HEAVY OBJECT:Volume5 Chapter 5
Mariydi Whitewitch dried her wet hair with a towel.
She was aboard a small motorboat the Capitalist Corporations bodyguard PMC had sent for her.
“So the Ocean Substation was hijacked.”
“Yes, but I wonder why they are waiting to finish this using the weaponized laser,” said her bodyguard.
Mariydi had no definite answer, but she had a guess.
“If that laser blast had the destructive power of an Object’s main cannon, I would not have survived being that nearby. Only blackened ash would remain for you to recover.”
“So its output was too low?”
“I doubt they’ve given up, though. They’ve come this far, so they will work to finish this no matter what it takes. They are probably working to modify the Ocean Substation’s main equipment.”
“That isn’t good. We have no way of knowing how much time we have.”
“I’d say we’re lucky they can’t fire it now.”
The motorboat arrived at Olympia Dome’s shore. There should not have been any work for anyone but the other PMC members working under the bodyguard, but for some reason Alicia and Stacy were waiting there too.
Mariydi stepped out of the motorboat and asked, “What cards do we have left?”
“The Capitalist Corporations Object at sea is requesting an explanation for all this confusion. It seems those at its maintenance base have begun gathering information on their own.”
“Tell them that everyone is done for if it moves.”
“But will the different Objects from the different world powers really be fooled so easily if the Ocean Substation fires that weaponized laser? They have so many sensors and radars equipped.”
“The Objects from the four world powers intentionally create a stalemate situation, but none of them actually want that. The odds are good that at least one of them wants to go on a rampage badly enough to use this as an opportunity. Even if no Object actually does anything initially, as long as there are rumors spreading that one has, the situation could explode. When it comes to the Objects, we need to assume the situation is incredibly delicate. …Dammit. Do we really have no cards left to play?”
If Olympia Dome ended up being drawn into a battle and the thousands of Technopic athletes were killed, people all around the world would explode with anger. An increase in large scale terrorist attacks and rioting would destroy the distinction between safe countries and battlefields. And that could easily destroy the system of monetary circulation that functioned as the gears of a stable society.
Stacy tilted her head to the side like an elementary school student.
“Can’t you just sneak in like before?”
“The difficulty level of getting aboard a completely controlled ship with a renewed defense system is simply too much greater than getting aboard a ship in the middle of a confused firefight. Who knows how many hundreds of soldiers are aboard that ship. Getting aboard would mean every single gun barrel would be pointed at us.”
“Blowing it away from outside would be fastest,” said the bodyguard quickly. “The electric power itself is supplied by the generator satellite via microwaves. If we could only destroy those huge parabolic antennae…”
“You mean fire a cruise missile at them? But they can use that laser weapon at any time even if it is imperfect at the moment. In all likelihood, they would intercept a missile flying in a straight line. The same goes for mortars that fly in a parabola.”
It was possible the laser interception could be overwhelmed with pure numbers, but the bodyguard PMC did not have any cruise missiles to begin with.
They needed some card that could slip past the weaponized laser and fire a large number of shells or missiles.
Without that, they could not stop the Ocean Substation.
If the trigger of a long-drawn out war was pulled with Olympia Dome caught in the middle of those Objects, the thousands of athletes and millions of spectators would be blown away.
Mariydi brought a hand to her chin and thought deeply.
“…Wait, there is something.”
“Where did I see it? There is some card we can use. I know I saw something. But where…?”
As Mariydi muttered those words, she went back through the information in her head, trying to follow that line of thought.
And then her head shot up like it had been struck.
“That’s right. Athletica’s storehouse!! It was filled with weapons that have nothing to do with the Capitalist Corporations!!”
“My unit already secured the place, but I don’t remember hearing that a cruise missile was found there.”
“No,” said Mariydi while thinking over it. “This is a weapon said to have lost its role when Objects made their appearance, but I don’t believe that for a second. No matter how restricted it might seem, the sky is always stretching out in every direction. Even if they are said to be obsolete, they will always be the stage on which the aces dance through the sky.”
The bodyguard looked confused, but Mariydi pointed at her own chest with her thumb.
“I am a pilot first and foremost. What I want is their Harpuiai fighter.”
Mariydi and the others arrived at the storehouse they had previously secured.
Lucas Westernrose of Catwalk TV held his smartphone out towards different parts of the storehouse to record it. The item they were looking for was there.
It was a Faith Organization Harpuiai with the exterior altered to look like a Legitimacy Kingdom S/G-31. It was likely one of the weapons prepared to attack the Ocean Substations.
It was already fueled and armed.
Mariydi used the movable ladder to climb up onto the nose and peered into the cockpit.
“The inside controls are a Faith Organization system.”
“Can you fly it?” asked the bodyguard as he looked up the ladder towards Mariydi.
Mariydi’s small butt made slight restless movements back and forth.
“I flew one around once after stealing it in the Northern European Restricted Zone.”
“…Just what kind of conditions do you normally work in?”
She gave no response to that. For Mariydi Whitewitch, bloody fights to the death were the norm.
Mariydi climbed into the cockpit and turned the key to activate the system. She flicked the switch for each meter in turn and made small adjustments by using her index finger to directly touch the various monitors that came to life.
After checking on the flaps and rudder, she put on the goggles that let her use eye movements as a means of control and attached the equipment that supplied her with oxygen. These did not take the standard form of a helmet and mask. A tube that emitted oxygen into the mouth extended from a headset-like part. She attached a small microphone to her throat and set the values so it would emit oxygen according to the movements of her windpipe.
The helmet and mask was much simpler and more effective.
The reason they avoided it was…
(The situation must be similar in the Faith Organization. Technology is no longer developed specifically for the supposedly useless fighters. It only gets some of the defense budget when it doubles as development for Objects.)
The Elites that piloted Objects did not cover their faces with helmets.
As the representatives of their nations, they would fight with their gallant faces exposed. Cameras in the cockpit would film it, and the scenes considered most useful would be edited together to show to the people on a grand scale. It was a simple example of strategic public relations.
“The main wings and tail check out. I will now test the jet engine and radar.”
“Wait, let us get away first. I’d rather not get roasted as if by a microwave oven.”
The bodyguard frantically gestured to his men to move away.
After making sure they were gone, Mariydi closed the cockpit’s clear canopy and ignited the jet engine. With a tremendous roar, the equipment prepared in the storehouse was blown backwards.
With the canopy closed, she could no longer hear any outside voices.
Mariydi used the radio to speak with the bodyguard.
“The output checks out. The three dimensional paddle for the vector thrust nozzle is working normally. The divergence of the thrust for vertical takeoff checks out. Radar output checks out. I’ll be going now.”
“We’ll be playing the role of control. Let us make a bit of extra money, okay?”
“How? Does Olympia Dome rent out airport control towers and radar equipment?”
“We have a Doppler radar,” said the bodyguard to Mariydi’s surprise. “We bought a truck equipped with a spherical weather Doppler radar a university was using to examine tornados. We can use it as an early warning device. We originally bought it in the case of a cruise missile attack. We would immediately throw you into a bomb-resistant armored vehicle if it picked up on anything.”
“…I don’t recall having a bomb-resistant armored vehicle.”
“We weren’t given permission to use that. As a result, we would have been stuck counting down until impact if a cruise missile had been approaching.”
“Pathetic,” said Mariydi while holding her head in her hands.
While looking up at her from the ground, the bodyguard gave a bitter smile and said, “But it lets us perform the bare minimum of control duty. We can’t do much, but we will do what we can to support you.”
“I’ll be using Capitalist Corporations air force abbreviated signs, is that okay? Just use my standard call sign, Ice Girl 1. I was the leader of the Ice Squadron, so I was Ice Girl 1.”
“Understood. We’ll just go by CT to keep it simple, Ice Girl 1.”
While listening to the bodyguard’s words, Mariydi carefully controlled the jet engine’s thrust. A fighter was not like a car. It could not directly rotate its wheels or stop by applying brakes to those wheels. The only options were to move forward with the jet engine or stop by stopping the jet engine. When a fighter was moved around in an air force base, it would normally be towed by a specialized tractor.
Mariydi moved the fighter out of the storehouse by forcing it forward with thrust from the jet engine. She then diverged the thrust of the jet engine so that it pointed straight down.
The craft shook unsteadily.
No matter how many times she did it, the VTOL was always bad for her heart. Even a slight crosswind could flip the fighter over. Even an experienced ace like Mariydi could not understand what pilots were thinking when they used it to land on aircraft carriers that were rocking in the waves.
After rising about 20 meters, she moved the direction of thrust back to directly behind her. Back in its normal configuration, the Harpuiai tore through the atmosphere at tremendous speed.
Even though the power being sent directly downwards was gone, it felt much more stable like this.
Airplanes truly were only at home when their main wings were slicing through the air.
As she breathed a sigh of relief, a transmission reached Mariydi’s ears.
To her surprise it was not from the bodyguard or Alicia. It was from Lucas Westernrose of Catwalk TV.
“Hello? Yes, yes, CT to Ice Girl 1…that’s right, isn’t it? Yes, yes, my smartphone should be in the cockpit.”
She checked and, sure enough, there it was.
Had he thrown it in while the cockpit canopy was open?
“Yes, yes, the video app should already be active, yes, yes. If you could just point the lens forward and fix it in place, I would be grateful.”
“I have no obligation to do that.”
“Hello? Well, you can throw it away if you like, yes, yes, but I’m sure you know what would happen if you opened the canopy at that speed.”
Mariydi lightly clicked her tongue and carelessly grabbed the smartphone.
But instead of simply following Lucas’s instructions, she touched the small screen with her index finger and called up a music player app.
“Hmm.” She called up a list of songs and spotted the titles of some hard rock songs. “You’re a horrible bastard, but I guess you are a part of the mass media. You do have good taste in music.”
With the video app and music player app both active, Mariydi fixed the smartphone in place using tape. It may sound silly, but that type of item was brought along to perform emergency repairs if a problem with the jacket’s anti-G ability was noticed after takeoff.
But the bodyguard and his men acting as the controllers spoke up once that veritable explosion of noise suddenly began.
“CT to Ice Girl 1! What the hell is that!?”
“Boy Racer’s End Off. It’s a famous song released back when the geniuses of hard rock were still sane. Is it really necessary that I explain this?”
“It’s so loud we can’t hear you!”
“If you have any complaints, take it up with the journalist who gave me the smartphone.”
“Um…Yes, if you have that music playing, yes, yes, it will add an unnecessary expense to broadcasting it, yes…”
“Oh, shut up. This is going to be footage you could never air anyway,” replied Mariydi.
Alicia then cut in, “CT to Ice Girl 1. The Ocean Substation is currently 35 kilometers away at sea and is cruising away from Olympia Dome. That is likely both an attempt to restrict any possible counterattack from us and to move into a better position to fire the first shot on the Object.”
“That’s nowhere to a fighter that can travel at Mach 2.”
“They know that. Two crafts are coming from the north, three from north-northeast, and 3 from northeast. They are probably all Harpuiai!!”
“Roger that! Attack Alpha!! Let the battle begin!!”
Attack Alpha was the code for sending out a targeting signal.
“They’re going for you, too!! Defense Alpha confirmed!! Be careful! You’re going to cross paths in no time at all!!”
Defense Alpha was the code for a targeting signal coming from an enemy.
A few rectangular containers appeared on the goggles that combined the actual scenery with information from the radar. They were still the size of grains of sand when seen with the naked eye, but the electronic eye had already captured the location of the enemy crafts.
The enemy craft directly in front of her was the first to fire an air-to-air missile.
“Defense Charlie!! Cancel it, Ice Girl 1!!”
Defense Charlie was the code for a missile lock and “cancel” simply meant to evade it.
(I didn’t detect the targeting signal for long. It didn’t take time for aiming in Defense Bravo. This is probably a bluff. It doesn’t actually have a lock! When I panic and make a sudden turn, they’ll probably fire their machinegun along my corrected course. Even in the open sky, inertia limits the courses I can take!!)
Mariydi made an immediate decision and continued on forward without evading. The Harpuiai had the ability to supercruise, but she activated the afterburners to bring out the fighter’s maximum speed.
Trailing a narrow line of smoke, the air-to-air missile shot past a few meters from the cockpit.
But it did not detonate.
Mariydi adjusted her grip on the control column and lightly stroked a trigger with the bottom of her index finger.
It was the switch for the machinegun.
“AAM has been cancelled!!” reported the bodyguard.
“I already know that! Attack Gun!!”
It turned out to be the Athletica pilot who panicked because he had expected Mariydi to make a sharp turn. And Mariydi had no obligation to wait for him to recover. She fired machinegun bullets at the fighter at a rate of 4000 per minute.
It only took an instant for them to pass each other.
The two masses of composite materials continued on for a bit before turning around for another pass.
However, one of them was trailing a line of black smoke.
“Attack Delta! Active!!” came the report.
Attack Delta referred to a hit and Active meant the enemy could still fight.
“I guess they’re good enough to last more than one head-on pass.”
“Don’t chase the wounded too much, Ice Girl 1. Another one is coming up from behind. When you head after that juicy target, it will get behind you. It’s a stereotypical skewer!!”
“Then it’s time for a little prank.”
Mariydi flipped one of the many switches with her index finger.
Immediately afterwards, a new ID signal used to distinguish friend from foe was displayed on radar.
It was the exact same signal used by the Athletica fighters surrounding Mariydi.
“We took this fighter from them, remember?” she said. “They can’t tell friend from enemy. A close-quarters dogfight needs a bit of confusion.”
Not only did the Harpuiai approaching her from behind obviously show it was shaken by this, but all 7 fighters pursuing her did. Hers was the same model of fighter and it was emitting the same signal. It was now impossible for them to distinguish between friend and foe. And from the beginning, Mariydi had simply seen every fighter but her own as an enemy. The signals did not matter to her.
Mariydi rotated the craft while heading forward, flying in a coil shape. This was a special maneuver called a barrel roll that was used to both confuse the enemy fighter coming from behind and to rapidly decelerate her own fighter.
And the intentional deceleration caused the fighter behind her to overtake her.
And of course, in a dogfight between fighters, everything depended on who was behind whom.
“Attack Alpha, Attack Bravo, Attack Charlie,” muttered Mariydi as if she was singing a counting song.
While stating the proper attack code-phrases, she fired an air-to-air missile with the thumb on the control column.
After being thrown into confusion by the ID signal and losing sight of its target thanks to the barrel roll, the Athletica Harpuiai was unable to do anything about the attack.
Mariydi then added two new phrases to her song.
“Attack Delta, Strike.”
With an explosive noise, orange flames and fragments of composite materials scattered everywhere. Even a fighter flying at supersonic speeds could hear an explosion occurring in front of it even if it sounded distorted. As soon as Mariydi confirmed the explosion, she used the control column to send her fighter into a wide turn. Even so, she could hear a sound like fingernails clawing at the outside of the fighter.
(Some of the fragments hit.)
“CT to Ice Girl 1!! We can’t tell where you are like this!!”
“You can use the source of the transmissions I send to you! Use your head. Even the other side will come up with the same idea in just a few minutes!! That’s why I need to take out as many of them as I can until then!!”
She had shot down one of the Harpuiai, but it was still 1 against 7.
Since all of the fighters had the exact same ability, it was honestly not a situation she could hope to win in. This went beyond the level of what a pilot’s individual skill could make up for. And Mariydi’s objective was not to ensure air superiority in the area by shooting down all of the enemies.
“At the very least, I need to lessen the barrage enough to force my way through this! Taking out half of them should be enough. If I can fire a few AAMs at the Ocean Substation, we win!!”
“Ice Girl 1, they have your location. The enemy fighters are heading for you from all four directions! Cancel them! Cancel their Defense Alpha, Ice Girl 1!!”
“A total of 7 coming from four directions. That means one direction has only one fighter. I just have to start there.”
Orange lines of machinegun fire erupted from multiple directions at once and Mariydi just barely managed to avoid it. She tilted the control column, made as tight a turn as she could manage, and circled around behind the Harpuiai working on its own.
(And of course, they will have predicted this.)
Mariydi thought while gritting her teeth at the inertial Gs affecting her small body.
(To make up for this weakness, they will try to stick to my tail and skewer me.)
And if she could predict that, she could use it to her advantage.
In other words…
Mariydi suddenly stood her fighter up vertically by 80 degrees.
The massive air resistance this caused made her Harpuiai rapidly decelerate.
This was a special maneuver known as Pugachev’s Cobra. The air resistance caused was vastly greater than a normal air brake, so a fighter on the pilot’s tail would overshoot them. But practically standing the craft up vertically naturally created a balance issue. The fighter itself had to be very stable, the pilot had to be very accurate on the controls, and most importantly, the pilot needed the endurance to not pass out due to the tremendous Gs of the rapid deceleration.
And Mariydi Whitewitch had all those things.
But there was one thing she did not take into account.
She had competed in the shootathlon three days in a row and taken part in or been the target of various attacks in between.
All that left her with great fatigue.
Her vision wavered more than she had expected. She felt as if the stake stabbing into the center of her head to hold her consciousness in place was coming loose. She felt a bizarre floating feeling and it felt like the contents of her stomach had lost their way and were rampaging around within her body.
But she suppressed it all.
She focused on the hard feeling of the control column in her hand and the desire to fight returned all at once.
She once more had control of the fighter.
The five Harpuiai chasing her were all brought before her. Including the one she had been originally chasing, six enemy fighters were now in range for attack.
Mariydi did not hesitate.
In this situation, the machinegun was faster than the air-to-air missiles.
Instead of carefully targeting each individual target, she more or less swept her sights along horizontally, scattering bullets as she went. This was the fate of a different version of herself. As the sight of the black smoke, fragments, and orange flames flew towards her retinas, she could not get rid of that parallel feeling.
“Attack Delta!! Strike, Strike, Strike! …Two Active!! You can keep after them!!” reported the bodyguard.
“Don’t joke. Getting greedy in the skies will only get you killed. The remaining fighters are still trying to get on my tail. I need to deal with my real objective before they get lucky!!”
She had shot down three fighters and two had survived but had black smoke pouring from their main wings and bodies. Those two could no longer function normally.
Only two of Athletica’s fighters could still put up a fight.
To make absolutely sure, she would have liked to damage those two as well, but Ocean Substation’s weaponized laser could be fired at any moment. She had no choice but to make a run at it now even if it was risky.
She was confident she could attack the ship while keeping two enemy fighters off her tail.
That confidence was the most deadly enemy for dogfight veterans, but Mariydi needed to force her thoughts in a positive direction to keep her fingertips from trembling.
This was not a peaceful situation where she could allow fear of death to affect her decisions.
(Well, the ship’s defense system was probably updated by Athletica. I might have tons of anti-air guns and missiles flying my way.)
Ignoring the other Harpuiai flying through the air, Mariydi made a large movement with the control column. She pointed the nose of her fighter toward the Ocean Substation. She used the goggles that read her eye movements to set the program such that the parabolic antennae would be tracked and locked on to via visual recognition.
The most annoying issue with attacking a ship was that the ship was motionless. It may seem that would make it easier to target, but fighters moved so quickly that they would pass by the ship in a blink of an eye. Mariydi was more used to the midair battles with opponents that appeared motionless due to moving at relatively the same speed.
“Attack Charlie!!” she shouted while firing three air-to-air missiles.
She was aiming for the parabolic antennae lined up on the ship’s deck rather than at the ship itself. If she was attacking the ship, the standard method would have been to attack the belly of the ship. However, that was usually done with specialized anti-ship missiles. It was difficult to get air-to-air missiles to skim just above the ocean surface. A poor job at aiming would send them stabbing straight into the water. Also, she had no idea how strong the Ocean Substation’s armor was. The air-to-air missiles were designed to shoot down fighters that could be taken out by even slight damage. She was not confident the air-to-air missiles could blow a hole in the thick belly of the ship. Since she was flying in a complicated trajectory to keep the enemy fighters off her tail, Mariydi could not use the free fall bombs that required a level flight.
(That would be like aiming for a turtle’s shell with a rubber band gun meant to shoot down butterflies. The only logical choice is to shoot out the fluttering wings attached to the turtle’s back.)
She was certain her missiles were enough to destroy those parabolic antennae.
And if she managed to destroy the antennae, the ship could no longer receive the microwaves being sent from the generator satellite.
There was no way the 500-meter-long ship could evade the missiles by frantically turning its helm.
Sudden stroboscopic flashes of light came from the three missiles headed for the large ship.
In the next instant, the air-to-air missiles were blown to smithereens.
“Cancel. Cancel. But what was that!?” came the report from CT.
Without listening to the bodyguard, Mariydi twisted the control column with all her strength.
She understood exactly what it was she had seen, so she hurriedly dropped her fighter down to just above the ocean surface.
(They intercepted the missiles with the laser!? It can’t have been fully weaponized yet, but they must have intentionally lowered the output to fire it in quick succession!!)
Laser light was invisible to the naked eye when viewed from the side. The only reason the high output lasers used on Objects were visible to the naked eye was due to the dust and moisture in the air being roasted.
This laser had not been powerful enough to leave behind such a flashy trail.
But each blast had been enough to shoot down the air-to-air missiles.
Her odds of hitting with non-propelled bombs would be even lower.
And that laser could of course be used to shoot down Mariydi’s Harpuiai fighter as well as any missiles or bombs.
“Can you do anything about that!?” asked the bodyguard.
“If I can’t, I’ll be shot down!!”
Mariydi had lowered her fighter down to just above the ocean surface because the lower altitude had more dust to attenuate and refract the laser. Plus any heat rising from the ground or ocean surface had a chance of creating a mirage. And the odds were not all that low since they were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and just below the equator.
Even so, it was no guarantee that she could avoid the laser.
And one other problem presented itself.
(Shit!! The Ocean Substation’s wall is coming up fast!!)
The giant ship was 30 meters tall and about 20 meters of that was above water. Mariydi would crash into the belly of the ship if she continued flying just above the ocean surface.
Mariydi adjusted her grip on the control column.
(I’d really rather not have to perform these acrobatics!!)
Mariydi turned the fighter vertical as if stakes had been stabbed into the front and back of the craft which were used to rotate it 90 degrees. With the fighter standing on its side like that, she made a tight turn. The edge of the main wing was only about 50 cm from the surface of the water. This was very precise work that you did not want to be experiencing tremendous Gs while performing.
Mariydi completed her turn after approaching within 10 meters of the Ocean Substation.
She also used her index finger to send machinegun fire flying without really aiming.
Following the direction of the turning nose of the fighter, bullets slammed into the Ocean Substation’s belly like perforation.
(No good. And even if I could blow holes into it, no water would get in when it’s above water.)
The autocannons and ship-to-air missiles on deck targeted Mariydi, but the close proximity actually helped her. The defense system missed its target and only created pillars of water in the ocean.
(I’m more worried about when I leave. I’ll be showing them my tail.)
With the turn complete, she leveled out the fighter, raised her altitude a bit, and zigzagged some in an attempt to escape the sights of the autocannons.
They had autocannons, ship-to-air missiles, and a low output anti-air laser to top it all off.
“They certainly have a lot of options.”
“It’s also possible the microwaves can be used to mess with your communications and targeting. This isn’t going to be easy,” said the bodyguard.
But she had to do it.
Mariydi evaded the surviving Harpuiais that were belatedly trying to surround her and began preparations for her next attack.
(That woman on the deck.)
While frowning at the warning buzzer, Mariydi divided her focus by thinking about something else.
(She’s a Faith Organization ace pilot. I’ve seen her picture in their government reports. Is she Ramil Scofflaw aka Rocket Icarus!?)
Ramil Scofflaw gritted her teeth as she watched the enemy Harpuiai temporarily leave the Ocean Substation as she stood on the giant ship’s deck.
It had approached close enough for her to see the figure within the canopy.
“That was Sky Blue PMC air force’s ace pilot, Ice Girl 1! Mariydi Whitewitch is intervening!!”
Ramil was pretty sure that girl had won a medal in the shootathlon. And if that girl who had trained her skills in the Northern European Restricted Zone was behind it, she could understand why the interference had been so skillfully executed.
Ramil turned to the maintenance soldiers who were working on the deck.
“How is the work going!?”
The maintenance soldiers stood at attention, saluted, and replied in turn.
“The movable panels for receiving electricity have been successfully attached to the top of the fighter!!”
“The firing apparatus has been attached to the bottom. The fighter will be good to go as soon as the software has been updated!!”
Ramil approached one of the maintenance soldiers and peered at the small computer he was holding. The work would be done in a few minutes.
“Good. Until the work on the weaponized laser is complete, the microwaves being sent down by the generator satellite are being wasted. Even if we lower the output of the laser to intercept, we cannot block machinegun fire. That Ice Girl 1 is skilled enough to slip in close enough. If that machinegun strike just now had been targeted at the parabolic antennae, we would have been in trouble. The laser alone does not eliminate the threat. In that case, we need another way to use those microwaves.”
“Normally, we would be unable to send commands to the satellite thanks to the microwaves, but if we send commands while it is disturbed by solar winds, we can have it generally follow your fighter, lieutenant colonel. It is set up to receive the microwaves, transform them into electric power, and then emit microwaves of its own using an oscillator. Since the power builds up in the craft, the microwaves will be even more powerful than the ones sent from the satellite.”
“It just has to be enough to bring down a fighter.”
As Ramil grabbed onto the movable ladder, she heard a transmission coming from Iris.
“Lieutenant Colonel, are you really going?”
“We have other pilots. I recommend we hold you in reserve to protect your excellent command abilities.”
“We sent out some of those other pilots and most of them were shot down. I have to go. And,” added Ramil, “There will be no ‘next time’. Everything we have done is concentrated in getting this one shot off now. We must utterly crush these rotten Technopics and bring back the wholesome Olympics. We must bring back that peaceful festival that everyone could grow enthusiastic about but only exists in textbooks and historical archives now. So do not think about some ‘next time’, Warrant Officer. This is not something that will be given to us if we simply open our arms to receive it. This is our only shot at this.”
She did not shout. It was the imposing calmness of her voice that silenced Iris.
Ramil looked up at the modified Harpuiai while still holding onto the movable ladder.
“A microwave armament. …That is what I will use to shoot down that ace.”
“The Ocean Substation must intercept any air-to-air missiles headed its way. First, fire air-to-air missiles at the parabolic antennae. While they are focused on intercepting them, raise your altitude and fire at the laser firing apparatus with your machineguns. That seems the best plan to me,” said the bodyguard.
“It scares me to do that without checking on the limits of its rapid-fire ability, but I suppose that is my only option.”
Mariydi made up her mind while further diminishing the number of enemy fighters that were still trying to attack her even while trailing lines of black smoke.
(The Objects are still showing no sign of taking action. I need to take out Athletica before they do.)
If they took action, they would take control of the battlefield in no time at all. That was just what happened with those giant weapons. Nothing gave Mariydi more relief than the fact that the trigger to that destruction had yet to be pulled.
“The impact of that laser can be a bit deceptive, but we still have the overall upper hand,” said the bodyguard. “We do not need to sink that ship. All that matters is the parabolic antennae and the firing apparatus. We just have to destroy one or the other of those delicate devices located on the deck. We already have a blade pressed against their throat. You just have to pull that blade to the side!”
“They have a blade to my throat too!!” shouted Mariydi as she turned the fighter’s nose back towards the Ocean Substation and raised the output of the jet engine.
Suddenly, a warning buzzer went off in the cockpit. It signified the fighter was being struck by radar waves used for missile targeting.
“Def…ense Alpha. From…southeast. Dist…ance…20…”
Mariydi looked puzzled.
Something was wrong with the transmission. No, it was not just the transmission. She noticed some noise starting to run across the radar and it turned into a green sandstorm in no time at all. Finally, even the warning buzzer blaring inside the cockpit cut out. The rectangular containers displaying the locations of the enemy fighters in her goggles disappeared. Only the digital displays showing speed, altitude, direction, and a few other readings were left.
(What? Is this jamming? No. The radar and communications is one thing, but I’ve never heard of electromagnetic interference that could knock out all of my readings. What is going on!?)
Since she could not use the radar, Mariydi forcibly twisted just her neck around while strapped in so that she could see to the side and back.
And then her expression turned to one of shock.
The surface of the right main wing had begun to glow orange. The thin flap attached to the front was especially bad. The one on the back probably was too. She could not see them with the naked eye, but the glow had her concerned about the state of the air-to-air missiles attached below the main wings.
Mariydi stared blankly at the mysterious phenomenon for a bit, but then…
(Various sudden electromagnetic malfunctions and an unnatural rise in temperature on the right main wing. Don’t tell me…)
“Microwaves…? Ice Girl 1 to CT! I am being hit with microwaves from a horizontal direction!! I want confirmation for my guess. Give me some information! Do you see anything odd on your radar!?”
“Ksshh… Ksshhh… Ksssssshhhhh.”
Mariydi clicked her tongue and moved the control column. She could not guess how powerful the enemy’s weapon was. The paint on the wing or the oil on the flaps could set fire and cause further malfunctions. In the worst case, the materials of the fighter could fuse together. Mariydi guessed the enemy was targeting her from the right, so she made a hard turn in an attempt to escape the enemy’s microwaves.
But it was no use.
No matter how flashily she flew and even if it would have been enough to avoid a standard machinegun or air-to-air missile attack, some part of Mariydi’s Harpuiai continued to glow orange. The spot receiving the attack would change, but she could not evade the attack altogether.
(No, I am evading it. I am!! But the range of the microwaves is greater than I thought. Even if I’m avoiding being shot down by evading a direct hit from the brunt of the attack, the outer edges that spread out like the light of a flashlight are still hitting me!!)
Modern fighters were created to be used against Objects. Whether they could win or not was an entirely different issue.
When the enemy had anti-air lasers, you would be shot down by the first shot once the enemy got a lock.
And so fighters would use various types of jamming to hinder any locks and they would fly at high speed and low altitude so that terrain such as mountains and valleys would reflect the locking radar waves and so that dust and dirt in the air and mirages would keep the laser from hitting.
But there was no way to completely escape the electromagnetic waves themselves.
That was specifically why they used jamming and reflections to make sure they would be safe even when they did.
(If even that first stage of the electromagnetic waves hitting you causes damage, there’s nothing you can do! If I keep fighting under the existing laws of the sky, I will be worn down even without a direct hit!!)
The flaps and other parts that were especially susceptible to the heat would be rendered unusable after a certain point. If that happened, the fighter would no longer respond to the movements of the command column. And if the electromagnetic waves caused an error in the fuse of the air-to-air missiles attached below the main wings, they could detonate at any time.
If the accumulating damage caused her evasive actions to slow, more than just the spread out flashlight-like outer edges would hit. If the main brunt of the attack hit the fighter, it would be shot down.
(But I’ve figured some things out myself.)
Mariydi went over the information in her head while violently moving the command column around.
(Since I’m being hit by the microwaves from so many different directions, it can’t be coming from that slow Ocean Substation. Nor is it coming directly from the generator satellite. One of the fighters had a receiver unit attached!!)
It was not one of the fighters she had already seen.
If they had had this trick up their sleeve, they would have used it from the beginning.
It was coming from a fighter that had arrived on the battlefield later.
It was coming from a modified Harpuiai.
(Rocket Icarus. That ace I saw on the deck has arrived!!)
She must have temporarily escaped the effects of the microwaves because the communications returned.
She heard the bodyguard’s voice.
“You are…unable to…deal with this situation…because…you are…thinking about it…in…technical terms. Do not…think about it…in terms of…micro…waves. Think of…a TV…signal. What situation…affects a…TV signal? If you…use that…you can deal with…these…micro…ksshhh…”
She was unable to stop the gradually accumulating damage, but Mariydi frantically tried to think of a way out of her situation.
When did a TV’s signal go bad?
When were the electromagnetic waves interfered with?
When terrain such as a mountain or valley reflected the signal.
When manmade structures such as buildings or tunnels reflected the signal.
When a more powerful signal interfered with the signal.
When differences in air temperature refracted the signal.
When impurities in the atmosphere from sandstorms and the like reflected the signal.
A list of answers filled Mariydi’s mind, but…
(Where the hell am I supposed to find any of those things in the middle of the ocean!? If only the terrain was more complicated!!)
She was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where nothing existed to get in the way. It was a completely open space. There was no better environment for that microwave armament. There was no worse environment for Mariydi who had to evade it.
“Wait,” muttered Mariydi. “There is something. There is a piece of terrain I can use to avoid those microwaves!!”
As she put her ideas in order, Mariydi came to a quick decision. She made a large movement with the control column and sent her fighter shooting toward her destination.
She was headed for Olympia Dome, that giant manmade island floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
While Ramil Scofflaw pursued Mariydi Whitewitch in her modified Harpuiai, she figured out what the girl was thinking.
(So she’s realized I’m using microwaves and has started to put together a countermeasure.)
The ability to determine what the source of the attack was and the ability to put together an effective means of fighting it were two very different things.
Ramil audibly gulped at how quickly Mariydi was able to begin putting together her next move when faced with the microwave weapon that none of her past experience could help her with.
(Olympia Dome is an artificial island with the shape of a fried egg. Even without entering the dome, she can cause some interference in the electromagnetic waves by flying in between the buildings in the outer sections!)
Mariydi was likely either trying to use the buildings as shields or have them cause diffuse reflection to lower the destructive power of the microwaves. And she would counterattack given the slightest opening. The machineguns and missiles were of course a threat, but when flying amongst buildings at extreme high speed, there was also a very real risk of running into a building.
(Is she insane? Dammit. But I have to do it. I have to eliminate this threat!!)
If she remained above the buildings while pursuing Mariydi, the microwaves would be reflected too much by the buildings to take the girl out. Also, the microwaves from the generator satellite meant Ramil’s radar was almost entirely useless. She could not allow herself to lose sight of her target. While she tried to find her again, the girl could head straight for the Ocean Substation and ruin everything.
She had to bring her down here.
And so she matched Mariydi’s altitude and fired the microwave armament at her while weaving through the buildings.
If Ramil could only hit with the main brunt of the microwaves heading straight out from the nose of her fighter, Mariydi’s fighter would be taken out in just a few seconds.
“Ice Girl 1 to CT! Use the anti-cyclone alarm switch to keep everyone in outer block 3 inside! The wavelength of the microwaves used is likely only a few centimeters. They should be unaffected as long as they stay inside the reinforced concrete buildings of Olympia Dome!!”
Mariydi Whitewitch had no idea if she was getting through, but she shouted into the radio nonetheless.
She had noticed the enemy fighter pursuing her from behind. Her radar was still not functioning, but that meant the enemy fighter using microwaves was approaching.
(The normal laws of the sky won’t work on that modified Harpuiai. I won’t survive if I try to fight using normal methods. I need to abandon all of my preconceptions. I will do whatever it takes to win. I didn’t join that PMC air force to get shot down here!!)
Mariydi immersed herself in thought while she shot through the gaps between buildings, under pedestrian bridges, and right past walls and the ground at high speed.
The digital displays giving her altitude and direction were no longer of any use.
Her life rested in what she could feel in her fingertips.
(The key point of this new battlefield is the introduction of these microwaves as a trump card. This demonic weapon both slowly but surely builds up damage and also interferes with radar and communications as a side effect.)
She already knew where she was headed.
But she had no guarantee she would reach that spot. And she was not guaranteed victory even if she did reach it. As previously stated, the usual laws of the sky she had always relied on did not apply here. So even if she could cleanly lay out all of the conditions, she had none of the experience needed to string together a definite estimation of what would happen.
In other words, this was a gamble.
Even so, the match would never begin unless she laid her chip on the table.
And the chip she was betting was her own life.
(But it isn’t like I have no chance of winning. Just like you have that microwave armament as a trump card, I have a trump card of my own.)
Mariydi manipulated the control column as she shot straight past a traffic light.
(A trump card called a Harpuiai.)
Ramil Scofflaw’s guess was as follows:
Olympia Dome was shaped like a fried egg. Groups of buildings were lined up in the outer section. Therefore, Mariydi would travel along the edge of the central dome to circle around as long as needed within the outer section.
Once she left the buildings, Mariydi would no longer be able to escape the microwaves.
For that reason, she would travel in a circle rather than a straight line in order to never have a finish line.
It was good enough to resolve the immediate threat, but it meant Mariydi had to continue fleeing forever. She had no way to turn her fighter around and counterattack.
(Has she given in to fear and is doing nothing but evading me? …No. This is Ice Girl 1. Is she trying to use some acrobatic flying to get me to crash into one of the buildings?)
But that was not it either.
Mariydi Whitewitch had a set destination.
It was one of the sightseeing spots in the outer portion of Olympia Dome.
A waterway artificially dragged seawater into the giant artificial island. Several bridges spanned the waterway in a row.
Seven steel bridges existed in all.
When lit up, they glowed in seven different colors, forming a rainbow bridge.
She was headed for the Bifröst Arch.
In that instant, Mariydi unhesitatingly flew underneath the arching bridges. Not much space existed between the seawater and the steel constructions. Ramil gritted her teeth and forced down her fear. The Bifröst Arch was made up of seven parallel steel bridges. From a certain perspective, it was a bit like a tunnel.
If she aimed from above, the microwaves would be reflected.
If she was to target Mariydi, she had to go below the bridges as well.
(I see. So you’re trying to trick me here!! If I panic and head above the bridges, my microwaves can’t hit you. And the bridges are over 200 meters long, so you can turn and change direction if you want to!!)
Until then, Mariydi had been in front and Ramil at the back while they continued in the same direction through the narrow gaps between buildings, so only Ramil could attack.
Mariydi planned to change her direction.
It only had to be 90 degrees off from Ramil’s direction. She would change her direction so that Ramil lost sight of her. Then Mariydi would cut through the buildings as a shortcut and find her way onto Ramil’s tail. Then it would be her turn to attack.
“But you underestimated me. If I know what you’re trying to do, you have no chance!! Did you really think the Rocket Icarus would be so easily tricked!?”
As she shouted out to encourage herself, Ramil lowered her already low altitude. She was now flying just above the surface of the water in the waterway jutting into the outer urban area.
She flew below the bridges.
She flew directly below the Bifröst Arch.
She flew into the darkness in her pursuit of Mariydi Whitewitch.
As expected, her enemy was moving slowly.
While beneath the Bifröst Arch, any rise or descent risked hitting the water or the bridges. Since she was planning to turn the fighter on its side and make a wide turn, she had no choice but to slow down first.
And she had no idea this made her fighter even easier to target with the microwave armament.
“It’s over, Ice Girl 1. Your death will help lay the foundation of the Olympics!!”
Just as she was about to fire that finishing shot, Ramil Scofflaw noticed something was off. She quickly realized the feeling came from an optical illusion. Mariydi’s fighter should have been decelerating to prepare for the dangerous turn, but the fighter looked too large even for that. Perspective was used to determine how far away an object looked, so some kind of optical illusion was making the fighter look bigger than it was which in turn made it look closer than it was. For example, when a white box and a black box were placed the same distance way, the white box would look closer. Some similar effect was at work here.
But it was still strange.
Nothing about Mariydi’s Harpuiai should have been causing such an optical illusion. And Ramil had never experienced it before. It was strange for the optical illusion to begin the instant she passed beneath the Bifröst Arch.
Doubt entered Ramil’s mind, but it was too late.
(This isn’t an optical illusion!! It really is getting closer!? Shit…no…shit!! She tricked me!?)
The fighter was stopped in midair.
Since Ramil was moving at faster than the speed of sound, it appeared to be approaching.
When she thought about it, it was simple, but Ramil’s senses were specially attuned to a world where time, distance, and speed were all relative to moving at several hundred km/s or even over 1000 km/s. The possibility had been completely outside of her expectations.
A fighter was a vehicle that had to be constantly moving forward to not crash.
And so her opponent would always be moving at high speed.
Mariydi Whitewitch had turned that basic thought process of fighter pilots on its head.
Or more accurately, her Harpuiai had.
That fighter had VTOL ability.
The direction of the air brake and thrust could be greatly changed. She had taken that thrust meant to allow vertical takeoffs and used to bring into the battlefield the possibility of stopping in midair like a helicopter.
Was a motionless target an easy target?
Was it an easier target than one constantly moving at supersonic speeds?
From the perspective of someone aiming from a stationary position on the ground, it was. However, the same could not be said when you were in a fighter moving at faster than the speed of sound. Due to relative velocity, the target would grow before one’s eyes in an instant. Fighters existed in a world where one could collide with an object 300 meters away after a single second. By the time Ramil realized what was happening, she could no longer keep up with the situation that was changing with dizzying speed.
She activated the microwave armament in desperation, but only the outer edge of the effects hit.
Mariydi’s fighter slightly altered the direction of its vertically-fired thrust to tilt slightly diagonally.
At tremendous speed, Ramil’s fighter shot through the gap this opened.
She overshot her target.
For a fighter that had been targeted from behind, this was an opportunity to turn everything around. Front and back. The instantaneous reversal of that relationship gave the targeted fighter the chance to target its attacker.
Many special maneuvers had been developed for fighters such as Pugachev’s Cobra and the barrel roll. Many of those had been developed specifically to cause such an overshoot.
Mariydi Whitewitch had succeeded.
She had succeeded in her special maneuver of stopping her fighter using the vertical thrust of the VTOL.
If her radar had been usable, Ramil may have been able to tell the proper distances.
But it had been Ramil herself who had brought the microwave armament to the battlefield as her trump card.
It turned out that trump card could be used by more than just Ramil.
And Mariydi Whitewitch did not hesitate to move the index finger of the hand holding the control column.
The modified Harpuiai that had just overshot in front of her was torn apart starting with the back output of the jet engine. The damage quickly spread to the main wings and body. The fighter shook as if it was trying to escape for an instant, but the steel bridges were above and the ocean water was below. There was no room for any flashy special maneuvers.
The modified Harpuiai was unable to escape the stream of machinegun bullets and the destruction continued.
Once it reached a certain point, the fighter exploded.
Ramil’s ejection parachute did not activate even at the very end.
She may have avoided using it for fear of hitting the steel bridges above. Or perhaps not ejecting was a means of displaying her conviction. Mariydi had no way of knowing.
“Attack Delta. Strike,” said Mariydi as if carving the woman’s name into a gravestone.
She then felt something welling up within her.
Mariydi brought a hand to her mouth like a trainee that had lost to the Gs, but what she coughed up onto her thighs was a dark-red mass of blood.
The maneuver she had pulled had put that much of a burden onto her young body.
Merely using the VTOL ability for its intended purpose wore away at her nerves, so suddenly changing the direction of thrust while moving at high speed in the narrow space under a bridge was quite a stunt indeed. To be honest, she would not have been surprised had the fighter lost its balance and crashed. She may have looked completely stationary from Ramil’s perspective, but she had really only slid forward while rapidly decelerating. (And at several hundreds of km/s at that.) The rapid deceleration had enveloped her ribs in massive inertial forces and the cockpit itself had seemed to tremble. As a pilot, it was something she never wanted to experience again.
But she had won.
With that fact in mind, Mariydi set the thrust of the jet engine behind her once more.
She moved forward.
The danger to Olympia Dome was not over yet. The Ocean Substation’s weaponized laser still remained.
Iris Aggravation and the others inside the Ocean Substation noticed the change.
One of the maintenance soldiers let out a shrill voice.
“A-according to the data from the microwave generation satellite…the reflection and absorption ratio data for the microwaves has disappeared! The lieutenant colonel’s fighter has…has…!!”
“A Harpuiai is rapidly approaching! It is most likely the enemy! W-we can’t stop it!! The defense system and the other fighters cannot keep up with it!!”
Iris rapidly typed on her keyboard to eliminate the issue with the laser facility’s software while listening to the subordinates speak.
“We need to use the laser. If that Harpuiai gets close enough to destroy the parabolic antennae or the laser firing apparatus, this will all have been a waste!!”
But the more they used the laser while she tried to fix the software, the longer it would take her. She could still do it, but it would definitely slow her down. It was the same reason one did not activate applications while defragmenting a hard drive.
The primary reason Ramil Scofflaw had gone out in that fighter equipped with the microwave armament had been to give the laser a rest.
Iris had managed to get her work just one step away from completion using the time her commander had bought them.
What should she do now?
Should she use the low power laser to intercept the Harpuiai despite the delay it would cause?
Or should she accept the risk and focus on finishing her work as quickly as possible so they could use the high power laser on an Object and pull the trigger of war?
Iris thought for a second and came to a decision.
“There will be no ‘next time’ for us. This is not something that will be given to us if we simply open our arms to receive it.”
Those were the words of her lost commander.
Iris Aggravation poured her own will on top of that and began rebuking in a loud voice.
“We only have now. Now!! Everything rests on whether we can fire this weaponized laser or not. It is completely preposterous to allow some other petty issue get in the way of our schedule. We will fully weaponize this laser as quickly as possible and use it to bring an end to Olympia Dome and the Technopics!!”
Her powerful words brought order back to the chain of command that had begun to fall apart.
Their movements once more held purpose behind them.
To finish it off, Iris announced, “Our target is the Faith Organization Object Ratri!! We will confuse the pilot Elite of that Second Generation Object and her failure will lead to a melee between the four Objects protecting Olympia Dome!!”
Since Mariydi had shot down Ramil Scofflaw, the communications and radar were functioning once more. Mariydi headed for the Ocean Substation at full speed, but she heard the bitter voice of the bodyguard who was gathering information from a broader area.
“CT to Ice Girl 1. This isn’t good. We just saw the barrel of the laser firing apparatus start to turn. And it doesn’t seem to be moving in your direction. The adjustments to the weaponized laser must be complete. They’re about to begin the next step of their plan!!”
“If I attack now, will I make it in time!?”
“I don’t know!! But the crew seems to be moving off of the deck. That’s probably to avoid getting roasted by the radiant heat. They’re going to fire it soon!!”
“Which Object is being targeted!?”
“Most likely the Faith Organization’s Adisshmi. I think their official codename for it is Ratri. It comes from the name of a goddess of the night. It’s the Object from their side, but it is not their ally. This might be an outlet for their frustration at having to go through such a complicated plan.”
Mariydi called the data from the Doppler radar on the ground to a small monitor and checked the line between the Ocean Substation and Adisshmi.
The high power laser would be fired along that line.
“I have no idea if a single attack on the Ocean Substation would be enough to keep it from firing.”
“CT to Ice Girl 1. What are you going to do!?”
“I can’t stop the laser from firing. But if it hits the Object, a battle between the Objects will break out with Olympia Dome in the middle,” said Mariydi as she felt sweat on the palm holding the control column. “But if I can find a way to refract the laser, it won’t hit the Object! If the crew evacuated the deck, firing the weaponized laser at full power will likely produce enough radiant heat to do serious damage to the deck. And that will be enough to damage the parabolic antennae too!!”
“Wait, Ice Girl 1. What are you planning to do!?”
“They can only use their weaponized laser at full power once. If that one shot doesn’t work, their plan fails!! And I know the line the laser will travel along! If I interpose an ‘impurity’ along that line, I may not be able to deflect the laser, but I should be able to at least alter its trajectory a bit!!”
“Wait!! My job is to ensure your safety!!”
Mariydi switched off the noisy radio and used the afterburners to slice through the sky at full speed.
She was not headed for the Ocean Substation.
She was headed for the line between the giant ship and Adisshmi.
(Destroy the rotten Technopics and bring back the original wholesome Olympics, hm?)
Mariydi gave a small smile while holding the control column.
(That is a much more productive goal than mine. I simply cast aside my gold medal. But I won’t let it happen. No matter how wholesome the goal may be, that goal will be dyed in red if blood must be spilled in the process. Even if your plan succeeded, all you would have is an Olympics that is filled with death.)
In the end, she found only killing no matter where she went.
She had thought she could do something productive for once by participating in the Technopics, but she had ended up doing almost the exact same thing she had done in the Northern European Restricted Zone.
But that was fine.
Mariydi Whitewitch would simply do her duty.
Acting based on feelings other than logic had created her connections with the people she had met at Olympia Dome.
(So we need to choose. And if both choices will leave us with nothing but a dark competition, I’ll choose the one that involves fewer deaths.)
And Mariydi arrived at her destination.
In the next moment, the true weaponized laser was fired from the Ocean Substation.
The brilliant white beam of light that ripped through the dim twilight just before sunset was visible from the shore of Olympia Dome. The bodyguard held an arm in front of his face to shield his eyes from the bright light, but it was still enough to penetrate straight through his eyelids.
He looked around with the afterimage still burned into his eyes and blinked several times. He finally spoke to one of his men who stood nearby.
“Th-the weaponized laser was fired. But Adisshmi is unharmed. It was not hit.” The man blankly replied to his commander’s question. “We are monitoring transmissions from the different world powers. There seems to be some tension between the Objects, but it is unlikely to develop any further since no damage was done. The war the Faith Organization group was planning is unlikely to occur.”
“I doubt this is just a case of them aiming poorly.”
“The weaponized laser seems to have fallen into the ocean water before it reached Adisshmi. An area of water is boiling as we speak. The steam is visible with the naked eye. It was most likely refracted midway.”
If the laser had been refracted, something had to have caused it.
The bodyguard doubted some convenient mirage had occurred.
It had to have been something artificial.
For example, if there had been a large explosion or a large mass of metal along the path of the laser.
“What about Mariydi Whitewitch?”
“We cannot contact her.”
“What happened to the Harpuiai she was flying!?”