HEAVY OBJECT:Volume5 Chapter 2
The Technopic Village was prepared in in the space surrounding the dome-shaped stadium. Calling it a “village” was a vestige of the international competition of an older era. It was not really that different from a standard high-rise resort hotel.
Mariydi’s bodyguard spoke to her.
“I’m surprised. I didn’t take you for the type to get glued to the TV like this.”
“I’m interested in the results of the women’s 50 meter.”
Her interest did not come from newly-found nationalism. She was holding what looked like movie tickets in one hand.
“Did you bet on it?”
“I don’t know if it’s to pay for the fraud protection, but even a single bet is expensive.”
That meant this was not some private gamble. She had officially purchased that gambling ticket from Olympia Dome.
But as she watched the sports news digest, Mariydi pouted her lips in displeasure and threw the tickets down on the table.
“What!? How did they get a faster time than 4.77 seconds on a 50 meter sprint!?”
“Everyone with any sense has been choosing the queen of sprinting ever since the qualifiers.”
“Yeah, but you barely win anything for betting on her. That’s why I was betting on the top time.”
The black athlete who won gold had a time of 4.74 seconds, and other miraculous times in the 4 second range lined up after hers. Of course, humans could not run that quickly under their own power. Those abnormal records were achieved by overcoming the limits of humanity with their sportswear, shoes, and the drugs they were taking.
With no more use for it, Mariydi left the TV and started wandering through the large hotel room.
She seemed more annoyed at having wasted money at all than at the specific amount she had lost.
“Maybe you shouldn’t stand near the windows.”
“It’s polarized glass, so no one can see me from outside,” replied Mariydi as she looked out over the night scenery.
Her bodyguard sank into the sofa and shrugged.
“You need to relax more,” he said.
“So do you. You look more restless than when we were travelling here from the stadium.”
“As your bodyguard, I can’t help but feel high-rise buildings like this are dangerous.”
“Almost everyone who would try to attack me is allied with another athlete. When we’re all gathered in this one spot, they lose the option to blow up the entire building. You could say our safety is guaranteed by everyone taking everyone else hostage.”
“If it was really that simple, my pay would not be so high.”
“By the way.” Mariydi finally turned around. “How long are you planning to stay in here? Alicia and Stacy have already returned to their rooms. Don’t tell me you plan to watch me all night long in the name of protecting me.”
“I am simply following my contract. Since I have to be in a girl’s room, I would personally prefer one with a more glamorous body.” The bodyguard shrugged while still sitting on the couch. “I was hired to stay here until midnight. After that, I will remain on standby outside your room. Simple, right? But simple as it may be, I will be charged for breaking my contract if I do not follow those rules. So just put up with me being here for a little longer.”
“…Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be waking me up in the morning?”
“Sorry, but I don’t have to do anything else until you head out for breakfast. If you need someone to wake you, you should hire a maid.”
Mariydi lightly clicked her tongue and looked back at the night scenery outside the window.
“I’m surprised Olympia Dome did not do more to intervene,” she said.
“What are you talking about?”
“The attack on Erie Greenhat. Even if the individual athletes and the organizations they belong to have bodyguards, Olympia Dome is supposed to put a stop to incidents like that.”
The attack had been carried out by bodyguards who were supposed to be protecting an athlete, but the management at Olympia Dome had to have known what was going on.
While still relaxing on the couch, the bodyguard said, “They have their own issues to deal with. Plus, they don’t want to put their own lives in danger by getting more involved than they have to.”
“Most of Olympia Dome’s military force is made up of UAVs and UUVs. It’s almost all unmanned. Given that, you can guess how little the few actual soldiers would want to go out and fight, right?”
“But they definitely go all out when it comes to equipment,” spat out Mariydi as she pointed out into the night scenery.
She was not pointing at the artificial land.
She was pointing into the pitch black ocean spreading out beyond it. Lights from ships larger than aircraft carriers could be seen encroaching into what should have been empty night.
“Look at those giant transformer ships. I think they’re called Ocean Substations. The actual power generation is carried out by satellites in orbit and then sent to the ships via microwaves. The power is then converted into a laser and sent to the dome where it provides energy for the various types of unmanned weapons.”
“Power generating satellites, hm?”
“They generate solar power from outside the earth’s atmosphere. For a while, they were being hailed as the saviors of the earth from global warming, but the use of the technology waned because the large surface area increases the risk of striking orbital debris. And since the solar panels that were struck by debris just became more debris cluttering things up in orbit, there has even been some talk of restricting their use under international law. It really is a roundabout way of going all out.”
The transformation facilities themselves required power to function.
The Ocean Substations secured that power by mining methane hydrate and using it as fuel for gas turbines.
The reason that was not enough for the primary power generation was because the amount of power required was ridiculously huge.
“They have their reasons,” said the man. “They generate the power off the island and send it to Olympia Dome via laser. Then the island’s normal power network brings power to the dome where smaller lasers send power out to recharge the various types of unmanned weapons.” As the bodyguard spoke as if reading from a textbook, he shook his head. “Do you see why the management goes to such lengths to keep the power generation outside the dome itself? They could easily generate the power here, but they don’t. By generating the power for the unmanned weaponry outside of the dome, they are trying to show that Olympia Dome has very little military value. That way it will not be targeted by Objects.”
Also, there was a danger of the microwaves having a negative effect on computers or the unmanned weaponry if they were sent directly to Olympia Dome from the satellites.
Some claimed it also had an effect on the human body, but no scientific basis for those claims had ever been proven. However, Olympia Dome was in the service business. Even groundless fears could prevent people from coming, so they would avoid that whenever possible.
That was why the microwaves were sent down to the sea away from Olympia Dome and then the power was sent via laser.
“So having too much of a military force would be dangerous, but this way they can also take action in an emergency, hm?”
“And the bodyguard business did not have to decline,” commented the bodyguard.
“At any rate,” said Mariydi as she motionlessly stared at the giant transformer ships in the distance. “It looks like we’ll have to overcome any more trouble on our own.”
The Bifröst Arch was one of Olympia Dome’s most famous sightseeing spots. It was a collection of seven parallel arch-shaped metal bridges spanning a giant canal that jutted inland. Its name came from the fact that they were lit up at night each with a different color giving a total of 7 lights.
Bifröst was a rainbow bridge appearing in Norse mythology.
It had been designed primarily to provide that sight at night rather than with practicality in mind, so the bridges were built quite close together. When they were all lit up, people often mistook the seven separate bridges for one large bridge.
It was a well-known spot for people to gather if the international sports competition was not enough for them, but there were a surprising number of people there for so late at night when almost everyone stayed in a hotel. This was due to some tabloid-style information websites publishing strange data about how it was the perfect spot for a couple to naturally begin an embrace.
A woman was leaning on the handrail of the walking area on the Bifröst Arch.
She was Stacy the pharmacist.
Alicia stood tall next to her.
She looked suspiciously down at the solid bridge beneath her feet.
“It’s shaking. Is that because this is an artificial island?”
“It isn’t that poorly made.” Stacy was more accustomed to Olympia Dome, so she was grinning. “The visitors are just making too much of a commotion. When you have tens of thousands of people running around, a seismometer can pick it up. The last winter games were especially amazing.”
“…But all of the events are over by this time of night.”
“This is from people getting excited with a beer mug in one hand while watching the recorded and edited digests. I hear they have power generation panels set up under the floors of the club halls.”
This level of excitement was for events that they already knew the results for. It had to be even crazier during live broadcasts and in the stadium stands.
However, the Technopics’s ability to draw customers was not what Alicia was there to discuss.
She was solely focused on the monetary transactions she was in charge of.
“What do you think?”
Stacy held a cocktail glass in her right hand. She had made the cocktail herself using the ingredients in the cooler at her feet.
The bright lights around them made it impossible to tell what color the cocktail was as Stacy sipped at it.
With no expression on her face, Alicia replied, “About Mariydi Whitewitch.”
“She is still within acceptable bounds, isn’t she?” After finishing off the contents of the glass, Stacy placed the cocktail glass on the ground and started rummaging through the cooler. “The Technopics are always wrapped in greed and intrigue, so attacks and other forms of interference are not exactly rare. And when such incidents happen, you often get athletes fighting back.”
“If it had been an attack against her, I would understand. But she took action to help an Information Alliance athlete.”
“I doubt you could ever get her to admit that. But it was an incident that will probably make her autograph more valuable.”
“The type that empathizes with others is dangerous. If she goes easy on an opponent after hearing their situation, her actions could negatively affect all of us supporting her.”
“Maybe.” Stacy smiled as she shook the shaker she held in both hands. “But she seems like the type that views competitions as cut off from all that. She would be the type that does not allow those things to affect her decision when she has to kill them in battle.”
“I certainly hope you are right.”
“Well, she is the military type,” said Stacy lightly as she poured the liquid from the shaker and into the glass. As she dropped in a skewered pearl onion for decoration, she spoke as if the topic at hand had nothing to do with her. “Also, she is the strange kind of person that continues to excel as an ace pilot even in this age of Objects. Mariydi Whitewitch is the Capitalist Corporations’ Ice Girl 1. And it isn’t just her. There is also the Legitimacy Kingdom’s Burning Alpha and the Faith Organization’s Rocket Icarus. For the most part, all of those aces who continue in this age hold the same ideal in their hearts: the desire to fly even if it means they must go against the common thinking of the age. It is only natural for her to run counter to the normal thinking here as well.”
“Surely you looked into this new partner ahead of time. You have seen Ice Girl 1’s records, right?”
Stacy brought the edge of the glass to her lips.
Still standing tall, Alicia said, “She has frequently disobeyed orders in the past. But every time it resulted in her ultimately being praised for her actions.”
“It must be that cute side of her that keeps the Sky Blue PMC air force from letting her go. …Normally, a Capitalist Corporations soldier would never think of risking being thrown into the detention barracks by intercepting a cruise missile that was ‘accidentally’ fired at a safe country city.” Stacy smiled as she lightly shook the cocktail glass. “But it is true that no method is perfect for all situations, so surely she is a better option than some thickheaded muscular idiot, right? They say someone who listens to the opinions of others will live longer, but you also need to know how to manage that information.”
“I tried speaking with her to figure out how she thinks.”
“…You can be that sociable?”
“It looks like this will be difficult as I cannot figure out what she wants. She does not seem interested in fame and she has shown no real fixation on the rewards from her sponsors. If I do not know what her goal is, I will have difficulty controlling her in that way.”
“It’s simple,” said Stacy as she brought the edge of the cocktail glass back to her lips. “At that age, kids can get a bit obsessed with justice.”
“She came all the way from the long, drawn-out war in the Northern European Restricted Zone to take part in this farce of a festival. From that, it seems obvious there is something here she wants that she could not get there. And since she risked her life to save an athlete from another world power, she does not seem interested simply in the results of the event or in a medal.”
‘Then what is it?”
“Productivity.” Stacy grabbed the plastic skewer between two fingers and bit the pearl onion off. “If she wants something she cannot obtain by fighting and killing, don’t you think that might be it? A record, a high placement, or a medal could be seen as a form of productivity. But unfortunately, it seems she is not willing to kill to gain those things.”
“See? Doesn’t it make you wish you were still that young and idealistic? She left the battlefield to gain something she could not get there but she charged right back into battle as soon as she saw someone being attacked before her eyes. That’s the cute ego of someone still in the process of growing up.” After she finished eating the pearl onion, she gulped down the contents of the glass at a rapid pace “Just like you, I will work with any athlete as long as I get paid. That’s just how things work in the Capitalist Corporations. But it is true that I feel more motivated when it’s someone fun to work with. And I think I can give my all for this athlete.” Stacy held the empty cocktail glass out towards Alicia like it was a microphone and asked, “How about you?”
“No matter who I am working with, a job is a job. What matters is how much I am getting paid to do it.”
“Hmm.” Stacy pulled the glass back, looking unsatisfied with that answer. “But I never would have guessed someone as straight-laced as you would have a cocktail set like this.”
“I make sure to have a full array of drinks prepared when I am entertaining. I lost the chance for tonight and some of the ingredients will soon lose their flavor.”
“You definitely open a lot of different bottles when making a cocktail, but you use so little of every individual thing. You never seem to run out of anything.” Stacy looked down at the cooler at her feet. “Can I borrow that? I think I’ll drink some more in my room.”
“As long as you pay for the amount you drink.”
“…But you just said you didn’t know what to do with it since it was beginning to lose its flavor.”
Alicia and Stacy’s gazes clashed as intense negotiations began.
The next morning, Mariydi was wakened by a hard rock song she had downloaded being played at high volume. She silenced the alarm clock with a fist and sat up in bed with sleepy eyes. Her beloved alarm clock was covered in scratches and dents, but she knew it could be worse. She had gone only that far because it was playing a famous song. If it had simply been the standard electronic tone, she would have thrown the clock against the wall.
Mariydi yawned on top of the bed.
She figured she had escaped having her bodyguard shake her awake because she had locked the door’s chain lock and then pushed a chair and magazine rack in front of the door.
With the bottom of the hotel’s one-size-fits-all bathrobe dragging behind her, Mariydi walked around the room and drank some cooled carbonated water from the refrigerator. Once her mind cleared a bit, she headed into the bathroom. She took a lukewarm shower and lightly washed her entire body with menthol body soap to fully wake herself up. But she regretted it immediately afterwards. As she started to shiver at the strange chill she felt on her skin, she started her battle with the dryer while nude.
“Hot!? Dammit. How do you change the temperature…?”
She fiddled with the dryer, but could not find a switch that did what she wanted. She eventually gave up on the dryer and settled on lightly wiping down her hair with the bath towel. She then put on her usual yellow and black flight jacket and removed the chair and magazine rack blocking the door.
Mariydi opened the door and her bodyguard spoke to her with an expression that made it look like he could barely stand it.
“How could you do that?”
“If you want to enter my field of vision in the morning, start by shaving that half-assed beard.” Mariydi yawned while scratching at her half-dried hair. “So what are we having for breakfast?”
“The same as dinner yesterday. Now that the event has begun, the safety standards are set much higher. That pharmacist, Miss Stacy Palmetto, said she would do her best to make sure the food doesn’t interfere with your performance any. For a fee of course.”
“…I get the feeling any food she makes won’t exactly be normal.”
Meanwhile, Alicia Sloppyjoes walked towards them from the elevator hall. Her pace was as exact as the second hand of a clock and she was standing as straight as ever.
“Good morning.” She gave a bow so exact it looked like it had been measured out with a protractor. “May I confirm today’s schedule with you?”
“The second day of the shootathlon doesn’t begin until 4 PM, right? I thought I was free until then.”
“The second day is a combination of long-distance swimming and sharpshooting. To fine-tune everything for aquatic use, we need to test your sportswear, rifle, and methods of doping. Once noon arrives, think of all those things as locked in place.”
“So I’ll be swimming through some giant bathtub, hm?”
“The event itself takes place in the dome, but we cannot use that facility beforehand. The final test will be carried out in the swimming area outside the dome. In other words, in the ocean.”
“Also, an offer to cover you has arrived from a television station.”
“What a pain.” A displeased expression immediately appeared on Mariydi’s face “So what does our sponsor think? Do they want to use it as advertisement for their new rifle?”
“The sponsor has given the okay.”
“In other words, I’m pretty much being forced to take part.”
“They assume this will give their new rifle more exposure. Whenever you are in frame, make sure you are holding the rifle. The company name is displayed on your flight jacket, but if possible, try to casually mention the company name or product name once every five…no, three minutes.”
Mariydi glanced over at her bodyguard. He simply shrugged. He was likely annoyed at the extra work this gave him as a bodyguard.
But it was the sponsor that was paying all of them.
And both Mariydi and the bodyguard were mercenaries.
“So what station is it?”
“…Isn’t that an Information Alliance Net TV station?”
“It seems you caught their interest and admiration when you saved Erie Greenhat yesterday.”
“Do they really want to cover a representative of the Capitalist Corporations? And a soldier at that.”
“It is a report on the peaceful festival that overcomes the boundaries between the world powers, so that should not be an issue. What matters most is that we have permission from the sponsor.”
“Your top priority is advertisement for the new rifle, right? What good does it do to advertise a Capitalist Corporations product in the Information Alliance?”
“It is all about what is being talked about. Also, Information Alliance programs are distributed over the internet, so it is open for anyone to view.”
“Understood. I’ll leave the delicate power balance issues to you.”
“Then that is all I need to discuss for now.”
At that point, Stacy arrived pushing a room service cart.
She made a big show of displaying the food she had made.
“Tah dah! This will give you health and strength!! Even without using doping, you can do a lot with different types of healthy foods with things like vegetable and fish extracts added. Each of these dishes will have you running around like a wild beast. Which one do you want?”
“…I just want some normal food.”
“For your honesty, you get this gold axe!!”
When it seriously looked like Stacy was going to force her to eat some of that food, Mariydi frantically hid behind her bodyguard.
“Yes, yes. Yes, hello. I am Lucas Westernrose of Catwalk TV. Yes, welcome, yes.”
Mariydi was not speaking with him over the phone, so that simply must have been how that young man always talked. The digital business card he sent to her handheld device said he was a director, but Mariydi did not know much about the television business, so she had no idea what level that position was at.
(He looks to be around 20. His business card lists gives him a long list of titles, so do Information Alliance internet businesses have no system of seniority?)
Mariydi was an ace pilot at the age of 12, so she may not have been the best person to make the complaint, but the man standing before her seemed rather suspicious to her. To be blunt, she was unsure if he could actually carry out the job of a standard office worker.
Mariydi was sitting at the same table as Lucas in the second floor lounge of the resort hotel known as the Technopic Village. However, they were not carrying out a live broadcast. They were merely having a preliminary meeting.
“So what do you want to film me doing?”
“Yes, about that. Yes, frankly speaking, I had a contract with Erie Greenhat up until yesterday. I was making a documentary about the sweat and tears she put into this, yes.”
“Yes, your actions saved her life, but, yes, she would have a real difficulty participating in the 2nd and 3rd days of the shootathlon with her injuries, right? Yes, well, even with Greenhat out of the running, I can still follow the story of her recovery. But that will be more of a long term story, yes, yes. TV stations have sponsors too, yes, yes, and I cannot betray their expectations. I need to get the ratings they want in the short term of the festival.”
Alicia was sitting in the seat next to Mariydi and nodding vigorously, but Mariydi herself did not understand what Lucas meant.
What did Erie have to do with her?
“Well, to get down to the point, I want a replacement for Greenhat, yes. Yes, for the documentary. But all of the other Information Alliance athletes have contracts with other stations, so it would be difficult to work my way in, yes. …That means, yes, my path to success must head into uncharted waters, yes.”
“Yes, yes, that’s right. And I want to use as much of the footage of Greenhat I already have as possible. That means, yes, if I follow the person who saved her, that footage can fit nicely in, yes.”
“…So what do we do?” Mariydi asked Alicia.
Alicia straightened her back and said, “Our primary goal is to appeal to the performance of the sponsor’s new rifle. I agreed to this meeting in the hopes that this could make a good advertisement, but if you follow her before, during, and after the events, I am worried it would hinder her ability to maintain her prime condition. If that would happen, I must decli-…”
“Yes, yes, Catwalk TV has a broadcast contract with a major Capitalist Corporations station, so I would think this would act as an excellent advertisement in your territory. Yes, yes. And this is an international sports event rather than a war, so we are under no pressure from the military, yes. That gives us much more freedom in our editing. In addition to covering the athlete, yes, yes, we can give at least 3 full minutes of commentary on the use of the rifle itself.”
“That settles it. We should accept his offer.”
“You certainly are easy to understand, you dog of society,” said Mariydi in annoyance. “You can broadcast the events live, but do not broadcast any other footage without letting me see it first. Is that okay?”
“Yes, yes, of course, yes.”
Alicia then cut in, “Also, I will give you a script and some official diagrams to use when commenting on the rifle.”
“I am from the Capitalist Corporations. I do not know what people in the Information Alliance would find offensive. Do not forget that I might unwittingly touch on something like that.”
“Yes, of course, yes, yes. We will be careful too, yes, yes. But it should be fine, yes,” said Lucas with a huge grin on his face. “Yes, your rescue of Greenhat yesterday has already made it to all the Information Alliance news sites, yes, and even if people may not be fond of the Capitalist Corporations as a whole, yes, yes, I think they feel rather fondly, yes, about you personally Mariydi Whitewitch, yes.”
“I will send the ID information on the camera crew, yes, to your bodyguard. Yes, no one but those crewmembers will approach you. Yes, yes, if anyone else approaches claiming to be from Catwalk TV, yes, treat them as if they are an enemy, yes.”
“Oh, and don’t even think about following me into the bathroom.”
“…Um, this may sound rude, but, yes, from a style standpoint, yes, yes, you do not really provide any of the user needs, yes. And we are trying to run a business here…”
“Where the hell do you think you’re looking while making that comment?”
The Technopics were being held in Olympia Dome, a giant manmade island floating close to the center of the Atlantic Ocean. People wanted to enjoy swimming in the ocean, but it did not grow gradually deeper like with natural land. Not only was it too deep to stand, but the ocean stretched down into the depths enjoyed by deep sea fish.
That made it sound like suicide to swim there, but the management of the island paid attention to what the visitors wanted.
“Basically, they have created artificial land gradually sloping down for the swimming area. The ocean surface hides it, but the artificial island continues for a ways past the coastline. Right?”
“Yes, but if you get caught in a sudden current, you can get swept out to sea. Don’t think of it as a normal beach.”
After listening to her bodyguard’s warnings, Mariydi dove into the 2 meters deep ocean water. However, she had not changed into a swimsuit. She was still wearing her usual flight jacket. She normally wore it to withstand the Gs of piloting a fighter, but it was based on the special suits worn by Object Elites. It worked so perfectly as sportswear for the shootathlon because it was made to withstand every sort of environment.
As Mariydi easily treaded water with her heavy rifle on a sling belt, her bodyguard frowned.
“You would look a lot cuter with an inner tube.”
“Sorry, but I’m not an Information Alliance idol Elite. I don’t need cuteness for my business.”
Alicia then cut in while operating her handheld device
“The sponsor’s new rifle is semi-auto. It is primarily waterproof, but the next round is automatically loaded using the combustion gas from the previous round. If water gets in the passageway, it might jam.”
“If it comes to it, I can load the bullets one at a time through the empty cartridge ejection point.”
“What about doping?” asked Stacy the pharmacist with a popsicle in one hand. “Since you will be swimming, it would probably be better to increase the amount of oxygen you carry. And I bet something to work against muscle pain would have some effect at relieving your fatigue from yesterday.”
“…I tried the time-delayed transfusion yesterday, but the raised blood pressure threw me off towards the end. I think it would help my results if I don’t try to give myself any unneeded help.”
“So you’re just going to deny my entire reason for being here, are you, you damn brat?”
Then, a yellow toy submarine floated toward Mariydi.
No. It was being piloted toward her via remote control. It was an underwater camera for Catwalk TV.
“…Are you going to be following me around 24/7 with this kind of thing?”
“Swim the breaststroke. Filming you from behind will make some good fanservice,” commented the bodyguard.
“I’ve already been told I’m not even in the running as far as that is concerned,” replied Mariydi before beginning to swim away from the coast.
The seawater stung her eyes as she was not wearing goggles, but it was not enough to keep her from opening her eyes. Since this was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and away from any industrial areas, the water was incredibly transparent for an area surrounded by manmade structures.
Olympia Dome’s swimming area had an artificial bottom, so it had no beach. It was all smoothly constructed. The area Mariydi was currently swimming in was about 2 meters deep, but it grew deeper at stepped intervals the further out one went.
(Are those rectangular blocks sticking up from the bottom meant to keep suspicious ships from landing here? No, maybe they’re meant to control the current.)
These rectangular pillars were 80 cm square and about a meter tall. They were placed at the bottom at even intervals. They moved up and down irregularly to control the flow of the seawater in real time.
The bodyguard had said she could be swept out to sea by a sudden current. These were likely meant to prevent that.
(But that over there isn’t meant to regulate the current. Is it a moveable breakwater?)
The depth of the swimming area changed at stepped intervals, and a large notch ran along the line of each change. Mariydi guessed a breakwater made of reinforced polyurethane could be raised from below.
And as she had that thought, Mariydi heard Alicia’s voice from her piezoelectric receiver.
“You are about to reach the area for target practice.”
(Is she following my location using GPS?)
While thinking of the show it was providing for the VIPs or sex offenders, Mariydi stopped moving her legs for forward momentum and started treading water in place. The yellow submarine-shaped underwater camera circled around her, but she had no idea what would be best for the footage.
(Well, while underwater, I can’t respond even if I can hear them.)
She brought her head above water and looked around.
A metal rail stretched between two rubber boats, and a human-shaped target was sliding on top of it. It was about 300 meters away. That was relatively close range for sniping, but she could not brace herself while treading water and the waves were causing the boats to rock irregularly. It would not be a simple shot.
Mariydi used both hands to grab the rifle hanging from a sling belt.
“Practicing is all fine and good, but that monster basking in the sun out at sea isn’t going to make any mistake about this, is it?”
“You mean the Object acting as a guard? The one you can see from here is the Information Alliance’s Second Generation Henrietta…or Gatling 033 as they call it.”
“I’d rather not be shot by that ridiculously huge Gatling gun due to a misunderstanding.”
“We officially requested practice time, so they know what we are doing. And an anti-personnel sniper rifle is not enough to even scratch an Object. I do not think there is any room for a misunderstanding.”
(I’m more worried about them trying to crush a skilled athlete under the guise of a misunderstanding.)
But when she thought about it rationally, she had an Information Alliance TV camera watching her at all times. Even if the Information Alliance wanted to interfere, they would not let their own people see it.
“Okay, I’m about to begin.”
“We do not have permission to use live rounds here, so you will be firing blanks with a low-output laser. The target is covered with sensors to detect the laser, so it can detect whether you hit or not. The blanks allow you to feel the proper recoil and get a feel for shooting in the water.”
“It’s against the rules to put air in your sportswear, but how about I make you a protector made of a highly buoyant material?” suggested Stacy.
“That might make the swimming easier,” replied Mariydi, “but it would just throw off my balance when treading water and affect my aim. And that isn’t the job of a pharmacist.”
“Too bad. …Oh, right. If you maintain a good enough position today that a medal is still in reach, will you give me your autograph?”
“That isn’t the job of a pharmacist either.”
Mariydi remained still with her upper body sticking out of the ocean as she held up the sniper rifle in her small hands. She peered through the scope and pulled the trigger without hesitation.
She heard the explosive sound of the discharge and the recoil shake her shoulder. And then an electronic tone sounded from her piezoelectric receiver.
“Bull’s eye, hm? …It just doesn’t feel real with a toy.”
“Theoretically, everything should seem almost exactly the same as the real deal.”
“I can’t measure the effect of the wind with this. By the way, are none of the other athletes out practicing? I was sure the place was going to be as packed as the beach during swimming season,” said Mariydi.
Her bodyguard replied, “They thought this through. If more than one athlete is out here at a time, it raises the risk of attempted interference or fights. They give everyone their own short time to practice. Some had their chance as far back as around 2 weeks ago.”
“…Why did I end up not getting a chance until the very last second?”
“Miss Alicia messed up when the lots were drawn.”
Mariydi clicked her tongue and the bodyguard laughed before continuing.
“Well, wearing yourself out before the event isn’t good, but it’s still better than being attacked mid-practice, right?”
“…I think this camera hanging around me is hoping some ‘entertainment’ like that happens.”
“While we’re on the topic of what the viewers would want to see, why don’t you drink some milk and grow a sexier body? I’m sure they would love that.”
“If you like, I could give you some hormone drugs,” added Stacy.
“That is not how it works,” said Alicia. “The viewers would prefer to see the vain efforts of a flat-chested girl. It is a type of joke at her own expense.”
“I hope you all go blind,” said Mariydi before expressionlessly firing her laser gun toward the coast.
The bodyguard ignored her and said, “Your time is almost up. Once you have gained a feel for the rifle, come on back. Even if you don’t want any doping, you should at least see a masseuse. You need to relieve as much of your fatigue as possible before the event.”
“…I think I know two old hags that need a massage more than I do.”
Alicia and Stacy each grabbed a spare rifle and fired lasers toward her, but Mariydi ignored them, ducked her head underwater, and began swimming back toward the coast.
The yellow underwater camera running directly alongside her suddenly stopped moving. At first, Mariydi thought its battery had gone dead, but that did not seem to be the case. The propeller that provided thrust and the rudder used to steer were twitching like a dying fish.
At the same time, the voices from Alicia and the others stopped coming from the piezoelectric receiver.
The only explanation Mariydi could think of was…
Only a few seconds later, a bullet from an underwater firearm ripped through the sea water in her direction.
An underwater firearm.
As the name suggested, it was a gun developed to be fired underwater. The concept would have been impossible in the days of the matchlock and flintlock guns that had the powder exposed when firing, but it was not that difficult in an age where the cartridges were airtight. Simply put, water getting in the gun was not enough to get the powder wet, so the gun could still be fired.
What still made underwater firearms difficult to pull off was the combustion gas from the powder. In semi-auto and full-auto guns, that gas was used to move the internal parts and automatically load the next round. If the passageway for that gas was blocked with water, the gun could jam.
The means of solving that problem were exceedingly simple.
That convenient function was eliminated from the gun. The combustion gas issue was completely eliminated by manually loading each round and ejecting each empty cartridge using the bolt action method.
Naturally, the lack of automatic loading meant it could not be fired continuously.
But the target’s speed dropped considerably while underwater. In that environment, a single well-aimed shot at a time was enough of a threat even without rapid-fire.
Mariydi was unarmed, so she had no way to counterattack.
But she could not escape the bullet ripping through the ocean water just by swimming.
She avoided death by turning herself completely around and heading for the bottom rather than the surface. She was trying to hide behind one of the rectangular pillars standing at even intervals that controlled the current.
The primary reason she had not been killed by the first shot was that they were underwater. Water resistance and the current could cause slight errors in the trajectory of the bullet, so her enemy’s aim could not be perfect. Modern rifles were equipped with several types of assisting sensors, but the infrared and such for those sensors were affected by the seawater too.
And so the bullet flew by, just barely missing Mariydi, and she managed to hide behind one of the pillars.
But she could not rely on her enemy making mistakes forever.
If the enemy corrected the sensors based on that “mistake”, the next shot would have perfect accuracy.
Mariydi poked her face out from behind the pillar and then immediately pulled it back.
(Are they targeting me as a high-ranking athlete? No, that underwater rifle is a Legitimacy Kingdom model. Is this revenge for my interference in their attack on Erie Greenhat!?)
Mariydi balled herself up to use the pillar as a shield, but several bullets were ripping through the seawater on the left and right. No one could fire that many bullets that fast with a simple bolt action firearm. She was likely being fired at by several assassins armed with underwater firearms.
She did not have an oxygen tank. Her breath was not going to last long. But since the pillar was only about a meter tall, she would be exposing her entire body if she tried to reach the surface. And her enemies were probably not stupid enough to let her escape that unharmed.
If her assassins were the type to not rush their victory and to simply wait for her to drown, there would be nothing she could do.
Luck was on Mariydi’s side. One of the assassins got fed up with the rectangular pillar blocking his bullets, so he moved forward to circle around the pillar.
They must have known that Mariydi only had a practice rifle. Otherwise he never would have taken such a bold action.
But he was too naïve.
(There’s still plenty more I can do, you idiot!!)
Mariydi jumped out toward the assassin in a black diving suit as he tried to circle around the pillar. She grabbed the bolt action underwater rifle in one hand and used the other hand to pull a knife with a blade of about 20 cm out of the sheath on the assassin’s shoulder.
By the time she could see the assassin’s eyes open wide through the goggles of his diving suit, Mariydi was already stabbing the stolen knife toward his face with all her strength.
Due to the water resistance, it was more effective to stab the knife straight on than to swing it horizontally.
The assassin immediately swung his head to the side and avoided the blade, but it sliced through the rubber tube connecting to the tank on his back instead. While practically embracing the assassin, Mariydi brought the sliced tube into her mouth. She sucked in the much-needed oxygen.
And in exchange, the assassin was now having trouble breathing as seawater flowed into his mask through the tube.
He frantically tried to tear Mariydi off of him using his underwater rifle, but…
(I have the barrel under my arm. There’s no way you can hit me.)
And more importantly…
(You should think a little harder about what it means to be this close to someone armed with a knife.)
A slight sound could be heard.
It was the sound of the knife stabbing into the assassin’s chest.
Instead of a fountain of blood, what looked like a red mist spread out within the water.
Now that all strength had left the assassin’s grip, Mariydi took the underwater rifle from him, but then another assassin made his move.
He fired at her with his own underwater rifle from a distance of 20 meters.
Mariydi used the dead assassin as a shield. She had not intended to do so. She had moved on instinct alone, but he functioned as a decent shield.
(Are they using hollow-point bullets despite using rifles because they know the water resistance will lower the piercing power? Those bullets do more damage by staying in the body, so it won’t pierce straight through a dead body.)
But if it had hit the body’s oxygen tank, it would have caused an explosion. With that in mind, luck still played a large role in her survival.
After thinking through that far…
(I can use that weakness, too.)
Mariydi pulled back the cocking lever of the underwater rifle, loaded a bullet into the mechanical portion, and aimed while still embracing the dead body. The spreading red of blood obstructed her vision, but the tube torn from the tank was her only source of oxygen so she had to put up with it.
She fired without hesitation.
The bullet struck the oxygen tank on one of the assassin’s backs.
A dull explosive noise spread through the water. The man wearing it and two or three others near him were torn apart.
But that did not come close to defeating the enemy.
Plenty of assassins remained.
The ocean water may have been clear, but she could not see beyond a kilometer away. Five or six more assassins wearing diving suits appeared as they swam in from beyond that distance. They were all armed with underwater rifles.
(Shit!! What are my bodyguards doing!?)
While still holding the dead body, Mariydi hid behind the rectangular pillar once more. The body was in the way, so she fumbled with the hole-filled diving suit and managed to undo the latch holding the tank on. She tossed away the body and sucked in air from the sliced tube.
(That man had better not tell me he was just watching the glittering surface of the ocean and didn’t know what was going on underwater!!)
Despite the advantages she had gained, Mariydi was still at the disadvantage.
She was hiding behind that pillar, but she would simply fall victim to the assassins’ underwater rifles if they surrounded the pillar from all directions while maintaining a decent distance. She would likely kill a few of them in the process, but Mariydi had no chance if they were willing to take some losses.
(Should I fire at the surface to try to get my bodyguards to notice? No, these bolt action underwater rifles don’t even have 10 rounds in them. If those idiots didn’t notice the pillar of water, I would just be shortening my own life.)
She decided to focus on getting safely away rather than on killing all of the enemies.
Just as she began to think of a way to do that…
With a deafening roar, a large number of autocannon shells rained down from above the ocean surface and tore the approaching Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers to pieces.
The situation was hard to grasp with the rapidly expanding red murkiness. Mariydi desperately tried to gather information while hiding behind the rectangular block. She sensed the sunlight from above being blocked out for just an instant.
She looked up.
A motorboat about 20 meters long was cutting by above.
And it was not just that one.
She could see at least three of them.
She could not determine the details from her position, but the motorboats were moving across the ocean surface while almost looking like a bike doing a wheelie. Just like with hydrofoils, a boat could move fastest when it had the least surface area sinking into the water. Without the resistance of the water, a boat could easily reach speeds of 80-150 kph.
While the motorboats moved by overhead once more, shells bigger than a thumb were continually fired into the water from the sides of the boats.
(That isn’t Legitimacy Kingdom equipment. Are these Olympia Dome’s UUVs!?)
If so, this was a one in a million chance.
If Mariydi simply continued to hide behind the rectangular pillar, the Legitimacy Kingdom assassins would surround her. Her best bet was to climb aboard one of the motorboats. Since there were multiple motorboats, the others could provide cover fire while the one she was aboard headed for shore.
Mariydi poked her head slightly out from the pillar.
The Legitimacy Kingdom assassins were under attack from the UUV motorboats, but they had not been wiped out. Heading to the surface would still be risky.
(But if I don’t make it to the surface, the motorboats can’t pick me up. If they manage to regroup, I’ll have lost my chance. I need to take action now while they’re confused!!)
Mariydi made up her mind and headed straight up from behind the rectangular box. She stretched her body out, held the oxygen tank in both hands, and used just the movements of her legs to head for the surface. It was a distance of only a few meters, but Mariydi felt as if her heart was being squeezed the entire time.
But she managed to avoid getting shot by the underwater rifles.
Mariydi finally managed to bring her head above the surface.
“Pwah!! Dammit… All of my bodyguards are getting a pay cut!!”
Cursing, Mariydi waved one hand toward the motorboats. They were unmanned, but the signal would reach the people operating them via camera.
One of the three motorboats turned around in front of Mariydi.
“!? You idiots!!” shouted Mariydi as she ducked her head back underwater.
In the next instant, an explosive noise blasted from the autocannon equipped on the motorboat’s deck. Several pillars of water flew up from the ocean surface and the shells ripped through the same water as Mariydi with trails of bubbles following them.
Mariydi put the tube of the oxygen tank back in her mouth.
(Kh. So I’m a target for attack too!? Did they see that an Information Alliance TV station is here, so Olympia Dome wants to show off their security abilities? If you end up killing the athlete the station is covering, that’s completely pointless!!)
Whether it was a good thing or not for the management of the island, Catwalk TV’s yellow underwater camera was unusable thanks to the jamming.
The UUVs were controlled remotely as well, but they seemed fine. They must have used a different method for transmitting and receiving their signals. It was possible they had equipment for multiple methods installed to deal with just such a situation.
But that was no relief to Mariydi since the motorboats were indiscriminately firing everywhere.
(I can’t hope for cover fire or anything else from them. They’ve just increased the risk!!)
New trails of bubbles shot down from the surface.
There were 5 to 10 of them.
These were different from the thumb-sized autocannon shells from before. They were metal tubes as big as fire extinguishers. Mariydi recognized them, so she let go of the oxygen tank and covered her ears with both hands.
An explosion occurred immediately afterwards.
They had likely been targeting the Legitimacy Kingdom assassins, but a heavy shock reached Mariydi’s gut all the same.
That pain helped Mariydi make up her mind.
(I’m gonna blow them all up.)
Mariydi first swam down to the bottom to retrieve the oxygen tank, and then she looked around the area.
She still had the underwater rifle she had stolen from an assassin, but she would have a difficult time sinking those motorboats with it. They were probably reinforced with composite armor panels. The assassins seemed to be giving a sporadic counterattack of their own, but each time they only gave away their position and were forced to undergo another barrage from the autocannons.
(I need a bigger explosion…Oh, right. I have this.)
Mariydi looked down at the oxygen tank that was keeping her alive.
Not long before, she had blown one of those tanks up to take out some of the assassins. It was possible for her to use it.
(But I’d rather not lose this.)
With her mind made up, Mariydi headed away from the rectangular pillar she was hiding behind and moved along the bottom. She retrieved a no-longer-needed oxygen tank from one of the corpses that was leaking a red murkiness.
(It’s strange how a mass of oxygen like this doesn’t float.)
She removed the upper half of the two piece wet suit, tied the neck and arms closed to create a “large bag”, and stuck the oxygen tank’s tube inside.
The “large bag” filled with air and gained new buoyancy.
Once she confirmed the balloon and tank were moving to the surface, Mariydi moved out of the way. Once she made sure one of the motorboats moving freely around the surface had drawn near the tank, she fired her underwater rifle straight through the center of the tank.
She heard a muffled explosion.
The boat was knocked a bit into the air, but…
(No good! It didn’t even crack the bottom of the boat. I can’t apply the needed damage without a specialized explosive!!)
Mariydi gritted her teeth. Meanwhile, the motorboats fired plenty of autocannon shells in the wrong direction.
Neither the underwater rifle nor the oxygen tank was enough to sink the motorboats.
But Mariydi would not survive if they were not destroyed.
She thought for a bit and then began swimming along the bottom once more. She was once more headed for the oxygen tank of one of the dead Legitimacy Kingdom assassins.
She gathered three or four of the tanks, thought a bit about the fact that so many people had been one-sidedly crushed (it was beyond the point where “torn apart” or “shot full of holes” covered it), and began to take action toward saving her own life.
She was not using them as a mine this time. And so she did not create balloon-like objects to float them to the surface. She left the tanks lying on the smooth manmade bottom. Once she was done with the preparations, Mariydi kicked her legs to swim far enough away.
Once she made it 50 meters away, Mariydi looked straight up while aiming the underwater rifle and holding the oxygen tube in her mouth.
The unmanned motorboats were still moving about above. They were still shooting those ridiculously huge autocannon shells at the Legitimacy Kingdom assassins even as those assassins began showing signs of retreating.
Mariydi did not yell out for them to stop.
She had taken the assassin’s lives herself in order to survive. And she had just taken oxygen tanks from their mutilated corpses.
It was the difference between civilian and soldier.
The line between enemy and ally.
Mariydi had those ideas set in her mind and it allowed her to not view all human life as equal. She truly was a different sort of person than the athletes who emphasized sportsmanship.
She sat down on the artificial bottom, held up the bolt action underwater rifle in both hands, and pulled back the cocking lever to load the next round.
She waited for the correct timing.
One of the motorboats made a wide turn and headed in Mariydi’s direction. She knew it was targeting her with its autocannon. It was too late to try to wave her arms to tell it where she was and what her affiliations were. The motorboat was simply trying to eliminate all life in the area.
And so Mariydi Whitewitch gave no sign.
Not even a warning.
When the motorboat arrived within the target area, she did not hesitate to fire the underwater rifle.
She was targeting the oxygen tanks sitting at the artificial bottom of the ocean.
The single bullet looked like it was sucked into one of the tanks, and the tank energetically exploded when its thick metal exterior was breached. That single explosion reached the other tanks around it and the explosion swelled up even larger.
But the explosion occurred at the bottom.
The motorboat was at the surface and had most of its body out of the water entirely, so the blast and shockwave did not reach it.
But Mariydi had not intended for it to.
She had been aiming for the movable breakwater inside the artificial ocean bottom.
With its latch broken, the thick reinforced polyurethane wall shot straight up under its own buoyancy. It looked like a piece of bread shooting up from a toaster.
The UUV was unable to deal with the 3 meter thick and 10 meter tall wall that suddenly appeared on the surface. It frantically tried to turn away, but its right side slammed into the breakwater and the entire motorboat was smashed to pieces.
The other motorboats had been working with the first one in their attack, so they all met similar fates.
Mariydi looked over at one of the motorboats that had sunk to the bottom. She made a vulgar gesture with her middle finger towards its camera lens.
The Legitimacy Kingdom assassins were on the other side of the thick breakwater, so she had no idea if they had escaped or been annihilated. She observed the area for a bit longer, but saw no new movements. It seemed the threat was gone.
Mariydi cautiously headed for the surface.
When she finally managed to breach the surface and suck in some air, she realized the jamming was gone.
She first heard the voice of her bodyguard.
“Our transmissions cut out and Olympia Dome’s UUVs were zooming around everywhere. What happened? Did you do something?”
“…You complacent idiot. Well, whatever. I’ll let you people deal with the complaints from the management.”
Enemy Forces 2
In a rental storehouse for civilian helicopters at one end of Olympia Dome, Ramil Scofflaw watched a television unnaturally sitting in front of her. She had nothing else to do because she was waiting for her subordinates to finish their work.
It was obvious from how her brown fingertips fidgeted with her blonde hair that she was displeased.
She was of course watching a Technopics broadcast, but the advertisements for sponsor companies were colored more garishly than the events themselves and the odds for gambling were displayed next to the results of the events. The layout disgusted her whenever she saw it. An athlete could only play their proper role in the framework of a sport, but it was vividly clear that these people were built into something more sinister than that.
(This blasphemy is like getting people to buy clothes by selling the people wearing the clothes.)
At that point, Ramil’s subordinate, Iris Aggravation, called out to her.
“We have the information now. The Capitalist Corporations did indeed save an Information Alliance athlete on the first day of the shootathlon. Afterwards, the Legitimacy Kingdom changed their target to the Capitalist Corporations. They were probably acting out of revenge.”
“And?” asked Ramil.
“Before the second day began, the Legitimacy Kingdom attacked the Capitalist Corporations. But Olympia Dome’s UUV motorboats intervened, so no serious harm was done. It is unclear if the Legitimacy Kingdom plans to continue their attacks on the Capitalist Corporations.”
“Fine then. They will not make a ceasefire announcement over an unofficial attack. And that means there is an official possibility of the attacks continuing. We can use that to bring about the Blank.”
Ramil spoke of what was obviously a codename.
They chose to work inside that storehouse that did not even have air conditioning because they were preparing for a military operation.
Ramil exchanged a look with a maintenance soldier wearing a work uniform and the man gave her a thumbs up.
The maintenance soldiers were preparing a Faith Organization recoilless rifle. The weapon fired a shell while held over the shoulder and it could destroy armored vehicles like tanks. However, the warhead inside was a Legitimacy Kingdom model.
Their plan included the reuse of a weapon the Faith Organization had acquired on the battlefield.
The barrel had been altered to match the other world power’s caliber, and with a few other adjustments, the Legitimacy Kingdom warhead could be fired without issue.
Their goal was not to hide the colors of the Faith Organization.
They were mixing together the colors of multiple world powers to make it unclear who was truly behind the attack.
“Just to be sure, we are altering the exterior of the armored vehicles and fighters to Legitimacy Kingdom colors.”
“The Blank is just a means to an end, not the end itself. We do not need to deploy that many weapons at this time.” Ramil glanced at the computer monitor behind Iris and said, “Check the transport route.”
“We have narrowed down which Capitalist Corporations athlete has the possibility of being attacked by the Legitimacy Kingdom.”
A few lines were added to the map and Ramil’s expression softened.
“We can use this.”
“Then get ready. To bring about the Blank like this, it would be best to have at least 3 recoilless rifles and over 15 shots. And have three people to support each recoilless rifle. Each of those people needs an assault rifle, a handgun, and everything else needed for a full complement. Mix different colors together for all of them. Make sure to mix in the Faith Organization’s colors as well. It may look like we have a lot of time, but it will seem like a lot less once it passes. Finish all this by dawn.”
“Once the assault teams are organized, tell them to mix together languages and hand signs from different world powers. I trust that none of them are stupid enough to need translation software to keep up with that.”
Once she had given the necessary orders, Ramil pulled a small bottle of wine out of a refrigerator in the storehouse.
She removed the cap, lightly held the bottle out into the empty air and towards no one in particular, and then took a swig of the alcohol.
“Glory to the festival.”