Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume3 Chapter3
Chapter 3: The Target of the Scorching Lava. Case_to_War.
(November 10th – Oahu – Main Road – From a camera in a public bus)
Kamijou, Mikoto, and Birdway were riding in a large bus.
Hamazura, Misaka Worst, and Kuroyoru had gone elsewhere. Kamijou’s group and Accelerator’s group were attempting to prevent the Trigger from being taken from Oahu, and Hamazura’s group was setting up a defensive line near Kilauea just in case.
“So they’re going to kill 500,000 people by causing an artificial eruption in Kilauea…”
“…Nnn,” groaned Mikoto.
“Do you have a question,” asked Birdway as she stared out the window.
“I know these terrorists are planning something monstrous.” Mikoto did not have a proper understanding of Gremlin or magic, so that was how she interpreted it. “But didn’t you all say that the Senate, the House of Representatives, and all sorts of other government workers were being controlled in order to gather information on the Trigger? Well, I guess they must have someone like our #5…”
“She can most likely control quite a few people at once. What’s your point?”
“Doesn’t that seem a little indirect? Maybe I’m wrong, but if these people have the power to control a majority of the US Congress, couldn’t they change the state of the country without resorting to violence?”
“Yes, if this was just an issue about America,” Birdway responded. “But Gremlin is an enemy on an even greater scale. If you look beyond the United States, what they gain from this becomes clear.”
“What are you talking about, little girl?”
“Pay attention now. The Trigger itself was developed in American research facilities and the incident itself is making use of a portion of America’s Congress, military, police, intelligence agencies, and other government organisations. If a large scale terror attack is carried out in which Kilauea is artificially set off, the people’s anger will not be aimed solely at the terrorists. It is quite likely that they will be quite upset with how useless the American government is.”
“Also, Hawaii has many times more foreign tourists than local residents. Most of the victims in this incident would be tourists, so it would no longer be a purely national issue. Many nations, many governments, and many politicians would thoroughly investigate the events leading up to the eruption and America would be harshly blamed for the truth those investigations uncovered. And every country is in need of money after the war. …But America of course does not have the money it would take to meet the inevitable demands for reparations they would receive. The chaos would continue on.”
“So they’re trying to damage the entire science side,” spat out Kamijou.
“And all they’re doing is creating an impetus. Once Kilauea erupts, the countries of the science side will start fighting amongst themselves on their own, effectively driving a wedge into the gears of the science side,” Birdway continued.
“…Even if Academy City is at the centre of technological development, it is America that keeps the world economy running. If America is struck down, the economy will stagnate. And then…”
“The cycle of unemployment, poverty, and hunger would spread explosively. And despite being at the centre of it all, America would be less affected than the more distant emerging nations. Once those surrounding nations learn they are suffering more than the ones that caused it all, their anger will swell up even further. That will complete the downward spiral.”
“So there’s even a danger of terrorism and riots completely unrelated to Gremlin spreading throughout the world? If that happens, everyone will be too busy dealing with that to pursue the traces of Gremlin.”
“Exactly,” Birdway agreed. “They are having America drive cracks into itself using its own power. That is what is important here. That is why they are going out of their way to use such an indirect method.” Birdway grinned. “And this also applies pressure to the other developed nations that support the science side.”
“What do you mean…?”
“When a new enemy appears, normal nations respond by developing more powerful equipment and deploying it. However, this plan involves crushing America using its own device. That means the more a nation augments its military might, the greater the risk. If they want to reduce the risk, they have no choice but to get rid of the very equipment that is supposed to protect them.”
“If this plan succeeds and America is utterly destroyed, the other developed nations will come to a standstill. Politicians are human too. After seeing someone fail miserably before their eyes, they will want to avoid doing the same thing.”
“But they can’t fight if they don’t prepare military might!”
“That may be what common sense says, but they will not want to bring all the risk onto themselves. That is simply how politicians think. As such, no one will do anything and nothing will change. A standstill, stagnation, a political vacuum, and obstruction of economic activity…all of that may be their goal or their goal may be to freely strut through the vulnerable world that it creates in order to spread even more destruction. I may not be sure of their overall goal, but at the very least this will bring the world into a state that is much more convenient for a group like Gremlin that hates the postwar focus on the science side.”
Causing five hundred thousand victims and crushing America was nothing more than an impetus for Gremlin.
That way of thinking made Kamijou Touma silently but strongly clench his right fist.
(November 10th – Oahu – From the in-vehicle camera of an electronic cart)
Roberto Katze drove the electronic cart with one hand while operating the stereo with the other. Accelerator thought he was looking for a radio news program to get information from, but the radio instead started playing trance music that was rumored to have more to do with the explosive increase of small animals than the waxing and waning of the moon.
“…What the hell are you doing?”
“Trying to relax. Roseline is always bugging me about it. …To be honest, I’m surprised at how much of a burden has been lifted from my shoulders just by finding someone I can be absolutely sure isn’t being controlled.”
“Do you know where this Trigger is?” asked Accelerator while the electronic cart shook.
“It was primarily developed by the marines because they are sometimes deployed for disaster relief.”
“I know the Hawaiian Islands are the cornerstone of the US’s defensive line in the Pacific, but how many bases are there here?”
“If you count navy, air force, and marine bases, there are 52. …It’s even more if you add in the training areas.”
“…Isn’t that a bit much?”
“There was a rush to build as many as possible in order to deal with World War III. The war ended much sooner than anyone expected, but money given to a project can’t be taken back…or rather, won’t be given up. A lot of meaningless construction is still going on.”
Accelerator clicked his tongue.
The president grinned and said, “Almost half of the 52 I mentioned are currently being constructed. But parts of those are already functioning, so we can’t just eliminate them from being possibilities.”
“Then where are we headed?”
“Not even I am reckless enough to just try a blind search. By using my presidential authority on the network, I can gather a certain amount of information on my own.”
“Just get to the point.”
“We are headed to the largest collection of American military facilities in Hawaii…and therefore the entire Pacific Ocean. I have a feeling even a Japanese boy like you will have at least heard of it.”
“Don’t make me repeat myself. Just tell me already.”
(November 10th – Oahu – Near Pearl Harbor’s Third Marine Base – From a traffic surveillance camera on a traffic light)
Nothing but chain-link fence continued for kilometers.
Kamijou Touma, Misaka Mikoto, and Leivinia Birdway met up with Roberto Katze and Accelerator near that fence.
When Mikoto saw Accelerator, an expression of shock appeared on her face as if she had remembered some bloody trauma, but they did not have time to worry about that kind of thing.
“The Trigger is likely within that fence,” said the president as he pointed toward the base with his thumb. “But as you know, even if we do not have the most advanced technology, this is a base of the marines who lead the world when it comes to pure firepower. If we just tried to climb the fence and get through on guts alone, we’d definitely be shot to pieces.”
“…You’re the president, aren’t you? Can’t you just give an order to get us in?” asked Kamijou in confusion, but the president only gave an exaggerated shrug.
“A presidential order isn’t as convenient in reality as it is in movies. There are a lot of organizations between me and the individual soldiers here and my order may not make it through those organizations if they are being controlled by a third party.”
Birdway said, “Saronia A. Irivika, the one controlling people, is attempting to obtain the Trigger, so there is no guarantee the people here in the base would obey the order even if it got here.”
Accelerator and Misaka Mikoto exchanged a wordless glance.
The two of them could force their way into a base that was filled with normal firearms. However…
“Forcing our way in wouldn’t be the best plan,” Birdway cut in. “This is a large base, so there is no guarantee we will find the Trigger quickly. Continuing the fight the entire time would be difficult and reinforcements would eventually arrive from the other bases. I’m not saying we couldn’t win, but I’d rather not turn this place into a sea of flames. …If a bunch of explosions turned the facility into a pile of rubble, we would have no way of knowing if the Trigger had been here or not.”
“So to be absolutely sure, we need to confirm the existence of the Trigger here before destroying it,” Kamijou muttered. “But I doubt the security here is lax enough that we can just sneak in.”
Roberto lightly caressed the surface of the attaché case he was holding.
“This base is one of the ones undergoing rushed construction to expand its functionality. That means construction workers are constantly going in and out. It may be easier to slip into than a completely finished base,” he replied.
“…I have a question. Does that create enough of an opening that Asian teenagers walking around won’t seem suspicious?” asked Kamijou.
The president’s expression grew bitter.
Birdway lightly crossed her arms and said, “I could gather a group of white men using my subordinates, but I want as few magicians as possible here since Saronia is involved. It’s possible she would notice if that much magic power was gathered here.”
“Then what do we do?”
“I never said I didn’t have an idea.”
“You know how we can sneak into that marine base?”
“No,” Birdway said as she shook her head. “I know a way we can walk right in through the main entrance.”
(November 10th – Oahu – Diamond Marine Harbor – From a tide level monitoring camera)
Hamazura Shiage, Misaka Worst, and Kuroyoru Umidori came to a private yacht harbor in Oahu. It was called a yacht harbor, but it primarily held small ships that used gas engine-powered propellers, had air-conditioned bedrooms, simple kitchens, and shower rooms, and were almost on the level of a villa when it came to facilities and price.
“I can pick the lock,” said Hamazura as he casually removed some wires wrapped around a pillar of the wharf. “But I have no idea how to control a boat. Have either of you ever done it?”
“Misaka has had all that imputed in her by the Testament, but it’s such a pain. Really, you’ll be fine. There are no obstacles in the sea, so you’ll be fine even if you’re a little reckless. Just make sure to learn from your mistakes.”
“You just don’t want to do anything, do you?”
“Ohh? If Misaka has to focus on the ship, her restraint of Kuroyoru-chan may not be entirely effective. Will the End of the Century Emperor be okay then, nyahh?”
“One day, I’m gonna rip you two into eight fucking pieces!! You heard me, eight!! Not seven or nine!! I’ll rip you into eight pieces like a pizza!! Grrrr!!!!!!” cut in Kuroyoru.
“Noooooo!! It’s like you’ve provoked a trained military dog!!”
“Hurry up and pick the lock, so Misaka can get into the air conditioning. If you don’t, Misaka will let her rape you.”
While trembling, Hamazura stuck the wires into the keyhole on the ship’s hatch.
He looked around and said, “The lock itself is outside tech, so picking it is easy enough, but I’m afraid of someone seeing me. Especially since everyone here supposedly has a gun.”
Misaka Worst patted Kuroyoru on the top of the head and said, “Don’t worry. Don’t worry. Kuroyoru-chan will keep watch for you.”
“Why the hell would I do—!?”
“If we add on your cat ear part, you gain a large increase in information gathering ability, right?”
“Fgh!? Wh-why do you have that accessory part…!?”
“Heh heh heh. Resist if you like, but can you prevent the cat ear connection when you can’t use your arms, nyahh? Now, it’s about time you became the cute, cute black cat assassin-chan, don’t you think?”
Kuroyoru tried to step back, but she was at the end of the wharf and had nowhere left to flee. Misaka Worst did not especially care about changing Kuroyoru’s appearance, but she approached the cyborg girl with the cat ear part in hand because she wanted to destroy her atmosphere of darkness.
Feeling cornered, Kuroyoru let out a sob. And then…
“Waaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! Why? Why does this kind of thing always have to happen to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!?”
“Wah!?” shouted Misaka Worst in surprise as she took a small step back.
Kuroyoru may have been a Level 4 with the power of Bomber Lance, she may have had a portion of Accelerator’s thoughts implanted in her during the Dark May Project, and she may have led the new generation of darkness that were the Freshmen, but she was still fundamentally a twelve-year-old girl.
She had a strong resistance to simple relationships that were nothing but kill or be killed.
However, she was not used to insults of that sort. She simply did not have enough experience with such situations to adlib her way through them.
As Kuroyoru cried and large tears fell from her eyes, Misaka Worst averted her gaze and looked to Hamazura for help. However, Hamazura only looked at Misaka Worst with an expression that said, “Ah, you made her cry…”
Having lost her mental escape route, Misaka Worst thought for a bit.
Finally, she said, “But it hasn’t even been a full year since this Misaka was created and it’s only fair to forgive the youngest one if she’s a little selfish.”
“How can you say that so easily, you villain!?”
With all three of them shouting, they boarded the high class yacht which soon left the harbor.
(November 10th – Oahu – Pearl Harbor’s Third Marine Base – From the west gate surveillance camera)
While the same could not be said for an overseas garrison, no one was going to attempt a head on attack of a base in the country. As such, the first thing one had to learn as a guard was how to kill time…or so many people thought. In reality, the guards did have work to do.
This work did not involve harsh firefights with dangerous elements attacking the base. Instead it involved driving off citizens’ groups keeping an eye on the usage of tax money and third-rate reporters who had no good material that week.
In the base, it was known as “crow extermination” and was put on the same level as cleaning the toilets.
(…With the airplane fuel bombing at the airport and the shooting at the shopping mall, I wish they would just give us the order to shoot those bastards up. I don’t need an assault rifle for this crow extermination. A plunger would be enough.)
An African-American marine named Nike Canox tossed aside a gravure magazine and brought his feet from the table and down to the ground. He had heard something over the radio. It seemed the people who would help kill some time that day were on their way.
The assault rifle hanging from Nike’s shoulder was unpopular with the troops, but no one dared mention it to the higher ups. He opened the thin door of the guardroom and stepped outside. He no longer had the benefit of the Japanese-made cold mist sprayer in the guardroom and the annoying sunlight stabbed at his brown skin.
“Stop! Stop right there! Who the hell are you people!?” Nike shouted in the direction of the row of people walking his way.
“I’m the president!! I’ll cut your funding, cowboy! Hurry up and get out the ID reader!!” shouted back a solidly built middle-aged man with tears in his eyes.
When Nike looked closer, he recognized the man from his frequent news appearances. He was the legendary man who had supposedly tried to appear wearing only a speedo in a commercial for an ED remedy, but had been stopped by his monstrous female aide. He was the man who a women’s association on a variety program had said had no character to his proposals. In response, he had said with a smile that he would propose a bill to expand the number of nudist beaches and had subsequently been knocked senseless by his female aide right there in the press conference room.
But who were the children behind him?
Nike was completely dumbfounded, so he simply held out the tablet. The man punched in his social security number and placed his palm on the screen. Nike had assumed he was just an impersonator, but his ID went through perfectly fine for some reason.
Nike pulled the tablet back and shook it lightly.
“…Is this thing broken?”
“What? Do you think that kind of system will ‘just so happen’ to have an error that ‘just so happens’ to let someone through just from getting a bit of dust or sand in it? If you do, send a complaint to its maker, Muscat Computers. In three hours, they’ll sue your for defamation.”
“E-eh? But…eh? Then...”
“I am President Roberto Katze. Surely you know that I disappeared from a press conference in Oahu two hours ago. It may not have been revealed to the public yet, but the news has to have been spreading through the military.”
Nike had no idea what was going on and was unsure whether he should salute or not, but the president merely pressed on.
“The truth behind all this is that a terrorist plot is underway that involves abducting me. The people behind me are the civilians who saved me. However, the danger is not over yet. I’d like some help and protection, but we need to get inside here first.”
“No, wait. Wait a second. What am I supposed to do? Oh, right. Contact command. Once the electronic processing is done, I can issue some guest IDs and then…”
“Do you really think we have time to wait? I thought I told you the danger wasn’t over? They’re approaching as we speak. Just getting inside the fence isn’t good enough. We need to think about using the mortars and at the very least need to evacuate into reinforced concrete buildings.”
“Cowboy.” The president stared Nike in the eye. “When Kennedy was assassinated, a few people besides the shooter had their names carved into history as villains. Even after all these years, the ones that allowed the mistakes in security are seen like that. Do you want to have the same happen to you, cowboy?”
It was partly due to the ID reader saying the president was who he said he was, but Nike Canox was mentally overpowered and let him pass.
When the civilians headed for the gate after Roberto Katze, Nike had enough sense to try to stop them, but…
“Those people could very well be targets because they saved me. Cowboy, are you going to throw out these heroes and let them die?”
Nike could not say anything in response.
He could not recall there being any manual for what to do if the president showed up unexpectedly. In a daze, Nike moved aside and let the four civilians into the marine base.
(November 10th – Oahu – Pearl Harbor’s Third Marine Base – From an auxiliary control camera)
“What just happened?” asked Kamijou for about the dozenth time as they passed through the west gate.
“Don’t ask me. I just nervously did what she told me to do. I thought this base was supposed to have fallen to this Saronia person.”
“Oh, it has,” said Birdway with a nonchalant expression. “However, her invasion has not reached the lowest ends. Most likely, she only has direct control over the commander at the top.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because of what happened in the shopping mall,” Birdway responded sounding bored. “According to the president, Saronia has control of at least the US Congress and is controlling people in other government and military organisations. We do not know how many people she can control at once, but there are around 600 people in Congress. To hold a majority of those, she needs half that. If she is skilled enough to control that many people at once, don’t you think the scene at that shopping mall should have been more of a disaster? For instance, she could have had all the tourists attack us like zombies with new ones added for each one we defeated.”
“…Now that you mention it…”
“However, she was only controlling the four hostages,” Birdway said as they continued walking. “Assuming the president is telling the truth, Saronia’s spell must take time to prepare and must have a limit on the number of people controlled. We can assume she has her hands full keeping her grasp on the nation and therefore cannot spare too many people to fight. In that case, she would want to reduce the cost of controlling this base.”
“There are a few barriers that would keep someone from having complete control of the country,” said the president with a light sigh. “This Saronia person would need to spread her controlling tentacles across the entire nation to overcome all of those. I can see why she would be barely scraping by.”
“So you’re saying this person is being more economical by only controlling the commander at the top and using official orders to control those lower down?” asked Mikoto with a tone that said she still did not have a good grasp of the concept of magic.
Birdway nodded and said, “Also, we can assume Saronia’s human controlling magic is somehow special. Normally magic can be used by anyone who knows how, but there are some exceptions. This is one of those.”
“What are you basing that assumption on?” asked Accelerator.
“If anyone could use the magic, Saronia would just have to make someone she was controlling use the same magic. By repeating that, she could control any number of people in a geometric progression. However, that is not happening. Saronia is the only one using the spell and she clearly has limits on what she herself can do with it.”
And Birdway was thinking that Saronia would only be controlling the commander of that American base due to those limitations.
Roberto tilted his head to the side.
“…Then I guess we still have a chance. They will have an order from their commander and an order from me. Technically, I hold a higher position, but I doubt normal soldiers have ever thought about a situation where they would have to choose. I’m sure not all of them will side with me, but they’ll be confused all the same.”
“I think I’ll take this time to explain the papyrus’s analysis of Saronia’s spell.” Birdway folded her arms. “As I thought, her spell has to do with the Russian forest fairy known as the Leshy. The Leshy rules over all of the forest animals and she is controlling people by having them correspond to those animals. I now know that the specific requirement for this uses trees.”
“It has to be a Russian conifer tree. It can be just a splinter or a leaf, but a target must touch a portion of one to be seen as a resident of the forest and therefore be under Saronia’s control.”
“…Did they have anything like that?” Kamijou asked as he thought back to the situation in the shopping mall.
Birdway smiled thinly and said, “As long as it is made of wood, it can be anything. Even paper or corkboard would work. Lately I’ve been hearing about these paper capacitors. If you slipped those into something, it wouldn’t be hard to get someone to carry it around without them knowing.”
“What happens if they let go of that spiritual item?”
“She loses control of course. However, Saronia will not let that happen. Once she has control, she will surely order them to not let go of it no matter what. In fact, she could just tell them to swallow it.”
“Ueh…” Kamijou groaned.
“More importantly, girl, you said this Saronia is only directly controlling the commander, right?” cut in Roberto.
“Yes. What about it?”
“Then the biggest danger right now is…”
He trailed off as an off-road vehicle appeared near a distant building. In the back of the MP-driven vehicle sat a large well-built man who looked exactly as one would expect of someone in a high position. A military enthusiast might have been able to tell his precise rank from the details of his uniform.
He was the commander of the base.
When he saw the man looking down from the parked off-road vehicle, Kamijou felt his body stiffen. The nameplate on the man’s chest said Bax Silver.
Birdway had said Saronia was lessening her burden by only directly controlling the commander at the top and indirectly controlling the rest through the command structure.
That meant it was possible the other soldiers would not follow an order to shoot the president. No one would want to be known as the man who killed the president.
However, Bax Silver was different.
He was being controlled by Saronia’s spell, so there was a danger of him simply following an order to shoot the president without thinking of the consequences.
The presence of the automatic pistol hanging at his waist seemed especially heavy.
Kamijou swallowed audibly.
With his right hand, he could possibly remove Saronia’s control of the commander, but a few meters was within the kill zone for a handgun.
As Kamijou tried to figure out what to do, the commander made his move.
“I just received word that you were here. I’m so glad you are okay! I will have the base do everything we can to protect you!!”
Kamijou’s eyebrows moved up slightly and a similar thought seemed to be going through Mikoto’s head. Kamijou started to think they were being invited into some kind of trap, but…
“She can’t do it,” Birdway whispered.
She stepped past the president and toward Bax with a sneer on her face.
“You could kill the president right now, but if you did, you would lose your indirect control over this base in the confusion it caused. That is why you cannot kill him. At least not now. You must wait for the Trigger to be taken from the base.”
Bax Silver’s body trembled slightly.
It looked more like it was based on someone else’s feelings than on the commander’s own conflict.
“The fact that she cannot use the commander as a disposable tool proves something else. I already gave the answer, but do you know what that is?”
“…The Trigger is still here?” muttered Roberto before clearing his throat and taking a more “official” tone of voice. “Commander, I would like some information regarding the storage of the Trigger. Where exactly is the Trigger right now?”
Bax’s body trembled even more.
Someone was conflicted over whether to take action then or not.
Mikoto and Accelerator lowered their center of gravity slightly, but then…
“…Th-the Trigger is…”
The commander’s lips began to move.
He continued to speak as an unnatural sweat appeared on his face.
“…on the runway. It has been authorized to be taken to the island of Hawaii on a transport plane…”
“Let’s go,” muttered Birdway. “Saronia herself is likely sheltered in that ‘most welcoming place’. As Gremlin wishes to use the Trigger on Kilauea, it would be fastest to transport the user along with the device.”
“But there are three transport planes? Which one is the Trigger on…?” asked Mikoto as she stared over at the runway.
Suddenly, a gunshot rang out.
Kamijou and the others frantically turned around and saw the base commander had drawn his handgun. However, the bullet had not hit anyone. The nearby MP grabbed him and held him down to the ground. Most likely, the MP had jumped at him before he had fired.
“Don’t worry about him,” said the president quietly. “We will take out the cause and bring this all to an end.”
(November 10th – Oahu – Pearl Harbor’s Third Marine Base – Inside the cargo hold of a transport plane – From a maintenance control camera)
Kamijou ran toward one of the three transport planes. Accelerator and Birdway headed toward the other two.
Luckily, the transport planes had not yet taken off. It seemed the cargo had not been fully loaded yet. The cargo door on the back was sitting open. The door doubled as a slope for vehicles, so it hung down onto the asphalt runway.
Kamijou, Mikoto, and Roberto ran toward that slope.
“Why are you following me, Misaka!?”
“If I let you out of my sight now, I get the feeling you’ll disappear again!! …Agh, I don’t want to believe in unscientific things, but maybe I should give that to him now!”
“Mr. President, why aren’t you taking refuge in the base!?”
“This is my country, boy.”
There appeared to be only three transport planes and Accelerator and Birdway were likely headed for the other two.
“Hey!! What are you people doing!? And who are you!?” shouted an Indian American soldier using a military forklift to move a cube-shaped container.
“I’m the president!! If someone make me repeat that again, I’m going to take my Christmas break early to let my heart heal! Just quit what you’re doing and come with me! I have a job for that government-issued item hanging at your waist! This plane is not to take off. I repeat, this plane is not to take off!!”
The forklift driver started panicking as thoughts raced through his head such as, “But that isn’t an order from my direct commanding officer…but at the same time, isn’t the president the commander-in-chief of the military? Also, I’ve never before gotten an order like this that goes straight over the heads of my superiors like a fly ball. What should I do? Should I ask my commanding officer?”
Kamijou and the others ignored him and charged into the cargo hold.
The inside was quite spacious. It looked like a large tourist bus could easily fit inside. Cube-shaped containers like the one the forklift had been carrying were scattered about inside.
Kamijou looked around and said, “Where is it? Where’s the Trigger? Or is it still…?”
“Shouldn’t we find this Saronia person first? If we capture the person behind all this, we can—!?”
Mikoto was cut off as the floor beneath their feet trembled greatly.
A sound like the buzzing of a bee amplified a few hundred times pounded at their ears. By the time Kamijou realized it was the sound of the four propellers starting to spin, the plane had already started accelerating.
And the back cargo door was still open.
Roberto Katze lost his balance and started sliding toward the sloped exit. The end of the cargo door struck the asphalt, sending orange sparks flying.
“Ah!!” shouted Mikoto as she stretched out her hand and grabbed Roberto’s hand just as he was about to fall out.
“Girl, I truly thank you, but you might have only made things worse.”
“What are you talking about? Just hurry up and—!!”
“If I had fallen out before we accelerated too much, I would have only suffered a few scratches. However, I’m sorry to say that I will be torn to shreds if I fall out now.”
“Then let go of that attaché case and grab on with both hands!!”
“As that would directly impact national defense, I have to refuse. I really wish I could though!!”
Meanwhile, the cargo plane continued to accelerate.
Just as it was about to exceed 300 kph, the floor beneath them shook once more. The open cargo door lowered down, creating an even steeper slope.
The plane was taking off.
In that instant, the level of danger someone who fell out would face changed from “very bad” to “instant death”.
Kamijou was well aware of that fact, but he could not lend a hand to Mikoto.
The reason for this was clear.
A girl slowly walked out from behind one of the containers. She was a Gremlin magician. She was the one with a method of controlling people based on the legends of a Russian fairy known as the Leshy.
Her mostly green clothes, knee-high leather boots, blonde hair, and white skin made her stand out vividly. She may have been lightly dressed for someone claiming to be the ruler of the residents of the forest, but the unrealistic aspect to it seemed to match the idea of the fairy known as a Leshy.
However, she truly did not fit in within the cargo plane filled with nonmetal materials.
She gave off a natural sense of danger like a protected animal such as an alligator or scorpion inside of a city.
Now that she had appeared, Kamijou could not help Mikoto.
Whatever magic she used, she would aim for his back if he focused on saving the president. He would either be simply killed or controlled like a zombie, and he could not allow either to happen.
Without turning around, Kamijou spoke to Mikoto who was still holding onto the president’s hand.
“Can I leave the president to you!?”
“I’ll manage somehow! Dammit…Did they just remove all the metal parts when they made the new version? There’s almost nothing I can grab onto using magnetism…!!”
At the sound of an approaching footstep, Kamijou tightly clenched his right fist.
Saronia specialized in magic that controlled people, but she had no such people there. If Kamijou, Mikoto, and the president could avoid being controlled, there was a good possibility he could get through with his right fist.
But then she used her right hand to lightly snap her fingers.
Immediately afterwards, Kamijou’s body was forcefully slammed against the right wall.
He had not simply stumbled over and hit the wall. His feet had completely left the ground. After his back struck the center of the wall like a bullet, Kamijou’s breathing literally stopped for a few seconds.
For an instant, he thought Saronia had used some kind of magical attack.
But she had not.
Mikoto and the president had been thrown about, too. If Mikoto’s leg had not gotten wrapped around the thick cylinder that opened and closed the cargo door, the two of them would have been thrown out into the sky.
“…I see… So you’re controlling the pilot…!!”
“Did you know that even a large cargo plane like this can perform acrobatics?” Saronia snapped her fingers again. “To be fair, no one in their right mind would ever attempt it.”
Kamijou had no idea what actions the cargo plane was taking, but he was thrown back and forth. Even when he knew it was coming, he could not just brace himself against it. The very direction of the gravity he felt was changing.
Saronia was keeping her balance by wrapping her arm around a thick wire stretching between the wall and the ceiling. It was likely used for connecting containers together. She brought her other hand to her back.
“What we in Gremlin have come up with to combat your right hand is exceedingly simple.”
She pulled something out of her turtleneck. It was a product that could be found lined up even at supermarkets in a major gun country like America.
“We will kill you using normal, everyday methods that do not involve the supernatural at all.”
Kamijou had no power that gave him the ability to deflect or dodge a bullet.
That was why he instead swung his right foot up from his position on the ground where he had landed after striking the wall. He kicked up the lever holding one of the cube-shaped containers on the ground, unlocking it.
Immediately afterwards, a gunshot rang out.
The plane’s acrobatics created a small world that ignored the gravity of the Earth. The container floated up and orange sparks flew as it acted as a shield for Kamijou.
However, the abnormal gravity was not constant.
For an instant, the container had helped Kamijou, but it then “fell” toward him. Still collapsed on the ground, Kamijou frantically rolled to the side. The mass of metal landed next to him and broke to pieces. The simply constructed joints must have broken.
Saronia once more aimed the handgun at him with her right hand.
However, Kamijou was not able to use the same method again. There was no lever nearby for him to hit and there was no guarantee that another container would protect him from Saronia’s bullet even if he could release one.
However, she did not fire again.
A different, more powerful physical phenomenon pierced through the cargo plane.
Specifically, it was a current of one billion volts.
Hearing the crackling roar, Saronia frantically headed for cover behind a container but quickly realized a metal container was probably not the best shield against electricity. She grimaced.
With one leg wrapped around the cylinder, one hand grabbing the president’s arm, and the other hand pointed toward Saronia, Mikoto smiled fearlessly despite the clearly difficult situation she was in.
“…I may not be able to do much against that strange right hand, but my powers make me almost invincible against ‘normal, everyday methods’.”
Saronia grinned right back at her. She was looking at the thick cylinder Mikoto was grabbing onto with her leg.
“(…Is she planning to close the cargo door, crushing Misaka in the process!?)”
Having guessed at the enemy’s intent, Kamijou cried out.
“Don’t worry about Saronia!! Just blow away every container in here!!”
With a shocked expression, the magician could not decide whether to aim the gun at Kamijou or Mikoto.
Immediately afterwards, a number of lightning spears shot form Mikoto’s bangs.
Tremendous explosive noises and flashes of light burst out. The nonmetal bolts used to lessen their weight melted and the simply constructed containers fell apart. Besides that direct damage, the electric current damaged the delicate equipment within.
Kamijou was not sure what exactly the Trigger was, but he doubted it would remain unscathed after receiving such a high voltage blast.
“Wha—!?” Saronia A. Irivika cried out as she saw the remains of the containers after they had burst, been flattened, crumbled, and been scorched black.
However, that was not because the Trigger had been destroyed before her eyes.
(November 10th – Hawaii – Volcanoes National Park – From a bird watching camera)
Hamazura and the others who had split from Kamijou’s group had landed on the Island of Hawaii and abandoned the high class yacht they had stolen. The volcano at the center of the issue, Kilauea, was one of Hawaii’s greatest tourist attractions. The mountain itself and the nearby volcanic craters were all part of a national park.
The largest crater was at the summit, but dozens of smaller craters existed on the mountainside and near the base of the mountain. They could smell a sulfurous gas smell similar to at a hot spring.
Hamazura and the others were supposed to use stolen vehicles to get to Kilauea before Gremlin and to stop them if they tried to bring in the Trigger.
It seemed Kamijou and the others had a real chance of succeeding, so there was a possibility that Hamazura’s group would not have to actually do anything.
“What is that…?”
Hamazura slowly lay down on the edge of a large caldera that was over 10 km across.
Several men were there.
They were much too close to the crater for tourists who were simply looking around. The crater was not as large as Kilauea’s famous Halemaumau Crater, but it still had a very dangerous-looking crack a few dozen meters long that glowed orange. And the men appeared to be setting up some kind of large device. It looked like a giant drum with four legs. The four legs were spread out like a cross and the men were affixing them with special stakes that were driven in using either electric power or compressed gas.
“…I have a bad feeling about this. It reminds me of Russia.”
To make matters worse, that one device was not the only one.
A few dozen of the drum-like devices surrounded the large crater.
He had no real proof, but a single term naturally floated up in the back of Hamazura’s mind.
“Is that…the Trigger?”
“Looks like it.”
“But how? Why!? I thought it hadn’t been brought to this island yet!”
“Misaka can only think of one possibility,” said Misaka Worst as she lifted her index finger. “The Gremlin…magician, was it? Anyway, that dangerous element the others are after was not aware of the real plan. The Trigger was always going to be brought in via a different route, and that dangerous element did not know that. That is why the others were unable to find where the Trigger was stored by chasing her.”
“This is bad. This is very, very bad,” Hamazura groaned. “If that thing activates, Kilauea will erupt. This isn’t just our problem. If the lava comes flowing out, 500,000 residents and tourists will become victims. And if this acts as a trigger that rapidly destroys America’s relations with other countries…”
“The situation is unstable enough due to World War III. A lot of countries and regions are dissatisfied with the lack of financial support for the restoration work Academy City is leading. While they may not declare war on America, some politicians will likely get into arguments and start some kind of ‘money-making war’.”
“…So are we gonna do this or not?” asked Kuroyoru who was still upset. She may have received some kind of emotional wound from having them see her cry.
However, Hamazura shook his head and said, “Fighting them head on would be a bad idea. Apparently this Trigger applies stimuli to the magma by detonating various types of explosives in stages, but we have no idea what the specifics are. If it’s a delicate process, we don’t want to start a battle around it. Also, we don’t know how powerful the enemy is. I doubt they’ll want to get burned by the eruption they’re causing, so there should be some time between when they leave and when they detonate the device. We have no choice but to remove the Trigger and neutralize it in that time.”
(November 10th – Over Lanai – Inside the cargo hold of a transport plane – From a maintenance control camera)
Mikoto’s lightning attacks flew and destroyed the cubic containers in the transport plane one after another. She was trying to destroy the Trigger that was supposedly in one of them.
However, only what appeared to be military livelihood kits came from within. Items such as frying pans with handles that folded in and small lamps scattered about. Kamijou may not have known what the Trigger looked like, but he could tell that those items were nothing more than basic kitchen goods. He could think of no way that they would help artificially control volcanic activity.
“(…What is going on?)”
Kamijou thought of a few possibilities.
For instance, there had been three planes total. It was possible the Trigger was on one of the other planes, but Saronia had been controlling the base commander who had decided where it would be loaded. She had to have known which plane it was on and there was no merit in splitting herself and the Trigger up.
Also, the plane had taken off before all the containers had been loaded. It was possible they had taken off before the Trigger had been loaded, but Saronia must have known the number of the container it was in. That was why she had been willing to take off before they were all loaded and why she had not seemed worried when Kamijou had unlocked one of the containers to use as a shield. Otherwise, she should have been worried that it could fall out of the open cargo door.
“You didn’t know…? You had only been told that the container was one of these?”
The organization that was Gremlin would unhesitatingly use magicians as powerful as Saronia in order to realize their overall plan. They had manipulated her with false information, leaving her looking like a fool.
Cendrillon and Saronia A. Irivika were not the only ones behind the incident.
Someone else was there.
Most likely, this person was hidden even deeper.
For a while, Saronia remained motionless.
She must have been analyzing what had happened to her.
However, neither Kamijou nor Saronia had much time to think.
Saronia realized Mikoto was adjusting her aim and the magician immediately moved her handgun. However, she did not aim toward Mikoto. Instead, she aimed for the front of the plane and fired every last bullet she had.
“The pilot!!” Roberto Katze cried out.
Kamijou and Mikoto faltered slightly upon realizing what he meant. While they did, Saronia grabbed a bag-like object from where it hung on the wall. It was an emergency parachute. The plane naturally and gently ascended and Saronia used the slant toward the back cargo door to charge toward the exit.
Just before she passed by Mikoto, the #3 desperately fired a lightning spear that struck Saronia full on. Saronia’s body went slightly limp and her consciousness seemed to grow dim, but she still unhesitatingly jumped from the edge of the sloped cargo door with a smile on her face.
Mikoto clicked her tongue and cursed.
“There’s no point in heading after her! The president takes priority!!”
Kamijou headed next to Mikoto on the cargo door and grabbed Roberto’s arm. A wrong move could have sent all three of them tumbling into open air, but they managed to drag the president into the plane.
“…H-how much do you weigh? I think you’ve been eating too many burgers.”
“I may not look it, but I don’t even weigh 90 kilos. I only use the burgers to appeal to the younger demographics. Roseline is always telling me I would get more votes if I lost weight, but I think I’m pretty slim given my height.”
After catching his breath, Kamijou recalled the situation they were in.
“Misaka, check to see if there are any more parachutes.”
“What about you?”
“I’m going to check on the pilot. If those bullets made it through the wall, he might be injured.”
“I’ll go too,” added the president. “I doubt you’ll be able to communicate properly with just Japanese.”
“The pilot might attack you on Saronia’s orders.”
“If he’s doing well enough to try, then I’ll be happy.”
Kamijou and Roberto stepped over the wreckage of the containers and headed for the cockpit.
(November 10th – Over Lanai – From the video records of the cargo plane’s recorder box)
As Kamijou had expected, the handgun had fired straight through the thin wall separating the cockpit from the cargo bay. Not only had some of the numerous bullets that had passed through the cockpit hit the pilot, but some had cracked the canopy. It may have only been the lack of a pressure change due to the open cargo door that had prevented the canopy from shattering.
The white man who looked around 30 was bloody and leaning against the console. It was unclear whether he was still under Saronia’s control or if she had simply abandoned him, but it really did not matter.
Kamijou ran over and shouted at the pilot while grabbing his shoulder with his right hand.
“Shit, are you okay!?”
“He seems to be conscious, but he was hit directly in the back three times. All of the bullets left his body, but these aren’t wounds for which first aid is going to cut it.”
“All I can think to do is cover the wounds. Is there anything else?”
“That’s enough. With a limb, we could tie it off to temporarily cut off the flow of blood, but for the body, it would just crush his organs.”
They tried to tear the pilot’s jacket that they had removed to get a look at his wounds, but the tough military uniform would not tear. They managed to prepare a few strips of cloth they could use for first aid by cutting it with the knife hanging at the pilot’s waist next to his handgun.
That was when Mikoto entered.
“I found a few parachutes!”
“…That could be difficult for him,” said the president quietly as he looked at the pilot’s wounds. “The shock when the parachute deploys is the same as landing from a fall of a few meters. It just knocks the breath out of someone with a healthy body, but it wouldn’t be a good idea for someone who has possible internal injuries.”
“…I…don’t mind…” said the pilot while still leaning against the console, moving his lips that were sticky with blood. “You all go ahead and jump. I will at least make sure to aim the plane for the ocean…”
Kamijou and the other two exchanged a glance.
Mikoto sighed and tossed the parachutes to the ground.
The pilot’s eyes filled with a vague doubt.
“What are you…?”
“We are going to help you,” the president said as he placed his hand on the pilot’s shoulder. “However, we are not helping you crash into the ocean. Let’s aim a little higher and try for an emergency landing.”
(November 10th – Hawaii – Volcanoes National Park – From a bird watching camera)
The mystery men left after 20 minutes.
Even though he knew waiting for them to leave was the best strategy, watching a device that would take 500,000 lives be set up was not exactly good for Hamazura’s heart. He could not believe how casually Misaka Worst and Kuroyoru Umidori were taking it.
After he saw the group that was likely related to Gremlin leave in a four-wheel drive vehicle, Hamazura slid down the side of the caldera and approached the crater at the center. He could smell the sulfuric gas and could feel the temperature rise suddenly. The Gremlin group must have been wearing some kind of special suit under their clothes.
“What do you think!?”
“It’s probably set up to send powerful vibrations underground from multiple angles at once in order to regulate the pressure of the magma. There are no cables connecting the individual devices and no wireless signals, so the detonation must be timer controlled and each one is a completely isolated system.”
“So we can’t stop all of them by destroying one central system.” Hamazura looked around. “At a glance, I see over 20 of them and we have no idea what the time limit is. Don’t tell me our only option is to open the cover and cut a cord like in a movie for each and every one of them!”
“…There’s a simpler way,” said Kuroyoru as she pointed toward one at random. “They went out of their way to stake the legs down. Most likely, the explosion is highly directional and it sends its shock wave directly into the earth like a spear. And that means…”
“We just have to remove the stakes or destroy the legs and then knock over the drums!”
“Well, Misaka would hurry if she was you,” said Misaka Worst with a grin. “Even if these are meant to control volcanic activity, they’re still basically bombs. We have no idea when they’re going to detonate and Misaka would rather not get caught up in the blast. And that goes for the simple blast of the explosives as well as the blast of Hawaii’s largest active volcano erupting.”
(November 10th – The Ocean near Lanai – From the video records of the cargo plane’s recorder box)
The transport plane’s pilot did his best to carry out his duty, but he could barely move. Kamijou, Mikoto, and the president followed his instructions and dealt with all the controls other than the control column.
“…First close the back cargo hatch. Use that button. If the plane is sealed, the air inside will act as a float. That’s necessary for an emergency landing on the ocean…”
Kamijou and the others pressed the buttons as they were instructed, but they had no real feel for what effects the buttons were having. However, they could clearly tell that their altitude was dropping. Even so, they were not stable. The floor lurched beneath their feet and unpleasant changes in gravity threatened to bring up the contents of their stomachs.
It was much too dangerous a situation to call it a journey through the sky.
The threat to their lives showed them just how unnatural it was to disobey gravity.
“…There are no do-overs for an emergency landing on the ocean. We have one chance. If you want to give up, now is the time. Once our altitude drops below a certain point, those parachutes will be of no use. Are you sure you want to do this…?”
Kamijou smiled once he received a translation from Mikoto.
He ignored the numbers quickly scrolling by on the altimeter and said, “I’ve already made up my mind on that, so just tell me what I need to do to land.”
“You’ve got guts.” The bloody pilot lifted up his upper body once more. “But protecting the president is my duty.”
(November 10th – Hawaii – Volcanoes National Park – From a bird watching camera)
Kuroyoru Umidori and Misaka Worst were the only ones that were any real help.
Giant spears made of nitrogen sliced directly through the legs supporting the drums. Misaka Worst accelerated iron nails in her hand that blew away the stakes connecting the legs to the ground. With their supports, even a Level 0 like Hamazura could easily push over the drums. That way, the Trigger could not carry out its proper function.
However, the drums were numerous.
And they had little time.
As Misaka Worst watched, a red light appeared in the center of the side of one of the toppled drums. Guessing what the ominous light meant, she frantically looked around. Just under half of the drums were still standing. They all had the same red light.
“Not good…” Misaka Worst muttered before yelling out to Hamazura and Kuroyoru who were still working. “Not good!! We aren’t going to make it! They’re going to detonate!!”
“There are still some left on the other side of the crater!!”
“If we stay here we’ll be caught up either in the shockwave from the explosives or the lava from the volcano!!”
“500,000 lives are at stake! Are you saying we just let them die!?” Hamazura yelled back.
However, Kuroyoru’s arms dropped down limply as if they had been switched off. Misaka Worst had likely done something to her.
The girl shrugged her barely moving shoulders and said, “If you want to keep working on your own, feel free.”
The legs and stakes holding the drums in place could only be destroyed with Misaka Worst or Kuroyoru Umidori’s powers. Hamazura alone could not change the situation no matter how persistent he was.
That was likely Misaka Worst’s intention.
Misaka Worst heard a footstep. Her cheek twitched slightly when she realized it was from Hamazura heading back for the Trigger.
“Hey! Misaka really will abandon you here!! She has no obligation to stick around!!”
“You’re not going to convince him,” said Kuroyoru as her unmoving arms swayed. “Hit him with your high voltage current.”
A loud zapping noise rang out.
After she confirmed that Hamazura had collapsed to the ground, Misaka Worst gave Kuroyoru control of her arms once more.
She pointed toward Hamazura with her chin and said, “Carry him. If we don’t get out of here soon, we’ll be surrounded by lava!!”
“Can you not see how much bigger than me he is?”
“My arm is broken, so I can’t do it.”
After making sure Kuroyoru was carrying Hamazura over her shoulder like a bag of rice, Misaka Worst looked back over at the still functioning Trigger.
“They set up over 20 units to get the result they wanted. With about half of them down, things shouldn’t go quite as they planned!!”
“How about we run rather than talk? I don’t know where exactly the lava is going to flow, but the inside of the caldera is going to be a lake of lava!”
The two girls started to flee.
To get out of the caldera, they had to climb up a slope.
They ran as quickly as they could, but running out of a caldera that was over 10 kilometers across would have been difficult for even a professional marathon runner. Kuroyoru clicked her tongue, removed her right arm, and shot it away like a rocket by firing a nitrogen spear. After ensuring it had a strong grasp on the ground where it landed far ahead, Misaka Worst used her magnetism to pull the three of them to the arm.
“How about we join forces as the villain girl combo?”
“If you keep fucking with my systems using your magnetism, I really will scrape your brains out of your skull!!”
By picking up her arm and then repeating the procedure a few times, they finally reached the edge of the caldera.
But that was the limit.
There was a deep explosive noise that started as a trembling deep in their stomachs.
Immediately afterwards, everything was covered by a blast of wind and tremendous heat that made the heat from before seem like nothing.
(November 10th – The Ocean near Lanai – From a patrol camera)
A military transport plane floated in the gentle ocean.
However, Arc Daniels felt more bored than relieved as he held the helm of a marine patrol boat. He had been piloting all the way from the Third Pearl Harbor Marine Base on Oahu. Normally, a base on Lanai would have handled it.
“There he is! Just as reported, Mr. Scandal and the others are standing on top of the transport plane!!” shouted one of his colleagues on the deck.
Most likely, similar excitement was occurring on the other patrol boat alongside him. Only those at the helm remained anxious.
“That was completely reckless. Does he have any idea how dangerous an emergency landing like that is?”
“This is probably another one of his stunts to get votes. They’ll probably start calling him the man loved by lady luck or something.”
The marines may have said those kinds of things then, but they quieted up once they were within earshot of the president. About half of the plane had sunk underwater, but the roof was still a few meters above the surface. It was quite a bit higher up than the small motor boat that had been modified into a patrol boat. They fastened a rope to a lightning rod-like unit on top of the transport plane and lowered down those needing rescue.
The original plan had been to directly return to Oahu, but the pilot had been shot. They had no choice but to stop by a hospital on the much nearer Lanai.
The transport plane had reached an area 40 meters from Lanai’s coast. If it had gotten any closer, the belly of the plane would have scraped the bottom which could have led to a different result.
The pilot was in real danger, but he could still be saved if they acted quickly.
The successful emergency landing alone was worth celebrating.
However, the president and the others who had been with him were not celebrating their survival. They were not looking at the plane they had been on or at Lanai where they were headed. They were all looking in the same direction and had nothing but urgency and tension on their faces.
Arc turned his head in the direction they were looking and then understood.
The blue sky had turned black.
What looked like a pitch black thunderhead was actually volcanic ash. It was coming from the direction of the Island of Hawaii. The first thing that came to Arc’s mind was Kilauea.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me. We couldn’t stop the Trigger…? Weren’t 500,000 people’s lives counting on that!?”
“No.” The president started saying something in Japanese. “Kilauea is the type of active volcano that sends a lot of soft lava spewing out when it erupts. To cause huge amounts of damage to the areas at the base of the mountain, they would only have had to cause an eruption like that but on a greater scale. Something is odd about this. There shouldn’t be that much volcanic ash in the air…”
“So you’re saying the explosion didn’t go how Gremlin planned it to?”
“I don’t know. …Corporal! This ship can access the internet in order to connect to the smart system for linking units, right? After all the money we gave you, I won’t let you say no. I want to hook up my Imperial Package and gather some—”
The president suddenly stopped speaking because of a long, narrow trail of smoke.
A somehow spear-like trail of white smoke was approaching from the coast of Lanai. However, it was not coming from the closest point of the coast. Instead, it was coming from a point jutting out from the island over 10 kilometers to Arc’s right.
Arc immediately understood what it was that was flying just above the ocean surface toward them.
“Shit, jump into the sea!!” someone yelled.
Seconds later, the missile mercilessly struck the side of the other patrol boat accompanying the one Arc Daniels and the others were on. The small ship continued in its original direction, but the blast sent it arcing through the air where it slowly passed over Arc’s head.
The soldiers who had managed to dive into the ocean came up for air.
The fact that they had escaped relatively unscathed meant…
“Mr. President! That was most likely the Narwhal that was joint developed by the EU!! It’s an anti-ship missile designed solely to open a hole in the side of a ship. Its power and size are kept to the bare minimum to minimize price and transportation costs. The shockwave is sent straight ahead like a spear, so the blast can be escaped by just getting a few meters away!!”
“But who is attacking us…? What is going on…?”
“More are on their way!! Jump into the sea! Hurry!!”
More long, narrow trails of white smoke sliced through the air toward them. Their patrol boat could move quite quickly, but it could not maintain the kind of speed that would be needed to lose a missile.
The president and the Asian teenagers who were accompanying (?) him did as they were told and jumped into the ocean. With his serious injuries, the pilot could not be exposed to the seawater, so Arc’s fellow soldiers sealed him inside a reinforced rubber bag and dove into the ocean. It was hardly the time to worry about the fact that it was actually a body bag.
After making sure everyone else had gotten out, Arc Daniels followed suit.
Immediately afterwards, numerous anti-ship missiles struck the abandoned patrol boat and mercilessly blew away their transportation.
“Is the bombardment over…?” asked Arc tentatively.
Using his “official” tone of voice, the president replied, “I doubt they have sensors that can detect individual people. They are going to send out a unit to see if we are dead, so we need to thank our lucky stars that we are alive and get out of here.”
“S-send out a unit? What is going on here!?”
“Don’t ask me,” said the president.
“Th-this means war… I don’t know what country is behind this, but if they’re trying to kill our president on such a large scale, we need to get revenge…!!”
“Mister, as long as they don’t actually kill me, it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to waste our soldier’s lives on something like that.”
The anti-ship missiles had been a model that had been joint developed by the EU, but bombing Europe over it would have been beyond stupid. Even if the weapons had had flags drawn on them, the evidence would still have been weak. If it was intentional misdirection, the United States would end up targeting completely unrelated people.
“Mister, you said those missiles were Narwhals, didn’t you?”
“Wh-what about it?”
“Do you know the specific model? Were they Ds or Rs?”
“I-I’m sorry, sir. I’ve heard before that the different models sound different, but I can’t actually tell them apart that way…”
“Not only are Narwhals relatively easy for other countries to get their hands on due to being a joint project, but the D model was specifically designed as an export model to obtain foreign currency. However, they are quite expensive and their maintenance format is too unique, so no non-EU countries have bought any. …Only a few Gray Flags have bought them.”
“…Gray Flags?” Arc audibly gulped. “You’re saying mercenary PMCs are behind this!?”
“Perhaps. I can’t deny the possibility of it being some other country, but there would simply be too much of a risk of us taking revenge on them as you suggested before. This simply does not seem like something anyone with a set homeland would do,” spat out the president. “But whoever it is that has been sneaking around behind the scenes has now shown themselves in a big way. It isn’t going to end here. Most likely, they’re beginning an avalanche-like offensive.”
“S-so they’re declaring war on us?”
“This would be a lot easier if we were up against people gentlemanly enough to do something like that,” Roberto said as he pointed straight up. “Even if it wasn’t complete, Kilauea still erupted and it looks like that ash is going to cover the sky. Do you know what that means, corporal?”
“That airplanes can’t fly through here?” cut in the Asian girl in English.
“Yes. That means no emergency reinforcements from the mainland in the form of fighters or bombers. And,” added Roberto Katze, “if those anti-ship missiles are deployed across the Island of Hawaii as well as Lanai, then we can’t expect any bombardments from ships or landing operations using landing ships. Evading anti-aircraft missiles in a fighter that can fly at Mach speeds is hard enough, so there is no real way to evade anti-ship missiles with ships that cannot go any faster than a few dozen kilometers per hour.”
“So the Hawaiian Islands are completely isolated…?”
“Since they waited to carry out such a brazen attack until after causing the eruption, it seems to me that they were trying to create this isolation. The isolation itself may have been their objective or it may have been nothing more than preparation to give them the freedom to do something else.”
“B-but the Hawaiian Islands have more bases than any other region in the Pacific! The firepower we have here should be more than enough to—!!”
“That assumes this will be a simple clash of firepower,” said the president with a bitter expression. “But our enemy has a kind of power to which common sense does not apply. I have seen it with my own eyes. And this missile attack shows that they also have plenty of power to which common sense does apply. …They have the power of numbers that is supposed to be the strength of our United States.”
As the president spoke, he seemed to be arranging all the information in his own head.
What would happen when those two powers were brought together?
How much damage would be done?
He gritted his teeth and said, “At any rate, their plan has advanced beyond a certain point, bringing everything more to their favor.”