HEAVY OBJECT:Volume7 Chapter 1
Chapter 1: A Deadly Firefight between Two Idiots >> Mock Battle in Oceania
“Here we are again, Oceania-side soldiers. How many times is this again?”
Private Heivia Winchell muttered those words while smearing black and sand colors on his cheeks. Needless to say, this was a type of desert camouflage.
“It sure doesn’t feel like February. In a certain island nation, they give the sexy guys chocolate on Valentine’s, right!? That kind of lovely event would’ve been perfect for me! What happened!? Then again, getting a ton of chocolate in this horrid heat might qualify as harassment.”
In an age of sensors and other electronics on even the smallest guns, types of camouflage had been developed specifically for that age. What Heivia was smearing on his face had chemical compounds that prevented sensors from detecting his exposed skin.
He leaned up against the fence surrounding the maintenance base zone and continued applying his “makeup”. Ten or so soldiers were gathered around him and also preparing.
A short female soldier named Myonri held her face paint case in both hands and hesitantly spoke up.
“U-um, what am I supposed to do with this again?”
“You’re doing it all wrong, virgin girl. You can’t make the color so dark around your eyes! The whites of your eyes show up the most, so you have to leave the color light around them to blend them in. You gradually grow darker as you move out. You can’t have any sudden changes in color.”
“If we put camouflage on here, won’t we trap the sand in with it?”
“We’re about to start a battle, so I’d be more worried about being covered in mud and bloody vomit,” said Heivia in annoyance.
Meanwhile, he grabbed a bandanna with a large crescent moon pattern.
As each of them finished applying their “makeup”, they tied on the bandannas so it covered the lower half of their face like bank robbers in a Western. The crescent moon was positioned just right to look like a large slit of a mouth.
“That’s in terrible taste.”
“What matters is that it shows up well.”
As he listened to Myonri, Heivia grabbed his assault rifle and pulled out the magazine. He looked down at the rifle bullets held in place with a clasp.
While feeling annoyance at his one friend’s hesitation, Heivia stuck the magazine back in the rifle and pulled back the cocking lever to load the first bullet. He then brought his radio to his mouth.
“Team A is ready. What about the others?”
“You’re the last ones, slowpokes. Teams B-D are all ready. We can begin on your signal.”
Heivia glanced over at Myonri.
Instead of a heavy weapon like a light machinegun or assault rifle, she held a small and lightweight PDW like a pilot would carry in case of an emergency landing. It was commonly known as a “full auto in a business bag”.
But she was not carrying the lightweight weapon because she was a girl.
It was because her other equipment was quite heavy.
“How’s the scissor opener?”
“I tested it three times. It really scares me to carry it around.”
“Not being slowed down by a door can make all the difference. You’re our lifeline, so bear with it.”
“This tool stabs a giant pair of scissors into the gap of the door using explosives and then uses a motor to forcibly crush the lock. Did you ever think about what happens if it goes off by accident while I’m carrying it on my back?”
“It’d be your own damn fault. If you weren’t earning all those weird qualifications, you wouldn’t be stuck with all the odd equipment.”
As he spoke, Heivia turned toward the direction of their objective.
He was not looking outside the maintenance base zone.
He was looking in.
He pointed his assault rifle toward the people who he would normally have called his allies.
In the end, humans had a way of searching for enemies within if there were no enemies outside.
“Okay, let’s make this flashy. Our objective is the princess. Let’s kill her before she can get aboard the Object!!”
“Good, good. Everything’s going as planned. We can hear everything they’re saying.”
Inside the maintenance base zone, a base made up of over one hundred large vehicles, Battlefield Student Quenser Barbotage grinned. He held a military radio over which he could hear the “enemy” clear as day.
“You damn traitors. We’ll kill every single one of you.”
“Hey, can you really do that?”
A woman next to him let out an exasperated sigh. She specialized in barrier duty which meant she was one of the Black Uniforms who dealt with criminals within the military. She had introduced herself, but he had forgotten what her name was.
He lightly shook the military radio.
“It’s their fault for forgetting they’re traitors and therefore are using the same equipment. Even if the fools changed the encryption, it’s still the same format, so there’s still a risk of us intercepting it.”
They were near the center of the maintenance base zone made up of a large convoy. Quenser was hiding behind and leaning up against a wheel larger than the door to a bank vault. He was using a black military knife to draw a simple map in the sand.
“Heivia and his group are near the southern gate. They’ve already snuck into the base’s grounds while pretending to be innocent. Meanwhile, the princess is a bit south of the center. She’s receiving body maintenance in the special lodgings for the pilot Elite. They’re definitely going to attack there.”
“Once Miss Milinda Brantini enters the Baby Magnum she is almost invincible. After all, that Object is made to withstand a direct nuclear strike. So…”
“They’ll bock the path from the special lodgings to the Object hangar.”
Quenser scraped X-marks into the sand along a few routes.
The blonde-haired, large-breasted Black Uniform frowned.
“But the traitors can’t just move about as they please. The watchtowers will spot them outside. If they simply pursue the Elite, they will be shot down by light machineguns.”
“Then they’ll take out the watchtowers!”
Sounds resembling champagne corks being removed rang out across the Oceanian wasteland. Quenser looked up and saw a few thirty centimeter parachutes opening in the sky. They looked like children’s fireworks, but they were not. Instead of a weight, they had a small camera attached.
“Here they come!!” shouted the Black Uniform woman.
“Ah, damn! Shoot them down before they designate the coordinates!!”
Just as Quenser tried to shout into his military radio, the Black Uniform grabbed him by the back of the neck and dove down to the sandy ground. The beautiful woman was lying on top of him, so two soft objects were pressed against his back. Nothing could have made him happier.
But such ephemeral joys had a way of being quickly destroyed.
Quenser heard a roar and saw the real attack hit the top of a nearby watchtower. The midair cameras had specified the coordinates and then the shells had been fired. It was a stereotypical and by-the-book use of mortars.
However, what happened next was not in the textbook.
For some reason, the top of the watchtower was covered in a sticky, white liquid.
Quenser and the Black Uniform woman began to tremble.
They finally realized what the rebels had done.
“Th-that bastard!! Did he take the red paint out of the paint rounds and replaced it with white!? And he turned it into a disturbingly sticky liquid!”
“Eee!! It smells funny and won’t come out of my hair!”
Quenser did not even need the radio to hear the screams of the female soldier with guard duty who had held a light machinegun in the watchtower.
The rebels seemed to be following the standard theory of making the most of the initial confusion of the attack. The sounds of assault rifle gunfire could be heard from multiple directions.
“M-my guess is all of their paint rounds will be like that, but what do you think?”
“I agree 100%,” said Quenser.
“In that case, I think you should clear an escape path to protect my dignity as a woman!! The battlefield cameramen of this peaceful world are aiming bazooka-like cameras our way, remember? I don’t want to be on the cover of a newsletter with my face covered in that sticky stuff!!”
“Guys don’t want to be splattered with sticky, white stuff either! In a way, it’s even worse for us than for the girls!!”
But shouting at each other was not going to bring an end to the battle.
Quenser sheathed his fake military knife that had a black, rubber blade and began to move with the Black Uniform woman.
Froleytia Capistrano was a silver-haired, giant-breasted, and highly-ranked soldier. As she smoked her kiseru in the operation control room, she responded to a question from one of her subordinates.
“Well, if you didn’t seriously want to avoid being hit, no one would fight seriously.”
Simulation Number 101 (b).
Eliminate the rebels from within the unit ASAP while guiding and protecting the pilot Elite.
“Hee hee hee hee hee! If we take out the princess, we’re freed from those tasteless rations for a week! We can eat as much roast beef and garlic shrimp as we want!!”
Heivia and the others were traveling beneath the vehicles. That was an alternate way through the maintenance base zone which was made up of over one hundred vehicles. The vehicles left a space of over two meters above the ground, so they could remain standing as they ran and they could hide behind the giant wheels.
Myonri pointed her PDW here and there while moving cautiously and occasionally coughing.
“Ugh. Cough! This exhaust is terrible. We aren’t going to get carbon monoxide poisoning, are we? I don’t want to die on a training mission!”
“The human body is plenty sturdy! Don’t worry!” barked back Heivia.
He then sent a sign to the other two soldiers with them: a short girl with freckles and a muscular man.
“Girly, Basic! Drive them out from the left. Once they come out from the behind the wheel, I’ll shoot them!!”
As per Heivia’s instruction, a grenade was thrown behind the wheel.
Once a high school-aged girl frantically ran to escape the (white and sticky) explosion, he mercilessly fired a paint round.
“Stop! Not the face!!”
“Fwa ha ha ha ha! Then should I fire between those huge tits of yours!?”
Travelling beneath the giant vehicles allowed them to almost entirely ignore any bombardments that would fly in a parabola arc and fall from the sky.
But there was an even bigger reason they had chosen that route.
“Myonri! Get out that tool on your back!!”
He pointed straight up.
“We’re directly below the special Elite lodgings. Let’s cut in from below as planned!!”
“Oof… Those lodgings are made by connecting a few different vehicles, right?”
“And if we stick the door-busting tool into the joint between vehicles and force it open, we can crawl in. If they’re still keeping her in here as part of Phase 1, this’ll be checkmate!!”
Heivia lifted Myonri up on his shoulders and she pressed the special tool against the vehicle bottom that looked like a thick metal ceiling. Like a pile bunker, the “beak” portion used explosives to stab in and then a motor spread the “beak” and forced open the thick metal panels that had been perfectly aligned.
“Ahh, ahh. This is ripping the metal apart! Should we really be doing this for a mock battle!?”
“I don’t remember being told not to destroy the equipment. In fact, it was that huge-breasted commander that told us to make this as realistic as possible.”
They opened a gap just barely large enough for one person to squeeze through. Myonri’s short form was pushed up first and then she reached down and helped Heivia in.
Girly had Basic lift her up, but Basic was too large to fit in the gap.
After sending Basic off to meet up with another team, Heivia and the two girls began searching the Elite lodgings.
“This is a brilliant method. …Although it would be a one-way ticket for anyone trying to pull it off for real.”
The inside was filled with high-class furnishings that looked out of place in a military facility.
The design resembled a villa made entirely of classical mahogany. When Heivia had visited with Quenser two weeks prior, it had been a sterile place filled with white and the layout had even been completely different. It may have been to match the princess’s mental condition or to prevent an attack, but it was made to be completely rearranged in an extremely short period of time.
“If it can be rearranged, does that mean we can pry it apart with the door-busting tool?”
“This isn’t going to make proper training. Paint rounds can’t pierce walls.”
Heivia and the others swiftly finished their search of the first floor.
They counted the number of exits, set up quick traps at each one, and headed for the stairs. Before charging in, Heivia grabbed a stuffed animal and tossed it forward. As expected, this produced several gunshots.
Still hiding behind cover, he fired several short bursts toward the stairs.
“Myonri! Throw a grenade on my signal!!”
Heivia stopped firing to avoid friendly fire, Myonri leaned out in his place, and she tossed a grenade toward the upper floor.
A moist explosion and a few screams soon followed.
As Girly stared up the stairs, Heivia and Myonri frantically pulled her forward.
A short burst of gunfire came from the top of the stairs.
“Don’t let your guard down until you’re sure they’re dead, you idiot!!”
“Did you have to call me an idiot twice!?”
“It’s important!! And if you were a guy, I wouldn’t have saved you, so you should thank me! Idiot, idiot!!”
“If you say it that much, you just sound like a tsundere!!”
“Say that again and I’ll fire a paint round into your back!!” shouted Heivia as he pointed upwards. “Myonri, use that tool on the roof.”
“Eh? But there’s no seam there, so I can’t pry it apart.”
“The people up above don’t know that. You scare them and I’ll finish them off while they’re preparing to run!”
Myonri did as she was told and forcefully stabbed the “beak” into the ceiling.
A dull sound rang out and the bodyguard soldiers started to move to a safer location, but Heivia accurately took them out from the bottom of the stairs.
“Clear, clear! Let’s move on.”
“Why on earth are you a radar analyst? Wouldn’t you be more at home in a VIP assassination squad?”
“Can you sit around all day in an air-conditioned room in a squad like that? If not, I’ll pass.”
They climbed the stairs and found around three bodyguard soldiers covered in sticky white paint. They held up their hands with disappointed looks.
“Where is she, dammit? The princess has to be hiding around here somewhere. Find her!!”
The mission was about protecting the Elite, but it was unclear if she would be carrying a gun or not. There was a real possibility of being shot from a closet or refrigerator.
After coming so far, it would be a shame to lose the bonus for shooting her, so Heivia and the others carefully checked each room.
“Clear over here, too. Shit! Why is everywhere clear!? Where is the princess hiding!?”
After unintentionally ensuring their safety, Heivia began looking around and shouting angrily.
And then he felt a slight draft.
He turned toward the source and found an open refrigerator door. He finally shoved the entire thing to the side.
The mahogany inner wall had been torn open.
To reduce weight, the outer wall was covered in a thick blade-resistant sheet, but it could still be torn with the proper tools. A vertical tear had created a hole large enough for a human to escape through.
(As soon as the firefight began below the vehicles, they had already realized the risk of us breaking in. Dammit!)
He brought his hand to the 150 cm vertical slit and brushed it aside. Struggles were beginning along the routes leading from the Elite lodgings to the Object hanger. While both sides fired on each other, Heivia saw a short girl wearing a special suit and a boy tugging on her hand while running along the sand.
“Quenser!! I knew it had to be you!!” he shouted.
The boy’s only response was to look over his shoulder and raise his middle finger.
Heivia frantically moved back inside and dove to the floor. Now that the special lodgings were no longer needed, tanks began firing on the second floor with what felt like enough force to destroy the building.
Before the attack even began, Quenser’s group had snuck to the special lodgings, met up with the princess, and helped her escape. But now that they were hiding behind a tank, they had little confidence in their ability to win a normal firefight.
“Why are you even here, Quenser?”
“Ha ha ha. That question hurts, princess. If you weren’t a girl, I’d shove you out to the traitors.”
The one doing all the work was the Black Uniform woman who was travelling with the boy. As one of those who claimed to purge the military of criminals, she was used to firefights between humans even in an age where Object battles symbolized war.
That woman was currently looking toward the Elite lodgings in annoyance.
The rectangular building sat atop several large vehicles and its top half was covered in a poisonous red. It looked a bit like a horrible cranberry tart.
“Tanks in a mock battle? Couldn’t that have killed them?”
“The paint rounds can’t pierce walls, so it doesn’t count. If you assume they’re dead, it’ll come back to bite you later.”
Once mock battles began creating unique rules, there was a danger of losing any experience usable in a real battle. But at the same time, some differences were unavoidable if one was not going to train with a real battle.
“Two hundred meters to the hangar.”
“Once we get in there, I just have to board the Baby Magnum. I can use the sensors to slaughter them all.”
The Black Uniform smiled bitterly at that dangerous statement and asked a question.
“Now, how will the enemy handle this?”
“They’ll have set up a wire along a route the princess has to pass through. That could be the entrances to the hangar or the Object’s hatch.”
This mock battle was based on the possibility of traitors within the military. The bandannas around their mouths were to make them easy to distinguish, but the maintenance soldiers were kept in a gray area. It was possible an enemy could approach while pretending to be an ally.
“I will not fall for such a simple trap.”
“Research shows the people who think that are the easiest to catch in a trap.”
“Mh. Quenser, do you think I am clumsy?”
“Sorry, but I’ve never seen you act particularly sharply! I can think of a few times when you almost killed me with the Baby Magnum. That time in Gibraltar for instance!!”
“Quit complaining, Quenser.”
“Why do you think I’m complaining? It’s because our lives are on the line!!!!!”
“Calm down,” cut in the Black Uniform. “Let’s get back to the issue at hand. The wire traps are passive. We might hit them and we might not. I doubt the enemy will rely on them alone.”
“The traps are meant to slow us down. While we spend time deactivating them, they’ll attack from a distance with snipers or something.”
“I’ll find the traps and deactivate them. You gather what people you can and be on the lookout.”
During a mock battle that uses paint rounds, even a tank could not pierce a thick blade-resistant sheet.
But the close-range blast had still left Myonri dizzy. While writhing in pain due a sharp earache, Heivia turned toward Girly. She seemed conscious, but she had completely lost her nerve. She had fallen to the floor and was waving her hands around with tears in her eyes. Her expression made it clear taking a single step would make her wet herself. It resembled the shock of receiving the full effects of a stun grenade.
Heivia took a few seconds to recover and then walked down the stairs of the Elite lodgings and exited on the first floor. There he found an enemy soldier, took them out with a handgun paint round, and then lay down behind cover.
His assault rifle had excellent rapid-fire and piercing ability, but it could perform accurate mid-range sniping with full use of its sensors.
(As long as I have line-of-sight, I can hit. And I have a direct line on the Object hangar from here!)
He licked his lips as he peered into the scope lens that was more of a small monitor with several types of information displayed.
He was targeting the main entrance to the hangar where a trap had been set up.
The trap prevented anyone from running through and he would shoot anyone who stopped for even an instant.
“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! I don’t like splattering guys with this stuff, but I won’t be satisfied until I get back at you!!”
While paint rounds were being used, a hit anywhere on the body counted as a kill, so he could not target the leg and then target any enemy soldiers who came to help.
He could not use any tricks. He could only target them directly.
He lay on the ground and waited.
His index finger stroked the surface of the trigger as he tried to alleviate his tension even slightly.
(What’s going on? Don’t tell me they chickened out.)
He waited a few minutes, but nothing happened.
When assassinating a VIP, it was not unusual to wait for an entire day or two, but this was a frenzied battle. If he did not remain on the move while keeping a general idea where the target was located, enemy soldiers could sneak up behind him.
(They won’t be taking this slow by staying put until they eliminate all the enemy snipers. After all, the princess would be exposed the entire time. What is that guy thinking?)
And then he froze up.
Something unpleasant had entered the scope.
The giant mass of steel was known as an MBT or a main battle tank. Even the name was outdated and rarely seen on the modern battlefield.
“What the hell!? Did he throw the princess in there to protect her from snipers!?”
If the tank climbed the diagonal slope and charged through the gate, the snipers and traps would be meaningless. The anti-personnel traps would be crushed and the princess would be safely carried to the Object hangar.
Heivia tossed aside his assault rifle and grabbed the shoulder-fired missile launcher on his back.
Whether it was a tank or an attack helicopter, he could neutralize them with a direct hit from a shoulder-fired missile (loaded with paint). Those were the rules for this mock battle. One could complain it made no sense as the same weapon could not even pierce the thin walls of a building, but armored weapons would become invincible if some compromise was not made.
At any rate…
(Damn him. I don’t like having only one shot at this.)
Given their size, he could not carry around multiple missiles.
It was essentially a single-use weapon.
“But that bonus is mine if I make this one shot! And this makes my target way bigger, so it isn’t all bad!!”
He placed the launcher on his shoulder and peered into the sight on the side.
Both infrared and ultraviolet were used to lock onto the MBT heading for the hangar.
Immediately afterwards, the tank’s turret began to turn.
It stopped in exactly the right spot to stare at Heivia.
(They weren’t trying to get the princess through! The tank was a bluff used to locate everyone targeting the hangar door from afar!! Dammit. Did it detect the infrared signal I used for the lock!?)
He frantically jumped down from the large vehicle supporting the special Elite lodgings and tried to hide behind one of the giant wheels.
But he was too slow.
A beautiful Black Uniform woman popped up from a hatch on the top of the turret and fired her anti-personnel heavy machinegun.
Heivia had been close enough for mid-range sniping, so they could target him in the same way.
And the enemy’s weapon had three times the range of his assault rifle. Being hit by that thing from close range could have resulted in a “training accident”.
“Bhah!? Cough cough!! Fuck that hurts! Are you trying to make me hate tanks!?”
Froleytia let out a sweet-smelling breath mixed with smoke.
The giant monitor in the operation control room displayed a detailed map of the maintenance base zone and the locations of both sides.
After seeing that the pilot Elite princess had entered Baby Magnum’s cockpit, she clapped her hands together lightly.
“That settles it! As per our crisis management manual, the Elite was safely brought to the Object where she can settle the rest. That ends the mock battle!!”
That was the special privilege of a first generation Object.
Unlike second generation Objects which were designed solely for Object vs. Object battles, the Baby Magnum was equipped with anti-fighter weapons, anti-tank weapons, and enough anti-personnel weapons and sensors to exterminate anyone. If one ignored the damage it would cause to the maintenance base zone, the enemy soldiers would be blown to pieces instantly no matter where they hid.
In other words, the battle was essentially over as soon as the princess boarded the Baby Magnum.
(But no one gets the all-you-can-eat prize yet again. It’s what I expected, but it’s still boring.)
As Froleytia thought, a female operator gave a hesitant report.
“U-um, major. You have a call.”
“Hm? Then hurry up and-…”
“No, um. It is a direct call to your cell phone. I thought it might be private. U-um, but I still have to pass it through my switchboard!!”
Froleytia waved a hand to give permission.
While serving in the military, there was no avoiding having her communications monitored. She could only think positively and view it as proving to a third party that she was not doing anything suspicious.
(No one with any sense would call my private number now, so maybe it has to do with my family.)
With that depressing thought, she reached for the cell phone in her uniform pocket.
She did not need to give a sign like in an old police drama. She simply pressed the call button and answered.
It was a male voice.
And oddly enough, he seemed to be using a voice changer.
“We have your daughter,” was the very first thing he(?) said.
An unpleasant silence fell over the dim operation control room.
But it was not complete silence. Whispered voices could be heard here and there.
“Eh? Major Capistrano has-… Eh!?”
“She has a kid!? It can’t be! It just can’t be!”
“But she is 18… It’s a bit early, but it’s possible, right?”
Froleytia remained silent for a moment.
She was trembling a bit.
As the man(?) told her not to call the police, how much the ransom was, and how to deliver it, she slowly spoke as if crushing the words in her mouth.
“I am a virgin.”
“Eh!? Major Capistrano is-…!?”
“It can’t be! It just can’t be!?”
“But she is 18… It’s possible, right?”
The intensity of the whispered voices grew threefold. This time, female voices were mixed in accusing the guys of being disgusting.
Finally, the man(?) on the phone seemed to catch on.
“Huh? A virgin, but…huh? W-wait a minute! Don’t you have a nine-year-old daughter? Or…but…you can’t mean…!!”
“You. Have. The. Wrong. Number. You idiot!! You have guts making a threatening phone call on a military line. Don’t you know that the Legitimacy Kingdom accepts any fight someone picks with it!?”
“Ah wah wah wah wah wah!!” cried the voice frantically.
With a click, the line went dead.
The operator turned her seat toward Froleytia with a hand to one side of her headset.
“U-um, I traced his location. …What should we do?”
The duty of Froleytia and the other Legitimacy Kingdom troops stationed in Oceania was to prevent any other countries from invading the country during this chaotic time after it lost its military.
In other words, it was not their job to deal with criminals and terrorists. This was not a war, so it was a job for the local police. If the military acted here, they could be accused of intervention.
“During this unstable period, I hear there are a lot of delinquent police officers who are paid off by the growing criminal organizations. A kidnapping for ransom is likely an organized crime, so they likely have pawns hidden within the police. In other words, the local police will be of no use.”
“Is this really okay?”
“The threat was sent to our military, not Oceania. If they pick a fight with us, it doesn’t count as intervention.” Froleytia adjusted the kiseru in her mouth and shrugged. “Our new mission begins now! Gather the necessary personnel and equipment and form a rescue team!! I authorize the use of weaponry suitable for attacking a concentration camp!!”
Despite her orders, the whispering seemed to never end.
“She’s a virgin.”
“Major Capistrano is a virgin!”
“She’s a noble’s daughter and a military officer. That’s one hell of a target!”
“You guys are disgusting!!”
Froleytia puffed smoke from her mouth like a demon king.
That trembling Legitimacy Kingdom officer hated damage to her pride more than anything else.
“I’ll show you just who you picked a fight with, you thieves.”
And so Quenser, Heivia, and the other soldiers exhausted from the mock battle were loaded into the back of military trucks and carried over cracked asphalt. Each and every vibration of the trucks made them feel like they had been cursed by god.
“This isn’t funny… This isn’t goddamn funny!! I lose the all-you-can-eat kill bonus and now our commander is sending us off to rescue some kid for nothing but righteous indignation!? There’s not a single good thing about this. Please tell me a girl in a micro bikini is gonna show up soon!!”
“I hear the girl who was kidnapped is nine. We need to put the work in now to enjoy a lovely micro bikini ten years from now.”
Feeling fed up with it all, Heivia looked up toward the sun.
It was so bright it looked right off an orange juice package.
“And another thing,” he spat out.
An official Legitimacy Kingdom battlefield cameraman was with them on the truck. That in and of itself was no problem, but they recognized this particular cameraman and not in a good way.
“Why is he with us?”
“I went through all the proper channels,” smoothly answered the man who had a history with Oceania.
His name was Sewax.
He had previously slipped into Oceania with a press non-combatant permit, but he had broken tons of international laws by disturbing the battlefield with a sniper rifle.
“This time, I only have my camera. I’m not armed and I have no intention of getting in your way.”
“I should damn well hope so!! I doubt you’ve made up for the lives you took!!”
Heivia almost grabbed at the man, but the surrounding soldiers held him back.
This was not because they disapproved of how he was handling this civilian. Their expressions made it clear they simply did not want a disturbance within the limited space of the vehicle.
“Try to keep your cool. Punching him isn’t going to summon girls in micro bikinis.”
Hearing that, Heivia clicked his tongue and muttered something in a low tone.
“Y’know, Quenser, it isn’t like all you need is skimpy clothing. What you need for a beautiful woman is-…”
“I know, Heivia, I know. It’s what’s inside that counts, right? It doesn’t matter if some side character is suddenly wearing a micro bikini. What we’re after is more than simple sexiness.”
They continued chatting as the truck shook.
They showed no concern for the deadly firefight that lay ahead.
“So about this kidnapping. Is this area really that dangerous?”
“Mafias and gangs from around the world used the confusion of this postwar period to work their way in. Plus, the remnants of the old military government are still trying to earn funds to continue the war. And since the black market has become necessary for your average citizen, the criminal organizations are being welcomed.”
“What? Oceania wasn’t that bad last time we were here. Wasn’t it pretty peaceful and wasn’t everyone smiling?”
“Haven’t you heard about the wild fluctuation of the Oceanian dollar? The assistance from distant countries and relief funds from charities have come in large amounts, but they’re sporadic. Huge amounts of money briefly come flowing in like some kind of fad or sudden idea. Intermittent support is the most difficult to deal with. You can’t rely on it as a lifeline, so the local people end up finding a dirty but stable way to earn an income and supply products.”
He could have left well enough alone, but Sewax decided to butt into the conversation.
He held up his camera.
“You have to ignore where it came from, but the quality isn’t bad. One of my lens case sets was stolen at customs, but I found an identical one on the black market. I should actually get some work done now.”
Heivia seemed to decide yelling at the man would accomplish nothing, so he restrained himself while the veins on his temple bulged out.
Quenser glanced toward Sewax.
“If they just want to profit from the black market, they wouldn’t kidnap someone.”
“I’m just saying they’re no Robin Hood. No matter what they claim, they’re villains who gather money for their own convenience. They aren’t really thinking about the starving people or the fate of the country.”
The clattering line of trucks was headed toward an old industrial city along the eastern coast of the ocean. During the time of the military nation, only the discriminatory privileged class had lived there, so it had been destroyed by an Object.
All of the nearby buildings had toppled over and large piles of rubble could be found even on the road.
Only the so-called “white targets” such as schools, churches, and hospitals remained. They were completely untouched, so it showed just how frighteningly accurate the Object’s carpet bombing had been.
Heivia let out a whistle.
“Welcome to the Mouth of Truth.”
“It’s a sightseeing spot in Rome. If you’re a student, try studying some history.”
“I don’t know anything about the Faith Organization.”
Heivia pointed toward the scenery with his thumb. Quenser could see remains of crumbled buildings that had piled on top of each other so they looked like mille-feuille.
“They go digging through all that and grab anything they can sell on the black market like music players and cans of dried milk, but if they get too greedy, the jaws of rubble bite into them.”
“…Is this country really in that bad a state?”
“Weren’t you listening? There’s nothing they can do until the local currency stabilizes. There are even rumors that straight up bartering works better. This chaos isn’t going to calm down until our euro and the other dollars stop being preferred.”
Sewax aimed his lens out the truck and toward the surrounding piles of rubble.
“When you get down to it, the liberation of Oceania is still in a period of chaos. A lot of people are being crushed underfoot. The normal people need to use the black market for food to eat and those in too much debt to use the black market are being forced to risk their lives in places like that. And they’re either working for free or for so little it barely makes a difference.”
“Seriously? We’re about to have a firefight there. And do you know what my specialty is? Explosives.”
“The area’s too dangerous, so the local police don’t go on patrol here. And the lack of police causes dangerous people to gather. But that makes the area even more dangerous. It’s a vicious cycle. All the lower level criminal organizations are crowded in together.”
The convoy of military trucks came to a stop about two kilometers away from the abandoned building that the call to Froleytia’s phone had come from. About one hundred infantry got out onto the cracked asphalt.
“Isn’t this a bit much? You’d think we were fighting a war.”
“Fighting in wars is our job. Now let’s go, student.”
A few battlefield cameramen had come along, but Sewax seemed to be travelling with Quenser and Heivia’s group. This annoyed the two boys even further.
“If you screw up, I’m not saving you. If you get injured, I’m leaving you behind. If you bring danger to the unit, I’ll use you as a shield and escape. I don’t give a crap about international law. That’s just what I’m gonna do. Got it?”
“Is your unit really weak enough to lose to a local criminal organization?”
Depending on what the enemy did, Quenser, Heivia, and the others would be forced into one of two types of battles.
First, they would besiege the enemy headquarters while the enemy was unaware they had been traced.
Second, they would pursue the swiftly fleeing enemy vehicles and carry out a car chase on the single long line of asphalt through the desert.
Either way, they controlled the satellite above, so they would not lose track of their enemy. As they were attempting to rescue a hostage, the attack on the base would be easier than a car chase.
“Would they really think they hadn’t been traced after their call passed through a military switchboard? Surely they didn’t believe the old police dramas where quickly hanging up keeps you from being traced.”
“We need to be on our guard. They might be well equipped and plan to escape after causing some damage to our first wave.”
“I pray they’re at least that smart. They need to be a worthy enough opponent for someone as great as me to head all the way out here.”
While remaining on the lookout for traps, cameras, snipers, or other dangers, Heivia and the others travelled from pile of rubble to pile of rubble. Quenser simply followed Heivia who had more or less taken the lead.
“By the way, why was a student like me sent with you?”
“God himself insisted you don’t get to lie around in bed all day while the rest of us work our asses off.”
“But I can’t take part in the firefight,” complained Quenser.
It was unclear what exactly he was taking photos of, but Sewax was pointing his camera here and there among the piles of rubble. Quenser had no idea what pictures would be worth what.
Unlike a normal stroll, they had to climb up piles of rubble that could collapse at any moment and be on the lookout for enemy soldiers that might not even be there. Even a distance of only two kilometers, a single station’s worth in a city, was rather exhausting.
“Hey, Heivia. Do you think I’ll be popular with the girls if the lower half of my body gets big and strong? Depending on your answer, I might give up right here.”
“Eh? Do you mean that in a dirty way?”
As he received an answer which earned a perfect 0 points, Quenser really did curl up on the ground. Heivia was forced to grab the stubborn child’s arm and drag him along.
“Look! That bastard Sewax is pointing his camera at you!!”
“It is my job to bring people the truth of the battlefield.”
“If you don’t want to be a source of international shame, stand up, Quenser!! Start walking!!”
As per their instructions over the radio, they arrived at a spot where they could look down on the abandoned building. Heivia clicked his tongue.
“Dammit. It’s a hospital. It survives the bombing and now it gets used for this. Let’s download a diagram and the distribution of people inside, so we can slaughter them all.”
“Just out of curiosity, what ever happened to rescuing the hostage?”
Of course, if they just had to kill everyone inside, there was no need to charge into the building. They could bombard the building from a distance and destroy it entirely.
Based on the distribution of enemy soldiers they received from the satellite, Quenser and the others used their sensors in a variety of ways to check on the details of the people inside.
“This is a pain in the ass. There are over fifty people in there.”
“Here we go. On the first floor…what is that place? Looks like an internal medicine examining room. Anyway, I found a child bound with duct tape. Oh, dear. And she has a blindfold, earplugs, and tape over the mouth. Um, I don’t see any other abducted children.”
“This is the world’s least rewarding place to peep. Let’s get this over with and peep on our huge-breasted commander’s bath.”
“Did you know that joke violates the rules regarding classified information?”
The one hundred infantry split into five groups and Quenser’s group took their position.
Sewax was still with them.
“So we get a student and a cameraman. How much variation does one unit need?”
“If you don’t need me, I’ll go set up a parasol and fall asleep. I’m not here because I want to be.”
“You all get to show the people back home that their tax money is being well spent. You should be thanking me.”
Heivia put up with a headache and spoke into his radio.
“The kid is on the first floor. Everywhere else doesn’t matter. You can make the corpses as gory as you want, so use your wall-penetrating rifles to shoot them on my signal.”
“Understood. Will you be using your pistols out of concern for the child? Seeing any corpses at all will probably traumatize her, but go to the extra effort if you want.”
“There are some lines you don’t cross. Then again, deciding where that line is for yourself is getting a bit self-righteous.”
Quenser and his group were not bothering with the strictly-guarded entrance.
They instead made their way to the outer wall of the examination room the abducted child was confined in. Quenser placed several Hand Axe plastic explosives on the wall in a systematic fashion. He finished the setup by stabbing electric fuses in.
“Just to be sure, the explosion isn’t going to blow out the kid’s eardrums, is it?”
“We saw she had a blindfold and earplugs, remember? If we handle this well, she won’t even see the corpses. So what’ll you do, PTA?”
“Tch. Let’s do this. On a count of three.”
He casually counted down three seconds.
Immediately afterwards, an explosive noise burst out. It had actually been 53 anti-materiel rifles being fired simultaneously, but the timing was so perfect that it sounded like a single explosion.
At the same time, Quenser hit the switch on his radio while pressing against the wall.
The outer wall was blown to pieces and the filthy men inside the room were knocked to the ground. Before the criminals realized what was happening, Heivia and the professional soldiers stepped in and did not hesitate to pull the trigger.
Phase 1 took only five seconds.
Phase 2 was taking out anyone they missed in Phase 1. The existence of some leftovers who had luckily escaped the anti-materiel rifles was proven by short bursts of assault rifle fire.
“Clear, clear. Help me out here, Quenser. Let’s hide the corpses before removing the kid’s blindfold. C’mon, Sewax, you help too!!”
“This was a hospital, so is there a mop and bucket anywhere?”
They could not remove the blindfold with corpses lying all over the place, but the duct tape covering the girl’s mouth could keep her from breathing. Quenser approached her and gently removed the tape over her mouth.
He expected her to cry.
But she did not.
He had a very bad feeling.
He belatedly realized her clothes bulged out oddly and he gently lifted them up.
He saw a cell phone and colorful leads.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me!!” shouted Heivia.
At the same time, someone in a distant place pressed a speed dial button.
In that instant, Quenser and Heivia took the complete opposite actions.
In order to escape the blast, Heivia immediately moved backwards. On the other hand, Quenser grabbed the girls shoulders which were duct taped to the chair. He slid her along and threw the girl’s small body underneath the examining room’s bed.
All the while, Sewax was peering down his viewfinder.
“Wh-what?” asked Heivia as he coughed a bit and leaped behind a steel desk.
The silence was almost painful.
“What the hell!? It isn’t detonating!?”
“It’s a cell phone!” shouted back Quenser. “A cheap obsolete model is being used for the detonator. There are no indoor antennae in a ghost town like this. The signal sent from here has to reach an antenna in the next town over and then come back the same way. The thick walls of the building and the metal pipes and springs of this bed are enough. As long as it can’t pick up the signal, the detonation command can’t reach it!!”
As he spoke, he climbed under the bed himself. He pulled a small knife from his survival kit. The girl did not seem to know what was happening to her after suddenly being thrown into that small space. Anyone would be in a similar state with a blindfold and earplugs.
Quenser removed one of the earplugs and spoke gently.
“It’s okay. It’s okay now. The bomb won’t go off.”
She simply sat their blankly, but that was fine for the time being as it made it easier to work.
“Can you get it off?” asked Heivia.
“Did you see this thing? I can neutralize a shitty detonator like this in 45 seconds.”
The explosive was homemade TNT and it was attached to her back with duct tape. The detonator, battery, and the like were mostly located under her arms. They all appeared to have been stolen from construction sites meant to rebuild the country.
“Honestly, is this supposed to be a school bag?”
There were three circuit boards, but two of them were fakes. He cut only the necessary leads with a knife and completely killed the detonator.
“Hey, it’s been a minute!”
“Don’t be stupid. It only took me thirty seconds to handle the device itself. It’s gently removing the duct tape that’s taking me so long!!”
The detonator was no longer functioning, so there was no need to remain below the bed. Quenser tossed the duct tape covered bomb out from under the bed and dragged the nine-year-old hostage out.
Heivia let out a breath and spoke into his radio.
“The situation has ended. The hostage is safe. I repeat, the situation has ended! I know it isn’t going to happen, but I request some ice-cold non-alcoholic beer and cured ham for when we return. Yeah, I know it isn’t happening!!”
“I thought the mission wasn’t over until we got back?”
“And call an ambulance. I’m on the verge of punching this annoying-as-hell cameraman!!”
The hostage girl looked around in confusion.
The corpses of the criminal organization had been moved to another room and the room had been quickly mopped, but the dangerous atmosphere filling the room was not so easily eliminated.
Sewax removed the camera’s viewfinder from his eye and spoke to Quenser.
“What do we do now? Do you put up posters like the ones you see for lost cats?”
“Don’t underestimate the military’s intelligence gathering ability. Her parents are probably being invited to the maintenance base just about now. The emotional reunion will take place inside the fence.”
The girl then looked up at Quenser.
She may have seen him as the easiest to talk to because he had dealt with the bomb.
“Hey, where are they?”
“Don’t worry, don’t worry. You’ll be with your mother before-…”
“Not that,” she said, cutting him off.
The unease in her voice made it seem the incident was not yet over.
“Where are the others?”
She had nothing to do.
That was how the princess felt.
No matter how many sensors her first generation Object had, there was no place for such a colossal weapon on a delicate mission to rescue a hostage. If they arrived with too much power, the criminal group could feel cornered enough to kill the hostage.
So now that the mock battle was over, the princess floated face up in a pool.
The maintenance base zone was made up of over one hundred large vehicles, but it did not contain a facility with a large indoor pool. This outdoor facility had been created by taking advantage of the sand underfoot.
Simply put, the soldiers who misbehaved had been given shovels and forced to dig a giant hole, cover its surface with plastic, and pour water in it. That had created a makeshift pool. A nearby sign said “Female soldiers only. Cameras strictly prohibited.” The princess was surrounded by off-duty women in swimsuits and they were all splashing each other with water, hitting each other with beach balls, or getting into serious fights.
There were two reasons for the pool.
First, it was a project meant to reduce the stress of the female soldiers. It was less about the pool itself and more about providing a small event that allowed them to escape the gaze of the normal military regulations. Similar projects had resulted in events based on different cultural celebrations such as the flower viewing or carnival. There had also been the sudden appearance of a swimsuit-wearing Santa Claus.
Second, it was a means of punishment. It was not fun toiling away under the broiling sun to dig a hole that would be enjoyed by the well-behaved soldiers. It would be no exaggeration to say that over half of the work had been done by a bomb-using student and a radar analyst who excelled at using firearms.
And as a result, the princess was wearing a swimsuit and floating in a twenty meter square pool while surrounded by other female soldiers.
“Oh ho ho!! Oh ho ho ho ho!! Honestly, now the unrefined Legitimacy Kingdom Elite is so exhausted she is sighing? You sound like an old woman.”
“…Why are you connected to this line?”
The princess had heard an Information Alliance Elite’s voice coming from the handheld device attached to her wrist by a rubber bracelet. The princess almost always remained expressionless, but her eyebrows twisted in clear displeasure.
The nice-bodied Elite on the screen was laughing loudly while pressing the back of her hand against her cheek.
“Oh ho ho. Have you never heard of diplomatic routes, little girl? You can disconnect from the line if you like, but a rude Elite would bring disgrace to her unit. Oh ho ho. Then again, you do not look like the kind of girl who would care about that!!”
“I get it, so let’s fight. I will blow you to pieces with the Baby Magnum.”
“Oh ho ho. Do you really think I am in Oceania? War is not waged solely with unrefined battles. I am currently preparing for a concert. I am too busy to deal with a little girl like you.”
“Then why did you contact me.”
“I am also steadily preparing to make that gentleman mine.”
A cracking sound could be heard.
As the princess grabbed at the handheld device, its waterproof outer case very nearly broke.
“I don’t think so. But do not worry. You will find out in due time☆”
Having said that, the other Elite ended the transmission.
The princess floated on her back a while longer and looked up at a beach ball flying by above her.
“A concert… Singing…”
She stared blankly up at the blue sky and muttered to herself.
“I should take a photo with Quenser at a karaoke box and show it off to that horrible girl.”
A member of the maintenance battalion’s intelligence division secretly listened to her.
The reason was quite simple: her mental state was directly linked to the survival of the entire unit!