I have an exceedingly important mission for you two!!
Heivia, a boy of a solid build with short brown hair, thought back on the words of his superior officer as he silently moved his fingers with a look in his eyes reminiscent of a dead fish.
He was in a cramped room.
Inside the room was a table with a pile of small metal devices on top of it. Quenser, a boy with blond hair that did not quite reach his shoulders, sat across the table performing a similar task.
Instead of chairs, they were sitting on cases used to store the shells for the smaller railguns used by Objects. Heivia had no idea how many shells fit inside, but each case was the size of a sofa for three.
The table was also not really a table; it was a large wooden box. It was empty, but it had been crammed between the railgun shell cases to create a work space.
They were loading ammunition.
They had been handed a large number of empty assault rifle magazines, and they were using their fingers to cram bullet after bullet inside. While an inefficient clicking noise was coming from Heivia’s magazine, Quenser was using his slender fingers that were like those of a sheltered maiden to systematically carry out the job.
They had started only 15 minutes ago, but Heivia was already down for the count.
He kicked his heels against the railgun shell case he was sitting on and said, “Hey, I can’t go on. This isn’t war!! With those Objects that can keep moving after a nuclear blast, loading these puny little bullets isn’t going to be of any use!!”
“Heivia, redo that magazine. You used too much force and bent the spring into an S-shape. I can tell from the sound.”
“Why do you look so happy!? This annoying work is going to drive me insane!!”
“Eh? Doesn’t this kind of trivial job soothe your heart? I’d say running around the wilderness with a heavy rifle is more messed up than this.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize you Object design students were insane. And what point is there in this? Can’t the munitions companies load the bullets in the factories before packaging them and shipping them out?”
“Doesn’t storing them inside for so long loosen the spring, increasing the risk of malfunctions? That’s why we have to load only the necessary bullets when they’re needed and remove them again if they aren’t needed anymore.”
“Really? Isn’t that just the same as printer ink? I’m betting you could keep them in there forever without issue, but they tell you these things so we’ll keep buying more.”
“Heivia, that magazine’s spring is messed up. You need to remove the bullets and redo it.”
“Gahhh!!” he shouted out of utter annoyance, but Quenser naturally ignored him.
Heivia was not the type to back off because he received no reaction, so he pointed toward the many cardboard boxes placed next to the large wooden box they were using as a table.
“How are we supposed to finish all of these!? And isn’t this something a machine should be doing!? If they got just one machine to do this, we could just set the magazines in it and press a button. Then they would all get loaded automatically like with a soft serve ice cream machine!”
“Aren’t they just trying to save on their budget? Everything war-related is centered on the Objects these days. Normal soldiers don’t fight anymore. When would a loaded rifle bullet actually be used? To them, it makes more sense to use their idle soldiers for this than to bring in a ridiculously expensive machine.”
“You really have a way of wearing away people’s motivation, you know that?”
Fed up with it all, Heivia tossed the assault rifle magazine on the wooden box they were using as a table. He arched his spine backwards as he stretched and glanced behind him.
He spotted a small cupboard.
Heivia casually glanced through the items lined up there, but then…
“Hey, Quenser. Look at what I just found.”
“There’s a single porn video mixed in with the training videos.
After pushing an incredibly boring job onto two boy soldiers under her command with a smile on her face, Froleytia had headed back to a special officer room prepared on the base. However, the base was really a large scale convoy made up of over 100 large special vehicles, so even her office was similar to a blocky container.
Quenser and Heivia were both 17 and Froleytia was 18. The average age in units was continuing to lower, but that was just a sign of the times. That silver-haired girl was a minor, but no one found it odd that she was commanding a large group of around 800 people. That was simply how things were done.
Currently, Froleytia was using a tablet connected to her computer to recheck the invasion route of her force on their next mission.
As she did, she glanced over at a different monitor.
With a microphone and video camera attached to the computer, it was something like a video chat device. On the other end was a guest from the safe country that was a great distance from the battlefield.
She could have just had two windows open on her laptop rather than preparing two computers, but Froleytia had a reason to not do that.
This guest was the kind of person that would find it rude to even have her face covered by another window. She only had a rank of three stars, but she acted like it was five stars.
“I see. So how is Heivia doing?”
“Oh, fine. After all, he is the heir to the well-known Winchell family. He would never be put in danger by being sent to the front lines.”
Froleytia said that to move the conversation along, but the truth was that she had used Heivia for everything from loading puny rifle bullets into empty magazines to destroying 50+ meter Objects.
(Well, I’m living quite the unfortunate life myself…)
The guest displayed on the monitor was not aware of any of that. She was a blonde girl of about 15 who was wearing a dress that did not belong in the modern era. However, the corset and other important points had been modified enough that it could be put on without needing someone else’s help. Even if she was a noble girl, it seemed her upbringing had not been so sheltered that she used her servants for everything.
She scratched at her cheek with her index finger and said, “That is fine. Even for me, it would be a waste if he died before that grand ceremony could be held.”
“Excuse me, but I thought the engagement was fiercely opposed by both the Winchell family and the Vanderbilt family.”
“The greater the obstacle, the more it burns within me. You should try falling in love sometime, miss soldier.”
Without thinking, Froleytia shrugged at having that pointed out by an influential noble girl. She shook her long silver hair and tried to change the subject.
“But was this really such a good idea?”
“Was what such a good idea?”
“Having Heivia treated as a private first class. As the heir to the Winchell family, shouldn’t he have at least been an officer such as a second lieutenant? This may sound rude, but a private first class is a bit…”
“Well, I’m sure there were various reasons that went into it. I really don’t know. I do not really care and I have no real knowledge of military ranks, so it really is not my place to comment on it. And if you are going to bring that up, you are the daughter of a noble family and yet you are firing weapons on the battlefield.”
Froleytia cleared her throat.
She had tried to avoid unnecessary trouble by changing the subject, but she had only dug up something worse.
“So may I speak with Heivia?” asked the girl.
“Honestly. I’ll connect the video chat, but keep this a secret. All the others are looking at photos of their lovers and saying they will marry them once they return home.”
“Oh, and I thought that only happened in movies,” said the blonde girl as she fixed her bangs and checked over various parts of her dress. It seemed she was a bit nervous about speaking with Heivia.
(I guess she can be cute at times.)
As Froleytia had that exceedingly rude thought, the noble girl gave one last demand.
“Please connect me to Heivia.”
“Fine, fine. He is in the third ammunition storage’s spare work room. I’ll connect you there.”
Quenser and Heivia were facing a computer in a corner of the room. They put in the disk for the porn video and sat tensely while the media player software started up.
And then plenty of pink porn filled the screen.
“Okay!! I, Jessica the genius intellectual woman soldier, will now make men out of you new recruits who are too afraid to move!! This is an order! Everyone who no longer wants to be a child, leap into my cheeeeeesssssst!!”
“Me too, commander!!”
“Wah ha ha ha! Okay, I, Jessica, will do something about this, so everyone come here!!”
While listening to the continued laughing, shouting, and grunts of exertion and watching the flesh and flesh and sweat and flesh and sweat and sweat and flesh and sweat displayed on the monitor, Quenser frowned. He looked back at the package and noticed it was titled “A Cool Female Soldier’s Secret Training of Pleasure and Tits”.
He turned back toward his fellow soldier who had found the video and said, “Um, Heivia? Are you the type of person that enjoys being bossed around by a female commander?”
“No, you idiot!! I was just saying we should enjoy what I found. I wasn’t the one that hid it here!!”
Quenser turned away from the images that were more gaudy than erotic and went back to putting rifle bullets into empty magazines. But…
“…Huh? What? Huh? For some reason I’m working faster than before. Why?”
“Quit slacking off, boy!! Who said you could take a break!? How many times do I have to tell you not to stop until I, Jessica, tell you to!?”
“Waahh!! I feel really motivated for some reason!! I thought this was supposed to be sexy, but I’m making incredible progress by working to the rhythm of her voice!”
“What? My hands are moving on their own. Why do I have this natural feeling that it would be wrong to take a break!? Do you think they could make an effective diet video by having a drill sergeant yelling at you!?”
“Quit yapping and move your fingers faster!! Don’t leave me, Jessica, bored for even an instant!! If you are men, then outdo even my expectations for you!!”
“Yes, Commander Jessica!! We will do exactly that!!”
“Commander! We will show you that we are competent soldiers!! Commander!”
The two boys’ hands started moving faster and faster until they were cramming rifle bullets into empty magazines at what looked like the speed of a sewing machine. As Quenser and Heivia took that task to its limit, they threw off all idle thoughts and became machines that did nothing but accurately put bullets in magazines while breathing heavily.
Suddenly, they thought they heard the small electronic tone denoting an incoming video chat, and a new window opened over the porn video.
“What are you doing?” said an adolescent blonde girl in a dress with a cold voice and gaze.
Quenser and Heivia screamed in unison and leapt over to grab the mouse and close the video player playing the porn video.
However, the blonde girl in the window pointed with dull eyes and said, “Heivia, I see a suspicious package lying on top of that wooden box.”
That tough, experienced soldier screamed like a girl and knocked the porn video case off of the wooden box acting as a table.
Quenser leaned over and whispered to Heivia in order to gather some intelligence.
“(Hey, Heivia. Who is that girl? She seems to know you.)”
“(I’ll explain more later, but she’s the only daughter of the Vanderbilt family. Her family has about as much power as my own, but she can use pretty much all of her power as a noble while I’m relatively alone and helpless. I can’t let my guard down, so you be quiet and let me do the talking. This isn’t someone a commoner should be angering!!)”
“I don’t have such a short temper,” said the girl.
“I see. But if what milady says was true, I would not have had so many difficulties in the past.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about. Anyway, I do not need a reason to speak with you. As we are engaged, it is unnatural for us to even spend a day without speaking. In fact, if you would contact me, I would not need to do this, Heivia. It is not right for me to have not heard from you ever since you left for the battlefield.”
“Please give me a break. Any emails I write even to relatives are monitored in order to prevent information being leaked. They would find out I use all sorts of cute emoticons.”
Heivia spoke as if he was annoyed, but Quenser realized his tone was different from normal. It lacked its usual edge. Quenser decided it would be best to remain silent, so he went back to loading bullets. He was not one to butt into a conversation between a couple.
“But what kind of room are you in? I thought you were on the front lines performing valiant deeds to gain the right to succeed as the head of your family. Does the Winchell family determine its heir with side jobs?”
“Oh, things can be complex out here. A young lady sipping tea in the safe country probably would not understand how things work on the battlefield.”
“Heh heh. You would think that, wouldn’t you?”
“Ahn? What? You aren’t relaxing in a Paris mansion? …Don’t tell me you’re on your way here or something.”
“Not even I would be so impolite as to enter a base and throw everything into confusion while a war is going on. It is quite the opposite. I am currently headed to the place farthest in the world from this planet’s wars. In this place, the colors of national flags are irrelevant.”
“Well, if you manage to prove yourself on that muddy battlefield and finally convince those hard-headed members of the Winchell family, you come here too. It is a bit too inconvenient for a primary residence, but it is perfect for enjoying every once in a while.”
And then the door to the room opened wide without so much as a knock.
Quenser and Heivia spun around at the loud noise.
Their long silver haired commander, Froleytia, stood there.
“Quenser, Heivia, we have an urgent job. We need to gather in the conference room.”
“??? Why did a major like you head here directly? Couldn’t you have sent a message?”
“This room is oddly sealed, so radio signals can’t reach it. Also, this video chat was given priority, so I wouldn’t have been able to cut in until the transmission from the Vanderbilt family ended. I only realized that a bit ago. It was my mistake, so I came to get you.”
Froleytia then turned toward the computer’s monitor.
She grabbed Heivia by the back of the neck and said, “As I am sure you heard, I have to borrow him.”
“Yes,” said the blonde girl in the dress with a slight nod. “Work him as hard as you can without killing him, so he can finish with the military quickly.”
Froleytia threw Quenser and Heivia into the conference room and began the meeting with the soldiers who had already gathered there.
“Our stage this time is Antarctica,” said Froleytia as she projected a large map onto a whiteboard. “One of our Legitimacy Kingdom survey planes was targeted by a surface-to-air missile while it was flying along the coast of the Ross Sea. It was exposed to a locking laser.”
“Is our mission to rescue the crew that crashed in Antarctica?” asked Quenser but Froleytia shook her head.
“Fortunately, the plane was equipped with emergency flares. One of those broke the enemy’s lock and they escaped out of their range. The problem is that some idiot in Antarctica was targeting them with a missile,” said Froleytia while grinning. “We directly contacted the Information Alliance, the Capitalist Corporations, the Faith Organization, and the other world powers to check, but none of them seem to know who it could have been. Whether they were telling the truth or not, this is being internationally treated as an attack by terrorists not associated with any world power. In other words, no one can complain if we take them out.”
Hearing that, Quenser and Heivia began whispering to each other.
“(Terrorists, hm? I had heard the ones in the Western European safe country could be more frightening than a battlefield where Objects deal with everything.)”
“(Yeah, I’ve heard it said the special forces in the police have a lot more training in direct combat. In fact, dealing with terrorists isn’t really a job for the military.)”
“(The police can’t head out to Antarctica. That’s probably why we’re being sent in.)”
Heivia raised his hand and spoke to his commander.
“So we’re getting them back?”
“This is nothing so uncivilized. The predicted location of the surface-to-air missile from the aiming laser is nearby an unmanned Legitimacy Kingdom observatory. We need to see if it has been destroyed, and if it has not, eliminate the threat to keep it that way. …Simple, right?”
“(So we’re killing them regardless,)” muttered Heivia upon seeing Froleytia’s smile.
Paying him no heed, the commander continued her explanation.
“As I said, the direction the aiming laser came from was used to estimate the location it was fired from. That location is at the base of Mount Erebus which is along the coast of the Ross Sea. We will send out a unit and attack. If possible, we would like to capture them alive to get their objective out of them, but if not, don’t worry about it. It seems killing them all would be no big deal.”
A stir utterly devoid of tension spread through the conference room.
Those monstrous 50+ meter weapons known as Objects were synonymous with war.
Objects had a certain characteristic. While they had over 100 weapons, those weapons were powered by a high output reactor and the weapons were primarily along the lines of laser beams, low-stability plasma cannons, railguns, and coilguns.
No one bothered putting surface-to-air missiles on them.
In other words, the odds of the supposed terrorists having an Object were quite low. And the Legitimacy Kingdom military could send out an Object filled with their latest technology at any time.
Their victory already seemed assured.
An Object could not be stopped even with a nuclear weapon, so small arms and missiles could do nothing. It was their understanding of that fact that led to all tension leaving the soldiers’ shoulders.
“Oh, right. I have one warning,” said Froleytia. “We cannot use the princess’s Object on this mission. Keep that in mind.”
“Hah?” said Quenser without thinking.
He thought he must have heard her wrong, but Froleytia awkwardly continued.
“Once again, we cannot use the princess’s Baby Magnum. Objects are monstrous weapons that weight over 200,000 tons. Putting one on that icy continent could easily lead to the thick ice cracking and the Object falling through. Then how are we supposed to get it out? I certainly don’t know of a crane that can lift something that heavy.”
“U-umm… I thought we were supposed to be a maintenance unit that ensures the Object can quickly and accurately deploy. What are we supposed to do without the Object?” asked Quenser.
“Well,” said Froleytia as she tapped at the map with a baton. “I expect you to fight the terrorists with smaller weapons.”
And so they headed to Antarctica.
The terrorists were supposed to be hiding at Mount Erebus which was near the sea, but Quenser and the others used a boat to land on the coast rather than fly directly there. From there, they and about 100 fellow soldiers slowly approached in a circle around the area. The soldiers taking part in the operation usually acted as guards around the base. As they were also using tanks and attack helicopters, they seemed like a force from an earlier age.
“Are you serious?” muttered Heivia as he walked alongside Quenser. “This is Antarctica. Let me say that again: Antarctica. What am I doing? I was supposed to work in a base for 3 years in order to become the next head of my family. What am I doing here? Has that giant-breasted commander of ours forgotten that I’m a radar analyst?”
“Come to think of it, I came to the base as a battlefield student in order to study the Object, so why am I on this ice continent that doesn’t have the first thing to do with Objects?”
“God dammit. We’re just human antennae. They could just use drones for this.”
“With this gusting wind, UAVs would be hard to use. Also, the radio signal is easy to intercept, so they probably aren’t a good idea for dealing with terrorists.”
“What kind of serious response is that? Did you awaken to your masochist side under that beauty of a commander?”
“I just want to finish this so we can leave. I really don’t care about a job that has no connection to Object designs. Heivia, you need to learn how to just get things over with like an adult,” said Quenser in a bored tone of voice, but it did not seem Heivia was listening.
Heivia looked up into the white sky and said, “By the way, this is Antarctica, right? There’s one thing I’ve been wondering for a bit now. Mind if I ask it?”
“The wonders of nature are outside my area of expertise. If you want an explanation, ask one of the environmental protection organizations.”
“Oh, it’s nothing tricky.”
Antarctica was an ice continent. In some places, the temperature was as low as 50 below zero, making it a true area of frozen earth. In that white land, water spent more time of the year as a solid than as a liquid. The same went for humans. If a flesh and blood body was thrown out into that extreme environment, it would be frozen solid more often than not.
Or so it should have been.
“Why is it so damn hot in Antarctica?” groaned Heivia as he removed the hood of his cold weather coat.
He awkwardly wiped the sweat from his brow and looked around. In the animal documentaries he had seen, the area had been a flat land of pure white, but they were currently standing on a ground made of black stone. Also, white steam could be seen coming up from the ground in places. A powerful crosswind was blowing through and white snow continued to fall from the clouds above, but the steam kept them from feeling cold and the snow melted just before it touched the ground, so it did not accumulate. Nothing matched the image he had had in his head.
Meanwhile, Quenser looked down at the reading from a digital thermometer.
“The seasons in the southern hemisphere are reversed, right? It’s almost summer here. Even so, the air temperature is -3.9 degrees. You’d get cold in no time if you took off your coat.”
“No way. This is below zero? I feel like I’m in a sauna.”
“This is a volcanic area, so a strange heat does temporarily come from the ground. I remember a major eruption 2 years ago that made news by majorly changing the crater. You’re just feeling hot because of that. If you stay still, you’ll start to get cold, so you should put your hood back up.”
“Ah ha ha ha ha ha!!” laughed Heivia without warning.
Quenser looked over with a confused look and Heivia pointed in a certain direction.
“Look, Quenser!! It’s a hot spring. We’re in Antarctica and yet there’s a hot spring coming up from the ground!!”
“…I already told you this was a volcanic area.”
“But it’s a hot spring! In Antarctica!! This place is destroying everything I thought I knew about it!!”
As he spoke, Heivia removed his thick gloves. He crouched down at the edge of the pool of water that had white steam rising from it and stuck his hand in.
“Oh…wow. It feels like it’s a perfect 40 degrees.”
“Stop it, Heivia. If we got in a hot spring, we would just stop caring about this war.”
They were reluctant to leave, but Froleytia was sure to yell at them if they fell into the trap of that hot spring. So the two headed onwards.
The 100+ other soldiers were heading along too, but the circle was so wide Quenser and Heivia could not see any of the others.
They walked across the land of hard, black stone based on the map displayed on their handheld devices. After travelling some distance, the dark ground became covered in white snow and ice. The ground seemed flat, but it was actually sloped gently down to the extent that a ball would roll slowly forward if it was placed on the ground. The temperature seemed to be slowly falling as well. The white land continued as far as they could see in every direction and they could see no obvious landmarks. Merely looking away from the map was enough to make them feel lost.
Quenser looked down at the small pieces of ice that crunched under their feet as they walked.
“Oh, now this is more like what I expected of Antarctica.”
“Ow!? This isn’t just cold; it hurts! Hey, Quenser. There’s something weird about my face, can you see anything odd there!?”
“The sweat on your face is freezing. I’m guessing it hurts because it’s pulling at your skin.”
“Shit, shit, shit, shit!!” shouted Heivia as he frantically brushed the tiny bits of ice off his face and pulled up his hood. “Dammit! If it’s suddenly going to get Antarctica-like, why can’t it just be something cute with penguins!?”
“This much ice is quite a sight. You’d probably get sick of it after a few days, though.”
“Why are you taking this so well, Quenser? Are you from some cold country?”
“No. I’m more fed up with ice than anything,” said Quenser with a shrug. “When I was in my safe country school, we did all sorts of experiments with breaking rectangular sheets of ice to teach us the basics of Object armor. We would see how the cracks would run through it by striking it in different places.”
“Why ice? Object armor is made of steel.”
“With water, it’s easy to reuse. With a freezer, the experiment can be repeated as many times as you want. Also, we just needed to learn the basics of how the cracks worked, so there was no reason to use steel plates fine-tuned with highly flame resistant reactive material that requires an expensive artisan. By mixing in some chemicals to increase the viscosity before freezing it, it cracks the same way. We also performed experiments where we found more efficient means of absorbing impacts by destroying the balance of the viscosity,” said Quenser with a sigh.
It was due to how boring he found those school lessons that he had actually headed out to the battlefield.
Quenser then changed the subject.
“Come to think of it, what are the terrorists doing in the middle of nowhere like this? Did they get a surface to air missile just for some sightseeing?”
“You know nothing, Quenser,” responded Froleytia over the radio. “Antarctica has been an area of intense competition between many nations over who has rights to what areas even before the UN was destroyed.”
“…? I thought Antarctica had no national borders?”
“Because it has none, various forces have tried to claim it for themselves and have gotten in fights over it. Antarctica has iron and coal mines after all. The ocean also has plentiful areas to fish. It has plenty to compete over,” explained Froleytia offhand. “Currently, the powers claiming rights to Antarctica are the Oceanian military nation that was destroyed before, Western America’s Central Valley area of the Capitalist Corporations, the Chonos Archipelago area of the Information Alliance, and the southern Great Britain area of the Legitimacy Kingdom.”
Quenser frowned at that.
“Oceania and the Chonos Archipelago are in the southern hemisphere, but West America’s Central Valley is around Los Angeles, right? And southern Great Britain is where London is… Those areas have no connection with Antarctica.”
“They are bringing out their pioneering spirit and insisting the people who first discovered the continent have a claim. If it went in the order the expeditions were sent out, they would have the best claim, but that thought process does not take the concerned parties into account just like during the Age of Exploration.”
That meant the terrorists (or so they were officially being called whoever they might actually be) must have targeted the Legitimacy Kingdom survey plane with a surface-to-air missile due to trouble related to either Antarctica’s territories or resources.
(But that is not the real issue. In this age of Objects, the soldiers like us being forced to run around with a gun have it worst…)
“Do you have something you would like to say, Quenser?” asked Froleytia.
“N-no!! Nothing at all!!”
“I have one piece of good news for you. You need not get into a firefight with the terrorists once you find them. Our wonderful Object is on standby at the Ross Sea, so our cute waitress can blow them away with a long distance barrage once you get us their location.”
“Then,” said Heivia with his breathe showing up white in the cold air. “Couldn’t you have just used a military satellite instead of having us walk all the way there? In this day and age, you can get a villa on the moon and shuttles are either launched by laser space elevators or mass drivers. Satellites are as plentiful as empty cans on the side of the street. But I suppose I can’t expect a commander giving orders while sipping hot cocoa on the bridge of an assault landing aircraft carrier to understand how we feel shivering in the cold.”
“Things get a bit tricky when it comes to the Arctic or Antarctic,” Froleytia replied smoothly while completely ignoring that last disagreeable comment. “A geosynchronous satellite using the centrifugal force of the earth to hang near the equator can’t see this far. Some satellites do orbit perpendicular to the equator, but they can only monitor an area during a specific time of the day.”
“Don’t they have satellites that stay exactly over the earth’s axis outside the atmosphere?”
“Yes, but that is right in the middle of an area of disputed ownership. ‘Exactly over the earth’s axis’ is practically a pinpoint, so only so many satellites can be there. The Legitimacy Kingdom has a powerful advantage over the North Pole, but that also means we do not have a single satellite over the South Pole.”
“And so you are making up for that lack of equipment by shoving this insanely inefficient workload onto us human soldiers,” said Heivia with a sigh and a frown. “This isn’t something a civilized human should be doing.”
“Heivia, civilized humans have something known as manners. Do you get my meaning?” replied Froleytia.
Heivia was about to give a light reply, but before he could…
A rifle bullet struck the ground between Quenser and Heivia.
(An enemy attack!?)
The two immediately tried to take cover, but they realized the snowy plain gave them nothing to hide behind. Heivia grabbed Quenser’s shoulders and forcibly pulled him backwards. Even on that flat plain, the ground has slight ups and downs. They retraced their steps a few meters to a protrusion in the snowy plain and hid behind that cover created by the icy ground.
“(What, what, what!? Is this those terrorists!?)”
“(Who else would it be!? We almost died out here in Antarctica. If it hadn’t been for this strong crosswind, one of us would definitely have been killed by that initial shot!!)”
“(This area is both volcanic and ridiculously cold, so it has major temperature differences. They’ve been here longer than us, so the metal of their gun barrels or sights may have altered somewhat.)”
As they spoke back and forth in hushed voices, rifle bullets intermittently struck the white ground and sent ice crystals up into the air. The impact points were scattered. It may have been due to the crosswind that they could not hit their targets as Heivia had said, or it may have been due to numerous other smaller reasons piled on top of each other.
Still lying on the ground, Heivia held up his rifle with the sight attached that could pick up data from various sources such as the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums.
“(Their distance is 200 meters. There are 7…maybe 8 of them. The rifles they are using are those ones with the wooden stocks. They have forcibly attached grenade launchers with electrical tape.)”
“(Can you take them out?)” asked Quenser.
“(Why do you make it sound like you’re just a spectator? You should be pulling out your handgun or PDW!!)”
“(Sorry, but I don’t have any guns. I only have the usual explosives.)”
“(What are you even here for!?)”
Heivia was about ready to strangle Quenser, but then a rifle bullet struck the ground nearby. He frantically lowered his head and fired his own rifle back to hold the enemy in check.
“(Shit, shit, shit!! I’ll strangle you later, but I still need to ask! Why did you head off to fight terrorists without a single bullet!?)”
“(To be honest, I really did want to bring some!)”
“You can’t, Quenser,” cut in Froleytia. “A student who has not finished training cannot be authorized to carry a soldier’s firearm.”
“(Yeah, but doesn’t it take even more delicacy to handle explosives?)”
“You used explosives in your anti-shock experiments related to the shape of Objects back in your safe country school, didn’t you? That is why you have authorization for those. Also, that line of thinking is the sign of a boy who does not know how frightening an accidental discharge is.”
“(I see…)” responded Quenser faintly just as a terrorist bullet shot chunks of snow into the air right next to him.
At that point, Heivia snapped.
“Quit sitting around and do somethiiiinnnngggg!! Why am I the only one risking his life to fight back!? We know where the enemy is, so have the princess use her Object to blow them awaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy!!”
“Oh, that’s right, that’s right,” said Quenser as he set his radio’s frequency to contact the Object.
The response he received was brief and clear.
“At that location, the shockwave and radiant heat would blow you two away as well. Are you okay with that? Over.”
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, fuck!!” shouted Heivia as he gave repeated quick bursts of 2 or 3 shots with his rifle.
Meanwhile, Quenser contacted their allies in the area, but none of them were in a position to arrive any time soon.
“Dammit. They aren’t lying about their position to avoid getting caught up in this, are they?”
He wanted to throw his weapon down and leave, but with the bullets flowing above, carelessly lifting his head would likely get him killed. Two hundred meters was relatively close range for rifles, so it was only due to the powerful crosswind and the plain white area affecting their visual comprehension that kept either side from hitting the other.
The enemy soldiers must have been more used to it because they were gradually spreading out. Only a few meters had opened up between the enemy soldiers, but they were clearly trying to circle around via different routes.
Quenser almost lifted his head up in shock, but Heivia held him down. Immediately afterwards, a bullet flew directly over his head.
Still covered in snow, Quenser said, “This is bad, Heivia!!”
“You mean that the enemy is splitting up to circle around on either side!? I already know! The problem is that there is nothing we can do about it!!”
“No, not that!! A penguin!!”
“Hah!? Who cares about a penguin right n-…A penguin!?”
“It’s a baby! A baby penguin!!”
With a shocked look, Heivia looked over in the direction Quenser was pointing. A small gray baby penguin was waddling awkwardly across right in the middle of the area between the soldiers firing rifles at each other.
It was going to be caught up in the firefight, but they could not exactly stop either.
Just as the veins in Heivia’s temple were bulging out in anguish, something odd occurred.
Just as he was about to remove his finger from the trigger, the terrorists stopped firing as well.
The only motion left on that white land was the baby penguin continuing to waddle along while paying no heed to the soldiers on the front line of a battlefield.
With sweaty palms, Quenser and Heivia watched its progress.
“(C’mon!! You can do it, baby penguin!!)”
“(Wait, why is it just the baby!? Doesn’t the parent need to be watching over it!?)”
And then the baby penguin tripped.
“No, Heivia!! No human intervention is the rule of nature!!”
Heivia very nearly rushed out to help, but Quenser frantically stopped him. Meanwhile, the baby penguin used its small wings to force itself back on its feet.
“Gyah!” came a new avian cry.
“It isn’t going to eat it, is it? It isn’t going to attack from the sky, is it!?”
Yet the rule of nature came into play again.
While Heivia was trying to aim his rifle at the sea bird and Quenser was trying to stop him, the albatross spread its wings wide and readied its aim from up in the heavens. The baby penguin that’s silhouette looked like a fluffy ball had no idea that it was being targeted.
And then the albatross attacked.
The penguin’s natural enemy soared down from the sky like a spear. Its deadly beak was accurately targeting the baby penguin.
Everyone envisioned the color and scent of blood.
Quenser and Heivia forget about fighting over the rifle and brought their hands up to cover their eyes.
But the tragedy they expected did not occur.
“Kmyaaaaaaaahhhhh!!” came a new cry from the side.
“!? Wh-what was that, Quenser!?”
“I think the mother is here. It’s the penguin’s mother!!”
Frightened by the warning cry, the albatross’s aim was thrown slightly off. The beak just barely grazed the baby penguin and it gave a high pitched cry for its mother.
The albatross did not seem willing to give up. It soared back up into the white sky, flew in a wide arc, and then aimed for the baby penguin once more.
However, the baby was no longer alone.
The large mother rushed over to act as a shield.
There was no guarantee the mother could save the baby.
The sea bird’s sharp beak and talons were enough of a threat for an adult penguin.
Even so, the mother penguin’s gaze did not waver.
It spread its wings that were meant for paddling through water, opened its beak as wide as it could, and let out warning cry after warning cry as loudly as it could.
Quenser and Heivia both held their breath.
The terrorists across the snowy plain were also silently watching on.