My Vampire Older Sister and Zombie Little Sister:Volume6 Chapter 6
The truth was, I had made a similar mistake once in the past.
Yes, when I had destroyed the Bright Cross Disaster Prevention Foundation that had its roots planted in more than 100 countries around the world.
I had revealed the international organization’s misdeeds and destroyed it in order to rescue the Archenemies being abducted by them and forced to kill each other in front of the TV cameras.
As a result, all of the Bright Cross’s charitable activities around the world had been stopped indefinitely, the development of new drugs had been delayed, and developing nations’ economies had stagnated which led to a decline in public safety…
I still don’t think I made a mistake with that decision. I’m truly glad those Archenemies didn’t lose their lives.
There was no way of finding an accurate number for how many people’s lives had been sent off course by that chaos.
“Just because it’s happened before…doesn’t mean it will work out this time.”
I said that while leaving [email protected]’s Japanese central server facility which acted as their final backup.
At the moment, I wanted to go to a park or something. I had been attacked in that burger shop before, but I wanted to look up at the recovered blue sky while discussing strategy.
…I wanted someone to prove to me that I had done the right thing.
“The world still hasn’t recovered from last time, so it might not survive this time. I think my stepmom’s prediction is correct. …I once again did the right thing and thus chose another tragedy.”
“But unlike before, I’ve predicted it in advance. So I’m not going to just let it happen this time. I’ve set our course, so now I have to stop the disaster up ahead!”
My general policy had not changed from the beginning.
I had needed to stop [email protected]’s manufactured abuse. I couldn’t have ignored the drone attacks.
People must have still been afraid of the drones because the children’s park I came across was deserted. I sat on a bench with peeling paint and focused on the conversation.
“The loss of a global corporation like [email protected] will do incalculable damage,” said Maxwell. “In addition to the effects of the company itself, it also provided a lot of data and distribution services, so its loss will have a large effect on other companies and groups.”
…For example, they had recently gotten involved in railroad infrastructure.
“The parts not limited to the company sound the most dangerous,” said Anastasia.
“They also have contracts with some international NPOs and nations. They construct transport infrastructure in mountainous regions or lay out water pipes in desert nations.”
“Basically, they were trying to give everyone access to necessary supplies,” I said. “If that suddenly goes away, those people could literally wither away.”
“This also affects you, user. It goes through separate independent administrative institutions, but the Japanese government has entrusted a few national projects with [email protected]”
I rubbed the weathered bench’s peeling paint. Wood, metal, a concrete base, organic paint. What percentage of this was made domestically? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was entirely foreign-made.
…Just one look at the food self-sufficiency rate would show you it’s a wonder this country could maintain its own existence. We relied on bringing so much in from “outside”.
Our small land area meant we had little productivity, but distribution was an unavoidable problem for an island nation surrounded by oceans on all sides. What had once been known as black ships and steamships had been replaced by cargo fleets loaded with wax oranges soaked with agrochemicals and the orders were made over the internet.
“How do we stop the dominos from falling?”
“That would be extremely difficult, but if you are not interested in saving [email protected] itself…”
I leaned back in the creaking bench as the simulator explained via speech bubble.
“The domino effect will be caused by word of [email protected]’s demise causing other corporations to grow defensive, rethink even their safe-looking contracts, and grow reluctant to give out loans. To put it another way, if something – even a complete lie – can convince them to act more boldly, stopping the dominos would be possible.”
“…But that would have to be quite the powerful lie.” Anastasia sounded troubled. “It’s true there are times when stock prices rapidly change for silly reasons. A clerk mishears and forgets the decimal point for a purchase or sale, or an automatic trading program is infected by a virus and starts a hellish selloff. Prices can also plummet if word spreads that the world will be destroyed in a war or disaster just as some prophecy claimed.”
“Yes. But there’s a difference between it just happening and someone intentionally causing it.”
I looked up into the blue sky and saw the narrow contrail of a passenger plane that looked like a tiny speck.
“If you could do that, it would be one of the world’s greatest achievements,” said Anastasia. “That was what we were trying to do with Mephistopheles, our supercomputer that extracted all the data from Vegas.”
That would mean controlling the very concept of money which had ruled people for all of recorded history.
This would be truly unprecedented.
But a miracle like that was necessary if we were to stop the Calamity. My stepmom, Amatsu Yurina, had so much power, but even she had given up on the world.
“My stepmom’s Absolute Noah probably has more influence than anyone, but not even that’s enough. We need to discuss this with the assumption that not even she could stop this.”
“…They’re a secret organization that makes the freemasons look like child’s play, right?” said Anastasia. “I’ve never heard of an organization that covers more of the planet than them.”
I looked up at the blue sky’s recovered safety as I thought for a bit.
Was this too farfetched? But didn’t we need that powerful a wake-up call right now?
“User. The greatest power of human beings is their ability to link pieces of information together in ways that not even I can. In other words, your ability to come up with new ideas. I suggest you provide even the most insignificant idea you might have.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right.”
“We won’t laugh, so just tell us, Truth. Besides, I hate how you’re the one that always gets to do all the fun stuff.”
I had some excellent companions.
I was certain of that.
“If we had the influence of my stepmom’s Absolute Noah, we might be able to deceive everyone. We might be able to convince them there would be no global depression so they should rest easy and keep running their business like normal. But my stepmom’s group has already resigned themselves to the Calamity, so they won’t help us.”
This was entirely reliant on someone else’s power, but we couldn’t ignore Absolute Noah if we were looking for something on a global scale which was within reach.
“Are you saying we would have a chance if Mrs. Amatsu Yurina were to act?” asked Maxwell.
“But how would you do that!?” asked Anastasia. “You remember what happened in Vegas. I can’t imagine her changing her mind and siding with us!”
“…That’s the thing.”
What I was saying was completely absurd.
But Absolute Noah itself was practically a fairy tale already. We could not bring it to the negotiating table in any normal fashion. So if we didn’t do something completely unprecedented, we couldn’t gather the cards we needed.
I glanced down at the small car navigation system sitting on my lap.
“Listen, Anastasia. In the hidden parts of the world that we don’t see, there have to be constant glimpses of the term Absolute Noah. But that’s just the term itself, so only a limited group knows what it actually means.”
“Well, yeah. Otherwise the global VIPs wouldn’t have fallen for the Absolute Noah 04 trap in Vegas.”
Everyone feared it, but no one knew what it was. They didn’t know its ideology, its form, its command structure, the extent of its personnel, or anything else about it.
It may have been disturbing to a lot of people.
But in that case…
I licked my lips.
And I said it.
“How about we invent a previously-unheard-of top-level organization for Absolute Noah?”
The silence was bad for my stomach and had me worrying I had said something crazy.
“Ah ha ha ha!! So you’re going to manipulate the global economy with fake news!? Truth, you’re always like this. When everyone else is trying to win the car race by looking at the engine and tires while desperately calculating out the fuel efficiency, air resistance, and center of gravity, you’re casually building yourself a rocket capable of escaping the solar system!!”
She seemed to like it.
As for Maxwell…
“I am merely a disaster environment simulator meant to help avoid risk, so please forgive me for only providing negative suggestions.”
“That’s fine. So what is it?”
“Generally, stealing someone’s identity produces negative emotions. This introduces the risk of making an enemy of Absolute Noah. An extremely high risk.”
This silence was different from before. It felt like it was encased in dry ice.
Making an enemy of that stepmom.
And of Absolute Noah as a whole.
“User, we can no longer ignore the fact that one of the main reasons you have survived to this day is your connection to Mrs. Amatsu Yurina.”
“Maxwell!” protested Anastasia.
“No, it’s fine,” I said.
“And if you make a serious enemy of Absolute Noah, the risk to you will be far greater than ever before. …You might save the world, but your own life will not be guaranteed. Are you prepared to make that choice?”
I will never give up and I will keep fighting to the end no matter who my enemy is.
It would be simple enough to give that boilerplate answer. But I had seen the series of events set in motion by the Bright Cross’s Colosseum below this city. That powerful current had swept away one of the world’s systems. So what if that happened to me alone? There was no way I could win. I would simply be torn apart.
My stepmom was trying to protect me. There was no doubting that. But if she learned that would mean the destruction of the ark and placing the rest of her family in danger, even Amatsu Yurina would take it more seriously. She might abandon her primary objective, shift down to her secondary objective, and focus on protecting “as much of her family as possible”.
“…Maxwell. Anastasia too. I want to confirm something with you first.”
“What do you still need to check now?”
I breathed in and out.
And I said it.
“Do you have any intention of getting along with Absolute Noah? No, it doesn’t even have to be that much. Would you be willing to find a way to compromise with them?”
That would be the same as “working with” the Bright Cross’s Colosseum or Las Vegas’s Absolute Noah 04. …At the very least, you wouldn’t be chosen for the unfortunate role.
This was not about ideals.
It was not about being irreproachable.
I was talking about harsh reality.
“…Hey, wouldn’t that actually be even more frightening?”
It was like relying on a mafia or gang. It might feel reassuring at first, but the fear would eventually sink in and keep you from doing anything. If we took something like the Colosseum or Absolute Noah 04 as a partner, we would lose an escape route for our lives.
“I’m not talking about which option would be easier. We’re going to experience hell either way. So shouldn’t we be focusing on which hell we want to jump into?”
“If we’re going to stand up to hell, we need to go all out. We need to completely and utterly crush it without showing the slightest opening. Because if we give Absolute Noah the chance for even a single counterattack, we’ll be smashed to pieces.”
We couldn’t hesitate here.
We had to do it.
We had to do whatever it took to shake off the force pulling us toward hell and retrieve our everyday lives.
“We’ll hack Absolute Noah, the ark of humanity. What better idea is there?”
That was my answer.
I doubted I could come up with anything better even if I used every last ounce of intelligence I had.
And Anastasia gave her response.
“Mountain climbers will see a famous mountain and say they want to climb it because it’s there, but you’re different, Truth. You start by searching out some huge mountain no one has ever seen before. Yes, yes, that’s it! If Absolute Noah is at the source of all this, then why didn’t I think of hacking it!?”
“No,” said Maxwell. “The Bright Cross was a lower organization, but its Laplace was impossible to break through in a head-on competition. Absolute Noah’s data management system should be even more powerful. I doubt this will be a simple task.”
I knew that.
For one thing, the world was generally aware of the term Absolute Noah, but no one knew any details about what it was. It wasn’t normal for none of the press, intelligence agencies, or bored internet users to notice such largescale activity. And abnormal things did not just happen. Absolute Noah had to have created some kind of hideous system and secretly spread it around the world to protect itself.
“It’s not like we don’t have any hints.”
“What do you mean?”
I leaned forward in the bench as I answered.
“Absolute Noah is in this city. At the bottom of Kukyou Dam. Las Vegas’s Absolute Noah 04 was only modeled after it.”
Yes, my stepmom had clearly said so:
…So, Satori, once I’ve collected everyone, I think we’ll finally head to Absolute Noah at the bottom of the dam.
I had responded to those words by jumping out of the moving truck and eventually found my way here.
My stepmom would soon be an enemy, so relying on her words may have been suicide, but she had been desperate enough to crash a truck through that burger shop to rescue me. I doubted she would have been playing games with her words then.
“That is not enough to help us.”
“Maxwell, it’s in this city,” I repeated. “Listen. Absolute Noah is an impenetrable wall and I doubt even you can break through its firewall or communication encryption so easily. Do we agree on that point?”
“But encryptions you can’t break aren’t exactly common. The Pentagon, MI6, and other groups you see in movies are one thing, but I doubt there are many high-level encrypted signals flying around in this regional city. Even with freaks gathered from around the world for a white hacker festival.”
“Yeah, even universities have pretty poor security,” said Anastasia.
“[email protected] is in disarray, so they won’t be doing much of anything. So the unbreakable encryptions traveling through this city give us a hint. We don’t have to know what they say. Simply discovering where they’re transmitted and received should tell us where Absolute Noah people are hiding and where their surface antenna is.”
And to reiterate, our greatest objective was to borrow Absolute Noah’s authority and stop people from pulling the trigger of a global depression leading to the Calamity. We were not trying to divulge Absolute Noah’s misdeeds or blow their ark to smithereens.
I spoke more to myself than to the others.
“What we need is the credibility to convince people our words are Absolute Noah’s words. So we don’t have to enter the deepest depths of Absolute Noah’s central computer. If we locate their surface antenna and send out emails with ‘Absolute-Noah-like’ messages, no one will be able to tell the difference. The real Absolute Noah is working to fight back against the Calamity and we should gather their attention once we start. But since they assume the outside world will be destroyed, they can wait until that has entirely failed before they kill us. No, they can simply shut us out of the ark.”
“Even if the technical challenge is reduced, the risk to your person remains unchanged.”
“I know that. But I have to do it.”
Whatever the case, we had no time.
If we did nothing, the blame for [email protected]’s drone attack would inevitably lead to a global depression. That would increase social stress, create devastating moral hazards, and ultimately lead to the Calamity.
We had to stop that no matter what.
I stood up from the bench and spoke.
“Let’s get started.”
“Sure. If you are prepared for this, user, then nothing I say could stop you.”
I wasn’t so sure I had such a courageous heart.
The drone attacks had ended, so I walked on foot to regroup with Anastasia. We met at the lounge of the business hotel she was staying at.
“The café employees have completely vanished. Well, they only served bad coffee and dried-out sandwiches, so it’s no real loss.”
“…I see you brought in an energy drink for yourself.”
“There’s no one in the convenience stores or supermarkets, but the vending machines still work. That said, the scene outside is incredible. There’s barely room to walk with all the drone carcasses. Those are probably a potential treasure trove of rare earths.”
“Add in the effort of digging them out of the circuit boards and a 1300-yen-an-hour job at a gyudon place would be more efficient. But if you feel like doing it as volunteer work, I won’t stop you.”
I sat in the opposite seat and she tossed me a new can.
“We still have a lot of work ahead of us, don’t we? Truth, how about you fill your veins with carbonation and caffeine?”
“Don’t throw carbonated drinks. Here, cheers.”
“Gyah! Don’t reach for the pull tab with the opening aimed at me! It’s scary!!”
It turned out to be a dud, so it didn’t burst out like champagne. I grabbed the silver can Anastasia had passed me and quickly drank some.
“Have you contacted the Vampire and Zombie who Demon Lord Lilith claimed to have abducted?”
“No word from my sisters, no. And when I tried to call, someone attempted to trace the call.”
“…So they’re already inside Absolute Noah, hm?” she said quietly.
“My stepmom and the others won’t be convinced just because the drone attacks have stopped. They believe this will lead to the Calamity, so they aren’t about to open Absolute Noah’s doors.”
“Well, in a way, that means the monsters have shut themselves inside the cage, so it’s safe outside. Let’s try to stay positive.”
…According to my stepmom, Amatsu Yurina, the condition for entering was to have a powerful psyche that would not be swept along with the general public during a moral hazard like the Colosseum, but it still felt really dangerous to me.
I placed the card-sized car navigation system on the table.
“…Truth, why are you carrying a device that’s just as obsolete as a pager? What kind of cult have you joined?”
“My usual smartphone was sent to heaven by that [email protected] VIP. I know this is a poor substitute.”
“Oh, you poor thing! If you had just told me, I would have given you my spare mobile device!”
“I have no intention of accepting a hacker’s handmade toy since the OS itself could be filled with who-knows-how-many viruses.”
“I’m pretty sure Maxwell-chan would root them all out in short order.”
“And would you be monitoring the virus extermination from start to finish as a benchmark test?”
We had gotten sidetracked.
It was time to get down to business.
“Maxwell, have you picked up any signals with encryption strong enough to suspect they’re related to Absolute Noah?”
“Sure. As long as you do not want to decrypt them. I have found an unknown signal connecting a few areas outside the city with a communication tower in the mountain reservation district.”
“What does that mean?” asked Anastasia.
“That is where the dam is,” I replied. “Everyone using a cellphone or disaster radio in the mountains will have their signal boosted by that communication tower.”
“So they aren’t even trying to hide themselves anymore. They must honestly believe there’s no need for camouflage because the Calamity is going to destroy everything.”
“Without Maxwell to test the strength of the encryption, we never would have known. The dam is constantly communicating with the water department to provide data on water level and quality and it also works with a weather station to adjust the amount of water released to avoid flooding the rivers. When you have that much data to hide your communications in, no one will notice anything.”
“You’re such a biased father.”
“I’m only stating the facts.”
“I am not used to such direct praise,” said Maxwell. “I am unsure how to respond.”
That meant our current destination was that communication tower in the mountains. If we could mess with that to disguise our messages as coming from a mysterious agency at the top level of Absolute Noah, we might be able to stop the global depression and the extreme moral hazards of the Calamity that would follow [email protected]’s collapse.
It could only be a sedative or some fake news for now. We just had to send out a powerful message that kept the world’s people from despairing and giving up on everything.
We drank the rest of our energy drinks.
“We’ll be doing some hardware cracking this time. Anastasia, we’re going to be busy.”
“Heh heh heh. Messing with the communications infrastructure to hijack the signal? This is getting exciting.”
We left the business hotel together.
There was almost nowhere to walk with all the crashed drones everywhere, so we couldn’t even use a bike. We walked through the empty streets to reach the mountains.
“Just looking at the weather, this is the perfect time for a walk. Heh heh heh.”
“How? Not even the hacker festival has escaped this intact.”
“You just don’t get it, Truth. All that matters is that I can walk by your side.”
She started showing off how cute she was. Did I need to give that precocious girl some points for artistry?
The mountain we were walking to was in the same city, so it did not take that long.
“How do we make this unheard-of mystery agency seem realistic?” asked Anastasia.
“Instead of creating the kind of spy organization seen in movies, it would seem more real if it started with something more clichéd. I mean, the major corporations that created global OSs, computers, and social networks all began as niche groups of geeks, right?”
“What do you suggest?”
“Let’s see. How about the online lobby for an outdated puzzle game? They login, but no one’s playing the game and they’re only discussing the end of the world. But they communicate using terms and facial animations only used in the game, so no one was able to pick up on it.”
“…You were right about it being niche.”
“We’ll have to flesh it out by saying they were actually wealthy people with too much time on their hands and the whole Absolute Noah thing started with them uniting the shelters they had prepared in their own yards.”
“But do that and it’ll become an organization with a surprisingly short history. Then you can’t say it started when the founding member saw that great holy man hung up on the cross, or something like that.”
“It only has to be the top level organization that controls the Bright Cross and Absolute Noah in this day and age. We just have to say this independent and rising group took control of the entire organization.”
“So a merger led to the total change of an organization with a long history, hm?”
“It happens a lot, right? It’s a cruel world.”
“Like with computer motherboards! As soon as they get some weird capital injection, the contents of the brand-name machines changes entirely!!”
“…Did you end up with some weird machine again? Like when you buy a tower machine, but all the expansion slots are already full?”
Meanwhile, we entered the winding road up the mountain. There were fallen drones even out here, but there weren’t as many as in the downtown area.
The communication tower in question was visible from quite a ways away. The tall structure of steel beams rose up from the top of the wall of mountains surrounding our isolated city.
“Uheh. We have to climb the entire mountain!?”
“The signal can travel the furthest from the peak, so of course they’re going to take advantage of that height if they can get it.”
“A-are there cable cars or some other elegant and high-society way of getting up there?”
“That’s like taking the elevator to the top floor of a building being held by gunmen. C’mon, Anastasia, didn’t you say this was the perfect time for a walk?”
“Uhehh. Hiking in the mountains? I’m too old for a field trip.”
“Anastasia, can you count for me how old you are on your fingers?”
“I don’t have 11 fingers!” she shouted back.
No mysterious masked group had set up a checkpoint on the way, so we climbed the mountain road with ease.
…This was not good. My little typhoon could only say “ugh”. I doubted her shoes were meant for walking long distances, so her feet may have been hurting.
“Yes, yes, princess. If you’re fine with being carried on my back.”
“I don’t like the way you put that. Maybe I should have you princess carry me.”
“I don’t want to do hat on a mountain road. It really hurts your hips.”
“Wait, have you done that for someone before!?”
…I decided not to mention that my experience was mostly with carrying my sleepy and spoiled Vampire sister and shoving her in the coffin below her queen-sized bed. I had to preserve her dignity.
I also had experience carrying people on my back. When my Zombie sister was truly angry, she would not throw a fit. She would curl up and refuse to move. But if I carried her on my back like a tow truck, she would cheer up pretty quickly.
“This feels like smelling another girl’s perfume…”
Anastasia had her say despite clinging to my back. She was quite the selfish princess for a Silky maid fairy that was meant to serve an old family.
I continued up the mountain while carrying Anastasia who was light but soft. She was only 11, so it didn’t feel like I was carrying a whole person. It was about the same as a backpack after you got carried away and packed it too full.
I took a short break at the roadside station along the way. It was deserted due to the drone attacks, but vending machines were a wonderful thing.
I didn’t care about the diet label anymore, so I bought the world’s most famous carbonated beverage.
“Japan is a great country, but one major flaw is the weak carbonation.”
“Just like the exhaust from cars and factories, if you filter it clean before sticking it in the drink, it won’t contribute to global warming.”
We tossed the empty plastic bottle in the trash can and started back up the mountain. And without saying a word, Anastasia clung to my back like that was her official spot.
It was not far to the communication tower now.
I was not so much taking a leisurely walk as I was lowering my pace to preserve my stamina for what was to come once we arrived.
“We’re almost there now.”
“Don’t give me that, Anastasia. Hey, quit nibbling at my neck. And don’t rub your cheek against me.”
“Sorry, but that’s not going to work on me. I’m more than used to it from Ayumi. Although she doesn’t actually bite me.”
“Tch. You damn bourgeoisie.”
The princess finally lowered herself from my back.
Absolute Noah would be able to hire a sniper or two with ease and I wouldn’t be surprised to find a supernatural Archenemy lying in wait. That might sound unrealistic, but I really had run across Itou Tamago and that Valkyrie in the past.
I had no idea how useful it would be, but we crouched low as we slowly made our way to the peak.
“…Huh? There’s no one here.”
We had arrived.
The metal tower was made from a complex arrangement of steel beams and it stood about as tall as a three-story building. In addition to the partially-underground space built into the concrete foundation, there was a room similar to a viewing platform on the higher part of the tower.
“That just happens some days, right? Not everything is going to be under Absolute Noah’s control.”
That was true enough and it was possible all of Absolute Noah’s VIPs were holed up inside their ark and letting the outside world do as it pleased.
“This is bad. Seeing things go so smoothly only worries me.”
“User, you were always the type that prefers to have someone step on him than to step on someone else, so doesn’t this just mean you are back to your normal self?”
“…Truth, would you have preferred it if I rode you like a horse instead of clinging to your back?”
The tower was smaller than I had expected. They may have gotten the height they needed just by placing it on the mountain peak. And making it too tall would shift the center of gravity higher, causing it to sway during earthquakes or strong winds.
There were two ways to the top: the metal stairway on the outside, or the work elevator in the exposed center. Both of them were only built for one or two people to use.
There was also a metal box about the size of a vaulting box.
“Is that the emergency power?” suggested Anastasia.
“It’s little better than one for a festival stand, so they could never support communication equipment with that. Are they only thinking of keeping the heat on long enough for rescue to arrive during a blizzard?”
We first entered the partially-underground building at the base. It was not locked.
“Is this a breakroom or night duty room?”
There was a TV, a table, a fridge, and a microwave. There were also a few bunkbeds. There was a door in the back, but it only led to a bathroom.
There was no communication equipment there.
…That meant it had to be up top.
The elevator rose through the center of the tower, but we could not board it from here. You apparently had to go outside and board it from the roof of the partially-underground area.
I found a metal toolbox in a corner of the room, so I grabbed it.
“We should probably take the stairs.”
“Truth, will you give me a leg massage afterwards?”
We walked back outside and approached the metal stairway on the outside of the tower. I had thought just three stories wouldn’t be bad, but it felt like so much more. Being on the mountaintop gave it so much more height. When the wind blew, it creaked disconcertingly and I began having second thoughts.
“Why do the platforms have to be made of a wire mesh of all things!? This is just dangerous!”
“In case you are serious, that would be to reduce the weight and material costs while also allowing rising winds to pass through,” said Maxwell.
“This design completely ignores the rights of girls in skirts…” complained Anastasia.
I was pretty sure you would need a telescope to peep up at her from the surface, but Anastasia still pressed her legs together and held down her skirt.
The top level was a square room with a railinged viewing platform surrounding it. You can think of it like a square fried-egg shape. All four sides of the room were made of glass, so it reminded me of an airport control tower or viewing platform.
One glance in through the glass was enough. I could see wireless communication equipment and a server the size of a refrigerator.
This room was locked, but it might as well not have been. I pulled an L-shaped crowbar from the toolbox, stuck the short end into the crack between the door and the wall, and used leverage to destroy the lock.
“They probably just want to make sure animals can’t turn the knob and get in.”
“Industrial server machines are expensive, but it’s not hard to track where they came from since not many places sell them.”
We went inside.
It felt a bit cramped what with the elevator in the middle, but it felt sturdier to have a solid floor below us. The actual height had not changed, but humans were easily tricked.
“Uheh. The elevator uses a trapdoor-style door and isn’t actually sealed,” said Anastasia. “They use the floor of the actual elevator to cover it up. The place has to be full of drafts during the winter.”
“It looks like they make up for that with proper heating equipment. Look.”
“It looks fairly stylish with the glass tank, but that water tank is for a heater, right?”
“Oh, now that you mention it. With the weird lighting, I thought they were raising tropical fish or something.”
“More importantly, let’s check out the communication system. We need to decide whether we’re going to mess with the antenna, the wiring, or the server.”
If this place picked up all of the wireless communications in the mountains, it would handle all kinds of signals: every single phone carrier, disaster radios, community radio, endangered animal trackers, etc. So if we were going to cut in anywhere, it would have to be the signal switcher or line multiplexer that connected the multiple devices.
“There we go. Looks like 8 different hard wires. We won’t have to pull out some wire cutters and strip the cords.”
“Truth, what about the antenna outside?”
“We’ll do that in parallel. Maxwell, what frequency are the encrypted signals using?”
“60.5 megahertz. They are intentionally avoiding the local FM stations.”
“That would be a normal parabolic antenna. Let’s step outside and check the direction of the dishes.”
The antennas were attached the railing of the viewing platform surrounding the room. They were like a larger version of the satellite dishes seen on people’s balconies.
“…The dam is that way, so…this one.”
“There should be two lines,” said Anastasia. “One between the dam and the tower and one between the tower and outside the city.”
“This just means we have to find an identical antenna.”
“Even if we can find a spare antenna below, how are you going to attach it?”
“Wrapping some wires around it should work.”
There was more to making cyber attacks than staring at a computer screen in a dimly-lit room.
“How are you planning on blocking the signal?”
“Aluminum foil would work, but that microwave below suggests there isn’t a kitchen here.”
“Then how about you grab a blanket from the break room and soak it in water in the bathroom?”
What we had to do was simple. First, we grabbed a spare antenna from the room below and attached it right next to the antenna aimed outside the city. After hooking up the equipment which needed a cable, we just had to wait on standby with the soaked blanket.
“Maxwell, write up a fake message for us. Make it look like it was sent from Absolute Noah’s top level group.”
“I can do that, but our message will be open to everyone since we have not cracked their encryption.”
“We’re not sending it to anyone that actually knows them, so that’s fine. Let’s choose the partial VIPs who won’t be able to tell its fake and send it to all of them. Maxwell, access New York or London’s stock exchange. Grab the people or groups with the 100 most expensive transactions and locate their contact information. Their registered or public contact point for trading shouldn’t be that hard to find.”
“…You make that sound like nothing, but you’re seriously going to cause a financial crisis here,” said Anastasia.
“What should I have the message say?” asked Maxwell.
“‘Absolute Noah’s messenger is planning mergers with some well-known corporations, so keep your hands off. …If we make it sound like the group running that ark has a long-term plan for the next 5 or 10 years, no one will think the Calamity is right around the corner. It might be temporary, but that will help calm down the world. That will put a stop to the chain-reaction from [email protected]’s collapse and prevent the real Calamity from happening.”
“What genre of corporation should the alleged mergers use?”
“Dig through the digital edition of some business magazines. Anastasia, got any interesting ideas?”
“In the States, I’ve heard the screen movie industry is secretly gathering power to fight back against home VR equipment.”
“Then let’s make this a counter-investment in VR. Something like spending 5 or 10 years fully archiving world heritage sights so people can visit them as much as they want for a monthly fee.”
“Sure. I can make it so they are speculatively buying up every such company, correct?”
Once we had the text to send, it was finally time to take action.
We had two identical antennas pointed in the exact same direction. If we simply sent out the powerful signal, we could jam the original signal, but we wanted something more reliable. We couldn’t afford failure here.
“Give me the countdown.”
When I heard the electronic beeping, I threw the wet blanket over the original antenna like I was hanging it out to dry.
Water could block EM signals.
That was how they got the data on clouds and rain used for the weather forecast.
At the same time, we sent the fake signal from the identical spare antenna.
“Switchover complete. Our transmission will be confused for Absolute Noah’s.”
“The real one is probably panicking right now.”
But there was nothing they could do at this point. No matter how much Absolute Noah shouted that it was a fake message and demanded everyone believe them, their antenna was covered by the wet blanket. When their signal could not get out, their voice could not reach anyone.
“This would have worked differently in the city where fiber optic cable is laid out everywhere, but focusing all the mountain’s signals onto this one tower is just an unhealthy setup.”
At any rate, this would stop them for a while. Borrowing someone else’s authority to trick the world with a sedative was about the worst method we could use, but we had to stop the Calamity from occurring.
“Hey, Truth. How do we check to see if it worked?”
“Searches for ‘flu’ apparently rise dramatically in areas where the flu is spreading. Maxwell, check for the distribution of searches related to moral hazards.”
“The designated area is the entire world in this case, but the number of searches is showing signs of falling. The fall began near the source of the false signal and it appears to be accelerating as the message is distributed second and third hand.”
“So that settles it. Now we just have to watch it play out.”
I finally breathed a sigh of relief and slumped down on the wire mesh viewing platform.
Anastasia wiped sweat from her brow.
“Then let’s get out of here,” she said. “Absolute Noah isn’t going to be happy we borrowed their name for this.”
This would hurt my stepmom’s standing after she stubbornly and forcibly insisted I be allowed on the ark. She might even directly confront me.
One problem inevitably led to another.
I didn’t even want to think about a confrontation with a family member, but I couldn’t back down on this. It looked like I would have to use that conflict to solidify my position.
With that in mind, I finally started to stand back up. But…
With a loud metallic scraping, orange sparks flew from the metal railing right next to my face.
It took me a while to realize what had happened.
But a moment later, I heard a fireworks-like explosive sound from the distance. It seemed to echo in my ears and Anastasia managed to react before I did.
“A sniper!? Truth!!”
That was her American upbringing for you. But her reaction was not the best. She must have wanted to get inside because she raised her head and looked toward the door, so I had to grab her slender hand and pull her behind the parabolic antenna.
Where did that come from, dammit!?
“Maxwell, use the scratches on the railing to calculate the angle of fire and use the delay of the noise to calculate the distance!”
“Sure. The direction was south-southwest with an inclination of 14 degrees. Assuming the standard speed of sound, the distance would be about 800 meters. Doubling or tripling the speed of sound will double and triple that distance.”
We had no projectile weapons, so the most we could do was find safe ground. And if we knew the direction the bullet came from, we would know which direction to keep our shield in!
Anastasia complained while just going along with my instructions.
“What, is it Absolute Noah? I thought they were all closed up in their ark!”
It almost felt like a response.
Another shot produced sparks as it fired diagonally up from below the wire mesh.
“That was a completely different direction from before.”
Was there more than one sniper? I couldn’t think of a scenario much worse than being surrounded here!!
I felt a chill down my spine, but an even odder problem stood in our way.
“Truth! Hey, Truth!”
“What is it?”
“Using the standard speed of sound, the direction was south-southwest, the inclination was 15 degrees, and the distance was 800 meters. I have that correct, don’t I?”
“But there’s nothing but a cliff there.”
I looked over in surprise and found she was right. There was nowhere for a sniper there. Doubling or tripling the speed of sound would double or triple the distance…but that was meaningless. There was only empty space there and nothing to stand on. Unless they could float in midair, firing from that angle simply wasn’t possible!
“There were no mistakes in my calculations. That is the only possible trajectory given the marks on the railing.”
And yet that didn’t match what we saw…
If I started to doubt Maxwell’s answers, we were done for. Anastasia was a Silky, but she was not a violent Archenemy who would come in handy during combat. And I was only human. If we lost the machine’s support, we couldn’t put up any sort of resistance.
“Truth, Maxwell isn’t built to lie. So that leaves two possibilities.”
“Some outside interference is affecting Maxwell’s calculations, or this sniper can break the laws of physics.”
“…So it’s either a hacker or an Archenemy!?”
“It could also be a supernatural hacker who is both.”
Either way, this could not be more trouble.
“A hacker is a possibility, but I would like to suggest it is unlikely,” said Maxwell. “If a third party had taken full control of me, I doubt they would rely on a sniper. They would cut the power to the communication tower so you could not send your signal to the outside world.”
…In that case, it was more likely this sniper could use magic bullets. Could they manipulate the path of the bullets in flight, or could they fly through the air like a bird as they aimed their rifle?
This was not enough to know what kind of Archenemy they were. But without knowing that, I couldn’t find a way to fight back or escape!
What hints did we have?
I wanted to sort through our information.
“…We can’t see the sniper.”
“The direction and angle are odd. We can hear the actual gunfire. So we should be able to trust the distance…”
“Truth, get to the point!”
“We were thinking about this wrong. Assuming the sniper is far away is exactly what they want!”
If I was right, hiding behind cover was meaningless. They would just calculate out a working line of fire and circle around to there. We had to strike back before that happened!!
“Maxwell, you have control of the communication tower, right? Can you produce light or sound!?”
“I have found disaster announcement speakers, night work stadium lights, and a blank-firing device for scaring away harmful wildlife.”
“Use all of it on my signal. I need to distract them for just a moment!”
The tower gave off multiple explosive sounds and bright lights in every direction. The effect was less than in the dead of night, but it would still shock someone if they were not expecting it.
I was glad I had brought that toolbox with me. I didn’t have time to search for the perfect hammer or crowbar. I simply swung around the entire metal box.
I smashed the glass of the room containing the communication equipment and pushed Anastasia’s small body inside. Just as I started to climb inside, something tore through the air.
There was now a hole in the thick glass where I had not broken it. It was like the tip of an umbrella had pierced it.
And the unseen “bullet” kept its momentum as it raced across the room and destroyed the clear container that looked like a tropical fish tank but was actually for a fashionable heater.
Anastasia gasped after being pushed inside first. Water resistance was good at stopping bullets. It did not fully stop, but it was slowed enough to be seen with the naked eye.
It was not a handgun or rifle bullet.
It was not made of lead, or even of tungsten or depleted uranium.
Anastasia’s lips and tongue formed the answer.
Our opponent was an Archenemy the size of my little finger with clear, dragonfly-like wings.
That only lasted a moment.
The small fairy had been slowed by the water, but her small body soon vanished once more. She must have flown back out of the defenseless communication tower surrounded by clear glass and had started building up speed again.
“That explains it… That explains why the shots kept coming from those ridiculous angles! It was more like a bird than a bullet!!”
There were many different kinds of fairies, but if my guess was correct, this sniping required two different abilities.
The ability to fly under her own power and the ability to freely change her body’s mass.
That did not leave many options. And since I had seen a full girl with dragonfly wings, there was really only one possibility.
When the alchemic element of wind was anthropomorphized into a wind spirit, it was known as a Sylph. The female-exclusive form of that was a Sylpheed.
“But what was with that acceleration!? Using yourself as a sniper rifle bullet is crazy even for an immortal!”
“Keep your head down, Anastasia. The basic principle is simple.” I held down her whitish-blonde head. “Listen. A Sylpheed is an anthropomorphized element. It could be a molecule, an atom, a particle, or whatever. Even when gathered together into a larger mass, a Sylpheed remains a Sylpheed as long as no other elements are mixed in. That means she can freely change her apparent size and weight.”
“Truth, keep up that awful riddle format and I’ll bite your arm!”
“It would seem I am not the only one irritated by my user’s stage performances. Phew.”
Does no one have any patience!?
“To get straight to the point, it’s the same as a tank gun’s armor-piercing round! If the Sylpheed accelerates in a larger form and then reduces her mass, the massive kinetic energy will be focused on a smaller point. Tank guns do the same thing by having the outer shell break away after firing so just the tungsten steel dart in the center keeps going! That’s what I mean!!”
From there, she just made a powerful tackle.
It was a shockingly aggressive use of an Archenemy’s immortal body.
“Why is a freak like that flying around out here?” asked Anastasia. “Aren’t all the important people inside Absolute Noah!?”
“Don’t ask me. Maybe she wants to kill me to cheer herself up, maybe she wants to convince my stepmom to open the door for her, or maybe she’s loyal enough to sacrifice herself if it means eliminating anyone who would threaten the ark!”
She was small, but she was still as big as my little finger. Since we heard the supersonic boom after she reached us, she could probably punch through our bodies even if we wore a bulletproof vest.
Meanwhile, the Sylpheed did not seem to be perfect. If she could maintain supersonic speeds at all times, we would have been turned to Swiss cheese already.
“She probably takes a lot of time to build up speed along a straight-line path of a few hundred meters or even a few kilometers. She starts accelerating from a distance where a person looks smaller than a grain of rice and then reduces her mass to use that kinetic energy before entering within our eyesight. Then she uses her wings for some final course corrections as she charges in. That’s my guess anyway.”
“But this is an elevated communication tower with no cover surrounding it and the walls are made of fragile glass,” said Maxwell. “With the risk of being shot from any direction, should you really be looking so smug?”
“Oh, this look is warranted. We have enough information to strike back. And I’ve already given you the answer.”
Anastasia went through with her threat and actually bit my arm with her small mouth. I hadn’t expected much from a child, but it really hurt!
“Chomp, chomp. …Did you just call me a type of sushi?”
And when did I say we had time to joke around, you worthless hacker maid fairy!?
“Maxwell, perform a ballistic calculation. Use the broken glass to work out the Sylpheed’s penetrative power!!”
I grabbed the toolbox, held Anastasia close, and pressed my back against one the fridge-sized server machines.
“Truth, she’ll be able to see us here!”
“So what? She’s using her body as a bullet, so I doubt she’ll send herself flying into steel beams, concrete, or anything else she can’t break through. We can limit her angle of fire!”
That meant there would be no sniper fire from straight ahead or behind. If she wanted to avoid punching through me and hitting the server machine behind me, she would choose to come from either the left or the right.
And neither of those windows was broken yet.
Would it be right or left?
Not even an Archenemy could entirely ignore the laws of physic, so would it be right? If she simply wanted a stable trajectory, she would use the tailwind!
“The bullet passed through the glass before the impact could propagate through the glass surface, so she would be about equivalent to a 5.56 or a 7.62. If it was any more powerful, the shockwave surrounding the bullet itself would break the glass.”
“Truth, what is that!?”
I would have preferred a proper filter, but I couldn’t be picky. I used a nail to split open the side of what looked like a toothpaste tube and threw it at the window.
The contents splattered across the window like I had thrown a water balloon at it.
At the same time, the finger-sized fairy slammed full force into the middle of the glass.
Even easily-broken glass could be made bulletproof by attaching a clear sheet to the surface.
But was it simply not enough!?
She had been slowed down quite a bit. That was obvious since I could see the bullet herself with my naked eye. But even a hunting slingshot could cause disaster if it hit you square in the forehead from close range. However, I used that moment to open the server machine’s maintenance door. She still pierced through the metal door which was only as thick as the door of a cleaning locker, but this was metal. It was hard but also soft. It must have altered her trajectory because she passed right by my face.
The Sylpheed broke through the disaster radio box on the table and finally slowed enough to fall to the floor.
And I wasn’t going to let her escape again!!
With that in mind, I grabbed the toolbox. I swung it around to scatter its contents. Those would be like falling boulders to the finger-sized fairy, but that wasn’t the point.
I raised the emptied toolbox.
And as the Sylpheed finally opened her mouth as if to say something, I slammed it down over her. I then stepped on top of the toolbox like I was trapping a mouse below an upside-down bucket.
“T-Truth!? Are you sure that’s enough!?”
“I said she has to fly hundreds of meters or even a few kilometers to build up speed, right? That means we could capture her with a plastic bottle or a birdcage when she’s lost her momentum.”
So as long as we stopped her within arm’s reach, we had won.
I spoke to her with my foot still on the toolbox.
“That means it’s time for a peaceful discussion. Do not attack us again. Now, are you willing to continue this talk?”
“No? Fine then. Anastasia, grab some spare glue from the contents scattered on the floor. We’ll fill in the gaps with that and then leave.”
“O-okay!” said the Sylpheed.
“While it won’t kill an Archenemy, asphyxiation still can’t be pleasant. In fact, it’s probably even more painful. And stagnant air is probably unbearable for a wind fairy.”
“I said okay! Are you listening? Hey!!”
…I still couldn’t let my guard down, but did I have control of this discussion?
“Answer our questions honestly.”
“A fairy’s weight and measurements aren’t all that interesting. They’re all really small.”
“I rejected the ticket my stepmom arranged for me and I stayed outside. Then I used Absolute Noah’s name to send a message around the world. Not even Amatsu Yurina will be shaken now. Even if I cry and scream and even if I’m covered in blood, she’ll deal with me as Demon Lord Lilith. She won’t open the door. So why target me?”
“I wouldn’t be so sure. Amatsu Satori, your argument is entirely based on emotion, but that means you aren’t aware of your own value.”
“The power to connect with anyone with no discrimination whatsoever is enough to change history. Just like everyone calls their own child a genius, a lot of people talk about ideals, but very few can live up to them.”
…Did that mean there was a purely pragmatic reason my stepmom was so fixated on me? Enough to place me in the group of a few thousand chosen from 7 billion? Nonsense. I wasn’t a great king or anything.
“Well, that’s how they see you. So has that Silky standing next to you sensed the power and possibility found in Amatsu Satori?”
For some reason, she did not answer. In fact, she refused to look me in the eye.
“Amatsu Yurina will open the door if she knows the power and possibility of Amatsu Satori will be taken from the world.”
“Why are you so fixated on that ark? The extreme global moral hazard of the Calamity was stopped! A few decades or centuries later might be different, but there’s no need to escape into Absolute Noah right this instant, is there!?”
“You still don’t get it?”
“It is true the outside Calamity was stopped. Stopped by you. But there is one area that did not receive that benefit: inside.”
I could not quite grasp what she meant. Outside and inside? Of what???
That was when it happened.
Maxwell gave a report from the card-sized car navigation system.
“Warning: User, I have picked up a transmission from Absolute Noah.”
“Well, yeah. They’ve been sending out plenty of signals encrypted too strongly for us to crack. But we cut off the connection from the communication tower to outside the city with that wet towel.”
“No. That is not what I meant. It is a direct message to this communication tower and it is meant for you.”
“Who is it from?”
“Assuming no deception, it appears to be from Miss Amatsu Erika.”
It was true she would have been brought to Absolute Noah. My stepmom had been driving her around in the back of that semi truck during the day, so a Vampire like her would have been helpless.
“What is it, Erika? Are you okay!?”
What was this?
Her voice was really scratchy. An unbelievable amount of money and technology had to have gone into that ark, so this was not at all what I expected.
“I’m relieved that you seem safe. Ow… Don’t worry about…us.”
No, was that not it? Was it not an issue with the equipment or signal? Was Erika’s voice actually scratchy inside of Absolute Noah…?
“Wait a second, Erika! I thought it was supposed to be safe in the ark!? What is happening in there? O-oh, right. What happened to Ayumi? What about mom and dad!?”
“We’re…fine. I will…protec…Ayumi…-cha… So…Sato…-kun. I’m glad…could hear…voice…one last…ksssssshhhhhh!!!!!!!!”
There was nothing more.
I didn’t understand. What in the world was happening there!?
I heard the Sylpheed’s voice underneath the upside-down toolbox.
“I did not want to have them open the door to save myself.”
“I needed the door opened so I could protect Lady Charlotte who I have sworn loyalty to.”
…When I thought about it, it had been odd.
Absolute Noah is dangerous, so stay away and call for help. That I would have understood. But because she wanted to hear my voice? Saying that before ending the transmission would only worry me more, so it was like luring me into that deadly ark.
Erika would never do that normally.
Even if she was on the edge of the precipice, she would not speak a word to me so I wouldn’t do anything unnecessary, no matter how much she might really want me to.
But it was not that she had been careless. It was more like she had lost control of herself. That calm and composed older sister had slipped into it so smoothly that she wasn’t even aware of what she was doing.
In other words, something was spreading throughout the ark.
“The Calamity has begun. But with an unexpected location, scale, and conditions.”
My heart pounded like an alarm bell as the fairy spoke as coldly as someone announcing a death sentence.
“But there is no way to open the door from outside. At this rate, everyone we care for will be destroyed.”
[Support by] Absolute Noah [DELTA brain]
A giant structure said to rest deep below the Kukyou Dam. It is referred to as an ark for convenience, but it is still not known if it is a building or a craft. The fact that such a massive system remains entirely unsearchable in this highly digitized society actually gives it a powerful presence.
Also, since the Absolute Noah 04 below Las Vegas’s Hoover Dam was modeled after it, that might help make some predictions.
The mixed group of humans and Archenemies that we could call the Ark Faction see Absolute Noah as the one and only facility that will allow them to survive the Calamity, so they may view it as a target of worship. As its identity is still unknown, I cannot simulate whether its specs could actually overcome the Calamity, but it is true that VIPs from around the world have plotted in secret over that ark and quite a few of them have fallen in the process. Since the wealthy who could have lived lives devoid of failure or defeat are so willing to throw away their lives, they may be something about it that suggests a certain rarity.
- Anago refers to salt-water eels.
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