Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume SP Chapter4
Uiharu Kazari was a first-year middle school girl who was part of Judgment, a group that protected the peace of Academy City (although they primarily dealt with issues within the schools). Normally, she wore a short-sleeved sailor uniform and had artificial flowers covering her head, but this day was a rare exception.
"Uuu… Is this kind of ability really needed for periodic Judgment training…?" muttered Uiharu dejectedly.
She was wearing what could perhaps be called a jumpsuit; the upper clothing and the pants were completely combined into one piece of clothing, and a zipper ran all the way from her neck down to her waist. It made her look something like an F1 racing driver. Since it was colored a bright orange, it also made her look like a member of a foreign rescue team.
This outfit gave her long sleeves and long pants despite the broiling hot weather of midsummer.
It's hot, it stinks, and it's stuffy!! Eee!! This is the worst!!
She was also wearing something similar to a backpack.
However, it had an excessive number of belts holding it on. It had the basic two over the shoulders, but belts made of synthetic fiber also stretched over the chest, stomach, and around the legs at the thighs.
It was a parachute.
If she pulled the string near her waist, it would open up like a giant umbrella, but it was currently contained within that bag.
Wait, how am I supposed to get this thing off…? Huh? This… no, this switch isn't enough…?
The reason Uiharu was struggling with it was simple.
She spoke this reason aloud with a puzzled look on her face.
"Why was the free fall training suddenly cancelled?"
It was 6:10 PM on August 1.
A single large vehicle travelled along a main road in the evening with several guard vehicles surrounding it.
It resembled the kind of towing vehicle used to transport bullet train cars.
Those extremely large carriers were used to take the bullet train from the factory which it was created in to the track. Their large engines were similar to those of armored cars or snowplows, and they were over thirty meters long including the back portion holding the bullet train car. The bullet train would be surrounded by a metal framework similar to those that make up buildings. Bolts and wires running horizontally and vertically held it all in place.
However, this vehicle was not towing a bullet train.
It was towing a satellite.
The giant vehicle was called the satellite guidance vehicle.
Surrounded by guard vehicles, it was taking the satellite from a lab in District 10 where it had been filled with fuel, through Districts 7 and 18, and finally to a rocket launch pad in District 23.
Or so it should have.
"Wait… What are you doing…?"
The change was first noticed around the time they passed from District 10 to District 7. The person who noticed it was the driver of the accompanying guard vehicle driving in front of the giant satellite guidance vehicle. He first saw it in the rearview mirror and then actually turned his head around to look.
The giant guidance vehicle that held the satellite was approaching from behind him.
It was destroying the proper balance of the convoy.
"Foot Soldier to General. You're getting too close. Decelerate and keep your proper distance. I repeat, Foot Soldier to General… W-wahh!?"
The giant satellite guidance vehicle rapidly approached as if to collide with him, so the driver of the front guard vehicle frantically turned the wheel to the side at the last second. Due to the change of course, the giant vehicle with the satellite scraped across the guard vehicle's back lights and continued on ahead.
"You idiot!! The front guard doesn't give up his position no matter what. I don't know what's going on, but stop it even if you have to run it off the road!!" rebuked his colleague over the radio.
"I'd like to see you try that," replied the driver as he wiped a cold sweat from his forehead.
Running the large vehicle off the road would have been doable. In fact, the driver was confident in his ability to do so even against such a large vehicle.
"Do you know what kind of fuel is inside that satellite!? It has 1500 kilograms of hydrazine in it!! That stuff is toxic! Do you have any idea what would happen if it leaked out into the city!?"
As the two drivers yelled back and forth over the radio, the satellite guidance vehicle continued to accelerate. It shot ahead, plowing out of the way the guard vehicles meant to protect it, and then pulled away from the convoy.
They all noticed the abnormality, and they all understood the danger.
However, none of them did anything.
As they watched it, the large vehicle carrying the satellite had become a large weapon in and of itself.
The 73rd branch office of Anti-Skill in District 7 was as busy as a beehive.
Anti-Skill also protected the peace of Academy City, but it was a different organization from Judgment. While Judgment was made up of students, Anti-Skill was made up of trained teachers.
Uiharu Kazari arrived inside that area that looked like a police station. They had gone beyond their own organization and called her in due to the emergency situation.
A female Anti-Skill member who just so happened to be near the entrance looked at Uiharu with a puzzled expression.
"…What's with that look?"
"Oh, umm… sorry. I was suddenly called here while in the middle of my periodic training…" responded Uiharu as she shrunk down in her orange jumpsuit and parachute.
Hearing that, the woman frowned even further.
"What kind of training uses a whole bunch of flowers…?"
"Eh? That!? The flowers on my head are stranger than the parachute!?"
Uiharu's outburst drew the attention of a few more of the adults around her. She shrank down even further and snuck off further into the office.
The woman who had spoken to her before looked down at the student ID Uiharu held out.
"So you're Uiharu Kazari from Judgment's 177th Branch Office. We were hoping for Shirai Kuroko, the teleportation esper."
"S-sorry. I couldn't get a hold of her."
"If we had her, we would have a lot more options for how to deal with this… I guess I'll go search through the Bank for any other Judgment members who might be of some use. Anyway, they're having a meeting over there. You can get a grasp on the situation there."
Hearing that, Uiharu obediently headed on into the office.
Even if it was the investigation headquarters, they must not have had much time to spend on appearances. They were not using some grand meeting room. Instead, the strategy meeting was taking place in a corner of the office around a whiteboard with seats gathered around it.
"The special vehicle with the satellite aboard is currently out of control. It has strayed from its scheduled route and is currently heading north on line #49," said a man, his voice filling the office. "Technically, it is not a satellite in and of itself. It is only a module for Hikoboshi II to allow it to carry out additional experiments. However, it can separate and navigate on its own, so it is essentially the same as a satellite. It is only not classified as one to make things easier as far as international treaties are concerned."
The bespectacled teacher would normally be teaching classes, but now he was explaining the gist of the incident. One of the other Anti-Skill members raised his hand and asked a question like a student taking a class.
"Can we contact the driver?"
"There is no issue with the vehicle's radio, but what she has told us is the real issue." The bespectacled Anti-Skill member gave a sigh. "It seems a message appeared on the internet-connected GPS system in the vehicle. It said the car would be crashed using the remote control system if she did not follow the path displayed by the GPS system. Thanks to this, the driver can do nothing but keep the cursor showing the vehicle's location from exiting a moving red circle on the screen. She has no idea where she is going."
"…So it's a carjacking by an unknown criminal. This really is a convenient age we live in."
Uiharu had taken a seat in an arbitrary empty seat in the office, and she now asked a question.
"What did the message mean about crashing the vehicle using the remote control system?"
The bespectacled Anti-Skill member who had given the explanation looked at Uiharu and her outfit with a puzzled look, but they had been the one to request help from Judgment in the first place. The man seemed to think she was butting into their turf, but he still answered her question.
"That vehicle has an automatic evasion system in case of emergencies. If the driver were to lose consciousness due to a heart attack or brain hemorrhage, the system can safely stop the vehicle on the side of the road. It seems that has been taken advantage of," he explained. "This evasion system can take control of the vehicle for only 100 seconds. However, that is more than enough time to cause some kind of accident. After all, it has complete control of the gas pedal and steering wheel."
"But this has never been tested before. It might just be an empty threat."
"We can't take that risk," said the man slightly angrily in response to the casual comment. "That satellite has 1500 kilograms of a toxic fuel known as hydrazine. If the vehicle does crash, the satellite could be destroyed and the fuel could catch fire. If that happens, that toxic substance will be sent into the air, contaminating everything within a one-kilometer radius. And the seasonal winds could spread the effects even further. If you breathe it in, everything from your throat to your lungs will become inflamed. This is not a situation where we can rely on 'mights'. The driver made the correct decision."
The suit-wearing adults either sighed or clicked their tongues.
Of course, this was not directed at their colleague who had asked a strange question. It was due to their dislike of the situation.
"The criminal hacked into the GPS system to display this message and to continually display this red circle on the screen in real time. This is clearly more than just a prank. …We should assume the criminal can actually carry out their threat if it comes to it."
Uiharu's breath caught in her throat at how bad the situation was.
"…Where is the criminal sending the vehicle?" she asked.
"That's what we need to find out. We would like some help from your information analysis abilities."
A special vehicle over thirty meters long and with a satellite loaded onboard roared down line #49 in District 7. It came dangerously close to running into the cars trying to head along normally, and students crossing the crosswalks had to scatter out of the way. When it plowed through red lights, it stirred up a storm of horns. Luckily, the satellite guidance vehicle was swerving in an attempt to avoid the normal cars and people, causing its back to wave back and forth.
A single sports car accelerated in order to follow the satellite guidance vehicle.
A woman wearing a green track suit and a muscular man were inside.
Their names were Yomikawa Aiho and Saigou Ryouta, respectively.
They, too, were members of Anti-Skill.
"There it is. The number matches. That has to be the one known as the General."
"B-but should we really be doing this, Yomikawa-san? The branch chief ordered everyone to attend the meeting…"
"We can do our job without attending. There's no point in us being there. I'm sure all they're gonna end up doing is get into an argument over whether they should set up a barricade or not," responded Yomikawa in a light tone. "Taking care of this is more important."
Saigou sighed and pressed the accelerator further down.
He drove up next to the satellite guidance vehicle as if he were going to pass it, matched its speed, and then approached it as if he were going to ram it sideways.
A woman in her late thirties sat in the driver's seat that was surrounded by thick sheets of metal, and she looked over at them in shock.
Yomikawa set the frequency on the radio and used the signal to speak to the woman.
"Um, hi. Is this Sangaku Youko-san, the driver?"
"!? …Who are you…?"
"I am Yomikawa from Anti-Skill. My colleague Saigou is here with me. We've come here to deal with this situation, so it would be a huge help if you would just do what we tell you to."
It seemed Sangaku said something, but it did not come out as words. Yomikawa gave a gentle smile through the window and spoke into the radio once more.
"First of all, I'm going to join you over there. Is that okay?"
"Join me? …!!"
The driver's questioning tone suddenly changed to surprise.
This was because Yomikawa had opened the window of the sports car and leaned out.
Even Saigou, a true Anti-Skill member, opened his eyes wide in shock when he saw that.
Neither the satellite guidance vehicle nor the sports car was obeying the speed limit. The satellite guidance vehicle was currently flying through the city at 120 kph in order to remain within the red circle.
"Quiet. A professional can't get so worried, especially in front of the person we're supposed to be protecting."
Only Yomikawa herself remained calm as she stretched her arm out while sticking out the window. The rucksack on her back must have held various types of tools because they could be heard clanking around when the wind shook her body.
Just as Yomikawa's fingertips were about to reach the driver's side door of the other vehicle…
The evening sunlight reflected off the glass on the side of a building suddenly shined directly in Saigou's eyes as he drove the sports car. With his vision suddenly impaired, Saigou hit the brakes without thinking. This greatly shook Yomikawa's body as she hung out the window, and the next thing she knew, the sports car had fallen back alongside the satellite portion of the special vehicle.
Yomikawa did not try to climb onto the satellite guidance vehicle. Instead, she reflexively grabbed the metal framework surrounding the satellite in order to maintain her balance.
"You idiot!! Are you trying to get me killed!?" Yomikawa shouted, but she received no response from Saigou.
With no advance warning, the satellite guidance vehicle suddenly swerved, causing the metal framework on its back to slam into the sports car.
The strike from the thirty-meter vehicle was like a dragon swiping at a human with its tail.
It seemed Saigou tried to avoid it, but he did not make it in time. With a great crash, the sports car was knocked away. Its brakes screeched, but he never regained control of the sports car. It ended up crashing into a nearby wind turbine.
It seemed unlikely that Sangaku Youko, the driver, would have done that.
Someone had abused the emergency automatic evasion system.
"Saigou!! Shit!!" shouted Yomikawa as she was left dangling down from the metal framework used to keep the satellite in place.
She realized he could not hear her, and pulled out her radio.
"Y-Yomikawa-san. I'm… fine. I'm sorry. It looks like the engine is too damaged…"
"That doesn't matter. Instead, contact the rest of Anti-Skill and guide the people and other vehicles. At this rate, the damage really will spread!!"
Yomikawa somehow managed to get one foot on the bed of the vehicle that the satellite was resting on, which restored her balance.
God dammit. If the driver doesn't keep following the instructions on the GPS, the criminal will crash this thing. And that sudden deceleration saved my life. Just joining the driver probably won't help change anything…
She gritted her teeth, but there was no fear on her face.
In that case, I just have to stop this thing more forcibly.
Blowing the tires would have been the quickest method, but that could easily lead to the vehicle crashing.
Another method was…
I know! The exhaust.
No matter how complex or elaborate it was, an engine was still a device that used fire. It used oxygen and emitted carbon monoxide. If she could cut off that flow, the fire that moved the engine would go out.
Yomikawa looked at the back of the driver's compartment.
Unlike a normal car, the satellite guidance vehicle would have a smokestack-like exhaust pipe there.
“It’s not there… There’s no exhaust!?”
The exhaust that should have been there was missing. She looked around while holding onto the metal framework, but she could not find it anywhere else either.
“Dammit. Don’t tell me something this big is electric!!”
(If only it were a hydrogen engine or a kind of electric car that had an exhaust…)
At any rate, she could not use that method.
That was when Yomikawa received a transmission over her radio.
She assumed it was from Saigou, but it was not.
“Ksshh…This is Uiharu Kazari from Judgment’s 177th Branch Office.”
“Judgment… Damn that branch chief. Now he’s gotten the children wrapped up in this…”
“Nothing. This is Yomikawa Aiho from Branch Office 73. I’m currently hanging down from the metal framework holding the satellite onto the back of the General vehicle. Is there anything I can do?”
At first, Uiharu was shocked that Yomikawa had climbed directly onto the vehicle, but she quickly realized it was no time to just sit in shock. She must not have been used to genuine incidents because Yomikawa could hear the sound of paper documents being shuffled around.
“W-well…First, move to the driver’s compartment.”
“The driver’s compartment? I doubt this problem can be solved just by slamming on the brakes.”
“Um…If you could follow my directions, I would like for you to send me the data from the GPS system in real time.”
“Understood,” Yomikawa replied lightly before beginning to casually move across the vehicle that was travelling at 120 kph.
She climbed up a part of the framework running diagonally, planted her feet on the side of the cylindrical satellite, and moved along like a monkey.
When Yomikawa arrived on the thick roof of the driver’s compartment, she leaned down as if peering into a well and stuck her head in the passenger side window.
This surprised the driver, Sangaku Youko.
“Oh, don’t be frightened!! Don’t move the wheel!! I’m Yomikawa. Nice to meet you!!”
After that incredibly halfhearted greeting, Yomikawa climbed in through the window.
The GPS system was displaying a red circle just as reported. Sangaku was driving in order to keep the cursor indicating the vehicle’s position from leaving that constantly moving circle. Besides the red circle, there was also a triangle indicator that gave a general direction to drive in, but it was not enough to figure out what the final destination was.
The red circle moved about within the screen as it wished. This made following it quite difficult for Sangaku.
“Shortly after the original message arrived on the GPS, the steering wheel stopped working for 5 seconds.”
“So the criminal gave you a threat,” said Yomikawa bitterly.
Given how Saigou’s car had been repelled with such good timing, the criminal must have been watching the satellite guidance vehicle somehow. Yomikawa had been able to get aboard despite that because…
(I guess either he is afraid of causing an accident before reaching the destination if he gives too many “threats” or he doesn’t view me as a real problem.)
The unconcerned automatic voice of the GPS’s instructions seemed somehow unnerving.
Yomikawa clicked her tongue, looked away from the GPS screen, and spoke into her radio.
“I’ve made it to the passenger seat. So what do I need to do?”
“According to the spec sheet, there should be a Standard-C communications cable in the dashboard. Use that to connect the GPS system to your cell phone. The system is a model that connects to the internet, so the internal modem should also function as an external modem.”
Yomikawa did as she was instructed and her cell phone started transmitting a large amount of data.
“This way, the instructions the criminal is sending in real time will also be sent to me. If I analyze the data, I may be able to figure out where he is leading you.”
“Is there no way to solve this situation a little more directly? Finding the criminal is important, but stopping this vehicle takes precedence right now.”
“True…” Uiharu said while looking through various documents. “The criminal is abusing the emergency automatic evasion system. The system is meant to have a program safely stop the vehicle in case the driver suddenly loses consciousness.”
“The system can only interfere when a moving vehicle needs to be stopped. It cannot cause a vehicle to start again if it is already stopped. If the electric motor running the vehicle is completely stopped, the criminal will no longer be able to do anything.”
The simplest method would be to slam on the brakes.
However, the giant vehicle was 30 meters long and weighed over 10 tons. It could not be stopped instantaneously. The instant they left the red circle displayed on the GPS system, the criminal would take over and cause it to crash.
Sangaku Youko, the driver, gritted her teeth.
She looked over at the vehicle’s key located near the steering wheel.
“Just turning the ignition key would be simple enough, but it’s locked in place when the vehicle is in motion. It’s impossible to stop the engine without stopping first.”
“Hmm…” Uiharu thought for a bit. “Then we just have to do something about that lock. The vehicle should have a box with the electrical related things collected inside it. If we mess with it, we should be able to turn the key and shut off the motor.”
“Where is this box!?” asked Yomikawa.
“…Below,” responded Uiharu awkwardly.
“I’m sorry, but…it’s located directly below the driver’s compartment, just above the road.”
Uiharu faced her notebook computer within the 73rd Anti-Skill Branch Office. The adults surrounding her were overwhelming her. She had originally been called in to help with odd jobs in order to increase efficiency, but she dealt with things so quickly that it became difficult for others to cut in. She had almost complete control of the situation.
Suddenly, Uiharu looked up from the computer.
She had heard voices coming from the entrance to the office. One came from a girl about the same age as herself and another from a boy who seemed younger. At first, she thought they were reinforcements from Judgment, but they were acting oddly. Some kind of dispute had broken out and the children forced their way forward.
“…Those are children of the driver, Sangaku-san,” said the bespectacled Anti-Skill member so those around could not hear. “They are students in Academy City. I understand that they are worried about their mother, but we can’t have them in the investigation headquarters. It may be a bit cruel, but they need to be taken away from here.”
Uiharu bit her lip upon hearing that.
She had been speaking to Sangaku Youko through the radio, but that casual conversation would be quite precious indeed to the family members. And yet they were not being permitted to use it.
The voices at the entrance to the office gradually grew quieter and quieter.
Even so, Uiharu still clearly heard someone say “Save my mom.”
The bespectacled Anti-Skill member averted his gaze slightly.
Most likely, the Anti-Skill members who had dealt with the children had not made any promises either. Anti-Skill and all other modern organizations and companies would not make promises they were not sure they could keep. It was a means to prevent lawsuits.
Uiharu was a member of Judgment.
She had been taught how to deal with such situations during her training.
“…I will save her,” Uiharu said quietly. “No matter what, I will make sure no one is lost including Sangaku-san.”
(I will write a formal explanation of my actions if necessary.)
If she could remain silent after hearing a child say something like that, she felt she should just quit Judgment.
While sitting in the passenger seat of the satellite guidance vehicle, Yomikawa removed the shoulder straps of her rucksack and placed it on her lap. She opened it, pulled out a silver tool, and then shoved the rucksack into the space meant for her legs.
“Okay, here I go.”
Yomikawa opened the passenger door of the satellite guidance vehicle, leaned out, and peered into the narrow space between the bottom of the vehicle and the road. The vehicle’s giant front wheel rotated next to her ear and the asphalt flew by like a chainsaw only a few centimeters below the top of her upside down head.
“There it is. I see a silver box 40 centimeters across and 10 centimeters thick.”
“That is the electronics control box. It should be held closed by screws on the four corners. Can you get them off?”
“Sure thing,” muttered Yomikawa as she focused on the tool in her hand.
She was holding a device that looked like a pen nib with a motor attached. It was similar to the device used by a dentist to scrape at patient’s teeth. It was a micro cutter. The device was like a malicious version of an electric eraser which scraped away steel rather than the writing from a notebook.
Instead of unscrewing the screws, she scraped away the entire top of the screws.
With a horrible grinding noise, orange sparks flew and the four screws were destroyed.
The metal cover fell off.
Before Yomikawa could catch it, the cover fell to the asphalt. The asphalt was moving by so quickly that the cover flew backwards as if it had ricocheted off.
When Yomikawa saw the inside of the box, she let out a groan.
“It looks like there are over 100 cords in here. Don’t tell me I have to cut the red one but not the white one or something like that.”
“Ah ha ha. You can just ignore the cords. There should be three switches at the upper right hand side. First, turn off the middle switch.”
“Ahn? …This one?”
Yomikawa stretched out her arm and hit the middle switch with her index finger.
“That should have activated the safety on the emergency automatic evasion system the criminal is abusing.”
“So we can just hit the brakes now?”
“N-no! This is just an auxiliary safety. It only prevents control of the steering wheel from being suddenly taken away. Basically, it only keeps the criminal from taking control for about 30 seconds after you leave the red circle.”
The satellite guidance vehicle was 10 tons. Even if it slammed on the brakes, it might not come to a complete stop in that time. It was the same as how a train could not be easily stopped.
“It looks like removing the lock on the ignition key in order to shut off the motor while it is still running is our best bet. Once the motor is stopped, the emergency automatic evasion system cannot be abused anymore,” said Uiharu.
“Tch. Then let’s get it over with.”
“O-okay. Um, is there an even smaller box in the bottom left hand side of the box? It should be held shut by 8 screws.”
“Found it. So I just have to get this thing open?”
Just as Yomikawa stretched out her arm, a cross wind suddenly blew through.
The satellite guidance vehicle swayed left and right as if the wind had made it falter. That motion caused Yomikawa’s arm to approach the asphalt. A protrusion of the asphalt flying by below tore through the cloth of Yomikawa’s track suit and even scraped at her skin.
She frantically pulled her arm back, but lost her grip on the micro cutter in doing so. The tool fell to the asphalt and seemed to disappear instantaneously as it was swept away.
“Yomikawa-san. What’s wrong, Yomikawa-san!?”
“Dammit, I dropped the tool. I can’t get the box open!!”
“Is there any other way!? I know! The criminal is interfering remotely, right? So we just need to jam the signal he’s usi-…”
She trailed off because of a shout from Sangaku Youko.
“Get back in!! Hurry!!”
The instant Yomikawa lifted her head, she saw the edge of an approaching tunnel.
A cold sweat covered her body.
She frantically pulled her upper body back into the passenger seat. The thick concrete wall of the tunnel slammed into the passenger door that remained open. With the sound of crushed metal, the door slammed shut like a dragon’s jaws and then fell to the road because its hinges had broken.
Before it fell, a torn portion of the inside of the door became intertwined with the strap of the rucksack lying at the bottom of the passenger side.
(Oh, no! The rest of the tools…!!)
Yomikawa immediately reached out, but she did not make it in time.
With a few clunking noises, the door disappeared from vision.
She had survived, but the situation was still not a good one.
The characteristic orange lights of a tunnel surrounded the two women.
Sangaku looked over at Yomikawa’s bloody arm.
“A-are you okay?”
“More or less.,, Hm…?”
As she spoke, Yomikawa put the radio to her ear, but she got no response. The signal may have been cut off when they had entered the tunnel.
“The wheel…” Sangaku said with a pale expression. “The wheel isn’t responding! What’s going on!?”
(It couldn’t be…)
“A jamming countermeasure! Was it programmed from the beginning to put in an automatic lock if the signal was cut off!?”
“But I never strayed from the course I was told to go on…!!”
Cell phones could be used in some modern tunnels. It was possible that the criminal had mistakenly assumed the one along the path was one of those.
Meanwhile, the satellite guidance vehicle continued on.
It seemed to be continuing on straight ahead, but the tunnel wall on the passenger side was gradually approaching. At that rate, the vehicle would scrape up against the wall and possibly lose its balance and roll on its side.
If the trap used the emergency automatic evasion system, the lock could only last for 100 seconds, but it did not seem they had that much time before they hit the wall.
Yomikawa immediately pulled out a baton and reached out from the opening where the missing passenger door should have been. She was trying to push back even if it was just a little bit. However, this did not even last a single second. The instant the end of the baton touched the concrete wall, a great shock struck Yomikawa’s arm. The pain was so great, Yomikawa had no choice but to let go of the baton.
At the same, the exit to the tunnel became visible.
Would they hit the wall first or make it out of the exit first?
Fate chose the latter.
The satellite guidance vehicle roared out of the tunnel at tremendous speed and the signal returned. With control of the wheel once more, Sangaku immediately regained the vehicle’s balance.
Yomikawa contacted Uiharu over the radio.
“Uiharu! What should we do now? We can’t use the ignition key. Is there no other way!?”
However, Uiharu did not respond.
Yomikawa frowned and then finally heard Uiharu speaking. However, it sounded more like she was speaking to herself.
“You have got to be kidding me. This is…?”
Her notebook computer was displaying the destination she had calculated from the satellite guidance vehicle’s GPS system. The destination of the vehicle was…
“The international convention center in District 3!?”
The 12 member board of directors that ran Academy City and 7 heads of state of other countries were having a conference there. If the satellite guidance vehicle crashed into that building, the 1500 kilograms of hydrazine would be scattered about, causing more chaos than Uiharu could imagine.
Uiharu looked around the office.
The atmosphere of the Anti-Skill members had changed. Those adults should have been working to stop the satellite guidance vehicle and to capture the criminal behind it, but it felt as if they were now working on a different objective like a train that had switched tracks. The bespectacled Anti-Skill member was on the phone with someone and he gestured to Uiharu, telling her to continue her work.
Uiharu repeatedly hit keys on her computer.
She hacked into a local network created only for those in charge and found the exact records she had expected to. The predicted amount of damage, instructions to hospitals people would be transported to, and cleanup afterwards. Those things had taken over the conversation due to self-interest and weighing the possible damages.
(I knew it. They intend to make sure it’s stopped before it reaches its destination…)
However, that meant something completely different from before.
They were only trying to protect the VIPs in the international convention center. They had decided civilian casualties would be better than having it carry out its ultimate objective.
“Uiharu,” said the bespectacled Anti-Skill man, cutting into Uiharu’s thoughts. “If it comes to it, we will need to send a rescue team into that lake. We need to arrange a helicopter, so lend us a hand.”
They were already assuming the satellite guidance vehicle would end up in the lake. If she merely followed her orders, she would be abandoning Sangaku Youko.
(Is there anything I can do…?)
Uiharu frantically thought.
She did not want to give up.
(There is. There is something I can do to solve this problem!!)
What she could do was limited from within that office.
And since Anti-Skill had changed its overall plan, they might restrict her actions.
(Given the vehicle’s predicted route, it passes by near this office at a single point. If I’m going to do something, it has to be there. If I let this change go by, I probably won’t be able to do anything else!!)
“What is it?”
“Nothing,” replied Uiharu. “You needed a rescue helicopter, right? Understood. Go ahead and contact the unit. I will deal with the proper paperwork.”
After thinking for a bit, Uiharu stood up.
She was not about to go call in a helicopter.
Afterwards, she could write as many formal explanations of her actions as they wanted.
“I have arrived at the designated point. I am about to begin my ‘work’,” said a man on top of a building.
He put together various metal parts, making a rifle. It was a Metal Eater MX. It was an Academy City 80 cm fully-automatic anti-tank rifle.
The man holding the rifle while lying face down was named Sunazara Chimitsu.
He was a sniper who normally worked outside of Academy City. Once a proper request had been made, he would shoot his target whether it was a robber with a hostage or a politician calling for pacifism.
“I will stop that satellite guidance vehicle along the road just as you instructed, Anti-Skill.”
Sunazara’s expression remained the same as he held that special rifle that could blow up a real tank from a distance of 2000 meters.
He followed his clients’ orders and unhesitatingly pulled the trigger.
The giant bullet he fired sliced through the air and attacked its target with frightening accuracy.
Yomikawa felt a noise reverberating within her gut like fireworks bursting in the night sky.
The sound was coming from a distance.
However, Sangaku gave a shout from the driver’s seat next to her.
Yomikawa quickly turned toward the screen and saw some additional information on an accident. An overpass at a point about 3 kilometers north of them had collapsed, blocking off the road that ran beneath.
And it seemed the route being given to the satellite guidance vehicle passed through that area. As Yomikawa watched, more and more overpasses collapsed, blocking other routes. She could tell someone was doing it intentionally.
“Dammit. What is going on…?”
“Yomikawa-san!!” came a voice over the radio.
Uiharu must have been running somewhere because she sounded out of breath.
“We know what the criminal is after. His target is the international convention center some VIPs are gathered in! It seems the higher ups are taking drastic measures in order to protect their guests. Have you come across any kind of obstruction!?”
(Oh, so that’s what this is…)
Yomikawa understood instantly.
If they continued forward, they would run right into the rubble, but if they tried to go around it, the emergency automatic evasion system would take control and cause them to crash. In either case, they would not reach the international convention center.
By fiddling with the GPS, Yomikawa found an artificial lake near the first overpass to collapse. It seemed to be inviting them to crash the vehicle into it if they did not want to die.
Yomikawa gritted her teeth.
It was true that using the water as a cushion would reduce the vehicle’s momentum to a certain extent and it lowered the odds of having the satellite’s fuel released. It was possible that would end things without letting a single civilian die. But what would happen to the driver? There would be no leniency in the shock of the crash. What would happen once she was thrown out into the depths of the cold lake while unconscious and with broken limbs?
The higher ups had approved of that plan.
They had completely forgotten that the driver was another civilian who had gotten caught up in it all.
“Hell no!! I won’t let that happen!! Hey, Uiharu. I’m going to try to find something I can use as a tool. I’m going to try to continue the work we were doing before!!”
“I am…headed there, too! There is a single point where I can contact the vehicle…!!”
Meanwhile, the dead end came into view.
At the end of a long, long straightaway, gray dust could be seen rising up almost at the horizon. That was most likely the end. If they did not stop the satellite guidance vehicle by that point, the true tragedy would begin.
Yomikawa searched through the dashboard in an attempt to find something – anything – that could be used to turn the screws sealing that box shut. As long as there was any kind of hope, she would not give up. Her eyes showed her determination.
She scattered small items like a map or a flashlight on the floor and started tossing them aside after glancing at them and deciding they would be of no help.
“We’ll be turning right at the next intersection, so brace yourself!!” warned Sangaku.
While looking through the items scattered about, Yomikawa did as instructed.
Then she noticed something odd.
The automatic voice from the GPS remained silent.
Suddenly, the giant vehicle turned left instead of right.
Yomikawa had been leaning to the side, expecting a turn to the right, so the actual turn to the left caused her to lose her balance. She frantically tried to find something to grab onto, but her hands found only air.
(Don’t tell me…)
In Yomikawa’s wobbling vision, she caught sight of the GPS. Sangaku’s hand was holding down the mute button.
She had lied.
She had purposefully told Yomikawa the opposite direction in order to throw her out.
The passenger side had no door.
After losing her balance, Yomikawa fell out of the vehicle.
Yomikawa did not fall on harsh asphalt.
Some store must have been in the process of being remodeled, because a light truck and a giant stuffed bear twice as tall as Yomikawa were located near the sidewalk. Yomikawa struck the soft cushion which surrounded her with softness.
Even so, a great shock pierced her body.
Her breathing truly stopped for an instant, but she felt no anger toward Sangaku.
Sangaku Youko had not betrayed her.
She was not the one behind the incident.
Yomikawa had seen something that proved that to her.
Just before she had fallen out the door, she had caught sight of Sangaku Youko’s face.
While desperately gripping the steering wheel, the woman had used all her strength to put a smile on her face as she had looked toward Yomikawa with tears welling up in her eyes.
“You goddamn idioooooooooooooooooooooootttttttttttttttt!!”
By the time Yomikawa yelled that, the giant vehicle was already gone.
Its driver was on her way to bring the whole incident to a close.
As Sangaku Youko drove the satellite guidance vehicle along, her breath caught in her throat.
Her strength left her and she almost collapsed onto the steering wheel, but Sangaku managed to pull herself together.
(I can’t let that woman die here…)
She could now see it with the naked eye.
The overpass’s girder had been destroyed, causing the overpass to crumble and block the road. It was as if a barricade of rubble had been set up to block the satellite guidance vehicle’s path.
And there was a manmade lake off to the side.
Luckily, Sangaku could ignore the instructions from the GPS for 30 seconds thanks to the switch Yomikawa had pressed in the box below. With that much time, she could drive the 30 meter mass of metal into the lake.
“Sorry about this,” said a nervous voice over the vehicle’s radio.
It was the voice of the bespectacled Anti-Skill member. She had met him when the arrangement of the guard vehicles had been explained to her.
“We are calling a rescue team into the area. Even if you crash into the lake, they will immediately go in to rescue you. The passenger door is broken off, correct? In that case, you are less likely to become trapped within the vehicle.”
“Yes.” Sangaku Youko thought about various things, swallowed, and then finally continued speaking. “Thank you.”
With those two words, her mind was made up.
She heard one last word of apology before the connection was cut off.
She had to do it then.
If she let the chance go by, she would have no choice but to crash into the pile of rubble. If the satellite was destroyed, its toxic fuel, hydrazine, would be scattered about. At least a one kilometer radius would be contaminated. Seasonal winds could spread the effects. There would be tens of thousands of victims. She had to prevent that from happening.
(I can do this.)
She clenched the steering wheel so tightly her hands hurt.
A single photo was stuck in one corner of the driver’s compartment.
It was a photo filled with the smiles of her entire family.
(I will do this…!!)
Just as she had shaken off all doubts and was about to turn the wheel, she heard static coming from the radio.
“…Most admirable,” said a young girl’s voice.
The girl sounded about the same age as Sangaku’s own daughter. She was pretty sure it was the Judgment girl who had been helping Yomikawa over the radio.
“Sangaku Youko-san, you a truly wonderful person. Just by seeing what you are doing here, I feel like I can do something that is not like me at all.”
“Simply put, someone like you should not die here.”
Sangaku was completely bewildered and the vehicle passed underneath a walkway.
She then heard a thud come from the roof.
(It couldn’t be…)
Whatever had fallen down was unable to rid itself of its momentum, so it seemed to slide toward the back of the vehicle. A series of dull thuds moved toward the portion of the vehicle where the satellite was restrained.
“Gh…cough!! U-uuhh… That was nothing like the mobile we used to simulate falling…”
Sangaku heard more coughing and the roaring wind.
That was enough for her to understand what had happened.
“S-sorry I took so long,” said the girl.
The girl had jumped down onto the vehicle from the walking path in order to save Sangaku Youko.
“I am Uiharu Kazari from Judgment’s 177th Branch Office. I will now be taking action to protect the peace by bringing this situation to a close and protecting you, a civilian.”
Uiharu Kazari had given that courageous announcement, but her consciousness was actually a little hazy.
That was the first time she had ever jumped from a bridge onto a moving vehicle. She had not known much of anything regarding how to do it right. First she had failed her landing and then she had struck the metal framework around the satellite, so she had blood seeping from her forehead.
Even so, Uiharu had not dropped her radio.
She had needed it to speak with Sangaku Youko who had been cornered all alone by the situation.
“What are you doing?” asked Sangaku, utterly dumbfounded. “There is no other way. Even if you try to deal with the box down below now, you won’t have enough time! Can’t you see the dead end up ahead!?”
There were plenty of things Uiharu wanted to say and there were things she logically should have explained, but she cast all that aside. None of that was what she had to say first.
“I will save you, so let’s survive this together.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I can’t bet on something that will never succeed. That satellite you’re leaning on is filled with hydrazine. We can’t let that get out. The best option is for me to drive into the lake alone!!”
“That isn’t true,” Uiharu said, drawing out her last bit of strength. “Your death is not the best option. I will not accept that.”
“There is no other way!!”
“Then why are your children crying!?”
“Those children came all the way to the investigation headquarters. Even as the adults of Anti-Skill tried to stop them, they kept asking them to save their mother. So how can you say the best option is for you to give up!?”
“To the children of this city, an intimidating PE teacher is an object of fear. And trained Anti-Skill members are tough enough to make even most adults afraid of them. Those children stood their ground even as a group of those threatening adults surrounded them and told them to leave!! They truly do not want you to die!! There is no way any child would be happy to have their parent die!! That cannot possibly be the best option!!”
After shouting that, Uiharu smiled.
Her expression could not be seen over the radio, but the emotion could be heard in her voice.
“…I will show you that miracles exist.” Her voice was soft yet serious. “I will show you a miracle that overcomes the lack of courage of those who have given up on you and that will not leave those wishing for your safety in sorrow. Let’s have a good laugh when we see everyone’s shocked faces.”
For a bit, there was only silence.
But then that silence turned into a groan that in turn became a yell.
Sangaku yelled out two names.
Uiharu guessed that those names belonged to the two children she had seen.
“…But how?” asked Sangaku Youko in despair. “This vehicle truly cannot be stopped!! If we do anything, the emergency automatic evasion system will crash it!! We only have free reign for about 30 seconds! That isn’t enough time to come to a complete stop and turn the key to turn off the motor!! The criminal will gain control first!! How are you planning on stopping this thing!?”
“Don’t worry,” Uiharu said with a smile. “I will be giving you a sign. When I do, step on the brake with everything you have. No matter what happens, do not let up on the brake. That will solve everything.”
“Please trust me. It will stop.”
Sangaku fell silent.
The vehicle came up alongside the lake. It was only a few hundred meters from the rubble of the collapsed overpass. However, Sangaku paid no heed to the escape route that was the lake.
Instead she said, “Understood. Give me the signal when you’re ready.”
Uiharu prepared herself and breathed in deeply.
Just as she shouted out, every tire on the satellite guidance vehicle started screeching. The high pitched noise pierced her ears. Every braking mechanism aboard the vehicle was being used, but it continued to slide forward. That was because the vehicle weighed 10 tons and it had been travelling at the tremendous speed of 120 kph.
The brakes were not going to work like normal.
The situation was more like that of a train than of a vehicle on the road.
A train would slowly lower its speed as it approached its destination station and would then use its brakes to stop at its designated spot. If the train suddenly put on its brakes at full speed, it would continue to slide along the track and not stop until it had travelled over 100 more meters.
The satellite guidance vehicle acted the same.
The brake was being pressed down to the floor, but the vehicle would not stop!!
“What are you going to do!?” Sangaku shouted.
She was not simply shouting out due to anger that had no outlet. She truly wanted to know what her comrade in arms was planning to do in order to save them. What method would Uiharu use to prevent either the criminal from taking control or the vehicle crashing into the pile of rubble?
That was why Uiharu gave a slight smile.
Her forehead was cut and her consciousness was hazy, but she still spoke.
“Do you know what drag racers that travel hundreds of kilometers per hour use to brake?”
Sangaku remained silent.
She must have known. And that was what Uiharu was about to do.
Uiharu thought she heard a voice telling her to stop, but she ignored it.
“A drag chute!!”
At that moment, Uiharu was holding onto something like a ladder laid down flat that was located above the satellite. It was a simple walkway stretching from the “roof” portion of the metal framework. To affix her body to the simple walkway, Uiharu had several ropes bound around her small frame. She then reached a hand for the backpack like object that had been on her back the whole time.
It was the parachute she had not known how to remove.
She gave a forceful yank on the release cord and the backpack exploded. The giant white umbrella that appeared from within spread out all at once due to the great amount of wind created by the satellite guidance vehicle.
Air resistance held a surprising amount of power.
Its effects increased the faster an object was going, so it was used for the air brakes of fighters as well as drag racers.
Uiharu was doing the same thing.
The vehicle’s brakes alone could not bring it to a complete stop in 30 seconds. In that case, she had to add on a new brake that would stop its motion more quickly.
If it came to a complete stop for even an instant, the key could be turned to shut off the motor.
Once the motor was shut off, the emergency automatic evasion system could no longer be used by the criminal.
That meant there was a single thing she had to do.
She had to use the parachute to stop the satellite guidance vehicle as soon as possible!!
The belts holding the parachute to her body and the several ropes binding her to the metal ladder-like walkway dug into Uiharu’s body. She felt pain as if wires as thick as thumbs were constricting her body. Uiharu cried out in pain, but she also clung to the metal framework even tighter. Tremendous strength entered her slender fingers. The mass of wind caught in the parachute violently tried to tear her small frame from the vehicle. It was as if gravity had changed directions by 90 degrees and had increased several times over. It was like she was hanging from the edge of a cliff with weights tied to her legs.
(I won’t…let go…!)
However, if she ran out of strength, it was all over.
The vehicle would crash into the pile of rubble, truly bringing it all to an end.
(I won’t…let myself let go…!!)
Suddenly, she heard a dull denting noise.
(No…it can’t be…!)
The noise was not coming from Uiharu’s hands. It was coming from the ladder-like walkway her body was bound to. It must not have been designed to have that much of a burden placed on it because the bolts binding the framework and the walkway broke and flew off one after another.
Uiharu did not even have time to think.
The overwhelming power of the wind started tearing a portion of the walkway off with Uiharu still attached.
Some of the ropes must have been attached at the joints because they grew slack and the walkway and Uiharu become completely detached.
With nothing left supporting her, Uiharu flew up into the air.
The power of the parachute started pulling her back.
Even so, Uiharu desperately stretched out her arms.
...In that instant, Uiharu Kazari lost consciousness for a moment.
But even subconsciously, she continued to grasp the metal framework. She had reached a different part of the framework further back from the simple walkway that had been ripped away.
The situation was not a good one.
Uiharu was still being pulled by the great air resistance created by the parachute and an unpleasant creaking came from her arms. Intense pain ran through them as if the joints were being forcibly stretched by a special machine. She truly thought the fingers holding onto the framework were going to break.
Even so, Uiharu desperately endured.
Even as the violence of the parachute assaulted her, she gritted her teeth and endured.
Her consciousness was dim, but she recalled one thing clearly.
She recalled the words she had heard in the Anti-Skill office and the feelings those words had brought to her.
Save my mom.
She would save her.
“…Of course I will.”
No matter what, she would make sure there were no sacrifices, including Sangaku-san.
“Of course I’ll stop this damn thing!!”
The screech of the brakes pierced her ears.
The horrible smell of rubber scraping the asphalt reached her nose.
The giant vehicle continued to slide and the pile of rubble from the collapsed overpass approached.
The parachute was spread out from the mass of wind it was catching.
Uiharu Kazari swallowed down the intense pain and shouted out with all her heart.
The giant satellite guidance vehicle had travelled over 7 kilometers since the message had first arrived on the GPS system, but it was now stopped right in front of the pile of rubble.
The giant mass of steel was no longer moving.
The front windshield was completely shattered. The vehicle had stopped only a few centimeters away from the pile of rubble, but a sharp protrusion of concrete had still stabbed into it.
The blade-like piece of concrete had pierced the windshield, ripped apart the driver’s headrest, and scattered the white stuffing throughout the vehicle.
Sangaku Youko had immediately moved her head to the side and just barely avoided the sharp fragment.
Her hand reached for the key near the steering wheel.
It was the ignition key for the vehicle’s electric motor.
She turned it to the off position.
The satellite guidance vehicle was now completely turned off.
The criminal who had abused the emergency automatic evasion system could no longer interfere.
Sangaku Youko thought on that truth for a bit.
They had won.
They had defeated the cowardly criminal.
And most importantly, her children would not need to grieve.
She had managed to protect those children’s smiles.
She opened her mouth wide and laughed.
“Ah ha ha ha!! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
Uiharu put her hand on the side of the satellite, put her feet on the metal framework, and slowly climbed down form the back of the vehicle. Her palms were dyed red, the area between her thumb and forefinger seemed to have split open a bit, and the area from her shoulders to her wrist had been turned a uniform purplish color. Pain ran across her entire body and quite a bit of blood was flowing from her forehead.
A horrible smell came from the vehicle’s tires.
When she looked at the road, she saw black lines stretching for a few hundred meters back. The overwhelming friction had blown a few of the giant tires. The damage was like that from an attack by a monster. The great energy had been like violence itself. And Uiharu and Sangaku had overcome it together.
Uiharu just stared at the scene for a while.
But before she could think too deeply, all strength left her body.
Her injuries and the intense relief had released all of her tension.
With her mind blank, Uiharu looked over at the driver’s seat.
Yomikawa and Uiharu had struggled to save Sangaku Youko.
However, Sangaku had been the only one to fight from the very beginning to the very end. How had she been able to gather enough strength at the very, very end? After thinking on that for a bit, Uiharu spoke in a cracking, vacant voice.
“…Not giving up sure is amazing.”
Two figures stood a short distance away.
One was Misaka Mikoto and the other was Shirai Kuroko.
They were both young ladies from a prestigious psychic powers development school called Tokiwadai Middle School.
“Well, it looks like they made it somehow or another,” Mikoto said with a sigh.
She must have been planning to do something because sparks were flying around her. For better or for worse, she had not needed to do whatever it was in the end.
“But I didn’t know Uiharu-san was that hot-blooded. Putting on a parachute and acting as a human brake is crazy.”
“Well, regardless of how she looks, Uiharu did volunteer to join Judgment. Even if it does not come out on the surface much, there might just be something burning deep within her.”
“…And you left that hot-blooded girl on her own to go do your own investigation, didn’t you? Did you find the person behind all this?”
“Really, how many times do I have to tell you, onee-sama? You’re a civilian.”
Despite what Shirai said, her expression looked somehow glad.
She shook her head as if giving up on something before speaking.
“There are traces of a falsified order allowing remote reception of the GPS data from the satellite guidance vehicle. It was done via two or three servers, so I doubt the actual person has been found yet,” she said while looking at her cell phone that must have been displaying a file on the incident. “That Anti-Skill woman and Uiharu were not shaken off because the criminal was relying on the GPS information to keep an eye on the vehicle. The Anti-Skill vehicle that approached was noticed because of its own GPS system, but the criminal had no way of noticing the person who climbed aboard from it.”
“So basically,” said Mikoto with a nod and a wink. “You know where this bastard is, right?”
“Yes, it is time for an old fashioned arrest. Want to come along, onee-sama?”
“Do I even have to answer that?”
Bluish-white sparks flew.
A smile unbefitting of the image her prestigious school had spread across her face.
“I much prefer doing things this way.”