Queen's Gate:Volume 1 Prologue

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Prologue: Treasure at the Undersea Temple[edit]

Beneath the moonlight, the shadow of an airship reflected over the calm surface of the sea. Yet even should one look up, there was no airship to be seen in the night’s sky. The sole proof of its presence was that shadow, which remained mirrored on the sea’s surface.

In fact, the unusual ship would be impossible to detect approaching under any normal circumstance, invisible to both radars and to the naked eye as it was. Radio waves would be absorbed by its hull composed of rare materials while the nano display tech deployed on its exterior allowed the hull to instantly blend into the surrounding landscape.

Its name, the Vimana, the Active Stealth technology wielding Mega Machine ship, said stealth technology being of the most advanced known to man.

And just below the stationary Vimana lay an archeological monument located deep beneath the sea, hundreds of meters below and off the coast of the Caribbean’s Cape San Antonio. This was the airship’s current target.

<Attack Device “White Rabbit”, approaching drop point.>

The bottom hatch of the aircraft opened and a small single person aircraft with a conical segment attached to its nose appeared. Its appearance was similar to that of a small jet but with the wings and afterburner at a proportionally much smaller size.

<Countdown Start: Five, Four, Three, Two, One…>

The instant the composed sounding countdown reached zero, the cutely named Attack Device was dropped from the Vimana and left to enter the sea, diving as it would down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.


***


Hundreds of meters down and enshrined somewhere within the impenetrable darkness of the depths of the sea rested a gigantic pyramid-like building, comparable to the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

Within the large structure, one of its jet black monolithic inner walls began to suddenly glow white. Around that white point, the stone that made up the wall began to dissolve, allowing the white conical object that drilled the hole to poke through. Amidst absolute silence the cone’s tip quietly opened and someone dressed in a black diver suit marked with orange lines slipped out from within. Paying no mind to the darkness, the intruder, who could be identified as a young girl just from a casual glance at her body’s silhouette, went straight to work.

“According to the sonar scans taken from up above, the interior is filled with air, so breathing in here should be okay.”

Equipped with night vision goggles, the girl spoke aloud the information brought up by the analysis on her wristwatch, in order to leave an audio log.

The interior of the building has been sealed since a time long forgotten. So the possibility of an unknown pathogen, perhaps long extinct in present days, still laying dormant here meant she wasn’t quite willing to remove her mask that easily, even if the device said the air was technically breathable. However, the quantity of gas within her cylinder was limited. Probably best to save some extra air in case of an emergency.

The girl switched from the cylinder on her mask to the filtration system and the moment she did, her sense of smell was assaulted by the overwhelming stench of what you’d likely find in a zoo. Listening carefully, she found she could faintly hear the signs of something approaching her from afar too.

“I’m detecting a nearby bogey. Are you picking anything up?”

She asked into her microphone.

<A large number of creatures have begun awakening all of a sudden. It appears to be a trained response to the Professor’s scent.>

The receiver in the girl’s ear answered back, the voice on it devoid of any interference whatsoever.

“Wait, what-!? Then what was even the point of me sending someone in first then?”

The girl known as the Professor loudly complained.

<The group sent ahead consisted of Trump Soldiers and March Hare.>

“The Trump Soldiers are one thing, but I don’t see how March Hare made it through.”

<March Hare and I both lack scents to which they can react to.>

The characteristic stench caused by waste odors that all living things were forced to emit if they were to survive was something that the ones they had sent first, March Hare and the Trump Soldiers, both lacked.

“So my opponents have a smell fetish. Roger that.”

The girl scanned her surroundings and delivered a big sigh. One of the previous visitors prior to her own arrival was here. Though, perhaps calling it a current occupant would be more accurate. Physically, it was over a meter tall and it possessed a large head that stood out in disproportionate contrast to its small body.

“Huh, don’t think I’ve ever seen UMAs[1] like this before.”

She switched from infrared to echolocation on her night vision goggles. While the display was monochromatic, she could now appreciate a clear three-dimensional view of the approaching monsters.

Large eyes, ill-suited for inhabitants of a world devoid of light, and a pairs of fangs that protruded above and below from their thin, linear mouths. They creeped towards her, skillfully using the talons on their limbs to cling to the ceiling of the narrow 1.2 by 2.2 meter corridor.

<Statistically, it’s not uncommon for ruins to have their guards, at least in some shape or form.>

“A bit much for there to be this many though.”

<The statistics vary by region.>

The two continued to casually converse without a care even as the monsters began converging on their target. Their appetite would be beyond imagining, seeing new prey for what could be the first time in hundreds-... no, tens of thousands of years.

<There’s a possibility of parasitic infection. Take care not to get bitten.>

“You think I’m that dumb?”

<Just making sure.>

The girl clicked her tongue in annoyance. Her unseen partner on the other side seemed to be greatly underestimating her abilities.

“Well, whatever. Hatter, please give me a report on the Trump Soldiers and their movements.”

<Tracking and analysis mode deployed. I’ve instructed March Hare to recover any remaining Cards as well.>

“Good thing we came prepared for just about anything.”

<The 3 Queens having unanimously approved of this mission, there were fewer restrictions to take account of.>

“About that, did we find any clues as to Mom’s whereabouts?”

<That’s currently unknown.>

While they talked, the monsters slowly crowded closer and closer, waiting for the girl to drop her guard.

“Sorry, but I’m not on the menu.”

The girl smashed the waterproof case that hung from the belt around her waist. As if on cue, the monsters all leapt at her at once with unbelievable speed. A thin membrane stretched between the thorny protuberances extending from their backs to serve as wings, allowing them to come flying in like bats, though, the girl showed no signs of concern even then.

From within the waterproof case came weapons that one would easily describe as “peculiar”. Calling them handguns would be a bit of a disservice, considering how eye-catching these things looked, not to mention the dagger attached to the guns’ grips. First impressions would tell you that these would likely make for awfully inconvenient things. One wrong move and you could easily hurt yourself with the attached dagger.

And yet, the girl wielded the guns with a comfortable second nature, pulling the triggers with little hesitation towards the group of monsters, her “Muzzle Rush” tearing up the darkness. In her right hand, the jet black “Angra Mainyu”, in her left, the silver “Aeshma”. The gunshots from each, left and right, echoed through the corridor consecutively. Countless needles shot out from the muzzles, scattering as they ripped through the monsters’ flesh and even biting into the surface of the wall to the far end of her.

“That was more than seven assailants there.”

The girl let out a whistle before she realized it; the power from the armor-piercing Needle Flechettes had neutralized the monsters in an instant.

<You have limited ammunition. Against opponents of that caliber, you should make use of your daggers.>

“No thanks. Fighting off these Chupacabras at close range lacks a certain elegance.”

<It lacks elegance?>

“Yeah. There’s a certain need for aesthetics when on an adventure, wouldn’t you say?”

Smiling faintly in the darkness, the girl quickly reloaded her ammunition.

“Anyways, didn’t think I’d find a nest of Chupacabras here.”

Chupacabra. Not quite the UMA she thought it was at first, this one being well familiar with her, they suddenly appeared in the Caribbean’s small island of Puerto Rico around 1995. It’s name coming from the word “Goat-Sucker”, from the local language. As its name suggests, it is a blood-sucking monster that extracts blood and bodily fluids from its victims with a sharp, needle-like tongue.

The images the girl viewed through her goggles were being examined in real time by her current communication partner, the woman called “Hatter”.

“I wonder how they survived here for so long, what did these guys feed on?”

<We have no data on that.>

Though she answered right away, Hatter’s tone carried a hint of worry in it. The girl could guess why. After all, it wasn’t that much of a stretch to say that the distance between Puerto Rico and here was rather short. There might be a secret passage between the two that only these creatures knew of.

“Alright, additional orders for the Trump Soldiers. If they encounter a Chupacabra, kindly have them dispose of it. The Trump Soldiers have nothing to worry about anyways, not like they have any bodily fluids to get sucked out of them.”

<Additional instructions, acknowledged.>

A chance encounter meant a slight change to the girl’s plans, leading to her new orders to Hatter. Still, it was not as if she came here with the hope of finding these Chupacabras and chasing them around. She had other things in mind than monster hunting.

The Vimana hovered directly above the undersea pyramid, analyzing the data sent from the Trump Soldiers and March Hare while maintaining an altitude of three hundred meters over sea level.

The air currents here were far from stable, requiring frequent altitude re-adjustments to the ship, but it was about as far as the Vimana could be allowed to distance itself from the pyramid while still being able to receive and confirm data from inside it. Had there not been a thick layer of seawater between it and the pyramid, the Vimana would be fine staying at a more stable altitude instead. Although, the possibility of the girl in the pyramid needing backup due to some kind of emergency was also a factor to consider, thus this position could be called an acceptable compromise.

“All Clubs were annihilated, two Hearts survived, six Diamonds survived, eleven Swords survived[2]”. All Chupacabras up until N block have been terminated.”

Inside the Vimana’s control bridge, located in a gondola beneath the airship, a raven haired woman wearing a silk-hat low enough as to shadow her eyes nonchalantly read aloud the results of the battle between Trump Soldiers and Chupacabras as displayed on a monitor.

The female trespasser down in the pyramid had an information terminal but with very limited processing capabilities, as such, an arrangement where she sent up raw data to the airborne Vimana and later received the fully processed data was key. The woman in the Vimana in charge of relaying this information was known as Hatter, and the girl in the pyramid was her Mistress.

And the name of that Mistress, the one who operated the Attack Device to melt through the Pyramid’s outer wall, the one sneaking around inside of it at this very moment and of course, one of the 5 best Treasure Hunters in the World, was Alice.

<Let me know when the Trump Soldiers are done with their search.>

Alice’s voice instructed from the speakers attached to Hatter’s headset.

“Understood, Professor.”

Within the dimly lit gondola, the monitors shone as the only light source, projecting several multicolored lights moving about in the submerged pyramid. The white colored blip standing at the center of the 600 meter deep pyramid indicated Alice’s position.

Details regarding the contents of the submerged pyramid continued coming in and before long, the movement of the blue light points on the map finally came to a full stop. “The Swords have reached the deepest area. Route clear. Trump Soldiers, proceed with your additional mission.”

<Hatter, transfer the map to my terminal.>

Hatter had just finished the three-dimensional analysis of the underwater pyramid as she heard the voice through the headset begin to voice the new order. She forwarded the data.

***

The terminal equipped to the backhand of Alice’s diver’s suit beeped to signal the transfer of data.

She spread out the scroll-like screen attached to the terminal to confirm both her current position and the shortest route to her destination. While it looked similar enough to the pyramids of Egypt from the outside, the same couldn’t be said about the insides. There were no long or large corridors in here, in fact, it was a bit of a mystery how this thing even managed to support its own weight, let alone the weight of the ocean around it. Rather, the pyramid had innumerable pits all around, heading upwards and downwards deeper within and, according to the map, with only one of the pits actually stretching all the way downwards to the deepest area of the structure. A depth of about 50 meters, where a large hall seemed to be located.

As Alice released the screen, it folded back on itself automatically behind her glove.

There were better things to do here than play with Chupacabras like some kid at the zoo. Alice headed straight over the edge of the pit and, after approaching the hole without a hint of worry, casually took a step into thin air.

“Let’s Go!”

With a happy-go-lucky shout, she began to free fall. Naturally, Alice had something to slow her descent, a device attached to her belt which she activated with a calm gesture. Her inertial control system.

This piece of state-of-the-art technology was easily one of the more versatile tools carried by Alice. Not quite antigravity, but with a simple adjustment to how much inertia one is subjected to, even a five hundred meter drop becomes the same as going down a flight of stairs.

The world here was an abyss devoid of light. So it was also a good thing she had her ‘Eyes of Sound’, aka her ‘echolocation’ or sonar goggles, equipped or she wouldn’t be seeing much to begin with.

The hall where Alice landed had a semi-circular dome-like ceiling. Beyond the hole she had used, others were scattered here and there on the ceiling. Apparently that hadn’t been the only entrance after all.

“Say, Hatter.”

<What is it, Professor?>

“Do you detect any human beings down here? You know, besides me of course.”

<I can't detect any.>

Hatter replied immediately from the Vimana.

“Hmm, that so.”

Alice’s gaze shifted from the ceiling to the center of the hall. On top of a 3 foot tall column with a foot wide diameter, a model ship of around the same size sat untouched and in plain sight.

According to the material analysis from the sonar goggles, the model was made out of high purity gold too.

“Bingo! Hatter, check this out!”

<There is no doubt about it. The Golden Boat.>

A golden jet similar looking to modern spacecrafts[3], a golden vehicle that was the very spitting image of modern day bulldozers[4], models such as these had previously been found in South America and were known as Geometric OOPArts. The golden boat in Alice’s sights was one such Geometric OOPArt. It was one among many ancient relics her mother had once pursued.

“Add this one and we’ll have the whole set.”

The miniature jet of the sky, the bulldozer of the earth, and now, the boat of the sea was hers. Alice slowly approached what had to be one of the most priceless artefacts of all known ancient South American civilization…

“Wha-?”

She stopped. Several Card pieces fell to the floor, showering all around the center hall where she stood. Alice’s eyebrows raised in astonishment. There was no doubt about it, these cards were the remains of a Trump Soldier.

“Hatter, your analysis?”

<Judging from the damage, there is a high likelihood that this Trump Soldier was attacked with a high-intensity laser.>

“Laser?”

Alice paused, were Chupacabras known for having a power like that? As far as she knew, they weren’t capable of anything nearly as worrisome as shooting laser beams from their eyes. That fight from earlier would have been a whole lot scarier if they could do that.

If that wasn’t the case, maybe some kind of still-active defense mechanism within the ruins? Though making use of a high intensity energy weapon by harnessing the power of the sun was a bit of a cliché, it seemed pretty unlikely, what with it being impossible for sunlight to reach the ocean floor.

And if there were any other source of energy down here, it would have been detected through the analysis of the area beforehand. Alice would have most certainly had March Hare and the Trump Soldiers find and secure something like that before rushing in herself if that were the case.

That left but one possible conclusion. Someone arrived here before Alice did, someone able to slip through the detection network laid out by her team. And Alice had a pretty good idea of who would do just that considering the situation.

She took a deep breath and raised her voice loud enough for it to echo in the hall.

“I know you’re here! Show yourself!”

“Uhi, uhihihihi…”

A weird sounding laugh echoed throughout the hall and at that very moment, a powerful light shone down on Alice from someplace up on the ceiling. In an instant, the jet-black darkness that had devoured the room was now engulfed in lights, giving it all a dramatic flair similar to being on a theater stage. If Alice hadn’t switched her goggles to sonar mode, she probably would have gotten blinded by the sudden burst of lights.

“Good grief…”

Looking at the numerical value of neighboring radiance displayed on her goggles, Alice realized there wasn’t any point to keeping sonar mode active any longer. She pushed up her goggles, squinting her eyes slightly.

Her red pupils caught sight of silver armor. On the opposite side of the hall, a 3 meter tall giant made of silver stood upright. The strange laughter coming from somewhere in the suit of armor stopped and it bowed to Alice in a courtly manner.

<It has been too long, Lady Alice.>

A calm, dignified voice came from speakers within the giant. Its silver armor, polished to a mirror’s sheen, reflected Alice’s figure.

“Long time no see, Lumberjack.”

Lumberjack being the giant wrapped in silver armor of course.

As noted earlier, Alice knew of few who could fool her sonar sensors, the Trump Soldier’s enemy detecting abilities, and her other high grade sensors like that. Lumberjack’s stealth capabilities were derived from the very same super-technology Alice made use of, and because of that, he gave her a fair deal of trouble.

“You don’t show up on any of my sensors, yet you make no efforts to hide from plain sight. Typical.”

<Should revealing my large frame suffice to deter opponents, then I may as well, it’ll avoid needless confrontation.>

“That sure sounds like something you’d say. So, for a wimp like you to be in a place like this and still be keeping a level head, I’m gonna assume Dorothy is with you, right?”

“Huuuh? How did you guess?”

In complete contrast to Lumberjack’s butler like voice, a girlish voice very much like the strange laugh from earlier resounded from within the silver giant.

<M-Milady!?>

Before Lumberjack could fully voice his dismay, the massive chest plate on him opened up.

“Dorothy…”

Alice could feel a headache coming up.

“Uhihi! Good evening!”

With a flip of her honey blond hair, a young girl, with a distinctly rich mademoiselle-like air and looks to match that cheerful tone of hers, stepped out of Lumberjack.

Dorothy Lorena Baum. Daughter to the multi-millionaire Baum Family and one of the few Treasure Hunters the same age as Alice. Also known as the “Good Luck Fairy”. This was a girl who acted on random impulses and hunches whilst good fortune took care of the rest. It worked for her to such an extent you’d think she was blessed by the heavens themselves. You could call her something of a polar opposite to Alice.

“I’ve beaten you to the punch once again, Allie! Aren’t I just the best!?”

Devoid of the definition to the word “tact”, something that Alice could attest to, Dorothy was nothing but smiles.

“And here I had no idea that the tunnel we found in Puerto Rico would lead us directly to our goal either. I guess what they say is true, the proof is in the pudding.”

Did years of meticulous planning, all with the Foundation’s full support, really just get one-upped by something as simple as “the proof is in the pudding”...? Alice drooped her shoulders with a weary expression about her. Reading the mood was something Alice had long given up on teaching Dorothy at this point.

“But anyways, this is it! My victory is at hand!”

With most of her body still inside the upper half of Lumberjack’s body, Dorothy took on a guts pose. Lumberjack acted in perfect sync to Dorothy’s movements, taking on a guts pose of his own.

“Remember this well, Allie! For today’s the day Dolly made you taste defeat!”

With a snap, Dorothy pointed to Alice in a dramatic fashion.

QG 01 img 00005.jpg

“Ki… kishishishishi.”

Alice burst into laughter, her face still facing down to the ground.

“W-What is it? Why are you laughing like that!?”

“Foolish child, you really need me to spell it out for you, don’t you?”

Alice’s cackling stopped and she unraveled the whip she had wrapped around her waist.

“Think about it, you come here ahead of me, have all this time to prepare your lighting equipment and everything. Whatever happened to the part where you actually grab the treasure?”

“......Ah.”

Dorothy’s mouth opened wide.

<L-Lady Alice is right!>

Lumberjack reached out for the Golden Boat.

“As if!”

Alice’s whip snatched up the relic before Lumberjack could make it.

“And there we go. Treasure secured-!”

“Ahn~, not fair! That’s simply not fair!! I was really looking forward to seeing Allie get all upset toooooo~!!

Dorothy, still leaning out from Lumberjack’s body, swung an arm around in frustration.

<That’s dangerous Milady!>

Involuntarily matching Dorothy’s movements in sync, Lumberjack swung his arm too, though his with a buzzing sound. Alice gave them a sideways glance before quickly putting the Golden Boat away in the pressure-resistant case she had on her back.

“Hatter, I was able to secure the target.”

<Congratulations, by the way, there’s something I need to report, Professor.>

Hatter’s voice replied from the communication device.

“The way you’re putting it, it sounds like…”

<We have a Code D.>

“Ah-, naturally. I’ll be fine, don’t you worry.”

A Code D. Alice smiled wryly; among all the traps to have planted in a ruin housing a treasure, that particular code letter was assigned to the most dangerous of the bunch, the self-destruction type.

<Withdraw immediately.>

“Roger that. I wasn’t planning on staying here much longer anyways.”

After Alice cut off communication, she turned to Dorothy, who was in the process of stamping her foot on the ground in dismay, making Lumberjack stomp his foot as well.

“Hey Dorothy! Listen up, I’m only telling you this on account of us being childhood friends.”

“W-Whaat is it, Allie?”

“Everything here’s going to collapse soon. You’d better get moving.”

Alice shot a wire gun up towards the hole in the ceiling where she had dropped in from as she informed Dorothy. Inertial control was pretty great for descending, not so much for climbing back up however.

“What!? You’re kidding, a Code D!?”

“You got it. Now if you’ll excuse me~”

Alice shot a wink to Dorothy before activating the wire gun’s motors. As if sucked into the sky, Alice’s figure vanished in a flash.

She hurriedly made her way back to the Attack Device “White Rabbit” she had originally used to get here and settled into its operating position, which was something akin to riding a bike really. The hatch closed in response.

A digital display stood out dimly in the darkness of the Attack Device. The top right corner displayed the coordinate date of the White Rabbit’s current position and right below it, a display of the estimated time before the self-destruction sequence flooded the pyramid, as analyzed by the Vimana.

“Looks like I made it just in the nick of time.”

Alice quickly fastened the harness to her body as she muttered.

<Five, four, three, two, one.>

A monstrous tremor shook the White Rabbit as the countdown reached Zero. The outer walls of the ruin had just collapsed and the rest of it was going down with it thanks to the water pressure. The tremendous air pressure released by the underwater pyramid was thankfully more than enough for Alice to make her escape with aboard the White Rabbit, she began her ascent.

“Hatter, requesting retrieval.”

<Understood. What became of Lady Dorothy?>

“She’s with Lumberjack. She’ll live.”

Alice’s vessel slowly emerged from the sea, together with a mass of air bubbles.

“At least I can get to work on the next phase now.”

As a prerequisite to Alice inheriting the Dodgson Foundation, the 3 Queens, current administrators of the Foundation, had decided Alice was to complete this task.

Alice gave control over to the white Rabbit’s autopilot and took the Golden Boat out from its pressure resistant case, she gave it a good long look.

“Hn?”

Alice’s look turned grim with discomfort. Something didn’t feel right.

“I’d better have Hatter check this out ASAP.”

***

A small island in the South Pacific. This island, its existence erased from maps all around the globe, housed a base which contained various super-machines for the Treasure Hunter Alice to make use of.

Deep within, in a dark computer room lit only by the light of the liquid-crystal display of a screen, was the figure of a woman wearing a crimson red dress. Her eyes were locked onto the data displayed on the screen, data sent from the Vimana.

“The ‘Gate Opener’ noticed the third one was a fake.”

The woman murmured at the display, a thin smile crossing her lips.

“The time is upon us, My Queen.”

A male voice came from somewhere in the shadows behind her.

“Very well. Let’s start by having the Songstress take the next treasure.”

The woman told the shadow in an unperturbed tone.

“By your will…”

“Make sure you don’t let them discover your true identity.”

The woman backed away from the monitor and slowly, she vanished, blending into the darkness of the room.


Translator's Notes and References[edit]

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptid
  2. As we know, it should be "spade" instead of "sword"... but this seems to be on purpose, as the author will later go into a bit more details about this particular suit
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quimbaya_artifacts
  4. They mean these supposed relics: http://s8int.com/phile/page54.html (scroll down the page to point 8), unlike the golden airplane, they don't have a proper name