HEAVY OBJECT:Volume5 Chapter 4
The situation had grown quite troublesome.
Athletica’s ultimate goal was causing a battle between the Objects of the world powers protecting Olympia Dome. Olympia Dome would be caught in the middle and sunk.
That large scale military might was there, but they were unable to ask for help or even explain the situation to them.
The lives of the thousands of athletes, the millions of spectators, and even Mariydi herself could only be saved with the old style of military might that was usually called obsolete.
(Modern wars do not happen unexpectedly. The heads of the world powers only go to war after weighing the gains and losses against each other and carefully calculating everything out. Since Olympia Dome exists outside all that, they might not be able to deal with any disorder here using their usual methods.)
Mariydi thought while charging out of the storehouse.
(I’m sure the higher ups will use all their political tricks to keep the chaos to a minimum. This may not develop into all-out war. But the same cannot be said for the masses at the bottom. The Technopic athletes may be produced behind the scenes, but they are still representatives of the people. If they are killed off, the people won’t just sadly back off.)
She gritted her teeth as her speculation headed in a horrible direction.
The worst part was that this speculation had a possibility of becoming a reality.
(If the several thousand athletes are all killed, terrorist attacks within safe countries will increase at an explosive rate. It’s already been pointed out that the rates of attacks in safe countries increase after the “accidents” during the Technopics. This could deteriorate into a situation where the distinction between battlefields and safe countries completely collapses. That would mean the complete destruction of the system supported by Objects that allows for a clean era of clean wars. All sorts of economic activity will grind to a halt and society itself will collapse!!)
The vehicles of the bodyguard PMC team gathered in front of the storehouse that was tinged with the orange of twilight. Lucas Westernrose of Catwalk TV was trembling amongst them, but he then started berating himself when he realized he forgot to film what had happened.
Mariydi grabbed her main bodyguard and said, “What is Olympia Dome’s management saying!? Have they increased the security for the Ocean Substations!?”
“Who knows.” The bodyguard shrugged. “They seem to have been thrown into quite a bit of confusion thanks to the Blank and everything else that is going on. We can’t get through even using the emergency lines. Everything is tied up.”
Mariydi snatched the bodyguard’s binoculars and looked out toward the sea.
She could see a ship over 500 meters long stopped a few kilometers out. The shape of the ship was nothing special. It was basically a tanker, but it had four parabolic antennae a few dozen meters across lined up on its flat deck. They were likely meant to receive the microwaves.
“I can’t contact Miss Alicia anymore either. With Olympia Dome’s own communications network cut off, everyone is using the radio transmissions now. There are so many transmissions being sent out at similar frequencies that everything is filled with noise.” The bodyguard clicked his tongue. “In other words, we have no way of knowing what the sponsor’s opinion is. I doubt they would actually listen to us though.”
“This isn’t the time for those intellectuals. If we wait for them to sign off on our actions, Olympia Dome is done for!!”
As soon as she said that, an explosive noise shot by over Mariydi’s head.
She put down the binoculars and looked up to see three fighters heading for the Ocean Substation with long, narrow contrails behind them.
They were the VTOL fighters disguised as Legitimacy Kingdom S/G-31s.
“They’re making their move! It’s Athletica!!’
Lucas Westernrose must have decided anything was fine as long as it recorded because he pulled out his smartphone, started up a video app, and pointed the small lens into the sky. He spoke with his own men who had come directly to him as they could not contact him remotely.
“Hello? Yes, yes, according to the other filming group, yes, yes, the spectators have not begun to panic yet, yes. Yes, with the broadcast cut off, the events have been stopped as well, but most of the spectators are waiting in the dome for the systems to recover. They may have mistaken the fighters, yes, yes, for an acrobatic show to celebrate the end of the women’s shootathlon, yes. …And even if they view it as combat, yes, yes, they seem to be accepting it with open arms as more of the standard trouble between athletes here, yes.”
The bodyguard looked up at the source of the contrails and muttered, “The UUV ships in this area are unusable. I’m sure they can operate the Ocean Substation’s defense systems manually, but…”
“We can’t count on those things! A battle between air and ship is practically over by the time the fighters can approach the ship!!”
Orange lines from tracer bullets scattered from the deck and white trails of smoke signified the launch of anti-air missiles.
But no apparent damage was done to the fighters.
When the three Athletica fighters passed over the Ocean Substation, over half of the defense systems were blown away by machinegun fire. After pulling some distance away, the fighters circled around and approached again. This time, they shot up the soldiers who were using shoulder-fired anti-air missiles.
The bodyguard groaned and said, “It’s just a slaughter.”
“But it isn’t over yet. Once the defense systems on the deck are destroyed, the main Athletica force will move to board it. Once they gain control, they will use the laser power delivery system to attack the Objects. And then the Objects will begin fighting amongst themselves. Once that happens, Olympia Dome will be destroyed.”
Mariydi operated the handheld device she had acquired from the Faith Organization Athletica soldier she had killed.
She had no idea where they had gotten it, but it included a supposedly classified diagram of the Ocean Substation.
“The Ocean Substation is nothing more than a transformer facility. The actual power generation is carried out by a satellite in orbit. The power is sent to the ship via microwaves, transformed into a laser, and then transferred to Olympia Dome.”
“If the satellite providing the power is stopped, won’t it lose the foundation it needs to produce the high-output laser?”
“The Ocean Substation has control of the satellite.”
“How? It’s constantly receiving a ton of microwaves, right? It seems to me that would overpower any control signals sent back.”
“There are three ships total. They aren’t all receiving microwaves at all times. Two carry out the transformation and the remaining one controls the satellite. By swapping out which ones undergo the burden and which one gets to rest, they can perform maintenance without any downtime.”
The bodyguard lightly shook his head and said, “But Athletica needs the Ocean Substation’s laser. That means they have to receive the microwaves. If they can’t do that and control the satellite, it might be possible to stop the satellite with a signal from one of the other ships.”
“Yes, but only if the signal isn’t being jammed. The power generation satellite will continue to send the microwaves like normal unless it receives a stop signal. It can continue just fine without any control signals for a while.”
“Dammit,” cursed the bodyguard.
While operating the handheld device, Mariydi said to him, “So what do you think we should do?”
“What do you mean? There’s nothing we can do,” he muttered. “We may have firearms and the authority to take military action, but that’s only if your life is in danger. Olympia Dome is the target this time, not you. Unfortunately, we cannot use our guns.”
“If that ship is hijacked, this giant artificial island will ultimately sink into the Atlantic!! That will kill me. That seems like reason enough for you to act as my bodyguard!”
“If I fire without authority to do so, it’s a crime!!” shouted the bodyguard as if to cover up her words. “Everyone who attacked you were professional spies who took all the necessary preparations to slip through the gaps of an investigation before they attacked. We don’t have that kind of protection, so we will definitely get arrested. And this isn’t a part of the Capitalist Corporations. I don’t want to be tried in a court that speaks a different language and uses a criminal code I don’t understand. There’s no way I could win!!”
“And the same goes for you. Boarding the Ocean Substation to save it would probably have earned you praise in an older era. But nowadays it’s nothing but a crime. It could even have you stripped of your medal. If that happened, everyone on your team, the sponsor companies, and maybe even the entire Capitalist Corporations could be after your head. The risk for you makes mine look like nothing!!”
She could be charged for breach of contract.
Simply failing to obtain good results in the event could bring a serious risk to her ability to live a normal life, so if she had her medal stripped from her due to dishonorable and criminal conduct, the sponsor companies that had expected to earn millions of dollars advertising through her would certainly be furious.
In the Capitalist Corporations where finances were valued higher than human lives, it would not be surprising if they would take revenge with military action.
“Then what do we do?”
“I am going to do my job as your bodyguard. I will do the bare minimum that is required of me.”
“…You’re saying we should flee?”
“Luckily, you already won the gold medal in the shootathlon. If we just say your health deteriorated due to side effects of doping, you need not attend the closing ceremony. We can get you on a charter plane right away that should be able to escape before Olympia Dome is destroyed.”
“It’s being destroyed as we speak!!”
“We can’t get on that charter plane without you!!” snapped back the bodyguard.
Lucas Westernrose of Catwalk TV looked shocked, but he finally turned his smartphone’s lens towards the two and spoke.
“Hello? Yes, yes, well, the most our crew can call in is a helicopter. Yes, given the location of Olympia Dome, it cannot continue flying for the distance required to reach land, yes. Also, yes, as a member of the Information Alliance, yes, I cannot allow myself to turn tail and run in the face of this kind of ‘truth’, yes.”
He had made up his mind to stay using his own form of logic.
Mariydi, the only one with a ticket allowing her to escape, somehow actually felt left behind.
She had no idea what to say, so the bodyguard said, “I’m telling you to get on despite that. If you have any chance at all, you need to survive this. You earned that medal with your own skill. No one will blame you if you live your life a bit pridefully for a while.”
“…What will all of you do?”
“Find some way to contact Olympia Dome’s management. I hope we can find a loophole that allows us to use our weapons. It doesn’t matter how much we have to split hairs, as long as we are allowed to fight, we can head to the Ocean Substation. It’s better than doing nothing.” The bodyguard seemed to be checking over all of the conditions. “And then…right. If we can contact Miss Alicia, we can check on the sponsor’s opinion. If a large company can expedite Olympia Dome giving us permission to fight, that would be a huge help…but there will probably be a lot of barriers in the way given the average condition at the Technopics.”
Also, he had no way of knowing if they could even defeat Athletica in a straight shootout.
And their actions could get in the way of some political and legal issues.
The bodyguard had to know that there was no way he would make it in time after jumping through all those hoops.
And there was Alicia, who was so earnest when it came to finances and contracts.
And Stacy, who secretly enjoyed gathering famous autographs.
Whether they could fight or not, everyone who happened to be on Olympia Dome would soon be killed.
They would be utterly blown away by the tremendous firepower of those giant weapons known as Objects.
With the one exception of Mariydi, who could fight but had the privilege of being able to flee.
“C’mon,” urged the bodyguard as he led her to a nearby vehicle.
Once they were behind the vehicle where the other surrounding soldiers could not see them, Mariydi stuck a military knife against the bodyguard’s side.
“Give me your gun and the key to the vehicle.”
“Dammit, not again!! When did you steal my knife!?”
Lucas Westernrose aimed his smartphone’s lens in their direction, but Mariydi ignored him and continued her demands.
“Just hand them over. Your method won’t make it in time. I’m sure you know that. So hurry up and hand over your gun and the key.”
“You really might have your medal stripped from you.”
“This is the only way.”
“The sponsor companies might continue hunting you for decades! Are you really okay with that!?”
“If it comes to that, I can just win another medal to make up for it.”
Mariydi moved the tip of the knife slightly and the bodyguard winced. While putting up with the pain, he handed Mariydi his handgun and the key to the vehicle.
Mariydi opened the vehicle’s driver side door and Lucas Westernrose shouted after her.
“Hello!? If I would be in the way, yes, yes, at least take this smartphone with you! Yes, yes, you will likely be the closest to the truth!!”
“Sorry, but the amount of blood will probably force the rating too high.”
After Mariydi’s blunt refusal, the bodyguard spoke up.
“I’m not going with you.”
“I’m not going to tip you and I can’t guarantee your safety. I’m not brazen enough to ask you to come with me despite that.”
“…I’ll have to take a bit of a detour, but I will catch up with you. So head on to the Ocean Substation ahead of me. Got it?”
Mariydi gave a slight nod and then stuck the key in the ignition.
The Ocean Substation was stopped a few kilometers out at sea.
Mariydi was headed for a harbor facility. Unlike the swimming area, this area of the ocean had no artificial bottom prepared. It had a depth of several thousand meters immediately off the coast.
Mariydi climbed out of the parked vehicle while checking the data she had downloaded from Athletica onto the handheld device.
She heard the bodyguard’s voice coming from the piezoelectric receiver in her ear.
(Did he find a usable frequency? Who knows how long it will remain usable, but this might be thanks to allying ourselves with a TV station even if it is just a net one.)
“How exactly do you plan to board the Ocean Substation? Are you going to borrow a motorboat?”
“The attackers from Athletica are currently boarding it by helicopter and hovercraft. And the crew is firing assault rifles from the deck in order to stop them. If I used a boat, I would just end up right in the middle of the firefight.”
A good number of relatively small cruisers were moored there. They were not used to travel between Olympia Dome and land. The cruisers were used to hold the equipment for the divers that worked underneath Olympia Dome and to function as relay and rest points for those divers.
An old security guard was stationed at the entrance to the facility, but Mariydi grabbed his wrist, twisted his arm, and threw him down to the asphalt.
She swiped the unconscious guard’s card key and entered the building that had been made from a modified container.
“The Ocean Substation is a transformer facility, but they still need power to carry out that work.” Mariydi ignored the diving wetsuit and grabbed an oxygen tank. “The microwaves are not used for the ship’s own power. Methane hydrate is gathered from the ocean floor which is burned by gas turbines to create electricity. That means it must have a gate for the small mining submarines to pass through.”
“You’re going to go in from the bottom!?”
“If those small submarines are still going in and out, this is the safest method. I won’t have to head straight into a firefight.”
With the oxygen tank on her back, Mariydi grabbed an aqua scooter. The device was something like a kickboard with a motor attached. It would allow her to travel through the ocean at much faster speeds than with flippers.
(This is the center of the Atlantic Ocean. This far out, the water is usually a few thousand meters deep.)
If she ran into some kind of equipment trouble, she was done for.
Mariydi felt a different kind of chill running down her back than the prospect of a firefight gave her, but she could not stop here.
Mariydi held the aqua scooter under one arm and left the container-shaped building. When she reached the edge of the water where the cruisers were moored, she jumped straight into the water.
The Ocean Substation was a good distance away.
As Mariydi moved through the ocean water using the aqua scooter, she heard Alicia’s voice in her ear.
“I heard what you are doing.”
“It’s too late to make any complaints now. If you want to stop me, come after me with a gun.”
“I am not the one complaining. I merely relay the sponsor’s valuable opinion to you.”
Alicia had to know that she would also be killed if Olympia Dome was destroyed, so it may have been quite impressive that she managed to keep her usual attitude.
“So what did the sponsor say? Will they hunt me down for revenge if the medal is stripped from me? Or will they send me off as slave labor?”
“The possibility of being stripped of the medal is indeed worrying. The publicity for the rifle would effectively fall from heaven to earth. It would fall below zero even. But,” added Alicia. “Even if you are stripped of your medal, the publicity could reach an even higher position than before if we are able to reconstruct this into a moving tale of how you fought to protect the innocent. That is their opinion.”
That may have been Alicia’s way of being considerate.
The woman spoke nothing of how much effort had been expended beneath the surface to reach that compromise with the large companies that were like incarnations of economic activity.
“And so, if you are going to take action, then make sure you are successful. The worst case scenario would be having your medal stripped from you and yet being unable to protect Olympia Dome. If that happens, you have no room for excuses.”
“Understood. Give me something good to eat once I get back alive.”
“I will join you in that as long as it comes out of your expenses.”
During their conversation, Mariydi had arrived nearby the Ocean Substation.
She looked around the clear area of ocean through her goggles and spotted what looked like a 3 meter long probe ship moving down below the bottom of the giant ship.
As the diagram on the handheld device had said, a portion of the Ocean Substation’s bottom could open and close to allow the small submarines in and out.
If she clung to one of those submarines, she could sneak into the giant ship.
In all likelihood, a firefight was already underway inside.
The real challenge began here.
Mariydi snuck into the Ocean Substation by clinging to the side of one of the small submarines.
The block she found herself in seemed to be where the methane hydrate acquired from the ocean bottom was converted into combustible gas. Around 20 men wearing work uniforms were inside. They all stiffened in shock when they saw the intruder, but they breathed a sigh of relief when she removed her goggles and they realized she was Mariydi Whitewitch the athlete.
(I didn’t expect to be able to use my face like a business card. I guess winning that medal wasn’t all bad.)
“You know this Ocean Substation is under attack, right? Who is in charge here?”
“I-I am,” replied a female worker in her thirties.
Mariydi looked over at a steel piece of equipment larger than the thick pipes and garages scattered around the area.
“What is this equipment for? What exactly does it all do?”
“It completely melts the solid methane hydrate to convert it into the gas fuel to use in the gas turbines. The neighboring block contains the power generating turbines.”
“How does one access the turbines?”
“They are through a single door. You do not need to head out into the passageway.”
“The Ocean Substation is a large scale transformer facility, but it needs its own power to run. That is acquired here. In other words, the entire Ocean Substation would stop running if this block could no longer be used. Is that correct?”
“Y-yes. But…are you saying the attackers are targeting this block to rob the unmanned weapons protecting Olympia Dome of their power?”
“No. They plan to weaponize the power transfer laser. I doubt we can stop them from taking over the ship, so I want to make sure they cannot use the transformation facility before they take over.” Mariydi counted the small submarines. “So I have a request for you workers. I want you to remove the parts needed to run the turbines. Including the spares. Get on the small submarines with those necessary parts and escape. If you do that, they will not be able to use the weaponized laser even if they hijack the Ocean Substation.”
“The necessary parts are pretty heavy. We would have to use a crane… And there are 4 spares, so it would take 30 minutes to complete the work.”
“I’ll buy that time for you,” said Mariydi as she pulled out a handgun.
When Mariydi started for the door leading to the passageway, the female worker frantically called out to her.
“Wait! What will you do?”
“It seems the crew is trying to protect the ship with their lives, but they need not do that once the necessary turbine parts have been removed. I need to explain the situation to them so they can escape rather than die needlessly. And while I’m at it, I can draw the enemy’s attention to buy more time until they manage to take over.”
“With a single handgun? You have to be joking.”
“Like I said, I don’t think I can win. When the time is right, I’ll escape too. I’m not some hero of justice. If you don’t want to die, then get to work right away. You are the only ones who can protect your own lives.” Mariydi pressed up against the wall right next to the door. “Once I leave, use the crane to place something heavy in front of this door. I will not be coming back here. Ignore any knocking. Don’t be fooled by any cries or entreaties. They will all be traps. Don’t let anyone in. Got it?”
The workers gave small nods to show they did, so Mariydi opened the steel door slightly. The passageway was empty. She slipped out and closed the door behind her.
(Dammit. How many enemies are there in here?)
Unlike a luxurious passenger ship designed with livability in mind, the passageways were narrow, winding, and filled with exposed pipes. The corners of the passageways could be used for cover, but there was almost nothing to hide behind in the straight areas. Simply put, the way it was constructed was bad for Mariydi’s heart.
She had no specific objective.
She had no conditions for victory.
She simply had to gather as many people as possible and retreat quickly. This was a battle to minimize the damage in a battle that they were already losing.
But she would still get back at them.
By making sure the Ocean Substation was unusable before fleeing, she could crush Athletica’s plan.
Ramil Scofflaw used hand signals to give instructions to her subordinates.
They fired a recoilless rifle which blew away the crew’s cover. She and her subordinates then quickly began moving once more.
“The satellite control facility has been taken.”
“The bridge has been taken.”
“The microwave reception control facility has been taken.”
As she listened to the reports from other units coming in over a special radio frequency band, Ramil fired a carbine at the resisting crew. She purposefully fired a bit away from them and her subordinates actually shot them once they determined the crew would counterattack.
“That just leaves the laser transfer control facility and the engine room at the bottom of the ship.”
Despite using unmanned weapons for their primary force, Olympia Dome had a surprising amount of flesh-and-blood fighters on the Ocean Substation itself.
“It looks like most of them are workers for maintenance and the like, so they haven’t undergone any specialized training.”
“Then this shouldn’t be a problem,” said one of Ramil’s subordinate soldiers with a recoilless rifle hanging from his shoulder.
But Ramil did not smile.
“This means we must eliminate everyone onboard including the noncombat crewmembers. And we will have to perform a search of every nook and cranny of the ship to do so. That will be quite a pain.”
“We can carry out the search once the main facilities have fallen. Lieutenant Colonel, you and the others construct a barricade around the main block and carry out the work to weaponize the laser as planned.”
“I would rather not have to fear an attack from some hidden enemy. Be thorough.”
Just as Ramil gave that order, she heard a short burst of rifle fire and the subordinate she had been talking to was mowed down.
Ramil frantically hid behind a corner in the passageway, but she looked puzzled.
(That sounded like one of our weapons. Did someone steal one of our rifles?)
She was in what was commonly referred to as a crank-shaped passageway.
The shape was easy to recognize when drawn on paper. It headed straight, turned ninety degrees to the right, and then turned 90 degrees to the left at the next corner. What mattered was that it had two corners that were not too far apart.
The two sides of the firefight were each using one of the corners as cover and the passageway between had been turned into a pathway of death with bullets flying every which way.
Neither side could land a decisive blow while firing from the corner.
How would they pass that pathway of death?
The side that accomplished it would be the victor.
Ramil reached a fiberscope lens that was similar to an endoscope around the corner, but it was destroyed by a rifle bullet before she could get a good look at the passageway.
(Dammit. They must have the better ability to view the passageway.)
This was not a situation where she could carelessly stick her head around the corner.
She used the directional microphone on her carbine to pick up the enemy’s voice. She could hear a girl speaking from the other side of the crank shape.
“You do not need to defend the ship with your life. Let them have the Ocean Substation. As long as they are unable to weaponize the laser, their plan can continue no further.”
“No matter how many microwaves are sent pouring down on the ship, the transformer work requires another power source. They can do nothing if they cannot use that. There are three Ocean Substations. Even if one of them is made unusable and destroyed from the outside, Olympia Dome can continue functioning. All of you need to leave as quickly as possible. Do you understand?”
Ramil distinctly felt a bad feeling run down her spine. She frantically grabbed her radio and gave orders to her subordinates.
“Alpha! Charlie! Change your current route and head to the engine room! That is your top priority!! Do not let them destroy the equipment related to the methane hydrate!!”
(Shit. Who is this? She didn’t just happen to be here during the attack. The way she spoke, she obviously knows what our plan is!!)
Ramil used hand signals to give attack instructions to her remaining subordinates.
She did not know who that girl was, but she knew her mere presence would negatively affect their plan.
As a true member of the Faith Organization, Ramil was spurred to action by something other than logic. With her instinct giving an extra push beyond her inspiration, Ramil immediately began the attack once more.
Her subordinates stuck only their arms out around the corner and fired their low-recoil handguns again and again. Meanwhile, Ramil poked her head around the corner and took accurate observations of the length and width of the passageway, the material of the walls, and other things.
She heard the girl’s voice from the other end of the passageway. It was accompanied by the squeaking of shoes against the floor.
(Is she falling back?)
As soon as that question entered Ramil’s mind, one of her subordinates creating the diversion stepped out to pursue the girl.
But Ramil grabbed his shoulder to stop him.
“Shooting and falling back was the strategy used in the counterattack while creating the Blank, wasn’t it?” she muttered while calmly firing a 50mm grenade.
She did not fire it straight down the passageway so that it would hit the back wall.
The enemy was around the ninety degree corner in the passageway, so Ramil fired the grenade against the side wall.
The explosive bounced off the wall and landed around the corner.
Mariydi noticed the grenade right away.
She pushed down the crewmember she was using to tell the rest of the crew to escape, and frantically got down on the ground herself.
An explosion rang out.
It had an effective radius of 10 meters. However, the grenade was designed to scatter tons of sharp fragments diagonally up from the floor to extend that range slightly. In other words, the destruction did not spread in a pure circle; it was more of a cone shape.
If you lay down on the ground while near the grenade, you could still escape that cone.
(Good thing it wasn’t the type that scatters the shrapnel from the air.)
Mariydi spoke to the male crewmember.
“Are you alive!?”
“Alive enough to respond. But…shit! I can hear footsteps approaching!!”
It was unlikely the enemy thought they had finished things with that single grenade. They had merely used it to create the time they needed to cut through the “pathway of death” in the center of the crank-shaped passageway.
Mariydi and the crewmember could not regain the position they needed for a proper firefight.
The enemy would not challenge them to a quick draw like Western gunmen.
“This way! Hurry!!”
Mariydi dragged the crewmember to his feet and headed down the passageway.
Ramil and the others cut down the “pathway of death” all at once. Beyond the next corner was a straight passageway. It had no cover. Ramil’s carbine would be enough to finish off the enemy.
But just before she turned the corner, an explosive noise rang out.
She peered around the corner and saw nothing but dust floating in the air.
Ramil pulled her head back behind cover and one of her subordinates spoke up.
“She has explosives too?”
“We know she stole one of our firearms. We need to assume she has everything we carry. She probably used a recoilless rifle fuse and attached the explosive to the wall.”
No counterattack came.
The enemy was either focused on fleeing or had been injured.
Ramil came to a quick decision and gave instructions with hand signals. They ran down the passageway and to a large hole that had been opened in the wall. Due to the dust in the air from the explosion, they could not see inside. Ramil fired a grenade through the hole. That would both see if anyone was hiding inside and blow away the dust.
The hard sound of the grenade landing came from much closer than she had expected. The combustible gas should have launched it a good distance, but it landed only 3 meters away. That was when she and her subordinates realized something. Hidden by the dust, a pushcart had been left right in front of them.
The grenade had struck the handle and fallen to the ground.
And this left Ramil and the others well within its range.
They frantically moved to evade the blast.
An explosive noise rang out shortly thereafter.
Using the explosion as her sign, Mariydi began a counterattack with the carbine she held in both hands.
With intermittent short bursts, she quickly silenced the Athletica soldiers who had been injured by the grenade. Even if they were injured, they could still function as enemy soldiers as long as they had the strength left to raise their arms and pull the trigger and the will left to fight. Mariydi was relentless when it came to neutralizing them.
She heard someone click their tongue and then saw a figure fleeing.
Mariydi was conflicted over whether she should pursue the figure or not.
(…Huh. The other people around that person are creating an oddly thick barrage to let that person escape.)
She came to a quick decision using that information.
(That person must be important. If I defeat them, I can bring confusion to the Faith Organization ranks!!)
As stated previously, Mariydi was working under the assumption that she would lose this battle. But since she knew she could not stop the Ocean Substation from being taken over, she had set her goal to saving as many of the crewmembers as possible and preventing the giant transformer facility from functioning in order to stop the laser power transfer facility from being weaponized.
In other words, she was not at the final goal for the incident as a whole.
The fighting would likely continue.
And so she wanted to cause damage to the structure of the Faith Organization group for the sake of the next battle.
(Dammit. Can I still make it after that person!?)
If she simply chased after the fleeing figure, the barrage meant to hold her in place would probably take her out. Mariydi called up the diagram of the Ocean Substation on her handheld device and looked for an alternate route to where she guessed the fleeing figure was headed.
She needed to hurry, but she could not let her guard down.
Mariydi waited for the figure at the corner of a cross-shaped intersection between two passageways.
She heard someone speaking from around the corner. It seemed to be a radio transmission.
“It’s not good. The methane hydrate facility is deserted! And a few of the parts needed for the turbines that power the transformer work have been removed. What should we do, lieutenant colonel!?”
“Now they’ve done it!! Connect me to Warrant Officer Iris Aggravation!!”
Mariydi focused on regulating her breathing and adjusted her grip on the carbine’s grip.
She could hear footsteps approaching.
“Warrant Officer? Have you heard what happened?”
“Lieutenant colonel, please escape from there as quickly as possible. We will do the work here. I am sure we will need your planning abilities in the future, so hurry!”
“Sorry about this. I’m counting on you.”
Mariydi moved half her body out from the corner and aimed her carbine.
She fired without hesitation.
A string of gunshots rang out. But it seemed the figure had noticed just before she fired. The figure had leaped into a different passageway and escaped harm.
Mariydi frantically resumed pursuit.
But just as she was about to head down the passageway the figure had disappeared down, she frantically moved back.
She then poked her head around the corner to check.
A recoilless rifle shell lay carelessly in the middle of the passageway. From this distance, Mariydi could not tell if it had any kind of radio-controlled fuse or an infrared sensor attached. But since either was possible, she needed to act as if it could detonate at any time.
(Shit. I don’t have time to be held up at every turn like this.)
Just as she reached for the sensor switch on her carbine, a few short burst of bullets came from further down the passageway. Mariydi cowered back a bit. The shell was meant to hold her back. If she tried to neutralize the fuse, a stream of bullets waited for her. That was the situation the enemy had constructed that prevented her from dealing with the shell.
Mariydi gave up and took a detour through a different passageway.
She knew where this enemy was headed.
No important facilities lay in the direction in which the figure had been headed. The only thing in that direction was an exit leading to the deck. Mariydi opened a different door than the one used by the figure and headed outside.
The deck was large and flat.
It contained four giant parabolic antennae and the complex arrangement of pillars that supported them. It was like a forest made of metal. It had countless areas to use as cover.
Mariydi headed directly below one of the bowl-shaped antennae while aiming her carbine every which way.
(Where is she?)
Mariydi moved from steel pillar to steel pillar and looked all around.
(She fled with the help of her subordinates. What is she going to use to escape? A hovercraft? A helicopter?)
It turned out to be neither.
A giant mass of metal sat in an open area free of the parabolic antennae and pillars.
It was a Legitimacy Kingdom S/G-31 fighter with VTOL ability.
More accurately, it was a Faith Organization Harpuiai fighter with the exterior altered to look like that.
Instead of a specialized ladder, the figure was using a wire to climb up onto the nose of the fighter. She was just about to climb into the cockpit.
Mariydi frantically moved to fire her carbine, but enemy fire came in from the side. Sparks flew from a nearby steel pillar and Mariydi frantically leapt behind the pillar. Meanwhile, the jet engine of the fighter the figure had boarded began to rumble and it slowly began rising vertically into the air.
The situation had been reversed.
If the fighter used its missiles or machine gun, Mariydi would be helpless to defend against it. The carbine’s rifle bullets were not enough to pierce the fighter’s armor.
Mariydi scattered rifle bullets in the direction of the enemy soldiers firing at her to hold them in check and then she dashed below one of the parabolic antennae.
If the fighter wanted to, it could easily blow away the antenna.
However, the enemy would not want to destroy one of the parabolic antennae that received the microwaves.
Mariydi could survive.
She was not trying to go down with the ship.
Luckily, the necessary parts for the turbines needed to generate power for the transformer work had already been removed. The enemy could no longer use the weaponized laser even if the Ocean Substation surrendered to them. And so Mariydi felt it was wiser to safely retreat, prepare some large scale firepower, and then blow up the entire Ocean Substation with most of the Athletica force inside.
“Mariydi. Mariydi Whitewitch!! Get out of there now!!” A transmission of her bodyguard’s voice resounded in her ear. “The Ocean Substation’s weaponized laser is active. If you stay there, you will be in the center of their sights!!”
“What are you talking about?” asked Mariydi in confusion from atop the deck.
The turbines used for the transformer work were unusable. She saw no way the enemy could use the weaponized laser even if they took over the Ocean Substation. Also, Mariydi was directly below one of the parabolic antennae that received microwaves. Even if they could fire the weaponized laser freely, she doubted they would target that location.
But the situation had developed much further than she had thought.
She had overlooked one thing.
The Ocean Substations supporting Olympia Dome’s unmanned weapons numbered three in total.
It was possible the enemy had attacked more than one of them at a time.
A different Ocean Substation could be targeting the ship Mariydi was onboard.
When she saw the giant ship cruising on the horizon, Mariydi finally realized what was going on.
She did not have time to think of a way to escape. She fired the carbine to hold back the remaining enemy soldiers on deck and ran toward the ship’s handrail.
That figure had spoken with someone named Warrant Officer Iris over the radio. When she thought back, she realized it was possible that conversation was not being held with someone aboard the same ship.
She somehow managed to leap over the handrail.
But the massive strike came before she reached the ocean surface a few dozen meters below.
A tremendous flash of pure white light roasted Mariydi’s retinas. The Ocean Substation’s 500-meter-long form was blown away from the very center. The steel ship glowed orange and melted like a sugar sculpture. The incandescent metal struck the ocean water, causing a noise similar to that produced by Chinese cooking to reverberate throughout the area.
Mariydi had no idea what position she was in when she hit the water.
She struck the water’s surface and was tossed about by a horrible maelstrom of water that normal waves could never create. It was an unnatural water current created by the remnants of the giant destroyed ship sinking.
“Cough!! Cough!! Cough cough!!”
Mariydi somehow managed to get her head above water and searched for something to grab ahold of while coughing. She found a thin panel that was likely a remnant of something used in one of the ship’s interior walls. She clung to it for buoyancy.
The giant structure was standing up vertically, making it almost look like the Tower of Babel. It slowly sank down to the bottom of the ocean. That single blast had done that to a mass of steel as large as an island.
An explosive noise shot by overhead.
It was the Faith Organization Harpuiai fighter that had taken off via VTOL just before the laser had struck. It was no longer fleeing. The fighter was leisurely returning with the majesty of a victor.
It was returning to its new home base.
It was returning to the Ocean Substation equipped with that weaponized laser.
Enemy Forces 4
After Lieutenant Colonel Ramil Scofflaw landed the Harpuiai fighter on the deck, she used the movable ladder to climb down from the fighter.
Warrant Officer Iris Aggravation came out to meet her.
“So we only managed to get this one in the end.”
Originally, they had intended to take all three ships. They had planned to gain control of every single one of the Ocean Substations that doubled as control centers for the power generation satellite. They would then have used the three freely usable weaponized lasers to pull the trigger of war.
“Ocean Substation I was just destroyed by the weaponized laser. We failed to take Ocean Substation III, but the antenna facility used to control the power generation satellite was destroyed and the parabolic antennae used to receive the microwaves were smashed. Only this ship is still functional. We are the only ones that can freely control this massive amount of power. No one can stop us.”
“Couldn’t you have waited to fire on the other ship?”
“Unfortunately, a Capitalist Corporations PMC was waiting for an opportunity to board Ocean Substation I. Its satellite control center was still functioning, so we had to prevent them from taking control.”
Ramil gave a small amount of thought to the soldiers that had still been aboard when the weaponized laser had struck, but she soon changed her train of thought. The plan could continue, so their deaths had built the foundation for their success.
“How is Olympia Dome’s management reacting?”
“We are monitoring their transmissions, but they have not done much of anything. They seem to be focusing less on dealing directly with us and focusing more on regulating information so the spectators do not panic and begin rioting. …They must have a groundless belief that the Objects can settle this if need be.”
And that was perfect for Athletica.
It was like placing a cooked turkey in front of a starving lost child.
“And what are the Objects doing?”
“Their information network is more secure which makes their transmissions harder to intercept. But from what we can tell by observing them from a distance, they are showing no signs of movement. They must be having trouble deciding whether this will end as a small conflict or if it will develop into a full-blown war. Countless international disputes both large and small are constantly occurring here in Olympia Dome after all.”
It would help if they would hurry up and make their move, but there was something Ramil had to check on first.
“How was the output of the weaponized laser?”
“The modifications went as planned. However, the output was weaker than expected. It is right on the line between being a threat to an Object or not.”
“Do you know what the issue is?”
“We worked it out with the data from the previous test firing.” Iris operated the small computer she was carrying. “When transferring power, the laser is set to supply an even and stable power supply. The program detects the powerful laser as an error and attempts to ‘smooth out’ the values. It is a software issue. There is no need to physically modify the equipment.”
“How long will this take to fix?”
“I am working on it as we speak. I should have it done in another hour.”
“Good.” Ramil looked around and spoke to the surviving soldiers. “Olympia Dome cannot use its unmanned weapons. But it is still possible their flesh-and-blood forces and PMCs from other world powers could attempt to interfere. We must stop them at all costs. This one shot is what matters. Whether we can get this shot off or not will greatly alter the history of the world. Do you understand?”
No one raised any objections.
Without rest, they all headed back to their posts.
A maintenance soldier set up an anti-air weapon in place of the defense system that had been destroyed in the attack. An infantryman checked on an autocannon bolted to the deck. The fighter pilots headed for their beloved fighters.
Ramil looked over at her Harpuiai fighter.
She was the Faith Organization’s Rocket Icarus.
Just like Mariydi aka Ice Girl 1, she excelled in the special field of the ace pilot.
She announced, “Let’s finish this.”