’s voice come in over the piezoelectric receiver on her ear.
It was from the pharmacist named Stacy.
“If you have the time, get an autograph for me. I hear Erie Greenhat’s is quite valuable.”
“I didn’t take you for the type to follow the current fads. As an athletics expert, I would have thought you would be used to being around athletes.”
“I find more value in my job if I have a personal objective in it. A collector’s spirit works well for that.”
The bodyguard must have been listening in from next to Stacy, because he cut in.
“Do you have one from our prized athlete yet? If not, she might get a little sulky.”
“I will get one from Mariydi-chan once she proves herself with some results.”
“Say whatever you like,” spat out Mariydi.
Meanwhile, the time drew near.
“One more minute.”
She listened to the announcement with a yawn.
Soon thereafter, the starter pistol was fired.
The large group began running all at once like water flowing out of a container that had its cap removed. Mariydi went with that flow. Mariydi moved her legs in a rhythm as she felt a tension unlike that of an all-out sprint. It felt more like attempting to stop a stopwatch at exactly 10 seconds without looking.
She heard Alicia’s stiff voice over her piezoelectric receiver.
“Your sponsor is watching. Please keep within the leading group.”
“Are you stupid?”
Mariydi gave no explanation for her short response.
She could have rushed up into first place, but doing so was meaningless.
(Dammit. This reminds me of my training in the Northern European Restricted Zone when they had us running around the base again and again and again before we were given any breakfast.)
Her 12 year old appearance made it hard to imagine, but Mariydi was actually a fighter pilot. A pilot had to be able to precisely operate her aircraft while experiencing pressures over 9 times that of Earth’s gravity, so she had needed a body tougher than that of a foot soldier who carried a gun through the hills.
The main difference between the race and her training was that she could not simply match the others’ pace.
The trick was to keep her own pace the entire time. To continue with the stopwatch example, she had to continue to trust her internal clock while ignoring the surrounding noise. If she did not do that, her stamina would not last.
As such, she had to be aware of the movements of those around her while at the same time ensuring that she did not begin moving more quickly as she was drawn into their pace.
“All the jiggling going on around you is kind of pissing me off.”
“Unless you’re going to help me keep my pace, I’m going to cut off your transmission,” replied Mariydi.
“That sort of thing can actually be used to gather focus from the cameras. Now, we can’t expect that from you, but you may be able to use a different tactic. In addition to simply getting good results, I suggest you create some drama.”
“You mean like pretending to be suffering?”
“This is the Technopics. Gaining 10 seconds of coverage on a single station is the same as a 30,000 dollar advertisement. And each place you move up in the ranks is another 30%.”
“I would be quite the laughingstock if I thought too much about that and ended up falling down in the ranks.”
Eighteen minutes passed as she chatted.
As she arrived at the first shooting point, Mariydi’s breathing was as regulated as if she was speaking on the phone in a café.
The point was located 7 kilometers from the starting line. A carpet several dozen meters long was spread out across the asphalt. A line of human-shaped targets was set up parallel to but 200 meters away from the carpet. The targets were set up on metal rails and moved about randomly.
The shooting point doubled as a water stop.
The athletes in the leading group had already grabbed their own drinks and were lying prone atop the carpet while holding their sniper rifles.
Mariydi glanced over at them and said, “How elegant. Are they enjoying a vacation?”
She remained standing.
She held up her sniper rifle while continuing to run at the same speed as the rest of the race.
Instead of holding her breath and firing one shot at a time, she pulled the trigger again and again in semi-auto mode.
A string of gunshots rang out.
Mariydi Whitewitch accurately fired a bullet through the head and chest of every single human-shaped target.
Her hands were so steady because of the stamina she had preserved over the first leg of the race with the intentional regulation of her pace.
However, her simple skill as a sharpshooter also played a large role.
“That should do it.”
As the other athletes looked on in shock, Mariydi continued on to the next leg of the race without taking a drink.
“That managed to draw a lot of attention,” said Alicia.
However, she was not praising Mariydi.
“But that left it unclear whether it was due to the abilities of your sponsor’s new rifle or your personal skill. Try not to go too far overboard from now on.”
“Is that really how you cheer on the athlete that just rushed up to first place in an international sporting event?”
Mariydi sounded annoyed, but her pace did not change.
The old leading group was approaching with incredible force, but Mariydi did not up her pace in an attempt to keep them from overtaking her. Their efforts would only wear down their stamina and lower their shooting accuracy. They would not defeat her in the overall score.
In fact, Mariydi’s lead had made the old leading group destroy their pace and that would also likely make the others behind them wear down their stamina as well, so it all worked to Mariydi’s advantage.
(They’re sure to have their trainers and managers yelling at them over their piezoelectric receivers, but that isn’t enough to get your heart rate under control.)
“I’m glad they’re all so stupid. I guess this really is just a gathering of muscle-obsessed freaks.”
Mariydi was overtaken as she muttered that, but her expression did not change one bit.
She was in the best area.
Any lower and a good result would be out of reach. Any higher and she would run out of stamina and lose speed.
Without letting the apparent order lead her astray, Mariydi Whitewitch continued on towards an assured top-level score.
In the end, she made 4th place.
That was towards the upper end for the first day.
As a holdover from the old international sports competition, the Technopics gave medals to those in the top three spots. For that reason, there was a large gap in value between 3rd place and 4th place.
“After all your boasting, you failed to end up in the top group,” said Alicia while standing tall as Mariydi returned to her locker room. “Your sponsor is lenient, so they may simply overlook this, but be more careful next time.”
“I purposefully gave up a top spot. For today.”
“The shootathlon scores are taken from an average of all 3 days. If I had gone all out and stuck with the medal group today, the risk of the others focusing their interference on me in the second day increases. It’s simpler to give up the top spot now and wait for those in the top spots to fall down.”
“I see you thought this through,” said her bodyguard with a smile. “That doesn’t sound like the thinking of a soldier brought in from outside. You’re used to this. Comments like that show you know what people are expecting when they watch the Technopics.”
“Our goal here is to advertise the sponsor’s new rifle. Making things easier for yourself is irrelevant,” said Alicia while still standing tall.
The bodyguard looked at her in amusement and asked, “Have you ever smiled?”
“I supply a superb smile when entertaining sponsors.”
“So your smile is for sale, too?” muttered Mariydi. “Anyway, if you have nothing else to discuss with me, I’d like to take a shower.”
“Wait, wait!” interrupted Stacy the pharmacist. “Can I take some samples to check for doping now? Otherwise the sweat can be a pain to get.”
“What else do you need?”
“Hair, saliva, blood, urine.”
As Stacy enumerated the various samples, Mariydi scratched through her hair with one hand. She preferred to deal with that kind of annoying thing after she had a chance to wash away her sticky sweat.
Stacy then held out a paper cup while trying to suppress a smile.
“Young lady, do you need me to help by holding one leg up from behind?”
Mariydi’s face reddened a bit and she grabbed the cup. The bodyguard watched on with a confused look.
“The rules on doping have been relaxed quite a bit, so is there really any reason for a detailed examination after the event?”
“This is not meant to restrict anything. It is just checking to make sure she is not using anything more than what she registered before the event. Mixing any kind of drug into the drinks during the event is banned.”
As she spoke, Stacy placed a large tag-like sheet on top of Mariydi’s tongue, removed the long glove-like part of her flight jacket, and attached something like tape to her elbow. The tape was not retrieving sweat; it was retrieving blood from her capillaries.
She then used a cotton ball held by tweezers to absorb some sweat from around her neck and pulled out a single golden hair.
As this process was performed on her, Mariydi spoke to the bodyguard.
“Now that I have entered the group with a chance at victory, you should assume the other athletes and their supporters will try to interfere. From here on out, the true face of the athlete soldier will show itself.”
“I will do my very best to protect you as long as my pay is enough to cover what that entails.”
The instant after the bodyguard made that promise, the lights in the locker room shut off and they were wrapped in darkness.
Mariydi Whitewitch did not just look up at the lights on the ceiling. This was not a power outage caused by lightning. Her bodyguard did not need to push her to the floor. She immediately grabbed the long glove-like part of her suit sitting on the bench and jumped to the floor herself.
Repeated high-pitched explosive noises and flashes of lights came in through the slightly-cracked door.
This was much worse for the heart than lightning.
“Gunfire… Looks like the welcome party has begun already!!” said Mariydi as she reattached the glove-like part of her suit.
“But it doesn’t look like this one is for us,” said the bodyguard.
The lights had indeed gone out and the gunfire was still continuing, but no attackers had charged into Mariydi’s room and no bullets were flying into the room.
Alicia was likely still standing tall in the darkness as she said, “The power for the athlete locker rooms are separated by block. Our power was likely taken out as a side effect of taking out their target’s power.”
“Well, this kind of thing is common at the Technopics,” said the pharmacist Stacy who was the calmest of them all as she was used to this type of competition.
Still on the floor, Mariydi started crawling towards the door that was the only exit.
Her bodyguard immediately asked, “What are you doing?”
“Can you see in this darkness?”
“Thanks to the sensors on my rifle.”
“Then come with me.”
Mariydi pressed up against the wall next to the door. She had received training on how to let her eyes adjust to the darkness, but the repeated muzzle flashes were making it take longer than she had expected. Complete darkness would have been preferable.
After she heard loud footsteps head past the door, Mariydi peered out of the open door and into the passageway.
The passageway had doors leading to identical locker rooms lined up along it. Three doors down from Mariydi’s room, several men were gathered. She could tell they were firing their guns into the room.
Due to the darkness, she could only see the outlines of the attackers when they fired. Mariydi paid special attention to the guns the attackers held.
(Those are semi-auto shotguns with a 9mm full-auto machine handgun forcibly attached to the bottom of the barrel. That’s a Legitimacy Kingdom-style indoor suppression weapon. The shotgun is used to destroy walls or doors to secure an invasion route, and a spray of 9mm bullets is used to kill the target.)
“Damn. The afterimage is burned into my eyes,” muttered Mariydi as she pulled her head back into the room and leaned up against the wall next to the door. “Who’s in the room three to the right of here?”
“Erie Greenhat of the Information Alliance’s Chesapeake district.”
“She’s the one that got the top spot in the first day of the shootathlon. Any idea why people with Legitimacy Kingdom equipment would be attacking her?”
“A Legitimacy Kingdom athlete finished the first day in 13th place. The odds of her making it into the top 3 no matter how well she does in the next two days are almost nonexistent, but she could have a chance if those in the top positions are taken out of the running.”
(Well, there are other people who would want the top person taken out of the running. And there’s no guarantee that they would simply use their own equipment for the attack. We don’t have enough information to know for sure who these attackers are.)
Gunfire rang out.
However, this was different from the previous gunfire. These gunshots were deeper. It was likely coming from Information Alliance assault rifles.
(…But they’re at the disadvantage.)
“Get away from the door,” said the bodyguard. “The attackers are only after Erie Greenhat of the Information Alliance. As you predicted, the top competitor is being targeted. If we don’t make any stupid moves, we won’t get wrapped up in this. Look. This passageway is lined with locker rooms like a student apartment building. Each of the athletes in those locker rooms has a bodyguard force, but none of them are coming out. Coming out would just lead to everyone fighting amongst themselves, so they have all been told to stay uninvolved. That’s just how things work here.”
“…Can we really be so relaxed about this?” Mariydi cracked the door once more and looked out into the passageway. “The closest exit from this building is the back exit right next to the locker room currently being attacked. It’s a long way out of our way to any other exit. Our escape has been cut off. If this battle falls into further confusion, we could get caught up in the firefight.”
“We do not need to get out,” said Alicia. “Each athlete locker room has a small shelter prepared inside. They are covered in 80 cm of composite armor, so they can withstand 2 or 3 shots from a smoothbore tank gun.”
“Do you really believe in that myth of safety? If it was true, the Information Alliance bodyguards wouldn’t be putting up such a fight,” said Mariydi with a cynical smile. “The ducts present a major issue.”
“The ducts are only 20 cm across. I do not see how an attacker could climb in through one. Also, the ducts take a complicated series of bends so a grenade cannot reach the shelter even if it is thrown in.”
“But as long as there is a path in for air, explosive blasts and shockwaves can get through. It’s the same principle as with a ship’s speaking tube or a stethoscope. And when the shockwave passes through the duct and to the shelter, the pressure will crush the organs of any human within. …I’m sure my bodyguard could explain it in more detail.”
When the bodyguard was mentioned, a sigh could be heard in the darkness.
“Well, that would be why the Information Alliance bodyguards are working so hard to defend the locker room. The duct coming from the shelter only connects there.”
“That does not matter,” replied Alicia immediately. “The attackers are only after Erie Greenhat. There may be a risk of being hit by a stray bullet, but they have no reason to persistently target us after we flee into the shelter. I recommend we hurry up and get to the shelter.”
“You can go hide there alone if you want.”
“It will not open without your fingerprint and retina data. That ensures the attackers cannot force it open. And the emergency power for the lock is contained within the shelter itself.”
“Alicia, do you have life insurance?”
“I have the Platinum Course from the Blue Area Company.”
“Then you’re in luck. Their payment for dying in an international terrorist attack is more than you could ever hope to earn in a lifetime. From a Capitalist Corporations point of view, that’s quite a wonderful way to die.”
“I only have it to help with hospitalization as I have no partner for the payment to go to when I die.”
“…That isn’t something to say with pride,” muttered Mariydi. “Also, there is no reason for the attackers to stick with Greenhat of the Information Alliance. They’re just trying to move their athlete up in the ranks, remember? If they have too much trouble with attacking Greenhat, they could always change their target to someone else higher in the ranks. …Like me in 4th place.”
“Enough excuses,” interrupted Alicia as she stood tall. “You are trying to find something to convince us. Personally, you are enraged at the attack on Erie Greenhat. In a way, you are trying to head back into the danger you avoided because Greenhat is a civilian. Am I wrong?”
“The Technopics being held here in Olympia Dome are a presentation of the technology race between the Capitalist Corporations, the Information Alliance, the Legitimacy Kingdom, and the Faith Organization, as well as a proxy war to let the people of those world powers vent their nationalistic anger. Participating as a representative of your nation is no different from being sent off to the battlefield in an Object like a pilot Elite. It said precisely that on the contract you signed, did it not?”
A military Elite and a representative athlete both had the same technology used to develop their bodies.
The only difference was whether they used an Object or not.
For that reason, the Technopics were often viewed as a war in a different form.
“…The athletes are the same as soldiers, hm?” Mariydi gave a mocking smile. “These people who donate to war victims based on how many medals they win? These people who truly think that will bring happiness to the world? …Ridiculous. Only people who have never seen true war could think that.”
“Just like Miss Alicia, I disagree with you,” said the bodyguard. “Erie Greenhat’s situation is not the issue here. My job is to protect you, so I have no reason to protect any other athlete. I get charged for breach of contract even if you run out on your own and get hurt, so this is scaring me.”
“I see.” Mariydi checked over the handgun in her hand with practiced movements. “Then I’ll just be borrowing this.”
“Hm? Hey, wait a second! When did you pull that from my holster!?”
“I don’t really care either way.” Stacy must have experienced this kind of thing in the past because she was the only one that did not seem particularly bothered by the situation. “But only if I get to sell you something. How about you use a muscle builder before charging out into that gunfire? I also have painkillers and anxiolytics.”
“Give me some normal bandages and disinfectant.”
With that request, Mariydi peered out into the passageway with the handgun in one hand.
The familiar scent of gunfire wafted her way.
It was the scent of the non-clean battlefields that were not left to Objects.
“Now then, it’s time to taste the true thrill of this peaceful festival.”
The passageway ran in a straight line and Erie Greenhat’s athlete locker room was located at a corner of the passageway. The back door was also near that corner, but anyone who tried to make a run for it would be turned to Swiss cheese by the 5 or 6 attackers.
The distance from Mariydi’s door to the attackers was about 30 meters.
(What idiots. They’re so focused on Greenhat’s locker room that they’re leaving their backs wide open.)
And she had no reason to hold back.
Mariydi leaned out from the door and relentlessly pulled the handgun’s trigger.
Gunshots rang out and about three of the attackers collapsed. The remaining Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers frantically dashed around the corner to avoid the bullets, but Mariydi kept up the attack.
She darted out the door and ran down the passageway.
Before the attackers could poke their heads out once more, Mariydi arrived at the corner they were using for cover.
(If there is nothing but another straight passageway around the corner, they won’t have much to use for cover. If I keep firing while they are lost in confusion, I can finish this all at once!!)
But in the next instant, she heard a metallic noise come from the side.
It was coming from Erie Greenhat’s locker room.
Mariydi immediately dove to the ground and assault rifle fire swept across at about waist height in the next instant. Bullets flew from the broken door and struck the opposite wall of the passageway causing sparks to fly.
At first, Mariydi thought a Legitimacy Kingdom attacker that had made it within the locker room had fired.
But she was wrong.
(Those are Greenhat’s Information Alliance bodyguards!!)
But that was their standard job. Mariydi was the one stepping out of the normal bounds and she did not exactly have the time to give a leisurely explanation. It was only natural for them to think she was another enemy.
In other words, this was the type of job that was simply not worth doing. The same as she had experienced so many times in the Northern European Restricted Zone.
The Information Alliance men turned their sights on Mariydi once more, but they did not pull the trigger.
Mariydi’s bodyguard who had chased after her fired a short burst of rifle bullets into the locker room as warning shots while shouting at the other bodyguards.
“You useless bastards! Even if you can’t protect your client, at least don’t get in the way!!”
“Oh, so you came with me?”
“I demanded Miss Alicia pay me extra for this, but she refused.”
As they spoke, the two began their next action.
The enemy would be around the corner of the passageway. It would not be difficult to finish off the attackers while they had little cover and were panicking. With that in mind, Mariydi and the bodyguard poked as little of themselves around the corner as possible and fired.
But the remaining attackers were not left sinking into puddles of blood.
The bullets ricocheted away with orange sparks flying.
An 8-wheeled armored vehicle had crashed through the thin external wall and acted as a shield for the attackers.
“Tch. Another Legitimacy Kingdom brand! Why do they even have one of these on Olympia Dome!?”
“They could probably get an application approved if they said it was to safely transport the athlete. Even with that 30mm autocannon installed!!”
Just as the two of them frantically ducked back around the corner of the passageway, the autocannon installed on the top of its roof let out an explosive roar.
Mariydi tackled the bodyguard to the ground just before the corner they had been using as cover was smashed to pieces.
“We need to fall back! An assault rifle isn’t enough to shoot through that armor!!”
Mariydi grabbed various pieces of gear from the Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers she had shot with the handgun before and then ran down the straight passageway. The bodyguard followed behind her.
The passageways for the athlete locker rooms were laid out in a grid pattern and the rooms themselves were arranged in 2x5 blocks of 10 rooms. Mariydi and the bodyguard circled around the block to reach another corner to escape the autocannon fire.
“It isn’t pursuing us.”
“Their top priority is Erie Greenhat. They probably want to finish this before Olympia Dome ‘intercedes’.”
The armored vehicle had thinner armor than a tank, so it could be penetrated with the explosives or shells small enough for a foot soldier to use. They may have feared a trap if they followed enemy soldiers around a corner.
But then, this was not a target that Mariydi and the bodyguard absolutely had to defeat.
The bodyguard asked, “What do we do? If it uses that 30mm autocannon, they will take control of Erie Greenhat’s locker room in no time at all.”
“We blow up that armored vehicle of course. And we even have something we can use to do so,” said Mariydi as she took the equipment she had taken from the dead soldiers and laid it out on the ground.
She had a handgun, a semi-auto shotgun, a grenade launcher, and…
“Propeller-style RPG warheads.”
“The honor student of anti-armor weapons. And that armored vehicle did not have explosive reactive armor.”
“But these are just the warheads. They’re just the part on the end that explodes. They need the propellant to be fired like an arrow.”
That type of weapon came in several different types, but this was the type that required a launcher that one held over one’s shoulder and two 30cm stick-shaped propulsion attachments in addition to the warhead. In other words, it would not fly without those sticks.
“It doesn’t have to fly. Its fuse is pressure activated. It will detonate when something impacts the end. It will detonate if we pull out the safety pin and throw it.”
“You mean you’re going to go stand in front of that 30mm autocannon?” The bodyguard frowned. “How far can you throw it by hand? The passageway ceiling is low, so you can’t throw it in a long arc like a long throw in baseball. Also, the warhead is not round like a ball.”
“True. Thirty meters is probably the limit by hand.”
“Oh, c’mon. You’ll be blown away if you just poke your head around the corner at that range. And it won’t just be the part you stick around the corner that gets blown away. The entire wall around you will be blown to pieces. In and of itself, I don’t care if you go off and die, but I have to keep you from leaving me in breach of contract.”
“That just means we have to use a different method.”
(…It’s about 750 grams.)
Mariydi grabbed one of the warhead that were shaped like slim rugby balls to check on its weight.
“I’ll be borrowing your rifle.”
“Please don’t swipe my weapons anymore.”
“Just hand it over. Oh, and take apart some bullets to make some blanks,” said Mariydi causing the bodyguard to frown. “A blank won’t fire an actual bullet, but everything else is the same as a real bullet. It produces the combustion gas from the gunpowder and the energy that pushes the bullet out is still there. In other words, if a blank is fired while the RPG warhead is affixed to the rifle barrel, it can be fired further than is possible by hand.”
A screw-like protrusion meant for the stick-shaped propulsion attachments stuck out of the bottom of the RPG warhead. It could be affixed to the rifle by sticking that down the barrel.
If a real bullet was used, the warhead would be destroyed while still attached to the barrel. That was why a blank was needed.
“This method was used in the old wars before Objects. But it puts a lot of stress on the rifles, so the firearm companies didn’t like it much.”
“What range can you get using that?”
“With a high-angle trajectory like a long throw in baseball, two to three hundred meters.”
“Did you forget we’re stuck in a narrow passageway?”
“The locker room building is a large one-story building. And a portion of the ceiling was destroyed along with the wall when the armored vehicle crashed in. There is a large hole right above the target. That means we can get a direct hit if we fire the warhead out of one hole in the ceiling, through the sky, and back down through the second hole above the armored vehicle. Right?”
“The armored vehicle may have opened that second hole, but where is this first one?” asked the bodyguard.
Mariydi grabbed the military semi-auto shotgun from the spoils of war she had lined up on the floor. She aimed it upwards and pulled the trigger repeatedly.
A roar that reverberated in the gut rang out and a 1 meter square hole opened up in the ceiling.
“You people from the Northern European Restricted Zone don’t take no for an answer, do you? Here are your blanks.”
Mariydi took a few blank cartridges from the bodyguard and handed him the sensors and scope she had removed from the rifle.
“You can use the scope as a monitor for the electronic sensors. Set it up at the corner of the passageway. Stick just the sensors and camera out to safely keep an eye on the armored vehicle.”
“…You aren’t going to make this easy for me, are you?”
“I don’t have a radio, so we will communicate using the flashing of our lights.”
“At least give me a weapon to replace the rifle.”
The bodyguard grabbed the shotgun Mariydi had just used and ran off into the dark passageway. Meanwhile, Mariydi lined up the five RPG warheads at her feet.
After a bit, a white light flashed down the passageway.
“The armored vehicle is stopped in the same place as before.”
With that confirmation, Mariydi aimed the rifle straight up with an RPG warhead attached to the end. She pulled out the safety pin on the end of the warhead, looked up at the large hole in the ceiling, and carefully pulled the trigger.
A muffled gunshot rang out and the RPG warhead flew through the night sky like a long throw in baseball.
After about 5 seconds, a vibration and explosive roar shook the entire building.
The light down the dark passageway flashed once more.
“You missed! It did not fall right on the hole above the armored vehicle. You only blew up the ceiling in a completely different place!!”
“This is a high-angle trajectory shot. The wind, temperature, humidity, and path of the combustion gas can cause errors in where it lands. I never thought I would hit with the first one,” said Mariydi in a code that used quick flashes of her light. “Where did that first shot land?”
“Tell me exactly where the first shot landed! Then I can finish this!!”
“It landed 5 meters south of the armored vehicle!! That’s past its location from our perspective. It hasn’t moved! But what are you going to do!?”
Even with the representative of the high-angle trajectory, the mortar, the first shot almost never hit. The first shot was used as a basis for the calculations. The difference between the target and where it actually landed was calculated and the target was then aimed at after correcting for that difference.
Mariydi quickly loaded the next warhead in the rifle and aimed the barrel up.
(5 meters south, hm?)
She pulled the trigger and fired the warhead through the large hole and into the night sky.
“This one fell outside. It was most likely 3 meters to the northwest!! But that’s just an estimation based on where the wall collapsed!”
She fired again.
“I can’t see where it landed from here. But from the direction the dust is blowing in from, I would say 7 to 10 meters to the west! 7 meters to the west!! Dammit. The dust is blowing in on me!! Are you sure you can manage this!?”
“…I can, little boy,” muttered Mariydi audibly without bothering to use the light.
She loaded the next warhead. The more data she had, the more accurately she could correct for the errors. For that reason, her failures were not going to waste.
And she fired that final shot.
The warhead was swallowed up by the night sky and accurately detonated after about 5 seconds.
This explosion sounded different. The sound was deeper and a flickering orange light faintly lit up the area down the passageway.
The armored vehicle’s fuel had been ignited.
The bodyguard flashed his light back.
“The armored vehicle has been destroyed!!”
“You keep your gun aimed around that corner. I’ll use a different route. If we fire from two directions into an L-bend of the passageway, we can finish this up all at once.”
The loss of the armored vehicle sealed the fate of the Legitimacy Kingdom attackers.
Mariydi used the rifle to shoot the ones who still tried to resist while the wiser ones fled outside using the broken outer wall.
The building’s lights finally recovered.
Standing in the bright white light, the bodyguard asked, “What do we do now?”
“Nothing. If we pursue them, they may put up a desperate resistance,” replied Mariydi as she returned the rifle and handgun to the bodyguard.
The passageway was soaking wet thanks to the sprinklers that had activated either due to the smoke from the blazing armored vehicle or due to the RPG, but the water was not actually reaching the area near the armored vehicle as the ceiling had collapsed there. Orange flames could still be seen flickering.
“How is Erie Greenhat of the Information Alliance?”
“…Not too good,” replied the bodyguard as he peered through the broken door to the locker room.
A girl covered in blood lay collapsed in the middle of the room.
She looked to be in her late teens. Instead of a special suit that covered the full body like Mariydi’s, she wore a standard running outfit with a separate top and bottom. This left her midriff visible, but a dark red hole could be seen on her side there.
A blood trail as if she had crawled led from the shelter farther back in the room.
“…Was she shot before she made it into the shelter?”
“It wasn’t with the shotgun. The Legitimacy Kingdom was using the shotgun for destroying obstacles and a machine handgun for people. She was likely hit with the 9mm. The bullet had its hardness increased with devitroceramics.”
“So the bullet wasn’t soft? Why?”
“To have them here, they must be for special missions. Killing may not be their only use. They may have been manufactured for capturing VIPs as well.”
(So there may still be a chance of saving her.)
Mariydi spoke to the Information Alliance soldiers looking after Erie Greenhat.
“Did the bullet exit her?”
“Shut up. Just leave us alone!! We don’t have time to chat. We’ll accept your interference in the firefight, but don’t interfere any further!!”
They neither thanked Mariydi nor apologized for when they had aimed at her.
But Mariydi had not expected them to do either. They were soldiers from a different world power. Their relationship did not go beyond killing one another for no real reason if they ran into each other on the battlefield. And so Mariydi let it slide.
“I asked you if the bullet exited her.”
“So what if it did!? The bullet is no longer in her, but she’s bleeding badly. The wound is large and we couldn’t look after her while she was in the shelter, so she’s lost a lot of blood already. Can’t you see that we have no time to spare here!?”
“You can do more than simply holding a balled up cloth against the wound.”
The Information Alliance bodyguards looked confused and Mariydi pointed at the locker room bench. More specifically, she pointed at the large cooler bag sitting on it that contained doping equipment.
“She is a Technopic athlete, so she probably has blood prepared for a time-delayed transfusion. That blood is intended to increase the amount of oxygen transported through the body by increasing the amount of blood, but can’t it also be used to restore lost blood like a normal transfusion?”
“I cannot believe you,” muttered Alicia while standing tall.
She spoke to Mariydi as soon as the girl returned to her own locker room.
“This was the perfect opportunity to have someone higher than you in the ranks knocked out of the running without dirtying your hands, so why would you dirty your hands to destroy that opportunity? I simply cannot understand the thought process behind that.”
“Either way, she won’t be able to participate in the next two days of the event with that wound.”
“Then why did you even get involved?” said Alicia as she checked on something using her handheld device. “Your unnecessary actions have only increased the risk of direct attack from the Legitimacy Kingdom or whoever was using their equipment. This could have a negative effect on the remaining days of the event. …Please be extra careful to ensure that the sponsor’s new rifle is not given a bad image.”
Mariydi gave a mischievous smile at that usual warning.
“Couldn’t they sell their rifle based on some tragic story of its true abilities never being seen due to cowardly interference?”
“…We cannot have baseless rumors starting about how all of its users end up dead.”
As Alicia simply could not take a joke, Mariydi Whitewitch ignored her and looked up towards the ceiling.
As the sportswear, shoes, and physical development used had progressed, that international sports competition had lost the sportsmanship it used to have.
It was now a technological race between the world powers as well as a proxy war that let the people vent their nationalistic frustrations.
The various types of interference carried out behind the scenes were tacitly seen as a part of the entertainment.
The Technopics being held on the giant man-made island of Olympia Dome would invite in even more blood and war.
Enemy Forces 1
A number of rental storehouses larger than a university lecture hall were lined up along the outermost edge on one side of the fried-egg-shaped Olympia Dome. They were not harbor facilities. Instead, they were used to hold civilian helicopters. Olympia Dome was cruising in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, so the amount of helicopter fuel needed to reach a continent was not all that large. For safety reasons, the helicopters were only used when Olympia Dome was within 500 kilometers of a continent. For that reason, the facilities were almost entirely deserted given Olympia Dome’s current location.
Yet even though the rental storehouses had no real use at present, around a dozen people were gathered in one.
They had large radio equipment and several monitors. They had firearms, explosives, and even armored vehicles. This was not simply a storage area for weaponry. The bentos and ready-made food packages scattered about made one suspect the people were living there for the moment.
One member, Iris Aggravation, turned around while using her supple feminine fingers to operate a computer.
“We have picked up on a skirmish related to the shootathlon. The Legitimacy Kingdom attacked the Information Alliance. Oddly enough, the Capitalist Corporations interfered.”
“This is the Technopics. We expected this much.”
A woman with blonde hair and brown skin named Ramil Scofflaw peered at the screen from behind Iris.
Iris quickly moved her fingers and a few more windows opened.
“But three forces exchanging blows at once is a major development. We cannot have more trouble than necessary at this stage. We have yet to bring about the Blank.”
“Will this affect anything?”
“It is unlikely, but the security of the overall competition could be increased. If we could create antagonism between Olympia Dome and the athlete’s bodyguards, we could stop both of them though.”
“No. Any interference from us could reveal our existence too soon.”
“The Blank is just a means to an end. It is not our ultimate objective. Do not forget what our real goal is. We will carry the risk when it truly matters.” Ramil glanced at the screen. “This was the Capitalist Corporations interfering with a Legitimacy Kingdom attack on the Information Alliance, correct?”
“Dig for further details. Once we have those, we can determine whether we can use this or not.”