Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume3 Chapter2
Chapter 2: The Trigger. Natural_Bomb.
(November 10 – Oahu – Hotel Firefly 49th Floor – From a camera recording the proceedings.)
They were within a hotel room that was far from being the nicest in Oahu. They knew of other high class hotels suited for VIPs and facilities with suites that normal people did not even know existed, but those places could possibly have been marked by dangerous elements.
“Why are you still running that thing?”
That displeased voice belonged to a woman named Roseline Krackhart. She was the president’s aide. She was in her early thirties and had an atmosphere that made her seem extremely well suited to being a tutor (in more ways than one). However, she had once broken a reporter’s nose on national television when he had asked her about the veracity of rumors saying she “knew every inch of Mr. Scandal’s body”. Fortunately, this had given her the image of a guardian who would protect any potential victims of sexual harassment, so the president’s approval rating improved due to the incident.
Her general behavior was also evident in how well her suit that was custom-made by a supporting menswear company suited her.
“It is my duty to record all conversations while we are on the job,” replied a secretary holding a video camera.
“I see. Thanks.”
Roseline lay down across a three-person couch and grabbed a business magazine. The featured article was about the one hundred most important people who kept America running. She glanced through articles on Flack Kateman the car king, Olay Blueshake the media queen, Douglas Hardbell the rock star, and others before narrowing her eyes.
“…The president’s name not being on the list of people who keep America running is indeed a problem.”
“Ma’am, how about we get down to the main issue at hand?”
“I always end up putting off things that I know are just going to depress me.”
Roseline tossed aside the business magazine while sprawled out on the couch.
She then looked over toward one wall.
“General, have you found the president?”
“N-no, but we are currently searching for him with everything we have.”
“It’s that hard even for the Marines?”
“He abandoned his GPS in a garbage can near the press conference building. For some reason it was inside a contraceptive with the end tied shut. Our code breaking team says it may have been some kind of message…”
“That was just his idea of a joke.”
Roseline put her hand to her forehead.
She was irritated, but it was not due to direct anger at being toyed with.
“That idiot. A condom? If the Christian groups find out the president was carrying one of those around, we’ll never hear the end of it.”
“Wh-what about the secret service? We are of course doing everything we can, but the cooperation of specialists like them is essential.”
“General, you are the Commandant of the Marine Corps. You can complain about a lack of man-power all you want, but we cannot have you fearing the possibility of having all responsibility fall in your lap in an unforeseen situation like this. I believe we already explained to you why we went beyond the normal boundaries and asked for your help.”
Roseline reached for a wine bottle on the table but grabbed some mint gum once she remembered the camera was running.
“They are suspicious.”
Her voice had been quiet, but her words had held great meaning.
The general naturally fell silent.
“We know something is happening, but that is all we know,” Roseline continued. “We cannot figure out what exactly that something is. This is not simple bribery or coercion. Merely using a blacklist to quarantine it is not enough. They are suddenly becoming enemies of the United States as if they are being possessed by a demon.”
If the hostile elements were simply spreading out from a single person behind it all, they could possibly stop the spread by quarantining every single hostile element. However, when the person behind it was like an invisible demon that chose other people to control, the quarantine method lost all meaning. If they could not stop this person behind it, they could not guarantee their fundamental safety.
It was unclear by what means the people were being controlled.
Roseline and the others had surmised that there was a certain type of person that was more easily controlled and they were maintaining their safety by distancing themselves from anyone who showed the slightest evidence of being controlled. However, they were unsure how long that would suffice.
“As for the Senate and the House…well, about half of them seem suspicious. It seems to be spreading below the surface. And the military is no exception, general.”
“I-I had been told, but it simply does not seem real…”
“I know what you mean. I have seen it with my own eyes, yet I still can’t believe it. However, the fact remains that it is happening. Fortunately, the only confirmed victims so far are American officials. That is why you and the few units you accompanied in the joint operation cleaning up after the war with the Australian military did not run into any difficulties.”
Roseline Krackhart knew relatively little of the occult. She was only aware that it seemed somehow different from the esper development occurring in Academy City.
The president on the run likely had a similar level of knowledge in that regard.
A few teams were working on analyzing the mysterious phenomena that had occurred during World War III, but they had yet to come up with any real results.
That was why she was only able to give vague descriptions despite having witnessed clearly abnormal occurrences in the White House.
“Yes, we are only here due to our good fortune. However, we need to investigate as to why we had that good fortune. After all, we are in a situation where it is possible we could become possessed the instant we step outside. In all truth, the world police are being eaten into. I cannot guarantee that a child or old man on the street won’t suddenly start firing into a crowd, much less that the government can continue to function. Everyone in this country is at risk of being a victim or an attacker. If we do not find the occult conditions behind this and stop whoever is behind the invasion, even the nuclear launch codes could fall into enemy hands.”
“Is this why the president went off on his own…?”
“Probably. When that idiot learned of the situation, he started thinking about what he could do on a personal level to deal with this danger that is on a national level. He realized he would be immediately surrounded if he tried something on the mainland, so he played along until he reached an area where they had less influence. He must have thought their influence had not yet reached an island so far from the mainland. …And yet no one knows the actual rules behind this.”
“Th-then…” The general wiped sweat from his brow. “Are we putting the president in even more danger by chasing after him? If he has some means of victory…”
“Do you seriously think he does?”
Roseline glared at him with piercing eyes but softened her expression after she grew overly conscious of how the man winced.
“No matter the reason and no matter how dangerous the situation, we must have continual access to the president on the center stage. If it gets out that he has disappeared, he will be deemed no longer able to perform his duties and all authority will be passed to the vice president. …Because he has you know what, that is unlikely to happen right away, but we still cannot relax,” she said. “And the vice president has already become suspicious. He has done nothing wrong yet and he says he is trying to cooperate with us, but it is possible he is the type of person easily controlled by whoever is behind this. As such, handing the duties of the White House over to him is too much of a risk.”
No one dared put the rest into words.
They all felt the idea of one of the world’s superpowers being usurped by some unknown person was not something to say even as a joke.
“(…Well, the one piece of luck is that the president took that with him,)” muttered Roseline before speaking up. “Do whatever it takes to find the president. Find him before his disappearance is discovered by the vice president and the other politicians undermined by whoever is behind this.”
Roseline did not even look over as the general gave a proper salute. She muttered to herself with a look of pure displeasure on her face.
“(…More importantly, going missing is not the only way he can be made unable to perform his duties. A bullet through the head would do the trick just as well.)”
(November 10 – Oahu – Dear My Car, Oahu Branch – From an in-car camera.)
Roberto Katze, the American President, entered a rental car shop with a silver attaché case in one hand.
He spoke to the young woman at the reception counter.
“I don’t care what, but just give me something cheap. Hmm, I think electric cars are supposed to have a good image. Roseline is never shutting up about it. Well, gasoline or deuterium or whatever is fine too. Just don’t give me a car that was just used for sex. Even if you wipe it down with ethanol, the smell sticks around.”
“You certainly have an attitude. Just who do you think you are?”
“The president! As one of the citizens supporting this nation, could you at least watch the morning news!?”
“Oh, so you’re an impersonator. Can you do his ‘We will save the world!’ thing?”
“…Whatever. Just give me the key already.”
Roberto tossed some crumpled up bills on the counter and the woman tossed the key back toward him. He walked down a line of two-person cars and looked over at an especially battered convertible.
He was about to kick the tire, but stopped himself when he realized it was made by a company that supported him. He instead opened the door.
Just as he was inserting the key, the young woman came running after him.
“Sorry, sorry. I missed part of the procedure! Mr. Impersonator, I need to input the information from your license before I can let you rent that.”
“Can’t I just give you my social security number?”
“It has to be your license.”
“…What a pain. Maybe I should submit a bill to get that changed next chance I get,” muttered Roberto as he pulled a card out of his wallet.
The woman held out a reader similar to a cell phone’s wallet function.
Roberto Katze held his license up to it. The young woman nodded in satisfaction upon confirming that the device had read the information from the integrated circuit inside.
“Okay. So your name is Roberto… Roberto Katze. You live at… the White House? H-hey, wait a second!!”
“May I go now?” he asked with a grin.
“Did you go so far as to change your name!? I can’t believe you found an apartment complex called ‘The White House’! And it’s even in Washington DC! You certainly are a dedicated impersonator!!”
“Well, why don’t you just believe that until the day you die!? Waaahhhhh!!”
The president drove off with tears in his eyes. He was further made a fool of as the woman saw him off by imitating his “We will save the world!!”
After leaving the grounds of the rental car shop, Roberto drove with one hand and used the other to open the attaché case lying in the passenger seat. The case was secretly a computer. He connected the cables inside to a GPS-like device.
It was known as the Imperial Package.
It gave him president-level access to all government cloud systems. With that one device, he could send orders to any government office or prepare ballistic missiles for launch. Of course, it used various methods of ensuring that only the current president could use it.
“…This way I can check on what the people who have become suspicious are accessing.”
Areas where the flu is spreading tend to have more people searching for information on the flu using search engines. This fact could be used to determine how far the flu had spread by checking the search records of the search engines.
Roberto was doing essentially the same thing.
However, he was checking on what he estimated the suspicious people were after rather than the flu.
From what he could see of the people taking suspicious actions, Roberto could not tell if the total number of enemies was increasing or if the enemy was merely switching over to controlling people closer and closer to their objective.
However, he had to assume that anyone that showed any suspicious behavior even once would once more become suspicious as if they were switching back and forth between good and evil.
He may not have been able to see it clearly, but it all had to be a clear attack,
The people being used as pawns all had their own individual lives.
With each person taken over, whoever was taking control of them was getting access to the information that person alone had access to. If Roberto could figure out what the person behind it was searching for, he could get a better understanding of what the enemy’s true objective was.
As he used the Imperial Package to view the secret cloud, Roberto searched for areas of concentrated accesses that had nothing to do with the people’s normal duties.
Roberto Katze clicked his tongue lightly.
“…So I was right. It is the trigger being stored in Oahu.”
It was a top secret piece of equipment that had been developed in an American military research facility.
Depending how it was used, the special device could be used to take the lives of hundreds of thousands of people at once.
The president’s grip on the steering wheel naturally tightened as he thought about how it could be used in Hawaii.
(November 10 – Oahu – Green Café Iwamaki – From the camera in the tablet terminal installed on the table.)
A broadcast of a football game seemed to drag on forever within a café near the airport. The café specialized in Japanese tea, so the sport did not fit the atmosphere. A major broadcasting company had bought the rights to broadcast all of the team’s games, so it was being broadcasted for free. The customers seemed quite excited about it. A cardboard speech bubble had been attached to the edge of the flat screen TV that said “A round of applause for Olay Blueshake the media queen!” in English.
Kamijou Touma was carefully listening to a phone call from Birdway so that he could hear over the surrounding noise. He had his cell phone on speaker phone, so Hamazura and Kuroyoru could hear as well.
Kamijou had been about to ask what would make a good souvenir for Index (it had to be food of course), but what Birdway told him made it clear it was hardly the time to be thinking about things like that.
Incidentally, Kuroyoru was cowering from Kamijou who had suddenly appeared earlier and Hamazura was trembling while looking over at Kuroyoru.
“Due to Cendrillon being taken out, I have succeeded in drawing a different Gremlin magician out from the crowd. This new one is the type of magician that controls other people. That type almost never comes out to the front stage themselves. Getting them to come out into the spotlight is the true battle when it comes to that type.”
“What do we do now?”
“We go fishing,” said Birdway sounding very pleased. “It would be foolish to think a magician like this can only control one person. The more people this one controls, the more her power grows, so it would be best to assume she is targeting the normal people in the area as well. The reason she leaves everything around her to others and does not stand in the path of danger is likely due to a complex over her own lack of power. She’s trying to overcome that with numbers. Therefore, I need to first gather some samples. Two or three of the poor victims being controlled by Gremlin should do it. With that, I can analyze her spell. I need to know what conditions are needed for its use and what kind of line connects the user and the victim. Knowing that will allow me to find her… and make a direct magical counterattack.”
“And that investigation will best be carried out without letting this magician know you’re doing it, right?”
“What if she isn’t in Hawaii?”
“I will hide even the fact that I can detect where she is. If she is outside Hawaii, it’ll take some time, but we’ll still be able to catch the idiot by surprise. In fact, we could even purposefully fail in our attack. Each time the idiot gets away, she will only lead us to a new hideout. During that process Gremlin will lose manpower and assets. Gremlin will likely eventually begin to suspect the idiot, but if we give the right false hints we can make them think she’s a traitor and a spy and they’ll end up taking each other out. The whole process will likely uncover the identities of other Gremlin members, so we just have to change who the target of the search is at that point.”
“…You certainly play dirty.”
Kamijou would get into a direct fistfight and solve things on the same day they began, so that was a completely different style of fighting than he was used to.
To be honest, he did not feel he could completely approve of the method.
However, he could not come up with an alternative method.
“What do I need to do?”
“Just stay where you are,” replied Birdway over the phone. “I have another hero. And unlike you, this one is quite skilled at working behind the scenes.”
(November 10 – Oahu – In front of Hotel Firefly – From a tourist’s video camera.)
Only the most commonplace hotels did not have a doorman and porter standing in front of the entrance even in an area as ungodly hot as Honolulu. A set of three was created when the valet who parked guests’ cars in the underground parking garage was included.
However, services like that would require a tip and the hotel parking garages were often quite expensive. As such, cheaper parking areas were established around the hotels and it was not uncommon for people to park illegally.
In an area full of tourists coming and going, leaving one’s car out in the open was quite dangerous, but most of the tourists were not from the island and therefore usually had rental cars. By purchasing the cheap insurance beforehand, a broken window was no big deal. And no one was stupid enough to leave their valuables in the car while staying in a hotel, so there was no danger of having their possessions stolen.
Edward Torke stepped out of one such illegally parked car.
The white man was wearing a suit that—while not the nicest—was at least not mass produced. However, the heat of Hawaii had ruined his usual style. His tie was loosened and his jacket was off and draped over his arm. From the look of him, the sleeves of his shirt would likely be rolled up after another hour.
However, even as the glaring light of the sun reflected off of the hotel windows, Edward Torke did not hold his hand in front of his face or even narrow his eyes. His pupils underwent no change. The frequency of his blinking was as accurate as if it was being timed with a stopwatch.
He was not a tourist. He had come to the island for a business negotiation.
He was supposed to be speaking with a local fishing union about the safe collection of deep ocean water as the first step toward creating a foothold in the business of manufacturing and selling a health drink based on it.
They “had decided on” a room in that hotel as the location of the negotiations about the price.
He “accurately remembered” that the negotiations would take place in Room 4911.
In reality, the hotel the negotiations were to occur in had a completely different name and someone completely different was staying in the Room 4911 in question. Edward Torke had just stuffed a large contract and check into an attaché case. If he were to notice someone he did not know (named Roseline) in the room, he would conclude that she was a robber after his money.
And in the great gun nation of America, flight was not the only action people instinctively took in order to protect themselves. He had a revolver with a four inch barrel in his pants pocket.
A single piece of altered information could lead to a great chain reaction.
Edward Torke hummed a tune at the thought of the great business deal he was about to make while not suspecting that his actions were being used for someone else’s purposes.
And then the electronic billboard attached to the hotel wall fell down from directly above him.
The great crash left the surrounding people dumbfounded and finally a great uproar began. The hotel workers hesitated to leave their posts at the entrance, but once their boss exited the building, they frantically ran over to the scene of the accident.
However, they were unable to immediately move the crushed electronic billboard out of the way.
It was disconnected from its power supply, but the internal circuits and other electronic parts must still have had some electricity stored within them. A great shower of sparks kept the hotel workers from approaching.
No one was sure who had called it, but the siren of an ambulance approached.
It was not until twenty minutes later that the rescue team managed to get the electronic billboard out of the way.
“What?” said one of the rescue workers in surprise.
The electronic billboard had been removed and the cracked asphalt showed just how great the shock of its impact had been.
But that was all.
Edward Torke, who had supposedly been crushed, had disappeared.
(November 10 – Oahu – Sewer Rainwater Pipe – From a camera for monitoring water levels during a disaster.)
“This is the third one,” muttered Accelerator as he dragged the poor “victim” down through the manhole and into the sewer.
Birdway nodded in approval.
“That’s all of them. Excellent work.”
“Are you sure the person controlling them didn’t notice this?”
The rainwater pipe was filled with rotting mud and the like which gave it quite an odor, but Birdway did not seem to mind. Despite her appearance, she may have been fairly used to harsh environments.
“The magician controlling them most likely collects information using the five senses of the victims. She would notice if you just outright attacked the victim, but she won’t sense any danger if it looks like they were knocked out naturally.”
“How can you be so sure? How do you know this magician can’t continue moving the targets’ eyes around after they lose consciousness?”
“I can’t say for sure, but we do have a precedent.”
“Cendrillon. If she could do that, she could have continued to collect information after Cendrillon collapsed and used it to put together a plan against us.”
However, that had not happened.
“Once I analyze the spell, I can track down where this person controlling the victims is as well as detect any pawns trying to attack us while hidden in a crowd. That will be a perfect defense against the spell. Simply put, it’ll be checkmate.”
The threat of having a normal person attacking disappeared once an enemy could be detected and dealt with head on. Birdway and Accelerator were not people who feared a handgun.
“…So you couldn’t perfectly detect them up until now? So there’s a possibility I was confidently attacking completely unrelated people?”
“Don’t get so upset. In all likelihood, these were accurate. This just brings that up to a full one-hundred percent.”
The rainwater pipe had pathways for workers prepared on both sides and the three “victims” were lying on one of those dirty pathways.
“Now then… Since I now have all the necessary materials, it’s time to get started on the analysis. If you want to learn a bit about magic, you can watch.”
(November 10 – Oahu – Smoking area within Coral Street Shopping Mall – From the camera in the magician’s cell phone.)
The strangest aspect of modern cell phones was the increase in the number of camera lenses.
They had a lens on the back of the phone for normal photography, a lens on the front for showing oneself in a video conference, and the number only went up with the addition of 3D photography and other features. At the current rate, it did not seem long before the entire phone would be covered in camera lenses like they were beads.
A girl of about fifteen was flipping her cell phone back and forth between front and back. She had short blonde hair and white skin. She wore a primarily green turtleneck and miniskirt as well as thick boots that passed above her knees. On her head, she wore something like a headband made of tree branches. Her outfit made her stand out from the building made of glass and concrete.
With an expression that showed that the clearly multi-function cell phone was just too much for her, she spoke into the precision device that she simply could not get used to.
“Yes, yes. It seems he failed. The attacker, Edward, has lost consciousness and the room on Hotel Firefly’s 49th floor is still untouched. It seems they are planning to move somewhere else due to the uproar over the electronic billboard. It looks like attacking the aide group is unrealistic after all.”
The way she spoke made it clear she was not used to speaking politely.
Her tone of voice made it clear she was giving no thought to whether she was angering the person she was speaking to or what would happen to her if she did anger whoever it was. This was because she was skilled enough to avoid any danger coming her way.
She was especially skilled at avoiding danger by using others as a shield.
“Yes, yes. I understand that. The incident at the airport was indeed bad, but the basics of the plan will fall apart if the immunity is not activated. Well, we now have an idea as to how many of them there are and how serious they are. Also, they can be used as a positive factor from here on out. In the end, it is not a problem.”
The magician was simply saying whatever she could to pacify the person she was speaking to rather than logically analyzing the situation.
“Anyway, we just have to follow the plan now. After blowing through the side-quest, we just have to work on the main quest of the trigger.”
The magician’s eyebrows then moved slightly.
She seemed to finally be showing interest in something the other person had said.
“Oh, really? I knew it. I had thought that was a little too convenient. So they are interfering.”
The magician’s tone showed that she did not particularly mind.
“Well, thanks for that. When it was just me, I denied it, saying I was over thinking things. Having proof really is important. Proof is so much better than guesses. Yes, yes. I will do something about that, too. Bye.”
She hung up, spun the phone around in her hand, and then stuck it in her pocket.
At the time, no smoking campaigns were quite popular worldwide, so there were no smokers in the smoking area. The grotesque enlarged photo of a sperm with a note about smoking reducing sperm count was probably not helping.
The magician shrugged and turned around.
A man was standing there. The large black man was wrapped in powerful muscles and seemed to have a military background.
He was one of the people she was controlling. The method of control she was using on him was a bit more complex than some of the others.
“You’re up, Mr. Secret Trick.”
(November 10 – Oahu – Coral Street Shopping Mall – From a security camera near the east entrance.)
“Oh, I already have all the data I need to analyze her spell,” said Leivinia Birdway with complete confidence.
She was waving around a single scrap of paper. It was about the size of a small certificate of commendation, but it was thicker and had a rough surface.
“It’s papyrus,” Birdway explained.
Apparently, she had bought that item used as a royal burial accessory from a plant specialist.
“Now we just have to wait for her weaknesses to be exposed. The automated work should finish in about an hour. Even now, I’m receiving information bit by bit. For example, I know what kind of line connects her to her victims and from where she is controlling the victims.”
Accelerator listened to her while walking through the shopping mall with his modern cane.
“Basically, she used to be with the Russian Orthodox Church.”
“She uses a spell based on a fairy. In her case, it is the Leshy. The Leshy is the ruler of the forest and the king of all animals that live there. Do you remember when she and Cendrillon said red something and black something when Cendrillon was giving up control?”
“What about it?”
“That was roulette. They were gambling. The Leshy loves gambling with the forest animals. The winner is of course given control of the loser.”
“In this case, the Leshy is likely viewing her surroundings as the forest and the humans who live there as the animals. I don’t know the exact conditions for that yet, but the analysis spell will reveal those conditions soon. Then it will all be over.”
“For not having finished yet, you certainly are sure of yourself.”
“I have enough to search out anyone she’s controlling. Even if she tries a surprise attack, it has essentially no chance of succeeding.”
Despite having just said that, repeated gun shots rang out.
They came from behind Birdway.
From only five meters behind her.
(November 10 – Oahu – Beachside – From a camera along the main road to enforce the speed limit.)
A station wagon slammed into Roberto Katze’s battered convertible at high speed at almost the exact same time Birdway was attacked.
The two vehicles strayed from the road and struck one of the palm trees lining the road at even intervals. A coconut fell down and hit the president right on the head.
“Gwehh…N-nice. Now that’s about as Hawaii-esque as you can get. If I wrote that in my journal, no one would believe it actually happened.”
The side of the car was crushed in, but the station wagon had struck the passenger side. The driver’s seat was safe. He was worried about the Imperial Package for an instant, but it was meant to be used in emergencies, so it was surprisingly tough. It was not even scratched.
The president closed the attaché case, ignored the door that refused to open, and jumped out of the convertible.
Roberto Katze used a hand to motion back the panicking tourists who were approaching and then headed toward the station wagon.
“I’m not used to getting run into from the side at full speed.”
Despite the great shock of the impact, the station wagon’s windshield was not broken. And the glass was tinted. Roberto was pretty sure the station wagon was not just some random vehicle, but he still approached the driver’s side door and tried to peer through the window.
“Mister, there’s something wrong when the one who ran into me is the one to pass out.”
As if in response, the window started to lower.
And a right hand holding an automatic handgun stuck out.
“…I can still kill you. Anyone who has a gun and a finger to pull the trigger can be an assassin.”
“C’mon, stop that. War & Safety handguns are the most used in the country. It would be pretty sad if I had to be shot by a product from one of my supporting companies. They’d probably ask for their money back at my funeral because I gave their company a bad image.”
As Roberto Katze complained, he noticed something about the eyes of the man who was still leaning against the airbag.
“…Mister, you aren’t being controlled, are you?”
(November 10 – Oahu – Smoking Area within Coral Street Shopping Mall – From the camera in the magician’s cell phone.)
As the magician pulled out her cell phone to check the time, she heard dry gunshots in the distance soon followed by the screams of onlookers.
“The scary thing about amateurs is how they will go through with something to the end once they are determined to do it.”
She was not speaking to herself, but she received no response.
Standing next to the magician was a black girl of about ten.
The girl was standing utterly still while using her right hand to hold the end of a flathead screwdriver up to her temple.
“It truly is frightening,” the magician whispered. “All I had to say was that I would have you tear your head apart like a frozen orange and he was ready to do it.”
Birdway had analyzed the magician’s spell.
She knew that the magician used the stories of the Leshy to control people by spreading her role as the ruler of the forest animals.
If the magician had sent one of the people she was controlling with the Leshy spell after Birdway, the traces of magic power and the spell would have been detected and eliminated before they could get close.
The people controlled by the magician’s magic could not approach Birdway.
That was a foregone conclusion.
However, there was not just one way of controlling people.
For instance, she could control a certain daughter and order her father to do things while he maintained his true self.
“She is quite skilled, but that in itself creates openings. Since she is determining danger by the presence of my spell, I can slip right past her defenses.”
The magician grinned.
In addition to the black girl, she had a few other children gathered in the smoking area.
Every one of them would function as a hostage to pull off that kind of secret trick when it was needed.
The magician had prepared as many disposable pawns for those tricks as she had hostages. For instance, one was targeting President Roberto Katze.
“And once he is past her defenses, it’s all over. Whether she is a magician or not, she is still a human who can be killed by a single bullet.”
The girl’s father must have wanted to make absolutely sure she was dead or a police officer had shown up and shot him to death because further gunshots rang out. However, it did not matter. When Birdway was in a completely defenseless state, the first shot was all it would take.
(November 10 – Oahu – Coral Street Shopping Mall – From a security camera near the east entrance)
Having been struck in the back by countless bullets, Leivinia Birdway collapsed to the polished shopping mall floor. Even so, the large black man continued to fire bullet after bullet from his handgun.
The dumbfounded tourists frantically tried to flee in all directions from the center of the incident.
Shouts and screams exploded out.
Accelerator’s eyes opened wide as he took in the developing situation.
The large black man was trembling and tears were falling from his eyes, but he did not hesitate. He tossed aside an empty magazine and put in a new one.
At that point, the #1 finally came to his senses.
He hit the switch of the electrode on his neck and the Level 5 powers that gave him his name activated. He was thinking of breaking the man’s wrist before crushing his neck when…
“Sh-shit. That was dangerously close to being my moving death scene,” said Birdway as she raised her head.
The black man fell backwards in shock and shouted something. As Accelerator kicked him in the chest, he shouted at Birdway.
“What the hell did you do!?”
“Having a body substitute just in case is one of the most basic of precautions. In fact, modern Western magic goes so far as to embarrassingly say we need to kill our old self and be reborn as our new self.”
Birdway pulled a card from her pocket. It was a tarot card from the major arcana, the Hanged Man. The card showed a man hanging upside down from a tree branch, but it had holes through it.
Meanwhile, Birdway herself had not shed a single drop of blood.
“If you use Crowley’s tarot, it is the symbol of the death of the Son of God, who himself represents an age. It was originally not a symbol of execution, but if you intentionally misinterpret it, it can be extraordinarily compatible, especially for things piercing into the body. …I wanted to make sure I had some defense against bullets before setting foot in a major gun country like this, but I didn’t want to deal with a thick, sweaty bulletproof vest,” Birdway explained. “Now then, I know you’re about to awaken to your true power due to the anger and sorrow of believing I had died, but let go of that man.”
“…Esper powers aren’t that arbitrary.”
“Even if we push him, we won’t get any hints about who’s behind this. I already have all the information I need on the spell and he isn’t being controlled by it in the first place.”
“This is an indirect method. To be honest, I’m pleasantly surprised. It isn’t often that I praise someone, so remember this.”
Birdway ignored Accelerator’s puzzled look and approached the large black man with long strides. The man immediately held the handgun up with both hands. It was unclear whether he had remembered what he was supposed to do or if he was merely reacting to the threat of the strange monster approaching him.
“If the magician’s specialties lie solely in the field of controlling people, then guessing at the rest is a simple matter. Most likely, she is threatening you with someone close to you who she is controlling.”
“I am not some hot-blooded idiot, so I will not give you some annoying speech. Nor am I going to kindly discuss this with you. I am simply going to tell you the truth as bluntly as I can.”
Despite the man being able to shoot her at any moment, Birdway let out her stabbing words while striking a daunting pose.
“You lucked out this time.” She pointed at her small chest with her thumb. “But next time will be different. No matter the reason and no matter what emotions are driving you, if you pull that trigger now, I will die. The trembling of your body will change to an irreversible truth. You won’t get a third chance. People aren’t normally lucky enough to get this second one.”
With a terrible light in her eyes, the victim spoke to the attacker.
Her tone of voice made it clear she knew what it was like to cross that line.
“…Are you still willing to shoot me? Do you have the guts to go through that great shock you gave yourself once more from the beginning?”
The large black man’s trembling reached its peak.
He had likely worked hard to prepare himself on his way there. He must have repeated the justifications for what he was doing again and again, piling one atop another.
When he had done the deed but failed, the pyramid of cards had come tumbling down.
If he had rationally built it back up from the beginning—if he had mentally rearmed himself by recalling what situation his loved one was in—he may have been able to shoot Birdway once more. However, he could not balance the cards with his trembling fingers. Now that he knew the shock he had experienced when he had fired that first shot, he could no longer put a stranger’s life on the scales so easily.
A cry of desperation burst from him.
It sounded like anger at his dead end of a future and also like atonement for what he had done to Birdway.
The man’s eyes opened wide as he shouted and he stuck the barrel of his handgun into his mouth.
Accelerator and Birdway let loose kicks at the same time which knocked the handgun from his hand and knocked him unconscious.
“I went too far,” said Birdway, making a conscious effort to bring her tone of voice back to normal. “This has gotten a little trickier. I no longer have the Hanged Man.”
“It’s your own fault for being careless.”
“Not really. The magician would only have put together that plan if she knew I had analyzed her spell. So where did Gremlin learn that? My methods were perfect and there was no flaw in your retrievals. And yet…”
“This is not an enjoyable situation to be in, but we might find something enjoyable if we look further into this.”
(November 10 – Oahu – Beachside – From a camera along the main road to enforce the speed limit)
When Roberto Katze pointed that out, the driver moved slightly while still holding out the handgun. It might have been a nod.
The attacker finally opened his mouth and said, “…And if I’m not?”
“Then they most likely have a hostage. Perhaps your lover or your child.”
“And if they do!?” shouted the attacker as he re-aimed the gun. “Whatever my situation is, the situation here remains the same! Come with me. If I capture you, I can protect my family even if it means the end of this country!!”
“…C’mon, mister. Do you really think they’ll hold up their end of the deal? These are people that threatened you right off the bat rather than showing any kind of good will, right?”
“I don’t give a fuck!! If there’s even a one percent chance, that’s enough! If I do nothing, she’ll be killed for sure!!”
“Well said.” The president grinned. “But those aren’t words you should use out of desperation. If you’re willing to believe in a one percent chance, how about you put that trust in a much better option?”
“Shut up. Shut the fuck up!! Can’t you see this gun!? All you have to do is tremble in fear and do what I tell you!! Those crazy people kidnapped my younger brother’s daughter. It’s a long story, but my dead wife risked her life to protect that girl. I can’t lose her now. In fact, if the police and you guys in the government had done your job, none of this would be happening!!”
The man’s words were fueled by resentment toward crime in general and dissatisfaction with the agencies meant to protect the peace that had not stopped it. Even though he had clearly gotten caught up in the incident, it was unlikely that he knew who the real enemy was.
However, in a way, his words pinpointed the current crisis in America.
Despite being the attacker, his were the words of a victim.
Before speaking, the president reflected on the twist of fate displayed in those words.
“Mister.” The president moved slowly, completely ignoring the gun pointed at him. “I apologize for what has happened to you and the kid who is being used as a hostage. In this country, we are taught to never apologize even when there has been a murder, but I bow my head to you. However, I have more to say. What you saw is the true enemy I must fight. I cannot stop until I have crushed it. After all, I am the president of this nation. It is my job to protect the lives and freedoms of its people.”
“Yeah, right… You people don’t give single thought about our lives!! There’s no election coming up, so you don’t need to patronize me like this. I don’t expect any goodwill out of you self-serving politicians!!”
The gun in his hand trembled, but Roberto Katze’s expression did not change.
He put his elbows on the frame of the crashed station wagon’s window and peered inside. The driver carelessly pulled back the handgun and tried to put some distance between them.
Roberto simply continued speaking.
“Let’s talk about the past. Before he died, my old man used to always tell me to grow up to be a strong man. He was a drunk and he never worked, but he always had a proper light in his eyes when he would say those words.”
“What does that—?”
“His words led me to want to be as strong as I could possibly be. And that’s how I ended up where I am now, as the President of the United States.”
Roberto Katze smiled slightly and stared the armed attacker straight in the eye.
“Now I have a question for you, mister. Do you think the strong man I wanted to be was someone who would obey inhuman orders to save his own skin? Do you think it was the kind of man who decorates himself with his position and political power but pisses himself at the sight of a handgun? Do you think my dream was to become a chicken who is so overcome with fear at the thought of a single bullet that he abandons an innocent child who has been taken hostage?”
For an instant, the attacker lost sight of reality.
He forgot that he held the gun and that he had control of the situation.
“Tell me, mister.”
He could only hear the words of President Roberto Katze.
“What do you think the kind of strong man I longed to be would do in a situation like this that angered him to the bottom of his heart?”
(November 10 – Oahu – Government Vehicle – From the in-vehicle camera)
The small refrigerator inside the high class vehicle contained ice-cold champagne, but Roseline Krackhart did not take any. She had reached for the refrigerator door, but the gazes of the secretaries had reminded her that she was on official business. The high class vehicle had a leather sofa that stretched around the inner edges in a rectangle and an expensive looking table in the center. Roseline reached for a magazine on the table but tossed it aside when she noticed the large image of the president’s face on the cover.
One of the secretaries caught it in both hands and looked down at the page it had happened to open to.
“Is this true? It says his father died of cancer, so he is prepared to reform the medical system so that no one else need go through that pain.”
“Of course it isn’t. He’s just bragging as always. In fact, if you take everything he says at face value, his father has died over eighty times. I was thinking of throwing a party once it breaks one hundred.”
(November 10 – Oahu – Beachside – From a camera along the main road to enforce the speed limit)
The attacker moved his trembling hand and lowered the gun.
The president had not actually done anything to him or taken out an even more powerful weapon.
He had only spoken.
His words had held enough power to cause the attacker’s eyes to open wide and to rob him of his will to fight.
“I’ll say it again. If you’re going to bet on a one percent chance, why don’t we try to save that girl from those bastards rather than just doing what they say?”
“You’re lying. You’re just saying whatever you can to get out of this alive.”
“We have a chance.” The president’s words destroyed the attacker’s doubts. “I already encountered them back on the mainland. There is something a bit different between you and the ones I encountered before.”
The true attacker had already made it within the White House, the Senate, the House, the military, and other agencies.
“It’s your eyes,” said the president. “The suspicious ones…well, I’m not quite sure how to put it, but they have a look in their eyes that isn’t right. That was how I noticed it. I noticed their gazes while I was putting together the basics of the Emergency Financial Protection Bill.”
“The secret service, my secondary secretary, the reporters at press conferences…even the cleaning lady. It wasn’t just one or two people. They did not fall under any one profession, race, age, ideology, or religion. The only common feature was the look in their eyes. No individual person looked at me for long, but it felt like someone was watching me at all times. It gradually increased until they were the majority. The White House was overflowing with those creepy people.”
The president was not familiar with the details of the occult, so he did not know if a large number of enemies had been created or if the person being controlled was swapped out depending on the situation. What he did know was that the number of people with a dangerous element was increasing.
It was highly likely that anyone who had been taken even for an instant would once more become dangerous. It did not matter if any of those people were even the type to do bad things.
“…Was it a spiritless look with no readable expression?”
“Mister, was your niece like that?”
“It looked like she was in some kind of a daze.”
Roberto Katze sighed when he heard that.
“Things got to be a pain, so I contacted some people outside the White House to investigate the situation and deal with it if necessary. However, that was how I found out the suspicious people were not just in the White House. They were hiding within the NSA and CIA and the number of people taking ‘dangerous’ actions grew each day. And they have been accessing classified information on the trigger using a government network,” the president explained. “I don’t know what kind of technology the person behind this is using, but he or she can control people. And this person can likely gather information through the eyes of the ones being controlled.”
His investigation using the Imperial Package had revealed that even missile lab researchers and nuclear submarine crew members had tried to access information on the trigger. People in special environments like that would not be able to use things like cell phones, but they had to have some means of getting any uncovered information back to the person controlling them. That led the president to believe the person was directly linked to the people’s senses rather than using some kind of communication device.
“That is where our chance lies,” said Roberto. “If you were being completely controlled, you could not hide anything from the person controlling you. However, you are different. Since you are a normal person being controlled via a hostage, the person behind this has no way to gather information from you. We can use this to get past this person’s defenses and possibly get in a surprise attack.”
(November 10 – Oahu – Green Café Iwamaki – From the camera in the tablet terminal installed on the table)
“And that’s how it will pan out if all goes well.”
Kamijou listened to Birdway speak over the phone.
They too were planning to counterattack using the normal people who were forced to fight, but…
“Since that man was able to attack me so easily, the magician ordering him around must have a means of detecting our location. This might also mean that she knows when her attackers fail and, therefore, when the hostages are no longer needed. …Thanks to this possibility, the monster with me has been in a very bad mood. He really is a hero.”
“What? …Anyway, this person uses magic to control the people around her, right? So wouldn’t she have lookouts posted?”
“I would have noticed them. I can detect traces of the spell,” cut in Birdway. “And over what range do you think she has lookouts posted? How did she know I had come to the shopping mall? Or are you trying to say she has lookouts posted all across the Hawaiian Islands?”
“…Could she be using an information network other than her natural magic?”
“I would say she at least has a means that either covers all of Oahu or that can scan all of the Hawaiian Islands. It also has to be something that can slip past my magic side way of doing things…”
“A surveillance network using something other than magic…? So a science side means?”
Kamijou looked up at the corner of the building’s ceiling.
“At any rate, we need to come up with a countermeasure.”
Birdway gave a few instructions.
“Will that really be okay?”
“I’m the one that wants your opinion. After all, this is more of a science side issue,” Birdway replied.
No matter what the situation was, they had no choice but to head forward.
That was how it felt to Kamijou.
“…And can we really get those people wrapped up in this?” Kamijou asked carefully. “Even if they pointed guns at us, they’re just normal people who have had hostages taken. Can they really withstand a magician battle?”
“If we are going to bring Gremlin out of hiding here, we must take out this magician that can control people. And given how easily I was attacked, it’s safe to assume they already know what we look like to a certain extent. That means our best chance is to get the help of people who are in the enemy’s blind spot,” said Birdway. “Also, the hostages will be killed if we do nothing. To keep her identity a secret, the magician who used the hostages as a threat will likely eliminate the hostages in the end. In fact, she could kill two birds with one stone by giving the hostages weapons and telling them to kill their parents.”
“God dammit,” Kamijou cursed.
As they listened over speakerphone, Hamazura’s expression grew grim and Kuroyoru Umidori simply looked bored.
“…What are we supposed to do?”
“Before the battle begins, I want you to find as many of the normal people fighting for the sake of a hostage as you can. The more people on our side, the better. Also, if we know how many such people there are, we will know how many hostages we have to save.”
“But how?” Kamijou frowned. “Unlike you, I can’t detect magic or magic power.”
“There’s no need to worry about that,” Birdway readily responded. “I was attacked. We can assume they know who is in the ‘Kamijou Party’ to a certain extent. Also, they know you are alive due to Radiosonde Castle and we have already seen a countermeasure put together especially for you. …At the very least, we know the enemy will be closing in on you.”
Just as a chill ran down Kamijou Touma’s back, he heard a scream.
The front door was kicked down and a large man holding a handgun entered and stared directly at him.
Kamijou jumped to the ground, bringing Kuroyoru’s small form with him. Slower to react, Hamazura frantically climbed over a thirty-centimeter-thick partition. The very next instant, repeated high-pitched gunshots rang out.
(November 10 – Oahu – Smoking Area within Coral Street Shopping Mall – From the camera in the magician’s cell phone)
Ten minutes had passed since the magician had heard the gunshots.
However, she had received no calls and the poor berserkers worried about their children had not returned.
“(…Were they shot by police officers who happened to be present?)” wondered the magician.
She pulled her cell phone from her pocket and spoke while operating it with her thumb.
She spoke to the unmoving hostages.
Those four children were being controlled by the magician and each of them was at or just under the age of ten.
“Okay, everyone, listen to what I have to say,” she said with the tone of a guide on a school trip. She then unzipped her bag and pulled out 9mm machine pistols. “The adults walking around outside are very dangerous, but you will be safe as long as you have these warning buzzers. The scary adults will run away if they hear the noise from these buzzers. If the adults find you, just point your buzzer at them and set it off. Do you understand?”
She then reached for a shopping bag filled with clay-like explosives. She attached the medical electrodes extending from the bags to the children’s wrists as she continued speaking with a big smile on her face.
“And these are your GPS devices. With them, I can tell where you are so even if the dangerous adults capture you, I will come to rescue you if you press the secret button to let me know. So make absolutely sure that you never take off your GPS device!”
She was using the same method she had in her attempt to make Edward Torke attack the Oahu hotel.
She was controlling them by creating a deviation in their knowledge.
From a third party’s point of view, she was telling them to do absolutely unthinkable things, but none of the children there were aware of it. The children looked at the guns and explosives with unambitious eyes.
The magician secretly smiled.
At the very least, Leivinia Birdway was in the same shopping mall.
Even if she only needed to get safely and surely farther away from her, the magician wanted to create a great confusion she could escape in.
The current problem was their locations.
The shopping mall had seven exits and the magician had a chance of being spotted even amid the confusion if she accidentally headed toward Birdway.
To prevent that, she had to contact her collaborator and learn where the enemy was currently located.
The magician frowned as she put the cell phone to her ear.
She looked back at the small screen and looked confused.
Immediately afterwards, men holding handguns burst through one of the smoking area’s windows.
They were the poor men who she had used hostages to control.
(November 10 – Oahu – Coral Street Shopping Mall – Near the East Entrance – From a CCD camera in a tourist’s notebook computer)
Misaka Mikoto and Misaka Worst rushed through the large shopping mall.
Bluish-white sparks intermittently shot from their bangs. Because they had guessed that the enemy was monitoring their movements through the cameras, they were jamming the wireless signals.
“Dahh! I can’t stand this… We finally get a call from them and it’s just asking us to be human jammers. And to rescue the family of a man who attacked them with a gun but was repelled by a cyborg’s power? …That idiot sure is calm about all this. We came all the way to Hawaii, so can’t we do something a little more exciting?” complained Mikoto.
“Hmm? Since you were just staring blankly over at that swimsuit shop, how about you take your own advice to heart? Maybe go for a slingshot. Or how about a micro bikini? Or a Brazilian swimsuit? Misaka hears there is a kind with an I-front and an O-back.”
“Gwaaaaahhhhhhh!! Does this country have some rule that says the less cloth used, the better!?”
“But if Misaka wore a slingshot, it would be rather tricky because her breasts would make a bridge-like gap between her body and the cloth. But for you, Onee-tama, it would be no different from gluing bandages around your body…”
“If you say one more word, I’ll unleash a never-before-seen Rail-Shotgun on you!!”
“…Misaka doesn’t feel too threatened when you say that while holding a shopping bag from Cupid Arrow.”
“And Misaka isn’t going to respond to that over-the-top reaction either. Misaka is a bit worried about a certain someone’s choker-style electrode. But on the other hand, a malfunction would be quite interesting indeed, so she needs to focus on going all out with her jamming!”
(November 10 – Oahu – Smoking Area within Coral Street Shopping Mall – From security camera footage)
The magician’s lips stiffened slightly.
She had looked down on those pawns as nothing more than normal people and had planned to dispose of them along with the hostages, so when those people she clearly saw as small fries charged in with their handguns, she grinned.
“You fools. This only hastens my plans!!”
The magician snapped her fingers. The hostages—the young children who had been standing stock still until then—began to move. With the bags hanging from their shoulders, they turned the machine pistols in their hands toward their family members.
Gunshots rang out.
However, a tragedy did not occur there.
Just before the guns were fired, the shopping mall ceiling collapsed. The one who had brought the shutter of rubble down was Accelerator. And he did not stop there. He manipulated the vector of his momentum to give himself superhuman speed and kicked the bags hanging from their shoulders, sending them flying far away.
A few of the children made a motion as if they were trying to rub their side with their upper arm, but they did not make it in time.
The explosives detonated, emitting a great roar and explosive flames, but they were far enough away that it only shook the building.
“…So you had them set up to spread the damage as far as possible with the guns and then blow up when they died. We took some samples to look into how you do things, you fucker.”
The magician was already headed for the exit.
However, Kamijou and Hamazura came running in through the two passageways connecting to the rest of the floor.
She had a bad feeling.
However, it was not due to who was there.
“(I still don’t know where Birdway is. Even if I manage to escape amid the confusion here, this could get truly bad if she’s lying in wait for me up ahead…!)”
As she backed into a corner of the smoking area, the magician felt sweat dripping along the edge of her nose.
Of course, she was not about to let herself get taken out there.
The magician saw the normal people unhesitatingly aiming their guns at her and preparing to pull the trigger, but that was when the situation changed suddenly.
The cause of this change was a single explosive thrown in from outside the camera frame.
(November 10 – Critical Error)
An unknown cause is placing a heavy burden on the FCE.
Self-diagnosing…output of report complete.
The FCE is beginning its reboot sequence.
(November 10 – Oahu – Coral Street Shopping Mall – In front of a coin locker – From security camera footage)
Kamijou Touma and Accelerator had jumped into the same area next to the smoking area. Together, they had pushed the hostage children into that area.
“What happened to Hamazura!?” asked Kamijou.
“He jumped out the other exit. He’s with the parents. More importantly, what the hell was that? What idiot intervened!?”
The sound of scraping metal could be heard beyond the black smoke.
Kamijou tried to peer out through the smoke, but Accelerator grabbed him by the nape of the neck.
Immediately afterwards, gunfire rang out.
It was not the sound of a handgun being fired. The explosive noise was deeper and continuous. It was most likely from an assault rifle or something like that.
“This isn’t the occult…” Accelerator muttered. “Then this is a job for me. You take those kids and get out of here.”
“I have no intention of getting into a firefight with those kids still here. And your power can release them, right?”
It was true that one of the children Kamijou had pushed to safety was acting differently from before. She was staring in confusion as if she could not understand what was going on. That was most likely due to Kamijou’s right hand having touched her.
Accelerator spoke without turning around.
“I’m best suited for this kind of battlefield, so you hurry up and get out of here.”
“…I’ll repay you for this later. Don’t let yourself get taken out easily.”
Having said that, Kamijou lightly tapped the heads of each of the hostages who were still trying to attack according to the magician’s orders. That was all it took to bring the children back to their senses. Taking them with him, Kamijou started leaving the coin locker and the attackers from the other side of the smoke tried to chase after him.
However, Accelerator stepped into their path as if challenging them.
“It may be a little unfair, but we want to make sure we use the right person for the right job.”
(November 10 – Oahu – Coral Street Shopping Mall – Eastern Side of the First Floor – From the camera in a tourist’s smartphone)
The explosions and gunfire caused a great panic within the shopping mall. No one was stupid enough to try to catch a glimpse of what was going on. The people sensed a crisis and all tried to get out of the exits at the same time. However, there were simply too many people, so the flow of people got caught near the exits, packing everyone in together.
Mark, one of the men in black suits, asked Birdway a question.
“Do you think it is going well?”
“As the gunfire is not ending, the battle must be continuing. Well, that magician has been getting other people involved while taking it easy on her end of things. It really made me want to take the fight to her. Not getting direct progress reports from the people there is a pain, though. I didn’t realize how thankful I was for cell phones,” she said lightly. “The main reason I wanted to win over the normal people was to get a good idea of where the magician was, but I never expected her to be in the same shopping mall. Luckily, it looks like the multi-sided attack was fairly effective, making this easier.”
“But even if you have people posted at all the nearby exits, there is still a chance that she can slip by in the confusion.”
“I can just follow the flow of magic power. That way, she can’t mix in with the normal people.”
“And if she does not refine any magic power?”
“Unthinkable. This is not a safe zone for her. When a surprise attack could come at any time, she will put up her defenses so she can deal with one. Even if she knows purifying magic power is dangerous, she will be even more afraid of not having any.”
Assuming the current magician specialized in controlling people, Birdway reasoned that she would unhesitatingly flee when attacked head on.
As such, Birdway was waiting at one of the exits for someone who might be the magician to show up.
Birdway frowned upon catching a glimpse of a figure within the crowd.
“What is someone as famous as that doing here?”
(November 10 – Oahu – Coral Street Shopping Mall – In front of a coin locker – From security camera footage)
An armed group of five stepped out of the black smoke and in front of Accelerator.
They were covered in special all-silver military uniforms from the top of their heads to bottom of their feet. The surface of the uniforms glittered like a CD. Their faces could not be seen, but Accelerator could just barely tell from their body shapes that three were men and two were women. They were all armed with special bullpup-style assault rifles. In addition, the men had recoilless guns hanging from their shoulders and the women had intelligence-gathering tools such as high-fidelity microphones and fiberscopes hanging from their waists.
“(…Tch. Are they from Gremlin? Those uniforms look more like electronic camouflage for fooling sensors than something to be used against people.)”
They did not utter a single word.
One of the men held up his rifle and unhesitatingly fired.
However, Accelerator had his reflection.
The man was struck by the bullet he himself had fired and was knocked to the ground, but the other four showed no sign of worry or confusion.
They all took separate actions.
“(…Was he testing to see if I could do it?)”
He had ignored the damage he would take on a personal level and made a calculated sacrifice to control the damage to the group as a whole.
It pissed the #1 off, but it did not change what he had to do.
He manipulated the vectors of the force of his legs to explosively charge forward. The hunt had begun. No matter what the enemy thought or how they moved, Accelerator’s reflection was overwhelmingly effective when it came to bullets and explosives. The attackers could do nothing to oppose the #1 as he wiped them out.
There was one left.
Just as he stretched his fingers out before her, bright red blood suddenly burst from Accelerator’s right arm.
A bullet had not made it past his wall of reflection.
Accelerator could not be harmed even by invisible threats such as gas or a biological weapon.
This had been caused by a non-external threat.
That is, his body was being destroyed from the inside.
The last remaining attacker jumped to the side and Accelerator was unable to correct his motion. He slammed into the wall. Blood was splattered on the wall and it did not quite seem real to him that it was his own.
Still leaning against the wall, Accelerator said, “It…can’t be…”
“One fact remains the same for every esper,” said the woman as she held up her bullpup-style rifle. “When a scientifically-created esper uses a magical spell, they are assaulted by a certain side effect.”
He tried to shout out but instead coughed up a clump of blood from deep in his throat.
The attackers’ movements. The way they had fled. The timing with which they had been taken out.
It had all been calculated out to make Accelerator take certain actions—to make him pull the trigger known as magic.
The specifics of the magic he was made to use did not matter.
It could be something relatively useless like sending a pale light from his fingertips or even something so trivial it could not be seen. What mattered was that they were making an esper use magic.
Accelerator managed to figure that much out, but he could also tell his consciousness was growing muddy.
He had used something like magic in the past, but making careful adjustments while checking on one’s limits was very different from charging in unaware.
And a scientific esper’s powers were created purely from the brain.
The muddying of his consciousness lowered his calculation ability which in turn had an effect on his control on the macro physical world he could see.
Simply put…he lost his reflection ability.
The woman whose face he could not see held her finger to her rifle’s trigger.
“The name Gremlin refers to an occult fairy that causes malfunctions in scientific machines. Had you not given any thought to what that meant?”
Immediately afterwards, a gunshot rang out.
Blood flew through the air. The dull sound of a human body falling to the ground was heard. Dark red blood leaked from the body as it lay on the ground.
However, it was not Accelerator’s body.
It was the woman’s body after she had been suddenly shot from the side.
Even as she lay on the ground, she held the bullpup-style assault rifle in one hand. She blindly fired in the direction she had been shot from.
“That just isn’t gonna cut it, lady. You aren’t going to hit anything firing wildly like that. Stability is more important than distance. No matter how good a gun you have, you can still miss at ten meters with terrible form like that,” said a deep male voice.
Two light gunshots rang out and two dark-red holes opened in the woman’s right shoulder. The rifle finally fell from her grasp and her resistance was replaced by groans.
“Don’t even hold a gun if you can’t hit. Are you trying to get yourself killed!? This is the world’s largest gun country!!”
“Who…are you…?” Accelerator asked the boasting man.
“That’s what I’d like to ask you, Japanese boy. I came all the way here to save the children, but you stole my thunder.”
“…Again: who the hell are you?”
“I really wish people would start watching the morning news,” sighed the middle-aged man holding a handgun. “I’m the goddamn president.”
(November 10 – Oahu – White Beach Golf Club – From a tourist’s video camera)
The tourists poured out of the shopping mall and fled to the beach and other nearby areas. Unlike with a simple accident or disaster, the people were trying to escape a shooter, so they were mostly heading for other buildings to hide in.
Normally, only members could enter the White Beach Golf Club, but the guards’ shouts did nothing to stop the surging waves of people. They hesitated to draw their guns as a threat as it was an emergency and people’s lives were at stake.
Mixed in with the crowd, the Gremlin magician operated her cell phone.
Birdway and the others had been monitoring all of the exits, but they had not thought of the possibility of her destroying a wall and leaving through that. In a firefight like that, an extra explosion or two did not seem suspicious.
After ringing a few times, the call finally connected.
Without waiting for the other person to speak, the magician shouted into the phone.
“Why did you send them!? They were meant for a later stage!!”
“Either way, the plan would have been brought to a standstill if you had been captured back there,” said the young woman’s voice coming from the phone. “And I have things I must do while the enemy is focused on you.”
“They already know what you look like. If it is only a matter of time before the pursuers reach you, we must proceed even faster than planned. From here on out, this is a blitzkrieg. We must shake free of them faster than they can respond.”
(November 10 – Oahu – From the in-vehicle camera of an electric cart)
Because he had no idea when the enemy’s comrades would return and injure Accelerator further, President Roberto Katze could not leave Accelerator where he was. Instead, he dragged him into the passenger seat of the kind of electric cart used in golf courses. He wanted to watch the reunion of the hostages and manipulated attackers longer, but they had no time, so he drove off in the cart.
Incidentally, his rental car had been rendered completely unusable. He started to seriously consider whether he could call it a public expense and get reimbursed.
“It’s a good thing this is a tourist area. Electric carts are a lot simpler than a normal car. You’re supposed to input a four digit number, but you can bypass that and start them by opening the cover and connecting a single cord to an open port on the circuit board.”
A certain company had a few different models of electric cart and each one had different types of security, but they all used the same circuit board. Depending on the model of the cart it was for, different electronic parts were connected to that circuit board and different ones of the several input ports were chosen. That was how the different products were given a sense of individuality.
However, holes for electronic parts and input ports not needed for that model still existed.
A common circuit board was used to reduce costs, but that meant a signal could be sent through a route the machine was not made to handle. It was possible to cause an intentional error.
It was because of his interest in those kinds of things that the president was sometimes called the swindler who had risen to a higher position than any other swindler in history. If he was not careful, Hollywood was likely to make a movie about it.
Accelerator clicked his tongue while breathing shallowly.
“…If we had taken one of those damn reinforcements with us, we could’ve gotten some information.”
“That’s too much of a burden. I’m no Hollywood star; I can’t carry two people at once.” The president gave a light smile. “More importantly, you need to do something about that blood. I’m only borrowing this. I’d like for this to end up being a cart of good fortune that is rumored to have been driven by the president, but at this rate it’ll be rumored to be a bloodthirsty cart that kills everyone who uses it. I don’t want to cause any problems for its owner.”
“If you need something to use as a bandage or gauze, take this.”
The president handed him a lace handkerchief. It did not look like a man’s handkerchief, but that may just have been part of the strategy he used in regard to his image. Accelerator took it with an irritated look on his face.
“…Why did woman’s underwear come out with it?”
“Sorry, sorry. That belonged to a career woman I met at a bar two days ago. At some point, it found its way into my pocket.”
Accelerator tossed the women’s underwear aside and glared over at the president.
“How much do you have to do with this incident?”
“That’s what I want to know from you, Japanese boy. This is my country. Do you realize you’re having a barbecue in someone else’s yard without asking?”
“Currently, the occult is running rampant through the White House and Congress. Its tentacles have spread through the military, the police, and the intelligence agencies. The phenomena you saw back there have eaten into all of the public institutions. In some cases, it has reached people who have the authority to decide to invade another country. The bastards using the occult are using living people to put together their own force.”
“…In concrete terms, how far has it spread?”
“Who knows? It could be a few hundred people or it could be a few thousand. It’s beyond the point where we can tell that kind of thing. What I do know is that something isn’t right in this country. There’s no convenient test, so telling apart the affected and the unaffected is difficult. Areas that were safe the day before are not necessarily safe today.”
“Is it Gremlin?”
“A magic cabal…that is, a group that uses the occult…that is hiding here in Hawaii. To be honest, I don’t know many of the details myself.”
“Does someone in that group have the power to control people?”
“…I see. So you’re a Japanese hunting dog that has chased the rabbit here and so we’re starting to catch glimpses of the enemy’s tail in our sights.”
But if what Roberto said was true, it was possible Gremlin’s influence was not confined to Hawaii.
It would mean they had eaten into the entire country.
The enemy could possibly wield the military and intelligence gathering power of that nation.
“(…Dammit, Birdway. What was that about an incident possibly occurring? If you want to stop this, you need to start moving before it’s already checkmate.)”
The president operated the steering wheel as he drove up onto the freeway. The electronic cart had no windows or walls, so a dry wind blew on them.
Accelerator and President Roberto Katze had a common enemy.
All the circumstances were connected.
Accelerator started thinking about that fact, but joining forces with the president did not give them the power of America itself. After all, the country was already being eaten into by Gremlin. He decided joining forces with Roberto Katze as an individual was the best they could hope for.
“So these occult bastards making up this Gremlin group are controlling important people within the US in order to take over the center of the government and the military,” said Roberto.
“…Or that’s what I thought.”
“If so, what happened back there was odd. Do you remember? That girl controlling people with the occult was using those children as shields and having them target normal people.”
“Are you talking about how that group of what seemed like professional soldiers cut in partway through? Their equipment was weird, too. That CD-like uniform was electronic camouflage. That’s meant to be used against high-tech sensors, not people. But I thought no military actually used it because they all hated how it looks.”
“If they had been planning to use those soldiers from the beginning, they would have simply relied on them instead. I don’t see why they would go out of their way to use those normal people who could possibly turn on them.”
“And yet the magician used them.”
“There is something there. We’re just not seeing it.”
(November 10 – Oahu – Green Café Iwamaki – From the camera in the tablet terminal installed on the table)
“There we go,” muttered Birdway as she looked at the papyrus.
It was the spiritual item she was using to automatically analyze the magician’s spell.
Kamijou, Hamazura, and Kuroyoru looked at the papyrus, but they could not understand what they were seeing.
Birdway ignored them.
“She is indeed from the Russian Orthodox Church. Mark, compress the analysis data from the papyrus and send it to our contact with the Russian Orthodox Church. Ask them—politely—if they have any idea who she could be.”
“…Do you really think they will answer honestly?”
“As the main battlefield of World War III, Russia is in the process of being restored by Academy City’s technology and America’s funds. Gremlin is currently damaging both of those. Tell them any delays on our part could have a major effect on their recovery.”
Kamijou made sure not to touch the spiritual item and asked, “Do you know how her magic works? What’s its weak point?”
“Ugh, someone explain it to him.”
“Ah, I have a response from the Russian Orthodox Church. That was incredibly fast. Especially for a bureaucratic job,” Mark cut in.
“That last comment must have done its job,” said Birdway as she snatched the tablet computer from him. “Her name is Saronia A. Irivika. Fourteen years old. Comes from Yekaterinburg. She proudly thinks of herself as European and hates having Russia be called part of Asia more than anything. Well, that last bit is about as stereotypically Russian as you can get.”
She used her index finger to scroll down.
“During World War III, she was deployed to Vladivostok to stop Academy City forces from landing, but had little to do since the invasion was primarily carried out by supersonic bombers. She disappeared in the confusion of the end of the war. Her whereabouts since then are unknown.”
Those created by the war who did not wish for the war to end.
“So is this Saronia trying to overturn the result of the war as a Russian soldier…?” asked Hamazura
“It’s possible,” Birdway replied as she shoved the tablet computer back toward Mark.
“Then is Gremlin a group of those who lost the war and want a comeback? Do they just want to redo the war?”
“I thought I told you personal objectives had more of a priority than an overall ideology. The group and an individual will not necessarily align. It would best to have as few preconceptions about them as we can.”
Suddenly, Kamijou’s cell phone started to ring.
He answered it to find it was from Accelerator.
“I know what Gremlin is after. I don’t know what their ultimate objective is, but I know what one of the means to get there is.”
“One of the means to get there?”
Kamijou quickly switched over to speakerphone so everyone there could join in the conversation.
As soon as he did, Accelerator got to the core of the issue.
“Gremlin seems to be trying to obtain the Trigger.”
“The Trigger…? That’s rather vague. Is it from the science side or the magic side?”
“Technically, it’s called the Small Scale Induction-Style Active Volcano Controlling Device, but that’s a pain to say, so they call it the Trigger. The device is being developed by the American military.”
“…I don’t like the sound of that name.”
“As the name suggests, it’s a toy used to control the activities of an active volcano. It can’t stop a volcanic eruption, but by distributing the energy of the explosion, it can control the damage done. To keep it simple, you can think of it as a device that uses a special combination of explosives to apply stimuli to the underground magma which artificially causes small scale eruptions. By letting the pressure escape before a major eruption occurs, the worst case scenario can be avoided.”
In addition to the avalanches and pyroclastic flows that directly damaged the areas at the foot of the volcano, air lanes had been cut off by volcanic ash in recent years. Given how much economic damage from natural disasters such a device would avoid, it was certainly worth researching.
“You’re saying Gremlin is after that?”
“To be specific, the people being controlled by Gremlin all seem to have been searching for data on this Trigger,” spat out Accelerator. “But the Trigger really only applies the proper stimuli to the underground magma and that’s it. If it’s intentionally used incorrectly, it could be used to cause a major eruption.”
If Gremlin was after the Trigger, it was almost guaranteed that they were planning to cause a major eruption in some active volcano. In fact, that was about the only way the Trigger could be used.
Which active volcano was Gremlin going to detonate?
“Kilauea,” replied Accelerator. “That’s the largest active volcano in the Hawaiian islands, so that has to be it.”
“Kilauea, hm?” muttered Birdway quietly. “The opening at its peak alone is over a kilometer in diameter and it has other smaller openings lined up for twenty or thirty kilometers.”
“…The Trigger is a system that can artificially cause volcanic eruptions, right?”’ asked Kamijou.
Accelerator clicked his tongue and responded.
“If Gremlin uses the Trigger, they can even cause eruptions that would be impossible naturally. In the worst case, it’s possible they could send lava erupting from all of the openings at once.”
“Kilauea is on the island of Hawaii and over eighty percent of its area is mountainous. The network of roads has brought development onto the mountainsides, but most of the population is still focused in the few level areas.”
“So if Kilauea has a serious eruption…the lava would all flow there…?”
“And that’s only what would happen with a normal eruption,” said Accelerator. “If an artificial eruption is caused using the Trigger, it will not end there. Apparently, Kilauea will start a chain reaction that will spread through underground connections to Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and Hualalai, causing them all to erupt. If that happens…”
“Well, all of the island of Hawaii will be washed over with lava,” said Birdway easily as she ignored Kamijou and Hamazura who had fallen speechless. “If you add the residents and tourists together, I guess the death toll would probably be around 500,000. It isn’t fun to think about, but it is on the scale of what I would expect from them.”